« ForrigeFortsett »
he applied himself, he had become proficient in these several branches of education. Being strongly inclined to a sea-faring life, he now resolved to commence his career on the ocean, influenced not more by the love of adventure, than the consideration of the opportunities it would afford for enlarging his knowledge, and for the more practical study of those sciences of which he was already so enamored. He accordingly entered on board of a vessel bound for discovery. He performed several voyages, during which he penetrated the northern seas beyond the limits at which other voyagers had terminated their adventures, and advanced far into the polar circle. These expeditions added to his information, but not to his fortune, and he found it necessary to pursue them in a different capacity. He accordingly entered into the service of a then famous sea captain, the commander and owner of a small squadron of vessels, who by his naval skill and daring prowess had acquired both wealth and reputation. Columbus remained in his employ for several years, during which time he became himself distinguished both for his intrepidity as an adventurer and his skill as a navigator. While the fleet of this adventurer was returning from a successful expedition to the low countries, it was attacked by a piratical squadron off the coast of Portugal. The vessel under charge of Columbus was set fire to, and he was compelled to trust himself to the less fearful element for safety. Throwing himself into the sea, with the aid of a single oar which had floated from the wreck, after long struggling and exposure, he reached the shore in safety, though much exhausted and enfeebled, and it was long before he recovered from the weakness and indisposition induced by this calamity. His recovery took place just at the time when the naval enterprizes of the Portuguese were most signally successful and triumphant. His mind and imagination became fascinated by the fame of their remarkable discoveries, and he repaired immediately to Lisbon, with a view to learn what course they had pursued in accomplishing these results, as well as to investigate the data upon which their calculations were founded, and by which their efforts had been prompted and encouraged. Here, while pursuing his investigations, he formed a matrimonial alliance with the daughter of one Bartholomew Prestello.
Prestello was celebrated as well for the many voyages which he had performed, as for his superior skill and intelligence as a navigator. Columbus was permitted free access to the documents and charts of this illustrious adventurer, and, making himself also familiar with the accounts given of their discoveries by the Portuguese, he became inflamed with a desire to know more of the countries which they had visited. With this view he entered into their service, where he continued for several years, until he himself at length became one of the most skilful and scientific navigators of the age. His inquisitive and enthusiastic genius was easily affected by the spirit of curiosity and adventure which had been awakened, and he set about to devise something new and more splendid than any of the enterprizes which had yet been projected, and persuaded himself that discoveries still more stupendous and astonishing could yet be accomplished. With a mind at once capable and reflective, he carefully revolved and investigated the theories of ancient philosophers, and comparing these with the data furnished by his own observations, aided by his speculations upon the developements of more recent discoveries and the suggestions of his religious faith, he became strongly impressed with the
belief that the opinions heretofore entertained of the geography of the earth were erroneous and untenable, and concluded that a large portion of the western hemisphere must be composed of land, as well as water. The aim of all navigators at this period was to discover a new and more expeditious route to the East Indies than that which had been hitherto pursued around the Cape of Good Hope. Columbus calculated that if land existed in the western waters, it must be connected with these islands, and consequently supposed that by sailing in a westerly direction a new route to India might be discovered. These opinions were received with great distrust; they were regarded not only as extraordinary, but as preposterous and chimerical, and a mind less capable of conceiving and comprehending great designs would have shrunk at once from the hostility, and even ridicule which the proclamation of them arrayed against their author. But Columbus was so fully persuaded that they were correct and true, that he resolved at once to put them to the test of actual experiment. Not possessing the means himself, he found it necessary to interest some one of the opulent powers of Europe in favor of his designs.*
The trade with the East Indies had been, hitherto, principally monopolized by VENICE and GENOA, and they had thereby acquired a degree of grandeur and greatness which moved the envy of all Europe. The balance of power between these two rival states, however, had long preponderated on the side of Venice, while the maritime strength of Genoa was in ened and declining condition. As we have already seen Genoa was the place of his nativity, and Columbus resolved that she should first reap the benefit to be derived from his speculations and adventures. He accordingly applied to her senate for their patronage, but his application was rejected, and his proposals and schemes were treated as wild and chimerical. Not at all daunted by this ruthless repulse he applied to John II. of Portugal. In a country already alive with the spirit of adventure, where he had long resided, in whose service he had been employed, where his personal worth and professional attainments were well known, he had every reason to look for a favorable listening to his views. His application was entertained by the crown, who directed his counsellors to investigate his proposals. They received him with jealousy and distrust. Having obtained from him a full exposition of his views, they put him off with an evasive answer, and then sought to deprive him of the honor to be won, by advising the king to fit out a secret expedition. But the designs of the monarch and his evil-minded counsellors were frustrated by the unskilfulness, the ignorance, and the cowardice, of those to whose management the expedition was entrusted.
Again and so treacherously baffled in his aims, Columbus indignantly repaired to the crown of Spain, while at the same time he despatched his brother Bartholomew to the court of Henry VII. of England to negociate with that sovereign. Spain was at this period involved in a war with the Moors, and her court could not find leisure at once to listen to his proposals. In the mean time, by his personal address and his intelligence, he succeeded in winning to his views many men of rank, through whose influence the crown was induced to appoint a council of judges to examine into them. Here he was doomed to encounter a countless variety of vexations and discouragements. He found ignorance, prejudice, and the more narrow and intolerant spirit of monastic bigotry arrayed against him. Superadded to these sources of vexation, he could hear nothing of the mission he had contrived to the crown of England. It seems that his brother Bartholomew had been captured by pirates on his voyage thither, and it was long after his release was effected, before he was in a situation to present himself before the crown. When he appeared he was received and heard by Henry with the greatest favor. But Columbus, receiving no intelligence of the result of his mission, and wearied and disgusted by the treatment himself was receiving from the court of Spain, now resolved to visit Henry of England in person. In making his preparations to do so he placed his children under the care of Juan Perez, who presided over the monastery of Rabida near Palos. Perez was a man of excellent character and great erudition, and was in great favor with Isabella. He became much interested in the speculations of Columbus, investigated them carefully, and had the utmost confidence in their suc
He therefore urged him to suspend his purpose of leaving the country until he himself should solicit her majesty to reconsider the proposals made by him. Perez addressed a letter to her, for this purpose, urging that the subject well merited her most serious attention. In reply Isabella sent for Perez to come to SANTA FE, where the court was then residing on account of the siege of Grenada, in order that she might confer with him on the subject more particularly. The result was that Columbus was not only requested to abandon his purpose of visiting England, but was invited to court. To him this unexpected favor seemed like a ray from heaven. It dissipated his despondency and reinspired