Voyages and Travels: Ancient and Modern. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
Sir Humphrey Gilberts Voyage to Newfoundland
A REPORT of the VOYAGE and success thereof, attempted in the year of our Lord 1583, by SIR HUMPHREY GILBERT, KNIGHT, with other gentlemen assisting him in that action, intended to discover and to plant Christian inhabitants in place convenient, upon those large and ample countries extended northward from the Cape of FLORIDA, lying under very temperate climes, esteemed fertile and rich in minerals, yet not in the actual possession of any Christian prince. Written by MR. EDWARD HAIES, gentleman, and principal actor in the same voyage,1 who alone continued unto the end, and, by Gods special assistance, returned home with his retinue safe and entire.
MANY voyages have been pretended, yet hitherto never any thoroughly accomplished by our nation, of exact discovery into the bowels of those main, ample, and vast countries extended infinitely into the north from thirty degrees, or rather from twenty-five degrees, of septentrional latitude, neither hath a right way been taken of planting a Christian habitation and regiment2 upon the same, as well may appear both by the little we yet do actually possess therein, and by our ignorance of the riches and secrets within those lands, which unto this day we know chiefly by the travel and report of other nations, and most of the French, who albeit they cannot challenge such right and interest unto the said countries as we, neither these many years have had opportunity nor means so great to discover and to plant, being vexed with the calamities of intestine wars, as we have had by the inestimable benefit of our long and happy peace, yet have they both ways performed more, and had long since attained a sure possession and settled government of many provinces in those northerly parts of America, if their many attempts into those foreign and remote lands had not been impeached by their garboils at home.
The first discovery of these coasts, never heard of before, was well begun by John Cabot the father and Sebastian his son, an Englishman born, who were the first finders out of all that great tract of land stretching from the Cape of Florida unto those islands which we now call the Newfoundland; all which they brought and annexed unto the crown of England. Since when, if with like diligence the search of inland countries had been followed, as the discovery upon the coast and outparts thereof was performed by those two men, no doubt her Majestys territories and revenue had been mightily enlarged and advanced by this day; and, which is more, the seed of Christian religion had been sowed amongst those pagans, which by this time might have brought forth a most plentiful harvest and copious congregation of Christians; which must be the chief intent of such as shall make any attempt that way; or else whatsoever is builded upon other foundation shall never obtain happy success nor continuance.
And although we cannot precisely judge (which only belongeth to God) what have been the humours of men stirred up to great attempts of discovering and planting in those remote countries, yet the events do shew that either Gods cause hath not been chiefly preferred by them, or else God hath not permitted so abundant grace as the light of His word and knowledge of Him to be yet revealed unto those infidels before the appointed time. But most assuredly, the only cause of religion hitherto hath kept back, and will also bring forward at the time assigned by God, an effectual and complete discovery and possession by Christians both of those ample countries and the riches within them hitherto concealed; whereof, notwithstanding, God in His wisdom hath permitted to be revealed from time to time a certain obscure and misty knowledge, by little and little to allure the minds of men that way, which else will be dull enough in the zeal of His cause, and thereby to prepare us unto a readiness for the execution of His will, against the due time ordained of calling those pagans unto Christianity.
In the meanwhile it behoveth every man of great calling, in whom is any instinct of inclination unto this attempt, to examine his own motions, which, if the same proceed of ambition or avarice, he may assure himself it cometh not of God, and therefore cannot have confidence of Gods protection and assistance against the violence (else irresistible) both of sea and infinite perils upon the land; whom God yet may use [as] an instrument to further His cause and glory some way, but not to build upon so bad a foundation. Otherwise, if his motives be derived from a virtuous and heroical mind, preferring chiefly the honour of God, compassion of poor infidels captived by the devil, tyrannising in most wonderful and dreadful manner over their bodies and souls; advancement of his honest and well-disposed countrymen, willing to accompany him in such honourable actions; relief of sundry people within this realm distressed; all these be honourable purposes, imitating the nature of the munificent God, wherewith He is well pleased, who will assist such an actor beyond expectation of man. And the same, who feeleth this inclination in himself, by all likelihood may hope, or rather confidently repose in the preordinance of God, that in this last age of the world (or likely never) the time is complete of receiving also these gentiles into His mercy, and that God will raise Him an instrument to effect the same; it seeming probable by event of precedent attempts made by the Spaniards and French sundry times, that the countries lying north of Florida God hath reserved the same to be reduced unto Christian civility by the English nation. For not long after that Christopher Columbus had discovered the islands and continent of the West Indies for Spain, John and Sebastian Cabot made discovery also of the rest from Florida northwards to the behoof of England.
And whensoever afterwards the Spaniards, very prosperous in all their southern discoveries, did attempt anything into Florida and those regions inclining towards the north, they proved most unhappy, and were at length discouraged utterly by the hard and lamentable success of many both religious and valiant in arms, endeavouring to bring those northerly regions also under the Spanish jurisdiction, as if God had prescribed limits unto the Spanish nation which they might not exceed; as by their own gests recorded may be aptly gathered.
The French, as they can pretend less title unto these northern parts than the Spaniard, by how much the Spaniard made the first discovery of the same continent so far northward as unto Florida, and the French did but review that before discovered by the English nation, usurping upon our right, and imposing names upon countries, rivers, bays, capes, or headlands as if they had been the first finders of those coasts; which injury we offered not unto the Spaniards, but left off to discover when we approached the Spanish limits; even so God hath not hitherto permitted them to establish a possession permanent upon anothers right, notwithstanding their manifold attempts, in which the issue hath been no less tragical than that of the Spaniards, as by their own reports is extant.
Then, seeing the English nation only hath right unto these countries of America from the Cape of Florida northward by the privilege of first discovery, unto which Cabot was authorised by regal authority, and set forth by the expense of our late famous King Henry the Seventh; which right also seemeth strongly defended on our behalf by the powerful hand of Almighty God withstanding the enterprises of other nations; it may greatly encourage us upon so just ground, as is our right, and upon so sacred an intent, as to plant religion (our right and intent being meet foundations for the same), to prosecute effectually the full possession of those so ample and pleasant countries appertaining unto the crown of England; the same, as is to be conjectured by infallible arguments of the worlds end approaching, being now arrived unto the time by God prescribed of their vocation, if ever their calling unto the knowledge of God may be expected. Which also is very probable by the revolution and course of Gods word and religion, which from the beginning hath moved from the east towards, and at last unto, the west, where it is like to end, unless the same begin again where it did in the east, which were to expect a like world again. But we are assured of the contrary by the prophecy of Christ, whereby we gather that after His word preached throughout the world shall be the end. And as the Gospel when it descended westward began in the south, and afterward spread into the north of Europe; even so, as the same hath begun in the south countries of America, no less hope may be gathered that it will also spread into the north.
These considerations may help to suppress all dreads rising of hard events in attempts made this way by other nations, as also of the heavy success and issue in the late enterprise made by a worthy gentleman our countryman, Sir Humfrey Gilbert, Knight, who was the first of our nation that carried people to erect an habitation and government in those northerly countries of America. About which albeit he had consumed much substance, and lost his life at last, his people also perishing for the most part: yet the mystery thereof we must leave unto God, and judge charitably both of the cause, which was just in all pretence, and of the person, who was very zealous in prosecuting the same, deserving honourable remembrance for his good mind and expense of life in so virtuous an enterprise. Whereby nevertheless, lest any man should be dismayed by example of other folks calamity, and misdeem that God doth resist all attempts intended that way, I thought good, so far as myself was an eye-witness, to deliver the circumstance and manner of our proceedings in that action; in which the gentleman was so unfortunately encumbered with wants, and worse matched with many ill-disposed people, that his rare judgment and regiment premeditated for those affairs was subjected to tolerate abuses, and in sundry extremities to hold on a course more to uphold credit than likely in his own conceit happily to succeed.
The issue of such actions, being always miserable, not guided by God, who abhorreth confusion and disorder, hath left this for admonition, being the first attempt by our nation to plant, unto such as shall take the same cause in hand hereafter, not to be discouraged from it; but to make men well advised how they handle His so high and excellent matters, as the carriage is of His word into those very mighty and vast countries. An action doubtless not to be intermeddled with base purposes, as many have made the same but a colour to shadow actions otherwise scarce justifiable; which doth excite Gods heavy judgments in the end, to the terrifying of weak minds from the cause, without pondering His just proceedings; and doth also incense foreign princes against our attempts, how just soever, who cannot but deem the sequel very dangerous unto their state (if in those parts we should grow to strength), seeing the very beginnings are entered with spoil.
And with this admonition denounced upon zeal towards Gods cause, also towards those in whom appeareth disposition honourable unto this action of planting Christian people and religion in those remote and barbarous nations of America (unto whom I wish all happiness), I will now proceed to make relation briefly, yet particularly, of our voyage undertaken with Sir Humfrey Gilbert, begun, continued, and ended adversely.
When first Sir Humfrey Gilbert undertook the western discovery of America, and had procured from her Majesty a very large commission to inhabit and possess at his choice all remote and heathen lands not in the actual possession of any Christian prince, the same commission exemplified with many privileges, such as in his discretion he might demand, very many gentlemen of good estimation drew unto him, to associate him in so commendable an enterprise, so that the preparation was expected to grow unto a puissant fleet, able to encounter a kings power by sea. Nevertheless, amongst a multitude of voluntary men, their dispositions were diverse, which bred a jar, and made a division in the end, to the confusion of that attempt even before the same was begun. And when the shipping was in a manner prepared, and men ready upon the coast to go aboard, at that time some brake consort, and followed courses degenerating from the voyage before pretended. Others failed of their promises contracted, and the greater number were dispersed, leaving the General with few of his assured friends, with whom he adventured to sea; where, having tasted of no less misfortune, he was shortly driven to retire home with the loss of a tall ship and, more to his grief, of a valiant gentleman, Miles Morgan.
Having buried, only in a preparation, a great mass of substance, whereby his estate was impaired, his mind yet not dismayed, he continued his former designment, and purposed to revive this enterprise, good occasion serving. Upon which determination standing long without means to satisfy his desire, at last he granted certain assignments out of his commission to sundry persons of mean ability, desiring the privilege of his grant, to plant and fortify in the north parts of America about the river of Canada; to whom if God gave good success in the north parts (where then no matter of moment was expected), the same, he thought, would greatly advance the hope of the south, and be a furtherance unto his determination that way. And the worst that might happen in that course might be excused, without prejudice unto him, by the former supposition that those north regions were of no regard. But chiefly, a possession taken in any parcel of those heathen countries, by virtue of his grant, did invest him of territories extending every way 200 leagues; which induced Sir Humfrey Gilbert to make those assignments, desiring greatly their expedition, because his commission did expire after six years, if in that space he had not gotten actual possession.
Time went away without anything done by his assigns; insomuch that at last he must resolve himself to take a voyage in person, for more assurance to keep his patent in force, which then almost was expired or within two years. In furtherance of his determination, amongst others, Sir George Peckham, Knight, shewed himself very zealous to the action, greatly aiding him both by his advice and in the charge. Other gentlemen to their ability joined unto him, resolving to adventure their substance and lives in the same cause. Who beginning their preparation from that time, both of shipping, munition, victual, men, and things requisite, some of them continued the charge two years complete without intermission. Such were the difficulties and cross accidents opposing these proceedings, which took not end in less than two years; many of which circumstances I will omit.
The last place of our assembly, before we left the coast of England, was in Cawset Bay, near unto Plymouth, then resolved to put unto the sea with shipping and provision such as we had, before our store yet remaining, but chiefly the time and season of the year, were too far spent. Nevertheless, it seemed first very doubtful by what way to shape our course, and to begin our intended discovery, either from the south northward or from the north southward. The first, that is, beginning south, without all controversy was the likeliest; wherein we were assured to have commodity of the current which from the Cape of Florida setteth northward, and would have furthered greatly our navigation, discovering from the foresaid cape along towards Cape Breton, and all those lands lying to the north. Also, the year being far spent, and arrived to the month of June, we were not to spend time in northerly courses, where we should be surprised with timely winter, but to covet the south, which we had space enough then to have attained, and there might with less detriment have wintered that season, being more mild and short in the south than in the north, where winter is both long and rigorous. These and other like reasons alleged in favour of the southern course first to be taken, to the contrary was inferred that forasmuch as both our victuals and many other needful provisions were diminished and left insufficient for so long a voyage and for the wintering of so many men, we ought to shape a course most likely to minister supply; and that was to take the Newfoundland in our way, which was but 700 leagues from our English coast. Where being usually at that time of the year, and until the fine of August, a multitude of ships repairing thither for fish, we should be relieved abundantly with many necessaries, which, after the fishing ended, they might well spare and freely impart unto us. Not staying long upon that Newland coast, we might proceed southward, and follow still the sun, until we arrived at places more temperate to our content.
By which reasons we were the rather induced to follow this northerly course, obeying unto necessity, which must be supplied. Otherwise, we doubted that sudden approach of winter, bringing with it continual fog and thick mists, tempest and rage of weather, also contrariety of currents descending from the Cape of Florida unto Cape Breton and Cape Race, would fall out to be great and irresistible impediments unto our further proceeding for that year, and compel us to winter in those north and cold regions. Wherefore, suppressing all objections to the contrary, we resolved to begin our course northward, and to follow, directly as we might, the trade way unto Newfoundland; from whence, after our refreshing and reparation of wants, we intended without delay, by Gods permission, to proceed into the south, not omitting any river or bay which in all that large tract of land appeared to our view worthy of search. Immediately we agreed upon the manner of our course and orders to be observed in our voyage; which were delivered in writing, unto the captains and masters of every ship a copy, in manner following.
Every ship had delivered two bullets or scrolls, the one sealed up in wax, the other left open; in both which were included several watchwords. That open, serving upon our own coast or the coast of Ireland; the other sealed, was promised on all hands not to be broken up until we should be clear of the Irish coast; which from thenceforth did serve until we arrived and met all together in such harbours of the Newfoundland as were agreed for our rendez-vous. The said watchwords being requisite to know our consorts whensoever by night, either by fortune of weather, our fleet dispersed should come together again; or one should hail another; or if by ill watch and steerage one ship should chance to fall aboard of another in the dark.
The reason of the bullet sealed was to keep secret that watchword while we were upon our own coast, lest any of the company stealing from the fleet might bewray the same; which known to an enemy, he might board us by night without mistrust, having our own watchword.
5. Item, if the fleet should happen to be scattered by weather, or other mishap, then so soon as one shall descry another, to hoise both topsails twice, if the weather will serve, and to strike them twice again; but if the weather serve not, then to hoise the maintopsail twice, and forthwith to strike it twice again.
6. Item, if it shall happen a great fog to fall, then presently every ship to bear up with the Admiral, if there be wind; but if it be a calm, then every ship to hull, and so to lie at hull till it clear. And if the fog do continue long, then the Admiral to shoot off two pieces every evening, and every ship to answer it with one shot; and every man bearing to the ship that is to leeward so near as he may.
9. Item, if any ship be in danger in any way, by leak or otherwise, then she to shoot off a piece, and presently to hang out one light; whereupon every man to bear towards her, answering her with one light for a short time, and so to put it out again; thereby to give knowledge that they have seen her token.
THE COURSE first to be taken for the discovery is to bear directly to Cape Race, the most southerly cape of Newfoundland; and there to harbour ourselves either in Rogneux or Fermous, being the first places appointed for our rendez-vous, and the next harbours unto the northward of Cape Race: and therefore every ship separated from the fleet to repair to that place so fast as God shall permit, whether you shall fall to the southward or to the northward of it, and there to stay for the meeting of the whole fleet the space of ten days; and when you shall depart, to leave marks.
BEGINNING our course from Scilly, the nearest is by west-southwest (if the wind serve) until such time as we have brought ourselves in the latitude of 43 or 44 degrees, because the ocean is subject much to southerly winds in June and July. Then to take traverse from 45 to 47 degrees of latitude, if we be enforced by contrary winds; and not to go to the northward of the height of 47 degrees of septentrional latitude by no means, if God shall not enforce the contrary; but to do your endeavour to keep in the height of 46 degrees, so near as you can possibly, because Cape Race lieth about that height.
IF by contrary winds we be driven back upon the coast of England, then to repair unto Scilly for a place of our assembly or meeting. If we be driven back by contrary winds that we cannot pass the coast of Ireland, then the place of our assembly to be at Bere haven or Baltimore haven. If we shall not happen to meet at Cape Race, then the place of rendez-vous to be at Cape Breton, or the nearest harbour unto the westward of Cape Breton. If by means of other shipping we may not safely stay there, then to rest at the very next safe port to the westward; every ship leaving their marks behind them for the more certainty of the after comers to know where to find them. The marks that every man ought to leave in such a case, were of the Generals private device written by himself, sealed also in close wax, and delivered unto every ship one scroll, which was not to be opened until occasion required, whereby every man was certified what to leave for instruction of after comers; that every of us coming into any harbour or river might know who had been there, or whether any were still there up higher into the river, or departed, and which way.
Orders thus determined, and promises mutually given to be observed, every man withdrew himself unto his charge; the anchors being already weighed, and our ships under sail, having a soft gale of wind, we began our voyage upon Tuesday, the 11. day of June, in the year of our Lord 1583, having in our fleet (at our departure from Cawset Bay) these ships, whose names and burthens, with the names of the captains and masters of them, I have also inserted, as followeth:I. The Delight, alias the George, of burthen 120 tons, was Admiral; in which went the General, and William Winter, captain in her and part owner, and Richard Clarke, master. 2. The bark Raleigh, set forth by Master Walter Raleigh, of the burthen of 200 tons, was then Vice-Admiral; in which went Master Butler, captain, and Robert Davis, of Bristol, master. 3. The Golden Hind, of burthen 40 tons, was then Rear-Admiral; in which went Edward Haies, captain and owner, and William Cox, of Limehouse, master. 4. The Swallow, of burthen 40 tons; in her was captain Maurice Browne. 5. The Squirrel, of burthen 10 tons; in which went captain William Andrews, and one Cade, master. We were in number in all about 260 men; among whom we had of every faculty good choice, as shipwrights, masons, carpenters, smiths, and such like, requisite to such an action; also mineral men and refiners. Besides, for solace of our people, and allurement of the savages, we were provided of music in good variety; not omitting the least toys, as morris-dancers, hobby-horse, and May-like conceits to delight the savage people, whom we intended to win by all fair means possible. And to that end we were indifferently furnished of all petty haberdashery wares to barter with those simple people.
In this manner we set forward, departing (as hath been said) out of Cawset Bay the 11. day of June, being Tuesday, the weather and wind fair and good all day; but a great storm of thunder and wind fell the same night. Thursday following, when we hailed one another in the evening, according to the order before specified, they signified unto us out of the Vice-Admiral, that both the captain, and very many of the men, were fallen sick. And about midnight the Vice-Admiral forsook us, notwithstanding we had the wind east, fair and good. But it was after credibly reported that they were infected with a contagious sickness, and arrived greatly distressed at Plymouth; the reason I could never understand. Sure I am, no cost was spared by their owner, Master Raleigh, in setting them forth; therefore I leave it unto God. By this time we were in 48 degrees of latitude, not a little grieved with the loss of the most puissant ship in our fleet; after whose departure the Golden Hind succeeded in the place of Vice-Admiral, and removed her flag from the mizen into the foretop. From Saturday, the 15. of June, until the 28., which was upon a Friday, we never had fair day without fog or rain, and winds bad, much to the west-north-west, whereby we were driven southward unto 41 degrees scarce.
About this time of the year the winds are commonly west towards the Newfoundland, keeping ordinarily within two points of west to the south or to the north; whereby the course thither falleth out to be long and tedious after June, which in March, April, and May, hath been performed out of England in 22 days and less. We had wind always so scant from west-north-west, and from west-south-west again, that our traverse was great, running south unto 41 degrees almost, and afterwards north into 51 degrees. Also we were encumbered with much fog and mists in manner palpable, in which we could not keep so well together, but were dissevered, losing the company of the Swallow and the Squirrel upon the 20. day of July, whom we met again at several places upon the Newfoundland coast the 3. of August, as shall be declared in place convenient. Saturday, the 27. of July, we might descry, not far from us, as it were mountains of ice driven upon the sea, being then in 50 degrees, which were carried southward to the weather of us; whereby may be conjectured that some current doth set that way from the north.
Before we come to Newfoundland, about 50 leagues on this side, we pass the bank, which are high grounds rising within the sea and under water, yet deep enough and without danger, being commonly not less than 25 and 30 fathom water upon them; the same, as it were some vein of mountains within the sea, do run along and from the Newfoundland, beginning northward about 52 or 53 degrees of latitude, and do extend into the south infinitely. The breadth of this bank is somewhere more, and somewhere less; but we found the same about ten leagues over, having sounded both on this side thereof, and the other toward Newfoundland, but found no ground with almost 200 fathom of line, both before and after we had passed the bank. The Portugals, and French chiefly, have a notable trade of fishing upon this bank, where are sometimes an hundred or more sails of ships, who commonly begin the fishing in April, and have ended by July. That fish is large, always wet, having no land near to dry, and is called cod fish. During the time of fishing, a man shall know without sounding when he is upon the bank, by the incredible multitude of sea-fowl hovering over the same, to prey upon the offals and garbage of fish thrown out by fishermen, and floating upon the sea.
Upon Tuesday, the 11. of June we forsook the coast of England. So again [on] Tuesday, the 30. of July, seven weeks after, we got sight of land, being immediately embayed in the Grand Bay, or some other great bay; the certainty whereof we could not judge, so great haze and fog did hang upon the coast, as neither we might discern the land well, nor take the suns height. But by our best computation we were then in the 5I degrees of latitude. Forsaking this bay and uncomfortable coast (nothing appearing unto us but hideous rocks and mountains, bare of trees, and void of any green herb) we followed the coast to the south, with weather fair and clear. We had sight of an island named Penguin, of a fowl there breeding in abundance almost incredible, which cannot fly, their wings not able to carry their body, being very large (not much less than a goose) and exceeding fat, which the Frenchmen use to take without difficulty upon that island, and to barrel them up with salt. But for lingering of time, we had made us there the like provision.
Trending this coast, we came to the island called Baccalaos, being not past two leagues from the main; to the south thereof lieth Cape St. Francis, five leagues distant from Baccalaos, between which goeth in a great bay, by the vulgar sort called the Bay of Conception. Here we met with the Swallow again, whom we had lost in the fog, and all her men altered into other apparel; whereof it seemed their store was so amended, that for joy and congratulation of our meeting, they spared not to cast up into the air and over board their caps and hats in good plenty. The captain, albeit himself was very honest and religious, yet was he not appointed of men to his humour and desert; who for the most part were such as had been by us surprised upon the narow seas of England, being pirates, and had taken at that instant certain Frenchmen laden, one bark with wines, and another with salt. Both which we rescued, and took the man-of-war with all her men, which was the same ship now called the Swallow; following still their kind so oft as, being separated from the General, they found opportunity to rob and spoil. And because Gods justice did follow the same company, even to destruction, and to the overthrow also of the captain (though not consenting to their misdemeanour) I will not conceal anything that maketh to the manifestation and approbation of His judgments, for examples of others; persuaded that God more sharply took revenge upon them, and hath tolerated as great outrage in others, by how much these went under protection of His cause and religion, which was then pretended.
Therefore upon further enquiry it was known how this company met with a bark returning home after the fishing with his freight; and because the men in the Swallow were very near scanted of victuals, and chiefly of apparel, doubtful withal where or when to find and meet with their Admiral, they besought the captain that they might go aboard this Newlander, only to borrow what might be spared, the rather because the same was bound homeward. Leave given, not without charge to deal favourably, they came aboard the fisherman, whom they rifled of tackle, sails, cables, victuals, and the men of their apparel; not sparing by torture, winding cords about their heads, to draw out else what they thought good. This done with expedition, like men skilful in such mischief, as they took their cockboat to go aboard their own ship, it was overwhelmed in the sea, and certain of these men there drowned; the rest were preserved even by those silly souls whom they had before spoiled, who saved and delivered them aboard the Swallow. What became afterwards of the poor Newlander, perhaps destitute of sails and furniture sufficient to carry them home, whither they had not less to run than 700 leagues, God alone knoweth; who took vengeance not long after of the rest that escaped at this instant, to reveal the fact, and justify to the world Gods judgments inflicted upon them, as shall be declared in place convenient.
Thus after we had met with the Swallow, we held on our course southward, until we came against the harbour called St. John, about five leagues from the former Cape of St. Francis, where before the entrance into the harbour, we found also the frigate or Squirrel lying at anchor; whom the English merchants, that were and always be Admirals by turns interchangeably over the fleets of fishermen within the same harbour, would not permit to enter into the harbour. Glad of so happy meeting, both of the Swallow and frigate in one day, being Saturday, the third of August, we made ready our fights,3 and prepared to enter the harbour, any resistance to the contrary notwithstanding, there being within of all nations to the number of 36 sails. But first the General despatched a boat to give them knowledge of his coming for no ill intent, having commission from her Majesty for his voyage he had in hand; and immediately we followed with a slack gale, and in the very entrance, which is but narrow, not above two butts length,4 the Admiral fell upon a rock on the larboard side by great oversight, in that the weather was fair, the rock much above water fast by the shore, where neither went any sea-gate.5 But we found such readiness in the English merchants to help us in that danger, that without delay there were brought a number of boats, which towed off the ship, and cleared her of danger.
Having taken place convenient in the road, we let fall anchors, the captains and masters repairing aboard our Admiral; whither also came immediately the masters and owners of the fishing fleet of Englishmen, to understand the Generals intent and cause of our arrival there. They were all satisfied when the General had shewed his commission, and purpose to take possession of those lands to the behalf of the crown of England, and the advancement of the Chirstian religion in those paganish regions, requiring but their lawful aid for repairing of his fleet, and supply of some necessaries, so far as conveniently might be afforded him, both out of that and other harbours adjoining. In lieu whereof he made offer to gratify them with any favour and privilege, which upon their better advice they should demand, the like being not to be obtained hereafter for greater price. So craving expedition of his demand, minding to proceed further south without long detention in those parts, he dismissed them, after promise given of their best endevour to satisfy speedily his so reasonable request. The merchants with their masters departed, they caused forthwith to be discharged all the great ordnance of their fleet in token of our welcome.
It was further determined that every ship of our fleet should deliver unto the merchants and masters of that harbour a note of all their wants: which done, the ships, as well English as strangers, were taxed at an easy rate to make supply. And besides, commmissioners were appointed, part of our own company and part of theirs, to go into other harbours adjoining (for our English merchants command all there) to levy our provision: whereunto the Portugals, above other nations, did most willingly and liberally contribute. In so much as we were presented, above our allowance, with wines, marmalades, most fine rusk6 or biscuit, sweet oils, and sundry delicacies. Also we wanted not of fresh salmons, trouts, lobsters, and other fresh fish brought daily unto us. Moreover as the manner is in their fishing, every week to choose their Admiral anew, or rather they succeed in orderly course, and have weekly their Admirals feast solemnized: even so the General, captains, and masters of our fleet were continually invited and feasted. To grow short in our abundance at home the entertainment had been delightful; but after our wants and tedious passage through the ocean, it seemed more acceptable and of greater contentation, by how much the same was unexpected in that desolate corner of the world; where, at other times of the year, wild beasts and birds have only the fruition of all those countries, which now seemed a place very populous and much frequented.
The next morning being Sunday, and the fourth of August, the General and his company were brought on land by English merchants, who shewed unto us their accustomed walks unto a place they call the Garden. But nothing appeared more than nature itself without art: who confusedly hath brought forth roses abundantly, wild, but odoriferous, and to sense very comfortable. Also the like plenty of raspberries, which do grow in every place.
Monday following, the General had his tent set up; who, being accompanied with his own followers, summoned the merchants and masters, both English and strangers, to be present at his taking possession of those countries. Before whom openly was read, and interpreted unto the strangers, his commission: by virtue whereof he took possession in the same harbour of St. John, and 200 leagues every way, invested the Queens Majesty with the title and dignity thereof, had delivered unto him, after the custom of England, a rod, and a turf of the same soil, entering possession also for him, his heirs and assigns for ever; and signified unto all men, that from that time forward, they should take the same land as a territory appertaining to the Queen of England, and himself authorised under her Majesty to possess and enjoy it, and to ordain laws for the government thereof, agreeable, so near as conveniently might be, unto the laws of England, under which all people coming thither hereafter, either to inhabit, or by way of traffic, should be subjected and governed. And especially at the same time for a beginning, he proposed and delivered three laws to be in force immediately. That is to say the first for religion, which in public exercise should be according to the Church of England. The second, for maintenance of his Majestys right and possession of those territories, against which if any thing were attempted prejudicial, the party or parties offending should be adjudged and executed as in case of high treason, according to the laws of England. The third, if any person should utter words sounding to the dishonour of her Majesty, he should lose his ears, and have his ship and goods confiscate.
These contents published, obedience was promised by general voice and consent of the multitude, as well of Englishmen as strangers, praying for continuance of this possession and government begun; after this, the assembly was dismissed. And afterwards were erected not far from that place the arms of England engraven in lead, and infixed upon a pillar of wood. Yet further and actually to establish this possession taken in the right of her Majesty, and to the behoof of Sir Humfrey Gilbert, knight, his heirs and assigns for ever, the General granted in fee-farm divers parcels of land lying by the water-side, both in this harbour of St. John, and elsewhere, which was to the owners a great commodity, being thereby assured, by their proper inheritance, of grounds convenient to dress and to dry their fish; whereof many times before they did fail, being prevented by them that came first into the harbour. For which grounds they did covenant to pay a certain rent and service unto Sir Humfrey Gilbert, his heirs or assigns for ever, and yearly to maintain possession of the same, by themselves or their assigns.
Now remained only to take in provision granted, according as every ship was taxed, which did fish upon the coast adjoining. In the meanwhile, the General appointed men unto their charge: some to repair and trim the ships, others to attend in gathering together our supply and provisions: others to search the commodities and singularities of the country, to be found by sea or land, and to make relation unto the General what either themselves could know by their own travail and experience, or by good intelligence of Englishmen or strangers, who had longest frequented the same coast. Also some observed the elevation of the pole, and drew plots of the country exactly graded. And by that I could gather by each mans several relation, I have drawn a brief description of the Newfoundland, with the commodities by sea or land already made, and such also as are in possibility and great likelihood to be made. Nevertheless the cards and plots that were drawn, with the due gradation of the harbours, bays, and capes, did perish with the Admiral: wherefore in the description following, I must omit the particulars of such things.
That which we do call the Newfoundland, and the Frenchmen Baccalaos, is an island, or rather, after the opinion of some, it consisteth of sundry islands and broken lands, situate in the north regions of America, upon the gulf and entrance of a great river called St. Lawrence in Canada; into the which, navigation may be made both on the south and north side of this island. The land lieth south and north, containing in length between 300 and 400 miles, accounting from Cape Race, which is in 46 degrees 25 minutes, unto the Grand Bay in 52 degrees, of septentrional latitude. The land round about hath very many goodly bays and harbours, safe roads for ships, the like not to be found in any part of the known world.
The common opinion that is had of intemperature and extreme cold that should be in this country, as of some part it may be verified, namely the north, where I grant it is more cold than in countries of Europe, which are under the same elevation: even so it cannot stand with reason and nature of the clime, that the south parts should be so intemperate as the bruit hath gone. For as the same do lie under the climes of Bretagne, Anjou, Poictou in France, between 46 and 49 degrees, so can they not so much differ from the temperature of those countries: unless upon the out-coast lying open unto the ocean and sharp winds, it must indeed be subject to more cold than further within the land, where the mountains are interposed as walls and bulwarks, to defend and to resist the asperity and rigour of the sea and weather. Some hold opinion that the Newfoundland might be the more subject to cold, by how much it lieth high and near unto the middle region. I grant that not in Newfoundland alone, but in Germany, Italy and Afric, even under the equinoctial line, the mountains are extreme cold, and seldom uncovered of snow, in their culm and highest tops, which cometh to pass by the same reason that they are extended towards the middle region: yet in the countries lying beneath them, it is found quite contrary. Even so, all hills having their descents, the valleys also and low grounds must be likewise hot or temperate, as the clime doth give in Newfoundland: though I am of opinion that the suns reflection is much cooled, and cannot be so forcible in Newfoundland, nor generally throughout America, as in Europe or Afric: by how much the sun in his diurnal course from east to west, passeth over, for the most part, dry land and sandy countries, before he arriveth at the west of Europe or Afric, whereby his motion increaseth heat, with little or no qualification by moist vapours. Where[as], on the contrary, he passeth from Europe and Afric unto America over the ocean, from whence he draweth and carrieth with him abundance of moist vapours, which do qualify and enfeeble greatly the suns reverberation upon this country chiefly of Newfoundland, being so much to the northward. Nevertheless, as I said before, the cold cannot be so intolerable under the latitude of 46, 47, and 48, especial within land, that it should be unhabitable, as some do suppose, seeing also there are very many people more to the north by a great deal. And in these south parts there be certain beasts, ounces or leopards, and birds in like manner, which in the summer we have seen, not heard of in countries of extreme and vehement coldness. Besides, as in the months of June, July, August and September, the heat is somewhat more than in England at those seasons: so men remaining upon the south parts near unto Cape Race, until after holland-tide,7 have not found the cold so extreme, nor much differing from the temperature of England. Those which have arrived there after November and December have found the snow exceeding deep, whereat no marvel, considering the ground upon the coast is rough and uneven, and the snow is driven into the places most declining, as the like is to be seen with us. The like depth of snow happily shall not be found within land upon the plainer countries, which also are defended by the mountains, breaking off the violence of winds and weather. But admitting extraordinary cold in those south parts, above that with us here, it cannot be so great as in Swedeland, much less in Moscovia or Russia: yet are the same countries very populous, and the rigour of cold is dispensed with by the commodity of stoves, warm clothing, meats and drinks: all of which need not to be wanting in the Newfoundland, if we had intent there to inhabit.
In the south parts we found no inhabitants, which by all likelihood have abandoned those coasts, the same being so much frequented by Christians; but in the north are savages altogether harmless. Touching the commodities of this country, serving either for sustentation of inhabitants or for maintenance of traffic, there are and may be made divers; so that it seemeth that nature hath recompensed that only defect and incommodity of some sharp cold, by many benefits; namely, with incredible quantity, and no less variety, of kinds of fish in the sea and fresh waters, as trouts, salmons, and other fish to us unknown; also cod, which alone draweth many nations thither, and is become the most famous fishing of the world; abundance of whales, for which also is a very great trade in the bays of Placentia and the Grand Bay, where is made train oil of the whale; herring, the largest that have been heard of, and exceeding the Marstrand herring of Norway; but hitherto was never benefit taken of the herring fishing. There are sundry other fish very delicate, namely, the bonito, lobsters, turbot, with others infinite not sought after; oysters having pearl but not orient in colour; I took it, by reason they were not gathered in season.
Concerning the inland commodities, as well to be drawn from this land, as from the exceeding large countries adjoining, there is nothing which our east and northerly countries of Europe do yield, but the like also may be made in them as plentifully, by time and industry; namely, resin, pitch, tar, soap-ashes, deal-board, masts for ships, hides, furs, flax, hemp, corn, cables, cordage, linen cloth, metals, and many more. All which the countries will afford, and the soil is apt to yield. The trees for the most in those south parts are fir-trees, pine, and cypress, all yielding gum and turpentine. Cherry trees bearing fruit no bigger than a small pease. Also peartrees, but fruitless. Other trees of some sort to us unknown. The soil along the coast is not deep of earth, bringing forth abundantly peasen small, yet good feeding for cattle. Roses passing sweet, like unto our musk roses in form; raspises; a berry which we call whorts, good and wholesome to eat. The grass and herb doth fat sheep in very short space, proved by English merchants which have carried sheep thither for fresh victual and had them raised exceeding fat in less than three weeks. Peasen which our countrymen have sown in the time of May, have come up fair, and been gathered in the beginning of August, of which our General had a present acceptable for the rareness, being the first fruits coming up by art and industry in that desolate and dishabited land. Lakes or pools of fresh water, both on the tops of mountains and in the valleys; in which are said to be muscles not unlike to have pearl, which I had put in trial, if by mischance falling unto me I had not been letted from that and other good experiments I was minded to make. Fowl both of water and land in great plenty and diversity. All kind of green fowl; others as big as bustards, yet not the same. A great white fowl called of some a gaunt. Upon the land divers sort of hawks, as falcons, and others by report. Partridges most plentiful, larger than ours, grey and white of colour, and rough-footed like doves, which our men after one flight did kill with cudgels, they were so fat and unable to fly. Birds, some like blackbirds, linnets, canary birds, and other very small. Beasts of sundry kinds; red deer, buffles, or a beast as it seemeth by the tract and foot very large, in manner of an ox. Bears, ounces or leopards, some greater and some lesser; wolves, foxes, which to the northward a little further are black, whose fur is esteemed in some countries of Europe very rich. Otters, beavers, marterns; and in the opinion of most men that saw it, the General had brought unto him a sable alive, which he sent unto his brother, Sir John Gilbert, Knight, of Devonshire, but it was never delivered, as after I understood. We could not observe the hundredth part of creatures in those unhabited lands; but these mentioned may induce us to glorify the magnificent God, who hath super-abundantly replenished the earth with creatures serving for the use of man, though man hath not used the fifth part of the same, which the more doth aggravate the fault and foolish sloth in many of our nation, choosing rather to live indirectly, and very miserably to live and die within this realm pestered with inhabitants, than to adventure as becometh men, to obtain an habitation in those remote lands, in which nature very prodigally doth minister unto mens endeavours, and for art to work upon. For besides these already recounted and infinite more, the mountains generally make shew of mineral substance; iron very common, lead, and somewhere copper. I will not aver of richer metals; albeit by the circumstances following, more than hope may be conceived thereof.