- Sir Humphrey Gilbert and the New World -
I find that, rather than just reading about a subject, I learn much better when I write or create a presentation about it. This wasn't really created with other people reading it in mind, I just wrote it tonight in an attempt to learn more effectively.
I figured that I would post it here, anyway. Sorry if I got some stuff wrong -- I didn't know anything about the subject until I wrote this.
In the year 1566, Sir Humphrey Gilbert wrote "A Discourse of a Discoverie for a New Passage to Cataia
"; a treatise on the existence of a north-western passage to Cathay (present day China) -- a location that had been glorified for its supposed beauty and abundance of riches in Marco Polo's writings in the late 13th century. Gilbert created this treatise in response to the proposal of an expedition to Cathay using a north-eastern passage around the Arctic Circle. Gilbert felt that such a passage would be too hazardous a route to take, stating that "no man can well see either to guide his ship or direct his course
," due to the continuous mists and fogs of the area.
Eventually, Gilbert argued this case before Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1565. Before the queen, he and Anthony Jenkinson, an explorer and supporter of the proposal of the use of a north-eastern passage to Asia, debated which route would be more reasonable. Gilbert argued that by taking the western route, they could attempt to both, locate a north-western passage, and also challenge the growing Iberian (Spanish) presence in the Americas.
Eventually, Gilbert won support for his theories and with the help of Michael Lok, a successful merchant and traveller, enough money was raised for a series of expeditions to the New World. Between the years 1575 and 1578, with the backing of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, three exploratory trips were made by Captain Martin Frobisher to North-America in an attempt to find a passage. All of them were unsuccessful.
By 1578, Gilbert's focus had changed from the search for a north-western passage to Asia, to colonization. Gilbert made the proposition to the crown that the "surplus" population of England be relocated out of the country by founding colonies in the the Americas.
In June of 1578, Sir Humphrey Gilbert was granted a letters patent to explore the Americas and claim discovered lands in the name of the English crown. By 1583 Gilbert had raised enough funds to finally undertake a long awaited voyage to the New World, and in June he and a small fleet of five vessels set sail westward.
On August 3, 1583, Sir Humphrey Gilbert arrived in what is now the port of St. John's. After an initial misunderstanding with the port admiral concerning an account of piracy committed against a Portuguese vessel, Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed Newfoundland and the land 200 leagues north and south of it in the name of the English crown. He and his crew stayed for little more than a few weeks, however during the short time that they were present there, Gilbert had already imposed a tax on the fisherman who worked the area.
Gilbert could not follow through his plans to establish a settlement in Newfoundland due to a lack of supplies, so weeks after him and his crew's initial arrival in the New World, they set sail to return to England. Bad judgement on Gilbert's part resulted in the sinking of the biggest ship of the fleet, which held a majority of the ever-dwindling supplies. The fleet continued across the Atlantic, and despite recommendations from the command of the Golden Hind
, Gilbert refused to abandon the Squirrel
his favourite ship of the fleet. On September 9, 1583, just off the coast of Brittany, the Squirrel
was lost to the sea.