Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/91

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Hence, when in 1558 a Protestant princess succeeded to the English throne, she found the policy which she was expected to pursue in this direction defined for her in public opinion. Here was Florida, the "richest country in the world," still without any owner, or even any pretender to its ownership, though sixty years had passed since Colombo discovered the continent of which it formed a large and prominent part. A whole generation had passed away since the heroic period of Spanish-American history—the conquest of Mexico and Peru; and that period had evidently closed. Clearly Providence forbade Spain to cherish the hope of succeeding in any further attempt to subjugate Florida. France, though ambitious as ever, was hopelessly entangled in civil broils. Everyone expected Elizabeth, who was in truth no bigot, to found colonies in this vast and fertile tract, so near to England and so easily reached from it; where, perhaps, her Catholic and her Protestant subjects might settle in peace, each group respectively occupying some large and well-defined district of its own. The name itself, bandied about for half a century, had by this time become a household word which was not without humorous suggestions. Satirists travestied it as "Stolida," or land of simpletons, and "Sordida," or land of muckworms; pirates, arrested on suspicion and examined, mockingly avowed themselves bound for Florida. In France experiences of a certain kind—unedifying transactions of gallantry in the base sense of the word—were called "adventures of Florida." The world was eagerly expecting the impending revelation, which should disclose the future fate of the temperate regions of North America. To the pretensions of France the fortune of events soon gave a negative answer. Nothing daunted by the failure of Ribault's party, Coligny in 1565 despatched René Laudonniere, a captain who had served under Ribault, to make a second effort. Laudonnière chose as the site of his settlement the mouth of the river called by Ribault the River of May (St John's River), from its discovery by him on the first day of that month in 1562; and here he arrived in the midsummer of 1564, with a strong and well-armed party, built a fort, and began exploring the country. Most of the intending settlers had been pirates, whom, in the close proximity of St Domingo and Jamaica, it was impossible to keep from resuming their old trade; others joined an Indian chief, and followed him to war with a neighbouring tribe in hope of plunder. The stores of Fort Caroline were soon exhausted; and, but for the timely relief obtained from John Hawkins, who passed the Florida coast on his homeward way, the emigrants must have starved, or have returned to Europe, or have been dispersed among the wild aborigines. In the next year (1565) the Spaniards destroyed what was in effect a mere den of pirates, and built the fort of St Augustine to protect their own settlements and commerce, as well as the still unspoiled treasures of Appalachia, and to prevent the heretics of France from