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millions of people, governed by similar laws, and speaking the language of Shakespere and Milton, are a part only, of its fruit. mitted to lift the curtain, and unfold the glories that await the future, a population equal to the whole of Europe at no very distant period, would in all probability meet our view. With such speculations, however, we have nothing at present to do :-facts, and facts only, become the his
Although recent discoveries in South America conclusively show, that a living multitude of civilized inhabitants thronged this Western world, when the British Isles were unknown; that the arts and sciences were here taught in great perfection, when our ancestors were wandering in the woods; those discoveries have not as yet been sufficiently developed, to make them the basis of an historic record. We will, therefore, for the present pursue the accustomed track; and suppose, what is generally believed, that the Eastern and Western Continents, till recently, were strangers, and that the latter, at the time of its first discovery, was of but little or no importance.
If facts, says Mr. Irving, in his life of Columbus, are to be inferred from no other than authentic records, the Eastern and Western hemis. pheres, previous to the fifteenth century, were strangers to each other. Some wandering bark, driven by tempests, without compass, across the ocean, may have reached by accident the opposing shore. It revealed, however, if such was the fact, no secrets of the deep, and no one ventured to spread a sail in pursuit of land, wrapped in mystery and peril. The wide waste of waters that intervened was regarded as before, with awe and wonder, and bound the world as with a chaos, which conjecture sought not to penetrate, and enterprise feared to adventure.
Not far from the little town of Palos, in Spain, containing at the present time, about four hundred inhabitants, which subsist chiefly by labor in its neighboring vineyards; there was in 1485, and still is, an ancient convent dedicated to Santa Maria de Rabida. A stranger on foot, in humble guise, but of a distinguished air, accompanied by a small boy, stopped one day at its gate, and asked of the porter a little bread and water for his child. That stranger was Columbus. He had fled from Portugal for debt, whither he had been to tender its monarch the discovery of a world.
To trace the progress of the illustrious stranger in quest of a patron, from the quiet cloisters of La Rabida to the palace of Castile's haughty queen, or to the “ancient and warlike city of Cordova, where prelates and friars mingled in martial conflict, and cardinals and bishops in helm and corslet, laying aside the crozier for the lance, sought new and hitherto untrodden paths to Heaven through heaps of the slain," is not consistent with our design.
His story, however, though oft-repeated, has still its charms. The force of talents—the effect of perseverance, and the result of moral and political integrity, are so strikingly exhibited in the life and conduct of this
daring adventurer, at courts, in palaces, in tempests and in chains, that its relation interests alike the student and the philosopher.
Excluded at Cordova from the brilliant crowd which filled every ave. nue to the throne, in consequence of the humble garb in which his pov. erty compelled him to appear, and driven by necessity to the making of maps and charts for a subsistence, he felt, notwithstanding, the dignity of his race, and the importance of his errand; and at last, by some happy efforts, found his way into the presence of the king. He there plead the cause of a hitherto undiscovered world. The sincerity of his conversation, the elevation of his views, and the practical shrewdness of his arguments, commanded the respect of Ferdinand, though failing to produce conviction. The subject matter, however, of his singular enterprise, was referred to the ablest and most learned men in the realm; and as the treasures of human wisdom were at that time locked up principally in monasteries, and the university of Salamanca was its principal residence, a council of clerical sages composed of its professors, with various dignitaries of the church and learned friars, was convened in its convent by order of the king.
Before this council Columbus appeared. An obscure navigator, destitute of those circumstances which make dullness somewhat oracular, it could hardly be expected would produce a serious or lasting impression on such a mass of inert bigotry and learned pride, as was there assembled. His theory, we need not therefore remark, was of course rejected.
When Columbus had a fair opportunity of being heard, his commanding person, (as we are informed,) his elevated demeanor, his air of authority, his kindling eye, and the persuasive intonations of his voice, gave power to his words; and when the doctrinal objections of his adversaries were set in battle-array against him in the council at Salamanca, his visionary spirit it is said took fire, and casting aside his maps and charts, and discarding for a time his practical and scientific lore, he met them upon their own grounds, and pouring forth “those magnificent texts of Scripture, and those mysterious predictions of the prophets, which in his enthusiastic moments he considered as types and annunciations of the sublime discovery he proposed,” he overwhelmed his learned and preju. diced examiners, with a torrent of words and arguments, which nothing save bigotry could resist.
Ignorance and stupidity, however, for a while prevailed. Other military movements succeeded, and Columbus was forgotten. Regarded by many as a lunatic, the children, we are told, pointed to their foreheads as he passed by, and his theory being at last rejected by the king and queen, he turned his back on Seville, (where the court then resided,) regretting that he had wasted so many years of his life in useless solicitations.
Having sought in vain the patronage of dukes and princes, who had possessions on the coasts, and ports and ships at their command, he returned at last to the humble convent of La Rabida, to take from thence his son, (where, during his absence, its worthy prior had kindly enter. tained him,) and repair to France, whose king had invited him thither.
"The good friar, Juan Perez, was exceedingly moved at Columbus's re. turn, and sent, as he had done before, for his friend, Garcia Fernandez, the physician, and Martin Alonzo Pinzon, a wealthy and distinguished navigator of Palos, (whose subsequent destiny no one can fail to regret,) by whom a council was held. The latter offered to engage in the expedition, and to defray Columbus's expenses to court, for the purpose newing, under the auspices of Juan Perez, an application which had just been rejected. This was the first, and at that time, the only pecuniary assistance received by the latter in aid of his great and glorious undertaking. Juan Perez hastened himself to Grenada, whither the royal court had then removed, and had an interview with the queen. The latter, after several years' solicitations, bethinking herself, for the first time, of Columbus's poverty, sent him twenty thousand maravedis, in florins, (equal to seventy-two silver dollars,) to bear his travelling expenses to Grenada, to provide him with a mule for his journey, and decent apparel to appear at court.
Animated by hope, he set out at once to meet his patron, and arrived at Grenada just in time to witness its surrender. “ He saw the last of the Moorish kings sally forth from the Alhambra, and yield up to his conqueror the keys of that favorite residence of Moslem power. The war which had now raged for seven hundred years between the Christian and the Moor, had ceased; the crescent was prostrate, the cross was exalted, and the standard of Spain floating on its ramparts.
A negotiation was thereupon immediately opened. Unexpected difficulties, however, arose ; Columbus would listen to none but princely conditions, and these were inadmissible. Others were proposed, and being rejected by the latter, the negotiation was, of course, terminated, and to all appearance, for ever.
The loftiness of spirit displayed by Columbus on this occasion, cannot be sufficiently admired. Eighteen years had elapsed since he first published to the world his theory, and announced his intention, by some voy. age of discovery, to test its correctness; that period had been spent in painful but ineffectual efforts, and nothing but necessity could for a mo. ment shake his purpose, or induce him to accept of terms beneath his dignity. He seemed to forget his own obscurity, to overlook his present indigence, and to negotiate, as it were, for empire.
These negotiations, however, being closed, he took leave of his friends at Grenada, early in February, 1492, and mounting his mule, started for Cordova, intending to abandon a country which had made him her sport, and in which he thought he had been treated with indignity. Having pursued his lonely way across the Vega, and passed the bridge of Pinos, about two leagues from Grenada, and begun to ascend the mountain of Elvira, a pass famous in Moorish story, he was overtaken by a messenger from the queen, who informed him that Isabella had espoused his cause, and pledged her jewels to raise the necessary funds.
After hesitating for a moment, he turned the reins of his mule, and sought her presence. Articles of agreement were immediately drawn up by the royal secretary, and signed on the 17th of April, 1492. The sum of seventeen thousand florins, or about three thousand dollars, was afterward advanced, to defray its expenses.
Columbus was now in the fifty-sixth year of his age; disappointments that would have reduced an ordinary man to despair, had hitherto been his lot. His wishes, however, were now attained, and, on the 12th of May, 1492, he set out joyfully for Palos.
The difficulties attending his expedition were now about to commence. The little town of Palos, on the announcement of his mission thither, was filled with consternation; the ships demanded by the royal edict, were regarded in the light of sacrifices, and their crews as so many victims. The order of the sovereign was, therefore, ineffectual; a more absolute mandate, sent thither by an officer of the royal household, fared no better; and, but for the exertions of Martin Alonzo Pinzon, the whole expedition at that time, unquestionably would have failed. The example of the latter was, however, contagious; and in less than four weeks after he had tendered his services and agreed to accompany it, the whole armament was equipped and ready for sea.
It consisted of three small vessels ; two of them light barques, or cara. vals, open and without decks in the centre, high at the prow and stern, with forecastles and cabins for the crew—the other was entirely decked. The largest vessel was of less than a hundred tons burden, and would compare, though imperfectly, with one of the second-rate schooners that navigate our inland seas—the other two would suffer in comparison with the humble craft that bring lumber to Chicago. They were manned with ninety men, and victualled for a year.
Such was the armament provided by a once powerful nation and the most accomplished princess in Europe, for the discovery of a world.
Columbus, having confessed himself and partaken of the sacrament, in which his officers and crew participated, on Friday the 13th day of August, 1492, about half an hour before sunrise, committed himself and his little armament, under the guidance and direction of Heaven, to the open sea.
On arriving at the Canaries, three weeks and upward were consumed in repairs. From thence he embarked, on the 6th of September, when the voyage of discovery in fact was commenced.
On the 9th, the heights of Farro vanished from their view, and everything dear to them on earth was left behind-friends, country, and home. Chaos, mystery, and peril, were alone before them.
Of Columbus's difficulties with his crew—the means to which he had recourse, in order to allay their fears, and his numerous perplexities on the voyage, and afterward, by sea and land, we forbear to speak. They have all been frequently told, and are, or ought to be, familiar to our readers.
Suffice it then, to remark, that on the evening of the 11th of October, 1492, thirty-five days only after leaving the Canaries, when the mari. ners had sung their usual hymn 10 the Virgin, indications of land were so apparent, that Columbus ordered his sails to be furled, and a strict watch to be kept--and when the shades of evening had set in, he took his station on the top of the forecastle or cabin, from whence, at about 10 o'clock, he thought he beheld a light. His suspicions were afterward confirmed, and continuing on his course until about two in the morning, a gun from the Pinta (one of the vessels in his little fleet) announced the signal of land.
In spite of every obstacle, he had now accomplished his object. The mystery of the ocean was at once revealed. The truth of his theory, which had been the sport even of sages, was confirmed, and he was im. mortal.
As the morning dawned, an island of surpassing beauty,* verdant with forests, and loaded with fruits of a tempting hue, spread its treasures before him. Its inhabitants, issuing from the woods and running to all parts of the shore, were seen gazing on his fleet, and from their attitudes and gestures, appeared to be amazed. They had seen his vessels with their sails spread, hovering on their coast, and advancing in solemn majesty to their shores, and “had an army of Milton's celestial angels, robed in light, sporting in the bright beams of the sun, redoubling their splendor, and making divine harmony with their golden harps,” issued from the deep, it would have excited no other or greater surprise. On the 11th of October, 1492—a day ever memorable in the annals of
-Columbus landed, with a drawn sword in his hand, (the fit emblem, though at that time undesigned, of what succeeded,) and took possession of the country in the names of Ferdinand and Isabella. Supposing he had landed on an island at the extremity of India, he called the inhabitants by the appellation of Indians, which has since universally been adopted, and extended to the aboriginal inhabitants of the whole Western Continent.
In contemplating the effects of this discovery, the human imagination is perfectly bewildered.
The emotions it created, no language can express. The consequences which followed, no pen can describe. Its original inhabitants have not been the only parties in interest. The inhabitants of other realms, and of other continents, sometimes with, and sometimes without their consent, have participated therein, either for weal or for wo.
The character and habits, origin and destination, of the aborigines, being at all times subjects of interest, and especially at the present time, demand, and of course will next receive, our attention.
Mr. Irving, in his biography of Columbus, having taken him up in boyhood, or as soon as he could find him-having sailed with him to the uttermost parts of the eartb-having watched over him at sea, and messed with him on shore-having stood by him through
* St. Salvador, one of the Bahama islands.