Page images

pable of appreciating them, of the ability of our Judges, and of our Bar; and we securely commit their reputation to their works. That some changes in the organization of the federal Courts might be beneficially made, as is suggested by Mr. Adams, is, we think, true; but they are required by the immense increase and extension of our population, and not from any opinion entertained by Mr. Adams, or by any body, that “the Bench is as low as it possibly can be,” or that it needs any improvement in the character or qualification of the Judges. Nothing was ever more uncandid, or pitiful, than the indistinct reference to Mr. Adams's suggestion, as if it would support the accusation against our Courts, We now take our leave of the Reviewer, without any feeling of hostility to him, or his country, beyond the fair limits of a warranted self-defence; which, we think, no American should ever surrender to the arrogance of an adversary, or decline, from diffidence or indifference. We have pleasure in repeating, that, on many subjects treated in this article, we find more liberality and intelligence ; more knowledge of the real condition of our country, than has ever before been exhibited in the “London Quarterly.”

ART. X. —Narrative of an attempt to reach the North Pole, in boats fitted for the purpose, and attached to His Majesty’s Ship Hecla, in the year 1827, under the command of Captain WILLIAM EDw ARD PARRY, R. N., F. R. S., and honorary member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburgh. Illustrated by Plates and Charts. PubIished by authority of His Royal Highness, the Lord High .Admiral. London: 1 vol. 4to. pp. 229. 1828.

THERE has been no geographical problem more interesting, since that which led to the discovery of the continent we inhabit, than the discovery of a passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, along the northern coast of America, or a passage over the pole.

Malte Brun justly asks, “Is not geography the sister and rival of history?” The importance of this branch of learning has been acknowledged in all ages, and so vigorously have discoveries been pushed, within the last three or four hundred years, that we are now left but with one point, if we except part of Africa, and the islands off the Antarctic Sea, whither to direct our attention. The great and rapid discoveries made in this science within sixty years, have contributed much to physical science. Ex

[ocr errors]

wards, A. D. 986, a respectable colony was settled here, and from this period we may very properly date the first settlement in America. This interesting colony increased rapidly, and was situated on the eastern coast; sixteen churches, and two convents had been erected. Barrow says there were twelve parishes, one hundred and ninety villages, one bishop’s see, and two convents, when, in the early part of the fifteenth century, all communication was cut off by an accumulation of ice upon the shores, which extended, perennial, to a considerable distance. In 1406, the seventeenth bishop made an attempt to reach his see; but this frozen region, to which Virgil’s line,

“Caerulea glacie concretae atque imbribus atris,”

may well be applied, repelled his attempts to land, by an effect-
ual barrier of ice. From this period to the present time, a veil
of obscurity hangs over this severed and truly interesting colony.
The sympathies of the inhabitants of more happy climes have
been actively excited to their relief, but all the vessels which
have attempted to approach the eastern coast, were compelled
to return without being able to make a landing. An Iceland
bishop, it is said, about the middle of the sixteenth century, was
driven so near to the coast, as to be able to perceive the inhabit-
ants driving their cattle through the fields. There is, however,
much reason to believe, that long before this period, the rigours
of the climate, the want of supplies from Europe, and the natu-
ral enmity of the Esquimaux, had placed them beyond the reach
of succour. Capt. Scoresby, however, an active and intelligent
commander of a whaler, is disposed to think, from the view he
got a few years since, while on a fishing voyage, that the de-
scendants of the colonists still inhabit it.
That Greenland is separated from the continent, by arms of
the sea, there cannot now be a doubt. But whether it be an isl-
and no larger than it is already known, or whether it stretch
towards the pole, and occupy a space rendering it worthy of the
title or name of continent, it must still be considered as part of
America. If this be admitted, the discovery of America should
bear date from A. D. 970, being the year that Gunbiorn disco-
vered Greenland.
Kerr, in his excellent Collection of Voyages and Travels,
places the discovery of America in the year 1001.

“An Icelander,” he says, “in search of his father, who was in Greenland, was carried to the south by a violent wind. Land was discovered at a distance, flat, low, and woody. He did not go on shore, but returned. His account induced a Norwegian nobleman to fit out a ship to explore this new land ; after sailing for some time they discovered a flat shore, without verdure : and soon after, a low land covered with wood. Two days’ prosperous sailing brought them to a third shore, on the north of which lay an island. They entered, and sailed up a river, and landed. Pleased with the temperature of the climate, the apparent fertility of the soil, and the abundance of fish in the rivers, they resolved to pass the winter in this country; and they gave it the name of Vinland, from the quantity of small grapes which they found growing. A colony was soon after formed, who traded with the natives: these are represented as of a diminutive stature, of the same race as the inhabitants of the west part of Greenland, and as using leathern canoes. It appears from the Icelandic chronicles, that a regular trade was established between this country and Norway, and that dried grapes, or raisins, were among the exports. In the year 1121, a Bishop went from Greenland for the purpose of converting the colonists of Vinland to the Christian religion. After this period there is no information regarding this country. This imattention to the new colony probably arose from the intercourse between the west of Greenland and Iceland having ceased, as we have already mentioned, and from the Northern Nations having been, about this period, wasted by a pes. tilence, and weakened and distracted by feuds. Of the certainty of the discovery there can be no doubt. The Icelandic chronicles are full and minute, mot only respecting it, but also respecting the transactions which took place among the colonists, and between them and the natives. Ordericus Vitalis, in his Ecclesiastical History, under the year 1098, reckons Vinland, along with Greenland, Iceland, and the Orkneys, as under the dominion of the king of Norway.” We are, therefore, irresistibly led to the conclusion, that the coast of Labrador, or the island of Newfoundland, was discovered and inhabited by Europeans, or their descendants, at the early period above mentioned. The discoverer of this part of America was a colonist, named Biorn—the first settler was Lief, son of Eric Rauda, who wintered about the lat. 50° N, with 35 men, and Biorn as pilot, in or about the year 1003. Thorwald, the brother of Lief, afterwards pursued the discoveries for two years without seeing an inhabitant. He afterwards, however, met with three leather boats, each with three Indians, whom he seized and wantonly murdered, with the exception of one, who escaped. Soon afterwards, the natives attacked Thorwald's vessel, when he was wounded by an arrow, which caused his death. The people were called Skroellingers, signifying dwarfs, and were doubtless the same now known as the Esquimaux. Hackluyt has given a somewhat circumstantial account of the discovery of this continent by Madoc, in the year 1170. Having left Iceland far to the north, it is said he arrived at “a land unknown, where he saw many strange things.” ***'-' contributed much. by her bold. intelligent navigators to

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

The obscurity of these voyages, places in relief, the eminently successful ones of Columbus, whose genius and untiring perseverance, led him to the discovery of countries, enjoying the happiest climates in the world. The fever of discovery seemed now to be epidemic throughout Europe. The Portuguese, Spanish, and English, took the lead in these expeditions. The former, under Diaz and Gama, boldly carried their vessels, first to the Cape of Good Hope, and then into the seas of India, while the Spaniards, in search of the same country, turned their faces towards the setting sun. Columbus, after a perilous voyage, was the first person, in his little fleet of barks, to see the land. This was one of the Bahamas, and now known by the name of “Cat Isle.” Sebastian Cabot, a Venetian merchant, residing in London, sailed in 1497 in search of a passage to India, by the north-west, and it is said reached 674° N. lat. It is certain he visited Newfoundland, to which he gave the name of Prima Pista. The island of St. John, being discovered on St. John's day, he gave to it that name. Gaspar Cortereal, in 1500, discovered the river St. Lawrence. Having visited a considerable part of Labrador, he discovered a strait, probably that of Hudson, through which he imagined a passage to India would be found. To this he gave the name of the “ Straits of ..?nian.” In the following year he was lost, it is supposed, in the ice; and his brother Michael, in 1502, sailed in quest of him, but he perished, it is supposed, in the same manner. A third brother of this adventurous family wished to make a search for his lost brothers, but to this the king of Portugal refused his consent. The early part of the 16th century, gave birth to new enterprises. The discovery of a passage to Cathay, or the East Indies, was the main-spring of all the attempts now made. It was the promised land, whence were to be drawn inexhaustible riches and resources. Columbus felt assured that the desired passage was to be effected within a short distance to the north of the equator, while other navigators sailed both to the north and south, with a view to the same object. After the voyage of Columbus, that of Magellan is among the most important. He sailed from Spain, in 1519, with five ships, and after passing the strait to which his name has been given, he made the first circumnavigation of the globe in 1124 days...One ship only returned to Spain, and it was drawn up and preserved as a monument of the first voyage round the world. Drake afterwards made this voyage in 1051 days, and the first navigator south of Terra del Fuego accomplished it in 749 days. It is said, a Scotch privateer, about the middle of last century, made it in 240 days. Much of Magellan's success has been attributed to the greatest cosmographer of the times, Martin Behem. Pigafetta, who accompanied him, relates in his journal, that Magellan was in pos

« PreviousContinue »