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The prince was desirous to know something of the countries that lay beyond this formidable cape, and sent two commanders, named John Gonzales Zarco, and Tristan Vaz, in 1418, to pass beyond Badajor,
the coast behind it. They were caught by a tempest, which drove them out into the unknown Ocean, where they expected to perish by the violence of the wind, or perhaps to wander for ever in the boundless deep. At last, in the midst of their despair, they found a small island, where they shcltered themselves, and which the sense of their deliverance disposed them to call Puerto Santo, or the Holy Haven.
When they returned with an account of this new island, Henry performed a public act of thanksgiving, and sent them again with seeds and cattle; and we are told by the Spanish historian, that they set two rabbits on shore, which increased so much in a few years, that they drove away the inhabitants, by destroying their corn and plants, and were suffered to enjoy the island without opposition.
In the second or third voyage to Puerto Santo (for authors do not agree which), a third captain, called Perello, was joined to the two former. As they looked round the island upon the ocean, they saw at a distance something which they took for a cloud, till they perceived that it did not change its place. They directed their course towards it, and, in 1419, discovered another island covered with trees, which they therefore called Madera, or the Isle of Wood.
Madera was given to Vaz or Zarco, who set fire to the woods, which are reported by Souza to have hurnt for seven years together, and to have been wasted, till want of wood was the greatest inconveniency of the place. But green wood is not very apt to burn, and the heavy rains which fall in these countries must surely have extinguished the conflagration, were it ever so violent.
There was yet little progress made upon the southern coast, and Henry's project was treated as chimerical by many of his countrymen. At last Gilianes, in 1433, passed the dreadful cape, to which he gave the name of Bajador, and came back, to the wonder of the nation.
In two voyages more, made in the two following years, they passed forty-two leagues farther, and in the latter, two men with horses being set on shore, wandered over the country, and found nineteen men, whom, according to the savage manners of that age, they attacked; the natives having javelins, wounded one of the Portuguese, and received some wounds from them. At the mouth of a river they found sea-wolves in great numbers, and brought home many of their skins, which were much esteemed.
Antonio Gonzales, who had been one of the associates of Gilianes, was sent again, in 1440, to bring back a cargo of the skins of sea-wolves. He was followed in another ship by Nunno Tristam. They were now of strength sufficient to venture upon violence; they therefore landed, and without either right or provocation, made all whom they seized their prisoners, and brought them to Portugal, with great commendations both from the prince and the nation.
Henry now began to please himself with the success of his projects, and as one of his purposes was the conversion of infidels, he thought it necessary
to impart his undertaking to the pope, and to obtain the sanction of ecclesiastical authority. To this end Fernando Lopez d’Azevedo was dispatched to Rome, who related to the pope and cardinals the great designs of Henry, and magnified his zeal for the propagation of religion. The pope was pleased with the narrative, and by a formal bull, conferred upon the crown of Portugal all the countries which should be discovered as far as India, together with India itself, and granted several privileges and indulgencies to the churches which Henry had built in his new regions, and to the men engaged in the navigation for discovery. By this bull all other princes were forbidden to encroach upon the conquests of the Portuguese, on pain of the censures incurred by the crime of usurpation.
The approbation of the pope, the sight of men whose manners and appearance were so different from those of Europeans, and the hope of gain from golden regions, which has been always the great incentive to hazard and discovery, now began to operate with full force. The desire of riches and of dominion, which yet is more pleasing to the fancy, filled the courts of the Portuguese prince with innumerable adventurers from very distant parts of Europe. Some wanted to be employed in the search after new countries, and some to be settled in those which had been already found.
Communities now began to be animated by the spirit of enterprise, and many associations were formed for the equipment of ships, and the acquisition of the riches of distant regions, which perhaps were always supposed to be more wealthy, as more
remote. These undertakers agreed to pay the prince a fifth part of the profit, sometimes a greater share, and sent out the armament at their own expense.
The city of Lagos was the first that carried on this design by contribution. The inhabitants fitted out six vessels, under the command of Lucarot, one of the prince's household, and soon after fourteen more were furnished for the same purpose, under the same commander; to those were added many belonging to private men, so that in a short time twenty-six ships put to sea in quest of whatever fortune should present.
The ships of Lagos were soon separated by foul weather, and the rest, taking each its own course, stopped at different parts of the African coast, from Cape Blanco to Cape Verd. Some of them, in 1444, anchored at Gomera, one of the Canaries, where they were kindly treated by the inhabitants, who took them into their service against the people of the isle of Palma, with whom they were at war; but the Portuguese at their return to Gomera, not being made so rich as they expected, fell upon their friends, in contempt of all the laws of hospitality and stipulations of alliance, and making several of them prisoners and slaves, set sail for Lisbon.
The Canaries are supposed to have been known, however imperfectly, to the ancients; but in the confusion of the subsequent ages they were lost and forgotten, till about the year 1340, the Biscayners found Lucarot, and invading it (for to find a new country and invade it has always been the same), brought away seventy captives, and some commodities of the place. Louis de la Cerda, count of
Clermont, of the blood royal both of France and Spain, nephew of John de la Cerda, who called himself the Prince of Fortune, had once a mind to settle in those islands, and applying himself first to the king of Arragon, and then to Clement VI. was by the pope crowned at Avignon, king of the Canaries, on condition that he should reduce them to the true religion; but the prince altered his mind, and went into France to serve against the English. The kings both of Castile and Portugal, though they did not oppose the papal grant, yet complained of it, as made without their knowledge, and in contravention of their rights.
The first settlement in the Canaries was made by John de Betancour, a French gentleman, for whom his kinsman Robin de Braquement, admiral of France, begged them, with the title of King, from Henry the magnificent of Castile, to whom he had done eminent services. John made himself master of some of the isles, but could never conquer the grand Canary; and having spent all that he had, went back to Europe, leaving his nephew, Massiot de Betancour, to take care of his new dominion. Massiot had a quarrel with the vicar-general, and was likewise disgusted by the long absence of his uncle, whom the French king detained in his service, and being able to keep his ground no longer, he transferred his rights to Don Henry, in exchange for some districts in the Madera, when he settled his family.
Don Henry, when he had purchased those islands, sent thither, in 1424, two thousand five hundred foot, and an hundred and twenty horse; but the army