Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

ands. To each of these I also gave a name, ordering that one should be called Santa Maria de la Conception; another Fernandina; the third, Isabella; the fourth, Juana; and so on with all the rest respectively. As soon as we arrived at that which, as I have said, was named Juana [now Cuba], I proceeded along its coast a short distance westward, and found it to be so large and apparently without termination that I could not suppose it to be an island, but the continental province of Cathay (or Tartary] ... Thus it has happened to me in the present instance, who have accomplished a task to which the powers of mortal man have never hitherto attained; for, if there have been those who have anywhere written or spoken of these islands, they have done so with doubts and conjectures; and no one has ever asserted that he has seen them, on which account their writings have been looked upon as little else than fables. Therefore let the king and queen, our princes and their most happy kingdoms, and all the other provinces of Christendom render thanks to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who has granted us so great a victory and such prosperity. Let processions be made and sacred feasts be held and the temples be adorned with festive boughs. Let Christ rejoice on earth, as he rejoices in heaven, in the prospect of the salvation of the souls of so many nations hitherto lost. Let us also rejoice, as well on account of the exaltation of our faith as on account of the increase of our temporal prosperity, of which not only Spain but all Christendom will be partakers. Such are the events which I have briefly described. Farewell.


Admiral of the Fleet of the Ocean. Lisbon, the 14th of March."

There never was, in the history of man, and there never can be again, so important a geographical event as this discovery of the American continent; and could the story of its discovery, conquest an. 1 settlement be told with such fullness as the detailed incidents in each of the avenues of approach could furnish, nothing more marvelay in romance, or more thrilling in the wars and conquests of the

dark ages,

could be found and written to the edification and instruction of mankind. Columbus merely touched the outer shore, and sailed back to Spain to find that Diaz, the Portuguese mariner, had found the Cape of Good Hope. These were great events, that grew no less great when the monarchs of Spain and Portugal proceeded to cooily divide between themselves "all the unknown land and seas to the east and the west of a meridian line, which should be drawn from pole to pole, one hundred and seventy leagues west of the Azores”-a partition which received the sanction of the greatest power on earth, when Pope Alexander VI. confirmed it by special decree.

With DeSoto in Florida and upon the broad Mississippi, Cortez in Mexico and Pizarro in Peru, Spain had indeed made a secure and profitable foothold in the new world. But the prize was not to be made secure without the advancement of claims from rival nations. America was too great to fall peacefully into the possession of one nation, even though she might be as powerful as was Spain four centuries ago; and France and England were soon sending their adventurous sons in the wake of Columbus, across the seas. Yet the influ. ence of the Spaniards was felt at every point. Within twenty years after the first voyage of Columbus, they had planted colonies upon four of the largest West Indian islands, while more than a century passed before any other European nation had performed a like feat, with the exception of small settlements made by the Portuguese in Brazil. While Mexico and Peru were falling an easy prey to Spain, and the Florida regions were laid under claims, the other European nations contented themselves with expeditions of discovery along the various coasts.

Not long after Columbus had told his triumphant story, the sailors of France-no less skillful and brave than their neighbors to the south-turned the prows of their small ships westward, and entered also upon the perils of the unknown seas. John Denys, as early as 1506, explored the St. Lawrence gulf; and in 1524 Verrazano, an Italian sailor, was sent out by Francis I. of France, reached the American coast near the point now known as Cape Fear, and cruising northward visited the bay of New York and Narragansett bay.

He, also, was searching for a westward passage to India, but was soon convinced that the land before hiin was the part of a great continent before unknown. Returning to France, his report to that effect met such credence that in 1534 Jacques Cartier was sent to America in command of two ships, to explore the country and perhaps found a French colony. He cruised about the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which he named; entered a bay which he called the Bay of Chaleur; landed, and raising the cross and banner of France over the new land, took possession of it in the name of his king. The next year he was sent forth with a still larger following. Pushing cautiously up the St. Lawrence, he reached the present site of Montreal, spent the winter on the St. Lawrence, and carried his party back to France in the following spring. From these movements and others of like character, the French laid claim to that portion of the new world into which the St. Lawrence furnished a pathway, and New France took its place upon the rectified geographies of the day. The feeling with which the Frenchman looked upon the assumption by Spain of an ownership to it all, was well voiced in the imperious utterance of Francis I.: "What! Shall the kings of Spain and Portugal divide all Americà between them, without suffering me to take a share as their brother? I would fain see the article in Adam's will that bequeaths that vast inheritance to them."

Nor was England idle while these stirring scenes were being enacted by her continental neighbors. Her people were a race of sailors, and Canada, Australia and India to-day speak something the British idea of acquired domain. With the English mariner the belief of a northwest passage to India was an inherited faith. The endeavor to seek it became, as Samuel Adams Drake has well stated it, “a field for the brave and adventurous of this nation, who, from year to year, spreading their tattered sails to the frosen blasts of the Polar seas, grimly fought their way on from cape to headland, in desperate venture, lured by the vain hope of finding the open waters of their dreams lying just beyond them. It is a story of daring and peril unsurpassed. Many a noble ship and gallant crew have gone down while attempting to solve those mysteries which

the hand of God would seem forever to have sealed up from the knowledge of man.” It was this dazzling dream that led Henry Hudson, in 1610, to sail into the great bay that bears his name, where his crew wickedly abandoned him and left him to his fate. Yet that bay was still entered by the English navigators, who were sure that it must lead to an open polar sea. "In view of the suffering to which all were alike subject,” continues Drake, “these frostbiting voyages might be said to show more heroism than sound, practical wisdom; yet with the riches of the Indies spead out before their fancy, and all England to applaud their deeds, the best of England's sailors were always ready to peril life and limb for the prize. All who came back told the same tale-of seas sheeted in ice, suns that never set, lands where nothing grew, cold so extreme that all nature seemed but a mockery of the all-wise design of the Creator himself.” So much for the spirit with which England turned her attention toward the new found American coast.

Going back, now, to the year 1497, we see Henry VII. of England authorizing John Cabot to seek not only for new lands that would add to the possessions of the English crown, but also for this northwest passage to Asia. On the twenty-sixth of June he discovered land which was probably the island of Newfoundland. On July 3 he reached the coast of Labrador, which made him the first of modern navigators to discover the continent of America, as Columbus did not reach it until some thirteen months afterwards. He followed the coast line southward some nine hundred miles, and then returned to England. The next year his son Sebastian made a voyage to the same region, also with instructions to seek the northwestern road to India, which, it is needless to say, he did not find. The real discoveries that the Cabots did make won little heed in England, which overlooked the benefits near at hand for those not possible to obtain. But England could not be long in these west Atlantic waters without coming into collision with her foe to the south, and although the road to Asia was not discovered, many of the voyages of English merchants and captains were made profitable by attacks upon Spanish ships and Spanish settlements. In 1577 Sir

Francis Drake set sail from England with five vessels; three years later he sailed back into Plymouth harbor with only one. He had visited the coast of our present California, and, crossing the Pacific ocean, had rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and thus sailed around the globe. With the destruction of the Armada in the English channel in 1588, the power of Spain began to decline, and English and French influences became dominant ere long upon the American side of the


While the Frenchmen at the north, and the Spaniards and Portuguese to the south, were making their way into the wilderness, it is with the English advance that a record of colonial America has principally to deal; for it was not by St. Augustine or the St. Lawrence that came those influences which gave us the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of 1789, but from Plymouth and Jamestown.

The Elizabethan age of England was the witness, with all its glories of literature, discovery and arms, of much suffering and want among the lower classes; and for the needy and unemployed the plan of emigration to the fertile lands across the sea was proposed. By gift of the queen, Sir Humphrey Gilbert was given a patent hy which he was empowered to inhabit and fortify all land in America not then in the occupation of Christian nations. Gathering a company of the unemployed about him, he set sail with five vessels, and in due season reached Newfoundland, where he halted to make repairs. Taking possession in the name of his queen, he again set sail for a more hospitable coast; but a great storm overtook him, and four of the five vessels went down. Only one was left to make its way back to England as best it could, and tell the terrible story of disaster. Sir Walter Raleigh, a half-lrother of Gilbert, who had been a member of the expedition and escaped the fate of his leader, was not discouraged by these ill fortunes. A patent was obtained constituting him lord proprietor, with powers almost unlimited, of “all land which he might discover between the thirty-third and fortieth degrees of north latitude.” Under these ample powers he dispatched two vessels westward, under command of Philip Amidas

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »