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Amid the great variety of books, ancient and modern, illustrating the early history of America, none, it is believed, presents, in a popular form, any thing like a complete record of the leading events of its discovery and settlement. To comprise, in a single volume, the most important and interesting passages of its progressive colonization, from the earliest known puriod until the present time, has been attempted in the following workNext to the clear and full elucidation of historical facts, it has been the aim of the writer to present, as vividly as possible, the spirit of the age and trails of individual character. To effect this, he has permitted the chief actors, so far as might agree with requisite conciseness, to speak for themselves, and by their own words to determine the measure of renown or infamy to which they are entitled. If, by this directness of contact, any mythological conceptions of celebrated personages, long popularly current, should be partially dispelled, the portrait of reality, it is believed, will not be found an uninteresting substitute for that of imagination.
In preparing this book, a considerable number of ancient and original authorities, many of them rarely to be met, have been diligently consulted. Among these may be mentioned the following: Antiquitates Americana; (contwining Icelandic MSS., &c.) The First Voyage of Columbus, The Decades of Peter Martyr, Cortes' Letters and Dispatches to Charles V., Bernal Diuz's True Conquest of Mexico, De Solis' Conquest of Mexico, the Conquest of Florida, by a Gentleman of Elvas, Hakluyt's Voyages and other publications, Purchas his Pilgrimage and Pilgrims, The Journals of Henry Hudson, Robert Juet, and Habbakuk Prickett, The True Adventures of Captain John Smith, the Journals of Governors Bradford and Winslow—Mourt's Relation, Governor Winthrop's Journal, Morton's New England's Memorial, Hubbard's History of New England—Hubbard's Indian Wars—Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana, Church's Entertaining History of King Philip's War, Boone's Narrative, &c., &c., with a variety of Historical collections.
The journals and narratives of modern American adventurers have also been perused, and a great number of standard works, treating on detached subjects, have been carefully examined and compared. To these, and especially in the history of Spanish transactions, to the classical and elaborate productions of Robertson, Irving, and Prescott, the writer has resorted, as
s the most reliable authority, for the leading facts of his subject; but, with a view to novelty and piquancy of detail, original documents, as far as they were accessible, have been faithfully consulted.
These records, extending over several ages, and pertaining to several nations, along with fascinating glimpses of high courage and resolute endurance, of profound sagacity and far-sighted policy, reveal to the view a strange wilderness of fancy, credulity, ignorance, superstition, cruelty, and bigotry. When most of them were writtten, comparatively little was known of the Western World, and that little with no great certainty. All beyond was Dream-land, Fairy-land, El Dorado, the true realm of imagination, which loved to people it with all fanciful creations. No tale was too wild to meet with popular credence—whether of golden palaces and fountains of perpetual youth, or of monsters and chimeras dire, guarding their treasures, and forbidding all access to the tempting shores.
Natural history, in especial, was at a sad discount. Peter Martyr, with classical fondness, records the appearance of Tritons in the waters of the New World; Columbus and Hudson chronicle with much particularity their respective encounters with shoals of mermaids; and the Pilgrims of Plymouth honestly relate their alarm at the roar of lions prowling in the frozen forests of New England. One writer contended that India must be in the vicinity of Cuba, seeing that the parrots there answered so well to the description of Pliny; and another, near a century later, surmised an easy northerly passage to the same country, because the "horne of a unicorne" (doubtless brought from India by the tides [!]) had been found on some dreary shore of the Arctic ocean.
A grave English author, describing Guiana, hesitates to endorse all the reports of travellers in that region, and, with prudent candor, reserves his opinion for further information. "Againe," he says, "they tell of men with mouthes in their breasts, and eyes in their shoulders, called Chiparemai, and of the Guianians, Ewiaponomos, very strong: and of others headed like Dogges, which Hue all the day time in the Sea. These things are strange, yet I dare not esteeme them fabulous; onely (as not too prodigal of faith) I suspend, till some eye-intilligence of some of our parts haue testified the truth." Elsewhere he tells us of certain savages who appeared on the shore, wearing visors like the heads of dogs—"or els they were Dogges' Heads indeed."
In no other field has there been a richer or more fanciful display of the love for the supernatural—whether in its brighter and more alluring phases, or in all the imagined horrors of infernal manifestation. Columbus elaborately argued that he had entered on the confines of the Garden of Eden—the terrestrial Paradise. Two centuries later, we find a voyager through unfamiliar seas gravely entering on the log, "Hereabouts is said to be an inchanted island." Most especially in all matters connected with the aborigines, this fascinating exercise of the fancy was allowed to have its full swing. His Holiness the Pope, in granting the right of conquest, had assumed, as a matter of course, that all natives of the newly-found lands were under the direct dominion of the Enemy; his orthodox followers could do no less than sustain and verify the sentiment; and the Protestant English, while disowning his authority, and falling back for their share of territory on natural right, were readyenough to adopt a theory so comfortable to the conscience and so gratifying to the imagination. Accordingly, the early voyagers, of all nations, wherever they landed, were prepared to find, among the inhabitants, scenes of necromancy and diablerie. The mystical Indian ceremonies of council and devotion, were to them nothing but incantation and Satan-worship; they were ever on the alert against native magic and sorcery; and, like Robinson Crusoe, they saw tho foot-print of the devil on every uninhabited shore.
It is strange how long and how generally this Satanic incubus hung over all European adventurers. In all matters of mystery, the Gordian knot was invariably cut by a reference to diabolical agency. No other hypothesis was ever allowable in explanation of Indian reserve or hostility. Montezuma could not retire to his "House of Sorrow," except for a personal interview with the Adversary. If a Pequot war broke out, it was because "the devil had taken the alarum" at the prosperity of the church in New England. That worthy knight, Sir Martin Frobisher, having captured an old Esquimaux of hideous appearance, thought proper to pluck off her buskins to ascertain "if she were cloven-footed or no." Errors such as these, outgrown by maturing humanity, may provoke a smile; but not justly from any who, in our own day, see fit to ascribe the phenomena of m ignetistn and the development of natural, though as yet unstudied laws, to the same infernal and demoniac origin.
The fact that the New World was known to Europeans long before the days of Columbus, has been established, by irrefragable evidence, beyond all reasonable doubt . But it is equally certain that for centuries it had been lost to them by neglect and disuse, and that the grand originality of his schema was in no measure dependent on any former experience. What he sought, from first to last, was not the discovery of a New Continent (though such was the splendid reward of his exertions), but the directest way to the remote shores of the Old, and a practical solution of the grand problem, still open in his day, of the sphericity of the earth. The chance discoveries of temp.stdriven mariners, in the northern seas, leading to no important result, and soon lost in obscurity, can in no degree impair the fame of him who. iirst, with a grand, though erroneous aim,
u • • * • * Undaunted could explore
In reviewing the history of American colonization, the mind is at first struck with the wonderful brilliancy and rapidity of Spanish discovery and conquest during the first century of their career; an impression naturally followed by the reflection that in the end no substantial advantage has accrued to the nation whose enterprise laid open the pathway to the New World, and whose valor and genius were the first to avail themselves of its tempting opportunities. Extermination of the native inhabitants, bigoted exclusion of foreigners, and, in the end, outrageous oppression of her own dependencies, have marked, almost without exception, the colonial administration of Spain, and have finally resulted in its nearly complete annihilation. Her once numerous provinces, alienated by mismanagement and tyranny, have found, in republican anarchy, a questionable relief from parental misrule; while that beautiful island, almost the solitary jewel in her crown, and only proving, by its exception, the general rule of her losses, is held by a tenure so insecure ;is barely to deserve the name of possession.
For an hundred and ten years, the rival nations of France and England hardly took a step in the same venturous direction, or if they did, under circumstances of such gross ignorance and infatuation, as were almost certain to preclude the possibility of success. The various and widely-severed colonies of France, founded, through a century of misfortunes and discouragements, by ardent and indefatigable servants of the crown, have, with one or two insignificant exceptions, slipped from her hands—not from any want of loyalty or national affection in the provincial inhabitants, but from the feebleness of the French marine, ever unable to compete with that of her haughty rival, and quite inefficient for the protection and retention of distant colonies.
England, the last to enter on the noble enterprise of peopling the New Hemisphere, but finally bringing to the task a spirit of progress, a love of freedom, and a strength of principle unknown to her predecessors, has founded, amid disastrous and unpromising beginnings, an empire mightier and more enduring than all or any of its compeers; lost, indeed, for the most part, to her private aggrandizement, but not to the honor of her name or the best interests of mankind; an empire already prosperous beyond all example in history, and destined, it is probable, at no distant day, to unite under its genial protection every league of that vast continent stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the tropical forests of Darien to the eternal snows of the Arctic Circle.
MHfru IIL The Expedition of Thorfinn—The God Thor worshipped in New England-
THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA
Chapter VL Meeting with Pinzon—The Voyage homeward—Peril from Tempests—Treach-