« AnteriorContinuar »
the fame 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 adiniral and viceroy of all the seas and lands which he should discover, and to have the tenth of the profits arifing from them, settled irrevocably upon himself and his descendants. At the same time, he offered to advance the eighth part of the fum necessary for accomplishing his design, on condition that he should be entitled to a proportional share of benefit from the adventure. If the enterprise thould totally miscarry, he made no ftipulation for any reward or emolament whatever. Instead of viewing this conduct as the clearest 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 de. manded. 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 illufive, such vast concellsons 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, tha: Isabella declined giving any countenance to Columbus, and abruptly broke of 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 Ilabella, like an unexpected ray of light, had opened such prospects of fuc. cefs, as encouraged him to hope that his labours were at an end; but Dow 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 refource.
About that time Granada surrendered, and Ferdinand and Isabella, in triumphal pomp, took possession 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 elevates the mind, and renders it enterprising, Quin. tanilla and Santangel, the vigilant and discerning patrons of Columbus, took advantage of this favourable Gituation, in order to make one effort
more in behalf of their friend. They addressed themselves to Isabella, and, after expressing some surprise, that she, 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 joft 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 requisite for equipping such 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 Chriftian 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 lost; 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 so well chosen, produced the desired effect. They dispelled all Isabella's doubts and fears; the 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 requisito.
Columbus had proceeded some leagues on his journey, when the mere fenger 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 ftill mingled itself with his joy.
But the cordial reception which he met with from Isabella, together with the near prospect of setting out upon that voyage which had so long been the object of his thoughts and wishes, soon effaced the remembrance of all that he had fuffered in Spain, during eight tedious years of folici. 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 thoufand four hundred and ninety-two. The chief articles of it were, 1. Ferdinand and Ifabeila, as fovereigns of the ocean, conftituted 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 thould enjoy this cffice, with the same powers and prerogatives which belonged to the high admiral of Caftile, within the limits of his jurisdiction. 2. They appointed Coo lumbus their viceroy in all the islands and continents which he should discover; but if, for the better administration of affairs, it should here. after be neceitary to eitablish a separate governor in any of those coun. tries, they authorised Columbus to name three persons, of whom they would chase one for that ofice; and the dignity of viceroy, with all its immunities, was likewise to be hereditary in the fa.nily 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 diicovered, 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 prost.
Though the name of Ferdinand appears conjoined with that of Isabella in this tranfiction, his distrust of Columbus was still fo 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 Caftile, Isabella reserved for her subjects of that kingdoin an exclusive right to all the benefits which might redound from its fuccess.
As soon as the treaty was signed, Ifabella, 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 conduct of the voyage, they committed implicitly to the disposal of his prudence. But, that they might avoid giving any juft 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 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 sum that he was bound by treaty to ad. tance, but engaged several of them to accompany him in the voyage. The chief of these associates were three brothers of the name of Pinzon, of considerable 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 waš 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 fhip 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 gentle. men of Isabella's court, whom the appointed to accompany him. Though the expence of the undertaking was one of the circumitances which chiefly alarmed the court of Spain, and retarded so long the new gociation with Columbus, the sum employed in fitting out this squadron did not exceed four thousand pounds.
As the art of thip-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 feas, where he had no chart to guide him, no knowledge of the cides and currents, and no experience of the dangers to which he might
be exposed. His eagerness to accomplish the great design which had la long engrossed his thoughts, made him overlook or difegard every circumstance that would have intimidated a mind less adventurous. He pushed forward the preparations with such ardour, and was seconded so effectually by the perfons to whom Isabella committed the superintendence of this business, that every thing was soon in readiness for the voyage. But as Columbus was deeply impreffed 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 Chriftian 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 procession to the monastery of Rabida. After confelling their fins, 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 sail, a little before sun-rise, 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 circumstance was the object of attention. The rudder of the Pinta broke loose, the day after the left the harbour, and that accident alarmed the crew, no less fuperftitious than unkilful, 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 westerly of the Canary islands, on the sixth 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 ftretched into unfrequented and unknown seas. The first day, as it was very calin, he made but little way; but on the second, he lost light 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 heal tears, as if they were never more to behold land. Columbus conforted them with assurances of success, and the prospect of vast wealth, in those opulent regions whither he was conducting them. This carly discovery of the spirit of his followers