Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

lumbus to persevere in an undertaking fo lauda. ble, and which must redound so much to the honour of his country, and the benefit of Europe k).

His schemes for carrying it into execution.

To a mind less capable of forming and of executing great designs than that of Columbus, all those reasonings, observations, and authorities, would have served only as the foundation of some plausible and fruitless theory, which might have furnished matter for ingeuious discourse, or fanciful conjecture. But with his fanguine and enterprising temper , speculation led directly to action. Fully fatisfied himself with respect to the truth of his system, he was impatient to bring it to the test of experiment, and to set out upon a voyage of discovery. The first step towards this was to secure the patronage of some of the confiderable powers in Europe, capable of undertaking such an enterprise. His long absence had not extinguished the affection which he bore to his native country, he wished that it should reap the fruits of his labours and invention.

He applies to the Genoese,

With this view, he laid his scheme before the senate of Genoa, and making his coun

k) Life of Columbus, e vit.

try the first tender of his service, offered to fail under the banners of the republic, in quest of the new regions which he expected to discover. But Columbus had resided for so many years in foreign parts, that his countrymen were unacquainted with his abilities and charactèr; and, though a maritime people, they were so little accustomed to distant voyages, that they could form no just idea of the principles on which he founded his hopes of success. They inconfiderately rejected his propofal, as the dream of a chimerical projector , and lost for ever 'the opportunity of restoring their commonwealth to its ancient fplendour 1).

To the king of Portugal.

Having performed what was due to his country, Columbus was so little dicouraged by the repulse which he had received, that, instead of relinquishing his undertaking, he pursued it with fresh ardour. He made his next overture to John II. king of Portugal, in who se dominions he had been long established, and whom he considered on that account, as having the second claim to his service. Here every circumstance feemed to promise him a more favourable reception. He applied to a monarch of an enterprising genius, no incompetent judge in naval affairs, and proud of patronising every attempt to discover new coun

1) Herrera Hift. de las Indias Occid. Dec. 1, lib. i. , 7.

[ocr errors]

tries. His subjects were the most experienced I navigators in Europe, and the least apt to i be intimidated either by the novelty or boldE ness of any maritime expedition. In Portu

gal, the professional skill of Columbus, as well I as his personal good qualities, were thorough

ly known; and as the former rendered it pro. 3 bable that his scheme was not altogether chi

merical, the latter exempted him from the sufpicion of any sinister intention in propofing it.

Accordingly, the king listened to him in the de most gracious manner, and referred the confie deration of his plan to Diego Ortiz, bifhop of de Ceuta , and two Jewish physicians , eminent

cosmographers, whom he was accustomed to consult in matters of this kind. As in Genoa,

ignorance had opposed and disapointed Columibus, in Lisbon he had to combat with preju.

dice, an enemy no less formidable. The per

fons, according to whose decision his scheme 5 was to be adopted or rejected, had been the

chief directors of the Portuguese navigations and had advised to search for a passage to India, by fteering a course directly opposite to that which Columbus recommended as shorter and more certain. They could not, therefore, approve of his proposal, without submitting to

the double mortification of condemning their j own theory, and of acknowledging his supe

rior fagacity.

By whom he is deceived. After teasing him with captious que. stions, and starting innumerable objections with a view of betraying him into fuch a particular explanation of his system, as might draw from him a full discovery of its nature, they deferred passing a final judgment with refpect to it. Iu the mean time. they confpired to rob him of the honour and advantages which he expected from the success of his scheme, ad vising the king to dispatch a vefsel, secretly, in order to attempt the propofed discovery, by! following exactly the course which Columbus seemed to point out. John, forgetting on this occafion the sentiments becoming a monarch, meanly adopted this perfidious counsel, But the pilot, chosen to execute Columbus plan, had neither the genius, nor the fortitude of its author. Contrary winds arose, no fight of approaching land appeared, his courage failed, and he returned to Lisbon, execrating the project as equally extravagant and dangerous m),

He leaves Portugal, and repairs to the court of Spain.

Upon discovering this dishonourable transaction, Columbus felt the indignation natural to an ingenuous mind, and in the warmth of his resentment determined to break off all intercourse with a nation capable of such flagrant

pen) Life of Columbns, e, xi, Herrera, decad. I. lib i. On 7.

treachery. He instantly quitted the kingdom, and landed in Spain towards the close of the year one thousand four hundred and eighty four, As he was now at liberty to court the protection of any patron. whom he could engage to approve of his plan, and to carry it into execution, he resolved to propose it in person to Ferdinand and Isabella. who at that time governed the united kingdoms of Castile and Aragon,

Sends his brother into England.

But, as he had already experienced the uncertain issue of applications to kings and ministers, he took the precaution of sending into England his brother Bartholomew, to whom he had fully communicated his ideas, in order that he might negociate , at the same time with Henry VII. who was reputed one of the most sagacious as well as opulent prin. çes in Europe.

[ocr errors][merged small]

It was not without reason that Columbus entertained doubts and fears with respect to the reception of his propofals in the Spanish court. Spain was, at that juncture, 'engaged in a dangerous war with Granada, the last of the Moorish kingdoms. The wary and sufpicious temper of Ferdinand was not formed to relish bold or uncommon designs. Ifabella ,

« ElőzőTovább »