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Some years afterwards, the conquests of the Spaniards in America began to excite the attention and cupidity of Europe, but the further progress of discovery in those northern parts of the continent with which the French fishermen were acquainted, offering no prospect of inexhaustible mines of gold and silver, such as were found in Mexico and Peru—the French, although a people, undoubtedly, of the highest genius and enterprise, evinced an unaccountable apathy upon this great subject, and for several years entirely neglected it. At length, in 1523, Francis I. a monarch deeply captivated with the love of glory, wishing to excite the enterprise and emulation of his subjects in matters of navigation and commerce, as he had successfully done in the sciences and fine arts, caught a generous enthusiasm for maritime discovery; and eager to vie in all things with his great rival Charles V. fitted out an armament of four ships, the command of which he entrusted to GIOVANNI VERAZZANO, or Verazzani, a Florentine navigator of great skill and celebrity, then resident in France, and willing to undertake a voyage which might prove no less honorable than profitable to him. Previously to this time, a bull of donation had been issued by the too famous Alexander VI. then Pope, by which he had conferred the new world as a free gift upon the Kings of Spain and Portugal. Neither England or France, however, acknowledged the inherent right of the Pope to make such magnificent gifts of an unknown world. The English sent out voyages of discovery without demanding leave of his Holiness; and a shrewd observation of the French King is
handed down, showing that be was not disposed to acquiesce in any division made exclusively in favor of those Princes. “ What,” said Francis, pleasantly, “ shall the Kings of Spain and Portugal quietly “ divide all America between them, without suffering me to take a share as their brother ? I would fain
the article in father Adam's will, which be“ queaths that vast inheritance to them.”
Verazzano was born about the year 1485, of noble birth ; and from his letters to Francis I. giving an account of his voyage, published in Ramusio, which are written in a very simple and elegant style, it would appear that he had received a liberal education. Of his reasons for entering the service of the French Monarch nothing is known. Charlevoix makes a remark worthy of remembrance, that it was greatly to the honor of Italy, that the three great powers who afterwards divided among them nearly the whole of the new world, owed their first discoveries to the skill and conduct of natives of that country—the Spaniards to a Genoese—the English to a Venetian-and the French to a Florentine. Another Florentine might have been handed down with approbation to posterity, had he not by a species of treachery unworthy of gentleman, given his name to the largest quarter of the globe, to the prejudice of the great discoverer and master spirit of the age, Columbus.
Nothing certain is known of the particulars of the first expedition of Verazzano. He commenced his second voyage of discovery with a single vessel, the Dauphin, about the close of 1524, or the beginning of 1525; and having left Madeira, he steered in a westerly direction for nine hundred leagues, until he arrived upon a coast, which he declared had never before been seen by either ancient or modern navi
gators—“una terra nuova, non piu dagl'antichi ne « da moderni vista.” This land is supposed for good reasons to have been in latitude 32°, and is now known as Savannah.' The country was thickly inhabited, as he judged from the number of fires which were burning along the coast. Of the beauty of the scenery he gives a very glowing description, highly eulogizing the delightful climate, and the handsome stature and appearance of the natives. From this spot Verazzano, with indefatigable zeal, pursued his course, coasting along the shores and narrowly examining every inlet in hopes of a passage through, until he reached the land discovered by the Bretons in lat. 50', which is evidently Newfoundland : thus completing the survey of a line of coast extending for seven hundred leagues, and embracing nearly the whole of the United States, along with a considerable portion of British North America. In none of the old accounts of this navigator, has justice been done to his great services and zeal. This was without doubt an enterprise of great magnitude and determination, well deserving
to be carefully recorded, as comprehending one of the most extensive ranges of early discovery. It is of particular interest at the present day, as having been the means of first making us acquainted with that noble country, whose history is so important; and whose destinies, even after a progress unrivalled in rapidity, appear at this moment to be scarcely arrived at maturity.
To this extensive region Verazzano, as he was justly entitled to do, gave the name of New France and on his return laid before his patron, Francis I. a plan for its further and complete survey, together with a scheme for the establishment of a colony therein. We are not informed what part of the
continent it was the intention of Verazzano to select for colonization ; but it is most probable that the scene of his operations would have been chosen on the Atlantic shore of one of the southern United States. Nor does it require the aid of imagination to conceive, how different would have been the historic detail of events, and how changed the condition of the whole of North America, had he been enabled to carry his grand project into full and successful exeeution. He was not permitted by Providence to do so ; and his future proceedings are enveloped in a mystery which it is now vain to attempt to penetrate. It is related that he actually sailed on his third expedition with the full intention of founding a colony, and that he never more was heard of. Hakluyt says, that he made three voyages, and
presented a chart of the coast to Henry VIII. Ramusio, the publisher of the most ancient and perhaps the most valuable collection of voyages extant, could not discover any particulars of this last expedition, or even ascertain the year in which it took place. It is most probable, if we divest the story and the supposed fate of Verazzano, of the fable and romance in which they have been involved by the lapse of ages, and the perpetuation of error—that finding, on his return to France, his patron Francis I. a prisoner at Madrid, in the hands of the Emperor Charles V.-having been taken at the memorable battle of Pavia on the 25th February, 1525, and detained in captivity until the 18th March in the following year—and seeing no chance of further employment, he left the service of France, and depended on his own resources. It would sufficiently account for his never afterwards having been_heard of, if he withdrew from the observation of French
nautical men, and retired to private life in his native country.
Although there is no evidence that Verazzano even approached any part of Canada, we have been more diffuse in our notice of this navigator, from the circumstance of a tradition extant in this country from an early period, that the River St. Lawrence was the scene of his death. It certainly has always been asserted, and believed down to our own times, that his third voyage proved fatal to him and
The truth is, that no account of the details of his third voyage, if indeed it was commenced, which is rather doubtful--and least of all any relation of the manner or place of his death can now be discovered: for the best of all possible reasons, as will be presently shown to the satisfaction of the reader. The story of his having been massacred with his crew, and afterwards devoured by the savages, is an absolute fable ; and it is rather hard, without a shadow of evidence, to fix upon the red inhabitants of this continent the character of Anthropophagi. The Baron La Hontan, who visited Quebec in 1683, repeats the fable, and observes : • Verazzano was the first who discovered Canada, “ but to his cost, for the savages eat him.” La Potherie, who was here in 1698, says nearly the same thing :-Le Beau, who arrived in Canada in 1729, speaking of its discovery, says, that “ Veraz
zano took possession of the country in the name 6. of Francis I. that he had the misfortune to be “ devoured by the savages, without having pene6 trated as far as Jacques Cartier.” He gives no authority for this assertion ; and, doubtless, only repeated the tradition of La Hontan, who after all seems to mention it more in jest than as really be