A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Vol. III.
by Robert Kerr
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[Transcriber's note: The spelling and punctuation inconsistencies and typographical errors of the original have been preserved in this etext.]









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CHAP. I. History of the discovery of America, by Christopher Columbus, written by his son Don Ferdinand Columbus, Introduction, Epochs of American discovery, Authors Preface.

SECT. I. Of the country, original, and name of Admiral Christopher Columbus; with other particulars of his life previous to his arrival in Portugal.

II. Of his first coming to Portugal, and the motives of his proposing to discover the West Indies.

III. The Admiral, disgusted by the procedure of the King of Portugal, in regard to the proposed discovery, offers his services to the court of Spain.

IV. Narrative of the First Voyage of Columbus, in which he actually discovered the New World[1].

VI. Second Voyage of Columbus to the West Indies.

VII. Account of the antiquities, ceremonies, and religion of the natives of Hispaniola, collected by F. Roman, by order of the Admiral.

VIII. The Admiral returns to Spain from his second voyage.

IX. Account of the Admirals Third Voyage, during which he discovered the continent of Paria; with the occurrences to his arrival in Hispaniola.

X. An account of the Rebellion in Hispaniola, previous to the arrival of the Admiral.

XI. Continuation of the troubles after the return of the Admiral to Hispaniola, to their adjustment.

XII. Transactions in Hispaniola subsequent to the settlement of the disturbances, until the sending of Columbus in irons to Spain.

XIII. Account of the Fourth Voyage of Columbus to the West Indies.

CHAP. II. Account of the Discovery of America, by Christopher Columbus; by Antonio de Herrera.

SECT. I. Of the knowledge of the Ancients respecting the New World.

II. Of the motives which led Columbus to believe that there were unknown countries.

III. Columbus proposes his design to the King and Queen of Spain; which, after many repulses, is adopted by the Queen.

IV. Conditions granted to Columbus by the crown of Castile, and an account of his First Voyage, in which he discovered the New World.

V. Continuation of the voyage; signs of approaching land; the people mutiny, and the Admiral endeavours to appease them.

VI. Discovery of the Islands of San Salvador, the Conception, Ferdinandina, Isabella, and others; with a description of these Islands, and some account of the Natives.

VII. Discovery of Cuba and Hispaniola, and desertion of Martin Alonzo Pinzon.

VIII. Farther discovery of Hispaniola; simplicity of the natives; the Admiral loses his ship, and resolves to settle a colony in the island.

IX. The Admiral builds a fort in Hispaniola, and prepares for his return to Spain.

X. Account of the Voyage home from Hispaniola to Lisbon.

XI. From the arrival of Columbus at Lisbon till the commencement of his Second Voyage to the New World.

XII. Second Voyage of Columbus to the West Indies, and establishment of Isabella, the first European colony in the New World.

XIII. Columbus proceeds to explore the coast of Cuba, discovers the island of Jamaica, and returns to Isabella in Hispaniola.

XIV. Summary of occurrences in Hispaniola, to the return of Columbus into Spain from his Second Voyage.

XV. Conclusion of the discoveries of Columbus.

CHAP. III. The voyages of Americus Vespucius to the New World, Introduction.

SECT. I. The First Voyage of Vespucius.

II. The Second Voyage of Americus Vespucius.

III. The Third voyage of Americus Vespucius.

IV. The Fourth voyage of Americus Vespucius.

CHAP. IV. Summary of the discoveries and settlements of the Spaniards in the West Indies, from the death of Columbus to the expedition of Hernando Cortes against Mexico, Introduction.

SECT. I. Improvements made in the colony of Hispaniola, by Nicholas de Obando, and the great value of gold procured in that island during his government.

II. Settlement of Porto Rico under Juan Ponce de Leon.

III. Don James Columbus is appointed to the government of the Spanish dominions in the West Indies.

IV. Settlement of a Pearl Fishery at the island of Cubagua.

V. Alonzo de Hojeda and Diego de Nicuessa are commissioned to make discoveries and settlements in the New World, with an account of the adventures and misfortunes of Hojeda.

VI. The history of Vasco Nugnez de Balboa, and the establishment, by his means, of the colony of Darien.

VII. The adventures, misfortunes, and death of Don Diego de Nicuessa, the founder of the colony of Nombre de Dios.

VIII. The conquest and settlement of the island of Cuba by Diego Velasquez.

IX. The strange expedition of Juan Ponce de Leon in search of the Fountain of Youth, in which he discovered Florida and the Bahama Channel.

X. The martyrdom of two Dominican Friars on the coast of Venezuela, through the avarice of the Spaniards.

XI. Discoveries on the continent of America, by command of Velasquez, under the conduct of Francis Hernandez de Cordova.

XII. Farther discoveries on the continent by Juan Grijalva, under the orders of Velasquez, by which a way is opened to Mexico or New Spain.

CHAP. V. History of the discovery and conquest of Mexico, written in the year 1568, by Captain Bernal Diaz del Castillo, one of the conquerors, Introduction, Preface by the Author.

SECT. I. Expedition of Hernandez de Cordova in 1517.

II. Expedition of Juan de Grijalva in 1518.

III. Commencement of the expedition of Hernando Cortes for the conquest of Mexico, in 1518.

IV. Arrival of the armament at St Juan de Ulua, and account of occurrences at that place.

V. The Spanish army advances into the country; an account of their proceedings before commencing their march to Mexico.

[1] By error of the press, a considerable part of this Section is marked in the running title as Section V. and the next is numbered Section VI. so that, numerically only, Section V; is entirely omitted.





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The whole of this chapter contains an original record, being a distinct narrative of the discovery of America by COLUMBUS, written by his own son, who accompanied him in his latter voyages. It has been adopted into the present work from the Collection of Voyages and Travels published at London in 1704, by Awnsham and John Churchill, in four volumes folio; in which it is said to have been translated from the original Italian of Don Ferdinand Columbus, expressly for the use of that work. The language of that translation is often obscure and ungrammatical, as if the work of a foreigner; but, having no access to the original, has necessarily been adopted for the present occasion, after being carefully revised and corrected. No farther alteration has been taken with that version, except a new division into sections, instead of the prolix and needlessly minute subdivision of the original translation into a multitude of chapters; which change was necessary to accommodate this interesting original document to our plan of arrangement; and except in a few rare instances, where uninteresting controversial argumentations have been somewhat abridged, and even these chiefly because the original translator left the sense obscure or unintelligible, from ignorance of the language or of the subject.

It is hardly necessary to remark, that the new grand division of the world which was discovered by this great navigator, ought from him to have been named COLUMBIA. Before setting out upon this grand discovery, which was planned entirely by his own transcendent genius, he was misled to believe that the new lands he proposed to go in search of formed an extension of the India, which was known to the ancients; and still impressed with that idea, occasioned by the eastern longitudes of Ptolemy being greatly too far extended, he gave the name of West Indies to his discovery, because he sailed to them westwards; and persisted in that denomination, even after he had certainly ascertained that they were interposed between the Atlantic ocean and Japan, the Zipangu, or Zipangri of Marco Polo, of which and Cathay or China, he first proposed to go in search.

Between the third and fourth voyages of COLUMBUS, Ojeda, an officer who had accompanied him in his second voyage, was surreptitiously sent from Spain, for the obvious purpose of endeavouring to curtail the vast privileges which had been conceded to Columbus, as admiral and viceroy of all the countries he might discover; that the court of Spain might have a colour for excepting the discoveries made by others from the grant which had been conferred on him, before its prodigious value was at all thought of. Ojeda did little more than revisit some of the previous discoveries of Columbus: Perhaps he extended the knowledge of the coast of Paria. In this expedition, Ojeda was accompanied by an Italian named Amerigo or Almerico Vespucci, whose name was Latinized, according to the custom of that age, into Americus Vespucius. This person was a Florentine, and appears to have been a man of science, well skilled in navigation and geography. On his return to Europe, he published the first description that appeared of the newly discovered continent and islands in the west, which had hitherto been anxiously endeavoured to be concealed by the monopolizing jealousy of the Spanish government. Pretending to have been the first discoverer of the continent of the New World, he presumptuously gave it the appellation of America after his own name; and the inconsiderate applause of the European literati has perpetuated this usurped denomination, instead of the legitimate name which the new quarter of the world ought to have received from that of the real discoverer.

Attempts have been made in latter times, to rob COLUMBUS of the honour of having discovered America, by endeavouring to prove that the West Indies were known in Europe before his first voyage. In some maps in the library of St Mark at Venice, said to have been drawn in 1436, many islands are inserted to the west of Europe and Africa. The most easterly of these are supposed in the first place to be the Azores, Madeira, the Canaries and Cape Verds. Beyond these, but at no great distance towards the west, occurs the Ysola de Antillia; which we may conclude, even allowing the date of the map to be genuine, to be a mere gratuitous or theoretic supposition, and to have received that strange name, because the obvious and natural idea of Antipodes had been anathematized by Catholic ignorance. Still farther to the north-west, another fabulous island is laid down, under the strange appellation of Delaman Satanaxia, or the land created by the hand of Satan. This latter may possibly have some reference to an ignorant position of Iceland. Both were probably theoretic, for the fancied purpose of preserving a balance on the globe with the continents and islands already known; an idea which was transferred by learned theorists, and even persisted in for a considerable part of the eighteenth century, under the name of the Terra Australis incognita; and was only banished by the enlightened voyages of scientific discovery, conducted under the auspices of our present venerable sovereign.

The globe of Martin Behaim, in 1492, repeats the island of Antillia, and inserts beyond it to the west, the isle of St Brandan or Ima, from a fabulous work of the middle ages. Occasion has already occurred to notice two other ancient pretended discoveries of the New World: the fabulous voyages of the Zenos, another Venetian tale; and the equally fabulous Portuguese island of the Seven Churches, abounding in gold, and inhabited by Spanish or Portuguese Christians. Britain even had its Madoc prince of North Wales; and a white nomadic nation in North America, speaking Welsh, is still among the puerile fancies of this nineteenth century.

All these pretended proofs of any previous knowledge of the western world, resolve into complete demonstrations of perfect ignorance, even in the art of deception and forgery. Not only is the world indebted to COLUMBUS for this great and brilliant discovery, but every subsequent improvement in navigation, geography and hydrography, is justly attributable to his illustrious example. Much and deservedly as our COOK and his coadjutors and followers have merited from their country and the world, they are all to be considered as pupils of the truly great archnavigator COLUMBUS; himself a worthy scholar from the nautical academy of the truly illustrious and enlightened father of discoveries, DON HENRY. All other discoveries, whether nautical or by land, dwindle into mere ordinary events, when compared with his absolutely solitary exertion of previous scientific views. The sagacious and almost prophetic induction, persevering ardour, cosmographical, nautical, and astronomical skill, which centered in COLUMBUS, from the first conception to the perfect completion of this great and important enterprize, the discovery of a large portion of the globe which had lain hid for thousands of years from the knowledge of civilization and science, is altogether unexampled. He was incontestibly the first bold and scientific mariner who ever dared to launch out into the trackless ocean, trusting solely to the guidance of the needle and the stars, and to his own transcendent skill and intrepidity.

There can be no doubt that Greenland, in some measure an appendage of America, was discovered in 982, by the Norwegians or their Icelandic colony; and that the same people accidentally fell in with Newfoundland, or a part of Labradore, in 1003; of which early real discoveries particular notices have been taken in the first part of this work. But these were entirely accidental, and were lost to the world long before COLUMBUS began his glorious career; and do not in the least degree detract from the merit or originality of his discovery.

The name even of the great COLUMBUS has of late been fastidiously endeavoured to be rejected, in favour of the Spanish appellation Colon, which he adopted on entering into that service, which repaid him with base ingratitude and cruel injuries for his transcendent services. It will be seen, however, from the authority of his own son, that the original name of his family was Colombi; though some branches in other parts of Italy had adopted the modern or middle age Roman name of Collona. COLUMBUS, therefore, ought certainly to remain in our language as the Latinized original name of this illustrious person.

In supplement to the history of Columbus by his son, we have chosen to give an account of the first Discovery of America, by Herrera the royal historiographer of Spain. To some readers this may appear superfluous: But, as Don Ferdinand Columbus may naturally enough be supposed to have written under a degree of partial attachment to the glory of his immortal father, it seems fortunate that we possess an authentic early history of the same unparalleled event, from a more certainly impartial and well informed author, having access to the public archives. That portion of our work is given as an original record, almost without any remark; leaving it to the ingenious industry of such of our readers as may be so disposed, to make a critical comparison between the work of Don Ferdinand Columbus, a rare and valuable monument of filial piety, and that of Antonio de Herrera. We have only to regret, that the transcendent genius, who possessed the unexampled sagacity to devise, and the singular good fortune, perseverance, capacity, and conduct, to succeed in Discovering the Western Hemisphere, had not sufficient health and leisure to have favoured the world with his own commentaries of this greatest enterprise that was ever achieved by man.—Ed.

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Abridged Series of the Epochs of American Discovery[2].

A.D. 982. East Greenland discovered by the Norwegians or Icelanders, who planted a small colony. This was long afterwards shut in by the accumulation of arctic ice, and entirely lost.

1003. Winland, either Newfoundland or Labradore, was discovered by the Icelanders, but soon abandoned and forgotten.

1492, August 3d. COLUMBUS commenced his first voyage. 12th October discovered Guanahani, one of the Bahama group, which he named St Salvador, now named Cat Island. In this voyage, besides several others of the Bahama islands, he discovered Cuba and Hispaniola, leaving a colony in the latter, which was cut off by the natives. He returned to Spain from this voyage on the 4th March 1493.

1494, September 25th. Second voyage of COLUMBUS began; in which he discovered the Carribbee islands, and founded a permanent colony in Hispaniola or Haiti. He returned from this voyage in 1496.

1497. Giovanni Gabotta, a Venetian, employed by Henry VII. of England, discovered Newfoundland, and traced the eastern coast of North America as far south as Virginia.

1498. Third voyage of COLUMBUS, in which he discovered Trinidad and the coast of Paria in South America; now called the Spanish Main by the English. He was sent home in irons from Hispaniola in 1500.

1499. Ojeda was sent from Spain to interfere with the great privileges granted to COLUMBUS; but did very little more than retrace some of his previous discoveries. In this voyage, as already mentioned, Ojeda was accompanied by Americus Vespucius, who usurped the right of giving the New World his own name America, which still continues universal.

1500. Cabral, a Portuguese admiral, while on a voyage to India, accidentally discovered Brazil.

In this year likewise, Corte de Real, a Portuguese navigator, discovered Labradore, while in search of a north-west passage to India.

1502. Fourth, voyage of COLUMBUS, in which he discovered the continental coast, from Honduras to near the Isthmus of Darien.

1513. Vasco Nunez de Balboa, descried the Pacific Ocean, or great South Sea, and waded into the waves, taking formal possession for the crown of Spain; and even embarked on that ocean in a canoe, as a more formal act of conquest.

In the same year, Florida was first discovered by Ponce de Leon, a Spanish officer.

1515. The continent of South America was explored down to the Rio de la Plata.

1519. Cortez began the conquest of Mexico, which he accomplished in 1521.

About the same time, Magalhaens, usually named Magellan, explored the Pacific Ocean.

1526. Pizarro visited the coast of Peru, which he invaded in 1530, and afterwards conquered.

[1] Churchills Collection of Voyages and Travels, Vol. II. 479.

[2] From Pinkertons Modern Geography.

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Because admiral DON CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, my father, was a person most worthy to be held in eternal remembrance, it seems reasonable that I his son, who sailed some time along with him, should to my other performances add this my chiefest work: The history of his life, and of his wonderful discovery of the West Indies.

In consequence of his great and continual sufferings, and the diseases he long laboured under, my father had not time to reduce his own notes and observations into historical order; and these having fallen to me, enable me to execute the present undertaking. Knowing that many others had undertaken to execute this task, I long delayed its performance. But, having read those other narratives, I found that they exaggerated many circumstances, had passed lightly over other matters of importance, and had even entirely omitted much that was deserving of particular notice. From these considerations I have been induced to publish this work; thinking it more becoming that I should undergo the censure of wanting skill, rather than to permit the truth respecting my noble father to remain in oblivion. Whatever may be the faults in this performance, these will not be owing to my ignorance of the truth; for I pledge myself to set down nothing which I do not find in his own papers or letters, or of which I have not actually been a witness.

In the following work, the reader will find a faithful record of all the reasons which induced the admiral to enter upon his great and glorious and successful enterprize, and will learn how far he personally proceeded in his four several voyages to the New World. He will see what great and honourable articles were conceded to him, before going upon his great discovery, by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, how basely all these were violated, and he most unworthily and inhumanly treated, after performing such unparalleled services; how far he established the affairs of Hispaniola, the first settlement of the Spaniards in the New World; and what care he took that the Indians should not be oppressed, but rather prevailed on by kind usage and good example, to embrace the Catholic faith. In this work, likewise, will be found a faithful picture of the manners and customs of the Indians, an account of their opinions and practices respecting religion, and every thing that can reasonably be looked for in a work like the present: The foundation for which was laid by the great discoverer, and the superstructure raised by me his own son, who possessed every advantage derivable from a liberal education and the possession of authentic original documents, to fit me for executing a work of such importance.


Of the Country, Original, and Name of Admiral Christopher Columbus; with other particulars of his Life previous to his arrival in Portugal.

It is a material circumstance in the history of a great man to make known his country and original, as those are best esteemed in the world who are derived from noble cities and born of illustrious parents. Wherefore some would have engaged me to prove that the admiral my father was honourably descended, although his parents, through the fickleness of fortune, had fallen into great poverty. Those persons required me to prove that his ancestors descended from Junius Colomus, who, as Tacitus relates, brought Mithridates a prisoner to Rome, for which service he was raised by the Roman people to the consulate. They would likewise have induced me to give an account at large of the two illustrious Colomi his predecessors, who gained a great victory over the Venetians, as recorded by Sabellius, and which shall be mentioned in this work. But considering that my father seemed to have been peculiarly chosen by the Almighty for the great work which he performed, and may be considered in some measure as an apostle of the Lord by carrying the gospel among the heathen; and that the other apostles were called upon from the sea and the rivers, and not from courts and palaces, by him whose progenitors were of the royal blood of the Jews, yet who was pleased that they should be in a low and unknown estate: And seeing that God had gifted my father with those personal qualities which so well fitted him for so great an undertaking, he was himself inclined that his country and original might remain hidden and obscure.

Some who would throw a cloud upon his fame, have alleged that he was from Nerni, others from Cuguero, and others from Bugiesco, all small towns in the Riviera of Genoa: While others again, who were disposed rather to exalt his origin, say that he was a native of Savona, others of Genoa, and some more vain, make him to have been a native of Placentia, where there are some honourable persons of the name, and several tombs having the arms and inscriptions of the family of Columbus, which was the usual sirname of his predecessors; but he, in compliance with the country where he went to reside, modelled the name in resemblance of the ancients to Colon, thereby distinguishing the direct descent from the collateral lines.

Many names have been given by secret impulse, to denote the effects those persons were to produce; and as most of my fathers affairs were guarded by some special providence, his name and sirname were not without some mysterious significations. Thus, considering the sirname of his ancestors, Columbus or Columba, since he conveyed the grace of the Holy Ghost into that New World which he discovered, shewing the knowledge of the beloved Son of God to those people who knew him not, as was done by the Holy Ghost in the form of a Dove at the baptism of St John; and because, like Noahs dove, he carried the olive branch and the oil of baptism across the waters of the ocean, to denote the peace and union of those people with the church, which had long been shut up in the ark of darkness and ignorance. So likewise of the sirname of Colon which he revived, which was appropriate to him as signifying a member; and, in conjunction with his sirname of Christopher, denoted that he was a member of Christ, by whom salvation was to be conveyed to the heathen people whom he discovered. Thus, as St Christopher received that name because he carried Christ over the deep waters with great danger to himself; so the admiral Christopher Colonus, imploring the protection of Christ, safely carried himself and his people over the unknown ocean, that those Indian nations which he discovered might become citizens and inhabitants of the heavenly Jerusalem. For many souls, whom the Devil expected for his prey, were through his means passed through the water of baptism, and made inhabitants of the eternal glory of heaven.

To return to the quality and persons of his progenitors; however considerable they may once have been, it is certain that they were reduced to poverty and want, through the long wars and factions in Lombardy. I have not been able to discover in what manner they lived; though in one of his letters the admiral asserted that his ancestors and himself had always traded by sea. While passing through Cuguero, I endeavoured to receive some information on this subject from two brothers of the Colombi, who were the richest in those parts, and who were reported to be somewhat related to him; but the youngest of them being above an hundred years old, they could give me no information. Neither do I conceive this any dishonour to us his descendants; as I think it better that all our honour be derived from his own person, without inquiring whether his father were a merchant, or a nobleman who kept hawks and hounds. There have been thousands such in all parts, whose memory was soon lost among their neighbours and kindred, so that no memorials remain of there ever having been such men. I am therefore of opinion, that the nobility of such men would reflect less lustre upon me than the honour I receive from such a father: And, since his honourable exploits made him stand in no need of the wealth of predecessors, who though poor were not destitute of virtue, he ought from his name and worth to have been raised by authors above the rank of mechanics or peasants.

Should any one be disposed to affirm that the predecessors of my father were handicrafts, founding upon the assertion of Justiniani, I shall not engage to prove the contrary; for, as the writing of Justiniani is not to be considered as an article of faith, so I have received the contrary from a thousand persons. Neither shall I endeavour to prove the falsehood of his history from those other authors who have written concerning my father; but shall convict him of falsehood out of his own writings and by his own testimony; thus verifying proverb which says "that liars ought to have good memories," because otherwise they contradict themselves, as Justiniani has done in this case, of which I propose to exhibit sufficient proofs.

In his comparison of the four languages, when commenting upon that passage in the psalms, "In omnem terrarum exivit sonus eorum," he says, "This Christopher Columbus having acquired some rudiments of learning in his tender years, applied himself to navigation when he came to manhood, and went to Lisbon, where he learned cosmography from a brother who there made sea charts; in consequence of which improvement, and by discoursing with those who had sailed to St George del Mina in Africa, and through his own reading in cosmography, he entertained thoughts of sailing towards those countries which he afterwards discovered." Hence, contrary to the assertion of Justiniani, it appears from his own words that my father followed no handicraft or mechanic employment, but devoted his childhood to learning, his youth to navigation and cosmography, and his riper years to discoveries. Thus Justiniani convicts himself of falsehood, and proves himself inconsiderate, rash, and malicious. When he had occasion to speak of so renowned a person who reflected so great honour on his country, although the admirals parents had even been very mean, it had been more decent in mentioning his origin, as other authors have done, to have said that he was of low parentage or come of very poor people, instead of falsely calling him a mechanic, as he did in his Psalter, and afterwards in his Chronicle. Even supposing he had not contradicted himself, reason might have shewn that a man who had been bred up in a mechanical employment, must grow old in it to become a perfect master, and could not from his youth have travelled into so many countries, or have attained so much knowledge and learning as his actions demonstrate; more especially in those four principal sciences which were so indispensably necessary to fit him for what he performed, astronomy, cosmography, geometry, and navigation. It is not much to be wondered that Justiniani should be guilty of untruth in this circumstance, which is hidden, since he has inserted above a dozen falsehoods in half a sheet of paper in his Psalter, in matters concerning this discovery and navigation, which are well known. These I shall briefly mention, without staying to give him any answer, that I may not interrupt the series of the history; and because from its tenor, and by what has been written by others on that subject, the falsehood of his writing will distinctly appear.

The first falsehood is, that the admiral went to Lisbon to learn cosmography from a brother of his own who was settled in that place. This is utterly contrary to the truth; since he lived in that city before the arrival of his brother, and taught his brother what he knew instead of learning from him. The second falsehood is, that their Catholic majesties Ferdinand and Isabella accepted his proposal at his first coming to Castile, after it had been seven years bandied about and rejected by all men. The third, that he set out upon his discovery with two ships; whereas the truth is, that he had three caravels in his first voyage. The fourth, that his first discovery was Hispaniola; whereas the first land he came to was Guanahani, which he named St Salvador, or St Saviour. The fifth, that the island of Hispaniola was inhabited by cannibals; while the truth is, that its inhabitants were the best and most civilized people in all those parts. The sixth, that he took the canoe or Indian boat which he first saw by force of arms; whereas it is certain that he had no hostilities in the first voyage with any of the Indians, and continued in peace and amity with them until his departure from Hispaniola. The seventh, that he returned by way of the Canary Islands, which is by no means the proper route. The eighth, that he dispatched a messenger from the Canaries to their Catholic majesties; whereas it is certain he was not at these islands on his return, and that he was his own messenger. The ninth, that he went with twelve ships on his second voyage, while he actually had seventeen. The tenth, that he arrived at Hispaniola in twenty days, which is too short a time to reach the nearest islands; and he certainly did not perform the second voyage in two months, and besides went to other islands much farther distant before going to Hispaniola. The eleventh, that he immediately afterwards went from Hispaniola with two ships, whereas he certainly went to Cuba with three vessels. The twelfth falsehood is, that Hispaniola is four hours (difference in longitude) distant from Spain; while the admiral reckoned it to be five. The thirteenth, to add one to the dozen, is that the western point of Cuba is six hours distant from Hispaniola; making a farther distance of longitude from Hispaniola to Cuba, than from Spain to Hispaniola.

By the foregoing examples of negligence, in inquiring into the truth of those particulars which are plain and easy to have been learnt, we may divine what inquiry he made into those which are obscure and in which he contradicts himself, as already proved. But, laying aside this fruitless controversy, I shall only add that, in consideration of the many falsehoods in the Chronicle and Psalter of Justiniani, the senate of Genoa have imposed a penalty upon any person within their jurisdiction who shall read or keep those books, and have ordered that they shall be carefully sought after and destroyed.

To conclude this disquisition, I assert that the admiral, so far from being a person occupied with the vile employments of mechanics or handicraft trades, was a man of learning and experience, and entirely occupied in such studies and exercises as fitted him for and became the glory and renown of his most wonderful discoveries; and I shall close this chapter with an extract from a letter which he wrote to the nurse of Prince John of Castile. "I am not the first admiral of my family, let them give me what name they please. After all, that most prudent king David was first a shepherd, and was afterwards chosen king of Jerusalem; and I am a servant to the same Lord who raised him to so great dignity."

In his person the admiral was above the middle stature and well shaped, having rather a long visage, with somewhat full cheeks, yet neither fat nor lean. His complexion was very fair with delicately red cheeks, having fair hair in his youth, which became entirely grey at thirty years of age. He had a hawk nose, with fair eyes. In his eating and drinking, and in his dress, he was always temperate and modest. In his demeanour he was affable to strangers and kind and condescending to his domestics and dependents, yet with a becoming modesty and dignified gravity of manner, tempered with easy politeness. His regard for religion was so strict and sincere, even in keeping the prescribed fasts and reciting all the offices of the church, that he might have been supposed professed in one of the religious orders; and so great was his abhorrence to profane swearing that I never heard him use any other oath than by St Ferdinand; and even in the greatest passion, his only imprecation was "God take you." When about to write, his usual way of trying his pen was in these words, Jesu cum Maria sit nobis in via; and in so fair a character as might have sufficed to gain his bread by writing.

Passing over many particulars of his character, manners, and disposition, which will appear in the course of this history, I shall now only mention that, in his tender years he applied himself to such studies at Pavia as fitted him to understand cosmography, his favourite science; for which purpose he chiefly devoted himself to the study of geometry and astronomy, without which, it is impossible to make any proficiency in cosmography. And, because Ptolemy, in the preface to his cosmography, asserts that no person can be a good cosmographer without a thorough knowledge of drawing; he therefore learnt to draw, so as to be able to delineate not only the exact outlines of countries, but to express their cosmographical features, whether having plain surfaces or interspersed with hills and vallies.

Having laid a foundation in the before-mentioned sciences, he went to sea, and made several voyages both to the east and west[1]: But of these, and many other circumstances respecting his early years I have no perfect knowledge. I was so young at his death, that owing to filial respect, I had not the boldness to ask an account from him of the incidents of his youth, and besides I was not then interested in such inquiries. But some account of these things may be gleaned from his letters to their Catholic majesties, to whom he would not dare to write any thing but the truth. In one of these letters, written in the year 1501, he says,

"Most Serene Princes! I went to sea when very young, and have continued to the present day; and this art of navigation inclines those who follow it to be desirous of discovering the secrets of this world. It is now forty years[2] that I have been sailing to all those parts of the world which are frequented at present; and I have conversed with many wise and learned men, both clergy and laity, Latins, Greeks, Indians and Moors, and of many other sects and nations. God has been favourable to my inclination, and has given me the spirit of understanding, so that I have become very skilful in navigation, with a competent knowledge in arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy, and both genius and skill to draw maps and charts of this world, with its cities, rivers, islands, and ports, all in their proper places and proportions. During my whole life, I have endeavoured to see and understand all books of cosmography, history, and philosophy; by which my understanding hath been enlightened so as to enable me to sail from Europe to the Indies, and God hath inclined me to put this design into execution. Filled with this desire I came to your highnesses; and after all who had heard an account of my proposed undertaking had rejected it with scorn and contempt as visionary and impracticable; in your highnesses alone I found judgment to believe in the practicability of my proposal, and constancy and spirit to put it into execution."

In another letter, written in January 1495 from Hispaniola, to their Catholic majesties, in illustration of the errors and mistakes common in voyages and the piloting of ships, he thus writes, "I was formerly sent to Tunis by King Renee, whom God hath since taken to himself, to take the galeasse called Fernandina; and, when near the island of St Peter off Sardinia, I was informed that the Fernandina was accompanied by two ships and a carack. This intelligence dismayed my people, who refused to proceed in the enterprize, and demanded to go back to Marseilles for another ship and more men. Finding that it was impossible to go on against their inclinations, without a stratagem, I pretended to yield to their desires; but having altered the card of the ships compass, I set sail when it was late, under pretence of making for Marseilles. But next morning at day-break, when all on board believed we had been sailing for Marseilles, we found ourselves close in with Cape Carthagena[3]."

In a memorandum or observation tending to prove that all the five zones are habitable by the experience of navigation, he thus writes: "In February 1467, I sailed an hundred leagues beyond Thule, or Iceland, the northern part of which is 73 degrees distant from the equinoctial, and not 63 degrees as some suppose; neither does it lie upon the line where Ptolemy begins the West, but considerably more to the westwards. To this island, which is as large as England, the English carry on trade, especially from the port of Bristol. When I was there the sea was not frozen, but the tides were so great that in some places it rose and fell twenty-six fathoms[4]. I have likewise been in the Portuguese fort of St George del Mina, under the equinoctial, and can witness that it is not uninhabitable, as some have supposed." In his book respecting his first voyage, he says that he saw some mermaids on the coast of Menegueta, but that they were not by any means so like ladies as represented in paintings. In another place he says, that, in several voyages between Lisbon and Guinea, he had observed that a degree on the earth corresponds to 56 miles and two thirds. He notices having seen mastick drawn from some trees in the island of Scio, one of the isles in the Greek Archipelago.

In one place of his own writings he says that he had been at sea during twenty-three years, without being on shore for any length of time; and had seen all the countries of the east and west, and towards the north, particularly England and Guinea; yet had never seen any harbours that could be compared for goodness with those which he had discovered in the West Indies. He says farther, "I went first to sea at fourteen years of age, and have followed that profession ever since." In his note book of his second voyage he says, "I had two ships, one of which I left at Porto Sancto, for a certain reason, where it continued one day; and on the day following, I rejoined it at Lisbon[5]; because I encountered a storm, and had contrary winds at south-west, and the other ship had contrary winds at south-east." From these instances it may be inferred that he had great experience in sea affairs, and that he had visited many countries and places, before he undertook his great discovery.

[1] This must be understood as referring to voyages in the Mediterranean, in respect of the port of Genoa.—E.

[2] Supposing Columbus to have been 14 years of age on first going to sea, it may be concluded that he was born in 1447. He must therefore have been 45 years old when he set out in 1492 for the discovery of America; and 59 years old at his death, in 1506.—E.

[3] Or rather Cape Carthago, on the coast of Barbary near Tunis.—E.

[4] It is highly probable that the original translator may have here mistaken the braccio of 1.913 English feet, for the fathom of 6 feet. In fathoms, this tide rises to the incredible height of 156 feet; whereas in braccios, it amounts only to 49 feet: And besides there are braccios considerably shorter than the one here assumed.—E.

[5] There is some inexplicable ambiguity in this passage, which the original translator must have misunderstood, and which cannot now be explained.—E.


Of his first coming to Portugal, and the cause or motives of his proposing to discover the West Indies.

The occasion of his first coming into Portugal, arose from his attachment to a famous man of his name and family, named Columbus, long renowned on the sea as commander of a fleet against the infidels; insomuch that even in his own country his name was used to frighten young children. This man, known by the name of Columbus the young, to distinguish him from another great sea captain of the same name, was a person of great prowess, and must have commanded a goodly fleet, as he captured at one time four Venetian galleys, of such size and strength as I could not have believed unless I had seen them fitted out. Of this Columbus junior, Marc Anthony Sabellicus, the Livy of our age, says, in the eighth book of his tenth decade, that he lived at the time when Maximilian the son of the Emperor Frederick III. was chosen king of the Romans; and that Jerom Donato was sent ambassador from Venice to return thanks to John II. king of Portugal, for having relieved and clothed the crews of their great galleys so as to enable them to return to Venice. These galleys were returning from Flanders, when they were encountered and taken by the famous corsair Columbus junior, who stripped their whole crews and turned them ashore on the coast of Portugal.

The authority of so grave an author as Sabellicus, sufficiently proves the malice of Justiniani who makes no mention whatever of this incident, evidently lest the family of Columbus might appear less obscure than he was disposed to hold it out to the world. If in this he erred through ignorance, he is not the less worthy of blame for having undertaken to write the history of his country without making himself acquainted with so signal a victory, of which even the enemies of Genoa make mention. Even Sabellicus in his eighth book, mentions the great discovery of the admiral, though less obliged to inquire into it, but without adding the twelve lies which Justiniani inserted.

To return to the matter in hand. While the admiral my father sailed along with Columbus junior, which he long did, they received intelligence of four large Venetian galleys being on their voyage from Flanders, and going in quest of them, came up with them near Cape St Vincent on the coast of Portugal. A furious contest took place, in which the hostile vessels grappled with each other, and the crews fought with the utmost rage, not only using their hand weapons but artificial fire-works. The fight continued with great fury from morning till night; when the vessel in which my father was took fire, as did likewise a great Venetian galley to which she was fast grappled by strong iron hooks and chains. In this dreadful situation neither of them could be relieved, on account of the confusion and terror of fire, which increased so rapidly that all who were able of both crews leapt into the water, preferring that death to the torture of fire. In this emergency, my father being an excellent swimmer, and having the good fortune to lay hold of an oar, made for the land, which was little more than two leagues distant. Sometimes swimming, and at other times resting on the oar, it pleased God, who preserved him for the accomplishment of greater designs, that he had sufficient strength to attain the shore, but so exhausted by his exertions and by long continuance in the water that he had much ado to recover. Being not far from Lisbon, where he knew that many Genoese his countrymen then dwelt, he made all haste to that city; where making himself known, he was courteously received and entertained by the Genoese.

After remaining some time at Lisbon, where he behaved himself honourably, being a man of comely appearance, it happened that Donna Felipa Moniz, a lady of good family, then a boarder in the nunnery of All-Saints whether my father used to go to mass, fell in love with him and married him. The father of his lady, Peter Moniz Perestrello, being dead, the newly married pair went to live with the widow; who seeing her son-in-law much addicted to cosmography, informed him that her husband, Perestrello, had been a great sea-faring man, and had gone with two other captains to make discoveries with the license of the king of Portugal, and under an agreement that they were to divide their discoveries into three portions, and each to have a share by lot. That accordingly they had sailed from Lisbon towards the south-west, where they discovered the islands of Madeira and Porto Sancto, places which had never been seen before. And as Madeira was the largest, they divided it into two portions, making Porto Sancto the third, which had fallen to the lot of her husband Perestrello, who continued in the government of that island till his death.

The admiral being much delighted with the relations of sea voyages, his mother-in-law gave him the journals and sea charts which had been left by her husband, which excited his curiosity to make inquiry respecting the other voyages which the Portuguese had made to St George del Mina and the coast of Guinea, and he enjoyed great delight in discoursing with such as had sailed to those parts. I cannot certainly determine whether he ever went to Mina or Guinea during the life of this wife. But while he resided in Portugal he seriously reflected on the information he had thus received; and concluded, as the Portuguese had made discoveries so far to the southward, it was reasonable to conclude that land might be discovered by sailing to the westwards. To assist his judgment, he again went over the cosmographers which he had formerly studied, and considered maturely the astronomical reasons which corroborated this new opinion. He carefully weighed likewise the information and opinions on this subject of all with whom he conversed, particularly sailors. From an attentive consideration of all that occurred to him, he at length concluded that there must be many lands to the west of the Canary and Cape de Verd islands; and that it must be perfectly possible to sail to and discover them. But, that it may distinctly appear by what train of arguments he came to deduce so vast an undertaking, and that I may satisfy those who are curious to know the motives which induced him to encounter so great danger, and which led him to his great discovery, I shall now endeavour to relate what I have found among his own papers respecting this matter.

The motives which induced my father to undertake the discovery of the West Indies were three. Natural reason, authority of authors, and the testimony of sailors. From natural reason my father concluded that the whole sea and land of this world composed a globe or sphere, which might assuredly be gone round, so that men should stand with their feet directly against the feet of other men, in any precisely opposite parts whatever. Secondly, he took it for granted upon the authority of approved authors that a great portion of our globe had been already travelled over and explored; and that it now only remained to discover the whole, so as to make known what was contained in the vacant space which remained, between the eastern boundaries of India which were known to Ptolemy and Marinus, and those our newly discovered western parts of the coast of Africa and the Azores and Cape Verd islands, the most westerly which were yet known. Thirdly, he concluded that this still unknown space, between the eastern limits known to Marinus and the Cape Verds, could not exceed a third part of the circumference of the globe; since Marinus had already described 15 hours towards the east, out of the 24 parts or hours into which the circumference of the world is divided by the diurnal course of the sun; and therefore to return in an easterly direction to the Cape Verd islands from the limits discovered by Marinus, or to proceed westerly from these islands to meet the eastern limits of Marinus, required only to pass over about 8 parts in 24 of the circumference of the earth[1].

He reckoned, fourthly, that as the cosmography of Marinus had given an account of fifteen hours or parts of the circumference of the globe eastwards, and had not yet attained to a knowledge of the eastern extremity of the land, it followed of course that this eastern extremity must be considerably beyond those known limits; and consequently, that the farther it extended eastwards, so much the nearer it must approach to the Cape Verd islands, or the then known western limits of the globe: And, if this space were sea, it might be easily sailed over in a short time; and if land, that it would be much sooner discovered by sailing to the west, since it must be much nearer to these islands in that direction. To this may be added what is related by Strabo in his Fifteenth Book, that no army ever penetrated to the eastern bounds of India, which according to Ctesias is as extensive as all the rest of Asia. Onesicritus affirms that India is a full third part of the world; and Nearchus says that it is four months journey in a straight line from west to east. Pliny, in the 17th Chap, of his 6th Book, says that India is a third part of the earth, and that consequently it must be nearer Spain in the western than in the eastern direction.

The fifth argument which induced the admiral to believe that the distance in a western direction to India was small, was taken from the opinion of Alfragranus and his followers, who computed the circumference of the globe as much less than all other cosmographical writers, as they only allowed 56-2/3 miles to a degree of longitude. Whence my father inferred, that the whole globe being small, the extent of that third part which remained to be discovered must necessarily be proportionally small likewise; and might therefore be sailed over in a short time. And, as the eastern bounds of India were not yet discovered, and must lie considerably nearer us towards the west, he therefore considered that the lands which he might discover in his proposed expedition westwards might properly be denominated the Indies. Hence it appears how much Roderick the archdeacon of Seville was wrong in blaming the admiral for calling those parts the Indies which were not so. But the admiral did not call them the Indies as having been seen or discovered by any other person; but as being in his opinion the eastern part of India beyond the Ganges, to which no cosmographer had ever assigned any precise limits, or made it to border upon any other country farther to the east, considering those unknown parts of eastern India to border on the ocean. And because he believed those countries which he expected to discover formed the eastern and formerly unknown lands of India, and had no appropriate name of their own, he therefore gave them the name of the nearest known country, and called them the West Indies. He was, so much the more induced to choose this appellation that the riches and wealth of India were well known, and he thereby expected the more readily to induce their Catholic Majesties to accede to his proposed undertaking, of the success of which they were doubtful; by saying that he intended to discover the way to India by the west: And he was desirous of being employed in the service of the crown of Castile, in preference to any other.

The second motive which encouraged the admiral to undertake his great enterprize, and which might reasonably induce him to call the countries he proposed to discover by the name of the Indies, was derived from the authority of learned men; who had affirmed that it was possible to sail from the western coast of Africa and Spain to the eastern bounds of India by the westwards, and that the sea which lay between these limits was of no great extent. This is affirmed by Aristotle, in his Second Book of the Heaven and of the World, as explained by Averroes; in which he says that a person may sail from India to Cadiz in a few days. Seneca, in his book of Nature, reflecting upon the knowledge of this world as insignificant in comparison with what shall be attained in a future life, says that a ship may sail in a few days with a fair wind from Spain to India. And if, as some suppose, the same Seneca were the author of the tragedies, he expresses himself to the same purpose in the following chorus of the Medea:

Venient annis Secula feris, quibus Oceanus Vincula rerum laxat, et ingens Pateat tellus, Typhysque novos Detegat orbes, nec sit terris Ultima Thule.

"There will come an age in latter times, when the ocean shall loosen the bonds of things, and a great country shall be discovered; when another Typhys shall find out new worlds, and Thule shall no longer remain the ultimate boundary of the earth."

This prophecy has now certainly been fulfilled by my father. In the first book of his cosmography, Strabo says that the ocean encompasses the whole earth; that in the east it washes the shores of India, and in the west those of Mauritania and Spain; and that if it were not for the vast magnitude of the Atlantic, men might easily sail in a short time from the one to the other upon the same parallel; and he repeats the same opinion in his second book. Pliny, in the Second Book of his Natural History, Chap. iii. says that the ocean surrounds all the earth, and extends from east to west between India and Cadiz. The same author, in his Sixth Book, Chap. xxxi. and Solinus in the sixty-eight chapter of the Remarkable Things of the World, say that, from the islands of the Gorgonides, which are supposed to be those of Cape Verd, it was forty days sail across the Atlantic Ocean to the Hesperides; which islands the admiral concluded were those of the West Indies. Marco Polo the Venetian traveller, and Sir John Mandeville, say that they went much farther eastward than was known to Ptolemy and Marinus. Perhaps these travellers do not mention any eastern sea beyond their discoveries; yet from the accounts which they give of the east, it may be reasonably inferred that India is not far distant from Spain and Africa. Peter Aliacus, in his treatise on the Figure of the Earth, in the eighth Chapter respecting the extent of habitable land, and Julius Capitolinus upon inhabitable places, and in several other treatises, both assert that Spain and India are neighbours towards the west. The latter author, in the nineteenth Chapter of his Cosmography says, according to the opinion of Pliny and other philosophers, the ocean which stretches from the western shores of Spain and Africa to the eastern limits of India is of no great extent, and might certainly be sailed over in a few days with a fair wind; and therefore that the beginning of India eastwards cannot be far distant from the western limits of Africa.

From these and similar authorities of eminent writers, the admiral was led to believe that he had formed a sound opinion on this subject; and he was much encouraged to undertake his proposed voyage of discovery by his contemporary Paul, physician to Signior Dominico of Florence. This Paul corresponded with Ferdinand Lopez, a canon of Lisbon, concerning the voyages which had been undertaken to Guinea in the reign of King Alphonzo of Portugal, and concerning future discoveries which might be made to the westwards. The admiral, who was always exceedingly ardent in inquiries on these topics, came to the knowledge of this correspondence; and soon afterwards, by means of Laurentio Girarde, a Florentine who then resided in Lisbon, entered into correspondence with Paul on this subject, acquainting him with his design, and sending him a small terrestrial globe. The communications from Paul on this subject are as follow:

"To Christopher Columbus, Paul the Physician wisheth health. I perceive the noble and earnest desire which you entertain to sail to those parts which produce spices; and therefore, in answer to your letter, I send you one which I wrote some time ago to a friend of mine, a servant to the king of Portugal, before the wars of Castile, in answer to one he had written to me by the order of his highness upon this same subject; and I send you a sea chart similar to the one I sent to him, which will satisfy your demands. The copy of that letter is this!"

"To Ferdinand Martinez, Paul the physician wisheth health.—I rejoice to learn the familiarity which you have with your most serene and magnificent king; and although I have often discoursed concerning the short way by sea from hence to the Indies where spice is produced, which I consider to be shorter than that you now take by the coast of Guinea; yet you now inform me that his highness requires me to explain and demonstrate this my opinion, so that it may be understood and reduced to practice. Therefore, though I could better shew it with a globe in my hand, so as to make him sensible of the figure and dimensions of the world; yet I have resolved to make it as easy and intelligible as possible by delineating this way upon a chart, such as is used in navigation. Wherefore I now send one to his majesty, drawn by my own hand; in which I have set down the utmost bounds of the west, from Ireland in the north to the farthest parts of Guinea, with all the islands that lie in the way: Opposite to which western coast, the beginning of the Indies is delineated, with the islands and places to which you may go, and how far you may bend from the north pole towards the equinoctial, and for how long a time; that is, how many leagues you must sail before you arrive at those places which are most fruitful in all sorts of spice, in jewels and precious stones.

"Do not wonder that I term the country where the spice is produced in the west, because that production has been generally ascribed to the east: Since those who may sail to the westward will always find those places in the west, which those who travel by land eastwards must find in the east. The straight lines that run lengthways in the chart shew the distances from east to west, and the other lines which cross these at right angles shew the distances from north to south. I have likewise represented in the chart, several places in India where ships may take shelter in any storm or contrary wind, or on occasion of any unforeseen accident. Moreover, to give you full information respecting all those places of which you inquire, you must understand that none but traders reside in these islands, in which as great a number of ships and mariners, and as great quantities of merchandize is to be found, as in any other part of the world; more particularly in a most noble port called Zacton[2], where there are every year 100 large ships loaded and unloaded with pepper, besides many other ships which take in other kinds of spice. This country is exceedingly populous, and contains many provinces and kingdoms and cities innumerable, under the dominion of a sovereign called the Great Cham, which title signifies the King of kings, who usually resides in the province of Cathay[3].

"The predecessors of the great cham were very desirous to have amity and commerce with the Christians; and 200 years ago sent ambassadors to the pope, desiring him to send many learned men and doctors to instruct them in our holy faith; but by reason of some obstacles which these ambassadors encountered, they returned back without coming to Rome. There came however in our day an ambassador from those parts to Pope Eugenius IV. who told him of the great friendship which subsisted between these princes and their people with the Christians. I discoursed at large with this person upon several matters, respecting the splendour of their royal buildings, the great length and breadth of their rivers, and many other topics. He told me many wonderful things of the multitude of cities and towns along the banks of the rivers; insomuch that there were 200 cities upon one river alone, having marble bridges over it of wonderful length and breadth, and adorned with numerous pillars. This country deserves as well as any other to be explored; and great profit may be made by trading thither, as it abounds in many valuable commodities, and with gold, silver, all kinds of precious stones, and spices of all sorts. It is likewise certain that many wise men, philosophers, astronomers, and others, exceedingly ingenious and skilled in the arts and sciences, govern the numerous provinces of that mighty empire, and command its armies.

"From Lisbon directly westwards, there are in the chart which I now transmit twenty-six spaces, each of which contains 250 miles, or 6500 miles in all, to the vast and most noble city of Quisay[4], which is 100 miles or thirty-five leagues in compass. Its name signifies the heavenly city, and wonderful things are reported respecting the magnificence of its buildings, the prodigious amount of its revenues, and the multitude and ingenuity of its inhabitants. This city is in, the province of Mango[5], bordering on that of Cathay where the king resides. And the before mentioned distance between Lisbon and that city westwards, is almost a third part of the circumference of the globe. From the island of Antilia, which you call the Seven Cities, and of which you have some knowledge, there are ten spaces in the chart to the most noble island of Cipango, which make 2500 miles or 875 leagues[6]. The island of Cipango abounds in gold, pearls and precious stones, and the people even cover their temples and palaces with plates of pure gold[7]. But, for want of knowing the way, all these wonderful things remain hidden and concealed, although they might easily be gone to with safety. Much more might be said, but as you are a wise and judicious person, and I have already told you of what is most material, I am satisfied that you will fully understand the whole, and I shall not therefore be more prolix. What I have written may satisfy your curiosity, and is as much as the shortness of the time and my business will admit. Therefore I remain most ready to satisfy his majesty to the utmost of my abilities in all commands which he may be pleased to lay upon me."

Paul the Physician afterwards wrote the following letter to my father.—"I received your letter with those things you sent me, which I esteem a great favour, and I greatly commend your noble and ardent desire of sailing from the east to the west, as marked out in the chart which I sent you; but which would be much better demonstrated in the form of a globe. I am rejoiced that it is well understood, that the voyage laid down is not only possible but true, certain, honourable, advantageous, and most glorious among Christians. You can only become perfect in the knowledge of it by practice and experience, which I have had in some measure, especially by the solid and true information of many worthy and wise men who came from those parts to the court of Rome, and from merchants who are persons of good reputation and have long traded to those regions. Hence, when the voyage shall be performed, it will be to powerful kingdoms, and to most noble provinces and cities, rich, flourishing, and abounding in all those commodities of which we are in need: particularly in great quantities of all sorts of spice, and in great store of jewels. It will likewise be very grateful to the kings and princes of those parts, who are exceedingly desirous to have intercourse and trade with the Christians; whether that some of them are inclined to become Christians, or else desire to communicate with the wise and learned men of Europe, as well in regard to religion, as in all the sciences, by reason of the extraordinary accounts they have received of the kingdoms and governments and learning of our part of the world. On all which accounts, and others which might be alleged, it is reasonable that your own magnanimity, and the whole Portuguese nation, ever renowned for great men, and memorable in all their undertakings, should be eagerly bent upon performing this voyage."

By this letter, as has been before observed, the admiral was greatly encouraged to go upon his discovery, although the learned physician was mistaken in believing that Cathay and the empire of the great Cham was the first land to be met with in sailing towards the west; for experience has made it appear, that the distance from the West Indies to that country is greater than from Europe to the West Indies.

The third and last motive by which the admiral was incited to the discovery of the West Indies, was the hope of finding in his way to India some very beneficial island or continent, from whence he might the better be enabled to pursue his main design. This hope was founded upon the authority and opinion of many wise and learned men, who believed that the greatest part of the surface of the terraqueous globe was composed of land, or that there certainly was more earth than sea. If that were the case, he concluded that, between the coast of Spain and the then known bounds of India, there must be many islands and a great extent of continent interposed, which experience has since demonstrated to be true. In this opinion he was confirmed by many fabulous stories which he had heard from sailors and others who had sailed to the islands and western coast of Africa, and to Madeira; and as these testimonies, though false, tended to confirm the purpose he had so long and ardently cherished, they the more readily gained his assent; and, to satisfy the curiosity of such as are curious in these matters, I shall here relate them.

One Martin Vicente, a pilot in the service of the king of Portugal, related to the admiral, that, being once 450 leagues to the westward of Cape St Vincent, he had found a piece of wood most curiously curved, but not with iron; and seeing that the winds had blown for many days previously from the west, he conjectured that the carved wood must have been drifted from some island in that direction. One Peter Correa, who had married a sister of the admirals wife, told him of having seen another piece of wood which had been brought to the island of Porto Sancto by the same westerly wind, and of certain drifted canes, so thick that every joint was large enough to contain four quarts of wine. These he alleged to have shewn to the king of Portugal, and as there were no such canes in our parts of the world, he believed that the winds must have wafted them from some distant islands in the west, or else from India: More especially as Ptolemy, in the first book of his cosmography, and chapter 17. says, that such canes grow in the eastern parts of India; and some of the islanders, particularly those in the Azores, informed Correa that when the west wind blew long together, the sea sometimes drove pine trees on the islands Gratioso and Fayal, where no such trees were otherwise to be found. He was likewise told that the sea had cast upon the island of Flores, another of the Azores, the dead bodies of two men, having very broad visages, and very different in their appearance from Europeans.

It was likewise reported to the admiral that the people about Cape Verga had once seen some almadias or covered boats, which it was believed had been driven thither by stress of weather while going from one of these supposed islands in the west to another island. One Anthony Leme, who was married and settled in the island of Madeira, told the admiral that, having once made a considerable run to the westward, he had descried three islands. To this information, however, he gave little credit, as by his own account Leme had not sailed above 100 leagues to the west, and might have been deceived by some rocks; or what he had seen might have been some of those floating islands, called Aguades by the sailors, of which Pliny makes mention in the 97th chapter of the first book of his natural history. Pliny says that some spots of land are seen in the northern parts of the ocean on which there are deep-rooted trees, and that these parcels of land are carried about like floats, or islands swimming upon the water. Seneca, in his third book, endeavouring to give a probable reason for the existence of such islands, alleges that there are certain rocks so light and spongy in their substance, that islands in India which are composed of such do actually swim upon the water. Therefore, even if it were actually the case that Leme had seen the three islands, the admiral, was of opinion that they must have been of that kind, such as those called the islands of St Brandan are supposed to be, where many wonders are reported to have been seen. Accounts have also been propagated of other islands, which are continually burning, and which lie far to the northward[8].

Juventius Fortunatus mentions an account of two floating islands considerably to the west, and more southward than those of Cape Verd. These and such like reports, might induce several of the inhabitants of Ferro and Gomera, and of the Azores, to affirm that they saw islands towards the west every year; of which they were so thoroughly convinced, that many reputable persons swore that it was true. The same Fortunatus relates, that a person came from Madeira to Portugal in the year 1484, to beg a caravel from the king in which he might go in quest of an island which he made oath that he saw every year, and always after the exact same manner; with whom others agreed, who declared that they had seen the same land from the Azores.

On these grounds, in all the former maps and charts, certain islands were placed in that direction. In his book concerning the wonderful things of nature, Aristotle informs us of a report, that some Carthaginian merchants had sailed across the Atlantic to a most beautiful and fertile island, of which we shall give a more particular account hereafter. Some Portuguese cosmographers have inserted this island in their maps under the name of Antilla; though they do not agree with Aristotle in regard to its situation, yet none have placed it more than 200 leagues due west from the Canaries and Azores. This they assert to be certainly the island of the seven cities, which is said to have been peopled by the Portuguese in the year 714, at the time when Spain was conquered by the Moors. At that time, according to the legend, seven bishops with their people sailed to this island, where each of them built a city; and, that none of their people might ever think of returning to Spain, they burnt their ships with all the tackling, and destroyed every thing that was necessary for navigation. There are who affirm that several Portuguese mariners have been to that island, but could never find their way back to it again. It is said particularly, that in the time of Don Henry, infant of Portugal, a Portuguese ship was driven by stress of weather upon this island of Antilla, where the men went on shore, and were led by the islanders to a church, that they might see whether they were Christians and observed the ceremonies of the Roman worship; and perceiving that they did, the islanders requested them to remain till their lord should return, who happened to be then absent, but who would be very kind to them, and give them many presents. But the master and seamen were afraid of being detained, and suspected that the islanders had no mind to be discovered, and might burn their vessel; wherefore they sailed back to Portugal, hoping to be rewarded for their discovery by Don Henry. But he reproved them severely, and ordered them to return quickly; wherefore the master and all his crew escaped from Portugal with their ship, and never returned. It is likewise reported, that while the master and seamen of this vessel were at church in the foresaid island, the boys of the ship gathered sand for the cook room, a third part of which was found to be pure gold.

Among others who set out to discover this island was one Jattes de Fiene, whose pilot Peter Velasquez, of the town of Palos de Moguer, told the admiral in the monastery of St Mary de la Rabida, that they sailed 150 leagues south-west from Fayal, and discovered the island of Flores in their return, to which they were led by observing numbers of birds to fly in that direction, and because these were land birds they concluded that they were making for land, as they could not rest upon the waters. Leaving Flores, they sailed so far to the north-east, that they came to Cape Clear in the west of Ireland, where they met with a stiff western gale and yet a smooth sea, whence they concluded that there must be land in that direction by which the sea was sheltered from the effects of the west wind; but it being then the month of August, they did not venture to proceed in search of that supposed island, for fear of winter. This happened about forty years before the discovery of the West Indies.

The foregoing account was confirmed to the admiral by the relation of a mariner whom he met with at Port St Mary, who told him that, once in a voyage to Ireland he saw that western land, which he then supposed to be a part of Tartary stretching out towards the west, but could not come near it on account of bad weather. But it is probable that this must have been the land now called Bacallaos, or Newfoundland. This was farther confirmed by what was related to him by one Peter de Velasco of Galicia, whom he met with in the city of Murcia in Spain: who, in sailing for Ireland, went so far to the north-west, that he discovered land far to the west of Ireland; which he believes to have been the same which one Femaldolmos endeavoured to discover in the following manner, as set down in my fathers writings, that it may appear how some men build great and important matters upon very slight foundations. Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo, in his natural history of the Indies, says that the admiral had a letter in which the Indies were described by one who had before discovered them; which was by no means the case, but only thus: Vincent Diaz, a Portuguese of Tavira, on his return from Guinea to the Tercera islands, and having passed the island of Madeira, which he left to the east, saw, or imagined that he saw something which he certainly concluded to be land. On his arrival at Tercera, he told this to one Luke de Cazzana, a Genoese merchant, his friend, and a very rich man, and endeavoured to persuade him to fit out a vessel for the conquest of this place: This Cazzana agreed to, and obtained a license from the king of Portugal for the purpose. He wrote accordingly to his brother Francis de Cazzana, who resided at Seville, to fit out a vessel with all expedition for Diaz; but Francis made light of the matter, and Luke de Cazzana actually fitted out a vessel from Tercera, in which the before named pilot sailed from 120 to 130 leagues, but all in vain, for he found no land. Yet neither he nor his partner Cazzana desisted from the enterprize till death closed their hopes. The before mentioned Francis de Cazzana likewise informed the admiral, that he knew two sons of the pilot who discovered the island of Tercera, named Michael and Jasper Cortereal, who went several times in search of that land, and at last perished one after the other in the year 1502, without having ever been heard of since, as was well known to many credible persons.

If all that has been said above concerning so many imaginary islands and continents appears to be mere fable and folly, how much more reason have we to consider that as false which Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo conceits in his Natural History of the Indies, "That there was another discoverer of this navigation of the ocean, and that the Spaniards held anciently the dominion of these lands." He pretended to make out this assertion from what Aristotle wrote concerning the island of Atalantis, and Sebosus of the Hesperides. Thus, looking upon his own imagination as a certain standard of truth, he affirms upon the judgment of some persons whose writings I have duly weighed and attentively examined. I should have omitted to enlarge on this subject, to avoid tiring the reader, and that I might not be obliged to condemn the opinions of others, were it not that many persons, to detract from the honour and reputation of the admiral, have made great account of these notions. Besides, it appeared that I should not fully perform my duty by merely recounting with all sincerity and truth, the motives and incitements which inclined the admiral my father to undertake his unparalleled enterprize, if I should suffer what I know to be a manifest falsehood to pass uncensured. Wherefore, the better to detect the mistake of Oviedo, I shall first state what Aristotle has said on this subject, as related by F. Theophilus de Ferrariis, among the problems of Aristotle which he collected in a book entitled De Admirandis in Natura auditis, in the following strain:

"Beyond the pillars of Hercules, it is reported that certain Carthaginian merchants discovered an island in the Atlantic, which had never before been inhabited except by beasts. This island was not many days sail from the continent, was entirely covered over with trees, and abounded in all the usual productions of nature, having a considerable number of navigable rivers. Finding this a beautiful country, possessing it fertile soil and salubrious atmosphere, these Carthaginians began to people it; but the senate of Carthage, offended with this procedure, passed a decree forbidding any person to go to that island under pain of death, and they ordered all those who had already gone there to be slain; meaning thereby to prevent all other nations from acquiring any knowledge of the place, lest some other and more powerful state might take possession, to the detriment of their liberty and commercial interest."

Oviedo had no just grounds for asserting that this island must have been Hispaniola or Cuba. As he was ignorant of Latin, he was obliged to take such interpretation of this story as he could procure from some other person, who certainly was very ill qualified for the task, since the Latin text has been altered and misinterpreted in several particulars. This may have misled Oviedo, and induced him to believe that the foregoing quotation referred to some island in the West Indies. In the Latin text we do not read of the Carthaginian merchants going out of the straits of Gibraltar as Oviedo writes[9]. Neither is it said that the island was extensive, or its trees large, but only that it was much wooded. Nor do we find that the rivers were wonderful, or the soil fat, or that the island was more remote from Africa than from Europe; but merely that it was remote from the continent. It is not said in the original that any towns were built here, and indeed it is not likely that these traders should build much; neither is the place said to have become famous, as we see on the contrary that the Carthaginians were careful to prevent its fame from spreading among the nations. Thus the translator being ignorant, led Oviedo to believe quite a different story from the reality[10].

It is quite ridiculous to suppose that Carthaginian merchants could possibly be carried so far out of their way as Hispaniola or Cuba; neither could they have arrived at either of those islands without meeting with the many other islands which surround them. It is more probable that the island discovered by the Carthaginians was one of the Azores; for though Ferrarius speaks of navigable rivers, he might possibly have written ad navigandum instead of potandum, and have thereby corrupted the meaning of his author, that the island had plenty of streams fit for drinking, into abundance of rivers adapted for navigation[11]. Oviedo falls into a similar error in supposing this island of the Carthaginians to have been the same with that mentioned by Seneca in his fourth book; where he tells us that Seneca speaks of an island named Atlantica, which was entirely or mostly drowned in the time of the Peloponnesian war; and of which island Plato likewise makes mention in his Timaeus: But we have already dwelt too long on these fables.

Oviedo insists that the Spaniards had the entire dominion of these islands, which he was pleased to consider as the same with our West Indies. He grounds this opinion on what is said by Statius and Sebosus, that certain islands called Hesperides lay forty days sail west from the Gorgonian islands on the coast of Africa. Hence he argued, that these islands must necessarily be the West Indies, and were called Hesperides from Hesperes king of Spain, who consequently with the Spaniards his subjects were lords of these islands. But I am quite tired of this dispute, and shall now proceed to the history of the admirals discovery.

[1] In his reasoning, by some error which cannot be now corrected, a twenty-fourth part, or one hour, is omitted.—E.

[2] Paul here evidently speaks of the empire of China, and the port here named Zacton or Zaiton, may be that now called Canton, although spice certainly is not the produce of that country.—E.

[3] Cathay seems here to denote northern China.—E.

[4] This is obviously the Quinsay of Marco Polo.—E.

[5] Mangi or southern China.—E.

[6] The island Antilia, the name of which has been since adopted by the French for the smaller West India islands, was, like the more modern Terra Australia incognita, a gratuitous supposition for preserving the balance of the earth, before the actual discovery of America. Cipango was the name by which Japan was then known in Europe, from the relations of Marco Polo.—E.

[7] Such appeared to the early travellers the richly gilt and lackered tile used in Japan and other parts of India.—E.

[8] This report must have proceeded from some very erroneous account of Iceland, as it is the only place in the northern part of the Atlantic which contains a volcano.—E.

[9] Don Ferdinand, or his translator, has forgot here that, in the extract from Ferrarius, beyond the straits, and in the Atlantic, are the distinctly expressed situation of the island.—E.

[10] There is a good deal more in the original, totally uninteresting to the reader, in the same querulous strain of invective against Oviedo, but which is here abridged as conveying no information.—E.

[11] Our author falls into a mistake in this chapter, supposing the Azores to have been the Cassiterides of the ancients, well known to have been the Scilly islands.—E.


The Admiral, being disgusted by the procedure of the King of Portugal, in regard to the proposed Discovery, offers his services to the Court of Spain.

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