upon amassing sudden wealth, and their habits were so dissolute and ungovernable, that they soon felt the most alarming distress; and White was obliged to proceed to England to procure provisions. But the nation, at that time, was so much engrossed by the alarms of the Spanish invasion, that every other object was regarded with indifference, and two years elapsed before White could effect his purpose. At length he sailed, in 1589, with three ships. On arriving at Roenoke, no traces of any settlements could be found ; but on the bark of the trees he saw the word Croatan cut in large letters, whence he concluded that the colonists had removed to an island so named, and situated a few leagues to the south of Roenoke. He immediately directed his course to Croatan; but a violent storm arose, which drove him out to sea, and compelled him to return to England without making any farther attempts to relieve the unhappy colonists. Thus perished the third settlement. Sir Walter Raleigh had equipped seven expeditions, and expended above 40,000l., or nearly his whole fortune, within a few years, to no purpose; but his romantic temper was not to be subdued by ill success: and as he lived at court, and entered into all the intrigues of his day, brilliant exploits were often necessary to him, to cover and redeem the mortifications of his daily life. As his fortune diminished, his imagination grew more ardent, despair perhaps lessening the influence of judgment; and he devoted the latter part of his life to the prosecution of delusive schemes, which had never allured him at a time when he better possessed the means of accomplishing whatever he proposed. It is difficult to ascertain with precision the circumstances or the time which gave birth to the belief in the existence of a golden country, or El Dorado, in the interior of South America, where the government of the incas was revived in its ancient splendour, and where the precious metals existed in such abundance that even the roofs of the temples were made of gold. It circulated as early as 1531, when Ordaca undertook a luckless expedition to the mouths of the Orinoco, to ascend that river. Gonzalez Pizarro, in his march to the sources of the Maragnon, received a confirmation of the tale; and Orellana, in descending that great river, collected many marvellous relations tending to corroborate in his mind the same gratifying intelligence. But while the Spaniards sought nothing and thought of nothing but gold, it is not surprising that every picture that haunted their fancy should be richly adorned with that precious metal. All the tales collected by the Spaniards were familiar to sir Walter Raleigh, who, as he wished them to weigh with the public mind, allowed them to operate freely on his own. He proposed the conquest of Guiana, and the discovery of El Dorado, or the country of gold; in which the natives in their feasts, according to a Spanish writer, having first anointed themselves with a gummy balsam, roll themselves in gold dust, so as to be gilt from head to foot. The plans of sir Walter Raleigh were favourably entertained by the iministers, and in 1595 he sailed with five ships for Guiana. He made himself master of Trinidad; and calling together the natives, explained to them, by an interpreter whom he brought with him from England, that “he was the servant of a queen who was the greatest cacique in the North, and a virgin who had more caciques under her command than there were trees in that island; that she was an enemy to the Spaniards on account of their tyranny and oppression; and having freed all the coasts of the northern world from their servitude, had sent him to free them also ; and moreover to defend Guiana from their invasion and conquest.” He then prepared to pass over to the continent. Berreo, a Spanish officer who had unsuccessfully attempted to enter Guiana, tried to dissuade Raleigh from the hasty execution of his plan; telling him that it would be necessary to carry provisions for a tedious voyage, that the navigation of the rivers was rendered difficult by numerous shoals and rapids, and that they were beginning to swell and pour down overwhelming torrents at the very WOL. II, P

season when he was preparing to ascend them. These fair arguments were construed by the English cavalier into the suggestions of a rival, who wished to thwart his plans, and defeat their execution. He attempted to enter the river Orinoco with his ships ; but finding it impossible to bring them across the bar, he was obliged to undertake the expedition in open boats. A hundred men, with their arms and provisions for a month, were crowded into three small boats, exposed to all the extremes of the weather in an unhealthy climate ; they had advanced but a short way up the river when they found themselves involved in a labyrinth of channels, from which they could not extricate themselves without much labour and anxiety. Luckily they surprised an old Indian in a canoe; and being treated kindly, he readily consented to become their pilot. The Indians inhabiting the mouth of the Orinoco lived in houses during the summer, or dry season; but in the winter months, when the country was overflowed, they constructed small huts in the trees, to which they ascended by means of ladders. Some rumours concerning the Spaniards and the golden country were collected as they went on, which inspired the men with the same ardour as their chief. When Raleigh had ascended the river about 300 miles, he had an interview with Tapiowary, an Indian chieftain 110 years old, who gave him the most ample information respecting the political situation of the country, and its natural productions. Leaving this old chieftain, Raleigh proceeded westward to view the falls of the river Caroli. From the summit of a hill overlooking the river they beheld it rolling down in three streams for twenty miles together: the current was so rapid that an eight-oared boat could not stem it, in a stream as wide as the Thames at Woolwich. A dozen cataracts, one above the other, rushed down with such violence that the noise could be heard at a distance of many leagues. The landscape around was the most beautiful that could be imagined: the hills were richly clothed with wood, the waters winding below in numerous branches; the plains clear of brushwood, and covered with fine green turf; deer crossing the scene in every direction; and multitudes of birds, of endless varieties and the most brilliant colours, fluttering among the trees or perched along the river banks. Even the specimens of the mineral world found here had an unusual brilliancy; and fragments of stone, supposed to contain gold, were carried off by the credulous adventurers. Raleigh had now advanced 400 miles from the coast; he had been absent from his fleet a month; the wet season was coming on, and the river began to rise with fearful rapidity; it was no longer prudent, therefore, to defer his return. In descending the river he repeated his visit to the old chieftain Tapiowary, and consulted him respecting the possibility of conquering Guiana, and reaching the golden city Manoa. The prudent replies of the old Indian appeared encouraging to one whose mind was wholly bent on these visionary schemes. But whatever might be thought of the soundness of his calculations, the abilities of Raleigh as a leader were advantageously shown in this surprising expedition, in which there was neither murmuring nor discontent; and in which, notwithstanding the dangers and privations to which the men were exposed, not one perished during the whole voyage, with the exception of a negro who was devoured by a crocodile. Raleigh brought home with him specimens of the golden ore on which his hopes were founded. The son of Tapiowary accompanied him to England, where he was baptised with much ceremony by the name of Gualtero. Two Englishmen at the same time remained with the Indian chieftain: the one a good draftsman; the other a boy, intended to learn the language of the natives, in which he actually became proficient, but was unfortunately killed and devoured in the woods by wild beasts. The character of Raleigh had no doubt been much lowered in popular estimation by the ill success of his expeditions to Virginia; and the fruitless issue of his voyage to Guiana completed his downfal. His attainder, which followed not long after, by an

nulling his patent, threw open the West to new projectors. In 1605, captain Weymouth was despatched to Virginia, to examine the coast for the purpose of a settlement. He discovered Long Island, and entered a great river, most probably the Hudson, which he ventured to compare to the Orinoco and the Maragnon. The account which he gave on his return, of the magnificent country which he had examined, of its navigable rivers and harbours capable of containing all the fleets in the world, stimulated the slumbering spirit of plantation. Two companies were soon after incorporated for the purpose of planting Virginia; the limits assigned by the charter to the one being from 38° to 43° N. latitude, to the other from 41° to 45°, a space of two degrees being thus whimsically left in common. The London company, to which the more southerly country was allotted, having the largest amount of capital at its disposal, was the first to begin its operations. A squadron of three vessels under the command of captain Newport, with 110 settlers, sailed from London in 1607, and arrived in April at the mouth of Chesapeak Bay. The first great river explored by the settlers was the Powhatan, which they called James's River. About fifty miles up the stream they found a peninsula connected with the main land by an isthmus about thirty yards across. The soil was fertile, the situation secure; and here they founded James's Town, which still exists, and is the oldest settlement in the United States. Among the leaders of this colony was captain John Smith, who was already well known for his adventures in the Turkish wars. He distinguished himself in the Hungarian army; was taken prisoner by the Turks; was by them sold to the Tatars; and, after wandering over a great part of the interior of Asia, returned home to encounter new perils and difficulties in the western world. The council who undertook the administration of the new colony, and of whom some were men of rank and consequence, at first studiously excluded

« ForrigeFortsett »