Who is Henry Hudson?

Whilst the other Western nations of Europe were acquiring glory and solid territorial possessions by discoveries in America, Holland, then the greatest maritime nation on the earth, was quietly winning the gains of profitable commerce by sending her uncouth commercial marine over beaten ocean tracks, quite indifferent to the exciting day-dreams of fabulous wealth concealed in the bosom of the western continent, which so dazzled other people. But Holland, too, at this period of commercial activity, became a partner with others in making discoveries and settlements in America, in spite of her indifference. The story with its preface runs thus:

Upon the walls of the governor's room in the City Hall, New York, hangs a dingy canvas bearing the portrait of a man apparently about forty years of age, with short-cut hair and beard, and a broad ruff, such as were worn by the English gentry late in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It is the portrait of Henry Hudson, "the bold Englishman, the expert pilot, and the famous navigator;" a pupil, probably of Drake, or Frobisher, or Grenville. Thoroughly imbued with the spirit of adventure then rife, he sought opportunities for winning renown in his profession; therefore it was a happy day for Hudson, early in the year 1607, when in its morning he received a summons to the parlor of Sir Thomas Gresham, a wealthy London merchant, who built the Royal Exchange. There he met a number of "certain worshipful merchants of London" who yet believed in the existence of a polar sea passage to India, and had conceived a plan for another search for it. They had sent for Hudson to join them in consultation. He found Sir Thomas and a number of friends sitting at a table covered with maps and charts, with just space enough besides for a rich silver salver holding bottles of wine and glasses to drink it. He was received graciously. The interview was not long, and it ended in a bargain between Hudson and the merchants for the navigator to command a small expedition for the discovery of a polar sea passage, not in the usual track in the northwestern waters, but around the north of Europe.

Hudson sailed from Gravesend on the first of May, 1607, a few days after an English colony had arrived in Virginia to plant the seeds of a great commonwealth there. The vessel in which Hudson sailed was a small one manned by only ten men and a boy. He went up the eastern coast of Greenland to the eighteenth degree, where a solid ice barrier compelled him to turn back. He had discovered the island of Spitzbergen, nothing more. Baffled but not discouraged, he returned to England at the middle of September. Neither were his employers disheartened. They fitted out another vessel in which Hudson sailed late in April, 1608, with full expectation that he should make the coveted passage between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla. Again the impenetrable ice-pack compelled him to turn back, and he again returned to England. He was not yet disheartened, but his employers were, and gave up the enterprise. Hudson went over to Holland to seek similar employment in the service of the Dutch East India Company, a wealthy corporation of merchants at Amsterdam, which had been in existence about seven years. Hudson inspired them with a belief that a much shorter passage to their possessions in the East Indies might be found around the North of Europe, and they fitted out a small vessel of ninety tons, to go in search of it. Hudson was placed in command of her, with a choice crew of English and Dutch seamen. She was a staunch new vessel named Dc Halve-Maen--the Half-Moon--and in her he left the Texel early in April, 1609, and sailed for Nova Zembla.

After manfully fighting the ice-pack on the parallel of Spitzbergen, and its allies--the polar fogs and tempests--until all hope of conquests vanished, Hudson was compelled, a third time, to turn back. He determined not to go without fruit to the Texel, so he sailed around the southern shores of Greenland into the track of searchers after a northwest passage. Again the ice-pack foiled him, and he sailed southward until, at the middle of July, he discovered the American continent off the coast of Maine. It is supposed that he passed several days in Casco Bay, repairing his storm-shattered vessel, when the natives, among whom he found French trinkets, treated him kindly. Their hospitality was requited by plundering their property and driving them from their houses. They resented this treatment so fiercely that he was compelled to put to sea.

Hudson now sailed southward as far as the Capes of Virginia, touching at Cape Cod on the way. Then he sailed up the coast, discovered Delaware Bay, and entered the harbor of New York early in September, after spending several days in visiting the beautiful shores of Raritan Bay, where he held friendly intercourse with the natives, although he was ever watchful for expected treachery. The inhabitants showed a disposition to traffic, but Hudson was so suspicious that he repelled them in an offensive manner and kindled their enmity. One night, whilst a boat load of his crew were returning from an exploration in the neighborhood of the Narrows (between Long and Staten Islands), they were attacked by Indians, in canoes, and one of the seamen was killed. Sadly his comrades carried his body ashore the next day and buried it near the beach, while Indian men, women and children looked on in wonder from a neighboring hill.

Northward from his anchorage after his vessel had entered New York Bay, Hudson saw a broad stream rising and falling with the tide, which the Indians told him came from beyond the pale blue mountain ranges in the distance. He believed it was a strait through which he might pass into the Indian Ocean; so he sailed up the stream a few miles, and anchored. Natives came to him in canoes from the shores with fruits and vegetables, and friendly gestures. The men were athletic; the women were graceful and the young ones often beautiful. All were half-clad in mantles made of skins or feathers depending from one shoulder and the waist, or in colored hempen tunics; and some of the women who came in the canoes, whose hair, long and black, hung loosely over their shoulders and bosoms, wore fillets ornamented with shells and the quills of the porcupine. They seemed anxious for friendly intercourse, but Hudson repelled and offended them.

The Half-Moon went leisurely up the river, anchoring here and there, whilst her commander held intercourse with the natives, sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile. When he passed the great mountains which he had seen in the distance, and found the water freshening, he was satisfied that he was not in a passage to India. It was only a beautiful river flowing down from more lofty hills three hundred miles from the sea, and called Mahicannituck by the natives. The Dutch afterwards called it the Mauritius, and the English gave it the name of Hudson's River.

Hudson went up the stream with the Half-Moon and his small boats as far as Albany, and perhaps to the mouth of the Mohawk, and looked upon the foaming falls of Cohoes. Then he sailed leisurely back, everywhere charmed with the beauty and grandeur of the scenery and apparent fertility of the soil. He had discovered one of the richest portions of America. From New York Bay he sailed for England, after formally taking possession of the whole domain which he had discovered in the name of the States-General of Holland. Landing at Dartmouth in November, he hastened to London and told the story of his discoveries. The unworthy monarch on England's throne, jealous of the advantages which the Dutch might derive from these discoveries, would not let Hudson, an English subject, leave the realm. The navigator had outwitted the sovereign. Knowing his mean character, he had sent to his Amsterdam employers, by a trusty hand, all of his log-books, maps, charts, and a full account of his voyage and discoveries. These led to the commercial ventures between the Texel and the Hudson rivers which immediately followed, and which resulted in the planting of the City of New Amsterdam (now New York) at the mouth of the latter, and of New Orange (now Albany) at near the head of its navigable waters. These were the germs of the commonwealth of New Netherland, the domain of which is now known as the State of New York.

The fate of Hudson, the last of the discoverers who revealed the Atlantic coast of the American continent to Europe, may be told in a few words. He sailed from England in the spring of 1610 on his fourth voyage in search of a polar ocean passage, this time in the northwest. He discovered, far up North America, the Bay that bears his name, and intended to winter there, but a majority of his crew became mutinous and compelled him to sail homeward. On the way he, his son and seven of his men who had remained faithful to him were seized, pinioned, placed in an open shallop and abandoned on the icy sea, where, of course, they soon perished. Abacuck Pricket, one of Hudson's crew, who was confined to the cabin with lameness at the time, in his published account of the circumstances, after relating how he opposed the cruel proceedings, says: "Now were all the poore men in the shallop, whose names are as followeth: Henrie Hudson, John Hudson, Arnold Lodlo, Sidrack Faner, Philip Staffe, Thomas Woodhouse or Wydhouse, Adam Moore, Henrie King, Michael Bute. The carpenter got of them a Peece, and Powder, and Shot, and some Pikes, an Iron Pot, with some meale and other things. They stood out of the Ice, the Shallop being fast to the Sterne of the Ship, and so (when they were nigh out, for I cannot say they were cleane out) they cut her head fast from the Sterne of our Ship, then out with there Top-sayles, and toward the East they stood, in a cleare Sea."

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