1902 Encyclopedia > Geography > Christopher Columbus. Discovery of America.

(Part 14)

Christopher Columbus. Discovery of America.

Christopher Columbus was born at Genoa about 1435. His name in Italian was Colombo, and in Spain he is know as Cristoval Colon. The fame of the Portuguese discoveries attracted strangers from all parts of the world, and in 1470 Columbus arrived at Lisbon. He was in Portugal from 1470 to 1484, during which time he made several voyages to the coast of Guinea in the Portuguese service. He married a daughter of Bartholomeu Perestrello, to whom Prince Henry had granted the commandership of Porto Santo, and lived for some time on that island. He learned, from many pilots experienced in the western voyages to the Azores, facts and signs which convinced him that there was an unknown land towards the west. Columbus also studied the Imago Mundi of Cardinal Pierre d’Ailly, whence he culled all he knew of Aristotle and Strabo; and he read the narrative of Marco Polo. By 1474 his grand project of discovery was established in his mind, and nothing afterwards could diverts him from the pursuit of it. On the refusal of the king of Portugal to entertain his proposal, Columbus left Lisbon with his son in 1484, and he spent the interval until 1492 in appeals to the Spanish court. At length having overcome all obstacles, he set sail with a fleet of three ships from Palos, on the 3d of August 1492, on his unprecedented and perilous voyage. On the 12th of October, having crossed the Atlantic, Columbus sighted land, which was named San Salvador. Mr Major has recently proved that this island is one of the Bahamas, now known as Watling Island. After discovering Cuba, His paniola, and many small islands, Columbus set sail on his return voyage on January 16, 1493, and arrived at Palos on the 15th of March. His reception in Spain was enthusiastic, and commensurate with the grandeur of his achievement; and on the 25th of September 1493 he sailed from Cadiz on his second voyage, with a fleet of three large ships and fourteen caravels. On the 3d November he discovered the island of Dominica, and during the voyage his discoveries included the Windward Islands and Jamaica. He returned to Cadiz on June 11, 1496; and it was not until May 30, 1498, that he set sail on his third voyage. The first land he came to formed a new discovery, which he named the island of Trinidad, and it was in this voyage that he reached the mainland of South America, and discovered the islands of Cubagua and Margarita. A colony had been formed on Hispaniola, and soon afterwards a judge named Francisco de Bobadilla arrived from Spain, having been sent, at the instigation of the great discoverer’s enemies, to inquire into his conduct. Bobadilla seized upon the government, and sent Columbus home in chains. Ferdinand and Isabella were overwhelmed with shame, and the people with astonishment, on his arrival. He was at once released, and false promises of restitution and reward were profusely made. But Bobadilla was superseded, not by Columbus, but by Nicolas de Ovando. On the 9th of May 1502, however, Columbus was allowed to sail on a fourth and last voyage of discovery. He reached the island of Martinique on the 13th on June , and touched at Dominica Hispaniola. Thence he sailed westward, discovering the coast of Veragua and the harbour of Porto Bello. After a stay in Jamaica, he set sail for Spain on the 12th of September 1504, and arrived at San Lucar on the 7th of November. He lived for two years longer, experiencing the blackest ingratitude from the Spanish court. At length, in debt and poverty, and bowed down by disappointment, this great man died May 20, 1506. His body was buried at Valladoid, and removed in 1513 to Cartuja de las Cuevas near Seville. A monument was erected over his grave, with the inscription –

A Castilla y Leon,
Nuevo Mundo dió Colon.

In 1536 the bodies of Columbus and his son Diego were transported to St Domingo; and thence they were removed to Havana in 1795. The ashes of the immortal discoverer now repose in the cathedral of Havana.

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