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ties, and the spirit of improvement is, at length, seen in every art and science.

If commerce be considered as essential to industry, and labour necessary to the opulence and happiness of society, we cannot but regard the discovery of the vast continent of America, and the islands with which it is on all sides surrounded, as one of the most important consequences of the discovery of the mariner's compass, and the improvements in navigation. Without a knowledge of the West Indies the intercourse with the East Indies would be of little advantage to Europe; it might even be pernicious, by draining it of its gold and silver: whereas we now purchase the commodities of the latter not only with European manufactures, but with the silver dug out of the mines of Potosi. To her possessions in Chili, Peru, Mexico, and the Antilles, Spain owes all her opulence. Great Britain, by means of her colonies, on the continent of America raised herself to a great and envied height of grandeur and importance. Portugal almost owes her existence to her possessions in Brazil. In short, every nation in Europe, either immediately or circuitously, has derived considerable advantages from the discovery of the western world.

At the beginning of the fourteenth century we date the discovery of the compass,

1302, which may, with great propriety, be said to have opened to man the dominion of the sea, and to have put him in full possession of the terrestrial globe, by enabling him to visit every part of it. The art of steering by this instrument was gradually acquired. Sailors, unaccustomed to quit sight of land, durst not launch out and commit themselves to unknown seas. The first appearance

A. D.

A. D. of a bolder spirit may be dated from the

of the Spaniards to the Canary or 1344.


Fortunate Islands. By what accident they were led to the discovery of those small isles, which lie 500 miles from the Spanish coast, and more than 150 miles from the coast of Africa, contemporary writers have not explained; and their subsequent voyages thither seem not to have been undertaken in consequence of any public or regular plan for extending navigation or of attempting new discoveries.

At length, however, the period arrived when Providence decreed that men were to pass the Jimits within which they had so long been confined, and open to themselves a more ample field, wherein to display their talents, their enterprise, and courage. The first efforts towards this were not made by any of the more powerful states of Europe, or by those who had applied to navigation with the greatest assiduity and success. The glory of leading the way in this new career was reserved for Portugal, one of the smallest and least powerful of the European kingdoms.

Among the foreigners whom the fame of the discoveries made by the Portuguese in Africa had allured into their service, was Christopher Colon or Columbus, a subject of the republic of Genoa, who di-covered, at a very early period, a peculiar propensity for a seafaring life. His parents encouraged his wishes by the education which they gave him. At the age of fourteen he began his career on that element which conducted him to so much glory. With a near relation, who commanded a small squadror, Columbus continued seyeral years, distinguished equally for talents and true courage. At length, in an obstinate engagement off the coast of Portugal with some Venetian caravels, the vessel on board which he served took fire, together with one of the enemy's ships to which it was fast grappled.

true able,

In this dreadful extremity he threw himself into the sea, laid hold of a floating oar; and by the support of that, and his own dexterity in swimming, he reached the shore, and saved a life-reserved for great undertakings.

As soon as he had recovered his strength for the journey, he repaired to Lisbon, where he married a Portuguese lady. This alliance, instead of detaching him from a seafaring life, contributed to enlarge the sphere of his naval knowledge, and to excite a desire of extending it still farther. His wife was daughter of an experienced navigator, from whose journals and charts Columbus learned the course which the Portuguese had held in making their discoveries, as well as the various circumstances which guided or encouraged them in their attempts. The study of these soothed and inflamed his favourite passion; and while he contemplated the maps, and read the descriptions of the new countries seen by his father-in-law, his impatience to visit them became irresistible. He made a voyage to Madeira, and for several years continued to trade with that island, with the Canaries, the Azores, the settlements in Guinea, and all the other places which the Portuguese had discovered on the continent of Africa.

To find out a passage by sea to the East Indies was the great object in view at that period. From the time that the Portuguese doubled Cape de Verd, this was the point at which they aimed in all their navigations, and, in comparison with it, alltheir discoveries in Africa appeared as inconsiderB 3


able. The Portuguese, however, searched for it only by steering south, in hopes of arriving at India by turning to the east when they had sailed round the farther extremity of Africa; while Columbus, after revolving every circumstance suggested by his superior knowledge in the theory as well as the practice of navigation, after comparing attentively the observations of modern pilots with the hints and conjectures of antient authors, concluded that by sailing directly towards the west across the Atlantic, new countries, which probably formed a part of India, must infallibly be discovered. In this opinion he was confirmed by the observations of his brother Bartholomew, who was a geographer by profession, and who, in drawing his maps of the world, was astonished that of 360 degrees of longitude only 180 at most were known; and, of course, there remained as much of the world to be discovered as had already been found out: and as it seemed by no means probable that the ocean could extend, without any interruption, over one entire hemisphere, he maintained that, by keepit g constantly west from the Canaries, they must ii fa'libly come either to islands or to a continent. Facts were not wanting to strengthen this plausible theory: a Portuguese pilot having stretched farther to the west than was usual at that time, took up a piece of timber artificially carved, floating upon the sea; and as it was driven towards him by a westerly wind, he concluded that it came from some unknown land situated in that quarter. Columbus's brother-in-law had found to the west of the Madeira isles a piece of timber fashioned in the same manner, and brought by the same wind. Trees torn up by their roots were frequently driven by westerly winds upon the coasts of the Azores,


and at one time the dead bodies of two men, with singular features resembling neither the inhabitants of Europe nor of Africa, were cast ashore there.

As the force of this united evidence, arising from theoretical principles and practical observation, led Columbus to expect the discovery of new countries in the Western Ocean, other reasons induced him to believe that these must be connected with the continent of India. He communicated his theory to Paul, a physician of Florence, eminent

A. D. for his knowledge in the science of cosmography, who entered warmly into the views 1474. of Columbus, and encouraged him in an undertaking which promised so much benefit to the world.

Having satisfied his own mind with respect to the truth of his system, Columbus stood in need of no stimulus to urge him to reduce it to practice. His first step was to secure the patronage of some European power. To this end he laid his scheme before the senate of Genoa, making, as became a good citizen, his native land the first tender of his services. They rejected his proposal, as the dream of a chimerical projector. He next applied to John II. king of Portugal, a monarch of enterprising genius, and no incompetent judge of naval affairs. The king listened to him in the most gracious nianner, and referred the consideration of his plan to a number of eminent geographers, whom he was accustomed to consult in matters of this kind. These men, from mean and interested views, started innumerable objections, and asked many captious questions, in order to betray Columbus into a full explanation of his system. Hav

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