Page images
PDF
EPUB

witness, into the first Spanish slave mart in that 15th century. It is worth our while to consider thoughtfully the description and reflections of this pious and pitiful spectator of the scene.

"But what heart was that, how hard soever, which was not pierced with sorrow, seeing that company: for some had sunken cheeks, and their faces bathed in tears, looking at each other; others were groaning very dolorously, looking at 1J>e heights of the heavens, fixing their eyes upon them, crying out loudly, as if they were asking succour from the Father of nature; others struck their faces with their hands, throwing themselves on the earth; others made their lamentations in songs, according to the customs of their country, which, although we could not understand their language, we saw corresponded well to the height of their sorrow. But now, for the increase of their grief, come those who had the charge of the distribution, and they began to put them apart one from the other, in order to equalize the portions; wherefore it was necessary to part children and parents, husbands and wives, and brethren from each other. Neither in the partition of friends and relations was any law kept, only each fell where the lot took him. Oh, powerful fortune! who goest hither and thither with thy wheels, compassing the things of the world as it pleaseth thee, if thou canst place before the eyes of this miserable nation some knowledge of the things that are to come after them, that they may receive some consolation in the midst of their great sadness! And you others who have the business of this partition, look with pity on such great misery, and consider how can those be parted whom you cannot disunite! Who will he ahle to make this partition without great difficulty 1 For while they were placing in one part the children that saw their parents in another, the children sprang up perseveringly and fled to them; the mothers enclosed their children in their arms, and threw themselves with them on the ground, receiving wounds with little pity for their own flesh, so that their offspring might not be torn from them! And so, with labour and difficulty, they concluded the partition; for, besides the trouble they had with the captives, the plain was full of people, as well of the place as of the villages and neighbourhood around, who in that day gave rest to their hands, the mainstay of their livelihood, only to see this novelty. And as they looked upon these things, some deploring, some reasoning upon them, they made such a riotous noise, as greatly to disturb those who had the management of this distribution. The Infanta was there upon a powerful horse, accompanied by his people, looking out his share, but as a man who for his part did not care for gain; for, the forty-six souls which fell to his fifth, ho speedily made his choice, as all his principal riches were in his contentment, considering with great delight the salvation of those souls which before were lost. And certainly his thought was not vain; for, as soon as they had knowledge of our language, they readily became Christians; and I, who have made this history in this volume, have seen in the town of Lagos young men and young women, the sons and grandsons of those very captives, born in this land, as good and as true Christians Or if they had lineally descended, since the commencement of the law of Christ, from those who were first baptized."

Prince Henry died in 1463. The same author, who has thrown much light on his history, gives an outline of liis character, sketched by an able hand:—

"He had a grandeur of nature," says Yaria y Sousa, "proportionate to the greatness of his doings; he was bulky and strong; his complexion red and white; his hair coarse, and almost hirsute ; his aspect produced fear in those who were not accustomed to him; not to those who were; for even in the strongest current of his vexation at anything, his courtesy always prevailed over his anger; he had a grave serenity in his movements, a notable constancy and circumspection in his words, modesty in all that related to his state and personal observance, within the limits of his high fortune; he was patient in labour, bold and valorous in war, versed in arts and letters, a skilful fencer, in the mathematics superior to all men of his time, generous in the extreme, zealous in the extreme for the increase of the Faith. No bad. habit was known in him. He did not marry, nor was it known that he ever violated the purity of continency. His memory was equal to the authority he bore, and his prudence equal to his memory."

He was one of the great ones of the world. Like Columbus, the devotee of a groat idea—an idea which God had shown to him—and able to hold all which this earth could offer to him as dross compared with the joy of fulfilling the Divine behests. Of such stuff are the heroes, the leaders of generations, made. For ns he is not the less interesting, in that he was the son of Blanche of Lancaster, daughter of great John of Gaunt, nephew therefore to our Henry IV., and cousin-gerrnan to our Henry V.—himself an adventurous, heroic man, who might, had he lived, have given a new shape to history. Norse blood was in the veins of this great Prince Henry. He was half Englishman, who opened the chapter of maritime discovery in the modern history of the world.

After his death the work went on, but less nobly—it missed his royal head and hand. Still he had broken the neck of the difficulty; he had surveyed the field—it remained but to master the empire which he had laid open to the enterprise of Europe. In 1487 Bartholomew Diaz doubled the Cape of Good Hope. "Capo Tormentoso," poor Diaz and his battered sailors called it; hut the king on his return gave it a name of better omen, which it bears to this day. The problem of a passage by sea to India was now more than half solved. Ten years afterwards, in 1497, Vasco de Gama sailed on his famous voyage, and succeeded in reaching Calicut, on the coast of Hindostan. He thus completed the effort and realized the hope of centuries, and brought Europe into maritime connection with the lands of gems, spice, and gold. I touch lightly on these great discoveries, the history of them being so familiar, and dwell rather with fuller detail on the less known episodes of that adventurous time.* Gama returned to Europe to report his successes in September, 1499, and was received with most distinguished honours by the Portuguese Court. Meanwhile a greater and more original mind had been at work on the problem. The grant of Martin V. to Portugal of all land which might be discovered along the coast of Africa to the Indies, shut out Spain from any participation in the commerce and empire opened up to the European nations by the enterprises of the Portuguese. Vasco de Gama trod cautiously, after all, in tracks which had been tolerably explored. The southern cape of Africa being discovered, it was known, as a matter of course, that India must lie beyond. Columbus took counsel of the sphere. It was shown to him—are we not bound to believe that such great missions are very directly from on high P—that a western course over the unknown Atlantic must conduct the voyager to the western sea-boards of the lands whose eastern Gama had approached by the way of Africa. He stood boldly out over the Atlantic, followed by the sympathies of one great queenly heart, as capable of serving a great idea as his own, on the boldest and most heroic quest ever undertaken by man. On Friday, August 3rd, 1492, three little ships stood out from Palos: Sagres lay there to the west, along the coast. On Friday, October 11th, they cast anchor on the coast of St. Salvador; and added, as is expressed nobly in the epitaph of Colon, "a new world to Spain." Thus, in the last docade of the 15th century, Columbus and Gama reached, by pursuing opposite routes, the gold and spice regions of the world. But at the same time the vaguest uncertainty existed as to the exact situation and relations of the lands which they had discovered. Vasco de Gama's course was plain. His India could at once be linked on, by the overland commerce, to the known regions of the earth. But what was this new region to which Columbus had opened the way? The prevalent opinion—nursed, doubtless, by the ancient notion that land, the nobler, must be the preponderating element in the world—magnified unduly the extent of Asia; and pushed its eastern sea-board close on to the American coast. Columbus, leaving the Canaries, steered, as he

* I purposely, too, avoid complicating the narrative in this brief paper by tho discussion of the vexed questions of the subject. I therefore pass by the voyages of the Corterials, about which there is great difficulty, especially the earliest voyage of John. The Zeni, too, must hero be passed by, that we may keep to the firm ground.

believed, for Japan. On October 7tb, being in tbe parallel of 25° 30', he became uneasy at not discovering Zipangu, which by his reckoning ought to be 216 miles to the eastward of his meridian. Martin Alonzo Pinzon prevailed on him to steer to the south-west. Pinzon, it seems, had seen a flight of parrots heading in that direction; and so by the auspices it was settled, as of old, that Central and not North America should receive the colonies of Spain. Never in old Rome did birds lead such a quest as this.

Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci remained persuaded till death that the continent which Columbus in his third voyage discovered, about the mouths of the Orinoco, was the mainland of Asia; and the admiral, magnificent as the great Julius, entertained the purpose of returning to Spain by Ceylon and the Cape, or overland by Jerusalem and Jaffa—anticipating our steam track by 350 years. The notion that India had been reached by a western course from Spain would, of course, speedily raise questions as to the range of the Papal grant to Portugal, by which Martin had attached to the Portuguese Crown all lands which might be discovered between Bojador and the Indies. The question was at once considered in the Papal councils, and a division of the world was made between the two great discovering peoples, which, while it seemed to make a fair settlement of the contending claims for the moment, in reality raised questions, the determination of which had the most important bearing on the development of science as well as trade. Alexander VI., Roderic Borgia, then occupied the Papal throne. To this man, incest and murders of the most horrible description were freely attributed by songs and epigrams in eveiy court in Europe. From him, as Pope, a decree came forth which was received as absolute throughout Christendom, to divide the undiscovered world equally between two sovereign powers. Taking the meridian of longitude drawn through a point 100 leagues to the west of tbe Azores, he ordained that the half globe to the east of that line should belong to Portugal, the half globe to the west to Spain. This Bull bears date May 4th, 1493, shortly after the return of Columbus to Spain. Subsequently, by an arrangement between the monarchs, of the 7th of June, 1494, the line was removed westwards to 370 leagues west of the Cape de Verd Islands. We can easily understand how the determination of this meridian, in the then state of nautical astronomy, was a matter of no little difficulty in the Indian seas. The observations of the contending parties doubtless favoured the interests of their respective nations, and it was not until after much strife and discussion that it was settled, that the Moluccas, valuable for their spices, fell within the Spanish hemisphere; and they were actually purchased by Portugal, in 1529, for 350,000 ducats. Impious as these Bulls may seem, they were very real and solemn matters in those days. Edward IV. of England, a great trader, fitted out an expedition to trade on the coasts of Guinea; but he abandoned the design at once, keen as he was after gain, when the Pope's Bull was pleaded by the Portuguese king. That we may understand how real the right of the Pope was conceived to be in those days, I will quote the proclamation which Ferdinand founded on it, and by which he took royal possession of the Indies. But that there is something ludicrous in bringing such a battery to bear on the ignorant and helpless Indians, one might reckon this document among the most awful lies ever promulgated in this world.

"The proclamation dwells on the creation of man, and of the dispersion of the one race. Then it declares how God gave charge of all these nations to one man called St. Peter, that he should be the head of the human race, and have rule over them all, and fix his seat at Eome, 'as the fittest place for governing the world.' He was called Father, as the Father and Governor of all men. Then it tells how all men have obeyed St. Peter and his successors, and will obey them to the end of time. It informs the Indians how a certain Pope gave to the Catholic sovereigns all these western islands and the Continent, by 'writings which the Indians may see if they like. Then they are told how well the other islanders had received and obeyed his Majesty, listening without any hesitation or delay to religious men, and becoming Christians, and how kind his Majesty bad been to them. 'Wherefore I entreat and require you,' said Ojeda, or any other privateering discoverer, 'that, after taking due time to consider this, you acknowledge the Church as sovereign lady of the world, and the Pope in her name; and his Majesty, in his place as lord of these isles and this continent, and that you receive these religious men. If you do so, his Majesty will greet you with all love and affection, and leave you your wives and children free, and will give you many privileges and exemptions. But if you do not, by the help of God I will enter with power into your land, and will subdue you, and will take your wives and children and make slaves of them, and sell them as such, and take all your goods, and do you all the mischief I can, as to vassals that do not obey, and will not receive their Lord. And I protest that all the death and destruction which may come from this is your fault, and not his Majesty's or mine, or that of my men.'"

The direct result of this Spanish and Portuguese discovery was the enormous increase of then* navies, and the complete division between them of the Empire of the Seas. The Spanish and Portuguese claimed as of right the whole of this new and most valuable commerce; while their knowledge of the navigation, and the multitude of their ships, enabled them to maintain practically the monopoly. The result of this to England was for the time disastrous. It lowered her position both commercially and politi

« PreviousContinue »