Great Epochs in American History, Volume I. - Voyages Of Discovery And Early Explorations: 1000 A.D.-1682
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COPYRIGHT, 1912 AND 1916, by


[Printed in the United States of America]

[Transcriber's Note: This text retains original spellings.]


In these ten volumes the aim has been to present striking accounts of ten great epochs in the history of the United States, from the landing of Columbus to the building of the Panama Canal. In large part, events composing each epoch are described by men who participated in them, or were personal eye-witnesses of them.

Columbus, for example, described his own first voyage; Washington, the defeat of Braddock; Gen. "Sam" Houston the battle of San Jacinto; General Robert E. Lee, the capture of John Brown at Harper's Ferry; Murat Halstead, the nomination of Lincoln; Jefferson Davis, the evacuation of Richmond, and his own arrest in Georgia by Federal troops; Mrs. James Chesnut, wife of the Confederate general, the firing on Fort Sumter; Edmund Clarence Stedman, the retreat from Bull Run; Gen. James Longstreet, Pickett's charge at Gettysburg; General Sheridan, Sheridan's ride to Winchester; James G. Blaine, the funeral of Lincoln; Cyrus W. Field, the laying of the Atlantic cable; Horace White, the great Chicago fire; William Jennings Bryan, the first Bryan campaign; Admiral Dewey, the battle of Manila Bay, and Admiral Peary, the finding of the North Pole.

These accounts are often supplemented by passages from the writings of historians and biographers, including George Bancroft, Washington Irving, Francis Parkman, Richard Hildreth, William E.H. Lecky, James Schouler, and John Fiske; or from those of statesmen, journalists and publicists, among them, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Thomas H. Benton, Robert Toombs, Horace Greeley, "Bull Run" Russell, Carl Schurz, and Theodore Roosevelt.

The tables of contents prefixt to the several volumes, or the index appended to the last, will show how wide is the range of topics. The events described have been of vital, and often of transcendant, importance to this country and Europe. The writers will be found interesting as authorities, and are often supremely competent, alike as authorities and writers. The work is believed to present American history in a form that will appeal to readers for its authenticity and its novelty.

Francis W. Halsey.


(Voyages of Discovery and Early Explorations.)

Schoolboys have been taught from their earliest years that Columbus discovered America. Few events in prehistoric times seem more probable now than that Columbus was not the first to discover it. The importance of his achievement over that of others lay in his own faith in his success, in his definiteness of purpose, and in the fact that he awakened in Europe an interest in the discovery that led to further explorations, disclosing a new continent and ending in permanent settlements.

The earliest voyages to America, made probably from Asia, led to settlements, but they remained unknown ever afterward to all save the settlers themselves, while those from Europe led to settlements that were either soon abandoned or otherwise came to nought. Wandering Tatar, Chinese, Japanese, Malay, or Polynesian sailors who drifted, intentionally or accidentally, to the Pacific coast in some unrecorded and prehistoric past, and from whom the men we call our aborigines probably are descended, sent back to Asia no tidings of what they had found. Their discovery, in so far as it concerned the people of the Old World, remained as if it had never been.

The hardy Northmen of the Viking age, who, like John Smith, six hundred years afterward, found in Vinland "a pleasant land to see," understood so little of the importance of what they had found, that, by the next century, their discovery had virtually been forgotten in all Scandinavia. It seems never to have become known anywhere else in Europe. Indeed, had the Northmen made it known to other Europeans, it is quite unlikely that any active interest would have been taken in it. Europe in the year 1000 was self-centered. She had troubles enough to absorb all her energies. Ambition for the expansion of her territory, for trade with peoples beyond the great waters, nowhere existed. Most European states were engaged in a grim struggle to hold what they had—to hold it from the aggressions of their neighbors, to hold it against the rising power of Islam.

Columbus did not know he had discovered the continent we call America. He died in the belief that he had found unknown parts of Asia; that he had discovered a shorter and safer route for trade with the East, and that he had given new proof of the assertions made by astronomers that the earth is round. The men who immediately followed him—Vespucius and the Cabots—believed only that they had confirmed and extended his discovery. Cabot first found the mainland of North America, Vespucius the mainland of South America, but neither knew he had found a new continent. Each saw only coast lines; made landings, it is true; saw and conversed with natives, and Vespucius fought with natives; but of the existence of a new world, having continents comparable to Europe, Asia, or Africa, with an ocean on both sides of them, neither ever so much as dreamed.

Under the splendid inspiration of Prince Henry the Navigator, an inspiration that remained potent throughout Portugal long after his death, Bartholomew Dias, five years before Columbus made his voyage to America, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, actually sailed into the Indian Ocean, and was pressing on toward India when his crew, from exhaustion, refused to go farther, and he was forced to return home. Vasco da Gama, ten years later (1497), following the route of Dias, actually reached India and thus demonstrated that, instead of going overland by caravan, India could be reached by sailing around two-thirds of Africa.

Spanish and Portuguese navigators—Columbus, Da Gama, Dias—alike sought a new and shorter route for trade with the Far East—one, moreover, that would not be molested by the advancing and aggressive Turks. Columbus believed, and so believed Spain and Portugal, that he had found a shorter route than the one Diaz and Da Gama found. Disputes arose between the rival powers as to titles and benefits from the discoveries, and it was because of these that Pope Alexander VI issued his famous Bull, dividing between the two all lands discovered by the navigators, an act which, in our time, has become a curious anomaly, since later proof of the existence of continents between the Atlantic and Pacific made the Pope's decree virtually a partitioning of all America between two favored countries as sole beneficiaries.

Da Gama returned from India laden with Eastern treasure. Columbus returned from America poorer than when he sailed from the port of Palos. Columbus was believed to have found Asia, but he brought home, after several voyages, none of the wealth of Asia. Hence those fierce storms that beat about his head, leading to his imprisonment and to his death in Valladolid, a broken-hearted man.

The Spanish explorers who in the next century followed Columbus, came to America in pursuit of silver and gold. Rich stores had already been found by their countrymen in Mexico and the Peruvian Andes. In meetings with Indians farther north wearing ornaments of gold, the new explorers became convinced that mineral wealth also existed in the lands now called the United States, and especially in the fabled "Seven Cities of Cibola," in the Southwest. Out of this belief came the bold enterprises of Ponce de Leon, De Vaca, Coronado and De Soto, while out of the Spanish successes in finding gold in America came the first known voyage into New York Harbor, that of Verazzano, the Italian in French service, who was seeking Spanish vessels returning richly laden.

Of the French and English explorers of later years—Cartier, Champlain, Marquette, Hudson, Drake—who came to Cape Breton, the St. Lawrence, Hudson, and Mississippi valleys, the California coast—the motives were different. These came to fish for cod, to explore the country, to plant the banners of the Sun King and Queen Bess over new territories, to convert the Indians, to find a northwest passage—that problem of the navigators which baffled them all until 1854—362 years after the landing of Columbus—when an English ship, under Sir Robert McClure, sailed from Bering Sea to Davis Strait, and thus proved that America, North and South, was an island.

Spaniards, however, had dreamed of a northwest passage before any of these. When Magellan passed through the strait that bears his name, and his ship completed the first circumnavigation of the globe, men began first to see that America was no part of Asia. In further proof they sought to find a passage into the Pacific from the north, as a complement to Magellan's passage from the south. Such an attempt was first made by the Spaniards under Vasquez d'Ayllon, four years after the voyage of Magellan; that is, in 1524. Ayllon was hoping to find this passage when he put in at Hampton Roads, just as Hudson hoped to find it, eighty-five years afterward, when he entered the harbor of New York—Hudson, who in a later voyage, sought it once more in Hudson Bay, and perished miserably there, set adrift in an open boat and abandoned by his own mutinous sailors.







I. Men from Asia and from Norway. By Justin Winsor II. How the Norwegians Came to Vinland III. The First European Child IV. Other Pre-Columbian Voyages. By Henry Wheaton


I. As Described by Washington Irving II. As Described by Columbus Himself



I. The Account Given by John A. Doyle II. Peter Martyr's Account

THE VOYAGES OF VESPUCIUS. Vespucius' Own Account

A BATTLE WITH THE INDIANS. As Described by Vespucius







I. The Account Given by John A. Doyle II. Cartier's Own Account





THE DEATH OF DE SOTO. By One of De Soto's Companions

DRAKE'S VISIT TO CALIFORNIA. By One of Drake's Companions

HUDSON'S DISCOVERY OF THE HUDSON RIVER. By Robert Juet, Hudson's Secretary



THE DEATH OF MARQUETTE. By Father Claude Dablon




1000 A.D.—1682





There is not a race of eastern Asia—Siberian, Tatar, Chinese, Japanese, Malay, with the Polynesians—which has not been claimed as discoverers, intending or accidental, of American shores, or as progenitors, more or less perfect or remote, of American peoples; and there is no good reason why any one of them may not have done all that is claimed. The historical evidence, however, is not such as is based on documentary proofs of indisputable character, and the recitals advanced are often far from precise enough to be convincing in details, if their general authenticity is allowed.

Nevertheless, it is much more than barely probable that the ice of Bering Straits or the line of the Aleutian Islands was the pathway of successive immigrations, on occasions perhaps far apart, or maybe near together; and there is hardly a stronger demonstration of such a connection between the two continents than the physical resemblances of the peoples now living on the opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean in these upper latitudes, with the similarity of the flora which environs them on either shore.

It is quite as conceivable that the great northern current, setting east athwart the Pacific, should from time to time have carried along disabled vessels, and stranded them on the shores of California and farther north leading to the infusion of Asiatic blood among whatever there may have been antecedent or autochthonous in the coast peoples. It is certainly in this way possible that the Chinese or Japanese may have helped populate the western slopes of the American continent. There is no improbability even of the Malays of southeastern Asia extending step by step to the Polynesian Islands, and among them and beyond them, till the shores of a new world finally received the impress of their footsteps and of their ethnic characteristics. We may very likely recognize not proofs, but indications, along the shores of South America, that its original people constituted such a stock or were increased by it.

As respects the possible early connections of America on the side of Europe, there is an equally extensive array of claims, and they have been set forth, first and last, with more persistency than effect....

Leaving the old world by the northern passage, Iceland lies at the threshold of America. It is nearer to Greenland than to Norway, and Greenland is but one of the large islands into which the arctic currents divide the North American continent. Thither, to Iceland, if we identify the localities in Geoffrey of Monmouth, King Arthur sailed as early as the beginning of the sixth century, and overcame whatever inhabitants he may have found there. Here, too, an occasional wandering pirate or adventurous Dane had glimpsed the coast. Thither, among others, came the Irish, and in the ninth century we find Irish monks and a small colony of their countrymen in possession. Thither the Gulf Stream carries the southern driftwood, suggesting sunnier lands to whatever race had been allured or driven to its shelter. Here Columbus, when, as he tells us, he visited the island in 1477, found no ice. So that, if we may place reliance on the appreciable change of climate by the precession of the equinoxes, a thousand years ago and more, when the Norwegians crossed from Scandinavia and found these Christian Irish there, the island was not the forbidding spot that it seems with the lapse of centuries to be becoming.

It was in A.D. 875 that Ingolf, a jarl of Norway, came to Iceland with Norse settlers. They built their habitation at first where a pleasant headland seemed attractive, the present Ingolfshofdi, and later founded Reikjavik, where the signs directed them; for certain carved posts, which they had thrown overboard as they approached the island, were found to have drifted to that spot. The Christian Irish preferred to leave their asylum rather than consort with the newcomers, and so the island was left to be occupied by successive immigrations of the Norse, which their king could not prevent. In the end, and within half a century, a hardy little republic—as for a while it was—of near 70,000 inhabitants, was established almost under the arctic circle.

The very next year (A.D. 876) after Ingolf had come to Iceland, a sea-rover, Gunnbiorn, driven in his ship westerly, sighted a strange land, and the report that he made was not forgotten. Fifty years later, more or less, for we must treat the dates of the Icelandic sagas with some reservation, we learn that a wind-tossed vessel was thrown upon a coast far away, which was called Iceland the Great. Then, again, we read of a young Norwegian, Eric the Red, not apparently averse to a brawl, who killed his man in Norway and fled to Iceland, where he kept his dubious character; and again outraging the laws, he was sent into temporary banishment—this time in a ship which he fitted out for discovery; and so he sailed away in the direction of Gunnbiorn's land, and found it. He whiled away three years on its coast, and as soon as he was allowed, ventured back with the tidings. While, to propitiate intending settlers, he said he had been to Greenland, and so the land got a sunny name.

The next year, which seems to have been A.D. 985, he started on his return with 35 ships, but only fourteen of them reached the land. Whenever there was a habitable fiord, a settlement grew up, and the stream of immigrants was for a while constant and considerable. Just at the end of the century (A.D. 999) Lief, a son of Eric, sailed back to Norway, and found the country in the early fervor of a new religion; for King Olaf Tryggvesson had embraced Christianity, and was imposing it on his people. Leif accepted the new faith, and a priest was assigned to him to take back to Greenland; and thus Christianity was introduced into arctic America. So they began to build churches in Greenland, the considerable ruins of one of which stands to this day. The winning of Iceland to the Church was accomplished at the same time....

In the next year after the second voyage of Eric the Red, one of the ships which were sailing from Iceland to the new settlement, was driven far off her course, according to the sagas, and Bjarni Herjulfson, who commanded the vessel, reported that he had come upon a land, away to the southwest, where the coast country was level; and he added that when he turned north it took him nine days to reach Greenland. Fourteen years later than this voyage of Bjarni, which was said to have been in A.D. 986—that is, in the year 1000 or thereabouts—Lief, the same who had brought the Christian priest to Greenland, taking with him 35 companions, sailed from Greenland in quest of the land seen by Bjarni, which Lief first found, where a barren shore stretched back to ice-covered mountains, and, because of the stones there, he called the region Helluland. Proceeding farther south, he found a sandy shore, with a level forest country back of it, and because of the woods it was named Markland. Two days later they came upon other land, and tasting the dew upon the grass they found it sweet. Farther south and westerly they went, and going up a river, came into an expanse of water, where on the shores they built huts to lodge in for the winter, and sent out exploring parties. In one of these Tyrker, a native of a part of Europe where grapes grew, found vines hung with their fruit, which induced Lief to call the country Vinland.

Attempts have been made to identify these various regions by the inexact accounts of the direction of their sailing, by the very general descriptions of the country, by the number of days occupied in going from one point to another, with the uncertainty if the ship sailed at night, and by the length of the shortest day in Vinland—the last a statement that might help us, if it could be interpreted with a reasonable concurrence of opinion, and if it were not confused with other inexplicable statements. The next year Lief's brother, Thorwald, went to Vinland with a single ship, and passed three winters there, making explorations meanwhile, south and north. Thorfinn Karlsefne, arriving in Greenland in A.D. 1006, married a courageous widow named Gudrid, who induced him to sail with his ships to Vinland and make there a permanent settlement, taking with him livestock and other necessaries for colonization. Their first winter in the place was a severe one; but Gudrid gave birth to a son, Snorre, from whom it is claimed Thorwaldsen, the Danish sculptor, was descended. The next season they removed to the spot where Leif had wintered, and called the bay Hop. Having spent a third winter in the country, Karlsefne, with a part of the colony, returned to Greenland.

The saga then goes on to say that trading voyages to the settlement which had been formed by Karlsefne now became frequent, and that the chief lading of the return voyages was timber, which was much needed in Greenland. A bishop of Greenland, Eric Upsi, is also said to have gone to Vinland in A.D. 1121. In 1347 the last ship of which we have any record in these sagas went to Vinland after timber. After this all is oblivion.

There are in all these narratives many details beyond this outline, and those who have sought to identify localities have made the most they could of the mention of a rock here or a bluff there, of an island where they killed a bear, of others where they found eggs, of a headland where they buried a leader who had been killed, of a cape shaped like a keel, of broadfaced natives who offered furs for red cloths, of beaches where they hauled up their ships, and of tides that were strong; but the more these details are scanned in the different sagas, the more they confuse the investigator, and the more successive relators try to enlighten us the more our doubts are strengthened, till we end with the conviction that all attempts at consistent unravelment leave nothing but a vague sense of something somewhere done.

[1] From an article by Mr. Winsor in "The Narrative and Critical History of America," of which he was editor. By arrangement with the publishers, Houghton, Mifflin Co., Copyright 1889. For a long period Mr. Winsor was librarian of Harvard University. He wrote "From Cartier to Frontenac," "Christopher Columbus," "The Mississippi Basin," and made other important contributions to American history.



(1000 A.D.)

Lief invited his father, Eric, to become the leader of the expedition, but Eric declined, saying that he was then stricken in years, and adding that he was less able to endure the exposure of sea life than he had been. Lief replied that he would, nevertheless, be the one who would be most apt to bring good luck, and Eric yielded to Lief's solicitation, and rode from home when they were ready to sail.

They put the ship in order; and, when they were ready, they sailed out to sea, and found first that land which Bjarni and his shipmates found last. They sailed up to the land and cast anchor, and launched a boat and went ashore, and saw no grass there. Great ice mountains lay inland back from the sea, and it was as a [table-land of] flat rock all the way from the sea to the ice mountains; and the country seemed to them to be entirely devoid of good qualities. Then said Lief, "It has not come to pass with us in regard to this land as with Biarni, that we have not gone upon it. To this country I will now give a name, and call it Helluland," They returned to the ship, put out to sea, and found a second land.

They sailed again to the land, and came to anchor, and launched the boat, and went ashore. This was a level wooded land; and there were broad stretches of white sand where they went, and the land was level by the sea. Then said Lief, "This land shall have a name after its nature; and we will call it Markland." They returned to the ship forthwith, and sailed away upon the main with northeast winds, and were out two "doegr" before they sighted land. They sailed toward this land, and came to an island which lay to the northward off the land. There they went ashore and looked about them, the weather being fine, and they observed that there was dew upon the grass, and it so happened that they touched the dew with their hands, and touched their hands to their mouths, and it seemed to them that they had never before tasted anything so sweet as this....

A cargo sufficient for the ship was cut, and when the spring came they made their ship ready, and sailed away; and from its products Lief gave the land a name, and called it Wineland. They sailed out to sea, and had fair winds until they sighted Greenland and the fells below the glaciers. Then one of the men spoke up and said, "Why do you steer the ship so much into the wind?" Lief answers: "I have my mind upon my steering, but on other matters as well. Do ye not see anything out of the common?" They replied that they saw nothing strange. "I do not know," says Lief, "whether it is a ship or a skerry that I see." Now they saw it, and said that it must be a skerry; but he was so much keener of sight than they that he was able to discern men upon the skerry. "I think it best to tack," says Lief, "so that we may draw near to them, that we may be able to render them assistance if they should stand in need of it; and, if they should not be peaceable disposed, we shall still have better command of the situation than they."

They approached the skerry, and, lowering their sail, cast anchor, and launched a second small boat, which they had brought with them. Tyrker inquired who was the leader of the party. He replied that his name was Thori, and that he was a Norseman; "but what is thy name?" Lief gave his name. "Art thou a son of Eric the Red of Brattahlid?" says he. Lief responded that he was. "It is now my wish," says Lief, "to take you all into my ship, and likewise so much of your possessions as the ship will hold." This offer was accepted, and [with their ship] thus laden they held away to Ericsfirth, and sailed until they arrived at Brattahlid. Having discharged the cargo, Lief invited Thori, with his wife, Gudrid, and three others, to make their home with him, and procured quarters for the other members of the crew, both for his own and Thori's men. Lief rescued fifteen persons from the skerry. He was afterward called Lief the Lucky. Lief had now a goodly store both of property and honor. There was serious illness that winter in Thori's party, and Thori and a great number of his people died. Eric the Red also died that winter. There was now much talk about Lief's Wineland journey; and his brother, Thorvald, held that the country had not been sufficiently explored. Thereupon Lief said to Thorvald, "If it be thy will, brother, thou mayest go to Wineland with my ship; but I wish the ship first to fetch the wood which Thori had upon the skerry." And so it was done.

Now Thorvald, with the advice of his brother, Lief, prepared to make this voyage with thirty men. They put their ship in order, and sailed out to sea; and there is no account of their voyage before their arrival at Liefs-booths in Wineland. They laid up their ship there, and remained there quietly during the winter, supplying themselves with food by fishing. In the spring, however, Thorvald said that they should put their ship in order, and that a few men should take the after-boat, and proceed along the western coast, and explore [the region] thereabouts during the summer. They found it a fair, well-wooded country. It was but a short distance from the woods to the sea, and [there were] white sands, as well as great numbers of islands and shallows. They found neither dwelling of man nor lair of beast; but in one of the westerly islands they found a wooden building for the shelter of grain. They found no other trace of human handiwork; and they turned back, and arrived at Liefs-booths in the autumn.

The following summer Thorvald set out toward the east with the ship, and along the northern coast. They were met by a high wind off a certain promontory, and were driven ashore there, and damaged the keel of their ship, and were compelled to remain there for a long time and repair the injury to their vessel. Then said Thorvald to his companions, "I propose that we raise the keel upon this cape, and call it Keelness"; and so they did. Then they sailed away to the eastward off the land and into the mouth of the adjoining firth and to a headland, which projected into the sea there, and which was entirely covered with woods. They found an anchorage for their ship, and put out the gangway to the land; and Thorvald and all of his companions went ashore. "It is a fair region here," said he; "and here I should like to make my home."

They then returned to the ship, and discovered on the sands, in beyond the headland, three mounds: they went up to these, and saw that they were three skin canoes with three men under each. They thereupon divided their party, and succeeded in seizing all the men but one, who escaped with his canoe. They killed the eight men, and then ascended the headland again, and looked about them, and discovered within the firth certain hillocks, which they concluded must be habitations. They were then so overpowered with sleep that they could not keep awake, and all fell into a [heavy] slumber from which they were awakened by the sound of a cry uttered above them; and the words of the cry were these: "Awake, Thorvald, thou and all thy company, if thou wouldst save thy life; and board thy ship with all thy men, and sail with all speed from the land!" A countless number of skin canoes then advanced toward them from the inner part of the firth, whereupon Thorvald ex-claimed, "We must put out the war-boards on both sides of the ship, and defend ourselves to the best of our ability, but offer little attack." This they did; and the Skrellings, after they had shot at them for a time, fled precipitately, each as best he could. Thorvald then inquired of his men whether any of them had been wounded, and they informed him that no one of them had received a wound. "I have been wounded in my arm-pit," says he. "An arrow flew in between the gunwale and the shield, below my arm. Here is the shaft, and it will bring me to my end. I counsel you now to retrace your way with the utmost speed. But me ye shall convey to that headland which seemed to me to offer so pleasant a dwelling-place: thus it may be fulfilled that the truth sprang to my lips when I exprest the wish to abide there for a time. Ye shall bury me there, and place a cross at my head, and another at my feet, and call it Crossness forever after." At that time Christianity had obtained in Greenland: Eric the Red died, however, before [the introduction of] Christianity.

Thorvald died; and, when they had carried out his injunctions, they took their departure, and rejoined their companions, and they told each other of the experiences which had befallen them. They remained there during the winter, and gathered grapes and wood with which to freight the ship. In the following spring they returned to Greenland, and arrived with their ship in Ericsfirth, where they were able to recount great tidings to Lief....

There was now much talk anew about a Wineland voyage, for this was reckoned both a profitable and an honorable enterprise. The same summer that Karlsefni arrived from Wineland a ship from Norway arrived in Greenland. This ship was commanded by two brothers, Helgi and Finnbogi, who passed the winter in Greenland. They were descended from an Icelandic family of the East-firths. It is now to be added that Freydis, Eric's daughter, set out from her home at Gardar, and waited upon the brothers, Helgi and Finnbogi, and invited them to sail with their vessel to Wineland, and to share with her equally all of the good things which they might succeed in obtaining there. To this they agreed, and she departed thence to visit her brother Lief, and ask him to give her the house which he had caused to be erected in Wineland; but he made her the same answer [as that which he had given Karlsefni], saying that he would lend the house, but not give it. It was stipulated between Karlsefni and Freydis that each should have on shipboard thirty able-bodied men, besides the women; but Freydis immediately violated this compact by concealing five men more [than this number], and this the brothers did not discover before they arrived in Wineland. They now put out to sea, having agreed beforehand that they would sail in company, if possible, and, altho they were not far apart from each other, the brothers arrived somewhat in advance, and carried their belongings up to Lief's house.

[1] From "The Saga of Eric the Red," as given in the "Old South Leaflets." Two different versions of this saga exist, the first written by Hauk Erlendsson between 1305 and 1334; the second by Jon Thordharson, about 1387. Both are believed to have been based on writings that had come down from the time of the explorations.

Confirmation of the truth of the Norwegian discovery is given in a book by Adam of Bremen, who visited Denmark between 1047 and 1073, and makes reference to Norwegian colonies founded in Iceland and Greenland and in another country which was "called Vinland on account of the wild grapes that grow there." Mention is also made by this writer of corn as growing in Vinland without cultivation. He declares his statements to be based on "trustworthy reports of the Danes." John Fiske thought Vinland lay somewhere between Point Judith and Cape Breton.



(About 1000 A.D.)

One summer a ship came from Norway to Greenland. The skipper's name was Thorfinn Karlsefni, and he was the son of Thord, called "Horsehead," and a grandson of Snorri. Thorfinn Karlsefni, who was a very wealthy man, passed the winter there in Greenland, with Lief Ericsson. He very soon set his heart upon a maiden called Gudrid, and sought her hand in marriage.

That same winter a new discussion arose concerning a Wineland voyage. The people urged Rarlsefni to make the bold venture, so he determined to undertake the voyage, and gathered a company of sixty men and five women. He entered into an agreement with his shipmates that they should each share equally in all the spoils. They took with them all kinds of cattle, as they intended to settle the country if they could. Karlsefni asked Lief for his house in Wineland. Lief replied that he would lend it but not give it.

They sailed out to sea with the ship, and arrived safe and sound at Lief's booths, and carried their hammocks ashore there. They were soon provided with an abundant supply of food, for a whale of good size and quality was driven ashore, and they secured it. Their cattle were turned out upon the land. Karlsefni ordered trees to be felled; for he needed timber wherewith to load his ships. They gathered some of all the products of the land—grapes, all kinds of game, fish, and other good things.

In the summer after the first winter the Skrellings[2] were discovered. A great throng of men came forth from the woods; the cattle were close by and the bull began to bellow and roar with a great noise. At this the Skrellings were frightened and ran away with their packs, wherein were gray furs, sables, and all kinds of skins. They fled toward Karlsefni's dwelling and tried to get into the house, but Karlsefni caused the doors to be defended. Neither people could understand the other's language. The Skrellings put down their packs, then opened them and offered their wares in exchange for weapons, but Karlsefni forbade his men to sell their weapons. He bade the women to carry out milk to the Skrellings; as soon as these people had tasted the milk, they wanted to buy it and nothing else.

Now it is to be told that Karlsefni caused a strong wooden palisade to be constructed and set up around the house. It was at this time that a baby boy was born to Gudrid and Karlsefni, and he was called Snorri. In the early part of the second winter the Skrellings came to them again in greater numbers than before, and brought with them the same kind of wares to exchange. Then said Karlsefni to the women, "Do ye carry out now the same thing which proved so profitable before, and nothing else." The Skrellings seemed contented at first, but soon after, while Gudrid was sitting in the doorway beside the cradle of her infant son, Snorri, she heard a great crash made by one of the Skrellings who had tried to seize a man's weapons. One of Karlsefni's followers killed him for it. "Now we must needs take counsel together," said Karlsefni, "for I believe they will visit us a third time in greater numbers. Let us now adopt this plan: when the tribe approaches from the forest, ten of our number shall go out upon the cape in front of our houses and show themselves there, while the remainder of our company shall go into the woods back of our houses and hew a clearing for our cattle. Then we will take our bull and let him go in advance of us to meet the enemy." The next time the Skrellings came they found Karlsefni's men ready and fled helter-skelter into the woods. Karlsefni and his party remained there throughout the winter, but in the spring Karlsefni announced that he did not intend to remain there longer, for he wished to return with his wife and son to Greenland. They now made ready for the voyage and carried away with them much in vines and grapes and skins.

[1] From the "Saga"' of Hauk Erlendsson. Except for the Norse discovery, the honor of being the first child of Anglo-Saxon race born in America would belong to Virginia Dare. Virginia Dare was born in Virginia during one of the attempted settlements under Sir Walter Raleigh. An account of her is given in Volume II of this work. Children of Spanish and French parents had, of course, been born in America before the date of Virginia Dare's birth.

[2] By Skrellings the author means natives.




No subsequent traces of the Norman colony in America are to be found until the year 1059, when it is said that an Irish or Saxon priest, named Jon or John, who had preached for some time as a missionary in Iceland, went to Vinland, for the purpose of converting the colonists to Christianity, where he was murdered by the heathens. A bishop of Greenland, named Erik, afterward (A.D. 1121) undertook the same voyage, for the same purpose, but with what success is uncertain. The authenticity of the Icelandic accounts of the discovery and settlement of Vinland were recognized in Denmark shortly after this period by King Svend Estrithson, or Sweno II, in a conversation which Adam of Bremen had with this monarch. But no further mention is made of them in the national annals, and it may appear doubtful what degree of credit is due to the relations of the Venetian navigators, the two brothers Zeni, who are said to have sailed in the latter part of the fourteenth century, in the service of a Norman prince of the Orcades, to the coasts of New England, Carolina, and even Mexico, or at least to have collected authentic accounts of voyages as far west and south as these countries. The land diseovered and peopled by the Norwegians is called by Antonio Zeni, Estotoland, and he states, among other particulars, that the princes of the country still had in their possession Latin books, which they did not understand, and which were probably those left by the bishop Erik during his mission.

Supposing these latter discoveries to be authentic, they could hardly have escaped the attention of Columbus, who had himself navigated in the arctic seas, but whose mind dwelt with such intense fondness upon his favorite idea of finding a passage to the East Indies, across the western ocean, that he might have neglected these indications of the existence of another continent in the direction pursued by the Venetian adventurers.

At all events, there is not the silghtest reason to believe that the illustrious Genoese was acquainted with the discovery of North America by the Normans five centuries before his time, however well authenticated that fact now appears to be by the Icelandic records to which we have referred. The colony established by them probably perished in the same manner with the ancient establishments in Greenland. Some faint traces of its existence may, perhaps, be found in the relations of the Jesuit missionaries respecting a native tribe in the district of Gaspe, at the mouth of the St. Lawrence, who are said to have attained a certain degree of civilization, to have worshiped the sun, and observed the position of the stars. Others revered the symbol of the cross before the arrival of the French missionaries, which, according to their tradition, had been taught them by a venerable person who cured, by this means, a terrible epidemic which raged among them.

[1] From Mr. Wheaton's "History of the Northmen," published in 1831. Mr. Wheaton was a native of Providence, R.I., and died in Roxbury, Mass., in 1848, at the age of 63. He was an eminent lawyer and publicist and author of "Elements of International Law," a legal classic.





It was early in the morning of Friday, the 3d of August, 1492, that Columbus set sail from the bar of Saltes, a small island formed by the rivers Odiel and Tinto, in front of Palos, steering for the Canary Islands, from whence he intended to strike due west. As a guide by which to sail, he had the conjectural map or chart sent him by Paolo Toscanelli, of Florence. In this it is supposed the coasts of Europe and Africa, from the south of Ireland to the end of Guinea, were delineated as immediately opposite to the extremity of Asia, while the great island of Cipango, described by Marco Polo, lay between them, 1,500 miles from the Asiatic coast. At this island Columbus expected first to arrive....

On losing sight of this last trace of land, the hearts of the crews failed them, for they seemed to have taken leave of the world. Behind them was everything dear to the heart of man—country, family, friends, life itself; before them everything was chaos, mystery, and peril. In the perturbation of the moment they despaired of ever more seeing their homes. Many of the rugged seamen shed tears, and some broke into loud lamentations. Columbus tried in every way to soothe their distress, describing the splendid countries to which he expected to conduct them, promising them land, riches, and everything that could arouse their cupidity or inflame their imaginations; nor were these promises made for purposes of deception, for he certainly believed he should realize them all.

He now gave orders to the commanders of the other vessels, in case they should be separated by any accident, to continue directly westward; but that, after sailing 700 leagues, they should lay by from midnight until daylight, as at about that distance he confidently expected to find land. Foreseeing that the vague terrors already awakened among the seamen would increase with the space which intervened between them and their homes, he commenced a stratagem which he continued throughout the voyage. This was to keep two reckonings, one private, in which the true way of the ship was noted, and which he retained in secret for his own government; the other public, for general inspection, in which a number of leagues was daily subtracted from the sailing of the ships so as to keep the crews in ignorance of the real distance they had advanced....

On the 13th of September, in the evening, Columbus, for the first time, noticed the variation of the needle, a phenomenon which had never before been remarked. He at first made no mention of it, lest his people should be alarmed; but it soon attracted the attention of the pilots, and filled them with consternation. It seemed as if the very laws of nature were changing as they advanced, and that they were entering another world, subject to unknown influences. They apprehended that the compass was about to lose its mysterious virtues, and, without this guide, what was to become of them in a vast and trackless ocean? Columbus tasked his science and ingenuity for reasons with which to allay their terrors. He told them that the direction of the needle was not to the polar star, but to some fixt and invisible point. The variation, therefore, was not caused by any fallacy in the compass, but by the movement of the north star itself, which, like the other heavenly bodies, had its changes and revolutions, and every day described a circle round the pole. The high opinion they entertained of Columbus as a profound astronomer gave weight to his theory, and their alarm subsided.

They had now arrived within the influence of the trade-wind, which, following the sun, blows steadily from east to west between the tropics, and sweeps over a few adjoining degrees of the ocean. With this propitious breeze directly aft, they were wafted gently but speedily over a tranquil sea, so that for many days they did not shift a sail. Columbus in his journal perpetually recurs to the bland and temperate serenity of the weather, and compares the pure and balmy mornings to those of April in Andalusia, observing that the song of the nightingale was alone wanting to complete the illusion....

They now began to see large patches of herbs and weeds, all drifting from the west. Some were such as grow about rocks or in rivers, and as green as if recently washed from the land. On one of the patches was a live crab. They saw also a white tropical bird, of a kind which never sleeps upon the sea; and tunny-fish played about the ships. Columbus now supposed himself arrived in the weedy sea described by Aristotle, into which certain ships of Cadiz had been driven by an impetuous east wind.

As he advanced, there were various other signs that gave great animation to the crews; many birds were seen flying from the west; there was a cloudiness in the north, such as often hangs over land; and at sunset the imagination of the seamen, aided by their desires, would shape those clouds into distant islands. Every one was eager to be the first to behold and announce the wished-for shore; for the sovereigns had promised a pension of thirty crowns to whomsoever should first discover land. Columbus sounded occasionally with a line of 200 fathoms, but found no bottom. Martin Alonzo Pinzon, as well as others of his officers and many of the seamen, were often solicitous for Columbus to alter his course and steer in the direction of these favorable signs; but he persevered in steering to the westward, trusting that by keeping in one steady direction, he should reach the coast of India, even if he should miss the intervening islands, and might then seek them on his return....

The situation of Columbus was daily becoming more and more critical. The impatience of the seamen arose to absolute mutiny. They gathered together in the retired parts of the ships, at first in little knots of two and three, which gradually increased and became formidable, joining in murmurs and menaces against the admiral. They exclaimed against him as an ambitious desperado who, in a mad fantasy, had determined to do something extravagant to render himself notorious. What obligation bound them to persist, or when were the terms of their agreement to be considered as fulfilled? They had already penetrated into seas untraversed by a sail, and where man had never before adventured. Were they to sail on until they perished, or until all return with their frail ships became impossible? Who would blame them should they consult their safety and return? The admiral was a foreigner, a man without friends or influence. His scheme had been condemned by the learned as idle and visionary, and discountenanced by people of all ranks. There was, therefore, no party on his side, but rather a large number who would be gratified by his failure.

Such are some of the reasonings by which these men prepared themselves for open rebellion. Some even proposed, as an effectual mode of silencing all after complaints of the admiral, that they should throw him into the sea, and give out that he had fallen overboard while contemplating the stars and signs of the heavens, with his astronomical instruments.

Columbus was not ignorant of these secret cabals, but he kept a serene and steady countenance, soothing some with gentle words, stimulating the pride or the avarice of others, and openly menacing the most refractory with punishment. New hopes diverted them for a time. On the 25th of September Martin Pinzon mounted on the stern of his vessel and shouted, "Land! land! Senor, I claim the reward!" There was, indeed, such an appearance of land in the southwest that Columbus threw himself upon his knees and returned thanks to God, and all the crews joined in chanting Gloria in Excelsis. The ships altered their course and stood all night to the southwest, but the morning light put an end to all their hopes as to a dream; the fancied land proved to be nothing but an evening cloud, and had vanished in the night....

He was now at open defiance with his crew, and his situation would have been desperate, but, fortunately, the manifestations of land on the following day were such as no longer to admit of doubt. A green fish, such as keeps about rocks, swam by the ships; and a branch of thorn, with berries on it, floated by; they picked up, also, a reed, a small board, and, above all, a staff artificially carved. All gloom and murmuring was now at an end, and throughout the day each one was on the watch for the long-sought land. They continued on their course until two in the morning, when a gun from the Pinto gave the joyful signal of land. It was first discovered by a mariner named Rodriguez Bermejo, resident of Triana, a suburb of Seville, but native of Alcala de la Guadaira; but the reward was afterward adjudged to the admiral, for having previously perceived the light. The land was now clearly seen about two leagues distant, whereupon they took in sail, and laid to, waiting impatiently for the dawn. .

When the day dawned, Columbus saw before him a level and beautiful island, several leagues in extent, of great freshness and verdure, and covered with trees like a continual orchard. Tho everything appeared in the wild luxuriance of untamed nature, yet the island was evidently populous, for the inhabitants were seen issuing from the woods, and running from all parts to the shore. They were all perfectly naked, and, from their attitudes and gestures, appeared lost in astonishment at the sight of the ships. Columbus made signal to cast anchor, and to man the boats. He entered his own boat richly attired in scarlet, and bearing the royal standard. Martin Alonzo Pinzon, and Vicente Yanez, the brother, likewise put off in their boats, each bearing the banner of the enterprise, emblazoned with a green cross, having on each side the letters F and Y, surmounted by crowns, the Spanish initials of the Castilian monarchs, Fernando and Ysabel.

As they approached the shores they were delighted by the beauty and grandeur of the forests; the variety of unknown fruits on the trees which overhung the shores; the purity and suavity of the atmosphere, and the crystal transparency of the seas which bathe these islands. On landing, Columbus threw himself upon his knees, kissed the earth, and returned thanks to God with tears of joy. His example was followed by his companions, whose breasts, indeed, were full to overflowing. Columbus, then rising, drew his sword, displayed the royal standard, and took possession, in the names of the Castilian sovereigns, giving the island the name of San Salvador. He then called upon all present to take the oath of obedience to him, as admiral and viceroy, and representative of the sovereigns.

His followers now burst forth into the most extravagant transports. They thronged around him, some embracing him, others kissing his hands. Those who had been most mutinous and turbulent during the voyage were now most devoted and enthusiastic. Some begged favors of him, as of a man who had already wealth and honors in his gift. Many abject spirits, who had outraged him by their insolence, now crouched at his feet, begging his forgiveness, and offering, for the future, the blindest obedience to his commands.

[1] From Irving's "Life of Columbus." By permission of the publishers, G.P. Putnam's Sons.



As I know that it will afford you pleasure that I have brought my undertaking to a successful result, I have determined to write to you this letter to inform you of everything that has been done and discovered in this voyage of mine....

On the thirty-third day after leaving Cadiz I came into the Indian Sea, where I discovered many islands inhabited by numerous people. I took possession of all of them for our most fortunate King by making public proclamation and unfurling his standard, no one making any resistance. To the first of them I have given the name of our blest Savior, trusting in whose aid I had reached this and all the rest; but the Indians call it Guanahani[2]. To each of the others also I gave a new name, ordering one to be called Sancta Maria de Concepcion, another Fernandina, another Hysabella, another Johana; and so with all the rest.

As soon as we reached the island which I have just said was called Johana, I sailed along its coast some considerable distance toward the west, and found it to be so large, without any apparent end, that I believed it was not an island, but a continent, a province of Cathay. But I saw neither towns nor cities lying on the seaboard, only some villages and country farms with whose inhabitants I could not get speech, because they fled as soon as they beheld us. I continued on, supposing I should come to city or country houses. At last, finding that no further discoveries rewarded our progress, and that this course was leading us toward the north, which I was desirous of avoiding, as it was now winter in these regions, and it had always been my intention to proceed southward, and the winds also were favorable to such desires, I concluded not to attempt any other adventures, so, turning back, I came again to a certain harbor, which I had remarked. From there I sent two of our men into the country to learn whether there was any king or cities in that land. They journeyed for three days, and found innumerable people and habitations, but small and having no fixt government, on which account they returned. Meanwhile I had learned from some Indians whom I had seized at this place, that this country was really an island. Consequently, I continued along toward the east, as much as 322 miles, always hugging the shore, where was the very extremity of the island. From there I saw another island to the eastwards, distant 54 miles from this Johana, which I named Hispana, and proceeded to it, and directed my course for 564 miles east by north as it were, just as I had done at Johana.

The island called Johana, as well as the others in its neighborhood, is exceedingly fertile. It has numerous harbors on all sides, very safe and wide, above comparison with any I have ever seen. Through it flow many very broad and health-giving rivers; and there are in it numerous very lofty mountains. All these islands are very beautiful, and of quite different shapes, easy to be traversed, and full of the greatest variety of trees reaching to the stars. I think these never lose their leaves, as I saw them looking as green and lovely as they are wont to be in the month of May in Spain. Some of them were in leaf, and some in fruit; each flourishing in the condition its nature required. The nightingale was singing and various other little birds, when I was rambling among them in the month of November. There are also in the island called Johana seven or eight kinds of palms, which as readily surpass ours in height and beauty as do all the other trees, herbs, and fruits. There are also wonderful pine-woods, fields, and extensive meadows, birds of various kinds, and honey, and all the different metals except iron.

In the island, which I have said before was called Hispana, there are very lofty and beautiful mountains, great farms, groves and fields, most fertile both for cultivation and for pasturage, and well adapted for constructing buildings. The convenience of the harbors in this island, and the excellence of the rivers, in volume and salubrity, surpass human belief, unless one should see them. In it the trees, pasture-lands, and fruits differ much from those of Johana. Besides, this Hispana abounds in various kinds of spices, gold, and metals.

The inhabitants of both sexes of this and of all the other islands I have seen, or of which I have any knowledge, always go as naked as they came into the world, except that some of the women cover parts of their bodies with leaves or branches, or a veil of cotton, which they prepare themselves for this purpose. They are all, as I said before, unprovided with any sort of iron, and they are destitute of arms, which are entirely unknown to them, and for which they are not adapted; not on account of any bodily deformity, for they are well made, but because they are timid and full of terror. They carry, however, canes dried in the sun in place of weapons, upon whose roots they fix a wooden shaft, dried and sharpened to a point. But they never dare to make use of these, for it has often happened, when I have sent two or three of my men to some of their villages to speak with the inhabitants, that a crowd of Indians has sallied forth; but, when they saw our men approaching, they speedily took to flight, parents abandoning their children, and children their parents.

This happened not because any loss or injury had been inflicted upon any of them. On the contrary, I gave whatever I had, cloth and many other things, to whomsoever I approached, or with whom I could get speech, without any return being made to me; but they are by nature fearful and timid. But, when they see that they are safe, and all fear is banished, they are very guileless and honest, and very liberal of all they have. No one refuses the asker anything that he possesses; on the contrary, they themselves invite us to ask for it. They manifest the greatest affection toward all of us, exchanging valuable things for trifles, content with the very least thing or nothing at all. But I forbade giving them a very trifling thing and of no value, such as bits of plates, dishes, or glass, also nails and straps; altho it seemed to them, if they could get such, that they had acquired the most beautiful jewels in the world.

For it chanced that a sailor received for a single strap as much weight of gold as three gold solidi; and so others for other things of less price, especially for new blancas, and for some gold coins, for which they gave whatever the seller asked; for instance, an ounce and a half or two ounces of gold, or thirty or forty pounds of cotton, with which they were already familiar. So, too, for pieces of hoops, jugs, jars, and pots they bartered cotton and gold like beasts. This I forbade, because it was plainly unjust; and I gave them many beautiful and pleasing things, which I had brought with me, for no return whatever, in order to win their affection, and that they might become Christians and inclined to love our king and queen and princes and all the people of Spain, and that they might be eager to search for and gather and give to us what they abound in and we greatly need.

They do not practise idolatry; on the contrary, they believe that all strength, all power, in short, all blessings, are from heaven, and that I have come down from there with these ships and sailors; and in this spirit was I received everywhere, after they had got over their fear They are neither lazy nor awkward, but, on the contrary, are of an excellent and acute understanding. Those who have sailed these seas give excellent accounts of everything; but they have never seen men wearing clothes, or ships like ours....

As soon as I had come into this sea, I took by force some Indians from the first island, in order that they might learn from us, and at the same time tell us what they knew about affairs in these regions. This succeeded admirably; for in a short time we understood them and they us, both by gesture and signs and words, and they were of great service to us. They are coming now with me, and have always believed that I have come from heaven, notwithstanding the long time they have been, and still remain, with us. They were the first who told this wherever we went, one calling to another, with a loud voice, "Come, come, you will see men from heaven." Whereupon both women and men, children and adults, young and old, laying aside the fear they had felt a little before, flocked eagerly to see us, a great crowd thronging about our steps, some bringing food, and others drink, with greatest love and incredible good will....

I have told already how I sailed in a straight course along the island of Johana from west to east 322 miles. From this voyage and the extent of my journeyings I can say that this Johana is larger than England and Scotland together. For beyond the aforesaid 322 miles, in that portion which looks toward the west, there are two more provinces, which I did not visit. One of them the Indians called Anan, and its inhabitants are born with tails. These provinces extend 180 miles, as I learned from the Indians, whom I am bringing with me, and who are well acquainted with all these islands....

Altho these matters are very wonderful and unheard of, they would have been much more so if the ships to a reasonable amount had been furnished me. But what has been accomplished is great and wonderful, and not at all proportionate to my deserts, but to the sacred Christian faith, and to the piety and religion of our sovereigns. For what the mind of man could not compass, the spirit of God has granted to mortals. For God is wont to listen to his servants who love his precepts, even in impossibilities, as has happened to me in the present instance, who have accomplished what human strength has hitherto never attained. For, if any one has written or told anything about these islands, all have done so either obscurely or by guesswork, so that it has almost seemed to be fabulous.

Therefore let king and queen and princes, and their most fortunate realms, and all other Christian provinces, let us all return thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who has bestowed so great a victory and reward upon us; let there be processions and solemn sacrifices prepared; let the churches be decked with festal boughs; let Christ rejoice upon earth as he rejoices in heaven, as He foresees that so many souls of so many people heretofore lost are to be saved; and let us be glad not only for the exaltation of our faith, but also for the increase of temporal prosperity, in which not only Spain, but all Christendom is about to share.

As these things have been accomplished, so have they been briefly narrated. Farewell.

[1] The first letter of Columbus, descriptive of his first voyage, was written in February, 1498, when he was off the Azores, on his return home. It was addrest to Louis de Santangel, the treasurer of King Ferdinand of Spain. Altho addrest to the treasurer, it was intended for the eyes of the King himself, and for those of his queen, Isabella. The letter was first printed in Barcelona, soon after the arrival of Columbus. Another account, substantially the same, was written by Columbus in Lisbon in March of the same year, an—at once translated into Latin and published in Rome in several editions, one being that of Stephen Plannck, of which five copies only are now known to be extant. Of this Plannck edition a translation from the Latin into English made by Henry W. Haynes has been published by the New York Public Library. From this translation the passage here given is taken.

[2] The identity of the island on which Columbus made his first landing was formerly much in controversy. The best opinion now inclines to accept the conclusions reached by Captain Beecher of the British Navy some fifty years ago, that the landing was made on what is known as Watling's Island, one of the Bahamas. This island is about thirteen miles long, north and south, and six wide, and is made up of coral, shell and other marine debris. A monument was erected on it by a Chicago newspaper in 1892, with this inscription: "On this spot Christopher Columbus first set foot on the soil of the New World." The monument is said already to be in a state of decay, having been poorly constructed. Watling's Island lies about 200 miles southeast of Nassau, and is nearly on a parallel with Havana, but lies 400 miles east of it. Its inhabitants number about 700, who are dispersed among fifteen hamlets. The horses on the island scarcely number 50. There are a few cows and several flocks of sheep. The people are all poor. Little is grown on the island, droughts occur, and starvation has in some years been prevented only by help from outside.



The copy of the bull, or donation, by the authority whereof Pope Alexander, the sixth of that name, gave and granted to the kings of Castile and their successors the regions and lands found in the west ocean sea by the navigations of the Spanish.

Alexander, bishop, the servant of the servants of God: To our most dearly beloved son in Christ, King Ferdinand, and to our dearly beloved daughter in Christ, Elizabeth, Queen of Castile, Leon, Aragon, Sicily, and Granada, most noble princes, greeting and apostolic benediction.

Among other works acceptable to the divine majesty and according to our hearts' desire, this certainly is the chief, that the Catholic faith and Christian religion, especially in this our time, may in all places be exalted, amplified, and enlarged, whereby the health of souls may be procured and the barbarous nations subdued and brought to the faith. And therefore, whereas by the favor of God's clemency (altho not without equal deserts), we are called to this holy seat of Peter, and understanding you to be true Catholic Princes as we have ever known you, and as your noble and worthy acts have declared in manner to the whole world, in that, with all your study, diligence, and industry, you have spared no travels, charges or perils, adventuring even the shedding of your own blood, with applying your whole minds and endeavors hereunto, as your noble expeditions achieved in recovering the kingdom of Granada from the tyranny of the Saracens in these our days, do plainly declare your acts with so great glory of the divine name. For the which, as we think you worthy, so ought we of our own free will favorably to grant you all things whereby you may daily, with more fervent minds to the honor of God and enlarging the Christian empire, prosecute your devout and laudable purpose most acceptable to the immortal God.

We are credibly informed that, whereas of late you were determined to seek and find certain islands and firm lands far remote and unknown (and not heretofore found by any other), to the intent to bring the inhabitants of the same to honor our Redeemer and to profess the Catholic faith, you have hitherto been much occupied in the expugnation and recovery of the kingdom of Granada, by reason whereof you could not bring your said laudable purpose to the end desired. Nevertheless, as it hath pleased Almighty God, the aforesaid kingdom being recovered, willing to accomplish your said desire, you have, not without great labor, perils, and charges, appointed our well-beloved son Christopher Columbus (a man very well commended as most worthy and apt for so great a matter), well furnished with men and ships and other necessaries, to seek (by the sea where hitherto no man bath sailed), such firm lands and islands far remote and hitherto unknown.

Who (by God's help), making diligent search in the ocean sea, have found certain remote islands and firm lands which were not heretofore found by any other. In the which (as is said), many nations inhabit, living peacefully and going naked, not accustomed to eat flesh. And as far as your messengers can conjecture, the nations inhabiting the aforesaid lands and islands believe that there is one God creature in heaven: and seem apt to be brought to the embracing of the Catholic faith and to be imbued with good manners: by reason whereof, we may hope that, if they be well instructed, they may easily be induced to receive the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ. We are further advertised that the aforenamed Christopher hath now builded and erected a fortress with good ammunition in one of the aforesaid principal islands, in the which he hath placed a garrison of certain of the Christian men that went thither with him: as well to the intent to defend the same, as also to search other islands and firm lands far remote and yet unknown. We also understand, that in these lands and islands lately found, is great plenty of gold and spices, with divers and many other precious things of sundry kinds and qualities.

Therefore all things diligently considered (especially the amplifying and enlarging of the Catholic faith, as it behooveth Catholic Princes following the examples of your noble progenitors of famous memory), whereas you are determined by the favor of Almighty God, to subdue and bring to the Catholic faith the inhabitants of the aforesaid lands and islands, we greatly commending this, your godly and laudable purpose in our Lord, and desirous to have the same brought to a due end, and the name of our Saviour to be known in those parts, do exhort you in our Lord and by the receiving of your holy baptism whereby you are bound to the Apostolic obedience, and earnestly require you by the bowels of mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, when you intend for the zeal of the Catholic faith to prosecute the said expedition to reduce the people of the aforesaid lands and islands to the Christian religion, you shall spare no labors at any time, or be deterred with any perils conceiving from hope and confidence that the omnipotent God will give good success to your godly attempts.

And that being authorized by the privilege of the Apostolic grace, you may the more freely and boldly take upon you the enterprise of so great a matter, we of our own motion, and not either at your request nor at the instant petition of any other person, but of our own mere liberality and certain science, and by the fulness of Apostolic power, do give, grant, and assign to you, your heirs and successors, all the firm lands and islands found or to be found, discovered or to be discovered toward the west and south, drawing a line from the pole Arctic to the pole Antarctic (that is) from the north to the south: containing in this donation, whatsoever firm lands or islands are found or to be found toward India or toward any other part whatsoever it be, being distant from, or without the aforesaid line drawn a hundred leagues toward the west and south from any of the islands which are commonly called De Los Azores and Cabo Verde. All the islands, therefore, and firm lands, found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered, from the said line toward the west and south, such as have not actually been heretofore possest by any other Christian king or prince until the day of the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ last passed, from the which beginneth this present year.

We, by the authority of almighty God granted unto us in Saint Peter, and by the office which we bear on the earth in the stead of Jesus Christ, do forever, by the tenure of these presents, give, grant, assign, unto you, your heirs, and successors (the kings of Castile and Leon), all those lands and islands, with their dominions, territories, cities, castles, towers, places, and villages, with all the right and jurisdictions thereunto pertaining: constituting, assigning, and deputing, you, your heirs, and successors the lords thereof, with full and free power, authority, and jurisdiction. Decreeing nevertheless by this, our donation, grant, and assignation, that from no Christian Prince which actually hath possest the aforesaid islands and firm lands unto the day of the nativity of our Lord beforesaid, their right obtained to be understood hereby to be taken away, or that it ought to be taken away.

Furthermore, we command you in the virtue of holy obedience (as you have promised, and we doubt not you will do upon mere devotion and princely magnanimity), to send to the said firm lands and islands honest, virtuous, and learned men, such as fear God, and are able to instruct the inhabitants in the Catholic faith and good manners, applying all their possible diligence in the premises.

We furthermore straightly inhibit all manner of persons, of what state, degree, order, or condition, soever they be, altho of Imperial and regal dignity, under the pain of the sentence of excommunication which they shall incur if they do to the contrary, that they in no case presume special license of you, your heirs, and successors, to travel for merchandise or for any other cause, to the said lands or islands, found or to be found, discovered or to be discovered, toward the west and south, drawing a line from the pole Arctic to the pole Antarctic, whether the firm lands and islands found and to be found, be situated toward India or toward any other part being distant from the line drawn a hundred leagues toward the west from any of the islands commonly called De Los Azores and Cabo Verde: Notwithstanding constitutions, decrees, and apostolic ordinances, whatsoever they are to the contrary:

In him from whom empires, dominions, and all good things do procede: Trusting that almighty God directing your enterprises, if you follow your godly and laudable attempts, your labors and travels herein, shall in short time obtain a happy end, with felicity and glory of all Christian people. But forasmuch as it should be a thing of great difficulty, these letters to be carried to all such places as should be expedient, we will, and of like motion and knowledge do decree that whithersoever the same shall be sent, or where soever they shall be received with the subscription of a common notary thereunto required, with the seal of any person constituted in ecelesiastical court, or such as are authorized by the ecclesiastical court, the same faith and credit to be given thereunto in judgment or elsewhere, as should be exhibited to these presents.

It shall therefore be lawful for no man to infringe or rashly to contradict this letter of our commendation, exhortation, request, donation, grant, assignation, constitution, deputation, decree, commandment, inhibition, and determination. And if any shall presume to attempt the same, he ought to know that he shall thereby incur the indignation of Almighty God and his holy Apostles, Peter and Paul.

Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's: In the year of the incarnation of our Lord M.CCCC lxx.xxiii. The fourth day of the month of May; the first year of our seat.

[1] Dated at Rome, May 4th, 1498. It was translated into English by Richard Eden in 1555, and is printed in Old English and from black-letter type, by Hart in his "American History Told by Contemporaries." For the present work the English has been modernized.

This famous bull was the result of rival claims, made by Spain and Portugal, to lands discovered beyond the Atlantic. More than half a century before Columbus found America, the Portuguese had secured from Pope Eugenius IV a grant in perpetuity of all heathen lands that might be discovered by them in further voyages. The grant went so far as to include "the Indies," and was confirmed by succeeding popes.

When Alexander VI issued his bull the America which Columbus had found was believed to be not a new continent, but the Indies, and the Portuguese, who had reached India by way of the Cape of Good Hope, were threatening to send an expedition across the Atlantic to take possession and dispute the Spanish claims. It was in these circumstances, and for the purpose of reconciling the rival states that Alexander issued the bull, John Fiske has said that, "As between the two rival powers the Pontiff's arrangement was made in a spirit of even-handed justice." The bull conferred on the Spanish sovereigns all the lands already discovered, or thereafter to be discovered in the western ocean, with jurisdiction and privileges In all respects similar to those formerly bestowed upon the crown of Portugal.

Alexander VI, the famous Borgia Pope, who was the father of Caesar Borgia and Lucretia Borgia, has been accused, somewhat loosely, of committing an act of foolish audacity in making this grant. He has been represented as having partitioned the whole American continent between Spain and Portugal. The accusation is quite unjust. The bull merely granted such lands as had been discovered, or might yet be discovered, and these lands were not understood to be those of a new continent, but parts of India not heretofore explored. As for any rights possest by other European countries, including England and France, those countries at that time had little, if any, interest in the discovery made by Columbus or, in fact, any actual knowledge of it.





As early as the reign of Edward III, sailors from Genoa and other foreign ports had served in the English navy. The increasing confusions of Italy after the French invasion naturally tempted her seamen to transfer their skill to the rising powers of western Europe. Among such emigrants was John Cabot, a Venetian, who settled in Bristol, and then, after a return to his own country, again revisited his adopted city. Of his earlier history and personal character we know nothing. Our own records furnish nothing but the scanty outlines of his career, and the one glimpse of light which is thrown upon the living man is due to a lately discovered letter from his countryman, the Venetian ambassador. Of his son, Sebastian, we know more. He was born in Bristol, returned with his parents to Venice when three years old, and revisited England as a boy or very young man. His features, marked with the lines of thought and hardship, still live on the canvas of Holbein; and one at least of the naval chroniclers of the day writes of him in the language of warm personal affection.

In 1496 a patent was granted to John Cabot and his sons, Lewis, Sebastian, and Sancius. This patent is interesting as the earliest surviving document which connects England with the New World. It gave the patentees full authority to sail with five ships under the royal ensign, and to set up the royal banner on any newly found land, as the vassals and lieutenants of the king. They were bound on their return to sail to Bristol and to pay a royalty of one-fifth upon all clear gain. The direction of the voyage, the cargo and size of the ships, and the mode of dealing with the natives, are all left to the discretion of the commander.

Of the details of the voyage itself, so full of interest for every Englishman, we have but the scantiest knowledge. In this respect the fame of Sebastian Cabot has fared far worse than that of the great discoverer with whom alone he may be compared. We can trace Columbus through every stage of his enterprise. We seem to stand by the side of the great admiral in his difficulties, his fears, his hopes, his victory. We can almost fancy that we are sharing in his triumph when at last he sails on that mission whose end he saw but in a glass darkly, victorious over the intrigues of courtiers, the avarice of princes, and the blindness of mere worldly wisdom. Our hearts once more sink as the cowardice of his followers threatens to undo all, and the prize that had seemed won is again in danger. We feel all the intensity of suspense as night after night land is promised and the morning brings it not. When at length the goal is reached, we can almost trick ourselves with the belief that we have a part in that glory, and are of that generation by whom and for whom that mighty work was wrought.

No such halo of romantic splendor surrounds the first voyage of Sebastian Cabot. A meager extract from an old Bristol record: "In the year 1497, June 24, on St. John's Day, was Newfoundland found by Bristol men in a ship called the Matthew"—a few dry statements such as might be found in the note-book of any intelligent sea captain—these are all the traces of the first English voyage which reached the New World. We read in an account, probably published under the eye of Cabot himself, that on June 24, at five o'clock in the morning, he discovered that land which no man before that time had attempted, and named it Prima Vista. An adjacent island was called St. John, in commemoration of the day. A few statements about the habits of the natives and the character of the soil and the fisheries make up the whole story. We may, perhaps, infer that Cabot meant this as a report on the fitness of the place for trade and fishing, knowing that these were the points which would excite most interest in England. One entry from the privy purse expenses of Henry VII, "10L to hym that found the new isle," is the only other record that remains to us. Columbus was received in solemn state by the sovereigns of Aragon and Castile, and was welcomed by a crowd greater than the streets of Barcelona could hold. Cabot was paid L10. The dramatic splendor of the one reception, the prosaic mercantile character of the other, represent the different tempers in which Spain and England approached the task of American discovery.

But tho our own annals give us so scanty an account of the reception of the two Cabots, the want is to some extent supplied from a foreign source. Letters are extant from the Venetian ambassador, in which he describes with just pride the enthusiasm with which his countryman was received by the people when he walked along the streets.

The next year saw Cabot again sailing with a fresh patent. Several points in it are worthy of notice. John Cabot is alone mentioned by name. From this it might be, and, indeed, has been inferred that the part played by Sebastian Cabot in the first voyage was merely secondary, and that John was the principal conductor of the first voyage, as he was by the patent designed to be of the second. He is authorized in person or by deputy to take six English ships of not more than 200 tons burden each, and to lead them to the land which he had lately discovered. There is no limitation, either of departure or return, to Bristol, and no mention is made of royalties. Probably the original provisions were still regarded as binding, except so far as rescinded or modified by the second patent.

In 1498 Sebastian Cabot sailed from Bristol with one vessel manned and victualed at the king's expense, accompanied by three ships of London, and probably some of Bristol itself. His cargo consisted of "grosse and sleighte wares," for trafficking with the natives. So scanty are the records of Cabot's two expeditions, that altho we know the geographical extent of his discoveries, yet it is impossible to assign to each voyage its proper share. We know that in one or other of them he reached 67-1/2 degrees of north latitude, and persuaded himself that he had found the passage to Cathay. The fears, however, of his sailors, justified, perhaps, by the dangers of the north seas, withheld him from following up the enterprise. He then turned southward and coasted till he came into the latitude of 38. Of the result of the second voyage and of Sebastian Cabot's reception in England we hear nothing. He disappears for a while from English history, carrying with him the unfulfilled hope of a northwest passage, destined to revive at a later day, and then to give birth to some of the most daring exploits that have ever ennobled the names of Englishmen.

[1] From Doyle's "English Colonies in America." Published by Henry Holt & Co. The Cabots in 1497 discovered what came to be known afterward as the continent of North America, Columbus in 1492 having discovered only islands in the West Indies. The work of the Cabots in after years was a basis of English claims to the continent because of priority of discovery. It was not until his third expedition, fourteen months after the discovery made by the Cabots, that Columbus first saw the North American mainland.



These northe seas haue byn [have been] searched by one Sebastian Cabot, a Venetian borne [born], whom beinge yet but in maner an infante, his parentes caryed [carried] with them into Englande hauying [having] occasion to resorte thether [thither] for trade of marchandies [merchandise], as is the maner of the Venetians to leaue [leave] no parte of the worlde vnsearched to obteyne [obtain] richesse [riches]. He therfore furnisshed two shippes in England at his owne charges: And fyrst [first] with three hundreth men, directed his course so farre toward the northe pole, that euen [even] in the mooneth [month] of Iuly he founde monstrous heapes of Ise [ice] swimming on the sea, and in maner continuall day lyght. Yet sawe he the lande in that tracte, free from Ise, whiche had byn [been] molten by heate of the sunne.

Thus seyng [seeing] suche heapes of Ise before hym he was enforced to tourne [turn] his sayles and folowe the weste, so coastynge styll by the shore, that he was thereby broughte so farre into the southe by reason of the lande bendynge so much southward that it was there almoste equall in latitude with the sea cauled [called] Fretum Herculeum, hauynge the north pole eleuate in maner in the same degree. He sayled lykewise in this tracte so farre towarde the weste, that he had the Ilande of Cuba [on] his lefte hande in maner in the same degree of langitude. As he traueyled [traveled] by the coastes of this greate lande (whiche he named Baccallaos) he sayth that he found the like course of the waters toward the west, but the same to runne more softely and gentelly [gently] then [than] the swifte waters whiche the Spanyardes found in their nauigations southeward.

Wherefore, it is not onely [only] more lyke to bee trewe [true], but ought also of necessitie to be concluded that betwene both the landes hetherto vnknowen, there shulde bee certeyne great open places wherby the waters shulde thus continually passe from the East into the weste: which waters I suppose to bee dryuen [driven] about the globe of the earth by the vncessaunt mouynge [moving] and impulsion of the heauens: and not to be swalowed vp [up] and cast owt [out] ageyne [again] by the breathynge of Demogorgon as sume [some] haue imagined bycause they see the seas by increase and decrease, to flowe and reflowe. Sebastian Cabot him selfe, named those landes Baccallaos, bycause that in the seas therabout he founde so great multitudes of certeyne [certain] bigge fysshes [fishes] much lyke vnto tunies [tunnies] (which th[e] inhabitantes caule [call] Baccallaos) that they sumtymes stayed his shippes. He founde also the people of those regions couered with beastes skynnes: yet not without th[e] use of reason.

He saythe [saith] also that there is greate plentie of beares in those regions, whiche vse to eate fysshe. For plungeinge thym selues [themselves] into the water where they perceue [perceive] a multitude of these fysshes to lye, they fasten theyr [their] clawes in theyr scales, and so drawe them to lande and eate them. So that (as he saith) the beares beinge thus satisfied with fysshe, are not noysom to men. He declareth further, that in many places of these regions, he sawe great plentie of laton amonge th[e] inhabitantes. Cabot is my very frende, whom I vse famylierly, and delyte [delight] to haue hym sumtymes keepe mee company in myne owne house. For beinge cauled owte [out] of England by the commaundement of the catholyke kynge of Castile after the deathe of Henry kynge of Englande the seuenth of that name, he was made one of owre [our] counsayle and assystance as touchynge the affayres [affairs] of the newe Indies, lookynge dayely for shippes to bee furnysshed for hym to discouer this hyd secreate of nature. This vyage is appoynted to bee begunne in March in the yeare next folowynge, beinge the yeare of Chryst M.D.XVI. What shall succeade, yowre [your] holynes shalbe aduertised by my letters if god graunte me lyfe [life]. Sume of the Spanyardes denye that Cabot was the fyrst fynder of the lande of Baccallaos: And afflrme that he went not so farre westewarde. But it shall suffice to haue sayde thus much of the goulfes [gulfs] & strayghtes [straits], and of Cebastian Cabot..

[1] Peter Martyr, a native of Milan, resided for some years at the Spanish court. The account he gives in this article of the voyage of the Cabots is based on information received by him directly from Sabastian Cabot, when Cabot was employed as pilot in the service of Spain. Martyr's account is the earliest complete narrative of this voyage now extant. It therefore takes high rank—in fact, is the corner-stone—among documents pertaining to steps by which English civilization became supreme in North America. The translation here given, made by Richard Eden, was published in London in 1555.




We left the port of Cadiz four consort ships: and began our voyage in direct course to the Fortunate Isles, which are called to-day la gran Canaria, which are situated in the Ocean-sea at the extremity of the inhabited west, (and) set in the third climate: over which the North Pole has an elevation of 27 and a half degrees beyond their horizon: and they are 280 leagues distant from this city of Lisbon, by the wind between mezzo di and libeccio: where we remained eight days, taking in provision of water, and wood and other necessary things: and from here, having said our Pier prayers, we weighed anchor, and gave the sails to the wind, beginning our course to westward, taking one-quarter by southwest: and so we sailed on till at the end of 37 days we reached a land which we deemed to be a continent: which is distant westwardly from the isles of Canary about a thousand leagues beyond the inhabited region within the torrid zone: for we found the North Pole at an elevation of 16 degrees above its horizon, and (it was) westward, according to the shewing of our instruments, 75 degrees from the isles of Canary: whereat we anchored with our ships a league and a half from land: and we put out our boats freighted with men and arms.

We made toward the land, and before we reached it, had sight of a great number of people who were going along the shore: by which we were much rejoiced: and we observed that they were a naked race: they shewed themselves to stand in fear of us: I believe (it was) because they saw us clothed and of other appearance (than their own): they all withdrew to a hill, and for whatsoever signals we made to them of peace and of friendliness, they would not come to parley with us: so that, as the night was now coming on, and as the ships were anchored in a dangerous place, being on a rough and shelterless coast, we decided to remove from there the next day, and to go in search of some harbour or bay, where we might place our ships in safety: and we sailed with the maestrale wind, thus running along the coast with the land ever in sight, continually in our course observing people along the shore: till after having navigated for two days, we found a place sufficiently secure for the ships, and anchored half a league from land, on which we saw a very great number of people.

This same day we put to land with the boats, and sprang on shore full 40 men in good trim: and still the land's people appeared shy of converse with us, and we were unable to encourage them so much as to make them come to speak with us: and this day we laboured so greatly in giving them of our wares, such as rattles and mirrors, beads, spalline, and other trifles, that some of them took confidence and came to discourse with us: and after having made good friends with them, the night coming on, we took our leave of them and returned to the ships: and the next day when the dawn appeared we saw that there were infinite numbers of people upon the beach, and they had their women and children with them: we went ashore, and found that they were all laden with their worldly goods which are suchlike as, in its (proper) place, shall be related: and before we reached the land, many of them jumped into the sea and came swimming to receive us at a bowshot's length (from the shore), for they are very great swimmers, with as much confidence as if they had for a long time been acquainted with us: and we were pleased with this, their confidence.

For so much as we learned of their manner of life and customs, it was that they go entirely naked, as well the men as the women. They are of medium stature, very well proportioned: their flesh is of a colour that verges into red like a lion's mane: and I believe that if they went clothed, they would be as white as we: they have not any hair upon the body, except the hair of the head, which is long and black, and especially in the women, whom it renders handsome. In aspect they are not very good-looking, because they have broad faces, so that they would seem Tartar-like: they let no hair grow on their eyebrows, nor on their eyelids, nor elsewhere, except the hair of the head: for they hold hairiness to be a filthy thing: they are very light footed in walking and in running, as well the men as the women: so that a woman reeks nothing of running a league or two, as many times we saw them do: and herein they have a very great advantage over us Christians: they swim (with an expertness) beyond all belief, and the women better than the men: for we have many times found and seen them swimming two leagues out at sea without anything to rest upon. Their arms are bows and arrows very well made, save that (the arrows) are not (tipped) with iron nor any other kind of hard metal: and instead of iron they put animals' or fishes' teeth, or a spike of tough wood, with the point hardened by fire: they are sure marksmen, for they hit whatever they aim at: and in some places the women use these bows: they have other weapons, such as fire-hardened spears, and also clubs with knobs, beautifully carved.... Warfare is used amongst them, which they carry on against people not of their own language, very cruelly, without granting life to any one, except (to reserve him) for greater suffering.

Their dwellings are in common: and their houses (are) made in the style of huts, but strongly made, and constructed with very large trees, and covered over with palm-leaves, secure against storms and winds: and in some places (they are) of so great breadth and length, that in one single house we found there were 600 souls: and we saw a village of only thirteen houses where there were four thousand souls: every eight or ten years they change their habitations: and when asked why they did so: (they said it was) because of the soil, which, from its filthiness, was already unhealthy and corrupted, and that it bred aches in their bodies, which seemed to us a good reason: their riches consist of birds' plumes in many colours, or of rosaries which they make from fishbones, or of white or green stones which they put in their cheeks and in their lips and ears, and of many other things which we in no wise value: they use no trade, they neither buy nor sell. In fine, they live and are contented with that which nature gives them. The wealth that we enjoy in this our Europe and elsewhere, such as gold, jewels, pearls, and other riches, they hold as nothing: and altho they have them in their own lands, they do not labour to obtain them, nor do they value them. They are liberal in giving, for it is rarely they deny you anything, and on the other hand, liberal in asking, when they shew themselves your friends.

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