The History of New York State
Book I, Chapter III
Part II

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

 The river trip was delightful. Grapevines festooned their way, the blackbird and the thrush welcomed them with sonnets, and wild fowl sported on the waters. All went well until their galleon grounded in a shallow. However, Cartier then resorted to the boats, and eventually on October 2, reached the Indian metropolis, Hochelaga. A thousand Indians welcomed them, "wild with delight, dancing, singing, crowning about the strangers, and showering into their boats their gifts of fish and maize." At night, the savages danced in the light of blazing fires. Next day, the Frenchmen were received by the Indian chief, and afterwards escorted to the top of a neighboring mountain. This, Cartier called Mont Royale, Montreal. And so the Indian villages, Stadacone and Hochelaga, were destined to become the Quebec and Montreal of new France and Canada.

Winter was overtaking them, so Cartier and his companions hurried back to Stadacone. There they found that the other ships had been hauled up to a safer place, and that the crews were living in a palisaded fort on the bank of the St. Charles. Winter had set in, and snow and ice soon came. In congested quarters they were penned for the remainder of the winter. Scurvy broke out, and in this little fort near the junction of the River Lairet with the St. Charles, about one-fourth of Cartier's companions breathed their last. They were buried in the snowdrifts. In the spring, the main thought of the survivors was to return to France. And as soon as the ice released the ships, preparations were made to depart.

Cartier's report to his sovereign would be mainly a tale of woe. There was little, save in the gossip of the Indians, that augured well for the future, but the people in France would certainly prick up their ears when he repeated the tales, with which the Indian chiefs had beguiled him--tales of a wonderful land to which they could lead him, a "land of gold and rubies," and a nation "white like the French." Surely, thought Cartier, this information would be more convincing if heard from the mouths of the chiefs themselves. Why should not they, with their own lips, testify before the King of France? Cartier did not ponder long. Notwithstanding all the kindnesses that Donnacona and the other chiefs had showered upon his party during the rigorous winter, Cartier resolved to abduct them. With shameless ingratitude, he led Donnacona and the other chiefs into an ambuscade, and sailed away with them. Some died during the voyage, and all within a couple of years.

Cartier's expedition reached St. Malo in July, 1536. But war was again disrupting all the plans of Francis. When peace returned, he was not so venturesome as he once had been. Moreover, Chabot was in disgrace. However, New France found a champion in Jean Francois de la Roque, Sieur de Roberval. He was willing to exploit the possibilities, if properly commissioned. So, by the king's edict, le Sieur de Roberval was authorized to raise "une armee de volunteaires aved victuailles artillerie, etc., pour aller au pays de Canada." In his commissions, Roberval is styled "norte Lieutenant-General, Chief Ducteur et Cappitaine de la d. entreprinse," but Parkman describes his titles as "Lord of Notembega, Viceroy and Lieutenant-General in Canada, Hochelaga, Saguenay, Newfoundland and Baccalaos." Five vessel were fitted out at the expense of the royal treasury, and the experience Cartier was made Captain-General. Apparently, it was not even yet understood in France that the New World was not part of Asia. "We have resolved to send him," sand Francis, in commissioning Cartier, "again to the lands of Canada and Hochelaga, which form the extremity of Asia towards the west."

Cartier sailed three and a half-leagues up the St. Lawrence, and, after some exploration of the interior, built two forts. Leaving the Vicomte de Beaupre in command, Cartier went with two boats to explore the rapids above Hochelaga. His men were somewhat worried at the attitude of the Indians, and more at the non-arrival of Roberval with the guns. After despatching two of his ships home to report, as well as to ascertain what had become of Roberval, Cartier and his men made the best of the situation, settling in the forts for the winter. Cartier was eager to return to France, also, and, in the spring they all set sail.

Cartier's ships, homeward-bound, came to anchor in the harbor of St. John's, Newfoundland, early in June, 1542, shortly after Roberval, with three ships and 200 colonists, reached the same haven. Roberval was surprised, also angered. He ordered Cartier to return, and, having superior armament, could have enforced his order, but Cartier's command slipped out of the harbor under cover of night. Eventually Cartier reached France and was well received.

Roberval went on, and established a colony before the heights of Cap Rouge. They named the place France-Roy, and here, under one roof, in barracklike style, all lived--officers, soldiers, nobles, artisans, laborers, and convicts, besides women and children. Provender was sadly miscalculated, and during the severe winter they were forced to dig roots and boil them in whale-oil, in the hope that they would thus become edible. Disease reduced the colony by one-third before the spring. There was ominous discontent. Only the arbitrary power of Roberval--pitilessly used--kept the colonists from open rebellion. Had not Francis, the King, stood in need of Roberval at home, the latter might have continued on his resolute way, exercising despotic sway until he alone of Frenchmen remained in New France. Cartier, it seems, was sent to bring him home in 1543, though another account states that the Viceroy, despite the loss of more men (by drowning while exploring the unknown interior during 1543), "clung to his settlement, however, during another winter of hardships and then at last fled back to France." #11

Presumably, the surviving colonists returned also, for no further reference is made to the colony, save that Roberval five years later resolved to make another attempt to colonize New France. He sailed from France, the account has it, after which all trace of him disappears." #12 But Thevet, the cosmographer, on the other hand, asserts that Roberval was slain at night in the heart of Paris. #13

Roberval to some extent comes into New York record. He is supposed to have come into New York waters, and one of his command seems to have ascended the Hudson River, as far as Albany. The accounts are somewhat hazy, but not incredible. De Costa asserts that the Hudson locality was "clearly known from the time of Gomez." #14

He quotes another, as saying, "that the coast of New York and the neighboring district were known to Europeans almost a century before Hudson ascended the 'Great river of the North,' and that this knowledge is proved by various maps made in the course of the sixteenth century." #15

Ellis H. Roberts, following reference to the Verrazzano map of the New York region, writes, "Other maps of the sixteenth century sketch the general features of this bay and river. French writers of that period speak of the region as Norumgerge, or Norimbega and the 'great river' is represented to a point where is chief branch enters from the west, and the main stream flows from the unknown north. In a manuscript in the national Library in Paris, by Raulin Secalart, and Jean Apohonse, the writer, about 1545, describes the shallows, 'dangerous on account of rocks and washings,' as Hell Gate has proved to be, and says 'the river is salt for more then forty leagues up,' as the Hudson river approximately is. He thinks 'the river runs into the Canada, and into the Sea of Sagaenay,' according to the belief long received that the St. Lawrence and this 'great river' co-mingled he describes a town 'up the said river fifteen leagues, called Norombeque.' In it there was 'a good people,' and they had 'peltries of all kinds' and were 'dressed in skins, wearing mantles of martens.' He sailed up the river for many leagues." #16 Jean (Jehan) Allefonsce (Alphonse) was a pilot under Roberval, with whom he sailed for America in 1542. Among Roberval's titles was that of Lord of Norembega, and he may have wished to visit the region while on his way to Canada.

The "great fresh-water river" (Hudson) was described five years before by Oviedo, out of the Map of Chaves, as the River of St. Anthony. The Globe of Vipius, made for Cardinal Cervinus, afterwards Pope Marcellus, in 1542, shows the Bay of New York as the Gulf of St. Germaine, thus seeming to recognize the French claim, based on the discovery by Verrazzano. In 1552, a Spanish historian, Lopez de Gomara, described the North American coast. He began at Newfoundland, and proceeded southward for 870 leagues to the Cape of Florida. Giving the distances from "Cabo Bajo" (Cape Cod), he writes: "then to Rio San Anton (Antonio) they reckon more than a hundred leagues," while "from the Rio San Anton are eighty leagues along the shore of a gulf to Cabo de Arenas (Sandy Hook), which is in nearly 39° N." so it is evident that the Hudson river was an important cartographic mark, long before the time of Henry Hudson. On Mercator's map, drawn in 1569, a fort is shown on the east side of the "great river." this, it would seem, is the fort on Castle Island, the ruins of which were found by a Dutch fur trader in 1614, or a year or two later. Ellis H. Roberts attributed the ruins "to Spanish adventurers," #17 there being traditions to that effect.

Although all the movements of Europeans in New York and more northerly waters of America during the latter half of the sixteenth century did not constitute notable expeditions, and thus in some cases have escaped record altogether, a study of incidental references affords almost convincing evidence that Europeans were exploiting trading possibilities along the Hudson and other water route steadily during this period.

At first, the Indians used to bring the beaver and bear skins, and exchange them for knives, beads, baubles. Fur-trading was becoming so much more lucrative then fishing that some of the French, and probably some of the British, fishermen forsook the cod-banks for trading huts, and filled their little craft with the less perishable peltries and "marine Ivory" (walrus tusks). While the French centered in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, there are evidences that the Hudson River was not over-looked.

Among those who saw clearly that a promising future lay before England in the New World was the Rev. Richard Hakluyt, whom Elizabeth had made prebend of Bristol in 1586--because of his standing as a geographer it seems. Hakluyt was the foremost English geographer of his time. He it was who, in 1577, commenced the first public lectures in geography given at Oxford University. Voyages of discovery were his especial study. His first published work, "Divers Voyages Touching the Discoveries of America." Influenced queen Elizabeth, in 1583, to appoint him as chaplain to the British Embassy in France. The embassy no doubt expected to profit most from Hakluyt's knowledge of matters maritime, and by his acquaintance with "the chiefest captaines at sea, the greatest merchants, and the best mariners of our nation." While in France, he devoted himself particularly to a study of the movements of France and Spain in navigation. Upon his return, he pursued further research, and by discourses and published papers enhanced his reputation. So that when, in 1605, he became active in the promotion of an English company to exploit the possibilities of the New world, there were many Englishmen who required no other recommendation. Possibly, even King James had confidence more in Hakluyt's recommendations than in the valiant intentions of others.

So it came to pass that some of the most influential men of England, including Sir Ferdinando Gorges, Governor of Plymouth; Sir John Popham, Chief Justice of England; Sir George Somers, Edward Maria Wingfield and Richard Hakluyt, besought King James to encourage an undertaking whereby "god might be abundantly made known, his name enlarged and honored, a notable nation made fortunate," and themselves famous. King James extended his gracious favor, and on April 10, 1606, granted petitioners a charter for the colonization of "that part of American commonly called Virginia, and other parts and territories in America either pertaining unto us, or which are not now actually possessed by any Christian prince or people" between the thirty-fourth and the forty-fifth degree of latitude, e. g., all of North America from Cape Fear to Nova Scotia. The grantees were two companies, one made up of adventurers residing in London, and the other of associates living in Plymouth, Bristol and the West of England. According to Broadhead, #18 each company was to have jurisdiction of a tract extending for one hundred miles along the coast, the London company in any unoccupied part of North America between the thirty-fourth and forty-fifth degrees of latitude, and the Plymouth company in any part between the thirty-eighth and the forty-fifth parallels. The continent between thirty-eighth and forty-fifth parallels was thus open to either company, it however being provided that the second comer should not approach its boundary within 200 miles of that of the first.

The Plymouth company was the first to get under way, but the London company reached America first, with colonists. In the summer of 1606 two ships sailed under the auspices of the Plymouth Company. That commanded by Henry Chalong (Challons) was captured by the Spaniards, but Captain Pring and Haman (Hanham) reached the rendezvous in Maine, explored the Maine coast , returning to England with a favorable report. "Upon whose relations,' says the manifesto of the Plymouth company, "afterwards the Lord Chief Justice and we all waxed so confident of the business, that the year following, every man of any worth, formerly interested in it, was willing to join in the charge for the sending over a competent number of people to lay the ground of a hopeful plantation." #19

Accordingly, on May 31, 1607, two ships sailed from Plymouth, one a "fly-boat," called the "Gift of God," commanded by George Popham, brother of Raleigh Gilbert, a nephew of Sir Walter Raleigh. These ships carried 120 persons, to found the colony on the Kennebeck. The ships arrived off Penobscot Bay on August 7, and three days later anchored at the mouth of the Sagadahoc. The commanders explored the river, for 40 leagues, in boats. On their return, all disembarked from the ships at the mouth of the river on the west side and prepared to lay our the plantation. Two months were spent in constructing a fort and storehouse, and, after the ships had been sent home for supplies, building was continued until the settlement consisted of about 50 houses and storehouse within the fortification. Also a pinnace of about 30 tons burthen was built. It was named "Virginia," and thus was the first vessel built by Europeans within the limits of the original United States, states Brodhead. #20 The winter was a severe one, very stormy, so that "no boat could stir upon any business." To make their state worse, the storehouse was burned, and part of the provisions destroyed. However, the settlement lived through the winter and in the following summer, Captain Davies returned from England with "victuals, arms, instruments and tools." George Popham #21 was dead, but the colony had prospered. All things were "in good forwardness," they had acquired large quantities of furs, and had gathered some sarsaparilla. But they had found no mines, "the main intended benefit to uphold the charge of this plantation," so they saw little hope for the future. It never occurred to them that the country could maintain them, if they would but till its rich soil. They counselled together, and, inasmuch, as Sir John Popham, the most liberal patron of the Plymouth Company, was dead, they doubled the financial ability of the company to bear the plantation cost. They seemed to have no alternative course, so "all embarked in this new-arrived ship and in the new pinnace, the 'Virginia,' and set sail for England."

Thus, the curtain falls on the first attempt of the English to colonize New England. The operations of the Plymouth Company for some years thereafter did not extend beyond fishing trips to the American coast, and a degree of fur-trading with the Indians on the coast of Maine.

In 1609 the London Company was granted a new charter. It gave them absolute title to all territory extending 200 miles north from Point Comfort, and the same distance southward. Westward, the title of "The Treasurer and Company of Adventurers and Planters of the City of London for the first Colony in Virginia" extended "to the South Sea ," that is to say, to the Pacific Ocean. It is of interest to note that the northern boundary ended at abut the fortieth parallel of latitude, one degree less than was their privilege under the Sieur de Monts proprietary right to all American land between the fortieth and forty-sixth parallels of latitude. Can it be possible that King James had this in mind, when curtailing the territory of the London company? One would hardly think so, for he later vigorously upheld the right of the Plymouth colony, when challenged by the Dutch and French.

In December, 1606, the London Company had despatched an expedition, to being the colonization of Virginia. Three ships, under Christopher Newport, sailed from England on December 19 and reached Chesapeake Bay safely on April 26, 1607. A few days later, the Colony of Virginia was founded at Jamestown, its history being especially memorable for the strenuous efforts of Captain John Smith to sustain it. #22 Had a man of his strength of purpose directed the Kennebeck colony, the English title to the territory claimed also by the Ditch and French would have been much clearer.

The scramble above Florida was between the English, the French, and the Dutch. France was not, of course, satisfied to only reap fishing profits. They wanted to get farther westward than the cod-banks of Newfoundland. The French Government was not disposed to leave fur-trading and colonization of the mainland to the English. And the alert Dutch merchants were not disposed to permit any good field to remain the monopoly of an English trading company.

The French, indeed, looked upon the mainland, between the fortieth and forty-sixth parallels, as already their rightful domain, although little had been done to exploit it since Cartier's time.

Ere long, other and more powerful eyes looked westward. The King's favor rested upon a Catholic nobleman, the Marquis de la Roche. He had offered to try to colonize New France, if granted certain privileges. So he was commissioned as Lieutenant-General of Canada, Hochelaga, Newfoundland, Labrador, and the countries adjacent, and within this vast vaguely-defined domain he was to exercise sovereign powers of feudal absoluteness. The Marquis had, indeed, been so commissioned twice earlier--in 1577 and 1578--but had failed to use it. Now he was granted a monopoly of trade within the region, and , since the English had swept the Spanish Armada form the seas, at least one obstacle to colonization had been removed; so the Marquis began to ransack the prisons for desperadoes who could be used in such an experiment. Eventually, in 1598, his little vessel "deep freighted with brutality and vice," cross the Atlantic. The 40 convicts were landed on Sable Island, near Nova Scotia, and left to their own resources, while La Roche explored his domain on the mainland and chose his capital. Contrary winds, however, drove La Roche back to France. The colonists, left to themselves among sandhills, had to rely upon fish for food, though they later hunted the cattle that ran wild on the island--bovine descendants of a herd left on the island 80 years earlier by the Baron de Lery. But it was hard for humans to live under such conditions, and within five years the colony shrank to 12. They were then rescued by a French ship, sent by La Roche.

Aymar de Chastes, a knight of the Order of St. John, and at that time the Governor of Dieppe, "wished to mark his closing days with some notable achievement for France and the Church." He had rendered such service to Henry of Navarre, at the most critical period of the latter's struggle for power, that he could hardly be refused. Indeed, the King had no desire to withhold a patent which would cost him nothing and might yield fabulous profit. Sot he Knight of St. John was given his wish; whereupon said his friend, Champlain, "though his head was crowned with gray hairs as with years," De Chastes "resolved to go to New France in person and dedicate the rest of his days to the service of God and the King."

De Chastes was astute. He forestalled opposition by admitting into business association with him some of the principal merchants of the western ports. An d he prevailed upon Pontgrave, who knew the new land so well, to make a preliminary exploration for the company. Moreover, he south to persuade Samuel Champlain to give Portgrave assistance. De Chastes found the young captain of the Royal Marines eager to exchange the artificialites of court life for the stern realities of adventure in the new land. Champlain waited only for permission from the King, :to whom," he said, "I was bound no less by birth than by the pension wit which his Majesty honored me." The required consent being obtained by De Chastes, Samuel Champlain bid adieu to the court and departed for Honfleur, bearing a letter of introduction to Pontgrave.

So it happened that, in 1603, two tiny vessels, one of 12 tons and the other of 15 tons burthen, spread their sails, and were soon "like specks on the board bosom of the waters," carrying westward the man who was destined to have greater effect upon the new world than any Frenchman of his or earlier times, the pioneer who was to be the first 'to see that any colony on the American continent would have to be self-supporting," the realest who was to shake of the sham heroics that for a century had marked the course of European soldiers of fortune in America, shatter the flimsy phantasy of fabulous gold, and, by becoming a farmer himself, introduce in this land of gold-hunters the nobility of labor that was to save America from the idle vanity of dreams. In a less romantic manner, an Englishman, John smith, in Virginia, seems to have grasped the same fundamental of American success at about the same time as Champlain, though not with such noble vision or prophetic insight. The great founder of Canada was an empire-builder of such extraordinary imagination, such uncanny foresight, such logical gauging of forced, natural and human, that he foretold the future of America, pointed out the location of the Panama Canal, sketched the development of the great republic of the Untied States, and fixed the sites of Boston, Montreal, Quebec, and some other important American cities of the present. #23 Yet, invaluable as were Champlain's services, they must be set more to the credit of America than to France, for, impelled by Fate, this valiant French soldier, whose thoughts ever were the Glory of France and the Expansion of the realm of his King, was by one unfortunate act to win for England the country he south to develop for France. The arquebus of the Lord of Champlain looms large in the destiny of America.

 

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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