| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
THE ADVENTURES OF SIR HUMPHREY GILBERT
 THE terrible disasters in Florida did not altogether stop French
adventurers from going to the New World. But to avoid conflict with
Spain they sailed henceforth more to the northern shores of America,
and endeavoured to found colonies there. This made Englishmen
angry. For by right of Cabot's voyages they claimed all America
from Florida to Newfoundland, which, says a writer in the time of
Queen Elizabeth, "they bought and annexed unto the crowne of England."
The English, therefore, looked upon the French as interlopers and
usurpers. The French, however, paid little attention to the English
claims. They explored the country, named mountains, rivers, capes,
and bays, and planted colonies where they liked. Thus began the
long two hundred years' struggle between the French and English
for possession of North America.
The French had already planted a colony on the St. Lawrence when
an Englishman, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, determined also to plant one
in North America.
He was the first Englishman ever to attempt to found a colony in
America. Many Englishmen had indeed sailed there before him. But
they had only gone in quest of gold and of adventures, and without
any thought of founding a New England across the seas. This now,
with Queen Elizabeth's permission, was what Sir Humphrey hoped to
He set out with a little fleet of five ships. One of these was
called the Raleigh, and had been fitted out by the famous Sir Walter
Raleigh who was Gilbert's step-brother.
 Walter Raleigh, no doubt,
would gladly have gone with the company himself. But he was at the
time in high favour with Good Queen Bess, and she forbade him to
go on any such dangerous expedition. So he had to content himself
with helping to fit out expeditions for other people.
The Raleigh was the largest ship of the little fleet, and Sir
Walter spared no cost in fitting it out. But before they had been
two days at sea the Captain of the Raleigh and many of his men
fell ill. This so greatly discouraged them that they turned back
Sir Humphrey was sad indeed at the loss of the largest and best-fitted
ship of his expedition, but he held on his way undaunted. They
had a troublous passage. Contrary winds, fogs and icebergs delayed
them. In a fog two of the ships named the Swallow
and the Squirrel
separated from the others. But still Sir Humphrey sailed on.
At length land came in sight. But it was a barren, unfriendly coast,
"nothing but hideous rocks and mountains, bare of trees, and void
of any green herbs," says one who went with the expedition. And
seeing it so uninviting they sailed southward along the coast,
looking for a fairer land.
And now to their great joy they fell in again with the Swallow. The
men in the Swallow were glad, too, to see the Golden Hind and the
Delight once more. They threw their caps into the air and shouted
aloud for joy.
Soon after the re-appearance of the Swallow
the Squirrel also turned
up, so the four ships were together again. Together they sailed
into the harbour of St. John's in Newfoundland. Here they found
fishermen from all countries. For Newfoundland had by this time
become famous as a fishing-ground, and every summer ships from all
countries went there to fish.
Sir Humphrey, armed as he was with a commission from Queen Elizabeth,
was received with all honour and courtesy
 by these people. And on
Monday, August 5th, 1583, he landed and solemnly took possession
of the country for two hundred leagues north, south, east and west,
in the name of England's Queen.
First his commission was read aloud and interpreted to those of
foreign lands who were there. Then one of Sir Humphrey's followers
brought him a twig of a hazel tree and a sod of earth, and put them
into his hands, as a sign that he took possession of the land and
all that was in it. Then proclamation was made that these lands
belonged to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of England by the Grace of
God. "And if any person shall utter words sounding to the dishonour
of her Majesty, he shall lose his ears, and have his ship and goods
confiscate." The arms of England, engraved on lead and fixed to a
pillar of wood, were then set up, and after prayer to God the ceremony
came to an end. Thus Newfoundland became an English possession, and
by right of Sir Humphrey Gilbert's claims it is the oldest colony
of the British Empire.
Sir Humphrey Gilbert had taken possession of the land. But it soon
became plain that it would be impossible to found a colony with the
wild riff-raff of the sea of which his company was formed. Troubles
began at once. A few indeed went about their business quietly, but
others spent their time in plotting mischief. They had no desire
to stay in that far country; so some hid in the woods waiting a
chance to steal away in one or other of the ships which were daily
sailing homeward laden with fish. Others more bold plotted to steal
one of Sir Humphrey's ships and sail home without him. But their
plot was discovered. They, however, succeeded in stealing a ship
belonging to some other adventurers. It was laden with fish and
ready to depart homeward. In this they sailed away leaving its
The rest of Sir Humphrey's men now clamoured more
 than ever to be
taken home. And at length he yielded to them. But the company was
now much smaller than when he set out. For besides those who had
stolen away, many had died and many more were sick. There were not
enough men to man all four ships. So the Swallow was left with the
sick and a few colonists who wished to remain, and in the other
three Sir Humphrey put to sea with the rest of his company.
He did not, however, sail straight homeward. For he wanted to explore
still further, and find, if he could, an island to the south which
he had heard was very fertile. But the weather was stormy, and
before they had gone far the Delight was wrecked, and nearly all
on board were lost.
"This was a heavy and grievous event, to lose at one blow our chief
ship freighted with great provision, gathered together with much
travail, care, long time, and difficulty. But more was the loss of
our men to the number almost of a hundred souls." So wrote Master
Edward Hay who commanded the Golden Hind, and who afterwards wrote
the story of the expedition.
After this "heavy chance" the two ships that remained beat up and
down tacking with the wind, Sir Humphrey hoping always that the
weather would clear up and allow him once more to get near land.
But day by day passed. The wind and waves continued as stormy as
ever, and no glimpse of land did the weary sailors catch.
It was bitterly cold, food was growing scarce, and day by day the
men lost courage. At length they prayed Sir Humphrey to leave his
search and return homeward. Sir Humphrey had no wish to go, but
seeing his men shivering and hungry he felt sorry for them, and
resolved to do as they wished.
"Be content," he said. "We have seen enough. If God send us safe
home we will set forth again next spring."
 So the course was changed, and the ships turned eastward. "The
wind was large for England," says Hay, "but very high, and the sea,
rough." It was so rough that the Squirrel in which Sir Humphrey
sailed was almost swallowed up. For the Squirrel was only a tiny
frigate of ten tons. And seeing it battered to and fro, and in
danger of sinking every moment, the captain of the Golden Hind and
many others prayed Sir Humphrey to leave it and come aboard their
boat. But Sir Humphrey would not.
"I will not forsake my little company going homeward," he said.
"For I have passed through many storms and perils with them."
No persuasions could move him, so the captain of the Golden Hind
was fain to let him have his way. One afternoon in September those
in the Golden Hind watched the little Squirrel anxiously as it
tossed up and down among the waves. But Sir Humphrey seemed not a
whit disturbed. He sat in the stern calmly reading. And seeing the
anxious faces of his friends he cheerfully waved his hand to them.
"We are as near to heaven by sea as by land," he called, through
the roar of waves.
Then the sun went down. Darkness fell over the wild sea, and
the ships could only know each other's whereabouts by the tossing
Suddenly to the men on the Golden Hind it seemed as if the lights
of the little frigate went out. Immediately the watch cried out
that the frigate was lost.
"It was too true. For in that moment the frigate was devoured and
swallowed up by the sea."
Yet the men on the Golden Hind would not give up hope. All that night
they kept watch, straining their eyes through the stormy darkness
in the hope of catching sight of the frigate or of some of its
crew. But morning came and there was no sign of it on all the wide
waste of waters. Still they hoped, and all the way to England they
hailed every small sail which came in sight, trusting still that
it might be the Squirrel. But it never appeared. Of the five ships
which set forth only the Golden Hind returned to tell the tale.
And thus ended the first attempt to found an English colony in the
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