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Black Sea. There they loaded with goods brought either across from the Caspian Sea or up the valley of the Euphrates and the Tigris from the Persian Gulf - part of the way by boats, and part by caravan.

Venice took the southern route, and conducted her traffic by way of Cairo and the Red Sea. This gave her the advantage of a nearly all-water line of communication with the East, though there were points where the navigation was both difficult and dangerous. Trade over these two competing routes had gone on for centuries; but in 1453, when Columbus was a lad of seventeen, a great change suddenly took place.

That year the Turks besieged and took Constantinople, which before that had been a Greek city. When they got possession they refused to allow the Genoese vessels to pass through the straits of the Bosphorus into the Black Sea. This completely broke up the commerce of Genoa with the East, and henceforth Venice had the trade entirely to herself. That result, so disastrous to Genoa, must have made a decided impression on Columbus; for in future he would see no more ships unload their rich cargoes of silks and spices at the wharves of his native city.

6. Attempt of the Portuguese to reach the Indies by a New Route. While these events were happening on the Mediterranean, the king of Portugal, anxious to get the control of the Oriental trade away from Venice, was doing his utmost to find an all-sea route to the treasures of the Indies. His plan was to send out successive expeditions to explore the western coast of Africa, in the hope of finding a way round that continent into the Indian Ocean. But the progress made was very slow. Though they had already done something, yet it took the cautious mariners of that age more than fifty years to creep down the coast a distance of over five thousand miles — to the extreme southern point. Finally, in 1487, that feat was accomplished by a Portuguese captain of the name of Diaz. He, however, had such a rough experience that he named the point the Cape of Storms.

1 Diaz (Dee'az).

It is an interesting and significant fact that Bartholomew Columbus, Christopher's younger brother, accompanied Captain Diaz in that expedition. The elder Columbus must have felt no little interest in the success of the undertaking, since he himself was then maturing a scheme for seeking the Indies in a different direction.

When Diaz returned with the news of what he had achieved, the Portuguese monarch felt sure that he should accomplish his end. To show his confidence in the new route which he foresaw would be opened, he called for Diaz's chart, drew his pen through the name Cape of Storms, and in its place wrote in bold letters that name full of promise, Cape of Good Hope.

7. Plan of Columbus for reaching the Indies by sailing West. — But Columbus thought that he could improve on the king of Portugal's project. He felt certain that there was a shorter and better way of reaching the Indies than the track Diaz had marked out. The plan of the Genoese sailor was as daring as it was original. Instead of sailing east, or south and east, he proposed to sail directly west. He had, as he believed, three good and solid reasons for such an undertaking : First, in common with the best geographers of his day, Columbus was convinced that the earth was not flat, as most men supposed, but a globe. Secondly, he supposed this globe to be much smaller than it is, and the greater part to be land instead of water. Thirdly, as he knew nothing, and surmised nothing, of the existence of the continent of America or of the Pacific Ocean, he imagined that the coast of Asia or the Indies was directly opposite Spain and the western coast of Europe. The entire distance across to Cipango, or Japan, he estimated not to exceed between three and four thousand miles.

His plan was this : he would start from Europe ; head his ship westward toward Japan, and follow the curve of the globe until it brought him to what he sought. To his mind it seemed as sure and simple as for a fly to walk round an apple.

If successful in the expedition, he would have this immense ad



vantage : he would enter the Indies directly by the front door, instead of reaching them in a roundabout way, and by a sort of side-entrance as the Portuguese must.

We see that this man who understood practical mathematics, geography, and navigation, as well or better than any one of his day, was right on the first point, — the shape of the earth, - but utterly wrong on the other two.

Yet, singularly enough, his errors were in one respect a help to him. The mistake that he made in regard to distance was a most fortunate one. Had Columbus correctly reckoned the size of the globe, and the true length of such a voyage, he probably would not have sailed, since he would have seen at once that the proposed Portuguese route was both far shorter and cheaper. Again, could he have imagined or in any way foreseen that the American continent lay right across his path, that in itself might not then have induced him to start on a voyage of discovery, for his object was not to find a new country, but a new way to an old one.

8. Columbus seeks and obtains the Assistance of Spain. - This project was not a recent thought of Columbus. He had meditated on it for many years, during which time he had sought to get the help first of his native city, then of Portugal, and finally of Spain. He had met with nothing but disappointment. He was regarded as a foolish schemer, and the street boys openly mocked him as a lunatic.

At last Columbus, now fast sinking into poverty, received permission from the Spanish rulers to lay his plans before a committee or council. That body listened to his arguments with impatient incredulity. To them such a voyage “appeared as extravagant as it would at the present day to launch a balloon into space in quest of some distant star."

The council ridiculed the idea that the earth is round like a ball. If so, said they, then the rain and snow must fall upward on the under side, — the side opposite where we stand, - and men there must walk with their heads downward : that would be inconvenient, nay more, it would be impossible. Finally, they objected that in case the earth could be proved to be a globe, that very fact would render such a voyage as Columbus proposed a failure. For how, they asked of him, could your ships come back when they had once advanced so far west as to begin to descend the curve of the earth? Could they turn about and sail up hill to Spain again? No answer that Columbus could make seemed satisfactory to the council. After much deliberation and vexatious delays they made their report to Ferdinand and Isabella, joint sovereigns of Spain. The report stated that the scheme was " vain and impracticable, and rested on grounds too weak to merit the support of the government."

Sick at heart, Columbus set out to leave the country, when he was recalled. He had a few stanch friends at court who believed, with him, that “wherever ships could sail, man might venture.” Through their influence, and especially through the generous encouragement of Queen Isabella, he obtained the assistance he required. Thus, chiefly by a woman's help, the brave sailor got the power to undertake his daring enterprise. It was indeed high time that some one should furnish the means if Columbus was to be the leader; for he was then a gray-bearded man of fifty-sixan age when not many persons, however fond of adventure, care to embark on new and perilous expeditions.

9. Columbus sails. Columbus had succeeded in getting his own terms, he had received the rank of admiral, he was to be governor of all lands that he might discover or acquire, and he was to have a tenth of whatever treasure he might find. pushed forward his preparations for the voyage as rapidly as possible. When all was ready, he and his men went to church, and implored the blessing of God on their great enterprise. The next day, Friday, August 3, 1492, "half an hour before sunrise," as

He now

1 Out of a total sum of about $103,000 contributed toward fitting out the expedition, the queen gave over $67,000.



Columbus himself says, he set sail from Palos, Spain, with three small vessels, and one hundred and twenty men.'

Of these vessels, only the largest, the admiral's ship, had an entire deck, and even his was probably of not over one hundred tons' burden, or about the size of an ordinary coasting schooner.

He took his route by way of the Canary Islands, because Cipango, or Japan, the nearest Asiatic land, was supposed to lie in that latitude. At the Canaries he was detained several weeks repairing the rudder of one vessel, and altering the sails of a second.

On September 6th, he hoisted anchor, and resolutely set out to cross that ocean which no civilized man had ever before attempted to pass over. As the last dim outline of the islands faded from their sight many of the sailors were completely overcome. Some shed tears, as if they “had taken leave of the world”; others, unable to restrain their grief, broke out into loud and bitter lamentations.

But Columbus himself had no such fears. He did not feel that he was making a leap in the dark. He had carefully calculated everything and provided for everything. No one understood navigation better than he. Here was his equipment: First, he had a chart of the globe, made by himself, and based on the highest authorities. Next, he had the compass for his guide. Finally, he carried with him an improved astrolabe, or instrument for determining his position by observation of the sun.

But these were not all. These, in fact, were but the material

1 Columbus kept a regular journal of the voyage from the start. In the introduction to that journal he says, respecting one object he had in view: “In consequence of the information which I had given to your Highnesses (the king and queen of Spain] of the lands of India, and of a prince who is called the Grand Khan, which is to say ... King of Kings ... therefore your Highnesses ... deter. mined to send me, Christopher Columbus, to the said parts of India to see the said prince and the people and lands ... and to discover the means to be taken for the conversion of them to our holy faith ; and ordered that I should not go by land to the East, by which it is the custom to go, but by a voyage to the west, by which course, unto the present time, we do not know for certain that any one hath passed."

2 See chart of Columbus, page 12, and compare also the chart of his course, page 13.

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