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Brazils; but failing to discover a western passage to the East Indies, he again returned to England." In the same month when John Cabot sailed from Bristol, Amerigo Vespucci departed from Cadiz on his first voyage to the New World. In that voyage he appears to have held a subordinate station. The expedition under Ojeda, which Amerigo calls his second voyage, was not undertaken until 1499. Whether any vessel in that expedition was under his command is question
able. Spanish writers assert to the contrary, and say that he was first a captain when in the service of Emanuel of Portugal; but it is net my province to inquire into this disputed matter. Spanish historians, jealous of the same of Columbus, charge Vespucci with falsehood and fraud; but early Spanish authors were not always scrupulous in regard to truth when national pride demanded prevariAmerigo Vespucci.” cation, or even absolute falsehood. It was
After his second voyage, Sebastian Cabot was invited to Spain, and sailed on a voyage of discovery, in the service of the Spanish monarch, in 1525. He visited Brazil, and, coasting southward to the thirtyfifth degree, he entered a large river, which he called Rio de la Plata. Up this river he sailed one hundred and twenty leagues. After an absence of six years, he returned to Spain, but seems not to have been well received by the sovereign. He made other, but less conspicuous voyages, and in his old age retired to Bristol, where he died about the year 1557, at the age of eighty years. He received a pension from Edward the Sixth, and was appointed governor of a company of merchants associated for the purpose of making discoveries. * The name of the Florentine is variously spelled, Amerigo Vespucci, Americus Vespucius, Amerigo Vespuche. The latter orthography is according to the entry in an account-book containing the expenditure of the treasurer of the royal mercantile house of Seville, quoted by Muñoz, tome i., page xix of the Introduction. It appears by that account, that on the 24th of February, 1512, was paid to Manuel Catano, executor of the will of Amerigo, “10937 and a half maravedis,” which was due to him for services as chief steersman to his majesty. Amerigo was appointed to that office in March, 1508, with a salary of 50,000 maravedis a year. Whether he ever commanded an expedition in the Spanish service is a disputed question. He made several voyages to the New World between 1497 and 1512, the year of his death. With an expedition under the command of Ojeda, in 1499, he visited the Antilles and the coast of Guiana and Venezuela. On his return, Emanuel, king of Portugal, invited him to his capital, and gave him the command of three ships for a voyage of discovery. He left Lisbon May 10th, 1501, visited Brazil, and traversed the coast of South America as far as Patagonia, but failed to discover the straits through which Magellan passed at a later day. He returned to Lisbon in 1502. He made a fourth voyage, and returned to Portugal in 1504. Soon after this he wrote an account of his voyage. The book was dedicated to Rene II., duke of Lorraine. He again entered the service of the King of Spain, who appointed him to draw sea-charts, and gave him the title and salary of chief steersman or pilot, which commission he held until his death. According to some accounts, he died in the Island of Terceria, one of the Azores, in 1514; others affirm that his death occurred at Seville. The portrait of the navigator, here given, was copied, by permission, from the original picture by Bronzino, now in possession of C. Edwards Lester, Esq., late United States consul at Genoa. It was committed to his care by the Vespucci family, to be placed in the possession of our government. No arrangement for its purchase has yet been made, I believe. An Italian woman named Elena Vespucci, bearing proofs of her lineal descent from the famous navigator, came to America a few years ago, and made application to our Congress for a grant of land, on account of her relationship to the Florentine from whom our continent derived its name. Subsequently, her natural that they should be tender of the reputation of Columbus, although he was not a Spaniard, for his discoveries reflected great luster upon the Spanish crown. For this reason they have ever disputed the claims of Vespucci, and denounced him as a liar and a charlatan. These denunciations, however, prove nothing, and the fame of Columbus loses none of its brightness by admitting the claims of the Florentine; claims, it must be acknowledged, that have sound logic and fair inferences as a basis. Amerigo seems to have been the first who published an account of the discoveries in the New World, and for this priority the narrow and selfish policy of the Spanish government is responsible. His first announcement was made in a letter to Lorenzo de Medici,” and soon afterward he pub
lished a volume giving an account of his four voyages, which he dedicated to the a 1504. Duke of Lorraine.b In these he claims the merit of discovering the continent, hav. b. 1507. c 1497.
ing landed upon the coast of Paria," in Colombia, South America, and traversed the shores, according to his own account, as far northward as the Gulf of Mexico. If this statement is true, he visited the continent nearly a year previous to the landing of Columbus at the mouth of the Oronoco, in the same district of Paria. From the circumstance of Amerigo making the first publication on the subject, and claiming to be the discoverer of the continent, the New World was called AMERICA, and the Florentime bears the honor of the name; but to neither Columbus nor Vespucci does the honor of first discoverer of America properly belong, but to John Cabot, for he and his crew first saw its soil and inhabitants. He alone, of all those voyagers in the fifteenth century, beheld North America. Whether to Columbus, Vespucci, or Cabot, truth should award the palm, Italy bears the imperishable and undisputed honor of giving birth to all three. The discoveries of the Cabots turned attention to the regions north of the West India Islands. Emanuel of Portugal dispatched an expedition, under the command of Gaspar Cortereal, in 1501, to follow in the track of the Cabots. Cortereal sailed between two and three hundred leagues along the North American coast, but his voyage was fruitless of good results, either to science or humanity. He made few discoveries of land, carried on no traffic, planted no settlements, but kidnapped and carried to Portugal several friendly na. tives, to be sold as slaves' Perfidy and cruelty marked the first intercourse of the whites with the tribes of our continent; is it to be wondered that the bitter fruits of suspicion and hostility should have flourished among them 2 Ponce de Leon, one of the companions of Columbus, and first governor of Porto Rico, a small island sixty miles east of Haiti, sailed on a voyage of discovery among the Bahamas, in search of the fabled Fountain of Youth. It was generally believed in Porto Rico, and the story had great credence in Old Spain, that the waters of a clear spring, bubbling up in the midst of a vast forest, upon an island among the Bahamas, possessed the singular property of restoring age and ugliness to youth and beauty, and perpetuating the lives of those who should bathe in its stream. De Leon was an old man, and, impressed with the truth of this legend, he sought that wonderful fountain. After cruising for a while among the Bahamas, he landed upon the peninsula of Florida, in the harbor of St. Augustine. It was on Palm Sunday when he debarked. That day is called by the Spaniards' Pasqua de Flores, and, partly from that circumstance, and partly on account of the great profusion of flowers which, at that early season of the year, were blooming on every side,
brother and two sisters, Amerigo, Eliza, and Teresa Vespucci, made a similar petition to Congress. They mention the fact that Elena, “possessing a disposition somewhat indocile and unmanageable, absented herself from her father's house, and proceeded to London. Hence she crossed the ocean, and landed upon the shores of Brazil, at Rio Janeiro. From that city she proceeded to Washington, the capital of the United States.” Elena Vespucci was treated with respect. Possessed of youth and beauty, she attracted much attention at the metropolis, but the prayer in the petition of both herself and family was denied. She was living at Ogdensburgh, New York, when I visited that place in 1848.
Ponce de Leon gave the country (which he supposed to be a large island like Cuba) the name of Florida. He took formal possession in the name of the Spanish monarch; but, feeling unauthorized to proceed to making conquests without a royal commission, he sailed for Spain to obtain one, after failing in his search after the Fountain of Youth. He had plunged into every stream, however turbid, with the vain expectation of rising from it young and blooming ; but, according to Oviedo, instead of returning to vigorous youth, he arrived at a second childhood within a few years. He was afterward appointed Governer of Florida, and was killed while on an expedition against the natives. While Ponce de Leon was in Europe, where he remained several years, some wealthy gentlemen of Haiti fitted out two vessels to explore the Bahamas. The squadron was commanded by Lucas Vasquez d'Aillon or Allyon, a Spanish navigator. Their vessels were driven northward by a hurricane, and came near being stranded upon the low coasts. They finally made land in St. Helen's Sound, near the mouth of the Combahee River, in South Carolina, about half way between Charleston and Savannah. D'Aillon called the river Jordan, and the country Chicora. He carried off several natives, whom he enticed on board his ships, with the intention of selling them as slaves in Haiti. A storm destroyed one of the vessels, and the captured Indians in the other voluntarily starved themselves to death, so the avaricious whites were disappointed in their expectations of gain. D'Aillon afterward returned, with three ships, to conquer the whole of Chicora. The natives feigned friendship, decoyed the whites on shore, and then, with poisoned arrows, massacred nearly the whole of them, in revenge for their former perfidy. But few returned with D'Aillon to Haiti. This was the first discovery of the Carolina coast. While these events were in progress, Cortez, at the head of an expedition fitted out by Velasquez, the governor of Cuba, was destroying the empire of Montezuma, in Mexico, then recently discovered. The success of Cortez excited the jealousy of Velasquez, for he feared a renunciation of his authority by that bold leader. He sent Pamphilo de Narvaez, with a strong force, to arrest and supersede Cortez; but he was defeated, and most of his troops joined his enemy. Narvaez afterward obtained from the Spanish court a commission as adelantado or Governor of Florida, a territory quite indefinite in extent, reaching from the southern capes of the peninsula to the Panuco River in Mexico. With a force of three arms hundred men, eighty of whom were well mounted, Narvaez landed in Florida, * where he raised the royal standard, and took possession of the country for the crown of Spain. With the hope of finding some wealthy region like Mexico and Peru, he penetrated the vast swamps and everglades in the interior of the flat country along the northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico. His men suffered terribly from the almost daily attacks of the natives and the nightly assaults of the deadly malaria of the sens. They reached the fertile regions of the Appalachians; but the capital of the tribe, instead of being a gorgeous city like Mexico or Cuzco, was a mean village of two hundred huts and wigwams. Disappointed, and one third of his number dead, Narvaez turned southward, reached the Gulf near the present site of St. Mark's, on the Appalachie "Bay, constructed five frail barks, and launched upon the waters. Nearly all his men, with himself, perished during a storm. Four of the crew, who were saved, wandered for years through the wild regions of Louisiana and Texas, and finally reached a Spanish settlement in Northern Mexico. These men gave the first intelligence of the fate of the expedition. Two years after the return of these members of the expedition of Narvaez, Fernando de Soto planned an expedition to explore the interior of Florida, as all North America was then called, in search of a populous and wealthy region supposed to exist there. By permission of the Spanish monarch, he undertook the exploration and conquest of Florida
at his own risk and expense. He was commissioned governor-general of that country and of Cuba for life. Leaving his wife to govern Cuba during his absence, he sailed in June, 1539, and landed at Tampa Bay with a force of six hundred men in complete armor. There he established a small garrison, and then sent most of the vessels of his fleet back to Cuba. He found a Spaniard, one of Narvaez's men, who had learned the native language. Taking him with him as interpreter, De Soto marched with his force into the interior. For five months they wandered among the swamps and everglades, fighting their way against the natives, when they reached the fertile region of the Flint River, in the western part of Georgia. There they passed the winter, within a few leagues of the Gulf, making, through
June 25, 1539.
exploring parties, some new discoveries, among -- FERNANDo DE Soto. which was the harbor of Pensacola. Early in May they broke up their encampment, and, marching northeasterly, reached the head-waters of the Savannah River. After a brief tarry there, they turned their faces westward, and, on the twenty-eighth of October, came upon a fortified town, near the junction of the Alabama and Tombeckbee Rivers. A severe battle of nine hours duration ensued. Several thousands of the half-naked Indians were slain, and their village reduced to ashes. Several of the mailed Spaniards were killed, and the victory availed De Soto nothing. All his baggage was consumed, and much provision was destroyed. The wild tribes, for many leagues around, were aroused by this event. De Soto went into winter quarters in a deserted Indian village on the Yazoo. There he was attacked by the swarming natives, bent on revenge. The town was burned, all the clothing of the Spaniards, together with many horses and nearly all the swine which they brought from Cuba, were destroyed or carried away, and several of the whites were killed. Early in the spring the shorn invaders pushed westward, and discovered the Mississippi. They crossed it at the Chickasaw Bluffs, and traversed the country on its western shore up to the thirtyseventh degree, nearly opposite the mouth of the Ohio. They penetrated the wilderness almost three hundred miles west of the Mississippi during the summer, and wintered upon the Washita, in Arkansas. They passed down the Red River to the Mississippi in the spring, where De Soto sickened and died." He had appointed a successor, who now . Mayal, attempted to lead the remnant of the expedition to Spanish settlements in Mexico. * For several months they wandered in the wilderness, but returned in December,b to winter upon the Mississippi, a short distance above the mouth of the Red River. There they constructed seven large boats, and in July following embarked in them. On reaching the Gulf of Mexico, they crawled cautiously along its sinuous coast, until the twentieth of September, when, half naked and almost famished, they reached a white settlement near the mouth of the Panuco River, about thirty miles north of Tampico. While the Spaniards were making these useless discoveries of the southern regions of our Republic along the Gulf of Mexico, the French fitted out several expeditions to explore the coast between the peninsula of Florida and the banks of Newfoundland. John Verrazzani, a celebrated Florentine navigator, proceeded to America with a squadron of four ships, under the auspices of Francis the First of France, in 1523. Three of his vessels were so damaged by a storm that they were sent back; in the fourth, he proceeded on his voyage. Weathering a terrible tempest, he reached our coast near the mouth of Cape Fear River, in North Carolina. He explored the whole coast from the Carolinas to Nova Scotia, and taking formal possession of the country in the name of the French king, he called it New FRANCE, the title held by Canada while it remained in possession of the French. Werrazzani was followed, the next year, by Cartier (also in the service of the French king), who discovered the Gulf and River St. Lawrence;" and soon afterward by the Lord of Roberval, a wealthy nobleman, who proposed to plant a colony in the New World. Roberval failed in his undertaking, and returned to France. He sailed on another voyage, and was never heard of aftVERRAzzANI. erward. Other efforts at settlement along the southern coasts were made by the French, but were unsuccessful. A Protestant French colony, planted in Florida, was destroyed by the Spaniards in 1564, and over the dead bodies of the Huguenots the murderers placed the inscription, “We do this not as unto Frenchmen, but as unto Heretics.” In 1567, De Gourgues, a Gascon soldier, fitted out an expedition at his own expense, to avenge this outrage. He surprised the Spanish forts erected near St. Augustine, and hung the soldiers of the garrison upon the trees. Over them he placed the inscription, “I do this not as unto Spaniards or mariners, but as unto traitors, robbers, and murderers.” Thus whites were exterminated by whites, and Indians again possessed the land. The history of the early discoveries in North America forms a wonderful chapter in the great chronicle of human progress and achievements, and in its details there are narratives of adventure, prowess, love, and all the elements of romance, more startling and attractive than the most brilliant conceptions of the imagination ever evolved. The story of the progress of settlements which followed is equally marvelous and attractive. These tempt the pen on every side, but as they are connected only incidentally with my subject, I pass them by with brevity of notice. In the preceding pages I have taken a very brief survey of events in the progress of discovery which opened the way to settlements in the New World; a brief survey of the progress of settlements will be found interwoven with the records upon the pages which follow. They are all united by the often invisible threads of God's providence; and each apparently insignificant event in the wondrous history of our continent is a link as important in the great chain of human deeds, directed by divine intelligence, as those which arrest the attention and command the admiration of the world. Never was this truth oftener and more strikingly illustrated than in our history of the war for independence; and the student of that history, desirous of understanding its true philosophy, should make himself familiar with the antecedents which have a visible relation thereto.