Henry Hudson edited by Stanely L. Klos - A brief biography.
Edited By: Stanley L. Klos
Copyright 1999 Evisum, Inc. All rights reserved.
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(sometimes called HENDRIK HUDSON), English navigator, born in the latter half of the 16th century. He was a citizen of London, had a house there, and belonged to a family that counted among its members another Henry Hudson, perhaps his grandfather, who was an alderman of London, and one of the founders, with Sebastian Cabot, of the Muscovy or Russia company, which was intended to promote the discovery of a northerly passage to China. From its establishment in 1555 till 1607, when Henry Hudson first appears upon the scene as a captain in its employ, various Hudsons were eminent in the counsels of the Muscovy company, or were engaged in its explorations.
Christopher Hudson was agent of the company in Russia as early as 1559-'60, took a deep interest in the voyage of discovery to America of Sir Humphrey Gilbert in 1583, and advised the company to assist in raising the requisite funds. John Hudson was a member of the Muscovy and Virginia companies. Thomas Hudson, a resident of Limehouse, was a captain of the Muscovy company in 1579, and commanded its expedition to Persia in the following year. On 24 January, 1583, Thomas Hudson advised Captain John Davis concerning his search for a northwest passage to China, which resulted in the discovery of Davis strait, and twenty-six years later exercised a powerful influence upon Henry Hudson in a voyage that eventually carried the latter into Delaware bay and Hudson river. Stephen Hudson, a member of the East India company, which was originally promoted by some of the foremost members of the Muscovy company, is mentioned in the
"Court Minutes" of the former corporation, under date of 13 December, 1602, as having paid to Mr. Chamberlain, the treasurer,
"X for his supply toward the discovery of the Northwest
passage, and desired the Company to have him excused for non-payment thereof till now, for that he haith bene in the cuntry all this sfimer and never hard thereof."
Educated in the company's service and familiar with its aims, Henry Hudson was entirely devoted to the solution of the problem of a northerly passage to China, and the various discoveries that he made were the outcome of this original idea. Of Hudson's four voyages, of which we know anything, the first two were made for the Muscovy company, while the fourth and last was set on foot by Sir Thomas Smith, chief governor of the Muscovy company. The journal of Hudson's first recorded voyage contains the earliest known incident in the life of the great mariner, and indicates his religious feeling while it also illustrates the devout spirit of the age. Purchase records:
"Anno 1607, April the nineteenth, at St. Etheburge in Bishop's Gate Street, did communicate with the rest of the parishioners these persons, seamen, purposing to go to sea four days after, for to discover a passage by the North Pole to Japan and China."
Then follow eleven names, beginning with "Henry Hudson, master," and ending with his son
"John Hudson, a boy." The little "Hopewell," of sixty tons, associated with the gallant Frobisher's last voyage twenty-nine years before, was now under Hudson's command, and in her he tried the eastern coast of Greenland, and followed the ice barrier around and up to about 82. N. Having reached the neighborhood of Spitzbergen without finding an entrance, he sought once more to penetrate into Davis strait by the north of Greenland by Lumley's inlet and the
"furious overfall." Again frustrated by ice, he returned to the Thames, 15 September He had attained a higher degree of latitude than any previous navigator, was the first to note the amelioration of the temperature in his northward progress, and, to suggest the existence of an open polar sea, and, moreover, by his recommendations he laid the foundations of the English whale-fisheries in the neighborhood of Spitzbergen.
In this voyage, also, Hudson amended the map of Molineux or Wright, published by Hakluyt in 1600, which the learned Mr. Coote identifies with the "new map" referred to by Shakespeare in "Twelfth Night." Hudson's second voyage for the Muscovy company, for the " finding a passage to the East Indies by the North-East," began on 22 April, 1608, and he had with him his son John and Robert Juet, who accompanied him in his two later voyages, and finally basely conspired against him. On 3 June he reached the northern point of Norway, and on 11 June was in lat. 75º 24' N., between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla. Striving in vain to pass to the northeast of the latter, and
"voide of hope of a North-East passage (except by the Vaygats, for which I was not fitted to trie or prove),"
he resolved, 6 July, to use all means to sail to the northwest, once more hoping to pass what Captain Davis named Lumley's inlet and the furious
waterfall. But, haying made little headway, on 7 August he returned to England, arriving on 26 August.
The fame of Hudson's voyages soon reached the ears of the recently established Dutch East India company, and, although its charter only conferred the privilege of trading with India by the Cape of Good Hope, stimulated by its fears of English rivalry, it determined also to
dispatch an expedition in search of a northeast passage, and invited Hudson to command it. The Muscovy company having temporarily abandoned the quest, and turned its attention to the whale fisheries, which Hudson had suggested, he was at liberty, and, haying conferred in person with the Amsterdam chamber, accepted the mission. Just as he had closed the affair, an invitation arrived from the king of France, desiring him to undertake a similar voyage, and offering 4,000 crowns for the purpose. Henry C. Murphy, while United States minister at the Hague, discovered a copy of Hudson's contract, which shows that the original was executed, 6 January, 1609, at Amsterdam, that he signed his name Henry Hudson, and that in the body of the instrument he was also named Henry (and not Hendrik) Hudson; and that an interpreter was required, as Hudson did not understand Dutch. It appears from the contract and abstract of instructions that the directors agreed to furnish a vessel of about sixty tons to
"search for a passage to the north, around by the north side of Nova Zembla." For his outfit, and for the support of his wife and children, $320 were to be paid and in case he lost his life, the directors were to give his widow $80. If he found
"the passage good and suitable for the company to use," the directors declared that they would reward him in their discretion.
Having received important advice from his friends Jodocus Hondius, engraver and map-maker, and the celebrated geographer the Reverend Peter Plautius, and from the latter also translations of Barentson's voyage memoranda in 1595. and the treatise of Iver Boty, which had belonged to Barentson, and also the log books of George Waymouth, Hudson also had with him certain letters
"which his friend, Captain John Smith, had sent him from Virginia, and by which he informed him that there was a sea leading into the western ocean, by the north of the English colony."
Hudson sailed from Amsterdam on 4 April, 1609, his vessel being the
"Half Moon" (see illustration), of about eighty tons, manned by a motley crew of sixteen English and Dutch sailors. Robert Juet, who had been his mate in the previous voyage, now acted as his clerk, and fortunately kept the curious journal of the voyage preserved in Purchas's third volume Hudson's own journal, which De Laet had before him when he wrote the
"Nieuwe Werelt," has entirely disappeared, together with such documents as Hudson may have forwarded to the Dutch East India company. Van Meteren tells us that Hudson doubled the Cape of Norway on 5 May, and directed his course along the northern coasts toward Nova Zembla; but he there found the sea as full of ice as in the preceding year, so that he lost hope of effecting anything. This and the cold, which some of his men, accustomed to the East India heat, could not bear, caused dissensions among the crew, upon which Hudson proposed to go to the coast of America to the latitude of 40º (an idea suggested by Captain John Smith's maps and letters), or to direct the search to Davis strait.
The latter idea Hudson had abandoned, when in a somewhat similar position, on his last voyage, and he again renounced it, and,
"contrary to his instructions," says Mr. Van Dam (which were to retrace his steps and return to Amsterdam in case of failure to find a passage to the northeast), he shaped his course toward the setting sun, hoping to find a passage to India north of the infant colony of Virginia. A fortnight later he replenished his water-casks in one of the Faroe group, on 2 July was at soundings off the grand bank of Newfoundland, on the 12th was in Penobscot bay, on 4 August at Cape Cod, and two weeks later found himself off King James's river, in Virginia. Resisting the temptation to visit his friend Smith, he again steered northward, and on Friday, 28 August, entered the great bay now called Delaware, whence he emerged, after twenty-four hours of fruitless search for a passage to India, and, following the New Jersey coast, cast anchor on 3 September within Sandy Hook.
A month was passed in the great river in ascertaining that for about one hundred and fifty miles (to a point just above the site of the present city of Albany) its waters were navigable for light draught vessels, and that the surrounding country was attractive and fertile, abounding in valuable game, and frequented by peaceful Indians. He was unaware that Samuel Champlain was at the same time exploring the country not many miles north of him. (See CHAMPLAIN.)
Hudson arrived at Dartmouth, on his return voyage, 7 November, and immediately wrote to the Dutch East India company, proposing to leave Dartmouth on 1 March for a search in the northwest for the passage to India. His employers, in reply, ordered his speedy return to Holland. But as Hudson and the other Englishman were about to sail they were ordered by their government to remain and serve their own country. After eight months' detention in England, the
"Half Moon" arrived in Amsterdam in the summer of 1610.
In the preceding April, Hudson had once more sailed, under English auspices, in search of a northwest passage. In his ship the
"Discoverie," of seventy tons, he penetrated the long straits and discovered the great bay that bears his name, at the southern extremity of which his men wintered. Again surrounded by a mutinous crew, he encountered hardships and sufferings from their criminal misconduct, which the artful inventions of the survivors
skillfully concealed. Though he had divided, even with tears, his last bread with his men, yet on midsummer's day, 1611, while near the eastern coast, half way back to the straits, his ungrateful crew, thrusting him into a frail boat, with his son John and five sailors sick and blind with scurvy, cut him adrift, to perish in the great waste of waters, which, bearing his name,
"is his tomb and his monument."
It is said that a document has been discovered among the archives of the Hudson bay company at their headquarters at York Factory, which is the confession of one of the mutineers. The manuscript is written in a large, firm hand, and consists of ten slips of paper, apparently torn from a book and tied together for better preservation, and it is now in the office of the Hudson
Bay company in London. But personal application at the latter office, by the
author of this article, was met by the emphatic reply of the authorities that
not only had no such manuscript ever been in the London office, but no one there
had ever heard of its existence. There is no official portrait or autograph of
Hudson; but the picture above is believed to be his likeness.
It is possible, however, that his intimate friend, Jodocus Hondius, engraved
this Hudson portrait. It is apparent, from the contract between the Dutch East India company and Hudson, that he had several children besides the
"only son" so often referred to by writers during the past two hundred years. The
" Court Minutes of the English East India Company" also reveal the following extremely interesting facts:
" April 19, 1614, Being informed that Mrs. Hudson, the wife or widow of Mr. Hudson who was left in the North West discovery, desired their favour for employing a youth, a Son of his, she being left very poor, and conceiving that they were partly obliged in charity to give assistance in regard that his Father perished in the service of the Commonwealth, resolved to recommend him to the care of some one who is to go the voyage [to the East. Indies]."
Again, "April 19, 1614, Mrs. Hudson's son recommended to the care of Hunt, master's mate in the 'Samaritan,' 5l. to be laid out upon him for apparel and necessaries." See
"Historical Inquiry Concerning Henry Hudson," by John Meredith Read (Albany, 1866);
"Henry Hudson in Holland," by Henry C. Murphy (New York, 1859); and "Henry Hudson the Navigator," by Dr. Asher (Hakluyt society publications, London, 1860).