« VorigeDoorgaan »
which, in the deserts of the ocean, had almost escaped human notice, and which, if they had not happened to make a sea-mark, had perhaps never had a name?
Fortune often delights to dignify what nature has neglected, and that renown which cannot be claimed by intrinsick excellence or greatness, is sometimes derived from unexpected accidents. The Rubicon was ennobled by the passage of Cæsar, and the time is now come when Falkland's Islands demand their historian.
But the writer to whom this employment shall be assigned, will have few opportunities of descriptive splendor, or narrative elegance. Of other countries it is told how often they have changed their government; these islands have hitherto changed only their name.
Of heroes to conquer, or legislators to civilize, here has been no appearance; nothing has happened to them, but that they have been sometimes seen by wandering navigators, who passed by them in search of better habitations.
When the Spaniards, who, under the conduct of Columbus, discovered America, had taken possession of its most wealthy regions; they surprised and terrified Europe by a sudden and unexampled influx of riches. They were made at once insupportably insolent, and might perhaps have become irresistibly powerful, had not their mountainous treasures been scattered in the air with the ignorant profusion of unaccustomed opulence.
The greater part of the European potentates saw this stream of riches flowing into Spain without attempting to dip their own hands in the golden fuuntain. France had no naval skill
tugal was extending her dominions in the east over regions formed in the gaiety of nature; the Hanseatick league, being planned only for the security of traffick, had no tendency to discovery or invasion; and the commercial states of Italy, growing rich by trading between Asia and Europe, and not lying upon the ocean, did not desire to seek, by great hazards, at a distance, what was almost at home to be found with safety.
The English alone were animated by the success of the Spanish navigators, to try if any thing was left that might reward adventure, or incite appropriation. They sent Cabot into the north, but in the north there was no gold or silver to be found. The best regions were pre-occupied, yet they still continued their hopes and their labours. They were the second nation that dared the extent of the Pacifick Ocean, and the second circum navigators of the globe.
By the war between Elizabeth and Philip, the wealth of America became lawful prize, and these who were less afraid of danger than of poverty, supposed that riches might easily be obtained by blundering the Spaniards. Nothing is difficult when gain and honour unite their influence; the spirit and vigour of these expeditions enlarged our views of the new world, and made us first acquainted with its emoter coasts,
In the fatal voyage of Cavendish (1592), Captain Davis, who, being sent out as his associate, was afterwards parted from him or deserted him, as he was driven by violence of weather about the straits of Magellan, is supposed to have been the first who saw the islands now called Falkland's, Islands, but his distress permitted him not to make any observation, and he left them, as he found them, without a name.
Not long afterwards (1594) Sir Richard Hawkins being in the same seas with the same designs, saw these islands again, if they are indeed the same islands, and, in honour of his mistress, called them Hawkin's Maiden Land.
This voyage was not of renown sufficient to procure a general reception to the new name, for when the Dutch, who had now become strong enough not only to defend themselves, but to attack their masters, sent (!598) Verhagen and Sebald de Wert, into the South Seas, these islands, which were not supposed to have been known before, oblained the denomination of Sebald's Islands, and were from that time placed in the charts; though Frezier tells us, that they were yet considered as of doubtful existence.
Their present English name was probably given them (1689) by Strong, whose journal, yet unprinted, may be found in the Museum. This name was adopted by Halley, and has from that time, I believe, been received into our maps.
The privateers which were put into motion by the wars of William and Anne, saw those islands, and mention them; but they were yet not considered as territories worth a contest. Strong affirmed that there was no wood, and Dampier suspected that they had no water. Frezier describes their appearance
more dis. tinctness, and mentions some ships of St Maloes, by which they had been visited, and to which he seems willing enough to ascribe the honour of disVol. X.
covering islands, which yet he admits to have been seen by Hawkins, and named by Sebald de Wert. He, I suppose, in honour of his countrymen, called them the Malouines, the denomination now used by the Spaniards, who seem not, till very lately, to have thought them important enough to deserve
Since the publication of Anson's voyage, they have very much changed their opinion, finding a settlement in Pepy's or Falkland's Island recommended by the author as necessary to the success of our future expeditions against the coast of Chili, and as of such use and importance, that it would produce many advantages in peace, and in war would make us masters of the South Sea.
Scarcely any degree of judgment is sufficient to restrain the imagination from magnifying that on which it is long detained. The relator of Anson's voyage had heated his mind with its various events, had partaken the hope with which it was begun, and the vexation suffered by its various miscarri. ages, and then thought nothing could be of greater benefit to the nation than that which might promote the success of such another enterprise.
Had the heroes of that history even performed and attained all that when they first spread their sails they ventured to hope, the consequence would yet have produced very little hurt to the Spaniards, and very little benefit to the English. They would have taken a few towns; Anson and his companions would have shared the plunder or the ransom; and the Spaniards, finding their southern territories accessible; would for the future have guard. ed them better.
That such a settlement may be of use in war, Ho man that considers its situation will deny. But war is not the whole business of life; it happens but seldom, and every man, either good or wise, wishes that its frequency were still less. That conduct which betrays designs of future hostility, if it does not excite violence, will always generate malignity; it must for ever exclude confidence and friendship, and continue a cold and sluggish rivalry, by a sly reciprocation of indirect injuries, without the bravery of war, or the security of peace.
The advantage of such a settlement in time of peace is, I think, not easily to be proved. For what use can it have but of a station for contraband traders, a nursery of fraud, and a receptacle of theft? Narborough, about a century ago, was of opinion, that no advantage could be obtained in voyages to the South Sea, except by such an armament as, with a sailor's morality, might trade by force. It is well known that the prohibitions of foreign commerce are, in these countries, to the last degree rigorous, and that no man not authorized by the king of Spain can trade there but by force or stealth. Whatever profit is obtained must be gained by the violence of rapine, or dexterity of fraud.
Government will not perhaps soon arrive at such purity and excellence, but that some connivance at. least will be indulged to the triumphant robber and successful cheat. He that brings wealth home is seldom interrogated by what means it was obtained. This, however, is one of those modes of corruption with which mankind ought always to struggle, and which they may in time hope to overcome. There is reason to expect, that as the world is