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DISCOVERY OF AMERICA.
J.T is believed by many, that the ancients had some imperfect notion of a new world; and several ancient authors are quoted in confirmatioa of this opinion. In a book ascribed to the philosopher Aristotle, we are told that the Carthaginians discovered an island far beyond the pillars of Hercules, large, fertile, and finely watered with navigable rivers, but ■nninhabited. This island was distant a few days sailing from the Continent; its beauty induced the discoverers to settle there; but the policy of Carthage dislodged the colony, and laid a strict prohibition on all the subjects of the state not to attempt any future establishment. This account is also confirmed by an historian of no mean credit, who relates, That the Tyrians would have settled a colony on the new-discovered illand, but were opposed by the Carthaginians for state reasons. Seneca, and other authors are also quoted in support of this belief. But however this may be, nobody ever believed the existence of this continent so firmly as to go in quest of it; at least, there are no accounts well supported that America received any part of its first inhabitants from Europe prior to the 15th century. The Welsh fondly imagine that their country contributed, in 1170, to people the New World, by the adventure of Madoc, son of Owen Gwynedd, who, on the death of his father, sailed there, and colonized part of the country. All that is advanced in proof is, a quotation from one of the British Poets, which proves no more than that he had distinguished himself by sea and land. It it pretended that he made two vojiages; that sailing West, he left Ireland so far to the North, that he came to a land unknown, where he saw many strange things; that he returned home, and, making a report of the fruitfulness of the new-discovered country, prevailed on numbers of the Welsh of each sex to accompany him on a second voyage, from which he never returned. The favourers of this opinion assert, that several Welsh words, such as gmirando, "to hearken or listen;" the isle of Creafi, or « welcome;" Cape Breton, from the name of Britain; givjnndivr, or, "the white water j" and fengioin, or, "the bird with
B "a white "a white head;" are to be found in the American language. But likeness of found in a few words will not be deemed sufficient to establish the fact; especially is the meaning has been evidently perverted: for example, the whole penguin tribe have unfortunately not only black heads, but are not inhabitants of the Northern hemisphere; the name was also bestowed on them by the Dutch, a pingucd'me, from their excessive fatness: but the inventor of this, thinking to do honour to .his country, inconsiderately caught at a word of.European origin, and unheard of in the New World.' It may be added, that the Welsh were never a naval people; that the age in which Madoc lived was peculiarly ignorant in navigation; and the most which they coald have attempted rnust have been a mere coasting voyage *. • ,
The Norwegians put in for a share of the glory, on grounds rathex better than the Welsh. By their settlements in Iceland and in Greenland, they had arrived within so small a distance of the New World, that there is at least a possibility of its having been touched at by a people so versed in maritime affairs, and so adventurous, as the ancient Normans were. The proofs are much more numerous than those produced by the British Historians; for the discovery is mentioned in several of the Islandic manuscripts. The period was about the year 1002, when it was visited by one Biorn; and the discovery pursued to greater effect by Leif, the son of Eric, the discoverer of Greenland. It does not appear that they reached farther than Labrador; on which coast they met with the Esquimaux, on whom they bestowed the name of Sira-'/ingues, or dwarfish people, from their small stature. They were armed with bows and arrows, and had leathern canoes, such as they have at present. All this is probable; nor should the tale of the German, called Tuckil, one of the crew, invalidate the account. He was one day miffing; but soon returned, leaping and singing with all the extravagant marks of joy a ion vivant could show, on discovering the inebriating fruit of his country, the grape: Torfæus even fays, that he returned in a state of intoxication. To convince his commander, he brought several bunches, who from that circumstance named that countrv Finland. It is not to be denied, that North America produces the true vine; but it is found in far lower latitudes than our ad
* If the reader, however, wishes'to examine this curious question still farther, ha will meet with all that can be said upon the subject, in Wilmams's Enquiry into the fntil of tie traditions concerning the Discovery if America by Prince TAadog. 8vo.—S«« a!sj Imlay's Account of Kentucky, pj-jc 377, ad Edit.
venturer* venturers could reach in the time employed in their voyages, which was comprehended in a very small space. There appears no reason to ioubt of the discovery; but as the land was never colonized, nor any advantages made of it, it may fairly be conjectured, that they reached no farther than the barren country of Labrador. In short, it is from a much later period that we must date the real discovery of America *.
Towards the close of the 14th century, the navigation of Europe was scarcely extended beyond the limits of the Mediterranean. The mariner's compass had been invented and in common use for more than a century; yet with the help of this sure guide, prompted by the most ardent spirit of discovery, and encouraged by the patronage of princes, the mariners of those days rarely ventured from the fight of land. They acquired great applause by sailing along the coast of Africa and discovering some of the neighbouring islands; and after pushing their researches with the greatest industry and perseverance for more than half a century, the Portuguese, who were the most fortunate and enterprising, extended their discoveries Southward no farther than the equator. . ,
The rich commodities of the East, had for several ages been brought 'mto Europe by the way of the Red Sea and the Mediterranean; and it had now become the object of the Portuguese to find a passage to India, by sailing round the Southern extremity of Africa and then taking an Eastern course. This great object engaged the general attention of mankind, and drew into the Portuguese service adventurers from every Waritime nation in Europe. Every year added to their experience in navigation, and seemed to promise a reward to their industry. The prospect, however, of arriving at the Indies was extremely distant; fifty years perseverance in the same track, had brought them only to the equator, and it was propable that as many more would elapse before they could accomplish their purpose, had not Columbus, by an uncommon exertion os genius, formed a design no less astonishing to the age in which he lived, than beneficial to posterity.
Among the foreigners whom the fame of the discoveries made by the Portuguese had allured into their service, was Christopher Colon or Columbus, a subject of the republic of Genoa. Neither the time nor
* In the 2d Vol. of the Transactions of the Philos.phical Society at Phi'adelphia, Mr. Otto, in a Memoir ov the Discovery of America, strenuously contends, that one B*him, a German, discovered the American Continent prior to its being discovered by Columbus. For the ingenious arguments in support of this opinion, the reader is resold to the Memoir. , .'
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