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and conduct of the voyage, they committed implicitly to the difpofal of his prudence. But, that they might avoid giving any juft caufe of offence to the king of Portugal, they ftrictly enjoined him not to approach near to the Portuguese fettlements on the coaft of Guinea, or in any of the other countries to which the Portuguefe claimed right as difcoverers. Ifabella had ordered the fhips, of which Columbus was to take the command, to be fitted out in the port of Palos, a fmall maritime town in the province of Andalufia. As the guardian Juan Perez, to whom Columbus has already been fo much indebted, refided in the neighbour. hood of this place, he, 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 fum that he was bound by treaty to advance, but engaged feveral of them to accompany him in the voyage. The chief of these affociates were three brothers of the name of Pinzon, 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 Ifabella and Columbus, the armament was not fuitable, 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 confifted of three veffels. The largest, a fhip of no confiderable burden, was commanded by Columbus, as admiral, who gave it the name of Santa Maria, out of respect for the Bleffed 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 veffels, hardly fuperior 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, moftly failors, together with a few adventurers who followed the fortune of Columbus, and some gentlemen of Ifabella's court, whom the appointed to accompany him. Though the expence of the undertaking was one of the circumftances which chiefly alarmed the court of Spain, and retarded fo long the ne gociation with Columbus, the fum employed in fitting out this fquadron did not exceed four thousand pounds.
As the art of fhip-building in the fifteenth century was extremely rude, and the bulk of veffels was accommodated to the short and easy voyages along the coaft which they were accustomed to perform, it is a proof of the courage as well as enterprifing genius of Columbus, that he ventured, with a fleet fo unfit for a distant navigation, to explore unknown feas, where he had no chart to guide him, no knowledge of the Mides and currents, and no experience of the dangers to which he might
be expofed. His eagerness to accomplish the great defign which had fo long engroffed his thoughts, made him overlook or difregard every cir cumftance that would have intimidated a mind lefs adventurous. He pufhed forward the preparations with fuch ardour, and was feconded fo effectually by the perfons to whom Isabella committed the fuperintendence of this business, that every thing was foon in readiness for the voyage. But as Columbus was deeply impreffed with fentiments of religion, he would not fet out upon an expedition fo arduous, and of which one great object was to extend the knowledge of the Chriftian faith, without imploring publicly the guidance and protection of Heaven. With this view, he, together with all the perfons under his command, marched in folemn proceffion to the monaftery of Rabida. After confeffing their fins, and obtaining abfolution, they received the holy facrament from the hands of the guardian, who joined his prayers to theirs for the fuccefs of an enterprise which he had fo zealously patronized.
Next morning, being Friday the third day of Auguft, in the year one thoufand four hundred and ninety-two, Columbus fet fail, a little before fun-rife, in prefence of a vast crowd of fpectators, who fent up their fupplications to Heaven for the profperous issue of the voyage, which they wished, rather than expected. Columbus fteered directly for the Canary Islands, and arrived there, Auguft 13, 1492, without any occur rence that would have deserved notice on any other occafion. But, in a voyage of fuch expectation and importance, every circumstance 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 lefs fuperAtitious 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 fo 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 beft of his power, and having fupplied himself with fresh provifions he took his departure from Gomera, one of the most westerly of the Canary islands, on the fixth day of September.
Here the voyage of difcovery may properly be faid to begin; for Columbus holding his courfe due weft, left immediately the ufual track of navigation, and stretched into unfrequented and unknown feas. 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 failors, dejected already and difmayed, when they contemplated the boldness of the undertaking, began to beat their breafts, and to shed tears, as if they were never more to behold land. Columbus comforted them with affurances of fuccefs, and the profpect of vaft wealth, in those opulent regions whither he was conducting them. This early discovery of the fpirit of his followers
taught Columbus, that he muft prepare to ftruggle, not only with the unavoidable difficulties which might be expected from the nature of his undertaking, but with fuch as were likely to arife 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 requifite for accomplishing the difcoveries 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 poffeffed a thorough knowledge of mankind, an infinuating address, a patient perfeverance in executing any plan, the perfect government of his paffions, and the talent of acquiring an afcendant over those of other men. All these qualities, which formed him for command, were accompanied with that fuperior knowledge of his profeffion, which begets confidence in times of difficulty and danger. To unskilful Spanish failors, accustomed only to coafting voyages in the Mediterranean, the maritime fcience of Columbus, the fruit of thirty years experience, improved by an acquaintance with all the inventions of the Portuguese, appeared immenfe. As foon as they put to fea, he regulated every thing by his fole authority; he fuperintended the execution of every order; and allowing himself only a few hours for fleep, he was at all other times upon deck. As his course lay through feas which had not formerly been vifited, the founding-line, or inftruments for obfervation, were continually in his hands, After the example of the Portuguese discoverers, he attended to the motion of tides and currents, watched the flight of birds, the appearance of fishes, of fea-weeds, and of every thing that floated on the waves, and entered every occurrence, with a minute exactnefs, in the journal which he kept, As the length of the voyage could not fail of alarming failors habituated only to fhort excurfions, Columbus endeavoured to conceal from them the real progrefs which they made. With this view, though they run eighteen leagues on the fecond day after they left Gomera, he gave out that they had advanced only fifteen, and he uniformly employed the fame artifice of reckoning fhort during the whole voyage. By the fourteenth of September, the fleet was above two hundred leagues to the weft of the Canary Isles, at a greater diftance from land than any Spaniard had been before that time. There they were ftruck with an appearance no less astonishing than new. They obferved that the magnetic needle, in their compaffes, did not point exactly to the polar ftar, but varied towards the weft; and as they proceeded, this variation increased. This appearance, which is now familiar, though it ftill remains one of the mysteries of nature, into the caufe
caufe 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 ufual courfe of navigation; nature itself feemed to be altered, and the only guide which they had left was about to fail them. Columbus, with no lefs quickness than ingenuity, invented a reafon for this appearance, which, though it did not fatisfy himself, feemed fo plaufible to them, that it difpelled their fears, or filenced their murmurs.
He still continued to fteer due weft, nearly in the fame latitude with the Canary islands. In this courfe 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 fteady gale with fuch uniform rapidity, that it was feldom neceffary to fhift a fail. When about four hundred leagues to the weft of the Canaries, he found the fea fo covered with weeds, that it refembled a meadow of vaft extent; and in fome places they were fo thick, as to retard the motion of the veffels. This ftrange appearance occafioned new alarm and difquiet, The failors imagined that they were now arrived at the utmoft boundary of the navigable ocean; that these floating weeds would obftruct their farther progress, and concealed dangerous rocks, or fome large tract of land, which had funk, they knew not how, in that place. Columbus endeavoured to perfuade them, that what had alarmed, ought rather to have encouraged them, and was to be confidered as a fign of approaching land. At the fame time, a brisk gale arofe, and carried them forward. Several birds were feen hovering about the fhip*, and directed their flight towards the west. The desponding crew refumed fome degree of fpirit, and began to entertain fresh hopes.
*As the Portuguese, in making their difcoveries, did not depart far from the coaft of Africa, they concluded that birds, whose flight they obferved with great attention, did not venture to any confiderable diftance 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 Weft-Indian islands, birds are often feen at the distance of two hundred leagues from the nearest coaft. Sloane's Nat. Hift. of Jamaica, vol. i. p. 30. Catesby faw an owl at fea, when the ship was fix hundred leagues diftant from land. Nat. Hift. of Carolina, pref. p. 7. Hift. Naturelle de M. Buffon, tom. xvi. P. 32. From which it appears, that this indication of land, on which Columbus feems to have relied with fome confidence, was extremely uncertain. This obfervation is confirmed by Captain Cook, the most extenfive and experienced navigator of any age or nation. “No one yet knows (says he) 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 pointing out the vicinity of land," Voyage towards the South Pole, vol. i,
Upon the first of October they were, according to the admiral's reckoning, feven hundred and feventy leagues to the weft 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, fhips, had fkill fufficient to corre& this error, and difcover the deceit. They had now been above three weeks at fea; they had proceeded far beyond what former navigators had attempted or deemed poffible; all their prognoftics 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 amufed them, had been altogether illufive, and their profpect of fuccefs feemed now to be as diftant as ever, Thefe reflections occurred often to men, who had no other object or occupation, than to reafon and difcourfe concerning the intention and circumftances of their expedition. They made impreffion, at first, upon the ignorant and timid, and extending, by degrees, to fuch as were better informed or more refolute, the contagion spread at length from ship to fhip. From fecret whispers or murmurings, they proceeded to open cabals and public complaints. They taxed their fovereign with inconfiderate credulity, in paying fuch regard to the vain promises and rash conjectures of an indigent foreigner, as to hazard the lives of fo many of her own subjects, in profecuting a chimerical scheme. They affirmed that they had fully performed their duty, by venturing fo far in an unknown and hopeless courfe, and could incur no blame, for refufing to follow, any longer, a desperate adventurer to certain deftruction, They contended, that it was neceffary to think of returning to Spain, while their crazy veffels were still in a condition to keep the fea, but expreffed their fears that the attempt would prove vain, as the wind, which had hitherto been fo favourable to their course, must render it impoffible to fail in the oppofite direction. All agreed that Columbus fhould be compelled by force to adopt a measure on which their common fafety 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 fea, being perfuaded that, upon their return to Spain, the death of an unsuccessful projector would excite little concern, and be inquired into with no curiofity.
Columbus was fully fenfible of his perilous fituation. He had observed, with great uneafinefs, the fatal operation of ignorance and of fear in producing difaffection among his crew, and faw that it was now ready