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Title: Amerigo Vespucci
Author: Ober, Frederick Albion, 1849-1913
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Amerigo Vespucci" ***

[Transcriber's Note: Every effort has been made to replicate this
text as faithfully as possible, including obsolete and variant
spellings and other inconsistencies. Text that has been changed to
correct an obvious error by the publisher is noted at the end of this








    Copyright, 1907, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

    _All rights reserved._

    Published February, 1907.

    [Illustration: AMERIGO VESPUCCI]


  CHAP.                                          PAGE

  I.    YOUNG AMERIGO AND HIS FAMILY                1



  IV.   IN THE SERVICE OF SPAIN                    45

  V.    CONVERSATIONS WITH COLUMBUS                59

  VI.   VESPUCCI'S DEBATABLE VOYAGE                76

  VII.  VESPUCCI'S "SECOND" VOYAGE                101

  VIII. WITH OJEDA THE FIGHTER                    126

  IX.   CANNIBALS, GIANTS, AND PEARLS             138

  X.    FAMOUS FELLOW-VOYAGERS                    148

  XI.   ON THE COAST OF BRAZIL                    165

  XII.  THE "FOURTH PART OF THE EARTH"            179

  XIII. THE FOURTH GREAT VOYAGE                   194

  XIV.  KING FERDINAND'S FRIEND                   209

  XV.   PILOT-MAJOR OF SPAIN                      221

  XVI.  HOW AMERICA WAS NAMED                     237


  AMERIGO VESPUCCI                        _Frontispiece_

      TOSCANELLI'S MAP             _Facing p._        20

  MARCO POLO                             "            40

  OJEDA'S FIRST VOYAGE                   "           130

  ROUTES OF THE DISCOVERERS              "           166

      JOHANN SCHÖNER                     "           244


XVIth CENTURY. Vespucci's letters to Soderini and L. P. F. de' Medici,
reproduced in this volume.

XVIIth CENTURY. Herrera, in his _Historia General_ (etc.), Madrid,
1601; "probably followed Las Casas, whose MSS. he had."

XVIIIth CENTURY. Dandini, A. M., _Vita e Lettere di Amerigo Vespucci_,
Florence, 1745.

Canovai, Stanislac, _Elogia di Amerigo Vespucci_, 1778.

XIXth CENTURY. Navarrete, M. F. de, _Noticias Exactas de Americo
Vespucio_, contained in his Coleccion, Madrid, 1825-1837.

Humboldt, Alexander von, _Examen Critique de l'Histoire de la
Géographie de Nouveau Continent_, Paris, 1836-1839.

Lester, C. Edwards, _The Life and Voyages of Americus Vespucius_, New
York, 1846; reprinted, in de luxe edition, New York, 1903.

Varnhagen, F. A., Baron de Porto Seguro, _Amerigo Vespucci, son
Caractère, ses Écrits_ (etc.), Lima, 1865; Vienna, 1874. A collection
of monographs called by Fiske "the only intelligent modern treatise on
the life and voyages of this navigator."

Fiske, John, _The Discovery of America_, Boston, 1899; contains an
exhaustive critical examination of Vespucci's voyages to which the
reader should refer for more extended information.





Cradled in the valley of the Arno, its noble architecture fitly
supplementing its numerous natural charms, lies the Tuscan city of
Florence, the birthplace of immortal Dante, the early home of Michael
Angelo, the seat of the Florentine Medici, the scene of Savonarola's
triumphs and his tragic end. Fame has come to many sons of Florence,
as poets, statesmen, sculptors, painters, travellers; but perhaps none
has achieved a distinction so unique, apart, and high as the subject
of this volume, after whom the continents of the western hemisphere
were named.

Amerigo Vespucci was born in Florence, March 9, 1451, just one hundred
and fifty years after Dante was banished from the city in which both
first saw the light. The Vespucci family had then resided in that city
more than two hundred years, having come from Peretola, a little town
adjacent, where the name was highly regarded, as attached to the most
respected of the Italian nobility. Following the custom of that
nobility, during the period of unrest in Italy, the Vespuccis
established themselves in a stately mansion near one of the city
gates, which is known as the Porta del Prato. Thus they were within
touch of the gay society of Florence, and could enjoy its advantages,
while at the same time in a position, in the event of an uprising, to
flee to their estates and stronghold in the country.

While the house in which Christopher Columbus was born remains
unidentified, and the year of his birth undecided, no such ambiguity
attaches to the place and year of Vespucci's nativity. Above the
doorway of the mansion which "for centuries before the discovery of
America was the dwelling-place of the ancestors of Amerigo Vespucci,
and his own birthplace," a marble tablet was placed, in the second
decade of the eighteenth century, bearing the following inscription:

      "_To AMERICO VESPUCCIO, a noble Florentine,
             Who, by the discovery of AMERICA,
  Rendered his own and his Country's name illustrious,
            [As] the AMPLIFIER OF THE WORLD.
      Upon this ancient mansion of the VESPUCCI,
              Inhabited by so great a man,
          The holy fathers of Saint John of God
      Have placed this Tablet, sacred to his memory._
                      A.D. 1719."

At that time, about midway between the date of Vespucci's death and
the present, the evidence was strong and continuous as to the
residence in that building (which was then used as a hospital) of the
family whose name it commemorates. Here was born, in 1451, the third
son of Anastasio and Elizabetta Vespucci, whose name, whether rightly
or not, was to be bestowed upon a part of the world at that time

The Vespuccis were then aristocrats, with a long and boasted lineage,
but without great wealth to support their pretensions. They were
relatively poor; they were proud; but they were not ashamed to engage
in trade. Some of their ancestors had filled the highest offices
within the gift of the state, such as _prioris_ and _gonfalonieres_,
or magistrates and chief magistrates, while the first of the Vespuccis
known to have borne the prænomen Amerigo was a secretary of the
republic in 1336.

It is incontestable that Amerigo Vespucci was well-born, and in his
youth received the advantages of an education more thorough than was
usually enjoyed by the sons of families which had "the respectability
of wealth acquired in trade," and even the prestige of noble
connections. No argument is needed to show that the position of a
Florentine merchant was perfectly compatible with great
respectability, for the Medici themselves, with the history of whose
house that of Florence is bound up most intimately, were merchant
princes. The vast wealth they acquired in their mercantile operations
in various parts of Europe enabled them to pose as patrons of art and
literature, and supported their pretensions to sovereign power. The
Florentine Medici attained to greatest eminence during the latter
half of the century in which Amerigo Vespucci was born, and he was
acquainted both with Cosimo, that "Pater Patriæ, who began the
glorious epoch of the family," and with "Lorenzo the Magnificent," who
died in 1492.

The Florentines, in fact, were known as great European traders or
merchants as early as the eleventh century, while their bankers and
capitalists not only controlled the financial affairs of several
states, or nations, but exerted a powerful influence in the realm of
statesmanship and diplomacy. The little wealth the Vespucci enjoyed at
the time of Amerigo's advent was derived from an ancestor of the
century previous, who, besides providing endowments for churches and
hospitals, left a large fortune to his heirs. His monument may be seen
within the chapel built by himself and his wife, and it bears this
inscription, in old Gothic characters: "The tomb of Simone Piero
Vespucci, a merchant, and of his children and descendants, and of his
wife, who caused this chapel to be erected and decorated--for the
salvation of her soul. Anno Dom. 1383."

The immediate ancestors, then, of Amerigo Vespucci were highly
respectable, and they were honorable, having held many positions of
trust, with credit to themselves and profit to the state. At the time
of Amerigo's birth his father, Anastasio Vespucci, was secretary of
the Signori, or senate of the republic; an uncle, Juliano, was
Florentine ambassador at Genoa; and a cousin, Piero Vespucci, so ably
commanded a fleet of galleys despatched against the corsairs of the
Barbary coast that he was sent as ambassador to the King of Naples, by
whom he was specially honored.

Another member of the family, one Guido Antonio, became locally famous
as an expounder of the law and a diplomat. Respecting him an epitaph
was composed, the last two lines of which might, if applied to
Amerigo, have seemed almost prophetic:

  "_Here lies GUIDO ANTONIO, in this sepulchre--
      Or else never have seen the light._"

This epitaph was written of the lawyer, who departed unknown and
unwept by the world, while his then obscure kinsman, Amerigo,
subsequently achieved a fame that filled the four quarters of the

The youth of Amerigo is enshrouded in the obscurity which envelops
that of the average boy in whatever age, for no one divined that he
would become great or famous, and hence he was not provided with a
biographer. This is unfortunate, of course, but we must console
ourselves with the thought that he was not unusually precocious, and
probably said little that would be considered worth preserving. It
happened that after he became world-large in importance, tales and
traditions respecting his earliest years crept out in abundance; but
these may well be looked upon with suspicion. We know scarcely more
than that his early years were happy, for he had a loving mother, and
a father wise enough to direct him in the way he should travel.

It does not always follow that the course the father prescribes is the
best one in the end, for sometimes a boy develops in unsurmised
directions; and this was the case with Amerigo Vespucci. The fortunes
of the family being on the wane, he was selected as the one to
retrieve them, and of four sons was the only one who did not receive a
college education. The other three were sent to the University of
Pisa, whence they returned with their "honors" thick upon them, and
soon lapsed into obscurity, from which they never emerged. That is,
they never "made a mark" in the world; save one brother, Girolamo, who
made a pilgrimage to Palestine, where he lived nine years, suffered
much, and lost what little fortune he carried with him.

He may have thought, perhaps, in after years, that if he had not
belonged to a family containing the world-famed navigator his exploits
would have brought him reputation; but it is more probable that if he
had not written a letter to his younger brother, Amerigo, the world
would never have heard from him at all. However, he was the first
traveller in the family, and with his university education he should
have produced a good account of his adventures; but if he ever did so
it has not been preserved from oblivion.

Amerigo was not given a college education, but something--as it
eventuated--vastly better. His father had a brother, a man of
erudition for his time, who had studied for the Church. This learned
uncle, Georgio Antonio Vespucci, was then a Dominican friar, respected
in Florence for his piety and for his learning. About the year 1450,
or not long before Amerigo was born, he opened a school for the sons
of nobles, and in the garb of a monk pursued the calling of the
preceptor. His fame was such that the school was always full, yet when
his brother's child, Amerigo, desired to attend, having arrived at the
age for receiving the rudiments of an education, he was greeted
cordially and given a place in one of the lower classes. It may be
imagined that he would have been favored by his uncle; but such seems
not to have been the case, for the worthy friar was a disciplinarian
first of all. He had ever in mind, however, the kind of education
desired by his brother for Amerigo, which was to be commercial, and
grounded him well in mathematics, languages, cosmography, and
astronomy. His curriculum even embraced, it is said, statesmanship and
the finesse of diplomacy, for the merchants of Vespucci's days were,
like the Venetian consuls, "very important factors in developing
friendly international relations."

There was then a great rivalry between Venice, Florence, Genoa, and
Pisa for the control of trading-posts in the Levant, which carried
with them the vast commerce of the Orient, then conducted by way of
the Mediterranean, the Black, and the Caspian seas, and overland by
caravans with India and China. At the time our hero was growing into
manhood, in the latter half of the fifteenth century, Florence, "under
the brilliant leadership of the Medici and other shrewd merchant
princes, gained control of strategic trading-posts in all parts of the
[then known] world, and secured a practical monopoly in the trade
through Armenia and Rhodes.... It was from banking, however, that
Florence derived most of her wealth. For some time her bankers
controlled the financial markets of the world. Most of the great loans
made by sovereigns during this period, for carrying on wars or for
other purposes, were made through the agency of Florentine bankers.
Even Venetian merchants were glad to appeal to her banks for loans. In
the fifteenth century Florence had eighty great banking-houses, many
of which had branches in every part of the world."[2]

It is evident, therefore, that the sagacious Anastasio Vespucci had
mapped out a great career for the son whom he had chosen to recreate
the fortunes of his house. He was to be a banker, a diplomat;
eventually he might attain, like the greatest of the Medici, to the
station and dignities of a merchant prince. To this end the worthy
Georgio Antonio ever strove, and as he found his nephew a tractable
and studious pupil, he congratulated himself and his family that in
Amerigo they had the individual who was to restore the prestige of
their ancient name.

But alas! the sequel proved that Friar Georgio was too ambitious, and
had overshot the mark. In his desire to turn out a finished product, a
scholar that should be a credit to his school and an ornament to his
family, he not only inculcated the essentials for a commercial
education, but, as has already been mentioned, led his eager follower
into the wider fields of astronomy and cosmography. All he knew--and
that included all the ancients knew--of these abstruse sciences he
imparted to Amerigo, and in the end, so far as we can judge, the young
man became more proficient in them than any other person of his age
and time. So it eventuated that those studies, which were intended
merely as subsidiary to the more serious pursuit, became the prime
factors in shaping his career. They were his stepping-stones to
greatness, as were his mercantile transactions; but, anticipating
somewhat the events of his later life, we shall find that they did not
conduce to the acquisition of wealth.

"In Florence," says the author previously quoted, "more than in any
other Italian city during the Middle Ages, was displayed the direct
influence of commerce upon the developments of all the finer elements
of material and immaterial civilization. She was the Athens of Italy,
and her art, literature, and science was the brightest gleam of
intellectual light that was seen in Europe during that age. It was
from Florence, more than from any other source, that came the
awakening influence known as the Renaissance."

This truth we see exemplified in the formative period of Amerigo
Vespucci's life, for, in order to become qualified to adorn the high
position of a prince of commerce, he was as carefully trained as if to
fill a prelate's chair or grasp the helm of state. So reluctant was
his uncle, the good old monk Georgio, to relinquish his talented
nephew to the world, that we find them in company as late as 1471, as
attested by this letter, written in Latin by Amerigo to his father, in
October of that year:

     "_To the Excellent and Honorable Signor Anastasio Vespucci._

     "HONORED FATHER,--Do not wonder that I have not written to
     you within the last few days. I thought that my uncle would
     have satisfied you concerning me, and in his absence I
     scarcely dare to address you in the Latin tongue, blushing
     even at my deficiencies in my own language. I have, besides,
     been industriously occupied of late in studying the rules of
     Latin composition, and will show you my book on my return.
     Whatever else I have accomplished, and how I have conducted
     myself, you will have been able to learn from my uncle,
     whose return I ardently desire, that, under his and your own
     joint directions, I may follow with greater facility both my
     studies and your kind precepts.

     "George Antonio, three or four days ago, gave a number of
     letters to you to a good priest, Signor Nerotto, to which he
     desires your answer. There is nothing else that is new to
     relate, unless that we all desire greatly to return to the
     city. The day of our return is not yet fixed, but soon will
     be, unless the pestilence should increase and occasion
     greater alarm, which may God avert!

     "He, George Antonio, commends to your consideration a poor
     and wretched neighbor of his, whose only reliance and means
     are in our house, concerning which he addresses you in full.
     He asks you, therefore, that you would attend to his
     affairs, so that they may suffer as little as possible in
     his absence.

     "Farewell, then, honored father. Salute all the family in
     my behalf, and commend me to my mother and all my elder

               "Your son, with due obedience,
                           "AMERIGO VESPUCCI."[3]

The cause of Amerigo's absence from Florence was, it is said, the
terrible plague which swept over that city and for a time paralyzed
its activities. All who were able fled to the country, and, Friar
Georgio's school having been broken up by the scattering of his
pupils, he and Amerigo retired to their family estate, at or near
Peretola, there to await the subsidence of the epidemic.


[1] This name is variously spelled, as, for example: Albericus,
Alberico, Almerigo, Americo, Americus, Amerigo; Despuche, Vespuche,
Vespuchy, Vespuccio, Vespucius, Vespucci. The best writers use either
the Italian, Amerigo Vespucci, or the Latinized, Americus Vespucius,
with good authority for both.

[2] From the _General History of Commerce_, by W. C. Webster, Ph.D.

[3] This letter was discovered by Signor Bandini, author of the _Vita
e Lettre di Amerigo Vespucci_, 1745, in the Strozzi Library. Harrisse
says, "This, and two or three signatures added to receipts, which were
brought to light by Navarrete, constitute the only autographs of
Vespucius known."

In the original paper he uses the Latin form, Vespucius; but in a
letter written in 1508, when he was pilot-major of Spain, he signs
himself "Amerigo Vespucci."




Florence, in Vespucci's day, was the home of genius, of culture, and
of art. Amerigo, doubtless, was acquainted with some of her sons whose
fame, like his own, has endured to the present day, and will last for
all time. The great Michael Angelo, who was born at or near Florence
in 1475, and whose patron was Lorenzo the Magnificent, was his
contemporary, although the artist and sculptor survived the discoverer
more than fifty years. Savonarola, who came to Florence in 1482, was
just a year the junior of Amerigo, and is said to have been an
intimate friend of his uncle, who, like himself, belonged to the
Dominican order. The young man may not have been touched by
Buonarroti's art, nor have been moved by Savonarola's preaching, but,
like the former, he possessed an artistic temperament, and, like the
latter, he was an enthusiast.

The man, however, who, next to his uncle, shaped Amerigo's career and
turned him from trade to exploration, was a learned Florentine named
Toscanelli. If you have followed the fortunes of Christopher Columbus,
reader, you have seen this name before, for it was Toscanelli who, in
the year 1474, sent a letter and a chart to the so-called discoverer
of America, which confirmed him in the impression that a route to
India lay westward from Europe across the "Sea of Darkness."

It is not known just when Amerigo first met "Paul the Physicist," as
Toscanelli was called in Florence; but it may have been in youth or
early manhood, for aside from the fact that "all the world" knew and
reverenced the famous _savant_, there was the inclination arising from
a mutual interest in cosmography and astronomy. Toscanelli was the
foremost scientist of his age, and as he was born in 1397, at the time
Amerigo met him he must have been a venerable man. He lived, however,
until the year 1482, and as the younger man was in Florence during the
first forty years of his life, and the last thirty of Toscanelli's, it
is more than probable that their intercourse was long and friendly.

It is known, at least, that they were acquainted at the time the
learned doctor wrote Columbus, in 1474, and it does not require a
stretch of the imagination to fancy them together, and wondering what
effect that letter would have upon a man who entertained views similar
to their own. Columbus, it is thought, had then been pondering several
years over the possible discovery of land, presumably the eastern
coast of India, by sailing westward. "It was in the year 1474," writes
a modern historian, "that he had some correspondence with the Italian
savant, Toscanelli, regarding this discovery of land. A belief in such
a discovery was a natural corollary to the object which Prince Henry
of Portugal had in view by circumnavigating Africa, in order to find a
way to the countries of which Marco Polo had given golden accounts. It
was, in brief, to substitute for the tedious indirection of the
African route a direct western passage--a belief in the practicability
of which was drawn from a confidence in the sphericity of the

Later in life Columbus seems to have forgotten his indebtedness to
Toscanelli, and "grew to imagine that he had been independent of the
influences of his time," ascribing his great discovery to the
inspiration of one chosen to accomplish the prophecy of Isaiah. But
the venerable Florentine had pondered the problem many years before
Columbus thought of it. "Some Italian writers even go to the extent of
asserting that the idea of a western passage to India originated with
Toscanelli, before it entered the mind of Columbus; and it is highly
probable that this was the case."

There is this in favor of Toscanelli: He was a learned man, while
Columbus was comparatively ignorant. He was then advanced in years,
and had given the greater portion of his life to the consideration of
just such questions, having had his attention called to them by
reading the travels of Marco Polo and comparing the information
therein contained with that derived from Eastern merchants who had
traded for many years in the Orient. He was not a sailor, nor a
corsair--though Columbus had been both, and had followed the sea for
years--but he was an astronomer, and he knew more of the starry
heavens, as well as of the earth beneath them, than any other
scientist alive. "It was Toscanelli who erected the famous solstitial
gnomon at the cathedral of Florence." For his learning he was honored,
when but thirty years of age, with the curatorship of the great
Florentine library, and for nearly sixty years thereafter he passed
his days amid books, charts, maps, and globes.

As a speculative philosopher, he had arrived at a correct conclusion
respecting the sphericity of the earth, and, with all the generosity
of a humanitarian, he freely communicated his ideas to others.
Columbus would have excluded every other human being from
participating in his thoughts, and arrogated to himself alone the
right to navigate westerly. This was the difference between the
broad-minded philosopher and the narrow-minded sailor who by accident
had stumbled upon a theory. The philosopher said, "It belongs to the
world!" The ignorant sailor cried, "It is mine!"

Toscanelli advanced the theory, but it was Columbus who put it to the
test, and reaped all the rewards, as well as suffered for the
mistakes. For mistakes there were, and the chief error lay in
supposing the country "discovered" by Columbus pertained to the
Indies. He died in that belief, and also Toscanelli, who passed away
ten years before the first voyage made to that land, subsequently
known as America. In one sense, perhaps, the Florentine doctor was the
means of that first voyage of Columbus having been accomplished, for
the chart he sent him made the distance between Europe and the western
country seem so short that it was undertaken with less reluctance, and
persisted in more stubbornly, than it might otherwise have been. But
this was a mistake in detail only, and not in theory. A line was
projected from about the latitude of Lisbon, on the western coast of
Europe, to the "great city of Quinsai," as described by Marco Polo, on
the opposite shores of Asia. This line was divided into twenty-six
spaces, of two hundred and fifty miles each, making the total distance
between the two points sixty-five hundred miles, which Toscanelli
supposed to be one-third of the earth's circumference.


In short, Toscanelli calculated the distance, made a conjectural chart
embodying the results of his readings of Aristotle, Strabo, and
Ptolemy, of his conversations during many years with Oriental
travellers, and his own observations. He sent this chart to Columbus;
the latter adopted it as his guide, and by means of it, faulty as it
was, achieved his great "discovery." Whose, then, is the merit of this
achievement? Does it not belong as much to Toscanelli as to Columbus?

To whomsoever the credit may be given--whether to the man who
conceived the idea, or to him who developed it, and whether or not
Columbus intentionally appropriated the honor and glory
exclusively--by the irony of fate, there stood a man at Toscanelli's
elbow, as it were, when he wrote to the Genoese, who was destined to
rob him of his great discovery's richest reward. This man was Amerigo
Vespucci, after whom--though unsuggested by him and unknown to
him--the continents of America were named, by strangers, before
Christopher Columbus had lain a year in his grave!

It is not at all improbable that Vespucci was aware of the
correspondence between Toscanelli and Columbus, as he was then
acquainted with the former, and at the age of twenty-three was
intensely interested in the pursuits of the learned physician. Next
to Toscanelli, in fact, he was probably the best-informed man then
living in Florence as to the studies to which his friend had devoted
the better part of his life, and it is not unreasonable to suppose
that he saw the letters before they were sent to Columbus.

But this is a trivial matter compared with the importance of these
letters, in a consideration of the effect they produced upon the mind
of Columbus, for, if they did not suggest to him the idea of voyaging
westerly to discover the Indies, they certainly confirmed him in the
opinion that such a voyage could be successfully made. By a strange
freak of fate these letters were preserved in the _Life of Columbus_,
written by his son Fernando, and there can be no question of their
authenticity. They breathe the spirit of benevolence for which
Toscanelli was noted, and indicate the greatness of the man--a
greatness decidedly in contrast to the mean and petty nature of his
correspondent, who would have perished sooner than allow information
so precious to escape from him to the world.

Toscanelli's first letter was written in Florence, June 25, 1474, and
is as follows:

     "_To Christopher Columbus, Paul the Physicist wishes

     "I perceive your noble and earnest desire to sail to those
     parts where the spice is produced, and therefore, in answer
     to a letter of yours, I send you another letter which, some
     days since, I wrote to a friend of mine, a servant of the
     King of Portugal before the wars of Castile, in answer to
     another that he wrote me by his highness's order, upon this
     same account. And I also _send you another sea-chart_, like
     the one I sent to him, which will satisfy your demands. This
     is a copy of the letter:

     "_'To Ferdinand Martinez, Canon of Lisbon, Paul the
     Physicist wishes health._

     "'I am very glad to hear of the familiarity you enjoy with
     your most serene and magnificent king, and though I have
     very often discoursed concerning _the short way there is
     from hence to the Indies_, where the spice is produced, by
     sea (which I look upon to be shorter than that you take by
     the coast of Guinea), yet you now tell me that his highness
     would have me make out and demonstrate it, so that it may be
     understood and put in practice.

     "'Therefore, though I could better show it to him with a
     globe in my hand, and make him sensible of the figure of the
     world, yet I have resolved, to make it more easy and
     intelligible, to show the way on a chart, such as is used in
     navigation, and therefore I send one to his majesty, made
     and drawn with my own hand, wherein is set down the _utmost
     bounds of the earth, from Ireland in the west to the
     farthest parts of Guinea_, with all the islands that lie in
     the way; opposite to which western coast is described the
     beginning of the Indies, with the islands and places whither
     you may go, and how far you may bend from the North Pole
     towards the Equinoctial, and for how long a time--that is,
     how many leagues you may sail before you come to those
     places most fruitful in spices, jewels, and precious stones.

     "'Do not wonder if I term that country where the spice
     grows, _West_, that product being generally ascribed to the
     _East_, because those who sail westward will always find
     those countries in the west, and those who travel by land
     eastward will always find those countries in the east! The
     straight lines that lie lengthways in the chart show the
     distance there is from west to east; the others, which cross
     them, show the distance from north to south. I have also
     marked down in the chart several places in India where ships
     might put in, upon any storms or contrary winds, or other
     unforeseen accident.

     "'Moreover, to give you full information of all those places
     which you are very desirous to know about, you must
     understand that none but traders live and reside in all
     those islands, and that there is as great a number of ships
     and seafaring people, with merchandise, as in any other part
     of the world, particularly in a most noble port called
     Zaitun, where there are every year a hundred large ships of
     pepper loaded and unloaded, besides many other ships that
     take in other spices. This country is mighty populous, and
     there are many provinces and kingdoms, and innumerable
     cities, under the dominion of _a prince called the Grand
     Khan_, which name signifies king of kings, who for the most
     part resides in the province of Cathay. His predecessors
     were very desirous to have commerce and be in amity with
     Christians, and two hundred years since sent ambassadors to
     the Pope, desiring him to send them many learned men and
     doctors, to teach them our faith; but by reason of some
     obstacles the ambassadors met with they returned back,
     without coming to Rome. Besides, there came an ambassador to
     Pope Eugenius IV., who told him of the great friendship
     there was between those princes and their people, and the
     Christians. _I discoursed with him a long while_ upon the
     several matters of the grandeur of their royal structures,
     and of the greatness, length, and breadth of their rivers,
     and he told me many wonderful things of the multitude of
     towns and cities along the banks of the rivers, upon a
     single one of which there were two hundred cities, with
     marble bridges of great length and breadth, adorned with
     numerous pillars.

     "'This country deserves as well as any other to be
     discovered; and there may not only be great profit made
     there, and many things of value found, but also gold,
     silver, many sorts of precious stones, and spices in
     abundance, which are not brought into our ports. And it is
     certain that many wise men, philosophers, astrologers, and
     other persons skilled in all arts and very ingenious, govern
     that mighty province and command their armies. From Lisbon
     directly westward there are in the chart twenty-six spaces,
     each of which contains two hundred and fifty miles, to the
     most noble and vast city of Quinsai, which is one hundred
     miles in compass--that is, thirty-five leagues. In it there
     are ten marble bridges. The name signifies a heavenly city,
     of which wonderful things are reported, as to the ingenuity
     of the people, the buildings, and the revenues.

     "'This space above mentioned is _almost the third part of
     the globe_. The city is in the province of Mangi, bordering
     on that of _Cathay_, where the king for the most part
     resides. From the island of Antilla, which you call the
     Island of the Seven Cities, and whereof you have some
     knowledge, to the most noble island of _Cipango_ are ten
     spaces, which make two thousand five hundred miles. This
     island abounds in gold, pearls, and precious stones; and,
     you must understand, they cover their temples and palaces
     with plates of pure gold; so that, for want of knowing the
     way, all these things are concealed and hidden--and yet may
     be gone to with safety.

     "'Much more might be said; but having told you what is most
     material, and you being wise and judicious, I am satisfied
     there is nothing of it but what you understand, and
     therefore will not be more prolix. Thus much may serve to
     satisfy your curiosity, it being as much as the shortness of
     time and my business would permit me to say. So, I remain
     most ready to satisfy and serve his Highness to the utmost,
     in all the commands he shall lay upon me.'"

A second communication followed the reply of Columbus, in which
Toscanelli wrote:

     "I received your letters with the things you sent me, which
     I take as a great favor, and commend your noble and ardent
     desire of sailing from east to west, _as it is marked out
     in the chart I sent you_, which would demonstrate itself
     better in the form of a globe. I am glad it is well
     understood, and that the voyage laid down is not only
     possible, but certain, honorable, very advantageous, and
     most glorious among all Christians. You cannot be perfect in
     the knowledge of it but by experience and practice, as I
     have had in great measure, and by the solid and true
     information of worthy and wise men, who are come from those
     parts to this court of Rome, and from merchants who have
     traded long in those parts and who are persons of good
     reputation. So that, when the said voyage is performed, it
     will be to powerful kingdoms, and to most noble cities and
     provinces, rich, and abounding in all things we stand in
     need of, particularly all sorts of spice in great
     quantities, and stores of jewels. This will, moreover, be
     grateful to those kings and princes who are very desirous to
     converse and trade with Christians, or else have
     communication with the wise and ingenious men in these
     parts, as well in point of religion as in all sciences,
     because of the extraordinary account they have of the
     kingdoms and government of these parts. For which reasons,
     and many more that might be alleged, I do not at all wonder
     that you, who have a great heart, and all the Portuguese
     nation, which has ever had notable men in all undertakings,
     be eagerly bent upon performing this voyage."

In these letters we have outlined by Toscanelli the very voyage that
Columbus took in 1492, eighteen years after he had received this
precious information. In his journal of that voyage he makes mention
of "_the islands marked on the chart_"; he was constantly seeking the
island of Atlantis, and hoped eventually to arrive at the great and
noble city of Quinsai, as well as at Cipango and Cathay. As for the
"Grand Khan"--of whom he had been informed by Toscanelli, who obtained
his information from Marco Polo's works--he not only sent an embassy
in search of him, when in Cuba, but was looking for him throughout all
his voyages.

It is well known that Columbus was not aware that he had really
discovered a new world, but to the end of his days believed he had
merely arrived at the eastern coast of India. So persistent was he in
this belief that he falsified documents, and forced his crew to swear
to what they did not know--namely, that Cuba was a continent, and not
an island! He believed he had arrived at Cipango, when he heard the
Indian word, _cibao_, on the coast of Hispaniola; and he says, in a
letter written to Luis Santangel in 1493, "In Española there are
gold-mines, and thence to terra firma, as well as thence to the Grand
Khan, everything is on a splendid scale." Also, "When I arrived at
Juana [Cuba], I followed the coast to the westward, and found it so
extensive that I considered it must be a continent and a _province of

Columbus, it has been said by some investigators, was a man of one
idea--and that idea not his own! "It is impossible," says Washington
Irving, in his _Life of Columbus_--which is, throughout, an elegant
but labored apology for its hero--"to determine the precise time when
Columbus first conceived the design of seeking a western route to
India. It is certain, however, that he meditated it as early as the
year 1474, though as yet it lay crude and unmatured in his mind."

The year 1474, as we know, was that in which Toscanelli sent him the
letter and the chart. In that letter the route to India was laid down,
and on that chart it was made clear to any seafaring man how Cathay
might be reached, by merely sailing westward! By setting his helm, and
persisting in a westerly course, any one might reach the coast that
was supposed to lie opposite to Europe and Africa. Columbus did that,
according to directions received from Toscanelli eighteen years
before. He did nothing more, and he reached, not the coast of India,
but the outlying islands of a new world since called America.

The idea, then, which Columbus claimed as exclusively his own was
conveyed to him by Toscanelli--or, at least, it so appears--and
Toscanelli obtained it from the ancients. For, says one having
authority, "Eratosthenes, accepting the spherical theory, had advanced
the identical notion which nearly seventeen hundred years later
impelled Columbus to his voyage. He held the known world to span
one-third of the circuit of the globe, as Strabo did at a later day,
leaving an unknown two-thirds of sea; and if it were not that the vast
extent of the Atlantic Sea rendered it impossible, one might even sail
from the coast of Spain to that of India, along the same parallel."

And again: "An important element in the problem was the statement of
Marco Polo regarding a large island, which he called Cipango, and
which he represented as lying in the ocean off the eastern coast of
Asia. This carried the eastern verge of the Asiatic world farther
than the ancients had known, and, on the spherical theory, brought
land nearer westward from Europe than could earlier have been
supposed.... Humboldt has pointed out that neither Christopher
Columbus nor his son Ferdinand mentions Marco Polo; still, we know
that the former had read his book."[5]


[4] Justin Winsor, in _The Narrative and Critical History of America_.

[5] _Narrative and Critical History of America._




Books of any sort were few and precious during the youthful period of
Amerigo Vespucci's life, for the art of printing by the use of movable
type was invented about the time he was born, and most of the great
discoverers, including himself and Columbus, were to pass away before
the printing-press was introduced into America.[6]

In the library of Paul the Physicist, however, the ardent scholar,
Vespucci, must have seen many manuscripts which he was permitted to
read, and among them, doubtless, the account of Marco Polo's
wonderful journeys. It is thought that Toscanelli may have possessed,
indeed, one of the first copies of _Marco Polo_ ever printed, as it
issued from a German press in 1477; or at least of the second edition,
which appeared in 1481, the year before he died. A copy of the first
Latin edition was once owned by Fernando Columbus, and has marginal
marks ascribed to his father. This edition was printed in 1485, the
year in which Hernando Cortés was born, and when Vespucci was
thirty-four years old. Another Latin edition was brought out in 1490,
an Italian in 1496, and a Portuguese in 1502, followed by many others.

Marco Polo, the Venetian, exercised a strong and lasting influence
upon the minds of Toscanelli, Columbus, Vespucci, and, through them,
upon others, although he died in the first quarter of the century in
which the first-named of this distinguished triad was born. All these
had this birthright in common: they were Italians; and, moreover, it
was in Genoa, the reputed birthplace of Columbus, that Marco Polo's
adventures were first shaped into coherent narrative and given to the

These adventures have been stigmatized as romances; but surely
nothing could be more romantic than the manner in which they came to
be published, finally, after existing many years in the crude form of
notes and journals made by the traveller during his journeyings. In
the year 1298, three years after he had returned from his wanderings
and settled down in Venice, Polo was called upon to assist in the
defence of Curzola, during the hostilities which existed between his
own republic and that of Genoa. To oppose the Genoese admiral, Doria,
who had invaded their seas with seventy galleys, the Venetians fitted
out a fleet under Andrea Dandolo, and a great battle was fought off
the island of Curzola. Marco Polo commanded a galley of his own, and
fought with valor; but, in common with the commanders of more than
eighty Venetian vessels, he was defeated, the Genoese winning an
overwhelming victory.

Taken as a prisoner to Genoa, he was cast into prison, where he
remained immured for a year. That was the year in which his wonderful
travels were woven into a story, for the entertainment of the young
Genoese nobility, who, when they learned that the famous Marco Polo
was a prisoner, flocked to his cell to see and converse with him.
Yielding to their solicitations, he sent to Venice for his notes of
travel, and during the days of his captivity dictated an account of
his experiences to a fellow-captive, one Rusticiano, of Pisa.

The delighted young nobles devoured his wonderful story with avidity,
and they could scarcely wait its unfolding from day to day, for it was
to them a veritable tale of the _Arabian Nights_. From the Italian, in
which the traveller dictated his story, it was translated into Latin
and French, and scattered over Europe for others to enjoy. Thus Marco
Polo acquired fame through the misfortune which befell him when
fighting for Venice, and long before printing was invented his name
became almost a household word in Europe. As one who, though
indirectly, stimulated by his Oriental researches the first great
ventures into the Occident, Marco Polo deserves a monument, or, at
least, should not be omitted from a memorial group that contains such
famous Italians as Columbus, Vespucci, Toscanelli, and Verrazano.
Admittedly, he deserves a chapter in this biography, and we cannot do
better, perhaps, than glance at his history.

If Marco had been consulted in the choice of his immediate ancestry,
he could not have done better than fortune served him in the person of
his father, Nicolo Polo, who was a nobleman and a merchant of Venice.
He was a traveller prior to the birth of his son, for just previous to
that event, which occurred nearly two hundred years before Amerigo
Vespucci was born, he and his brother set out for Constantinople.
Thence they went into Armenia, and around the south coast of the
Caspian Sea to Bokhara, where they met some Persian envoys who were
bound for Cathay, or China, and who persuaded them to go along.

At Peking, it is supposed, they met the great and powerful Kublai
Khan, Emperor of the Mongols, and Tartars, who received them kindly
and at whose court they remained a year. They were the first Europeans
he had ever seen, and such was his interest in their stories of
strange peoples and governments that he commissioned them as envoys to
the pope, giving them letters in which he expressed his desire that
Europeans learned in the arts and sciences should be sent for the
instruction of his people. Then they were reluctantly dismissed, with
gifts of gold and spices, and after many perilous adventures finally
reached their home in Venice. They had been gone almost ten years, and
when Nicolo Polo first saw his son, on his return to Venice, Marco was
a youth at school, well advanced in his studies.

Two years later, when Marco was about twelve, the three Polos set out
on their return to Cathay, accompanied by two friars, who were
"endowed with ample powers and privileges, the authority to ordain
priests and bishops, and to grant absolution in all cases, as fully as
if the pope were personally present." They took with them rich
presents for the khan, including a bottle of precious oil from the
holy sepulchre in Jerusalem, which was supposed to possess miraculous
virtues. The journey was commenced in or about the year 1271, but,
owing to innumerable and vexatious delays on the way, the Polos did
not reach the court of the grand khan until the spring of 1275. They
were more than three years in making the journey, but in spite of
difficulties and dangers these remarkable men persisted until the
object of their travels was accomplished. The friars had become
alarmed at the prospect of peril to themselves, and early in the
undertaking beat a retreat to Acre, so the three Venetians alone
arrived at Chambalu, and delivered to the grand khan the letters and
presents from the pope. They were received with extreme cordiality by
the khan, who was especially pleased with young Marco, and accepted
the presents with delight, the holy oil from Jerusalem being
reverently cherished.

Marco was introduced to the khan by Nicolo, as "your majesty's servant
and my son"; but had he been a son of the ruler himself he could not
have received greater honors than were bestowed upon him by the
emperor. Having a natural aptitude for acquiring languages, he soon
could read and write four different dialects, and being possessed of
great intelligence and shrewdness withal, he was sent by the khan on
important missions to various parts of his kingdom. He acquitted
himself so well on these embassies, some of which required his absence
from the capital for many months, and he brought back such interesting
accounts of the people he met and their customs, that he was
constantly employed.

In this manner he acquired, during many years of service in high
positions, a most intimate acquaintance with the khan's dominions, and
became immensely rich. His father and uncle shared wealth and honors
with him, for they likewise were congenially employed; but the time
came at last when their desire to revisit Venice became too strong to
resist. They craved the khan's permission to depart; but when the old
monarch heard their request he flew into a passion, declaring that he
would never allow them to go. They should remain with him and become
the richest men in the world.

Marco was sent off on another mission, this time by sea, and,
discovering that there was direct communication between Cathay and the
Indies, he entreated the khan to allow the Polos to go on a voyage,
promising faithfully that they would return after a short stay with
their friends in Venice. The old khan gave his consent reluctantly,
overwhelming them with gifts at their departure, among other things
giving them a tablet of gold, on which were engraved his orders to all
the subjects in his vast dominions to provide guides, escorts,
pilots--every convenience for their voyage and journey--without cost.
He also authorized them to serve as his ambassadors to the pope and
other European potentates, presented them with many precious stones,
including rubies of great value, and money enough to defray their
expenses for at least two years. From all this it will be seen that
the grand khan was a very munificent prince, whose deeds must have
made a lasting impression upon the minds of the generation in which he

Fourteen large vessels were contained in the fleet he furnished the
Polos, for with them was embarked, with a train of ambassadors, a
noble maiden of Cathay who was to become the bride of a "king of the
Indies" known as Argon. The voyage was so protracted that the king had
died before she reached her destination, and whose bride she became
was never known to the Polos, though they faithfully acquitted
themselves of their charge, and then continued on towards the
frontiers of Persia. Two years had been consumed in voyaging to Java,
Sumatra, and along the coast of southern India. Three more elapsed
before they finally reached their native city, in 1295, after an
absence of nearly twenty-five years. Nobody in Venice knew them then,
except by name, for Niccolo and his brother were advanced in age,
and Marco had grown from a boy to manhood, while in their dress and
manners they were more like Tartars than Venetians, and had almost
completely lost their native speech.

[Illustration: MARCO POLO]

Many of their former friends and relations were dead, and the
survivors were at first inclined to denounce them as impostors, until
the fertile imagination of Marco hit upon an expedient. They were
invited to a magnificent banquet, at which the three Polos appeared
arrayed in robes of crimson velvet, which, after their guests had
arrived, they threw off and gave to their attendants. Then, after the
last course was served, they produced from their queer Tartarian
garments, which they ripped open for the purpose, precious gems by the
handful, and displayed them to the astonished guests as their

They were promptly received into the best Venetian society, Maffei,
the uncle, being appointed a magistrate, and Niccolo, the father,
espousing a beautiful young lady. Such Polos as still bear the
name--if there are any--must have descended from the children born of
this second marriage, for though Marco himself took a wife, several
years later, he left no male children to inherit the vast wealth that
gave him the title, in Venice, of "Marco Millioni."

It was about three years after his return to Venice that Marco fell
into the hands of the Genoese, and a little later that, as narrated,
he wrote the story of his travels. His books abound in romantic
adventures, and many, probably, that are fabulous; but that it stamped
itself upon the times in which he lived and those of succeeding
generations, has been shown already. Nearly two hundred years after
the story was written, we find the Spaniards seeking the great island
of Cipango, of which the following is Marco Polo's description:

     "This is a very large island, fifteen hundred miles from the
     continent [of Asia]. The people are fair, handsome, and of
     agreeable manners. They are idolaters, and live quite
     separate from all other nations. Gold is very abundant, and
     no man being allowed to export it, while no merchant goes
     thence to the main-land, the people accumulate a vast
     amount. But I, Marco Polo, will give you a wonderful account
     of a very large palace all covered with that metal, as our
     churches are with lead. The pavements of its court, the
     halls, windows, and every other part, have it laid on two
     inches thick, so that the riches of this palace are
     incalculable. Here are also pearls, large and of equal value
     with the white, with many other precious stones.

     "Kublai, on hearing of this amazing wealth, desired to
     conquer the island, and sent two of his barons with a very
     large fleet containing warriors, both horsemen and on foot.
     They sailed from Zaitun and Quinsai, reached the isle,
     landed, and took possession of the plain and of a number of
     houses; but they were unable to take any city or castle,
     when a sad misadventure occurred. A storm threatened and
     some of the troops were embarked; but about thirty thousand
     were left upon a small and barren island by the sailing of
     the ships. The sovereign and the people of the larger island
     rejoiced greatly when they saw the host thus scattered and
     many of them cast upon the islet. As soon as the sea calmed
     they assembled a great number of ships, sailed thither and
     landed, hoping to capture all those refugees. But when the
     latter saw that their enemies had disembarked, leaving the
     vessels unguarded, they skilfully retreated to another
     quarter and continued moving about till they reached the
     ships, when they went aboard without any opposition. They
     then sailed direct for the principal island, where they
     hoisted its own standards and ensigns.

     "On seeing these, the people believed their own countrymen
     had returned, and allowed them to enter the city. Finding it
     defended only by old men, the Tartars soon drove them out,
     retaining the women as slaves. When the king and his
     warriors saw themselves thus deceived and their city
     captured, they were like to die of grief; but they assembled
     other ships, and invested it so closely as to prevent all
     communication. The Tartars maintained themselves thus seven
     months, and planned day and night how they might convey
     tidings to their master of their condition; but finding this
     impossible, they agreed with the besiegers to surrender,
     securing only their lives. This took place in the year 1269.

     "The grand khan ordered one of the commanders of the host
     that had returned to lose his head, and the other to be sent
     to the isle where he had caused the loss of so many men, and
     there put to death. I have to relate, also, a very wonderful
     thing: that these two barons took a number of persons in a
     castle of Cipango, and because they had refused to surrender
     ordered all their heads to be cut off. But there were eight
     on whom they could not execute this sentence, because these
     wore consecrated stones in their arms, between the skin and
     the flesh, which so enchanted them that they could not die
     by steel. They were therefore beaten to death with clubs,
     and the stones, being extracted, were held very precious.
     But I must leave this matter and go on with the narrative."


[6] The first printing-press in America was set up in Mexico in 1535,
the first book printed on it was probably _La Escala de San Juan
Climaco_, date 1536, and the first printer was Juan Pablos. The oldest
existing example of this first Mexican printing is said to be the
_Manual de Adultos_, bearing date 1540.




Before we revert to the real hero of this biography, let us seek to
identify the various names we find in Marco Polo's book, and in
Toscanelli's letter to Columbus, with the objects to which they were
applied. We will imagine ourselves with the first-named in far Cathay,
with the second in his library at Florence, and with the third as he
gropes his way along the shores of islands for the first time then
revealed to European eyes.

If Columbus had known--what we now know--that thousands of miles
intervened between the places he was seeking and those to which he
misapplied their names, he would not have died in the belief that he
had discovered a new way to the Old World. To anticipate a little what
will be revealed later in the unfolding of this story: it was Amerigo
Vespucci, and not Columbus, who first applied to this newly discovered
hemisphere the title _Mundus Novus_, or New World. However, we will
not discuss that question now, but merely remark that _Cathay_ was
identical with northern China, while _Mangi_ was the southern
territory of that vast empire which, in Marco Polo's time, was in
possession of Kublai Khan. _Chambalu_, or Peking, was its capital,
while the "most noble and vast city of _Quinsay_," or Cansay, is the
ancient _King-sze_ connected with Peking by the grand canal.

The large island of _Cipango_, or _Zipangu_, outlying upon the coast
of Cathay, was probably Japan, or Formosa; though its golden-tiled
temples may never have been seen by the Polos, nor its red pearls have
come into their hands. Forty years after Columbus began his vain
search, Pizarro found and plundered the gold-plated temples of Cuzco,
which were as rich as any described by Marco Polo in his account of
Cipango; and in the Bahamas archipelago, through which the Spaniards
passed in the voyage of 1492, precious pink pearls have been
discovered in great numbers and of surpassing beauty.

Vasco da Gama, in 1497, was to open the way by water to the vast
Oriental seas--to Calicut and Cathay--but until the last quarter of
the fifteenth century the commerce of the eastern hemisphere depended
mainly upon transportation by land. "Voyages of much extent were
almost unknown, and the mariner confined himself to inland waters, or
hovered along the shores of the great Western Ocean, without venturing
out of sight of land.... The thriving republics of Italy were the
carriers of the world. For many centuries their citizens were almost
the only agents for commercial communication with the countries of the
East. Venice and Genoa maintained establishments on the farthest
shores of the Mediterranean and Black seas.

"Immense caravans crossed the deserts of Arabia and Egypt, their
camels laden with the costly fabrics of the Indies, which were
received by the Italian traders from the hands of the Mahometans and
distributed over Europe. Here and there upon the deserts a green
oasis, with its bubbling spring or rippling rivulet, served these
mighty trains for a resting-place, where man and beast halted to
recover from the fatigues of their weary journeys. Occasionally, on
these spots where the soil was of sufficient fertility to sustain a
population, villages grew up. In rarer instances and in earlier ages,
large cities had been built upon these stopping-places and were for
the time the centres of the traffic.... Travellers of the present day
occasionally visit their sites, and tell wonderful tales of the
gigantic ruins of some Baalbec or Palmyra of the wilderness.

"It was not to be supposed that the shrewd spirit of mercantile
enterprise and speculation would remain dormant in this state of
affairs. Traders in every part of Europe were alive to the advantages
to be derived from the discovery of a new route of transportation.
Several efforts were made, and in some cases attended with immense
profit and success, to communicate with India by the long and arduous
journey round the Black Sea, and through the almost unexplored regions
of Circassia and Georgia. The far-off shores of the Caspian were
reached by some travelling traders, and the geographical knowledge
they circulated on their return gave a new impulse to the growing
spirit of adventure. Apocryphal as the narratives of Marco Polo and
Mandeville appeared, there was a sufficient mixture of truth with
exaggeration to stimulate the minds of men, ever greedy of gain, and
the endless wealth of the grand khan and his people were the subjects
of many eager and longing anticipations."[7]

The Polos were merely the forerunners, the pioneers, to the far
Cathay, and in the fourteenth century missionaries and merchants
followed on their trail with varying success. The death of Kublai Khan
had relieved them from their obligation to return; but soon after they
had reached Venice, in 1295, a Franciscan monk, John of Monte Corvino,
penetrated to Chambalu and established missions there. In the year
1338 an ambassador arrived at Avignon from the then reigning Khan of
Cathay, and in return John de Marignoli, a Florentine, was sent to the
court at Chambalu, where he remained four years as legate of the holy
see. Commercial travellers followed after them, and about 1340 a
guide-book was written by another Florentine, Francesco Pelotti, who
was a clerk in the great trading-house of Bardi, or Berardi, with
which, at a later date, Amerigo Vespucci was connected in Spain.

"When the throne of the degenerate descendants of Ghengis Khan began
to totter to its fall, missions and merchants alike disappeared from
the field. Islam, with all its jealousies and exclusiveness, had
recovered its grasp over Central Asia. Night again descended upon the
farther East, covering Cathay, with those cities of which the old
travellers had told such marvels, Chambalu and Cansay, Zaitun and
Chinkalan. And when the veil rose before the Portuguese and Spanish
explorers of the sixteenth century those names were heard of no

"But for a long time all but a sagacious few continued to regard
Cathay as a region distinct from any of the new-found Indies; while
map-makers, well on into the seventeenth century, continued to
represent it as a great country lying entirely to the north of China
and stretching to the Arctic Sea. It was Cathay, with its outlying
island of Zipangu, that Columbus sought to reach by sailing westward,
penetrated as he was by his intense conviction of the smallness of the
earth and of the vast extension of Asia to the eastward. To the day of
his death he was full of the imagination of the proximity of the
domain of the grand khan to the islands and coasts which he had
discovered. And such imaginations are curiously embodied in some maps
of the early sixteenth century, which intermingle on the same
coast-line the new discoveries, from Labrador to Brazil, with the
provinces and rivers of Marco Polo's Cathay."[8]

Having shown the state of European geographical knowledge in the
fifteenth century, in the hope thereby of throwing light upon the
conditions which surrounded Vespucci at the time, we will now follow
as closely as possible the career which was then opening before him.
He was, as we have stated, keenly alive to what was taking place in
the world around him, and especially interested in geographical
discoveries. Although it is not likely that he had an abundance of
ready money, having been so many years engaged in preparation for his
great pursuit, without immediate recompense of any sort, yet we learn
from the records of his life that he was already making a collection
of all the charts, maps, and globes that he could find. He had
assembled the best works of the most distinguished projectors, and for
one of the finest then available, "a map of sea and land," made in
1439 by one Gabriel de Valesca, he paid the large sum of one hundred
and thirty ducats, equivalent to more than five hundred dollars at the
present day. There was danger then, his parents and friends thought,
of the abstruse and unprofitable science of cosmography absorbing him
entirely; but, though he may have indulged in the hope of devoting his
life to the studies which had so enriched the mind of his friend
Toscanelli, he was rudely awakened from his day-dream by a family

Mention has been made of one of his brothers, Girolamo, who, about the
year 1480, left home and went to Asia Minor, including in his travels
a trip to Palestine. He finally established himself in one of the
Grecian cities, and, being of a hopeful turn, sent for and obtained
the greater portion of his father's money, with which he engaged in
trade. All went well for a time, and the Vespuccis congratulated
themselves upon having a son of the family finally embarked on the
full tide of commercial prosperity.

Nine years went by, and nothing but good news came from the absent
Girolamo; but one day, in 1489, disastrous tidings arrived. A
Florentine pilgrim, returning from a pious visit to the holy sepulchre
in Jerusalem, brought Amerigo a letter from his brother. It was dated
July 24th, and contained information to the effect that while Girolamo
was attending religious services at a convent in his neighborhood his
house was broken open and robbed. "At one fell swoop," he wrote, he
had been deprived of all his earnings during those nine years of toil,
besides the money his father had sent him, which represented the
accumulations of a lifetime.

He did not explain how his entire capital was in cash at the time,
when he was supposed to be in trade; but even if derelict, he was too
far away to be sought out and his story investigated, so the loss was
accepted by the family as an indication that Providence was not
inclined to smile upon the substitution of the eldest for the youngest
son as a retriever of the Vespucci fortunes. All looked now towards
Amerigo to take up the distasteful business of money-making, for which
he had been so long in training, but which hitherto he had so
successfully evaded. In sorrow, it is said, but without a murmur, he
turned his back upon his maps, globes, books, and astrolabes and faced
the situation manfully.

A position had long been open to him with the great trading-house of
Lorenzo de Medici, who was own cousin to the world-famous Lorenzo the
Magnificent, and he had only to apply in order to receive it. For the
Medici well knew the value of men--good and faithful men--trained, as
Amerigo was, in the diplomacy as well as the routine of commercial
life in that age. They needed just such a man as he in their foreign
agency, and bidding farewell to his family he set sail from Leghorn
for the Spanish city of Barcelona.

The Iberian peninsula afforded at that time a most attractive field
for commercial as well as military adventure. The protracted wars with
the Moors, which had been carried on for generations, were drawing to
a close, but they had taken thither many a man athirst for glory, and
the demand for supplies gave the merchants great opportunities for
profits. The commerce of that day was, as we have seen, mainly in the
hands of Italian merchants, and as early as 1486 the Florentine
trader, Juan Berardi, obtained a safe conduct from Barcelona to
Seville, where, a few years later, we find Amerigo busily engaged in
outfitting vessels for the Spanish voyages of discovery.

It was in the year 1490, or 1491, that Amerigo Vespucci went to Spain,
accompanied by his nephew Giovanni, and several other young
Florentines, who were placed in his charge by their parents that they
might receive the benefit of his experience and the advantages of
foreign travel. Giovanni, or Juan, was greatly attached to his uncle,
and subsequently went with him on his voyages to America. Many years
later the historian, Peter Martyr, wrote of him: "Young Vespucius is
one to whom Americus, his uncle, left the exact knowledge of the
mariner's faculties, as it were by inheritance, after his death, for
he is a very expert master in the knowledge of the compass and the
elevation of the pole star by the quadrant. He is my particular
friend, a witty young man in whose company I take great pleasure, and
therefore have him often for my guest."

Whether Giovanni was associated with Amerigo in business is not
exactly known, nor can we tell just when the latter removed from
Barcelona into southern Spain; but there is a letter extant, written
at Cadiz in 1492, signed jointly by himself and a young Florentine,
Donato Nicollini, as agents either of the Medici or the house of
Berardi. The following extract was copied by his biographer, Bandidi,
from this manuscript in Amerigo's handwriting:

     "As it is necessary for one of us, either Amerigo or Donato,
     to proceed in a short time to Florence, we shall be able to
     give you better information on all points by word of mouth
     than can possibly be done by letter. As yet, it has been
     impossible to do anything respecting the freight of salt,
     for want of a vessel, as for some time past, we are sorry to
     say, no ship has arrived here which was not chartered. Be
     assured that if one arrives we shall be active for your

     "You will have learned from the elder Donato the
     good-fortune which has happened to his highness the king.
     Assuredly the most high God has given him His aid; but I
     cannot relate it in full. God preserve him many years--and
     us with him.

     "There is nothing new to communicate. Christ preserve you.

                               "DONATO NICOLLINI.
                               "AMERIGO VESPUCCI.

     "We date this January 30, 1492."

The last decade of the fifteenth century, which Amerigo was to pass
chiefly in Spain, has been termed by historians the most important
epoch in modern history. It was, admittedly, the most important for
Spain, also for that country (then unknown) which her sailors were to
discover and explore, and which was to receive the name of the
Florentine merchant then living obscurely in Cadiz or Seville.

"The foreign intercourse of the country," says the renowned author of
_Ferdinand and Isabella_, "was every day more widely extended. Her
agents and consuls were to be found in all the ports of the
Mediterranean and the Baltic. The Spanish mariner, instead of creeping
along the beaten track of inland navigation, now struck boldly across
the great Western Ocean. The new discoveries had converted the land
trade with India into a sea trade, and the nations of the peninsula,
which had hitherto lain remote from the great highways of commerce,
now became the factors and carriers of Europe.

"The flourishing condition of the nation was seen in the wealth and
population of its cities, the revenue of which, augmented in all to a
surprising extent, had increased in some forty and even fifty fold
beyond what they were at the commencement of Ferdinand and Isabella's
reign: the ancient and lordly Toledo; Burgos, with its bustling
industrious traders; Valladolid, sending forth thirty thousand
warriors from its gates; Cordova, in the south, and the magnificent
Granada, naturalizing in Europe the arts and luxuries of the East;
Saragossa, 'the abundant,' as she was called from her fruitful
territory; Valencia, 'the beautiful'; Barcelona, rivalling in
independence and maritime enterprise the proudest of the Italian
republics; Medina del Campo, whose fairs were already the great mart
for the commercial exchanges of the peninsula; and Seville, the golden
gate of the Indies, whose quays began to be thronged with merchants
from the most distant countries of Europe."


[7] _The Life and Voyages of Americus Vespucius_, by C. Edwards
Lester, 1845.

[8] Article, "China," in the _Encyclopædia Britannica_.



1492 OR 1493

While we cannot affirm that Christopher Columbus and Vespucci were
acquainted previous to the voyage which made America known to Europe,
it is well established that Amerigo was in Spain when his favored
rival sailed from Palos, in August, 1492, and also when he returned,
in March, 1493. In the very month of January, 1492, in which Vespucci
wrote the letter quoted in the previous chapter, Columbus and the
Spanish sovereigns signed the "capitulation" that set forth the
demands of the discoverer and the concessions of the king and queen.
That paper was signed and sealed in the palace of the Alhambra, not
far distant from Cadiz, and still nearer to Seville, whither Vespucci
removed soon after. He may have been there when Columbus passed
through the latter city on his way to Palos, Seville being in the
direct route between Granada and the Rio Tinto; but if he then saw and
conversed with him there is no record of the fact.

What must have been his feelings, though, when he learned of the
transaction between Columbus and the sovereigns? Columbus had gained
permission to make--what he himself was far better equipped for--a
voyage across the Sea of Darkness, to the islands that lay on the
route of Marco Polo's Cathay. And Columbus had merely corresponded
with his master, Toscanelli, at whose feet he, Vespucci, had sat, and
during days and hours discussed the problem that his rival was now
going forth to solve!

While Vespucci plodded, almost hopelessly, at Cadiz and Seville,
Columbus pushed forward preparations for his voyage, and finally set
sail. Did not Amerigo, then, send a sigh after him and his caravels,
and think regretfully of his maps, his charts, globes, and nautical
instruments lying dusty and disused in Florence? They were more to him
than anything else in the world. With their aid, and countenanced by
royal favor, _he_ might have been the fortunate one to adventure upon
the ocean, and seek the unknown regions which he was positive lay
there veiled from human sight. But he was pledged to repair the family
fortune, he was committed to the interests of his employers, and even
if the suggestion of embarking on a voyage of discovery came to him he
could not entertain it for an instant. He could not then; but perhaps
opportunity might yet offer, he thought, and so sent for his books,
charts, and instruments, in order to perfect himself in cosmography
and nautical science. He became so proficient that some years after he
was appointed by King Ferdinand pilot-major of Spain, and even the
charts that Columbus made were brought to him for correction or

The months went by, spent by Columbus in "making history," by Vespucci
in lading ships for others to sail in, and in the intervals of
business poring over his books and charts. At last, in the spring of
1493, one day a courier came dashing into Seville with the news of
Columbus's return, by way of Portugal, a letter having arrived from
Lisbon addressed to the sovereigns, and another for Santangel,
secretary to the king. Then Vespucci knew his opportunity had taken
flight, for the New World had been discovered, the glory belonged to

Soon after the return of the voyagers to Palos, he may have seen the
triumphal procession led by Columbus to Barcelona, and probably had
speech with him and with some of his sailors. He saw the six Indians
who had been made captive in the islands and were brought to Seville,
for they remained there some time while Columbus was awaiting orders
from Barcelona. A letter from the sovereigns came at last, addressed
to "Don Cristobal Colon, Admiral of the Ocean Sea and Viceroy of the
Indies," which probably Amerigo himself perused--with what a sickening
of heart may be imagined--for it contained a memorandum from the
sovereigns referring to the equipment of a second expedition, and his
firm received the contract. Vespucci was then connected with the house
of Berardi (having left the employ of the Medici), either as
contracting agent or partner. Whatever relation he stood in to the
firm, it was a most responsible one, for to him was committed the
furnishing of a large fleet without delay.

It was about the last of March, or early in April, that Columbus
delivered to him the order from the king and queen, and then set out
for Barcelona overland. He arrived there duly, to be received with
almost royal honors, and meanwhile the house of Berardi, under the
active supervision of Vespucci, was busy with the preparation of the
fleet. Ships were sought and chartered; caravels built, bought, and
repaired; munitions provided and crews of sailors assembled, which
Vespucci was obliged to hold and keep together against the sailing of
the squadron.

And what was the personal appearance of these two great navigators,
thus so strangely brought into business relations, and whose fame in
after times was to fill the world? Although there is no portrait
existing of Columbus which we can affirm to be authentic, still verbal
portraits have been left by his contemporaries which convey to us the
impression that the "Admiral" was tall and stalwart, dignified in
bearing, with fair complexion, blue eyes, and hair then silvery gray.

Amerigo Vespucci was his exact opposite, in superficial
characteristics, for he was under rather than above the middle height,
"thick-set and brawny," with a dark complexion, black hair mixed with
gray, and flashing black eyes. An authentic portrait, painted at a
later date, shows him with head nearly bald, encircled only by a
fringe of hair, prominent cheek-bones, aquiline nose, a firm, sweet
mouth, and without the thick black beard he wore when he first met
Columbus. His temper was mild, while that of Columbus was hasty,
though firmly controlled, save on a few occasions when, tried beyond
measure, it burst its bounds and swept away all opposition. But both
great men were courteous in speech, the dignified demeanor of Columbus
commanding admiration, while the modesty of Vespucci won the
friendship of all with whom he came in contact.

The following dialogue between the two, or the purport of it, is
thought to have taken place soon after the return of Columbus from
Barcelona, either at Cadiz or Seville. It was but natural that the two
should meet, that they should exchange views and compare notes, for,
while Columbus had made the great discovery--through having been the
first to apply the theories of Toscanelli and the ancients--Vespucci
had for many years been thinking on the subject, and had enjoyed the
friendship of the physicist, whom both revered. Whether this
conversation is apocryphal or not, at least it embodies the divergent
views of the two, and does no violence to their sentiments, as can be
shown by their writings. It is adapted from Lester's _Americus

Having with him, it is believed, the charts and books from which he
deduced his theories, Vespucci probably invited Columbus to his
lodgings, where the two spent many an hour in good-natured
controversy. Nearly twenty years had elapsed since the learned doctor
sent the chart and letter to Columbus, and now the latter, with the
laurels of the great "discovery" on his brow, was to engage in
argument with the person best acquainted with his life-work--who had
followed it from its very inception, and who was to enjoy its usufruct

Let us try to imagine them within the walls of Vespucci's
house--whether in golden Seville or crystal Cadiz cannot be told; but
it is easy to find one like it to-day, for the architecture of neither
city has changed much since that time. The house is of stone, with
thick white walls and roof of tiles. The rooms are large and dreary,
but open on a court, or Moorish patio, around which they are ranged,
and where a fountain tinkles merrily. The floor of Vespucci's room is
tiled and damp, the furniture is scanty, but in the centre of the
apartment is a large and massive table, upon which are spread his
charts, while a globe--perhaps one of Behaim's, recently
constructed--stands in a corner.

The arrival of the distinguished stranger at Vespucci's modest
lodgings causes a flutter of excitement, not only in the household,
but in the street, which is lined with gaping citizens, anxious to see
the new admiral, who has already taken on the dignities of his
station, is costumed in velvet, wears a sword at his side, and is
accompanied by a retinue of hired retainers. Vespucci, on the
contrary, shows no ostentation in his garb, for he is but a man of
business, and, entirely unconscious of any discrepancy in their
apparel, conducts his guest to the room where lie his treasures.

To the credit of Columbus, it should be said, he sees in Vespucci only
the man of science, the student, the cosmographer, and, with the
gentle dignity inseparable from this man who had appeared before
kings and at courts, he compliments his host upon his collection.
They are soon in earnest consultation, scanning the sea-charts,
quoting authorities, advancing theories, becoming so absorbed as to
ignore the yawning hangers-on of the admiral's staff, who soon retire,
one after another, leaving the two geographers alone.

Finally, Columbus says, looking up from the chart upon which he had
been sketching the route of his voyage:

"It grieves me much, worthy Signor Vespucci, to learn from our friend
the Signor Berardi that you do not estimate as I do the result of our
recent navigation to the west. With your well-known skill in
cosmography, I fear me, you combine more of doubt than would be
becoming to a Christian navigator."

"Your excellency mistakes my views greatly, or has been misinformed of
them," replies Vespucci, courteously. "Far from undervaluing the
effect of the discoveries which your genius has accomplished, I am the
rather disposed to place a greater estimate upon them than does the
Admiral Colon himself. If I judged them in the light in which they are
viewed by the most of those who hope to profit by them, then, indeed,
the imputation would be just; but I look not to such things, and well
I know that your own mind is above them."

"In that respect you only do me justice. If I look for gain in aught
that I have undertaken, it is only that I may devote it to a holy
purpose. Have I not, even within the last few days, recorded my solemn
oath that I would, in the event of my prosperous arrival at the court
of the grand khan--whom, by the favor of God, I hope to convert to the
true faith--employ the riches I shall acquire in the equipment of a
force of four thousand horse and fifty thousand foot, for the recovery
of the holy sepulchre from the hands of the infidels? I am unwilling
to think that your speech tends to the end of imputing to me mercenary
motives; but wherein do we differ? Is not the way opened, and will not
the intercourse I mean to establish with the pagan monarch contribute
greatly to the purpose I keep ever in view? The holy father at Rome
himself lends me encouragement in my undertaking, and regards with
approbation my efforts to lead into the true Church so mighty a

"With all the deference that is due to your excellency's superior
wisdom and experience, I would state that therein lies the very point
of our difference. I deem it by no means certain that your ships have
touched the territories of the grand khan at all, but rather land that
has hitherto been alike unknown to him and to us. Thousands of leagues
may yet intervene between that land and his dominions, whether of sea
or earth remains to be discovered; and I judge in this wise as well
from the accounts of cosmographers who have written on the subject, as
from the description of the barbarous natives which you yourself have
fallen in with in recent discoveries.

"The accounts of those who have penetrated to distant regions of the
East lead us to understand that the subjects of the grand khan live in
the midst of the most profuse wealth and luxury, and bedeck themselves
with superfine garments, gold, and jewelry. These people, however, are
wild and naked, little if any superior to the beasts, and cannot, I
think, be in any wise connected with a monarch of such magnificence.
My own thoughts carry me to the conviction that there exists near unto
the lands you have visited an immense country, which may possibly
belong to and be part of the grand khan's dominions, though I doubt if
such be the case. Marco Polo himself speaks of an island lying far out
in the ocean which washes the eastern shores of Asia--the great
Cipango, abounding in riches and precious stones, which has never been
subdued by the sovereign of Cathay, although he has made attempts to
conquer it. This island I deem it necessary to discover, in the first
place; then, even after it is circumnavigated or passed over--and the
last may be the easier way--a voyage of long duration will still have
to be accomplished before the empire of Cathay is reached. When I
speak of a passage over this unknown island, I do so in view of its
great extent, as I estimate it to be of such size that it might more
properly be designated _Terra Firma_,[9] being, according to my
calculations, as large as, if not larger than, the whole of Europe.
And herein do I estimate most highly the worth of the discoveries
which your excellency has made, and their importance to this realm, as
it will now be comparatively easy to pass the lands you have fallen
in with by sailing either in a more northerly or a more southerly
direction, in either case striking the country I have in my mind."

"Nay, nay, good Signor Vespucci. I have the confidence in my heart
that you are mistaken. I feel, indeed, persuaded, by the many and
wonderful manifestations of divine Providence in my especial favor,
that I am the chosen instrument of God in bringing to pass a great
event: no less than the conversion of millions who are now existing in
the darkness of paganism. I would, indeed, provide for the good of the
poor natives we have already met, as well by building cities on their
islands and cultivating their lands, as by the erection of churches
and the establishment of Christian worship. But I would by no means
forget the greater end in view--namely, that of bringing to bear upon
the infidels the wealth and power of the vast kingdom of Cathay, that
thus being encompassed, by the armies from Europe on the one side, and
by the innumerable hosts of Asia on the other, they may be utterly
destroyed, and the tomb of our Lord be again placed in the possession
of the true believers.... In these things I marvel much at your
incredulity, Signor Vespucci, seeing that you have often had
opportunities of conversing with the learned physicist Paolo, your own
countryman--peace to his ashes!--who in his lifetime so nearly
coincided with me in opinion."

"I have, indeed, as your excellency observes, oftentimes disputed and
argued with the venerable Toscanelli, and to him is due much of the
little knowledge I have been able to acquire in cosmography and
astronomy. But from him I also learned that the descriptions which are
given by Marco Polo were considered by many wise men as not altogether
beyond the reach of doubt. If, then, he is in error in some
particulars, how shall we draw the line, and say wherein he speaks the
truth of his own knowledge? And how could he know the distance which
exists between Cathay and the western shores of Europe, save by
hearsay, and the reports of mariners on that unknown shore, who
themselves must have been falsifiers, as it is well known that not one
of them has ever appeared here who might have estimated the distance?
I cannot, then, think that we are so near to Cathay as your excellency
supposes, and had much rather follow the opinion that you have
possibly approached the shore that has been hitherto represented as
inaccessible to mortals."

"You speak of the paradise, which so many sound and able divines
assert to be still in existence on earth."

"I do, though not so firmly believing in the relation as they do. If
there be such a place existing, as described by the learned St. Basil,
methinks it must be near unto those balmy isles which you have
discovered, so similar in climate and in verdancy."

"Such, in sooth, has often been my opinion, and I deem it not to be
inconsistent with the other, which holds to the proximity of Cathay.
Oh, that I might, through the grace of God and intercession of the
saints, ever arrive at that blessed spot, where all is happiness and
beauty; where the harmonious songs of birds ever fall gratefully on
the ear; where the air is filled with the fragrance of flowers, and a
perpetual spring, combining with its own beauties those of every other
season of the year, continually prevails; where the limpid waters flow
smoothly and gently, or gush forth in purest fountains; where all is
suggestive of perennial youth, and decay and death are unknown!

"But I perceive, Signor, that you are incredulous, as to this region
of bliss, and even smile at my belief. Remember, then, that herein I
only follow the opinions of the wise and learned fathers of our
Church, but that in regard to Cathay I am supported by ample proof,
from the discoveries of travellers and the relations of

"I am ever willing to yield to proofs; but methinks that the
foundation of the error under which your excellency seems to labor is
this: that you do not make sufficient allowance for exaggeration in
the accounts of the great traveller Marco Polo. It appears to me that
he has deceived himself as to the extent to which he penetrated
Cathay, and that he has thereby carried out the eastern coast too far
into the ocean. That being so, the learned Paolo, my countryman, in
following him, finds it necessary to shorten the extent of ocean which
intervenes between Cathay and Europe, in order to render accurate his
estimate of the circumference of the globe."

"I note your objections, but cannot deem them correct, and yet hope to
deliver the letters of my sovereigns, with which I was charged in my
recent voyage, to the grand khan in person. But let us examine this
question of longitude, for therein I am interested deeply, and have
small doubt that I can turn you to my opinions."

"Most gladly will I do so, most noble admiral, for I am strongly moved
to tempt the ocean myself, in the hope of adding something to the
knowledge of mariners."

Within four or five years from the conjectural date of this dialogue,
Vespucci made his first voyage, and saw for himself some of those
"isles of paradise" which had so charmed Columbus. This was either in
the year 1497 or 1499, depending upon whether we accept his own
statement or the opinion of those who have challenged the authenticity
of his narrative.


[9] In this sense, the main-land, or continent, as opposed to islands,
the Latin form, _terra_, is almost invariably used by the Spaniards,
instead of _tierra_.




It has been said that the house of Berardi, with which Vespucci was
connected as a partner, outfitted the large fleet for the second
voyage of Columbus in 1493; but this is true only in the sense that it
served the crown in the capacity of sub-contractor. The real head of
Indian affairs was the archdeacon of Seville, Juan Rodriguez de
Fonseca, who first rose to prominence at this time as general
superintendent of all the New-World business, and for thirty years
controlled the same. Invested by King Ferdinand with great, almost
unlimited, power, he has the credit of having founded the royal India
house, which was of such importance in the colonizing of new
territory, and by the favor of which alone any voyage of discovery
could be projected and carried to a successful conclusion.

Fonseca has been held up to obloquy by the admirable eulogist of
Columbus, Mr. Irving, "as a warning example of those perfidious beings
in office, who too often lie like worms at the root of honorable
enterprise, blighting by their unseen influence the fruits of glorious
action and disappointing the hopes of nations." This denunciation he
incurred by thwarting the schemes of Columbus, in their minor details
at first, afterwards becoming his open and determined enemy. The first
instance in which the two great men fell out occurred when Fonseca
opposed the pretensions of Columbus and attempted to check his
extravagance in the matter of personal retinue. Among other
requisitions which Columbus sent in, those for ten footmen and twenty
menials for his domestic establishment were objected to by the
superintendent as superfluous.

In connection with the treasurer, Francisco Pinelo, and the
_contador_, Juan de Soria, Fonseca used his utmost efforts to raise
the necessary funds for the expedition, to provide for the vast
expenses of which, says Mr. Irving himself, "the royal revenue arising
from two-thirds of the Church tithes was placed at the disposition of
Pinelo; and other funds were drawn from a disgraceful source--from
the jewels and other valuables, the sequestrated property of the
unfortunate Jews, banished from the kingdom according to a bigoted
edict of the previous year. As these sources were still inadequate,
Pinelo was authorized to supply the deficiency by a loan. Requisitions
were likewise made for provisions of all kinds, as well as for
artillery, powder, muskets, lances, corselets, and crossbows.... The
military stores which had accumulated during the war with the Moors of
Granada furnished a great part of these supplies."

Having great difficulty, therefore, in meeting the really needful
demands of the expedition, it was quite natural that Fonseca should
desire to cut down those he deemed extravagant, and it must be
admitted that among these he might rightfully class the requisitions
of Columbus intended merely to support his newly acquired dignity as
admiral and grandee. He was supported by the sovereigns, however, and
Fonseca was rebuked for denying him anything he desired. He was
reminded that the expedition was intended solely to extend the power
and prestige of the crown, and that but for Columbus it would never
have been assembled, hence he was to study his wishes and comply with
his demands. This implied reproof cut the haughty prelate to the
heart, and from these trivial differences, remarks Mr. Irving, "we
must date the rise of that singular hostility which he ever afterwards
manifested towards Columbus, which every year increased in rancor, and
which he gratified in the most invidious manner by secretly
multiplying impediments and vexations in his path."

But for the fact that this enmity existing between Fonseca and
Columbus made possible the first voyage of Amerigo Vespucci, we should
not feel called upon to more than mention the first named in
connection with an expedition in which all three were so deeply
interested. The fleet finally sailed away, pursued by the maledictions
of Fonseca, and followed by the heart-felt longings of Vespucci. Some
historians have stated that the Florentine sailed with Columbus on
this second voyage; but there are no records to prove this assertion,
and he himself never made the claim. We have every reason for
believing that he continued in his employment as purveyor to the crown
and contractor for the furnishing of fleets, with his residence
sometimes at Seville and sometimes at Cadiz, as occasion demanded, the
office of the India house being at the former city, and the port of
customs and sailing at the latter. He was, undoubtedly, brought into
more or less intimate contact with Fonseca, whose supervision of
colonial affairs and control of expeditionary fleets demanded his
constant attention for many years. He probably appreciated such a man
as Vespucci, whose even temper and mastery of detail, combined with
great sagacity and learning, were invaluable to the man who was
building up a government beyond the ocean. They were nearly of the
same age--Fonseca having been born in 1441--and at this time in the
fulness of their natural powers.

Just what Vespucci was doing in the two years succeeding to the
departure of Columbus is not definitely known; but in December, 1495,
we find him actively engaged in settling the estate of Juan Berardi,
who had died in that month and year. He was then, it appears, the most
influential if not the sole member of the firm then resident in Spain,
and after Berardi's death he undertook and carried out the contracts
entered into by the senior partner with the government.

About three hundred years after the death of Vespucci, some ancient
documents were discovered by a Spanish historian, in which it was
shown that on January 12, 1496, the royal treasurer, Pinelo, had paid
to Vespucci the sum of ten thousand maravedis on account. He advanced
pay and furnished subsistence for the mariners of an expedition which
sailed on February 3, 1496, and was wrecked two weeks later, with the
loss of several lives. The fragmentary records also show, apparently,
that in the year 1497 and the early part of 1498, Vespucci was "busily
engaged at Seville and San Lucar, in the equipment of the fleet with
which Columbus sailed on his third voyage"; and yet, according to a
letter which he wrote a former friend in 1504, he was himself upon the
ocean at that very time, seeking to rival Columbus in the discovery of
a continent!

The exact truth may never be learned as to this reputed voyage of
Vespucci, which he calls his "first," and which his enemies say was
never made! It seems incredible that he should be the "sole authority"
for this voyage, and that all contemporary history "is absolutely
silent in regard to it"; yet, so far as we can ascertain, it is the
truth. Leaving for future discussion, however, the proof and disproof
of this voyage--merely pausing to remark that at the period mentioned
a man holding his relations to Fonseca would have had no difficulty in
obtaining permission to make such a voyage, even without the sanction
of royal authority--we will now peruse the famous letter. It is
addressed to "Piero Soderini, Perpetual Gonfaloniere of the Republic
of Florence," and was written in 1504.

     "MOST EXCELLENT SIR,-- ... The principal reason why I am
     induced to write is the request of the bearer, Benvenuto
     Benvenuti, the devoted servant of your Excellency and my
     particular friend. He happened to be here in this city of
     Lisbon, and requested that I would impart to your Excellency
     a description of the things seen by me in various climes, in
     the course of four voyages which I have made for the
     discovery of new lands, two by the authority and command of
     Don Ferdinand, King of Castile, in the great Western Ocean,
     and the other two by order of Dom Manuel, King of Portugal,
     towards the south. So I resolved to write, as requested, and
     set about the performance of my task, because I am certain
     that your Excellency counts me among the number of your most
     devoted servants, remembering that in the time of our
     youth, we were friends, going daily to study the rudiments
     of grammar, under the excellent instruction of the venerable
     brother of St. Mark, Friar Georgio Antonio Vespucci, my
     uncle, whose counsels would to God I had followed! for then,
     as Petrarch says, I should have been a different man from
     what I am.

     " ... Your Excellency will please to observe that I came
     into the kingdom of Spain for the purpose of engaging in
     mercantile affairs, and that I continued to be thus employed
     about four years [six or seven], during which I saw and
     experienced the fickle movements of fortune, and how she
     ordered the changes of these transitory and perishing
     worldly goods, at one time sustaining a man at the top of
     the wheel, and at another returning him to the lowest part
     thereof, and depriving him of her favors, which may truly be
     said to be lent. Thus having experienced the continual labor
     of one who would acquire her favors, subjecting myself to
     very many inconveniences and dangers, I concluded to abandon
     mercantile affairs and direct my attention to something more
     laudable and stable. For this purpose I prepared myself to
     visit various parts of the world, and see the wonderful
     things which might be found therein. Time and place were
     very opportunely offered me when I came to this conclusion.

     "King Ferdinand of Castile had ordered four ships to go in
     search of new lands, and I was selected by his highness to
     go in that fleet, in order to assist in the discoveries. We
     sailed from the port of Cadiz on the 10th of May, A.D.
     1497, and steering our course through the great Western
     Ocean, spent eighteen months in our expedition, discovering
     much land and a great number of islands, the largest part of
     which were inhabited. As these are not spoken of by the
     ancient writers, I presume they were ignorant of them. If I
     am not mistaken, I well remember to have read in one of
     their books, which I possessed, that this ocean was
     considered unpeopled. In this voyage I saw many astonishing
     things, as your Excellency will perceive by the following

     "We had sailed so rapidly that at the end of twenty-seven
     days we came in sight of land, which we judged to be a
     continent, being about a thousand leagues west of the
     Fortunate Islands, now called the Grand Canaries. Here we
     anchored our ships at a league and a half from the shore,
     and, having cast off our boats and filled them with men and
     arms, proceeded to land. Before we landed we were much
     cheered by the sight of many people rambling along the
     shore. We found that they were all in a state of nudity, and
     they appeared to be afraid of us, as I suppose from seeing
     us clothed and of a different stature from themselves. They
     retreated to a mountain, and, notwithstanding all the signs
     of peace and friendship we could make, we could not bring
     them to parley with us; so, as the night was coming on and
     the ships were anchored in an insecure place, we agreed to
     leave there and go in search of some port or bay where we
     could place our ships in safety.

     "We sailed two days along the coast, and on the morning of
     the third day, as dawn appeared, we saw on shore a great
     number of men, with their wives and children, all laden
     with provisions. Before we reached the land many of them
     swam to meet us, the distance of a bow-shot into the sea (as
     they are most excellent swimmers), and they treated us with
     as much confidence as if we had had intercourse with them
     for a long time, which gratified us much. All that we know
     of their life and manners is that they go entirely naked,
     not having the slightest covering whatever; they are of
     middling stature and very well proportioned, and their flesh
     is a reddish color, like the skin of a lion; but I think if
     they had been accustomed to wear clothing they would have
     been as white as we are. They have no hair on the body,
     except very long hair on the head; but the women especially
     derive attractiveness from this. Their countenances are not
     handsome, as they have large faces, which might be compared
     with those of the Tartars. Both men and women are very
     agile, easy in their carriage, and swift in running or
     walking, so that the women think nothing of speeding a
     league or two, as we have many a time beheld.

     "Their weapons are bows and arrows beautifully wrought, but
     unfurnished with iron or any other hard metal, in place of
     which they make use of the teeth of animals, or fish, or
     sometimes a slip of hard-wood, made harder at the point by
     fire. They are sure marksmen, who hit whatever they wish,
     and in some parts the women also use the bow with dexterity.
     They have other arms, such as lances and staves, with heads
     finely wrought. When they make war they take their wives
     with them--not to fight, but to carry provisions on their
     backs, a woman frequently carrying a burden in this manner
     for thirty or forty leagues, which the strongest man among
     them could not do, as we have witnessed many times.

     "These people have no captains, neither do they march in
     order, but each one is his own master. The cause of their
     wars is not a love of conquest, or of enlarging their
     boundaries, neither are they incited to engage in them by
     inordinate covetousness [unlike the Spaniards], but from
     ancient enmity which has existed among them in times past;
     and having been asked why they made war, they could give us
     no other reason than that they did it to avenge the deaths
     of their ancestors. Neither have these people kings or
     lords, nor do they obey any one, but live in their own
     entire liberty; and the manner in which they are incited to
     go to war is this: when their enemies have killed or taken
     prisoners any of their people, the oldest relative rises and
     goes about proclaiming his wrongs aloud, and calling upon
     them to go with him to avenge the death of his relation.
     Thereupon they are moved with sympathy and make ready for
     the fight.

     "They have no tribunals of justice, neither do they punish
     malefactors; and what is still more astonishing, neither
     father nor mother chastises the children when they do wrong;
     yet, astounding as it may seem, there is no strife between
     them; or, to say the least, we never saw any. They appear
     simple in speech, but in reality are very shrewd and cunning
     in any matter which interests them. They speak but little,
     and that little in a low tone of voice, using the same
     accentuation that we use, and forming the words with the
     palate, teeth, and lips; but they have a different mode of
     diction. There is a great diversity of language among them,
     inasmuch as every hundred leagues or so we found people who
     could not understand one another. Their mode of life is most
     barbarous; they do not eat at regular intervals; but it is a
     matter of indifference to them whether appetite comes at
     midnight or at mid-day, and they eat upon the ground at all
     hours, without napkin or table-cloth, having their food in
     earthen basins, which they manufacture, or in half-gourd
     shells or calabashes. They sleep in nets of cotton, very
     large and suspended in the air; and although this may seem a
     very bad way of sleeping, I can vouch for the fact that it
     is extremely pleasant, and one sleeps better thus than on a
     mattress. They are neat and clean in their persons, which is
     a natural consequence of their perpetual bathing; but some
     of their habits are unmentionable....

     " ... We are not aware that these people have any laws.
     Neither are they like Moors or Jews, but worse than Gentiles
     or Pagans, because we have never seen them offer any
     sacrifice, and they have no houses of prayer. From their
     voluptuous manner of life, I consider them as Epicureans.
     Their dwellings are in communities and their houses are in
     the form of huts, but strongly built of large tree-trunks
     and covered with palm leaves, secure from winds and storms.
     In some places they are of such great length that in a
     single house we saw six hundred people, and we found that
     the population of thirteen houses only amounted to four
     thousand. They change their location every seven or eight
     years, and on being asked why they did so they said it was
     on account of the intense heat of the sun upon the soil,
     which by that time became infected and corrupted, and caused
     pains in their bodies, which seemed to us reasonable.

     "The riches of these people consist in birds' feathers of
     beautiful colors, of beads, which they fabricate from
     fish-bones or colored stones, with which they decorate their
     cheeks, lips, and ears, and of many other things which are
     held in little or no esteem by us. They carry on no
     commerce, neither buying nor selling, and, in short, live
     contentedly with what nature gives them. The riches which we
     esteem so highly in Europe and other parts--such as gold,
     jewels, pearls, and other wealth--they have no regard for at
     all. They are liberal in giving, never denying one anything,
     and, on the other hand, are just as free in asking....

     "In case of death they make use of various funeral
     obsequies. Some bury their dead with water and provisions
     placed at their heads, thinking they may have occasion to
     eat and drink, but they make no parade in the way of funeral
     ceremonies. In some places they have a most barbarous mode
     of interment, which is thus: When one is sick or infirm, and
     nearly at the point of death, his relatives carry him into a
     large forest, and there attaching one of their
     sleeping-hammocks to two trees, they place the sick person
     in it, and continue to swing him about for a whole day, and
     when night comes, after placing at his head water and
     provisions sufficient to sustain him for five or six days,
     they return to their village. If the sick person can help
     himself to eat and drink, and recovers sufficiently to be
     able to return to the village, his people receive him again
     with great ceremony; but few are they who escape this mode
     of treatment, as most of them die without being visited, and
     that is their only burial.

     "They use in their diseases various kinds of medicines, so
     different from any in vogue with us that we are astonished
     that any escaped. I often saw, for instance, that when a
     person was sick with a fever, which was increasing upon him,
     they bathed him from head to foot with cold water, and
     making a great fire around him, they made him turn round in
     a circle for about an hour or two, until they fatigued him
     and left him to sleep. Many were cured in this way. They
     also observe a strict diet, eating nothing for three or four
     days. They practise blood-letting; not on the arm, unless in
     the arm-pit, but generally taking it from the thighs and
     haunches. Their blood or phlegm is much disordered on
     account of their food, which consists mainly of the roots of
     herbs, of fruit, and fish. They have no wheat or other
     grain, but instead make use of the root of a tree [shrub]
     from which they manufacture flour, which is very good and
     called _huca_ [yucca]; the flour from another root is called
     _kazabi_, and from another _igname_.

     "They eat little meat except human flesh, and you will
     notice that in this particular they are more savage than
     beasts, because all their enemies who are killed or taken
     prisoners, whether male or female, are devoured with so much
     fierceness that it seems disgusting to relate, much more to
     see it done, as I, with my own eyes, have many times
     witnessed this proof of their inhumanity. Indeed, they
     marvelled much to hear us say that we did not eat our

     "And your Excellency may rest assured that their other
     barbarous customs are so numerous that it is impossible
     herein to describe them all. As in these voyages I have
     witnessed so many things at variance with our own customs, I
     prepared myself to write a collection, which I call _The
     Four Voyages_, in which I have related the major part of the
     things I saw as clearly as my feeble capacity would permit.
     This work is not yet published, though many advise me to
     publish it. In it everything will appear minutely, therefore
     I shall not enlarge any more in this letter, because in the
     course of it we shall see many things which are peculiar.
     Let this suffice for matters in general.

     "In this commencement of discoveries we did not see anything
     of much profit in the country, owing as I think to our
     ignorance of the language, except some few indications of
     gold. We concluded to leave this place and go onward, and
     coasted along the shore, making many stops, and holding
     discourses with many people, until after some days we came
     into a harbor, where we fell into a very great danger, from
     which it pleased the Holy Spirit to deliver us. It happened
     in this manner: We landed in a port where we found a village
     built over the water, like Venice. There were about
     forty-four houses, shaped like bells, built upon very large
     piles, having entrances by means of draw-bridges, so that by
     laying the bridges from house to house the inhabitants could
     pass through the whole.

     "When the people saw us they appeared to be afraid of us,
     and, to protect themselves, suddenly raised all their
     bridges and shut themselves up in their houses. While we
     were looking at them and wondering at this proceeding, we
     saw, coming in from the sea, about two and twenty canoes,
     which are the boats they make use of, and are carved out of
     a single tree. They came directly towards our boats,
     appearing to be astonished at our figures and dress, and
     keeping at a little distance from us. This being the case,
     we made signals of friendship to induce them to approach,
     endeavoring to reassure them by every token of kindness; but
     seeing that they did not come we went towards them. They
     would not wait for us, however, but fled to the land, making
     signs to us to wait, and giving us to understand that they
     would return. They fled to a mountain, but did not tarry
     long there, and when they returned brought with them sixteen
     of their young maidens, and entering into their canoes came
     near and put four of them into each boat, at which we were
     very much astonished, as your Excellency may well imagine.
     Then they mingled with their canoes among our boats, and we
     considered their coming to us in this manner to be a token
     of friendship. Taking this for granted, we saw a great crowd
     of people swimming towards us from the houses without any
     suspicion. At this juncture some old women showed themselves
     at the doorways of the huts, wailing and tearing their hair,
     as if in great distress. From this we began to be
     suspicious, and had recourse to our weapons, when suddenly
     the young girls, who were in our boats, threw themselves
     into the sea, and the canoes at the same time moved away,
     the people in them assailing us with their bows and arrows.

     "Those who came swimming towards us brought each a lance,
     concealed as much as possible under the water, and their
     treachery being thus discovered, we began not only to defend
     ourselves, but to act severely on the defensive. We
     overturned many of the canoes with our boats, and making
     considerable slaughter among them they soon abandoned the
     canoes altogether and swam for the shore. Fifteen or twenty
     were killed, and many wounded, on their side, while on ours
     five were slightly wounded, all the rest escaping by divine
     Providence, and these five being quickly cured. We took
     prisoners two of their girls and three men, and on entering
     their huts found one sick man and two old women. Returning
     to our boats and thence to the ships, with the five
     prisoners, we put irons upon the feet of each, excepting the
     two young females; yet when night came the two girls and one
     of the men escaped, in the most artful manner in the world.

     "The next day we concluded to depart from this port, and at
     length came to anchor at about eighty leagues distance, and
     found another tribe of people whose customs and language
     were very different from those we had last seen. We
     determined to land, seeing there a great multitude numbering
     about four thousand. They did not wait to receive us, but
     fled precipitately to the woods, abandoning all their
     things. We leaped ashore, and taking the path which led to
     the wood, found their tents within the space of a bow-shot,
     where they had made a great fire and two of them were
     cooking their food, roasting many animals of various kinds.

     "We noticed that they were roasting a certain animal that
     looked like a serpent; it had no wings, and was so
     disgusting in appearance that we were astonished at its
     deformity. As we went through their huts or tents, we found
     many of these serpents alive. Their feet were tied, and they
     had a cord about their snouts so that they could not open
     their mouths, as dogs are sometimes muzzled so they may not
     bite. These animals had such a savage appearance that none
     of us durst turn one over, thinking they might be
     poisonous.[10] They are about the size of a kid, about the
     length and a half of a man's arm, and have long, coarse feet
     armed with large nails. Their skin is hard, and they are of
     various colors. They have the snout and face of a serpent,
     and from the nose there runs a crest, passing over the
     middle of the back to the root of the tail. We finally
     concluded that they were serpents, and poisonous; yet,
     nevertheless, they were eaten by the natives.

     " ... Finally these people became very friendly, told us
     that this was not their place of dwelling, but that they had
     come there only to carry on their fishery. They importuned
     us so much to go to their village that, having taken
     counsel, twenty-three of us Christians concluded to go with
     them, well prepared, and with firm resolution to die
     manfully if such was to be our fate. Three leagues from the
     coast we arrived at a well-peopled village, where we were
     received with so many and such barbarous ceremonies that no
     pen is equal to the task of describing them. There was
     dancing and singing, weeping mingled with rejoicing, and
     great feasting. After having passed the night and half of
     the next day, an immense number of people visiting us from
     motives of curiosity, we determined to proceed still farther
     inland, having been desired to visit other villages. And it
     is impossible to tell how much honor they did us there. We
     visited so many villages that we spent nine days in the
     journey. On our return we were accompanied by a wonderful
     number of both sexes, quite to the sea-shore; and when any
     of us grew weary with walking, they carried us in their
     hammocks, much at our ease. Many of them were laden with the
     presents they made us, consisting of very rich plumage, many
     bows and arrows, and an infinite variety of parrots,
     beautiful and varied in colors. Others carried loads of
     provisions and animals. For a greater wonder, I will tell
     your Excellency that when we had to cross a river they
     carried us on their backs.

     "Having arrived at the sea and entered the boats, which had
     come ashore for us, we are astonished at the crowd which
     endeavored to get into the boats to go to see our ships, for
     they were so overloaded that they were ofttimes on the point
     of sinking. We carried as many as we could on board, and so
     many more came by swimming that we were quite troubled at
     the multitude, although they were all naked and unarmed.
     They marvelled greatly at the size of our ships, our
     equipments, and implements. Here quite a laughable
     occurrence took place, at their expense. We concluded to try
     the effect of discharging some of our artillery, and when
     they heard the thunderous report the greater part of them
     jumped into the sea from fright, acting like frogs sitting
     on a bank, who plunge into the water on the approach of
     anything that alarms them. Those who remained on the ship
     were so timorous that we repented of having done this.
     However, we reassured them by telling them that these were
     our arms, with which we killed our enemies. After they had
     amused themselves on the ship all day, we told them that
     they must go, as we wished to depart in the night; so they
     took leave of us with many demonstrations of friendship,
     even affection, and went ashore.

     "I saw more of the manners and customs of these people while
     in their country than I care to dwell on here. Your
     Excellency will notice that in each of my voyages I have
     noted the most extraordinary things which have occurred, and
     have compiled the whole into one volume, in the style of a
     geography, and entitled it _The Four Voyages_. In this work
     will be found a minute description of the things which I
     saw; but, as there is no copy of it yet published, owing to
     my being obliged to examine it carefully and make
     corrections, it becomes necessary for me to impart them to
     you herein.

     "This country is full of inhabitants and contains a great
     many rivers. Very few of the animals are similar to ours,
     excepting the lions, panthers, stags, hogs, goats, and deer,
     and even these are a little different in form. They have
     neither horses, mules, nor asses; neither cows, dogs, nor
     any kind of domestic animals. Their other animals, however,
     are so very numerous that it is impossible to count them,
     and all of them so wild that they cannot be employed for
     serviceable uses. But what shall I say of the birds, which
     are so numerous and of so many species and varieties of
     plumage that it is astounding to behold them? The country is
     pleasant and fruitful, full of woods and forests which are
     always green, as they never lose their foliage. The fruits
     are numberless and totally different from ours. The land
     lies within the torrid zone, under the parallel which
     describes the Tropic of Cancer, where the pole is elevated
     twenty-three degrees above the horizon.

     "A great many people came to see us and were astonished at
     our features and the whiteness of our skins. They asked us
     where we came from, and we gave them to understand that we
     came from heaven, with the view of visiting the world, and
     they believed us. In this country we established a baptismal
     font, and great numbers were baptized. They called us, in
     their language, _Carabi_, which means men of great wisdom.
     The natives call this province _Lariab_. We left the port
     and sailed along the coast, in sight of land, until we had
     run, calculating our advances and retrogressions, eight
     hundred and seventy leagues towards the northwest, making
     many stops by the way and having intercourse with many
     people. In some places we found traces of gold, but in small
     quantities, it being sufficient for us to have discovered
     the country and to know that there was gold in it.

     "We had now been thirteen months on the voyage, and the
     ships and rigging were much worn, the men very weary. So by
     common consent we agreed to careen our ships on the beach in
     order to calk and pitch them anew, as they leaked badly, and
     then to return to Spain. When we took this resolution we
     were near one of the best harbors in the world, entering
     which we found a vast number of people, who received us most
     kindly. We made a breastwork on shore with our boats and
     casks, and placed our artillery so it would play over them;
     then, having unloaded and lightened our ships, we hauled
     them to land and repaired them wherever they needed it. The
     natives were of great assistance to us, continually
     providing food, so that in this port we consumed very little
     of our own. This served us a very good turn, for our
     provisions were poor and the stock so much reduced at this
     time that we feared it would hardly last us on our return to

     "Having stayed here thirty-seven days, visiting their
     villages many times, where they paid us the highest honors,
     we wished to depart on our voyage. Before we set sail the
     natives complained to us that at certain times in the year
     there came from the sea into their territory a very cruel
     tribe, who, either by treachery or force, killed many of
     them and captured others, whom they ate, for they were
     man-eaters. They signified to us that this tribe were
     islanders, and lived at about one hundred leagues distance
     at sea. They narrated this to us with so much simplicity and
     feeling that we credited their story and promised to avenge
     their great injuries; whereat they were rejoiced, and many
     offered to go with us. We did not wish to take them for
     many reasons, and only carried seven, on the condition that
     they should come back in their own canoes, for we could not
     enter into obligations to return them to their own country.
     With this they were content, and then we parted from these
     gentle people, leaving them very well disposed towards us.

     "Our ships having been repaired, we set sail on our return,
     taking a northeasterly course, and at the end of seven days
     fell in with some islands. There were a great many of them,
     some peopled, others uninhabited. We landed at one of them,
     where we saw many people, who called the island _Iti_.
     Having filled our boats with good men, and put three rounds
     of shot in each boat, we proceeded towards the land, where
     we saw about four hundred men and many women, all naked,
     like those we had seen before. They were of good stature and
     appeared to be very warlike men, being armed with bows and
     arrows and lances. The greater part of them carried staves
     of a square form, attached to their persons in such a manner
     that they were not prevented from drawing the bow. As we
     approached within bow-shot of the shore, they all leaped
     into the water and shot their arrows at us to prevent our
     landing. They were painted with various colors and plumed
     with feathers, and the interpreters with us said that when
     they were thus painted and plumed they showed a wish to
     fight. They persisted so much in their endeavors to deter us
     from landing that we were at last compelled to fire on them
     with our artillery. Hearing the thunder of our cannon and
     seeing some of their people fall dead, they all retreated to
     the shore. Having consulted together, forty of us resolved
     to leap ashore and, if they waited for us, to fight them.
     Proceeding thus, they attacked us and we fought about two
     hours, with little advantage, except that our bow-men and
     gunners killed some of their people and they wounded some of
     ours. This was because we could not get a chance to use
     lance or sword. We finally, by desperate exertion, were
     enabled to flash our swords, and as soon as they had a taste
     of our weapons they fled to the woods and mountains, leaving
     us masters of the field, with many of their people killed or
     wounded. This day we did not pursue them, because we were
     much fatigued, but returned to our ships, the seven men who
     had come with us being highly rejoiced.

     "The next day we saw a great number of people coming through
     the country, still offering us signs of battle, sounding
     horns and shells, and all painted and plumed, which gave
     them a strange and ferocious appearance.[11] Whereupon all
     in the ships held a grand council, and it was determined
     that, since these people were determined to be at enmity
     with us, we should go to meet them and do everything to
     engage their friendship; but in case they would not receive
     it, resolved to treat them as enemies and to make slaves of
     all we could capture. Having armed ourselves in the best
     manner possible, we immediately rowed ashore, where they did
     not resist our landing, from fear, as I think, of our
     bombardment. We disembarked in four squares, being
     fifty-seven men, each captain with his own men, and then
     engaged them in battle. After a protracted fight, having
     killed many, we put them to flight and pursued them to their
     village, taking about two hundred and fifty prisoners. We
     then burned the village and returned victorious to the ships
     with our prisoners, leaving many killed and wounded on their
     side, while on ours only one died and not more than
     twenty-two were wounded. The rest all escaped unhurt, for
     which God be thanked!

     "We soon arranged for our departure, and the seven men, of
     whom five were wounded, took a canoe from the island and,
     with three male and four female prisoners that we gave them,
     returned to their own country, very merry and greatly
     astonished at our power. We also set sail for Spain, with
     two hundred and twenty-three prisoners, and arrived at the
     port of Cadiz on October 15, 1498, where we were well
     received and found a market for our slaves. This is what
     happened to me on this, my first voyage, that may be
     considered worth relating."


[10] These "serpents" were iguanas, and were seen and described by
Christopher and Bartholomew Columbus, long before Vespucci made his

[11] The fierce islanders, so accurately described by Vespucci, were
doubtless the Caribs, and the numerous islands were probably Grenada
and the Grenadines, perhaps including St. Vincent, in the north, where
descendants of those Caribs live to-day.




That letter from Vespucci to the friend of his youth, Soderini,
purporting to narrate the events of his first voyage, has proved a
prolific source of doubt and perplexity. Although it was written
before Columbus died, and although it was published while most of the
actors therein mentioned were yet living, its authenticity was
unchallenged until nearly a century after its appearance. Herrera, it
is believed, was the first to accuse Vespucci of "artfully and
wilfully falsifying in his narrative, with a view to stealing from
Columbus the honor of being the discoverer of America." This charge
was made public in his work on the West Indies, published in 1601, and
ever since Vespucci has been stigmatized as an impostor.

There is no official record of the voyage he claimed to have made in
1497-1498, and historians are silent as to his actions, in fact,
during the period between 1496 and 1504. This signifies little,
according to the historian Gomara, who says: "Learning that the
territories which Columbus had discovered were very extensive, many
persons proceeded to continue the exploration of them. Some went at
their own expense, others at that of the king, all thinking to enrich
themselves, to acquire honor, and to gain the royal approbation. But,
as most of these persons did nothing but discover, memorials of them
all have not come to my knowledge, especially of those who went in the
direction of Paria, from the year 1495 to the year 1500."

Some writers have sought to "establish an alibi" by showing that
Vespucci was in Spain throughout the period which, he says, was passed
by him at sea, on this "first" voyage; but they have not been
successful in doing so. Some, again, have declared that the narrative
of the "four" voyages, beginning in May, 1497, was made up of that on
which Vespucci certainly sailed with Ojeda, in May, 1499. "The points
of resemblance"--as the reader may see for himself--"are so many and
so striking as to seem not only conclusive, but to preclude any other
theory," says Alexander Humboldt, who, in his _Examen Critique_, made
an exhaustive research into the Vespucci letters. Humboldt completely
vindicated the character of Vespucci, leaving no shade of doubt upon
his integrity, but he did not unravel the mystery.

How happens it that Vespucci could make a voyage of which no record
exists or was ever known to exist? Why did he not mention the names of
the fleet's commander? Why do his descriptions of scenery and people
so closely resemble those of scenery and people seen on the second
voyage? He alludes several times to his forthcoming book, _The Four
Voyages_ (_Quattro Giornate_); but no trace has ever been found of
that book, while the fragmentary letters to his "patrons," Soderini
and Francesco de Medici, have survived to the present day.

Men of the keenest acumen and perfectly equipped for historical
research, such as Humboldt, Irving, and Navarrete, have devoted
themselves to the solution of this problem, but without complete
success. The first and the last named have cleared his name from the
aspersions of centuries; the second and third, in their endeavors to
magnify Columbus by belittling Vespucci, have not convinced posterity
that the Florentine was a liar and a villain. He was neither one nor
the other; and that he was far more humane than his friend Columbus
has been amply shown in his treatment of the Indians. He and his
companions made a few slaves; they attacked the cannibals in behalf of
rival natives; but they did not, in their lust for gold, put Indians
to the torture, enslave whole tribes and communities, and commit

Vespucci's character is comparatively free from the stain of
blood-guiltiness; from his dealings with men at all times, we infer
him upright and honorable; yet he rests under a cloud of suspicion,
because that so-called first voyage, which he says he took in
1497-1498, cannot be explained. Suspicion also attaches to his name
because it was chosen as an appellation for the New World, which
Columbus was the means of revealing to Europe; but for this (as will
be shown in a succeeding chapter) he was not accountable.

Professor Fiske, following Vespucci's ardent defender, the Viscount
Varnhagen, deduces from the vague generalizations in this letter that
the voyage was made chiefly along the Honduras, Yucatan, Mexican, and
Florida coasts, as far north, perhaps, as Chesapeake Bay. The
cannibals attacked by the Spaniards were found, he says, in the
Bermudas--where no Indians were ever seen, so far as known, and no
cannibals inhabit, save, perhaps, the great Shakespeare's "Caliban."
He accounts for the lost voyage by declaring that it may have been
taken with Pinzon and Solis, who were said to have been on the coast
of Honduras in 1506. There is no certainty as to that date, and the
voyage may as well have been made in 1497-1498, as indirectly shown by
a passage in Oviedo's history, as follows: "Some persons have
attributed the discovery of the bay of Honduras to Don Christopher
Columbus, the first admiral; but this is not true, for it was
discovered by the pilots Vicente Yañez Pinzon, Juan Diaz de Solis, and
Pedro de Ledesma, with three caravels; and that was before Vicente
Yañez had discovered the river Amazon."

The Amazon and a portion of the Brazil coast were discovered by Pinzon
in January, 1500; and as the historian has proved to his own
satisfaction that the gallant Vicente Yañez was in Spain during the
years 1505 and 1506, it is probable that Oviedo is right. It is also
probable, or at least possible, that Vespucci was with Pinzon on that
Honduras voyage as consulting navigator, having been sent by the king,
as he says, to "assist," in his capacity of astronomer and
cosmographer. In this capacity, in fact, he went on all his voyages,
for he rarely, if ever, held command. Captains, commanders, chief
mates, and admirals there might be in plenty, but such a pilot and
navigator as Vespucci was hard to find.

It is not unreasonable to presume that they were together, for the one
was a skilful sailor, the other a great navigator, and both renowned
for their hardihood and daring. King Ferdinand had no more loyal
servants than these two, and as they had served him faithfully in
their respective professions, the one on land, the other at sea, and
inasmuch as both were intimately acquainted with Columbus and his
plans, it was like the crafty old king to send them off to scour the
seas his exacting "Admiral" claimed to control. Thereafter--whether
Pinzon and Vespucci sailed together or not--their voyages alternated
along the coast of South America, first one and then the other, and in
1505-1506 an expedition was actually projected, in which the king
intended both should share. It did not sail, because the Portuguese
objected, as its object was the exploration of the Brazilian coast
south of the Tropic of Capricorn, to all which the great rivals of the
Spaniards then made claim.

A seeming confirmation of this voyage is found in the map Juan de la
Cosa made, in the year 1500, after he had been in company with Ojeda
and Vespucci to the coast of pearls. He was with Columbus, in 1494,
when the Admiral forced all his men to swear that Cuba was, to the
best of their belief, part of the Asian continent. Yet, within six
years, La Cosa depicts it on his map as an island--and that was before
Ocampo had proved it one, by sailing around it, in 1508. It is thought
that La Cosa obtained his information as to the insular character of
Cuba from Vespucci, when they voyaged together on the coast of Terra
Firma, which we now know as the northern shores of South America.

Admitting, still, the critics say, that Vespucci made the voyage he
claimed, with Pinzon or with some one else, in 1497-1498, how does
that affect the claim of Columbus? It does not affect it at all, for,
though Vespucci may have discovered the continent a few months
previous to his rival--and he never put forth the claim that he did
so--Columbus, by his voyages of 1492 and 1493, led the way thither. If
Vespucci, as some have asserted, claimed to have sailed in 1497, in
order to establish a priority of discovery, he did it in a very
bungling manner, and at a time when it might easily have been refuted,
so many of his companions were then living. Besides, though his name
was bestowed upon the newly discovered continent--perhaps as a
consequence of the writing of this very letter--it was done without
his knowledge and without the remotest suggestion of such a thing from
him. This should be made clear: that Amerigo Vespucci had no thought
of depriving his friend, Christopher Columbus, of a single leaf of his
laurels, hard-won and well-deserved as he knew them to be.

There is no doubt whatever that Vespucci made a voyage in 1499-1500,
along with Alonzo de Ojeda and the great pilot Juan de la Cosa, but
whether this may be styled his first or his second must be left to the
intelligence of the reader, for the historians are at odds themselves,
and it might seem presumptuous in the biographer to assume to decide.
This voyage was narrated by him in the following letter, written
within a month of his return, to Lorenzo di Pier Francesco de Medici,
of Florence. It is dated, "Seville, July 18, 1500," and has been
called by one of his countrymen "the oldest known writing of Amerigo
relating to his voyages to the New World." Mr. John Fiske, in _The
Discovery of America_, denounces this letter as a forgery; but why,
and for what reason it should have been written by another, he does
not state.

     "MOST EXCELLENT AND DEAR LORD,--It is a long time since I
     have written to your Excellency, and for no other reason
     than that nothing has occurred to me worthy of being
     commemorated. This present letter will inform you that about
     a month ago I arrived from the Indies, by way of the great
     ocean, brought by the grace of God safely to this city of
     Seville. I think your Excellency will be gratified to learn
     the results of my voyage, and the most surprising things
     which have been presented to my observation. If I am
     somewhat tedious, let my letter be read in your more idle
     hours, as fruit is eaten after the cloth is removed from the

     "You will please to note that, commissioned by his highness
     the King of Spain, I set out with two small ships, the 18th
     of May, 1499, on a voyage of discovery to the southwest, by
     way of the Fortunate Isles, which are now called the
     Canaries. After having provided ourselves there with all
     things necessary, first offering our prayers to God, we set
     sail from an island which is called Gomera, and, turning our
     prows southwardly, sailed twenty-four days with a fresh
     wind, without seeing any land. At the end of that time we
     came within sight of land, and found that we had sailed
     about thirteen hundred leagues, and were at that distance
     from the city of Cadiz, in a southwesterly direction. When
     we saw the land we gave thanks to God, and then launched our
     boats and, with sixteen men, went to the shore, which we
     found thickly covered with trees, astonishing both on
     account of their size and their verdure, for they never lose
     their foliage. The sweet odors which they exhaled (for they
     were all aromatic) highly delighted us, and we were rejoiced
     in regaling our senses.

     "We rowed along the shore in the boats to see if we could
     find any suitable place for landing; but, after toiling from
     morning till night, we found no way of passage, the land
     being low and densely covered with trees. We concluded,
     therefore, to return to the ships and make an attempt to
     land at some other spot.

     "One very remarkable circumstance we observed in these seas,
     which was that, at fifteen leagues distance from the land,
     we found the water fresh, like that of a river, and we
     filled all our empty casks with it. Sailing in a southerly
     direction, still along the coast, we saw two larger rivers
     issuing from the land; and I think that these two rivers, by
     reason of their magnitude, caused the freshness of the water
     in the sea adjoining. Seeing that the coast was invariably
     low, we determined to enter one of these rivers with the
     boats, and did so, after furnishing them with provisions for
     four days, and twenty men well armed. We entered the river
     and rowed up it nearly two days, making a distance of about
     eighteen leagues; but we found the low land still continuing
     and so thickly covered with trees that a bird could scarcely
     fly through them.

     "We saw signs that the inland parts of the country were
     inhabited; nevertheless, as our vessels were anchored in a
     dangerous place, in case an adverse wind should arise, at
     the end of two days we concluded to return. Here we saw an
     immense number of birds, including parrots in great variety,
     some crimson in color, others green and lemon, others
     entirely green, and others again that were black and
     flesh-colored [these last were probably toucans]. And oh!
     the songs of other species of birds, so sweet and so
     melodious, as we heard them among the trees, that we often
     lingered, listening to their charming music. The trees, too,
     were so beautiful and smelled so sweetly that we almost
     imagined ourselves in a terrestrial paradise; yet none of
     those trees, or the fruit of them, were similar to anything
     in our part of the world.

     "On our way back we saw many people of various descriptions
     fishing in the river. Having arrived at our ships, we raised
     anchor and set sail in a southerly direction, standing off
     to sea about forty leagues. While sailing on this course, we
     encountered a current running from southeast to northwest,
     so strong and furious that we were put into great fear and
     were exposed to imminent peril. This current was so strong
     that the Strait of Gibraltar and that of the Faro of Messina
     appeared to us like mere stagnant water in comparison with
     it. We could scarcely make headway against it, though we had
     the wind fresh and fair; so, seeing that we made no
     progress, or but very little, we determined to turn our
     prows to the northwest.[12]

     "As, if I remember aright, your Excellency understands
     something of cosmography, I intend to describe to you our
     progress in our navigation by the latitude and longitude. We
     sailed so far to the south that we entered the torrid zone
     and penetrated the circle of Cancer.... Having passed the
     equinoctial line and sailed six degrees to the south of it,
     we lost sight of the north star altogether, and even the
     stars of Ursa Major--or, to speak better, the guardians
     which revolve about the firmament--were scarcely seen. Very
     desirous of being the author who should designate the other
     polar star of the firmament, I lost, many a time, my night's
     sleep, while contemplating the movement of the stars about
     the southern pole. I desired to ascertain which had the
     least motion, and which might be nearest to the firmament;
     but I was not able to accomplish it with such poor
     instruments as I used, which were the quadrant and
     astrolabe. I could not distinguish a star which had less
     than ten degrees of motion; so that I was not satisfied,
     within myself, to name any particular one for the pole of
     the meridian, on account of the large revolution which they
     all made around the firmament.

     "While I was arriving at this conclusion, I recollected a
     verse of our poet Dante, which may be found in the first
     chapter of his "Purgatory," where he imagines he is leaving
     this hemisphere to repair to the other and attempting to
     describe the antarctic pole, and says:

    "'To the right hand I turned, and fixed my mind
      On the other pole attentive, where I saw
    Four stars ne'er seen before, save by the ken
      Of our first parents.  Heaven of their rays
    Seemed joyous. O! thou northern site, bereft
      Indeed, and widowed, since of these deprived!'

     "It seems to me that the poet wished to describe in these
     verses, by the four stars, the pole of the other firmament,
     and I have little doubt, even now, that what he says may be
     true. I observed four stars in the figure of an almond which
     had but little motion; and if God gives me life and health I
     hope to go again into that hemisphere and not to return
     without observing the pole. In conclusion I would remark
     that we extended our navigation so far south that our
     difference in latitude from the city of Cadiz was sixty
     degrees and a half, because, at that city, the pole is
     elevated thirty-five degrees and a half, and we had passed
     six degrees beyond the equinoctial line. Let this suffice as
     to our latitude. You must observe that this our navigation
     was in the months of July, August, and September, when, as
     you know, the sun is longest above the horizon in our
     hemisphere and describes the greatest arch in the day and
     the least in the night. On the contrary, while we were at
     the equinoctial line, or near it, the difference between the
     day and night was not perceptible. They were of equal
     length, or very nearly so....

     "It appears to me, most excellent Lorenzo, that by this
     voyage most of the philosophers are controverted who say
     that the torrid zone cannot be inhabited on account of the
     great heat. I have found the case to be quite the contrary.
     The air is fresher and more temperate in that region than
     beyond it, and the inhabitants are more numerous here than
     they are in the other zones, for reasons which will be given
     below. Thus, it is certain, that practice is more valuable
     than theory.

     "Thus far I have related the navigation I accomplished in
     the South and West. It now remains for me to inform you of
     the appearance of the country we discovered, the nature of
     the inhabitants and their customs, the animals we saw, and
     of many other things worthy of remembrance which fell under
     my observation. After we turned our course to the north, the
     first land we found inhabited was an island at ten degrees
     distant from the equinoctial line [island of Trinidad]. When
     we arrived at it we saw on the sea-shore a great many
     people, who stood looking at us with astonishment.

     "We anchored within about a mile of land, fitted out the
     boats, and twenty-two men, well armed, made for the land.
     The people, when they saw us landing and perceived that we
     were different from themselves (because they have no beards
     and wear no clothing of any description, being also of a
     different color--brown, while we were white), began to be
     afraid of us and all ran into the woods. With great
     exertion, by means of signs, we reassured them and found
     that they were a race called cannibals, the greater part, or
     all of whom, live on human flesh. Your Excellency may be
     assured of this fact. They do not eat one another, but,
     navigating with certain barks which they call canoes, they
     bring their prey from the neighboring islands or countries
     inhabited by those who are their enemies, or of a different
     tribe from their own. They never eat any women, unless they
     consider them as outcasts. These things we verified in many
     places where we found similar people. We often saw the bones
     and heads of those who had been eaten, and they who had made
     the repast admitted the fact and said that their enemies
     stood in greater fear of them on that account.

     "Still, they are a people of gentle disposition and fine
     stature, of great activity and much courage. They go
     entirely naked, and the arms which they carry are rare bows,
     arrows, and spears, with which they are excellent marksmen.
     In fine, we held much intercourse with them, and they took
     us to one of their villages, about two leagues inland, and
     gave us our breakfast. They gave whatever was asked of them,
     though I think more through fear than affection; and after
     having been with them all one day we returned to the ships,
     sailing along the coasts, and finding another large village
     of the same tribe. We landed in the boats and found they
     were waiting for us, all loaded with provisions, and they
     gave us enough to make a very good breakfast, according to
     their ideas.

     "Seeing they were such kind people and treated us so well,
     we did not take anything from them, but made sail until we
     arrived at a body of water which is called the Gulf of
     Paria. We anchored off the mouth of a great river, which
     causes the gulf to be fresh, and saw a large village close
     to the sea. We were surprised at the great number of people
     to be seen there, though they were without weapons and
     peaceably disposed. We went ashore with the boats, and they
     received us with great friendship and took us to their
     houses, where they had made good preparations for a feast.
     Here they gave us three sorts of wine to drink; not the
     juice of the grape, but made of fruits, like beer, and they
     were excellent. Here, also, we ate many fresh acorns, a most
     royal fruit, and also others, all different from ours, and
     all of aromatic flavor.

     "What was more, they gave us some small pearls and eleven
     large ones, telling us that if we would wait some days they
     would go and fish for them and bring us many of the kind. We
     did not wish to be detained, so, with many parrots of
     different colors, and in good friendship, we parted from
     them. From these people it was we learned that those of the
     before-mentioned island were cannibals and ate human flesh.
     We issued from the gulf and sailed along the coast, seeing
     continually great numbers of people; and when we were so
     disposed we treated with them, and they gave us everything
     we desired. They all go as naked as they were born, without
     being ashamed, and if all were related concerning the little
     shame they have it would be bordering on impropriety,
     therefore it is better to suppress it.

     "After having sailed about four hundred leagues, continually
     along the coast, we concluded that this land was a
     continent, which might be bounded by the eastern parts of
     Asia, this being the commencement of the western parts of
     the continent, because it happened that we saw divers
     animals, such as lions, stags, goats, wild hogs, rabbits,
     and other land animals which are not found in islands, but
     only on the main-land. Going inland one day with twenty men,
     we saw a serpent all of twenty-four feet in length and as
     large in girth as myself. We were very much afraid, and the
     sight of it caused us to return immediately to the sea.
     Ofttimes, indeed, I saw many ferocious animals and enormous
     serpents. When we had navigated four hundred leagues along
     the coast, we began to find people who did not wish for our
     friendship, but stood waiting for us with their bows and
     arrows. When we went ashore they disputed our landing in
     such a manner that we were obliged to fight them, and at the
     end of the battle they found they had the worst of it, for,
     as they were naked, we always made great slaughter. Many
     times not more than sixteen of us fought with no less than
     two thousand, in the end defeating them, killing many, and
     plundering their houses.

     "One day we saw a great crowd of savages, all posted in
     battle array, to prevent our landing. We fitted out
     twenty-six men, well armed, and covered the boats on account
     of the arrows which were shot at us and which always
     wounded some before we landed. After they had hindered us as
     long as they could, we leaped on shore and fought a hard
     battle with them. The reason why they had so much courage
     and made such great exertion against us was that they did
     not know what kind of a weapon the sword was, or how it
     cuts! So great was the multitude of people who charged upon
     us, discharging at us such a cloud of arrows that we could
     not withstand the assault, and, nearly abandoning the hope
     of life, we turned our backs and ran for the boats. While
     thus disheartened and flying, one of our sailors, a
     Portuguese, who had remained to guard the boats, seeing the
     danger we were in, leaped on shore and with a loud voice
     called out to us: 'Face to the enemy, sons, and God will
     give you the victory!' Throwing himself upon his knees, he
     made a prayer, then rushed furiously upon the savages, and
     we all joined him, wounded as we were. On that they turned
     their backs and began to flee; and finally we routed them,
     killing more than a hundred and fifty. We burned their
     houses also--at least one hundred and eighty in number.
     Then, as we were badly wounded and weary, we went into a
     harbor to recruit, where we stayed twenty days, solely that
     the physician might cure us. All escaped save one, who was
     wounded in the left breast and died.

     "After we were cured we recommenced our navigation; and
     through the same cause we were often obliged to fight with a
     great many people, and always had the victory over them.
     Thus continuing our voyage, we came to an island fifteen
     leagues distant from the main-land. As at our arrival we
     saw no collection of people, eleven of us landed. Finding a
     path inland, we walked nearly two leagues and came to a
     village of about twelve houses, in which were seven women
     who were so large that there was not one among them who was
     not a span and a half taller than myself. When they saw us
     they were very much frightened, and the principal one among
     them, who seemed certainly a discreet woman, led us by signs
     into a house and had refreshments prepared for us. They were
     such large women that we were about determining to carry off
     two of the younger ones as a present to our king; but while
     we were debating this subject, thirty-six men entered the
     hut where we were drinking. They were of such great stature
     that each one was taller when upon his knees than I when
     standing erect. In fact, they were giants; each of the women
     appeared a Penthesilia, and the men Antei. When they came
     in, some of our number were so frightened that they did not
     consider themselves safe, for they were armed with very
     large bows and arrows, besides immense clubs made in the
     form of swords. Seeing that we were small of stature they
     began to converse with us, in order to learn who we were and
     from what parts we came. We gave them fair words, and
     answered them, by signs, that we were men of peace and
     intent only upon seeing the world. Finally, we held it our
     wisest course to part from them without questioning in our
     turn; so we returned by the same path in which we had
     come--they accompanying us quite to the sea-shore, till we
     went aboard the ships.

     "Nearly half the trees on this island are of dye-woods, as
     good as any from the East. Going from this island to another
     in the vicinity, at ten leagues distance, we found a very
     large village, the houses of which were built over the sea,
     like those of Venice, with much ingenuity. While we were
     struck with admiration at this circumstance, we determined
     to go to see them; and as we went into their houses the
     people owning them attempted to prevent us. They found out
     at last the sharpness of our swords, and thought it best to
     let us enter. Then we found these houses filled with the
     finest cotton, and the beams of their dwellings are made of
     dye-woods. In all the parts where we landed we found a great
     quantity of cotton, and the country filled with
     cotton-trees. All the vessels of the world, in fact, might
     be laden in these parts with cotton and dye-wood.

     "We sailed three hundred leagues farther along this coast,
     constantly finding savage but brave people, and very often
     fighting with and vanquishing them. We found seven different
     languages among them, each of which was not understood by
     those who spoke the others. It is said that there are not
     more than seventy-seven languages in the world; but I say
     that there are _more than a thousand_, as there are more
     than forty which I have heard myself. After having sailed
     seven hundred leagues or more our ships became leaky, so
     that we could hardly keep them free, with two pumps going.
     The men also were much fatigued, and the provisions growing
     short. We were then within a hundred and twenty leagues of
     the island called Hispaniola, discovered by the Admiral
     Columbus six [eight] years before. So we determined to
     proceed to it and, as it was inhabited by Christians, to
     repair our ships there, allow our men a little repose, and
     recruit our stock of provisions; because, from this island
     to Castile there are three hundred leagues of ocean, without
     any land intervening. In seven days we arrived at this
     island, where we stayed two months, refitted our ships, and
     obtained a supply of provisions.

     "We afterwards sailed through a shoal of islands, more than
     a thousand in number. We sailed in this sea nearly two
     hundred leagues, directly north, until our people had become
     worn with fatigue, through having been already nearly a year
     at sea. Their allowance per diem was only six ounces of
     bread for eating, and three small measures of water for
     drinking. Whereupon we concluded to take some prisoners as
     slaves, and loading the ships with them to return at once to
     Spain. Going, therefore, to certain islands, we possessed
     ourselves by force of two hundred and thirty-two, and then
     steered our course for Castile. In sixty-seven days we
     crossed the ocean, arriving at the Azores, thence sailed by
     way of the Canary Islands and the Madeiras to Cadiz.

     "We were absent thirteen months on this voyage, exposing
     ourselves to awful dangers, discovering a very large country
     of Asia, and a great many islands, the largest of them all
     inhabited. According to the calculations I have made with
     the compass, we have sailed about five thousand leagues....
     We discovered immense regions, saw a vast number of people,
     all naked, and speaking various languages, numerous wild
     animals, various kinds of birds, and an infinite quantity of
     trees, all aromatic. We brought home pearls in their
     growing state, and gold in the grain; we brought two stones,
     one of emerald color, the other of amethyst, which was very
     hard, at least half a span long, and three fingers thick.
     The sovereigns esteem them most highly and have preserved
     them among their jewels. We brought home also a piece of
     crystal, which some jewelers say is beryl, and, according to
     what the Indians told us, they had a great quantity of the
     same. We brought fourteen flesh-colored pearls, with which
     the queen was highly delighted. We brought many other stones
     which appeared beautiful to us; but of all these we did not
     bring a large number, as we were continually busied in our
     investigations and did not tarry long in any place.

     "When we arrived at Cadiz we sold many slaves, two hundred
     then remaining to us, the others having died at sea. After
     deducting the expense of transportation we gained only about
     five hundred ducats, which, having to be divided into
     fifty-five parts, made the share of each very small.
     However, we contented ourselves with life, and rendered
     thanks to God that during the whole voyage, out of
     fifty-seven Christian men, which was our number, only two
     had died, they having been killed by Indians. I have had two
     quartan agues since my return; but I hope, by the favor of
     God, to be well soon, as they do not continue long now and
     are without chills. I have passed over many things worthy of
     being remembered, in order not to be more tedious than
     necessary, all of which are reserved for the pen, and in the

     "They are fitting out three ships for me here, that I may
     go on a new voyage of discovery, and I think they will be
     ready by the middle of September. May it please our Lord to
     give me health and a good voyage, as I hope again to bring
     very great news and discover the island of Trapobana, which
     is between the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Ganges.
     Afterwards I intend to return to my country and seek repose
     in the days of my old age.... I have resolved, most
     excellent Lorenzo, that as I have thus given you an account
     by letter of what has occurred to me, to send you two plans
     and descriptions of the world, made and arranged by my own
     hand and skill. There will be a map on a plain surface, and
     the other a view of the world in a spherical form, which I
     intend to send you by sea, in care of one Francesco Lotti, a
     Florentine, who is here. I think you will be pleased with
     them, particularly the globe, as I made one, not long since,
     for these sovereigns, and they esteem it highly. I could
     have wished to come with them personally; but my new
     departure for making other discoveries will not permit me
     that great pleasure....

     "I suppose your excellency has heard the news brought by the
     fleet which the King of Portugal sent two years ago to make
     discoveries on the coast of Guinea. I do not call such a
     voyage as that one of discovery, but only a visit to
     discovered lands; because, as you will see by the map, their
     navigation was continually within sight of land, and they
     sailed round the whole southern part of the continent of
     Africa, which is proceeding by a way spoken of by all
     cosmographical authors. It is true that the navigation has
     been very profitable, which is a matter of great
     consideration here in this kingdom, where inordinate
     covetousness reigns.

     "I understand they passed from the Red Sea and extended
     their voyage into the Persian Gulf, to a city called
     Calicut, which is situated between the Persian Gulf and the
     river Indus. More lately, the King of Portugal has received
     from sea twelve ships very richly laden, and he has sent
     them again to those parts, where they will certainly do a
     profitable business, if they arrive in safety.

     "May our Lord preserve and increase the exalted state of
     your excellency, as I desire.

                              "AMERIGO VESPUCCI.

     "_July 18th, 1500_."

Respecting the letter in which the so-called first voyage is
described, the same great authority, Mr. Fiske, from whom we have
already quoted, says: "The perplexity surrounding the account of the
first voyage of Vespucius is chiefly due to the lack of intelligence
with which it has been read. There is no reason for imagining
dishonesty in his narrative, and no reason for not admitting it as
evidence on the same terms upon which we admit other contemporary
documents." Perhaps we may be allowed to claim the same privilege for
the foregoing letter; yet another historian, the amiable biographer of
Columbus, Mr. Irving, while freely quoting from it, in his account of
the voyage made with Alonzo de Ojeda, by imputation discredits it, and
loses no occasion to disparage its author.

In order that nothing may be lacking, for the purpose of forming an
accurate estimate of Vespucci's character and doings, Mr. Irving's
account of the Ojeda voyage, somewhat condensed, is presented in the
succeeding chapter. In constructing this story he, to use his own
words, "collated the narratives of Vespucci, Las Casas, Herrera, and
Peter Martyr, and the evidence given in the lawsuit of Diego Columbus,
and has endeavored as much as possible to reconcile them." That he did
not altogether succeed is the opinion of Mr. Fiske, who says, rather
caustically, that "from its mixing the first and second voyages of
Vespucci [the account] is so full of blunders as to be worse than
worthless to the general reader."

However this may be, the story is interesting, and in a sense
valuable, as it corroborates the statements of one to whom Mr. Irving
was not favorably inclined.


[12] The river was the Orinoco, the currents caused by which set with
great force in the direction given by Vespucci.




Those who have read the _History of Columbus_ will doubtless remember
the character and exploits of Alonzo de Ojeda. He was about twenty-one
years of age when he accompanied Columbus on his second voyage (1493);
he had, however, already distinguished himself by his enterprising
spirit and headlong valor, and his exploits during that voyage
contributed to enhance his reputation. He returned to Spain with the
Admiral, but did not go with him on his third voyage, in 1498. He had
a cousin-german of his own name, Padre Alonzo de Ojeda, a Dominican
friar, who was a great favorite with the Spanish sovereigns, and on
intimate terms with Don Juan Rodriguez Fonseca, who had the chief
management of affairs in the Indies.

Through the good offices of this cousin, young Alonzo was introduced
to Fonseca, to whose especial favor and patronage he was warmly
recommended. While Ojeda was lingering about the court, letters were
received from Columbus giving an account of the events of his third
(1498) voyage, accompanied by charts descriptive of his route,
specimens of pearls, gold, etc., in order to impress the sovereigns
with the great value of his most recent discovery. The Admiral had
good and sufficient reasons for making the most of this discovery, as
his enemies in Spain and in the West Indies were seeking to belittle
his great deeds, hence his indiscretion in placing the proofs of his
achievement in the hands of his implacable foe, Bishop Fonseca. He
could not return at that time, owing to the terrible condition of
affairs in Hispaniola, which demanded his continued presence there--as
narrated in his _Life_.

The tidings he sent caused a great sensation among the maritime
adventurers of Spain; but no one was more excited by them than Alonzo
de Ojeda, who, from his intimacy with Fonseca, had full access to the
charts and correspondence of Columbus, and who immediately conceived
the project of making a voyage in the route thus marked out by the
Admiral, and of seizing upon the first fruits of discovery which he
had left ungathered. This scheme met with ready encouragement from
Fonseca, who, as has heretofore been shown, was opposed to Columbus
and willing to promote any measure that might injure or molest him.
The bishop accordingly granted a commission to Ojeda, authorizing him
to fit out an armament and proceed on a voyage of discovery, with the
proviso merely that he should not visit any territories appertaining
to Portugal, or any of the lands discovered in the name of Spain
previous to the year 1495. The latter part of this provision appears
to have been craftily worded by the bishop, so as to leave the coast
of Paria and its pearl fisheries open to Ojeda, they having been
recently discovered by Columbus in 1498.

The commission was signed by Fonseca alone, in virtue of general
powers vested in him for such purposes; but the signature of the
sovereigns did not appear on the instrument, and it is doubtful
whether their sanction was sought on the occasion. He knew that
Columbus had recently remonstrated against a royal mandate issued in
1495, permitting voyages of discovery by private adventurers, and that
the sovereigns had in consequence revoked that mandate wherever it
might be deemed prejudicial to the stipulated privileges of the
Admiral.... Having thus obtained permission to make the voyage, the
next consideration with Ojeda was to find the means. He was a young
adventurer, a mere soldier of fortune, and destitute of wealth; but he
had a high reputation for courage and enterprise, and hence had no
difficulty in finding moneyed associates among the rich merchants of
Seville, who, in that age of discovery, were ever ready to stake their
property upon the schemes of roving navigators. With such assistance
he soon equipped a squadron of four vessels, at Port St. Mary,
opposite Cadiz.

Among the seamen who engaged with him were several who had just
returned from accompanying Columbus in his voyage to this very coast
of Paria. The principal associate of Ojeda, and one on whom he placed
great reliance, was Juan de la Cosa, who went with him as first mate,
or, as it was termed, chief pilot. This was a bold Biscayan who may be
regarded as a disciple of Columbus, with whom he had sailed on his
second voyage, when he coasted Cuba and Jamaica, and he had also
accompanied Rodrigo de Bastidas, in his expedition along the coast of
Terra Firma. The hardy veteran was looked up to by his contemporaries
as an oracle of the seas, and was pronounced one of the most able
mariners of the day. He may be excused, therefore, if in his harmless
vanity he considered himself on a par even with Columbus.

Another conspicuous associate of Ojeda on this voyage was Amerigo
Vespucci, _a Florentine merchant, induced by broken fortunes and a
rambling disposition to seek adventures in the New World_. Whether he
had any pecuniary interest in the expedition, and in what capacity he
sailed, does not appear. His importance has entirely arisen from
subsequent circumstances--from his having written and published a
narrative of his voyages, and from his name having eventually been
given to the New World.

[Illustration: OJEDA'S FIRST VOYAGE]

Ojeda sailed from Port St. Mary on May 20, 1499, and, having touched
for supplies at the Canaries, took a departure from Gomera, pursuing
the route of Columbus in his third voyage, being guided by the
chart he had sent home, as well as by the mariners who had accompanied
him on that occasion. At the end of twenty-four days he reached the
continent of the New World, about two hundred leagues farther south
than the part discovered by Columbus, being, as it is supposed, on the
coast of Surinam. Hence he ran along the coast to the Gulf of Paria,
passing the mouths of many rivers, but especially those of the Esquivo
and the Orinoco. These, to the astonishment of the Spaniards,
unaccustomed as yet to the mighty rivers of the New World, poured
forth such a prodigious volume of water as to freshen the sea for a
great extent. They beheld none of the natives until they arrived at
the island of Trinidad, on which island they met with traces of the
recent visit of Columbus. Vespucci, in his letters, gives a long
description of the people of this island and of the coast of Paria,
who were of the Carib race, tall, well-made, and vigorous, and expert
with the bow, the lance, and the buckler. His description in general
resembles those which have frequently been given of the aboriginals of
the New World; there are two or three particulars, however, worthy of
citation. [Here follows the narrative of Vespucci, as given in the
preceding chapters, pages 82-124.]

After touching at various parts of Trinidad and the Gulf of Paria,
Ojeda passed through the strait of the Boca del Drago, or Dragon's
Mouth, which Columbus had found so formidable, and then steered his
course along the coast of Terra Firma, landing occasionally until he
arrived at Curiana, or the Gulf of Pearls. From hence he stood to the
opposite island of Margarita, previously discovered by Columbus, and
since renowned for its pearl fishery. This, as well as several
adjacent islands, he visited and explored, after which he returned to
the main-land, and touched at Cumana and _Maracapana_, where he found
the rivers infested with alligators resembling the crocodiles of the
Nile. Finding a convenient harbor at Maracapana, he unloaded and
careened his vessels there, and built a small brigantine. The natives
came to him in great numbers, bringing abundance of venison, fish, and
cassava bread, and aiding the seamen in their labors. Their
hospitality was not certainly disinterested, for they sought to gain
the protection of the Spaniards, whom they reverenced as superhuman

When they thought they had sufficiently secured their favor, they
represented to Ojeda that their coast was subject to invasion from a
distant island, the inhabitants of which were cannibals, and carried
their people into captivity, to be devoured at their unnatural
banquets. They besought Ojeda, therefore, to avenge them upon these
ferocious enemies. The request was gratifying to the fighting
propensities of Alonzo de Ojeda, and to his love of adventure, and was
readily granted. Taking seven of the natives on board of his vessels,
therefore, as guides, he set sail in quest of the cannibals. After
sailing for seven days he came to a chain of islands, some of which
were peopled, others uninhabited, and which are supposed to have been
the Caribbee Islands. [Then ensues Vespucci's account of the fight,
with the substitution of Ojeda as captain in command.]

His crew being refreshed, and the wounded sufficiently recovered,
Ojeda made sail and touched at the island of Curaçao, which, according
to the accounts of Vespucci, was inhabited by a race of giants, "every
woman appearing a Penthesilia, and every man an Antei." As Vespucci
was a scholar, and as he supposed himself exploring the regions of
the extreme East, the ancient realm of fable, it is probable his
imagination deceived him, and construed the formidable accounts given
by the Indians of their cannibal neighbors of the islands into
something according with his recollections of classic fable. Certain
it is that the reports of subsequent voyagers proved the inhabitants
of the island to be of the ordinary size.

Proceeding along the coast, he arrived at a vast, deep gulf,
resembling a tranquil lake, entering which he beheld, on the eastern
side, a village, the construction of which struck him with surprise.
It consisted of twenty large houses, shaped like bells, and built on
piles driven into the bottom of the lake, which in this part was
limpid and of but little depth. Each house was provided with a
draw-bridge, and with canoes, by which the communication was carried
on. From these resemblances to the Italian city, Ojeda gave to the bay
the name of the Gulf of Venice, and it is called at the present day
Venezuela, or Little Venice. The Indian name was _Coquibacoa_. [In
this connection Irving quotes freely from Vespucci's account of the
Lake Dwellers, and also gives entire his description of the
Spaniards' entertainment by Indians of the interior.]

Continuing to explore this gulf, Ojeda penetrated to a port or harbor,
to which he gave the name of St. Bartholomew, supposed to be the same
at present known by the original Indian name of _Maracaibo_.... The
Spaniards brought away with them several of the beautiful and
hospitable females of this place, one of whom, named by them Isabel,
was much prized by Ojeda, and accompanied him on a subsequent voyage.
Leaving the friendly port of Coquibacoa, Ojeda continued along the
western shores of the Venezuelan gulf, and standing out to sea,
doubling Cape Maracaibo, he pursued his voyage from port to port, and
promontory to promontory, of this unknown continent, until he reached
that long stretching headland called Cape de la Vela, or Cape of the
Sail. There the state of his vessels--and perhaps the disappointment
of his hopes at not meeting with abundant sources of immediate
wealth--induced him to abandon all further voyaging along the coast,
and, changing his course, he stood across the Caribbean Sea for
Hispaniola. The tenor of his commission forbade his visiting that
island; but Ojeda was not a man to stand upon trifles when his
interests or inclinations prompted him to the contrary. He trusted to
excuse the infraction of his orders by the alleged necessity of
touching at the island to calk and refit his vessels and to procure
provisions; but his true object is supposed to have been to cut
dye-wood, which abounds in Hispaniola.

Columbus, at that time, held command of the island, and, hearing of
this unlicensed intrusion, despatched Francesco Roldan, the quondam
rebel, to call Ojeda to account. The contest of stratagem and
management that took place between these two adroit and daring
adventurers has already been detailed. Roldan was eventually
successful, and Ojeda, being obliged to leave Hispaniola, resumed his
rambling voyage. He at length arrived at Cadiz, in June, 1500, his
ships crowded with captives, whom he sold as slaves. So meagre,
however, was the result of this expedition that we are told [by
Vespucci] that when all the expenses were deducted but five hundred
ducats remained to be divided between fifty-five adventurers. What
made this result the more mortifying was that a petty armament, which
had sailed some time after that of Ojeda, had returned two months
before him rich with the spoils of the New World.

The successful armament alluded to was that of Pedro Niño, who had
sailed with Columbus on his first voyage and on his third. With a
caravel of only fifty tons, and a crew of thirty-three men, he sailed
from Palos in June, 1499, returning in April, 1500, with a richer
cargo of pearls than any other that had been brought from the new
country. He had steered directly for the Pearl Coast, and at or near
Cumana and Margarita, had amassed a fortune from the sea.

In this connection it should be mentioned, that the country adjacent
to the Pearl Coast, opposite Cumana, was known to the natives as
_Amaraca-pan_; that the name _Amaraca_ occurs frequently in this
region, as (_A_)_mar-aca-ibo_, the great gulf where the Lake-Dwellers
live. It is regarded only as a coincidence that a name so nearly like
that which was bestowed upon the continent by Europeans should be
found applied to portions of that continent by the aborigines; but
some enthusiasts have undertaken to show that it was from this native
appellation the cartographers and cosmographers derived the first
"America" placed upon the maps.




Besides the letter written by Vespucci to Lorenzo de Medici, he sent
an account of the second voyage to his friend Soderini, in which are
some incidents not mentioned in the first, with very little repetition
of others. He wrote:

     "We set out from the port of Cadiz, three ships in company,
     on the 18th of May, and steered directly for the Cape de
     Verdes, passing within sight of the Grand Canary, and soon
     arriving at an island called De Fuego, or Fire Island,
     whence, having taken wood and water, we proceeded on our
     voyage to the southwest. In forty-four days we arrived at a
     new land, which we judged to be a continent, and a
     continuation of that mentioned in my former voyage. It was
     situated within the torrid zone, south of the equinoctial
     line, where the south pole is elevated five degrees and
     distant from said island, bearing south, about five hundred
     leagues. Here we found the days and nights equal on the
     27th of June, when the sun is near the tropic of Cancer.

     "We did not see any people here, and, having anchored our
     ships and cast off our boats, we proceeded to the land,
     which we found to be inundated by very large rivers. We
     attempted to enter these at many points, but from the
     immense quantity of water brought down by them we could find
     no place, after hard toiling, that was not over-flowed. We
     saw many signs of the country's being inhabited, but as we
     were unable to enter it we concluded to return to the ships
     and make the attempt on some other part of the coast. We
     raised our anchors accordingly, and sailed along southeast
     by east, continually coasting the land which ran in that
     direction. We found the currents so strong on this part of
     the coast that they actually obstructed our sailing, and
     they all ran from the southeast to the northwest. Seeing our
     navigation was attended with so many inconveniences, we
     concluded to turn our course to the northwest; and having
     sailed some time in this direction we arrived at a very
     beautiful harbor, which was made by a large island at the
     entrance, inside of which was a very large bay. While
     sailing along parallel with the island with a view of
     entering the harbor, we saw many people on shore, and, being
     much cheered, we manoeuvred our ships for the purpose of
     anchoring and landing where they appeared. We might have
     been then about four leagues out at sea. While proceeding on
     our course for this purpose, we saw a canoe quite out at
     sea, in which were several natives, and made sail on our
     ships in order to come up with and take possession of them,
     steering so as not to run them down. We saw that they stood
     with their oars raised--I think either through astonishment
     at beholding our ships, or by way of giving us to understand
     that they meant to wait for and resist us; but as we neared
     them they dropped the oars and began to row towards the

     "Having in our fleet a small vessel of forty-five tons, a
     very fast sailer, she took a favorable wind and bore down
     for the canoe. When the people in it found themselves
     embarrassed between the schooner and the boats we had
     lowered for the purpose of pursuing them, they all jumped
     into the sea, being about twenty men, and at the distance of
     two leagues from the shore. We followed them the whole day
     with our boats, and could only take two, which was for them
     an extraordinary feat; all the rest escaped to the shore.
     Four boys remained in the canoe who were not of their tribe,
     but had been taken prisoners by them, and brought from
     another country. We were much surprised at the gross
     injuries they had inflicted upon these boys, and, having
     been taken on board the ships, they told us they had been
     captured in order to be eaten. Accordingly, we knew that
     those people were cannibals, who eat human flesh.

     "We proceeded with the ships, taking the canoe with us
     astern, and following the course which they pursued,
     anchored at half a league from the shore. As we saw many
     people on the shore, we landed in the boats, carrying with
     us the two men we had taken. When we reached the beach all
     the people fled into the woods, and we sent one of the men
     to negotiate with them, giving them several trifles as
     tokens of friendship--such as little bells, buttons, and
     looking-glasses--and telling them that we wished to be their
     friends. He brought the people all back with him, of whom
     there were about four hundred men and many women, who came
     unarmed to the place where we lay with the boats. Having
     established friendship with them, we surrendered the other
     prisoner and sent to the ships for the canoe, which we
     restored. This canoe was twenty-six yards long and six feet
     wide, made out of a single tree and very well wrought. When
     they had carried it into a river near by, and put it in a
     secure place, they all fled, and would have nothing more to
     do with us, which appeared to us a very barbarous act, and
     we judged them to be a faithless and evil-disposed people.
     We saw among them a little gold, which they wore in their

     "Leaving this place, we sailed about eighty leagues along
     the coast and entered a bay, where we found a surprising
     number of people, with whom we formed a friendship. Many of
     us went to their village, in great safety, and were received
     with much courtesy and confidence. In this place we procured
     a hundred and fifty pearls (as they sold them to us for a
     trifle) and some little gold, which they gave us
     gratuitously. We noticed that in this country they drank
     wine made of their fruits and seeds, which looked like beer,
     both white and red; the best was made from acorns, and was
     very good. We ate a great many of these acorns and found
     them a very good fruit, savory to the taste and healthy to
     the body. The country abounded with means of nourishment,
     and the people were well disposed and pacific.

     "We remained at this port seventeen days, with great
     pleasure, and every day some new tribe of people came to see
     us from inland parts of the country, who were greatly
     surprised at our figures, at the whiteness of our skins, at
     our clothes, at our arms, and the form and size of our
     ships. We were informed by them of the existence of another
     tribe, still farther west, who were their enemies, and that
     they had great quantities of pearls. They said that those
     which they had in their possession were some they had taken
     from this other tribe in war. They told us how they fished
     for pearls, and in what manner they grew, and we found that
     they told us the truth--as your excellency shall hear.

     "Sailing along the coast again, and finding an island about
     fifteen leagues from it at sea, we resolved to see if it
     were inhabited. We found on this island the most bestial and
     filthy people that were ever seen, but at the same time
     extremely pacific, so that I am able to describe their
     habits and customs. Their manners and their faces were
     filthy, and they all had their cheeks stuffed full of a
     green herb which they were continually chewing, as beasts
     chew the cud, so that they were scarcely able to speak. Each
     one of them wore, hanging at the neck, two dried
     gourd-shells, one of which was filled with the same kind of
     herb they had in their mouths, and the other with a white
     meal, which appeared to be chalk-dust. They also carried
     with them a small stick, which they wetted in their mouths
     from time to time and then put in the meal, afterwards
     putting it into the herb with which both cheeks were filled,
     and mixing the meal with it. We were surprised at their
     conduct, and could not understand for what purpose they
     indulged in the strange practice.

     "As soon as these people saw us, they came to us with as
     much familiarity as if we had been old friends. Walking with
     them along the shore, and wishing to find some fresh water
     to drink, they made us to understand by signs that they had
     none, and offered us some of their herbs and meal; hence we
     concluded that water was very scarce in this island, and
     that they kept these herbs in their mouth in order to allay
     their thirst. We walked about the island a day and a half
     without finding any living water, and noticed that all they
     had to drink was the dew which fell in the night upon
     certain leaves that looked like asses' ears. These leaves
     being filled with dew-water the islanders use it for their
     drink, and most excellent water it was; but there were many
     places where the leaves were not to be found.

     "They had no victuals or roots, such as we found on the
     main-land, but lived on fish, which they caught in the sea,
     of which there was an abundance, and they were very expert
     fishermen. They presented us with many turtles, and many
     large and very good fish. The women did not chew the herb as
     the men did, but carried a gourd with water in it, of which
     they drank. They had no villages, houses, or cottages,
     except some arbors which defended them from the sun, but not
     from the rain; this appearing needless, for I think it very
     seldom rained on that island. When they were fishing out at
     sea, they each wore on the head a very large leaf, so broad
     that they were covered by its shade. They fixed these leaves
     also in the ground on shore, and as the sun moved turned
     them about, so as to keep within the shadow. The island
     contained many animals of various kinds, all of which drank
     the muddy water of the marshes.

     "Seeing there was no gain in staying there, we left and went
     to another island, which we found inhabited by people of
     very large stature. Going into the country in search of
     fresh water, without thinking the island inhabited (as we
     saw no people), as we were passing along the shore we
     remarked very large footprints on the sands. We concluded
     that if the other members corresponded with the feet they
     must be very large men. While occupied with these
     conjectures, we struck a path which led us inland, and after
     we had gone about a league we saw in a valley five huts or
     cottages which appeared to be inhabited. On going to them we
     found only five women, two quite old, and three girls, all
     so tall in stature that we regarded them with astonishment.
     When they saw us they became so frightened that they had not
     even courage to flee, and the two old women began to invite
     us into the huts, and to bring us many things to eat, with
     many signs of friendship. They were taller than a tall man,
     and as large-bodied as Francisco of Albizzi, but better
     proportioned than we are. While we were consulting as to the
     expediency of taking the three girls by force and bringing
     them to Castile to exhibit as wonders, there entered the
     door of the hut thirty-six men, much larger than the women,
     and so well made that it was a pleasure to look at them.
     They put us in such perturbation, however, that we would
     much rather have been in the ships than have found ourselves
     with such people. They carried immense bows and arrows, and
     large-headed clubs, and talked among themselves in a tone
     which led us to think they were deliberating about attacking

     "Seeing we were in such danger, we formed various opinions
     on the subject. Some were for falling upon them in the hut,
     others thought it would be better to attack them in the
     field, and others that we should not commence the strife
     until we saw what they wished to do. We agreed, at length,
     to go out of the hut and take our way quietly to the ships.
     As soon as we did this they followed at a stone's-throw
     behind us, talking earnestly among themselves, and I think
     no less afraid of us than we were of them; for whenever we
     stopped they did the same, never coming nearer to us. In
     this way we at length arrived at the shore, where the boats
     were waiting for us. We entered them, and as we were going
     off in the distance they leaped forward and shot many arrows
     after us; but we had little fear of them now. We discharged
     two arquebuses at them, but more to frighten them than
     injure, and on hearing the report they all fled to the
     mountain. Thus we parted from them, and it appeared to us
     that we had escaped a perilous day's work. These people were
     quite naked, like the others we had seen, and on account of
     their large stature I called this island the Island of
     Giants. We proceeded onward in a direction parallel with the
     main-land, on which it happened that we were frequently
     obliged to fight with the people, who were not willing to
     let us take anything away.

     "When we had been at sea about a year, our minds were fully
     prepared for returning to Castile, as we had then but little
     provision left, and that little damaged, in consequence of
     the great heat through which we had passed. From the time we
     left Cape de Verde until then we had been sailing
     continually in the torrid zone, having twice crossed the
     equinoctial line (as before stated), having been five
     degrees beyond it to the south, and then fifteen degrees
     north of it. Being thus disposed for our return, it pleased
     the Holy Spirit to give us some repose from our great

     "Going in search of a harbor, in order to repair our ships,
     we fell in with a people who received us with friendship,
     and we found that they had a great quantity of Oriental
     pearls, which were very good. We remained with them
     forty-seven days and procured from them one hundred and
     nineteen marks of pearls, in exchange for mere trifles of
     our merchandise, which I think did not cost us the value of
     forty ducats. We gave them nothing whatever but bells,
     looking-glasses, beads, and brass plates; for a bell one
     would give all he had.

     "We learned from them how and where they fished for these
     pearls, and they gave us many oysters in which they grew. We
     procured one oyster in which a hundred and thirty pearls
     were growing, but in others there were less number. The one
     with the hundred and thirty the queen took from me, but the
     others I kept to myself, that she might not see them. Your
     excellency must know that if the pearls are not ripe and
     loose in the shell they do not last, because they are soon
     spoiled. Of this I have seen many examples. When they are
     ripe they are loose in the oyster, mingled with the flesh,
     and then are good. Even the bad ones which they had, which
     for the most part were rough, were nevertheless worth a
     considerable sum.

     "At the end of forty-seven days we left these people, in
     great friendship with us, and from the want of provisions
     went to the island of Antilla [meaning Hispaniola], which
     was discovered some years before by Christopher Columbus.
     Here we obtained many supplies and stayed two months and
     seventeen days. We passed through many dangers and troubles
     with the Christians, who were settled in this island with
     Columbus (I think through their envy), the relation of
     which, in order not to be tedious, I omit. We left there on
     the 22d of April, and, after sailing a month and a half,
     entered the port of Cadiz, where we were received with much
     honor on the 8th day of June. Thus terminated, by the favor
     of God, my second voyage."




Though Amerigo Vespucci was on occasions intimately associated with
Christopher Columbus, conversed with him, corresponded, and had much
to do with the outfitting of his ships, it cannot be shown that the
two ever went on a voyage together. Some have asserted that the
Florentine accompanied the Genoese on his second voyage, in 1493, but
such is not the case. From the friendship that existed between the
two, it would doubtless have been gratifying to both could they have
explored the New World in company, for each was a complement of the
other, and much might have resulted from their conjoined efforts.

Still, while the great Admiral himself was not favored by the presence
of Vespucci on any of his voyages, it chanced that several of those
who were with him at different times afterwards accompanied his
rival, either as captains or pilots of his expeditions. Notable among
these was Vicente Yañez Pinzon, one of the noble family that came to
the rescue of Columbus when in straits at Palos, and furnished the
funds with which the impecunious navigator provided and equipped the
vessel he had promised his sovereigns to contribute. The Pinzons
actually provided and manned this vessel, the _Niña_, though Columbus
had the credit of it, and Vicente Yañez was its captain throughout the
first voyage to America, in 1492-1493.

The eldest of the three brothers, who "risked their lives and fortunes
with Columbus in his doubtful enterprise," the first voyage to the
unknown hemisphere, was Martin Alonzo, who commanded the _Pinta_. He
ran counter to the commands of Columbus when off the coast of Cuba,
and as a result fell into disgrace with the Spanish sovereigns, and
died of chagrin soon after the first voyage was over. Columbus seemed
to consider himself released from any obligations to the Pinzons,
owing to the defection of Martin Alonzo, and they never received a
single maravedi for their assistance at the most critical juncture of
the Admiral's fortunes. As captain of the _Niña_, Vicente Yañez, the
younger brother, stood by Columbus loyally, all through the voyage,
and after the wreck of the flag-ship, off the north coast of Haiti,
took his commander aboard the little caravel and brought him safely
back to Spain.

He seems to have received no recognition from Columbus, either for his
pecuniary aid or loyal support to him in time of disaster, and after
the voyage was accomplished he sank out of sight for a while, to
emerge again in 1494 or 1495. About that time, says a learned
historian, "Ferdinand and Isabella began to feel somewhat disappointed
at the meagre results obtained by Columbus. The wealth of Cathay and
Cipango had not been found; the colonists who had expected to meet
with pearls and gold growing on bushes were sick and angry; Friar
Boyle was preaching that the Admiral was a humbug, and the expensive
work of discovery was going on at a snail's pace. Meanwhile, Vicente
Yañez Pinzon and other bold spirits were grumbling at the monopoly
granted to Columbus, and begging to be allowed to make ventures

"Now, in this connection, several documents preserved in the archives
of the Indies at Seville are very significant. On April 9, 1495, the
sovereigns issued their letter of credentials to Juan Aguado, whom
they were about sending to Hispaniola to inquire into the charges
against Columbus. On that very day they signed the contract with
Berardi [Vespucci's partner], whereby the latter bound himself to
furnish twelve vessels, four to be ready at once, four in June, and
four in September. On the next day they issued the decree throwing
open the navigation to the Indies and granting to all native
Spaniards, on certain prescribed conditions, the privilege of making
voyages to the newly found coasts.

"On the 12th they instructed Fonseca to put Aguado in command of the
first four caravels, ... and it started off in August. The second
squadron of four, which was to have been ready in June, was not yet
fully equipped in December, when Berardi died. Then Vespucci,
representing the house of Berardi, took up the work, and sent the four
caravels to sea February 3, 1496. They were only two days out when a
frightful storm overtook and wrecked them, though most of the crews
were saved. The third squadron of four caravels was, I believe, that
which finally sailed May 10, 1497. While it was getting ready, Vicente
Yañez Pinzon returned from the Levant, whither he had been sent on
important business by the sovereigns in December, 1495. Columbus, who
had returned to Spain in June, 1496, protested against what he
considered an invasion of his monopoly, and on June 2, 1497, the
sovereigns issued a decree which for the moment was practically
equivalent to a revocation of the general license accorded to
navigators by the decree of April 10, 1495. Observe that this
revocation was not issued until after the third squadron had sailed.
The sovereigns were not going to be balked in the little scheme which
they had set on foot two years before, and for which they had paid
out, through Vespucci, so many thousand maravedis. So the expedition
sailed, with Pinzon chief in command and Solis second; with Ledesma
for one of the pilots, and Vespucci as pilot and cosmographer."

In the foregoing the historian accounts for the sailing of Pinzon and
Vespucci in company, on that "debatable voyage" described in chapter
VI. In the year 1499 both Pinzon and Vespucci were to sail--though in
separate fleets--for the coasts of the continent which Columbus had
accidentally revealed in his voyage of 1498. Vespucci was to coast its
northern shores, while Pinzon, with a confidence born of successive
ventures on the ocean, was to strike farther southward than any had
done before him (in the western hemisphere), cross the equinoctial
line, and reveal to the knowledge of civilized man the great river,
afterwards called the Amazon, and the country of Brazil. The fleet in
which Vespucci took passage left Spain in the month of May, 1499, that
commanded by Pinzon left in December; and it is still a moot question
whether the first or the second was the first to arrive on the coast
of Brazil. But Pinzon sailed beyond Vespucci on that voyage, though he
was to be surpassed, the next year, in the generous rivalry that
existed for making the "farthest south."

Another companion of Vespucci worthy of note is the man called by Las
Casas the best pilot of his day, Juan de la Cosa. He had been with
Columbus on his first voyage, as owner and pilot of the _Santa Maria_,
and also on his second, and may have had good grounds for believing
himself as good a navigator as the Admiral, while as a cosmographer he
was probably his superior. The historian, Peter Martyr, asserts that
La Cosa and another pilot, Andres Morales, "were thought to be more
cunning in that part of cosmography which teacheth the description and
measurement of the sea" than any others in the world. In truth, the
first map of importance made within a decade of the discovery of 1492
was that produced by La Cosa, in the summer of 1500, after his return
from the voyage (his third to the New World) with Ojeda and Vespucci.
It is thought that he embodied in that map the results of Vespucci's
voyage of 1497-1498, as communicated to him during their intimate
companionship of thirteen months. La Cosa, the Biscayan pilot, was a
man cast in the same generous mould as Vespucci, and shared none of
the narrow notions of Columbus. His great regard for Columbus is shown
in the vignette to his map, which represents the giant Christopher
(the "Christ-bearer") carrying the infant Jesus on his shoulders.
Beneath this vignette is the legend, "Juan de la Cosa made this map,
in the port of Santa Maria [near Cadiz], year 1500." It is the best
map that had been put forth up to that date, and for a long time
thereafter remained as a guide to mariners.

His services were in great request at that time, and in the month of
October, 1500, he was engaged by Rodrigo Bastidas, a lawyer of
Seville, to pilot a small expedition he had fitted out to search for
gold and pearls. This was the expedition in which Vasco Nuñez de
Balboa first embarked for the New World, and which was so profitable
that the leaders returned (though their vessels had sunk at their
anchors in a harbor of Haiti) with sufficient pearls to give them each
a fortune. If they had been content to live at ease in Spain, they
might have done so during the remainder of their days; but both
Bastidas and La Cosa were lured back to the coast of Terra Firma by
the prospect of further enrichment, and there they came to untimely

La Cosa was created _alguazil mayor_ of the territory he and Vespucci
had coasted, and finding Ojeda in want--both of money and an
opportunity to display his prowess as a fighter--he generously shared
his fortune with him and fitted out a fleet containing a ship and two
small brigantines. Thenceforth, as fate willed it, the great-hearted
pilot and the fiery cavalier were inseparable until cut down by death.
In the month of November, 1509, they set sail from Santo Domingo with
their three vessels and three hundred men. La Cosa piloted the little
fleet into a safe harbor, as he knew the coast well from two previous
visits to Terra Firma, but he endeavored to induce Ojeda to attempt a
settlement farther on towards the Isthmus of Darien, as the Indians of
this region were very ferocious and used poisoned arrows.

Ojeda, however, would not be turned from his purpose, which was to
acquire a large number of slaves, either by stratagem or force. After
the monks who accompanied his command had read a requisition to the
savages, requiring them to submit gracefully and be converted, if they
did not wish to incur the vengeance of the King of Spain, the Pope of
Rome, and their emissaries there assembled, finding them obdurate,
Ojeda gave the command to attack. The Indians, by this time, had
assembled in great force, and if they understood the message (which
was not likely, as it was in Spanish, a language they had never heard
before) they manifested no inclination to heed its warnings. They
brandished their spears, shot their arrows, and yelled defiance to the
invaders. This was more than the rash Ojeda could endure, and he
dashed headlong at the naked enemy without waiting for his men to

Only the gallant La Cosa was with him at first, continually
remonstrating with his friend for his temerity, but fighting bravely
at his side. The old pilot was a man of peace, but he was destined to
die a violent and a horrible death. While pressing forward in advance
of their men, the retreat of Ojeda and La Cosa was cut off by the wily
savages, who had pretended to retire to the hills, whence they soon
returned in great force. La Cosa took refuge in a hut, where he
gallantly defended himself until a poisoned arrow pierced his breast
and he fell to the ground. One companion survived, to whom he said, as
he felt the chill of death creeping over him, "Brother, since God hath
protected thee from harm, sally out and fly; and if ever thou shouldst
see Alonzo de Ojeda, tell him of my fate."

Thus expired Juan de la Cosa, former companion of Columbus and
Vespucci, able pilot, skilled cartographer, loyal till death to the
man who had led him into the forest where he met that fatal arrow.

It is claimed by some that Vespucci and La Cosa made two voyages
together, in the years 1505 and 1507, but this is doubtful. After
their return from the voyage of 1499-1500 they separated, Amerigo to
take service with the King of Portugal, and La Cosa, upon the
completion of his chart and after his return from the Bastidas
expedition of 1500-1501, settling down to the enjoyment of his
fortune. The third famous member of the trio, Alonzo de Ojeda,
obtained authority from the king to colonize Coquibacoa, on the coast
of Terra Firma, and received in addition a grant of land six leagues
square in the island of Hispaniola.

The former venture had not been considered a success, but the
merchants of Seville and Cadiz were persuaded to once more try their
fortunes with the brave cavalier Ojeda, and fitted out for him a fleet
of four large vessels. In command of these he set sail, in the year
1502, and after touching at Cumana, where he pillaged the Indians and
took many prisoners, he proceeded to Coquibacoa. Finding the place
unsuited for a settlement, he went farther westward and attempted a
colony at Bahia Honda, building there a fortress and huts for his
people. The Indians were hostile at first, but gold was found in
abundance--so much of it, in fact, that the adventurers began to
quarrel over it, and soon came to blows. Ojeda, as usual, was foremost
in the fight that followed, and, as his company turned against him, he
was entrapped on one of the caravels and placed in irons. Then the
entire company sailed for Hispaniola, intending to submit the cause of
their dissension, which was their strong-box full of gold, to the
courts of that island for a decision. They arrived at a port on the
western coast of Hispaniola, and in the night the manacled Ojeda
slipped overboard into the water, intending to swim ashore and make
his escape. The fetters on his feet were heavy, however, though his
arms were free, and he was nearly drowned before his companions,
hearing his cries for help, pulled him out of the water and again
confined him in the hold of the vessel.

Taken to the city of Santo Domingo, he was placed on trial for
attempting to defraud the government, and the decision was against
him. He was not only deprived of his lands, but was stripped of
everything he owned. For several years thereafter he roamed about the
island, and made occasional voyages, but as a penniless, rather than
an influential, adventurer. His good friend, the "ungodly bishop,"
Fonseca, was still in power, but inaccessible through the great
distance that separated them. One happy day, however, Ojeda met La
Cosa, who was then in the enjoyment of a considerable fortune, and
who, with the reckless generosity for which sailors are proverbial,
placed all his means at his disposal. He went to Spain, where he saw
the bishop, secured a fleet (as already mentioned), and in it sailed
for Santo Domingo, where he was met by his partner, and together the
soldier and the sailor set out for Terra Firma.

Before they left the island, however, Ojeda must needs plunge himself
into another difficulty by picking a quarrel with a rival discoverer,
Nicuesa, whom he challenged to fight a duel. It seems that King
Ferdinand had granted territory in Terra Firma to both these men; and,
though there was certainly room enough and to spare in that vast
region, they began to dispute over their perspective boundaries before
they had staked them out. The hot-headed Ojeda was a skilled
swordsman, but Nicuesa was artful enough to avoid an encounter, in
which there was little doubt he would be killed, by insisting that
each contestant should deposit five thousand castellanos with an
umpire before engaging in the fight. As this was a larger sum than
poor Ojeda could raise--which, of course, Nicuesa knew full well--the
irate cavalier was obliged to sail without having obtained

This was the expedition that ended so disastrously, as narrated in a
previous chapter. The Spaniard who was charged with La Cosa's last
message to Ojeda was the only survivor of seventy who had followed the
rash commander in his headlong attack. What had become of Ojeda
himself none of the survivors could tell, for several days passed
without news of him. His body was not to be found among the slain, and
no one who knew him believed that the Indians could have captured him
alive. He had fought like a tiger to reach and defend his friend La
Cosa, but had been borne back by the thronging savages, and since
then nothing had been heard of him. The woods and shore were searched
by scouts, and he was finally found extended on some mangrove roots on
the borders of the forest. He was in such an exhausted state that he
could not speak, but, intrepid to the last, still clung to his
buckler, and in his right hand grasped the good sword with which he
had cut his way through the savage hordes.

Although famished, and so weak that he could not stand, it was
discovered that he had not received a single wound; but on his shield
were seen the dents made by more than three hundred arrows. His rescue
had scarcely been effected before the ships of his deadly rival,
Nicuesa, sailed into the harbor; but, instead of taking advantage of
Ojeda's defenceless condition, the high-minded hidalgo offered to join
with him in an attack upon the savages, in order to avenge his defeat.
Combining their forces, the two erstwhile enemies fell upon the
Indians while they were asleep, slaughtered an immense number, and
then, after plundering their dwellings set them on fire.

Thus the unfortunate pilot and his comrades were avenged, and the
ships sailed on, leaving behind hundreds of mangled corpses and huts
reduced to ashes. It was not strange, then, that the surviving savages
should ceaselessly attack the settlement soon after founded by Ojeda
on their coast, and with such persistency that finally it had to be
abandoned. It was in one of these attacks that Ojeda received his
first wound. He had hitherto considered himself invulnerable, but,
falling into an Indian ambush, a poisoned arrow pierced his thigh.
After wrenching it from the wound, he ordered his surgeon, on pain of
death for refusal, to burn out the venom with red-hot irons, and by
this means, though his life was saved, he received injuries that made
him permanently lame.

At last conditions in the settlement became so desperate that Ojeda
seized the occasion of a pirate ship touching there to depart for
Hispaniola in search of assistance. Leaving his company in charge of
Francisco Pizarro--who in this manner began his conquering career--he
embarked in the pirate ship, but had hardly cleared the harbor before
he began a fierce quarrel with the commander, Talavera, by whose
orders he was seized and fettered. Even when chained to the deck, the
undaunted cavalier dared Talavera and his crew to fight him, two at a
time, and when they refused denounced them all as cowards.

A violent gale arose, with the result that their ship was wrecked on
the southern coast of Cuba. Escaping to shore, they endured terrible
sufferings for weeks, wandering half famished in forests and through
swamps, until finally rescued by a tribe of Indians who had not heard
of Spanish atrocities and who gave them freely all the provisions they
needed. A canoe was despatched to Jamaica with the tidings of
disaster, and in the end Ojeda reached Hispaniola, where he had the
satisfaction of seeing his late companions hung for their crimes, and
where he passed the remainder of his life in poverty. He died in 1515,
so poor, says Bishop Las Casas, "that he did not leave money enough to
provide for his interment, and so broken in spirit that, with his last
breath, he entreated his body might be buried in the monastery of San
Francisco [the ruins of which may still be seen in Santo Domingo],
just at the portal, in humble expiation of his past pride, 'that every
one who entered might tread upon his grave.'"




The New World, subsequently to be called America, did not reveal
itself to navigators during the lifetime of any one of those first
engaged in its discovery. Its islands and coast-lines were brought to
view one by one, and bit by bit, so that many years elapsed between
the voyage of Columbus, in 1492, and that which finally enabled the
map-makers to complete the outlines of the continents. It is
interesting and instructive to trace the movements of the explorers,
and note how, after the initial work of Columbus, they emulate one
another in pushing farther and farther into the great ocean of
darkness, their voyages overlapping at times, but ever extending,
until at last the islands of the West Indies are all revealed and the
vast southern continent is circumnavigated.

Columbus, in his first three voyages, brought to view most of those
islands now known as the Antilles, and on his fourth and last he
skirted the eastern coast of Central America; but he left gaps here
and there which it took many years to fill. On his third voyage, in
1498, he discovered the island of Trinidad and the pearl islands off
the coast of Cumana; but he did not proceed, as he should have done,
along the coast of Terra Firma, and hence Ojeda, Vespucci, and La Cosa
slipped in, guided by the very chart made by him and so treacherously
furnished them by Fonseca.


While doubts may be entertained as to the "first" voyage of Vespucci,
none can exist as to that made by him in 1499-1500, as we have the
sworn testimony to that effect by Ojeda himself, who, when called to
give the same, in the great suit brought by Diego Columbus against the
crown, declared that he had with him on that voyage both La Cosa and
the Florentine. This testimony was given in 1513, a year after
Vespucci's death, and its object was to show that the coast of Terra
Firma, so called, had been first seen by Columbus. By establishing the
fact of his priority, it disposed of any claim Vespucci or his
friends may have made, as he and Ojeda were sailing with the
track-chart of Columbus as their guide. Thus they picked up the route
pursued by the Admiral, and extended it several degrees, Bastidas and
La Cosa, the next year, carrying it still farther.

In December, 1499, in June of which year Ojeda and Vespucci had set
out together, Vicente Pinzon sailed along the Brazilian coast to a
point eight degrees south of the equinoctial line. He returned to
Spain in September, 1500, and in April of that year Pedro Alvarez
Cabral, in command of a Portuguese fleet bound for the Spice Islands,
over the route discovered by Da Gama, accidentally came in sight of
land on the coast of the country since known as Brazil, in latitude
sixteen degrees south of the line. Unable to prosecute explorations
there, as he was bound for the East, around the Cape of Good Hope and
along the west coast of Africa, Cabral sent a vessel of his fleet back
to Portugal with the news, and proceeded on his way.

Casting about for a navigator eminently qualified as pilot and
cosmographer to pursue the exploration indicated by Cabral, along the
coast of the country he had so strangely revealed, King Emanuel of
Portugal made up his mind that Amerigo Vespucci was the man he wanted.
Just when he came to this decision, and when Vespucci shifted his
allegiance from Spain to Portugal, is not exactly known, but it was
probably late in the year 1500, after his return, of course, from the
voyage with Ojeda and La Cosa. The particulars of this transaction we
will let him relate in the following letter contained in this chapter.
He does not quite satisfactorily explain how he came to break with
King Ferdinand, especially as both the sovereign and Fonseca had
received him with marked attention, the latter having presented him at
court, where he was consulted as to new expeditions, and "his accounts
of what he had already seen listened to with the greatest interest."
The affair is all the more inexplicable from the fact that during the
interval between his return from the second voyage and his going to
Portugal he was married to a charming lady of Seville. This lady, Doña
Maria Cerezo, was his betrothed during the time he was engaged with
the house of Berardi, but the mania for exploring having seized him,
their marriage was not consummated until after the two voyages had
been made. She went with him to the court, sharing there the honors
heaped upon him by the king; but after this little is heard of her,
though it is known that she survived him several years, and on account
of his distinguished services to Spain received a liberal pension from
the government.

Leaving his newly wedded wife in Seville, Vespucci went to Portugal,
"where he was received with open arms by King Emanuel, and commenced
with ardor the preparation of the fleet." Respecting his sudden
departure from Spain, his Italian eulogist, Canovai, has this to say:
"It does not appear that King Ferdinand considered himself wronged by
the sudden flight and, to say the least, apparent discourtesy of
Amerigo in leaving the kingdom and the king, his patron, without
salutation or leave-taking. It was probably looked upon as a trait of
his reserved character, or an evidence of his aversion to idle and
slanderous rumors, which he was unwilling to take the pains to
contradict. Rumors and whisperings soon die away when they have
nothing to feed upon, and when Vespucci returned, as though from a
journey, the slight was forgotten, and he was treated with greater
honor than before."

To what cause King Emanuel owed this acquisition of King Ferdinand's
skilled navigator does not appear; but he was not to retain him very
long. He made, however, two voyages under the flag of Portugal, the
first of which is outlined in this letter to his friend, the
Gonfaloniere of Florence, Piero Soderini:

     "I was reposing myself in Seville, after the many toils I
     had undergone in the two voyages to the Indies, made for his
     Serene Highness Ferdinand, King of Castile, yet indulging in
     a willingness to return to the Land of Pearls, when Fortune,
     not seeming to be satisfied with my former labors, inspired
     the mind of his Majesty Emanuel, King of Portugal (I know
     not through what circumstances), to attempt to avail himself
     of my services. There came to me a royal letter from his
     majesty, containing a solicitation that I would come to
     Lisbon to speak with him, he promising to show me many
     favors. I did not at once determine to go, and argued with
     the messenger, telling him I was ill and indisposed for the
     undertaking, but that when recovered, if his highness wished
     me to serve him, I would do whatever he might command.

     "Seeing that he could not obtain me thus, he sent Juliano di
     Bartolomeo del Giocondo, who at that time resided in Lisbon,
     with a commission to use every means to bring me back with
     him. Juliano came to Seville, and on his arrival, and
     induced by his urgent entreaties, I was persuaded to go,
     though my going was looked upon with ill favor by all who
     knew me. It was thus regarded by my friends, because I had
     abandoned Castile, where I had been honored, and because
     they thought the king had rightful possession of me; and it
     was considered still worse that I departed without taking
     leave of my host.

     "Having, however, presented myself at the court of King
     Emanuel, he appeared to be highly pleased with my coming,
     and requested that I would accompany his three ships, which
     were then ready to set out for the discovery of new lands.
     Thus esteeming a request from a king as equivalent to a
     command, I was obliged to consent to whatever he asked of

     "We set sail from the port of Lisbon with three ships in
     company, on the l3th of May, 1501, and steered our course
     directly for the Grand Canary Islands, which we passed
     without stopping, and coasted along the western shores of
     Africa. On this coast we found excellent fishing, taking
     fish called porgies, and were detained three days. From
     there we went to the coast of Ethiopia, arriving at a port
     called Beseneghe, within the torrid zone, and situated on
     the fourteenth degree of north latitude, in the first
     climate. Here we remained eleven days, taking in wood and
     water--as it was my intention to sail south through the
     great Atlantic Ocean. Leaving this port of Ethiopia, we
     sailed on our course, bearing a quarter south, and in
     ninety-seven days we made land, at a distance of seven
     hundred leagues from said port.

     "In those ninety-seven days we had the worst weather that
     ever man experienced who navigated the ocean, in a
     succession of drenching rains, showers, and tempests. The
     season was very unpropitious, as our navigation was
     continually drawing us nearer the equinoctial line, where,
     in the month of June, it is winter, and where we found the
     days and nights of equal length, and our shadows falling
     continually towards the south. It pleased God, however, to
     show us new land, on the 17th day of August, at half a
     league distance from which we anchored. We launched our
     boats and went ashore, to see if the country was inhabited,
     and, if so, by what kind of people, and we found at length a
     population far more degraded than brutes.

     "It should be understood that at first we did not see any
     inhabitants, though we knew very well, by the many signs we
     saw, that the country was peopled. We took possession of it,
     in the name of his most serene majesty, and found it to be
     pleasant and verdant, and situated five degrees south of the
     equinoctial line. This much we ascertained and then returned
     to the ships. On the next day, while we were ashore, we saw
     people looking at us from the summit of a mountain, but they
     did not venture to descend. They were naked, and of the same
     color and figure as those heretofore discovered by me for
     the King of Spain. We made much exertion to persuade them to
     come and speak with us, but could not assure them
     sufficiently to trust us. Seeing their obstinacy, as it was
     growing late we returned to the ships, leaving on shore for
     them many bells, looking-glasses, and other things, in
     places where they could find them. When we had gone away
     they descended from the mountain and took possession of the
     things we had left, appearing to be filled with wonder while
     viewing them. The next morning we saw from the ships that
     the people of the land were making many bonfires, and,
     taking them for signals to go ashore, we went and found that
     many had arrived; but they kept always at a distance, though
     they made signs that they wished us to accompany them
     inland. Whereupon two Christians were induced to ask the
     captain's permission to brave the danger and go with them,
     in order to see what kind of people they were, and whether
     they had any kind of riches, spices, or drugs. They
     importuned him so much that he finally consented, and after
     having been fitted out with many articles for trade they
     left us, with orders not to be absent more than five days,
     as we should expect them with great anxiety. So they took
     their way into the country, and we returned to the ships to
     wait for them, which we did for six days; but they never
     came back, though nearly every day there came people to the
     shore, who would not, however, speak with us.

     "On the seventh day we landed and found that they had
     brought their wives with them, whom they commanded, as we
     reached the shore, to speak with us. We observed that they
     hesitated to obey the order, and accordingly determined to
     send one of our people, a very courageous young man, to
     address them. In order to encourage them, we entered the
     boats while he went to speak with the women. When he arrived
     they formed themselves into a great circle around him,
     touching and looking at him as with astonishment. While all
     this was going on, we saw a woman coming from the mountains
     carrying a large club in her hands. When she arrived where
     our young Christian stood she came up behind him and,
     raising the bludgeon, gave him such a blow with it that she
     laid him dead on the spot, and immediately the other women
     took him by the feet and dragged him away towards the
     mountain. The men ran towards the shore forthwith and began
     to assail us with their arrows, throwing our people into a
     great fright, in consequence of the boats having grounded,
     many arrows reaching them. No one resorted to arms, but for
     a time all was terror and panic. After a while, however, we
     discharged four swivels at them, which had no other effect
     than to make them flee towards the mountain, when they heard
     the report. There we saw that the women had already cut the
     young Christian in pieces, and at a great fire which they
     had made were roasting him in our sight, showing us the
     several pieces as they ate them. The men also made signs to
     us indicating that they had killed the other two Christians
     and eaten them in the same manner, which grieved us very

     " ... We departed from this place and sailed along in a
     southeasterly direction, on a line parallel with the coast,
     making many landings, but never finding any people with whom
     to converse. Continuing in this manner, we found at length
     that the line of the coast made a turn to the south, and
     after doubling a cape, which we called St. Augustine, we
     began to sail in a southerly direction. This cape is a
     hundred and fifty leagues distant, easterly, from the
     aforementioned land where the three Christians were
     murdered, and eight degrees south of the equinoctial line.
     While sailing on this course, we one day saw many people
     standing on the shore, apparently in great wonder at the
     sight of our ships. We directed our course towards them,
     and, having anchored in a good place, proceeded to land in
     the boats, and found the people better disposed than those
     we had passed. Though it cost us some exertion to tame them,
     we nevertheless made them our friends and treated with them.
     In this place we stayed five days, and here we found
     cassia-stems very large and green, and some already dried on
     the tops of the trees. We determined to take a couple of men
     from the place, in order that they might learn the language,
     and three of them came with us voluntarily, wishing to visit

     "Being already wearied with so much writing, I will delay no
     longer the information that we left this port and sailed
     continually in a southerly direction in sight of the shore,
     making frequent landings and treating with a great number of
     people. We went so far to the south that we were beyond the
     tropic of Capricorn, where the south pole is elevated
     thirty-two degrees above the horizon. We had then entirely
     lost sight of Ursa Minor, and even Ursa Major was very low,
     nearly on the edge of the horizon; so we steered by the
     stars of the south pole, which are many, and much brighter
     than those of the north. I drew the figures of the greater
     part of them, particularly those of the first and second
     magnitude, with a description of the circles which they made
     around the pole, and an account of their diameters and
     semi-diameters, as may be seen in my _Quattro Giornate_, or
     _Four Journeys_.

     "We ran on this coast about seven hundred and fifty leagues:
     one hundred and fifty from Cape St. Augustine towards the
     west, and six hundred towards the south. If I were to relate
     all the things that I saw on this coast, and others that we
     passed, as many more sheets as I have already written upon
     would not be sufficient for the purpose. We saw nothing of
     utility here, save a great number of dye-wood and cassia
     trees, and also of those trees which produce myrrh. There
     were, however, many natural curiosities, which cannot be

     "Having been already full ten months on the voyage, and
     seeing that we had found no minerals in the country, we
     concluded to take leave of it, and attempt the ocean in some
     other part. It was determined in council to pursue whatever
     course of navigation appeared best to me, and I was invested
     with full command of the fleet. I ordered that all the
     people and the fleet should be provided with wood and water
     for six months--as much as the officers of the ship should
     deem prudent to sail with. Having laid in our provisions, we
     commenced our navigation with a southeasterly wind, on the
     15th of February, when the sun was already approaching the
     equinoctial line, and tending towards this, our northern
     hemisphere. We were in such high southern latitude at this
     time that the south pole was elevated fifty-two degrees
     above the horizon, and we no longer saw the stars either of
     Ursa Minor or Major.

     "On the 3d of April we had sailed five hundred leagues from
     the port we had left, and on this day commenced a storm so
     violent that we had to take in all our sails and run under
     bare poles. It was so furious that the whole fleet was in
     apprehension. The nights were very long, being fifteen hours
     in duration, the sun then being in Aries, and winter
     prevailing in this region. While driven by this storm, on
     the 7th of April, we came in sight of new land, and ran
     within twenty leagues of it, finding the coast wild, and
     seeing neither harbor nor inhabitants. The cold was so
     severe that no one in the fleet could withstand or endure
     it--which I conceive to be the reason for this want of
     population. Finding ourselves in great danger, and the storm
     so violent that we could scarce distinguish one ship from
     another, on account of the high seas that were running and
     the misty darkness of the weather, we agreed that the
     superior captain should make signals to the fleet to turn
     about, leave the country, and steer direct for Portugal.

     "This proved to be very good counsel, for certain it is, if
     we had delayed that night, we should all have been lost. We
     took the wind aft, and during the night and next day the
     storm increased so much that we were apprehensive for our
     safety, and made many vows of pilgrimage, and the
     performance of other ceremonies usual with [superstitious]
     mariners in such weather. We ran five days, making about two
     hundred and fifty leagues, and continually approaching the
     equinoctial line, finding the air more mild and the sea less
     boisterous; till at last it pleased God to deliver us from
     this our great danger.

     "It was our intention to go and reconnoitre the coast of
     Ethiopia, which was thirteen hundred leagues distant from
     us, through the great Atlantic sea, and by the grace of God
     we arrived at it, touching at a southern port called Sierra
     Leone, where we stayed fifteen days, obtaining refreshments.
     From this place we steered for the Azore Islands, about
     seven hundred and fifty leagues distant, where we arrived in
     the latter part of July, and stayed another fifteen days,
     taking some recreation. Then we departed for Lisbon, three
     hundred leagues farther, which port we entered on the 7th of
     September, 1502--for which the All-Powerful be
     thanked!--with only two ships, having burned the other in
     Sierra Leone because it was no longer sea-worthy.

     "In this voyage we were absent about fifteen months, and
     sailed eleven of them without seeing the north star, or
     either of the constellations Ursa Major and Minor (which are
     called the "horn"), steering meanwhile by the stars of the
     other pole. The above is what I saw in this my third voyage,
     made for his Serene Highness the King of Portugal."



The following letter from Vespucci to Lorenzo di Pier Francesco de
Medici, his friend and patron in Florence, was probably written in the
spring of 1503.

     "_To my most Excellent Patron, Lorenzo:_

     "My last letter to your excellency was written from a place
     on the coast of Guinea called Cape Verde, and in it you were
     informed of the commencement of my voyage. The present
     letter will advise you of its continuation and termination.

     "We started from the above-mentioned cape, having first
     taken in all necessary supplies of wood, water, etc., to
     discover new lands in the ocean. We sailed on a
     southwesterly course until, at the end of sixty-four days,
     we discovered land, which, on many accounts, we concluded to
     be Terra Firma. We coasted this land about eight hundred
     leagues, in a direction west by south. It was well
     inhabited, and I noticed many remarkable things, which I
     will attempt to narrate.

     "We sailed in those seas until we entered the torrid zone,
     and passed to the south of the equinoctial line and the
     tropic of Capricorn, so that we were fifty degrees south of
     the line. We navigated four months and twenty-seven days,
     seeing neither the arctic pole nor Ursa Major or Minor. We
     discovered here many beautiful constellations, invisible in
     the northern hemisphere, and noted their marvellous
     movements and their grandeur.... To proceed, now, to a
     description of the country, the plants therein, and of the
     customs of the inhabitants, I would observe that this region
     is most delightful, and covered with immense forests which
     never lose their foliage, and throughout the year yield
     aromatic odors and produce an infinite variety of fruit,
     grateful to the taste and healthful for the body. In the
     fields flourish so many sweet flowers and herbs, and the
     fruits are so delicious and fragrant, that I fancied myself
     near the terrestrial paradise. What shall I tell you of the
     birds and the brilliant colors of their plumage? What of
     their variety, their sweet songs, and their beauty? I dare
     not enlarge upon this theme, for I fear I should not be
     believed. How shall I enumerate the infinite variety of
     sylvan animals: lions, catamounts, panthers--though not like
     those of our regions--wolves, stags, and baboons of all
     kinds? We saw more wild animals--such as wild hogs, kids,
     deer, hares, and rabbits--than could ever have entered the
     ark of Noah; but we saw no domestic animals whatever.

     "Now, consider reasoning animals. We found the whole region
     inhabited by people who were entirely naked, both men and
     women. They were well proportioned in body, with black,
     coarse hair, and little or no beard. I labored much to
     investigate their customs, remaining twenty-seven days for
     that purpose, and the following is the information I
     acquired. They have no laws and no religious beliefs, but
     live according to the dictates of nature alone. They know
     nothing of the immortality of the soul; they have no private
     property, but everything in common; they have no boundaries
     of kingdom or province; they obey no king or lord, for it is
     wholly unnecessary, as they have no laws, and each one is
     his own master. They dwell together in houses made like
     bells, in the construction of which they use neither iron
     nor any other metal. This is very remarkable, for I have
     seen houses two hundred and twenty feet long and thirty feet
     wide, built with much skill, and containing five or six
     hundred people. They sleep in hammocks made of cotton,
     suspended in the air, without any covering; they eat seated
     upon the ground, and their food consists of roots and herbs,
     fruits and fish. They eat also lobsters, crabs, oysters, and
     many other kinds of mussels and shell-fish which are found
     in the sea. As to their meat, it is principally human flesh.
     It is true that they devour the flesh of four-footed animals
     and birds; but they do not catch many, because they have no
     dogs, and the woods are thick and so filled with wild beasts
     that they do not care to go into them, except in large
     bodies and armed. The men are in the habit of decorating
     their lips and cheeks with bones and stones, which they
     suspend from holes they bore in them. I have seen some of
     them with three, seven, and even as many as nine holes,
     filled with white or green alabaster--a most barbarous
     custom, which they follow in order, as they say, to make
     themselves appear ferocious.... They are a people of great
     longevity, for we met with many who had descendants of the
     fourth degree. Not knowing how to compute time, and counting
     neither days, months, nor years--excepting in so far as they
     count the lunar months--when they wanted to signify to us
     any particular duration of time, they did it by showing us a
     stone for each moon; and, computing in this manner, we
     discovered that the age of one man that we saw was seventeen
     hundred moons, or about one hundred and thirty-two years,
     reckoning thirteen moons to the year.

     "They are a warlike race and extremely cruel. All their
     weapons are, as Petrarch says, "committed to the winds"--for
     they consist of spears, arrows, stones, and javelins. They
     use no shields for the body, going to battle almost wholly
     naked. There is no order or discipline in their fights,
     except that they follow the counsels of the old men. Most
     cruelly do they combat, and those who conquer in the field
     bury their own dead, but cut up and eat the dead of their
     enemies. Some who are taken prisoners are carried to their
     villages for slaves. Females taken in war they frequently
     marry, and sometimes the male prisoners are allowed to marry
     the daughters of the tribe; but occasionally a diabolical
     fury seems to come over them, and, calling together their
     relations and the people, they sacrifice these slaves, the
     children with the parents, accompanied by barbarous
     ceremonies. This we know of a certainty, for we found much
     human flesh in their huts, hung up to smoke, and we
     purchased ten poor creatures from them, both men and women,
     whom they were about to sacrifice, to save them from such a
     fate. Much as we reproached them on this account, I cannot
     say that they amended at all. The most astounding thing in
     all their wars and cruelty was that we could not find out
     any reason for them. They made war against each other,
     although they had neither kings, kingdoms, nor property of
     any kind, without any apparent desire to plunder, and
     without any lust for power--which always appeared to me to
     be the moving causes of wars and anarchy. When we asked them
     about this they gave no reason other than that they did so
     to avenge the murder of their ancestors. To conclude this
     disgusting subject: one man confessed to me that he had
     eaten of the flesh of over two hundred bodies, and I believe
     it was the truth.

     "In regard to the climate of this region, I should say it
     was extremely pleasant and healthful; for in all the time
     that we were there, which was ten months, not one of us
     died, and only a few were sick. They suffer from no
     infirmity, pestilence, or corruption of the atmosphere, and
     die only natural deaths, unless they fall by their own hands
     or in consequence of accident. In fact, physicians would
     have a bad time in such a place.

     "As we went solely to make discoveries, and started with
     that view from Lisbon, without intending to look for any
     profit, we did not trouble ourselves to explore the country
     much, and found nothing of great value; though I am inclined
     to believe that it is capable, from its climate and general
     appearance, of containing every kind of natural wealth. It
     is not to be wondered at that we did not discover at once
     everything that might be turned to profit there, for the
     inhabitants think nothing of gold or silver or precious
     stones, and value only feathers and bones. But I hope that I
     shall be sent again by the king to visit these regions, and
     that many years will not elapse before they will bring
     immense profits and revenue to the kingdom of Portugal.

     "We found great quantities of dye-wood, enough to load all
     the ships that float, and costing nothing. The same may be
     said of cassia, crystals, spices, and drugs; but the
     qualities of the last are unknown. The inhabitants of the
     country tell of gold and other metals; but I am one of those
     who, like St. Thomas, are slow to believe. Time will show
     all, however. Most of the time of our stay the heavens were
     serene and adorned with numerous bright and beautiful stars,
     many of which I observed, with their revolutions.

     "This may be considered a schedule, or, as it were, a
     _capita rerum_, of the things which I have seen in these
     parts. Many things are omitted which are worthy of being
     mentioned, in order to avoid prolixity, and because they are
     found in my account of the voyage. As yet I tarry at Lisbon,
     waiting the pleasure of the king to determine what I shall
     do. May it please God that I do whatever is most to His
     glory and the salvation of my soul."

A third and fuller account of the third voyage, written to Lorenzo di
Pier Francesco de Medici:

     "In days past I gave your excellency a full account of my
     return, and, if I remember aright, wrote you a description
     of all those parts of the New World which I had visited in
     the ships of his Highness the King of Portugal. Carefully
     considered, they appear truly to form another world, and
     therefore we have, not without reason, called it the _New

     "Not one of all the ancients had any knowledge of it, and
     the things which have been lately ascertained by us
     transcend all their ideas. They thought there was nothing
     south of the equinoctial line but an immense sea and some
     poor and barren islands. The sea they called the Atlantic,
     and if sometimes they confessed that there might be land in
     that region, they contended that it must be sterile, and
     could not be otherwise than uninhabitable. The present
     navigation has controverted their opinions, and openly
     demonstrated to all that they were very far from the truth.
     For, beyond the equinoctial line I found countries more
     fertile and more densely inhabited than I have ever found
     anywhere else, even in Asia, Africa, and Europe--as will be
     more fully manifested by duly attending to the following
     narration. Setting aside all minor matters, I shall relate
     only those of the greatest importance, which are well worthy
     of commemoration, and those which I have _personally seen_,
     or heard of from men of credibility. I shall now speak with
     much care concerning those parts most recently discovered,
     and without any romantic addition to the truth.

     "With happy omens of success, we sailed from Lisbon with
     three armed caravels, on the 13th of May, 1501, to explore,
     by command of the king, the regions of the New World.
     Steering a southwest course, we sailed twenty months in a
     manner which I shall now relate. In the first place, we went
     to the Fortunate Islands, which are now called the Grand
     Canaries. After navigating the ocean we ran along the coast
     of Africa and the country of the blacks as far as the
     promontory which is called by Ptolemy Etiopia, by our people
     Cape Verde, and by the negroes Biseneghe, while the
     inhabitants themselves call it Madanghan. The country is
     situated within the torrid zone, in about fourteen degrees
     south latitude, and is inhabited by the blacks. Here we
     reposed awhile to refresh ourselves, took in every kind of
     provision, and set sail, directing our course towards the
     antarctic pole....

     "To shorten my relation as much as possible, your excellency
     must know that we sailed ninety-seven days, experiencing
     harsh and cruel fortune. During forty-four days the heavens
     were in great commotion, and we had nothing but thunder and
     lightning and drenching rains. Dark clouds covered the sky,
     so that by day we could see but little better than we could
     in ordinary nights without moonshine. The fear of death came
     over us, and the hope of life almost deserted us. After all
     these heavy afflictions at last it pleased God in His mercy
     to have compassion on us and save our lives. On a sudden,
     the land appeared in view, and at the sight of it our
     courage, which had fallen very low, and our strength, which
     had become weakness, immediately revived. Thus it usually
     happens to those who have passed through great afflictions,
     and especially to those who have been preserved from the
     rage of evil fortune.

     "On the 17th of August, in the year 1501, we anchored by the
     shore of that country, and rendered to the Supreme Being our
     most sincere thanks, according to the Christian custom. The
     land we discovered did not appear to be an island, but a
     continent, as it extended far away in the distance, without
     any appearance of termination. It was beautifully fertile
     and very thickly inhabited, while all sorts of wild animals,
     which are unknown in our parts, were there found in
     abundance.... We were unanimously of the opinion that our
     navigation should be continued along this coast and that we
     should not lose sight of it. We sailed, therefore, till we
     arrived at a certain cape, which makes a turn to the south,
     and which is perhaps three hundred leagues distant from the
     place where we first saw land. In sailing this distance we
     often landed and held intercourse with the natives, and I
     have omitted to state that this newly discovered land is
     about seven hundred leagues distant from Cape Verde, though
     I was persuaded that we had sailed at least eight hundred.
     This was partly owing to a severe storm, our frequent
     accidents, and partly to the ignorance of the pilot.

     "We had arrived at a place which, if I had not possessed
     some knowledge of cosmography, by the negligence of the
     pilot would have finished the course of our lives. There was
     no pilot who knew our situation within fifty leagues, and we
     went rambling about, and should not have known whither we
     were going if I had not provided, in season for my own
     safety and that of my companions, the astrolabe and
     quadrant, my astrological instruments. On this occasion I
     acquired no little glory for myself, so that from that time
     forward I was held in such estimation by my companions as
     the learned are held in by people of quality....

     "This continent commences at eight degrees south of the
     equinoctial line, and we sailed so far along the coast that
     we passed seventeen degrees beyond the winter tropic,
     towards the antarctic pole, which was here elevated fifty
     degrees above the horizon. The things which I saw here are
     unknown to the men of our times. That is, the people, their
     customs, their humanity, the fertility of the soil, the
     mildness of the atmosphere, the celestial bodies, and, above
     all, the fixed stars of the eighth sphere, of which no
     mention has ever been made. In fact, until now they have
     never been known, even by the most learned of the ancients,
     and I shall speak of them, therefore, more particularly....
     The climate is very temperate and the country supremely
     delightful. Although it has many hills, yet it is watered by
     a great number of springs and rivers, and the forests are so
     closely studded that one cannot pass through them, on
     account of the thickly standing trees. Among these ramble
     ferocious animals of various kinds.... The country produces
     no metal except gold; and though we in this first voyage
     have brought home none, yet all the people certified to the
     fact, affirming that the region abounded in gold, and saying
     that among them it was little esteemed and nearly valueless.
     They have many pearls and precious stones, as we have
     recorded before. Now, though I should be willing to describe
     all these things particularly, yet, from the great number
     of them and their diverse nature, this history would become
     too extensive a work. Pliny, a most learned man, who
     compiled histories of many things, did not imagine the
     thousandth part of these. If he had treated of each one of
     them, he would have made a much larger but in truth a very
     perfect work....

     "If there is a terrestrial paradise in the world, it cannot
     be far from this region. The country, as I have said before,
     facing the south, has such a temperate climate that in
     winter they have no cold and in summer are not troubled with
     heat. The sky and atmosphere are seldom overshadowed with
     clouds, and the days are almost always serene. Dew sometimes
     falls, but very lightly, and only for the space of three or
     four hours, and then vanishes like mist. They have scarcely
     any vapors, and the sky is splendidly adorned with stars
     unknown to us, of which I have retained a particular
     remembrance, and have enumerated as many as twenty whose
     brightness is equal to that of Venus or Jupiter. I
     considered also their circuit and their various motions,
     and, having a knowledge of geometry, I easily measured their
     circumference and diameter, and am certain, therefore, that
     they are of much greater magnitude than men imagine. Among
     the others, I saw three _Canopi_, two being very bright,
     while the third was dim and unlike the others.

     "The antarctic pole has not the Ursa Major and Minor, which
     can be seen at our arctic pole; neither are there any bright
     stars touching the pole, but of those which revolve around
     it there are four, in the form of a quadrangle. While these
     are rising, there is seen at the left a brilliant Canopus,
     of admirable magnitude, which, having reached mid-sky, forms
     the figure of a triangle. To these succeed three other
     brilliant stars, of which the one placed in the centre has
     twelve degrees of circumference. In the midst of them is
     another brilliant Canopus. After these follow six other
     bright stars, whose splendor surpasses that of all others in
     the eighth sphere.... These are all to be seen in the Milky
     Way, and when they arrive at the meridian show the figure of
     a triangle, but have two sides longer than the other. I saw
     there many other stars, and carefully observed their various
     motions, composing a book which treats of them particularly.
     In this book I have related almost all the remarkable things
     which I have encountered in the course of my navigation, and
     with which I have become acquainted. The book is at present
     in the possession of the king, and I hope he will return it
     soon into my hands.

     "I examined some things in that hemisphere very diligently,
     which enables me to contradict the opinions of philosophers.
     Among other things, I saw the rainbow--that is, the
     celestial arch--which is white near midnight. Now, in the
     opinion of some, it takes the color of the four elements:
     the red from fire, the green from the earth, the white from
     the air, and blue from the water. Aristotle, in his book
     entitled _Meteors_, is of a very different opinion. He says:
     'The celestial arch is a repercussion of the sun's rays in
     the vapors of the clouds where they meet, as brightness
     reflected from the water upon the wall returns to itself.
     By its interposition it tempers the heat of the sun; by
     resolving itself into rain it fertilizes the earth, and by
     its splendor beautifies the heavens. It demonstrates that
     the atmosphere is filled with humidity, which will disappear
     forty years before the end of the world, which will be an
     indication of the dryness of the elements. It announces
     peace between God and man, is always opposite the sun, is
     never seen at noon, because the sun is never in the north.'

     "But Pliny says that after the autumnal equinox it appears
     every hour. This I have extracted from the _Comments of
     Landino_ on the fourth book of the _Æneid_, and I mention it
     that no man may be deprived of the fruits of his labors, and
     that due honors may be rendered to every one. I saw this bow
     two or three times; neither am I alone in my reflections
     upon this subject, for many mariners are also of my opinion.
     We saw also the new moon at mid-day, as it came into
     conjunction with the sun. There were seen also, every night,
     vapors and burning flames flashing across the sky. A little
     above, I called this region by the name of hemisphere,
     which, if we would not speak improperly, cannot be so called
     when comparing it with our own. It appeared to present that
     form only partially, and it seemed to us speaking improperly
     to call it a 'hemisphere.'

     "As I have before stated, we sailed from Lisbon--which is
     nearly forty degrees distant from the equinoctial line
     towards the north--to this country, which is fifty degrees
     on the other side of the line. The sum of these degrees is
     _ninety_, and is the fourth part of the circumference of the
     globe, according to the true reckoning of the ancients. It
     is therefore manifest to all _that we measured the fourth
     part of the earth_.[13]

     "We who reside in Lisbon, nearly forty degrees north of the
     equinoctial line, are distant from those who reside on the
     other side of the line, in angular meridional length, ninety
     degrees--that is, obliquely. In order that the case may be
     more plainly understood, I would observe that a
     perpendicular line starting from that part in the heavens
     which is our zenith strikes those obliquely who are fifty
     degrees beyond the equinoctial line: whence it appears that
     we are in the direct line, and they, in comparison with us,
     are in the oblique one, and this situation forms the figure
     of a right-angled triangle, of which we have the direct
     lines, as the figure more clearly demonstrates.

     "Such are the things which in this, my last navigation, I
     have considered worthy of being made known; nor have I,
     without reason, called this work my _Third Journey_. I have
     before composed two other books on navigation which, by
     command of Ferdinand, King of Castile, I performed in the
     West, in which many things not unworthy of being made known
     are particularly described: especially those which appertain
     to the glory of our Saviour, who, with marvellous skill,
     built this machine, the world. And, in truth, who can ever
     sufficiently praise God? I have related marvellous things
     concerning him in the aforesaid work. I have stated briefly
     that which relates to the position and ornaments of the
     globe, so that when I shall be more at leisure I may be
     able to write out, with greater care, a work upon
     cosmography, in order that future ages may bear me in
     remembrance. Such works teach me more fully, from day to
     day, to honor the Supreme God, and finally to arrive at the
     knowledge of those things with which our ancestors and the
     ancient fathers had no acquaintance. With most humble
     prayers I supplicate our Saviour, whose province it is to
     have compassion upon mortals, that he prolong my life
     sufficiently for me to perform what I have purposed to do."


[13] See Chapter XVI.




Doubtless our readers share our wish that the personality of Vespucci
could appear more strongly depicted than it has been presented in this
volume; but that is a fault, not of the biographer so much as the hero
of this biography. It must have been noticed, indeed, that Vespucci
says little or nothing of his companions on these voyages, not even
mentioning the commanders; but at the same time he makes rare mention
of himself; so we cannot ascribe it to a desire for making himself
prominent at their expense. It is simply a fault of style, or a result
of his endeavor to be concise, and bring forward the most interesting
events of the voyages and discoveries, with the least waste of time
and effort.

He was engaged in exploring new regions; his time was occupied in
noting the salient features of the scenery, the traits of the barbaric
peoples, and especially closely observing and enumerating the stars.
Astronomy was a passion with him, and he passed many nights without
sleep, during both voyages to the southern hemisphere, in rapt
contemplation of the glorious constellations. As he rightly observed
in one of his letters, his observations would surely bring him fame,
and no worthier object could claim his attention, even to the
exclusion of all other work. So it is as the self-absorbed astronomer,
the open-minded man of science, seeking to penetrate the secrets of
nature and achieve immortal fame, that we must regard our hero at this

On his return from the third voyage, Vespucci was royally received by
King Emanuel, even though he had come back almost empty-handed,
without gold or gems, silver, spices, or pearls. He had sailed farther
south than any of his predecessors, having gone beyond the latitude of
the Cape of Good Hope, discovered the beautiful bay which he called
Rio de Janeiro, and perhaps looked into the mouth of the River de la
Plata. He had not discovered the "secret of the strait"--that passage
through the land-mass which confronted all the voyagers from Columbus
to Magellan; nor was it revealed until the last-named, in 1520,
penetrated the great strait that now bears his name, and sailed
through into the Pacific.

It may be argued that not Vespucci, but another (name unknown), was
the commander of this expedition; but while this other was nominally
in command, the Florentine was the chief pilot, the navigator, and
directed the ships along their courses without mishap. In fact, one of
his biographers has pointed out that the navigating of this fleet,
especially the sailing in almost a straight line from the northern
coast of Brazil to Sierra Leone, on the northwest coast of Africa, was
a triumph of scientific navigation. There is no question that Amerigo
Vespucci was the greatest navigator of his time, and a recognition of
this fact is found in his appointment by King Ferdinand, a few years
later, as the chief pilot of his kingdom.

Not alone King Emanuel and his court recognized the genius of
Vespucci, but the people of Portugal and of Florence. He was received
in Lisbon with transports of enthusiasm, and one of his ships, which
had worn itself out in the voyage, was dismantled, "and portions of it
were carried in solemn procession to a church, where they were
suspended as precious relics." His fame extended far and wide, and in
Florence, the city of his birth, public ceremonies were held, and
honors bestowed upon his family.

He returned to Lisbon in September, 1502, and eight months later, at
the urgent request of the king, started on another voyage in
continuation of the last, in the hope of finally finding a strait
through the continent by which India might be reached. About this time
two events took place which are worthy of note. His patron, Lorenzo,
died in June, 1503, and a year later a Latin version of his letter to
him was published under the title _Mundus Novus_, or New World.

We must not lose sight of this title and this publication, for (as
will be more fully explained in a succeeding chapter) they had much to
do with the future defamation of Vespucci. He, it will be observed,
was pursuing his voyage to, or from, that "New World," while that
little quarto of only four leaves, with its significant title, was
being printed and circulated in Europe. Both Vespucci and Columbus
were then absent from Europe, and both engaged in a desperate struggle
with adverse elements, at the time this pamphlet was published: the
one on the coast of Brazil, the other on his last voyage to the West
Indies, in which he suffered shipwreck and nearly perished of

Both Columbus and Vespucci were innocent of promulgating this title,
or this pamphlet, except that the latter had used the term "new world"
as possibly applying to his discoveries in the south Atlantic. But,
while they were perilling their lives in the service of their
sovereigns, each striving for a common goal, though neither envious of
the other, capricious Fame was weaving a web in which both were to be
enmeshed, and from which Vespucci was not to escape until after the
lapse of centuries.

The inscription in this pamphlet states: "The interpreter Giocondo
translated this letter from the Italian into the Latin language, that
all who are versed in the latter may learn how many wonderful things
are being discovered every day, and that the temerity of those who
want to probe the Heavens and their majesty, and to know more than is
allowed to know, be confounded: as, notwithstanding the long time
since the world began to exist, the vastness of the earth and what it
contains is still unknown."

This inscription meant that Vespucci's letter had opened the eyes of
even the clerics to the fact that there was much in the world then
undiscovered, and existing contrary to their preconceived notions. The
interpreter was a Dominican friar of erudition for his times, one
Giovanni Giocondo, an eminent mathematician of Verona, and an
architect, who was then living in Paris, where, it is said, he was
engaged in building the bridge of Notre Dame. It was a Giocondo, and
perhaps this same man, who was sent by King Emanuel to persuade
Vespucci to enlist in his service (as told by him on page 170); but
whether the same, or one of his family, he was intimately acquainted
with the famous Florentines, including Vespucci, the Medici, and Piero
Soderini. He, doubtless, saw the letters written by Vespucci when in
manuscript, and condensed them into his narration, giving full credit
to the author in his publication. He was the unconscious cause of an
injustice to Columbus, perhaps, and also of undue prominence being
given to the name of Amerigo Vespucci, for it was through the issue of
his book that, in a roundabout way, the appellation _America_ came to
be bestowed upon the western continents.

We will elaborate this argument in another chapter; but (requesting
the reader meanwhile to retain these premises in his mind) we will
first follow Vespucci on his fourth, and last, important voyage to the
southern hemisphere. In a passage appended to the letter quoted in the
previous chapter, and which we herewith reproduce, Vespucci says:

     "My three journeys I think I shall defer writing about in
     full until another time. Probably when I have returned safe
     and sound to my native country, with the aid and counsel of
     learned men, and the encouragement of friends, I shall write
     with care a larger work than this. Your excellency [Lorenzo
     de Medici] will pardon me for not having sent you the
     journals which I kept from day to day in this my last
     navigation, as I had promised to do. The king has been the
     cause of it, and he still retains my manuscripts. But,
     since, I have delayed performing this work until the present
     day, perhaps I shall add a _fourth journey_; for I
     contemplate going again to explore that southern part of the
     New World, and for the purpose of carrying out such
     intention two vessels are already armed, equipped, and
     supplied with provisions. I shall first go eastward, before
     making the voyage south; I shall then sail to the southwest,
     and when arrived there shall do many things for the praise
     and glory of God, the benefit of my country, the perpetual
     memory of my name, and particularly for the honor and solace
     of my old age, which has nearly come upon me.

     "There is nothing wanting in this affair but the leave of
     the king, and when this is obtained, as it soon will be, we
     shall sail on a long voyage; and may it please God to give
     it a happy termination!"

This voyage was undertaken in the spring, or early summer, of 1503,
and extended over twelve months, only terminating with the return to
Lisbon on June 18, 1504. It was, perhaps, the least satisfactory of
any Vespucci had undertaken, and his disgust is plainly apparent in
the following account of it, contained in a letter to Piero Soderini,
written in Lisbon a few months after his return:

     "It remains for me to relate the things which were seen by
     me in my fourth voyage; and by reason that I have now become
     wearied, and also because this voyage did not result
     according to my wishes (in consequence of a misfortune
     which happened in the Atlantic Sea), I shall endeavor to be

     "We set sail from this port of Lisbon, six ships in company,
     for the purpose of making discoveries with regard to an
     island in the east called Malacca, which is reported very
     rich. It is, as it were, the warehouse of all the ships
     which come from the Sea of Ganges and the Indian Ocean, as
     Cadiz is the storehouse for all ships that pass from east to
     west, and from west to east, by way of Calcutta. This
     Malacca is farther east, and much farther south, than
     Calcutta, because we know that it is situated at the
     parallel of three degrees north latitude.

     "We set out on the 10th of May, 1503, and sailed directly
     for the Cape Verde Islands, where we made up our cargo,
     taking in every kind of refreshment. After remaining here
     three days, we departed on our voyage, sailing in a
     southerly direction. Our superior captain [Coelho] was a
     presumptuous and very obstinate man; he would insist upon
     going to reconnoitre Sierra Leone, a southern country of
     Ethiopia, without there being any necessity for it, unless
     to exhibit himself as the captain of six vessels. He acted
     contrary to the wishes of all our captains in pursuing this
     course. Sailing in this direction, when we arrived off the
     coast of this country we had such bad weather that though we
     remained in sight of the coast four days, it did not permit
     us to land. We were compelled at length to leave the
     country, sailing from there to the south, and bearing

     "When we had sailed three hundred leagues through the Great
     Sea, being then three degrees south of the equinoctial line,
     land was discovered, which might have been twenty-two
     leagues distant from us, and which we found to be an island
     in the midst of the sea. We were filled with wonder at
     beholding it, considering it a natural curiosity, as it was
     very high, and not more than two leagues in length by one in
     width. This island was not inhabited by any people, and was
     an evil island for the whole fleet, because, by the evil
     counsel and bad management of our superior captain, he lost
     his ship here. He ran her upon a rock, and she split open
     and went to the bottom, on the night of the 10th of August,
     and nothing was saved from her except the crew. She was a
     carrack of three hundred tons, and carried everything of
     most importance in the fleet.

     "As the whole fleet was compelled to labor for the common
     benefit, the captain ordered me to go with my ship to the
     aforesaid island and look for a good harbor, where all the
     ships might anchor. As my boat, filled with nine of my
     mariners, was of service, and helped to keep up a
     communication between the ships, he did not wish me to take
     it, telling me they would bring it to me at the island. So I
     left the fleet, as he ordered me, without a small boat, and
     with less than half my men, and went to the said island,
     about four leagues distant. There I found a very good
     harbor, where all the ships might have anchored in perfect
     safety. I waited for the captain and the fleet full eight
     days, but they never came; so that we were very much
     dissatisfied, and the people who remained with me in the
     ship were in such great fear that I could not console them.
     On the eighth day we saw the ship coming, off at sea, and
     for fear those on board might not see us, we raised anchor
     and went towards it, thinking they might bring me my boat
     and men. When we arrived alongside, after the usual
     salutations, they told us that the captain had gone to the
     bottom, that all the crew had been saved, and that my boat
     and men remained with the fleet, which had gone farther to
     sea. This was a grievous thing to us, as your magnificence
     may well think, for it was no trifle to find ourselves far
     distant from Lisbon, in mid-ocean, with so few men. However,
     we bore up under adverse fortune, and, returning to the
     island, supplied ourselves with wood and water, using the
     boat of my consort.

     "This island we found uninhabited. It had plenty of fresh
     water, and an abundance of trees filled with countless
     numbers of land and marine birds, which were so simple that
     they suffered themselves to be taken with the hand. We took
     so many that we loaded a boat with them. We saw no other
     animals, except some very large rats, some snakes, and
     lizards with two tails. Having taken in our supplies we
     departed for the southwest, as we had an order from the king
     that if any vessel of the fleet, or its captain, should be
     lost, I should make for the land of my last voyage. We
     discovered a harbor which we called the bay of All Saints,
     and it pleased God to give us such good weather that we
     arrived at it in seventeen days. It was distant three
     hundred leagues from the island we had left, and we found
     neither our captain nor any other ship of the fleet in the
     course of the voyage. We waited full two months and four
     days in this harbor, and, seeing that no orders came for us,
     we agreed, my consort and myself, to run along the coast. We
     sailed two hundred and sixty leagues farther and arrived at
     a harbor, where we determined to build a fortress. This we
     accomplished, and left in it the twenty-four men that my
     consort had received from the captain's ship that was lost.

     "In this port we stayed five months, building the fortress
     and loading our ships with dye-woods. We could not proceed
     farther for want of men, and besides, I was destitute of
     many equipments. Thus, having finished our labors, we
     determined to return to Portugal, leaving the twenty-four
     men in the fortress, with provisions for six months, with
     twelve pieces of cannon, and many other arms. We made peace
     with all the people of the country--who have not been
     mentioned in this voyage, but not because we did not see and
     treat with a great number of them. As many as thirty men of
     us went forty leagues inland, where we saw so many things
     that I omit to relate them, reserving them for my _Four

     "This country is situated eighteen degrees south of the
     equinoctial line, and fifty-seven degrees farther west than
     Lisbon, as our instruments showed us. All this being
     performed, we bade farewell to the Christians we left behind
     us, and to the country, and commenced our navigation on a
     northeast course, with the intention of sailing directly to
     this city of Lisbon. In seventy-seven days, after many toils
     and dangers, we entered this port on the 18th of June,
     1504--for which God be praised! We were well received,
     although altogether unexpected, as the whole city had given
     us up for lost. All the other ships of the fleet had been
     lost, through the pride and folly of our commander, and thus
     it is that God rewards haughtiness and vanity.

     "At present, I find myself here in Lisbon again, and I do
     not know what the king wishes me to do, but I am very
     desirous of obtaining repose. The bearer of this, who is
     Benvenuto di Domenico Benvenuti, will tell your magnificence
     of my condition, and of any other things which have been
     omitted, to avoid prolixity, but which I have seen and
     experienced. I have abbreviated the letter as much as I
     could, and omitted to say many things very natural to be
     told, that I might not be tedious.

     "Allow me to commend to you Sr. Antonio Vespucci, my
     brother, and all my family. I remain, praying God that he
     may prolong your life, and prosper that exalted republic of

                      "Your very humble servant,
                                "AMERIGO VESPUCCI.

     "_Lisbon, 4th September, 1504._"

This was the last letter, so far as we can ascertain, written by
Vespucci concerning his voyages--or, at least, the last that has been
brought to light; though it is hoped that his manuscript journals, to
which he repeatedly refers, may yet be found. They are, doubtless,
buried in the secret archives of either the crown of Portugal or of
Spain, as at different times he alludes to them as being in the hands
of the kings, from whom he hopes to receive them at their pleasure.
Both King Emanuel and King Ferdinand held Vespucci in great esteem;
but, as consideration for their subjects, whether high or low, never
entered their minds, they probably retained the manuscripts for years,
and eventually these precious documents may have been buried beneath
the vast accumulation of papers relating to the voyages and
discoveries in both hemispheres.

Vespucci was in error respecting the remaining ships of the fleet
engaged in his fourth voyage, for a few months later they came back to
Lisbon in a shattered condition, but, so far as known, with their
crews intact. They had sailed farther to the south than Vespucci went
on this voyage, probably as far as the mouth of the great river La
Plata, which Solis has the credit of discovering a few years later. It
had been learned by that time that the coasts brought to view by the
constantly lengthening voyages into the south were situated to the
west of the great line of demarcation separating the discoveries of
Spain and Portugal, and hence belonged to the former. This fact has a
bearing upon the departure of Vespucci and other noted captains from
Portugal about this time, as, if they would pursue these explorations
to their logical conclusion, they must enlist beneath the banner of
King Ferdinand. Hence we find our hero, towards the end of 1504, once
again in Spain, and in high favor with the king.




The summer of 1504 Vespucci passed in Portugal, attending to matters
connected with his last voyage, which had such an unsatisfactory
ending; but in the latter part of that year we find him once again in
Seville. It is presumed he was warmly welcomed by his wife, after this
long absence of nearly four years; but nothing exists at all to
indicate his marital relations, and so far as furnishing material for
his biographers is concerned, he might as well have remained single
all his life. In point of fact, Amerigo Vespucci, though sterling in
his friendships, ardent and even affectionate, was a true celibate. He
was wedded to Science, his whole nature was absorbed by the pursuits
to which he had, perhaps fortuitously, devoted his maturer years. If
we contrast him with Columbus, in respect to the higher qualities of
his character, we cannot but be impressed by the difference between
these two, for, while the latter was weak, impressionable, if not
passionate, the former was strong, flawless in his morals, devoted
ever to the star-eyed goddess in whose service he had enlisted for

He was humane, generous, unselfish, while Columbus, though of more
heroic proportions than his rival, was at times selfish, ungenerous,
cruel--as witness his treatment of the Pinzons, his claiming the
reward for the discovery of land, which rightly belonged to Rodrigo de
Triana, his massacres of Indians in Hispaniola and enslavement of the
survivors. Against Amerigo Vespucci no such charges of immorality,
cruelty, and bigotry can be brought as against Columbus, and the sole
accusation against him, of falsifying the date of his "first" voyage,
has not been sustained by the evidence.

His eulogist, Canovai, says of him, in somewhat extravagant terms:
"Behold the transport of that lively emulation which springs from the
indisputable consciousness of talents, and is nourished by the pure
and delicate essence of virtue, which shines uncontaminated in every
footstep of the hero. It seems enmity, but is laudable strife; it
seems envy, but is a generous ambition. If Columbus had found rivals
and enemies resembling Amerigo, I should not see, as now, the
magnificent scene of his triumph so suddenly changed into mourning and
horror, the gloomy night of ignominy and mockery succeed the brief
light of ephemeral happiness, and that invincible leader, who
redoubled the power and dominions of ungrateful Castile, groaning
under the weight of infamous chains, while he asks for nothing but
liberty to carry her arms to the most distant shores of the West.

"Go now, and turning your eyes from the atrocious metamorphosis,
exclaim it is chance--it is fate; arbitrary sounds and sterile
syllables, with which no distinct idea can ever be associated. Alas!
are there not imperceptible threads by which a regulating hand guides
us through a crooked labyrinth from causes to effects, and prepares in
silence the events of the universe? Prostrated by implacable
vengeance, and despoiled of the exclusive right to discoveries and
honors, Columbus pines in inaction; but no new columns of Hercules,
beyond which the pilot dares not pass, stand erect before the shores
of Mexico. Amerigo Vespucci reunites the web of fortunate events.
Amerigo succeeds Columbus!"

In simpler diction, Columbus brought all his troubles upon himself. He
dared much, but he demanded more than he was, by merit of mere
achievement, entitled to receive. He was constantly warring for
his alleged rights--with the king, with Fonseca, with his
fellow-explorers, and especially with such commanders of ships
or expeditions as might by their discoveries belittle his
accomplishments. Hence resulted untold misery to the natives of the
New World, consequent upon the crushing despotism he inaugurated in
order to gain gold with which to vindicate himself to his sovereigns.
Hence came Bodadilla and Ovando, sent out to investigate his doings,
one of whom despatched him in fetters to Spain, and the other hastened
the extinction of the Indians, already begun by Columbus himself.

The aggressive insistence of Columbus in the matter of honors and
privileges, which were in their nature but temporary, are in decided
contrast to the modesty and simplicity of Vespucci, who indeed was
ambitious to acquire an honorable name which should be "the comfort
and solace of his old age," but who, "by his quiet and unobtrusive
manners, made friends even among his rivals." He was scrupulously
regardful of the rights of others, treating the helpless natives with
especial tenderness. This statement may seem to be disproved by the
fact that on two of his voyages he took home gangs of Indians to be
sold as slaves; but it is not known that he himself was responsible
for this, as he was not the real commander of the expeditions, though
the actual scientific head and navigator.

He was as deeply devout as Columbus himself, always rendering thanks
to the Almighty for His favors, but was by no means a fanatic in
religion. While Columbus ascribes his discoveries to the especial
favor of some particular saint, on occasions, or his deliverance from
danger to the direct interposition of Providence, Vespucci makes no
such superstitious claims for himself, though acknowledging his
dependence upon God and expressing gratitude for divine support. He
believed, evidently, in the precept of the Golden Rule--"Do unto
others as you would have them do to you"; and this, alas, cannot be
said of Christopher Columbus. Though he married late in life, and had
no children of his own, Vespucci "was full of affectionate feeling for
his family, as his care and attention to the education and advancement
of his nephew, and his memory of relatives in Florence, from whom he
had been so long absent, amply testify."

Finally, the structure which Columbus fain would have raised has
crumbled to ruins, while that built by Vespucci, who labored without
thought of himself, or hope of reward, has been strengthened by the
lapse of time, and will stand so long as the world endures. Vespucci
humbled himself, and was exalted, for the name bestowed upon the
hemisphere which these two were instrumental in revealing to Europe
was suggested by utter strangers to the Florentine--men of penetrating
mind, who perceived an eternal fitness in calling it _America_.

These reflections arise from the fact that, soon after the return of
Vespucci to Seville, he met, and was probably entertained by,
Christopher Columbus. The old Admiral had but recently returned from
his fourth and last voyage to the West Indies, where he had escaped
death by a miracle, and had suffered humiliation at the hands of the
atrocious Ovando. He had come back to Spain to find his friend and
protectress, Isabella, on a bed of death; to encounter the ingratitude
of Ferdinand and meet the charges of his enemies. He was never to make
another voyage until he embarked on that last long journey into the
world unknown.

Broken in fortune, worn by the ills of advancing age, crushed beneath
the calumnies of his foes, Columbus felt the end approaching,
probably, and perhaps looked upon Vespucci as, in a sense, his
successor. At least he perceived that the latter's star was in the
ascendant, for he knew him as a friend of King Ferdinand, who,
mistrustful ever of the man who had discovered a new empire for him to
rule, yet was inclined to favor Vespucci, whose sterling qualities he
appreciated. He had always liked the Florentine for his manly, modest
bearing, his sturdy good sense, his industry, patience, erudition, and
eminent abilities in general. Here was a man who made voyages by which
the pathways were opened to new countries, without stipulating in
advance that he should be rewarded with the admiralty of the Ocean
Sea, without bargaining for the viceroyship of the countries he
discovered, or for a tenth of all their resources and trade. He seemed
to have no thought of himself, so absorbed was he in performing a work
which, he had every reason to believe, would redound to the honor of
the land he was born in and the sovereigns he served.

He had, to be sure, carried his talents to a rival sovereign, and
served him as faithfully as he had King Ferdinand; but the latter bore
him no ill-will for that. It is not certain, in truth, that he had not
connived at Vespucci's entering the service of Portugal for a time,
as, in view of his return to Spain, he received all the benefit of his
experience. It was by means of Vespucci's voyage, most probably, that
it was definitely ascertained how far Portugal had encroached upon
territory assigned by the pope to her great rival, Spain. Deep and
crafty was the diplomacy of King Ferdinand, and it is within the
bounds of probability that he himself sent the silent, observant,
faithful Vespucci to take service with King Emanuel for a season.

The overlapping voyages of Vespucci and Pinzon, in 1499, 1500, 1501,
and 1503, had decided the question of sovereignty in South America--at
least its northern coasts--in favor of Spain. These two, then, were
soon commissioned by Ferdinand to equip a fleet, of which they were to
be the joint commanders. This fleet was to sail for Brazil, and
thence, after establishing colonies, or forts, continue the
explorations they had severally so auspiciously begun. On April 11,
1505 (it is on record), the king made Vespucci a grant of twelve
thousand maravedis, and on the 24th of the same month letters of
naturalization were issued in his behalf, "in consideration of Amerigo
Vespucci's fidelity, and his many valuable services to the crown."

Before proceeding to relate the story of Vespucci's renewed service
with King Ferdinand, let us, however, return to the subject of his
intercourse with Columbus, with whom, as there is strong evidence in
proof, he was on terms of intimate friendship. This proof is found in
a letter written by Columbus, at a time (as already mentioned) when he
was in disfavor at court, and after his return from the last and most
unfortunate voyage. It furnishes evidence of the most positive
character that Vespucci and Columbus did not consider themselves as
rivals, but were actually on the best of terms. It was written nearly
a year after the first publication of Vespucci's letter to Lorenzo de
Medici, alluded to in the previous chapter; yet the relations between
the two discoverers were such as might have existed between men united
by fraternal ties.

     "_To my very dear Son, Don Diego Columbus--at the Court._

     "MY DEAR SON,--"Diego Mendez departed from this place on
     Monday, the 3d of this month. After his departure I held
     converse with Amerigo Vespucci, the bearer of this letter,
     who goes to court on some business connected with
     navigation. He has always been _desirous of serving me, and
     is an honorable man_, though fortune has been unpropitious
     to him, as to many others; and his labors have not been as
     profitable as he deserves. He goes on my account, and with a
     great desire to do something which may redound to my
     advantage, if it is in his power.

     "I know not here what instructions to give him that will
     benefit me, because I am ignorant of what will be required
     there; but he goes determined to do for me all that is
     possible. See what can be done to advantage there, and labor
     for it, that he may know and speak of everything, and devote
     himself to the work; and let everything be done with
     secrecy, that no suspicions may arise. I have said to him
     all that I can say touching the business, and have informed
     him of all payments which have been made me, and what is

     "This letter is also intended for the adelantado [Don
     Bartholomew, Christopher's brother], that he may avail
     himself of any advantage and advice on the subject. His
     highness believes that the ships were in the best and
     richest portion of the Indies, and if he desires to know
     anything more on the subject, I will satisfy him by word of
     mouth, for it is impossible for me to tell him by letter.

     "May the Lord have you in His holy keeping.

     "Done at Seville, the 5th of February, 1505.

     "Thy father, who loves thee better than himself,
                          CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS.
                       "S. A. S.
                       "X. M. Y.
                     "Xpo. Ferens."

This precious document was found in the archives of Spain by
Navarrete, whose volumes constitute a veritable mine of Spanish
history. The superscription at the foot of the letter was adopted by
Columbus after he became a "Don," and is supposed to mean: "Servus,
Supplex Altissimi Salvatori; Christus, Maria, Josephus"; or, in
English: "Humble Servant of the most high Saviour; Christ, Mary,
Joseph." The original letter is contained in the collection of an
indirect descendant of Columbus, the Duke of Veragua. It bears ample
testimony to the important fact that, while the great Columbus was not
permitted to present himself at court, his friend Vespucci not only
had access to the throne but strong influence there.




If Vespucci had been as heedful of posthumous fame as Columbus, who
lost no opportunity for trumpeting his deeds to the world, we should
be better prepared to present a continuous narrative of his life than
it is possible to gather from the fragmentary material he has left
behind him. "The transactions of Vespucci at court," says Mr. Fiske,
the eminent historian, "and the nature of the maritime enterprises
that were set on foot or carried to completion during the next few
years, are to be gathered chiefly from old account-books, contracts,
and other business documents, unearthed by the indefatigable
Navarrete, and printed in his great collection.... Unfortunately,
account-books and legal documents, having been written for other
purposes than the gratification of the historian, are--like the
'geological record'--imperfect. Too many links are missing, to enable
us to determine with certainty just how the work was shared among
these mariners (Vespucci, La Cosa, Pinzon, and Solis), or just how
many voyages were undertaken. But it is clear that the first
enterprise contemplated (by King Ferdinand) was a voyage by Pinzon, in
company with either Solis or Vespucci, or both, for the purpose of
finding an end to the continent or a passage into the Indian Ocean.
What Vespucci had failed to do in his last voyage for Portugal, he now
proposed to do in a voyage for Spain."

While the large fleet for this purpose was being prepared, it is
believed, Vespucci and La Cosa made two voyages, one in 1505 and
another in 1507, to Darien and the Pearl Coast, which resulted more
profitably to them than any others they had undertaken. As these
voyages were simply for commercial purposes, and as Vespucci seems to
have held in contempt the mere acquisition of riches, especially when
the promotion of discovery was not the aim of his expeditions, he
makes no mention of them whatever. In truth, but for the finding of
two letters, sent to the Venetian senate by its diplomatic agents in
Spain, dated 1505 and 1507, these fifth and sixth voyages of Vespucci
would have been overlooked entirely. The omission illustrates his
carelessness in respect to the chronicling of his deeds, his
heedlessness as to fame and glory. As one of his eulogists truly says:
"In none of his writings does Vespucci claim for himself advancement,
honor, or emolument, nor does he seek to delude his patrons with
visions of untold wealth. His letters are the easy effusions of a
great mind filled with admiration at the fertile regions, balmy
climate, and primitive races of the New World. Ever modest, he merges
himself in the greatness of his undertaking; and if the civilized
world with one accord gave his name to the regions he was the first in
modern times to visit, it was a tribute which it deemed just and paid

Owing to the protests of Portugal, it is thought, the great fleet
intended for the extension of discovery along the southern coast of
Brazil was dispersed and its vessels diverted to other seas. Vespucci
had been active in its equipment, and during the uncertainty existing
in Spain after the death of Queen Isabella, and the consequent
derangement of affairs at court, he appears prominently in the
business. He was despatched to court by the board of trade of Seville,
especially commissioned to extricate them from the dilemma in which
they found themselves: unable to determine whether they were to act in
the name of the crazy princess, Juana, her foreign consort, Philip, or
the old king, Ferdinand. In order to be able to meet any emergency,
Vespucci was furnished with three different letters and sets of
instructions. "You will take," wrote the president of the board of
trade to Amerigo, "three letters: for the king, Vila, his grand
chamberlain, and the secretary, Gricio, besides five memorials: one
upon the despatch of the armament, two others received from Hispaniola
concerning the tower which King Ferdinand commanded to be built upon
the Pearl Coast, and the remaining two upon the caravels which are on
service in Hispaniola, and concerning what things are necessary for
the fortress which is building there. If Gricio is at court, and
attends to the affairs of the Indies, give him the letter, show him
the memorials, and he will guide you to the ear of the king and obtain
for you good despatch. We are informed, however, that the king has
intrusted the business of the Indies to M. de Vila, his grand
chamberlain, and if that is the case go directly to him. What we
principally desire is a full understanding of the agreement which has
been entered into between the king, our lord (Philip, the consort of
Juana Loca), and King Ferdinand, in order that we may be able to give
to each prince that which is his."

Without going further into the affairs of court at this period--merely
pausing to remark that after the death of Philip the old king soon
extricated his kingdom from the state of embarrassment into which it
had been plunged--we cannot but note that Amerigo Vespucci must have
been a man of weight and influence to be selected for such a mission.
It was a visit to the court previous to this which Columbus had in
mind when he gave him the letter to his son Don Diego. The biographer
of Columbus, Mr. Irving, has tried to make it appear that he was used
by Columbus to further his own ends, for he says: "Among the persons
whom Columbus employed at this time in his missions to the court was
Amerigo Vespucci. He describes him as a worthy but unfortunate man,
who had not profited as much as he deserves by his undertakings, and
who had always been disposed to render him a service. His object in
employing him appears to have been to prove the value of his last
voyage, and that he had been in the most opulent parts of the New
World, Vespucci having since touched upon the same coast, in a voyage
with Alonzo de Ojeda."

Now, this amiable apologist, in his persistent efforts to thrust
Amerigo Vespucci into positions subordinate to Columbus, defeats his
own purpose and disparages his own hero, for by his very words can he
be discredited. He himself says: "The incessant applications of
Columbus [at court], both by letter and by the intervention of
friends, appear to have been listened to with cool indifference. No
compliance was yielded to his requests, and no deference paid to his
opinions.... In short, he was not in any way consulted in the affairs
of the New World."

And this was at about the time that Amerigo Vespucci was intrusted
with most important business at court by the board of trade of
Seville; about the time that he was called to court and highly
honored by the king; just before the time that he was made captain of
a fleet, with a salary of thirty thousand maravedis per annum. There
was, in truth, no man in the employ of Spain more highly regarded than
Vespucci for his talents, for his honesty, for his loyalty to the
government. At the settlement of accounts pertaining to the fleet
which had been intended for South America, more than five million
maravedis passed through his hands--and he was never charged with
having diverted a single centavo to himself.

Nothing can so abundantly testify to the respect in which Vespucci was
held as his relations with King Ferdinand. While he has the unique
honor of being almost the only man that Columbus never quarrelled
with, it is also to his credit that he acquired, and retained to the
last, the respect and confidence of the king. Ferdinand was always
mistrustful of Columbus, and with good reason, but never refused
Vespucci a favor--if he asked one--or hesitated to give him an
audience. The reason was, most probably, that, aside from his
deceitfulness (which was a quality the crafty Ferdinand could tolerate
in no one but himself), Columbus was constantly importuning him for
further honors and emoluments; while Vespucci rarely, if ever, craved
glory or riches for himself. Nothing came of Vespucci's intercession
at court for Columbus, and soon the latter dropped out of sight. He
died in 1506, utterly neglected by the court and king, and in such
obscurity that he was unnoticed in the local annals of the day.

In the mean time, Amerigo Vespucci was at the height of his career,
trusted by the sovereign and honored by all with whom he came in
contact. On the return of King Ferdinand to absolute power in Spain,
through the death of his son-in-law Philip and the regency for his
insane daughter Juana, he called Vespucci and La Cosa to court in
order to consult with them respecting nautical affairs and future
discoveries. In February, 1508, Vespucci, Pinzon, and Solis, who,
together with La Cosa, were then the most highly honored navigators in
Spanish employ, were charged with the safe conduct to the king's
treasury of six thousand ducats in gold, for which service they
received six thousand maravedis each.

Another consultation was held with the king, whose favorable opinion
of Vespucci was so strengthened that the year following he created for
him the office of pilot-major, as the most eminent navigator in his
kingdom. This position was given him in March, 1508, and from that
time till his death, in February, 1512, he received a salary of
seventy-five thousand maravedis per annum. He was charged to examine
and instruct all pilots in the use of the astrolabe "to ascertain
whether their practical knowledge equalled their theoretical, and also
to revise maps, and to make one of the new lands which should be
regarded as the standard.... He was to correct the errors carried into
the charts by the teachings and the maps of Columbus and others. The
inaccuracy of the Columbus charts was so notorious that their use was
subsequently prohibited, and a penalty imposed upon the pilot who
should sail by them." Vespucci was at the head of a government
department pertaining to pilotage, navigation, and charts. It was then
unique in the world, and the weight of authority behind it was adverse
to the use of charts made by Columbus; notwithstanding which Mr.
Irving says: "When the passion for maritime discovery was seeking to
facilitate its enterprises, the knowledge and skill of an able
cosmographer like Columbus would be properly appreciated, and the
superior correctness [?] of his maps and charts would give him
notoriety among men of science."

The importance of this position created for Vespucci will appear from
the royal order, or commission, which reads: " ... We command that all
pilots of our kingdom and lordships, who now are, shall henceforward
be, or desire to be, pilots on the routes to the said islands and
terra firma which we hold in the Indies, and other parts of the ocean
sea, shall be instructed in and possess all necessary knowledge of the
use of the quadrant and astrolabe; and in order that they may unite
practice with theory, and profit thereby in the said voyages which
they may make to the said lands, they shall not be able to embark as
pilots in the said vessels, nor receive wages for pilotage, nor shall
merchants be able to negotiate with them as such, nor captains receive
them aboard their ships, without their _having been first examined by
you, Amerigo Despuchi_, our pilot-major, and received from you a
certificate of examination and approbation, certifying that they are
possessed, each one, of the knowledge aforesaid; holding which
certificate, we commend that they be held and received as expert
pilots, wherever they shall show themselves--for it is our will and
pleasure that you should be examiner of said pilots. And that those
who do not possess the required knowledge shall the more easily
acquire it, we command that you shall instruct, at your residence in
Seville, all such as shall be desirous of learning and remunerating
you for the trouble.... And as it has been told us that there are many
different charts, by different captains, of the lands and islands of
the Indies belonging to us, which charts differ greatly from each
other--therefore, that there may be order in all things, it is our
will and pleasure that a standard chart shall be made; and that it may
be the more correct, we command the officers of our board of trade in
Seville to call an assembly of our most able pilots that shall at that
time be in the country, and, in the presence of you, Amerigo Despuchi,
our pilot-major, there shall be planned and drawn a chart of all the
lands and islands of the Indies, which have hitherto been discovered
belonging to our kingdom; and upon this consultation, subject to the
approval of you, our pilot-major, a standard chart shall be drawn
which shall be called the Royal Chart, by which all pilots must direct
and govern themselves. This shall remain in the possession of our said
officers, and of you, our said pilot-major; and no pilot shall use any
other chart, without incurring a penalty of fifty doubloons, to be
paid to the board of trade in the city of Seville.... And it is our
will and pleasure that, in virtue of the above, you, the said Amerigo
Despuchi, shall use and exercise the said functions of our
pilot-major, and shall be able to do, and shall do, all things
pertaining to that office contained in this our letter."[14]

The remainder of Amerigo Vespucci's life may almost be summed up in
the statement that he held this responsible post during the four years
succeeding to his appointment, for he received his commission on March
22, 1508, and died on February 22, 1512. It was an onerous position,
"and his appointment to it by Ferdinand was the highest proof of the
estimation in which he was held by that monarch that could have been
bestowed upon him." It was a recognition of his supereminent
qualities, as cosmographer and navigator, at a time when Spanish
enterprise was reaching out to every part of the western world; and as
he discharged its duties with fidelity and skill, confining himself
closely to his desk, no leisure was afforded him for further voyaging,
for writing out the long-deferred accounts of his travels, or for
recreation of any sort. He made one short visit to Florence, where he
was received with honor, as the most distinguished son of a city
world-famous for its great men, and where the portrait was painted
which has been universally accepted as authentic, representing him as
advanced in years.

As already mentioned, authentic information relating to the latter
years of Vespucci is of a fragmentary character, and is contained
mainly in the official papers found in the archives of Simancas and
Seville, by Don Martin Fernandez de Navarrete, to whom the biographers
of Columbus were so deeply indebted. The date of the first of these
papers is July, 1494, and relates to payments made to Berardi, as
outfitter of the ships for the voyages of Columbus. By royal decree,
April 11, 1505, the queen's treasurer is commanded to pay to Vespucci
twelve thousand maravedis. Another decree, of March 22, 1508, grants
Vespucci, as chief pilot of the kingdom, a salary of fifty thousand
maravedis, subsequently increased to seventy-five thousand. Then
follows the royal declaration (from which we have quoted), setting
forth the duties of the pilot-major, which was issued during the
regency of the crazy queen, Juana, and addressed to "Amerigo

There is no reference to the date and place of Vespucci's death; but
this is not considered singular, in view of the fact that the demise
of Columbus was officially unnoticed at the time. There is, rather, no
direct reference; though confirmation of that event occurs in the
continuation of his accounts to the day of his death, and after, one
of which relates to the payment of ten thousand nine hundred and
thirty-seven maravedis to Manuel Catano, a canon of Seville, as the
executor of Vespucci's will, "that amount being the balance of his
salary due at the date of his death."

One of the very few references to the wife of Vespucci is contained in
a royal decree of May 22, 1512, which grants a pension for life to his
widow, Maria Cerezo, of ten thousand maravedis per annum. By a later
decree, this pension is declared a fixed charge against the salary of
the chief pilot and his successors. These were, in order of
succession, Juan Diaz de Solis and Sebastian Cabot, after whom came
others not so famous as these great navigators.

These papers are cited to show that Amerigo Vespucci was not looked
upon as an adventurer by the dignitaries of Spain; that, on the
contrary, he was held in great esteem, honored with the highest office
in the gift of the king, in which his great accomplishments could have
full scope. He filled that office with eminent ability, to the
complete satisfaction of King Ferdinand, and when he died, on February
22, 1512, he left behind a name untarnished, a reputation for probity
unsullied. Despite the honors accorded him by the kings of Spain and
Portugal, however, and the high positions he occupied, he left no
fortune for his heirs. His valuable papers were bequeathed to his
nephew, Juan Vespucci, whom he loved like a son; but his widow was
left in circumstances so straitened that she was actually dependent
upon the pension granted her by the crown.


[14] From Navarrete's _Coleccion de los Viajes y Descubrimientos_.




If, in the foregoing narrative, the author has seemed to champion his
hero unduly, going perhaps unnecessarily into the details of his
voyages, it may have been owing to anticipated opposition on the part
of his readers. There has always been a wide divergence of opinion
respecting the merits of Amerigo Vespucci, and the world has never
reconciled itself to his so-called usurpation of the glory rightly
belonging to Columbus.

Even so great a writer as Emerson allowed himself to say: "Strange
that broad America must wear the name of a thief! Amerigo Vespucci,
the pickle-dealer at Seville, who went out in 1499, a subaltern with
Hojeda, and whose highest naval rank was boatswain's mate, in an
expedition that never sailed, managed in this lying world to supplant
Columbus, and baptize half the earth with his own dishonest name!"

We, who have followed the career of Amerigo Vespucci from its
beginning to its ending, know that he was not a thief; that--except by
implication, as having been a purveyor of naval stores--he was not a
"pickle-dealer"; that he held a far higher rank than boatswain's
mate--as attested by the royal proclamation we have cited, naming him
to be chief pilot of Spain; and that, so far as the evidence of his
contemporaries and his own letters show, he made no attempt whatever
to thrust his personality upon the world.

He did not "baptize half the earth with his own dishonest name,"
though it is true that the appellation by which a hemisphere is known
to-day was derived from Americus, Amerigo, or Americo--whether we
speak it in Latin, in Italian, or in Spanish.

How comes it then, the reader may well ask, that America derived its
name from the Florentine, Vespucci, when it should, by right of
"discovery," have been called after the Genoese, Columbus? The answer
to this question involves the following of clews centuries old,
through a labyrinth of falsehood and misstatement that was built up
three hundred years ago. The first clew may be found on page 197 of
this biography, where mention is made of the translation of Vespucci's
letter to Lorenzo de Medici, by Giocondo, in 1504, and issued by him
under the title _Mundus Novus_. This letter is said to have been first
published in Lisbon and Augsburg in 1504, and in Strasburg in 1505.

Pick up this book and nail it to the wall, where it may be observed by
all, for it was the very beginning of Vespucci's posthumous troubles.
We have read the letter and known it to have been a plain, unvarnished
account of Vespucci's third voyage, in which he chanced to say that he
thought he had discovered the fourth part of the globe, and proposed
to call it _Mundus Novus_, or the New World. He was quite right, and
within bounds, when he did this, for he was thinking only of that
portion of the _southern hemisphere_ which he had found, and not of
the entire western hemisphere. He did not extend the term to cover the
northern regions, discovered by Columbus, for the latter had no idea
that they pertained to a new world; in fact--as we know--believed to
the last that they belonged to Asia or India.

"At no time during the life of Columbus, nor for some years after his
death," says a learned historian, "did anybody use the phrase 'New
World' with conscious reference to his discoveries. At the time of his
death their true significance had not yet begun to dawn upon the mind
of any voyager or any writer. It was supposed that he had found a new
route to the Indies by sailing west, and that in the course of this
achievement he had discovered some new islands," etc.

We must, then, acquit Vespucci of any intention of depriving Columbus
of his laurels, when he said he believed he had found a new world, for
he referred only to that portion of South America now known as Brazil.
Nor, so far as we know, was he either responsible for, or aware of,
the publication of his letters to Medici and Soderini--for those to
the latter were afterwards translated and printed--as he was, at that
time, on the ocean. In truth, as the letters were merely epistles to
friends, who would naturally be interested in his discoveries, and of
course overlook any defects of diction, he openly stated that he was
only waiting leisure for improving and elaborating them for issue in
pamphlet form. He never acquired this leisure, and the world, tired
of waiting, seized upon his material and brought it out in print,
without so much as saying "by your leave."

The second person to take liberties with Vespucci's name was one
Matthias Ringmann, a student in Paris, who was acquainted with Friar
Giocondo, and of course saw the _Mundus Novus_, which he published in
Strasburg in 1505. That same year he was offered the professorship of
Latin in a college at Saint-Dié, a charming little town in the Vosges
Mountains, which had long been a seat of learning. It is said to have
been strangely associated with the discovery of America, from the fact
that here was written, about 1410, the book called _Imago Mundi_,
which Columbus read and probably took to sea with him on his first
great voyage. In a double sense, this obscure town and college,
nestling in a little-known valley of the Franco-German mountains, is
known in connection with the name America, as will now be shown.

Young Professor Ringmann found at Saint-Dié a select and distinguished
company of scholars, composed of Martin Waldseemüller, professor of
geography; Jean Basin de Sendacour, canon and Latinist; Walter Lud,
secretary to Duke René, patron of literature, and especially of the
college of Saint-Dié, which was to him as the apple of his eye. He was
the reigning Duke of Lorraine, and titular "King of Sicily and
Jerusalem," but had never strayed far from his own picturesque
province, though he had won a great victory over Charles the Bold in
1477. He is, no doubt, worthy an extended biographical sketch, but in
this connection can only be referred to as the patron of these great
teachers in Saint-Dié, who, soon after the appearance of Ringmann
among them, conceived the plan of printing a new edition of _Ptolemy_.

One of them, Walter Lud, was blessed with riches, and as he had
introduced a printing-press, about the year 1500, the college was
amply equipped. So many discoveries had been made since the last
editions of _Ptolemy_ had appeared, that the Saint-Dié coterie felt
the need of new works on the subject, and sent Ringmann to Italy
hunting for the same. He, it is thought, brought back, among other
"finds" of great value, the letter written by Vespucci to Soderini
from Lisbon, in September, 1504, a certified manuscript copy of which
was made in February, 1505, and printed at Florence before midsummer,

No extended explanation is needed now to elucidate the scheme by which
Vespucci's letters were incorporated in the treatise published by
those wise men of Saint-Dié, entitled _Cosmographie Introductio_, or
"Rudiments of Geography," and taken from the press on April 25, 1507.

It was a small pamphlet, with engravings of the crudest sort, but it
made a stir in the world such as has been caused by but few books
since. But one copy of this first edition is said to be extant, and
that is in the Lenox Library, New York City. It caused a flutter in
cosmographical circles, not alone at the time of its issue, but for
centuries thereafter, for in it first occurs in print the suggestion
that the "fourth part of the world," discovered by Amerigo Vespucci,
should be called AMERICA.[15]

Professor Martin Waldseemüller was the culprit, and not Amerigo
Vespucci, for he says, in Latin, which herewith find turned into
English: "But now these parts have been more extensively explored and
_another fourth part has been discovered by Americus Vespucius_ (as
will appear in what follows): _wherefore I do not see what is rightly
to hinder us from calling it Amerige, or America--i.e., the land of
Americus, after its discoverer, Americus, a man of sagacious mind_,
since both Europe and Asia have got their names from women. Its
situation and the manners and customs of its people will be clearly
understood from the twice two voyages of Americus, which follow."

It was a suggestion, merely, and by one who was a perfect stranger to
Vespucci; but it promptly "took," for the word America was euphonious,
it seemed applicable, and, moreover, it was to be applied only to that
quarter in the southern hemisphere which had been revealed by Amerigo
Vespucci. It was a suggestion innocently made, without any sort of
communication from Amerigo himself, intended to influence the opinion
of contemporaries or the verdict of posterity.


"But for these nine lines written by an obscure geographer in a little
village of the Vosges," says Henry Harrisse, "the western hemisphere
might have been called 'The Land of the Holy Cross,' or 'Atlantis,'
or 'Columbia,' 'Hesperides,' 'Iberia,' 'New India,' or simply 'The
Indies,' as it is designated officially in Spain to this day." ... "As
it was, however," says another writer, "the suggestion by
Waldseemüller was immediately adopted by geographers everywhere; the
new land beyond the Atlantic had, by a stroke of a pen, been
christened for all time to come."

The full title of the _Cosmographie Introductio_ reads: "An
Introduction to Cosmography, together with some principles of Geometry
necessary to the purpose. Also four voyages of Americus Vespucius. A
description of universal Cosmography, both stereometrical and
planometrical, together with what was unknown to Ptolemy and has been
recently discovered."

Notwithstanding the name was "promptly adopted" by the geographers, at
the same time it "came slowly into use," for geographical knowledge
was then in an inchoate state, especially as respected the New World.
It is said to have first appeared on a map ascribed to Leonardo da
Vinci in 1514; but in a pamphlet accompanying "the earliest known
globe of Johann Schöner," made in 1515, the new region is described as
the "fourth part of the globe named after its discoverer, Americus
Vespucius, who found it in 1497." Vespucci did not find it, and he
never made the claim that he discovered more than is given in his
letters; but this misstatement by another caused him to be accused of
falsifying the dates of his voyages in order to rob Columbus of his

It will be perceived, however, that the name was not applied at first
to the entire land masses of America, but merely to that portion now
known as Brazil, called by Cabral "_Terra Sanctæ Crucis_," or "Land of
the Holy Cross," and by Vespucci, who continued his explorations,
"_Mundus Novus_." Further than this Vespucci never went, and,
moreover, he passed away "before his name was applied to the new
discoveries on any published map." He was living, of course, when the
_Cosmographie_ appeared, and may have seen a copy of the book; but the
argument advanced by some that he dedicated this work to Duke René of
Lorraine, and hence must have written it, falls to the ground when
that dedication is examined. The worthy canon who translated
Vespucci's letter to Soderini into Latin, copied the dedication in the
original, which was addressed to "His Magnificence, Piero Soderini,
etc.," but substituted for the last-named his patron, Duke René. This
is proved by the title "His Magnificence," which was used in
addressing the Gonfaloniere of Florence, and never in connection with
Duke René of Lorraine.

It was not until near the middle of the sixteenth century that
"America" was recognized "as the established continental name," when,
after Mexico had been conquered by Cortés, Peru by Pizarro, and the
Pacific revealed by Balboa and Magellan, it first appears on the great
Mercator map of 1541. The appellation "America" had superseded _Mundus
Novus_ on several maps previous to this, but only as a term applied to
restricted regions. "The stage of development," says the learned
author of the _Discovery of America_, "consisted of five distinct
steps.... 1. Americus called the regions visited by him _beyond the
equator_ a 'New World,' because they were unknown to the ancients; 2.
Giocondo made this striking phrase, _Mundus Novus_, into a title for
his translation of the letter, which he published at Paris (1504)
while the author was absent from Europe, and probably without his
knowledge; 3. The name _Mundus Novus_ got placed upon several maps as
an equivalent for _Terra Sanctæ Crucis_, or what we call Brazil; 4.
The suggestion was made that _Mundus Novus_ was the Fourth Part of the
Earth, and might properly be named America, after its discoverer; 5.
The name America thus got placed upon several maps as an equivalent
for what we call Brazil, and sometimes came to stand alone for what we
call South America, but still signified _only a part of the dry land
beyond the Atlantic to which Columbus had led the way_."

That there was no evil intention on Vespucci's part is amply proved by
the fact that, while he himself lived four years after the
_Introductio_ was published, a certain contemporary of his, one
Ferdinand Columbus, who was most acutely interested in seeing justice
done the name and deeds of his father, survived Vespucci twenty-seven
years. He not only saw this book, but owned a copy, which, according
to an autograph note on the flyleaf, he had bought in Venice in July,
1521, "for five _sueldos_." This book is still contained in the
library he founded at Seville, and as it was copiously annotated by
him, it must have been carefully read; yet, though he has the credit
of having written a life of his father, Christopher Columbus, he makes
no mention whatever of the "usurpation" by Vespucci.

Ferdinand Columbus knew the Florentine, and was an intimate friend of
his nephew, Juan Vespucci; yet the question seems never to have arisen
between them as to the great discoverers' respective shares of glory.
The explanation lies in this fact: that Vespucci's name had been
bestowed upon a region far remote from that explored by his father,
who had never sailed south of the equator. Notwithstanding the good
feeling that prevailed between them, however, long after Ferdinand's
death, when the name America had become of almost universal
application, the veteran Las Casas, in writing his great history,
marvels that the son of the old Admiral could overlook the "theft and
usurpation" of Vespucci. The old man's indignation was great, for he
was a stanch friend of Columbus, and revered his memory. He made out a
very strong case against Vespucci--being in ignorance of the manner in
which his name came to be given to the lands discovered by
Columbus--and when, in 1601, the historian Herrera, who made use of
the Las Casas manuscripts, repeated his statements as those of a
contemporary, all the world gave him credence.

Vespucci's name rested under suspicion during more than three
centuries, and was not even partially cleared until 1837, when
Alexander von Humboldt undertook the gigantic task of vindication. It
was not so much to vindicate Vespucci, however, as to ascertain the
truth, that Humboldt made the critical and exhaustive examination
which appeared in his Examen _Critique de l'Histoire de la Géographie
de Nouveau Continent_.

Even Humboldt, however, did not secure all the evidence available, but
by the discovery of valuable documents the missing links in the chain
were supplied: by Varnhagen, Vespucci's ardent eulogist, by Harrisse,
and finally by Fiske. The last-named truthfully says: "No competent
scholar anywhere will now be found to dissent from the emphatic
statement of M. Harrisse--'After a diligent study of all the original
documents, we feel constrained to say that there is not a particle of
evidence, direct or indirect, implicating Amerigo Vespucci in an
attempt to foist his name on this continent.'" And moreover, "no shade
of doubt is left upon the integrity of Vespucci. So truth is strong,
and prevails at last."

This is the conclusion arrived at by the impartial historian, who,
without disparaging the deeds of Columbus, without detracting in any
manner from his great discoveries, has restored Amerigo Vespucci to
the niche in which he was placed by the German geographers four
hundred years ago, and from which he was torn by injudicious
iconoclasts, fearful for the fame of Spain's great Admiral.

It is enough for Columbus to have discovered America; it was far more
than Amerigo Vespucci deserved to have this discovery given his name,
by which it will be known forever; but this honor, though unmerited,
was at the same time unsought.


[15] For an excellent article on Saint-Dié and the naming of America,
see _Harper's Magazine_, vol. lxxxiv., p. 909 (1892).


  Aborigines, described by Vespucci, 84-95;
    seen in Vespucci's third voyage, 180-183.

  Aguado, Juan, 151.

  Amaraca, aboriginal name of province in South America, 137.

  Amaraca-pan, the land of Amaraca, 137.

  Amazon River discovered by Pinzon, 105.

  America, may have been derived from _Amaraca_, 137;
    when bestowed upon western continents, 200;
    derivation of name, 238;
    first applied to continents in 1507, 243, 244.

  Antilla, island of, 26.

  Arno, valley of the, 1.

  Bahia Honda, reference to, 159.

  Bastidas, Rodrigo de, reference to, 130;
    expedition of, 155.

  Berardi, trading-house of, 49, 76;
    estate of Juan, 80.

  Book, the first printed in America, 32.

  Cabral, Pedro Alvarez, coasts South America, 167.

  Cannibals, giants, and pearls, chap. ix.

  Canopi seen by Vespucci, 189.

  Canovai eulogizes Vespucci, 210, 211.

  Carabi, aboriginal word, 96.

  Caravans of the desert, 47.

  Carib Indians described, 99.

  Cathay, kingdom of, 26, 29, 36, 39, 46, 50.

  Cerezo, Maria, married to Vespucci, 168, 235;
    dependent upon  pension, 237.

  Chambalu, or Peking, 38, 46, 49, 50.

  Cibao, Indian word of Haiti, 28.

  Cipango, island of, 26, 28, 30, 42, 44, 50.

  Coelho, Gonçalo, reference to, 202.

  Columbus, Christopher, compared with Toscanelli, 18;
    uses Toscanelli's chart in crossing Atlantic, 1492, 22;
    letter to, from Toscanelli, 23-27;
    adopts Toscanelli's ideas, 30;
    conversations with, chap. v.;
    personal appearance of, 63;
    second voyage of, 76;
    extravagances of, 77;
    and Bishop Fonseca, 77-79;
    and the Pinzons, 149, 150;
    in friendly rivalry with Vespucci, 198;
    and Vespucci contrasted, 210-214;
    misfortunes of, 215;
    letter written by, with reference to Vespucci, 218.

  Columbus, Diego, suit of, against the crown,  166.

  Columbus, Ferdinand, books owned by, 248;
    acquainted with Juan Vespucci, 249.

  Commerce, European, of the fifteenth century, 47, 48;
    of Spain, fifteenth century, 57, 58.

  Constellations of the southern hemisphere, 189, 190.

  Coquibacoa, coast of Venezuela, 134, 135, 158, 159.

  Cosa, Juan de la, with Columbus in Cuba, 107;
    sails with Ojeda, 129;
    the great pilot, 153;
    chart made by, in year 1500, 154;
    sails with Bastidas, 155;
    second voyage with Ojeda, 156;
    horrible death of, 157.

  _Cosmographie Introductio_, the first book containing name
    of America, 243, 245.

  Cumana, on coast of Venezuela, 132, 137.

  Curiana, or Gulf of Pearls, 132.

  Dragon's Mouth, strait of the, 132.

  Emanuel, King of Portugal, 168;
    invites Vespucci to Portugal, 169;
    receives Vespucci at court, 171;
    sends him on two voyages to the Indies, 170;
    recognizes his genius, 196, 207.

  Emerson, R. W., calls Vespucci a "thief and pickle-dealer," 237.

  _Examen Critique_, the, by Humboldt, 103, 250.

  Ferdinand, King of Spain, and Fonseca, 76;
    parts with Vespucci, 168, 169;
    diplomacy of, 216;
    prefers Vespucci to Columbus, 227;
    calls Vespucci to court, 228;
    appoints him pilot-major, 229.

  Fiske, John, explains "debatable voyage," 104;
    on Vespucci's letter of July, 1500, 109;
    quotations from, 124, 125;
    on historical records, 221.

  Florence, Vespucci's birthplace, 2, 3;
     in the Middle Ages, 12.

  Florentines, the, as merchants in fifteenth century, 5.

  Fonseca, Bishop, reference to, 76, 77, 79, 82, 126, 127;
    authorizes Ojeda's voyage, 128.

  Fortunate Islands, or Grand Canaries, 186.

  _Four Voyages_, or _Journeys_, of Vespucci, 90, 95;
    no trace of book containing the, 103;
     further reference to, 176, 200, 205.

  "Fourth Part of the Earth," the, chap. ii.

  Ghengis Khan, 50.

  Giacondo, Giovanni, translator  of Vespucci's letter, 1504, 198, 199.

  Giants seen in Curaçao, 119.

  Gomara, historian, on explorations, 102.

  Harrisse, Henry, observations on the naming of America, 244.

  Herrera, Antonio de, accuses Vespucci of stealing from Columbus, 101.

  Humboldt, Alexander von, vindicates Vespucci, 103.

  _Igname_, Indian word, 89.

  Iguana, described by Vespucci, 93.

  _Imago Mundi_, book owned by Columbus, 241.

  India house, the great, 80.

  Irving, Washington, and his _Life of Columbus_, 29;
    denounces Fonseca, 77;
    narrates Vespucci's voyage with Ojeda, 125;
    seeks to disparage Vespucci, 225, 226.

  Iti, an island in the Caribbean Sea, 98.

  _Kazabi_, or cassava, 89.

  Khan, the Grand, 24, 28.

  Kublai Khan, Mongol emperor, 36-40, 49.

  Lake Dwellers, the, described by Vespucci, 90-95, 120.

  Lariab, conjectural province of, 96.

  Las Casas denounces Vespucci, 249.

  Lud, Walter, 242.

  Mandeville, Sir John, 49.

  Mangi, province of, 26, 46.

  Maracaibo, Gulf of, discovered by Ojeda,  135.

  Maracapana (see Amaraca-pan), 132, 137.

  Marco Polo's _Travels_, 33.

  Marignoli, John de, traveller, 49.

  Medici, the Florentine, 4, 5, 10.

  Medici, Lorenzo de, letter written to, by Vespucci in 1501, 109;
    in 1503, 179.

  Michael Angelo, birthplace of, 15.

  Monte Corvino, John of, 49.

  _Mundus Novus_, or New World, 46, 239, 246, 248;
    title of pamphlet containing first account of
       Vespucci's voyage, 197;
    when published, 239.

  Navarrete, Spanish historian, 219, 221, 232, 233.

  New World, the, southern hemisphere of America, so called
    by Vespucci, 185.

  Nicollini, Donato, Vespucci's friend, 56.

  Nicuesa, explorer, quarrels with Ojeda, 160;
    whom he rescues, 162.

  Niño, Pedro, successful voyage of, 137.

  Ojeda the Fighter, chap. viii.;
    with Columbus, 126;
    friend of Fonseca, 127;
    receives authority for a voyage, 128;
    accompanied by Vespucci, 130;
    visits Trinidad, Pearl Islands, and Curaçao, 132, 133;
    finds Lake Dwellers, 134;
    takes cargo of slaves to Spain, 136;
    second voyage of (1502), 158;
    placed in irons, 159;
    makes third voyage (1509), 156, 160;
    wounded by poisoned arrow, 163;
    poverty and death of, 164.

  Oviedo, historian, on discovery of Bay of Honduras, 105.

  Paria, Gulf of, 131, 132.

  Paul the Physicist, 16.

  Pearls, Gulf of, 132.

  Pearls obtained by Vespucci, 122, 141, 146.

  Pelotti, Francesco, 49.

  Peretola, home of the Vespuccis, 2.

  Pinelo, Francisco, 77, 78, 81.

  Pinzon brothers, the, 149, 150, 152.

  Pinzon, Vicente Yañez, discovers the Amazon, 167.

  Pliny quoted by Vespucci, 191.

  Polo, Marco, Vespucci's countryman, 33;
    taken captive, 34;
    _Travels_, 36-42.

  Polo, Maffei, 41.

  Polo, Nicolo, 36.

  Prescott, historian, quotation from, 57.

  Printing-press, the first in America, 32.

  _Ptolemy_, an improved, 242.

  _Quattro Giornate_ (Four Journeys), 176.

  Quinsai, city of, 25, 43, 46.

  René, Duke of Lorraine, 242, 246, 247.

  Ringmann, Matthias, contemporary of Vespucci, 241.

  Roldan, Francesco, combats Ojeda, 136.

  Saint-Dié, town in which pamphlet was printed containing first
    reference to America, 241, 242.

  Savonarola, mention of, 15.

  Schöner, Johann, globe made by, 245.

  Sierra Leone, 178.

  Soderini, Piero, letter written to, by Vespucci, 82, 101;
    second letter, 170;
    third letter, 201.

  _Terra Firma_, definition of term, 70;
    coast of, 166.

  _Terra Sanctæ Crucis_, 246, 248.

  Toscanelli, Florentine astronomer, 16;
    friendly with Vespucci, 16;
    great attainments of, 19;
    corresponds with Columbus, 17, 23-27;
    sends chart to Columbus, 21;
    ideas of, adopted by Columbus, 30.

  Trapobana, island of, 123.

  Trinidad, visited by Columbus, 131;
    by Vespucci, 132.

  Varnhagen, Viscount, explains Vespucci's "second" voyage, 105.

  Vela, Cape de la, 135.

  Venezuela, origin of name, 134.

  Veragua, Duke of, 220.

  Vespucci, Amerigo, spelling of the name, 1;
    birthplace of, 2;
    parents, 3, 4;
    ancestors, 5, 6;
    birthplace of, 2;
    parents, 3, 4;
    ancestors, 5, 6;
    youth, 7, 8, 9, 12-14;
    favorite authors, chap. iii.;
    begins his career, 51;
    enters service with the Medici, 54;
    goes to Spain, 55;
    letter of, from Spain, 56;
    personal appearance of, 63;
    characteristics of, 64;
    debatable voyage of, chap. vi.;
    outfits fleet for Columbus, 76;
    in pay of Spain, 81;
    letter of, on alleged first voyage, 82-100;
    letters to Soderini, 82, 101, 170, 201;
    his _Four Voyages_, 90;
    accused of purloining from Columbus, 101;
    vindicated by Humboldt, 103;
    more humane than Columbus, 104;
    second voyage of, chap. vii.;
    oldest known writing relating to his voyages, 109;
    describes constellations of southern hemisphere, 112, 113;
    in fight with Indians, 117, 118;
    mentions giants, 119;
    discovers Lake Dwellers, 120;
    takes slaves to Spain, 121, 122;
    with Ojeda in 1499, 130;
    quoted by Irving, 134;
    aborigines seen by, 140-144;
    finds pearls, 146;
    fellow-voyagers of, chap. x.;
    head of house of Berardi, 151;
    projected voyage with Pinzon, 153;
    invited to Portugal, 168;
    married to Maria Cerezo, 168;
    leaves Spain for Portugal, 169;
    makes two voyages under Portuguese flag, 170;
    account of third voyage, 170-177;
    encounters cannibals, 180-183;
    calls his discovery the New World, 185;
    royally received in Portugal, 195;
    renowned navigator, 196;
    first-published letter of, 197;
    makes a "fourth" voyage to America,  200;
    returns to Spain, 209;
    contrasted with Columbus, 209-214;
    mentioned in a letter by Columbus, 218;
    pilot-major of Spain, chap. xv.;
    at court, 224;
    corrects charts made by Columbus, 229;
    official papers relating to, 233;
    last will and testament, 234;
    death of, 235.

  Vespucci, Anastasio, Amerigo's father, 3, 6.

  Vespucci, Elizabetta, Amerigo's mother, 3.

  Vespucci, Georgio Antonio, 8, 11.

  Vespucci, Giovanni, or Juan, Amerigo's nephew, 55;
    is bequeathed his uncle's valuable papers, 235.

  Vespucci, Girolamo, Amerigo's brother, 52, 53.

  Vespucci, Guido Antonio, epitaph of, 6.

  Waldseemüller, Martin, German geographer, who gave the name
    to America, 241-243.

  Yucca, flour made from, 89

  Zaitun, city of Cathay, 43, 50.

  Zipangu. _See_ Cipango.


       *       *       *       *       *

[Transcriber's Notes:

The transcriber made the following changes to the text:

 1. p.  44, The grand Khan ordered --> "The grand Khan ordered
 2. p.  69, The accounts of those --> "The accounts of those
 3. p.  74, But I perceive, Signor --> "But I perceive, Signor
 4. p.  77, "Fonesca" --> "Fonseca"
 5. p. 137, "Ojeba"  --> "Ojeda"
 6. p. 143, They had no victuals --> "They had no victuals
 7. p. 170, There came to be a royal --> "There came to be a royal
 8. p. 205, In this part --> "In this part
 9. Index, Columbus Ferdinand, books owned by, 268; -->
           Columbus Ferdinand, books owned by, 248;

End of Transcriber's Notes]

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