The Dawn of Canadian History: A Chronicle of Aboriginal Canada
Stephen Leacock

This etext was produced by Gardner Buchanan

Edited by George M. Wrong and H. H. Langton
In thirty-two volumes

Part I
The First European Visitors

A Chronicle of Aboriginal Canada




We always speak of Canada as a new country. In one sense,
of course, this is true. The settlement of Europeans on
Canadian soil dates back only three hundred years.
Civilization in Canada is but a thing of yesterday, and
its written history, when placed beside the long millenniums
of the recorded annals of European and Eastern peoples,
seems but a little span.

But there is another sense in which the Dominion of
Canada, or at least part of it, is perhaps the oldest
country in the world. According to the Nebular Theory
the whole of our planet was once a fiery molten mass
gradually cooling and hardening itself into the globe we
know. On its surface moved and swayed a liquid sea glowing
with such a terrific heat that we can form no real idea
of its intensity. As the mass cooled, vast layers of
vapour, great beds of cloud, miles and miles in thickness,
were formed and hung over the face of the globe, obscuring
from its darkened surface the piercing beams of the sun.
Slowly the earth cooled, until great masses of solid
matter, rock as we call it, still penetrated with intense
heat, rose to the surface of the boiling sea. Forces of
inconceivable magnitude moved through the mass. The outer
surface of the globe as it cooled ripped and shrivelled
like a withering orange. Great ridges, the mountain
chains of to-day, were furrowed on its skin. Here in the
darkness of the prehistoric night there arose as the
oldest part of the surface of the earth the great rock
bed that lies in a huge crescent round the shores of
Hudson Bay, from Labrador to the unknown wilderness of
the barren lands of the Coppermine basin touching the
Arctic sea. The wanderer who stands to-day in the desolate
country of James Bay or Ungava is among the oldest
monuments of the world. The rugged rock which here and
there breaks through the thin soil of the infertile north
has lain on the spot from the very dawn of time. Millions
of years have probably elapsed since the cooling of the
outer crust of the globe produced the solid basis of our

The ancient formation which thus marks the beginnings of
the solid surface of the globe is commonly called by
geologists the Archaean rock, and the myriads of uncounted
years during which it slowly took shape are called the
Archaean age. But the word 'Archaean' itself tells us
nothing, being merely a Greek term meaning 'very old.'
This Archaean or original rock must necessarily have
extended all over the surface of our sphere as it cooled
from its molten form and contracted into the earth on
which we live. But in most places this rock lies deep
under the waters of the oceans, or buried below the heaped
up strata of the formations which the hand of time piled
thickly upon it. Only here and there can it still be seen
as surface rock or as rock that lies but a little distance
below the soil. In Canada, more than anywhere else in
the world, is this Archaean formation seen. On a geological
map it is marked as extending all round the basin of
Hudson Bay, from Labrador to the shores of the Arctic.
It covers the whole of the country which we call New
Ontario, and also the upper part of the province of
Quebec. Outside of this territory there was at the dawn
of time no other 'land' where North America now is, except
a long island of rock that marks the backbone of what
are now the Selkirk Mountains and a long ridge that is
now the mountain chain of the Alleghanies beside the
Atlantic slope.

Books on geology trace out for us the long successive
periods during which the earth's surface was formed. Even
in the Archaean age something in the form of life may
have appeared. Perhaps vast masses of dank seaweed
germinated as the earliest of plants in the steaming
oceans. The water warred against the land, tearing and
breaking at its rock formation and distributing it in
new strata, each buried beneath the next and holding fast
within it the fossilized remains that form the record of
its history. Huge fern plants spread their giant fronds
in the dank sunless atmospheres, to be buried later in
vast beds of decaying vegetation that form the coal-fields
of to-day.

Animal life began first, like the plants, in the bosom
of the ocean. From the slimy depths of the water life
crawled hideous to the land. Great reptiles dragged their
sluggish length through the tangled vegetation of the
jungle of giant ferns.

Through countless thousands of years, perhaps, this
gradual process went on. Nature, shifting its huge scenery,
depressed the ocean beds and piled up the dry land of
the continents. In place of the vast 'Continental Sea,'
which once filled the interior of North America, there
arose the great plateau or elevated plain that now runs
from the Mackenzie basin to the Gulf of Mexico. Instead
of the rushing waters of the inland sea, these waters
have narrowed into great rivers--the Mackenzie, the
Saskatchewan, the Mississippi--that swept the face of
the plateau and wore down the surface of the rock and
mountain slopes to spread their powdered fragments on
the broad level soil of the prairies of the west. With
each stage in the evolution of the land the forms of life
appear to have reached a higher development. In place of
the seaweed and the giant ferns of the dawn of time there
arose the maples, the beeches, and other waving trees
that we now see in the Canadian woods. The huge reptiles
in the jungle of the Carboniferous era passed out of
existence. In place of them came the birds, the
mammals,--the varied types of animal life which we now
know. Last in the scale of time and highest in point of
evolution, there appeared man.

We must not speak of the continents as having been made
once and for all in their present form. No doubt in the
countless centuries of geological evolution various parts
of the earth were alternately raised and depressed. Great
forests grew, and by some convulsion were buried beneath
the ocean, covered deep as they lay there with a sediment
of earth and rock, and at length raised again as the
waters retreated. The coal-beds of Cape Breton are the
remains of a forest buried beneath the sea. Below the
soil of Alberta is a vast jungle of vegetation, a dense
mass of giant fern trees. The Great Lakes were once part
of a much vaster body of water, far greater in extent
than they now are. The ancient shore-line of Lake Superior
may be traced five hundred feet above its present level.

In that early period the continents and islands which we
now see wholly separated were joined together at various
points. The British islands formed a connected part of
Europe. The Thames and the Rhine were one and the same
river, flowing towards the Arctic ocean over a plain that
is now the shallow sunken bed of the North Sea. It is
probable that during the last great age, the Quaternary,
as geologists call it, the upheaval of what is now the
region of Siberia and Alaska, made a continuous chain of
land from Asia to America. As the land was depressed
again it left behind it the islands in the Bering Sea,
like stepping-stones from shore to shore. In the same
way, there was perhaps a solid causeway of land from
Canada to Europe reaching out across the Northern Atlantic.
Baffin Island and other islands of the Canadian North
Sea, the great sub-continent of Greenland, Iceland, the
Faroe Islands, and the British Isles, all formed part of
this continuous chain.

As the last of the great changes, there came the Ice Age,
which profoundly affected the climate and soil of Canada,
and, when the ice retreated, left its surface much as we
see it now. During this period the whole of Canada from
the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains lay buried under a
vast sheet of ice. Heaped up in immense masses over the
frozen surface of the Hudson Bay country, the ice, from
its own dead weight, slid sidewise to the south. As it
went it ground down the surface of the land into deep
furrows and channels; it cut into the solid rock like a
moving plough, and carried with it enormous masses of
loose stone and boulders which it threw broadcast over
the face of the country. These stones and boulders were
thus carried forty and fifty, and in some cases many
hundred miles before they were finally loosed and dropped
from the sheet of moving ice. In Ontario and Quebec and
New England great stones of the glacial drift are found
which weigh from one thousand to seven thousand tons.
They are deposited in some cases on what is now the summit
of hills and mountains, showing how deep the sheet of
ice must have been that could thus cover the entire
surface of the country, burying alike the valleys and
the hills. The mass of ice that moved slowly, century by
century, across the face of Southern Canada to New England
is estimated to have been in places a mile thick. The
limit to which it was carried went far south of the
boundaries of Canada. The path of the glacial drift is
traced by geologists as far down the Atlantic coast as
the present site of New York, and in the central plain
of the continent it extended to what is now the state of

Facts seem to support the theory that before the Great
Ice Age the climate of the northern part of Canada was
very different from what it is now. It is very probable
that a warm if not a torrid climate extended for hundreds
of miles northward of the now habitable limits of the
Dominion. The frozen islands of the Arctic seas were once
the seat of luxurious vegetation and teemed with life.
On Bathurst Island, which lies in the latitude of 76
degrees, and is thus six hundred miles north of the Arctic
Circle, there have been found the bones of huge lizards
that could only have lived in the jungles of an almost
tropical climate.

We cannot tell with any certainty just how and why these
great changes came about. But geologists have connected
them with the alternating rise and fall of the surface
of the northern continent and its altitude at various
times above the level of the sea. Thus it seems probable
that the glacial period with the ice sheet of which we
have spoken was brought about by a great elevation of
the land, accompanied by a change to intense cold. This
led to the formation of enormous masses of ice heaped up
so high that they presently collapsed and moved of their
own weight from the elevated land of the north where they
had been formed. Later on, the northern continent subsided
again and the ice sheet disappeared, but left behind it
an entirely different level and a different climate from
those of the earlier ages. The evidence of the later
movements of the land surface, and its rise and fall
after the close of the glacial epoch, may still easily
be traced. At a certain time after the Ice Age, the
surface sank so low that land which has since been lifted
up again to a considerable height was once the beach of
the ancient ocean. These beaches are readily distinguished
by the great quantities of sea shells that lie about,
often far distant from the present sea. Thus at Nachvak
in Labrador there is a beach fifteen hundred feet above
the ocean. Probably in this period after the Ice Age the
shores of Eastern Canada had sunk so low that the St
Lawrence was not a river at all, but a great gulf or arm
of the sea. The ancient shore can still be traced beside
the mountain at Montreal and on the hillsides round Lake
Ontario. Later on again the land rose, the ocean retreated,
and the rushing waters from the shrunken lakes made their
own path to the sea. In their foaming course to the lower
level they tore out the great gorge of Niagara, and tossed
and buffeted themselves over the unyielding ledges of

Mighty forces such as these made and fashioned the
continent on which we live.



It was necessary to form some idea, if only in outline,
of the magnitude and extent of the great geological
changes of which we have just spoken, in order to judge
properly the question of the antiquity and origin of man
in America.

When the Europeans came to this continent at the end of
the fifteenth century they found it already inhabited by
races of men very different from themselves. These people,
whom they took to calling 'Indians,' were spread out,
though very thinly, from one end of the continent to the
other. Who were these nations, and how was their presence
to be accounted for?

To the first discoverers of America, or rather to the
discoverers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries
(Columbus and his successors), the origin of the Indians
presented no difficulty. To them America was supposed to
be simply an outlying part of Eastern Asia, which had
been known by repute and by tradition for centuries past.
Finding, therefore, the tropical islands of the Caribbean
sea with a climate and plants and animals such as they
imagined those of Asia and the Indian ocean to be, and
inhabited by men of dusky colour and strange speech, they
naturally thought the place to be part of Asia, or the
Indies. The name 'Indians,' given to the aborigines of
North America, records for us this historical

But a new view became necessary after Balboa had crossed
the isthmus of Panama and looked out upon the endless
waters of the Pacific, and after Magellan and his Spanish
comrades had sailed round the foot of the continent, and
then pressed on across the Pacific to the real Indies.
It was now clear that America was a different region from
Asia. Even then the old error died hard. Long after the
Europeans realized that, at the south, America and Asia
were separated by a great sea, they imagined that these
continents were joined together at the north. The European
ideas of distance and of the form of the globe were still
confused and inexact. A party of early explorers in
Virginia carried a letter of introduction with them from
the King of England to the Khan of Tartary: they expected
to find him at the head waters of the Chickahominy.
Jacques Cartier, nearly half a century after Columbus,
was expecting that the Gulf of St Lawrence would open
out into a passage leading to China. But after the
discovery of the North Pacific ocean and Bering Strait
the idea that America was part of Asia, that the natives
were 'Indians' in the old sense, was seen to be absurd.
It was clear that America was, in a large sense, an
island, an island cut off from every other continent. It
then became necessary to find some explanation for the
seemingly isolated position of a portion of mankind
separated from their fellows by boundless oceans.

The earlier theories were certainly naive enough. Since
no known human agency could have transported the Indians
across the Atlantic or the Pacific, their presence in
America was accounted for by certain of the old writers
as a particular work of the devil. Thus Cotton Mather,
the famous Puritan clergyman of early New England,
maintained in all seriousness that the devil had inveigled
the Indians to America to get them 'beyond the tinkle of
the gospel bells.' Others thought that they were a
washed-up remnant of the great flood. Roger Williams,
the founder of Rhode Island, wrote: 'From Adam and Noah
that they spring, it is granted on all hands.' Even more
fantastic views were advanced. As late as in 1828 a London
clergyman wrote a book which he called 'A View of the
American Indians,' which was intended to 'show them to
be the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel.'

Even when such ideas as these were set aside, historians
endeavoured to find evidence, or at least probability,
of a migration of the Indians from the known continents
across one or the other of the oceans. It must be admitted
that, even if we supposed the form and extent of the
continents to have been always the same as they are now,
such a migration would have been entirely possible. It
is quite likely that under the influence of exceptional
weather--winds blowing week after week from the same
point of the compass--even a primitive craft of prehistoric
times might have been driven across the Atlantic or the
Pacific, and might have landed its occupants still alive
and well on the shores of America. To prove this we need
only remember that history records many such voyages. It
has often happened that Japanese junks have been blown
clear across the Pacific. In 1833 a ship of this sort
was driven in a great storm from Japan to the shores of
the Queen Charlotte Islands off the coast of British
Columbia. In the same way a fishing smack from Formosa,
which lies off the east coast of China, was once carried
in safety across the ocean to the Sandwich Islands.
Similar long voyages have been made by the natives of
the South Seas against their will, under the influence
of strong and continuous winds, and in craft no better
than their open canoes. Captain Beechey of the Royal Navy
relates that in one of his voyages in the Pacific he
picked up a canoe filled with natives from Tahiti who
had been driven by a gale of westerly wind six hundred
miles from their own island. It has happened, too, from
time to time, since the discovery of America, that ships
have been forcibly carried all the way across the Atlantic.
A glance at the map of the world shows us that the eastern
coast of Brazil juts out into the South Atlantic so far
that it is only fifteen hundred miles distant from the
similar projection of Africa towards the west. The
direction of the trade winds in the South Atlantic is
such that it has often been the practice of sailing
vessels bound from England to South Africa to run clear
across the ocean on a long stretch till within sight of
the coast of Brazil before turning towards the Cape of
Good Hope. All, however, that we can deduce from accidental
voyages, like that of the Spaniard, Alvarez de Cabral,
across the ocean is that even if there had been no other
way for mankind to reach America they could have landed
there by ship from the Old World. In such a case, of
course, the coming of man to the American continent would
have been an extremely recent event in the long history
of the world. It could not have occurred until mankind
had progressed far enough to make vessels, or at least
boats of a simple kind.

But there is evidence that man had appeared on the earth
long before the shaping of the continents had taken place.
Both in Europe and America the buried traces of primitive
man are vast in antiquity, and carry us much further back
in time than the final changes of earth and ocean which
made the continents as they are; and, when we remember
this, it is easy to see how mankind could have passed
from Asia or Europe to America. The connection of the
land surface of the globe was different in early times
from what it is to-day. Even still, Siberia and Alaska
are separated only by the narrow Bering Strait. From the
shore of Asia the continent of North America is plainly
visible; the islands which lie in and below the strait
still look like stepping-stones from continent to continent.
And, apart from this, it may well have been that farther
south, where now is the Pacific ocean, there was formerly
direct land connection between Southern Asia and South
America. The continuous chain of islands that runs from
the New Hebrides across the South Pacific to within two
thousand four hundred miles of the coast of Chile is
perhaps the remains of a sunken continent. In the most
easterly of these, Easter Island, have been found ruined
temples and remains of great earthworks on a scale so
vast that to believe them the work of a small community
of islanders is difficult. The fact that they bear some
resemblance to the buildings and works of the ancient
inhabitants of Chile and Peru has suggested that perhaps
South America was once merely a part of a great Pacific
continent. Or again, turning to the other side of the
continent, it may be argued with some show of evidence
that America and Africa were once connected by land, and
that a sunken continent is to be traced between Brazil
and the Guinea coast.

Nevertheless, it appears to be impossible to say whether
or not an early branch of the human race ever 'migrated'
to America. Conceivably the race may have originated
there. Some authorities suppose that the evolution of
mankind occurred at the same time and in the same fashion
in two or more distinct quarters of the globe. Others
again think that mankind evolved and spread over the
surface of the world just as did the various kinds of
plants and animals. Of course, the higher endowment of
men enabled them to move with greater ease from place to
place than could beings of lesser faculties. Most writers
of to-day, however, consider this unlikely, and think it
more probable that man originated first in some one
region, and spread from it throughout the earth. But
where this region was, they cannot tell. We always think
of the races of Europe as having come westward from some
original home in Asia. This is, of course, perfectly
true, since nearly all the peoples of Europe can be traced
by descent from the original stock of the Aryan family,
which certainly made such a migration. But we know also
that races of men were dwelling in Europe ages before
the Aryan migration. What particular part of the globe
was the first home of mankind is a question on which we
can only speculate.

Of one thing we may be certain. If there was a migration,
there must have been long ages of separation between
mankind in America and mankind in the Old World; otherwise
we should still find some trace of kinship in language
which would join the natives of America to the great
racial families of Europe, Asia, and Africa. But not the
slightest vestige of such kinship has yet been found.
Everybody knows in a general way how the prehistoric
relationships among the peoples of Europe and Asia are
still to be seen in the languages of to-day. The French
and Italian languages are so alike that, if we did not
know it already, we could easily guess for them a common
origin. We speak of these languages, along with others,
as Romance languages, to show that they are derived from
Latin, in contrast with the closely related tongues of
the English, Dutch, and German peoples, which came from
another common stock, the Teutonic. But even the Teutonic
and the Romance languages are not entirely different.
The similarity in both groups of old root words, like
the numbers from one to ten, point again to a common
origin still more remote. In this way we may trace a
whole family of languages, and with it a kinship of
descent, from Hindustan to Ireland. Similarly, another
great group of tongues--Arabic, Hebrew, etc.--shows a
branch of the human family spread out from Palestine and
Egypt to Morocco.

Now when we come to inquire into the languages of the
American Indians for evidence of their relationship to
other peoples we are struck with this fact: we cannot
connect the languages of America with those of any other
part of the world. This is a very notable circumstance.
The languages of Europe and Asia are, as it were, dovetailed
together, and run far and wide into Africa. From Asia
eastward, through the Malay tongues, a connection may be
traced even with the speech of the Maori of New Zealand,
and with that of the remotest islanders of the Pacific.
But similar attempts to connect American languages with
the outside world break down. There are found in North
America, from the Arctic to Mexico, some fifty-five groups
of languages still existing or recently extinct. Throughout
these we may trace the same affinities and relationships
that run through the languages of Europe and Asia. We
can also easily connect the speech of the natives of
North America with that of natives of Central and of
South America. Even if we had not the similarities of
physical appearance, of tribal customs, and of general
manners to argue from, we should be able to say with
certainty that the various families of American Indians
all belonged to one race. The Eskimos of Northern Canada
are not Indians, and are perhaps an exception; it is
possible that a connection may be traced between them
and the prehistoric cave-men of Northern Europe. But the
Indians belong to one great race, and show no connection
in language or customs with the outside world. They belong
to the American continent, it has been said, as strictly
as its opossums and its armadillos, its maize and its
golden rod, or any other of its aboriginal animals and

But, here again, we must not conclude too much from the
fact that the languages of America have no relation to
those of Europe and Asia. This does not show that men
originated separately on this continent. For even in
Europe and Asia, where no one supposes that different
races sprung from wholly separate beginnings, we find
languages isolated in the same way. The speech of the
Basques in the Pyrenees has nothing in common with the
European families of languages.

We may, however, regard the natives of America as an
aboriginal race, if any portion of mankind can be viewed
as such. So far as we know, they are not an offshoot, or
a migration, from any people of what is called the Old
World, although they are, like the people of the other
continents, the descendants of a primitive human stock.

We may turn to geology to find how long mankind has lived
on this continent. In a number of places in North and
South America are found traces of human beings and their
work so old that in comparison the beginning of the
world's written history becomes a thing of yesterday.
Perhaps there were men in Canada long before the shores
of its lakes had assumed their present form; long before
nature had begun to hollow out the great gorge of the
Niagara river or to lay down the outline of the present
Lake Ontario. Let us look at some of the notable evidence
in respect to the age of man in America. In Nicaragua,
in Central America, the imprints of human feet have been
found, deeply buried over twenty feet below the present
surface of the soil, under repeated deposits of volcanic
rock. These impressions must have been made in soft muddy
soil which was then covered by some geological convulsion
occurring long ages ago. Even more striking discoveries
have been made along the Pacific coast of South America.
Near the mouth of the Esmeraldas river in Ecuador, over
a stretch of some sixty miles, the surface soil of the
coast covers a bed of marine clay. This clay is about
eight feet thick. Underneath it is a stratum of sand and
loam such as might once have itself been surface soil.
In this lower bed there are found rude implements of
stone, ornaments made of gold, and bits of broken pottery.
Again, if we turn to the northern part of the continent
we find remains of the same kind, chipped implements of
stone and broken fragments of quartz buried in the drift
of the Mississippi and Missouri valleys. These have
sometimes been found lying beside or under the bones of
elephants and animals unknown in North America since the
period of the Great Ice. Not many years ago, some men
engaged in digging a well on a hillside that was once
part of the beach of Lake Ontario, came across the remains
of a primitive hearth buried under the accumulated soil.
From its situation we can only conclude that the men who
set together the stones of the hearth, and lighted on it
their fires, did so when the vast wall of the northern
glacier was only beginning to retreat, and long before
the gorge of Niagara had begun to be furrowed out of the

Many things point to the conclusion that there were men
in North and South America during the remote changes of
the Great Ice Age. But how far the antiquity of man on
this continent reaches back into the preceding ages we
cannot say.



Of the uncounted centuries of the history of the red man
in America before the coming of the Europeans we know
very little indeed. Very few of the tribes possessed even
a primitive art of writing. It is true that the Aztecs
of Mexico, and the ancient Toltecs who preceded them,
understood how to write in pictures, and that, by this
means, they preserved some record of their rulers and of
the great events of their past. The same is true of the
Mayas of Central America, whose ruined temples are still
to be traced in the tangled forests of Yucatan and
Guatemala. The ancient Peruvians also had a system, not
exactly of writing, but of record by means of QUIPUS or
twisted woollen cords of different colours: it is through
such records that we have some knowledge of Peruvian
history during about a hundred years before the coming
of the Spaniards, and some traditions reaching still
further back. But nowhere was the art of writing
sufficiently developed in America to give us a real
history of the thoughts and deeds of its people before
the arrival of Columbus.

This is especially true of those families of the great
red race which inhabited what is now Canada. They spent
a primitive existence, living thinly scattered along the
sea-coast, and in the forests and open glades of the
district of the Great Lakes, or wandering over the prairies
of the west. In hardly any case had they any settled
abode or fixed dwelling-places. The Iroquois and some
Algonquins built Long Houses of wood and made stockade
forts of heavy timber. But not even these tribes, who
represented the furthest advance towards civilization
among the savages of North America, made settlements in
the real sense. They knew nothing of the use of the
metals. Such poor weapons and tools as they had were made
of stone, of wood, and of bone. It is true that ages ago
prehistoric men had dug out copper from the mines that
lie beside Lake Superior, for the traces of their operations
there are still found. But the art of working metals
probably progressed but a little way and then was
lost,--overwhelmed perhaps in some ancient savage conquest.
The Indians found by Cartier and Champlain knew nothing
of the melting of metals for the manufacture of tools.
Nor had they anything but the most elementary form of
agriculture. They planted corn in the openings of the
forest, but they did not fell trees to make a clearing
or plough the ground. The harvest provided by nature and
the products of the chase were their sole sources of
supply, and in their search for this food so casually
offered they moved to and fro in the depths of the forest
or roved endlessly upon the plains. One great advance,
and only one, they had been led to make. The waterways
of North America are nature's highway through the forest.
The bark canoe in which the Indians floated over the
surface of the Canadian lakes and rivers is a marvel of
construction and wonderfully adapted to its purpose: This
was their great invention. In nearly all other respects
the Indians of Canada had not emerged even from savagery
to that stage half way to civilization which is called

These Canadian aborigines seem to have been few in number.
It is probable that, when the continent was discovered,
Canada, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, contained about
220,000 natives--about half as many people as are now
found in Toronto. They were divided into tribes or clans,
among which we may distinguish certain family groups
spread out over great areas.

Most northerly of all was the great tribe of the Eskimos,
who were found all the way from Greenland to Northern
Siberia. The name Eskimo was not given by these people
to themselves. It was used by the Abnaki Indians in
describing to the whites the dwellers of the far north,
and it means 'the people who eat raw meat.' The Eskimo
called and still call themselves the Innuit, which means
'the people.'

The exact relation of the Eskimo to the other races of
the continent is hard to define. From the fact that the
race was found on both sides of the Bering Sea, and that
its members have dark hair and dark eyes, it was often
argued that they were akin to the Mongolians of China.
This theory, however, is now abandoned. The resemblance
in height and colour is only superficial, and a more
careful view of the physical make-up of the Eskimo shows
him to resemble the other races of America far more
closely than he resembles those of Asia. A distinguished
American historian, John Fiske, believed that the Eskimos
are the last remnants of the ancient cave-men who in the
Stone Age inhabited all the northern parts of Europe.
Fiske's theory is that at this remote period continuous
land stretched by way of Iceland and Greenland from Europe
to America, and that by this means the race of cave-men
was able to extend itself all the way from Norway and
Sweden to the northern coasts of America. In support of
this view he points to the strangely ingenious and artistic
drawings of the Eskimos. These drawings are made on ivory
and bone, and are so like the ancient bone-pictures found
among the relics of the cave-men of Europe that they can
scarcely be distinguished.

The theory is only a conjecture. It is certain that at
one time the Eskimo race extended much farther south than
it did when the white men came to America; in earlier
days there were Eskimos far south of Hudson Bay, and
perhaps even south of the Great Lakes.

As a result of their situation the Eskimos led a very
different life from that of the Indians to the south.
They must rely on fishing and hunting for food. In that
almost treeless north they had no wood to build boats or
houses, and no vegetables or plants to supply them either
with food or with the materials of industry. But the very
rigour of their surroundings called forth in them a
marvellous ingenuity. They made boats of seal skins
stretched tight over walrus bones, and clothes of furs
and of the skins and feathers of birds. They built winter
houses with great blocks of snow put together in the form
of a bowl turned upside down. They heated their houses
by burning blubber or fat in dish-like lamps chipped out
of stones. They had, of course, no written literature.
They were, however, not devoid of art. They had legends
and folk-songs, handed down from generation to generation
with the utmost accuracy. In the long night of the Arctic
winter they gathered in their huts to hear strange
monotonous singing by their bards: a kind of low chanting,
very strange to European ears, and intended to imitate
the sounds of nature, the murmur of running waters and
the sobbing of the sea. The Eskimos believed in spirits
and monsters whom they must appease with gifts and
incantations. They thought that after death the soul
either goes below the earth to a place always warm and
comfortable, or that it is taken up into the cold forbidding
brightness of the polar sky. When the aurora borealis,
or Northern Lights, streamed across the heavens, the
Eskimos thought it the gleam of the souls of the dead
visible in their new home.

Farthest east of all the British North American Indians
were the Beothuks. Their abode was chiefly Newfoundland,
though they wandered also in the neighbourhood of the
Strait of Belle Isle and along the north shore of the
Gulf of St Lawrence. They were in the lowest stage of
human existence and lived entirely by hunting and fishing.
Unlike the Eskimos they had no dogs, and so stern were
the conditions of their life that they maintained with
difficulty the fight against the rigour of nature. The
early explorers found them on the rocky coasts of Belle
Isle, wild and half clad. They smeared their bodies with
red ochre, bright in colour, and this earned for them
the name of Red Indians. From the first, they had no
friendly relations with the Europeans who came to their
shores, but lived in a state of perpetual war with them.
The Newfoundland fishermen and settlers hunted down the
Red Indians as if they were wild beasts, and killed them
at sight. Now and again, a few members of this unhappy
race were carried home to England to be exhibited at
country fairs before a crowd of grinning yokels who paid
a penny apiece to look at the 'wild men.'

Living on the mainland, next to the red men of Newfoundland
lay the great race of the Algonquins, spread over a huge
tract of country, from the Atlantic coast to the head of
the Great Lakes, and even farther west. The Algonquins
were divided into a great many tribes, some of whose
names are still familiar among the Indians of to-day.
The Micmacs of Nova Scotia, the Malecite of New Brunswick,
the Naskapi of Quebec, the Chippewa of Ontario, and the
Crees of the prairie, are of this stock. It is even held
that the Algonquins are to be considered typical specimens
of the American race. They were of fine stature, and in
strength and muscular development were quite on a par
with the races of the Old World. Their skin was
copper-coloured, their lips and noses were thin, and
their hair in nearly all cases was straight and black.
When the Europeans first saw the Algonquins they had
already made some advance towards industrial civilization.
They built huts of woven boughs, and for defence sometimes
surrounded a group of huts with a palisade of stakes set
up on end. They had no agriculture in the true sense,
but they cultivated Indian corn and pumpkins in the
openings of the forests, and also the tobacco plant, with
the virtues of which they were well acquainted. They made
for themselves heavy and clumsy pottery and utensils of
wood, they wove mats out of rushes for their houses, and
they made clothes from the skin of the deer, and
head-dresses from the bright feathers of birds. Of the
metals they knew, at the time of the discovery of America,
hardly anything. They made some use of copper, which they
chipped and hammered into rude tools and weapons. But
they knew nothing of melting the metals, and their
arrow-heads and spear-points were made, for the most
part, not of metals, but of stone. Like other Indians,
they showed great ingenuity in fashioning bark canoes of
wonderful lightness.

We must remember, however, that with nearly all the
aborigines of America, at least north of Mexico, the
attempt to utilize the materials and forces supplied by
nature had made only slight and painful progress. We are
apt to think that it was the mere laziness of the Indians
which prevented more rapid advance. It may be that we do
not realize their difficulties. When the white men first
came these rude peoples were so backward and so little
trained in using their faculties that any advance towards
art and industry was inevitably slow and difficult. This
was also true, no doubt, of the peoples who, long centuries
before, had been in the same degree of development in
Europe, and had begun the intricate tasks which a growth
towards civilization involved. The historian Robertson
describes in a vivid passage the backward state of the
savage tribes of America. 'The most simple operation,'
he says, 'was to them an undertaking of immense difficulty
and labour. To fell a tree with no other implements than
hatchets of stone was employment for a month. ...Their
operations in agriculture were equally slow and defective.
In a country covered with woods of the hardest timber,
the clearing of a small field destined for culture required
the united efforts of a tribe, and was a work of much
time and great toil.'

The religion of the Algonquin Indians seems to have been
a rude nature worship. The Sun, as the great giver of
warmth and light, was the object of their adoration; to
a lesser degree, they looked upon fire as a superhuman
thing, worthy of worship. The four winds of heaven,
bringing storm and rain from the unknown boundaries of
the world, were regarded as spirits. Each Indian clan or
section of a tribe chose for its special devotion an
animal, the name of which became the distinctive symbol
of the clan. This is what is meant by the 'totems' of
the different branches of a tribe.

The Algonquins knew nothing of the art of writing, beyond
rude pictures scratched or painted on wood. The Algonquin
tribes, as we have seen, roamed far to the west. One
branch frequented the upper Saskatchewan river. Here the
ashes of the prairie fires discoloured their moccasins
and turned them black, and, in consequence, they were
called the Blackfeet Indians. Even when they moved to
other parts of the country, the name was still applied
to them.

Occupying the stretch of country to the south of the
Algonquins was the famous race known as the Iroquoian
Family. We generally read of the Hurons and the Iroquois
as separate tribes. They really belonged, however, to
one family, though during the period of Canadian history
in which they were prominent they had become deadly
enemies. When Cartier discovered the St Lawrence and made
his way to the island of Montreal, Huron Indians inhabited
all that part of the country. When Champlain came, two
generations later, they had vanished from that region,
but they still occupied a part of Ontario around Lake
Simcoe and south and east of Georgian Bay. We always
connect the name Iroquois with that part of the stock
which included the allied Five Nations--the Mohawks,
Onondagas, Senecas, Oneidas, and Cayugas,--and which
occupied the country between the Hudson river and Lake
Ontario. This proved to be the strongest strategical
position in North America. It lies in the gap or break
of the Alleghany ridge, the one place south of the St
Lawrence where an easy and ready access is afforded from
the sea-coast to the interior of the continent. Any one
who casts a glance at the map of the present Eastern
states will realize this, and will see why it is that
New York, at the mouth of the Hudson, has become the
greatest city of North America. Now, the same reason
which has created New York gave to the position of the
Five Nations its great importance in Canadian history.
But in reality the racial stock of the Iroquois extended
much farther than this, both west and south. It took in
the well-known tribe of the Eries, and also the Indians
of Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac. It included even the
Tuscaroras of the Roanoke in North Carolina, who afterwards
moved north and changed the five nations into six.

The Iroquois were originally natives of the plain,
connected very probably with the Dakotas of the west.
But they moved eastwards from the Mississippi valley
towards Niagara, conquering as they went. No other tribe
could compare with them in either bravery or ferocity.
They possessed in a high degree both the virtues and the
vices of Indian character--the unflinching courage and
the diabolical cruelty which have made the Indian an
object of mingled admiration and contempt. In bodily
strength and physical endurance they were unsurpassed.
Even in modern days the enervating influence of civilization
has not entirely removed the original vigour of the
strain. During the American Civil War of fifty years ago
the five companies of Iroquois Indians recruited in Canada
and in the state of New York were superior in height and
measurement to any other body of five hundred men in the
northern armies.

When the Iroquoian Family migrated, the Hurons settled
in the western peninsula of Ontario. The name of Lake
Huron still recalls their abode. But a part of the race
kept moving eastward. Before the coming of the whites,
they had fought their way almost to the sea. But they
were able to hold their new settlements only by hard
fighting. The great stockade which Cartier saw at Hochelaga,
with its palisades and fighting platforms, bore witness
to the ferocity of the struggle. At that place Cartier
and his companions were entertained with gruesome tales
of Indian fighting and of wholesale massacres. Seventy
years later, in Champlain's time, the Hochelaga stockade
had vanished, and the Hurons had been driven back into
the interior. But for nearly two centuries after Champlain
the Iroquois retained their hold on the territory from
Lake Ontario to the Hudson. The conquests and wars of
extermination of these savages, and the terror which they
inspired, have been summed up by General Francis Walker
in the saying: 'They were the scourge of God upon the
aborigines of the continent.'

The Iroquois were in some respects superior to most of
the Indians of the continent. Though they had a limited
agriculture, and though they made hardly any use of
metals, they had advanced further in other directions
than most savages. They built of logs, houses long enough
to be divided into several compartments, with a family
in each compartment. By setting a group of houses together,
and surrounding them with a palisade of stakes and trees
set on end, the settlement was turned into a kind of
fort, and could bid defiance to the limited means of
attack possessed by their enemies. Inside their houses
they kept a good store of corn, pumpkins and dried meat,
which belonged not to each man singly but to the whole
group in common. This was the type of settlement seen at
Quebec and at Hochelaga, and, later on, among the Five
Nations. Indeed, the Five Nations gave to themselves the
picturesque name of the Long House, for their confederation
resembled, as it were, the long wooden houses that held
the families together.

All this shows that the superiority of the Iroquois over
their enemies lay in organization. In this they were
superior even to their kinsmen the Hurons. All Indian
tribes kept women in a condition which we should think
degrading. The Indian women were drudges; they carried
the burdens, and did the rude manual toil of the tribe.
Among the Iroquois, however, women were not wholly
despised; sometimes, if of forceful character, they had
great influence in the councils of the tribe. Among the
Hurons, on the other hand, women were treated with contempt
or brutal indifference. The Huron woman, worn out with
arduous toil, rapidly lost the brightness of her youth.
At an age when the women of a higher culture are still
at the height of their charm and attractiveness the woman
of the Hurons had degenerated into a shrivelled hag,
horrible to the eye and often despicable in character.
The inborn gentleness of womanhood had been driven from
her breast by ill-treatment. Not even the cruelest of
the warriors surpassed the unhallowed fiendishness of
the withered squaw in preparing the torments of the stake
and in shrieking her toothless exultation beside the
torture fire.

Where women are on such a footing as this it is always
ill with the community at large. The Hurons were among
the most despicable of the Indians in their manners. They
were hideous gluttons, gorging themselves when occasion
offered with the rapacity of vultures. Gambling and theft
flourished among them. Except, indeed, for the tradition
of courage in fight and of endurance under pain we can
find scarcely anything in them to admire.

North and west from the Algonquins and Huron-Iroquois
were the family of tribes belonging to the Athapascan
stock. The general names of Chipewyan and Tinne are also
applied to the same great branch of the Indian race. In
a variety of groups and tribes, the Athapascans spread
out from the Arctic to Mexico. Their name has since become
connected with the geography of Canada alone, but in
reality a number of the tribes of the plains, like the
well-known Apaches, as well as the Hupas of California
and the Navahos, belong to the Athapascans. In Canada,
the Athapascans roamed over the country that lay between
Hudson Bay and the Rocky Mountains. They were found in
the basin of the Mackenzie river towards the Arctic sea,
and along the valley of the Fraser to the valley of the
Chilcotin. Their language was broken into a great number
of dialects which differed so widely that only the kindred
groups could understand one another's speech. But the
same general resemblance ran through the various branches
of the Athapascans. They were a tall, strong race, great
in endurance, during their prime, though they had little
of the peculiar stamina that makes for long life and
vigorous old age. Their descendants of to-day still show
the same facial characteristics--the low forehead with
prominent ridge bones, and the eyes set somewhat obliquely
so as to suggest, though probably without reason, a
kinship with Oriental peoples.

The Athapascans stood low in the scale of civilization.
Most of them lived in a prairie country where a luxuriant
soil, not encumbered with trees, would have responded to
the slightest labour. But the Athapascans, in Canada at
least, knew nothing of agriculture. With alternations of
starvation and rude plenty, they lived upon the unaided
bounty of tribes of the far north, degraded by want and
indolence, were often addicted to cannibalism.

The Indians beyond the mountains, between the Rockies
and the sea, were for the most part quite distinct from
those of the plains. Some tribes of the Athapascans, as
we have seen, penetrated into British Columbia, but the
greater part of the natives in that region were of wholly
different races. Of course, we know hardly anything of
these Indians during the first two centuries of European
settlement in America. Not until the eighteenth century,
when Russian traders began to frequent the Pacific coast
and the Spanish and English pushed their voyages into
the North Pacific,--the Tlingit of the far north, the
Salish, Tsimshian, Haida, Kwakiutl-Nootka and Kutenai.
It is thought, however, that nearly all the Pacific
Indians belong to one kindred stock. There are, it is
true, many distinct languages between California and
Alaska, but the physical appearance and characteristics
of the natives show a similarity throughout.

The total number of the original Indian population of
the continent can be a matter of conjecture only. There
is every reason, however, to think that it was far less
than the absurdly exaggerated figures given by early
European writers. Whenever the first explorers found a
considerable body of savages they concluded that the
people they saw were only a fraction of some large nation.
The result was that the Spaniards estimated the inhabitants
of Peru at thirty millions. Las Casas, the Spanish
historian, said that Hispaniola, the present Hayti, had
a population of three millions; a more exact estimate,
made about twenty years after the discovery of the island,
brought the population down to fourteen thousand! In the
same way Montezuma was said to have commanded three
million Mexican warriors--an obvious absurdity. The early
Jesuits reckoned the numbers of the Iroquois at about a
hundred thousand; in reality there seem to have been, in
the days of Wolfe and Montcalm, about twelve thousand.
At the opening of the twentieth century there were in
America north of Mexico about 403,000 Indians, of whom
108,000 were in Canada. Some writers go so far as to say
that the numbers of the natives were probably never much
greater than they are to-day. But even if we accept the
more general opinion that the Indian population has
declined, there is no evidence to show that the population
was ever more than a thin scattering of wanderers over
the face of a vast country. Mooney estimates that at the
coming of the white man there were only about 846,000
aborigines in the United States, 220,000 in British
America, 72,000 in Alaska, and 10,000 in Greenland, a
total native population of 1,148,000 from the Mississippi
to the Atlantic.

The limited means of support possessed by the natives,
their primitive agriculture, their habitual disinclination
to settled life and industry, their constant wars and
the epidemic diseases which, even as early as the time
of Jacques Cartier, worked havoc among them, must always
have prevented the growth of a numerous population. The
explorer might wander for days in the depths of the
American forest without encountering any trace of human
life. The continent was, in truth, one vast silence,
broken only by the roar of the waterfall or the cry of
the beasts and birds of the forest.



There are many stories of the coming of white men to the
coasts of America and of their settlements in America
long before the voyage of Christopher Columbus. Even in
the time of the Greeks and Romans there were traditions
and legends of sailors who had gone out into the 'Sea of
Darkness' beyond the Pillars of Hercules--the ancient
name for the Strait of Gibraltar--and far to the west
had found inhabited lands. Aristotle thought that there
must be land out beyond the Atlantic, and Plato tells us
that once upon a time a vast island lay off the coasts
of Africa; he calls it Atlantis, and it was, he says,
sunk below the sea by an earthquake. The Phoenicians were
wonderful sailors; their ships had gone out of the
Mediterranean into the other sea, and had reached the
British Isles, and in all probability they sailed as far
west as the Canaries. We find, indeed, in classical
literature many references to supposed islands and
countries out beyond the Atlantic. The ancients called
these places the Islands of the Blessed and the Fortunate
Isles. It is, perhaps, not unnatural that in the earlier
writers the existence of these remote and mysterious
regions should be linked with the ideas of the Elysian
Fields and of the abodes of the dead. But the later
writers, such as Pliny, and Strabo, the geographer, talked
of them as actual places, and tried to estimate how many
Roman miles they must be distant from the coast of Spain.

There were similar legends among the Irish, legends
preserved in written form at least five hundred years
before Columbus. They recount wonderful voyages out into
the Atlantic and the discovery of new land. But all these
tales are mixed up with obvious fable, with accounts of
places where there was never any illness or infirmity,
and people lived for ever, and drank delicious wine and
laughed all day, and we cannot certify to an atom of
historic truth in them.

Still more interesting, if only for curiosity's sake,
are weird stories that have been unearthed among the
early records of the Chinese. These are older than the
Irish legends, and date back to about the sixth century.
According to the Chinese story, a certain Hoei-Sin sailed
out into the Pacific until he was four thousand miles
east of Japan. There he found a new continent, which the
Chinese records called Fusang, because of a certain
tree--the fusang tree,--out of the fibres of which the
inhabitants made, not only clothes, but paper, and even
food. Here was truly a land of wonders. There were strange
animals with branching horns on their heads, there were
men who could not speak Chinese but barked like dogs,
and other men with bodies painted in strange colours.
Some people have endeavoured to prove by these legends
that the Chinese must have landed in British Columbia,
or have seen moose or reindeer, since extinct, in the
country far to the north. But the whole account is so
mixed up with the miraculous, and with descriptions of
things which certainly never existed on the Pacific coast
of America, that we can place no reliance whatever upon

The only importance that we can attach to such traditions
of the discovery of unknown lands and peoples on a new
continent is their bearing as a whole, their accumulated
effect, on the likelihood of such discovery before the
time of Columbus. They at least make us ready to attach
due weight to the circumstantial and credible records of
the voyages of the Norsemen. These stand upon ground
altogether different from that of the dim and confused
traditions of the classical writers and of the Irish and
Chinese legends. In fact, many scholars are now convinced
that the eastern coast of Canada was known and visited
by the Norsemen five hundred years before Columbus.

From time immemorial the Norsemen were among the most
daring and skilful mariners ever known. They built great
wooden boats with tall, sweeping bows and sterns. These
ships, though open and without decks, were yet stout and
seaworthy. Their remains have been found, at times lying
deeply buried under the sand and preserved almost intact.
One such vessel, discovered on the shore of Denmark,
measured 72 feet in length. Another Viking ship, which
was dug up in Norway, and which is preserved in the museum
at Christiania, was 78 feet long and 17 feet wide. One
of the old Norse sagas, or stories, tells how King Olaf
Tryggvesson built a ship, the keel of which, as it lay
on the grass, was 74 ells long; in modern measure, it
would be a vessel of about 942 tons burden. Even if we
make allowance for the exaggeration or ignorance of the
writer of the saga, there is still a vast contrast between
this vessel and the little ship Centurion in which Anson
sailed round the world.

It is needless, however, to prove that the Norsemen could
have reached America in their ships. The voyages from
Iceland to Greenland which we know they made continually
for four hundred years were just as arduous as a further
voyage from Greenland to the coast of Canada.

The story of the Norsemen runs thus. Towards the end of
the ninth century, or nearly two hundred years before
the Norman conquest, there was a great exodus or outswarming
of the Norsemen from their original home in Norway. A
certain King Harold had succeeded in making himself
supreme in Norway, and great numbers of the lesser chiefs
or jarls preferred to seek new homes across the seas
rather than submit to his rule. So they embarked with
their seafaring followers--Vikings, as we still call
them--often, indeed, with their wives and families, in
great open ships, and sailed away, some to the coast of
England, others to France, and others even to the
Mediterranean, where they took service under the Byzantine
emperors. But still others, loving the cold rough seas
of the north, struck westward across the North Sea and
beyond the coasts of Scotland till they reached Iceland.
This was in the year 874. Here they made a settlement
that presently grew to a population of fifty thousand
people, having flocks and herds, solid houses of stone,
and a fine trade in fish and oil with the countries of
Northern Europe. These settlers in Iceland attained to
a high standard of civilization. They had many books,
and were fond of tales and stories, as are all these
northern peoples who spend long winter evenings round
the fireside. Some of the sagas, or stories, which they
told were true accounts of the voyages and adventures of
their forefathers; others were fanciful stories, like
our modern romances, created by the imagination; others,
again, were a mixture of the two. Thus it is sometimes
hard to distinguish fact and fancy in these early tales
of the Norsemen. We have, however, means of testing the
stories. Among the books written in Iceland there was
one called the 'National Name-Book,' in which all the
names of the people were written down, with an account
of their forefathers and of any notable things which they
had done.

It is from this book and from the old sagas that we learn
how the Norsemen came to the coast of America. It seems
that about 900 a certain man called Gunnbjorn was driven
westward in a great storm and thrown on the rocky shore
of an ice-bound country, where he spent the winter.
Gunnbjorn reached home safely, and never tried again to
find this new land; but, long after his death, the story
that there was land farther west still lingered among
the settlers in Iceland and the Orkneys, and in other
homes of the Norsemen. Some time after Gunnbjorn's voyage
it happened that a very bold and determined man called
Eric the Red, who lived in the Orkneys, was made an outlaw
for having killed several men in a quarrel. Eric fled
westward over the seas about the year 980, and he came
to a new country with great rocky bays and fjords as in
Norway. There were no trees, but the slopes of the
hillsides were bright with grass, so he called the country
Greenland, as it is called to this day. Eric and his men
lived in Greenland for three years, and the ruins of
their rough stone houses are still to be seen, hard by
one of the little Danish settlements of to-day. When Eric
and his followers went back to Iceland they told of what
they had seen, and soon he led a new expedition to
Greenland. The adventurers went in twenty-five ships;
more than half were lost on the way, but eleven ships
landed safely and founded a colony in Greenland. Other
settlers came, and this Greenland colony had at one time
a population of about two thousand people. Its inhabitants
embraced Christianity when their kinsfolk in other places
did so, and the ruins of their stone churches still exist.
The settlers raised cattle and sheep, and sent ox hides
and seal skins and walrus ivory to Europe in trade for
supplies. But as there was no timber in Greenland they
could not build ships, and thus their communication with
the outside world was more or less precarious. In spite
of this, the colony lasted for about four hundred years.
It seems to have come to an end at about the beginning
of the fifteenth century. The scanty records of its
history can be traced no later than the year 1409. What
happened to terminate its existence is not known. Some
writers, misled by the name 'Greenland,' have thought
that there must have been a change of climate by which
the country lost its original warmth and verdure and
turned into an arctic region. There is no ground for this
belief. The name 'Greenland' did not imply a country of
trees and luxuriant vegetation, but only referred to the
bright carpet of grass still seen in the short Greenland
summer in the warmer hollows of the hillsides. It may
have been that the settlement, never strong in numbers,
was overwhelmed by the Eskimos, who are known to have
often attacked the colony: very likely, too, it suffered
from the great plague, the Black Death, that swept over
all Europe in the fourteenth century. Whatever the cause,
the colony came to an end, and centuries elapsed before
Greenland was again known to Europe.

This whole story of the Greenland settlement is historical
fact which cannot be doubted. Partly by accident and
partly by design, the Norsemen had been carried from
Norway to the Orkneys and the Hebrides and Iceland, and
from there to Greenland. This having happened, it was
natural that their ships should go beyond Greenland
itself. During the four hundred years in which the Norse
ships went from Europe to Greenland, their navigators
had neither chart nor compass, and they sailed huge open
boats, carrying only a great square sail. It is evident
that in stress of weather and in fog they must again and
again have been driven past the foot of Greenland, and
must have landed somewhere in what is now Labrador. It
would be inconceivable that in four centuries of voyages
this never happened. In most cases, no doubt, the
storm-tossed and battered ships, like the fourteen vessels
that Eric lost, were never heard of again. But in other
cases survivors must have returned to Greenland or Iceland
to tell of what they had seen.

This is exactly what happened to a bold sailor called
Bjarne, the son of Herjulf, a few years after the Greenland
colony was founded. In 986 he put out from Iceland to
join his father, who was in Greenland, the purpose being
that, after the good old Norse custom, they might drink
their Christmas ale together. Neither Bjarne nor his men
had ever sailed the Greenland sea before, but, like bold
mariners, they relied upon their seafaring instinct to
guide them to its coast. As Bjarne's ship was driven
westward, great mists fell upon the face of the waters.
There was neither sun nor stars, but day after day only
the thick wet fog that clung to the cold surface of the
heaving sea. To-day travellers even on a palatial steamship,
who spend a few hours shuddering in the chill grey fog
of the North Atlantic, chafing at delay, may form some
idea of voyages such as that of Bjarne Herjulf and his
men. These Vikings went on undaunted towards the west.
At last, after many days, they saw land, but when they
drew near they saw that it was not a rugged treeless
region, such as they knew Greenland to be, but a country
covered with forests, a country of low coasts rising
inland to small hills, and with no mountains in sight.
Accordingly, Bjarne said that this was not Greenland,
and he would not stop, but turned the vessel to the north.
After two days they sighted land again, still on the left
side, and again it was flat and thick with trees. The
sea had fallen calm, and Bjarne's men desired to land
and see this new country, and take wood and water into
the ship. But Bjarne would not. So they held on their
course, and presently a wind from the south-west carried
them onward for three days and three nights. Then again
they saw land, but this time it was high and mountainous,
with great shining caps of snow. And again Bjarne said,
'This is not the land I seek.' They did not go ashore,
but sailing close to the coast they presently found that
the land was an island. When they stood out to sea again,
the south wind rose to a gale that swept them towards
the north, with sail reefed down and with their ship
leaping through the foaming surges. Three days and nights
they ran before the gale. On the fourth day land rose
before them, and this time it was Greenland. There Bjarne
found his father, and there, when not at sea, he settled
for the rest of his days.

Such is the story of Bjarne Herjulf, as the Norsemen have
it. To the unprejudiced mind there is every reason to
believe that his voyage had carried him to America, to
the coast of the Maritime Provinces, or of Newfoundland
or Labrador. More than this one cannot say. True, it is
hard to fit the 'two days' and the 'three days' of Bjarne's
narrative into the sailing distances. But every one who
has read any primitive literature, or even the Homeric
poems, will remember how easily times and distances and
numbers that are not exactly known are expressed in loose
phrases not to be taken as literal.

The news of Bjarne's voyage and of his discovery of land
seems to have been carried presently to the Norsemen in
Iceland and in Europe. In fact, Bjarne himself made a
voyage to Norway, and, on account of what he had done,
figured there as a person of some importance. But people
blamed Bjarne because he had not landed on the new coasts,
and had taken so little pains to find out more about the
region of hills and forests which lay to the south and
west of Greenland. Naturally others were tempted to follow
the matter further. Among these was Leif, son of Eric
the Red. Leif went to Greenland, found Bjarne, bought
his ship, and manned it with a crew of thirty-five. Leif's
father, Eric, now lived in Greenland, and Leif asked him
to take command of the expedition. He thought, the saga
says, that, since Eric had found Greenland, he would
bring good luck to the new venture. For the time, Eric
consented, but when all was ready, and he was riding down
to the shore to embark, his horse stumbled and he fell
from the saddle and hurt his foot. Eric took this as an
omen of evil, and would not go; but Leif and his crew of
thirty-five set sail towards the south-west. This was in
the year 1000 A.D., or four hundred and ninety-two years
before Columbus landed in the West Indies.

Leif and his men sailed on, the saga tells us, till they
came to the last land which Bjarne had discovered. Here
they cast anchor, lowered a boat, and rowed ashore. They
found no grass, but only a great field of snow stretching
from the sea to the mountains farther inland; and these
mountains, too, glistened with snow. It seemed to the
Norsemen a forbidding place, and Leif christened it
Helluland, or the country of slate or flat stones. They
did not linger, but sailed away at once. The description
of the snow-covered hills, the great slabs of stone, and
the desolate aspect of the coast conveys at least a very
strong probability that the land was Labrador.

Leif and his men sailed away, and soon they discovered
another land. The chronicle does not say how many days
they were at sea, so that we cannot judge of the distance
of this new country from the Land of Stones. But evidently
it was entirely different in aspect, and was situated in
a warmer climate. The coast was low, there were broad
beaches of white sand, and behind the beaches rose thick
forests spreading over the country. Again the Norsemen
landed. Because of the trees, they gave to this place
the name of Markland, or the Country of Forests. Some
writers have thought that Markland must have been
Newfoundland, but the description also suggests Cape
Breton or Nova Scotia. The coast of Newfoundland is,
indeed, for the most part, bold, rugged, and inhospitable.

Leif put to sea once more. For two days the wind was from
the north-east. Then again they reached land. This new
region was the famous country which the Norsemen called
Vineland, and of which every schoolboy has read. There
has been so much dispute as to whether Vineland--this
warm country where grapes grew wild--was Nova Scotia or
New England, or some other region, that it is worth while
to read the account of the Norse saga, literally translated:

They came to an island, which lay on the north side
of the land, where they disembarked to wait for good
weather. There was dew upon the grass; and having
accidentally got some of the dew upon their hands and
put it to their mouths, they thought that they had
never tasted anything so sweet. Then they went on
board and sailed into a sound that was between the
island and a point that went out northwards from the
land, and sailed westward past the point. There was
very shallow water and ebb tide, so that their ship
lay dry; and there was a long way between their ship
and the water. They were so desirous to get to the
land that they would not wait till their ship floated,
but ran to the land, to a place where a river comes
out of a lake. As soon as their ship was afloat they
took the boats, rowed to the ship, towed her up the
river, and from thence into the lake, where they cast
anchor, carried their beds out of the ship, and set
up their tents.

They resolved to put things in order for wintering
there, and they erected a large house. They did not
want for salmon, in both the river and the lake; and
they thought the salmon larger than any they had ever
seen before. The country appeared to them to be of so
good a kind that it would not be necessary to gather
fodder for the cattle for winter. There was no frost
in winter, and the grass was not much withered. Day
and night were more equal than in Greenland and

The chronicle goes on to tell how Leif and his men spent
the winter in this place. They explored the country round
their encampment. They found beautiful trees, trees big
enough for use in building houses, something vastly
important to men from Greenland, where no trees grow.
Delighted with this, Leif and his men cut down some trees
and loaded their ship with the timber. One day a sailor,
whose home had been in a 'south country,' where he had
seen wine made from grapes, and who was nicknamed the
'Turk,' found on the coast vines with grapes, growing
wild. He brought his companions to the spot, and they
gathered grapes sufficient to fill their ship's boat. It
was on this account that Leif called the country 'Vineland.'
They found patches of supposed corn which grew wild like
the grapes and reseeded itself from year to year. It is
striking that the Norse chronicle should name these simple
things. Had it been a work of fancy, probably we should
have heard, as in the Chinese legends, of strange demons
and other amazing creatures. But we hear instead of the
beautiful forest extending to the shore, the mountains
in the background, the tangled vines, and the bright
patches of wild grain of some kind ripening in the open
glades-the very things which caught the eye of Cartier
when, five centuries later, he first ascended the St

Where Vineland was we cannot tell. If the men really
found wild grapes, and not some kind of cranberry, Vineland
must have been in the region where grapes will grow. The
vine grows as far north as Prince Edward Island and Cape
Breton, and, of course, is found in plenty on the coasts
of Nova Scotia and New England. The chronicle says that
the winter days were longer in Vineland than in Greenland,
and names the exact length of the shortest day.
Unfortunately, however, the Norsemen had no accurate
system for measuring time; otherwise the length of the
shortest winter day would enable us to know at what exact
spot Leif's settlement was made.

Leif and his men stayed in Vineland all winter, and sailed
home to Greenland in the spring (1001 A.D.). As they
brought timber, much prized in the Greenland settlement,
their voyage caused a great deal of talk. Naturally others
wished to rival Leif. In the next few years several
voyages to Vineland are briefly chronicled in the sagas.

First of all, Thorwald, Leif's brother, borrowed his
ship, sailed away to Vineland with thirty men, and spent
two winters there. During his first summer in Vineland,
Thorwald sent some men in a boat westward along the coast.
They found a beautiful country with thick woods reaching
to the shore, and great stretches of white sand. They
found a kind of barn made of wood, and were startled by
this first indication of the presence of man. Thorwald
had, indeed, startling adventures. In a great storm his
ship was wrecked on the coast, and he and his men had to
rebuild it. He selected for a settlement a point of land
thickly covered with forest. Before the men had built
their houses they fell in with some savages, whom they
made prisoners. These savages had bows and arrows, and
used what the Norsemen called 'skin boats.' One of the
savages escaped and roused his tribe, and presently a
great flock of canoes came out of a large bay, surrounded
the Viking ship, and discharged a cloud of arrows. The
Norsemen beat off the savages, but in the fight Thorwald
received a mortal wound. As he lay dying he told his men
to bury him there in Vineland, on the point where he had
meant to build his home. This was done. Thorwald's men
remained there for the winter. In the spring they returned
to Greenland, with the sad news for Leif of his brother's

Other voyages followed. A certain Thorfinn Karlsevne even
tried to found a permanent colony in Vineland. In the
spring of 1007, he took there a hundred and sixty men,
some women, and many cattle. He and his people remained
in Vineland for nearly four years. They traded with the
savages, giving them cloth and trinkets for furs.
Karlsevne's wife gave birth there to a son, who was
christened Snorre, and who was perhaps the first white
child born in America. The Vineland colony seems to have
prospered well enough, but unfortunately quarrels broke
out between the Norsemen and the savages, and so many of
Karlsevne's people were killed that the remainder were
glad to sail back to Greenland.

The Norse chronicles contain a further story of how one
of Karlsevne's companions, Thorward, and his wife Freydis,
who was a daughter of Eric the Red, made a voyage to
Vineland. This expedition ended in tragedy. One night
the Norsemen quarrelled in their winter quarters, there
was a tumult and a massacre. Freydis herself killed five
women with an axe, and the little colony was drenched in
blood. The survivors returned to Greenland, but were
shunned by all from that hour.

After this story we have no detailed accounts of voyages
to Vineland. There are, however, references to it in
Icelandic literature. There does not seem any ground to
believe that the Norsemen succeeded in planting a lasting
colony in Vineland. Some people have tried to claim that
certain ancient ruins on the New England coast--an old
stone mill at Newport, and so on--are evidences of such
a settlement. But the claim has no sufficient proof behind

On the whole, however, there seems every ground to conclude
that again and again the Norsemen landed on the Atlantic
coast of America. We do not know where they made their
winter quarters, nor does this matter. Very likely there
were temporary settlements in both 'Markland,' with its
thick woods bordering on the sea, and in other less
promising regions. It should be added that some writers
of authority refuse even to admit that the Norsemen
reached America. Others, like Nansen, the famous Arctic
explorer, while admitting the probability of the voyages,
believe that the sagas are merely a sort of folklore,
such as may be found in the primitive literature of all
nations. On the other hand, John Fiske, the American
historian, who devoted much patient study to the question,
was convinced that what is now the Canadian coast, with,
probably, part of New England too, was discovered, visited,
and thoroughly well known by the Norse inhabitants of
Greenland. For several centuries they appear to have made
summer voyages to and from this 'Vineland the Good' as
they called it, and to have brought back timber and
supplies not found in their own inhospitable country. It
is quite possible that further investigation may throw
new light on the Norse discoveries, and even that undeniable
traces of the buildings or implements of the settlers in
Vineland may be found. Meanwhile the subject, interesting
though it is, remains shrouded in mystery.



The discoveries of the Norsemen did not lead to the
opening of America to the nations of Europe. For this
the time was not yet ripe. As yet European nations were
backward, not only in navigation, but in the industries
and commerce which supply the real motive for occupying
new lands. In the days of Eric the Red Europe was only
beginning to emerge from a dark period. The might and
splendour of the Roman Empire had vanished, and the great
kingdoms which we know were still to rise.

All this changed in the five hundred years between the
foundation of the Greenland colony and the voyage of
Christopher Columbus. The discovery of America took place
as a direct result of the advancing civilization and
growing power of Europe. The event itself was, in a sense,
due to pure accident. Columbus was seeking Asia when he
found himself among the tropical islands of the West
Indies. In another sense, however, the discovery marks
in world history a necessary stage, for which the preceding
centuries had already made the preparation. The story of
the voyages of Columbus forms no part of our present
narrative. But we cannot understand the background that
lies behind the history of Canada without knowing why
such men as Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama and
the Cabots began the work of discovery.

First, we have to realize the peculiar relations between
Europe, ancient and mediaeval, and the great empires of
Eastern Asia. The two civilizations had never been in
direct contact. Yet in a sense they were always connected.
The Greeks and the Romans had at least vague reports of
peoples who lived on the far eastern confines of the
world, beyond even the conquests of Alexander the Great
in Hindustan. It is certain, too, that Europe and Asia
had always traded with one another in a strange and
unconscious fashion. The spices and silks of the unknown
East passed westward from trader to trader, from caravan
to caravan, until they reached the Persian Gulf, the Red
Sea, and, at last, the Mediterranean. The journey was so
slow, so tedious, the goods passed from hand to hand so
often, that when the Phoenician, Greek, or Roman merchants
bought them their origin had been forgotten. For century
after century this trade continued. When Rome fell, other
peoples of the Mediterranean continued the Eastern trade.
Genoa and Venice rose to greatness by this trade. As
wealth and culture revived after the Gothic conquest
which overthrew Rome, the beautiful silks and the rare
spices of the East were more and more prized in a world
of increasing luxury. The Crusades rediscovered Egypt,
Syria, and the East for Europe. Gold and jewels,
diamond-hilted swords of Damascus steel, carved ivory,
and priceless gems,--all the treasures which the warriors
of the Cross brought home, helped to impress on the mind
of Europe the surpassing riches of the East.

Gradually a new interest was added. As time went on doubts
increased regarding the true shape of the earth. Early
peoples had thought it a great flat expanse, with the
blue sky propped over it like a dome or cover. This
conception was giving way. The wise men who watched the
sky at night, who saw the sweeping circles of the fixed
stars and the wandering path of the strange luminous
bodies called planets, began to suspect a mighty
secret,--that the observing eye saw only half the heavens,
and that the course of the stars and the earth itself
rounded out was below the darkness of the horizon. From
this theory that the earth was a great sphere floating
in space followed the most enthralling conclusions. If
the earth was really a globe, it might be possible to go
round it and to reappear on the farther side of the
horizon. Then the East might be reached, not only across
the deserts of Persia and Tartary, but also by striking
out into the boundless ocean that lay beyond the Pillars
of Hercules. For such an attempt an almost superhuman
courage was required. No man might say what awful seas,
what engulfing gloom, might lie across the familiar waters
which washed the shores of Europe. The most fearless who,
at evening, upon the cliffs of Spain or Portugal, watched
black night settle upon the far-spreading waters of the
Atlantic, might well turn shuddering from any attempt to
sail into those unknown wastes.

It was the stern logic of events which compelled the
enterprise. Barbarous Turks swept westward. Arabia, Syria,
the Isles of Greece, and, at last, in 1453, Constantinople
itself, fell into their hands. The Eastern Empire, the
last survival of the Empire of the Romans, perished
beneath the sword of Mahomet. Then the pathway by land
to Asia, to the fabled empires of Cathay and Cipango,
was blocked by the Turkish conquest. Commerce, however,
remained alert and enterprising, and men's minds soon
turned to the hopes of a western passage which should
provide a new route to the Indies.

All the world knows the story of Christopher Columbus,
his long years of hardship and discouragement; the supreme
conviction which sustained him in his adversity; the
final triumph which crowned his efforts. It is no detraction
from the glory of Columbus to say that he was only one
of many eager spirits occupied with new problems of
discovery across the sea. Not the least of these were
John and Sebastian Cabot, father and son. John Cabot,
like Columbus, was a Genoese by birth; a long residence
in Venice, however, earned for him in 1476 the citizenship
of that republic. Like many in his time, he seems to have
been both a scientific geographer and a practical
sea-captain. At one time he made charts and maps for his
livelihood. Seized with the fever for discovery, he is
said to have begged in vain from the sovereigns of Spain
and Portugal for help in a voyage to the West. About the
time of the great discovery of Columbus in 1492, John
Cabot arrived in Bristol. It may be that he took part in
some of the voyages of the Bristol merchants, before the
achievements of Columbus began to startle the world.

At the close of the fifteenth century the town of Bristol
enjoyed a pre-eminence which it has since lost. It stood
second only to London as a British port. A group of
wealthy merchants carried on from Bristol a lively trade
with Iceland and the northern ports of Europe. The town
was the chief centre for an important trade in codfish.
Days of fasting were generally observed at that time; on
these the eating of meat was forbidden by the church,
and fish was consequently in great demand. The merchants
of Bristol were keen traders, and were always seeking
the further extension of their trade. Christopher Columbus
himself is said to have made a voyage for the Bristol
merchants to Iceland in 1477. There is even a tale that,
before Columbus was known to fame, an expedition was
equipped there in 1480 to seek the 'fabulous islands' of
the Western Sea. Certain it is that the Spanish ambassador
in England, whose business it was to keep his royal master
informed of all that was being done by his rivals, wrote
home in 1498: 'It is seven years since those of Bristol
used to send out, every year, a fleet of two, three, or
four caravels to go and search for the Isle of Brazil
and the Seven Cities, according to the fancy of the

We can therefore realize that when Master John Cabot came
among the merchants of this busy town with his plans he
found a ready hearing. Cabot was soon brought to the
notice of his august majesty Henry VII of England. The
king had been shortsighted enough to reject overtures
made to him by Bartholomew Columbus, brother of Christopher,
and no doubt he regretted his mistake. Now he was eager
enough to act as the patron of a new voyage. Accordingly,
on March 5, 1496, he granted a royal licence in the form
of what was called Letters Patent, authorizing John Cabot
and his sons Lewis, Sebastian and Sancius to make a voyage
of discovery in the name of the king of England. The
Cabots were to sail 'with five ships or vessels of whatever
burden or quality soever they be, and with as many marines
or men as they will have with them in the said ships upon
their own proper costs and charges.' It will be seen that
Henry VII, the most parsimonious of kings, had no mind
to pay the expense of the voyage. The expedition was 'to
seek out, discover and find whatsoever islands, countries,
regions and provinces of the heathens or infidels, in
whatever part of the world they be, which before this
time have been unknown to all Christians.' It was to sail
only 'to the seas of the east and west and north,' for
the king did not wish to lay any claim to the lands
discovered by the Spaniards and Portuguese. The discoverers,
however, were to raise the English flag over any new
lands that they found, to conquer and possess them, and
to acquire 'for us dominion, title, and jurisdiction over
those towns, castles, islands, and mainlands so discovered.'
One-fifth of the profits from the anticipated voyages to
the new land was to fall to the king, but the Cabots were
to have a monopoly of trade, and Bristol was to enjoy
the right of being the sole port of entry for the ships
engaged in this trade.

Not until the next year, 1497, did John Cabot set out.
Then he embarked from Bristol with a single ship, called
in an old history the Matthew, and a crew of eighteen
men. First, he sailed round the south of Ireland, and
from there struck out westward into the unknown sea. The
appliances of navigation were then very imperfect. Sailors
could reckon the latitude by looking up at the North
Star, and noting how high it was above the horizon. Since
the North Star stands in the sky due north, and the axis
on which the earth spins points always towards it, it
will appear to an observer in the northern hemisphere to
be as many degrees above the horizon as he himself is
distant from the pole or top of the earth. The old
navigators, therefore, could always tell how far north
or south they were. Moreover, as long as the weather was
clear they could, by this means, strike, at night at
least, a course due east or west. But when the weather
was not favourable for observations they had to rely on
the compass alone. Now the compass in actual fact does
not always and everywhere point due north. It is subject
to variation, and in different times and places points
either considerably east of north or west of it. In the
path where Cabot sailed, the compass pointed west of
north; and hence, though he thought he was sailing straight
west from Ireland, he was really pursuing a curved path
bent round a little towards the south. This fact will
become of importance when we consider where it was that
Cabot landed. For finding distance east and west the
navigators of the fifteenth century had no such appliances
as our modern chronometer and instruments of observation.
They could tell how far they had sailed only by 'dead
reckoning'; this means that if their ship was going at
such and such a speed, it was supposed to have made such
and such a distance in a given time. But when ships were
being driven to and fro, and buffeted by adverse winds,
this reckoning became extremely uncertain.

John Cabot and his men mere tossed about considerably in
their little ship. Though they seem to have set out early
in May of 1497, it was not until June 24 that they sighted
land. What the land was like, and what they thought of
it, we know from letters written in England by various
persons after their return. Thus we learn that it was a
'very good and temperate country,' and that 'Brazil wood
and silks grow there.' 'The sea,' they reported, 'is
covered with fishes, which are caught not only with the
net, but with baskets, a stone being tied to them in
order that the baskets may sink in the water.' Henceforth,
it was said, England would have no more need to buy fish
from Iceland, for the waters of the new land abounded in
fish. Cabot and his men saw no savages, but they found
proof that the land was inhabited. Here and there in the
forest they saw trees which had been felled, and also
snares of a rude kind set to catch game. They were
enthusiastic over their success. They reported that the
new land must certainly be connected with Cipango, from
which all the spices and precious stones of the world
originated. Only a scanty stock of provisions, they
declared, prevented them from sailing along the coast as
far as Cathay and Cipango. As it was they planted on the
land a great cross with the flag of England and also the
banner of St Mark, the patron saint of Cabot's city of

The older histories used always to speak as if John Cabot
had landed somewhere on the coast of Labrador, and had
at best gone no farther south than Newfoundland. Even if
this were the whole truth about the voyage, to Cabot and
his men would belong the signal honour of having been
the first Europeans, since the Norsemen, to set foot on
the mainland of North America. Without doubt they were
the first to unfurl the flag of England, and to erect
the cross upon soil which afterwards became part of
British North America. But this is not all. It is likely
that Cabot reached a point far south of Labrador. His
supposed sailing westward carried him in reality south
of the latitude of Ireland. He makes no mention of the
icebergs which any voyager must meet on the Labrador
coast from June to August. His account of a temperate
climate suitable for growing dye-wood, of forest trees,
and of a country so fair that it seemed the gateway of
the enchanted lands of the East, is quite unsuited to
the bare and forbidding aspect of Labrador. Cape Breton
island was probably the place of Cabot's landing. Its
balmy summer climate, the abundant fish of its waters,
fit in with Cabot's experiences. The evidence from maps,
one of which was made by Cabot's son Sebastian, points
also to Cape Breton as the first landing-place of English
sailors in America.

There is no doubt of the stir made by Cabot's discovery
on his safe return to England. He was in London by August
of 1497, and he became at once the object of eager
curiosity and interest. 'He is styled the Great Admiral,'
wrote a Venetian resident in London, 'and vast honour is
paid to him. He dresses in silk, and the English run
after him like mad people.' The sunlight of royal favour
broke over him in a flood: even Henry VII proved generous.
The royal accounts show that, on August 10, 1497, the
king gave ten pounds 'to him that found the new isle.'
A few months later the king granted to his 'well-beloved
John Cabot, of the parts of Venice, an annuity of twenty
pounds sterling,' to be paid out of the customs of the
port of Bristol. The king, too, was lavish in his promises
of help for a new expedition. Henry's imagination had
evidently been fired with the idea of an Oriental empire.
A contemporary writer tells us that Cabot was to have
ten armed ships. At Cabot's request, the king conceded
to him all the prisoners needed to man this fleet, saving
only persons condemned for high treason. It is one of
the ironies of history that on the first pages of its
annals the beautiful new world is offered to the criminals
of Europe.

During the winter that followed, John Cabot was the hero
of the hour. Busy preparations went on for a new voyage.
Letters patent were issued giving Cabot power to take
any six ships that he liked from the ports of the kingdom,
paying to their owners the same price only as if taken
for the king's service. The 'Grand Admiral' became a
person of high importance. On one friend he conferred
the sovereignty of an island; to others he made lavish
promises; certain poor friars who offered to embark on
his coming voyage were to be bishops over the heathen of
the new land. Even the merchants of London ventured to
send out goods for trade, and brought to Cabot 'coarse
cloth, caps, laces, points, and other trifles.'

The second expedition sailed from the port of Bristol in
May of 1498. John Cabot and his son Sebastian were in
command; of the younger brothers we hear no more. But
the high hopes of the voyagers were doomed to
disappointment. On arriving at the coast of America
Cabot's ships seem first to have turned towards the north.
The fatal idea, that the empires of Asia might be reached
through the northern seas already asserted its sway. The
search for a north-west passage, that will-o'-the-wisp
of three centuries, had already begun. Many years later
Sebastian Cabot related to a friend at Seville some
details regarding this unfortunate attempt of his father
to reach the spice islands of the East. The fleet, he
said, with its three hundred men, first directed its
course so far to the north that, even in the month of
July, monstrous heaps of ice were found floating on the
sea. 'There was,' so Sebastian told his friend, 'in a
manner, continual daylight.' The forbidding aspect of
the coast, the bitter cold of the northern seas, and the
boundless extent of the silent drifting ice, chilled the
hopes of the explorers. They turned towards the south.
Day after day, week after week, they skirted the coast
of North America. If we may believe Sebastian's friend,
they reached a point as far south as Gibraltar in Europe.
No more was there ice. The cold of Labrador changed to
soft breezes from the sanded coast of Carolina and from
the mild waters of the Gulf Stream. But of the fabled
empires of Cathay and Cipango, and the 'towns and castles'
over which the Great Admiral was to have dominion, they
saw no trace. Reluctantly the expedition turned again
towards Europe, and with its turning ends our knowledge
of what happened on the voyage.

That the ships came home either as a fleet, or at least
in part, we have certain proof. We know that John Cabot
returned to Bristol, for the ancient accounts of the port
show that he lived to draw at least one or two instalments
of his pension. But the sunlight of royal favour no longer
illumined his path. In the annals of English history the
name of John Cabot is never found again.

The son Sebastian survived to continue a life of maritime
adventure, to be counted one of the great sea-captains
of the day, and to enjoy an honourable old age. In the
year 1512 we hear of him in the service of Ferdinand of
Spain. He seems to have won great renown as a maker of
maps and charts. He still cherished the idea of reaching
Asia by way of the northern seas of America. A north-west
expedition with Sebastian in command had been decided
upon, it is said, by Ferdinand, when the death of that
illustrious sovereign prevented the realization of the
project. After Ferdinand's death, Cabot fell out with
the grandees of the Spanish court, left Madrid, and
returned for some time to England. Some have it that he
made a new voyage in the service of Henry VIII, and sailed
through Hudson Strait, but this is probably only a confused
reminiscence, handed down by hearsay, of the earlier
voyages. Cabot served Spain again under Charles V, and
made a voyage to Brazil and the La Plata river. He
reappears later in England, and was made Inspector of
the King's Ships by Edward VI. He was a leading spirit
of the Merchant Adventurers who, in Edward's reign, first
opened up trade by sea with Russia.

The voyages of the Bristol traders and the enterprise of
England by no means ended with the exploits of the Cabots.
Though our ordinary history books tell us nothing more
of English voyages until we come to the days of the great
Elizabethan navigators, Drake, Frobisher, Hawkins, and
to the planting of Virginia, as a matter of fact many
voyages were made under Henry VII and Henry VIII. Both
sovereigns seem to have been anxious to continue the
exploration of the western seas, but they had not the
good fortune again to secure such master-pilots as John
and Sebastian Cabot.

In the first place, it seems that the fishermen of England,
as well as those of the Breton coast, followed close in
the track of the Cabots. As soon as the Atlantic passage
to Newfoundland had been robbed of the terrors of the
unknown, it was not regarded as difficult. With strong
east winds a ship of the sixteenth century could make
the run from Bristol or St Malo to the Grand Banks in
less than twenty days. Once a ship was on the Banks, the
fish were found in an abundance utterly unknown in European
waters, and the ships usually returned home with great
cargoes. During the early years of the sixteenth century
English, French, and Portuguese fishermen went from Europe
to the Banks in great numbers. They landed at various
points in Newfoundland and Cape Breton, and became well
acquainted with the outline of the coast. It was no
surprise to Jacques Cartier, for instance, on his first
voyage, to find a French fishing vessel lying off the
north shore of the Gulf of St Lawrence. But these fishing
crews thought nothing of exploration. The harvest of the
sea was their sole care, and beyond landing to cure fish
and to obtain wood and water they did nothing to claim
or conquer the land.

There were, however, efforts from time to time to follow
up the discoveries of the Cabots. The merchants of Bristol
do not seem to have been disappointed with the result of
the Cabot enterprises, for as early as in 1501 they sent
out a new expedition across the Atlantic. The sanction
of the king was again invoked, and Henry VII granted
letters patent to three men of Bristol--Richard Warde,
Thomas Ashehurst, and John Thomas--to explore the western
seas. These names have a homely English sound; but
associated with them were three Portuguese--John Gonzales,
and two men called Fernandez, all of the Azores, and
probably of the class of master-pilots to which the Cabots
and Columbus belonged. We know nothing of the results of
the expedition, but it returned in safety in the same
year, and the parsimonious king was moved to pay out five
pounds from his treasury 'to the men of Bristol that
found the isle.'

Francis Fernandez and John Gonzales remained in the
English service and became subjects of King Henry. Again,
in the summer of 1502, they were sent out on another
voyage from Bristol. In September they brought their
ships safely back, and, in proof of the strangeness of
the new lands they carried home 'three men brought out
of an Iland forre beyond Irelond, the which were clothed
in Beestes Skynnes and ate raw fflesh and were rude in
their demeanure as Beestes.' From this description (written
in an old atlas of the time), it looks as if the Fernandez
expedition had turned north from the Great Banks and
visited the coast where the Eskimos were found, either
in Labrador or Greenland. This time Henry VII gave
Fernandez and Gonzales a pension of ten pounds each, and
made them 'captains' of the New Found Land. A sum of
twenty pounds was given to the merchants of Bristol who
had accompanied them. We must remember that at this time
the New Found Land was the general name used for all the
northern coast of America.

There is evidence that a further expedition went out from
Bristol in 1503, and still another in 1504. Fernandez
and Gonzales, with two English associates, were again
the leaders. They were to have a monopoly of trade for
forty years, but were cautioned not to interfere with
the territory of the king of Portugal. Of the fate of
these enterprises nothing is known.

By the time of Henry VIII, who began to reign in 1509,
the annual fishing fleet of the English which sailed to
the American coast had become important. As early as in
1522, a royal ship of war was sent to the mouth of the
English Channel to protect the 'coming home of the New
Found Island's fleet.' Henry VIII and his minister,
Cardinal Wolsey, were evidently anxious to go on with
the work of the previous reign, and especially to enlist
the wealthy merchants and trade companies of London in
the cause of western exploration. In 1521 the cardinal
proposed to the Livery Companies of London--the name
given to the trade organizations of the merchants--that
they should send out five ships on a voyage into the New
Found Land. When the merchants seemed disinclined to make
such a venture, the king 'spake sharply to the Mayor to
see it put in execution to the best of his power.' But,
even with this stimulus, several years passed before a
London expedition was sent out. At last, in 1527, two
little ships called the Samson and the Mary of Guildford
set out from London with instructions to find their way
to Cathay and the Indies by means of the passage to the
north. The two ships left London on May 10, put into
Plymouth, and finally sailed therefrom on June 10, 1527.
They followed Cabot's track, striking westward from the
coast of Ireland. For three weeks they kept together,
making good progress across the Atlantic. Then in a great
storm that arose the Samson was lost with all on board.

The Mary of Guildford pursued her way alone, and her crew
had adventures strange even for those days. Her course,
set well to the north, brought her into the drift ice
and the giant icebergs which are carried down the coast
of America at this season (for the month was July) from
the polar seas. In fear of the moving ice, she turned to
the south, the sailors watching eagerly for the land,
and sounding as they went. Four days brought them to the
coast of Labrador. They followed it southward for some
days. Presently they entered an inlet where they found
a good harbour, many small islands, and the mouth of a
great river of fresh water. The region was a wilderness,
its mountains and woods apparently untenanted by man.
Near the shore they saw the footmarks of divers great
beasts, but, though they explored the country for about
thirty miles, they saw neither men nor animals. At the
end of July, they set sail again, and passed down the
coast of Newfoundland to the harbour of St John's, already
a well-known rendezvous. Here they found fourteen ships
of the fishing fleet, mostly vessels from Normandy. From
Newfoundland the Mary of Guildford pursued her way
southward, and passed along the Atlantic coast of America.
If she had had any one on board capable of accurate
observation, even after the fashion of the time, or of
making maps, the record of her voyage would have added
much to the general knowledge of the continent.
Unfortunately, the Italian pilot who directed the voyage
was killed in a skirmish with Indians during a temporary
landing. Some have thought that this pilot who perished
on the Mary of Guildford may have been the great navigator
Verrazano, of whom we shall presently speak.

The little vessel sailed down the coast to the islands
of the West Indies. She reached Porto Rico in the middle
of November, and from that island she made sail for the
new Spanish settlements of San Domingo. Here, as she lay
at her anchorage, the Mary of Guildford was fired upon
by the Spanish fort which commanded the river mouth. At
once she put out into the open sea, and, heading eastward
across the Atlantic, she arrived safely at her port of



We have seen that after the return of the second expedition
of the Cabots no voyages to the coasts of Canada of
first-rate importance were made by the English. This does
not mean, however, that nothing was done by other peoples
to discover and explore the northern coasts of America.
The Portuguese were the first after the Cabots to continue
the search along the Canadian coast for the secret of
the hidden East. At this time, we must remember, the
Portuguese were one of the leading nations of Europe,
and they were specially interested in maritime enterprise.
Thanks to Columbus, the Spaniards had, it is true, carried
off the grand prize of discovery. But the Portuguese had
rendered service not less useful. From their coasts,
jutting far out into the Atlantic, they had sailed
southward and eastward, and had added much to the knowledge
of the globe. For generations, both before and after
Columbus, the pilots and sailors of Portugal were among
the most successful and daring in the world.

For nearly a hundred years before the discovery of America
the Portuguese had been endeavouring to find an ocean
route to the spice islands of the East and to the great
Oriental empires which, tradition said, lay far off on
a distant ocean, and which Marco Polo and other travellers
had reached by years of painful land travel across the
interior of Asia. Prince Henry of Portugal was busy with
these tasks at the middle of the fifteenth century. Even
before this, Portuguese sailors had found their way to
the Madeiras and the Canary Islands, and to the Azores,
which lie a thousand miles out in the Atlantic. But under
the lead of Prince Henry they began to grope their way
down the coast of Africa, braving the torrid heats and
awful calms of that equatorial region, where the blazing
sun, poised overhead in a cloudless sky, was reflected
on the bosom of a stagnant and glistening ocean. It was
their constant hope that at some point the land would be
found to roll back and disclose an ocean pathway round
Africa to the East, the goal of their desire. Year after
year they advanced farther, until at last they achieved
a momentous result. In 1487, Bartholomew Diaz sailed
round the southern point of Africa, which received the
significant name of the 'Cape of Good Hope,' and entered
the Indian Ocean. Henceforth a water pathway to the Far
East was possible. Following Diaz, Vasco da Gama, leaving
Lisbon in 1497, sailed round the south of Africa, and,
reaching the ports of Hindustan, made the maritime route
to India a definite reality.

Thus at the moment when the Spaniards were taking
possession of the western world the Portuguese were
establishing their trade in the rediscovered East. The
two nations agreed to divide between them these worlds
of the East and the West. They invoked the friendly
offices of the Pope as mediator, and, henceforth, an
imaginary line drawn down the Atlantic divided the
realms. At first this arrangement seemed to give Spain
all the new regions in America, but the line of division
was set so far to the West that the discovery of Brazil,
which juts out eastward into the Atlantic, gave the
Portuguese a vast territory in South America. At the
time of which we are now speaking, however, the
Portuguese were intent upon their interests in the
Orient. Their great aim was to pass beyond India,
already reached by da Gama, to the further empires of
China and Japan. Like other navigators of the time, they
thought that these places might be reached not merely by
southern but also by the northern seas. Hence it came
about that the Portuguese, going far southward in
Africa, went also far northward in America and sailed
along the coast of Canada.

We find, in consequence, that when King Manoel of Portugal
was fitting out a fleet of twenty ships for a new expedition
under da Gama, which was to sail to the Indies by way of
Africa, another Portuguese expedition, setting out with
the same object, was sailing in the opposite direction.
At its head was Gaspar Corte-Real, a nobleman of the
Azores, who had followed with eager interest the discoveries
of Columbus, Diaz, and da Gama. Corte-Real sailed from
Lisbon in the summer of 1500 with a single ship. He
touched at the Azores. It is possible that a second vessel
joined him there, but this is not clear. From the Azores
his path lay north and west, till presently he reached
a land described as a 'cool region with great woods.'
Corte-Real called it from its verdure 'the Green Land,'
but the similarity of name with the place that we call
Greenland is only an accident. In reality the Portuguese
captain was on the coast of Newfoundland. He saw a number
of natives. They appeared to the Portuguese a barbarous
people, who dressed in skins, and lived in caves. They
used bows and arrows, and had wooden spears, the points
of which they hardened with fire.

Corte-Real directed his course northward, until he found
himself off the coast of Greenland. He sailed for some
distance along those rugged and forbidding shores, a land
of desolation, with jagged mountains and furrowed cliffs,
wrapped in snow and ice. No trace of the lost civilization
of the Norsemen met his eyes. The Portuguese pilot
considered Greenland at its southern point to be an
outstanding promontory of Asia, and he struggled hard to
pass beyond it westward to a more favoured region. But
his path was blocked by 'enormous masses of frozen snow
floating on the sea, and moving under the influence of
the waves.' It is clear that he was met not merely by
the field ice of the Arctic ocean, but also by great
icebergs moving slowly with the polar current. The
narrative tells how Corte-Real's crew obtained fresh
water from the icebergs. 'Owing to the heat of the sun,
fresh and clear water is melted on the summits, and,
descending by small channels formed by the water itself,
it eats away the base where it falls. The boats were sent
in, and in that way as much was taken as was needed.'

Corte-Real made his way as far as a place (which was in
latitude 60 degrees) where the sea about him seemed a
flowing stream of snow, and so he called it Rio Nevado,
'the river of snow.' Probably it was Hudson Strait.

Late in the same season, Corte-Real was back in Lisbon.
He had discovered nothing of immediate profit to the
crown of Portugal, but his survey of the coast of North
America from Newfoundland to Hudson Strait seems to have
strengthened the belief that the best route to India lay
in this direction. In any case, on May 15, 1501, he was
sent out again with three ships. This time the Portuguese
discovered a region, so they said, which no one had before
visited. The description indicates that they were on the
coast of Nova Scotia and the adjacent part of New England.
The land was wooded with fine straight timber, fit for
the masts of ships, and 'when they landed they found
delicious fruits of various kinds, and trees and pines
of marvellous height and thickness.' They saw many natives,
occupied in hunting and fishing. Following the custom of
the time, they seized fifty or sixty natives, and crowded
these unhappy captives into the holds of their ships, to
carry home as evidence of the reality of their discoveries,
and to be sold as slaves. These savages are described by
those who saw them in Portugal as of shapely form and
gentle manner, though uncouth and even dirty in person.
They wore otter skins, and their faces were marked with
lines. The description would answer to any of the Algonquin
tribes of the eastern coast. Among the natives seen on
the coast there was a boy who had in his ears two silver
rings of Venetian make. The circumstance led the Portuguese
to suppose that they were on the coast of Asia, and that
a European ship had recently visited the same spot. The
true explanation, if the circumstance is correctly
reported, would seem to be that the rings were relics of
Cabot's voyages and of his trade in the trinkets supplied
by the merchants.

Gaspar Corte-Real sent his consort ships home, promising
to explore the coast further, and to return later in the
season. The vessels duly reached Lisbon, bringing their
captives and the news of the voyage. Corte-Real, however,
never returned, nor is anything known of his fate.

When a year had passed with no news of Gaspar Corte-Real,
his brother Miguel fitted out a new expedition of three
ships and sailed westward in search of him. On reaching
the coast of Newfoundland, the ships of Miguel Corte-Real
separated in order to make a diligent search in all
directions for the missing Gaspar. They followed the deep
indentations of the island, noting its outstanding
features. Here and there they fell in with the natives
and traded with them, but they found nothing of value.
To make matters worse, when the time came to assemble,
as agreed, in the harbour of St John's, only two ships
arrived at the rendezvous. That of Miguel was missing.
After waiting some time the other vessels returned without
him to Portugal.

Two Corte-Reals were now lost. King Manoel transferred
the rights of Gaspar and Miguel to another brother, and
in the ensuing years sent out several Portuguese expeditions
to search for the lost leaders, but without success. The
Portuguese gained only a knowledge of the abundance of
fish in the region of the Newfoundland coast. This was
important, and henceforth Portuguese ships joined with
the Normans, the Bretons, and the English in fishing on
the Grand Banks. Of the Corte-Reals nothing more was ever

The next great voyage of discovery was that of Juan
Verrazano, some twenty years after the loss of the
Corte-Reals. Like so many other pilots of his time,
Verrazano was an Italian. He had wandered much about the
world, had made his way to the East Indies by the new
route that the Portuguese had opened, and had also, so
it is said, been a member of a ship's company in one of
the fishing voyages to Newfoundland now made in every

The name of Juan Verrazano has a peculiar significance
in Canadian history. In more ways than one he was the
forerunner of Jacques Cartier, 'the discoverer of Canada.'
Not only did he sail along the coast of Canada, but did
so in the service of the king of France, the first
representative of those rising ambitions which were
presently to result in the foundation of New France and
the colonial empire of the Bourbon monarchy. Francis I,
the French king, was a vigorous and ambitious prince.
His exploits and rivalries occupy the foreground of
European history in the earlier part of the sixteenth
century. It was the object of Francis to continue the
work of Louis XI by consolidating his people into a single
powerful state. His marriage with the heiress of Brittany
joined that independent duchy, rich at least in the
seafaring bravery of its people, to the crown of France.
But Francis aimed higher still. He wished to make himself
the arbiter of Europe and the over-lord of the European
kings. Having been defeated by the equally famous king
of Spain, Charles V, in his effort to gain the position
and title of Holy Roman Emperor and the leadership of
Europe, he set himself to overthrow the rising greatness
of Spain. The history of Europe for a quarter of a century
turns upon the opposing ambitions of the two monarchs.

As a part of his great design, Francis I turned towards
western discovery and exploration, in order to rival if
possible the achievements of Columbus and Cortes and to
possess himself of territories abounding in gold and
silver, in slaves and merchandise, like the islands of
Cuba and San Domingo and the newly conquered empire of
Montezuma, which Spain held. It was in this design that
he sent out Juan Verrazano; in further pursuit of it he
sent Jacques Cartier ten years later; and the result was
that French dominion afterwards, prevailed in the valley
of the St Lawrence and seeds were planted from which grew
the present Dominion of Canada.

At the end of the year 1523 Juan Verrazano set out from
the port of Dieppe with four ships. Beaten about by
adverse storms, they put into harbour at Madeira, so
badly strained by the rough weather that only a single
seaworthy ship remained. In this, the Dauphine, Verrazano
set forth on January 17, 1524, for his western discovery.
The voyage was prosperous, except for one awful tempest
in mid-Atlantic, 'as terrible,' wrote Verrazano, 'as ever
any sailors suffered.' After seven weeks of westward
sailing Verrazano sighted a coast 'never before seen of
any man either ancient or modern.' This was the shore of
North Carolina. From this point the French captain made
his way northward, closely inspecting the coast, landing
here and there, and taking note of the appearance, the
resources, and the natives of the country. The voyage
was chiefly along the coast of what is now the United
States, and does not therefore immediately concern the
present narrative. Verrazano's account of his discoveries,
as he afterwards wrote it down, is full of picturesque
interest, and may now be found translated into English
in Hakluyt's Voyages. He tells of the savages who flocked
to the low sandy shore to see the French ship riding at
anchor. They wore skins about their loins and light
feathers in their hair, and they were 'of colour russet,
and not much unlike the Saracens.' Verrazano said that
these Indians were of 'cheerful and steady look, not
strong of body, yet sharp-witted, nimble, and exceeding
great runners.' As he sailed northward he was struck with
the wonderful vegetation of the American coast, the
beautiful forest of pine and cypress and other trees,
unknown to him, covered with tangled vines as prolific
as the vines of Lombardy. Verrazano's voyage and his
landings can be traced all the way from Carolina to the
northern part of New England. He noted the wonderful
harbour at the mouth of the Hudson, skirted the coast
eastward from that point, and then followed northward
along the shores of Massachusetts and Maine. Beyond this
Verrazano seems to have made no landings, but he followed
the coast of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. He sailed, so
he says, as far as fifty degrees north, or almost to the
Strait of Belle Isle. Then he turned eastward, headed
out into the great ocean, and reached France in safety.
Unfortunately, Verrazano did not write a detailed account
of that part of his voyage which related to Canadian
waters. But there is no doubt that his glowing descriptions
must have done much to stimulate the French to further
effort. Unhappily, at the moment of his return, his royal
master was deeply engaged in a disastrous invasion of
Italy, where he shortly met the crushing defeat at Pavia
(1525) which left him a captive in the hands of his
Spanish rival. His absence crippled French enterprise,
and Verrazano's explorations were not followed up till
a change of fortune enabled Francis to send out the famous
expedition of Jacques Cartier.

One other expedition to Canada deserves brief mention
before we come to Cartier's crowning discovery of the St
Lawrence river. This is the voyage of Stephen Gomez, who
was sent out in the year 1524. by Charles V, the rival
of Francis I. He spent about ten months on the voyage,
following much the same course as Verrazano, but examining
with far greater care the coast of Nova Scotia and the
territory about the opening of the Gulf of St Lawrence.
His course can be traced from the Penobscot river in
Maine to the island of Cape Breton. He entered the Bay
of Fundy, and probably went far enough to realize from
its tides, rising sometimes to a height of sixty or
seventy feet, that its farther end could not be free,
and that it could not furnish an open passage to the
Western Sea. Running north-east along the shore of Nova
Scotia, Gomez sailed through the Gut of Canso, thus
learning that Cape Breton was an island. He named it the
Island of St John-or, rather, he transferred to it this
name, which the map-makers had already used. Hence it
came about that the 'Island of St John' occasions great
confusion in the early geography of Canada. The first
map-makers who used it secured their information indirectly,
we may suppose, from the Cabot voyages and the fishermen
who frequented the coast. They marked it as an island
lying in the 'Bay of the Bretons,' which had come to be
the name for the open mouth of the Gulf of St Lawrence.
Gomez, however, used the name for Cape Breton island.
Later on, the name was applied to what is now Prince
Edward Island. All this is only typical of the difficulties
in understanding the accounts of the early voyages to
America. Gomez duly returned to the port of Corunna in
June 1525.

We may thus form some idea of the general position of
American exploration and discovery at the time when
Cartier made his momentous voyages. The maritime nations
of Europe, in searching for a passage to the half-mythical
empires of Asia, had stumbled on a great continent. At
first they thought it Asia itself. Gradually they were
realizing that this was not Asia, but an outlying land
that lay between Europe and Asia and that must be passed
by the navigator before Cathay and Cipango could rise
upon the horizon. But the new continent was vast in
extent. It blocked the westward path from pole to pole.
With each voyage, too, the resources and the native beauty
of the new land became more apparent. The luxuriant
islands of the West Indies, and the Aztec empire of
Mexico, were already bringing wealth and grandeur to the
monarchy of Spain. South of Mexico it had been already
found that the great barrier of the continent extended
to the cold tempestuous seas of the Antarctic region.
Magellan's voyage (1519-22) had proved indeed that by
rounding South America the way was open to the spice
islands of the east. But the route was infinitely long
and arduous. The hope of a shorter passage by the north
beckoned the explorer. Of this north country nothing but
its coast was known as yet. Cabot and the fishermen had
found a land of great forests, swept by the cold and
leaden seas of the Arctic, and holding its secret clasped
in the iron grip of the northern ice. The Corte-Reals,
Verrazano, and Gomez had looked upon the endless panorama
of the Atlantic coast of North America--the glorious
forests draped with tangled vines extending to the sanded
beaches of the sea--the wide inlets round the mouths of
mighty rivers moving silent and mysterious from the heart
of the unknown continent. Here and there a painted savage
showed the bright feathers of his headgear as he lurked
in the trees of the forest or stood, in fearless curiosity,
gazing from the shore at the white-winged ships of the
strange visitants from the sky. But for the most part
all, save the sounds of nature, was silence and mystery.
The waves thundered upon the sanded beach of Carolina
and lashed in foam about the rocks of the iron coasts of
New England and the New Found Land. The forest mingled
its murmurs with the waves, and, as the sun sank behind
the unknown hills, wafted its perfume to the anchored
ships that rode upon the placid bosom of the evening sea.
And beyond all this was mystery--the mystery of the
unknown East, the secret of the pathway that must lie
somewhere hidden in the bays and inlets of the continent
of silent beauty, and above all the mysterious sense of
a great history still to come for this new land itself--a
sense of the murmuring of many voices caught as the
undertone of the rustling of the forest leaves, but rising
at last to the mighty sound of the vast civilization that
in the centuries to come should pour into the silent
wildernesses of America.

To such a land--to such a mystery--sailed forth Jacques
Cartier, discoverer of Canada.


The Icelandic sagas contain legends of a discovery of
America before Columbus. Benjamin de Costa, in his
'Pre-Columbian Discovery of America', has given translations
of a number of these legends. Other works bearing on this
mythical period are: A. M. Reeves's 'The Finding of
Wineland the Good'; J. E. Olson's 'The Voyages of the
Northmen' in Vol. I of the 'Original Narrative of Early
American History', edited by J. F. Jameson; Fridtjof
Nansen's 'In Northern Mists'; and John Fiske's 'The
Discovery of America'. A number of general histories have
chapters bearing on pre-Columbian discovery; the most
accessible of these are: Justin Winsor's 'Narrative and
Critical History of America'; Charlevoix's 'Histoire et
description generale de la Nouvelle France' (1744),
translated with notes by J. G. Shea (1886); Henry Harrisse's
'Discovery of North America'; and the 'Conquest of Canada',
by the author of 'Hochelaga'.

There are numerous works in the Spanish, French, Italian,
and English languages dealing with Columbus and his time.
Pre-eminent among the latter are: Irving's 'Life of
Columbus'; Winsor's 'Christopher Columbus and how he
Received and Imparted the Spirit of Discovery'; Helps's
'Life of Columbus'; Prescott's 'History of Ferdinand and
Isabella'; Crompton's 'Life of Columbus'; St John's 'Life
of Columbus'; and Major's 'Select Letters of Columbus'
(a Hakluyt Society publication). Likewise in every
important work which deals with the early history of
North or South America, Columbus and his voyages are

The literature dealing with the Cabots is quite as
voluminous as that bearing on Columbus. Henry Harrisse's
'John Cabot, the Discoverer of North America and Sebastian,
his Son; a Chapter of the Maritime History of England
under the Tudors, 1496-1557', is a most exhaustive work.
Other authoritative works on the Cabots are Nichols's
'Remarkable Life, Adventures, and Discoveries of Sebastian
Cabot', in which an effort is made to give the chief
glory of the discovery of America not to John Cabot, but
to his son Sebastian; Dawson's 'The Voyages of the Cabots,
1497 and 1498', 'The Voyages of the Cabots, a Sequel',
and 'The Voyages of the Cabots, Latest Phases of the
Controversy', in 'Transactions Royal Society of Canada';
Biddle's 'Memoir of Sebastian Cabot'; Beazley's 'John
and Sebastian Cabot, The Discovery of North America';
and Weare'S 'Cabot's Discovery of America'.

A number of European writers have made able studies of
the work of Verrazano, and two American scholars have
contributed valuable works on that explorer's life and
achievements; these are, De Costa's 'Verrazano the
Explorer: a Vindication of his Letter and Voyage', and
Murphy's 'The Voyage of Verrazano'.

In addition to the general histories already mentioned,
the following works contain much information on the
voyages of the forerunners of Jacques Cartier: Parkman's
'Pioneers of France'; Kohl's 'Discovery of Maine';
Woodbury's 'Relation of the Fisheries to the Discovery
of North America' (in this work it is claimed that the
Basques antedated the Cabots); Dawson's 'The St Lawrence
Basin and Its Borderlands'; Weise's 'The Discoveries of
America'; 'The Journal of Christopher Columbus', and
'Documents relating to the Voyages of John Cabot and
Gaspar Corte-Real', translated with Notes and an
Introduction by Sir Clements R. Markham; and Biggar's
'The Precursors of Jacques Cartier, 1497-1534'. This last
work is essential to the student of the early voyages to
America. It contains documents, many published for the
first time, in Latin, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and
French dealing with exploration. The notes are invaluable,
and the documents, with the exception of those in French,
are carefully though freely translated.

For the native tribes of America the reader would do well
to consult the 'Handbook of American Indians North of
Mexico', published by the Bureau of American Ethnology,
and the 'Handbook of Indians of Canada', reprinted by
the Canadian Government, with additions and minor
alterations, from the preceding work, under the direction
of James White, F.R.G.S.


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