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The Epistle of sir Walter Ralegh to the reader

To the Reader.
BECAUSE there have bin divers opinions conceived of the gold oare broght from Guiana , and for that an Alderman of London & an officer of her Majesties Mint, hath given out that the same is of no price, I have thought good by the addition of these lines to give answer aswel to the said malicious slander, as to other objections. It is true that while we abode at the yland of Trinidad , I was informed, by an Indian, that not far from the Port, where we ancored, there were found certaine mineral stones which they esteemed to be gold, & were thereunto perswaded the rather for that they had seene both English and Frenchmen gather, & imbark some quantities therof: upon this likelyhood I sent 40. men & gave order that each one should bring a stone of that mine to make trial of its goodnes: which being performed, I assured them at their returne that the same was Marcasite, & of no riches or value: notwithstanding divers, trusting more to their owne sence, then to my opinion, kept of the said Marcasite, and have tried therof since my returne in divers places. In Guiana it selfe I never saw Marcasite, but al the rocks, mountains, al stones in ye plaines, woods, & by the rivers side are in effect throughshining, and seem marvelous rich, which being tried to be no Marcasite, are the true signes of rich minerals, but are no other then El madre del oro (as the Spaniards terme them) which is the mother of gold, or as it is said by others the scum of gold: of divers sorts of these many of my company brought also into England , every one taking ye fairest for the best, which is not general. For mine own part I did not countermand any mans desire, or opinion, & I could have aforded them litle if I should have denied them the pleasing of their owne fancies therein: but I was resolved that gold must be found either in graines separate from the stone (as it is in most of the rivers in Guiana ) or els in a kind of hard stone, which we call The white spar, of which I saw divers hils, & in sundry places, but had neither time nor men, nor instruments fit for labour. Neere unto one of the rivers I found of the said White sparre or flint a very great ledge or banke, which I endevoured to breake by al the meanes I could, because there appeared on the outside some smal graines of gold, but finding no meane to worke the same upon the upper part, seeking the sides and circuit of the said rocke, I found a clift in the same from whence with daggers, and with the head of an axe, we got out some smal quantitie therof, of which kind of white stone (wherin gold ingendred) we saw divers hils and rocks in every part of Guiana , wherein we traveiled. Of this there have bin many trials, and in London it was first assaid by M. Westwood a refiner dwelling in Woodstreet, and it held after the rate of 12000. or 13000. pounds a tunne. Another sort was afterward tried by M. Bulmar & M. Dimock Assay-master, & it held after the rate of 23000 li. a tunne. There was some of it againe tried by M. Palmer comptroller of the Mint, and M. Dimock in goldsmiths hal, & it held after 26900. li. a tun. There was also at the same time, & by the same persons a trial made of the dust of the said mine which held 8 li. 6. ounces weight of gold in the 100: there was likewise at the same time a triall of an image of copper made in Guiana , which held a third part of gold, besides divers trials made in the countrey, & by others in London . But because there came ill with the good, & belike the said Alderman was not presented with the best, it hath pleased him therefore to scandall all the rest, and to deface the enterprize as much as in him lieth. It hath also bene concluded by divers, that if there had bin any such oare in Guiana , and the same discovered, that I would have brought home a greater quantitie thereof: first I was not bound to satisfie any man of the quantitie, but such onely as adventured, if any store had bin returned thereof: but it is very true that had al their mountaines bene of massie gold, it was impossible for us to have made any longer stay to have wrought the same: and whosoever hath seene with what strength of stone the best gold oare is invironed, hee will not thinke it easie to be had out in heapes, and especially by us, who had neither men, instruments, nor time (as it is said before) to performe the same. There were on this discovery no lesse then 100. persons, who can all witnesse, that when we past any branch of the river to view the land within, and stated from our boats but 6. houres, wee were driven to wade to the eyes, at our returne: and if wee attempted the same, the day following it was impossible either to ford it, or to swim it, both by reason of the swiftnesse, and also for that the borders were so pestred with fast woods, as neither boat nor man could find place, either to land or to imbarke: for in June, July, August and September, it is impossible to navigate any of those rivers: for such is the fury of the current, and there are so many trees and woods overflowne, as if any boat but touch upon any tree or stake, it is impossible to save any one person therein: and yer we departed the land it ranne with such swiftnes, as wee drave downe most commonly against the wind, little lesse than 100. miles a day: Besides our vessels were no other then whirries, one little barge, a small cockboat, and a bad Galiota, which we framed in hast for that purpose at Trinidad , and those little boats had 9. or 10. men a piece, with all their victuals, and armes. It is further true, that we were about 400. miles from our ships, and had bene a moneth from them, which also we left weakly manned in an open road, and had promised our returne in 15. dayes. Others have devised that the same oare was had from Barbary, and that we caried it with us into Guiana : surely the singularitie of that device I doe not well comprehend: for mine owne part, I am not so much in love with these long voyages, as to devise, therby to cozen my selfe, to lie hard, to fare worse, to be subjected to perils, to diseases, to ill savors, to be parched & withered, and withall to sustaine the care & labour of such an enterprize, except the same had more comfort, then the fetching of Marcasite in Guiana , or buying of gold oare in Barbary. But I hope the better sort wil judge me by themselves, & that the way of deceit is not the way of honor or good opinion: I have herein consumed much time, & many crownes, & I had no other respect or desire then to serve her Majestie and my country thereby. If the Spanish nation had bene of like beliefe to these detracters, we should litle have feared or doubted their attempts, wherewith we now are daily threatned. But if we now consider of the actions both of Charles the 5. who had the maidenhead of Peru , and the abundant treasures of Atabalipa, together with the affaires of the Spanish king now living, what territories he hath purchased, what he hath added to the acts of his predecessors, how many kingdoms he hath indangered, how many armies, garisons, & navies he hath and doth mainteine, the great losses which he hath repaired, as in 88. above 100. saile of great ships with their artillery, & that no yere is lesse unfortunate but that many vessels, treasures, and people are devoured, and yet notwithstanding he beginneth againe like a storme to threaten shipwrack to us all: we shall find that these abilities rise not from the trades of sacks, and Sivil oringes, nor from ought els that either Spaine, Portugal , or any of his other provinces produce: it is his Indian gold that indangereth and disturbeth all the nations of Europe , it purchaseth intelligence, creepeth into counsels, and setteth bound loyaltie at libertie, in the greatest Monarchies of Europe. If the Spanish king can keepe us from forren enterprizes, & from the impeachment of his trades, either by offer of invasion, or by besieging us in Britaine, Ireland , or elsewhere, hee hath then brought the worke of our peril in great forwardnes. Those princes which abound in treasure have great advantages over the rest, if they once constraine them to a defensive war, where they are driven once a yere or oftener to cast lots for their own garments, and from such shal all trades, & entercourse be taken away, to the general losse and impoverishment of the kingdom and common weale so reduced: besides when our men are constrained to fight, it hath not the like hope, as when they are prest & incouraged by the desire of spoile & riches. Farther, it is to be douted how those that in time of victory seeme to affect their neighbor nations, wil remaine after the first view of misfortunes, or il successe; to trust also to the doubtfulnes of a battel, is but a fearefull & uncertaine adventure, seeing therein fortune is as likely to prevaile, as vertue. It shall not be necessary to alleage all that might bee said, and therefore I will thus conclude, that whatsoever kingdome shalbe inforced to defend it selfe may be compared to a body dangerously diseased, which for a season may be preserved with vulgar medicines, but in a short time, and by litle and litle, the same must needs fall to the ground, & be dissolved. I have therefore laboured all my life, both according to my smal power, & perswasion, to advance al those attempts, that might either promise return of profit to our selves, or at least be a let and impeachment to the quiet course and plentifull trades of the Spanish nation, who in my weake judgement by such a warre were as easily indangered & brought from his powerfulnes, as any prince of Europe , if it be considered from how many kingdomes and nations his revenues are gathered, & those so weake in their owne beings, and so far severed from mutual succour. But because such a preparation and resolution is not to be hoped for in hast, & that the time which our enemies embrace, cannot be had againe to advantage, I wil hope that these provinces, and that Empire now by me discovered shal suffice to inable her Majestie & the whole kingdome, with no lesse quantities of treasure, then the king of Spaine hath in all the Indies East and West, which he possesseth, which if the same be considered and followed, ere the Spaniards enforce the same, and if her Majestie wil undertake it, I wil be contented to lose her highnesse favour & good opinion for ever, and my life withall, if the same be not found rather to exceed, then to equal whatsoever is in this discourse promised or declared. I wil now referre the Reader to the following discourse, with the hope that the perillous and chargeable labours and indevors of such as thereby seeke the profit and honour of her Majestie, and the English nation, shall by men of qualitie and vertue receive such construction, and good acceptance, as themselves would looke to be rewarded withall in the like.

W. R.

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