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cause of which the fagacity of man hath not been able to penetrate, filled the companions of Columbus with terror. They were now in a boundless unknown ocean, far from the usual course of navigation; nature itself seemed to be altered, and the only guide which they had left was about to fail them. Columbus, with no less quickness than ingenuity, invented a reason for this appearance, which, though it did not satisfy himself, seemed so plausible to them, that it dispelled their fears, or filenced their murmurs.
He still continued to fteer due west, nearly in the same latitude with the Canary islands. In this course he came within the sphere of the trade wind, which blows invariably from east to west, between the tropics and a few degrees beyond them. He advanced before this steady gale with such uniform rapidity, that it was seldom neceffary to fhift a fail. When about four hundred leagues to the west of the Canaries, he found the sea fo covered with weeds, that it resembled a meadow of vast extent; and in some places they were so thick, as to retard the motion of the vessels. This strange appearance occasioned new alarm and disquiet, The failors imagined that they were now arrived at the utmost boundary of the navigable ocean; that these floating weeds would obstruct their farther progress, and concealed dangerous rocks, or some large tract of land, which had sunk, they knew not how, in that place. Columbus endeavoured to persuade them, that what had alarmed, ought rather to have encouraged them, and was to be considered as a sign of approaching land. At the same time, a brisk gale arose, and carried them forward. Several birds were seen hovering about the ship*, and directed their flight towards the west. The desponding crew resumed fome degree of fpirit, and began to entertain fresh hopes.
* As the Portuguese, in making their discoveries, did not depart far from the coast of Africą, they concluded that birds, whose flight they observed with great attention, did not venture to any considerable distance from land. In the infancy of navigation, it was not known, that birds often stretch their flight to an immense distance from any fhore. In failing towards the West-Indian islands, birds are often seen at the distance of two hundred leagues from the nearest coast, Sloane’s Nat. Hift. of Jamaica, vol. i. p. 30. Catesby saw an owląt sea, when the ship was fix hundred leagues distant from land. Nat. Hift. of Carolina, pref. p. 7. Hist. Naturelle de M. Buffon, tom. xvi. P: 32. From which it appears, that this indication of land, on which Columbus seems to have relied with some confidence, was extremely uncertain. This observation is confirmed by Captain Cook, the most extenlive and experienced navigator of any age or nation. “ No one yet knows (says hed) to what distance any of the oceanic birds go to fea; for my own part, I do not believe that there is one in the whole tribe that can be relied on in poințing out the vicinity of land," Yoyage towards the South Pole, vol. i, P: 275:
Upon the first of October they were, according to the admiral's reckoning, feven hundred and seventy leagues to the west of the Canaries ; but left his men should be intimidated by the prodigious length of navigation, he gave out that they had proceeded only five hundred and eighty-four leagues; and, fortunately for Columbus, neither his own pilot, nor those of the other ships, had ikill sufficient to correct this error, and discover the deceit. They had now been above three weeks at sea; they had proceeded far beyond what former navigators had attempted or deemed possible; all their prognostics of discovery, drawn from the flight of birds and other circumstances, had proved fallacious; the appearances of land, with which their own credulity or the artifice of their commander had from time to time flattered and amused them, had been altogether illufive, and their prospect of success seemed Dow to be as distant as ever. These reflections occurred often to men, who had no other object or occupation, than to reason and discourse concerning the intention and circumstances of their expedition. They made impression, at first, upon the ignorant and timid, and extending, by degrees, to such as were better informed or more resolute, the
contagion spread at length from ship to thip. From secret whispers or murmurings, they proceeded to open cabals and public complaints. They taxed their sovereign with inconsiderate credulity, in paying fuch regard to the vain promises and rafh conjectures of an indigent foreigner, as to hazard the lives of so many of her own subjects, in prosecuting a chimerical scheme. They affirmed that they had fully performed their daty, by venturing so far in an unknown and hopeless course, and could incur no blame, for refusing to follow, any longer, a desperate adventurer to certain destruction, They contended, that it was necessary to think of returning to Spain, while their crazy vessels were still in a condition to keep the fea, but expressed their fears that the attempt would prove vain, as the wind, which had hitherto been so favourable to their course, must render it impossible to fail in the opposite direction. All agreed that Columbus should be compelled by force to adopt a measure on which their common safety depended, Some of the more audacious proposed, as the most expeditious and certain method for getting rid at once of his remonftrances, to throw him into the sea, being persuaded that, upon their return to Spain, the death of an unsuccessful projector would excite little concern, and be inquired into with no curiosity.
Columbus was fully sensible of his perilous situation. He had observed, with great uneasiness, the fatal operation of ignorance and of fear in producing disaffection among his crew, and saw that it was now ready to burst out into open mutiny. He retained, however, perfect presence of mind. He affected to seem ignorant of their machinations. Notwithstanding the agitation and solicitude of his own mind, he appeared with a cheerful countenance, like a man satisfied with the progress which he had made, and confident of success. Sometimes he employed all the arts of insinuation to soothe his men. Sometimes he endeavoured to work upon their ambition or avarice, by magnificent descriptions of the fame and wealth which they were about to acquire. On other occasions, he assumed a tone of authority, and threatened them with vengeance from their sovereign, if, by their daftardly behaviour, they should defeat this noble effort to promote the glory of God, and to exalt the Spanish name above that of every other nation. Even with feditious sailors, the words of a man whom they had been accustomed to reverence, were weighty and persuasive, and not only restrained them from those violent excesses, which they meditated, but prevailed with them to accompany their admiral for fome time longer.
As they proceeded, the indications of approaching land seemed to be more certain, and excited hope in proportion. The birds began to appear in flocks, making towards the fouth-west. Columbus, in imitation of the Portuguese navigators, who had been guided, in several of their discoveries, by the motion of birds, altered his course from due weft to: wards that quarter whither they pointed their flight. But, after holding on for several days in this new direction, without any better success than formerly, having seen no object, during thirty days, but the sea and the sky, the hopes of his companions subsided faster than they had risen ; their fears revived with additional force; impatience, rage, and despair, appeared in every countenance. All sense of subordination was loft ; the officers, who had hitherto concurred with Columbus in opinion, and supported his authority, now took part with the private men; they assembled tumultuously on the deck, expoftulated with their commander, mingled threats with their expoftulations, and required him instantly to tack about and to return to Europe. Columbus perceived that it would be of no avail to have recourse to any of his former arts, which having been tried fo often, had lost their effect; and that it was impoflible to rekindle any zeal for the success of the expedition among men, in whose breasts fear had extinguished every generous sentiment. He saw that it was no less vain to think of employing either gentle or severe meafures, to quell a mutiny fo general and fo violent. It was necessary, on all these accounts, to soothe passions which he could no longer command, and to give way to a torrent too impetuous to be checked. He pro
mised folemnly to his men that he would comply with their request, provided they would accompany him, and obey his commands for three days longer, and if, during that time, land were not discovered, he would then abandon the enterprise, and direct his course towards Spain.
Enraged as the sailors were, and impatient to turn their faces again towards their native country, this proposition did not appear to them unreasonable. Nor did Columbus hazard much in confining himself to a term fo short. The presages of discovering land were now so numerous and promising, that he deemed them infallible. For some days the founding line reached the bottom, and the soil which it brought up indicated land to be at no great distance. The flocks of birds increased, and were composed not only of sea fowl, but of such land birds as could not be supposed to fly far from the shore. The crew of the Pinta observed a cane floating, which seemed to have been newly cut, and like. wise a piece of timber artificially carved. The failors aboard the Nigna took up the branch of a tree with red berries, perfectly fresh. The clouds around the setting fun assumed a new appearance ; the air was more mild and warm, and, during night, the wind became unequal and variable. From all these symptoms, Columbus was so confident of being near land, that on the evening of the eleventh of O&tober, after public prayers for success, he ordered the fails to be furled, and the thips to lie to, keeping strict watch, left they should be driven ashore in the night. During this interval of suspence and expectation, no man fhut his eyes, all kept upon deck, gazing intently towards that quarter where they expected to discover the land, which had been so long the object of their wishes.
About two hours before midnight, Columbus standing on the furecaftle, observed a light at a distance, and privately printed it out to Pedro Guttierez, a page of the queen's wardrobe. . Guttierez perceived it, and calling to Salcedo, comptroller of the fleet, all three faw it in motion, as if it were carried from place to place. A little after midnight, the joyful sound of land, land, was heard from the Pinta, which kept always ahead of the other ships. But, having been so often deceived by fallacious appearances, every man was now become flow of belief, and waited, in all the anguish of uncertainty and impatience, for the return of day. As soon as morning dawned, Friday, October 12, all doubts and fears were dispelled. From every ship an island was seen about two leagues to the north, whose flat and verdant fields, well fored with wood, and watered with many rivalets, presented the aspect of a delightful country. The crew of the Pinta instantly began the Te Deum, as a hymn of thanksgiving to God, and were joined by those
of the other ships, with tears of joy and transports of congratalatíorts This office of gratitude to Heaven was followed by an act of justice to their commander. They threw themselves at the feet of Columbus, with feelings of self-condemnation mingled with reverence. They implored him to pardon their ignorance, incredulity, and insolence, which had created him so much unnecessary disquiet, and had fo often obfructed the prosecution of his well-concerted plan; and paffing, in the warmth of their admiration, from one extreme to another, they now pronounced the man, whom they had so lately reviled and threatened, to be a person inspired by Heaven with fagacity and fortitude more than human, in order to accomplish a design, fo far beyond the ideas and conception of all former ages.
As soon as the sun arose, all their boats were manned and arred. They rowed towards the island with their colours displayed, with warlike music, and other martial pomp. As they approache coast, they saw it covered with a multitude of people, whom the novelty of the spectacle had drawn together, whose attitudes and gestures expressed wonder and astonishment at the strange objects which presented themselves to their view. Columbus was the first European who set foot in the New World which he had discovered. He landed in a rich dress, and with a naked sword in his hand. His men followed, and kneeling down, they all kissed the ground which they had so long defered to fee. They next erected a crucifix, and proftrating themselves before it, returned thanks to God for conducting their voyage to such an happy issue. They then took folemn pofseffion of the country for the crown of Castile and Leon, with all the formalities which the Portuguese were accustomed to observe in acts of this kind, in their new discoveries.
The Spaniards, while thus employed, were surrounded by many of the natives, who gazed, in filent admiration, upon actions which they could not comprehend, and of which they did not foresee the consequences. The dress of the Spaniards, the whiteness of their skins, their beards, their arms, appeared ftrange and surprising. The vast machines in which they had traversed the ocean, that seemed to move upon the waters with wings, and uttered a dreadful found resembling thunder, accompanied with lightning and smoke, ftruck them with such terror, that they began to respect their new guests as a superior order of beings, and concluded that they were children of the Sun, who had descended to visit the earth,
The Europeans were hardly less amazed at the scene now before them. Every herb, and thrub, and tree, was different from those which 3