Voyages and Travels: Ancient and Modern.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Sir Walter Raleigh


The DISCOVERY of the large, rich, and beautiful EMPIRE of GUIANA; with a Relation of the great and golden CITY of MANOA, which the Spaniards call EL DORADO, and the PROVINCES of EMERIA, AROMAIA, AMAPAIA, and other Countries, with their rivers, adjoining. Performed in the year 1595 by SIR WALTER RALEIGH, KNIGHT, CAPTAIN of her Majesty’s GUARD, Lord Warden of the STANNARIES, and her Highness’ LIEUTENANT-GENERAL of the COUNTY of CORNWALL.

To the Right Honourable my singular good Lord and kinsman CHARLES HOWARD, Knight of the Garter, Baron, and Councillor, and of the Admirals of ENGLAND the most renowned; and to the Right Honourable SIR ROBERT CECIL, KNIGHT, Councillor in her Highness’ Privy Councils.

FOR your Honours’ many honourable and friendly parts, I have hitherto only returned promises; and now, for answer of both your adventures, I have sent you a bundle of papers, which I have divided between your Lordship and Sir Robert Cecil, in these two respects chiefly; first, for that it is reason that wasteful factors, when they have consumed such stocks as they had in trust, do yield some colour for the same in their account; secondly, for that I am assured that whatsoever shall be done, or written, by me, shall need a double protection and defence. The trial that I had of both your loves, when I was left of all, but of malice and revenge, makes me still presume that you will be pleased (knowing what little power I had to perform aught, and the great advantage of forewarned enemies) to answer that out of knowledge, which others shall but object out of malice. In my more happy times as I did especially honour you both, so I found that your loves sought me out in the darkest shadow of adversity, and the same affection which accompanied my better fortune soared not away from me in my many miseries; all which though I cannot requite, yet I shall ever acknowledge; and the great debt which I have no power to pay, I can do no more for a time but confess to be due. It is true that as my errors were great, so they have yielded very grievous effects; and if aught might have been deserved in former times, to have counterpoised any part of offences, the fruit thereof, as it seemeth, was long before fallen from the tree, and the dead stock only remained. I did therefore, even in the winter of my life, undertake these travails, fitter for bodies less blasted with misfortunes, for men of greater ability, and for minds of better encouragement, that thereby, if it were possible, I might recover but the moderation of excess, and the least taste of the greatest plenty formerly possessed. If I had known other way to win, if I had imagined how greater adventures might have regained, if I could conceive what farther means I might yet use but even to appease so powerful displeasure, I would not doubt but for one year more to hold fast my soul in my teeth till it were performed. Of that little remain I had, I have wasted in effect all herein. I have undergone many constructions; I have been accompanied with many sorrows, with labour, hunger, heat, sickness, and peril; it appeareth, notwithstanding, that I made no other bravado of going to the sea, than was meant, and that I was never hidden in Cornwall, or elsewhere, as was supposed. They have grossly belied me that forejudged that I would rather become a servant to the Spanish king than return; and the rest were much mistaken, who would have persuaded that I was too easeful and sensual to undertake a journey of so great travail. But if what I have done receive the gracious construction of a painful pilgrimage, and purchase the least remission, I shall think all too little, and that there were wanting to the rest many miseries. But if both the times past, the present, and what may be in the future, do all by one grain of gall continue in eternal distaste, I do not then know whether I should bewail myself, either for my too much travail and expense, or condemn myself for doing less than that which can deserve nothing. From myself I have deserved no thanks, for I am returned a beggar, and withered; but that I might have bettered my poor estate, it shall appear from the following discourse, if I had not only respected her Majesty’s future honour and riches.

It became not the former fortune, in which I once lived, to go journeys of picory; it had sorted ill with the offices of honour, which by her Majesty’s grace I hold this day in England, to run from cape to cape and from place to place, for the pillage of ordinary prizes. Many years since I had knowledge, by relation, of that mighty, rich, and beautiful empire of Guiana, and of that great and golden city, which the Spaniards call El Dorado, and the naturals Manoa, which city was conquered, re-edified, and enlarged by a younger son of Guayna-capac, Emperor of Peru, at such time as Francisco Pizarro and others conquered the said empire from this two elder brethren, Guascar and Atabalipa, both then contending for the same, the one being favoured by the orejones of Cuzco, the other by the people of Caxamalca. I sent my servant Jacob Whiddon, the year before, to get knowledge of the passages, and I had some light from Captain Parker, sometime my servant, and now attending on your Lordship, that such a place there was to the soulhward of the great bay of Charuas, or Guanipa: but I found that it was 600 miles farther off than they supposed, and many impediments to them unknown and unheard. After I had displanted Don Antonio de Berreo, who was upon the same enterprise, leaving my ships at Trinidad, at the port called Curiapan, I wandered 400 miles into the said country by land and river; the particulars I will leave to the following discourse.

The country hath more quantity of gold, by manifold, than the best parts of the Indies, or Peru. All the most of the kings of the borders are already become her Majesty’s vassals, and seem to desire nothing more than her Majesty’s protection and the return of the English nation. It hath another ground and assurance of riches and glory than the voyages of the West Indies; an easier way to invade the best parts thereof than by the common course. The king of Spain is not so impoverished by taking three or four port towns in America as we suppose; neither are the riches of Peru or Nueva España so left by the sea side as it can be easily washed away with a great flood, or spring tide, or left dry upon the sands on a low ebb. The port towns are few and poor in respect of the rest within the land, and are of little defence, and are only rich when the fleets are to receive the treasure for Spain; and we might think the Spaniards very simple, having so many horses and slaves, if they could not upon two days’ warning carry all the gold they have into the land, and far enough from the reach of our footmen, especially the Indies being, as they are for the most part, so mountainous, full of woods, rivers, and marishes. In the port towns of the province of Venezuela, as Cumaná, Coro, and St. Iago (whereof Coro and St. Iago were taken by Captain Preston, and Cumaná and St. Josepho by us) we found not the value of one real of plate in either. But the cities of Barquasimeta, Valencia, St. Sebastian, Cororo, St. Lucia, Laguna, Maracaiba, and Truxillo, are not so easily invaded. Neither doth the burning of those on the coast impoverish the king of Spain any one ducat; and if we sack the River of Hacha, St. Martha, and Carthagena, which are the ports of Nuevo Reyno and Popayan, there are besides within the land, which are indeed rich and prosperous, the towns and cities of Merida, Lagrita, St. Christophoro, the great cities of Pamplona, Santa Fé de Bogota, Tunxa, and Mozo, where the emeralds are found, the towns and cities of Marequita, Velez, la Villa de Leiva, Palma, Honda, Angostura, the great city of Timana, Tocaima, St. Aguila, Pasto, [St.] Iago, the great city of Popayan itself, Los Remedios, and the rest. If we take the ports and villages within the bay of Uraba in the kingdom or rivers of Darien and Caribana, the cities and towns of St. Juan de Rodas, of Cassaris, of Antiochia, Caramanta, Cali, and Anserma have gold enough to pay the king’s part, and are not easily invaded by way of the ocean. Or if Nombre de Dios and Panama be taken, in the province of Castilla del Oro, and the villages upon the rivers of Cenu and Chagre; Peru hath, besides those, and besides the magnificent cities of Quito and Lima, so many islands, ports, cities, and mines as if I should name them with the rest it would seem incredible to the reader. Of all which, because I have written a particular treatise of the West Indies, I will omit the repetition at this time, seeing that in the said treatise I have anatomized the rest of the sea towns as well of Nicaragua, Yucatan, Nueva España, and the islands, as those of the inland, and by what means they may be best invaded, as far as any mean judgment may comprehend.

But I hope it shall appear that there is a way found to answer every man’s longing; a better Indies for her Majesty than the king of Spain hath any; which if it shall please her Highness to undertake, I shall most willingly end the rest of my days in following the same. If it be left to the spoil and sackage of common persons, if the love and service of so many nations be despised, so great riches and so mighty an empire refused; I hope her Majesty will yet take my humble desire and my labour therein in gracious part, which, if it had not been in respect of her Highness’ future honour and riches, could have laid hands on and ransomed many of the kings and caciqui of the country, and have had a reasonable proportion of gold for their redemption. But I have chosen rather to bear the burden of poverty than reproach; and rather to endure a second travail, and the chances thereof, than to have defaced an enterprise of so great assurance, until I knew whether it pleased God to put a disposition in her princely and royal heart either to follow or forslow the same. I will therefore leave it to His ordinance that hath only power in all things; and do humbly pray that your honours will excuce such errors as, without the defence of art, overrun in every part the following discourse, in which I have neither studied phrase, form, nor fashion; that you will be pleased to esteem me as your own, though over dearly bought, and I shall ever remain ready to do you all honour and service.