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Favorable indications soon appeared. On the 11th of October, a little before midnight, Columbus from the forecastle descried a light; and shortly after, the cry of land ! -land ! resounded from the Pinta, the headmost ship. The morning light confirmed the report. One of the West-India islands was directly before them. The crews of all the ships with shouts of joy then gaye praise to God; and throwing themselves at the feet of Columbus, implored his forgiveness for their incredulity and disobedience.
On the return of Columbus to Spain, the news of his success soon spread abroad; others were inspired with the same spirit of enterprise; expeditions were fitted out from various parts of Europe ; and in a few years, the whole continent was discovered from Labrador to Cape Horn.
Inhabitants.] The number of inhabitants in America is commonly estimated at 35,000,000. They may be divided into three classes, according to their color. 1. Whites. They are the descendants of Europeans, who have migrated to America, at various periods since its discovery. 2. Negroes. They are the descendants of Africans, who were forced from their native country, and sold as slaves to the American planters. 3. Indians ; of a copper complexion; they are the descendants of the Aborigines, or those who occupied the country at the time of its discovery. Besides these, there is a small class of mulattoes, mestizoes, and others, formed by the mixture of the 3 original classes.
The whites constitute more than half the population; the negroes, one eighth part ; and the Indians, about one third. The whites and negroes are rapidly increasing ; the Indians are diminishing
Mountains. There is a range of mountains which runs through the whole length of the continent, a distance of more than 11,000 miles; and is the longest range of mountains on the globe.
Beginning at the southern extremity of the continent, in lat. 519 S. it runs along the whole western coast of South America, and, crossing the isthmus of Darien, passes into Mexico in North America. After leaving Mexico, it continues in a course west of north, and terminates, it is supposed, on the Frozen Ocean, in about lat. 70° N.
The different parts of this range are called by different names. The part in South America is called the Andes; the part in Mexico, the Cordilleras of Mexico; and the part north of Mexico, the Rocky Mountains. The highest parts of this range are in South America and Mexico. There are many summits from 15,000 to 20,000 feet in height, and several of the loftiest are volcanoes.
Divisions.] America is divided by the isthmus of Darien into North and South America. Between these two divisions are the West-India islands.
Situation.] North America is bounded on the E. by the Atlantic Ocean ; on the S. E. it is separated from South America by the isthmus of Darien ; on the W. is the Pacific Ocean. The southern extremity is in N. lat. 7° 30'. The limits towards the north have never been ascertained. Divisions.) The three great divisions of North America are,
1. British America, in the north;
3. Spanish America, in the south.
4. Greenland (belonging to Denmark) in the
5. The Russian Settlements, in the northwest. The two last are of little extent, and little consequence, and hardly worthy of mention under a general division.
Climate.] The climate on the eastern side of North America is much colder than in the same latitudes in Europe.
Mountains.] There are two great ranges of mountains in North America, the western and the eastern. The western is by far the longest. It comes from South America, over the isthmus of Darien, and after passing through the whole length of Spanish America, proceeds in a direction west of north, till it terminates on the Frozen Ocean, in about lat. 70° N. In its general course, it is parallel with the coast of the Pacific Ocean, from which it is several hundred miles distant. The part of this range which is in Mexico, is called the Cordilleras of Mexico, and the part north of Mexico the Rocky Mountains.
The eastern range is wholly within the United States. It runs from southwest to northeast, and in its general course is parallel with the Atlantic coast, from which it is 200 or 300 miles distant. It is called the Apalachian range, and embraces two distinct and parallel ridges; the western, or Allegany ridge, and the eastern, or Blue ridge.
Boys or Gulfs.] The five largest bays in north America are, Baffin's Bay, Hudson's Bay, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Gulf of California.
Islands.] The most important islands are Newfoundland, Cape Breton, and St. John's, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence; Nantucket and Long-Island, on the coast of the United States; and the Bermuda islands, in lat. 32 N. The West-India islands lie between North and South America.
Lakes.] There are more large lakes in N. America than in any other part of the world. The seven largest are Slave Lake, Lake Winnipeg, Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. The last five are very near each other, and form a regular chain, by means of short rivers or straits, which run from one to the other.
Rivers.] The principal rivers of North America are, Mackenzie's, Nelson's, the St. Lawrence, the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Del Norte, the Colorado and the Columbia.
Mackenzie's river empties into the Frozen Ocean in lat. 70 N, This river is the outlet of Slave Lake. Its most distant sources are Unjigah or Peace river, and Athapescow or Elk river; both of which rise in the Rocky mountains. The Athapescow, after passing through Athapescow Lake, unites with the Unjigah, and forms Slave river, which empties into Slave Lake. From Slave Lake to the ocean, the river is called Mackenzie's river.
Nelson's river empties into the western side of Hudson's Bay. It is the outlet of Lake Winnipeg. Its most distant branch is Saskatchawine river, which rises in the Rocky mountains, and flows east into Lake Winnipeg. From Lake Winnipeg to Hudson's Bay it is called Nelson's river.
The St. Lawrence empties into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in lat. 50 N. It is the outlet of the five great lakes, Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario. Its general course is from S. W. to N. E.
The Mississippi empties into the Gulf of Mexico. It rises near the west end of Lake Superior, and flows south. The branches of the Mississippi are mighty rivers. The branches are very numerous, and spread out widely, from the Allegany mountains on the
The Missouri is a western branch of the Mississippi. It empties in about lat. 38 N. It rises in the Rocky mountains, and flows southeast. From its source in the Rocky mountains, to the mouth of the Mississippi, in the Gulf of Mexico, is more than 4,500 miles.
Rio del Norte empties into the Gulf of Mexico in lat. 26 N. It rises in the Rocky Mountains, in about lat. 40 N. and its general course is southeasterly.
The Colorado empties into the Gulf of California. It rises on the west side of the Rocky mountains, and its general course is southwesterly.
Columbia river empties into the Pacific Ocean in lat. 46° N. Its sources are among the Rocky Mountains.
The length of the abovementioned rivers is estimated as follows:
Miles. 2,000 1,200 2,000 1,800
Miles. 3,000 4,500* 1,000 1,200
Indians.] When North America was discovered, in 1492, the whole continent was in possession of Indians, 'who generally
* From its source to the mouth of the Mississippi.
lived a wandering life, and gained their subsistence by hunting and fishing
When the whites first came over, they made a few small settlements on the Atlantic coast. As they increased in numbers, they began to advance into the interior, either purchasing the land of the Indians, or driving them off by force The whites have now been increasing and advancing for more than three centuries, and the Indians have been diminishing and retreating.
At the present time, the whites are in possession of more than one quarter of North America. They occupy the southeastern part. "If we begin on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, and draw a line along the parallel of 30° N. lat. till it strikes the Mississippi river, then up the Mississippi to its source near Lake Superior; then down Lakes Superior, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, and down the river St. Lawrence to its mouth; this line would divide North America into two parts. The whites possess nearly all the continent south and east of this line, and the Indians nearly all north and west of it. In other words, the Indians still own all the northern part of Spanish America, the western part of the United States, and nearly the whole of British America.
The whites are now increasing more rapidly than ever. Their settlements are continually advancing towards the west and north. The Indians are fast melting away before them; and, in the course of a few centuries, probably, there will be scarcely a wandering Indian left in America.
With respect to the country at present occupied by the Indians, comprehending about three quarters of the continent, we know very little about it. Many parts of it were never explored by a white man. We know, in general, that it is inhabited by Indians, who live entirely by hunting and fishing, and of course, that it is in a state of nature, wild and uncultivated. Even the names of the Indian tribes which inhabit this vast country are in many instances unknown.
Arrangement.] In describing North America we shall begin in the north, with Greenland and the Russian settlements, and then proceed to the three great divisions, British America, the United States, and Spanish America.
Situation.) Greenland belongs to Denmark. It is in the northcastern part of North America, having Davis's straits on the west, and the Ocean on the east. How far it extends north has never been ascertained. Towards the south, it terminates in a point, called Cape Farewell.
Climute.] Greenland is one of the coldest countries on the globe. The eastern coast is wholly inaccessible, on account of the mountains of ice, with which it is lined all the year round.
The summers are short; the winters are long and gloomy. In a severe winter many of the inhabitants are commonly frozen to death.
Face of the country.] Greenland is a dreary country. It is principally made up of naked, barren mountains, whose tops are covered with everlasting ice. The interior is wholly inaccessible on account of the ice.
Productions. In the southern parts of the country there are a few miserable trees, and shrubs of a small stinted growth. There is no wood of a size fit for building houses, and that which is used for fuel is principally drift-wood, which floats in great quantities Dear the shore, and is picked up by the boats.
The food of the Greenlanders is derived principally from seals, birds, and fishes. Sometimes they are reduced to the necessity of living on sea-weed and train oil; and in very severe winters, many of them starve to death.
Population. The whole population of Greenland is about 14,000, and is confined to the sea-coast. The Danes and Norwegians have settlements along the coast, which contain in all about 6,000 or 7,000 souls. The number of the natives, 60 or 70 years ago, was estimated at 20,000. It does not now, probably, exceed 7,000. The whole Greenland nation has been diminishing for many years. This is owing to several causes, but especially to the vast accumulation of ice on the coasts.
Religion.) The natives were formerly Pagans, but through the instrumentality of the Moravian missionaries, they have, to a considerable extent been converted to Christianity.
Towns.] There is a Danish settlement called Good Hope, in lat. 64°, and another in Disco bay, called Disco, not far from 68o. New-Herrnhut, Lichtenfels, and Lichtenau are the principal Moravian settlements.
Character and manners.] The natives are of low stature, brawney, and inclined to corpulency. They are indolent, and slow of apprehension, but very quiet and good natured. They are extremely filthy in their mode of living. In winter, they live in huts, made of stone or turf, and several families usually occupy the same building. These huts are warmed by burning train oil and moss in a kind of lamp.
The only employments of the Greenlanders are fishing and hunting. They can never live by agriculture ; the climate is too cold, and the soil too sterile.
Before the Moravian missionaries labored among them, the Greenlanders were barbarians. They frequently buried their old women alive, to get rid of the trouble and expense of maintaining them. Children have been known to bury their own parents in this way. But these customs are now abolished, and they have become, to a considerable extent a Christian people.
Animals. The quadrupeds are rein-deer, foxes, hares, dogs, and white bears. The dogs are used as beasts of burden; and draw the sledges of the Greenlanders 70 miles a day.