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The negociation now went on with facility and dispatch ; and a treaty with Columbus was signed on the seventeenth of April, 1492. The chief articles of it were:
1. Ferdinand and Isabella, as sovereigns of the Ocean; constituted Columbus their high Admiral in all the seas, islands, and continents, which should be discovered by his industry; and stipulated, that he, and his heirs for ever, should enjoy this office, with the same powers and prerogatives which belonged to the high Admiral of Castile, within the limits of his jurisdiction.
2. They appointed Columbus their viceroy in all the islands and continents, he should discover; but, if for the better administration of affairs, it should hereafter be neces. sary to establish a separate governor in any of those countries, they authorized Columbus to name three persons, of whom they would choose one for that office; and the dignity of viceroy, with all its immunities, was likewise to be hereditary in the family of Columbus.
3. They granted to Columbus, and his heirs for ever, the tenth of the free profits accruing from the productions and commerce of the countries, which he should discover.
4. They declared, that if any controversy or law-suit, shall arise with respect to any mercantile transaction, in the countries which should be discovered, it should be determined by the sole authority of Columbus, or of judges to be appointed by him.
5. They permitted Columbus to advance one eighth part of what should be expended in preparing for the expedition, and in carrying on commerce with the countries which he should discover; and entitled him in return to an eighth part of the profit.
Notwithstanding the name of Ferdinand appears conjoined with that of Isabella in this transaction, his distrust of Columbus was so violent, that he refused to take any part in the enterprize, as king of Arragon. As the whole expense of the expedition, excepting the part Columbus was to furnish, was defrayed by the crown of Castile, Isabella reserved for her subjects of that kingdom, an exclusive right to all the benefits which might redound from its success.
When the treaty was signed, Isabella, endeavoured to make some reparation to Columbus for the time he had lost in fruitless solicitation, by her attention and activity in forwarding the preparations.
By the twelfth of May, all that depended on her was ad. justed ; and Columbus waited on the king and queen, in order to receive their final instructions. Every thing respecting the destination and conduct of the voyage was committed entirely to his wisdom and prudence. But that they might avoid giving any just cause of offence to the king of Portugal, they strictly enjoined him not to approach near to the Portuguese settlements on the coast of Guinea; nor in any of the other countries, to which they claimed right as discoverers.
The ships of which Columbus was to take the command, were ordered by Isabella to be fitted out in the port of Palos, a small maritime town in the province of Andalusia, The prior, Juan Perez, to whom Columbus had been so greatly indebted, resided in the neighbourhood of this place; he by the influence of that good ecclesiastic, as well as by his own connexion with the inhabitants, not only raised among them what he wanted of the sum that he was bound by treaty to advance, but engaged several of them to accompany him in the voyage. The chief of these associates were three brothers of the name of Pinzon, of considerable wealth, and of great experience in naval affairs, who were willing to hazard their lives and fortunes in the enterprize.
But, notwithstanding all the endeavours and efforts of Isabella and Columbus, the armament was not suitable to the dignity of the nation by which it was equipped, or to the importance of the service for which it was destined. It consisted of three vessels only: the largest, a ship of no considerable burden, was commanded by Columbus, as admiral, who gave it the name of Santa Maria, out of respect for the blessed virgin, whom he honoured with singular devotion. Of the second, called La Pinta, Martin Alonzo Pinzon was captain, and his brother Francis, pilot. The third, named La Nigna, was under the command of Vincent Yanez Pinzon: these two were hardly superior in burden and force to large boats. This squadron if it merits the name, was victualled for twelve months, and had on board ninety men, mostly sailors, together with a few adventurers, who followed the fortune of Columbus, and some gentlemen of Isabella's court, whom she appointed to accompany him. Though the expense of the undertaking was one of the circumstances that chiefly alarmed the court of Spain, and retarded so long the negociations with Co.
lumbus; the sum employed in fitting out this squadron did not exceed four thousand pounds.
The art of ship building in the fifteenth century was extremely rude, and the bulk and construction of vessels were accommodated to the short and easy voyages along the coast, which they were accustomed to perform. It is a proof of the genius and courage of Columbus, that he ventured with a fleet so unfit for a distant navigation, to explore unknown seas, where he had no chart to guide him, no knowledge of the tides and currents, and no experience of the dangers to which, in all probability, he would be exposed. His eagerness to accomplish his great design made him overlook every danger and difficulty. He pushed forwards the preparations with such ardour, and was so well seconded by Isabella, that every thing was soon in readiness for the voyage.
But as Columbus was deeply impressed with a sense of the superintendance of divine Providence, over the affairs of this life, he would not set out upon his expedition without publicly imploring the protection of heaven. With this view, he, together with all the persons under his command, marched in solemn procession to the inonastery of Rabida. After confessing their sins, and obtaining absolution, they received the sacrament from the hands of the Prior, who joined his prayers to theirs for the success of an enterprize which he had so zealously patronized.
Next morning, being the third day of August, in the year of our Lord 1492, the fleet sailed a little before sun rise. A vast crowd of spectators assembled on the shore, - and sent up their supplications to heaven for the prosperous issue of the voyage, which they rather hoped than expected.
Columbus steered for the Canary islands, and arrived there without an occurrence worth remarking or that would have been taken notice of on any other occasion. But in this expedition every thing claimed attention. The rudder of La Pinta broke loose, the day after they left the harbour; the crew, superstitious and unskilful, considered this as a bad omen. În this short run, the ships were - found so crazy, as to be very unfit for a navigation which was expected to be long and dangerous. Columbus repaircet them the best in his power; and, after taking in a suppsy of fresh provisions, at Gomera, he took his departure
on the sixth day of September. He immediately left the usual track of navigation, holding his course due west, and stretched into unfrequented seas. The calmness of the weather prevented them from making much progress the first day ; but on the second, he lost sight of land. The sailors dejected and dismayed at the boldness of the undertaking, beat their breasts, and shed tears, as if they were never again to see the land. Columbus, confident of success, comforted them with assurances of a happy issue of the voyage, and the prospect of vast wealth.
This pusillanimous spirit of the crew, taught Columbus that he should have to struggle with other difficulties besides what was natural for him to expect from the nature of the undertaking. Fortunately for himself, and for the country which employed him, to an ardent inventive genius, he joined other virtues but rarely united with them : he possessed a perfect knowledge of mankind, an insinuating address, a patient perseverance, in executing any plan, the full and entire government of his own passions, and the art of acquiring the direction of other men's.
These qualities which eminently formed him for command, were accompanied with that experience and knowledge in his profession, which begets confidence in times of difficulty and danger.
The Spanish sailors accustomed only to coasting voyages in the Mediterranean ; the knowledge of Columbus, the fruit of thirty years experience, improved by the inventive skill of the Portuguese, appeared immense.
When they were at sea, he superintended the execution of every order; and allowing himself only a few hours for rest, he was almost constantly on deck. Ilis course lying through seas not formerly visited; the sounding line or quadrant were seldom out of his hands. He attended to the motions of the tides and currents, watched the flights of birds, the appearance of fishes, of sea weeds and every thing that floated upon the water, entering every occurrence in his Journal.
Expecting the length of the voyage would alarm the sailors, Columbus concealed from them the real progress which they made. He employed the artifice of reckoning short, during the whole voyage. The fourteenth of September, the fleet was above two hundred leagues to the west of the Canaries: the greatest distance from land that any Spaniard had been before that time.
But now they were struck with an appearance that was astonishing, because it was new. The magnetic needle did not point exactly to the Polar Star, but varied a degree towards the west; and as they proceeded, this variation increased. Although this is now familiar, it still remains one of the niysteries of nature, into the cause of which the sagacity of man has not been able to penetrate, and filled the companions of Columbus with terror.
They were now far from the usual course of navigation, nature itself seemed altered, and the only guide they had lest, seemed to fail them. Columbus with admirable presence of mind, invented a plausible reason for this appearance, which had an effect to dispel their fears, or silence their murmurs. He still steered due west, nearly in the latitude of the Canaries. In this direction he came within the course of the trade winds, which blow invariably from east to west.
He advanced before this steady gale with such rapidity, that it was seldom necessary to shift a sail.
About four hundred leagues west of the Canaries the sea was so covered with weeds that it resembled a mea. dow of vast extent, and was in some places so thick as to impede the progress of the vessels. This was cause of fresh alarm : the seamen imagined this was the utmost boundary of the ocean; and that these floating weeds concealed dangerous rocks, or a large tract of land, which had sunk in that place. Columbus persuaded them that, instead of alarming, it ought rather to encourage them, to consider it as a sign of approaching land. At the same time a brisk gale sprung up, and carried them forwards. Several birds were seen hovering about the ship, and directing their flight towards the west. The despairing crew resumed some degree of spirit, and began to entertain fresh hopes.
Upon the first day of October they were advanced seven hundred and seventy leagues west of the Canaries ; but he persuaded his men that he had only proceeded five hundred and eighty four leagues; and fortunately for Columbus, neither his own pilot, nor those of the other ships, could discover the deceit.
Three weeks had now elapsed, and no land appeared, all their prognostics had proved fallacious, and their prospects of success were now as distant as ever. These reflections made strong impressions, at first, on the timid and