Resource Center OLLibrary
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
When the sun rose it revealed a low sandy shore. It was the humble threshold of the New World.
Columbus, richly dressed in scarlet, landed with his men. Kneeling, they kissed the soil, and with tears gave thanks to God for having crowned their voyage with success. Then, with solemn ceremonies, the Admiral planted the royal flame-colored banner
of Spain, and took possession of the country for Ferdinand and Isabella. To the island he gave the name of San Salvador, or the Holy Redeemer.
Columbus believed this little island to be part of the Indies which he was seeking. Since he had reached it by sailing westward he called the group to which it belongs the West Indies. To the natives he naturally gave the name Indians.
Columbus never found out his mistake in regard to this country. He made three more voyages hither; but he died firmly convinced that America was part of Asia, and that he had discovered a short and direct all-sea route westward from Europe to the Indies.
We should distinctly understand that Columbus never saw any part of the mainland of what is now the United States.
12. Columbus returns to Spain; his Reception; the Pope's Division of the World. Columbus built a small fort in Haiti and left a few men to hold it. He then sailed for Spain (1493).
LETTER OF COLUMBUS
Ferdinand and Isabella gave the great sailor such a reception as the first civilized man who had crossed the Atlantic merited. Those who a year before had laughed at him as crazy, now, cap in hand, bowed low before him. Yet the only printed account which appeared describing his wonderful voyage was a copy of a letter which he had written to the King and Queen. It was entitled:
"A letter of Christopher Columbus,
(to whom our Age is much indebted)
Islands of India, beyond the Ganges,
One important result of this supposed discovery of a western route to the Indies was the division of the world by the Pope. Spain and Portugal were rivals. Both were eager to get control of the commerce with the Far East -- especially with the Spice Islands of the Indies. In order to keep the two nations from fighting each other, the Pope drew a perpendicular line, one hundred leagues west of the Azores, from the north pole to the south pole. The King of Portugal was to have all lands discovered east of that line, and the King of Spain all those west of it. Later (1494), this dividing line was fixed three hundred and seventy leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands.
13. Disappointment of Spain with the newly found "Indies"; Death of Columbus. Meantime Spain was picturing to herself the unbounded wealth she would gain through future voyages of Columbus. But he failed to find any rich spices or mines of precious metal, and sore was the disappointment. His men brought back no gold, but only a mockery of it in their yellow, emaciated faces, discolored by disease.
1 This letter may be found complete in Major's "Select Letters of Columbus."
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
Loud was the outcry against Columbus. The rabble nicknamed him the "Admiral of Mosquito Land." They pointed at him as the man who had promised everything, but who had found nothing but "a wilderness peopled with naked savages."
So strong was the feeling against him that the King appointed a new governor for the island of Haiti (§12). He arrested Columbus and sent him back in chains to Spain (1500). He was released as soon as he arrived, and lived to make one more voyage. Broken in health, broken in heart, the great sailor died in Spain in neglect and poverty.1
But though his closing days were pitiful, yet none the less the voice that he imagined he once heard in a dream spoke truly.2 He had accomplished what no one else had done, for he had unlocked those gates of the ocean," which until
1 Columbus died at Valladolid in 1506. He was buried there, but later his body was removed to Seville. In 1536 it was transported to the island of San Domingo. After the cession of that island to France by the Spanish the body of Columbus was taken up (as was then supposed), carried to Havana, Cuba, and there deposited in the cathedral. These reputed remains were sent back to Spain in December, 1898, and were deposited in the cathedral of Seville. But it may be that the true remains of Columbus still rest in San Domingo.
Three years before his death he wrote to the King and Queen, saying, "I was twenty-eight years old [these figures are believed to be a mistake] . . . when I came into your Highnesses' service, and now I have not a hair upon my bead that is not gray: my body is infirm, and all that was left to me has been taken away and sold. . . . Hitherto I have wept over others; may Heaven now have mercy upon me, and may the earth weep for me!" -- Letter of Columbus, 1503.
2 See quotation from the letter of Columbus at the beginning of this chapter, page 1. It was while he lay sick and in great trouble, on the Isthmus of Panama, that he fancied he heard the consoling voice,
then had been "fast shut with chains," -- the chains of ignorance and fear. He failed to find the Indies -- but he did something immeasurably greater -- he discovered America.
14. John Cabot discovers the Continent of North America. But great as was the merit of Columbus, he was not destined to be the first to look on the mainland of America, nor was he to give it the name it bears. The discovery of the continent was made by a fellow-countryman, John Cabot, of Venice, then residing in Bristol, England. The great voyage of Columbus moved him to see what he could discover. He hoped to find a northern passage to the Indies and China, in order that he might secure the spice trade for the English sovereign. He failed to discover what he sought; but he did better, for he saw what no civilized man had yet beheld, -- the continent of North America. The point where he made the discovery was probably in the vicinity of Cape Breton Island, at the entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. On a map drawn by his son Sebastian we read the following inscription:
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
"In the year of our Lord 1497, John Cabot, a Venetian, and his son Sebastian discovered that country which no one before his time had ventured to approach, on the 24th of June, about five o'clock in the morning."
Cabot planted the English flag on the coast, and took possession of the country for Henry VII, King of England.
The next year Sebastian Cabot made a voyage, and explored the coast from Nova Scotia to Cape Hatteras, or perhaps even farther south.
Henry VII was notoriously fond of money, and knew how to hold on to it; but in this particular case he tried to be generous. He appears to have given John Cabot a small pension; for after his death this memorandum was found in the King's private expense book: "10th August, 1497. To him that found the new isle, £10."
The King certainly got his money's worth; for on that voyage of Cabot's the English based their claim to this country. Nearly three hundred years later, Edmund Burke, the eminent British statesman, said in Parliament, "We derive our right in America from the discovery of [John] Cabot, who first made [saw] the northern continent in 1497."
15. How America got its Name. Two years after John Cabot's voyage (1499) another Italian, Amerigo Vespucci,1 went out from Spain on an expedition of exploration. Following directly in the track of Columbus, and using his charts, he reached the northeastern
1 Vespucci's voyages: according to what purports to be his own account, Amerigo Vespucci made his first voyage in the spring of 1497, and saw on June 6th of that year "a coast which," he says, "we thought to be that of a continent." If that coast was the continent, he discovered the mainland of America eighteen days before John Cabot did (June 24, 1497); and more than a year before Columbus saw it, on his third voyage (August 1, 1498). In 1499 Vespucci, following in the track of Columbus, visited the northeastern coast of South America, part of which had been seen and described by the great navigator the previous year. Later,
HOW AMERICA GOT ITS NAME
part of the South American coast, somewhere in what is now Dutch Guiana. In the course of the next four years he made two more voyages in which he visited Brazil.
On his return to Europe he wrote a pretty full account of what he had seen, which was published soon after (1504).
A teacher in the college of St. Dié,1 in eastern France, read Vespucci's little pamphlet. He was greatly interested in it because it was the first printed description of the mainland of the Western Hemisphere.
In the year 1507 this teacher published a small book on geography. He spoke of the different voyages which had been made across the Atlantic, and ended by saying, "The fourth part of the world having been discovered by Amerigo or Americus, we may call it Amerigé, or AMERICA."
People seemed to like the idea, and so half of the globe received the name it now bears. One Italian had found the outposts of the New World, and claimed them for Spain (§ 11); a second had seen the northern mainland, and taken possession of it for England (§ 14); the others, gave to it, perhaps title it now possesses in every atlas and history.
No man that ever lived before or since has such a monument as Amerigo Vespucci; for a name derived from his is written across
Vespucci visited Brazil. Authorities are divided, but perhaps the greater part now believe that Vespucci did not make his first voyage until 1499, and that, therefore, John Cabot was the true discoverer of the continent of America. (See Winsor's "History of America," II, 129-179; Channing's "United States," I, 42-44.)
1 St. Dié (san-dee-ay').