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DISCOVERY OF AMERICA.
The United States consists of thirty-six States and ten Territories. This country is bounded by the great lakes and the British possessions on the north, the Atlantic ocean on the east, the gulf of Mexico and Mexico on the south, and the Pacific ocean on the west.
The American continent, or New World, as it is sometimes called, was discovered by Christopher Columbus, in the year 1492. Columbus was a native of Genoa-born about 1435. His father was a wool-comber, but gave his son advantages of education, particularly in geography, mathematics, and astronomy, for which he early displayed a decided taste. When he was fourteen years of age he went to sea. A few years later,
while in the service of a kinsman who commanded a small Genoese squadron, and taking part in an engagement with some Venetian vessels off the coast of Portugal, his ship caught fire, and he leaped into the waves and barely saved his life by swimming ashore. He was attracted to Lisbon by the fame that Portugal had won by her maritime enterprise, where he married the daughter of an eminent navigator, the access to whose charts and journals awakened within him an ardent desire for discovery.
From this time to 1477 we find him engaged in various voyages to the Canaries, the Azores, Madeira, and the coast of Guinea and Iceland.
The geographical researches of Columbus convinced him that the earth was round, and that there must necessarily be land in the western hemisphere to counterbalance the eastern continent. The maps to be obtained in his day gave but little information respecting the extent of Asia. He imagined that it extended much further east than it really did, or that the coast was lined with large islands extending within a few hundred leagues of Europe. Pieces of wood, strangely carved, had been picked up by sailors in the unknown ocean. Upon one island were found the bodies of two men totally different in appearance from the natives of Europe and Africa. These circumstances confirmed him in his belief, and he sought means of testing its truth. In order to carry out his project effectually he must have men and ships. His first proposals were made to the senate of his native city, but were rejected. His next application was to John II. of Portugal; who, after drawing out his plan, treacherously sent a vessel on the proposed course under another commander, but happily gained nothing by his baseness. Columbus then sent his brother Bartholomew to Henry VII. of England, but he was captured by pirates, and it was years before he reached London. Being unsuccessful in Portugal, in 1484 Columbus went to Spain, where for a time he supported himself and son by making charts and maps. “At last he succeeded in procuring an interview with Ferdinand, king of Aragon. This cautious monarch, after listening to his projects, submitted them to the learned men of the university of Salamanca, by whom they were once more condemned." After several years Columbus finally obtained an interview with Isabella, the wife of Ferdinand, and queen of Castile and Leon. To enable him to appear at court she sent him about seventy dollars, with which he purchased a mule and suitable clothing. The queen was moved by his arguments, but was unwilling to furnish the required aid. More disheartened than ever Columbus was on the point of abandoning Spain, when at last, by the advice of wise counsellors, Isabella determined to
embark in the enterprise, even if she had to pledge her jewels in order to procure the necessary funds. Columbus was commissioned as High Admiral and Viceroy of all the countries he might discover, and went to Palos to fit out the expedition.
There was great difficulty in finding sailors for such a voyage, but with the aid of the queen three small vessels, none of them being over one hundred tons burden, and ninety men were obtained. The Santa Maria, which bore the flag of Columbus, was the only one that had a deck. The Pinta and Nina were commanded by two brothers by the name of Pinyon. They provided themselves with provisions enough to last one year. The whole expense of the outfit was only £4,000.
This little fleet sailed from Palos August 3, 1492. A full sense of the dangers they might encounter seized on the sailors when land faded from their sight, and their fears were gradually increased, till, on the expiration of twenty days without seeing any signs of land, they began to talk of throwing Columbus overboard and returning home. "The variation of the compass had not yet been discovered, and their alarm was greatly heightened when they observed that the magnetic needle no longer pointed directly north. It was a trying hour for Columbus, but his great mind was equal to the crisis. Explaining the variations of the compass in a manner satisfactory to his followers, though not to himself, he used every means to induce them to prosecute the voyage, now picturing to their minds the riches they would obtain, and now threatening them with the anger of their sovereign. At last both officers and men insisted on returning, and Columbus was obliged to promise that unless land appeared within three days he would comply with their demand. The shallowness of the water, the numerous birds of the air, the grass and weeds floating by, a branch that was picked up with berries still fresh upon it, all made him sure that he could give this promise with safety." On the evening of October 11th, the sails were furled, and a close watch kept. About ten o'clock a moving light was discovered by Columbus and several others, and at two in the morning a shout from the Pinta proclaimed the discovery of land, and at daybreak was displayed to the