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and conduct of the voyage, they committed implicitly to the disposal of his prudence. But, that they might avoid giving any just cause of of. fence to the king of Portugal, they strictly enjoined him not to approach near to the Portuguese settlements on the coast of Guinea, or in any of the other countries to which the Portuguese claimed right as discoverers. Isabella had ordered the ships, of which Columbus was to take the command, to be fitted out in the port of Palos, a small maritime town in the province of Andalusia. As the guardian Juan Perez, to whom Columbus has already been so much indebted, resided in the neighbourhood of this place, he, by the influence of that good ecclefiaftic, as well as by his own connection with the inhabitants, not only raised among them what he wanted of the sum that he was bound by treaty to ad. vance, but engaged several of them to accompany him in the voyage. The chief of these associates were three brothers of the name of Pin. zon, of confiderable wealth, and of great experience in naval affairs, who were willing to hazard their lives and fortunes in the expedition,
But, after all the efforts of Isabella and Columbus, the armament was not suitable, either to the dignity of the nation by which it was equiped, or to the importance of the service for which it was destined. It consisted of three vessels. The largest, a ship of no considerable burden, was commanded by Columbus, as admiral, who gave it the name of Santa Maria, out of respect for the Blessed Virgin, whom he honoured with fingular devotion. Of the second, called the Pinta, Martin Pinzon was captain, and his brother Francis pilot. The third, named the Nigna, was under the command of Vincent Yanez Pinzon. These two were light vessels, hardly superior in burden or force to large boats. This squadron, if it merits that name, was victualled for twelve months, and had on board ninety men, mostly sailors, together with a few adventurers who followed the fortune of Columbus, and some gentlemen of Isabella's court, whom she appointed to accompany him. Though the
expence of the undertaking was one of the circumstances which chiefly alarmed the court of Spain, and retarded so long the neó gociation with Columbus, the sum employed in fitting out this squadron did not exceed four thousand pounds.
As the art of ship-building in the fifteenth century was extremely rude, and the bulk of vessels was accommodated to the short and easy voyages along the coast which they were accustomed to perform, it is a proof of the courage as well as enterprising genius of Columbus, that he ventured, with a fleet so unfit for a distant navigation, to explore unknown seas, where he had no chart to guide him, no knowledge of the wides and currents, and no experience of the dangers to which he might
be exposed. His eagerness to accomplish the great design which had fo long engrossed his thoughts, made him overlook or disregard every cir. cumstance that would have intimidated a mind less adventurous. He pushed forward the preparations with such ardour, and was seconded fo effectually by the persons to whom Isabella committed the fuperin. tendence of this business, that every thing was soon in readiness for the voyage. But as Columbus was deeply impressed with sentiments of religion, he would not set out upon an expedition so arduous, and of which one great object was to extend the knowledge of the Christian faith, without imploring publicly the guidance and protection of Heaven. With this view, he, together with all the persons under his command, marched in folemn proceslion to the monastery of Rabida. After con« selling their sins, and obtaining absolution, they received the holy facrament from the hands of the guardian, who joined his prayers to theirs for the success of an enterprise which he had so zealously patronized.
Next morning, being Friday the third day of August, in the year one thousand four hundred and ninety-two, Columbus set fail, a little before fun-rife, in presence of a vast crowd of spectators, who sent up their fupplications to Heaven for the prosperous issue of the voyage, which they wished, rather than expected. Columbus fteered directly for the Canary Islands, and arrived there, August 13, 1492, without any occurrence that would have deserved notice on any other occasion. But, in a voyage of such expectation and importance, every circumftance was the object of attention. The rudder of the Pinta broke loose, the day after fhe left the harbour, and that accident alarmed the crew, no less superAtitious than unskilful, as a certain omen of the unfortunate destiny of the expedition. Even in the short run to the Canaries, the ships were found to be so crazy and ill appointed, as to be very improper for a navigation which was expected to be both long and dangerous. Columbus refitted them, however, to the best of his power, and having supplied himself with fresh provisions he took his departure from Gomera, one of the most weiterly of the Canary islands, on the fixth day of September.
Here the voyage of discovery may properly be said to begin; for Columbus holding his course due west, left immediately the usual track of navigation, and stretched into unfrequented and unknown seas. The first day, as it was very calm, he made but little way; but on the fecond, he loft fight of the Canaries; and many of the sailors, dejected already and dismayed, when they contemplated the boldness of the undertaking, began to beat their breasts, and to shed tears, as if they were never more to behold land. Columbus comforted them with assurances of success, and the prospect of vast wealth, in those opulent regions whither he was conducting them. This early discovery of the spirit of his followers
taught Columbus, that he must prepare to struggle, not only with the anavoidable difficulties which might be expected from the nature of his undertaking, but with such as were likely to arise from the ignorance and timidity of the people under his command; and he perceived that the art of governing the minds of men would be no less requisite for accomplishing the discoveries which he had in view, than naval skill and undaunted courage. Happily for himself, and for the country by which he was employed, he joined to the ardent temper and inventive genius of a projector, virtues of another species, which are rarely united with them. He poffefsed a thorough knowledge of mankind, an infinuating address, a patient perfeverance in executing any plan, the perfect government of his passions, and the talent of acquiring an ascendant over those of other
All these qualities, which formed him for command, were accompanied with that superior knowledge of his profession, which begets confidence in times of difficulty and danger. To unskilful Spanish failors, accustomed only to coafting voyages in the Mediterranean, the maritime science of Columbus, the fruit of thirty years experience, improved by an acquaintance with all the inventions of the Portuguese, appeared immense. As soon as they put to fea, he regulated every thing by his sole authority; he fuperintended the execution of every order; and allowing himself only a few hours for sleep, he was at all other times upon deck. As his course lay through seas which had not formerly been visited, the sounding-line, or instruments for obfervation, were continually in his hands. After the example of the Portuguese discover. ers, he attended to the motion of tides and currents, watched the flight of birds, the appearance of fishes, of sea-weeds, and of every thing that floated on the waves, and entered every occurrence, with a minute exactness, in the journal which he kept. As the length of the voyage could not fail of alarming failors habituated only to short excursions, Columbus endeavoured to conceal from them the real progrefs which they made. With this view, though they run eighteen leagues on the second day after they lest Gomera, he gave out that they had advanced enly fifteen, and he uniformly employed the same artifice of reckoning short during the whole voyage. By the fourteenth of September, the fieet was above two hundred leagues to the west of the Canary Ines, at a greater distance from land than any Spaniard had been before that time. There they were ftruck with an appearance no less astonishing than new. They observed that the magnetic needle, in their compasses, did not point exactly to the polar ftar, but varied towards the weit; and as they proceeded, this variation increased. This appearance, which is now familiar, though it still remains one of the mysteries of nature, into the
cause of which the fagacity of man hath not been able to penetrate, filled the companions of Columbus with terror. They were now in a boundless unknown ocean, far from the usual course of navigation; nature itself seemed to be altered, and the only guide which they had left was about to fail them. Columbus, with no less quickness than ingenuity, invented 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.
He still continued to fteer due west, nearly in the same latitude with the Canary islands. In this course he came within the sphere of the trade wind, which blows invariably from east to west, between the tropics and a few degrees beyond them. He advanced before this steady gale with such uniform rapidity, that it was seldom neceffary to fhift a fail. When about four hundred leagues to the west of the Canaries, he found the sea fo covered with weeds, that it resembled a meadow of vast extent; and in some places they were so thick, as to retard the motion of the vessels. This strange appearance occasioned new alarm and disquiet, The failors imagined that they were now arrived at the utmost boundary of the navigable ocean; that these floating weeds would obstruct their farther progress, and concealed dangerous rocks, or some large tract of land, which had sunk, they knew not how, in that place. Columbus endeavoured to persuade them, that what had alarmed, ought rather to have encouraged them, and was to be considered as a sign of approaching land. At the same time, a brisk gale arose, and carried them forward. Several birds were seen hovering about the ship*, and directed their flight towards the west. The desponding crew resumed fome degree of fpirit, and began to entertain fresh hopes.
* As the Portuguese, in making their discoveries, did not depart far from the coast of Africą, they concluded that birds, whose flight they observed with great attention, did not venture to any considerable distance from land. In the infancy of navigation, it was not known, that birds often stretch their flight to an immense distance from any fhore. In failing towards the West-Indian islands, birds are often seen at the distance of two hundred leagues from the nearest coast, Sloane’s Nat. Hift. of Jamaica, vol. i. p. 30. Catesby saw an owląt sea, when the ship was fix hundred leagues distant from land. Nat. Hift. of Carolina, pref. p. 7. Hist. Naturelle de M. Buffon, tom. xvi. P: 32. From which it appears, that this indication of land, on which Columbus seems to have relied with some confidence, was extremely uncertain. This observation is confirmed by Captain Cook, the most extenlive and experienced navigator of any age or nation. “ No one yet knows (says hed) to what distance any of the oceanic birds go to fea; for my own part, I do not believe that there is one in the whole tribe that can be relied on in poințing out the vicinity of land," Yoyage towards the South Pole, vol. i, P: 275:
Upon the first of October they were, according to the admiral's reckoning, feven hundred and seventy leagues to the west of the Canaries ; but left his men should be intimidated by the prodigious length of navigation, he gave out that they had proceeded only five hundred and eighty-four leagues; and, fortunately for Columbus, neither his own pilot, nor those of the other ships, had ikill sufficient to correct this error, and discover the deceit. They had now been above three weeks at sea; they had proceeded far beyond what former navigators had attempted or deemed possible; all their prognostics of discovery, drawn from the flight of birds and other circumstances, had proved fallacious; the appearances of land, with which their own credulity or the artifice of their commander had from time to time flattered and amused them, had been altogether illufive, and their prospect of success seemed Dow to be as distant as ever. These reflections occurred often to men, who had no other object or occupation, than to reason and discourse concerning the intention and circumstances of their expedition. They made impression, at first, upon the ignorant and timid, and extending, by degrees, to such as were better informed or more resolute, the
contagion spread at length from ship to thip. From secret whispers or murmurings, they proceeded to open cabals and public complaints. They taxed their sovereign with inconsiderate credulity, in paying fuch regard to the vain promises and rafh conjectures of an indigent foreigner, as to hazard the lives of so many of her own subjects, in prosecuting a chimerical scheme. They affirmed that they had fully performed their daty, by venturing so far in an unknown and hopeless course, and could incur no blame, for refusing to follow, any longer, a desperate adventurer to certain destruction, They contended, that it was necessary to think of returning to Spain, while their crazy vessels were still in a condition to keep the fea, but expressed their fears that the attempt would prove vain, as the wind, which had hitherto been so favourable to their course, must render it impossible to fail in the opposite direction. All agreed that Columbus should be compelled by force to adopt a measure on which their common safety depended, Some of the more audacious proposed, as the most expeditious and certain method for getting rid at once of his remonftrances, to throw him into the sea, being persuaded that, upon their return to Spain, the death of an unsuccessful projector would excite little concern, and be inquired into with no curiosity.
Columbus was fully sensible of his perilous situation. He had observed, with great uneasiness, the fatal operation of ignorance and of fear in producing disaffection among his crew, and saw that it was now ready