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America firft difcovered in 1492 by Columbus. His propofal rejected by feveral courts, but adopted by Isabella of Spain. Difozers Hifpaniola. Mexico conquered by Cortez. Brief account of that great empire. Peru reduced under the dominion of Spain. Extent and boundaries of America. General defeription thereof. Account of the antient Indians.
HIS vaft continent of America was entirely 1492. unknown to the European, and all other n nations in the world, till the year 1492, when it was difcovered by CHRISTOPHER COLUM- ColumEUS, a native of Genoa. This man, having fome bus, a nahow or ether obtained a more juft notion of the Genoa, figure of the earth than moft of his cotemporaries, firft aprojected a fcheme of failing to the Eaft Indies by dopts the directing his courfe Weftward. The reafon he had fcheme of for fo frange a project was indeed the errors in the directing maps which were made of thofe Eastern countries for the at that time; for by them the Eaft Indies were placed Eat-Info very far to the Eastward, that it appeared to dies, Columbus, the navigation mult go a great deal more weitthan half round the globe before they could come at wardly. any part of them. In confequence of this fuppofition, the thought was very rational, that it would
be a much fhorter, and lefs dangerous voyage to fail Weftward, as they believed they would fall in with the Eastern parts of Afia before they had fail'd round half the circumference of the globe; as no part of the world can be diftant from another more than half this circumference, provided the fhorteft way to it is taken. But how Columbus, at that time, when it was reckoned a mortal herefy to fay that the earth was round, came to have notions fo different from the common, and not only to imagine that the earth was spherical, but that its circumference did not extend to a certain space, we are not certainly informed. Be this, however, as it will, Columbus was willing that his own country fhould reap the benefits of his fuperior knowledge in this refpect: and therefore he communicated his ropean new scheme to the court of Genoa, who rejected it but is ta- as an abfurdity. He then applied fucceffively to the courts of France, Britain, and Portugal; from all by Ifabel- of which he met with a reception of the fame kind;
is reject ed at fe
Sets fail, and finds land 33 days after his
and had the mortification to find, that his own fuperiority of knowledge to the reft of mankind only ferved to make him their laughing stock. At laft he applied to Spain, where, after eight years attendance, perhaps the curiofity natural to her fex, induced Queen Ifabella to raise money on her jewels, in order to defray the expence of his expedition.
In 1492, then Columbus fet fail from Spain, with three fhips, in fearch of countries hitherto undifcovered, and which almost every one believed to exift only in imagination. His failors were with great difficulty kept in fubjection; but being kept in hopes of land, fometimes by great flights of birds, and at others, by obferving quantities of weeds floating in the fea, they were kept from breaking out into open mutiny, till the difcovery of land, after a voyage of 33 days, put an end to their fears. In this voyage the variation of the compafs was first difcovered, which occafioned fuch an alarm among Columbus's failors,
failors, that they were with difficulty prevented from throwing him overboard.
Columbus first landed on one of the Bahama The inand of
iflands; but finding nothing there of confequence, Hifpanihe fteered Southward, where he discovered the ifiand ola difof Hifpaniola, which promifing confiderable quanti- covered. ties of gold, he therefore propofed to make the centre of his difcoveries; and having left fome of his companions, as the bafis of a new colony, he returned to Spain.
On his return, he found no difficulty in procuring Returns neceffaries for a fecond voyage. A fleet of 17 fail to Spain, was immediately fitted out, and 1500 perfons, fome equips a of them of high rank, prepared to accompany Co- new fleet lumbus, now when they hoped to fhare his good makes a fortune. In this fecond voyage he difcovered moft 2d and of the Weft-India iflands; and in a third, he difco- 3d voyvered the continent of South America, failing up age. the river Oronoko. After having thus difcovered the continent, and made fettlements in the islands of America, the malice of his enemies prevailed fo far against him, that he was fent to Europe in irons. His innocence, however, got the better of their calumnies, and this great man died in peace at Valladolid in 1506.
The fucceeding governors of Cuba and Hifpa- The efniola rendered themfelves as infamous by their fects of cruelties, as Columbus had been famous for his vir- avarice. tues. These iflands contained mines of gold; the Indians only knew where they were plac'd, and the extreme avarice of the Spaniards, hurried them to acts of the moft fhocking violence and cruelty against thofe unhappy men, who, they believed, concealed from them part of their treature. In a few days they depopulated Hifpaniola, which contained three millions of inhabitants; and Cuba, that had about 600,000. Bartholomew de la Cafas, a