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white head;” are to be found in the American language. But likenefs of found in a few words will not be deemed sufficient to eftablish the fact; especially if the meaning has been evidently perverted: for example, the whole penguin tribe have unfortunately not cnly black heads, but are not inhabitants of the Northern hemisphere; the name was also bestowed on them by the Dutch, a pinguedine, from their excesiive fatness: but the inventor of this, thinking to do honour to his country, inconsiderately caught at a word of European origin, and unheard of in the New World. It may be added, that the Welsh were never a naval people; that the age in which Madoc lived was peculiarly ignorant in navigation; and the most which they could have attempted must have been a mere coafting voyage
The Norwegians put in for a share of the glory, on grounds rather better than the Welsh. By their settlements in Iceland and in Greenland, they had arrived within fo small a distance of the New World, that there is at least a possibility of its having been touched at by a people so versed in maritime affairs, and so adventurous, as the ancient Normans were. The proofs are much more numerous than those produced by the British Historians; for the discovery is mentioned in feveral of the Inandic manuscripts. The period was about the year 1002, when it was visited by one Biorn; and the discovery pursued to greater effect by Leif, the son of Eric, the discoverer of Greenland. It does not appear that they reached farther than Labrador ; on which coast they met with the Esquimaux, on whom they bestowed the name of Skrælingues, or dwarfish people, from their smail ftature. They were armed with bows and arrows, and had leathern canoes, such as they have at present. All this is probable; nor should the tale of the German, called Tuckil, one of the crew, invalidate the account. one day missing; but soon returned, leaping and singing with all the extravagant marks of joy a bon vivant could show, on discovering the inebriating fruit of his country, the grape: Torfæus even says, that he returned in a state of intoxication. To convince his commander, he brought several bunches, who from that circumstance named that country Vinland. It is not to be denied, that North America produces the true vine; but it is found in far lower latitudes than our ad
* If the reader, however, wishes to examine this curious question still farther, he will meet with all that can be said upon the subject, in WILLIAMS’s Enquiry into the tr!th of the tradition, concerning the Discovery of America by Prince Madog. 8vo. See al: Im Lar's Account of Kentuckey, page 377, 2d Edit.
venturers could reach in the time employed in their voyages,
which was comprehended in a very small space. There appears no reason to doubt of the discovery; but as the land was never colonized, nor any advantages made of it, it may fairly be conjectured, that they reached no farther than the barren country of Labrador. In short, it is from a much later period that we must date the real discovery of America *,
Towards the close of the 14th century, the navigation of Europe was scarcely extended beyond the limits of the Mediterranean. The mariner's compass had been invented and in common use for more than a century; yet with the help of this sure guide, prompted by the most ardent spirit of discovery, and encouraged by the patronage of princes, the mariners of those days rarely ventured from the fight of land. They acquired great applause by failing along the coast of Africa and discovering fome of the neighbouring islands; and after pushing their researches with the greatest industry and perseverance for more than half a century, the Portuguese, who were the most fortunate and enterprising, extended their discoveries Southward no farther than the equator,
The rich commodities of the East, had for several ages been brought into Europe by the way of the Red Sea and the Mediterranean; and it had now become the object of the Portuguese to find a passage to India, by failing round the Southern extremity of Africa and then taking an Eastern course. This great object engaged the general attention of mankind, and drew into the Portuguese service adventurers from every maritime nation in Europe. Every year added to their experience in navigation, and seemed to promise a reward to their industry. The prospect, however, of arriving at the Indies was extremely diftant; fifty years perseverance in the same track, had brought them only to the equator, and it was propable that as many more would elapse before they çould accomplish their purpose, had not COLUMBUS, by an uncommon exertion of genius, formed a design no less aftonishing to the age in which he lived, than beneficial to pofterity,
Among the foreigners whom the fame of the discoveries made by the Portuguese had allured into their service, was Christopher Colon or Columnbus, a subject of the republic of Genoa. Neither the time nor
* In the 2d Vol. of the Tranfactions of the Philophical Society at Philadelphia, Mr. Otto, in a Memoir on the Discovery of America, Arenuously contends, that one BEHIM, a German, discovered the American Continent prior to its being discovered by Columbus. For the ingenious arguments in support of this opinion, the reader is referred to the Momoir.
place of his birth are known with certainty'; but he was descended of an honourable family, though reduced to indigence by various misfortunes. His ancestors having betaken themselves for subsistence to a fea-faring life, Columbus discovered, in his early youth, the peculiar character and talents which mark out a man for that profession. His parents, instead of thwarting this original propensity of his mind, seem to have encouraged and confirmed it, by the education which they gave him. After acquiring fome knowledge of the Latin tongue, the only language in which science was taught at that time, he was instructed in geometry, cosmography, astronomy, and the art of drawing. To these he applied with such ardour and predilection, on account of their connection with navigation, his favourite object, that he advanced with rapid proficiency in the study of them. Thus qualified, in the year 1461, he went to sea at the age of fourteen, and began his career on that element which conducted him to so much glory. His early voyages were to those ports in the Mediterranean which his countrymen the Genocse frequented. This being a sphere too narrow for his active mind, he made an excursion to the northern seas, in 1467, and visited the coasts of Iceland, to which the English and other nations had begun to resort on account of its fishery. As navigation, in every direction, was now become enterprising, he proceeded beyond that island, the Thule of the ancients, and advanced several degrees within the polar circle. Having satisfied his curiosity by a voyage which tended more to enlarge his knowledge of naval affairs, than to improve his fortune, he entered into the service of a famous sea-captain, of his own name and family. This man commanded a small squadron, fitted out at his own expence, and by cruising fometimes against the Mahometans, fometimes against the Venetians, the rivals of his country in trade, had ac, quired both wealth and reputation. With him Columbus continued for several years, no less distinguished for his courage, than for his experience as a failor. At length, in an obstinate engagement, off the coast of Portugal, with some Venetian Caravels, returning richly laden from the Low Countries, the vessel on board which he served took fire, together with one of the enemy's ships, to which it was fast grappled, In this dreadful extremity his intrepidity and presence of mind did not forsake him. He threw himself into the fea, laid hold of a floating oar, and by the support of it, and his dexterity in swimming, he reached the fhore, though above two leagues diftant, and saved a life reserved for great undertakings.
As soon as he recovered strength for the journey, he repaired to Lisbon, where many of his countrymen were settled. They foon con
ceived such a favourable opinion of his merit, as well as talents, that they warmly folicited him to remain in that kingdom, where his naval kill and experience could not fail of rendering him conspicuous. To every adventurer, animated either with curiosity to visit new countries; or with ambition to diftinguish himself, the Portuguese service was at that time extremely inviting. Columbus liftened with a favourable ear to the advice of his friends, and having gained the esteem of a Portoguese lady, whom he married, fixed his residence in Lisbon. This allia ance, instead of detaching him from a fea-faring life, contributed to enlarge the sphere of his naval knowledge, and to excite a defire of extending it still farther. His wife was a daughter of Bartholomew Perestrello, one of the captains employed by prince Henry in his early navigations, and who, under his protection, had discovered and planted the islands of Porto Santo and Madeira. Columbus got poffeffion of the journals and charts of this experienced navigator, and from them he 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 foothed and inflamed his favourite passion; and while he contemplated the maps, and read the descriptions of the new countries which Perestrello had seen, his impatience to visit them became irresistible. In order to indulge it, he made a voyage to Madeira, and continued during several years 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.
By the experience which Columbus acquired, during such a variety of voyages, to almost every part of the globe with which, at that time, any intercourse was carried on by sea, he was now become one of the most skilful navigators in Europe. But, not satisfied with that praise, his ambition aimed at something more. The successful progress of the Portuguese 'navigators had awakened a spirit of curiosity and emulation, which set every man of science upon examining all the circumstances that led to the discoveries which they had made, or that afforded a prospect of succeeding in any new and bolder undertaking. The mind of Columbus, naturally inquisitive, capable of deep reflection, and turned to speculations of this kind, was so often employed in revolving the principles upon which the Portuguese had founded their schemes of difcovery, and the mode in which they had carried them on, that he gradu, ally began to form an idea of improving upon their plan, and of accomplishing discoveries which hitherto they had attempted in vain.
To find out a paffage by sea to the East Indies, was the great object in tiew 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, ånd, in comparison with it, all their discoveries in Africa appeared inconsiderable. The fertility and riches of India had been known for many ages ; its spices and other valuable commodities were in high request throughout Europe, and the vast wealth of the Venetians arising from their having engrossed this trade, had raised the envy of all nations. But how intent soever the Portuguese were upon discovering a new route to thofe desirable regions, they searched for it only by steering towards the south, in hopes of arriving at India, by turning to the east, after they had failed round the farther extremity of Africa. This course was still unknown, and, even if discovered, was of such immense length, that a voyage from Europe to India must have appeared, at that period, an undertaking extremely arduous, and of very uncertain issue. More than half a century had been employed in advancing from Cape Non to the equator; a much longer space of time might elapse before the more extensive navigation from that to India could be accomplished. These reflections upon the uncertainty, the danger and tediousness of the course which the Portuguese were pursuing, naturally led Columbus to consider whether a shorter and more direct passage to the East Indies might not be four.d out. After revolving long and seriously every circumstance suggested by his superior knowledge in the theory as well as practice of navigation, after comparing attentively the observations of modern pilots with the hints and conjectures of ancient authors, he at last concluded, that by failing directly towards the west, across the Atlantic ocean, new countries, which probably formed a part of the great continent of India, must infallibly be discovered.
Principles and arguments of various kinds, and derived from different fources, induced him to adopt this opinion, seemingly as chimerical as it was new and extraordinary. The spherical figure of the earth was known, and its magnitude ascertained with some degree of accuracy, From this it was evident, that the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa, as far as they were known at that time, formed but a small por. țion of the terraqueous globe. It was suitable to our ideas concerning the wisdom and beneficence of the Author of Nature, to believe that the vast space, still unexplored, was not covered entirely by a waste unprofitable ocean, but occupied by countries fit for the habitation of man. It appeared likewise extremely probable, that the continent, on this fide of the globe, was balanced by a porportional quantity of land in the other hemisphere. These conclusions concerning the existence of another continent, drawn from the figure and structure of the globe, were cong firmed by the cbservations and conjectures of modern navigators. Ą 3