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made himself master of some of the isles, but could never conquer the grand Canary; and having spent all that he had, went back to Europe, leaving his nephew, Massiot de Betancour, to take care of his new dominion. Massiot had a quarrel with the vicar-general, and was, likewise, disgusted by the long absence of his uncle, whom the French king detained in his service, and being able to keep his ground no longer, he transferred his rights to Don Henry, in exchange for some districts in the Madera, where he settled his family.
Don Henry, when he had purchased those islands, sent thither, in 1424, two thousand five hundred foot, and a hundred and twenty horse; but the army was too numerous to be maintained by the country. The king of Castile afterwards claimed them, as conquered by his subjects under Betancour, and held under the crown of Castile by fealty and homage: his claim was allowed, and the Canaries were resigned.
It was the constant practice of Henry's navigators, when they stopped at a desert island, to land cattle upon it, and leave them to breed, where, neither wanting room nor food, they multiplied very fast, and furnished a very commodious supply to those who came afterwards to the same place. This was imitated, in some degree, by Anson, at the isle of Juan Fernandez.
The island of Madera he not only filled with inhabitants, assisted by artificers of every kind, but procured such plants as seemed likely to flourish in that climate, and introduced the sugar-canes and vines which afterwards produced a very large revenue.
The trade of Africa now began to be profitable, but a great part of the gain arose from the sale of slaves, who were annually brought into Portugal, by hundreds, as Lafitau relates, and without any appearance of indignation or compassion; they, likewise, imported gold dust in such quantities, that Alphonso the fifth coined it into a new species of money called Crusades, which is still continued in Portugal.
In time they made their way along the south coast of Africa, eastward to the country of the negroes, whom they found living in tents, without any political institutions, supporting life, with very little labour, by the milk of their kine, and millet, to which those who inhabited the coast added fish dried in the sun. Having never seen the natives, or heard of the arts of Europe, they gazed with astonishment on the ships, when they approached their .coasts, sometimes thinking them birds, and sometimes fishes, according as their sails were spread or lowered; and sometimes conceiving them to be only phantoms, which played to and fro in the ocean. Such is the account given by the historian, perhaps, with too much prejudice against a negro's understanding, who, though he might well wonder at the bulk and swiftness of the first ship, would scarcely conceive it to be either a bird or a fish, but having seen many bodies floating in the water, would think it, what it really is, a large boat; and, if he had no knowledge of any means by which separate pieces of timber may be joined together, would form very wild notions concerning its construction, or, perhaps, suppose it to be a hollow trunk of a tree, from some country where trees grow to a much greater height and thickness than in his own.
When the Portuguese came to land, they increased the astonishment of the poor inhabitants, who saw men clad in iron, with thunder and lightning in their hands. They did not understand each other, and signs are a very imperfect mode of communication, even to men of more knowledge than the negroes, so that they could not easily negotiate or traffick: at last the Portuguese laid hands on some of them, to carry them home for a sample; and their dread and amazement was raised, says Lafitau, to the highest pitch, when the Europeans fired their cannons and muskets among them, and they saw their companions fall dead at their feet, without any enemy at hand, or any visible cause of their destruction.
On what occasion, or for what purpose, cannons and
muskets were discharged among a people harmless and secure, by strangers who, without any right, visited their coast, it is not thought necessary to inform us. The Portuguese could fear nothing from them, and had, therefore, no adequate provocation; nor is there any reason to believe but that they murdered the negroes in wanton merriment, perhaps, only to try how many a volley would destroy, or what would be the consternation of those that should escape. We are openly told, that they had the less scruple concerning their treatment of the savage people, because they scarcely considered them as distinct from beasts; and, indeed, the practice of all the European nations, and among others, of the English barbarians that cultivate the southern islands of America, proves, that this opinion, however absurd and foolish, however wicked and injurious, still continues to prevail. Interest and pride harden the heart, and it is in vain to dispute against avarice and power.
By these practices the first discoverers alienated the natives from them; and whenever a ship appeared, every one that could fly betook himself to the mountains and the woods, so that nothing was to be got more than they could steal they sometimes surprised a few fishers, and made them slaves, and did what they could to offend the negroes, and enrich themselves. This practice of robbery continued till some of the negroes, who had been enslaved, learned the language of Portugal, so as to be able to interpret for their countrymen, and one John Fernandez applied himself to the negro tongue.
From this time began something like a regular traffick, such as can subsist between nations where all the power is on one side; and a factory was settled in the isle of Arguin, under the protection of a fort. The profit of this new trade was assigned, for a certain term, to Ferdinando Gomez; which seems to be the common method of establishing a trade, that is yet too small to engage the care of a nation, and can only be enlarged by that at
tention which is bestowed by private men upon private advantage. Gomez continued the discoveries to cape Catharine, two degrees and a half beyond the line.
In the latter part of the reign of Alphonso the fifth, the ardour of discovery was somewhat intermitted, and all commercial enterprises were interrupted by the wars in which he was engaged with various success. But John the second, who succeeded, being fully convinced both of the honour and advantage of extending his dominions in countries hitherto unknown, prosecuted the designs of prince Henry with the utmost vigour, and in a short time added to his other titles, that of king of Guinea and of the coast of Africa.
In 1463, in the third year of the reign of John the second, died prince Henry, the first encourager of remote navigation, by whose incitement, patronage and example, distant nations have been made acquainted with each other, unknown countries have been brought into general view, and the power of Europe has been extended to the remotest parts of the world. What mankind has lost and gained by the genius and designs of this prince, it would be long to compare, and very difficult to estimate. Much knowledge has been acquired, and much cruelty been committed; the belief of religion has been very little propagated, and its laws have been outrageously and enormously violated, The Europeans have scarcely visited any coast, but to gratify avarice, and extend corruption; to arrogate dominion without right, and practise cruelty without incentive. Happy had it, then, been for the oppressed, if the designs of Henry had slept in his bosom, and surely more happy for the oppressors. But there is reason to hope that out of so much evil, good may sometimes be produced; and that the light of the gospel will at last illuminate the sands of Africa, and the deserts of America, though its progress cannot but be slow, when it is so much obstructed by the lives of Christians.
The death of Henry did not interrupt the progress of king John, who was very strict in his injunctions, not only
to make discoveries, but to secure possession of the countries that were found. The practice of the first navigators was only to raise a cross upon the coast, and to carve upon trees the device of Don Henry, the name which they thought it proper to give to the new coast, and any other information, for those that might happen to follow them; but now they began to erect piles of stone with a cross on the top, and engraved on the stone the arms of Portugal, the name of the king, and of the commander of the ship, with the day and year of the discovery. This was accounted sufficient to prove their claim to the new lands; which might be pleaded, with justice enough, against any other Europeans, and the rights of the original inhabitants were never taken into notice. Of these stone records, nine more were erected in the reign of king John, along the coast of Africa, as far as the cape of Good Hope.
The fortress in the isle of Arguin was finished, and it was found necessary to build another at S. Georgio de la Mina, a few degrees north of the line, to secure the trade of gold dust, which was chiefly carried on at that place. For this purpose a fleet was fitted out, of ten large and three smaller vessels, freighted with materials for building the fort, and with provisions and ammunition for six hundred men, of whom one hundred were workmen and labourers. Father Lafitau relates, in very particular terms, that these ships carried hewn stones, bricks, and timber, for the fort, so that nothing remained but barely to erect it. He does not seem to consider how small a fort could be made out of the lading of ten ships.
The command of this fleet was given to Don Diego d'Azambue, who set sail December 11, 1481, and reaching La Mina January 19, 1482, gave immediate notice of his arrival to Caramansa, a petty prince of that part of the country, whom he very earnestly invited to an immediate conference.
Having received a message of civility from the negro chief, he landed, and chose a rising ground, proper for his