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B:00 K tical excursions thither, in order to plunder the O inhabitants, or to carry them off as slaves.
Clement VI. in virtue of the right claimed by the holy see, to dispose of all countries possessed by infidels, erected those isles into a kingdom, in the year one thousand three hundred and forty-four, and conferred it on Lewis de la Cerda, descended from the royal family of Castile. But that unfortunate prince, destitute of power to affert his nominal title, having never visited the Canaries, John de Bethencourt, a Norman baron, obtained a grant of them from Henry III. of Castile. Bethencourt, with the valour and good fortune which distinguished the adventurers of his country, attempted and effected the conquest, and the possession of the Canaries remained for some time in his family, as a fief held of the crown of Castile. Previous to this expedition of Bethencourt, his country, men settled in Normandy are said to have visited
the coast of Africa, and to have proceeded far 1365. to the south of the Canary islands. But their
voyages_thither seem not to have been undertaken in consequence of any public or regular plan for extending navigation and attempting new discoveries. They were either excursions suggested by that roving piratical fpirit, which
· Viera y Clavijo Notic. de la Histor. de Canaria, I. 268, &c. : Glas Hift. c. I.
descended to the Normans from their ancestors, BOOK or the commercial enterprises of private merchants, which attracted so little notice, that hardly any memorial of them is to be found in contemporary authors, in a general survey of the progress of discovery, it is sufficient to have mentioned this event; and leaving it among those of dubious existence, or of small importance, we may conclude; that though much additional information concerning the remote regions of the East had been received by travellers who visited them by land, navigation, at the beginning of the fifteenth century, had not advanced beyond the state to which it had attained before the downfal of the Roman empire.
At length the period arrived, when Providence Firf regular
plan of difdecreed that men were to pass the limits within covery, which they had been so long confined, and open to themselves a more ample field wherein to display their talents, their enterprise, and courage. The first considerable efforts towards this were not made by any of the more powerful states of Europe, or by those who had applied to navigation with the greatest assiduity and success. The glory of leading the way in this new career was reserved for Portugal, one of the smallest and formed by least powerful of the European kingdoms. As guese. the attempts of the Portuguese to acquire the
BOOK knowledge of those parts of the globe with which
mankind were then unacquainted, not only improved and extended the art of navigation, but roused such a spirit of curiosity and enterprise, as led to the discovery of the New World, of which I propose to write the history, it is necessary to take a full view of the rise, the progress, and success of their various naval operations. It was in this school that the discoverer of America was trained; and unless we trace the steps by which his instructors and guides advanced, it will be impossible to comprehend the circumstances which suggested the idea, or facilitated the execution of his great design.
Circumstan- VARIOUS circumstances prompted the Portu. ces which led to this. guese to exert their activity in this new direc.
tion, and enabled them to accomplish undertakings apparently superior to the natural force of their monarchy. The kings of Portugal, having driven the Moors out of their dominions, had acquired power, as well as glory, by the success of their arnis against the infidels. By their victories over them, they had extended the royal authority beyond the narrow limits within which it was originally circumfcribed in Portugal, as well as in other feudal kingdoms. They had the command of the national force, could rouse it to act with united
vigour, and, after the expulsion of the Moors, BOOK could employ it without dread of interruption from any domestic enemy. By the perpetual hostilities carried on for several centuries against the Mahometans, the martial and adventurous spirit which distinguished all the European nations during the middle ages, was improved and heightened among the Portuguefe. A fierce civil war towards the close of the fourteenth century, occasioned by a disputed succession, augmented the military ardour of the nation, and formed or called forth men of such active and daring genius, as are fit for bold undertakings. The situation of the kingdom, bounded on every side by the dominions of a more powerful neighbour, did not afford free scope to the activity of the Portuguese by land, as the strength of their monarchy was no match for that of Castile. But Portugal was a mari. time state, in which there were many commodious harbours ; the people had begun to make fome progress in the knowledge and practice of navigation; and the sea was open to them, presenting the only field of enterprise in which they could distinguish themselves.
· Such was the state of Portugal, and such the Firstate disposition of the people, when John I. surnamed
tempt. the Bastard, obtained fecure possession of the
BOOK crown by the peace concluded with Castile, in w the year one thousand four hundred and eleven.
He was a prince of great merit, who, by fuperior courage and abilities, had opened his way to a throne, which of right did not belong to him. He instantly perceived that it would be impossible to preserve public order, or domestic tranquillity, without finding some employment for the restless spirit of his subjects. With this view he assembled a numerous fleet at Lisbon, composed of all the ships which he could fit out
in his own kingdom, and of many hired from 3412.
foreigners. This great armament was destined to attack the Moors settled on the coast of Bar. bary. While it was equipping, a few vessels were appointed to fail along the western shore of Africa bounded by the Atlantic ocean, and to discover the unknown countries situated there. From this, inconsiderable attempt, we may .date the commencement of that spirit of discovery, which opened the barriers that had fo long shut out mankind from the knowledge of one half of the terrestrial globe.
At the time when John fent forth these ships on this new voyage, the art of navigation was still very imperfect. Though Africa lay so near to Portugal, and the fertility of the countries already known on that continent invited men to