Books relating to America

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[The Editor, in making some researches in the history of North America, was induced for his own convenience, to form a catalogue raisoneè of works relating to it. As this may be of some utility to persons engaged in similar pursuits, and not wholly uninteresting to others, he means to publish extracts from it in this journal. Where the works noticed are scarce, several extracts from them will be made, which may at once serve to give a more complete idea of the books, and to relieve the dryness of a mere catalogue.]

Virgo Triumphans, or Virginia in generall; but the south part thereof in particular including the fertile Carolana, and the no lesse excellent island of Roanok, richly and experimentally valued. Humbly presented as the auspice of a beginning yeare to the Parliament of England and Councell of State. By Edward Williams, Gent. London, printed by Thomas harper for John Stephenson, and are to be sold at his shop on Ludgate Hill, at the signe of the Sunne, 1650, pp. 68, 4to.

This book has two dedications and an address to the reader. The second dedication is, “to the conservers and enlargers of the liberties of this nation, the Lord President and Counsell of State:” The first is addressed to the Parliament and begins in this manner. “To the supreme authority of this nation the Parliament of England. Right Honorable: This dedication in itselfe unworthy the honour of an addresse to your Grandeurs, and of a foile too dead in shaddow to approach neere your most vigorous luster, reposes itselfe yet upon a confidence that in imitation of that God of whom you are in power the proper representatives, who vouchsafed graciously to accept a poore paire of Turtles from those whose abilities could not ascend to a more rich oblation, you will be pleased to cast a favorable aspect upon this humble offering, as proceeding from a gratefull, cleere and sincere intention, whose desire being strongly passionate to present your Honours with something more worthy the auspice of a beginning yeare, is circumscribed by a narrownesse of abilities and fortunes.”

The tone of servility in these dedications recalls to mind the same meanness to a greater extent shewn by some of the actors in a more modern revolution, whose termination has been equally abortive. The author is excessively zealous, his praise of the country extravagant, of which he does not appear to have had a personal knowledge, and his arguments in favour of colonizing it, most of them farfetched and absurd.

Virginia with some of the early writers extended from Cape Cod to Florida. This writer appears to have particularly in view, what he calls the Southern part of Virginia, or Carolana, under which name South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida were in former times generally included. The following will give an idea of his descriptions. “Yet to shew that nature regards this ornament of the new world with a more indulgent eye than she hath cast upon many other countreys, whatever China, Persia, Japan, Cyprus, Candy, Sicily, Greece, the South of Italy, Spaine, and the opposite parts of Africa, to all of which she is parallel, may boast of, will be produced in this happy countrey. The same bounty of summer, the same milde remission of winter, with a more virgin and unexhausted soyle being materiall arguments to show that modesty and truth receive no diminution by the comparison.

“Nor is the present wild nesse of it without a particular beauty, being all over a natural grove of Oakes, Pines, Cedars, Cipresse, Mulberry, Chestnut, Laurell, Sassafras, Cherry, Plum trees, and Vines, all of so delectable an aspect, that the melanchollyest eye in the world cannot looke upon it without contentment, nor content himselfe without admiration. No shrubs or underwoods choake up your passage, and in its season your foot can hardly direct itselfe where it will not be died in the bloud of large and delicious strawberries: The rivers which every way glide in deepe and navigable channels, betwixt the brests of this uberous Countrey, and contribute to its conveniency beauty and fertility, labour with the multitude of their fishy inhabitants in greater variety of species, and of a more incomparable delicacy in tast and sweetnesse than whatever the European sea can boast of: Sturgeon of ten feet, Drummes of sixe in length; Conger Eeles, Trout, Salmon, Bret, Mullet, Cod, Herrings, Perch, Lampreyes, and whatever else can be desired to the satisfaction of the most voluptuous wishes.” p. 1.

The Dutch would hardly assent to this writer’s depopulating the Doggerbank to enliven the rivers of Georgia with Codfish.

“Whatever other commodities, the novelty of inhabiting this amorous Virgin bath made it appeare defective in, as Sugar, Indigo, Cotton, Ginger, and other advantageous staples, we shall appeale to all who have seen this unexampled countrey; (we meane Roanok and the more Southerne parts, and those countreys towards the fertile Mangoack) whether it be guilty of any contrariety, distemper, or extremity which might hinder their production. The Sunne, which in other countreys makes his visit in flames and droughts, heere casts his auspicious Beames, and by an innocent and complementall warmth, courts the bosome of this his particular favorite, hastening and disposing its wombe for ripe productions, which salute him in an absolute perfection. Winter snowes, frosts, and other excesses, are here only remembered, never known. The purling Springs and wanton Rivers every where kissing the happy soyle into a perpetuall verdure, into an unwearied fertility no obstructions in your expectations, attempt and hope them, prosecute and enjoy them.” p. 19.

So little was known of the interiour of the country at this period, that this writer thought the South sea washed the Western base of the Alleghany mountains, and under this head launches out into extravagant calculations of the profit that would arise to Virginia from commercing with China.

“The Indians unanimously consent that twenty two miles beyond the Falls, is a Rocke of Chrystall, and this they evidence by their arrowes, very many whereof are headed with it. And that 3 dayes journey from thence, is a Rocke or Hill of Silver Oare. Beyond which over a ledge of Hills, by a concurrent relation of all the Indians, is the sea, which can be no other but that sea which washes tile shore of China, &c.

“That this report of a great sea South West beyond the Mountains cannot have the least of fiction or confederacy, since all the Indians from Canada to Florida, doe unjarringly agree in the relation, is obvious to the meanest apprehension.

“The discovery whereof if we fall upon it by degrees, will bee a worke of no long time or difficulty, but the unexpressible profit and glory of the action, will rayse the noble head of this above example countrey, to such a high zenith of wealth, power and lustre, that it will be reputed a very remarkable degree of felicity to any nation which shall reach to such a verticall puint of glory, as to bee reputed but our second in these most noble considerations.

By this means what wealth can there be in those richest provinces of the world, in those countreys which nature created for her Cabinets of excellency, which we shall not discover? What discover, without a power of appropriation? What opulency does China teeme with, which shall not be made our owne by the Midwifry, by the Juno Lucina of this virtuall passage? This by a happy transmigration, by an innocent magick will convert that countrey, (which by a swelling denomination, yet without not some pretence of reason its natives call by a Title signifying all under Heaven) into our maid of admiration and envy, Virginia. Her silke worm shall spinne for Carolana, her cloth of gold be weaved for Roanoak. The English name shall keepe company with the Sunne, and those nations who owe him a particular adoration shall honour it as the next thing sacred. The Easterne nations oppressed with the slavery of those illustrious horse-leeches their princes, will come under our shadow, and by a thicke repayre to our most glorious and happy mayden, live with us in that liberty, which nature in their creation, intended to the noblest of his creatures mankind. And by this recourse all those curiosities of art, in which those Easterne Nations transcend Europe, will bee conveyed to us with their persons, Cattel and Horse in which they abound, will be sold to us for nothing, for European trifles, whilest the more necessary staples of this our Westerne world, will be mid at advantages not convenient to be mentioned. The voyage short, easie, rich and pleasant. No doubling of the Line, no calentures, scurvies, or other long-passage diseases, to affright or distast the laborious seaman; whereas now the enfeebling ad destroying of Mariners is almost an unavoidable consequence of those long and dangerous, rather circumferences, than voyages.” p. 35.

“Those illustrious horse-leeches” have indeed “come under the shadow,” but not in the manner here predicted. One of his chapters compares Virginia with Persia, another with China, and on this latter he dwells the most; endeavouring to prove the superiority of Virginia, and that it can furnish in a superiour manner all the productions of China. It is curious enough that there is nothing in modern times in Virginia, to remind us of China, except certain statesmen, who are the exclusive admirers of the policy of that country. The author devotes a chapter to the silk worm, and endeavours to prove, that this might become the great staple of Virginia, also the cultivation of vineyards, and of silke grasse, besides all the products of Tropical climates. It is rather remarkable, that of all the objects which the sanguine expectations of early adventurers led them to consider as the great sources of the wealth of Virginia, none have hitherto been productive. Wine, silk, and silver mines were the three principal things on which the hopes of the first colonists were founded. There is added a list of the prices of a number of articles, at the time this book was written, which is not without interest.

Virginia richly valued by the description of the maine land of Florida, her next neighbour, out of the foure yeeres continuall travel and discouerie, for above one thousand miles East and West, of Don Ferdinando do Soto, and sixe hundred able men is his companie. Wherein are truly observed the riches and fertilitie of those parts, abounding with things necessarie, pleasant, and profitable for the life of man: with the natures and dispositions of the Inhabitants: Written by a Portugall Gentleman of Eluas, emploied in all the action, and translated out of Portugese by Richard Hakluyt. At London printed by Felix Kyngston for Mathew Lownes, and are to be sold at the signe of the Bishops head in Pauls Church yard, 1609. 4to. pp. 180.

This is a very scarce tract, as it is not to be found in the original editions of Hackluyt, nor is it reprinted with the modern one. His object in translating it was to serve the Virginia Company, to whom it is dedicated. He particularly dwells on the commodities of the country, and the conversion of the natives. And this he seems to think, if gentle means fail, may be effected by harsh ones. This was the common errour of the age in which he lived; and the habit of regarding these unfortunate savages with contempt because they were Pagans, greatly added to the cruelty of their invaders, and made even learned and pious men like Hackluyt, insensible to the atrocities that were acted. The conclusion of his dedication will shew his feelings on this point.

“To come to the second generall head, which in the beginning I proposed, concerning the manners and dispositions of the Inhabitants among other things, I finde them here noted to be very eloquent and well spoken, as the short orations interpreted by John Ortiz, which liued twelve yeeres among them, make sufficient proofe. And the author which was a gentleman of Eluas in Portugall, emploied in all the action, whose name is not set downe, speaking of the Cacique of Tuila, saith, that as well this Cacique, as the others, and all those which came to the Governour, on their behalfe, deliuered their message or speech in so good order, that no Oratour could vtter the same more eloquently. But for all their faire and cunning speeches, they are not ouermuch to be trusted: for they be the greatest traitors of the World, as their manifold most craftie, contriued and bloody treasons, here set down at large, doe euidently proue. They be also as vnconstant as the wethercock, and most readie to take all occasions of aduantages to doe mischeife. They are great liars and dissemblers for which faults oftentimes they had their deserued paiments. And many times they gaue good testimonie of their great valour and resolution. To handle them gently, while gentle courses may be found to serue, it will be without comparison the best but if gentle polishing will not seure, then we shall not want hammerours and rough masons, enow, I mean our old soldiours trained vp in the Netherlands, to square and prepare them to our preachers hands. To conclude, I trust by your honours and worships wise instructions to the noble Gouernour, the the worthy experimented Lieutenant and Admirall, and other cheife managers of the businesse, all things shall be so prudently carried, that the painfull Preachers shall be reuerenced and cherished, the valiant and forward soldiour respected, the diligent rewarded, the coward emboldened, the weake and sicke relieued, the mutinous suppressed, the reputation of the Christians among the Saluages preserued, our most holy faith exalted, all Paganisme and Idolatrie by little and little vtterly extinguished. And here reposing and resting myselfe vpon this sweete hope, I cease, beseeching the Almightie to blesse this good work in your hands to the honour and glorie of his most holy name, to the enlargement of the dominions of his sacred Majestic, and to the generall good of all the worthie aduenterers and. vndertakers. From my lodging in the College of Westminister this 15. of Aprill, 1609. By one publikely and anciently denoted to God’s seruice and all yours in this so good action. Richard Hakluyt.”

De Soto was one of the most adventurous and intrepid of the Spanish Banditti who first discovered and desolated America. The following extracts, give his origin and end. The Rio Grande as the author calls it into which his body was thrown is the Mississippi.

“Chap. 1. Which declareth who Don Ferdinando de Soto was, and how he got the gouernment of Florida.

“Captaine Soto was the son of a Squire of Xerez of Badaioz. He went into the Spanish Indies when Peter Arias of Auila was Gouernour of the West Indies: and there lie was without any thing else of his owne, saue his sword and target: and for his good qualities and valour Peter Arias made him Captaine of a troope of horsemen, and by his commandement hee went with Fernando Pizarro to the conquest of Peru: where (as many persons of credit reported, which were there present) as well at the taking of Atabalipa Lord of Peru, as at the assault of the citie of Cusco, and in all other places where they found resistance, wheresoeuer hee was present, hee passed all other Captaines and principall persons. For which cause (besides his part of the treasure of Atabalipa) he had a good share: whereby in time he gathered an hundred and foure score thousand Duckets together, with that which fell to his part: which he brought into Spaine: whereof the Emperour borrowed a certaine parte, which he repaied againe with 60000 Rials of Plate in the rent of the silkes of “ Granada, and all the rest was delinered him in the contractation house of Siuil. He tooke seruants, to wit, a steward, a Gentleman Vsher, Pages, a gentleman of the Horse, a Chamberlaine, Lakies, and al other officers that the house of a nobleman requireth. From Siuil hee went to the Court, and in the Court, there accompanied him John Danusco of Siuil, and Lewis Moscoso d’Aluarado, Nunno de Touar, and John Rodriguez Lobillo. Except John Danusco all the rest came with him from Peru: and euery one of them brought fourteene or fifteene thousand Duckets: all of them went well and costly apparrelled. And although Soto of his owne nature was not liberall, yet because that was the first time that hee was to shew himselfe in the Court, he spent frankely, and went accompanied with those which I haue named, and with his seruants and many other which resorted vnto him. Hee married with Donna Isabella de Bouadilla, daughter of Peter Arias of Auila, Earle of Punno en Rostro. The Emperour made him the Governour of the Isle of Cuba, and Adelantado or President of Florida, with a title of Marques of certaine part of the lands that he should conquer.

“Chap. 30. Of the death of the Adelantado Fernando de Soto: and how Luys Moscoso de Aluarado was elected Gouernour in his stead.

“The Gouernoer felt in himselfe that the houre approached, wherein hee was to leaue this present life, and called for the King’s officers, Captaines and principall persons, to whom he made a speech, saying:

“That now he was to goe to giue an account before the presence of God of all his life past: and since it pleased him to take him in such a time, and that the time was come, that he knew his death, that hee his most unworthie seruant did yeeld him many thankes therefore, and desired all that were present and absent, (whom he confessed himselfe to be much beholding vnto for their singular vertues, loue and loyaltie, which himselfe had well tried in the trauels, which they had suffered, which alwaies in his mind he did hope to satisfie and reward, when it should please God to giue him rest, with more prosperitie of his estate,) that they would pray to God for him, that for his mercie he would forgiue him his sinnes, and receiue his soule into eternall glorie: and that they would quit and free him of the charge which hee had ouer them, and ought vnto them all, and that they would pardon him for some wrongs which they might haue receiued of him: And to auoid some diuision, which vpon his death might fail out vpon the choice of his successour, he requested them to elect a principall person, and able to gouerne, of whom all should like well; and when he was elected, they should sweare before him to obey him: and that he would thanke them very much in so doing; because the griefe that he had, would somewhat be asswaged, and the paine that he felt, because he left them in so great confusion, to wit, in leauing them in a strange Countrie, where they knew not where they were.

Baltasar de Gallegos answered in the name of all the rest: And first of all comforting him, he set before his eies how short the life of this world was, and with how many troubles and miseries it is accompanied, and how God shewed him a singular fauor which soonest left it: telling him many other things fit for such a time. And for the last point, that since it pleased God to take him to himselfe, although his death did justly grieue them much, yet as wel he, as al the rest, ought of necessitie to conforme themselues to the will of God. And touching the Gouernour which he commanded they should elect, he besought him, that it would please his Lordship to name him which he thought fit, and him they would obey. And presently he named Luys de Moscoso de Aluarado his Captaine generall. And presently he was sworne by all that were present and elected for Gouernour. The next day, being the 21. of May, 1542. departed out of this life, the valorous, virtuous, and valiant Captaine, Don Fernando de Soto, Gouernour of Cuba, and Adelantado of Florida: whom fortune aduanced, as it vseth to doe others, that hee might haue the higher fal. He departed in such a place, and at such a time, as in his sicknesse he had but little comfort: and the danger wherein all his people were of perishing in thatt Countrie, which appeared before their eies, was cause sufficient, why euery one of them had need of comfort, and why they did not visit nor accompanie him as they ought to haue done. Luys de Moscoso determined to conceale his death from the Indians, because Ferdinando de Soto had made them beleeue, That the Christians were immortall; and also because they tooke him to be hardie, wise, and valiant: and if they should know that he was dead, they would be bold to set vpon the Christians, though they lieued peaceablie by them. In regard of their disposition, and because they were nothing constant, and beleeued all that was tolde them, the Adelantado made them beleeue, that he knew some things that passed in secret among themselues, without their knowledge, how, or in what manner he came by them: and that the figure which appeared in a glasse, which he shewed them, did tell him whatsoeuer they practised and went about: and therefore neither in word nor deed durst they attempt any thing that might bee prejudiciall vnto him.

“As soone as he was dead, Luis de Moscoso commanded to put him secretly in an house, where hee remained three daies: and remoouing him from thence, commanded him to bee buried in the night at one of the gates of the towne within the wall. And as the Indians had seene him sick, and missed him, so did they suspect what might bee. And passing by the place where hee was buried, seeing the earth mooued, they looked and spake one to another. Luys de Moscoso vnderstanding of it, commanded him to be taken vp by night, and to cast a great deale of sand into the mantles, wherein he was winded vp, wherein hee was carried in a canoe, and throwne into the middest of the Riuer. The Cacique of Guachoya inquired for him, demanding what was become of his brother and Lord, the Gouernour: Luys de Moscoso told him, that hee was gon to heauen, as many other times hee did: and because hee was to stay there certaine daies, he had left him in his place. The Cacique thought with himselfe that he was dead; and commanded two young and well proportioned indians to be brought thither; and said, that a vse of that Countrie was, when any Lord died, to kill Indians to wait vpon him, and serue him by the way: and for that purpose by his commandement were those come thither and prayed Luys de Moscoso to command them to be beheaded, that they might attend and serue his Lord and brother. Luys de Moscoso told him, that the Gouernour was not dead, but gone to heauen, and that of his owne Christian souldiers, he had taken such as he needed to serue him, and praied him to command those Indians to be loosed, and not to vse any such bad custome from thencefoorth: straightway hee commanded them to be loosed, and to get them home to their houses. And one of them would not goe; saying, that he would not serue him, that without desert had judged him to death, but that hee would serue him as long as hee liued, which had saued his life.”

There are many speeches of different Caciques, through whose territories they passed, but these are all in one uniform strain of servility, without any of the peculiarities, or raciness, that would prove them to be the real harangues of the savages. There is but one that forms an exception, and bears intrinsick marks of being genuine. It is given in the chapter that precedes the account of his death. When he came to the banks of the Mississippi, he was very anxious to get to the coast, in order to build boats and embark his men to return to Cuba, or prosecute further discoveries along shore. He had sent out one or two parties, but these had returned without being able to get more than a few leagues, on account of the innumerable creeks which they had met, and the thick woods and canes. “The Gouernour fell into great dumps to see how hard it was to get to the Sea: and worse, because his men and horses euery day diminished, being without succour to sustaine themselues in the country: and with that thought he fell sick. But before he tooke his bed hee sent an Indian to the Cacique of Quigalta to tell him, that hee was the Childe of the Sunne, and that all the way that bee came all men obeyed and serued him, that he requested him to accept of his friendship, and come vnto him; for he would be very glad to see him; and in signe of loue and obedience to bring something with him of that which in his countrie was most esteemed. That Cacique answered by the same Indian:

That whereas he said he was the Child of the Sunne, if he would drie vp the Riuer he would beleeue him: and touching the rest, that hee was wont to visit none; but rather that all those of whom he had notice did visit him, serued, obeyed and paid him tributes willingly or perforce: therefore if he desired to see him, it were best he should come thither: that if he came in peace, he would receiue him with speciall good will; and if in warre, in like manner hee would attend him in the towne where he was, and that for him or any other hee would not shrink one foote backe.

They found one nation governed by a female sovereign, whose territory was situated on the River Cutifachiqui. She sent her sister when he came to the opposite bank of the river, and afterwards went to him herself. The following is the account of the interview. “Within a little while the Ladie came out of the towne in a Chaire, whereon certaine of the principall Indians brought her to the Riuer. She entred into a barge, which had the sterne tilted ouer, and on the floore her mat readie laied with two cushions vpon it one vpon another, where she sate her downe; and with her came her principall Indians in other barges, which did wait vpon her. She went to the place where the Gouernor was, and at her comming she made this speech following:

Excellent Lord, I wish this comming of your Lordship into these your Countries, to be most happie: although my power be not answerable to my wil, and my seruices be not according to my desire, nor such as so high a Prince, as your Lordship, deserueth; yet since the good will is rather to be accepted, then all the treasures of the world, that without it are offered, with most vnfaileable and manifest affection, I offer you my person, lands, and subjects, and this small seruice.

“And therewithal she presented vnto him great store of clothes of the Countrie, which shee brought in other canoes; to wit, mantles and skinnes; and tooke from her owne necke a great cordon of perles and cast it about the necke of the Gouernour, entertaining him with very gracious speeches of loue and courtesie, and commanded canoes to be brought thither, wherein the Gouernour and his people passed the Riuer.” He then goes on to relate many other acts of kindness and presents offered by this Indian princess. It might be supposed that for once the savage character of de Soto would have relented, and that a woman who had thus received him would have at least escaped ill treatment. But his conduct was uniform, he took her away with many of her subjects, made her proceed on foot upwards of an hundred leagues, suffering every hardship, till she had the good fortune to make her escape. The whole narrative is one continued series of the most horrible cruelty towards the natives, making slaves of them, and loading them with excessive burthens, cutting off their hands, burning and murdering them in every town they came to. The Spanish party consisted originally of between 6 and 700, of whom 213 were on horses. This hand of ruffians, in the course of four years that they travelled over this country, must have destroyed many thousands, in one place, 2500 perished by their setting fire to a town. Their expedition terminated after the death of de Soto, by their constructing some frail vessels on the Mississippi, and coasting along till they came to Panuco, from whence they went to the city of Mexico. It is impossible not to admire their spirit of enterprise, their daring intrepidity, and fortitude in supporting the extremest hardships. But, our contempt and horrour are excited, when it is considered, that their only motive was the thirst of gold; and being the slaves of superstition, wherever they went, their path was marked with the blood of the wretched inhabitants. There is indeed a wonderful consistency in the Spanish character; other nations may have had their auto da fés in the sixteenth century, but, perhaps no other nation would have re-established the Inquisition in the nineteenth.

It will be remarked, as the extracts are copied exactly, that the orthography is very uncertain. The last chapter contains a short summary of the different products of the country, and concludes with the following notice of the book.

“This relation of the discouerie of Florida was printed in the house of Andrew de Burgos, Printer and Gentleman of the house of my Lord Cardinall the Infante.

“It was finished the tenth of Februarie in the yeere one thousand, fiue hundred, fiftie and seuen, in the noble and most loyall citie of Euora.