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LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
the map of two entire continents. If he deserved it, it is right that he should have the honor; but that is a point which cannot be settled. It may be that he has received by chance fame which he did not fairly earn, and which, perhaps, he did not even seek.
16. How America finally came to be considered a New and Distinct Continent. But even after America was named, the idea that it was a distinct and separate division of the globe was not generally accepted. Some thought that South America was a great island or southern continent (like Australia); but the majority believed, with Columbus, that it was simply an immense peninsula projecting from southeastern Asia. People, indeed, spoke of the "New World," but all that they usually meant by that expression was newly discovered lands.
The real character of America was first found by Magellan, a Portuguese captain who crossed the Atlantic in the early part of the 16th century. The King of Spain sent him on a voyage to the southwest (1519), to see if he could find a new way to reach the Spice. Islands. He discovered the strait which now bears his name, and, passing through it, entered that great ocean which he called the Pacific.
He pushed on westward until he reached the Philippines, where he was killed by the natives. One ship of the expedition kept on its course until it crossed the Indian Ocean, doubled the Cape, of Good Hope (§ 6), and finally reached Spain (1522). (Maps, pp. 5, 8.)
The Spanish King was so pleased with the result that he gave the commander a 'coat of arms representing a globe bearing the motto: "You first sailed round me."
Then men's eyes were opened to the truth. Then they saw that America, instead of being a part of the Old World, was in all probability an immense, independent continent, a real NEW WORLD.
Was that discovery hailed with delight? Not at all. Europe was still bent on finding "that hidden secret of nature," -- a direct passage to Asia and the Indies, -- and there stood America barring all progress. It is true that when the Spaniards found gold and silver in Mexico and Peru, they became reconciled in a measure to
their disappointment. Still, for more than a hundred years after Columbus, most of the explorers spent their efforts not so much in seeking to find out what was in the new country, as in trying to hit on some passage through it or round it which should be shorter and better than that which Magellan had sailed through.
17. Summary. In 1492 Columbus, while attempting to open up a direct western all-sea route to Asia, accidentally came upon the West India Islands, -- in other words, he discovered America. He had no true idea of the magnitude of his discovery, but supposed the land which he had found, and all that which he afterward saw, to be part of Asia. His great merit -- was this: he was the first civilized man who dared to cross the unknown sea of the Atlantic. The glory of that bold exploit will always be his. John Cabot, a Venetian, discovered the American continent in 1497.
The voyages of Amerigo Vespucci, who, like Cabot, was a native of Italy, and therefore a fellow countryman of Columbus, suggested the name America. Last of all, Magellan's expedition round the world (1519-1522) proved the earth to be a globe, and showed that America was, in all probability, a distinct continent, and not a part of Asia.
1 In 1901 a map was found in Germany which eminent scholars believe was made in 1507 by Waldseemüller, the teacher at St. Dié, referred to in § 13. It shows the earliest use of the name America on a map. The name is placed on the continent of South America on what is now the northern part of the Argentine Republic. This map of 1507 is not as well adapted to reproduction in a book of this grade as that of 1515, given above, and which may be found in J. Winsor's "America," III, 118. For a reduced copy of that part of Waldseemüller's map of 1507, which shows the name America, see L. G. Bourne's "Spain in America," p. 100; for the complete map, see Fischer and Wieser's Atlas of "The Oldest Map with the Name America."
The discovery of America was "the great event which gave a new world not only to Spain, but to civilized man." -- CHARLES SUMNER.
ATTEMPTS AT EXPLORING AND
THE COUNTRY • THE NATIVES • EFFECTS OF THE DISCOVERY OF
AMERICA ON EUROPE (1509-1600)
18. Ponce de Leon's Expedition; Discovery of Florida. Early in the sixteenth century the Spaniards conquered Cuba. A number of years later Ponce de Leon, governor of Porto Rico, resolved to start on an exploring expedition to the northward.
De Leon was growing old, but the Indians excited him by telling him of a wonderful land not very far away. They said that he would find plenty of gold there, and a fountain which would make the old young again. He obtained a charter2 from the King of Spain, which gave him power to go in search of that land of promise, and when found, to hold it as governor for life. The veteran adventurer felt that if he could once bathe in the waters of the miraculous fountain, and get back his youth, he would be pretty sure of a long term of office.
After cruising about for several weeks he struck the mainland of North America (1513). It was Easter Sunday, a day which the
1 Reference Books. R. G. Thwaites'" Colonies," pp. 1-7, 7-19, 27-44; F. Parkman's "Pioneers of France in the New World," pp. 1-15, 85-162; W. C. Bryant and Gay's "United States" (revised edition), I, ch. 7-10; L. Farrand's "Basis of American History" (The Indians), ch. 14-15; E. G. Bourne's "Spain in America," pp. 108-111, 133-136, 162-168, 169-174, 177-189; L. G. Tyler's "England in America," pp. 18-33; A. B. Hart's "Source Book of American History," pp. 6-14; A. B. Hart's "American History by Contemporaries," I, 57-64, 81-95; G. Bancroft's "United States," I, ch. 2-5; N. S. Shaler's "Story of Our Continent" (Physical Geography, etc.). See also the classified List of Books in the Appendix.
2 Charter: a written grant made by the king or head of a government, conferring certain rights and privileges.
Spaniards call Pascua Florida, or Flowery Easter. Shortly after, De Leon landed at a point not very far from where St. Augustine now stands. (Map, p. 29.) There he planted the cross, raised the Spanish flag, and in commemoration of the day when he had first seen the coast, he named the country Florida. Winter is almost unknown in that climate, and the dense foliage and profusion of bright flowers fully justified the name.
De Leon failed to discover gold. Worse still, he found no magical fountain that could make a man approaching three-score a man of twenty. Disappointed in what he most cared for, he set sail for Porto Rico. Later, he went back to Florida to colonize the country, but was killed by an Indian. Thus the old man found death lurking for him in that "Land of Flowers," where he had hoped to find both riches and his lost youth.
19. Balboa discovers a New Ocean; Cortez in Mexico; his Plans for a Panama Canal. In the autumn of the year when De Leon first saw Florida (1513), Balboa, a fellow-countryman, undertook an exploring expedition on the Isthmus of Panama. His object was to find a great body of water which the natives told him could be seen toward the south from the top of the mountains. After terrible hardships, Balboa reached the summit of the ridge. Looking down, he beheld that magnificent expanse of water which Magellan, seven years later, sailed across on his way round the world (§ 16).
A number of days afterwards, Balboa, struggling over rocks, wading streams, and cutting his way through tangled vines, succeeded in getting to the shore.
Drawing his sword with one hand, and bearing a banner in the other, he marched out knee-deep into the smooth sea, and took
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
possession of it and of all lands bordering on it for the sovereigns of Spain. Waving his sword, he said, "I am ready to defend" their claim "as long as the world endures, and until the final day of judgment of all mankind." He named that ocean the South Sea because he first saw it to the south of where he stood, but Magellan named it the Pacific (§ 16).
Not long afterward the Spanish general, Cortez, landed in Mexico, conquered that country, and thus established the power of Spain on the Pacific slope of the North American continent.
Cortez saw what an immense advantage it would be to Spain to cut a canal through the Isthmus of Panama. He suggested it to the King, but that prudent monarch refused to undertake a work which he said would drain his treasury of its last cent. Nearly four hundred years later the United States hired an army of laborers to "make the dirt fly." They dug the great Canal through from ocean to ocean (§ 440).
20. French Explorations; Montreal. Up to this time France had obtained no part of the New World. But the King of that country did not intend to let the other powers of Europe get it all. The Pope had, as we have seen (§ 12), granted the new lands to the rival nations of Spain and Portugal, but the King of France cared nothing for that. "Show me," said he to the sovereigns of those nations, "the words in the will of 'Father Adam' which divides the earth between the Spanish and the Portuguese, but shuts out the French." No one found it convenient to produce the will, so the King of France sent out an expedition (1524)1 to obtain his share of America.
Later (1535), Cartier,2 a French navigator, discovered a great river in the northern part of America, to which he gave the name of St. Lawrence. Ascending the stream, he came to an island where he climbed a lofty hill. He was so delighted with the grand view that he called the height Montreal, or Royal Mountain.
1 This was the expedition said to have been undertaken by Verrazano in 1524. He states that he landed in the vicinity of Cape Fear, North Carolina; then sailed about 150 miles southward along the coast, and then, turning north, sailed to what is now New York Bay, afterward cruising along the coast of New England.
2 Cartier made his first expedition in 1534, to Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
DE SOTO'S EXPEDITION
21. De Soto's Expedition in the East. Meanwhile De Soto, a Spaniard, as greedy for gold as he was cruel, and as daring as he was greedy, set out on an expedition to the west. He sailed from Cuba (1539) with a force of about 600 picked men and over 200 horses.
The expedition landed at Tampa Bay, Florida, and began its march of exploration, robbery, and murder. The soldiers seized the natives, chained them in couples, and forced them to carry their baggage and pound their corn into meal for them.
DE SOTO'S EXPEDITION IN THE EAST, AND CORONADO'S IN THE WEST
In the course of two years, De Soto and his men traveled upwards of fifteen hundred miles through what are now the states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. They picked up no gold worth mentioning, but, in place of it, they found hunger, suffering, and death. They deserved what they found.
At length, in 1541, the Spaniards, worn out, sick, and disheartened, came out from the forest on the banks of the Mississippi.1 There De Soto called a halt. He was the first white man that had
1 Probably at or near a place now called De Soto Front, De Soto County, in the northwestern comer of the state of Mississippi.