Verrazzano coasted the seaboard of Maine, and sailed northward as far as Newfoundland, whence, provisions failing, he steered for France.
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Verrazzano’s next resting-place was the Bay of New York. Rowing up in his boat through the Narrows, under the steep heights of Staten Island, he saw the harbor within dotted with canoes of the feathered natives, coming from the shore to welcome him. But what most engaged the eyes of the white men were the fancied signs of mineral wealth in the neighboring hills.
Following the shores of Long Island, they came to an island, which may have been Block Island, and thence to a harbor, which was probably that of Newport. Here they stayed fifteen days, most courteously received by the inhabitants. Among others appeared two chiefs, gorgeously arrayed in painted deer-skins, — kings, as Verrazzano calls them, with attendant gentlemen; while a party of squaws in a canoe, kept by their jealous lords at a safe distance from the caravel, figure in the narrative as the queen and her maids. The Indian wardrobe had been taxed to its utmost to do the strangers honor, — copper bracelets, lynx-skins, raccoon-skins, and faces bedaubed with gaudy colors.
Again they spread their sails, and on the fifth of May [1523 – jl] bade farewell to the primitive hospitalities of Newport, steered along the rugged coasts of New England, and surveyed, ill pleased, the surf-beaten rocks, the pine-tree and the fir, the shadows and the gloom of mighty forests. Here man and nature alike were savage and repellent. Perhaps some plundering straggler from the fishing-banks, some manstealer like the Portuguese Cortereal, or some kidnapper of children and ravisher of squaws like themselves, had warned the denizens of the woods to beware of the worshippers of Christ. Their only intercourse was in the way of trade. From the brink of the rocks which overhung the sea the Indians would let down a cord to the boat below, demand fish-hooks, knives, and steel, in barter for their furs, and, their bargain made, salute the voyagers with unseemly gestures of derision and scorn. The French once ventured ashore; but a war-whoop and a shower of arrows sent them back to their boats.
Verrazzano coasted the seaboard of Maine, and sailed northward as far as Newfoundland, whence, provisions failing, he steered for France. He had not found a passage to Cathay, but he had explored the American coast from the thirty-fourth degree to the fiftieth, and at various points had penetrated several leagues into the country. On the eighth of July, he wrote from Dieppe to the King the earliest description known to exist of the shores of the United States.
Great was the joy that hailed his arrival, and great were the hopes of emolument and wealth from the new-found shores. The merchants of Lyons were in a flush of expectation. For himself, he was earnest to return, plant a colony, and bring the heathen tribes within the pale of the Church. But the time was inauspicious. The year of his voyage was to France a year of disasters, — defeat in Italy, the loss of Milan, the death of the heroic Bayard; and, while Verrazzano was writing his narrative at Dieppe, the traitor Bourbon was invading Provence. Preparation, too, was soon on foot for the expedition which, a few months later, ended in the captivity of Francis on the field of Pavia. Without a king, without an army, without money, convulsed within, and threatened from without, France after that humiliation was in no condition to renew her Transatlantic enterprise.
Henceforth few traces remain of the fortunes of Verrazzano. Ramusio affirms, that, on another voyage, he was killed and eaten by savages, in sight of his followers; and a late writer hazards the conjecture that this voyage, if made at all, was made in the service of Henry the Eighth of England. But a Spanish writer affirms that, in 1527, he was hanged at Puerto del Pico as a pirate, and this assertion is fully confirmed by authentic documents recently brought to light.
The fickle-minded King, always ardent at the outset of an enterprise and always flagging before its close, divided, moreover, between the smiles of his mistresses and the assaults of his enemies, might probably have dismissed the New World from his thoughts. But among the favorites of his youth was a high-spirited young noble, Philippe de Brion Chabot, the partner of his joustings and tennis-playing, his gaming and gallantries. He still stood high in the royal favor, and, after the treacherous escape of Francis from captivity, held the office of Admiral of France. When the kingdom had rallied in some measure from its calamities, he conceived the purpose of following up the path which Verrazzano had opened.
The ancient town of St. Malo — thrust out like a buttress into the sea, strange and grim of aspect, breathing war front its walls and battlements of ragged stone, a stronghold of privateers, the home of a race whose intractable and defiant independence neither time nor change has subdued — has been for centuries a nursery of hardy mariners. Among the earliest and most eminent on its list stands the name of Jacques Cartier. His portrait hangs in the town-hall of St. Malo, — bold, keen features bespeaking a spirit not apt to quail before the wrath of man or of the elements. In him Chabot found a fit agent of his design, if, indeed, its suggestion is not due to the Breton navigator.
Sailing from St. Malo on the twentieth of April, 1534, Cartier steered for Newfoundland, passed through the Straits of Belle Isle, entered the Gulf of Chaleurs, planted a cross at Gaspe, and, never doubting that he was on the high road to Cathay, advanced up the St. Lawrence till he saw the shores of Anticosti. But autumnal storms were gathering. The voyagers took counsel together, turned their prows eastward, and bore away for France, carrying thither, as a sample of the natural products of the New World, two young Indians, lured into their clutches by an act of villainous treachery. The voyage was a mere reconnaissance.
The spirit of discovery was awakened. A passage to India could be found, and a new France built up beyond the Atlantic. Mingled with such views of interest and ambition was another motive scarcely less potent. The heresy of Luther was convulsing Germany, and the deeper heresy of Calvin infecting France. Devout Catholics, kindling with redoubled zeal, would fain requite the Church for her losses in the Old World by winning to her fold the infidels of the New. But, in pursuing an end at once so pious and so politic, Francis the First was setting at naught the supreme Pontiff himself, since, by the preposterous bull of Alexander the Sixth, all America had been given to the Spaniards.
In October, 1534, Cartier received from Chabot another commission, and, in spite of secret but bitter opposition from jealous traders of St. Malo, he prepared for a second voyage. Three vessels, the largest not above a hundred and twenty tons, were placed at his disposal, and Claude de Pontbriand, Charles de la Pommeraye, and other gentlemen of birth, enrolled themselves for the adventure. On the sixteenth of May, 1535, officers and sailors assembled in the cathedral of St. Malo, where, after confession and mass, they received the parting blessing of the bishop. Three days later they set sail. The dingy walls of the rude old seaport, and the white rocks that line the neighboring shores of Brittany, faded from their sight, and soon they were tossing in a furious tempest. The scattered ships escaped the danger, and, reuniting at the Straits of Belle Isle, steered westward along the coast of Labrador, till they reached a small bay opposite the island of Anticosti. Cartier called it the Bay of St. Lawrence, — a name afterwards extended to the entire gulf, and to the great river above.
To ascend this great river, and tempt the hazards of its intricate navigation with no better pilots than the two young Indians kidnapped the year before, was a venture of no light risk. But skill or fortune prevailed; and, on the first of September, the voyagers reached in safety the gorge of the gloomy Saguenay, with its towering cliffs and sullen depth of waters. Passing the Isle aux Coudres, and the lofty promontory of Cape Tourmente, they came to anchor in a quiet channel between the northern shore and the margin of a richly wooded island, where the trees were so thickly hung with grapes that Cartier named it the Island of Bacchus.
Indians came swarming from the shores, paddled their canoes about the ships, and clambered to the decks to gaze in bewilderment at the novel scene, and listen to the story of their travelled countrymen, marvellous in their ears as a visit to another planet. Cartier received them kindly, listened to the long harangue of the great chief Donnacona, regaled him with bread and wine; and, when relieved at length of his guests, set forth in a boat to explore the river above.
As he drew near the opening of the channel, the Hochelaga again spread before him the broad expanse of its waters. A mighty promontory, rugged and bare, thrust its scarped front into the surging current. Here, clothed in the majesty of solitude, breathing the stern poetry of the wilderness, rose the cliffs now rich with heroic memories, where the fiery Count Frontenac cast defiance at his foes, where Wolfe, Montcalm, and Montgomery fell. As yet, all was a nameless barbarism, and a cluster of wigwams held the site of the rock-built city of Quebec. Its name was Stadacone, and it owned the sway of the royal Donnacona.
Cartier set out to visit this greasy potentate; ascended the river St. Charles, by him called the St. Croix, landed, crossed the meadows, climbed the rocks, threaded the forest, and emerged upon a squalid hamlet of bark cabins. When, having satisfied their curiosity, he and his party were rowing for the ships, a friendly interruption met them at the mouth of the St. Charles. An old chief harangued them from the bank, men, boys, and children screeched welcome from the meadow, and a troop of hilarious squaws danced knee-deep in the water. The gift of a few strings of beads completed their delight and redoubled their agility; and, from the distance of a mile, their shrill songs of jubilation still reached the ears of the receding Frenchmen.
The hamlet of Stadacone, with its king, Donnacona, and its naked lords and princes, was not the metropolis of this forest state, since a town far greater — so the Indians averred — stood by the brink of the river, many days’ journey above. It was called Hochelaga, and the great river itself, with a wide reach of adjacent country, had borrowed its name. Thither, with his two young Indians as guides, Cartier resolved to go; but misgivings seized the guides as the time drew near, while Donnacona and his tribesmen, jealous of the plan, set themselves to thwart it. The Breton captain turned a deaf ear to their dissuasions; on which, failing to touch his reason, they appealed to his fears.
One morning, as the ships still lay at anchor, the French beheld three Indian devils descending in a canoe towards them, dressed in black and white dog-skins, with faces black as ink, and horns long as a man’s arm. Thus arrayed, they drifted by, while the principal fiend, with fixed eyes, as of one piercing the secrets of futurity, uttered in a loud voice a long harangue. Then they paddled for the shore; and no sooner did they reach it than each fell flat like a dead man in the bottom of the canoe. Aid, however, was at hand; for Donnacona and his tribesmen, rushing pell-mell from the adjacent woods, raised the swooning masqueraders, and, with shrill clamors, bore them in their arms within the sheltering thickets. Here, for a full half-hour, the French could hear them haranguing in solemn conclave. Then the two young Indians whom Cartier had brought back from France came out of the bushes, enacting a pantomime of amazement and terror, clasping their hands, and calling on Christ and the Virgin; whereupon Cartier, shouting from the vessel, asked what was the matter. They replied, that the god Coudonagny had sent to warn the French against all attempts to ascend the great river, since, should they persist, snows, tempests, and drifting ice would requite their rashness with inevitable ruin. The French replied that Coudonagny was a fool; that he could not hurt those who believed in Christ; and that they might tell this to his three messengers. The assembled Indians, with little reverence for their deity, pretended great contentment at this assurance, and danced for joy along the beach.
– Pioneers of France in the New World, Part 2, Chapter 1 by Francis Parkman
This was Cartier early voyages
The below is from Francis Parkman’s Introduction.
If, at times, it may seem that range has been allowed to fancy, it is so in appearance only; since the minutest details of narrative or description rest on authentic documents or on personal observation.
Faithfulness to the truth of history involves far more than a research, however patient and scrupulous, into special facts. Such facts may be detailed with the most minute exactness, and yet the narrative, taken as a whole, may be unmeaning or untrue. The narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit of the time. He must study events in their bearings near and remote; in the character, habits, and manners of those who took part in them, he must himself be, as it were, a sharer or a spectator of the action he describes.
With respect to that special research which, if inadequate, is still in the most emphatic sense indispensable, it has been the writer’s aim to exhaust the existing material of every subject treated. While it would be folly to claim success in such an attempt, he has reason to hope that, so far at least as relates to the present volume, nothing of much importance has escaped him. With respect to the general preparation just alluded to, he has long been too fond of his theme to neglect any means within his reach of making his conception of it distinct and true.