صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

mouth of a river, they found sea wolves in great numbers, and brought home many of their skins which were much esteemed.

Antonio Gonzales, who had been one of the associates of Gilianes, was sent again, in 1440, to bring back a cargo of the skins of sea wolves. He was followed in another ship by Nunno Tristam. They were now of strength sufficient to venture upon violence; they therefore landed, and without either right or provocation, made all whom they seized their prisoners, and brought them to Portugal, with great commendations both from the prince and the nation.

Henry now began to please himself with the success of his projects, and as one of his purposes was the conversion of infidels, he thought it necessary to impart his undertaking to the pope, and to obtain the sanction of ecclesiastical authority. To this end Fernando Lopez d'Azevedo was despatched to Rome, who related to the pope and cardinals the great designs of Henry, and magnified his zeal for the propagation of religion. The pope was pleased with the narrative, and by a formal bull, conferred upon the crown of Portugal all the countries which should be discovered as far as India, together with India itself, and granted several privileges and indulgences to the churches which Henry had built in his new regions, and to the men engaged in the navigation for discovery. By this bull, all other princes were forbidden to encroach upon the conquests of the Portuguese, on pain of the censures incurred by the crime of usurpation.

The approbation of the pope, the sight of men whose manners and appearance were so different from those of Europeans, and the hope of gain from golden regions, which has been always the great incentive to hazard and discovery, now began to operate with full force. The desire of riches and of dominion, which yet is more pleasing to the fancy, filled the courts of the Portuguese prince with innumerable adventurers from very distant parts of Europe. Some wanted to be employed in the search after new countries, and some to be settled in those which had been already found.

Communities now began to be animated by the spirit of enterprise, and many associations were formed for the equipment of ships, and the acquisition of the riches of distant regions, which perhaps were always supposed to be more wealthy, as more remote. These undertakers agreed to pay the prince a fifth part of the profit, sometimes a greater share, and sent out the armament at their own expense.

The city of Lagos was the first that carried on this design by contribution. The inhabitants fitted out six vessels, under the command of Lucarot, one of the prince's household, and soon after fourteen more were furnished for the same purpose, under the same commander; to those were added many belonging to private men, so

that in a short time twenty-six ships put to sea in quest of whatever fortune should present.

The ships of Lagos were soon separated by foul weather, and the rest, taking each its own course, stopped at different parts of the African coast, from Cape Blanco to Cape Verd. Some of them, in 1444, anchored at Gomera, one of the Canaries, where they were kindly treated by the inhabitants, who took them into their service against the people of the isle of Palma, with whom they were at war; but the Portuguese at their return to Gomera, not being made so rich as they expected, fell upon their friends, in contempt of all the laws of hospitality and stipulations of alliance, and making several of them prisoners and slaves, set sail for Lisbon. The Canaries are supposed to have been known, however imperfectly, to the ancients; but in the confusion of the subsequent ages they were lost and forgotten, till about the year 1340, the Biscayners found Lucarot, and invading it (for to find a new country and invade it has always been the same), brought away seventy captives, and some commodities of the place. Louis de la Cerda, count of Clermont, of the blood royal both of France and Spain, nephew of John de la Cerda, who called himself the Prince of Fortune, had once a mind to settle in those islands, and applying himself first to the king of Arragon, and then to Clement VI., was by the pope crowned at Avignon, king of the Canaries, on condition that he should reduce them to the true religion; but the prince altered his mind, and went into France to serve against the English. The kings both of Castile and Portugal, though they did not oppose the papal grant, yet complained of it, as made without their knowledge, and in contravention of their rights.

The first settlement in the Canaries was made by John de Betancour, a French gentleman, for whom his kinsman, Robin de Braquement, admiral of France, begged them, with the title of king from Henry the magnificent of Castile, to whom he had done eminent services. John made himself master of some of the isles, but could never conquer the grand Canary; and having spent all that he had, went back to Europe, leaving his nephew, Massiot de Betancour, to take care of his new dominion. Massiot had a quarrel with the vicar-general, and was likewise disgusted by the long absence of his uncle, whom the French king detained in his service, and being able to keep his ground no longer, he transferred his rights to Don Henry, in exchange for some districts in the Madera, when he settled his family.

Don Henry, when he had purchased those islands, sent thither, in 1424, two thousand five hundred foot, and a hundred and twenty horse; but the army was too numerous to be maintained by the country. The king of Castile afterwards claimed them, as conquered by his sub

jects under Betancour, and held under the crown of Castile by fealty and homage; his claim was allowed, and the Canaries were resigned.

not easily negotiate or traffic: at last the Portuguese laid hands on some of them to carry them home for a sample; and their dread and amazement was raised, says Lafitau, to the

It was the constant practice of Henry's naviga-highest pitch, when the Europeans fired their tors, when they stopped at a desert island, to cannons and muskets among them, and they land cattle upon it, and leave them to breed, saw their companions fall dead at their feet where, neither wanting room nor food, they without any enemy at hand, or any visible cause multiplied very fast, and furnished a very comof their destruction. modious supply to those who came afterwards to the same place. This was imitated in some degree by Anson, at the isle of Juan Fernandez. The islands of Madera he not only filled with inhabitants, assisted by artificers of every kind, but procured such plants as seemed likely to flourish in that climate, and introduced sugarcanes and vines, which afterwards produced a very large revenue.

The trade of Africa now began to be profitable, but a great part of the gain arose from the sale of slaves, who were annually brought into Portugal, by hundreds, as Lafitau relates, and relates without any appearance of indignation or compassion: they likewise imported gold dust in such quantities, that Alphonsus V. coined it into a new species of money called Crusades, which is still continued in Portugal.

In time they made their way along the south coast of Africa, eastward to the country of the negroes, whom they found living in tents, with out any political institutions, supporting life, with very little labour, by the milk of their kine, and millet, to which those who inhabited the coast added fish dried in the sun. Having never seen the natives, or heard of the arts of Europe, they gazed with astonishment on the ships when they approached their coasts, sometimes thinking them birds, and sometimes fishes, according as their sails were spread or lowered; and sometimes conceiving them to be only phantoms, which played to and fro in the ocean. Such is the account given by the historian, perhaps with too much prejudice against a negro's understanding; who though he might well wonder at the bulk and swiftness of the first ship, would scarcely conceive it to be either a bird or a fish; but having seen many bodies floating in the water, would think it what it really is, a large boat; and if he had no knowledge of any means by which separate pieces of timber may be joined together, would form very wild notions concerning its construction, or perhaps suppose it to be a hollow trunk of a tree, from some country where trees grow to a much greater height and thickness than in his own.

When the Portuguese came to land, they increased the astonishment of the poor inhabitants, who saw men clad in iron with thunder and lightning in their hands. They did not understand each other, and signs are a very imperfect mode of communication, even to men of more knowledge than the negroes, so that they could

On what occasion, or for what purpose, cannons and muskets were discharged among a people harmless and secure, by strangers who without any right visited their coast, it is not thought necessary to inform us. The Portuguese could fear nothing from them, and had therefore no adequate provocation; nor is there any reason to believe but that they murdered the negroes in wanton merriment, perhaps only to try how many a volley would destroy, or what would be the consternation of those that should escape. We are openly told that they had the less scruple concerning their treatment of the savage people, because they scarcely considered them as distinct from beasts; and indeed the practice of all the European nations, and among others of the English barbarians that cultivate the southern islands of America, proves, that this opinion, however absurd and foolish, however wicked and injurious, still continues to prevail. Interest and pride harden the heart, and it is in vain to dispute against avarice and power.

By these practices the first discoverers alienated the natives from them; and whenever a ship appeared, every one that could fly betook himself to the mountains and the woods, so that nothing was to be got more than they could steal: they sometimes surprised a few fishers, and made them slaves, and did what they could to offend the negroes, and enrich themselves. This practice of robbery continued till some of the negroes who had been enslaved learned the language of Portugal, so as to be able to interpret for their countrymen, and one John Fernandez applied himself to the negro tongue.

From this time began something like a regular traffic, such as can subsist between nations where all the power is on one side; and a factory was settled in the isle of Arguin, under the protection of a fort. The profit of this new trade was assigned for a certain term to Ferdinando Gomez; which seems to be the common method of establishing a trade that is yet too small to engage the care of a nation, and can only be enlarged by that attention which is bestowed by private men upon private advantage. Gomez continued the discoveries to Cape Catharine, two degrees and a half beyond the line.

In the latter part of the reign of Alphonso V. the ardour of discovery was somewhat intermitted, and all commercial enterprises were in

terrupted by the wars in which he was engaged with various success. But John II., who succeeded, being fully convinced both of the honour and advantage of extending his dominions in countries hitherto unknown, prosecuted the designs of prince Henry with the utmost vigour, and in a short time added to his other titles, that of king of Guinea and of the coast of Africa.

In 1463, in the third year of the reign of John II., died prince Henry, the first encourager of remote navigation, by whose incitement, patronage, and example, distant nations have been made acquainted with each other, unknown countries have been brought into general view, and the power of Europe has been extended to the remotest parts of the world. What mankind has lost and gained by the genius and designs of this prince, it would be long to compare, and very difficult to estimate. Much knowledge has been acquired, and much cruelty been committed; the belief of religion has been very little propagated, and its laws have been outrageously and enormously violated. The Europeans have scarcely visited any coast, but to gratify avarice, and extend corruption; to arrogate dominion without right, and practise cruelty without incentive. Happy had it then been for the oppressed, if the designs of Henry had slept in his bosom, and surely more happy for the oppressors. But there is reason to hope that out of so much evil good may sometimes be produced; and that the light of the gospel will at last illuminate the sands of Africa, and the deserts of America, though its progress cannot but be slow when it is so much obstructed by the lives of Christians.

The death of Henry did not interrupt the progress of king John, who was very strict in his injunctions, not only to make discoveries, but to secure possession of the countries that were found. The practice of the first navigators was only to raise a cross upon the coast, and to carve upon the trees the device of Don Henry, the name which they thought it proper to give to the new coast, and any other information, for those that might happen to follow them; but now they began to erect piles of stone with a cross on the top, and engraved on the stone the arms of Portugal, the name of the king, and of the commander of the ship, with the day and year of the discovery. This was accounted sufficient to prove their claim to the new lands; which might be pleaded with justice enough against any other Europeans, and the rights of the original inhabitants were never taken into notice. Of these stone records, nine more were erected in the reign of king John, along the coast of Africa, as far as the Cape of Good Hope.

The fortress in the isle of Arguin was finished, and it was found necessary to build another at S. Georgio de la Mina, a few degrees north

of the line, to secure the trade of gold dust, which was chiefly carried on at that place. For this purpose a fleet was fitted out of ten large and three smaller vessels, freighted with materials for building the fort, and with provisions and ammunition for six hundred men, of whom one hundred were workmen and labourers. Father Lafitau relates, in very particular terms, that these ships carried hewn stones, bricks, and timber, for the fort, so that nothing remained but barely to erect it. He does not seem to consider how small a fort could be made out of the lading of ten ships.

The command of this fleet was given to Don Diego d'Azambue, who set sail December 11th, 1481, and reaching La Mina January 19th, 1482, gave immediate notice of his arrival to Caramansa, a petty prince of that part of the country, whom he very earnestly invited to an immediate conference.

Having received a message of civility from the negro chief, he landed, and chose a rising ground, proper for his intended fortress, on which he planted a banner with the arms of Portugal, and took possession in the name of his master. He then raised an altar at the foot of a great tree, on which mass was celebrated, the whole assembly, says Lafitau, breaking out into tears of devotion at the prospect of inviting these barbarous nations to the profession of the true faith. Being secure of the goodness of the end, they had no scruple about the means, nor ever considered how differently from the primitive martyrs and apostles they were attempting to make proselytes. The first propagators of Christianity recommended their doctrines by their sufferings and virtues; they entered no defenceless territories with swords in their hands; they built no forts upon ground to which they had no right, nor polluted the purity of religion with the avarice of trade, or insolence of power.

What may still raise higher the indignation of a Christian mind, this purpose of propagating truth appears never to have been seriously pursued by any European nation; no means, whether lawful or unlawful, have been practised with diligence and perseverance for the conversion of savages. When a fort is built, and a factory established, there remains no other care than to grow rich. It is soon found that ignorance is most easily kept in subjection, and that by enlightening the mind with truth, fraud and usurpation would be made less practicable and less secure.

[merged small][ocr errors]

friendship with him, it was necessary that they should build a fort, which might serve as a retreat from their common enemies, and in which the Portuguese might be always at hand to lend him assistance.

The negro, who seemed very well to understand what the admiral intended, after a short pause, returned an answer full of respect to the king of Portugal, but appeared a little doubtful what to determine with relation to the fort. The commander saw his diffidence, and used all his art of persuasion to overcome it. Caramansa, either induced by hope, or constrained by fear, either desirous to make them friends, or not daring to make them enemies, consented, with a show of joy, to that which it was not in his power to refuse; and the new comers began the next day to break the ground for the foundation of a fort.

may be observed that slaves were never forgotten, and that wherever they went, they gratified their pride, if not their avarice, and brought some of the natives, when it happened that they brought nothing else.

The Portuguese endeavoured to extend their dominions still farther. They had gained some knowledge of the Jaloffs, a nation inhabiting the coast of Guinea, between the Gambia and Senegal. The king of the Jaloffs being vicious and luxurious, committed the care of the government to Bemoin, his brother by the mother's side, in preference to two other brothers by his father. Bemoin, who wanted neither bravery nor prudence, knew that his station was invidious and dangerous, and therefore made an alliance with the Portuguese, and retained them in his defence by liberality and kindness. At last the king was killed by the contrivance of his brothers, and Bemoin was to lose his power, or maintain it by war.

Within the limit of their intended fortification were some spots appropriated to superstitious practices; which the negroes no sooner per- He had recourse in this exigence to his great ceived in danger of violation by the spade and ally the king of Portugal, who promised to suppick-axe, than they ran to arms, and began to in- port him, on condition that he should become a terrupt the work. The Portuguese persisted in christian, and sent an ambassador, accompanied their purpose, and there had soon been tumult with missionaries. Bemoin promised all that and bloodshed, had not the admiral, who was at was required, objecting only, that the time of a a distance to superintend the unlading the ma- civil war was not a proper season for a change terials for the edifice, been informed of the of religion, which would alienate his adherents; danger. He was told at the same time, that but said, that when he was once peaceably estathe support of their superstition was only a blished, he would not only embrace the true pretence, and that all their rage might be ap-religion himself but would endeavour the conpeased by the presents which the prince ex- version of the kingdom. pected, the delay of which had greatly offended him.

In this fort the admiral remained with sixty soldiers, and sent back the rest in the ships, with gold, slaves, and other commodities. It

This excuse was admitted, and Bemoin delayed his conversion for a year, renewing his promise from time to time. But the war was unsuccessful, trade was at a stand, and Bemoin was not able to pay the money which he had borrowed of the Portuguese merchants, who sent intelligence to Lisbon of his delays, and received an order from the king, commanding them, under severe penalties, to return home.

The Portuguese admiral immediately ran to his men, prohibited all violence, and stopped the commotion; he then brought out the presents, and spread them with great pomp before the prince; if they were of no great value, they were rare, for the negroes had never seen such wonders before; they were therefore received with ecstacy, and perhaps the Portuguese derided them for their fondness of trifles, without considering how many things derive their value only from their scarcity; and that gold and rubies would be trifles, if nature had scattered them with less frugality.

The work was now peaceably continued, and such was the diligence with which the strangers hastened to secure the possession of the country,sistance. that in twenty days they had sufficiently fortified themselves against the hostility of the negroes. They then proceeded to complete their design. A church was built in the place where their first altar had been raised, on which a mass was established to be celebrated for ever once a day, for the repose of the soul of Henry, the first mover of these discoveries.

Bemoin here saw his ruin approaching, and, hoping that money would pacify all resentment, borrowed of his friends a sum sufficient to discharge his debts; and finding that even this enticement would not delay the departure of the Portuguese, he embarked his nephew in their ships, with a hundred slaves, whom he presented to the king of Portugal, to solicit his asThe effect of this embassy he could not stay to know; for being soon after deposed, he sought shelter in the fortress of Arguin, whence he took shipping for Portugal, with twenty-five of his principal followers.

The king of Portugal pleased his own vanity and that of his subjects, by receiving him with great state and magnificence, as a mighty monarch who had fled to an ally for succour in misfortune. All the lords and ladies of the court were assembled, and Bemoin was conducted with a splendid attendance into the hall

of audience, where the king rose from his throne to welcome him. Bemoin then made a speech with great ease and dignity, representing his unhappy state, and imploring the favour of his powerful ally. The king was touched with his affliction, and struck by his wisdom.

The conversion of Bemoin was much desired by the king; and it was therefore immediately proposed to him that he should become a christian. Ecclesiastics were sent to instruct him; and having now no more obstacles from interest, he was easily persuaded to declare himself whatever would please those on whom he now depended. He was baptized on the third day of December, 1489, in the palace of the queen, with great magnificence, and named John, after the king.

Some time was spent in feasts and sports on this great occasion, and the negroes signalised themselves by many feats of agility, far surpassing the power of Europeans, who having more helps of art, are less diligent to cultivate the qualities of nature. In the meantime twenty large ships were fitted out, well manned, stored with ammunition, and laden with materials necessary for the erection of a fort. With this powerful armament were sent a great number of missionaries under the direction of Alvarez the king's confessor. The command of this force, which filled the coast of Africa with terror, was given to Pedro Vaz d'Acugna surnamed Bisagu; who soon after they had landed, not being well pleased with his expedition, put an end to its inconveniences by stabbing Bemoin suddenly to the heart. The king heard of this outrage with great sorrow, but did not attempt to punish the murderer.

The king's concern for the restoration of Bemoin was not the mere effect of kindness, he hoped by his help to facilitate greater designs. He now began to form hopes of finding a way to the East Indies, and of enriching his country by that gainful commerce: this he was encouraged to believe practicable, by a map which the Moors had given to prince Henry, and which subsequent discoveries have shown to be sufficiently near to exactness, where a passage round the south-east part of Africa was evidently described.

The king had another scheme yet more likely to engage curiosity, and not irreconcilable with bis interest. The world had for some time been filled with the report of a powerful christian prince called Prester John, whose country was unknown, and whom some, after Paulus Venetus, supposed to reign in the midst of Asia, and others in the depth of Ethiopia, between the ocean and Red Sea. The account of the African christians was confirmed by some Abyssinians who had travelled into Spain, and by some friars that had visited the holy land;

and the king was extremely desirous of their correspondence and alliance.

Some obscure intelligence had been obtained, which made it seem probable that a way might be found from the countries lately discovered, to those of this far-famed monarch. In 1486, an ambassador came from the king of Bemin, to desire that preachers might be sent to instruct him and his subjects in the true religion. He related that in the inland country, three hundred and fifty leagues eastward from Bemin, was a mighty monarch called Ogane, who had jurisdiction both spiritual and temporal over other kings; that the king of Bemin and his neighbours, at their accession, sent ambassadors to him with rich presents, and received from him the investiture of their dominions, and the marks of sovereignty, which were a kind of sceptre, a helmet, and a latten cross, without which they could not be considered as lawful kings; that this great prince was never seen but on the day of audience, and then held out one of his feet to the ambassador, who kissed it with great reverence, and who at his departure had a cross of latten hung on his neck, which ennobled him thenceforward, and exempted him from all servile offices.

Bemoin had likewise told the king, that to the east of the kingdom of Tombut, there was among other princes, one that was neither Mahometan nor idolator, but who seemed to profess a religion nearly resembling the christian. These informations compared with each other, and with the current accounts of Prester John, induced the king to an opinion, which, though formed somewhat at hazard, is still believed to be right, that by passing up the river Senegal his dominions would be found. It was therefore ordered that when the fortress was finished, an attempt should be made to pass upward to the source of the river. The design failed then, and has never yet succeeded.

Other ways likewise were tried of penetrating to the kingdom of Prester John, for the king resolved to leave neither sea nor land unsearched till he should be found. The two messengers who were sent first on this design, went to Jerusalem, and then returned, being persuaded that, for want of understanding the language of the country, it would be vain or impossible to travel farther. Two more were then despatched, one of whom was Pedro de Covillan, the other Alphonso de Paiva; they passed from Naples to Alexandria, and then travelled to Cairo, from whence they went to Aden, a town of Arabia, on the Red Sea, near its mouth. From Aden, Paiva set sail for Ethiopia, and Covillan for the Indies. Covillan visited Canavar, Calicut, and Goa in the Indies, and Sosula in the eastern Africa; thence he returned to Aden, and then to Cairo, where he had agreed to meet Paiva.

« السابقةمتابعة »