תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

He warmly approved it,-suggested several facts in confirmation of it, and encouraged Columbus in an undertaking so laudable, and which promised so much benefit to the world.

Having fully satisfied himself with respect to the truth of his fyftem, he, became impatient to reduce it to practice. The first step towards this, was to secure the patronage of some of the European powers. Accordingly he laid his scheme before the senate of Genoa, making his native country the first tender of his services. They rejected his proposal, as the dream of a chimical projector. He next applied to John II. king of Portugal, a monarch of an enterprising genius, and no incompetent judge of naval affairs. The king listened to him in the most gracious manner, and referred the confideration of his plan to a number of eminent cosmographers, whom he was accustomed to consult in matters of this kind. These men, from

mean and interested views, started innumerable objections, and asked many captious questions, on purpose to betray Columbus into a full explanation of his system. Having done this, they advised the king to dispatch a vessel, secretly, in order to attempt the proposed discovery, by following exactly the course which Columbus had pointed out. John, forgetting on this occasion the sentiments becoming a monarcb, meanly adopted their perfidious counsel.

Upon discovering this dishonourable transaction, Columbus, with an indignation natural to a noble and ingenious mind, quitted the kingdom, and landed in Spain in 1484.

Here he presented his scheme, in person, to Ferdinand and Isabella, who at that time governed the united kingdoms of Castile and Arragon. They injudiciously submitted it to the examination of unskilful judges, who ignorant of the principles on which Columbus founded his theory, rejected it as absurd, upon the credit of a maxim under which the unenterprising, in every age, shelter themselves, “ That it is presumptuous in any person, " to suppose that he alone possesses knowledge, superior to all the rest of “ mankind united.” They maintained, likewise, that if there were really any such countries as Columbus pretended, they would not have remained so long concealed: nor would the wisdom and fagacity of former ages have left the glory of this discovery to an obscure Genoese pilot.

Meanwhile, Columbus, who had experienced the uncertain issue of applications to kings, had taken the precaution of sending into England his brother Bartholomew, to whom he had fully communicated his ideas, to negociate the matter with Henry VII. On his voyage to England, he fell into the hands of pirates, who stripped him of every thing, and detained him a prisoner several years. At length he made his escape, and arrived at London in extreme indigence, where he employed himself some time in fell. ing maps. With his gains he purchased a decent dress; and in person presented to the king the proposals which his brother had entrusted to his management. Notwithstanding Henry's excessive caution and parsimony, he received the proposals of Columbus with more approbation than any monarch to whom they had been presented.

After several unsuccessful applications to other European powers of less note, he was induced, by the intreaty and interposition of Perez a man of confiderable learning, and of some credit with queen Isabella, to apply

again to the court of Spain. This application, after much warm debate and several mortifying repulses, proved successful; not however, without the most vigorous and persevering exertions of Quintanilla and Santangel, two vigilant and discerning patrons of Columbus, whose meritorious zeal in promoting this grand delign, entitles their names to an honourable place in history. It was however, to Queen Isabella, the munificent Patroness of his noble and generous designs, that Columbus ultimately owed his success.

Having thus obtained the assistance of the court, a squadron of three small vefsels was fitted out, victualled for twelve months, and furnished with ninety men. The whole expence did not exceed to.4000. Of this squadron Columbus was appointed admiral.

On the 3d of August, 1492, he left Spain in the presence of a crowd of spectators, who united their fupplications to Heaven for his fuccefs. He fteered directly for the Canary Idlands, where he arrived and refitted, as well as he could, his crazy and ill appointed fleet. Hence he failed, September 6th, a due western course into an unknown ocean.

Columbus now found a thousand unforeseen hardships to encounter, which demanded all his judgment, fortitude and address to surmount. Befides the difficulties, unavoidable from the nature of his undertaking, he had to struggle with those which arose from the ignorance and timidity of the people under his command. On the 14th of September he was aftonished to find that the magnetic needle in their compass, did not point exactly to the polar ftar, but varied toward the west, and as they proceeded, this variation increased. This new phenomenon filled the companions of Columbus with terror, Nature itself seemed to have sustained a change ; and the only guide they had left, to point them to the safe retreat from an unbounded and trackless ocean, was about to fail them. Columbus, with no less quickness than ingenuity, assigned a reason for this appearance, which though it did not satisfy himself, seemed so plausible to them, that it dispelled their fears, or filenced their murmurs.

The failors, always discontented, and alarmed at their distance from land, several tiines mutinied, threatened once to throw their admiral overboard, and repeatedly infifted on his returning. Columbus, on these trying occafions, displayed all that cool deliberation, prudence, foothing address and firmnels, which were necessary for a person engaged in a discovery, the most interesting to the world of any ever undertaken by man.

It was on the 11th of October, 1492, at ten o'clock in the evening, that Columbus, from the fore-castle, descried a light. At two o'clock next morning, Roderic Triana discovered land. The joyful tidings were quickly communicated to the other ships. The morning light confirmed the report; and the several crews immediately began Te Deum, as a hymn of thanksgiving to God, and mingled their praises with tears of joy, and transports of congratulation, Columbus, richly dressed, with a drawn sword in his hand, was the first European who set foot in the New World which he had discovered. The island on which he thus first landed, he called St. Sal. vador. It is one of that large cluster of islands, known by the name of the Lucaya or Bahama Illes. He afterwards touched at several of the jdlands in the same cluster, enquiring every where for gold, which he

thought

over

thought was the only object of commerce worthy his attention. In steering fouthward he discovered the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola, abounding in all the necessaries of life, and inhabited by a humane and hospitable people.

On his return he was overtaken with a storm, which had nearly proved fatal to his ships and their crews. At a crisis when all was given up for loft, Columbus had presence of mind enough to retire into his cabin, and to write upon parchment a short account of his voyage. This he wrapped in an oiled cloth, which he inclosed in a cake of wax, put it into a tight calk, and threw it into the sea, in hopes that some fortunate accident might preserve a deposit of so much importance to the world. He arrived at Palos in Spain, whence he had failed the year before, on the 15th of March, 1493. He was welcomed with all the acclamations which the populace are ever ready to bestow on great and glorious characters; and the court received him with marks of the greatest respect.

In September of this year, (1493) Columbus failed upon his second voyage to America ; during the performance of which, he discovered the islands of Dominga, Marigalante, Gaudelupe, Montserrat, Antigua, Porto Rico and Jamaica ; and returned to Spain in 1496.

In 1498 he failed a third time for America ; and on the ift of August discovered the CONTINENT. He then coasted along wettward, making other discoveries for 200 leagues, to Cape Vela, from which he crossed

to Hispaniola, where he was seized bya new Spanish Governor, and sent home in chains.

In 1502 Columbus made his fourth voyage to Hispaniola ; thence he went over to the Continent_discovered the bay of Honduras ; thence failed along the main shore easterly 200 leagues, to Cape Gracias a Dios, Veragua, Porto Bello and the Gulf of Darien.

The jealous and avaricious Spaniards, not immediately receiving those golden advanteges which they had promised, and lost to the feelings of humanity and gratitude, suffered their esteem and admiration of Columbus to degenerate into ignoble envy.

The latter part of his life was made wretched by the cruel perfecutions of his enemies. Queen Isabelle, his friend and patroness, was no longer alive to afford him relief. He fought redress from Ferdinand, but in vain. Disgusted with the ingratitude of a monarch, whom he had served with so much fidelity and success, exhausted with hardships, and broken with the infirmities which these brought upon him, Columbus ended his active and useful life at Valladolid, on the 20th of May, 1506, in the 59th year of his age. He died with a composure of mind suited to the magnanimity which distinguished his character, and with sentiments of piety becoming that supreme respect for religion which he manifested in

every

occurrence of his life. He was gravemmthough courteous in his deportment, circumspect in his words and actions, irreproachable in his morals, and exemplary in all the duties of his religion. The courts of Spain were so just to his memory, notwithstanding their ingratitude towards hiin during his life, that they buried him magnificently in the Cathedral of Seville, and erected a tomb over him with this inscription,

COLUMBUS has given a New WORLD
To the KINGDOMS of Castile and Leon.

Among

.Among other adventurers to the New World in pursuit of Gold, was Armericus Vespucius, a Florentine gentleman, whom Ferdinand had apprinted to draw sea charts, and to whom he bad given the title of chief Dilot. This man accompanied Ojeda, an enterprizing Spanish adventurer, to America; and having with much art, and some degree of elegance, drawn up an amusing history of his voyage, he published it to the world. It circulated rapidly, and was read with admiration. In his narrative he had insinuated that the glory of having first discovered the continent in the New World, belonged to him. This was in part believed, and the country began to be called after the name of its supposed first discoverer. The unaccountable caprice of mankind has perpetuated the error ; so that now, by the universal consent of all nations, this new quarter of the globe is called AMERICA. The name of Americus has supplanted that of Columbus, and rankind are left to regret an act of injustice, which, having been fanctioned by time, they can never redress.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF AMERICA.

BOUNDARIES and EXTENT.

THE Continent of America, of the discovery of which a succinct T

account has just been given, extends from Cape Horn, the southern extremity of the Continent in latitude 56° south, to the north pole ; and spreads between the 40th degree cast, and the 100th degree weft longitude from Philadelphia. It is nearly ten thousand miles in length from north to south, its mean breadt! has never been ascertained. This extensive continent lies between the Pacific Occcan on the west, and the At. lantic on the east. It is faid to contain upwards 14,000,000 square miles.

Climate, Soil, and Productions.] In regard to each of these, America has all the varieties which the earth affords. It stretches through the whole width of the five zones, and feels the heat and cold of two summers and two winters in every year. Most of the animal and vegetable productions which the eastern continent affords, are found here ; and many that are peculiar to America.

Rivers.] This continent is watered by some of the largest rivers in the world. The principal of these, are Rio de la Plata, the Amazon and Oronoke in South America— The Miffissippi and St. Lawrence in NorthAmerica.

Gulfs.] The Gulf or Bay of Mexico, lying in the form of a bason between North and South America, and opening to the east, is conjectured by some, to have been formerly land; and that the constant attrition of the waters of the Gulf Stream, has worn it to its present form.

The water in the Gulf of Mexico is said to be many yards higher, than on the western fide of the continent in the Pacific Occean.

Gulf Stream.] The Gulf Stream is a remarkable current in the Ocean, of a circular form, beginning on the coast of Africa, in the climates where

the

the trade winds blow wefterly, thence running across the Atlantic, and betwen the Inands of Cuba and South America into the Bay of Mexico, from which it finds a passage between Cape Florida and the Bahama INands, and runs north-easterly along the American coaft to Newfoundland; thence to the European ccait, and along the coast southerly till it meets the trade winds. It is about 75 miles from the shores of the southern states. The distance increases as you proceed northward. The width of the stream is about 40 or go miles, widening toward the north, and its common rapi. Jity three miles an hour.--A north-east wind narrows the stream, renders it more rapid, and drives it nearer the coast ; north-west and west winds have a contrary effect.

Mountains.] The Andes in South America, stretch along the Pacifie Ocean from the Ifthmus of Darien, to the Straits of Magellan, 4300 miles. The height of Chimborazo, the most elevated point in this vaft chain of mountains, is 20,280 feet; above sooo feet higher than any other mountain in the known world.

North America, though an uneven country, has no remarkably high mountains. The moft considerable, are those known under the general name of the Allegany Mountains : These stretch along in many broken ridges under different names, from Hudson's River to Georgia. The Ardes and the Allegary Mountains are probably the same range, interrupted by the Gulf of Mexico. It hath been conjectured that the West India islands were formerly united with each other, and formed a part of the continent, connecting North and South America. Their present difjointed situation is supposed to have been occasioned by the trade winds. It is well known that they produce a ftrong and continual current from east to west, which by beating against the continent for a long course of years, must produce furprising, alterations, and may have produced such an effect as has been supposed.

Number of Inhabitants.] It has been supp fd that there are 160 millions of inhabitants in America. It is believed, however, that this account is exaggerated at least one half. This number is composed of Indians, Ne. groes, Mulattoes, and some of almost every nation in Europe.

Aborigines.] The characteristical features of the Indians of America, are, a very small forehead covered with hair from the extremities to the middle of the eyebrows. They have little black eyes, a thin nose, small and bending towards the upper lip. The countenance broad; the features coarse, the ears large and far from the face; their hair very black, lank and coarse. Their limbs small but well turned ; the body tall, ftrait, of a copper colour, and well proportioned; strong and active, but not fitted for much labour. Their faces smooth and free from beard, owing to a cuftom among them of pulling it out by the roots. Their countenances at first view appear mild and innocent, but upon a critical inspection, they discover something wild, diftruftful and fullen. They are dextrous with their bows and arrows; fond of adorning themselves with ftrings of beads and shells about their necks, and plates in their ears and noses. In summer they go almost naked; but in winter they cover themselves with the skins of beasts taken in hunting, which is their principal employment. They many times torture their prisoners in the

most

[ocr errors]
« הקודםהמשך »