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The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (Vol. II) by Washington Irving

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inscription specify it to have contained, among a variety of matter,
historical, moral, and geographical notices of the countries he had
visited, but especially of the New World, and of the voyages and
discoveries of his father.

His most important and permanent work, however, was a history of the
admiral, composed in Spanish. It was translated into Italian by Alonzo de
Ulloa, and from this Italian translation have proceeded the editions which
have since appeared in various languages. It is singular that the work
only exists in Spanish, in the form of a retranslation from that of Ulloa,
and full of errors in the orthography of proper names, and in dates and

Don Fernando was an eye-witness of some of the facts which he relates,
particularly of the fourth voyage, wherein he accompanied his father. He
had also the papers and charts of his father, and recent documents of all
kinds to extract from, as well as familiar acquaintance with the principal
personages who were concerned in the events which he records. He was a man
of probity and discernment, and writes more dispassionately than could be
expected, when treating of matters which affected the honor, the
interests, and happiness of his father. It is to be regretted, however,
that he should have suffered the whole of his father's life, previous to
his discoveries (a period of about fifty-six years), to remain in
obscurity. He appears to have wished to cast a cloud over it, and only to
have presented his father to the reader after he had rendered himself
illustrious by his actions, and his history had become in a manner
identified with the history of the world. His work, however, is an
invaluable document, entitled to great faith, and is the corner-stone of
the history of the American Continent.

[Illustration: Galley, from the tomb of Fernando Columbus, at Seville.]

No. IV.

Age of Columbus.

As the date I have assigned for the birth of Columbus makes him about ten
years older than he is generally represented, at the time of his
discoveries, it is proper to state precisely my authority. In the valuable
manuscript chronicle of the reign of the Catholic sovereigns, written by
Andres Bernaldes, the curate of Los Palacios, there is a long tract on the
subject of the discoveries of Columbus: it concludes with these words:
_Murio en Valladolid, el ano de 1506, en el mes de Mayo, in senectute
bona, de edad 70 anos, poco mas o menos_. (He died in Valladolid in the
year 1506, in the month of May, in a good old age, being seventy years
old, a little more or less.) The curate of Los Palacios was a
contemporary, and an intimate friend of Columbus, who was occasionally a
guest in his house; no one was more competent, therefore, to form a
correct idea of his age. It is singular, that, while the biographers of
Columbus have been seeking to establish the epoch of his birth by various
calculations and conjectures, this direct testimony of honest Andres
Bernaldes has entirely escaped their notice, though some of them had his
manuscript in their hands. It was first observed by my accurate friend Don
Antonio Uguina in the course of his exact investigations, and has been
pointed out and ably supported by Don Martin Fernandez de Navarrete, in
the introduction to his valuable collection of voyages.

Various circumstances in the life of Columbus will be found to corroborate
the statement of the curate; such, for example, as the increasing
infirmities with which he struggled during his voyages, and which at last
rendered him a cripple and confined him to his bed. The allusion to his
advanced age in one of his letters to the sovereigns, wherein he relates
the consolation he had received from a secret voice in the night season:
_Tu vejez no impedira a toda cosa grande. Abraham pasaba cien anos
cuando engendro a Isaac, &c_. (Thy old age shall be no impediment to
any great undertaking. Abraham was above a hundred years old, when he
begat Isaac, &c.) The permission granted him by the king the year previous
to his death to travel on a mule, instead of a horse, on account of his
_age_ and infirmities; and the assertion of Oviedo that at the time
of his death he was quite old. (_era ya viejo._)

This fact of the advanced age of Columbus throws quite a new coloring over
his character and history. How much more extraordinary is the ardent
enthusiasm which sustained him through his long career of solicitation,
and the noble pride with which he refused to descend from his dignified
demands, and to bargain about his proposition, though life was rapidly
wasting in delays. How much more extraordinary is the hardihood with which
he undertook repeated voyages into unknown seas, amidst all kinds of
perils and hardships; the fortitude with which he bore up against an
accumulation of mental and bodily afflictions, enough to have disheartened
and destroyed the most youthful and robust, and the irrepressible buoyancy
of spirit with which to the last he still rose from under the ruined
concerns and disappointed hopes and blasted projects of one enterprise, to
launch into another, still more difficult and perilous.

We have been accustomed to admire all these things in Columbus when we
considered him in the full vigor of his life; how much more are they
entitled to our wonder as the achievements of a man whom the weight of
years and infirmities was pressing into the grave.

No. V.

Lineage of Columbus.

The ancestry of Christopher Columbus has formed a point of zealous
controversy, which is not yet satisfactorily settled. Several honorable
families, possessing domains in Placentia, Montferrat, and the different
parts of the Genoese territories, claim him as belonging to their houses;
and to these has recently been added the noble family of Colombo in
Modena. [Spotorno, Hist. Mem., p. 5.] The natural desire to prove
consanguinity with a man of distinguished renown has excited this rivalry;
but it has been heightened, in particular instances, by the hope of
succeeding to titles and situations of wealth and honor, when his male
line of descendants became extinct. The investigation is involved in
particular obscurity, as even his immediate relatives appear to have been
in ignorance on the subject.

Fernando Columbus, in his biography of the admiral, after a pompous
prelude, in which he attempts to throw a vague and cloudy magnificence
about the origin of his father, notices slightly the attempts of some to
obscure his fame, by making him a native of various small and
insignificant villages; and dwells with more complacency upon others who
make him a native of places in which there were persons of much honor of
the name, and many sepulchral monuments with arms and epitaphs of the
Colombos. He relates his having himself gone to the castle of Cucureo, to
visit two brothers of the family of Colombo, who were rich and noble, the
youngest of whom was above one hundred years of age, and who he had heard
were relatives of his father; but they could give him no information upon
the subject; whereupon he breaks forth into his professed contempt for
these adventitious claims, declaring, that he thinks it better to content
himself with dating from the glory of the admiral, than to go about
inquiring whether his father "were a merchant, or one who kept his hawks;"
[268] since, adds he, of persons of similar pursuits, there are thousands
who die every day, whose memory, even among their own neighbors and
relatives, perishes immediately, without its being possible afterwards
to ascertain even whether they existed.

After this, and a few more expressions of similar disdain for these empty
distinctions, he indulges in vehement abuse of Agostino Guistiniani, whom
he calls a false historian, an inconsiderate, partial, or malignant
compatriot, for having, in his psalter, traduced his father, by saying,
that in his youth he had been employed in mechanical occupations.

As, after all this discussion, Fernando leaves the question of his
father's parentage in all its original obscurity, yet appears irritably
sensitive to any derogatory suggestions of others, his whole evidence
tends to the conviction that he really knew nothing to boast of in his

Of the nobility and antiquity of the Colombo family, of which the admiral
probably was a remote descendant, we have some account in Herrera, "We
learn," he says, "that the emperor Otto the Second, in 940, confirmed to
the counts Pietro, Giovanni, and Alexandro Colombo, brothers, the
feudatory possessions which they held within the jurisdiction of the
cities of Ayqui, Savona, Aste, Montferrato, Turin, Viceli, Parma, Cremona,
and Bergamo, and all others which they held in Italy. It appears that the
Colombos of Cuccaro, Cucureo, and Placentia, were the same, and that the
emperor in the same year, 940, made donation to the said three brothers of
the castles of Cuccaro, Conzano, Rosignano, and others, and of the fourth
part of Bistanio, which appertained to the empire." [269]

One of the boldest attempts of those biographers, bent on ennobling
Columbus, has been to make him son of the Lord of Cuccaro, a burgh of
Montferrat, in Piedmont, and to prove that he was born in his father's
castle at that place; whence he and his brothers eloped at an early age,
and never returned. This was asserted in the course of a process brought
by a certain Baldasser, or Balthazar, Colombo, resident in Genoa, but
originally of Cuccaro, claiming the title and estates, on the death of
Diego Colon, duke of Veragua, in 1578, the great-grandson, and last
legitimate male descendant of the admiral. The council of the Indies
decided against this claim to relationship. Some account of the lawsuit
will be found in another part of the work.

This romantic story, like all others of the nobility of his parentage, is
at utter variance with the subsequent events of his life, his long
struggles with indigence and obscurity, and the difficulties he endured
from the want of family connections. How can it be believed, says Bossi,
that this same man, who, in his most cruel adversities was incessantly
taunted by his enemies with the obscurity of his birth, should not reply
to this reproach, by declaring his origin, if he were really descended
from the Lords of Cuccaro, Conzano, and Rosignano? a circumstance which
would have obtained him the highest credit with the Spanish nobility.

The different families of Colombo which lay claim to the great navigator,
seem to be various branches of one tree, and there is little doubt of his
appertaining remotely to the same respectable stock.

It appears evident, however, that Columbus sprang immediately from a line
of humble but industrious citizens, which had existed in Genoa, even from
the time of Giacomo Colombo the wool-carder, in 1311, mentioned by
Spotorno; nor is this in any wise incompatible with the intimation of
Fernando Columbus, that the family had been reduced from high estate to
great poverty, by the wars of Lombardy. The feuds of Italy, in those ages,
had broken down and scattered many of the noblest families; and while some
branches remained in the lordly heritage of castles and domains, others
were confounded with the humblest population of the cities,

No. VI.

Birthplace of Columbus.

There has been much controversy about the birthplace of Columbus. The
greatness of his renown has induced various places to lay claim to him as
a native, and from motives of laudable pride, for nothing reflects greater
lustre upon a city than to have given birth to distinguished men. The
original and long established opinion was in favor of Genoa; but such
strenuous claims were asserted by the states of Placentia, and in
particular of Piedmont, that the Academy of Sciences and Letters of Genoa
was induced, in 1812, to nominate three of its members, Signors Serra,
Carrega, and Piaggio, commissioners to examine into these pretensions.

The claims of Placentia had been first advanced in 1662, by Pietro Maria
Campi, in the ecclesiastical history of that place, who maintained that
Columbus was a native of the village of Pradello, in that vicinity. It
appeared probable, on investigation, that Bertolino Colombo,
great-grandfather to the admiral, had owned a small property in Pradello,
the rent of which had been received by Domenico Colombo of Genoa, and
after his death by his sons Christopher and Bartholomew. Admitting this
assertion to be correct, there was no proof that either the admiral, his
father, or grandfather, had ever resided on that estate. The very
circumstances of the case indicated, on the contrary, that their home was
in Genoa.

The claim of Piedmont was maintained with more plausibility. It was shown
that a Domenico Colombo was lord of the castle of Cuccaro in Montferrat,
at the time of the birth of Christopher Columbus, who, it was asserted,
was his son, and born in his castle. Balthazar Colombo, a descendant of
this person, instituted a lawsuit before the council of the Indies for the
inheritance of the admiral, when his male line became extinct. The council
of the Indies decided against him, as is shown in an account of that
process given among the illustrations of this history. It was proved that
Domenico Colombo, father of the admiral, was resident in Genoa both before
and many years after the death of this lord of Cuccaro, who bore the same

The three commissioners appointed by the Academy of Sciences and Letters
of Genoa to examine into these pretensions, after a long and diligent
investigation, gave a voluminous and circumstantial report in favor of
Genoa. An ample digest of their inquest may be found in the History of
Columbus by Signer Bossi, who, in an able dissertation on the question,
confirms their opinion. It may be added, in farther corroboration, that
Peter Martyr and Bartholomew Las Casas, who were contemporaries and
acquaintances of Columbus, and Juan de Barros, the Portuguese historian,
all make Columbus a native of the Genoese territories.

There has been a question fruitful of discussion among the Genoese
themselves, whether Columbus was born in the city of Genoa, or in some
other part of the territory. Finale, and Oneglia, and Savona, towns on the
Ligurian coast to the west, Boggiasco, Cogoleto, and several other towns
and villages, claim him as their own. His family possessed a small
property at a village or hamlet between Quinto and Nervi, called Terra
Rossa; in Latin, Terra Kubra; which has induced some writers to assign his
birth to one of those places. Bossi says that there is still a tower
between Quinto and Nervi which bears the title of Torre dei Colombi.
[271] Bartholomew Columbus, brother to the admiral, styled himself of
Terra Rubra, in a Latin inscription on a map which he presented to Henry
VII of England, and Fernando Columbus states, in his history of the
admiral, that he was accustomed to subscribe himself in the same manner
before he attained to his dignities.

Cogoleto at one time bore away the palm. The families there claim the
discoverer and preserve a portrait of him. One or both of the two admirals
named Colombo, with whom he sailed, are stated to have come from that
place, and to have been confounded with him so as to have given support to
this idea. [272]

Savona, a city in the Genoese territories, has claimed the same honor, and
this claim has recently been very strongly brought forward. Signer
Giovanni Battista Belloro, an advocate of Savona, has strenuously
maintained this claim in an ingenious disputation, dated May 12th, 1826,
in form of a letter to the Baron du Zach, editor of a valuable
astronomical and geographical journal, published monthly at Genoa.

Signor Belloro claims it as an admitted fact, that Domenico Colombo was
for many years a resident and citizen of Savona, in which place one
Christopher Columbus is shown to have signed a document in 1472.

He states that a public square in that city bore the name of Platea
Columbi, toward the end of the 14th century; that the Ligurian government
gave the name of Jurisdizione di Colombi to that district of the republic,
under the persuasion that the great navigator was a native of Savona; and
that Columbus gave the name of Saona to a little island adjacent to
Hispaniola, among his earliest discoveries.

He quotes many Savonese writers, principally poets, and various historians
and poets of other countries, and thus establishes the point that Columbus
was held to be a native of Savona by persons of respectable authority. He
lays particular stress on the testimony of the Magnifico Francisco
Spinola, as related by the learned prelate Felippo Alberto Pollero,
stating that he had seen the sepulchre of Christopher Columbus in the
cathedral at Seville, and that the epitaph states him expressly to be a
native of Savona: "Hic jacet Christophorus Columbus Savonensis."

The prooft advanced by Signor Belloro show his zeal for the honor of his
native city, but do not authenticate the fact he undertakes to establish.
He shows clearly that many respectable writers believed Columbus to be a
native of Savona; but a far greater number can be adduced, and many of
them contemporary with the admiral, some of them his intimate friends,
others his fellow-citizens, who state him to have been born in the city of
Genoa. Among the Savonese writers, Giulio Salinorio, who investigated the
subject, comes expressly to the same conclusion: "_Geneva citta
nobilissima era la patria de Colombo_."

Signor Belloro appears to be correct in stating that Domenico, the father
of the admiral, was several years resident in Savona. But it appears from
his own dissertation, that the Christopher who witnessed the testament in
1472, styled himself of Genoa: "_Christophorus Columbus lancrius de
Janua._" This incident is stated by other writers, who presume this
Christopher to have been the navigator on a visit to his father, in the
interval of his early voyages. In as far as the circumstance bears on the
point, it supports the idea that he was born at Genoa.

The epitaph on which Signor Belloro places his principal reliance,
entirely fails. Christopher Columbus was not interred in the cathedral of
Seville, nor was any monument erected to him in that edifice. The tomb to
which the learned prelate Felippo Alberto Pollero alludes, may have been
that of Fernando Columbus, son of the admiral, who, as has been already
observed, was buried in the cathedral of Seville, to which he bequeathed
his noble library. The place of his sepulture is designated by a broad
slab of white marble, inserted in the pavement, with an inscription,
partly in Spanish, partly in Latin, recording the merits of Fernando, and
the achievements of his father. On either side of the epitaph is engraved
an ancient Spanish Galley. The inscription quoted by Signor Belloro may
have been erroneously written from memory by the Magnifico Francisco
Spinola, under the mistaken idea that he had beheld the sepulchre of the
great discoverer. As Fernando was born at Cordova, the term Savouensis
must have been another error of memory in the Magnifico; no such word is
to be found in the inscription.

This question of birthplace has also been investigated with considerable
minuteness, and a decision given in favor of Genoa, by D. Gio Battista
Spotorno, of the royal university in that city, in his historical memoir
of Columbus. He shows that the family of the Columbi had long been
resident in Genoa. By'an extract from the notarial register, it appeared
that one Giacomo Colombo, a woolcarder, resided without the gate of St.
Andria, in the year 1311. An agreement, also published by the academy of
Genoa, proved, that in 1489, Domenico Colombo possessed a house and shop,
and a garden with a well, in the street of St. Andrew's gate, anciently
without the walls, presumed to have been the same residence with that of
Giacomo Colombo. He rented also another house from the monks of St.
Stephen, in the Via Mulcento, leading from the street of St. Andrew to the
Strada Giulia. [275]

Signor Bossi states, that documents lately found in the archives of the
monastery of St. Stephen, present the name of Domenico Colombo several
times, from 1456 to 1459, and designate him as son of Giovanni Colombo,
husband of Susanna Fontanarossa, and father of Christopher, Bartholomew,
and Giacomo [276] (or Diego). He states also that the receipts of the
canons show that the last payment of rent was made by Domenico Colombo for
his dwelling in 1489. He surmises that the admiral was born in the
before-mentioned house belonging to those monks, in Via Mulcento, and that
he was baptized in the church of St. Stephen. He adds that an ancient
manuscript was submitted to the commissioners of the Genoese academy, in
the margin of which the notary had stated that the name of Christopher
was on the register of the parish as having been baptized in that church.

Andres Bernaldez, the curate of los Palacios, who was an intimate friend
of Columbus, says that he was of Genoa. [278] Agostino Giustiniani, a
contemporary of Columbus, likewise asserts it in his Polyglot Psalter,
published in Genoa, in 1516. Antonio de Herrera, an author of great
accuracy, who, though not a contemporary, had access to the best
documents, asserts decidedly that he was born in the city of Genoa.

To these names may be added that of Alexander Geraldini, brother to the
nuncio, and instructor to the children of Ferdinand and Isadella, a most
intimate friend of Columbus. [279] Also Antonio Gallo, [280] Bartolomeo
Senarega, [281] and Uberto Foglieta, [282] all contemporaries with the
admiral, and natives of Genoa, together with an anonymous writer, who
published an account of his voyage of discovery at Venice in 1509. [283]
It is unnecessary to mention historians of later date agreeing in the
same fact, as they must have derived their information from some of these

The question in regard to the birthplace of Columbus has been treated thus
minutely, because it has been, and still continues to be, a point of warm
controversy. It may be considered, however, as conclusively decided by the
highest authority, the evidence of Columbus himself. In a testament
executed in 1498, which has been admitted in evidence before the Spanish
tribunals in certain lawsuits among his descendants, he twice declares
that he was a native of the city of Genoa: "_Siendo yo nacido en
Genova._" ("I being born in Genoa.") And again, he repeats the
assertion, as a reason for enjoining certain conditions on his heirs,
which manifest the interest he takes in his native place. "I command the
said Diego, my son, or the person who inherits the said mayorazgo (or
entailed estate), that he maintain always in the city of Genoa a person of
our lineage, who shall have a house and a wife there, and to furnish him
with an income on which he can live decently, as a person connected with
onr family, and hold footing and root in that city as a native of it, so
that he may have aid and favor in that city in case of need, _for from
thence I came and there was born_." [284]

In another part of his testament he expresses himself with a filial
fondness in respect to Genoa. "I command the said Don Diego, or whoever
shall possess the said mayorazgo, that he labor and strive always for the
honor, and welfare, and increase of the city of Genoa, and employ all his
abilities and means in defending and augmenting the welfare and honor of
her republic, in all matters which are not contrary to the service of the
church of God, and the state of the king and queen our sovereigns, and
their successors."

An informal codicil, executed by Columbus at Valladolid, May 4th, 1506,
sixteen days before his death, was discovered about 1785, in the Corsini
library at Rome. It is termed a military codicil, from being made in the
manner which the civil law allows to the soldier who executes such an
instrument on the eve of battle, or in expectation of death. It was
written on the blank page of a little breviary presented to Columbus by
Pope Alexander VII. Columbus leaves the book "to his beloved country, the
Republic of Genoa."

He directs the erection of a hospital in that city for the poor, with
provision for its support, and he declares that republic his successor in
the admiralty of the Indies, in the event of his male line becoming

The authenticity of this paper has been questioned. It has been said, that
there was no probability of Columbus having resort to a usage with which
he was, most likely, unacquainted. The objections are not cogent. Columbus
was accustomed to the peculiarities of a military life, and he repeatedly
wrote letters, in critical moments, as a precaution against some fatal
occurrence that seemed to impend. The present codicil, from its date, must
have been written a few days previous to his death, perhaps at a moment
when he imagined himself at extremity. This may account for any difference
in the handwriting, especially as he was, at times, so affected by the
gout in his hands as not to be able to write except at night. Particular
stress has been laid on the signature; but it does not appear that he was
uniform in regard to that, and it is a point to which any one who
attempted a forgery would be attentive. It does not appear, likewise, that
any advantage could have been obtained by forging the paper, or that any
such was attempted.

In 1502, when Columbus was about to depart on his fourth and last voyage,
he wrote to his friend, Doctor Nicolo Oderigo, formerly ambassador from
Genoa to Spain, and forwarded to him copies of all his grants and
commissions from the Spanish sovereigns, authenticated before the alcaldes
of Seville. He, at the same time, wrote to the bank of San Giorgio, at
Genoa, assigning a tenth of his revenues to be paid to that city, in
diminution of the duties on corn, wine, and other provisions.

Why should Colnmbus feel this strong interest in Genoa, had he been born
in any of the other Italian states which have laid claim to him? He was
under no obligation to Genoa. He had resided there but a brief portion of
his early life; and his proposition for discovery, according to some
writers, had been scornfully rejected by that republic. There is nothing
to warrant so strong an interest in Genoa, but the filial tie which links
the heart of a man to his native place, however he may be separated from
it by time or distance, and however little he may be indebted to it for

Again, had Columbus been born in any of the towns and villages of the
Genoese coast which have claimed him for a native, why should he have made
these bequests in favor of the _city_ of Genoa, and not of his native
town or village?

These bequests were evidently dictated by a mingled sentiment of pride and
affection, which would be without all object if not directed to his native
place. He was at this time elevated above all petty pride on the subject.
His renown was so brilliant, that it would have shed a lustre on any
hamlet, however obscure: and the strong love of country here manifested
would never have felt satisfied until it had singled out the spot, and
nestled down, in the very cradle of his infancy. These appear to be
powerful reasons, drawn from natural feeling, for deciding in favor of

No. VII.

The Colombos.

During the early part of the life of Columbus, there were two other
navigators, bearing the same name, of some rank and celebrity, with whom
he occasionally sailed; their names occurring vaguely from time to time,
during the obscure part of his career, have caused much perplexity to some
of his biographers, who have supposed that they designated the discoverer.
Fernando Columbus affirms them to have been family connections,[285] and
his father says, in one of his letters, "I am not the first admiral of our

These two were uncle and nephew; the latter being termed by historians
Colombo the younger, (by the Spanish historians Colombo el mozo.) They
were in the Genoese service, but are mentioned, occasionally, in old
chronicles, as French commanders, because Genoa, during a great part of
their time, was under the protection, or rather the sovereignty, of
France, and her ships and captains, being engaged in the expeditions of
that power, were identified with the French marine.

Mention is made of the elder Colombo in Zurita's Annals of Arragon, (L.
xix. p. 261,) in the war between Spain and Portugal, on the subject of the
claim of the Princess Juana to the crown of Castile. In 1476, the king of
Portugal determined to go to the Mediterranean coast of France, to incite
his ally, Louis XI, to prosecute the war in the province of Guipuzcoa.

The king left Toro, says Zurita, on the 13th June, and went by the river
to the city of Porto, in order to await the armada of the king of France,
the captain of which was Colon, (Colombo,) who was to navigate by the
straits of Gibraltar to pass to Marseilles.

After some delays Colombo arrived in the latter part of July with the
French armada at Bermeo, on the coast of Biscay, where he encountered a
violent storm, lost his principal ship, and ran to the coast of Galicia,
with an intention of attacking Kibaldo, and lost a great many of his men.
Thence he went to Lisbon to receive the king of Portugal, who embarked in
the fleet in August, with a number of his noblemen, and took two thousand
two hundred foot soldiers, and four hundred and seventy horse, to
strengthen the Portuguese garrisons along the Barbary coast. There were in
the squadron twelve ships and five caravels. After touching at Ceuta the
fleet proceeded to Colibre, where the king disembarked in the middle of
September, the weather not permitting them to proceed to Marseilles.
(Zurita, L. xix. Ch. 51.)

This Colombo is evidently the naval commander of whom the following
mention is made by Jaques George de Chaufepie, in his supplement to Bayle,
(vol. 2, p. 126 of letter C.)

"I do not know what dependence," says Chaufepie, "is to be placed on a
fact reported in the _Ducatiana_, (Part 1, p. 143,) that Columbus was
in 1474 captain of several ships for Louis XI, and that, as the Spaniards
had made at that time an irruption into Roussillon, he thought that, for
reprisal, and without contravening the peace between the two crowns, he
could run down Spanish vessels. He attacked, therefore, and took two
galleys of that nation, freighted on the account of various individuals.
On complaints of this action being made to king Ferdinand, he wrote on the
subject to Louis XI; his letter is dated the 9th December, 1474. Ferdinand
terms Christopher Columbus a subject of Louis; it was because, as is
known, Columbus was a Genoese, and Louis was sovereign of Genoa; although
that city and Savona were held of him in fief by the duke of Milan."

It is highly probable that it was the squadron of this same Colombo of
whom the circumstance is related by Bossi, and after him by Spotorno on
the authority of a letter found in the archives of Milan, and written in
1476 by two illustrious Milanese gentlemen, on their return from
Jerusalem. The letter states that in the previous year 1475, as the
Venetian fleet was stationed off Cyprus to guard the island, a Genoese
squadron, commanded by one Colombo, sailed by them with an air of
defiance, shouting "Viva San Giorgia!" As the republics were then at
peace, they were permitted to pass unmolested.

Bossi supposes that the Colombo here mentioned was Christopher Columbus
the discoverer; but it appears rather to have been the old Genoese admiral
of that name, who according to Zurita was about that time cruising in the
Mediterranean; and who, in all probability, was the hero of both the
preceding occurrences.

The nephew of this Colombo, called by the Spaniards Colombo el mozo,
commanded a few years afterwards a squadron in the French service, as will
appear in a subsequent illustration, and Columbus may at various times
have held an inferior command under both uncle and nephew, and been
present on the above cited occasions.


Expedition of John of Anjou.

About the time that Columbus attained his twenty-fourth year, his native
city was in a state of great alarm and peril from the threatened invasion
of Alphonso V of Aragon, king of Naples. Finding itself too weak to
contend singly with such a foe, and having in vain looked for assistance
from Italy, it placed itself under the protection of Charles the VIIth of
France. That monarch sent to its assistance John of Anjou, son of Rene or
Renato, king of Naples, who had been dispossessed of his crown by
Alphonso. John of Anjou, otherwise called the duke of Calabria, [286]
immediately took upon himself the command of the place, repaired its
fortifications, and defended the entrance of the harbor with strong
chains. In the meantime, Alplionso had prepared a large land force, and
assembled an armament of twenty ships and ten galleys at Ancona, on the
frontiers of Genoa. The situation of the latter was considered eminently
perilous, when Alphonso suddenly fell ill of a calenture and died; leaving
the kingdoms of Anjou and Sicily to his brother John, and the kingdom of
Naples to his son Ferdinand.

The death of Alphonso, and the subsequent division of his dominions, while
they relieved the fears of the Genoese, gave rise to new hopes on the part
of the house of Anjou; and the duke John, encouraged by emissaries from
various powerful partisans among the Neapolitan nobility, determined to
make a bold attempt upon Naples for the recovery of the crown. The Genoese
entered into his cause with spirit, furnishing him with ships, galleys,
and money. His father, Rene or Renato, fitted out twelve galleys for the
expedition in the harbor of Marseilles, and sent him assurance of an
abundant supply of money, and of the assistance of the king of France. The
brilliant nature of the enterprise attracted the attention of the daring
and restless spirits of the times. The chivalrous nobleman, the soldier of
fortune, the hardy corsair, the bold adventurer, or the military partisan,
enlisted under the banners of the duke of Calabria. It is stated by
historians, that Columbus served in the armament from Genoa, in a squadron
commanded by one of the Colombos, his relations.

The expedition sailed in October, 1459, and arrived at Sessa, between the
mouths of the Garigliano and the Volturno. The news of its arrival was the
signal of universal revolt; the factious barons, and their vassals,
hastened to join the standard of Anjou, and the duke soon saw the finest
provinces of the Neapolitan dominions at his command, and with his army
and squadron menaced the city of Naples itself.

In the history of this expedition we meet with one hazardous action of the
fleet in which Columbus had embarked.

The army of John of Anjou, being closely invested by a superior force, was
in a perilous predicament at the mouth of the Sarno. In this conjuncture,
the captain of the armada landed with his men, and scoured the
neighborhood, hoping to awaken in the populace their former enthusiasm for
the banner of Anjou; and perhaps to take Naples by surprise. A chosen
company of Neapolitan infantry was sent against them. The troops from the
fleet having little of the discipline of regular soldiery, and much of the
freebooting disposition of maritime rovers, had scattered themselves about
the country, intent chiefly upon spoil. They were attacked by the infantry
and put to rout, with the loss of many killed and wounded. Endeavoring to
make their way back to the ships, they found the passes seized and blocked
up by the people of Sorento, who assailed them with dreadful havoc. Their
flight now became desperate and headlong; many threw themselves from rocks
and precipices into the sea, and but a small portion regained the ships.

The contest of John of Anjou for the crown of Naples lasted four years.
For a time fortune favored him, and the prize seemed almost within his
grasp, but reverses succeeded: he was defeated at various points; the
factious nobles, one by one, deserted him, and returned to their
allegiance to Alfonso, and the duke was finally compelled to retire to the
island of Ischia. Here he remained for some time, guarded by eight
galleys, which likewise harassed the bay of Naples. [287] In this
squadron, which loyally adhered to him until he ultimately abandoned this
unfortunate enterprise, Columbus is stated to have served.

No. IX.

Capture of the Venetian Galleys, by Colombo the Younger.

As the account of the sea-fight by which Fernando Columbus asserts that
his father was first thrown upon the shores of Portugal, has been adopted
by various respectable historians, it is proper to give particular reasons
for discrediting it.

Fernando expressly says, that it was in an action mentioned by Marco
Antonio Sabelico, in the eighth book of his tenth Decade; that the
squadron in which Columbus served was commanded by a famous corsair,
called Columbus the younger, (Colombo el mozo,) and that an embassy was
sent from Venice to thank the king of Portugal for the succor he afforded
to the Venetian captains and crews. All this is certainly recorded in
Sabellicus, but the battle took place in 1485, after Columbus had
_left_ Portugal. Zurita, in his annals of Aragon, under the date of
1685, mentions this same action. He says, "At this time four Venetian
galleys sailed from the island of Cadiz and took the route for Flanders;
they were laden with merchandise from the Levant, especially from the
island of Sicily, and, passing by Cape St. Vincent, they were attacked by
a French corsair, son of captain Colon, (Colombo,) who had seven vessels
in his armada; and the galleys were captured the twenty-first of August."

A much fuller account is given in the life of king John II of Portugal, by
Garcia de Resende, who likewise records it as happening in 1485. He says
the Venetian galleys were taken and robbed by the French, and the captains
and crews, wounded, plundered, and maltreated, were turned on shore at
Cascoes. Here they were succored by Dona Maria de Meneses, countess of

When king John II heard of the circumstance, being much grieved that such
an event should have happened on his coast, and being disposed to show his
friendship for the republic of Venice, he ordered that the Venetian
captains should be furnished with rich raiment of silks and costly cloths,
and provided with horses and mules, that they might make their appearance
before him in a style befitting themselves and their country. He received
them with great kindness and distinction, expressing himself with princely
courtesy, both as to themselves and the republic of Venice; and having
heard their account of the battle, and of their destitute situation, he
assisted them with a large sum of money to ransom their galleys from the
French cruisers. The latter took all the merchandises on board of their
ships, but king John prohibited any of the spoil from being purchased
within his dominions. Having thus generously relieved and assisted the
captains, and administered to the necessities of their crews, he enabled
them all to return in their own galleys to Venice.

The dignitaries of the republic were so highly sensible of this
munificence, on the part of king John, that they sent a stately embassy to
that monarch, with rich presents and warm expressions of gratitude.
Geronimo Donate was charged with this mission, a man eminent for learning
and eloquence; he was honorably received and entertained by king John, and
dismissed with royal presents, among which were jenets, and mules with
sumptuous trappings and caparisons, and many negro slaves richly clad.

The following is the account of this action as given by Sabellicus, in his
history of Venice: [290]

Erano andate quatro Galee delle quali Bartolommeo Minio era capitano.
Queste navigando per l'Iberico mare, Colombo il piu giovane, nipote di
quel Colombo famoso corsale, fecesi incontro a' Veniziani di notte,
appresso il sacro Promontorio, che chiamasi ora capo di san Vincenzo, con
sette navi guernite da combattere. Egli quantunque nel primo incontro
avesse seco disposto d'opprimere le navi Veniziane, si ritenne pero del
combattere sin al giorno: tuttavia per esser alia battaglia piu acconcio
cosi le seguia, che le prode del corsale toccavano le poppe de Veniziani.
Venuto il giorno incontanente i Barbari diedero 1' assalto. Sostennero i
Veniziani allora 1' empito del nemico, per numero di navi e di combattenti
superiore, e duro il conflitto atroce per molte ore. Rare fiate fu
combattuto contro simili nemici con tanta uccisione, perche a pena si
costuina d'attaccarsi contro di loro, se non per occasione. Affermano
alcuni, che vi furono presenti, esser morte deile ciurme Veniziane da
trecento uomini. Altri dicono che fu meno: mori in quella zuffa Lorenzo
Michele capitano d'una galera e Giovanni Delfino, d'altro capitano
fratello. Era durata la zuffa dal fare del giorno fin' ad ore venti, e
erano le genti Veneziane mal Initiate. Era gia la nave Delfina in potere
de' nemici quando le altre ad una ad una si renderono. Narrano alcuni, che
furono di quel aspro conflitto participi, aver numerato nelle loro navi da
prode a poppe ottanta valorosi uomini estinti, i quali dal nemico veduti
lo mossero a gemere e dire con sdegno, che cosi avevano voluto, i
Veniziani. I corpi morti furono gettati nel mare, e i feriti posti nel
lido. Quei che rimasero vivi seguirono con le navi il capitano vittorioso
sin' a Lisbona e ivi furono tutti licenziati.... Quivi furono i Veniziaui
benignamente ricevuti dal Re, gli infermi furono medicati, gli altri
ebbero abiti e denari secondo la loro condizione.... Oltre cio vietd in
tutto il Regno, che alcuno non comprasse della preda Veniziana, portata
dai corsali. La nuova dell' avuta rovina non poco afflisse la citta, erano
perduti in quella mercatanzia da ducento mila ducati; ma il danno
particolare degldi nomini uccisi diede maggior afflizione. _Marc. Ant.
Sabelico, Hist, Venet., decad. iv. lib. iii._

No. X.

Amerigo Vespucci.

Among the earliest and most intelligent of the voyagers who followed the
track of Columbus, was Amerigo Vespucci. He has been considered by many as
the first discoverer of the southern continent, and by a singular caprice
of fortune, his name has been given to the whole of the New World. It has
been strenuously insisted, however, that he had no claim to the title of a
discoverer; that he merely sailed in a subordinate capacity in a squadron
commanded by others; that the account of his first voyage is a
fabrication; and that he did not visit the main-land until after it had
been discovered and coasted by Columbus. As this question has been made a
matter of warm and voluminous controversy, it is proper to take a summary
view of it in the present work.

Amerigo Vespucci was born in Florence, March 9th, 1451, of a noble, but
not at that time a wealthy, family; his father's name was Anastatio; his
mother's was Elizabetta Mini. He was the third of their sons, and received
an excellent education under his uncle, Georgio Antonio Vespucci, a
learned friar of the fraternity of San Marco, who was instructor to
several illustrious personages of that period.

Amerigo Vespucci visited Spain, and took up his residence in Seville, to
attend to some commercial transactions on account of the family of the
Medici of Florence, and to repair, by his ingenuity, the losses and
misfortunes of an unskillful brother. [291]

The date of his arrival in Spain is uncertain, but from comparing dates
and circumstances mentioned in his letters, he must have been at Seville
when Columbus returned from his first voyage.

Padre Stanislaus Canovai, Professor of Mathematics at Florence, who has
published the life and voyages of Amerigo Vespucci, says that he was
commissioned by king Ferdinand, and sent with Columbus in his second
voyage in 1493. He states this on the authority of a passage in the
Cosmography of Sebastian Munster, published at Basle in 1550;[292] but
Munster mentions Vespucci as having accompanied Columbus in his first
voyage; the reference of Canovai is therefore incorrect; and the
suggestion of Munster is disproved by the letters of Vespucci, in which he
states his having been stimulated by the accounts brought of the
newly-discovered regions. He never mentions such a voyage in any of his
letters; which he most probably would have done, or rather would have
made it the subject of a copious letter, had he actually performed it.

The first notice of a positive form which we have of Vespucci, as resident
in Spain, is early in 1496. He appears, from documents in the royal
archives at Seville, to have acted as agent or factor for the house of
Juanoto Berardi, a rich Florentine merchant, resident in Seville; who had
contracted to furnish the Spanish sovereigns with three several armaments,
of four vessels each, for the service of the newly-discovered countries.
He may have been one of the principals in this affair, which was
transacted in the name of this established house. Berardi died in
December, 1495, and in the following January we find Amerigo Vespucci
attending to the concerns of the expeditions, and settling with the
masters of the ships for their pay and maintenance, according to the
agreements made between them and the late Juanoto Berardi. On the 12th
January, 1496, he received on this account 10,000 maravedis from Bernardo
Pinelo, the royal treasurer. He went on preparing all things for the
dispatch of four caravels to sail under the same contract between the
sovereigns and the house of Berardi, and sent them to sea on the 3d
February, 1496; but on the 8th they met with a storm and were wrecked; the
crews were saved with the loss of only three men. [293] While thus
employed, Amerigo Vespucci, of course, had occasional opportunity of
conversing with Columbus, with whom, according to the expression of the
admiral himself, in one of his letters to his son Diego, he appears to
have been always on friendly terms. From these conversations, and from his
agency in these expeditions, he soon became excited to visit the
newly-discovered countries, and to participate in enterprises, which were
the theme of every tongue. Having made himself well acquainted with
geographical and nautical science, he prepared to launch into the career
of discovery. It was not very long before he carried this design into

In 1498, Columbus, in his third voyage, discovered the coast of Paria, on
Terra Firma; which he at that time imagined to be a great island, but that
a vast continent lay immediately adjacent. He sent to Spain specimens of
pearls found on this coast, and gave the most sanguine accounts of the
supposed riches of the country.

In 1499, an expedition of four vessels, under command of Alonzo de Ojeda,
was fitted out from Spain, and sailed for Paria, guided by charts and
letters sent to the government by Columbus. These were communicated to
Ojeda, by his patron, the bishop Fonseca, who had the superintendence of
India affairs, and who furnished him also with a warrant to undertake the

It is presumed that Vespucci aided in fitting, out the armament, and
sailed in a vessel belonging to the house of Berardi, and in this way was
enabled to take a share in the gains and losses of the expedition; for
Isabella, as queen of Castile, had rigorously forbidden all strangers to
trade with her transatlantic possessions, not even excepting the natives
of the kingdom of Aragon.

This squadron visited Paria and several hundred miles of the coast, which
they ascertained to be Terra Firma. They returned in June, 1500; and on
the 18th of July, in that year, Amerigo Vespucci wrote an account of his
voyage to Lorenzo de Pier Francisco de Medici of Florence, which remained
concealed in manuscript, until brought to light and published by Bandini
in 1745.

In his account of this voyage, and in every other narrative of his
different expeditions, Vespucci never mentions any other person concerned
in the enterprise. He gives the time of his sailing, and states that he
went with two caravels, which were probably his share of the expedition,
or rather vessels sent by the house of Berardi. He gives an interesting
narrative of the voyage, and of the various transactions with the natives,
which corresponds, in many substantial points, with the accounts furnished
by Ojeda and his mariners of their voyage, in a lawsuit hereafter

In May, 1501, Vespucci, having suddenly left Spain, sailed in the service
of Emanuel, king of Portugal; in the course of which expedition he visited
the coast of Brazil. He gives an account of this voyage in a second letter
to Lorenzo de Pier Francisco de Medici, which also remained in manuscript
until published by Bartolozzi in 1789. [294]

No record nor notice of any such voyage undertaken by Amerigo Vespucci, at
the command of Emanuel, is to be found in the archives of the Torre do
Tombo, the general archives of Portugal, which have been repeatedly and
diligently searched for the purpose. It is singular also that his name is
not to be found in any of the Portuguese historians, who in general were
very particular in naming all navigators who held any important station
among them, or rendered any distinguished services. That Vespucci did sail
along the coasts, however, is not questioned. His nephew, after his death,
in the course of evidence on some points in dispute, gave the correct
latitude of Cape St. Augustine, which he said he had extracted from his
uncle's journal.

In 1504, Vespucci wrote a third letter to the same Lorenzo de Medici,
containing a more extended account of the voyage just alluded to in the
service of Portugal. This was the first of his narratives that appeared
in print. It appears to have been published in Latin, at Strasburgh, as
early as 1505, under the title "Americus Vesputius de Orbe Antarctica per
Regem Portugalliae pridem inventa." [295]

An edition of this letter was printed in Vicenza in 1507, in an anonymous
collection of voyages edited by Francanzio di Monte Alboddo, an
inhabitant of Vicenza. It was re-printed in Italian in 1508, at Milan,
and also in Latin, in a book entitled "Itinerarium Portugalensium." In
making the present illustration, the Milan edition in Italian [296] has
been consulted, and also a Latin translation of it by Simon Grinaeus, in
his Novus Orbis, published at Basle in 1532. It relates entirely the
first voyage of Vespucci from Lisbon to the Brazils in 1501.

It is from this voyage to the Brazils that Amerigo Vespucci was first
considered the discoverer of Terra Firma; and his name was at first
applied to these southern regions, though afterwards extended to the
whole continent. The merits of his voyage were, however, greatly
exaggerated. The Brazils had been previously discovered, and formally
taken possession of for Spain in 1500, by Vincente Yanez Pinzon; and
also in the same year, by Pedro Alvarez Cabral, on the part of Portugal;
circumstances unknown, however, by Vespucci and his associates. The
country remained in possession of Portugal, in conformity to the line
of demarcation agreed on between the two nations.

Vespucci made a second voyage in the service of Portugal. He says that
he commanded a caravel in a squadron of six vessels destined for the
discovery of Malacca, which they had heard to be the great depot and
magazine of all the trade between the Ganges and the Indian sea. Such
an expedition did sail about this time, under the command of Gonzalo
Coelho. The squadron sailed, according to Vespucci, on the 10th of May,
1503. It stopped at the Cape de Verd islands for refreshments, and
afterwards sailed by the coast of Sierra Leone, but was prevented from
landing by contrary winds and a turbulent sea. Standing to the
southwest, they ran three hundred leagues until they were three degrees
to the southward of the equinoctial line, where they discovered an
uninhabited island, about two leagues in length and one in breadth.
Here, on the 10th of August, by mismanagement, the commander of the
squadron ran his vessel on a rock and lost her. While the other vessels
were assisting to save the crew and property from the wreck, Amerigo
Vespucci was dispatched in his caravel to search for a safe harbor in
the island. He departed in his vessel without his long-boat, and with
less than half of his crew, the rest having gone in the boat to the
assistance of the wreck. Vespucci found a harbor, but waited in vain
for several days for the arrival of the ships. Standing out to sea, he
met with a solitary vessel, and learnt that the ship of the commander
had sunk, and the rest had proceeded onwards. In company with this
vessel he stood for the Brazils, according to the command of the king,
in case that any vessel should be parted from the fleet. Arriving on
the coast, he discovered the famous bay of All Saints, where he
remained upwards of two months, in hopes of being joined by the rest
of the fleet. He at length ran 260 leagues farther south, where he
remained five months building a fort and taking in cargo of
Brazil-wood. Then, leaving in the fortress a garrison of 24 men with
arms and ammunition, he set sail for Lisbon, where he arrived in June,
1504. [297] The commander of the squadron and the other four ships were
never heard of afterwards.

Vespucci does not appear to have received the reward from the king of
Portugal that his services merited, for we find him at Seville early in
1505, on his way to the Spanish court, in quest of employment: and he
was bearer of a letter from Columbus to his son Diego, dated February 5,
which, while it speaks warmly of him as a friend, intimates his having
been unfortunate. The following is the letter:

My Dear Son,--Diego Mendez departed hence on Monday, the third of this
month. After his departure I conversed with Amerigo Vespucci, the bearer
of this, who goes there (to court) summoned on affairs of navigation.
Fortune has been adverse to him as to many others. His labors have not
profited him as much as they reasonably should have done. He goes on my
account, and with much desire to do something that may result to my
advantage, if within his power. I cannot ascertain here in what I can
employ him, that will be serviceable to me, for I do not know what may
be there required. He goes with the determination to do all that is
possible for me; see in what he may be of advantage, and co-operate
with him, that he may say and do every thing, and put his plans in
operation; and let all be done secretly, that he may not be suspected.
I have said every thing to him that I can say touching the business,
and have informed him of the pay I have received, and what is due, &c.

About this time Amerigo Vespucci received letters of naturalization from
king Ferdinand, and shortly afterwards he and Vincente Yafiez Pinzon were
named captains of an armada about to be sent out in the spice trade and to
make discoveries. There is a royal order, dated Toro, 11th April, 1507,
for 12,000 maravedis for an outfit for "Americo de Vespuche, resident of
Seville." Preparations were made for this voyage, and vessels procured and
fitted out, but it was eventually abandoned. There are memoranda existing
concerning it, dated in 1506, 1507, and 1508, from which it appears that
Amerigo Vespucci remained at Seville, attending to the fluctuating
concerns of this squadron, until the destination of the vessels was
changed, their equipments were sold, and the accounts settled. During this
time he had a salary of 30,000 maravedis. On the 22d of March, 1508, he
received the appointment of principal pilot, with a salary of 70,000
maravedis. His chief duties were to prepare charts, examine pilots,
superintend the fitting out of expeditions, and prescribe the route that
vessels were to pursue in their voyages to the New World. He appears to
have remained at Seville, and to have retained this office until his
death, on the 22d of February, 1512. His widow, Maria Corezo, enjoyed a
pension of 10,000 maravedis. After his death, his nephew, Juan Vespucci,
was nominated pilot, with a salary of 20,000 maravedis, commencing on the
22d of May, 1512. Peter Martyr speaks with high commendation of this young
man. "Young Vesputius is one to whom Americus Vesputius his uncle left the
exact knowledge of the mariner's faculties, as it were by inheritance,
after his death; for he was a very expert master in the knowledge of his
carde, his compasse and the elevation of the pole starre by the
quadrant.... Vesputius is my very familiar friend, and a wittie young man,
in whose company I take great pleasure, and therefore use him oftentymes
for my guest. He hath also made many voyages into these coasts, and
diligently noted such things as he hath seen." [299]

Vespucci, the nephew, continued in this situation during the lifetime of
Fonseca, who had been the patron of his uncle and his family. He was
divested of his pay and his employ by a letter of the council, dated the
18th of March, 1525, shortly after the death of the bishop. No further
notice of Vespucci is to be found in the archives of the Indies.

Such is a brief view of the career of Amerigo Vespucci; it remains to
notice the points of controversy. Shortly after his return from his last
expedition to the Brazils, he wrote a letter dated Lisbon, 4th September,
1504, containing a summary account of all his voyages. This letter is of
special importance to the matters under investigatiod, as it is the only
one known that relates to the disputed voyage, which would establish him
as the discoverer of Terra Firma. It is presumed to have been written in
Latin, and was addressed to Rene, duke of Lorraine, who assumed the title
of king of Sicily and Jerusalem.

The earliest known edition of this letter was published in Latin, in 1507,
at St. Diez in Lorraine. A copy of it has been found in the library of the
Vatican (No. 9688) by the abbe Cancellieri. In preparing the present
illustration, a reprint of this letter in Latin has been consulted,
inserted in the Novus Orbis of Grinaeus, published at Bath in 1532. The
letter contains a spirited narrative of four voyages which he asserts to
have made to the New World. In the prologue he excuses the liberty of
addressing king Rene by calling to his recollection the ancient intimacy
of their youth, when studying the rudiments of science together, under the
paternal uncle of the voyager; and adds that if the present narrative
should not altogether please his Majesty, he must plead to him as Pliny
said to Maecenas, that he used formerly to be amused with his triflings.

In the prologue to this letter, he informs king Rene that affairs of
commerce had brought him to Spain, where he had experienced the various
changes of fortune attendant on such transactions, and was induced to
abandon that pursuit and direct his labors to objects of a more elevated
and stable nature. He therefore purposed to contemplate various parts of
the world, and to behold the marvels which it contains. To this object
both time and place were favorable; for king Ferdinand was then preparing
four vessels for the discovery of new lands in the west, and appointed him
among the number of those who went in the expedition. "We departed," he
adds, "from the port of Cadiz, May 20, 1497, taking our course on the
great gulf of ocean; in which voyage we employed eighteen months,
discovering many lands and innumerable islands, chiefly inhabited, of
which our ancestors make no mention."

A duplicate of this letter appears to have been sent at the same time
(written, it is said, in Italian) to Piere Soderini, afterwards
Gonfalonier of Florence, which was some years subsequently published in
Italy, not earlier than 1510, and entitled "Lettera de Amerigo Vespucci
delle Isole nuovamente trovate in quatro suoi viaggi." We have consulted
the edition of this letter in Italian, inserted in the publication of
Padre Stanislaus Canovai, already referred to.

It has been suggested by an Italian writer, that this letter was written
by Vespucci to Soderini only, and the address altered to king Rene through
the flattery or mistake of the Lorraine editor, without perceiving how
unsuitable the reference to former intimacy, intended for Soderini, was,
when applied to a sovereign. The person making this remark can hardly have
read the prologue to the Latin edition, in which the title of "your
majesty" is frequently repeated, and the term "illustrious king" employed.
It was first published also in Lorraine, the domains of Rene, and the
publisher would not probably have presumed to take such a liberty with his
sovereign's name. It becomes a question, whether Vespucci addressed the
same letter to king Rene and to Piere Soderini, both of them having been
educated with him, or whether he sent a copy of this letter to Soderini,
which subsequently found its way into print. The address to Soderini may
have been substituted, through mistake, by the Italian publisher. Neither
of the publications could have been made under the supervision of

The voyage specified in this letter as having taken place in 1497, is the
great point in controversy. It is strenuously asserted that no such voyage
took place; and that the first expedition of Vespucci to the coast of
Paria was in the enterprise commanded by Ojeda, in 1499. The books of the
armadas existing in the archives of the Indies at Seville, have been
diligently examined, but no record of such voyage has been found, nor any
official documents relating to it. Those most experienced in Spanish
colonial regulations insist that no command like that pretended by
Vespucci could have been given to a stranger, till he had first received
letters of naturalization from the sovereigns for the kingdom of Castile,
and he did not obtain such till 1505, when they were granted to him as
preparatory to giving him the command in conjunction with Pinzon.

His account of a voyage made by him in 1497, therefore, is alleged to be a
fabrication for the purpose of claiming the discovery of Paria; or rather
it is affirmed that he has divided the voyage which he actually made with
Ojeda, in 1499, into two; taking a number of incidents from his real
voyage, altering them a little, and enlarging them with descriptions of
the countries and people, so as to make a plausible narrative, which he
gives as a distinct voyage; and antedating his departure to 1497, so as to
make himself appear the first discoverer of Paria.

In support of this charge various coincidences have been pointed out
between his voyage said to have taken place in 1497, and that described in
his first letter to Lorenzo de Medici in 1499. These coincidences are with
respect to places visited, transactions and battles with the natives, and
the number of Indians carried to Spain and sold as slaves.

But the credibility of this voyage has been put to a stronger test. About
1508 a suit was instituted against the crown of Spain by Don Diego, son
and heir of Columbus, for the government of certain parts of Terra Firma,
and for a share in the revenue arising from them, conformably to the
capitulations made between the sovereigns and his father. It was the
object of the crown to disprove the discovery of the coast of Paria and
the pearl islands by Columbus; as it was maintained, that unless he had
discovered them, the claim of his heir with respect to them would be of no

In the course of this suit, a particular examination of witnesses took
place in 1512-13 in the fiscal court. Alonzo de Ojeda, and nearly a
hundred other persons, were interrogated on oath; that voyager having been
the first to visit the coast of Paria after Columbus had left it, and that
within a very few months. The interrogatories of these witnesses, and
their replies, are still extant, in the archives of the Indies at Seville,
in a packet of papers entitled "Papers belonging to the admiral Don Luis
Colon, about the conservation of his privileges, from ann. 1515 to 1564."
The author of the present work has two several copies of these
interrogatories lying before him. One made by the late historian Munoz,
and the other made in 1826, and signed by Don Jose de la Higuera y Lara,
keeper of the general archives of the Indies in Seville. In the course of
this testimony, the fact that Amerigo Vespucci accompanied Ojeda in this
voyage of 1499, appears manifest, first from the deposition of Ojeda
himself. The following are the words of the record: "In this voyage which
this said witness made, he took with him Juan de la Cosa and Morego
Vespuche [Amerigo Vespucci] and other pilots." [300] Secondly, from the
coincidence of many parts of the narrative of Vespucci with events in
this voyage of Ojeda. Among these coincidences, one is particularly
striking. Vespucci, in his letter to Lorenzo de Medici, and also in that
to Rene or Soderini, says, that his ships, after leaving the coast of
Terra Firma, stopped at Hispaniola, where they remained about two months
and a half, procuring provisions, during which time, he adds, "we had
many perils and troubles with the very Christians who were in that
island with Columbus, and I believe through envy." [301]

Now it is well known that Ojeda passed some time on the western end of the
island victualing his ships; and that serious dissensions took place
between him and the Spaniards in those parts, and the party sent by
Columbus under Roldan to keep a watch upon his movements. If then
Vespucci, as is stated upon oath, really accompanied Ojeda in this voyage,
the inference appears almost irresistible, that he had not made the
previous voyage of 1497, for the fact would have been well known to Ojeda;
he would have considered Vespucci as the original discoverer, and would
have had no motive for depriving him of the merit of it, to give it to
Columbus, with whom Ojeda was not upon friendly terms.

Ojeda, however, expressly declares that the coast had been discovered by
Columbus. On being asked how he knew the fact, he replied, because he saw
the chart of the country discovered, which Columbus sent at the time to
the king and queen, and that he came off immediately on a voyage of
discovery, and found what was therein set down as discovered by the
admiral was correct. [302]

Another witness, Bernaldo de Haro, states that he had been with the
admiral, and had written (or rather copied) a letter for the admiral to
the king and queen, designating, in an accompanying sea-chart, the courses
and steerings and winds by which he had arrived at Paria; and that this
witness had heard that from this chart others had been made, and that
Pedro Alonzo Nino and Ojeda, and others, who had since, visited these
countries, had been guided by the same. [303]

Francisco de Molares, one of the best and most credible of all the pilots,
testified that he saw a sea-chart which Columbus had made of the coast of
Paria, _and he believed that all governed themselves by it_.

Numerous witnesses in this process testify to the fact that Paria was
first discovered by Columbus. Las Casas, who has been at the pains of
counting them, says that the fact was established by twenty-five
eye-witnesses and sixty ear-witnesses. Many of them testify also that the
coast south of Paria, and that extending west of the island of Margarita,
away to Venezuela, which Vespucci states to have been discovered by
himself, in 1497, was now first discovered by Ojeda, and had never before
been visited either by the admiral "or any other Christian whatever."

Alonzo Sanchez de Carvajal says that all the voyages of discovery which
were made to the Terra Firma, were made by persons who had sailed with the
admiral, or been benefited by his instructions and directions, following
the course he had laid down;[305] and the same is testified by many other
pilots and mariners of reputation and experience.

It would be a singular circumstance, if none of these witnesses, many of
whom must have sailed in the same squadron with Vespucci along this coast
in 1499, should have known that he had discovered and explored it two
years previously. If that had really been the case, what motive could he
have for concealing the fact? and why, if they knew it, should they not
proclaim it? Vespucci states his voyage in 1497 to have been made with
four caravels; that they returned in October, 1498, and that he sailed
again with two caravels in May, 1499, (the date of Ojeda's departure.)
Many of the mariners would therefore have been present in both voyages.
Why, too, should Ojeda and the other pilots guide themselves by the charts
of Columbus, when they had a man on board so learned in nautical science,
and who, from his own recent observations, was practically acquainted with
the coast? Not a word, however, is mentioned of the voyage and discovery
of Vespucci by any of the pilots, though every other voyage and discovery
is cited; nor does there even a seaman appear who has accompanied him in
his asserted voyage.

Another strong circumstance against the reality of this voyage is, that it
was not brought forward in this trial to defeat the claims of the heirs of
Columbus. Vespucci states the voyage to have been undertaken with the
knowledge and countenance of king Ferdinand; it must, therefore, have been
avowed and notorious. Vespucci was living at Seville in 1508, at the time
of the commencement of this suit, and, for four years afterward, a
salaried servant of the crown. Many of the pilots and mariners must have
been at hand, who sailed with him in his pretended enterprise. If this
voyage had once been proved, it would completely have settled the
question, as far as concerned the coast of Paria, in favor of the crown.
Yet no testimony appears ever to have been taken from Vespucci while
living; and when the interrogatories were made in the fiscal court in
1512-13, not one of his seamen is brought up to give evidence. A voyage so
important in its nature, and so essential to the question in dispute, is
not even alluded to, while useless pains are taken to wrest evidence from
the voyage of Ojeda, undertaken at a subsequent period.

It is a circumstance worthy of notice, that Vespucci commences his first
letter to Lorenzo de Medici in 1500, within a month after his return from
the voyage he had actually made to Paria, and apologizes for his long
silence, by saying that nothing had occurred worthy of mention, ("e gran
tempo che non ho scritto a vostra magnifizensa, e non lo ha causato altra
cosa ne nessuna salvo non mi essere occorso cosa degna di memoria,") and
proceeds eagerly to tell him the wonders he had witnessed in the
expedition from which he had but just returned. It would be a singular
forgetfulness to say that nothing had occurred of importance, if he had
made a previous voyage of eighteen months in 1497-8 to this
newly-discovered world; and it would be almost equally strange that he
should not make the slightest allusion to it in this letter.

It has been the endeavor of the author to examine this question
dispassionately; and after considering the statements and arguments
advanced on either side, he cannot resist a conviction, that the voyage
stated to have been made in 1497 did not take place, and that Vespucci has
no title to the first discovery of the coast of Paria.

The question is extremely perplexing from the difficulty of assigning
sufficient motives for so gross a deception. When Vespucci wrote his
letters there was no doubt entertained but that Columbus had discovered
the main-land in his first voyage; Cuba being always considered the
extremity of Asia, until circumnavigated in 1508. Vespucci may have
supposed Brazil, Paria, and the rest of that coast, part of a distinct
continent, and have been anxious to arrogate to himself the fame of its
discovery. It has been asserted, that, on his return from his voyage to
the Brazils, he prepared a maritime chart, in which he gave his name to
that part of the mainland; but this assertion does not appear to be well
substantiated. It would rather seem that his name was given to that part
of the continent by others, as a tribute paid to his supposed merit, in
consequence of having read his own account of his voyages. [306]

It is singular that Fernando, the son of Columbus, in his biography of his
father, should bring no charge against Vespucci of endeavoring to supplant
the admiral in this discovery. Herrera has been cited as the first to
bring the accusation, in his history of the Indies, first published in
1601, and has been much criticized in consequence, by the advocates of
Vespucci, as making the charge on his mere assertion. But, in fact,
Herrera did but copy what he found written by Las Casas, who had the
proceedings of the fiscal court lying before him, and was moved to
indignation against Vespucci, by what he considered proofs of great

It has been suggested that Vespucci was instigated to this deception at
the time when he was seeking employment in the colonial service of Spain;
and that he did it to conciliate the bishop Fonseca, who was desirous of
any thing that might injure the interests of Columbus. In corroboration of
this opinion, the patronage is cited which was ever shown by Fonseca to
Vespucci and his family. This is not, however, a satisfactory reason,
since it does not appear that the bishop ever made any use of the
fabrication. Perhaps some other means might be found of accounting for
this spurious narration, without implicating the veracity of Vespucci. It
may have been the blunder of some editor, or the interpolation of some
book-maker, eager, as in the case of Trivigiani with the manuscripts of
Peter Martyr, to gather together disjointed materials, and fabricate a
work to gratify the prevalent passion of the day.

In the various editions of the letters of Vespucci, the grossest
variations and inconsistencies in dates will be found, evidently the
errors of hasty and careless publishers. Several of these have been
corrected by the modern authors who have inserted these letters in their
works. [307] The same disregard to exactness which led to these blunders,
may have produced the interpolation of this voyage, garbled out of the
letters of Vespucci and the accounts of other voyagers. This is merely
suggested as a possible mode of accounting for what appears so decidedly
to be a fabrication, yet which we are loath to attribute to a man of the
good sense, the character, and the reputed merit of Vespucci.

After all, this is a question more of curiosity than of real moment,
although it is one of those perplexing points about which grave men will
continue to write weary volumes, until the subject acquires a fictitious
importance from the mountain of controversy heaped upon it. It has become
a question of local pride with the literati of Florence; and they emulate
each other with patriotic zeal, to vindicate the fame of their
distinguished countryman. This zeal is laudable when kept within proper
limits; but it is to be regretted that some of them have so far been
heated by controversy as to become irascible against the very memory of
Columbus, and to seek to disparage his general fame, as if the ruin of it
would add any thing to the reputation of Vespucci. This is discreditable
to their discernment and their liberality; it injures their cause, and
shocks the feelings of mankind, who will not willingly see a name like
that of Columbus lightly or petulantly assailed in the course of these
literary contests. It is a name consecrated in history, and is no longer
the property of a city, or a state, or a nation, but of the whole world.

Neither should those who have a proper sense of the merit of Columbus put
any part of his great renown at issue upon this minor dispute. Whether or
not he was the discoverer of Paria, was a question of interest to his
heirs, as a share of the government and revenues of that country depended
upon it; but it is of no importance to his fame. In fact, the European who
first reached the mainland of the New World was most probably Sebastian
Cabot, a native of Venice, sailing in the employ of England. In 1497 he
coasted its shores from Labrador to Florida; yet the English have never
set up any pretensions on his account.

The glory of Columbus does not depend upon the parts of the country he
visited or the extent of coast along which he sailed; it embraces the
discovery of the whole western world. With respect to him, Vespucci is as
Yanez Pinzon, Bastides, Ojeda, Cabot, and the crowd of secondary
discoverers, who followed in his track, and explored the realms to which
he had led the way. When Columbus first touched a shore of the New World,
even though a frontier island, he had achieved his enterprises; he had
accomplished all that was necessary to his fame: the great problem of the
ocean was solved; the world which lay beyond its western waters was

No. XI.

Martin Alonzo Pinzon.

In the course of the trial in the fiscal court, between Don Diego and the
crown, an attempt was made to depreciate the merit of Columbus, and to
ascribe the success of the great enterprise of discovery to the
intelligence and spirit of Martin Alonzo Pinzon. It was the interest of
the crown to do so, to justify itself in withholding from the heirs of
Columbus the extent of his stipulated reward. The examinations of
witnesses in this trial were made at various times and places, and upon a
set of interrogatories formally drawn up by order of the fiscal. They took
place upwards of twenty years after the first voyage of Columbus, and the
witnesses testified from recollection.

In reply to one of the interrogatories, Arias Perez Pinzon, son of Martin
Alonzo, declared, that, being once in Rome with his father on commercial
affairs, before the time of the discovery, they had frequent conversations
with a person learned in cosmography who was in the service of Pope
Innocent VIII, and that being in the library of the pope, this person
showed them many manuscripts, from one of which his father gathered
intimation of these new lands; for there was a passage by an historian as
old as the time of Solomon, which said, "Navigate the Mediterranean Sea to
the end of Spain and thence towards the setting sun, in a direction
between north and south, until ninety-five degrees of longitude, and you
will find the land of Cipango, fertile and abundant, and equal in
greatness to Africa and Europe." A copy of this writing, he added, his
father brought from Rome with an intention of going in search of that
land, and frequently expressed such determination; and that, when Columbus
came to Palos with his project of discovery, Martin Alonzo Pinzon showed
him the manuscript, and ultimately gave it to him just before they sailed.

It is extremely probable that this manuscript, of which Arias Perez gives
so vague an account from recollection, but which he appears to think the
main thing that prompted Columbus to his undertaking, was no other than
the work of Marco Polo, which, at that time, existed in manuscript in most
of the Italian libraries. Martin Alonzo was evidently acquainted with the
work of the Venetian, and it would appear, from various circumstances,
that Columbus had a copy of it with him in his voyages, which may have
been the manuscript above mentioned. Columbus had long before, however,
had a knowledge of the work, if not by actual inspection, at least through
his correspondence with Toscanelli in 1474, and had derived from it all
the light it was capable of furnishing, before he ever came to Palos. It
is questionable, also, whether the visit of Martin Alonzo to Rome, was not
after his mind had been heated by conversations with Columbus in the
convent of La Rabida. The testimony of Arias Perez is so worded as to
leave it in doubt whether the visit was not in the very year prior to the
discovery: "fue el dicho su padre a Roma aquel dicho ano antes que fuese a
descubrir." Arias Perez always mentions the manuscript as having been
imparted to Columbus, after he had come to Palos with an intention of
proceeding on the discovery.

Certain witnesses who were examined on behalf of the crown, and to whom
specific interrogatories were put, asserted, as has already been mentioned
in a note to this work, that had it not been for Martin Alonzo Pinzon and
his brothers, Columbus would have turned back for Spain, after having run
seven or eight hundred leagues; being disheartened at not finding land,
and dismayed by the mutiny and menaces of his crew. This is stated by two
or three as from personal knowledge, and by others from hearsay. It is
said especially to have occurred on the 6th of October. On this day,
according to the journal of Columbus, he had some conversation with Martin
Alonzo, who was anxious that they should stand more to the southwest. The
admiral refused to do so, and it is very probable that some angry words
may have passed between them. Various disputes appear to have taken place
between Columbus and his colleagues respecting their route, previous to
the discovery of land; in one or two instances he acceded to their wishes,
and altered his course, but in general he was inflexible in standing to
the west. The Pinzons also, in all probability, exerted their influence in
quelling the murmurs of their townsmen and encouraging them to proceed,
when ready to rebel against Columbus. These circumstances may have become
mixed up in the vague recollections of the seamen who gave the foregoing
extravagant testimony, and who were evidently disposed to exalt the merits
of the Pinzons at the expense of Columbus. They were in some measure
prompted also in their replies by the written interrogatories put by order
of the fiscal, which specified the conversations said to have passed
between Columbus and the Pizons, and notwithstanding these guides, they
differed widely in their statements, and ran into many absurdities. In a
manuscript record in possession of the Pinzon family, I have even read the
assertion of an old seaman, that Columbus, in his eagerness to compel the
Pinzons to turn back to Spain, _fired upon_ _their ships_, but,
they continuing on, he was obliged to follow, and within two days
afterwards discovered the island of Hispaniola.

It is evident the old sailor, if he really spoke conscientiously, mingled
in his cloudy remembrance the disputes in the early part of the voyage
about altering their course to the southwest, and the desertion of Martin
Alonzo, subsequent to the discovery of the Lucayos and Cuba, when after
parting company with the admiral, he made the island of Hispaniola.

The witness most to be depended upon as to these points of inquiry is the
physician of Palos, Garcia Fernandez, a man of education, who sailed with
Martin Alonzo Pinzon as steward of his ship, and of course was present at
all the conversations which passed between the commanders. He testifies
that Martin Alonzo urged Columbus to stand more to the southwest, and that
the admiral at length complied, but, finding no land in that direction,
they turned again to the west; a statement which completely coincides
with the journal of Columbus. He adds that the admiral continually
comforted and animated Martin Alonzo, and all others in his company.
(Siempre los consolaba el dicho Almirante esforzandolos al dicho Martin
Alonzo e a todos los que en su compania iban.) When the physician was
specifically questioned as to the conversations pretended to have passed
between the commanders, in which Columbus expressed a desire to turn back
to Spain, he referred to the preceding statement, as the only answer he
had to make to these interrogatories.

The extravagant testimony before mentioned appears never to have had any
weight with the fiscal; and the accurate historian Munoz, who extracted
all these points of evidence from the papers of the lawsuit, has not
deemed them worthy of mention in his work. As these matters, however,
remain on record in the archives of the Indies, and in the archives of the
Pinzon family, in both of which I have had a full opportunity of
inspecting them, I have thought it advisable to make these few
observations on the subject; lest, in the rage for research, they might
hereafter be drawn forth as a new discovery, on the strength of which to
impugn the merits of Columbus.

No. XII.

Rumor of the Pilot Said to Have Died in the House of Columbus.

Among the various attempts to injure Columbus by those who were envious of
his fame, was one intended to destroy all his merit as an original
discoverer. It was said that he had received information of the existence
of land in the western parts of the ocean from a tempest-tossed pilot, who
had been driven there by violent easterly winds, and who on his return to
Europe, had died in the house of Columbus, leaving in his possession the
chart and journal of his voyage, by which he was guided to his discovery.

This story was first noticed by Oviedo, a contemporary of Columbus, in his
history of the Indies, published in 1535. He mentions it as a rumor
circulating among the vulgar, without foundation in truth.

Fernando Lopez de Gomara first brought it forward against Columbus. In his
history of the Indies, published in 1552, he repeats the rumor in the
vaguest terms, manifestly from Oviedo, but without the contradiction given
to it by that author. He says that the name and country of the pilot were
unknown, some terming him an Andalusian, sailing between the Canaries and
Madeira, others a Biscayan, trading to England and France; and others a
Portuguese, voyaging between Lisbon and Mina, on the coast of Guinea. He
expresses equal uncertainty whether the pilot brought the caravel to
Portugal, to Madeira, or to one of the Azores. The only point on which the
circulators of the rumor agreed was, that he died in the house of
Columbus. Gomara adds that by this event Columbus was led to undertake his
voyage to the new countries. [308]

The other early historians who mention Columbus and his voyages, and were
his contemporaries, viz. Sabellicus, Peter Martyr, Giustiniani, Bernaldez,
commonly called the curate of los Palacios, Las Casas, Fernando, the son
of the admiral, and the anonymous author of a voyage of Columbus,
translated from the Italian into Latin by Madrignano, [309] are all silent
in regard to this report.

Benzoni, whose history of the New World was published in 1565, repeats the
story from Gomara, with whom he was contemporary; but decidedly expresses
his opinion, that Gomara had mingled up much falsehood with some truth,
for the purpose of detracting from the fame of Columbus, through jealousy
that any one but a Spaniard should enjoy the honor of the discovery.

Acosta notices the circumstance slightly in his Natural and Moral History
of the Indies, published in 1591, and takes it evidently from Gomara.

Mariana, in his history of Spain, published in 1592, also mentions it, but
expresses a doubt of its truth, and derives his information manifestly
from Gomara. [312]

Herrera, who published his history of the Indies in 1601, takes no notice
of the story. In not noticing it, he may be considered as rejecting it;
for he is distinguished for his minuteness, and was well acquainted with
Gomara's history, which he expressly contradicts on a point of
considerable interest. [313]

Garcilasso de la Vega, a native of Cusco in Peru, revived the tale with
very minute particulars, in his Commentaries of the Incas, published in
1609. He tells it smoothly and circumstantially; fixes the date of the
occurrence 1484, "one year more or less;" states the name of the
unfortunate pilot, Alonzo Sanchez de Huelva; the destination of his
vessel, from the Canaries to Madeira; and the unknown land to which they
were driven, the island of Hispaniola. The pilot, he says, landed, took an
altitude, and wrote an account of all he saw, and all that had occurred in
the voyage. He then took in wood and water, and set out to seek his way
home. He succeeded in returning, but the voyage was long and tempestuous,
and twelve died of hunger and fatigue, out of seventeen, the original
number of the crew. The five survivors arrived at Tercera, where they were
hospitably entertained by Columbus, but all died in his house in
consequence of the hardships they had sustained; the pilot was the last
that died, leaving his host heir to his papers. Columbus kept them
profoundly secret, and by pursuing the route therein prescribed, obtained
the credit of discovering the New World. [314]

Such are the material points of the circumstantial relation furnished by
Garcilasso de la Vega, one hundred and twenty years after the event. In
regard to authority, he recollects to have heard the story when he was a
child, as a subject of conversation between his father and the neighbors,
and he refers to the histories of the Indies, by Acosta and Gomara, for
confirmation. As the conversations to which he listened must have taken
place sixty or seventy years after the date of the report, there had been
sufficient time for the vague rumors to become arranged into a regular
narrative, and thus we have not only the name, country, and destination of
the pilot, but also the name of the unknown land to which his vessel was

This account, given by Garcilasso de la Vega, has been adopted by many old
historians, who have felt a confidence in the peremptory manner in which
he relates it, and in the authorities to whom he refers. [315]
These have been echoed by others of more recent date; and thus a weighty
charge of fraud and imposture has been accumulated against Columbus,
apparently supported by a crowd of respectable accusers. The whole charge
is to be traced to Gomara, who loosely repeated a vague rumor, without
noticing the pointed contradiction given to it seventeen years before, by
Oviedo, an ear-witness, from whose book he appears to have actually
gathered the report.

It is to be remarked that Goinara bears the character, among historians,
of inaccuracy, and of great credulity in adopting unfounded stories.

It is unnecessary to give further refutation to this charge, especially as
it is clear that Columbus communicated his idea of discovery to Paulo
Toscanelli of Florence, in 1474, ten years previous to the date assigned
by Garcilasso de la Vega for this occurrence.


Martin Behem.

This able geographer was born in Nuremburg, in Germany, about the
commencement of the year 1430. His ancestors were from the circle of
Pilsner, in Bohemia, hence he is called by some writers Martin of Bohemia,
and the resemblance of his own name to that of the country of his
ancestors frequently occasions a confusion in the appellation.

It has been said by some that he studied under Philip Bervalde the elder,
and by others under John Muller, otherwise called Regiomontanus, though De
Murr, who has made diligent inquiry into his history, discredits both
assertions. According to a correspondence between Behem and his uncle
discovered of late years by De Murr, it appears that the early part of his
life was devoted to commerce. Some have given him the credit of
discovering the island of Fayal, but this is an error, arising probably
from the circumstance that Job de Huertar, father-in-law of Behem,
colonized that island in 1466.

He is supposed to have arrived at Portugal in 1481, while Alphonso V was
still on the throne; it is certain that shortly afterwards he was in high
repute for his science in the court of Lisbon, insomuch that he was one of
the council appointed by king John II to improve the art of navigation,
and by some he has received the whole credit of the memorable service
rendered to commerce by that council, in the introduction of the astrolabe
into nautical use.

In 1484 king John sent an expedition under Diego Cam, as Barros calls him,
Cano according to others, to prosecute discoveries along the coast of
Africa. In this expedition Behem sailed as cosmographer. They crossed the
equinoctial line, discovered the coast of Congo, advanced to twenty-two
degrees forty-five minutes of south latitude, [317] and erected two
columns, on which were engraved the arms of Portugal, in the mouth of the
river Zagra, in Africa, which thence, for some time, took the name of the
River of Columns. [318]

For the services rendered on this and on previous occasions, it is said
that Behem was knighted by king John in 1485, though no mention is made of
such a circumstance in any of the contemporary historians. The principal
proof of his having received this mark of distinction, is his having given
himself the title on his own globe of _Eques Lusitanus_.

In 1486 he married at Fayal the daughter of Job de Huerter, and is
supposed to have remained there for some few years, where he had a son
named Martin, born in 1489. During his residence at Lisbon and Fayal, it
is probable the acquaintance took place between him and Columbus, to which
Herrera and others allude; and the admiral may have heard from him some of
the rumors circulating in the islands, of indications of western lands
floating to their shores.

In 1491 he returned to Nuremburg to see his family, and while there, in
1492, he finished a terrestrial globe, considered a masterpiece in those
days, which he had undertaken at the request of the principal magistrates
of his native city.

In 1493 he returned to Portugal, and from thence proceeded to Fayal.

In 1494 king John II, who had a high opinion of him, sent him to Flanders
to his natural son prince George, the intended heir of his crown. In the
course of his voyage Behem was captured and carried to England, where he
remained for three months detained by illness. Having recovered, he again
put to sea, but was captured by a corsair and carried to France. Having
ransomed himself, he proceeded to Antwerp and Bruges, but returned almost
immediately to Portugal. Nothing more is known of him for several years,
during which time it is supposed he remained with his family in Fayal, too
old to make further voyages. In 1506 he went from Fayal to Lisbon, where
he died.

The assertion that Behem had discovered the western world previous to
Columbus, in the course of the voyage with Cam, was founded on a
misinterpretation of a passage interpolated in the chronicle of Hartmann
Schedel, a contemporary writer. This passage mentions, that when the
voyagers were in the Southern Ocean not far from the coast, and had passed
the line, they came into another hemisphere, where, when they looked
towards the east, their shadows fell towards the south, on their right
hand; that here they discovered a new world, unknown until then, and which
for many years had never been sought except by the Genoese, and by them

"Hii duo, bono deorum auspicio, mare meridionale sulcantes, a littore non
longe evagantes, superato circulo equinoctiali, in alterum orbem excepti
stint. Ubi ipsis stantibus orientem versus, umbra ad meridiem et dextram
projiciebatur. Aperuere igitur sua industria, alium orbem hactenus nobis
incognitum et multis annis, a nullis quam Januensibus, licet frustra

These lines are part of a passage which it is said is interpolated by a
different hand, in the original manuscript of the chronicle of Schedel. De
Murr assures us that they are not to be found in the German translation of
the book by George Alt, which was finished the 5th October, 1493. But even
if they were, they relate merely to the discovery which Diego Cam made of
the southern hemisphere, previously unknown, and of the coast of Africa
beyond the equator, all which appeared like a new world, and as such was
talked of at the time.

The Genoese alluded to, who had made an unsuccessful attempt were Antonio
de Nolle with Bartholomeo his brother, and Raphael de Nolle his nephew.
Antonio was of a noble family, and, for some disgust, left his country and
went to Lisbon with his before-mentioned relatives in two caravels;
sailing whence in the employ of Portugal, they discovered the island of
St. Jago, &c. [319]

This interpolated passage of Schedel was likewise inserted into the work
De Europa sub Frederico III of AEneas Silvius, afterwards Pope Pius II,
who died in 1464, long before the voyage in question. The
misinterpretation of the passage first gave rise to the incorrect
assertion that Behem had discovered the New World prior to Columbus; as if
it were possible such a circumstance could have happened without Behem's
laying claim to the glory of the discovery, and without the world
immediately resounding with so important an event. This error had been
adopted by various authors without due examination, some of whom had
likewise taken from Magellan the credit of having discovered the strait
which goes by his name, and had given it to Behem. The error was too
palpable to be generally prevalent, but was suddenly revived in the year
1786 by a French gentleman of highly respectable character of the name of
Otto, then resident in New York, who addressed a letter to Dr. Franklin,
to be submitted to the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, in which he
undertook to establish the title of Behem to the discovery of the New
World. His memoir was published in the Transactions of the American
Philosophical Society, vol. ii., for 1786, article No. 35, and has been
copied into the journals of most of the nations of Europe.

The authorities cited by M. Otto in support of his assertion are generally
fallacious, and for the most part given without particular specification.
His assertion has been diligently and satisfactorily refuted by Don
Christoval Cladera. [320]

The grand proof of M. Otto is a globe which Behem made during his
residence in Nuremburg, in 1492, the very year that Columbus set out on
his first voyage of discovery. This globe, according to M. Otto, is still
preserved in the library of Nuremburg, and on it are painted all the
discoveries of Behem, which are so situated that they can be no other than
the coast of Brazil and the straits of Magellan. This authority staggered
many, and, if supported, would demolish the claims of Columbus.

Unluckily for M. Otto, in his description of the globe, he depended on the
inspection of a correspondent. The globe in the library of Nuremburg was
made in 1520, by John Schoener, professor of mathematics, [321] long after
the discoveries and death of Columbus and Behem. The real globe of Behem,
made in 1492, does not contain any of the islands or shores of the New
World, and thus proves that he was totally unacquainted with them. A copy,
or planisphere, of Behem's globe is given by Cladera in his

No. XIV.

Voyages of the Scandinavians.

Many elaborate dissertations have been written to prove that discoveries
were made by the Scandinavians on the northern coast of America long
before the era of Columbus; but the subject appears still to be wrapped in
much doubt and obscurity.

It has been asserted that the Norwegians, as early as the ninth century,
discovered a great tract of land to the west of Iceland, which they called
Grand Iceland; but this has been pronounced a fabulous tradition. The most
plausible account is one given by Snorro Sturleson, in his Saga or
Chronicle of King Olaus. According to this writer, one Biorn of Iceland,
sailing to Greenland in search of his father, from whom he had been
separated by a storm, was driven by tempestuous weather far to the
southwest, until he came in sight of a low country, covered with wood,
with an island in its vicinity. The weather becoming favorable, he turned
to the northeast without landing, and arrived safe at Greenland. His
account of the country he had beheld, it is said, excited the enterprise
of Leif, son of Eric Rauda (or Redhead), the first settler of Greenland. A
vessel was fitted out, and Leif and Biorn departed alone in quest of this
unknown land. They found a rocky and sterile island, to which they gave
the name of Helleland; also a low sandy country covered with wood, to
which they gave the name of Markland; and, two days afterwards, they
observed a continuance of the coast, with an island to the north of it.
This last they described as fertile, well wooded, producing agreeable
fruits, and particularly grapes, a fruit with which they were
unacquainted. On being informed by one of their companions, a German, of
its qualities and name, they called the country, from it, Vinland. They
ascended a river, well stored with fish, particularly salmon, and came to
a lake from which the river took its origin, where they passed the winter.
The climate appeared to them mild and pleasant; being accustomed to the
rigorous climates of the north. On the shortest day, the sun was eight
hours above the horizon. Hence it has been concluded that the country was
about the 49th degree of north latitude, and was either Newfoundland, or
some part of the coast of North America, about the Gulf of St.
Lawrence. [322] It is added that the relatives of Leif made several
voyages to Vinland; that they traded with the natives for furs; and that,
in 1121, a bishop named Eric went from Greenland to Vinland to convert
the inhabitants to Christianity. From this time, says Forster, we know
nothing of Vinland, and there is every appearance that the tribe which
still exists in the interior of Newfoundland, and which is so different
from the other savages of North America, both in their appearance and
mode of living, and always in a state of warfare with the Esquimaux of
the northern coast, are descendants of the ancient Normans.

The author of the present work has not had the means of tracing this story
to its original sources. He gives it on the authority of M. Malte-Brun,
and Mr. Forster. The latter extracts it from the Saga or Chronicle of
Snorro, who was born in 1179, and wrote in 1215; so that his account was
formed long after the event is said to have taken place. Forster says,
"The facts which we report have been collected from a great number of
Icelandic manuscripts, and transmitted to us by Torfreus in his two works
entitled Veleris Groenlandiae Descriptio, Hafnia, 1706, and Historia
Winlandiae Antiquae, Hafnia, 1705." Forster appears to have no doubt of
the authenticity of the facts. As far as the author of the present work
has had experience in tracing these stories of early discoveries of
portions of the New World, he has generally found them very confident
deductions drawn from very vague and questionable facts. Learned men are
too prone to give substance to mere shadows, when they assist some
reconceived theory. Most of these accounts, when divested of the erudite
comments of their editors, have proved little better than the traditionary
fables, noticed in another part of this work, respecting the imaginary
islands of St. Borondon, and of the Seven Cities.

There is no great improbability, however, that such enterprising and
roving voyagers as the Scandinavians, may have wandered to the northern
shores of America, about the coast of Labrador, or the shores of
Newfoundland; and if the Icelandic manuscripts said to be of the
thirteenth century can be relied upon as genuine, free from modern
interpolation, and correctly quoted, they would appear to prove the fact.
But granting the truth of the alleged discoveries, they led to no more
result than would the interchange of communication between the natives of
Greenland and the Esquimaux. The knowledge of them appears not to have
extended beyond their own nation, and to have been soon neglected and
forgotten by themselves.

Another pretension to an early discovery of the American continent has
been set up, founded on an alleged map and narrative of two brothers of
the name of Zeno, of Venice; but it seems more invalid than those just
mentioned. The following is the substance of this claim.

Nicolo Zeno, a noble Venetian, is said to have made a voyage to the north
in 1380, in a vessel fitted out at his own cost, intending to visit
England and Flanders; but meeting with a terrible tempest, was driven for
many days he knew not whither, until he was cast away upon Friseland, an
island much in dispute among geographers, but supposed to be the
archipelago of the Ferroe islands. The shipwrecked voyagers were assailed
by the natives; but rescued by Zichmni, a prince of the islands, lying on
the south side of Friseland, and duke of another district lying over
against Scotland. Zeno entered into the service of this prince, and aided
him in conquering Friseland, and other northern islands. He was soon
joined by his brother Antonio Zeno, who remained fourteen years in those

During his residence in Friseland, Antonio Zeno wrote to his brother
Carlo, in Venice, giving an account of a report brought by a certain
fisherman, about a land to the westward. According to the tale of this
mariner, he had been one of a party who sailed from Friseland about
twenty-six years before, in four fishing-boats. Being overtaken by a
mighty tempest, they were driven about the sea for many days, until the
boat containing himself and six companions was cast upon an island called
Estotiland, about one thousand miles from Friseland. They were taken by
the inhabitants, and carried to a fair and populous city, where the king
sent for many interpreters to converse with them, but none that they could
understand, until a man was found who had likewise been cast away upon the
coast, and who spoke Latin. They remained several days upon the island,
which was rich and fruitful, abounding with all kinds of metals, and
especially gold. [323] There was a high mountain in the centre, from which
flowed four rivers which watered the whole country. The inhabitants were
intelligent and acquainted with the mechanical arts of Europe. They
cultivated grain, made beer, and lived in houses built of stone. There
were Latin books in the king's library, though the inhabitants had no
knowledge of that language. They had many cities and castles, and carried
on a trade with Greenland for pitch, sulphur, and peltry. Though much
given to navigation, they were ignorant of the use of the compass, and
finding the Friselanders acquainted with it, held them in great esteem;
and the king sent them with twelve barks to visit a country to the south,
called Drogeo. They had nearly perished in a storm, but were cast away
upon the coast of Drogeo. They found the people to be cannibals, and were
on the point of being killed and devoured, but were spared on account of
their great skill in fishing.

The fisherman described this Drogeo as being a country of vast extent, or
rather a new world; that the inhabitants were naked and barbarous; but
that far to the southwest there was a more civilized region, and temperate
climate, where the inhabitants had a knowledge of gold and silver, lived
in cities, erected splendid temples to idols, and sacrificed human victims
to them, which they afterwards devoured.

After the fisherman had resided many years on this continent, during which
time he had passed from the service of one chieftain to another, and
traversed various parts of it, certain boats of Estotiland arrived on the
coast of Drogeo. The fisherman went on board of them, acted as
interpreter, and followed the trade between the main-land and Estotiland
for some time, until he became very rich: then he fitted out a bark of his
own, and with the assistance of some of the people of the island, made his
way back, across the thousand intervening miles of ocean, and arrived safe
at Friseland. The account he gave of these countries, determined Zichmni,
the prince of Friseland, to send an expedition thither, and Antonio Zeno
was to command it. Just before sailing, the fisherman, who was to have
acted as guide, died; but certain mariners, who had accompanied him from
Estotiland, were taken in his place. The expedition sailed under command
of Zichmni; the Venetian, Zeno, merely accompanied it. It was
unsuccessful. After having discovered an island called Icaria, where they
met with a rough reception from the inhabitants, and were obliged to
withdraw, the ships were driven by a storm to Greenland. No record remains
of any further prosecution of the enterprise.

The countries mentioned in the account of Zeno, were laid down on a map
originally engraved on wood. The island of Estotiland has been supposed by
M. Malte-Brun to be Newfoundland; its partially civilized inhabitants the
descendants of the Scandinavian colonists of Vinland; and the Latin books
in the king's library to be the remains of the library of the Greenland
bishop, who emigrated thither in 1121. Drogeo, according to the same
conjecture, was Nova Scotia and New England. The civilized people to the
southwest, who sacrificed human victims in rich temples, he surmises to
have been the Mexicans, or some ancient nation of Florida or Louisiana.

The premises do not appear to warrant this deduction. The whole story
abounds with improbabilities; not the least of which is the civilization
prevalent among the inhabitants; their houses of stone, their European
arts, the library of their king; no traces of which were to be found on
their subsequent discovery. Not to mention the information about Mexico
penetrating through the numerous savage tribes of a vast continent. It is
proper to observe that this account was not published until 1558, long
after the discovery of Mexico. It was given to the world by Francisco
Marcolini, a descendant of the Zeni, from the fragments of letters said to
have been written by Antonio Zeno to Carlo his brother. "It grieves me,"
says the editor, "that the book, and divers other writings concerning
these matters, are miserably lost; for being but a child when they came to
my hands, and not knowing what they were, I tore them and rent them in
pieces, which now I cannot call to remembrance but to my exceeding great
grief." [324]

This garbled statement by Marcolini derived considerable authority by
being introduced by Abraham Ortelius, an able geographer, in his Theatrum
Orbis; but the whole story has been condemned by able commentators as a
gross fabrication. Mr. Forster resents this, as an instance of obstinate
incredulity, saying that it is impossible to doubt the existence of the
country of which Carlo, Nicolo and Antonio Zeno talk; as original acts in
the archives of Venice prove that the chevalier undertook a voyage to the
north; that his brother Antonio followed him; that Antonio traced a map,
which he brought back and hung up in his house, where it remained subject
to public examination, until the time of Marcolini, as an incontestable
proof of the truth of what he advanced. Granting all this, it merely
proves that Antonio and his brother were at Friseland and Greenland. Their
letters never assert that Zeno made the voyage to Estotiland. The fleet
was carried by a tempest to Greenland, after which we hear no more of him;
and his account of Estotiland and Drogeo rests simply on the tale of the
fisherman, after whose descriptions his map must have been conjecturally
projected. The whole story resembles much the fables circulated shortly
after the discovery of Columbus, to arrogate to other nations and
individuals the credit of the achievement.

M. Malte-Brun intimates that the alleged discovery of Vinland may have
been known to Columbus when he made a voyage in the North Sea in
1477,[325] and that the map of Zeno, being in the national library at
London, in a Danish work, at the time when Bartholomew Columbus was in
that city, employed in making maps, he may have known something of it,
and have communicated it to his brother. [326] Had M. Malte-Brun examined
the history of Columbus with his usual accuracy, he would have perceived,
that, in his correspondence with Paulo Toscanelli in 1474, he had
expressed his intention of seeking India by a route directly to the west.
His voyage to the north did not take place until three years afterwards.
As to the residence of Bartholomew in London, it was not until after
Columbus had made his propositions of discovery to Portugal, if not to the
courts of other powers. Granting, therefore, that he had subsequently
heard the dubious stories of Vinland, and of the fisherman's adventures,
as related by Zeno, or at least by Marcolini, they evidently could not
have influenced him in his great enterprise. His route had no reference to
them, but was a direct western course, not toward Vinland, and Estotiland,
and Drogeo, but in search of Cipango, and Cathay, and the other countries
described by Marco Polo, as lying at the extremity of India.

No. XV.

Circumnavigation of Africa by the Ancients.

The knowledge of the ancients with respect to the Atlantic coast of Africa
is considered by modern investigators much less extensive than had been
imagined; and it is doubted whether they had any practical authority for
the belief that Africa was circumnavigable. The alleged voyage of Endoxns
of Cyzicus, from the Red Sea to Gibraltar, though recorded by Pliny,
Pomponius Mela, and others, is given entirely on the assertion of
Cornelius Nepos, who does not tell from whence he derived his information.
Posidonius (cited by Strabo) gives an entirely different account of this
voyage, and rejects it with contempt. [327]

The famous voyage of Hanno, the Carthaginian, is supposed to have taken
place about a thousand years before the Christian era. The Periplus
Hannonis remains, a brief and obscure record of this expedition, and a
subject of great comment and controversy. By some it has been pronounced a
fictitious work, fabricated among the Greeks, but its authenticity has
been ably vindicated. It appears to be satisfactorily proved, however,
that the voyage of this navigator has been greatly exaggerated, and that
he never circumnavigated the extreme end of Africa. Mons. de Bougainville
[328] traces his route to a promontory which he named the West Horn,
supposed to be Cape Palmas, about five or six degrees north of the
equinoctial line, whence he proceeded to another promontory, under the
same parallel, which he called the South Horn, supposed to be Cape de Tres
Puntas. Mons. Gosselin, however, in his Researches into the Geography of
the Ancients (Tome 1, p. 162, etc.), after a rigid examination of the
Periplus of Hanno, determines that he had not sailed farther south than
Cape Non. Pliny, who makes Hanno range the whole coast of Africa, from
the straits to the confines of Arabia, had never seen his Periplus, but
took his idea from the works of Xenophon of Lampsaco. The Greeks
surcharged the narration of the voyager with all kinds of fables, and on
their unfaithful copies Strabo founded many of his assertions. According
to M. Gosselin, the itineraries of Hanno, of Scylax, Polybius, Statius,
Sebosus, and Juba; the recitals of Plato, of Aristotle, of Pliny, of
Plutarch, and the tables of Ptolemy, all bring us to the same results,
and, notwithstanding their apparent contradictions, fix the limit of
southern navigation about the neighborhood of Cape Non, or Cape Bojador.

The opinion that Africa was a peninsula, which existed among the Persians,
the Egyptians, and perhaps the Greeks, several centuries prior to the
Christian era, was not, in his opinion, founded upon any known facts; but
merely on conjecture, from considering the immensity and unity of the
ocean; or perhaps on more ancient traditions; or on ideas produced by the
Carthaginian discoveries, beyond the Straits of Gibraltar, and those of
the Egyptians beyond the Gulf of Arabia. He thinks that there was a very
remote period when geography was much more perfect than in the time of the
Phenicians and the Greeks, whose knowledge was but confused traces of what
had previously been better known.

The opinion that the Indian Sea joined the ocean was admitted among the
Greeks, and in the school of Alexandria, until the time of Hipparchus. It
seemed authorized by the direction which the coast of Africa took after
Cape Aromata, always tending westward, as far as it had been explored by

It was supposed that the western coast of Africa rounded off to meet the
eastern, and that the whole was bounded by the ocean, much to the
northward of the equator. Such was the opinion of Crates, who lived in the
time of Alexander; of Aratus, of Cleanthes, of Cleomedes, of Strabo, of
Pomponius Mela, of Macrobius, and many others.

Hipparchus proposed a different system, and led the world into an error,
which for a long time retarded the maritime communication of Europe and
India. He supposed that the seas were separated into distinct basins, and
that the eastern shores of Africa made a circuit round the Indian Sea, so
as to join those of Asia beyond the mouth of the Ganges. Subsequent
discoveries, instead of refuting this error, only placed the junction of
the continents at a greater distance. Marinus of Tyre, and Ptolemy,
adopted this opinion in their works, and illustrated it in their maps,
which for centuries controlled the general belief of mankind, and
perpetuated the idea that Africa extended onward to the south pole, and
that it was impossible to arrive by sea at the coasts of India. Still
there were geographers who leaned to the more ancient idea of a
communication between the Indian Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It had its
advocates in Spain, and was maintained by Pomponius Mela and by Isidore of
Seville. It was believed also by some of the learned in Italy, in the
thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries; and thus was kept alive
until it was acted upon so vigorously by Prince Henry of Portugal, and at
length triumphantly demonstrated by Vasco de Gama, in his circumnavigation
of the Cape of Good Hope.

No. XVI.

Of the Ships of Columbus.

Book of the day: