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Thread: The French were established in Brazil before Columbus

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    Default The French were established in Brazil before Columbus

    Columbus "discovered" America in 1492.
    Cabral "discovered" Brazil in 1500.

    The purpose of the article is to compare the relationships which the French had with the Amerindians in the fur trade of Canada and the brazilwood trade of Brazil.

    "While concomitant for part of the 1500s with the fur trade of the north, the Franco-Brazilian trade had started earlier and peaked much sooner. It declined towards the end of the century.

    The French pioneered commercial relations with Amerindians in South America, trafficking for such exotic items as parrots, monkeys and feathers, but more importantly for cotton and various types of woods, particularly those which produced dye, of which brazil-wood (pau-brasil) was the most important.

    By when Pedro Cabral stumbled across Brazil in 1500, the French had already launched trading activities in the region, pursuing them successfully enough to bring considerable properity to their Atlantic port cities such as Rouen.

    Something of the importance of the brazilwood trade can be gauged from the fact that the new land became known as Brazil despite strong support for Cabral's designation, Terra de Santa Cruz. The term Brazil, of unknown origin, long ante-dated the discovery of the New World and referred to the colour red made from the dye of the wood. Among other names by which the new land was also known was Terra de Papagois, because of the brilliantly plumaged birds, particularly parrots.

    In the case of Brazil's dyewood, the comparatively densely spread and stable indigenous farming population meant that there was sufficient manpower available on the spot to cut and prepare the wood (not easily worked being both dense and heavy), piling it at locations suitable for loading on ships. In Brazil the rendezvous points were principally in the regions of Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro (including cape Frio).

    The French encouraged trade by adapting to Amerindian customs and practices. Facilitating such a course of action was the similarity in the level of social integration achieved despite wide differences in cultural backgrounds. This was probably what had struck Jacques Cartier in 1535, when he reported Canadians (as they were called) "living much like Brazilians". In Brazil adaptation to Amerindian customs was given added impetus because the French were already operating in regions claimed by the Portuguese, and the principal way of circumventing this was by means of native alliances.

    In France the brazilwood trade was a continuation part of the commercial "take off" which had occurred during the last quarter of the 15th Century. In Normandy for example the number of trading licences granted between 1475** and 1533 by La Compagnie de Marchands jumped from 78 to 226. This activity centred in Rouen, which Louis XI, (reigned (1461-1483) hoped would rival Bruges."


    Olive Patricia Dickason (Univ. of Alberta)
    The Brazilian Connection
    A Look at the Origin of French Techniques for Trading with Amerindians.
    Outre-Mers Revue d ' histoire, 1984 p.129-146.

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    Default Re: The French were established in Brazil before Columbus

    Within a maximum of 48 hours I will post a much longer article. This will confirm the French presence on the coast of Brazil twenty years before its "discovery" by Cabral in 1500.
    Last edited by Mecklenburger; 11th April 2021 at 02:21.

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    Default Re: The French were established in Brazil before Columbus

    PART TWO

    The French have never abandoned their claim that their mariner Jean Cousin discovered Brazil in 1488, four years before Columbus and twelve years before Cabral.

    Jean Cousin was a cartographer and expert navigator who had distinguished himself in action against the English. In 1488 he was given a mission to sail a single ship to explore along the West African coast. On a date unknown that year he set out.
    Beyond Gibraltar he followed a course which was too westerly and near the Azores found himself being swept along helplessly by the Gulf Stream. Eventually he came to uncharted land at the mouth of an immense river which can only have been the Amazon. He went ashore but not having a sufficient company or resources to reconnoitre he reboarded the ship.

    Instead of turning back to Dieppe to report his discovery, he set off again to the south-east on his original mission to southern Africa, discovered the Cape of Good Hope, made notes of places and positions and then headed back along the African coast northwards, calling in at the Congo and Guinea for provisions. He arrived back at Dieppe in 1489.

    He made his report to the Admiralty and port authorities but was surprised at a certain lack of interest in what he had found when swept off course. His logs and paperwork eventually found their way into the Dieppe archive.

    Unfortunately when the English Navy attacked Dieppe in 1694, the archive was hit and burned to the ground. Therefore no record remains of the 1488 voyage of Jean Cousin, and the French claim to have discovered Brazil cannot be substantiated.

    It may be that the Admiralty and port authorities were none too interested in having the Amazon affair being declared in an official statement because they already knew where Brazil was and needed it to be kept quiet.

    In 1487 a naval conflict with England was coming to its conclusion. The French Navy had had to abandon regular squadron work and replace it with a system of corsairs. In this way they quickly built up a fleet of foreign merchant ships.

    Jean or Charles Ango (Sr.) was a Dieppe naval officer. He was entrusted with flotillas of captured vessels to re-arm for putting into service to protect French trade. There is nothing to suggest that he came from a rich family yet over the next few years from 1488 he amassed a fortune and became a shipowner.

    Brazilwood yields a highly prized dye and though there were other sources of it in the Mediterranean and India, the trees which grew in Brazil were of superior quality. No official record can be found of imports to the French Channel ports - Dieppe, St Malo, Caen, Rouen, Honfleur at any time. This may be explained by the great secrecy which had to surround the question of the existence of Brazil so as to protect the monopoly.

    Very soon with his new-found wealth, or perhaps because he was being given ships to use as freighters for the brazilwood trade, Charles Ango had control of a veritable merchant fleet and recruited to his service the best shipmasters of the time, all brought up in the Desceliers school of navigation and hydrography. We know some of them by name, including in particular Jean Denis de Honfleur.

    This man was a native of Honfleur born in 1457, served as a shipmaster for Charles Ango and is considered even today as the greatest explorer and navigator that the city ever knew.

    The Venetian geographer and prolific author Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485-1557) wrote of Jean Denis de Honfleur in his collection Voyages in Raccolta di Viaggi t.III at page 354 under the title "Discorso d'un gran capitano di Mare Francese del luogo di Dieppa":

    "In 1508 Denis de Honfleur was in Newfoundland and Canada, it is said of him that twenty years before (therefore in 1488) he had discovered an area of Brazil." We do not have any other details of this expedition but we know from Ramusio that his example was soon followed by a large number of French vessels. This would mean that when Jean Cousin made port in 1489, the existence of Brazil was already known and being exploited without any interference until Cabral "discovered" Brazil for Portugal in 1500.

    Charles Ango (Sr) had a son, Jean, born at Dieppe towards 1480. He was given a good education and at some time after 1488 father and son organized a form of regular freightline between France and Brazil. On the death of his father Jean Ango inherited his immense fortune, a fleet of seventy ships and became the Viscount of Dieppe through his relationship with King Francis I. (Further interesting details of his career in Wikipaedia).

    Therefore either Jean Cousin, or Jean Denis de Honfleur, or perhaps Charles Ango, was the first Frenchman to tread the soil of Brazil and so relieve Columbus of the claim that he had got to the New World first.

    END

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    Default Re: The French were established in Brazil before Columbus

    From Jacques de Mahieu: La agonia del Dios-Sol.

    "Logs of brazilwood find their mention in French registers as from the 13th century. "Coopers make barrels with the wood of tamarisk and brazil," the Book of Trades (Libro de los Oficios) of Estienne Boileau stated during the reign of King Louis IX and added, "No cabinet-maker can apply a more expensive wood. i.e. than brazil and cypress."

    At the end of the 13th century, brazilwood is mentioned as an import in the Droitures, consternes et appartenances de la Uiscomté de l'eau of Rouen. In 1387 the Costumbre de Harfleur fixed the tariff on this product as being four dinars and one half for each 100 pounds. In 1396 the Dieppe Customs collected "VIII dinars for cuts brazil logs, III dinars for the bale." This demonstates that brazilwood entered France through Norman ports as whole or partial tree trunks and not extracts.

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