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Published as the Act directs, by John Murray. Albemarle Str: Feb 1830.
mariners, and the inhabitants of the lately discovered islands, who were placed, in a manner, on the frontier posts of geographical knowledge. One Antonio Leone, an inhabitant of Madeira, told him, that in sailing westward one hundred leagues, he had seen three islands at a distance. A mariner of Port St. Mary, also, asserted, that in the course of a voyage to Ireland, he had seen land to the west, which the ship's company took for some extreme part of Tartary. One Martin Vicenti, a pilot in the service of the King of Portugal, assured Columbus that, after sailing four hundred and fifty leagues to the west of Cape St. Vincent, he had taken from the water a piece of carved wood, evidently not laboured with an iron instrument. As the wind had drifted it from the west, it might have come from some unknown land in that direction.
Pedro Correo, brother-in-law of Columbus, also informed him, that he had seen a similar piece of wood, on the island of Porto Santo, which had drifted from the same quarter, and he had heard from the King of Portugal that reeds of an immense size had floated to those islands from the west, which Columbus supposed to be the kind of reeds of enormous magnitude described by Ptolemy as growing in India. Trunks of huge pine trees, of a kind that did not grow upon any of the islands, had been wafted to the Azores by westerly winds. The inhabitants also informed him that the bodies of two dead men had been cast upon the island of Flores, whose features had caused great wonder and speculation, being different from those of any known race of people.
Such are the principal grounds on which, ac
cording to Fernando Columbus, his father proceeded from one position to another of his theory. It is evident, however, that the grand argument which induced him to his enterprise was the one first cited; namely, that the most eastern part of Asia known to the ancients could not be separated from the Azores by more than a third of the circumference of the globe; that the intervening space must, in a great measure, be filled up by the unknown residue of Asia; and that, as the circumference of the world was less than was generally supposed, the Asiatic shores could easily be attained by a moderate voyage to the west. It is
singular how much the success of this great enterprise depended upon two happy errors, the imaginary extent of Asia to the east, and the supposed small-. ness of the earth; both errors of the most learned and profound philosophers, but without which Columbus would hardly have ventured into the western regions of the Atlantic, in whose unknown and perhaps immeasurable waste of waters he might perish before he could reach a shore.
When Columbus had once formed his theory, it became fixed in his mind with singular firmness. He never spoke in doubt or hesitation, but with as much certainty as if his eyes had beheld the promised land. A deep religious sentiment mingled with his thoughts, and gave them at times a tinge of superstition, but of a sublime and lofty kind. He looked upon himself as standing in the hand of heaven, chosen from among men for the accomplishment of its high purpose; he read, as he supposed, his contemplated discovery foretold in Holy Writ, and shadowed forth darkly in the prophecies. The
ends of the earth were to be brought together, and all nations, and tongues, and languages, united under the banners of the Redeemer.
The enthusiastic nature of his conceptions gave an elevation to his spirit, and a dignity and loftiness to his whole demeanour. He conferred with sovereigns almost with a feeling of equality. His proposed discovery was of empires; his conditions were proportionally magnificent, nor would he ever, even after long delays, repeated disappointments, and when under the pressure of actual penury, abate what appeared to others extravagant demands. Those who could not conceive how an ardent and comprehensive mind could arrive by presumptive evidence at so firm a conviction, sought for other modes of accounting for it; and gave countenance to an idle tale of his having received previous information of the western world, from a tempesttost pilot, who had died in his house, bequeathing him written accounts of an unknown land in the west, upon which he had been driven by adverse winds. This, and other attempts to cast a shade upon his fame, have been diligently examined and refuted; and it appears evident that his great enterprise was the bold conception of his genius, quickened by the impulse of the age, and aided by those scattered gleams of knowledge, which fall ineffectually upon ordinary minds.