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thought only on war and conquest, as their empire increased, commerce was discouraged; till under the latter emperours, ships seem to have been of little other use than to transport soldiers.
Navigation could not be carried to any great degree of certainty without the compass, which was unknown to the ancients. The wonderful quality by which a needle or small bar of steel, touched with a loadstone or magnet, and turning freely by equilibration on a point, always preserves the meridian, and directs its two ends north and south, was discovered, according to the common opinion, in 1299, by John Gola of Amalfi, a town in Italy.
. From this time it is reasonable to suppose that navigation made continual, though slow, improvements, which the confusion and barbarity of the times, and the want of communication between orders of men so distant as sailors and monks, hindered from being distinctly and successively recorded.
It seems, however, that the sailors still wanted either knowledge or courage, for they continued for two centuries to creep along the coast, and considered every headland as unpassable, which ran far into the sea, and against which the waves broke with uncommon agitation.
The first who is known to have formed the design of new discoveries, or the first who had power to execute his purposes, was Don Henry the fifth", son of John, the first king of Portugal, and Philippina, sister of Henry the fourth of England. Don Henry, having attended his father to the conquest of Ceuta, obtained, by conversation with the inhabitants of the continent, some accounts of the interiour kingdoms and southern coast of Africa; which, though rude and indistinct, were sufficient to raise his curiosity, and convince him, that there were countries yet unknown and worthy of discovery.
He, therefore, equipped some small vessels, and commanded that they should pass, as far as they could, along
Read Mickle's very excellent introduction to his translation of Camoens' Lusiad.-Ed.
that coast of Africa which looked upon the great Atlantick ocean, the immensity of which struck the gross and unskilful navigators of those times with terrour and amazement. He was not able to communicate his own ardour to his seamen, who proceeded very slowly in the new attempt; each was afraid to venture much farther than he that went before him, and ten years were spent before they had advanced beyond cape Bajador, so called from its progression into the ocean, and the circuit by which it must be doubled. The opposition of this promontory to the course of the sea, produced a violent current and high waves, into which they durst not venture, and which they had not yet knowledge enough to avoid, by standing off from the land into the open sea.
The prince was desirous to know something of the countries that lay beyond this formidable cape, and sent two commanders, named John Gonzales Zarco, and Tristan Vas, in 1418, to pass beyond Bajador, and survey the coast behind it. They were caught by a tempest, which drove them out into the unknown ocean, where they expected to perish by the violence of the wind, or, perhaps, to wander for eyer in the boundless deep. At last, in the midst of their despair, they found a small island, where they sheltered themselves, and which the sense of their deliverance disposed them to call Puerto Santo, or the Holy Haven.
When they returned with an account of this new island, Henry performed a publick act of thanksgiving, and sent them again with seeds and cattle; and we are told by the Spanish historian, that they set two rabbits on shore, which increased so much in a few years, that they drove away the inhabitants, by destroying their corn and plants, and were suffered to enjoy the island without opposition.
In the second or third voyage to Puerto Santo, (for authors do not agree which,) a third captain, called Perello, was joined to the two former. As they looked round the island upon the ocean, they saw at a distance something which they took for a cloud, till they perceived that it did
not change its place. They directed their course towards it, and, in 1419, discovered another island covered with trees, which they, therefore, called Madera, or the Isle of Wood.
Madera was given to Vaz or Zarco, who set fire to the woods, which are reported by Souza 'to have burnt for seven years together, and to have been wasted, till want of wood was the greatest inconveniency of the place. But green wood is not very apt to burn, and the heavy rains which fall in these countries must, surely, have extinguished the conflagration, were it ever so violent.
There was yet little progress made upon the southern coast, and Henry's project was treated as chimerical by many of his countrymen. At last Gilianes, in 1433, passed the dreadful cape, to which he gave the name of Bajador, and came back, to the wonder of the nation.
In two voyages more, made in the two following years, they passed forty-two leagues farther, and in the latter, two men with horses being set on shore, wandered over the country, and found nineteen men, whom, according to the savage manners of that age, they attacked; the natives, having javelins, wounded one of the Portuguese, and received some wounds from them. At the mouth of a river they found sea-wolves in great numbers, and brought home many of their skins, which were much esteemed.
Antonio Gonzales, who had been one of the associates of Gilianes, was sent again, in 1440, to bring back a cargo of the skins of sea-wolves. He was followed in another ship by Nunno Tristam. They were now of strength sufficient to venture upon violence; they, therefore, landed, and, without either right or provocation, made all whom they seized their prisoners, and brought them to Portugal, with great commendations both from the prince and the nation.
Henry now began to please himself with the success of his projects, and, as one of his purposes was the conversion of infidels, he thought it necessary to impart his undertaking to the pope, and to obtain the sanction of eccle
siastical authority. To this end Fernando Lopez d'Azevedo was despatched to Rome, who related to the pope and cardinals the great designs of Henry, and magnified his zeal for the propagation of religion. The pope was pleased with the narrative, and by a formal bull, conferred upon the crown of Portugal all the countries which should be discovered as far as India, together with India itself, and granted several privileges and indulgences to the churches which Henry had built in his new regions, and to the men engaged in the navigation for discovery. By this bull all other princes were forbidden to encroach upon the conquests of the Portuguese, on pain of the censures incurred by the crime of usurpation.
The approbation of the pope, the sight of men, whose manners and appearance were so different from those of Europeans, and the hope of gain from golden regions, which has been always the great incentive to hazard and discovery, now began to operate with full force. The desire of riches and of dominion, which is yet more pleasing to the fancy, filled the court of the Portuguese prince with innumerable adventurers from very distant parts of Europe. Some wanted to be employed in the search after new countries, and some to be settled in those which had been already found.
Communities now began to be animated by the spirit of enterprise, and many associations were formed for the equipment of ships, and the acquisition of the riches of distant regions, which, perhaps, were always supposed to be more wealthy, as more remote. These undertakers agreed to pay the prince a fifth part of the profit, sometimes a greater share, and sent out the armament at their own expense,
The city of Lagos was the first that carried on this design by contribution. The inhabitants fitted out six vessels, under the command of Lucarot, one of the prince's household, and soon after fourteen more were furnished for the same purpose, under the same commander; to those were added many belonging to private men, so that,
in a short time, twenty-six ships put to sea in quest of whatever fortune should present.
The ships of Lagos were soon separated by foul weather, and the rest, taking each its own course, stopped at different parts of the African coast, from cape Blanco to cape Verd. Some of them, in 1444, anchored at Gomera, one of the Canaries, where they were kindly treated by the inhabitants, who took them into their service against the people of the isle of Palma, with whom they were at war; but the Portuguese, at their return to Gomera, not being made so rich as they expected, fell upon their friends, in contempt of all the laws of hospitality and stipulations of alliance, and, making several of them prisoners and slaves, set sail for Lisbon.
The Canaries are supposed to have been known, however imperfectly, to the ancients; but, in the confusion of the subsequent ages, they were lost and forgotten, till, about the year 1340, the Biscayners found Lucarot, and invading it, (for to find a new country, and invade it has always been the same,) brought away seventy captives, and some commodities of the place. Louis de la Cerda, count of Clermont, of the blood royal both of France and Spain, nephew of John de la Cerda, who called himself the Prince of Fortune, had once a mind to settle in those islands, and applying himself first to the king of Arragon, and then to Clement the sixth, was by the pope crowned at Avignon, king of the Canaries, on condition that he should reduce them to the true religion; but the prince altered his mind, and went into France to serve against the English. The kings both of Castile and Portugal, though they did not oppose the papal grant, yet complained of it, as made without their knowledge, and in contravention of their rights.
The first settlement in the Canaries was made by John de Betancour, a French gentleman, for whom his kinsman Robin de Braquement, admiral of France, begged them, with the title of king, from Henry the magnificent of Castile, to whom he had done eminent services. John