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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. John, 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. Contrary winds arose, no sight of approaching land appeared, his courage failed, and he returned to Lisbon, execrating the project as equally extravagant and dangerous,
Upon discovering this dishonourable transaction, Columbus felt the indignation natural to an ingenuous mind, and in the warmth of his refentment determined to break off all intercourse with a nation capable of such flagrant treachery. He instantly quitted the kingdom, and landed in Spain towards the close of the year one thousand four hundred and eighty-four. As he was now at liberty to court the protection of any patron, whom he could engage to approve of his plan, and to carry it into execution, he resolved 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 minifters, he took the precaution of fending into England his brother Bartholomew, to whom he had fully communicated his ideas, in order that he might negociate, at the same time, with Henry VII. who was reputed one of the most sagacious as well as opulent princes in Europe.
It was not without reason that Columbus entertained doubts and fears with respect to the reception of his proposals in the Spanish court. Spain was, at that juncture, engaged in a dangerous war with Granada, the last of the Moorish kingdoms in that country. The wary and sufpicious temper of Ferdinand was not formed to relish bold or uncommon designs. Isabella, though more generous and enterprising, was under the influence of her husband in all her actions. The Spaniards had hitherto made no efforts to extend navigation beyond its ancient limits, and had beheld the amazing progress of discovery among their neighbours the Portuguese, without one attempt to imitate or to rival them, The war with the Infidels afforded an ample field to the national activity and love of glory. Under circumstances so unfavourable, it was impoffible for Columbus to make rapid progress with a nation, naturally flow and dilatory in forming all its resolutions. His character, however, was admirably adapted to that of the people, whose confidence and protection he solicited. He was grave, though courteous in his deportment; circumspect in his words and actions; irreproachable in his morals; and 3
exemplary in his attention to all the duties and functions of religion. By qualities so respectable, he not only gained many private friends, but acquired fuch general esteem, that, notwithstanding the plainness of his appearance, suitable to the mediocrity of his fortune, he was not considered as a mere adventurer, to whom indigence had suggested a vifionary project, but was received as a person to whose propofitions serious attention was due.
Ferdinand and Isabella, though fully occupied by their operations againft the Moors, paid so much regard to Columbus, as to remit the confideration of his plan to the queen's confeffor, Ferdinand de Talavera. He consulted such of his countrymen as were supposed best qualified to decide with respect to a subject of this kind. But true science had, hitherto, made so little progress in Spain, that the pretended philosophers, selected to judge in a matter of such moment, did not comprehend the first principles upon which Columbus founded his conjectures and hopes. Some of them, from mistaken notions concerning the dimensions of the globe, contended that a voyage to those remote parts of the east, which Columbus expected to discover, could not be performed in less than three years. Others concluded, that either he would find the ocean to be of infinite extent, according to the opinion of some ancient philosophers; or, if he should perlift in steering towards the welt beyond a certain point, that the convex figure of the globe would prevent his return, and that he must inevitably perish, in the vain attempt to open a communication between the two opposite hemispheres, which nature had for ever disjoined. Even without deigning to enter into any particular discussion, many rejected the scheme in general, upon the credit of a maxim, under which the ignorant and unenterprising fhelter themselves in every age, “ That it is presumptuous in any perfon, to suppose that he alone poffefses knowledge fuperior to all the rest of mankind united.” They maintained, that if there were really any such countries as Columbus pretended, they could not have remained so long concealed, nor would the wisdom and sagacity of former ages have left the glory of this invention to an obscure Genoese pilot.
It required all Columbus's patience and address to negociate with men capable of advancing such ftrange propositions. He had to contend not only with the obstinacy of ignorance, but with what is ftill more intractable, the pride of false knowledge. After innumerable conferences, and wasting five years in fruitless endeavours to inform and to satisfy judges so little capable of deciding with propriety, Talavera, at ‘laft, made such an unfavourable report to Ferdinand and Isabella, as induced chem to acquaint Columbus, that until the war with the Moors should be
brought brought to a period, it would be imprudent to engage in any new and expensive enterprise.
Whatever care was taken to foften the harshness of this declaration, Columbus considered it as a final rejection of his proposals. But happily for mankind, the superiority of genius, which is capable of forming great and uncommon designs, is usually accompanied with an ardent enthusiasm, which can reither be cooled by delays, nor damped by disappointment. Columbus was of this fanguine temper. Though he felt deeply the cruel blow given to his hopes, and retired immediately from a court, where he had been amused so long with vain expectations, his confidence in the justness of his own system did not diminish, and his impatience to demonstrate the truth of it by an actual experiment became greater than ever. Having courted the protection of sovereign states without success, he applied, next, to persons of inferior rank, and addressed successively the dukes of Medina Sidonia, and Medina Celi, who, though subjects, were possessed of power and opulence more than equal to the enterprise which he projected. His negociations with them proved as fruitless, as those in which he had been hitherto engaged; for these noblemen were either as little convinced by Columbus's arguments as their fuperiors, or they were afraid of alarming the jealousy, and offending the pride of Ferdinand, by countenancing a scheme which he had rejected.
Amid the painful sensations occasioned by such a succession of disappointments, Columbus had to sustain the additional distress, of having received no accounts from his brother, whom he had sent to the court of England. In his voyage to that country, Bartholomew had been so unfortunate as to fall into the hands of pirates, who having stripped him of every thing, detained him a prisoner for several years. At length, he made his escape, and arrived in London, but in such extreme indigence, that he was obliged to employ himself, during a considerable time, in drawing and selling maps, in order to pick up as much money as would purchase a decent dress, in which he might venture to appear at court. · He then laid before the king the proposals, with which he had been entruted by his brother, and, notwithstanding Henry's exceffive caution and parfi.nony, which rendered him averse to new or expensive undertakings, he received Columbus's overtures, with more approbation, than any monarch to whom they had hitherto been presented.
Meanwhile, Columbus being unacquainted with his brother's fate, and having now no prospect of encouragement in Spain, resolved to visit the court of England in perfon, in hopes of meeting with a more favyurabic reception there. He had already made preparations for this
purpose, purpose, and taken measures for the disposal of his children during his absence, when Juan Perez, the guardian of the monastery of Rabida, near Palos, in which they had been educated, earnestly solicited him to defer his journey for a short time. Perez was a man of considerable learning, and of some credit with Queen Isabella, to whom he was known personally. He was warmly attached to Columbus, with whose abilities as well as integrity he had many opportunities of being acquainted. Prompted by curiosity or by friendship, he entered upon an. accurate examination of his fyftem, in conjunction with a physician fettled in the neighbourhood, who was a considerable proficient in mathematical knowledge. This investigation satisfied them so thoroughly, with respect to the solidity of the principles on which Columbus founded his opinion, and the probability of success in executing the plan which he proposed, that Perez, in order to prevent his country from being deprived of the glory and benefit, which must accrue to the patrons of such a grand enterprise, ventured to write to Isabella, conjuring her to consider the matter anew, with the attention which it merited.
Moved by the representations of a person whom she respected, Isabella desired Perez to repair immediately to the village of Santa Fé, in which, on account of the siege of Granada, the court resided at that time, that she might confer with him upon this important subje&t. The first effect of their interview was a gracious invitation of Columbus back to court, accompanied with the present of a small sum to equip him for the journey. As there was now a certain prospect, that the war with the Moors would speedily be brought to an happy iffue by the reduction of Granada, which would leave the nation at liberty to engage in new undertakings; this, as well as the mark of royal favour, with which Columbus had been lately honoured, encouraged his friends to appear with greater confidence than formerly in support of his fcheme. The chief of these, Alonso de Quintanilla, comptroller of the finances in Caftile, and Luis de Santangel, receiver of the ecclefiaftical revenues in Arragon, whose meritorious zeal in promoting this great design entitles their names to an honourable place in history, introduced Columbus to many persons of high rank, and interested them warmly in his behalf.
But it was not an easy matter to inspire Ferdinand with favourable sentiments. He ftill regarded Columbas's project as extravagant and chimerical; and in order to render the efforts of his partizans ineffectual, he had the address to employ in this new negociation with him, some of the persons who had formerly pronounced his scheme to be im. practicable. To their atonishment, Columbus appeared before them with the fame condent hopes of success as formerly, and insisted upon
the same high recompence. He proposed that a small fleet should be fitted out, under his command, to attempt the discovery, and demanded to be appointed hereditary admiral and viceroy of all the seas and lands which he should discover, and to have the tenth of the profits arising from them, settled irrevocably upon himself and his descendants. At the same time, he offered to advance the eighth part of the sum necessary for accomplishing his design, on condition that he should be entitled to a proportional fare of benefit from the adventure. If the enterprise should totally miscarry, he made no ftipulation for any reward or emolument whatever. Imtead of viewing this conduct as the cleareft evi. dence of his full persuasion with respect to the truth of his own system, or being struck with that magnanimity which, after so many delays and repulses, would stoop to nothing inferior to its original claims, the perfons with whom Columbus treated, began meanly to calculate the expence of the expedition, and the value of the reward which he demanded. The expence, moderate as it was, they represented to be too great for Spain, in the present exhausted state of its finances. They contended, that the honours and emoluments claimed by Columbus, were cxorbitant, even if he should perform the utmost of what he had promised; and if all his fanguine hopes should prove illusive, such vast conceslions to an adventurer would be deemed not only inconfiderate, but ridiculous. In this imposing garb of caution and prudence, their opi. nion appeared.so plausible, and was so warmly supported by Ferdinand, that Isabella declined giving any countenance to Columbus, and abruptly broke off the negociation with him which she had begun.
This was more mortifying to Columbus than all the disappointments which he had hitherto met with. The invitation to court from Isabella, like an unexpected ray of light, had opened such prospects of success, as encouraged him to hope that his labours were at an end; but now darkness and uncertainty returned, and his mind, firm as it was, could hardly support the shock of such an unforeseen reverse. He withdrew in deep anguish from court, with an intention of prosecuting his voyage to England, as his last resource.
About that time Granada surrendered, and Ferdinand and Isabella, in triumphal pomp, took poffeffion of a city, the reduction of which extirpated a foreign power from the heart of their dominions, and rendered them masters of all the provinces, extending from the bottom of the Pyrenees to the frontiers of Portugal. As the flow of spirits which accompanies success clevates the mind, and renders it enterprising, Quintànilla and Santangel, the vigilant and discerning patrons of Columbus, took advantage of this favourable situation, in order to make one effort