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- A Brief History of the United States - 4/72 -
an indignity to such a man. It is sad to know that although Ferdinand and Isabella endeavored to soothe his wounded spirit by many attentions, they never restored to him his lawful rights. From fluent promises they passed at last to total neglect, and Columbus died a grieved and disappointed old man. At his request, his chains were buried with him, a touching memorial of Spanish ingratitude.]
COLUMBUS AT THE COURT OF PORTUGAL.--He accordingly laid his plan before King John of Portugal, who, being pleased with the idea, referred it to the geographers of his court. They pronounced it a visionary scheme. With a lurking feeling, however, that there might be truth in it, the king had the meanness to dispatch a vessel secretly to test the matter. The pilot had the charts of Columbus, but lacked his heroic courage. After sailing westward from Cape de Verde islands for a few days, and seeing nothing but a wide waste of wildly tossing waves, he returned, ridiculing the idea.
COLUMBUS AT THE COURT OF SPAIN.--Columbus, disheartened by this treachery, betook himself to Spain. During seven long years he importuned King Ferdinand for a reply. All this while he was regarded as a visionary fellow, and when he passed along the streets, even the children pointed to their foreheads and smiled. At last, the learned council declared the plan too foolish for further attention. Turning away sadly, Columbus determined to go to France.
[Footnote: "It is absurd," said those wise men. "Who is so foolish as to believe that there are people on the other side of the world, walking with their heels upward, and their heads hanging down? And then, how can a ship get there? The torrid zone, through which they must pass, is a region of fire, where the very waves boil. And even if a ship could perchance get around there safely, how could it ever get back? Can a ship sail up hill?" All of which sounds very strange to us now, when hundreds of travelers make every year the entire circuit of the globe.]
COLUMBUS SUCCESSFUL.--His friends at the Spanish court, at this juncture, laid the matter before Queen Isabella, and she was finally won to his cause. The king remained indifferent, and pleaded the want of funds. The queen in her earnestness exclaimed, "I pledge my jewels to raise the money." But her sacrifice was not required. St. Angel, the court treasurer, advanced most of the money, and the friends of Columbus the remainder,--in all about $20,000, equal to six times that amount at the present day. Columbus had succeeded at last.
COLUMBUS'S EQUIPMENT.--Though armed with the king's authority, Columbus obtained vessels and sailors with the greatest difficulty. The boldest seamen shrank from such a desperate undertaking. At last, three small vessels were manned; the Pinta (peen'tah), Santa Maria (ma-re-ah), and Ninah (ne-nah). They sailed from Palos, Spain, Aug. 3, 1492.
INCIDENTS OF THE VOYAGE.--When the ships struck out boldly westward on the untried sea, and the sailors saw the last trace of land fade from their sight, many, even of the bravest, burst into tears. As they proceeded, their hearts were wrung by superstitious fears. To their dismay, the compass no longer pointed directly north, and they believed that they were coming into a region where the very laws of nature were changed. They came into the track of the trade-wind, which wafted them steadily westward. This, they were sure, was carrying them to destruction, for how could they ever return against it? Signs of land, such as flocks of birds and fresh, green plants, were often seen, and the clouds near the horizon assumed the look of land, but they disappeared, and only the broad ocean spread out before them as they advanced. The sailors, so often deceived, lost heart, and insisted upon returning home. Columbus, with wonderful tact and patience, explained all these appearances. But the more he argued, the louder became their murmurs. At last they secretly determined to throw him overboard. Although he knew their feelings, he did not waver, but declared that he would proceed till the enterprise was accomplished.
Soon, signs of land silenced their murmurs. A staff artificially carved, and a branch of thorn with berries floated near. All was now eager expectation. In the evening, Columbus beheld a light rising and falling in the distance, as of a torch borne by one walking. Later at night, the joyful cry of "_Land!_" rang out from the Pinta. In the morning the shore, green with tropical verdure, lay smiling before them.
THE LANDING.--Columbus, dressed in a splendid military suit of scarlet embroidered with gold, and followed by a retinue of his officers and men bearing banners, stepped upon the new world, Friday, Oct. 12, 1492. He threw himself upon his knees, kissed the earth, and with tears of joy gave thanks to God. He then formally planted the cross, and took possession of the country in the name of Ferdinand and Isabella.
The wondering natives, who crowded the shore, gazed on them with awe. They supposed the ships to be huge white-winged birds, and the Spaniards to have come from heaven. How sadly and how soon these simple people were undeceived!
FURTHER DISCOVERIES.--Columbus found the land to be an island, which he named St. Salvador. He supposed that he had reached the islands lying off the eastern coast of India, and he therefore called the dark-hued natives, Indians. Careful inquiries were also made concerning the rich products of the East, such as spices, precious stones, and especially gold. The simple people had only a few golden ornaments. These they readily bartered for hawks' bells. Cuba, Hayti, and other islands were discovered and visited in the vain hope of securing Oriental treasures. Columbus even sent a deputation into the interior of Cuba to a famous chief, supposing him to be the great king of Tartary!
At last, urged by his crew, he relinquished the search, and turned his vessels homeward.
HIS RECEPTION, on his return, was flattering in the extreme. The whole nation took a holiday. His appearance was hailed with shouts and the ringing of bells. The king and queen were dazzled by their new and sudden acquisition. As Columbus told them of the beautiful land he had discovered, its brilliant birds, its tropical forests, its delicious climate, and above all, its natives waiting to be converted to the Christian faith, they sank upon their knees, and gave God thanks for such a signal triumph.
[Illustration: TOMB OF COLUMBUS AT HAVANA]
[Footnote: The body of Columbus was deposited in the Convent of San Francisco, Valladohd, Spain. It was thence transported, in 1513, to the Carthusian Monastery of Seville where a handsome monument was erected, by command of Ferdinand and Isabella with the simple inscription--"To Castile and Leon, Colon gave a new world." In 1536 his body, and that of his son Diego, were removed to the city of Saint Domingo, Hayti, and interned in the principal chapel. But they were not permitted to rest even there, for in 1796 they were brought to Havana with imposing ceremonies. His final resting place in the Cathedral is marked by a slab elaborately carved, on which is inscribed in Spanish,
"Oh, rest thou, image of the great Colon, Thousand centuries remain, guarded in the urn, And in the remembrance of our nation."]
SUBSEQUENT VOYAGES.--Columbus afterward made three voyages. In 1498 he discovered the mainland, near the Orinoco River. He never, however, lost the delusion that it was the eastern coast of Asia, and died ignorant of the grandeur of his discovery.
HOW THE CONTINENT WAS NAMED.--Americus Vesputius (a-mer-i-cus ves-pu-she-us), a friend of Columbus, accompanied a subsequent expedition to the new world. A German named Waldsee-Mueller published an interesting account of his adventures, in which he suggested that the country should be called America. This work, being the first description of the new world, was very popular, and the name was soon adopted by geographers.
JOHN CAB'-OT, a navigator of Bristol, England, by studying his charts and globes, decided that since the degrees of longitude diminish in length as they approach the pole, the shortest route to India must be by sailing northwest instead of west, as Columbus had done. He easily obtained royal authority to make the attempt. After a prosperous voyage, he came in sight of the sterile region of Labrador, and sailed along the coast for many leagues. This was _fourteen months before Columbus discovered the continent_. Cabot supposed that he had reached the territory of the "Great Cham," king of Tartary. Nevertheless, he landed, planted a banner, and took possession in the name of the king of England. On his return home he was received with much honor, was dressed in silk, and styled the "Great Admiral." The booty which he brought back consisted of only two turkeys and three savages.
[Footnote: There is a map of Cabot's preserved at Paris, on which the land he first saw, and named _Prima Vista_, corresponds with Cape Breton. On it is the date 1494. If this be authentic, it will give the priority of the discovery of the American continent to Cabot by four years, and decide that Cape Breton, and not Labrador nor the Orinoco River, was first seen by European eyes. Very little is definitely known of John Cabot, and even the time and place of his birth and death are matters of conjecture.]
SEBASTIAN CABOT continued his father's discoveries. During the same summer in which Columbus reached the shore of South America, Sebastian, then a youth of only twenty-one, discovered Newfoundland, and coasted as far south as Chesapeake Bay. As he found neither the way to India, nor gold, precious stones, and spices, his expedition was considered a failure. Yet, by his discoveries, England acquired a title to a vast territory in the new world. Though he gave to England a continent, no one knows his burial-place.
We shall now follow the principal explorations made within the limits of the future United States, by the SPAINIARDS, FRENCH, ENGLISH, and DUTCH. The Spaniards explored mainly the southern portion of North America, the French the northern, and the English the middle portion along the coast.
Feeling in Spain.--America, at this time, was to the Spaniard a land of vague, but magnificent promise, where the simple natives wore unconsciously the costliest gems, and the sands of the rivers sparkled with gold. Every returning ship brought fresh news to quicken the pulse of Spanish enthusiasm. Now, Cortez had taken Mexico, and reveled in the wealth of the Montezumas; now, Pizarro had conquered Peru, and captured the riches of the Incas; now,
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