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that he was an adventurer, or, at best, a visionary; and others had that morbid impatience of any innovation upon established doctrine, which is apt to grow upon dull and pedantic men in cloistered life. The hall of the old convent presented a striking spectacle. A simple mariner standing forth in the midst of an imposing array of clerical and collegiate sages; maintaining his theory with natural eloquence, and, as it were, pleading the cause of the new world. We are told, that when he began to state the grounds of his theory, the friars of St. Stephen alone paid attention to him. The others appeared to have intrenched themselves behind one dogged position, namely, that, after so many profound philosophers had occupied themselves in geographical investigations, and so many able navigators had been voyaging about the world for ages, it was a great presumption in an ordinary man to suppose that there remained such a vast discovery for him to make.

Several of the objections opposed by this learned body have been handed down to us, and have provoked many a sneer at the expense of the university of Salamanca; but they are proofs rather of the imperfect state of science at the time, and of the manner in which knowledge, though rapidly advancing, was still impeded in its progress by monastic bigotry. Thus, at the very threshold of the discussion, Columbus was assailed with citations from the Bible, and the works of the early fathers of the church, which were thought incompatible with his theory: doctrinal points were mixed up with philosophical discussions, and even a mathematical demonstration was allowed no truth, if it appeared to

clash with a text of scripture, or a commentary of one of the fathers. Thus the possibility of the existence of antipodes in the southern hemisphere, though maintained by the wisest of the ancients, was disputed by some of the sages of Salamanca, on the authority of Lactantius and St. Augustine, those two great luminaries of what has been called the golden age of ecclesiastical learning. "Is there any one so foolish," asks Lactantius, "as to believe that there are antipodes with their feet opposite to ours; people who walk with their heels upward and their heads hanging down? That there is a part of the world in which all things are topsy-turvy; where the trees grow with their branches downward, and where it rains, hails, and snows upwards? The idea of the roundness of the earth," he adds, was the cause of inventing this fable; for these philosophers having once erred, go on in their absurdities, defending one with another.”


Objections of a graver nature, and more dignified tone, were advanced on the authority of St. Augustine. He pronounces the doctrine of antipodes incompatible with the historical foundations of our faith; since to assert that there were inhabited lands on the opposite side of the globe would be to maintain that there were nations not descended from Adam, it being impossible for them to have passed the intervening_ocean. This would be, therefore, to discredit the Bible, which expressly declares, that all men are descended from one common parent.

Such were the unlooked-for prejudices which Columbus had to encounter, at the very outset of his conference, and which certainly savour more of the convent than the university. To his simplest

proposition, the spherical form of the earth, were opposed figurative texts of scripture. In the Psalms, the heavens are said to be extended over the earth like a hide, that is to say, like the covering of a tent, which, among the ancient pastoral nations, was formed of the hides of animals; St. Paul also, in his epistle to the Hebrews, compares the heavens to a tabernacle or tent spread over the earth: hence these casuists maintained that the earth must be flat, like the bottom of the tent. Others admitted the globular form of the earth, and the possibility of an opposite and inhabitable hemisphere, but maintained that it would be impossible to arrive there in consequence of the heat of the torrid zone. As for steering to the west in search of India, they observed that the circumference of the earth must be so great as to require at least three years to the voyage, and those who should undertake it must perish of hunger and thirst, from the impossibility of carrying provisions for so long a period. Not the least absurd objection advanced was, that should a ship even succeed in reaching the extremity of India, she could never get back again, for the rotundity of the globe would present a kind of mountain, up which it would be impossible for her to sail with the most favourable wind.

Such are specimens of the errors and prejudices, the mingled error and erudition, with which Columbus had to contend, throughout the examination of his theory. Many of these objections, however, which appear so glaringly absurd at the present day, were incident to the imperfect state of knowledge of the time. The rotundity of the earth was as yet a matter of mere speculation: no one could tell

whether the ocean were not of too vast extent to be traversed; nor were the laws of specific gravity, and of central gravitation, ascertained, by which, granting the earth to be a sphere, the possibility of making the tour of it would be manifest.

When Columbus took his stand before this learned body, he had appeared the plain and simple navigator, somewhat daunted, perhaps, by the greatness of his task, and the august nature of his auditory; but he had a degree of religious feeling, which gave him a confidence in the execution of what he conceived his great errand, and he was of an ardent temperament, that became heated in action by its own generous fires. All the objections drawn from ancient philosophers he met boldly and upon equal terms, for he was deeply studied on all points of cosmography, and he disproved many by his own. experience, gathered in the course of his extensive voyages, in which he had penetrated both the torrid and the frozen zone. Nor was he to be daunted by the scriptural difficulties opposed to him, for here he was peculiarly at home. His contemporaries have spoken of his commanding person, his elevated demeanour, his air of authority, his kindling eye, and the persuasive intonations of his voice. How must

they have given majesty and force to his words, as, casting aside his maps and charts, and discarding, for a time, his practical and scientific lore, his visionary spirit took fire, and he met his doctrinal opponents upon their own ground, pouring forth those magnificent texts of scripture, and those mysterious predictions of the prophets, which, in his enthusiastic moments, he considered as types and annunciations of the sublime discovery which he proposed!

It is but justice to add, that many of his learned hearers were convinced by his reasoning, and warmed by his eloquence; among the number of these was Diego de Deza, a worthy friar of the order of St. Dominic, at that time professor of theology in the convent of St. Stephen, but who became afterwards Archbishop of Seville, the second ecclesiastical dignity of Spain. He was an able and erudite man, above the narrow bigotry of bookish lore, and could appreciate the value of wisdom, even when uttered by unlearned lips. He seconded Columbus with all his powers and influence, and by their united efforts they brought over several of the most intelligent men of the assembly. Still there was a preponderating mass of inert bigotry, and learned pride, in the erudite body, which refused to yield to the demonstrations of an obscure foreigner, without fortune or connexions, or any academic honours. After this celebrated examination of Columbus, the board held occasional conferences, but without coming to any decision: Fernando de Talavera, to whom the matter was especially intrusted, had too little esteem for it, and was too much occupied by the stir and bustle of public concerns, to press it to a conclusion; his departure with the court from Cordova, early in the spring of 1487, put an end to the consultations, and left Columbus in a state of the most tantalizing suspense.

For several years he followed the movements of the court, continually flattered with hopes of success. Conferences were appointed at various places, but the tempest of warlike affairs, which hurried the court from place to place, and gave it the bustle and confusion of a camp, continually swept away all matters

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