Abbildungen der Seite





will appear

1. The discovery of America has led to events unrivalled in modern history, and we cannot sufficiently admire that steady unconquerable resolution, that amazing force of mind which carried Columbus, the first bold discoverer, through all opposition, and over innumerable obstacles, to the ultimate end of his grand design. The intelligent reader will be agreeably entertained in following this skilful navigator, through unknown seas, in scarch of a New World : every little incident during thc voyage

of sufficient magnitude to fix the attention, and excite a strong sympathy with the adventurous chief, in all the various turns of his fortune.

2. According to Dr. Robertson, Christopher Columbus was born in the year 1447 A. D. : the place of his birth is not ascertained, but it appears he was a subject of the Republic of Genoa, and was allured into the service of the Portuguesc by the famc of their discoveries : he was descended from an hon. orablc family, though reduced to indigence by various misfortunes.

3. Columbus discovered, in his early youth, a strong proÀ pensity and talents for a sea-faring life: this propensity his pa

rents encouraged by the education they gave him : after acquiring somc knowledge of the Latin tongur, the only language in which science was taught, at that time, he was instructed in geometry, cosmography, astronomy, and the art of drawing. To these he applied with such unremitted ardor, as they were so intimately connected with his favorite object, navi

gation, that he advanced with rapid proficiency in the study of ị them. Thus qualified, he went to sea at the age of fourtcen,

and began his career on that clement, which conducted him to so much glory. His early voyages were to those ports in the Mediterranean which his countrymen, the Genocse, frequented. This being too narrow a spherc' for his active mind, he made

an excursion to the northern seas, and visited the coast of Iceland; he proceeded beyond that island, the Ultima Thule of the ancients, and advanced several degrees within the polar circle.

4. This voyage enlarged his knowledge in naval affairs more than it improved his fortune ; afterwards he entered into the service of a famous sea captain of his own name and fam. ily. This man commanded a small squadron, fitted out at his own expense, and, by cruising against the Mahometans, and the Venetians, the rivals of his country in trade, had acquired both wealth and reputation. Columbus continued in the service of this captain for several ycars, distinguished both for his courage and experience as a sailor : at length, in an obstinate cngagement off the coast of Portugal, with some Venetian caravels, returning richly laden from the Low Couniries, the vessel on board of which he was, took fire, together with one of the enemy's ships, to which it was fast grappled.

5. In this creadful extremity his intrepidity and presence of a inind did not forsake him ; for, throwing himself into the sea, te and laying hold of a floating oar, by his own dexterity in swimming, hc reached the shore, though abovc two leagues dis- van tant. Thus was a lise preserved for greater undertakings.

6. When he had recovered sufficient strength, he repaired to to Lisbon, where many of his countrymen resided : they warmly :::olicited him to stay in that kingdom, where his naval skill and we (xperience could not fail of procuring him that reward, which end his merit cntitled him to. Columbus listened with a favorable car to the advice of his friends; married a Portuguese lady, and fixed his residence at Lisbon. By this alliance, the sphere of his naval knowledge was cnlarged. His wise was a daughter of Bartholomew Perestrello, one of the captains employed by prince Henry, and who, under his protection, had discovered and colonized the islands of Porto Santo and Madeira.

7. From the journals and charts of this experienced navi. gador, Columbus lcarned the course which the Portuguese had held in making their discoveries. The study of these, gratified and inflamed his favorite passion ; and, while he contemplated ilic maps and rcad the descriptions of the new countries which Perestrello had scen, his impatience to visit them became irre. sissibic. In order to indulge it, he made a voyage to Madeira, and continued during several years to trade with that island, with the Canaries, the Azore the settlements in Guinea, and all the other places which the Poringlicsc had discovered on thic continent of Africa.


[ocr errors]

8. He was now become one of the most skilful navigators in Europe ; but his ambition aimed at something more. The

mind of Columbus, naturally inquisitive, and capable of deep 7 reflection, was often employed in revolving the principles upon

which the Portuguese had founded their schemes of discovery, and the mode in which they had carried them on.

9. At that period, the great object in view, was to find out a passage by sea to the East Indies. From the time that the Portuguese had sailed round Cape Verd, this was a point they were anxiously solicitous to attain ; in comparison with it, all discoveries in Africa appeared inconsiderable. But notwithstanding the Portuguese were so intent upon discovering a new route to those desirable regions, they searched for it only by steering towards the south, in hopes of arriving at India, by turning to the east, after they had sailed round the utmost extremity of Africa. This course, however, was still unknown : and if discovered, was of such immense length, that a voyage

from Europe to India, must have appeared an undertaking ex& tremely arduous, and of uncertain issue.

10. More than half a century had been employed in advancing from Cape Non to the Equator; a much longer space of time might elapse before the extensive navigation from that to India could be accomplished. These reflections upon the uncertainty, and the danger of the course which the Portuguese were pursuing, led Columbus to consider, whether a shorter and more direct passage to the East Indies might not be found out. After revolving long and attentively, every circumstance suggested by his superior knowledge in the theory, as well as practice of navigation ; after comparing the observations of modern pilots with the conjectures of ancient authors, he at last concluded, that by sailing directly towards the west, across the Atlantic ocean, new-countries, which probably formed a part of the vast continent of India, must be discovered.

11. The spherical figure of the earth was known, and its magnitude ascertained with some degree of accuracy. From this it was evident, that the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa, formed but a small portion of the terraqueous globe. It appeared likewise very probable that the continent on one side the globe was balanced by a proportional quantity of land in the other hemisphere. These conclusions concerning another continent, drawn from the figure and structure of the globe, were confirmed by the observations and conjectures of modern navigators.

12. A Portuguese pilot having stretched farther to the west

than usual at that time, took up a piece of timber artificially carved, floating upon the sea ; and as it was driven towards him by a westerly wind, he concluded that it came from some unknown land, situated in that quarter. Columbus's brotherin-law also had found, to the west of the Madeira isles, a piece of timber, fashioned in the same manner, and brought by the same wind; and had seen likewise canes of an enormous size floating upon the waves, which resembled those described by Ptolemy, as productions peculiar to the East Indies. After a course of westerly winds, trees torn up with their roots, were often driven upon the coasts of the Azores, and at one time the dead bodies of two men, with singular features, which resembled neither the inhabitants of Europe, nor of Africa, were cast ashore there.

13. To a mind capable of forming and executing great designs, as that of Columbus, these observations and authorities operated in full force with his sanguine and enterprising temper; speculation led immediately to action,-fully satisfied himself with respect to the truth of his system, he was impatient to bring it to the test of experiment, and to set out on a voyage of discovery.

14. The first step towards this, was to secure the patronage of some of the considerable powers in Europe, capable of undertaking such an enterprise. His affection for his native country, induced him to wish it should reap the fruit of his labors and invention; and with this view, he laid his schemes before the senate of Genoa, and offered to sail under the ban. ners of the republic, in quest of the new regions he expected to discover. But, Columbus had resided so many years in foreign parts, that his countrymen were unacquainted with his abilities and character; they, therefore, inconsiderately rejected his proposal, as the dream of a chimerical projector, and lost for ever the opportunity of restoring their commonwealth to its ancient splendor.

15. Columbus was so little discouraged by the repulse which he had received, that instead of relinquishing his object, he pursued it with fresh ardor. He next made an overture to John IL king of Portugal, whom he considered as having the second claim to his services. Here every thing seemed to promise him a more favorable reception. He applied to a monarch of an enterprising genius, no incompetent judge in naval affairs, and proud of patronizing every attempt to discover new countries. His subjects were the most experienced navigators in Europe,

and the least apt to be intimidated either by the novelty or bold ness of any maritime expedition.

16. In Portugal, the skill of Columbus in his profession, as well as his personal good qualities, were well known : accordingly the king listened to him in the most gracious manner, and referred the consideration of his plan to Diego Ortiz, bishop of Ceuta, and two Jewish physicians, eminent cosmographers, whom he was accustomed to consult in matters of this kind. In Genoa he had to combat with ignorance, in Lisbon an enemy no less formidable opposed him, prejudice ; the persons to whose decision his project was referred, were the chief directors of the Portuguese navigation, and had advised to search for a passage to India by steering a course directly opposite to that which Columbus recommended, as shorter and more certain. They could not, therefore, approve of his proposal, without submitting to the double mortification, of condemning their own theory, and of acknowledging his superior sagacity.

17. After a fruitless and mortifying attendance, being teased with captious questions, and starting innumerable objections, with a view of betraying him into a particular explanation of his system, they deferred passing a final judgment, with respect to it; but secretly conspired to rob him of the honor and advantages which he expected from the success of his scheme, advising the king to dispatch a vessel secretly, in order to attempt the proposed discovery, by following exactly the course which Columbus seemed to point out. The king, forgetting, on this occasion, the sentiments becoming a monarch, meanly adopted this perfidious counsel. But the pilot chosen to execute Columbus's plan, had neither the genius, nor the fortitude, of its author ; he returned, as might have been expected, without accomplishing any thing ; execrating the project as equally extravagant and dangerous.

18. Upon discovering this dishonorable action, he instantly quitted the kingdom, and landed in Spain, towards the close of the year 1484, when he determined to propose it, in person, to Ferdinand and Isabella, who, at that time, governed the united kingdoms of Castile and Arragon. But as he had already experienced the uncertain issue of applications to kings and ministers, he took the precaution of sending into England his brother Bartholomew, to whom he had fully communicated his ideas; in order that he might, at the same time, negotiate with Henry VII. who was reputed one of the most sagacious, as well as opulent, princes in Europe.

19. Columbus entertained doubts and fears with respect to

« ZurückWeiter »