A Discourse of Western Planting, by Richard Hakluyt

Chap. XVII.

That by these colonies the north west passage to Cathaio and China may easely, quickly, and perfectly be searched oute as well by river and overlande as by sea; for proofe whereof here are quoted and alleaged divers rare testymonies oute of the three volumes of voyadges gathered by Ramusius, and other grave authors.

In the thirde volume of Nauigations and Voyadges, gathered and translated into Italian by Mr. John Baptista Ramusius, fol. 417. pag. 2, I reade of John Verarsanus as followeth: This unhappy ende had this valiaunte gentleman, whoe, if this misfortune had not happened unto him (with the singuler knowledge that he had in sea matters and in the arte of navigation, beinge also favoured with the greate liberalitie of Kinge Fraunces), woulde have discovered and opened unto the worlde that parte also of lande even to the poole. Neither woulde he have contented himselfe with the outeside and sea coaste onely, but woulde have passed further upp within the lande so farr as he coulde have gon. And many that have knowen him and talked with him have told me, that he saied he had in mynde to perswade the Frenche Kinge to sende oute of Fraunce a goodd nomber of people to inhabite certaine places of the said coaste, which be of ayre temperate, and of soile moste fertile, with very faire ryvers, and havens able to receave any navie. The inhabitants of which places mighte be occasion to bringe to passe many goodd effectes: and, amongest other, to reduce those poore, rude, and ignoraunte people to the knowledge of God and true relligion, and to shewe them the manner of husbandrie for the grounde, transportinge of the beastes of Europe into those excedinge large and champion contries; and in time mighte discover the partes within lande, and see if, amongest so many ilandes there be any passage to the Southe Sea, or whither the firme lande of Fflorida contynewe still even to the pole.

Upon occasion of these laste wordes I thinke it not amisse to alleage those testimonies tendinge to the proofe of this longe desired north west passage, which, with no small care these many yeres, I have observed in my readinges and conferences concerninge the same matter.

1. My firste authoritie is in the seconde volume of Ramusius, in the discourse of the discoverie of the ilandes Freseland, Iseland, Engroneland, Drogeo, and Icaria, made in the northe by Sir Nicholas Zeny, Knighte, and Mr. Anthony, his brother, in the yere 1380.78 In which discourse, amonge many other thinges tendinge to the proofe of this passage, I finde this recorded: Scoprirono vna isola detta Estotilanda posta in ponente lontana da Frislanda piu di mille miglia; whereof I gather, that whereas still he calleth Estotiland an Ilande, and that it is distant westwarde from Frislande more then a thousande miles, that the sea is open above five hundreth miles further then Frobisher and his companie discouered. Ffor he himself confesseth that he never sailed paste five or sixe hundreth miles to the weste of Ffriselande; and here is mention made, that those fishermen that discouered the iland of Estotiland founde it to be more then a M. miles to the weste of the same.

2. The seconde testimonie to prove this north west passage is in the preface of the aforesaide Ramusius before his thirde volume, where he alleageth, in manner followinge, that which Sebastian Gabote wrote unto him concerninge this matter: Many yeres paste I was written unto by Sebastian Gabote, our contryman, a Venecian, and a man of greate experience, and very singuler in the arte of navigation and in the knowledge of cosmographie, whoe sailed alonge and beyonde Nova Francia, at the chardges of Kinge Henry the seaventh, Kinge of England; and he signified unto me, that havinge sailed a longe tyme west and by northe beyonde those ilandes unto the latitude of 67. degrees and [an half] under the north pole, on the xj’th day of June, and findinge the sea open and withoute any manner of ympedymente, he thoughte verely that he mighte have passed by that way unto Cathaia, which is in the Easte; and he woulde have done yt, if the mutinie of the shipmaster and unruly mariners had not inforced him to returne homewardes from that place. But it semeth (saith Ramusius), that God doth yet reserve to some greate prince the discoverie of this voyadge to Cathaio by this way, which, for the bringinge of the spicerie from India into Europe, woulde be the moste easie and shortest of all others hitherto founde oute. And surely this enterprise woulde be the moste glorious and of moste importaunce of all other that any coulde ymagine, to make their name moche more eternall and ymmortale amonge all ages to come, then these so greate tumultes and troubles of warres, which are to be seene contynually in Europe amonge the miserable and unhappy Christians.

3. Thirdly, the reporte which the people of Hochelaga made to Jacques Cartier, in the xiij’th. chapter of his seconde relation, of the river three monethes navigable to the southewarde, dothe not a little confirme the same.

4. Fourthly, the relation of the people of Canada in the xij’th. chapiter, followinge on this manner: Moreover they tolde us, and gave us to understande, that there are people cladde with clothe as wee are, and that there are many inhabited townes and goodd people, and that they have greate store of golde and redd copper, and that upp into the lande, beyonde the river firste above mentioned, even to Hochelaga and Saguynay, there is an ile environed aboute with that and other rivers, which beyonde Saguenay entereth into twoo or three greate lakes; also that there is founde a sea of freshe water, the heade and ende whereof there was never man founde that had throughly searched, as farr as they have hearde say of them of Saguenay, for they (as they signified unto us) had not bene there themselves.

5. Fyftly, in the ende of that seconde relation this postscripte is added as a speciall pointe, to witt: that they of Canada say that it is the space of a moone (that is to saye a moneth) to saile to a lande where cynamon and cloves are gathered; and in the Frenche originall which I sawe in the Kinges Library at Paris, in the Abbay of St Martines,79 yt is further put downe, that Donnaconna, the Kinge of Canada, in his barke had traveled to that contrie where cynamon and cloves are had; yea, the names whereby the savages call those twoo spices in their owne language are there put downe in writinge.

6. Sixtly, this passage is likewise proved by the double reporte of Vasques de Coronado. For firste, he beinge at Ceuola, which standeth in 37. degrees and an halfe of northerly latitude within the lande, he had this informacion of the people of that place; Fanno otto giornate verso le campagne al mare di settentrione: whereby I gather that some parte of the northerne sea ys within viij. daies journey of Ceuola. Againe, when he was afterwardes at the towne of Quiuira, which is scituated by the sea side in the latitude of 40. degrees, he founde there shippes, with maryners, which had the picture of a birde, called Alcatrazzi, in silver upon their bonnetts and on the forepartes of their shippes; which signified that they were thirtie daies sailinge to that place; whence it is saied that they muste nedes be of Cathaio or China, seinge that there is none but Spanishe shippinge upon all the coaste of the backside of Noua Spania.

7. Seaventhly, the people of Florida, at the River of May, in 30. degrees, signified to John Ribault and his company, that they mighte saile in boates from thence through the contrie by ryver to Ceuola in xx’ti. These are the wordes, viz. As wee nowe demaunded of them concerninge the towne of Ceuola (whereof some have written that it is not farr from thence, and is scituated within the lande, and towardes the sea called Mare del Sur), they shewed vs by signes, which wee understoode well ynoughe, that they mighte goe thither with their boates, by rivers, in xx’ti. daies.

8. Eightly, Don Antonio di Castillo, embassador to her Majestie from Henry the Kinge of Portingale, tolde me here in London, the yere before his departure, that one Anus Corteriall, Capitaine of the Ile of Tercera, in the yere 1574. sente a shippe to discover the northwest passage, which, arryvinge on the coaste of America in 57. degrees of latitude, founde a greate entraunce very depe and broade, withoute impedimente of ise, into which they passed above xx leagues, and founde it alwayes to tende towardes the southe. The lande lay lowe and plaine on either side. They woulde have gon further, but their victualls drawinge shorte, and beinge but one shippe, they returned backe, with hope at another tyme to make a full searche of the passage, whereof they sawe not small likelyhoode.

9. Nynthly, Don Antonio, Kinge of Portingale,80 shewed me in Paris this present somer, a greate olde rounde carde (out of which Postellus tooke the forme of his mappe), that had the northwest straite plainely sett downe in the latitude of 57. degrees.

10. Tenthly, there is a mightie large olde mappe in parchemente, made, as yt shoulde seme, by Verarsanus, traced all alonge the coaste from Florida to Cape Briton, with many Italian names, which laieth oute the sea, making a little necke of lande in 40. degrees of latitude, much lyke the streyte necke or istmus of Dariena. This mappe is nowe in the custodie of Mr. Michael Locke.

11. Eleventhly, there is an olde excellent globe in the Queenes privie gallory at Westminster, which also semeth to be of Verarsanus makinge, havinge the coaste described in Italian, which laieth oute the very selfe same streite necke of lande in the latitude of 40. degrees, with the sea joynninge harde on bothe sides, as it dothe on Panama and Nombre di Dios; which were a matter of singuler importaunce, yf it shoulde be true, as it is not unlikely.

12. Twelvethly, the judgemente of Gerardus Mercator, that excellent geographer, which his sonne, Rumolde Mercator, shewed me in a letter of his, and drewe oute for me in writinge, of wise men is not lightly to be regarded. These were his wordes: Magna tametsi pauca de noua nauigatione scribis, quam miror ante multos annos non fuisse attentatam. Non enim dubium est quin recta et breuis via pateat in occidentem Cathaium vsque. In quod regnum, si recte nauigationem instituant, nobilissimas totius mundi merces colligent, et multis gentibus adhuc idololatris Christi nomen communicabunt. You write (saieth he to his sonne) greate matters, thoughe very brefely, of the newe voyadge, whereat I wonder that it was not these many yeres heretofore attempted; ffor there is no doubte but there is a streighte and shorte waye open into the west, even to Cathaio. Into which kingdome, if they governe their voyadge well, they shall gather the moste noble marchandize of all the worlde, and shall make the name of Christe to be knowen to many idolaters and heathen people.

13. Hereunto agreeth the relation of Monsieur de Leau, an honest gent of Morleux, in Britaine, which tolde me this springe, in the presence of divers Englishe men at Paris, that a man of St. Malowe this laste yere discovered the sea on the back side of Hochelaga.

14. Moreover, the relation of David Ingram confirmeth the same; for, as he avowcheth and hath put it downe in writinge, he traveled twoo daies in the sighte of the North Sea.

15. Againe, the prohibition which Kinge Philippe hath made, that none of his pilotts shall discover to the northe wardes of 45. degrees, may seme chefely to precede of these two causes: the one, leaste passinge further to the northe, they mighte fall upon the open passage from Mare del Sur into our Northerne Sea; the other, because they have not people ynoughe to possesse and kepe the same, but rather in tyme shoulde open a gappe for other nations to passe that waye.

16. Lastly, I will ende with the earnest petition and constant assertion of Ramusius, in his firste volume, fol. 374. where, speakinge of the severall waies by which the spicery, bothe of olde and of late yeres, hath bene broughte into Europe, he useth these speaches in the person of another: Why doe not the princes (saieth he), which are to deale in these affaires, sende furthe twoo or three colonies to inhabite the contrie, and to reduce this savage nation to more civilitie, consideringe what a frutefull soile it is, how replenished with all kinde of graine, howe it is stored with all kinde of birdes and beastes, with such faire and mightie rivers, that Capitaine Cartier and his companie in one of them sailed upp an C. and xx’iiij. leagues, findinge the contrie peopled on bothe sides in greate aboundaunce; and, moreover, to cause the gouernours of those colonies to sende furthe men to discouer the northe landes aboute Terra de Labrador, and west north west towardes the seas, which are to saile to the contrie of Cathaio, and from thence to the ilandes of Molucka. These are enterprises to purchase ymmortal praise, which the Lord Antony de Mendoza, viceroy of Mexico, willinge to put in execution, sente furthe his capitaines, bothe by sea and lande, upon the northwest of Noua Spania, and discovered the kingdomes of the seaven cities aboute Ceuola; and Franciscus Vasques de Coronado passed from Mexico by lande towardes the northwest 2850. miles, in so moche as he came to the sea which lieth betwene Cathaio and America, where he mett with the Cathaian shippes; and, no doubte, if the Frenche men, in this their Nova Francia, woulde have discovered upp further into the lande towardes the west northwest partes, they shoulde have founde the sea and have sailed to Cathaio.

Thus farr Ramusius.

God, which doth all thinges in his due time, and hath in his hande the hartes of all Princes, stirr upp the mynde of her Majestie at lengthe to assiste her moste willinge and forwarde subjectes to the perfourmance of this moste godly and profitable action; which was begonne at the chardges of Kinge Henry the vij’th. her grandfather, followed by Kinge Henry the Eighte, her father, and lefte, as it semeth, to be accomplished by her (as the three yeres golden voyadge to Ophir was by Salomon), to the makinge of her realme and subjectes moste happy, and her selfe moste famous to all posteritie. Amen.

78 See the translation of Zeno’s Voyages, printed by the Hakluyt Society, and edited by Major.

79 See Introductory note.

80 The illegitimate son of the Infant Don Luiz and Violante Gomes. Consult Froude, Hist. of England, vol. ix.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 20:00