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N the history of the world there is no event more curious and important than the discovery of America, which, with its surrounding seas, forms a complete hemisphere to our planet, of which the ancients certainly knew no more than 180 degrees. To the glory of an event of such magnitude, and followed by such important consequences to the interests of commerce, many nations have laid claim. The limits of a small volume will not allow us to enterinto the various disquisitions which have been written on the subject, in defence of the contending parties. We have followed our own historian, and given the honour of the discovery to Christopher Columbus. And notwithstanding all that was said before the publication of Dr. Robertson's History, by Gomara and others, or since by M. Otto*, with a view of snatching the laurel from the Genoese, we are persuaded that the evidence in behalf of Columbus's claims are clear and satisfactory.
We have likewise followed the same authority in endeavouring to account for the manner by which America was originally peopled t. Of the various other theories on this subject we judge it
* See a letter from M.Otto to Dr. Franklin, with a memoiron the discovery of America. American Philosophital Transaetions, Vol. II. quarto, 1786.
† See chap. iii.
ADVERTISEMENT. right to mention one in this place which is plausible and well supported. The abbé Clavigero, a native of America, thinks that there remains no other solution to this intricate question than by supposing an ancient union between the equinoctial countries of America with those of Africa, and a connexion of tlie northern countries of America with Europe on the east, and with Asia, on the west; so that according to this gentleman there has probably been a period since the flood, in which there was but one continent, when the beasts of the cold climates passed over the northern isthmuses which perhaps connected Europe, America, and Asia; and the animals and reptiles peculiar to hot countries passed over the isthmus that connected South America with Africa. For from various reasons he is induced to believe that there was formerly a tract of land uniting the easternmost part of Brazil to the westernmost part of Africa, which may have been sunk by some violent agitation of nature, leaving only a few traces of it in that chain of islands of which Cape de Verd, Fernandez, Ascension, and St. Matthew Islands, make a part.
All other theories, he says are subject to enormous difficulties; and though this be not without some, yet they are not altogether insurmountable. The most formidable is the supposition of an earthquake so violent as to submerge a tract of land more than fifteen hundred miles in length, which according to this hypothesis united Africa and South America. It is not necessary, however, to ascribe this stupendous revolution to a single shock; it may have been effected by a succession of earthquakes, such as was felt in Canada, in 1663, which overturned a chain of free-stone mountains up
vii wards of three hundred miles in length, converting the whole of that immense tract into one entire plain*. Such is the bare outline of this gentleman's theory, which he has fortified by many arguments that merit the attention of the naturalist and philosopher.
The plan of the ensuing volume will be evident from a slight inspection of the table of contents : the first six chapters contain a complete history of the discoveries and settlements made by Columbus, Cortes, Pizarro, and others, under the auspices of the court of Spain. The seventh gives a brief account of the Portuguese settlements in South America. We then come to the discoveries and settlements made by our own countrymen. And it was by accident only that Henry VII. had not an earlier and more considerable share in those naval transactions, by which that age was so eminently distinguished. He had invited Columbus to London to explain to him his project; but Bartholomew his brother, the bearer of the invitation, was, in his voyage, taken by pirates, and detained in their custody, till Columbus had obtained the protection of Isabella, and had sailed on the fortunate expedition. Henry was not discouraged by this disappointment, but sent Sebastian Cabot in search of new countries. The result of his voyage was the discovery and afterwards the settlement of the more northerly parts of America, Newfoundland, and that part of the continent which is now erected into the empire of the United States. The rise of these states, and their progressive history to the present times, together with an historical account of the West-In
* Clavigero's History of Mexico.
ADVERTISEMENT. dia Islands, will be found detailed in the remainder of the volume.
Upon the whole we may venture to assure the reader, that the history of America in its several parts will not be found less interesting or less important than that of any of the foregoing volumes. Indeed the discovery of this great continent, with the neighbouring islands, has been attended with almost incalculable advantages to all the nations of Europe, even to such as were not immediately concerned in those naval enterprises. The enlargement of commerce and navigation increased industry and the arts every where. The nobles dissipated their fortunes in expensive pleasures: men of inferior rank, by wealth gained in America, acquired a share of landed property in Europe, and created to themselves a considerable property of a new kind, in stock, credit, and correspondence. In some nations the privileges of the coinmons were increased by this increase of property; and in all places the condition of the great mass of the people was improved by the trade carried on be, tween the Old and the New World.
to different Courts: his first Voy-