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THE UNITED STATES.
DISCOVERY OF AMERICA.
SEVERAL of the European nations have laid claim to the discovery of America, prior to the expedition of Columbus. The Welsh historians affirm that Madoc, a prince of their country, embarked from his native land as early as 1170, and, sailing westward, discovered those regions to which the name of America was afterwards given. But this claim rests upon remote and unfounded traditions, and is, therefore, entitled to no credit.
Similar pretensions are urged in favour of the Norwegians and Icelanders; but a careful examination of all the authori. tie on the subject has led recent orians to the conclusion that the discoveries of these nations extended no farther than Greenland; to the more southern portion of which territory they gave the name of Vinland.
To Christopher Columbus, therefore, belongs the glory of having made the first discovery of the western world. At a time when geographical science had long slept in Europe, when distant voyages were rare, and discoverers were few, timid, and ignorant, this extraordinary man formed the noble design of crossing the Atlantic Ocean in search of new regions. His opinion, that such an enterprise would be attended with success, was not unsupported by plausible facts and reasonings. Though, in the fifteenth century, the information of geographers was incorrect as well as scanty, certain observations had been recorded which supported
Who have laid claim to the discovery Are these claims well founded ? of America ?
Who was the discoverer?
THE PORTUGUESE DISCOVERIES
his theory. From the form of the earth's shadow on the moon in an eclipse it had been inferred that its shape was globular; and tolerably accurate ideas had been conceived of its magnitude. It was, therefore, apparent that Europe, Asia, and Africa could occupy but a small portion of its surface, and it seemed highly improbable that the remaining portion was one vast ocean., Travellers in the east had reported that Asia extended very far in that direction, and the rotundity of the earth being known, it was inferred that the East Indies might be reached by holding a course directly west from Europe.
These reasonings were not unsupported by striking facts. Pieces of wood, nicely carved, and apparently borne from a far country, had been thrown on the western coast of the Madeiras. A tree of an unknown species had been taken out of the ocean near the Azores; and the bodies of two inen, of strange colour and unusual appearance, had been found upon the coast.
From these circumstances Columbus inferred the exist ence of the regions which he afterwards discovered, and the possibility of reaching them by sailing to the west.
At this period the favourite object of discovery was a passage to the East Indies by sea.
The Venetians had, by their advantageous position, and their great commercial activity, hitherto engrossed the profitable trade of that country; and thus excited the envy and jealousy of the other nations of Europe. Their communication with the East Indies was principally over land. Others were attempting a passage by sea. From the commencement of the fif. teenth century, the Portuguese had been extending their discoveries along the western coast of Africa towards the south, and had nearly doubled the Cape of Good Hope. They were destined soon to attain this grand object, and establish a lucrative trade in the rare productions of the East.
To find a shorter and more direct route to India was the immediate object of Columbuis in proposing to undertake a voyage of discovery. The rich returns of oriental coinmerce formed the chief inducement which he urged upon those sovereigns, to whom he submitted his project, with a view to gain their support and patronage.
What led him to the undertaking ?
vory in Columbus's time?
What is said of the Venetians ?
COLUMBUS IN SPAIN.
13 He first applied to the government of Genoa, his native country; but here his offer was rejected, probably in consequence of the decline of commercial enterprise among the Genoese. He then made application to King John II, of Portugal, a monarch who had liberally encouraged voyages of discovery. Here he met with no better success; for the king, having referred the matter to his counsellors, was by them discouraged from lending his support to a project which they represented as extravagant and visionary. This wise opinion did not, however, prevent the Portuguese government from secretly fitting out an expedition, which was intended to deprive Columbus of the glory of his discovery. The return of this expedition, without success, having apprized Columbus of the treachery designed against him, he left the country in disgust. It was about this period that he despatched his brother, Bartholomew Columbus, to Eng. land, for the purpose of gaining the patronage of Henry VII in support of his project. The voyage, however, was attended with so much delay, that that sovereign was not enabled to complete his arrangements, and make known his favourable disposition to Christopher Columbus, until the discovery had actually been effected.
Disappointed in his applications to other courts, Columbus, in 1486, applied to that of Spain. The sovereigns of this country, Ferdinand and Isabella, were at that time engaged in expelling the Moors from Granada, their last stronghold on the peninsula; and it was not until the war was terminated that Columbus was enabled to obtain a favourable hearing. He had been for upwards of six years urging his suit without success, and was about quitting the country for England, when, by order of Isabella, he was desired to relinquish his intention of applying to other courts, and invited into her presence, with distinguished marks of condescension and respect.
• The character and disposition of Columbus, observes a recent writer, * • were such as highly recommended him to the rulers of Spain. To that quickness and decision which are the usual indications of genius, he added that solemnity
To whom did he first apply?
What was his success? With what success ?
To whom did Columbus next apply? To whom next?
What was the result ? Of what treachery were the Portu- What were Columbus's character and guese guilty ?
deportment? Who was sent to England ?
* In the Edinburgh Encyclopedia.
of aspect, and gravity of manners, which the Spanish cultivate with so much care, and which serve to distinguish them from the other nations of Europe. His appearance was dignified, and his behaviour respectful ; he was resolute in his purposes, and firm in his demands.'
At his interview with Isabella, he relaxed in nothing of what he had originally proposed: the conditions on which he declared himself willing to undertake the expedition were still the same :-that he should be appointed admiral of all the seas which he might explore, and governor of all the continents and islands which he might visit; that these offices should be hereditary in his family, and that the tenth of every thing bought, bartered, found, or got, within the bounds of his admiralship, abating only the charge of the conquest, should be settled upon him, and should descend to his heirs in case of his death.'
He desired that a small fleet should be equipped, and put under his command, for the proposed discovery; and, to show his own confidence in the undertaking, he offered to advance an eighth part of the money which would be necesa sary for building the ships, provided he should be allowed a proportionate share of the profits resulting from the enterprise.
Juan Perez, guardian of the monastery of La Rabida, near the town of Palos, one of the earliest friends of Columbus in Spain, had obtained for him the honour of an interview with Isabella. Perez was the queen's confessor, and an ecclesiastic of great influence and respectability. By his representations, together with those of Alonzo de Quintanilla and Luis de St. Angel, officers of distinction under the Spanish crown, a favourable hearing was granted to the propositions of Columbus. They stated to the queen that he was a man of commanding talents and high integrity, well informed in geography, and skilled in navigation ; they spoke to her of the glory which would result from the enterprise, and which would for ever attach to her reign; and of the extension of the Christian religion, which would be disseminated in the countries to be discovered.
These representations of Quintanilla and St. Angel, and the favourable state of the kingdom, just freed from the last remnant of the Moorish invaders, afforded prevailing motives with the queen for engaging Columbus in her service on his own terms. A fleet was ordered to be fitted out from the
What terms did he offer to the queen
What was their success?
17 port of Palos. It consisted of three vessels of inconsiderable size, such as would by no means be deemed suitable for a voyage across the Atlantic at the present day. They were victualled for twelve months, and had on board ninety mariners, with several private adventurers and servants ; amounting in all to one hundred and twenty persons. The whole expense of the expedition was but about twenty thousand dollars. But even this was considered by the statesmen of the time too great an expenditure for so uncertain an enterprise.
When the squadron was ready for sailing, Columbus, with his officers and crew, went in solemn procession to the monastery of La Rabida, and after confessing their sins and partaking of the communion, they committed themselves to the protection of Heaven, and took leave of their friends, whom they left full of gloomy apprehensions with respect to their perilous undertaking.
It was on the morning of the 3d of August, 1492, that Columbus set sail from the harbour of Palos, in the Santa Maria, the largest vessel of his squadron. The others were called the Pinta and the Nina : the former commanded by Martin Alonzo Pinzon, and the latter by Vincent Yanez Pinzon, his brother. On the 6th of August they came in sight of the Canaries. Among these islands they were detained more than three weeks, endeavouring to procure another vessel to supply the place of the Pinta, which had suffered some injury in her rudder. The Pinta was finally repaired, and on the 6th of September, Columbus set sail from Gomera, one of the Canaries, and began his voyage on the unknown deep.
On the 13th of September, the squadron was distant nearly 200 leagues from the most westerly of the Canaries. Here the magnetic needle was observed to vary from its direction towards the polar star, a phenomenon which had not before been observed ; and which, of course, filled the mariners with alarm, since it appeared to withdraw from them their only guide upon the pathless ocean. Columbus was by no means disheartened by this appearance. He invented a plausible reason for it; and succeeded in reconciling his crew to their further progress. Their discontent, however, speedily broke fórth anew, and all the self-possession and
How did Columbus prepare for em- What alarmed the crew ? barking?
How were they reconciled to his Where was he detained ?
further progress ? Where was he on the 13th of Septem- What followed ? ber?