Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

more in behalf of their friend. They addressed themselves to Isabella, and, after expressing some surprise, that the, who had always been the munificent patroness of generous undertakings, should hesitate so long to countenance the most splendid scheme that had ever been proposed to any monarch; they represented to her, that Columbus was a man of a found understanding and virtuous character, well qualified, by his experience in navigation, as well as his knowledge of geometry, to form juft ideas with respect to the structure of the globe and the situation of its various regions; that, by offering to risk his own life and fortune in the execution of his scheme, he gave the most satisfying evidence both of his integrity and hope of success; that the sum requifite for equipping fuch an armament as he demanded was inconsiderable, and the advantages which might accrue from his undertaking were immense; that he demanded no recompence for his invention and labour, but what was to arise from the countries which he should discover; that, as it was worthy of her magnanimity to make this noble attempt to extend the sphere of human knowledge, and to open an intercourse with regions hitherto unknown, so it would afford the highest satisfaction to her piety and zeal, after re-establishing the Christian faith in those provinces of Spain from which it had been long banished, to discover a new world, to which she might communicate the light and blessings of divine truth; that if now she did not decide instantly, the opportunity would be irretrievably loft; that Columbus was on his way to foreign countries, where some prince, more fortunate or adventurous, would close with his proposals, and Spain would for ever bewail the fatal timidity which had excluded her from the glory and advantages that she had once in her power to have enjoyed,

These forcible arguments, urged by persons of such authority, and at a juncture fo well chofen, produced the defired effect. They dispelled all Isabella's doubts and fears ; she ordered Columbus to be instantly recalled, declared her resolution of employing him on his own terms, and regretting the low state of her finances, generously offered to pledge her own jewels, in order to raise as much money as might be needed in making preparations for the voyage. Santangel, in a transport of gratitude, kissed the queen's hand, and in order to save her from having recourse to such a mortifying expedient for procuring money, engaged to advance immediately the fum that was requisite.

Columbus had proceeded fome leagues on his journey, when the melsenger from Isabella overtook him. Upon receiving an account of the unexpected revolution in his favour, he returned directly to Santo Fe, though some remainder of diffidence still mingled itself with his joy.

But

But the cordial reception which he met with from Isabella, together with the near prospect of setting out upon that voyage which had fo long been the object of his thoughts and wishes, foon effaced the remembrance of all that he had suffered in Spain, during eight tedious years of solici. tation and suspense. The negociation now went forward with facility and dispatch, and a treaty of capitulation with Columbus was signed on the seventeenth of April, one thousand four hundred and ninety-two. The chief articles of it were, 1. Ferdinand and Isabella, as sovereigns of the ocean, constituted Columbus their high admiral in all the seas, islands, and continents which should be discovered by his industry ; and ftipulated, that he and his heirs for ever should enjoy this office, with the fame powers and prerogatives which belonged to the high admiral of Castile, within the limits of his jurisdiction. 2. They appointed Co lumbus their viceroy in all the islands and continents which he should discover; but if, for the better adminiftration of affairs, it should here. after be necessary to establish a separate governor in any of those countries, they authorised Columbus to name three persons, of whom they would chuse one for that office; and the dignity of viceroy, with all its immunities, was likewise to be hereditary in the family of Columbus, 3. They granted to Columbus and his heirs for ever the tenth of the free profits accruing from the productions and commerce of the countries which he should discover. 4. They declared, that if any controversy or law-suit shall arise with respect to any mercantile transaction in the countries which should be discovered, it should be determined by the fole authority of Columbus, or of judges to be appointed by him. 5. They permitted Columbus to advance one-eighth part of what should be expended in preparing for the expedition, and in carrying on commerce with the countries which he fhould discover, and intitled him, in return, to an eighth part of the profit.

Though the name of Ferdinand appears conjoined with that of Isabella in this transaction, his distrust of Columbus was still so violent that he refused to take any part in the enterprise as king of Arragon. As the whole expence of the expedition was to be defrayed by the crown of Castile, Isabella reserved for her subjects of that kingdom an exclusive right to all the benefits which might redound from its success.

As soon as the treaty was signed, Isabella, by her attention and activity in forwarding the preparations for the voyage, endeavoured to make some reparation to Columbus for the time which he had loft in fruitless solicitation. By the twelfth of May, all that depended upon her was adjusted ; and Columbus waited on the king and queen, in order to receive their final instructions. Every thing respecting the destination

and

and conduct of the voyage, they committed implicitly to the disposal of his prudence. But, that they might avoid giving any just cause of of. fence to the king of Portugal, they strictly enjoined him not to approach near to the Portuguese settlements on the coast of Guinea, or in any of the other countries to which the Portuguese claimed right as discoverers. Isabella had ordered the ships, of which Columbus was to take the command, to be fitted out in the port of Palos, a small maritime town in the province of Andalusia. As the guardian Juan Perez, to whom Columbus has already been so much indebted, resided in the neighbourhood of this place, hé, by the influence of that good ecclefiaftic, as well as by his own connection with the inhabitants, not only raised among them what he wanted of the sum that he was bound by treaty to ad. vance, but engaged several of them to accompany him in the voyage. The chief of these associates were three brothers of the name of Pin. zon, of confiderable wealth, and of great experience in naval affairs, who were willing to hazard their lives and fortunes in the expedition,

But, after all the efforts of Isabella and Columbus, the armament was not suitable, either to the dignity of the nation by which it was equiped, or to the importance of the service for which it was destined. It consisted of three vessels. The largest, a ship of no considerable burden, was commanded by Columbus, as admiral, who gave it the name of Santa Maria, out of respect for the Blessed Virgin, whom he honoured with fingular devotion. Of the second, called the Pinta, Martin Pinzon was captain, and his brother Francis pilot. The third, named the Nigna, was under the command of Vincent Yanez Pinzon. These two were light vessels, hardly superior in burden or force to large boats. This squadron, if it merits that name, was victualled for twelve months, and had on board ninety men, mostly failors, together with a few adventurers who followed the fortune of Columbus, and some gentlemen of Isabella's court, whom the appointed to accompany him. Though the expence of the undertaking was one of the circumstances which chiefly alarmed the court of Spain, and retarded so long the neó gociation with Columbus, the sum employed in fitting out this squadron did not exceed four thousand pounds.

As the art of ship-building in the fifteenth century was extremely rude, and the bulk of vessels was accommodated to the short and easy voyages along the coast which they were accustomed to perform, it is a proof of the courage as well as enterprising genius of Columbus, that he ventured, with a fleet so unfit for a distant navigation, to explore unknown seas, where he had no chart to guide him, no knowledge of the wides and currents, and no experience of the dangers to which he might

D

be

be exposed. His eagerness to accomplish the great design which had fo long engrossed his thoughts, made him overlook or disregard every cir. cumstance that would have intimidated a mind less adventurous. He pushed forward the preparations with such ardour, and was seconded fo effectually by the persons to whom Isabella committed the fuperin. tendence of this business, that every thing was soon in readiness for the voyage. But as Columbus was deeply impressed with sentiments of religion, he would not set out upon an expedition so arduous, and of which one great object was to extend the knowledge of the Christian faith, without imploring publicly the guidance and protection of Heaven. With this view, he, together with all the persons under his command, marched in folemn proceslion to the monastery of Rabida. After con« selling their sins, and obtaining absolution, they received the holy facrament from the hands of the guardian, who joined his prayers to theirs for the success of an enterprise which he had so zealously patronized.

Next morning, being Friday the third day of August, in the year one thousand four hundred and ninety-two, Columbus set fail, a little before fun-rife, in presence of a vast crowd of spectators, who sent up their fupplications to Heaven for the prosperous issue of the voyage, which they wished, rather than expected. Columbus fteered directly for the Canary Islands, and arrived there, August 13, 1492, without any occurrence that would have deserved notice on any other occasion. But, in a voyage of such expectation and importance, every circumftance was the object of attention. The rudder of the Pinta broke loose, the day after fhe left the harbour, and that accident alarmed the crew, no less superAtitious than unskilful, as a certain omen of the unfortunate destiny of the expedition. Even in the short run to the Canaries, the ships were found to be so crazy and ill appointed, as to be very improper for a navigation which was expected to be both long and dangerous. Columbus refitted them, however, to the best of his power, and having supplied himself with fresh provisions he took his departure from Gomera, one of the most weiterly of the Canary islands, on the fixth day of September.

Here the voyage of discovery may properly be said to begin; for Columbus holding his course due west, left immediately the usual track of navigation, and stretched into unfrequented and unknown seas. The first day, as it was very calm, he made but little way; but on the fecond, he loft fight of the Canaries; and many of the sailors, dejected already and dismayed, when they contemplated the boldness of the undertaking, began to beat their breasts, and to shed tears, as if they were never more to behold land. Columbus comforted them with assurances of success, and the prospect of vast wealth, in those opulent regions whither he was conducting them. This early discovery of the spirit of his followers

taught

men.

taught Columbus, that he must prepare to struggle, not only with the anavoidable difficulties which might be expected from the nature of his undertaking, but with such as were likely to arise from the ignorance and timidity of the people under his command; and he perceived that the art of governing the minds of men would be no less requisite for accomplishing the discoveries which he had in view, than naval skill and undaunted courage. Happily for himself, and for the country by which he was employed, he joined to the ardent temper and inventive genius of a projector, virtues of another species, which are rarely united with them. He possessed a thorough knowledge of mankind, an insinuating address, a patient perseverance in executing any plan, the perfect government of his passions, and the talent of acquiring an afcendant over those of other

All these qualities, which formed him for command, were accompanied with that fuperior knowledge of his profession, which begets confidence in times of difficulty and danger. To unskilful Spanish failors, accustomed only to coafting voyages in the Mediterranean, the maritime science of Columbus, the fruit of thirty years experience, improved by an acquaintance with all the inventions of the Portuguese, appeared immense. As soon as they put to fea, he regulated every thing by his sole authority; he fuperintended the execution of every order ; and allowing himself only a few hours for sleep, he was at all other times spon deck. As his course lay through feas which had not formerly been visited, the founding-line, or instruments for observation, were continually in his hands. After the example of the Portuguese discover. ers, he attended to the motion of tides and currents, watched the flight of birds, the appearance of fishes, of sea-weeds, and of every thing that floated on the waves, and entered every occurrence, with a minute exactness, in the journal which he kept. As the length of the voyage could not fail of alarming failors habituated only to short excursions, Columbus endeavoured to conceal from them the real progrefs which they made. With this view, though they run eighteen leagues on the second day after they lest Gomera, he gave out that they had advanced enly fifteen, and he uniformly employed the same artifice of reckoning short during the whole voyage. By the fourteenth of September, the fieet was above two hundred leagues to the west of the Canary Ines, at a greater distance from land than any Spaniard had been before that time. There they were ftruck with an appearance no less astonishing than new. They observed that the magnetic needle, in their compasses, did not point exactly to the polar ftar, but varied towards the weit; and as they proceeded, this variation increased. This appearance, which is now familiar, though it still remains one of the mysteries of nature, into the

cause

D2

« ПредишнаНапред »