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of the equinoctial line; and, after their con.
tinued exertions for half a century, hardly fif= teen hundred miles of the coast of Africa we
re discovered. To an age acquainted with e the efforts of navigation in its state of maturity
and improvement, those essays of its early 3 years must necessarily appear feeble and unskil1 ful. (From 1412. to 1463.) But, inconsideraba E le as they may be deemed, they were sufi ficient to turn the curiosity of the European : nations into a new channel, to excite an en.
terprising spirit, and to point the way to future e discoveries.
The pasfijon for discovery languishes for some time.
Alphonfo, who pofleffed the throne of Pori tugal at the time of prince Henry's death. was
so much engaged in supporting his own pretensions to the crown of Castile, or in carrying on his expeditions against the Moors in Barbary, that the force of his kingdom being exerted in other operations, he could not profecute the discoveries in Africa with ardour. He committed the conduct of them to Fernan
do Gomez, a merchant in Lifoon, to whom he i granted an exclusive right of commerce with bing all the countries of which prince Henry had
taken poffeffion. Under the restraint and opi pression of a monopoly, the spirit of discovery i languished. It ceased to be a national object, and became the concern of a private man, moa at length
re attentive to his own gain, than to the glory of his country. Some progress, however, was made. (1471.) The Portuguese ventured at length to cross the line, and, to their astonishment, found that region of the torrid zone, which was supposed to be scorched with intolerable heat, to be not only habitable, but populous and fertile.
found that region orched with 11
Revives with additional ardour. (1487.)
John II. who succeeded his father Alphonso poffeffed talents capable both of forming and executing great designs. As part of his revenues, while prince, had arisen from duties on the trade with the newly discovered countries, this naturally turned his attention towards them, and satisfied him with respect to their utility and importance. In proportion as his knowledge of these countries extended, the possession of them appeared to be of greater consequence. While the portuguese proceeded along the coast of Africa, from Cape Non to the river of Se- . negal, they found all that extensive tract to be sandy, barren, and thinly inhabited by a wretched people professing the Mahometan religion, and subject to the vast empire of Morocco. But to the south of that river, the power and religion of the Mahometans were unknown. The country was divided into small independent principalities, the population was
considerable, the soil fertile z), and the Por
tuguese foon discovered that it produced ivory, a rich gums, gold, and other valuable commo
dities. By the acquisition of these, , commer
ce was enlarged, and became more adventu+ rous. Men, animated and rendered active by ļ the certain prospect of gain, pursued discove.
ry with greater eagerness, than when they were excited only by curiosity and hope.
Its progress. :
This fpirit derived no small reinforcement $ of vigour from the countenance of such a mo
narch as John. Declaring himhelf the patron I of every attempt towards discovery, he pro
moted it with all the ardour of his grand uncle prince Henry, and with superior power. (1484)
The effects of this were immediately felt. A į powerful fleet was fitted out, which, after B discovering the kingdoms of Benin and Congo,
advanced above fifteen hundred miles beyond in the line, and the Portuguese, for the first time,
beheld a new heaven, and observed the stars
of another hemisphere. John was not only foli licitous to discover, but attentive to secure the
possession of those countries. He built forts mis on the coast of Guinea ; he sent out colonies bi to settle there; he established a commercial intercourse with the more powerful kingdoms; he endeavoured to render such as were feeble or divided, tributary to the crown of Portugal. Some of the petty princes voluntarily acknowledged themselves his vaffals. Others were compelled to do so by force of arms. A regular and well digested system was formed with respect to this new object of policy, and by firmly adhering to it, the Portuguese power and commerce in Africa were established upon a solid foundation.
2) Navigatio Aloysii Cadamusti apud Novum Orbem Grynaei'
p. 2. 18. Navigaz, all Isola di San Tome per un Pilotto Portugh. Ramulio. I. 115.
Hopes of discovering a new route to the East ludies.
By their constant intercourse with the people of Africa, the Portuguese gradually acquired fome knowledge of those parts of that country which they had not visited. The information which they received from the natives, added to what they had observed in their own voyages, began to open prospects more extenfive, and to suggest the idea of schemes more important, than those which had hitherto allured and occupied them. They had detected the error of the ancients concerning the nature of the torrid zone. They found, as they proceeded southwards, that the continent of Africa, instead of extending in breadth, according to the doctrine of Ptolemy a), at that time the oracle and guide of the learned in the science
a) Vide Noy. Orbis Tabul. Geograph, fecund. Ptolem.
Amít, of geography ,' appeared sensibly to contract itself, and to bend towards the eaft. This induced them to give credit to the accounts of the ancient Phenician voyages round Africa, which had long been deemed fabulous, and led them to conceive hopes that by following the same route, they might arrive at the East Indies, and engross that commerce, which has been the source of wealth and power to every nation poffeffed of it. The comprehensive genius of prince Henry, as we may conjecture from the words of the pope's bull, had early formed fome idea of this navigation. All the Portuguese pilots and mathematicians now concurred in representing it as practicable. The king entered with warmth into their sentiments, and began to concert measures for this arduous and important voyage.
Schemes for accomplishing this.
Before his preparations for this expedition were finished, accounts were transmitted from Africa, that various nations along the coast had mentioned a mighty kingdom fituated on their continent, at a great distance towards the east, the king of which, according to their defcription, professed the Christian religion. The Portuguese monarch immediately concluded, that this muft be the emperor of Abyssinia, to whom the Europeans, seduced by a mistake of Rubruquis, Marco Polo, and other travellers.