Item of the Day: Travels Through the Interior Parts of North-America, in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768 (1778)

Full Title:  Travels through the Interior Parts of North-America, in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768. By J. Carver, Esq.  Captain of a company of Provincial Troops During the Late War with France.  London:  Printed for the Author; And Sold by J. Walter, at Charing-cross, and S. Crowder, in Pater-noster Row. MDCCLXXVIII.


No sooner was the late War with France concluded, and Peace established by the Treaty of Versailles in the Year 1763, than I began to consider (having rendered my country some services during the war) how I might continue still serviceable, and contribute, as much as lay in my power, to make that vast acquisition of territory, gained by Great Britain, in North America advantageous to it.  It appeared to me indispensably needful, that Government should be acquainted in the first place with the true state of the dominions they were now become possessed of.  To this purpose, I determined, as the next proof of my zeal, to explore the most unknown parts of them, and to spare no trouble or expence in acquiring a knowledge that promised to be so useful to my countrymen.  I knew that many obstructions would arise to my scheme from the want of good Maps and Charts; for the French, whilst they retained their power in North America, had taken every artful method to keep all other nations, particularly the English, in ignorance of the concerns of the interior parts of it:  and to accomplish this design with the greater certainty, they had published inaccurate maps and false accounts; calling the different nations of the Indians by nicknames they had given them, and not by those really appertaining to them.  Whether the intention of the French in doing this, was to prevent these nations from being discovered and traded with, or to conceal their discourse, when they talked to each other of the Indian concerns, in their presence, I will not determine; but whatsoever was the cause from which it arose, it tended to mislead.

As a proof that the English had been greatly deceived by these accounts, and that their knowledge relative to Canada had usually been very confined, before the conquest of Crown-Point in 1759, it had been esteemed an impregnable fortress:  but no sooner was it taken, than we were convinced that it had acquired its greatest security from false reports, given out by it possessors, and might have been battered down with a few four pounders.  Even its situation, which was represented to be so very advantageous, was found to woe its advantages to the same source.  It cannot be denied but that some maps of these countries have been published by the French with an appearance of accuracy; but these are so small a size and drawn on so minute a scale, that they are nearly inexplicable.  The sources of the Mississippi, I can assert from my own experience, are great misplaced; for when I had explored them, and compared their situation with the French Charts, I found them very erroneously represented, and am satisfied that these were only copied from the rude sketches of the Indians.

Even so lately as their evacuation of Canada they continued their schemes to deceive; leaving no traces by which any knowledge might accrue to their conquerors:  for though they were well acquainted with all the Lakes, particularly with Lake Superior, having constantly a vessel of considerable burthen thereon, yet their plans of them are very incorrect.  I discovered many errors in the descriptions given therein of its Islands and Bays, during a progress of eleven hundred miles that I coasted it in canoes.  They likewise, on giving up the possession of them, took care to leave the places they had occupied in the same uncultivated state they had found them; at the same time destroying all their naval force.  I observed myself part of the hulk of a very large vessel, burnt to the water’s edge, just at the opening from the Straits of St. Marie’s into the Lake.

These difficulties, however, were not sufficient to deter me from the undertaking, and I made preparations for setting out.  What I chiefly had in view, after gaining a knowledge of the Manners, Customs, Languages, Soil, and natural Productions of the different nations that inhabit the back of the Mississippi, was to ascertain the Breadth of that vast continent, which extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, in its broadest part between 43 and 46 Degrees Northern Latitude.   Had I been able to accomplish this, I intended to have proposed to Government to establish a Port in some of those parts about the Straits of Annian, which having been first discovered by Sir Francis Drake, of course belong to the English.  This I am convinced would greatly facilitate the discovery of a North-West Passage, or a communication between Hudson’s Bay and the Pacific Ocean.  An event so desirable, and which has been so often fought for, but without success.  Besides this important end, a settlement on that extremity of America would answer many good purposes, and repay every expence the establishment of it might occasion.  For it would not only disclose new sources of trade, and promote many useful discoveries, but would open a passage for conveying intelligence to China, and the English settlements in the East Indies, with greater expedition than a tedious voyage by the Cape of Good Hope, or the Straits of Magellan will allow of. . . .


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Filed under 1770's, American Indians, Canada, Explorations, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

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