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REVIEWERS WANTED! If you would like to review any of the books in this series, PM me with your Amazon email address and I will gift copies to you.
This post is to introduce a Kindle version of Volume 1 of a series entitled "AMERICA Great Crises In Our History Told by Its Makers" which was published as a print version by the Veterans of Foreign Wars in 1925. This first volume covers the discovery and exploration of North America. This Kindle version is published in partnership with the VFW who receive 50% of sales revenue.

The title refers to the latest excerpt from the book which you will find at the bottom of the thread.

It would be hard to find anything even in fiction more fascinating than eye-witness accounts of history. Who could describe his voyage of discovery as Columbus did himself in his letter to his friend Santangel? Who could record the voyages of the Cabots and Henry Hudson, or the early Spanish expeditions in present-day Florida, Calfornia and New Mexico, better or more vividly than those who actually took part? The first volume in this 12-volume series covers the pre-Columbian period through Henry Hudson's third voyage in 1609. You'll read about American exploration right back to the days of Erik the Red, with full and fascinating accounts from actual participants in the events as well as selections from the writings of major historians of early America such as John Fiske, Washington Irving and Francis Parkman.

Introduction To The Series

"After you've heard two eyewitness accounts of an auto accident, you begin to worry about history." This observation, attributed to the comedian Henny Youngman, summarizes the dilemma you face when you want to find out what really happened in the past. When you read a history book, the "facts" are actually the author's own interpretation, often colored by a conscious or unconscious wish to have you share a particular point of view. You're one step (or many steps) removed from the original source material.

That's why the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States compiled this 12- volume collection of writings of people who actually witnessed the key events in American history - the actual actors in the events or contemporary observers of them. Past historians have spent decades locating, studying and consulting vast amounts of material such as this. This meticulously chosen selection brings you the essence of history as originally recorded by those who participated in it.

You'll be reading mostly eye-witness accounts, by people contemporary with the events they describe, including many significant historical figures themselves. So you can make your own assessments, draw your own conclusions and gain an understanding of past events undistorted by the prejudices, assumptions and selectivity of professional historians. In some instances where there aren't reliable or easily accessible eye-witness accounts, the compilers have chosen extracts from objective, authoritative historians of past generations such as Francis Parkman whose judgements have stood the test of time.

The extracts chosen aren't dry as dust: they provide an exciting, highly readable narrative from the living past. They're part of the primary source material on which all historical research is based - and these e-books bring this original, classic reporting to you directly. Through these accounts, your knowledge of American history will be immeasurably greater, your understanding of the key events in the building of the nation immensely increased.

Founded in 1899, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to foster camaderie among United States veterans of overseas conflicts, from the Spanish-American War to Iraq and Afghanistan, and to ensure that they receive due respect and entitlements for the sacrifices they and their loved ones have made on behalf of the nation. With this mission, the VFW has a natural desire to encourage a broad understanding and appreciation of American history, and this essential collection of historical documents makes a huge contribution to that aim.

This reissue was scanned, formatted and converted to e-book format by Library4Science.com in a partnership with the VFW, to make the series more accessible to a wider public. The VFW receives 50% of all sales revenue from these e-books.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
PONCE DE LEON IN FLORIDA

By George Bancroft THE first volume of George Bancroft's History of the United States appeared in 1834, the last 40 years later which conveys some idea of his patience in gathering material. His work expresses his abounding faith in democracy and liberty, but he was more interested in mankind than in individuals.

Short Extract of "PONCE DE LEON IN FLORIDA"

The government of Florida was the reward which Ponce received from the king of Spain; but the dignity was accompanied with the onerous condition that he should colonize the country. Preparations in Spain, and an expedition against the Caribbee Indians, delayed his return. When, in 1521, after a long interval, he proceeded with two ships to select a site for a colony, his company was attacked by the Indians with implacable fury. Many Spaniards were killed; the survivors were forced to hurry to their ships; Ponce de Leon himself wounded by an arrow, returned to Cuba to die. So ended the adventurer, who had gone in quest of immeasurable wealth and perpetual youth.
 

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THE VOYAGES OF THE NORSEMEN

From the Saga of Eric the Red THE VOYAGES of the Norsemen took place about the year 1000 but these Icelandic chronicles were not written until three centuries later. The famous Saga of Eric the Red, containing the original accounts of these voyages, has come down to us in two versions. The first was written by Hauk Erlendsson. The second, which is the one given here almost in its entirety, was written about fifty years later by the priest, Jon Thordharson. Much of the original saga is used by Jon but considerable material has been added from sources unknown. The translation used here was made in 1890 by Arthur Middleton Reeves, a brilliant young American scholar.

ERIC the Red dwelt at Brattahlid, where he was held in the highest esteem, and all men paid him homage. These were Eric's children: Leif, Thorvald, and Thorstein, and a daughter whose name was Freydis ; she was wedded to a man named Thorvard, and they dwelt at Gardar, where the episcopal seat now is. She was a very haughty woman, while Thorvard was a man of little force of character, and Freydis had been wedded to him chiefly because of his wealth. At that time the people of Greenland were heathen.

Biarni arrived with his ship at Eyrar [in Iceland] in the summer of the same year, in the spring of which his father had sailed away. Biarni was much surprised when he heard this news, and would not discharge his cargo. His shipmates inquired of him what he intended to do, and he replied that it was his purpose to keep to his custom, and make his home for the winter with his father; "and I will take the ship to Greenland, if you will bear me company." They all replied that they would abide by his decision. Then said Biarni, "Our voyage must be regarded as foolhardy, seeing that no one of us has ever been in the Greenland Sea."

Nevertheless, they put out to sea when they were equipped for the voyage, and sailed for three days, until the land was hidden by the water, and then the fair wind died out, and north winds arose, and fogs, and they knew not whither they were drifting, and thus it lasted for many "doegr." Then they saw the sun again, and were able to determine the quarters of the heavens; they hoisted sail, and sailed that "doegr" through before they saw land. They discussed among themselves what land it could be, and Biarni said that he did not believe that it could be Greenland. They asked whether he wished to sail to this land or not. "It is my counsel" [said he] "to sail close to the land." They did so, and soon saw that the land was level, and covered with woods, and that there were small hillocks upon it.

They left the land on their larboard, and let the sheet turn toward the land. They sailed for two "doegr" before they saw another land. They asked whether Biarni thought this was Greenland yet. He replied that he did not think this any more like Greenland than the former, "because in Greenland there are said to be many great ice mountains." They soon approached this land, and saw that it was a flat and wooded country. The fair wind failed them then, and the crew took council together, and concluded that it would be wise to land there, but Biarni would not consent to this. They alleged that they were in need of both wood and water. "Ye have no lack of either of these," says Biarni, a course, forsooth, which won him blame among his shipmates. He bade them hoist sail, which they did, and turning the prow from the land they sailed out upon the high seas, with south-westerly gales, for three . 'doegr," when they saw the third land ; this land was high and mountainous, with ice mountains upon it. They asked Biarni then whether he would land there, and he replied that he was not disposed to do so, "because this land does not appear to me to offer any attractions." Nor did they lower their sail, but held their course off the land, and saw that it was an island.

They left this land astern, and held out to sea with the same fair wind. The wind waxed amain, and Biarni directed them to reef, and not to sail at a speed unbefitting their ship and rigging. They sailed now for four 'doegr, when they saw the fourth land. Again they asked Biarni whether he thought this could be Greenland or not. Biarni answers, "This is likest Greenland, according to that which has been reported to me concerning it, and here we will steer to the land." They directed their course thither, and landed in the evening, below a cape upon which there was a boat, and there, upon this cape, dwelt Heriulf, Biarni's father, whence the cape took its name, and was afterward called Heriulfsness. Biarni now went to his father, gave up his voyaging, and remained with his father while Heriulf lived, and continued to live there after his father.

Read the complete story:

http://america.library4history.org/VFW-Pre-Columbus-Hudson/DISCOVERY-AND-EXPLORATION/VOYAGES-OF-THE-NORSEMEN.html
 

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I will be posting excerpts from Volume 1 weekly on this thread.

Early Life Of Columbus

By Washington Irving

WASHINGTON IRVING has the distinction of being the first American writer, following the Revolution, to win recognition in England. His Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus was a departure from his previous literary efforts that brought him fame and fortune. It was written during three years residence in Spain (1826-1829). Irving was later (1841) appointed United States Minister to Madrid.

CRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, or Colombo, as the name is written in Italian, was born in the city of Genoa, about the year 1435.

He was the son of Dominico Colombo, a woolcomber, and Susannah Fonatanarossa, his wife, and it would seem that his ancestors had followed the same handicraft for several generations in Genoa. Attempts have been made to prove him of illustrious descent, and several noble houses have laid claim to him since his name has become so renowned as to confer rather than receive distinction. It is possible some of them may be in the right, for the feuds in Italy in those ages had broken down and scattered many of the noblest families, and while some branches remained in the lordly heritage of castles and domains, others were confounded with the humblest population of the cities. The fact, however, is not material to his fame; and it is a higher proof of merit to be the object of contention among various noble families, than to be able to substantiate the most illustrious lineage. His son Fernando had a true feeling on the subject. "I am of opinion," says he, "that I should derive less dignity from any nobility of ancestry, than from being the son of such a father."

Here is a link to the full article on the web.

http://america.library4history.org/VFW-Pre-Columbus-Hudson/DISCOVERY-AND-EXPLORATION/EARLY-LIFE-OF-COLUMBUS.html
 

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This is an excerpt from Volume 1 of America, Great Crises in our History.

The Travels Of Marco Polo

By John Fiske

WHEN John Fiske was eight years of age he was familiar with Plato. At nine he spoke Greek with an Attic accent. At twelve he had not only read all the classics but had mastered also trigonometry, surveying, navigation, geometry and differential calculus. He was an infant prodigy, one of the few who have amounted to something in later life.

Our chief debt to him is due to his efforts to popularize the Darwinian theory of evolution. However, he also ranks high among American historians. The article given here on Marco Polo and the influence of his "travels" upon geographical knowledge, is taken from Fiske's "The Discovery of America" and is used by special arrangement with the publishers, Houghton Mifflin Co.


IN the middle of the thirteenth century, some members of the Polo family, one of the aristocratic families of Venice, had a commercial house at Constantinople. Thence, in the year 1260, the brothers Nicolo and Maffeo Polo started on a trading journey to the Crimea, whence one opportunity after another for making money and gratifying their curiosity with new sights led them northward and eastward to the Volga, thence into Bokhara, and so on until they reached the court of the Great Khan, in one of the northwestern provinces of Cathay. The reigning sovereign was the famous Kublai Khan, grandson of the all-conquering Jenghis. Kublai was an able and benevolent despot, earnest in the wish to improve the condition of his Mongol kinsmen. He had never before met European gentlemen, and was charmed with the cultivated and polished Venetians. He seemed quite ready to enlist the Roman Church in aid of his civilizing schemes, and entrusted the Polos with a message to the Pope, asking him for a hundred missionary teachers. The brothers reached Venice in 1269, and found that Pope Clement IV. was dead and there was an interregnum. After two years Gregory X. was elected and received the Khan's message, but could furnish only a couple of Dominican friars, and these men were seized with the dread not uncommonly felt for "Tartareans," and at the last moment refused to go. Nicolo and his brother then set out in the autumn of 1271 to return to China, taking with them Nicolos son Marco, a lad of seventeen years. From Acre they went by way of Bagdad to Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian gulf, apparently with the intention of proceeding thence by sea, but for some reason changed their course, and traveled through Kerman, Khorassan, and Balkh, to Kashgar, and thence by way of Yarkand and Khotan, and across the desert of Gobi into north-western China, where they arrived in the summer of 1275, and found the Khan at Kaipingfu, not far from the northern end of the Great Wall.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
This is an excerpt from Volume 1 of America, Great Crises in our History.

Columbus In Spain

By Washington Irving

THE immediate movements of Columbus on leaving Portugal are involved in uncertainty. It is said that about this time he made a proposition of his enterprise, in person, as he had formerly done by letter, to the government of Genoa. The republic, however, was in a languishing decline, and embarrassed by a foreign war. . . . Her spirit was broken with her fortunes ; for with nations, as with individuals, enterprise is the child of prosperity, and is apt to languish in evil days when there is most need of its exertion. Thus Genoa, disheartened by her reverses, shut her ears to the proposition of Columbus, which might have elevated her to tenfold splendor, and perpetuated within her grasp the golden wand of commerce. While at Genoa Columbus is said to have made arrangements, out of his scanty means, for the comfort of his aged father. It is also affirmed, that about this time he carried his proposal to Venice, where it was declined on account of the critical state of national affairs. This, however, is merely traditional, and unsupported by documentary evidence. The first firm and indisputable trace we have of Columbus after leaving Portugal is in the south of Spain, in 1485, where we find him seeking his fortune among the Spanish nobles, several of whom had vast possessions, and exercised almost independent sovereignty in their domains.

Foremost among these were the dukes of Medina Sidonia and Medina Celi, who had estates like principalities lying along the sea-coast, with ports and shipping and hosts of retainers at their command. They served the crown in its Moorish wars more as allied princes than as vassals, bringing armies into the field led by themselves, or by captains of their own appointment. Their domestic establishments were on almost a regal scale; their palaces were filled with persons of merit, and young cavaliers of noble birth, to be reared under their auspices, in the exercise of arts and arms.

Columbus had many interviews with the duke of Medina Sidonia, who was tempted for a time by the splendid prospects held out ; but their very splendor threw a coloring of improbability over the enterprise, and he finally rejected it as the dream of an Italian visionary.

The duke of Medina Celi was likewise favorable at the outset. He entertained Columbus for some time in his house, and was actually on the point of granting him three or four caravels which lay ready for sea in his harbor of Port St. Mary, opposite Cadiz, when he suddenly changed his mind, deterred by the consideration that the enterprise, if successful, would involve discoveries too important to be grasped by any but a sovereign power, and that the Spanish government might be displeased at his undertaking it on his own account. Finding, however, that Columbus intended to make his next application to the king of France, and loth that an enterprise of such importance should be lost to Spain, the duke wrote to Queen Isabella recommending it strongly to her attention. The queen made a favorable reply, and requested that Columbus might be sent to her. He accordingly set out for the Spanish court, then at Cordova, bearing a letter to the queen from the duke, soliciting that, in case the expedition should be carried into effect, he might have a share in it, and the fitting out of the armament from his port of St. Mary, as a recompense for having waived the enterprise in favor of the crown.

Here is a link to the full article on the web.

[URL=http://dev.america.library4history.org/VFW-Pre-Columbus-Hudson/DISCOVERY-AND-EXPLORATION/SECOND-LETTER-FROM-Toscanelli]http://dev.america.library4history.org/VFW-Pre-Columbus-Hudson/DISCOVERY-AND-EXPLORATION/SECOND-LETTER-FROM-Toscanelli
.htm[/url]l
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
This is an excerpt from Volume 1 of America, Great Crises in our History.

Balboa Discovers The Pacific


By Manuel Jose Quintana

THIS account of Balboa's expedition is taken from the famous "Lives of Celebrated Spaniards," published in 1807.

Vasco Nunez de Balboa was of a noble but poor Spanish family. He made his first visit to America in 1500 at twenty-five years of age. Some years later he settled in Santo Domingo, but was forced to flee to escape his creditors. He had himself smuggled in a cask on board a ship sailing for Darien, where he became head of the new colony.

Balboa learned from the Indians of a vast sea lying to the south and west, and of a land on the shores of this great sea where gold was so plentiful that the people used it instead of pottery. This was the first word to reach the Spaniards of the riches of the Incas.

In September, 1513, Balboa started on his search for the great sea. On the 25th of the month, after an adventurous journey, he looked down from a mountain top on the vast waters of the Pacific Ocean.

BALBOA was transported by the prospect of glory and fortune which opened before him; he believed himself already at the gates of the East Indies, which was the desired object of the government and the discoverers of that period; he resolved to return in the first place to the Darien to raise the spirits of his companions with these brilliant hopes, and to make all possible preparations for realizing them.

At this time, and after an absence of six months, arrived the magistrate Valdivia, with a vessel laden with different stores; he brought likewise great promises of abundant aid in provisions and men. The succors, however, which Valdivia brought were speedily consumed; their seed, destroyed in the ground by storms and floods, promised them no resource whatever; and they returned to their usual necessitous state. Balboa then consented to their extending their incursions to more distant lands, as they had already wasted and ruined the immediate environs of Antigua, and he sent Valdivia to Spain to apprise the admiral of the clew he had gained to the South Sea, and the reported wealth of these regions.
 

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This is an excerpt from Volume 1 of America, Great Crises in our History.

The Voyages Of The Cabots

LIKE Columbus, John Cabot Was born in Genoa. But he and his family lived for fifteen years in Venice, and when he later moved to England he was always referred to as a Venetian. He settled in Bristol, England, about 1490.

It is very likely that John Cabot was influenced by Bartholomew Columbus, who had been sent to England some years before by his brother Christopher to see what arrangements might be made with the King of England for fitting out an expedition.

Four years after Columbus returned from his voyage of discovery Cabot sailed on his first expedition and discovered, June 24, 1497, what he supposed to be the Chinese coast, probable Labrador or Newfoundland. This was the first discovery of America under English sovereignty. Little is known about the Cabots but it is supposed that John Cabot died on his second expedition leaving in command his son Sebastian, who probably made a third voyage


The Letters Patents of King Henry the Seventh granted unto John Cabot and his three sons, Lewis, Sebastian, and Santius for the discovery of new and unknown lands.

HENRY, by the grace of God, king of England and France, and lord of Ireland, to all to whom these presents shall come, Greeting.

Be it known that we have given and granted, and by these presents do give and grant for us and our heirs, to our well beloved John Cabot citizen of Venice, to Lewis, Sebastian, and Santius, sons of the said John, and to the heirs of them, and every (one) of them, and their deputies, full and free authority, leave, and power to sail to all parts, countries, and seas of the east, of the west, and of the north, under our banners and ensigns, with five ships of what burden or quantity soever they be, and as many mariners or men as they will have with them in the said ships, upon their own proper costs and charges, to seek out, discover, and find whatsoever isles, countries, regions or provinces of the heathen and infidels whatsoever they be, and in what part of the world soever they be, which before this time have been unknown to all Christians: we have granted to them, and also to every of them, the heirs of them, and every of them, and their deputies, and have given them license to set up our banners and ensigns in every village, town, castle, isle, or mainland of them newly found. And that the aforesaid John and his sons, or their heirs and assigns may subdue, occupy and possess all such towns, cities, castles and isles of them found, which they can subdue, occupy and possess, as our vassals, and lieutenants, getting unto us the rule, title, and jurisdiction of the same villages, towns, castles, and firm land so found. Yet so that the aforesaid John, and his sons and heirs, and their deputies, be held and bound of all the fruits, profits, gains, and commodities growing of such navigation, for their every voyage, as often as they shall arrive at our port of Bristol (at the which port they shall be bound and held only to arrive) all manner of necessary costs and charges by them made, being deducted, to pay unto us in wares or money the fifth part of the capital gain so gotten. We giving and granting unto them and to their heirs and deputies, that they shall be free from all paying of customs of all and singular such merchandise as they shall bring with them from those places so newly found. And moreover, we have given and granted to them, their heirs and deputies, that all the firm lands, isles, villages, towns, castles and places whatsoever they be that they shall chance to find, may not of any other of our subjects be frequented or visited without the license of the aforesaid John and his sons, and their deputies, under pain of forfeiture as well of their ships as of all and singular goods of all them that shall presume to sail to those places so found. Willing, and most straightly commanding all and singular our subjects as well on land as on sea, to give good assistance to the aforesaid John and his sons and deputies, and that as well in arming and furnishing their ships or vessels, as in provision of food, and in buying of victuals for their money, and all other things by them to be provided necessary for the said navigation, they do give them all their help and favor. In witness whereof we have caused to be made these our Letters Patents. Witness ourself at Westminster the fifth day of March, in the eleventh year of our reign.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
This is an excerpt from Volume 1 of America, Great Crises in our History.

The Discovery Of America

From the Life of Columbus, by His Son, Ferdinand Columbus ONE OF the fortunate things that befell Christopher Columbus was in having his own son, Ferdinand, an accomplished scholar and bibliographer, for his biographer.

Ferdinand was his second son and only eighteen years of age at the time of his father's death. He was born in Cordova in 1488. Columbus had gone there in 1487 immediately following the surrender of Malaga. While waiting upon the Court he formed a connection with a lady of noble family, Beatriz Euriquez de Arana, to whom his son, Ferdinand, was born on the 15th of August. Columbus seemed to be tenderly attached to Beatriz who survived him many years, but his union with her was never sanctioned by marriage.

ALL the conditions which the admiral demanded being conceded by their Catholic majesties, he set out from Granada on the 21st May 1492, for Palos, where he was to fit out the ships for his intended expedition. That town was bound to serve the crown for three months with two caravels, which were ordered to be given to Columbus; and he fitted out these and a third vessel with all care and diligence. The ship in which he personally embarked was called the St. Mary ; the second vessel named the Pinta, was commanded by Martin Alonzo Pinzon ; and the third, named the Nina, which had square sails, was under the command of Vincent Yanez Pinzon, the brother of Alonzo, both of whom were inhabitants of Palos. Being furnished with all necessaries, and having 90 men to navigate the three vessels, Columbus set sail from Palos on the 3d of August 1492, shaping his course directly for the Canaries.

During this voyage, and indeed in all the four voyages which he made from Spain to the West Indies, the admiral was very careful to keep an exact journal of every occurrence which took place; always specifying what winds blew, how far he sailed with each particular wind, what currents were found, and every thing that was seen by the way, whether birds, fishes, or any other thing. Although to note all these particulars with a minute relation of every thing that happened, showing what impressions and effects answered to the course and aspect of the stars, and the differences between the seas which he sailed and those of our countries, might all be useful; yet as I conceive that the relation of these particulars might now be tiresome to the reader, I shall only give an account of what appears to me necessary and convenient to be known.

On Saturday the 4th of August, the next day after sailing from Palos, the rudder of the Pinta broke loose. The admiral strongly suspected that this was occasioned by the contrivance of the master on purpose to avoid proceeding on the voyage, which he had endeavored to do before they left Spain, and he therefore ranged up alongside of the disabled vessel to give every assistance in his power, but the wind blew so hard that he was unable to afford any aid. Pinzon, however, being an experienced seaman, soon made a temporary repair by means of ropes, and they proceeded on their voyage. But on the following Tuesday, the weather becoming rough and boisterous, the fastenings gave way, and the squadron was obliged to lay to for some time, to renew the repairs. From this misfortune of twice breaking the rudder, a superstitious person might have foreboded the future disobedience of Pinzon to the admiral; as through his malice the Pinta twice separated from the squadron, as shall be afterwards related. Having applied the best remedy they could to the disabled state of the rudder, the squadron continued its voyage, and came in sight of the Canaries at daybreak of Thursday the 9th of August; but owing to contrary winds, they were unable to come to anchor at Grand Canaria until the 12th. The admiral left Pinzon at Grand Canaria to endeavor to procure another vessel instead of that which was disabled, and went himself with the Nina on the same errand to Gomera.

The admiral arrived at Gomera on Sunday the 12th of August, and sent a boat on shore to inquire if any vessel could be procured there for his purpose. The boat returned next morning, and brought intelligence that no vessel was then at that island, but that Dona Beatrix de Bobadilla, the propriatrix of the island, was then at Grand Canaria in a hired vessel of 40 tons belonging to one Gradeuna of Seville, which would probably suit his purpose and might perhaps be got. He therefore determined to await the arrival of that vessel at Gomera, believing that Pinzon might have secured a vessel for himself at Grand Canaria, if he had not been able to repair his own. After waiting two days, he dispatched one of his people in a bark which was bound from Gomera to Grand Canaria, to acquaint Pinzon where he lay, and to assist him in repairing and fixing the rudder. Having waited a considerable time for an answer to his letter, he sailed with the two vessels from Gomera on the 23d of August for Grand Canaria, and fell in with the bark on the following day, which had been detained all that time on its voyage by contrary winds. He now took his man from the bark, and sailing in the night past the island of Teneriffe, the people were much astonished at observing flames bursting out of the lofty mountain called El Pico, or the peak of Teneriffe. On this occasion the admiral was at great pains to explain the nature of this phenomenon to the people, by instancing the example of Etna and several other known volcanoes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
This is an excerpt from Volume 1 of America, Great Crises in our History.

Verrazzano's Voyage-1524

Captain John de Verrazzano to His Most Serene Majesty, the Kingof France, Writes:

THIS letter to the King of France was written on board Verrazzano's ship "The Dolphine" in the harbor of Dieppe.

Verrazzano first appears in the history of his times as a French corsair preying upon the commerce between Spain and America. It was probably his success as a pirate that won the favor of Francis I, then king of France.

This Italian was the first European to explore the Coast from approximately the present site of Wilmington, N. C., north to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Verrazzano's voyage has been the subject of much controversy. There are those who maintain his letter was prepared with the connivance of the French King as a basis of a claim for American territory and that Verrazzano never visited the New World. Bancroft was evidently of this opinion as he makes no reference to Verrazzano in his "History of the United States."


ON the 17th of last January we set sail from a desolate rock near the island of Madeira, belonging to his most Serene Majesty, the King of Portugal, with fifty men, having provisions sufficient for e i g h t months, arms and other warlike munition and naval stores. . . . Sailing westward with a light and pleasant easterly breeze, in twenty-five days we ran eight hundred leagues. On the 24th of February we encountered as violent a hurricane as any ship ever weathered, from which we escaped unhurt by the divine assistance and goodness, to the praise of the glorious and fortunate name of our good ship, that had been able to support the violent tossing of the waves. Pursuing our voyage towards the west, a little northwardly, in twenty-four days more, having run four hundred leagues, we reached a new country, which had never before been seen by any one, either in ancient or modern times. At first it appeared to be very low, but on approaching it to within a quarter of a league from the shore we perceived, by the great fires near the coast, that it was inhabited. We perceived that it stretched to the south, and coasted along in that direction in search of some port, in which we might come to anchor, and examine into the nature of the country, but for fifty leagues we could find none in which we could lie securely.

Seeing the coast still stretch to the south, we resolved to change our course and stand to the northward, and as we still had the same difficulty, we drew M with the land and sent a boat on shore. Many people who were seen coming to the sea-side fled at our approach, but occasionally stopping, they looked back upon us with astonishment, and some were at length induced, by various friendly signs, to come to us. These showed the greatest delight on beholding us, wondering at our dress, countenances and complexion. They then showed us by signs where we could more conveniently secure our boat, and offered us some of their provisions.

We found not far from this people another whose mode of life we judged to be similar. The whole shore is covered with fine sand, about fifteen feet thick, rising in the form of little hills about fifty paces broad. Ascending farther, we found several arms of the sea which make in through inlets, washing the shores on both sides as the coast runs. An outstretched country appears at a little distance rising somewhat above the sandy shore in beautiful fields and broad plains, covered with immense forests of trees, more or less dense, too various in colors, and too delightful and charming in appearance to be described. I do not believe that they are like the Hercynian forest or the rough wilds of Scythia, and the northern regions full of vines and common trees, but adorned with palms, laurels, cypresses, and other varieties unknown in Europe, that send forth the sweetest fragrance to a great distance, but which we could not examine more closely for the reasons before given, and not on account of any difficulty in traversing the woods, which, on the contrary, are easily penetrated.
 

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This is an excerpt from Volume 1 of America, Great Crises in our History.

The Voyages Of The Cabots

LIKE Columbus, John Cabot Was born in Genoa. But he and his family lived for fifteen years in Venice, and when he later moved to England he was always referred to as a Venetian. He settled in Bristol, England, about 1490.

It is very likely that John Cabot was influenced by Bartholomew Columbus, who had been sent to England some years before by his brother Christopher to see what arrangements might be made with the King of England for fitting out an expedition.

Four years after Columbus returned from his voyage of discovery Cabot sailed on his first expedition and discovered, June 24, 1497, what he supposed to be the Chinese coast, probable Labrador or Newfoundland. This was the first discovery of America under English sovereignty. Little is known about the Cabots but it is supposed that John Cabot died on his second expedition leaving in command his son Sebastian, who probably made a third voyage.

The Letters Patents of King Henry the Seventh granted unto John Cabot and his three sons, Lewis, Sebastian, and Santius for the discovery of new and unknown lands.


HENRY, by the grace of God, king of England and France, and lord of Ireland, to all to whom these presents shall come, Greeting.

Be it known that we have given and granted, and by these presents do give and grant for us and our heirs, to our well beloved John Cabot citizen of Venice, to Lewis, Sebastian, and Santius, sons of the said John, and to the heirs of them, and every (one) of them, and their deputies, full and free authority, leave, and power to sail to all parts, countries, and seas of the east, of the west, and of the north, under our banners and ensigns, with five ships of what burden or quantity soever they be, and as many mariners or men as they will have with them in the said ships, upon their own proper costs and charges, to seek out, discover, and find whatsoever isles, countries, regions or provinces of the heathen and infidels whatsoever they be, and in what part of the world soever they be, which before this time have been unknown to all Christians: we have granted to them, and also to every of them, the heirs of them, and every of them, and their deputies, and have given them license to set up our banners and ensigns in every village, town, castle, isle, or mainland of them newly found. And that the aforesaid John and his sons, or their heirs and assigns may subdue, occupy and possess all such towns, cities, castles and isles of them found, which they can subdue, occupy and possess, as our vassals, and lieutenants, getting unto us the rule, title, and jurisdiction of the same villages, towns, castles, and firm land so found. Yet so that the aforesaid John, and his sons and heirs, and their deputies, be held and bound of all the fruits, profits, gains, and commodities growing of such navigation, for their every voyage, as often as they shall arrive at our port of Bristol (at the which port they shall be bound and held only to arrive) all manner of necessary costs and charges by them made, being deducted, to pay unto us in wares or money the fifth part of the capital gain so gotten. We giving and granting unto them and to their heirs and deputies, that they shall be free from all paying of customs of all and singular such merchandise as they shall bring with them from those places so newly found. And moreover, we have given and granted to them, their heirs and deputies, that all the firm lands, isles, villages, towns, castles and places whatsoever they be that they shall chance to find, may not of any other of our subjects be frequented or visited without the license of the aforesaid John and his sons, and their deputies, under pain of forfeiture as well of their ships as of all and singular goods of all them that shall presume to sail to those places so found. Willing, and most straightly commanding all and singular our subjects as well on land as on sea, to give good assistance to the aforesaid John and his sons and deputies, and that as well in arming and furnishing their ships or vessels, as in provision of food, and in buying of victuals for their money, and all other things by them to be provided necessary for the said navigation, they do give them all their help and favor. In witness whereof we have caused to be made these our Letters Patents. Witness ourself at Westminster the fifth day of March, in the eleventh year of our reign.
 

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This is an excerpt from Volume 1 of America, Great Crises in our History.

Champlain's Battle With The Iroquois On Lake Champlain

By Samuel Champlain SAMUEL CHAMPLAIN has been rightly called "The Father of New France." He founded Quebec in 1608 and discovered Lake Champlain in 1609, and later became governor of Canada.

He was not only a good naturalist but was a fine writer and has given us the best descriptions that we have of the Indians in their natural state before they came in contact with the white men.

It is interesting to note that at about the same time that Champlain was fighting the Iroquois, on the lake that bears his name today, Hudson was trading peacefully with the Indians near the present site of Albany. Hudson was creating a friendship with the Iroquois which the English colonists afterwards inherited; Champlain was incurring their undying enmity, which became a matter of great importance in the future struggles between the French and English for the possession of America.


WE continued our course to the entrance of Lake St. Peter, where the country is exceedingly pleasant and level, and crossed the lake, in two, three, and four fathoms of water, which is some eight leagues long and four wide. On the north side, we saw a very pleasant river, extending some twenty leagues into the interior, which I named St. Suzanne; on the south side, there are two, one called Riviere du Pont, the other Riviere de Gennes, which are very pretty, and in a fine and fertile country. The water is almost still in the lake, which is full of fish. On the north bank, there are seen some slight elevations at a distance of some twelve or fifteen leagues from the lake. After crossing the lake, we passed a large number of islands of various sizes, containing many nut trees and vines, and fine meadows, with quantities of game and wild animals, which go over from the main land to these islands. Fish are here more abundant than in any other part of the river that we have seen. From these islands, we went to the mouth of the River of the Iroquois, where we stayed two days, refreshing ourselves with good venison, birds, and fish, which the savages gave us. Here there sprang up among them some difference of opinion on the subject of the war, so that a portion only determined to go with me, while the others returned to their country with their wives and the merchandise which they had obtained by barter.

I set out accordingly from the fall of the Iroquois River on the 2d of July. All the savages set to carrying their canoes, arms, and baggage overland, some half a league, in order to pass by the violence and strength of the fall, which was speedily accomplished. . . .

We set out the next day, continuing our course in the river as far as the entrance of the lake. There are many pretty islands here, low, and containing very fine woods and meadows, with abundance of fowl and such animals of the chase as stags, fallow-deer, fawns, roe-bucks, bears, and others, which go from the main land to these islands. We captured a large number of these animals. There are also many beavers, not only in this river, but also in numerous other little ones that flow into it. These regions, although they are pleasant, are not inhabited by any savages, on account of their wars; but they withdraw as far as possible from the rivers into the interior, in order not to be suddenly surprised.

The next day we entered the lake, which is of great extent, say eighty or a hundred leagues long, where I saw four fine islands, ten, twelve, and fifteen leagues long, which were formerly inhabited by the savages, like the River of the Iroquois; but they have been abandoned since the wars of the savages with one another prevail. There are also many rivers falling into the lake, bordered by many fine trees of the same kinds as those we have in France, with many vines finer than any I have seen in any other place; also many chestnut-trees on the border of this lake, which I had not seen before.

Continuing our course over this lake on the western side, I noticed, while observing the country, some very high mountains on the eastern side, on the top of which there was snow. I made inquiry of the savages, whether these localities were inhabited, when they told me that the Iroquois dwelt there, and that there were beautiful valleys in these places, with plains productive in grain, such as I had eaten in this country, together with many kinds of fruit without limit. They said also that the lake extended near mountains, some twenty-five leagues distant from us, as I judge. I saw, on the south, other mountains, no less high than the first, but without any snow.

When it was evening, we embarked in our canoes to continue our course; and, as we advanced very quietly and without making any noise, we met on the 29th of the month the Iroquois, about ten o'clock at evening, at the extremity of a cape which extends into the lake on the western bank. They had come to fight. We both began to utter loud cries, all getting their arms in readiness. We withdrew out on the water, and the Iroquois went on shore, where they drew up all their canoes close to each other and began to fell trees with poor axes, which they acquire in war sometimes, using also others of stone. Thus they barricaded themselves very well.
 

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This is an excerpt from Volume 1 of America, Great Crises in our History.

The Voyages Of The Norsemen

From the Saga of Eric the Red.

THE VOYAGES of the Norsemen took place about the year 1000 but these Icelandic chronicles were not written until three centuries later. The famous Saga of Eric the Red, containing the original accounts of these voyages, has come down to us in two versions. The first was written by Hauk Erlendsson. The second, which is the one given here almost in its entirety, was written about fifty years later by the priest, Jon Thordharson. Much of the original saga is used by Jon but considerable material has been added from sources unknown. The translation used here was made in 1890 by Arthur Middleton Reeves, a brilliant young American scholar.

ERIC the Red dwelt at Brattahlid, where he was held in the highest esteem, and all men paid him homage. These were Eric's children: Leif, Thorvald, and Thorstein, and a daughter whose name was Freydis ; she was wedded to a man named Thorvard, and they dwelt at Gardar, where the episcopal seat now is. She was a very haughty woman, while Thorvard was a man of little force of character, and Freydis had been wedded to him chiefly because of his wealth. At that time the people of Greenland were heathen.


Biarni arrived with his ship at Eyrar [in Iceland] in the summer of the same year, in the spring of which his father had sailed away. Biarni was much surprised when he heard this news, and would not discharge his cargo. His shipmates inquired of him what he intended to do, and he replied that it was his purpose to keep to his custom, and make his home for the winter with his father; "and I will take the ship to Greenland, if you will bear me company." They all replied that they would abide by his decision. Then said Biarni, "Our voyage must be regarded as foolhardy, seeing that no one of us has ever been in the Greenland Sea."

Nevertheless, they put out to sea when they were equipped for the voyage, and sailed for three days, until the land was hidden by the water, and then the fair wind died out, and north winds arose, and fogs, and they knew not whither they were drifting, and thus it lasted for many "doegr." Then they saw the sun again, and were able to determine the quarters of the heavens; they hoisted sail, and sailed that "doegr" through before they saw land. They discussed among themselves what land it could be, and Biarni said that he did not believe that it could be Greenland. They asked whether he wished to sail to this land or not. "It is my counsel" [said he] "to sail close to the land." They did so, and soon saw that the land was level, and covered with woods, and that there were small hillocks upon it.

They left the land on their larboard, and let the sheet turn toward the land. They sailed for two "doegr" before they saw another land. They asked whether Biarni thought this was Greenland yet. He replied that he did not think this any more like Greenland than the former, "because in Greenland there are said to be many great ice mountains." They soon approached this land, and saw that it was a flat and wooded country. The fair wind failed them then, and the crew took council together, and concluded that it would be wise to land there, but Biarni would not consent to this. They alleged that they were in need of both wood and water. "Ye have no lack of either of these," says Biarni, a course, forsooth, which won him blame among his shipmates. He bade them hoist sail, which they did, and turning the prow from the land they sailed out upon the high seas, with south-westerly gales, for three . 'doegr," when they saw the third land ; this land was high and mountainous, with ice mountains upon it. They asked Biarni then whether he would land there, and he replied that he was not disposed to do so, "because this land does not appear to me to offer any attractions." Nor did they lower their sail, but held their course off the land, and saw that it was an island.

They left this land astern, and held out to sea with the same fair wind. The wind waxed amain, and Biarni directed them to reef, and not to sail at a speed unbefitting their ship and rigging. They sailed now for four 'doegr, when they saw the fourth land. Again they asked Biarni whether he thought this could be Greenland or not. Biarni answers, "This is likest Greenland, according to that which has been reported to me concerning it, and here we will steer to the land." They directed their course thither, and landed in the evening, below a cape upon which there was a boat, and there, upon this cape, dwelt Heriulf, Biarni's father, whence the cape took its name, and was afterward called Heriulfsness. Biarni now went to his father, gave up his voyaging, and remained with his father while Heriulf lived, and continued to live there after his father.

NEXT to this is now to be told how Biarni Heriulfsson came out from Greenland on a visit to Earl Eric, by whom he was well received. Biarni gave an account of his travels [upon the occasion] when he saw the lands, and the people thought that he had been lacking in enterprise, since he had no report to give concerning these countries; and the fact brought him reproach. Biarni was appointed one of the Earl's men, and went out to Greenland the following summer. There was now much talk about voyages of discovery. Leif, the son of Eric the Red, of Brattahlid, visited Biarni Heriulfsson and bought a ship of him, and collected a crew, until they formed altogether a company of thirty-five men.

Leif invited his father, Eric, to become the leader of the expedition, but Eric declined, saying that he was then stricken in years, and adding that he was less able to endure the exposure of sea life than he had been. Leif replied that he would nevertheless be the one who would be most apt to bring good luck, and Eric yielded to Leif's solicitation, and rode from home when they were ready to sail. When he was but a short distance from the ship, the horse which Eric was riding stumbled, and he was thrown from his back and wounded his foot, whereupon he exclaimed, "It is not designed for me to discover more lands than the one in which we are now living, nor can we now continue longer together."
 

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This is an excerpt from Volume 1 of America, Great Crises in our History.

Reception Of Columbus In Spain

By Washington Irving.

THE triumphant return of Columbus was a prodigious event in the history of the little port of Palos, where everybody was more or less interested in the fate of his expedition. The most important and wealthy sea-captains of the place had engaged in it, and scarcely a family but had some relative or friend among the navigators. The departure of the ships, upon what appeared a chimerical and desperate cruise, had spread gloom and dismay over the place; and the storms which had raged throughout the winter had heightened the public despondency. Many lamented their friends as lost, while imagination lent mysterious horrors to their fate, picturing them as driven about over wild and desert wastes of water without a shore, or as perishing amidst rocks, and quicksands, and whirlpools; or a prey to those monsters of the deep, with which credulity peopled every distant and unfrequented sea. There was something more awful in such a mysterious fate than in death itself, under any defined and ordinary form.

Great was the agitation of the inhabitants, therefore, when they beheld one of the ships standing up the river; but when they learnt that she returned in triumph from the discovery of a world, the whole community broke forth into transports of joy. The bells were rung, the shops shut, all business was suspended: for a time there was nothing but hurry and tumult. Some were anxious to know the fate of a relative, others of a friend, and all to learn the particulars of so wonderful a voyage. When Columbus landed, the multitude thronged to see and welcome him, and a grand procession was formed to the principal church, to return thanks to God for so signal a discovery made by the people of that place, forgetting, in their exultation, the thousand difficulties they had thrown in the way of the enterprise. Wherever Columbus passed, he was hailed with shouts and acclamations. What a contrast to his departure a few months before, followed by murmurs and execrations; or, rather, what a contrast to his first arrival at Palos, a poor pedestrian, craving bread and water for his child at the gate of a convent!

THE letter of Columbus to the Spanish monarchs, had produced the greatest sensation at court. The event he announced was considered the most extraordinary of their prosperous reign, and following so close upon the conquest of Granada, was pronounced a signal mark of Divine favor for that triumph achieved in the cause of the true faith. The sovereigns themselves were for a time dazzled by this sudden and easy acquisition of a new empire, of indefinite extent, and apparently boundless wealth; and their first idea was to secure it beyond the reach of dispute. Shortly after his arrival in Seville, Columbus received a letter from them expressing their great delight, and requesting him to repair immediately to court, to concert plans for a second and more extensive expedition. . . .

The fame of his discovery had resounded throughout the nation, and as his route lay through several of the finest and most populous provinces of Spain, his journey appeared like the progress of a sovereign. Wherever he passed, the country poured forth its inhabitants, who lined the road and thronged the villages. The streets, windows, and balconies of the towns were filled with eager spectators, who rent the air with acclamations. His journey was continually impeded by the multitude pressing to gain a sight of him and of the Indians, who were regarded with as much astonishment as if they had been natives of another planet. It was impossible to satisfy the craving curiosity which assailed him and his attendants at every stage with innumerable questions ; popular rumor, as usual, had exaggerated the truth, and had filled the newly found country with all kinds of wonders.

About the middle of April Columbus arrived at Barcelona, where every preparation had been made to give him a solemn and magnificent reception. The beauty and serenity of the weather in that genial season and favored climate, contributed to give splendor to this memorable ceremony. As he drew near the place, many of the youthful courtiers, and hidalgos, together with a vast concourse of the populace, came forth to meet and welcome him. His entrance into this noble city has been compared to one of those triumphs which the Romans were accustomed to decree to conquerors. First, were paraded the Indians, painted according to their savage fashion, and decorated with their national ornaments of gold. After these were borne various kinds of live parrots, together with stuffed birds and animals of unknown species, and rare plants supposed to be of precious qualities ; while great care was taken to make a conspicuous display of Indian coronets, bracelets, and other decorations of gold, which might give an idea of the wealth of the newly discovered regions. After this, followed Columbus on horseback, surrounded by a brilliant cavalcade of Spanish chivalry. The streets were almost impassable from the countless multitude; the windows and balconies were crowded with the fair; the very roofs were covered with spectators. It seemed as if the public eye could not be sated with gazing on these trophies of an unknown world; or on the remarkable man by whom it had been discovered. There was a sublimity in this event that mingled a solemn feeling with the public joy. It was looked upon as a vast and signal dispensation of Providence in reward for the piety of the monarchs; and the majestic and venerable appearance of the discoverer, so different from the youth and buoyancy generally expected from roving enterprise, seemed in harmony with the grandeur and dignity of his achievement.

To receive him with suitable pomp and distinction, the sovereigns had ordered their throne to be placed in public, under a rich canopy of brocade of gold, in a vast and splendid saloon. Here the King and Queen awaited his arrival, seated in state, with the Prince Juan beside them, and attended by the dignitaries of their court, and the principal nobility of Castile, Valentia, Catalonia, and Arragon, all impatient to behold the man who had conferred so incalculable a benefit upon the nation. At length Columbus entered the hall, surrounded by a brilliant crowd of cavaliers, among whom, says Las Casas, he was conspicuous for his stately and commanding person, which with his countenance, rendered venerable by his gray hairs, gave him the august appearance of a senator of Rome : a modest smile lighted up his features, showing that he enjoyed the state and glory in which he came; and certainly nothing could be more deeply moving to a mind inflamed by noble ambition, and conscious of having greatly deserved, than these testimonials of the admiration and gratitude of a nation, or rather of a world. As Columbus approached, the sovereigns rose, as if receiving a person of the highest rank. Bending his knees, he offered to kiss their hands; but there was some hesitation on their part to permit this act of homage. Raising him in the most gracious manner, they ordered him to seat himself in their presence; a rare honor in this proud and punctilious court.
 

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This is an excerpt from Volume 1 of America, Great Crises in our History.

Death Of De Soto

By a Member of De Soto's Expedition.

THIS account of De Soto's death is taken from the "Narrative of the Gentleman of Elvas," first printed in 1557. The author's name is unknown but it was written by one of De Solo's companions.

The translation used here was made by Hakluyt, printed in London in 1609.


THE Governor fell into great dumps to see how hard it was to get to the sea; and worse, because his men and horses every day diminished, being without succor tosustain themselves in the country: and with that thought he fell sick. But before he took his bed he sent an Indian to the Cacique of Quigalta to tell him that he was the child of the sun, and that all the way that he came all men obeyed and served him, that he requested him to accept of his friendship and come unto him, for he would be very glad to see him; and in sign of love and obedience to bring something with him of that which in his country was most esteemed. The cacique answered by the same Indian:

"That whereas he said he was the child of the sun, if he would dry up the river he would believe him; and touching the rest, that he was wont to visit none; but rather that all those of whom he had notice did visit him, served, obeyed, and paid him tributes willingly or perforce; therefore, if he desired to see him, it were best he should come thither ; that if he came in peace, he would receive him with special good will; and if in war, in like manner he would attend him in the town where he was, and that for him or any other he would not shrink one foot back."

By that time the Indian returned with this answer, the Governor had betaken himself to bed, being evil handled with fevers, and was much aggrieved that he was not in case to pass presently the river and to seek him, to see if he could abate that pride of his, considering the river went now very strongly in those parts; for it was near half a league broad, and sixteen fathoms deep, and very furious, and ran with a great current; and on both sides there were many Indians, and his power was not now so great, but that he had need to help himself rather by slights than by force.

The Governor felt in himself that the hour approached wherein he was to leave this present life, and called for the king's officers, captains, and principal persons, to whom he made a speech, saying:

"That now he was to go to give an account before the presence of God of all his life past: and since it pleased him to take him in such a time, and that the time was come that he knew his death, that he his most unworthy servant did yield him many thanks therefor; and desired all that were present and absent (whom he confessed himself to be much beholding unto for their singular virtues, love and loyalty, which himself had well tried in the travels which they had suffered, which always in his mind he did hope to satisfy and reward, when it should please God to give him rest, with more prosperity of his estate), that they would pray to God for him, that for his mercy he would forgive him his sins, and receive his soul into eternal glory: and that they would quit and free him of the charge which he had over them, and ought unto them all, and that they would pardon him for some wrongs which they might have received of him. And to avoid some division, which upon his death might fall out upon the choice of his successor, he requested them to elect a principal person, and able to govern, of whom all should like well; and when he was elected, they should swear before him to obey him : and that he would thank them very much in so doing; because the grief that he had would somewhat be assuaged, and the pain that he felt, because he left them in so great confusion, to wit, in leaving them in a strange country, where they knew not where they were."

Baltasar de Gallegos answered in the name of all the rest. And first of all comforting him, he set before his eyes how short the life of this world was, and with how many troubles and miseries it is accompanied, and how God showed him a singular favor which soonest left it : telling him many other things fit for such a time. And for the last point, that since it pleased God to take him to himself, although his death did justly grieve them much, yet as well he, as all the rest, ought of necessity to conform themselves to the will of God. And touching the Governor which he commanded they should elect, he besought him, that it would please his lordship to name him which he thought fit, and him they would obey. And presently he named Luys de Moscoso de Alvarado, his captain-general. And presently he was sworn by all that were present, and elected for governor.

The next day being the 21st of May, 1542, departed out of this life, the valorous, virtuous, and valiant captain, Don Fernando de Soto, Governor of Cuba, and Adelantado of Florida: whom fortune advanced, as it useth to do others, that he might have the higher fall. He departed in such a place, and at such a time, as in his sickness he had but little comfort: and the danger wherein all his people were of perishing in that country, which appeared before their eyes, was cause sufficient why every one of them had need of comfort, and why they did not visit nor accompany him as they ought to have done. Luys de Moscoso determined to conceal his death from the Indians, because Ferdinando de Soto had made them believe that the Christians were immortal; and also because they took him to be hardy, wise, and valiant : and if they should know that he was dead, they would be bold to set upon the Christians, though they lived peaceably by them.
 

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This is an excerpt from Volume 1 of America, Great Crises in our History.

A Description Of Drake

By Don Francisco de Zarate, Commander of the Spanish Ship Captured by Drake

Just Before He Reached Guatulco THE general of the Englishmen is a cousin of Juan Aquines. He is the same who five years ago took Nombre de Dios. He must be a man of about thirty-five years, short, with a ruddy beard, one of the greatest mariners there are on the sea alike from his skill and his power of command. His ship is a galleon of about four hundred tons, a very fast sailer, and there are aboard her a hundred men, all skilled hands and of warlike age, and all so well trained that they might be old soldiers of the Italian tertias. Every one is specially careful to keep his harquebuss clean. He treats them with affection, and they him with respect. He carries with him nine or ten gentlemen, cadets of high families in England. These are members of his council, and he calls them together upon all occasions, however simple, and although he takes counsel from no one, he is pleased to hear their opinions before issuing his orders. He has no favorite (privado). These of whom I speak are admitted to his table, as well as a Portuguese pilot whom he brought from England. This man never spoke a word the whole time I was there. He is served with much plate with gilt borders and tops and engraved with his arms, and has all possible kinds of delicacies and scents, many of which he says the Queen gave him. None of the gentlemen sit or cover in his presence, without first being ordered once and even several times. The galleon carries about thirty pieces of heavy ordnance and a large quantity of fireworks, and a great deal of ammunition and other necessaries. They dine and sup to the music of violins; and he carries all the appliances of carpenters and caulkers, so as to careen his ship when there is occasion. His ship is not only of the latest type, but sheathed. I understand that all the men he carries are paid, because when they plundered our ship nobody dared take anything without his orders. He keeps very strict discipline, and punishes the slightest fault. He has painters, too, who sketch all the coast in its proper colors. This troubled me to see most of all, because it was so true to nature, that whosoever follows him can by no means lose his way. I heard that he started from his country with five ships and four sea-going shallops, and that the half of the squadron was the Queen's; and I understand this is so, for the reasons I shall give Your Excellency."
 

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This is an excerpt from Volume 1 of America, Great Crises in our History.

Columbus In Spain

By Washington Irving.

THE immediate movements of Columbus on leaving Portugal are involved in uncertainty. It is said that about this time he made a proposition of his enterprise, in person, as he had formerly done by letter, to the government of Genoa. The republic, however, was in a languishing decline, and embarrassed by a foreign war. . . . Her spirit was broken with her fortunes ; for with nations, as with individuals, enterprise is the child of prosperity, and is apt to languish in evil days when there is most need of its exertion. Thus Genoa, disheartened by her reverses, shut her ears to the proposition of Columbus, which might have elevated her to tenfold splendor, and perpetuated within her grasp the golden wand of commerce. While at Genoa Columbus is said to have made arrangements, out of his scanty means, for the comfort of his aged father. It is also affirmed, that about this time he carried his proposal to Venice, where it was declined on account of the critical state of national affairs. This, however, is merely traditional, and unsupported by documentary evidence. The first firm and indisputable trace we have of Columbus after leaving Portugal is in the south of Spain, in 1485, where we find him seeking his fortune among the Spanish nobles, several of whom had vast possessions, and exercised almost independent sovereignty in their domains.

Foremost among these were the dukes of Medina Sidonia and Medina Celi, who had estates like principalities lying along the sea-coast, with ports and shipping and hosts of retainers at their command. They served the crown in its Moorish wars more as allied princes than as vassals, bringing armies into the field led by themselves, or by captains of their own appointment. Their domestic establishments were on almost a regal scale; their palaces were filled with persons of merit, and young cavaliers of noble birth, to be reared under their auspices, in the exercise of arts and arms.

Columbus had many interviews with the duke of Medina Sidonia, who was tempted for a time by the splendid prospects held out ; but their very splendor threw a coloring of improbability over the enterprise, and he finally rejected it as the dream of an Italian visionary.

The duke of Medina Celi was likewise favorable at the outset. He entertained Columbus for some time in his house, and was actually on the point of granting him three or four caravels which lay ready for sea in his harbor of Port St. Mary, opposite Cadiz, when he suddenly changed his mind, deterred by the consideration that the enterprise, if successful, would involve discoveries too important to be grasped by any but a sovereign power, and that the Spanish government might be displeased at his undertaking it on his own account. Finding, however, that Columbus intended to make his next application to the king of France, and loth that an enterprise of such importance should be lost to Spain, the duke wrote to Queen Isabella recommending it strongly to her attention. The queen made a favorable reply, and requested that Columbus might be sent to her. He accordingly set out for the Spanish court, then at Cordova, bearing a letter to the queen from the duke, soliciting that, in case the expedition should be carried into effect, he might have a share in it, and the fitting out of the armament from his port of St. Mary, as a recompense for having waived the enterprise in favor of the crown.

The time when Columbus thus sought his fortunes at the court of Spain coincided with one of the most brilliant periods of the Spanish monarchy. The union of the Kingdoms of Arragon and Castile, by the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella, had consolidated the Christian power in the Peninsula, and put an end to those internal feuds, which had so long distracted the country, and insured the domination of the Moslems. The whole force of united Spain was now exerted in the chivalrous enterprise of the Moorish conquest. The Moors, who had once spread over the whole country like an inundation, were now pent up within the mountain boundaries of the kingdom of Granada. The victorious armies of Ferdinand and Isabella were continually advancing, and pressing this fierce people within narrower limits. Under these sovereigns, the various petty kingdoms of Spain began to feel and act as one nation, and to rise to eminence in arts as well as arms. Ferdinand and Isabella, it has been remarked, lived together not like man and wife, whose estates are common, under the orders of the husband, but like two monarchs strictly allied. They had separate claims to sovereignty, in virtue of their respective kingdoms; they had separate councils, and were often distant from each other in different parts of their empire, each exercising the royal authority. Yet they were so happily united by common views, common interests, and a great deference for each other, that this double administration never prevented a unity of purpose and of action. All acts of sovereignty were executed in both their names; all public writings were subscribed with both their signatures; their likenesses were stamped together on the public coin; and the royal seal displayed the united arms of Castile and Arragon.

Ferdinand was of the middle stature, well proportioned, and hardy and active from athletic exercise. His carriage was free, erect, and majestic. He had a clear serene forehead, which appeared more lofty from his head being partly bald. His eyebrows were large and parted, and, like his hair, of a bright chestnut; his eyes were clear and animated; his complexion was somewhat ruddy, and scorched by the toils of war; his mouth moderate, well formed, and gracious in its expression; his teeth white, though small and irregular; his voice sharp; his speech quick and fluent. His genius was clear and comprehensive; his judgment grave and certain. He was simple in dress and diet, equable in his temper, devout in his religion, and so indefatigable in business, that it was said he seemed to repose himself by working. He was a great observer and judge of men, and unparalleled in the science of the cabinet. Such is the picture given of him by the Spanish historians of his time. It has been added, however, that he had more of bigotry than religion; that his ambition was craving rather than magnanimous; that he made war less like a paladin than a prince, less for glory than for mere dominion ; and that his policy was cold, selfish, and artful. He was called the wise and prudent in Spain ; in Italy, the pious ; in France and England, the ambitious and perfidious. He certainly was one of the most subtle statesmen, but one of the most thorough egotists, that ever sat upon a throne.

Contemporary writers have been enthusiastic in their descriptions of Isabella, but time has sanctioned their eulogies. She is one of the purest and most beautiful characters in the pages of history. She was well formed, of the middle size, with great dignity and gracefulness of deportment, and a mingled gravity and sweetness of demeanor. Her complexion was fair; her hair auburn, inclining to red; her eyes were of a clear blue, with a benign expression, and there was a singular modesty in her countenance, gracing, as it did, a wonderful firmness of purpose, and earnestness of spirit. Though strongly attached to her husband, and studious of his fame, yet she always maintained her distinct rights as an allied prince. She exceeded him in beauty, in personal dignity, in acuteness of genius, and in grandeur of soul. Combining the active and resolute qualities of man with the softer charities of woman, she mingled in the warlike councils of her husband, engaged personally in his enterprises, and in some instances surpassed him in the firmness and intrepidity of her measures; while, being inspired with a truer idea of glory, she infused a more lofty and generous temper into his subtle and calculating policy.

It is in the civil history of their reign, however, that the character of Isabella shines most illustrious. Her fostering and maternal care was continually directed to reform the laws, and heal the ills engendered by a long course of internal wars. She loved her people, and while diligently seeking their good, she mitigated, as much as possible, the harsh measures of her husband, directed to the same end, but inflamed by a mistaken zeal. . . . She was always an advocate for clemency to the Moors, although she was the soul of the war against Granada. She considered that war essential to protect the Christian faith, and to relieve her subjects from fierce and formidable enemies. While all her public thoughts and acts were princely and august, her private habits were simple, frugal, and unostentatious. In the intervals of state business, she assembled round her the ablest men in literature and science, and directed herself by their counsels, in promoting letters and arts. Through her patronage, Salamanca rose to that height which it assumed among the learned institutions of the age. She promoted the distribution of honors and rewards for the promulgation of knowledge; she fostered the art of printing, recently invented; and encouraged the establishment of presses in every part of the kingdom; books were admitted free of all duty, and more, we are told, were printed in Spain, at that early period of the art, than in the present literary age.

It is wonderful how much the destinies of countries depend at times upon the virtues of individuals, and how it is given to great spirits, by combining, exciting, and directing the latent powers of a nation, to stamp it, as it were, with their own greatness. Such beings realize the idea of guardian angels, appointed by Heaven to watch over the destinies of empires. Such had been Prince Henry for the kingdom of Portugal ; and such was now for Spain the illustrious Isabella.
 

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This is an excerpt from Volume 1 of America, Great Crises in our History.

Letters From Toscanelli Approving Columbus' Project

PAUL TOSCANELLI was a Florentine physician and celebrated astronomer. According to his son, Ferdinand, Columbus was greatly encouraged in planning his voyages of discovery by these letters from Toscanelli.

The first of Toscanelli's letters was a reply to Fernando Martinez, a Portuguese, who had written on behalf of the King of Portugal. As soon as Columbus learned of their correspondence, he wrote direct to Toscanelli, and received the following communications from the noted astronomer.


I HAVE become acquainted with the great and noble wish entertained by you, to visit the country of spices, on which account I send in answer to your letter, the copy of one directed by me, a few days since, to one of my friends, in the service of the King of Portugal before the wars of Castile; he having written to me, by order of His Highness, upon the same subject. I also send you a nautical chart, similar to one which I likewise presented to him ; these may perhaps satisfy your inquiries. The copy of my letter is as follows :

To Fernando Martinez, prebendary of Lisbon, greeting I feel a great pleasure in hearing of the intimacy between you and the Most Serene and Magnificent King. Although I have spoken many times concerning the short passage by sea from hence to the Indies, where the spices are produced, which course, in my opinion is shorter than that to Guinea, yet you inform me that His Highness wishes for some declaration or demonstration on my part, whereby he may more fully understand the matter. This I could do to his satisfaction, with the help of a terrestrial globe, instructing him how the parts of the earth are disposed. But for greater facility and precision, I have determined to mark down the route in question upon a marine chart, which I herewith send to his majesty, drawn and painted by my hand. In this is represented the whole extremity of the W., from Ireland, S. to Guinea, with all the islands in the whole extent. Opposite, in the W. is the commencement of the Indies, with the isles and accessible parts, and the space between the North pole and the Equinoctial line. In this manner will be perceived the number of leagues necessary to proceed in order to reach those fertile countries which abound in spices and precious stones. Let it not create wonder that a westerly region is assigned for the country of spices, which have always been understood to grow in the E.; for those who sail W. will find those lands in the W., and those who travel E., will find the same places in the E. The straight lines, which run lengthwise upon the chart, show the distance from W. to E. The oblique ones, the distance from N. to S. I have also marked down many places among the Indies, which may be reached by the occurrence of some casual event, such as contrary winds, or unlooked for accident of that sort. And in order that you may be made fully acquainted with whatever relates to this subject, I will give you the result of my investigations. The islands I have spoken of, are inhabited by merchants who carry on their trade among many nations; their ports contain a greater number of foreign vessels than those of any other part of the world. The single port of Zaiton, which is one of the finest and most famous throughout the E., sends forth annually, more than a hundred ships laden with pepper, not to mention others, which return with cargoes of all sorts of spices. The whole territory is very extensive and populous, containing many provinces and kingdoms, under the dominion of a prince called Great Can, which signifies King of Kings. The common residence of this sovereign is in Cathay. His predecessors were desirous of an intercourse with the Christians, and two hundred years since, dispatched ambassadors to the Pope, requesting instructors to teach them our holy faith. These, however, were unable, from the obstacles they encountered upon their journey, to reach Rome, and were forced to return back. In the time of Pope Eugenius IV. there came an ambassador, who gave him assurances of the affection which was entertained for the Catholics by the princes and people of his country. I was a great deal in his company, and he gave me descriptions of the magnificence of his king, and of the immense rivers in that territory, which contained, as he stated, two hundred cities with marble bridges, upon the banks of a single stream. This is a noble country, and ought to be explored by us, on account of its great riches, and the quantity of gold, silver, and precious stones, which might be obtained there. For their governors, they choose the wisest men, without regard to rank or riches. You will perceive by the map, that the distance from Lisbon, to the famous city of Quisay, is three thousand nine hundred miles, going exactly W. This city is thirty-five leagues in circuit, and its name signifies City of Heaven. Its situation is in the province of Mango near Cathay, and it contains ten large marble bridges built upon immense columns, of singular magnificence. From the island of Antilla to that of Cipango is a distance of two hundred and twenty-five leagues. This island possesses such an abundance of precious stones and metals that the temples and royal palaces are covered with plates of gold. I might add many things here, but as I have formerly given you a relation of them, I trust to your wisdom and good judgment, without making any further addition to this statement. I hope my letter will satisfy His Highness, and I beg you will assure him, that I shall be always ready to execute his commands.
 

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This is an excerpt from Volume 1 of America, Great Crises in our History.

De Vaca's Journey To New Mexico

From Cabeza de Vaca's Relation

THE SUCCESS of Cortez in Mexico led many Spanish adventurers on expeditions into various parts of the New World. And among them none was more thrilling than de Vaca's wanderings from the Gulf of Mexico through the present States of Texas and New Mexico.

De Vaca was treasurer of Navarez's expedition that sailed from Spain in 1527, and landed at the present Apalache Bay on the coast of Florida. Navarez lost his life, and most of his men were either killed by savages or died of disease and starvation. De Vaca was held six years a captive, and finally escaped with two companions and a ***** slave.

After their escape they pushed on northwards and westwards, enduring incredible hardships, until they finally came upon some other Spanish explorers upon the River Petatlan, on the 1st of April, 1536. Returning to Spain, de Vaca published a "Relation" of his travels, from which this account is taken.


WE TOLD these people that we desired to go where the sun sets ; and they said inhabitants in that direction were remote. We commanded them to send and make known our coming ; but they strove to excuse themselves the best they could, the people being their enemies, and they did not wish to go to them. Not daring to disobey, however, they sent two women, one of their own, the other a captive from that people ; for the women can negotiate even though there be war. We followed them, and stopped at a place where we agreed to wait. They tarried five days ; and the Indians said they could not have found anybody.

We told them to conduct us towards the north; and they answered, as before, that except afar off there were no people in that direction, and nothing to eat, nor could water be found. Notwithstanding all this, we persisted, and said we desired to go in that course. They still tried to excuse themselves in the best manner possible. At this we became offended, and one night I went out to sleep in the woods apart from them ; but directly they came to where I was, and remained all night without sleep, talking to me in great fear, telling me how terrified they were, beseeching us to be no longer angry, and said that they would lead us in the direction it was our wish to go, though they knew they should die on the way.

While we were among these people, which was more than fifteen days, we saw no one speak to another, nor did we see an infant smile: the only one that cried they took off to a distance, and with the sharp teeth of a rat they scratched it from the shoulders down nearly to the end of the legs. Seeing this cruelty, and offended at it, I asked why they did so : they said for chastisement, because the child had wept in my presence.

From that place onward was another usage. Those who knew of our approach did not come out to receive us on the road as the others had done, but we found them in their houses, and they had made others for our reception. They were all seated with their faces turned to the wall, their heads down, the hair brought before their eyes, and their property placed in a heap in the middle of the house. From this place they began to give us many blankets of skin ; and they had nothing they did not bestow. They have the finest persons of any people we saw, of the greatest activity and strength, who best understood us and intelligently answered our inquiries. We called them the Cow nation, because most of the cattle killed are slaughtered in their neighborhood, and along up that river for over fifty leagues they destroy great numbers.

They go entirely naked after the manner of the first we saw. The women are dressed with deer skin, and some few men, mostly the aged, who are incapable of fighting. The country is very populous. We asked how it was they did not plant maize. They answered it was that they might not lose what they should put in the ground; that the rains had failed for two years in succession, and the seasons were so dry the seed had everywhere been taken by the moles, and they could not venture to plant again until after water had fallen copiously. They begged us to tell the sky to rain, and to pray for it, and we said we would do so. We also desired to know whence they got the maize, and they told us from where the sun goes down; there it grew throughout the region, and the nearest was by that path.

Doubting what it would be best to do, and which way we should choose for suitableness and support, we remained two days with these Indians, who gave us beans and pumpkins for our subsistence. Their method of cooking is so new that for its strangeness I desire to speak of it; thus it may be seen and remarked how curious and diversified are the contrivances and ingenuity of the human family. Not having discovered the use of pipkins, to boil what they would eat, they fill the half of a large calabash with water, and throw on the fire many stones of such as are most convenient and readily take the heat. When hot, they are taken up with tongs of sticks and dropped into the calabash until the water in it boils from the fervor of the stones. Then whatever is to be cooked is put in, and until it is done they continue taking out cooled stones and throwing in hot ones. Thus they boil their food.

TWO days being spent while we tarried, we resolved to go in search of the maize. We did not wish to follow the path leading to where the cattle are, because it is towards the north, and for us very circuitous, since we ever held it certain that going towards the sunset we must find what we desired.

As the sun went down, upon some plains that lie between chains of very great mountains, we found a people who for the third part of the year eat nothing but the powder of straw, and, that being the season when we passed, we also had to eat of it, until reaching permanent habitations, where was abundance of maize brought together. They gave us a large quantity in grain and flour, pumpkins, beans, and shawls of cotton. With all these we loaded our guides, who went back the happiest creatures on earth. We gave thanks to God, our Lord, for having brought us where we had found so much food.

Some houses are of earth, the rest all of cane mats. From this point we marched through more than a hundred leagues of country, and continually found settled domicils, with plenty of maize and beans. The people gave us many deer and cotton shawls better than those of New Spain, many beads and certain corals found on the South sea, and fine turquoises that come from the north. Indeed they gave us everything they had. To me they gave five emeralds made into arrow-heads, which they use at their singing and dancing. They appeared to be very precious. I asked whence they got these ; and they said the stones were brought from some lofty mountains that stand towards the north, where were populous towns and very large houses, and that they were purchased with plumes and the feathers of parrots.

Among this people the women are treated with more decorum than in any part of the Indias we had visited. They wear a shirt of cotton that falls as low as the knee, and over it half sleeves with skirts reaching to the ground, made of dressed deer skin. It opens in front and is brought close with straps of leather. They soap this with a certain root that cleanses well, by which they are enabled to keep it becomingly. Shoes are worn. The people all came to us that we should touch and bless them, they being very urgent, which we could accomplish only with great labor, for sick and well all wished to go with a benediction.

Throughout all these countries the people who were at war immediately made friends, that they might come to meet us, and bring what they possessed. In this way we left all the land at peace, and we taught all the inhabitants by signs, which they understood, that in heaven was a Man we called God, who had created the sky and the earth; him we worshiped and had for our master; that we did what he commanded and from his hand came all good; and would they do as we did, all would be well with them. So ready of apprehension we found them that, could we have had the use of language by which to make ourselves perfectly understood, we should have left them all Christians. Thus much we gave them to understand the best we could. And afterward, when the sun rose, they opened their hands together with loud shouting towards the heavens, and then drew them down all over their bodies. They did the same again when the sun went down. They are a people of good condition and substance, capable in any pursuit.

WE passed through many territories and found them all vacant: their inhabitants wandered fleeing among the mountains, without daring to have houses or till the earth for fear of Christians. The sight was one of infinite pain to us, a land very fertile and beautiful, abounding in springs and streams, the hamlets deserted and burned, the people thin and weak, all fleeing or in concealment. As they did not plant, they appeased their keen hunger by eating roots and the bark of trees. We bore a share in the famine along the whole way; for poorly could these unfortunates provide for us, themselves being so reduced they looked as though they would willingly die. They brought shawls of those they had concealed because of the Christians, presenting them to us ; and they related how the Christians at other times had come through the land, destroying and burning the towns, carrying away half the men, and all the women and the boys, while those who had been able to escape were wandering about fugitives. We found them so alarmed they dared not remain anywhere. They would not nor could they till the earth, but preferred to die rather than live in dread of such cruel usage as they received. Although these showed themselves greatly delighted with us, we feared that on our arrival among those who held the frontier, and fought against the Christians, they would treat us badly, and revenge upon us the conduct of their enemies ; but, when God our Lord was pleased to bring us there, they began to dread and respect us as the others had done, and even somewhat more, at which we no little wondered. Thence it may at once be seen that, to bring all these people to be Christians and to the obedience of the Imperial Majesty, they must be won by kindness, which is a way certain, and no other is.
 
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