A Discourse of Western Planting, by Richard Hakluyt

Chap. I. The Western Planting.

That this Westerne discoverie will be greately for thinlargemente of the gospell of Christe, whereunto the princes of the Refourmed Religion are chefely bounde, amongeste whome her Majestie ys principall.

Seinge that the people of that parte of AMERICA from 30. degrees in Florida northewarde unto 63. degrees (which ys yet in no Christian princes actuall possession) are idolaters; and that those which Stephen Gomes broughte from the coaste of NORUMBEGA in the yere 1524.1 worshipped the sonne, the moone, and the starres, and used other idolatrie, as it ys recorded in the historie of Gonsaluo de Ouiedo,2 in Italian, fol. 52. of the third volume of Ramusius; and that those of Canada and Hochelaga in 48. and 50. degrees worshippe a spirite which they call Cudruaigny, as we reade in the tenthe chapiter of the seconde relation of Jaques Cartier, whoe saieth: This people beleve not at all in God, but in one whome they call Cudruaigny; they say that often he speaketh with them, and telleth them what weather shall followe, whether goodd or badd, &c.,3 and yet notwithstandinge they are very easie to be perswaded, and doe all that they sawe the Christians doe in their devine service, with like imitation and devotion, and were very desirous to become Christians, and woulde faine have been baptized, as Verarsanus witnesseth in the laste wordes of his relation, and Jaques Cartier in the tenthe chapiter before recited — it remayneth to be thoroughly weyed and considered by what meanes and by whome this moste godly and Christian work may be perfourmed of inlarginge the glorious gospell of Christe, and reducinge of infinite multitudes of these simple people that are in errour into the righte and perfecte way of their saluation. The blessed Apostle Paule, the converter of the Gentiles, Rom: 10. writeth in this manner: Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lorde shall be saved. But howe shall they call on him in whom they have not beleved? and how shall they beleve in him of whom they have not hearde? and howe shall they heare withoute a preacher? and howe shall they preache excepte they be sente? Then it is necessary for the salvation of those poore people which have sitten so longe in darkenes and in the shadowe of deathe, that preachers should be sent unto them. But by whome shoulde these preachers be sente? By them no doubte which have taken upon them the protection and defence of the Christian faithe. The Prynces of England called the defenders of the faithe. Nowe the Kinges and Queenes of England have the name of Defendours of the Faithe.4 By which title I thinke they are not onely chardged to mayneteyne and patronize the faithe of Christe, but also to inlarge and advaunce the same. Neither oughte this to be their laste worke, but rather the principall and chefe of all others, accordinge to the comaundemente of our Saviour, Christe, Mathewe 6, Ffirste seeke the kingdome of God and the righteousnes thereof, and all other thinges shalbe mynistred unto you.

Plantings fyrste necessarye. Nowe the meanes to sende suche as shall labour effectually in this busines ys, by plantinge one or twoo colonies of our nation upon that fyrme, where they may remaine in safetie, and firste learne the language of the people nere adjoyninge (the gifte of tongues beinge nowe taken awaye), and by little and little acquainte themselves with their manner, and so with discretion and myldenes distill into their purged myndes the swete and lively liquor of the gospel. Otherwise, for preachers to come unto them rashly with oute some suche preparation for their safetie, yt were nothinge els but to ronne to their apparaunte and certaine destruction, as yt happened onto those Spanishe ffryers, that, before any plantinge, withoute strengthe and company, landed in Fflorida, where they were miserablye massacred by the savages.5 On the other side, by meane of plantinge firste, the small nation of the Portingales towardes the Southe and Easte have planted the Christian faithe accordinge to their manner, and have erected many bisshoprickes and colledges to traine upp the youthe of the infidels in the same, of which acte they more vaunte in all their histories and chronicles, then of anythinge els that ever they atchieved. And surely if they had planted the gospell of Christe purely, as they did not, they mighte justly have more rejoyced in that deede of theirs, then in the conqueste of the whole contrie, or in any other thinge whatsoever. The like may be saied of the Spaniardes, whoe (as yt is in the preface of the last edition of Osorius de rebus gestis Emanuelis) have established in the West Indies three archebisshopricks, to witt, Mexico, Luna, and Onsco, and thirtene other bisshoprickes there named, and have builte above CC. houses of relligion in the space of fyftie yeres or thereaboutes. Now yf they, in their superstition, by meanes of their plantinge in those partes, have don so greate thinges in so shorte space, what may wee hope for in our true and syncere relligion, proposinge unto ourselves in this action not filthie lucre nor vaine ostentation, as they in deede did, but principally the gayninge of the soules of millions of those wretched people, the reducinge of them from darkenes to lighte, from falsehoode to truthe, from dombe idolls to the lyvinge God, from the depe pitt of hell to the highest heauens. In the 16. of the Actes of the Apostles, when Paule soughte to preache in Asia and to goe into Bithinia, the Holy Ghoste suffered him not. But at Troas a vision appered unto him by night. There stoode a man of Macedonia and prayed hym, sayenge: Come into Macedonia and helpe us. And after he had seene the vysion, ymmediatly he prepared to goe into Macedonia, beinge assured that the Lorde had called him to preache the gospell unto them. Even so wee, whiles wee have soughte to goe into other countries (I woulde I might say to preache the gospell), God by the frustratinge of our actions semeth to forbydd us to followe those courses, and the people of AMERICA crye oute unto us, their nexte neighboures, to come and helpe them, and bringe unto them the gladd tidinges of the gospell. Unto the prince and people that shalbe the occasion of this worthie worke, and shall open their cofers to the furtheraunce of this most godly enterprise, God shall open the bottomles treasures of his riches, and fill them with aboundance of his hidden blessinges; as he did to the goodd Queene Isabella, which beinge in extreme necessitie, laied her owne jewells to gage for money to furnishe out Columbus for the firste discovery of the West Indies.

A question of the adversary. And this enterprise the princes of the relligion (among whome her Majestie ys principall) oughte the rather to take in hande, because the papistes confirme themselves and drawe other to theire side, shewinge that they are the true Catholicke churche because they have bene the onely converters of many millions of infidells to Christianitie. Yea, I myselfe have bene demaunded of them, how many infidells have been by us converted? Whereunto, albeit I alleaged the example of the mynisters which were sente from Geneva with Villegagnon into Bresill,6 and those that wente with Iohn Ribault into Florida,7 as also those of our nation that went with Ffrobisher Sir Fraunces Drake, and Ffenton;(45) yet in very deede I was not able to name any one infidell by them converted. But God, quoth I, hath his tyme for all men, whoe calleth some at the nynthe, and some at the eleventh houer. And if it please him to move the harte of her Majestie to put her helpinge hande to this godly action, she shall finde as willinge subjectes of all sortes as any other prince in all Christendome. And as for the boastinge of your conversion of such multitudes of infidells, yt may justly be compted, rather a perversion, seeinge you have drawen them as it were oute of Sylla into Charibdis, that is to say, from one error into another. Nowe therefore I truste the time ys at hande when by her Majesties forwardnes in this enterprise, not only this obiection and suche like shalbe aunswered by our frutefull labor in Godds harvest amonge the infidells, but also many inconveniences and strifes amongest ourselves at home, in matters of ceremonies, shalbe ended. For those of the clergye which by reason of idlenes here at home are nowe alwayes coyninge of newe opynions, havinge by this voyadge to set themselves on worke in reducinge the savages to the chefe principles of our faith, will become lesse contentious, and be contented with the truthe in relligion alreadie established by authoritie. So they that shall beare the name of Christians shall shewe themselves worthye of their vocation, so shall the mouthe of the adversarie be stopped, so shall contention amongest brethren be avoyded, so shal the gospell amonge infidells be published.

1 Estavan Gomes, a Portuguese pilot, sailed with Magellan on his famous voyage in 1519, but deserted with his ship and crew. In 1525 (not 1524) he sailed from Corunna. He coasted Newfoundland as far south as 40 deg. Here he took on board certain Indians and carried them to Spain. (C.D.)

2 Born 1478. His Historia general de los Indias was not published in its entirety until 1851–55. (C.D.)

3 It appears from a passage in Chapter xvii. of this Discourse that Hakluyt had seen an original manuscript account of Cartier’s second voyage in the Royal Library at Paris.

4 This title was conferred on Henry VIII. by Leo X. by a bull dated the fifth of the Ides of October 1521, for his book “Assertio Septem Sacramentorum adversus Martin Lutherum,” etc., printed by Pynson, 1521.

5 Friar Luys Cancel of Balvastro was, with other friars, sent to Florida by Philip II. in 1549, where they were massacred and eaten. (See Eden’s version of Gomara’s Historia general, cap. xiv. Woods.)

6 For an account of this earliest colony of Protestantism in America, consult Bayle’s Dictionnaire, Art. Villegagnon and Ricker; Cotton Mather, Magnalia, Book I., Southey’s History of Brazil; De Thou, Maimbourg, etc.

7 Dr. Woods thinks Hakluyt is mistaken in saying ministers went out with Ribault to Florida. It is indeed hardly likely that Coligny would have thus alienated the sympathy of Charles IX.


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