Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

was once rewarded; but every honest man must lament, that it has been regarded with frigid neutrality by the tories, who, being long accustomed to signalize their principles by opposition to the court, do not yet consider that they have at last a king who knows not the name of party, and who wishes to be the common father of all his people. As a man inebriated only by vapours, soon recovers in the open air; a nation discontented to madness, without any adequate cause, will return to its wits and its allegiance when a little pause has cooled it to reflection. Nothing, therefore, is necessary, at this alarming crisis, but to consider the alarm as false. To make concessions, is to encourage encroachment. Let the court despise the faction, and the disappointed people will soon deride it.

THOUGHTS

ON THE

LATE TRANSACTIONS

RESPECTING

FALKLAND'S ISLANDS.

[mi.]

O proportion the eagerness of contest to its importance seems too hard a task for human wisdom. The pride of wit has kept ages busy in the discussion of useless questions, and the pride of power has destroyed armies to gain or to keep unprofitable possessions. Not many years have passed since the cruelties of war were filling the world with terror and with sorrow; rage was at last appeased, or strength exhausted, and to the harassed nations peace was restored, with its pleasures and its benefits. Of this state all felt the happiness, and all implored the continuance; but what continuance of happiness can be expected, when the whole system of European empire can be in danger of a new concussion, by a contention for a few spots of earth, 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 intrinsic excellence or greatness, is sometimes derived from unexpected accidents. The Rubicon was enobled 'by the passage of Cesar, 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 splendour, 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 fountain. France had no naval skill or power; Portugal was extending her dominions in the east over regions formed in the gaiety of nature; the Hanseatic league, being planned only for the security of traffic, 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 preoccupied, yet they still continued their hopes and their labours. They were the second nation that dared the extent of the Pacific Ocean, and the second circumnavigators of the globe. By the war between Elizabeth and Philip, the wealth of America became lawful prize, and those who were less afraid of danger than of poverty, supposed that riches might easily be obtained by plundering 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 remoter 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 lands 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 Hawking 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 Hawkins'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 (1598) Verhagen and Sebald de Wen, into the South Siaa, these islands, which were not supposed to have been known before, obtained 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 with more distinctness, and mentions some ships of St. Mahes, by which they had been visited, and to which he seems willing enough to ascribe the honour of discovering 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 a name. Since the publication of Anson's voyage, they have very much changed their opinion, finding a settlement in Pefiys'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

« AnteriorContinuar »