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CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, a na. tive of Genoa, having formed a just idea of the figure of the earth, had several years entertained the design of finding a passage to India by the western ocean.' He made his first proposal of attempting this discovery to the republic of Genoa, which treated it as visionary. He next proposed his plan to John II, king of Portugal, who, at that time, was deeply engaged in prosecuting discoveries on the African coast, for the purpose of finding a way to India. In this enterprise the Portuguese king had been at so vast an expense, with but small success, that he had no inclination to listen to the proposal. By the advice, however, of a favourite courtier, he privately gave orders to a ship, bound to the island of Cape de Verd, to attempt a discovery in the west ; but the navigators, through ignorance and, want of enterprise, failing in the design, turned the project of Columbus into ridicule.
Indignant at this dishonourable artifice, Columbus left Portugal ; and, having previously sent
1 Some Spanish authors have ungenerously insinuated, that Columbus was led to this great enterprise by information, which he received, of a country, discovered får to the west, with the additional advantage of a journal of the voyage, in which the discovery was made by a vessel, driven from its course by easterly winds. It is affirmed, however, with entire credibility, that “ Columbus had none of the West Islands set foorth into him in globe or card, neither yet once mentioned of any writer (Plato excepted and the commentaries upon the same) from 942 yeeres bem fore Christ, untill that day; neither understood he of them by the report of any other that had seene them ; but only comforted himselfe with this hope, that the land had a beginning where the sea had an ending." Haklayt, iii. 23. Robertson, i. Note xvii.
his brother Bartholomew into England to solicit the patronage of Henry VII, repaired to Ferdinand and Isabella, king and queen of Spain. It was not till he had surmounted numerous obstacles, and spent seven years in painful solicitation, that he obo tained what he sought. To the honour of Isabella, and of her sex, the scheme of Columbus was first countenanced by the queen. Through the influ. ence of Juan Perez, a Spanish priest, and Lewis Santangel, an officer of the king's household, she was persuaded to listen to his request ; and, after he had been twice repulsed, to recall him to court. She now offered to pledge her jewels, to defray the expense of the proposed equipment, amounting to no more than two thousand five hundred crowns'; but this sum was advanced by Santangel, and the queen saved from so mortifying an expedient.
On the seventeenth day of April, 1492, añ a. greement was made by Columbus with their Catholic majesties : That, if he should make any discoveries, he should sustain the office of viceroy by land, and admiral by sea, with the advantage of the tenth part of the profits, accruing from the productions and commerce of all the countries discov. ered ; and these dignities and privileges were not to be limited to his own person, but to be hereditary in his family. 3
1 This denomination of money, used by most historians, may, without explanation, essentially mislead the reader. They were doubtless gold crowns. Vega (Commentaries of Peru, 423.) says, the expense was “ six millions of maravadies, making the sum of 16000 ducats." A Spanish ducat of exchange is equal to 45. IId. 1-2, and lacks therefore but a half penny of being equal to an English crown. If the 16000 ducats of Vega be estimated as equal to so many English crowns, they make exactly £4000 sterling ; and this is the very sum, which, Dr. Robertson says, the expense of the equipment “did not exceed."
2 Life of Columbus, c. xi, zii, xv, with the principal authorities, cited under A. D. 1492.
3 Harris' Voyages, i. 3. The instrument, containing the terms of this agreement, is inserted entire in Hazard's Collections, i. 1-3; but it is there dated April 30, 1492. Though the name of Ferdinand appears connected with that of Isabella in this compact, he refused to take any part in the enterprise, as king of Arragon. The whole expense of the exColumbus
1492. COLUMBUS, on the third day of August,' set August 3. sail from Palos in Spain, with three vessels and ninety men, on a voyage the most daring and grand Spain. in its design, and the most important in its result, of any, that had ever been attempted. He, as ad. miral, commanded the largest ship, called Santa Maria ; Martin Alonzo Pinzon was captain of the Pinta; and Vincent Yanez Pinzon, of the Nigna. When the fleet was about two hundred leagues to the west of the Canary islands, Columbus obsery, ed that the magnetic needle in the compasses did not point exactly to the polar star, but varied toward the west. 3. This discovery made an alarming impression on his pilots and mariners ; but his fer- Sept. 14. tile genius helped him to assign a plausible reason of the comfor this strange appearance, and to dispel their pass excites
• alarm. fears. Expedients, however, at length lost their carm effect. The crew, with loud and insolent clamour, insisted on his return, and some of the most audacious proposed to throw him into the sea. When his invention was nearly exhausted, and his hope nearly abandoned, the only event, that could ap.
pedition was to be defrayed by the crown of Castile, and Isabella reserved for her subjects of that kingdom an exclusive right to all the benefits, that should accrue from its success. Robertson, i. book ii. Throughout this transaction, the conduct of Isabella was truly magnanimous; and though she did not, like the Tyrian queen, conduct the great enterprise in person, yet she has strong claim to similar honour : Dux fæmina facti.
i He sailed from Gomera, one of the most westerly of the Canary ism lands, on the 6th of September, “which may be accounted the first setting out upon the voyage on the ocean." Life of Columbus, c. xviii.
2 One of these vessels had a deck; the other two, called Caravels, had pone. They are thus described by Peter Martyr : “ Ex regio fisco destiwata sunt tria navigia : unum onerarium caveatum, alia duo levia mercatoria sine caveis, quæ ab Hispanis caravelæ vocantur." De Nov. Orb. p. 2.
3 Stow erroneously ascribes this discovery to Sebastian Cabot, five years after this voyage of Columbus. It unquestionably was made in this first voyage. With the correction of the name and date, the remark of this venerable antiquarian is just : « Before his time, ever since the first finding of the magneticall needle, it was generallie supposed to lie precisely in place of the meridian, and crosse the equator at right angels, respecting with the points dulie north and south." Stow's Chronicle, p.811,
1492. pease the mariners, happily occurred. A light,
seen by Columbus at ten in the night of the av. Oct eleventh of October, was viewed as the harbinger 12, land of the wished for land; and early the next morna covered. ing land was distinctly seen.' At sun rise, all the
boats were manned and armed, and the adventurers rowed toward the shore, with warlike music, and other martial pomp. The coast, in the mean time, was covered with people, who were attracted by the novelty of the spectacle, and whose attitudes and gestures strongly expressed their aston
ishment, Columbus, richly dressed, and holding and hismena
Sa naked sword in his hand, went first on shore, and go on shore. was followed by his men, who, kneeling down with
him, kissed the ground with tears of joy, and re, turned thanks for the success of the voyage, The land was one of the islands of the New World, cala led by the natives, Guanahana. 3 Columbus, as-, suming the title and authority of admiral, called it San Salvador ; and, by setting up a cross, took possession of it for their Catholic majesties. *
Many of the natives stood around, and gazed at the strange ceremony in silent admiration. Though shy at first through fear, they soon became famil. iar with the Spaniards. The admiral, perceiving that they were simple and inoffensive, gave them
i The voyage from Gomera was 35 days; a longer time than any man had ever been known to be from the sight of land. 2 They “ appeared in the simple innocence of nature, entirely naked."
Robertson. 3 It is one of that cluster of the West India islands, called Bahamas lying in the 25th. degree of north latitude, above 3000 miles to the wese of Gomera. Robertson, i. book ii. Belknap Biog. i. 101. The authors of the Universal History (xli. 320, 331.) erroneously affirm this first discov ered island to be the one, now called New Providence, which is another of the Bahama islands, in its neighbourhood. The island, discovered b Columbus, still retains its original Indian name, though it is also denomi, nated in maps, Cat Island. It is remarkable for nothing, but the evene that we have recited.
4 Life of Columbus, c.ü. xvi-xxi, xxiii. Peter Martyr, 2. Herrera, i 47. Purchas, i. 729, 730. European Settlements in America, i. 3-11. Robertson, i. 119, 128.
hawksbells, strings of glass beads, and red caps, 1492, which, though of small intrinsic worth, were by them highly valued. The reason, assigned for their peculiar estimation of these baubles, is, that, confidently believing that these visitants had come down from heaven, they ardently desired to have something left them as a memorial. They gave the Spaniards, in return, such provisions, as they had, and some cotton yarn, which was the only valuable commodity they could produce.
Columbus, after visiting the coasts of the island, proceeded to make farther discoveries, taking with OA. 15. him several of the natives of San Salvador. He saw several islands, and touched at three of the largest of them, which he named St. Mary of the Conception, Fernandina, and Isabella. On the twenty seventh of October, he discovered the island
Oct. 27. of Cuba, which, in honour of the prince, the son of Cuba disthe Spanish king and queen, he called Juanna. covered. Entering the mouth of a large river with his squa, dron, he staid here to careen his ships, sending, in the mean time, some of his people, with one of the natives of San Salvador, to view the interior parts of the country. Returning to him on the fifth of November, they report, that they had travelled above sixty miles from the shore; that the soil is richer and better, than any they had hitherto discovered ; and that, beside many scattering cottages, they found one village of fifty houses, containing about a thousand inhabitants. 3 Sailing from Cuba on the fifth of December, he arrived, the next day, at an Dec. ó. island, called by the natives Hayti, which, in hon..
discovered. our of the kingdom, by which he was employed, he named Hispaniola. IL" Gentem esse missam è cælo autumant." P. Martyr, p. 4. 2 Life of Columbus, c. xxiii, xxiv. Robertson, i. book ii. Herrera, i. 47. 3 Robertson, i. book i. Herrera (i. 54.] says, “ 4 whole generation lived in a house."
4 “Ab Hispania --- diminutivè Hispaniola." tyr, 245. Her. resa, i. 107, 138.