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The Helena independent. (Helena, Mont.) 1875-1943, October 21, 1892, Morning, Image 10

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83025308/1892-10-21/ed-1/seq-10/

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a 4 flr O1 AT M1EN WVHTIOEI TL1VFB Snd rank than that of the een. Therefore I onmmanded by Colamlus engaged a latftr to e honor and nr
I occupy a place in the pages of the
world's history, few achieved renown
under more adverse circnrustanOes, followed
a single idea mote persistently, or conferred
more lasting benefits upon humanity, than
did the subject of this historical sketch,
Christopher Columbus, the quadri-centen
nial of whose final triumph the nations are
now preparing to grandly celebrate at Chi
cago. To provide a safe and speedy means
of traversing the reast space which sepalates
the earth from some fertile, life-supporting
planet would not now prove a greater
blessing to mankind than did this mar
velousdiscovery to the overcrow.led eastern
world of four centuries ago.
There was nothing great or illustrious in
I I '
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kh. "emb,1. 1rnm. ahinh hwh.idn h o rrrlni .n. ,n m h T, uA,. an sht. .......1 ....ýem..ý
the family from which Christopher Colum
bus sprung, though numerous efforts have
been made to prove him of noble extrac
tion. His fame rests entirely upon his own
achievements, and his life marks an epooh
in the material advancement of the world.
The very date of his birth is uncertain. but
be was born at Genoa about the year 143;,
The complexion of the times, if that ex
pression be allowable, was more favorable
than ever before to the natural tendenciea
of mind of one like Christopher Columbus;
and the soil on which he was bo:n could
not have been bett-r fitted to Five them ali
ment and vigor until their full maturity.
A boy of Genoa, he socked in with h:s
mother's milk a taste for the sea and for a
sailor's life. ' he first impreassion on his
11 .~---I
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u I/I
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ohildish mind were of the sea; the first tales
that exeited his famoy and stirred his heart
were of the sea. His city had sprung
and grown from the sea: the sea unpported
it; its glory was on the sea. On the side of
the land, surrounded and almost shut in by
a chain of high mountains, it seemed cat
off from the continent and forced to the
sea for its sole occupation: and the sea
spread broad and inviting before it. 'Ihe
most wealthy, liowerful and noble families
had won their wealth, their power and their
nobility on the sea; the most illustrious
persons, of whom the city was proud, had
had all been men of the sea; and there was
no broader and safer way to wealth, honor
it was that all the young men of Genoa
who could, pooror rich, noble and plobisan,
took to the sea; and the shipls of Genos
floated on the furthest wale a and the
most hidden bays; and the g eatelt princes
and kings had recourse to Gen a in their
expeditions and wars, asking the help of its
fleats and cautains.
Columbus himself tells us that he com
menced his career as a sailor at the tender
age of fouiteon years. The life of a sailor,
on the Mediterranean in those days was
one of danger, of daring and of combat.
The states along the coast, and especially
the Italian coast, were engaged in almost
perpetual warfare, and the ships of one
were almost constantly in pursuit of those
confined to the states; individuals, noble
and plebeian, organized and maintained
ships and fleets, and under the prjtext of
defending their hereditary or acquired
rights, plundered any merchant vessel that
chanced to fall in their way. To the syseve.
tem that then and there prevatled we now
attach the name of piracr. Not only did
this life render men hardy and intrepid,
>ut it did moee; it made them sailors, and
and that in its broadest sense of the term.
In this rouch maritime school, where
charts were few and dancers many, Chris
topher Columbus grcw to manhood. While
it served to dbase many of his eom-ades,
it gave hiln that courageo, skill, knowledge
and ambition, which, later on, enabled him
to give "a new world to Castile and Leon."
For maniy years Columbus followed the
life of a eatlor of fortune on the Mediter
ranean, eugeaing in all manner of ven
tures, from the most peaceful to the most
warlike. For years he sailed with a daring
mariner named ('olombo, or with a fighting
relative of the sante, known as Colombo
the younger. His latt service on the Medi
terranean was with the latter hold rover.
Colombo the younger waylaid four richly
laden Venetian galleys off the Coast of
PJortugal, and a bloody battle ensued that
lasted an entire day. 'he vessels grappled
each other, and the crows fought hand to
hand, and from ship to ship. The vesal
Venetian galley. In the uiry of the fight
a bursting hand grenade fired the galley,
and both vessels became a flaming mess
The crews threw themselves into the sea.
Columbus seized an oar and swam to the
land, fully two leagues away. This occur
rence marked an epoch in his eventful life.
In 1470 Columbus took up his residence in
Lisbon, where he married, and for some
years supported himself and family by
making and selling maps and charts.
Shortly before that time had commenced
the modern era of discovery, but it was con
fined to the west coast of Africa and the
adjacent islands. Prince Henry of Portu
gal, son of King John the first, had con
oeived the idea that Africa was ci.cumnav
igable, and that, by keeping along its
shores, a ship might sail from Europe to
India, as the whole of western Asia was
then called. Henry died without having
achieved the object of his ambition, but he
lived to see his countrymen the greatest
navigators of the world. The spirit of die
cotery which swayed Lisbon took posses
sion of the adventurous soul of Christopher
Columbus. He was moved by the proposal
of Henry, but conceived a scheme far in
advance of it. This was to circum
navigate, not Africa, but the globe
itself. The ancients, though they knew
little of Asia beyond the Ganges, believed
that it extended a great distance to the east
ward. This view had been greatly strength
ened by the discoveries of Marco Polo, a
Venetian traveler, who had, in the four
teenth century,. penetrated to the most re
mote parts of the east, and published glow
ing, though arossly exaggerated accounts
of his adventures.
Columbas believed his idea practicable,
but his belief was ptincipally founded upon
a misconception. He adopted an opinion
of Alfariabus, a learned Arabian, that the
circumference of the earth was much less
than was generally suoposed. Had he
knowh the truth, and realized the immense
distance that separated Europe, in a west
erly direction, from the furthest point
reached by Marco Polo, it is very doubtful
if he would ever have seriously thought
of undertaking the enterprise.
For years Columbus studied over his
plan, but without making any decided ef
fort to carry it into exeoution. About the
time when John II. ascended the throne of
Portugal the attention of soientifi men had
again been directed to navigasion, and an
instrument possessing the essential advant
ages of the quadrant had been invented.
This application of the astrolabe to naviga
tion greatly encouraged Columbus and he
sought an interview with King John. The
king was much impressed with the plan
and made a secret attempt to carry it into
execation, but his pilots soon lost heart and
returned, ridiculing Columbus and his pro
ject. Disgusted by this act of perfidy and
grieved by the death of his wife, Columbus
quitted Portugal and returned to his native
While at Genoa he made his propositions
to the government, but the once glorious
little republic was in a state ef decline, and
they w, re rejected as a matter of necessity,
if not of choice. Rebuffed in his native
country, he repaired to Venice, but met
with no encouragement from that republic.
Not discouraged by failures, he dispatched
his brother Bartholomew to England to
ooen negotiations with Henry VIII. and set
out for Spain.
The personal appearance and character
istics of great illustrious personages are
always matters of lively interest. Christo
pher Columbus was tall of stature, well and
strongly proportioned, with a noble and
dignified bearing. His face was long,
neither fat nor thin; his complexion
was fresh, tending to red, with
some ruddy spots; his nose was aquiline,
his eves light, and his jaws projected
slightly. The portrait of Columbus, by
Gi:egori, which adorns this work, was
painted after the one portrait taken from
life, that of the Jovian museum, which has
been recently recovered from oblivion and
restored to the world of art. Ile was ex
ceedingly plain and moderate in his diet
and apparel. He was affable in converse
tion with strangers, and mild with servants
but preserved always a certain gravity with
both. lie was naturally inclined to anger,
but overcame this defect by the strength of
his will, and no injurious words against
others ever passed his lips. Hie was so
strict in his religious practices that it
migiht be said that in fasting and reciting
the whole canonical office he was as regular
as a professed renigrolua. lie beg:n every
thing hr, wrote with Jesuns euro Maria sit
nobi iI viI1.
'h:c first trace we flud of Columbus in
Spoin is at oncoe strlkiig and peculiar.
About half a league from the little port of
I'alos, in Andalusia, on a solitary height
overlooking; the sea coast and half hidden
in a thick forest of Ipines, was a imanntry
of irancisoau friars, known ias Hanta Meria
de Is Ilabide. Fernandez Garcia relates
that a stranger, on foot. accompanuied by a
boy of about 12 years, presented himself at
the monastery gate, and asked the brother
po ter for a little bread and water. While
father alid son were refreshing taemselves
with this simple fare, the father guardian
happened to pass, and discovering from his
accent that the traveler was a foreigner,
and from his aspect and bearing conclud
ing that he was a man much superior to hil
present state, out of curiosity and pity en
tered into conversation with him.
The stranger was Cnristopher Columbus
and the boy his son Diego. It is not knowe
whence he came, but his mode of travel tells
plainly enough the condition to which his
misfortunes had reduneed him. He was on
his way to the neighboring city of iuelya
to visit a certain Muilar, his brother-in.
law. It is thought he wished to entrust
him with the young Diegro while he was
engaged in ureing his project upon the
hrranish court. But arriving at lPalos, h
must have wanted all means of subsistence,
a.d, to speasm the
Bird6er enl tUist of
bhl boy. want out of
histroad and asended
the stoop mtonutaln
to ,have recourse to
the charity of 'the
she nuardlan, of
that humble monas
tery was Father Juan
Peres do Marohona.
a religious of deep
piety, well versed in
profane as well as
aaored science, eepe
oially in cosmo
graphy, which was
his favorite study.
Queen Isabella, mov
ed by the fame of the
friar's learning and
santity, had sum
moned him to court
and made him her
confessor; but the at
mosphore of palaces
and the bustle of a
city were ill suited
to his disposition and
his love of study and
prayer, and, there
fore, quitting the
court, and despising
the prospect of fu
atess., he returned
, -- ----A. :-- n.."
tale honor and greatness, he returned
to his humble duties as guardian of
the little monastery of Santa Maria
de la Itabida. Such was the modest friar,
who, by the order of Providence, happened
to be passing through the gate of his mon
astery as Christopher Columbus was receir
ing his little alms.
Enoouraged by the friar's friendly cour
tesy, Columbus told him of the project in
his mind, and of his design of proposing it
at court. It seemed as though the words of
Columbus had opened a new horizon to the
friar's eyes, so great was his attention and
interest. The friar detained him as a
guest and invited a scientifio friend, Garcia
Fernandez, a physician of Palos, and sev
eral veteran mariners of the neighborhood
to confer with him. They all became con
verts to the theory of Columbus, and the
first substantial step towards the discovery
of the new world was taken.
One of these mariners, Martin Alonzo
Pinzon, the head of a wealthy family of
experienced navigators at Palos, offered to
defray the expenses of Columbus to court,
and, in the event of his enterprise bejng
adopted by the sovereigns, to engage in it
with purse and person. To this man more
than any other, perhaps, was Columbus
indebted for the ultimate success of his
great enterprise.
To ensure him a favorable reception at
court, the friar gave him a letter to the
queen's confessor, Fernando de Talavera, a
priest of great political iofluence, and
promised, in the meantime, to maintain
and educate his son, Diego, at the convent.
Although the glory of discovering the
western hemisphere is due to the profound
study, indefatigable perseverance and cour
ageous soul of Christopher Columbus, still
his project would doubtless have failed but
for the aid of the two sovereigns of Spain,
Ferdinand and Isabella, and moreeslpecially
that of the latter. In the discovery of the
the new world her name is, and for all time
will be, indissolubly joined to that of
'Christopher Columbus.
The picture which contemporary authors
have left of Isabella, although it breathes
throughout the enthusiasm of the writers,
has been fully confirmed by time. With
out losing any of the softer graces of her
sex, she had as much firmness and activity
as any man, and not only took part in coun
cils where wars and battles were discussed
and planned, but, dressed in armor, she
rods on horseback and followed the camp;
and in the fatigues of the march, or the
dangers of the battle, the main spur and
encouragement to the soldiers' heart was
the sight of their beloved queen in their
midst. Often in the uncertainties and
doubts of war and battle, it was she that
by her energy and the firmness of her meas
ures decided the successful issue of events.
At the same time, with a truer sense of
glory, by the elevation of her mind and by
her conscientious truthfulness, she modified
the too subtle and interested policy of Fer
Her sharacter shines still brighter in
civil history. An affectionate mother to
her subjects, her first thought was to re
form the laws, and heal the wounds made
by the long intestine ware; and ever intent
on the happiness of her people, with ma
ternal tenderness, she sought to mitigate,
as much as possible, the rigorous measures
which had to be taken against those of her
subjects who refused to obey the laws of
the gospel; and the Moors and Jews had no
better advocate in the royal council than
the queen herself.
In the moments of freedom from business
she gathered around her persons of the
greatest learning, and consulted them as to
the most suitable means of advancing
science and literature; and it was through
her protection that Salamanca won a place
among the most famous universities of
that age. She invited to her court, by re
wards and favors, men of literature and
science, not only from Spain, but from
other nations; and the mass of books, oriS
. . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
inal and translated, published under her
reign, some by ladies of the highest nobility,
attest the impulse habe gaa to study and
the honor in which she held learninug.
Queen Isabella was of the middle size and
well formed, with a fair complexion, as
bourn hair, and elear blue eyes. 'Ihere was
a mingled gravity and sweetness in her
conutenance, and a slngular modesty, grao
lag, as it did, great flrmnessof purpose and
earnestness of spirit. Though strongly at
tached to her husband, and studious of his
fame, yet she always maintained bar dis
inot rights as an allied prince. B.uh was
thb noble woman who was destined to so.
quire immortal renownthrough her spirited
Sattonage of the dlscovery of the New
Columbus arrived at Cordova at a moat
unpropitious moment for his sait. The
final campalpn againet the Moors was just
opeaning, and he found it impossible to ob
tain a hearing. At length Father Talavera
aucceeded in bringlnE the matter before
the king, who granted an andiene to Col
umbas, and commissioned Father Tl'lavera
to convene a board of the best cosmograph.
ere and astronomers of the kingdom to
meet at the great university city of Sala
manca, where the court was passing the
winter of 1487-8.
This memorable conference resulted very
differently from what Columbus had brought
himselt to expect. He had been laughed at
by the ignorant multitude, both noble and
plebeian, but doubted not his ability to
convince a learned assembly of the sound
ness and oracticability of hip plans. At
the same time he had not forgotten the
trick played on him by John II, of Porta
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
gal, ana determined not to lay himself too
open, but to say no more than was neces
sary to prove the undertaking possible and.
indeed, easy of aoaomplishment. Geo
graphical and cosmographical studies were
exceedingly backward in Spain, and as
Talavera was, therefore, unable to fill his
board with geographers and cosmograph
era, he called in the most celebrated pro
fessors of the other scionces. This was a
serious injury to Columbus, for the worest
judge possible is a learned and scientific
man attempting to decide amatterof which
he has only a mere smattering; because
carrying Into bis oeesison the same cer
tainty and authority whiok he knows he is
entitled to in his own science, he supplies
the defeat of argument by the weight of
his authority. Vain were all his efforts
against the ignorance and superstition too
deeply rooted in the examiners' minds, the
pedantio pride of many of whom made it
seem like a humiliation for them, who had
passed their lives in study and were es
teemed the lights of Spanish learning and
science, to yield to an obsoure mariner
without even the recommendation of an
aoademie title. "Before Columbus," sags
Lea CaOse, "could make his audlenc so.
prebend his tbeorsymad argumente, bh hb
to remove from their minds the arroneo
prinoiples on which their objections we
founded--a more dtlifpult task than tb
of teaching the dootline."
But his words were not altogether wit
out eftet, and the charaoter of the to
whom he won to his side partly compe
sated for the number of those who obet
natol. persisted in their superstitiop an
Ignorance. One of these was .ather Die
Desa, young in years, but already the hig
eat professor of theology, and preceptor
the infanta. heiress to the throne, and wh
afterwards, step by step, rose to be arch
bishop of Toledo, primate of all Spain. H
entered at once, at the first session, int
the reasoning of Columbus, and not onl
listened with attention, but took up hi
cause, and, with the help of other friars,
labored earnestly to calm the noisiest of his
colleagues, and to persuade them that pro
priety and justice demanded that the
should listen to the reasoning with serious
attention. Some of the principal members
of the learned assembly agreeing with him,
the discussion was afterwards continued in
a proper manner. Several subsequent
meetings were held, but the board came to
no oonclusion.
For several years Columbne remained in
snepense. At length in the winter of 1491,
he lost all patience and pressed for a de
cisive reply. Being thue called upon for a
decision, the learned board of Salamanca
informed their sovereigns that the majority
of the body considered the scheme vain and
impossible. Although the sovereigns still
held out hopes that somethng mright be
done upon the conolusion of the war.
Columbus indignantly turned his back
upon Seville, and determining to make an
appeal to the king of France, he again re
paired to the convent of La Babida.
Father Juan Peres de Marehena would
not hear of hie leaving Spain and wrote Ila
bolls a personal letter, as a result of which
Columbus was reaolled to court. The war
being concluded with the fall of Granada,
the sovereigns agreed to supply the means
for a voyage. Coluopbus, however, de
manded that he be made viceroy and ad
miral of all the countries he should dsl-

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