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III.

1576.

CHAP. Spain, and at least from thirty to fifty English ships

came annually to the bays and banks of New1574-8 foundland.

The possibility of effecting a northwest passage had ever been maintained by Cabot. The study of geography had now become an interesting pursuit ; the press teemed with books of travels, maps and descriptions of the earth; and Sir Humphrey Gilbert, reposing from the toils of war, engaged deeply in the science of cosmography. A judicious and well written argumento in favor of the possibility of a northwestern passage was the fruit of his literary industry.

The same views were entertained by one of the boldest men, who ever ventured upon the ocean. For fifteen years, Martin Frobisher, an Englishman, well versed in various navigation, had revolved the design of accomplishing the discovery of the northwestern passage; esteeming it “the only thing of the world, that was yet left undone, by which a notable minde might be made famous and fortunate.? Too poor himself to provide a ship, it was in vain, that he conferred with friends; in vain he offered his services to merchants. After years of desire, his representations found a hearing at court; and Dudley, earl of Warwick, liberally promoted his design. Two small barks of twenty-five and of twenty tuns, with a pinnace of ten tuns burden,

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1 Parkhurst, in Hakluyt, v. iii.

p. 171.

2 Hakluyt, v. ii. p. 32–47.
3 Best, in Hakluyt, v. iii. p. 86.

4 Willes' Essay for M. Frobisher's voyage, in den and Willes, fol. 230, and ff.; in Hakluyt, v. iii. p. 47-52.

FROBISHER RETURNS WITHOUT SUCCESS.

93

III.

June

8.

composed the whole fleet, which was to enter gulfs, CHAP. • that none but Cabot had visited. As they dropped down the Thames, Queen Elizabeth waved her hand 1576. in token of favor, and, by an honorable message, transmitted her approbation of an adventure, which her own treasures had not contributed to advance. During a storm on the voyage, the pinnace was swallowed up by the sea; the mariners in the Michael became terrified and turned their prow homewards; but Frobisher, in a vessel, not surpassing in tunnage the barge of a man-of-war, made his way, fearless and unattended, to the shores of Labrador, and to a passage or inlet, north of the entrance of Hudson's bay. A strange perversion has transferred the scene of his discoveries to the eastern coast of Greenland ;' it was among a group of American islands, in the latitude of sixty-three degrees. and eight minutes, that he entered what seemed to be a strait. Hope suggested that his object was obtained, that the land on the south was America, on the north was the continent of Asia ; and that the strait opened into the immense Pacific. Great praise is due to Frobisher, even though he penetrated less deeply than Cabot into the bays and among the islands of this Meta Incognita, this unknown goal of discovery. Yet his voyage was a failure. To land upon an island, and, perhaps, on the main, to gather up stones and rubbish, in token of having taken possession of the country for Elizabeth, to seize one of

a

1 Forster's Northern Voyages, p. 274–284; Hist. des Voyages, t.

xv. p. 94-100.

III.

1577.

CHAP. the natives of the north for exhibition to the gaze

of Europe, these were all the results which he accomplished.

What followed marks the insane passions of the age. America and mines were always thought of together. A stone, which had been brought from the frozen regions, was pronounced by the refiners of London, to contain gold. The news excited the wakeful avarice of the city; there were not wanting those, who endeavored to purchase of Elizabeth a lease of the new lands, of which the loose minerals were so full of the precious metal. A fleet was immediately fitted out, to procure more of the gold, rather than to make any further research for the passage into the Pacific; and the queen, who had contributed nothing to the voyage of discovery, sent a large ship of her own to join the expedition, which was now to conduct to infinite opulence. More men than could be employed, volunteered their services; those who were discharged, resigned their

brilliant hopes with reluctance. The mariners, May having received the communion, embarked for the

arctic El Dorado, “and with a merrie wind” soon June arrived at the Orkneys. As they reached the north

eastern coast of America, the dangers of the polar seas became imminent; mountains of ice encompassed them on every side; but as the icebergs were brilliant in the high latitude with the light of an almost perpetual summer's day, the worst perils were avoided. Yet the mariners were alternately agitated with fears of shipwreck and joy at escape.

27.

7.

FROBISHER'S THIRD VOYAGE.

95

III.

At one moment they expected death; and at the CHAP. next, they looked for gold. The fleet made no discoveries; it did not advance so far as Frobisher alone 1577. had done. But it found an abundance of earth, which, even to the incredulous, seemed plainly to contain the coveted wealth ; besides, spiders abounded; and “spiders were” affirmed to be “true signs of great store of gold.” In freighting the ships,

' the admiral himself toiled like a painful laborer. How strange, in human affairs, is the mixture of sublime courage and ludicrous folly! What bolder maritime enterprize, than, in that day, a voyage to lands lying north of Hudson's straits! What folly more egregious, than to have gone there for a lading of useless earth!

But credulity is apt to be self-willed. What is there which the passion for gold will not prompt? It defies danger and laughs at obstacles; it resists loss and anticipates treasures; unrelenting in its pursuit, it is deaf to the voice of mercy, and blind to the cautions of judgment; it can penetrate the prairies of Arkansas, and covet the moss-grown barrens of the Esquimaux. I have now to relate the 1578.

. first attempt of the English, under the patronage of Elizabeth, to plant an establishment in America.3

It was believed, that the rich mines of the polar regions would countervail the charges of a costly adventure; the hope of a passage to Cathay increased; and for the security of the newly discovered

1 Best, in Hakluyt, v. ii. p. How rich then the alcoves of a 95.

library! 2 Settle, in Hakluyt, v. iii. p. 63. 3 Hakluyt, v. iii. p. 71-73.

III.

CHAP. lands, soldiers and discreet men were selected to

become their inhabitants. A magnificent fleet of 1578. fifteen sail was collected, in part, at the expense of

Elizabeth ; the sons of the English gentry embarked
as volunteers; one hundred persons were selected
to form the colony, which was to secure to England
a country more desirable than Peru, a country, too
inhospitable to produce a tree or a shrub, yet where
gold lay, not charily concealed in mines, but glisten-
ing in heaps upon the surface. Twelve vessels were
to return immediately with cargoes of the ore; three ,
were ordered to remain and aid the settlement.
The northwest passage was now become of less
consideration ; Asia itself could not vie with this
hyperborean archipelago.

But the entrance to these wealthy islands was May 31,

rendered difficult by frost; and the fleet of Frobish

er, as it now approached the American coast, was Sept.

bewildered among the immense icebergs, which were so vast, that, as they melted, torrents poured from them in sparkling waterfalls. One vessel was crushed and sunk; though the men on board were saved. In the mists and dangers, the ships lost their course and came into the straits, which have since been called Hudson's; and which lie south of the imagined gold regions. The admiral believed himself able to pass through to the South Sea, and resolve the doubt respecting the passage. But his duty as a mercantile agent controlled his desire of glory as a navigator. He struggled to regain the harbor, where his vessels were to be laden; and,

1578.

to

28.

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