The Spanish Conquest in America

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This booklet depicts the Spanish conquest in America, Portuguese Discoveries in America, and various important voyages around the world that influenced the culture in America
2. )I
. ~'-----=--..;.;... __________ _J
DEDICATE this book to you, because it is based
I upon "Tlie Conquerors of tlie New World and
tlteir Bondsmen," which I dedicated to you several
years ago.
Finding that, for the completeness of the work, it
required to be more developed, I have been obliged to
extend its plan and to enlarge its fonn.
I need hardly dwell upon the difficulty of my enter­
prise, and the labor which, for many a weary year, it
has entailed upon me. I feel, however, that the more
it has cost me, with the greater confidence I can dedi­
cate it to you, who will not look so much upon the re­
sult, whether successful or unsuccessful, as upon the
expense of life and energy which it represents.
If the work should afford the least aid or enlighten­
ment to those who would legislate wisely upon mat­
ters connected with slavery or colonization, neither
you nor I shall regret any labor that has been ex­
pended upon it.
At the time of my former dedication you were Vice­
chancellor of Cambridge, and I had the additional
7. iv Dedication.
pleasure of paying a mark of respect to the first officer
in a University which I always look upon with due
filial reverence and gratitude. These feelings have not
grown weaker in the lapse of time, and I am glad to
have an opportunity of renewing my expression of
It is nearly seven years since I dedicated the "Con­
querors" to you; and it is a pleasure to think that,
though so much has changed in us and around us
during these boisterous years, we have the same se­
cure friendship for each other as we had then, and, in­
deed, as we had when we were at college together.
I remain, my dear friend, yours aftectionately,
June, 1855.
T HEkind,present history being a work of a peculiar
and the drift of it not likely to be perceived
until the reader has advanced some way in the work,
it may save him trouble, and may secure his attention
to what he would otherwise be likely to pass by as
unimportant, if I endeavor to explain at once the ob­
ject in view, and the mode in which that object has
been pursued.
Some years ago, being much interested in the gen­
eral subject of slavery, and engaged in writing upon
it, I began to investigate the origin of modern slavery.
I soon found that the works commonly referred to
gave me no sufficient insight into the matter. Ques­
tions, moreover, arose in my mind, not immediately
connected with slavery, but bearing closely upon it,
with respect to the distribution of races in the New
World. " \Vhy," said I to myself, " are there none
but black men in this island; why arc there none but
copper-colored men on that line of coast; how is it
that in one town the white population predominates,
while in another the aborigines still hold their ground?
There must be a series of historical events, which, if
9. vi Preface.
brought to light, would solve all these questions, and
I will endeavor to trace this out for myself."
In the simplicity of one who had never before de­
voted himself to historical writing, I thought, after a
time, that I would give a slight sketch of what I had
discovered, and that this- would be sufficient for my
Eventually, however, I found that I was involved
in a large work, and that there was much to be told
about the early discoveries and conquests in America
which is not to be met with in its history as hitherto
narrated. I am confirmed in this opinion by one of
the greatest lawyers and most learned men that Spain
has produced, whose office* gave him access to all the
colonial records of that country. He justly remarks
that the historians of New Spain neglected to treat of
that which was the great result of all the political
transactions tl1ey narrated. He alludes to the subject
of encomiendas. t I have, unconsciously as far as his
remark is concerned (for I did not meet with it until
* ANTONIO DE LEON PrNELO, Relator de! consejo de las Indias. He
was also the author of the great bibliographical work Epitome de la
biblioteca oriental y occidental nautica y gcografica. The Biographie
Universelle thus describes his labors : " Le nombre des pieces dont il
eut a faire le depouillement, est vraiment prodigieux : le tome premier
contient l'extrait d'environ cinq cents volumes de cedules royales, com­
prenant 120,000 feuilles, et plus de 300,000 decisions."
t "No parece tan fiicil el fundar, con dccisioncs Reales, 1 continua­
cion de tiempos, el estilo que en las Encomiendas se observa en ]'\ue­
va-Espana ; punto en que no ha reparado, siendo tan cssencial al govi­
erno, ninguno de sus historiadores Francisco Lopez de Gomara, Fr.
Antonio de Rcmcsal, Antonio de Herrera, Fr. Juan de Torquemada,
ni otros, que tratando sus materias politicas, dexan la de las Encomi­
endas, siendo el fin quc todas se dirigen."-ANTON!O DE LEON PINE­
Lo.-Tratado de Confirmaciones Reales, part i., cap. 4. Madrid, 1630.
10. Preface. Vll
I had matured my own plan), been endeavoring to
write a history that should not be liable to this cen­
sure. To bring before the reader, not conquest only,
but the results of conquest...:....__the mode of colonial gov­
ernment which ultimately prevailed-the extirpation
of native races-the introduction of other races-the
growth of slavery, and the settlement of the encomi­
endas, on which all Indian society depended-has been
the object of this history.
I have now a few words to say about the mode of
accomplishing my object. I found that I could not
avail myself of any thing that had been written be­
fore. Other men have written, and I believe success­
fully, of the various conquests and discoveries made
in America; but I have been obliged, both for the read­
er's sake and for my own, to tell my story in my own
way. It does not suffer itself to be told in any one
conquest or in any one discovery. It sometimes lies
wholly in the New "World, sometimes wholly at the
court of Spain. It depends, at one time, on some
powerful minister ; at another, upon some resolute
conqueror. It follows the course of the remarkable
men of the day, and now rises up in one colony, now
in another, its direction not being governed by the rel­
ative importance of the colonies. Guatemala, for in­
stance-a country of which we have heard but little
in Europe-becomes, at one period, a most important
field for investigation in a general history of Spanish
Conquest in America. A number of remarkable men
happen to be in Guatemala at the same time. . Their
proceedings give the most apt illustration of their the­
ories respecting slavery, colonization, and colonial gov­
11. viii Preface.
ernment. Hence Guatemala becomes, for several years,
the geographical centre of the narrative, as the Pearl
Coast had been at a former period.
I feel that, in a work of such extent as this history
of the Spanish Conquest, there must be much that is
impe1fect, and much that is briefly narrated. Being
obliged to take a general survey of a large field of his­
tory, as well as to enter minutely into detail in those
parts of the subject which are important for my pur­
pose and comparatively new to the world, there are
particular sections of the history which have necessa­
rily been treated by me with a certain brevity. But,
as Oviedo, an historian constantly referred to in the
following pages, declares, most men are delighted at
coming to an end (los mas hombres son amigos de
conclusion); and, therefore, any brevity which is not
merely justifiable, but requisite, will, I doubt not, be
readily accepted.
I may add that, as regards the authorities I have
had recourse to in writing this history, I am greatly
indebted to the vast collections of the historian Munoz
(wisely intrusted to the care of that courteous and
learned body, the Royal Academy of :Madrid), to the
publications which have taken place, in recent times,
of documents and even of histories which had hitherto
remained in manuscript; and also, incidentally, to the
spirit of research which has grown up of late years in
America, and which has brought to light many valua­
ble works connected with the early records of that
I have also been singularly fortunate in the number
of friends who have taken an almost paternal interest
12. Preface. IX
in the book, and who have aided me by advice, criti­
cism, research, and co-operation.*
I commend the work to the reader in the hope that
it will make him desirous to turn from my pages to
those of other historians, ancient and modern, who will
enable him to supply for himself the deficiencies which
there are in this history, and to correct the errors with
which it must abound, whatever pains may have been
* In speaking of the co-operation I have had the good fortune to
meet with, I must especially mention the assiduous labors of a gentle­
man who has done much to add to the value of this work by illustrat­
ing it with maps, carefully executed according to scale, and, in several
instances, based upon original authorities which he has anxiously scru­
Introductory Remarks.-Discovery of the Canary Islands.-Bethen·
court.-Portuguese Discoveries in Africa under Prince Henry of
Portugal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . • . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 17
Ca da l\fosto's Voyage.-Prince Henry's Death.-His Character.­
Farther Discoveries of the Kings of Portugal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
B 0 0 K I I.
Discovery of America. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93
Administration of Columbus in the Indies ................... 131
·written Instructions to Ovando.-Singular Interview between Ferdi·
nand and Isabella and the new Governor.-State of the Royal Fam­
ily of Spain.-Ovando's Arrival at St. Domingo.-Revolt ofHiguey.
-Ultimate Fonn of Repartimiento . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17.7
15. xii Contents.
Ovando's l\fode of managing the Spaniards.-His tyranny in Xaragua.
-Barbarities in Higuey.-Death of Queen Isabella.-Capture of the
Lncayans.-Don Diego Columbus appointed Governor of the In­
dies.-Character of Ovando' s Government ............. Page 199
Don Diego Columbus !anus at St. Domingo.-New Repartimientos.­
Earliest Notice of Las Casas.,-Arrival of the first Dominican Friars.
-Hispaniola dispeopled.-Modes of replenishing the Colony with
Indians.-Ncgroes in the Indies .......·................... 227
The Dominicans protest against Indian slavery. - Father Antonio's
Sermon.-Both the Colonists and the Monks appeal to Spain.­
Father Antonio sees the King.-The Laws of Burgos ..•.... 239
Nature and Customs of the Indians. -Minor Voyages. -Ojeda and
Nicuesa start on their Voyage. - Ojeda's Misfortunes. - His
Death ...................•............................ 263
Enciso's Re-enforcements. - Establishment at Darien. - Nicuesa's
Misfortunes with his own Colony.-Nicuesa r~jected by the Men
of Darien . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 297
16. Contents. Xlll
Vasco Nunez's Dealings with the neighboring Caciques.-First No­
tice of the Pacific.-Factions at Darien.-Vasco Nunez resolves to
discover the South Sea.-Succeeds in his Enterprise, and takes pos­
session of the Pacific for the Kings of Castile. - His Return to
Darien ........................................... Page 321
The Government under Pedraias, with the various Expeditions under­
taken by his Captains. . . . . . . . • . . . . . . . . . . • . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 353
The Fate ofVasco Nunez ....................••.•...•••.•• 389
Cuba discovered by Columbus.-Colonized under Velasquez.-Fate of
the Cacique Hatuey.-Expedition of Narvaez and Las Casas.-Mas­
sacre at Caonao, and its Consequences.-Towns founded in Cuba by
Velasquez ............................................ 415
The Conversion of Las Casas.-His Voyage to Spain.-The Death of
King Ferdinand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 435
Las Casas sees the Cardinal Ximenes.-The Administration of Indian
Affairs by the Cardinal.-Appointment of the Jeronimites.-Coming
of Charles to Spain.-Death of Ximenes ................... 459
18. BOOK I.
20. THE
HE history of almost every nation tells of some
T great transaction peculiar to that nation, some­
thing which aptly illustrates the particular character­
istics of the people, and proclaims, as we may say,
the part in human nature which that nation was to
explain and render visible. In English history, the
contest between the Crown and the Parliament; in
that of France, the French Revolution; in that of
Germany, the religious wars, are such transactions.
All nations of the same standing have portions of
their several histories much alike. There are border
wars, intestine divisions, contests about the succes­
sion to the throne, uprisings against favorites, in re­
spect of which, if only different names be applied to
the account of one and the same transaction, it will
serve very well for the history of various nations, and
nobody would feel any strangeness or irrelevancy in
the story, whether it were told of :France, England,
21. 18 Introductory Remarks.
Germany, or Spain. Carrying on this idea to the
history of our system, if the other worlds around us
are peopled with beings not essentially unlike our­
selves, there may be among them many Alexanders,
Cmsars, and Napoleons: the ordinary routine of con­
quest may be commonplace enough in many planets;
and thus the thing most worthy to be noticed in the
records of our Earth may be its commercial slavery
and its slave-trade; for we may hope, though the dif­
ference be to our shame, that they have not had these
calamities elsewhere.
The peculiar phase of slavery that will be brought
forward in this history is not the first and most natu­
ral one, in which the slave was merely the captive in
war, "the fruit of the spear," as he has figuratively
been called, who lived in the house of his conqueror,
and labored at his lands. This system culminated
among the Romans ; partook of the fortunes of the
Empire; was gradually modified by Christianity and
advancing civilization; declined by slow and almost
imperceptible degrees into serfage and vassalage; and
was extinct, or nearly so, when the second great pe­
riod of slavery suddenly uprose. This second period
was marked by a commercial character. The slave
was no longer an accident of war. He had become
the object of war. Ile was no longer a mere acci­
dental subject of barter. He was to be sought for,
to be hunted out, to be produced; and this change
accordingly gave rise to a new branch of commerce.
Slavery_ became at once a much more momentous
question than it ever had been, and thenceforth, in­
deed, claims for "itself a history of its own.
Black against mankind, and_ almost unaccountably
mean and cruel as much of this history is, still it is
22. Introd1wtory Remarks. 19
not without a phase of true valor and noble endeavor,
which may compensate a little for the deep darkness
on the other side. The history of slavery is not
merely an account of commercial greediness and reck­
less cruelty carried to the uttermost, but it embodies
the efforts of the greatest men of niany periods ; dis­
plays in the fullest light their errors, their disputa­
tions, their bewilderments; partakes largely of the
nice questions canvassed by ecclesiastics ; is com­
bined with the intrigues of courts and cabinets; and,
alas! is borne on the winds by the resolute daring
of hardy mariners and far-seeing discoverers-men
who should have been foremost in the attack upon
all mean cruelty, and some of whom thought that
they were so. Again, in the history of slavery, if it
could be well worked out, lie the means of consider­
ing questions of the first importance respecting colo­
nization, agriculture, social order, and government.
The remarkable persons connected with the history
of modern slavery are alone sufficient to give it some
interest. These are the members of the royal family
of Portugal throughout the fifteenth century, with
Prince Henry at their head; then there are Ferdi­
nand and Isabella, Columbus, and the whole band of
brave captains who ·succeeded him in the discovery
and conquest of Spanish America; there are Charles
the Fifth, Ximenes, Las Casas, Vieyra, and hosts of
churchmen and statesmen from those times down to
the present.
Lastly, there is the fate of one continent, perhaps
we may say of two, deeply concerned in the history
of slavery.·
The importance of the records in this matter is
not to be measured by the show they make, which is
23. 20 Introductory Remarks.
often poor enough. There is many a small skirmish
in the history of slavery, which has had more effect
upon the fortunes of mankind than pitched battles
have had between rival nations contending apparent­
1y for universal empire; for the result of any battle
may almost be said to depend for importance, not so
much upon the measure of success obtained by either
side, nor certainly upon the original object of the war,
as upon the essential difference between the contend­
ing parties, and upon the opinions they hold of each
other: greatly on the contempt, whether deserved or
not, which the victors have for the vanquished. Sup­
posing, therefore, that one nation or race fails to ap­
preciate another which it wars successfully against,
the result of that war is likely to be larger, especially
for evil, as the misappreciation in question is greater.
The consequences of battle, whether between races or
individuals, where each knows the worth of the other,
are seldom such as to obliterate the fame and courage,
or change the whole social aspect of the vanquished
party. But when Spartan conquers Helot, barbarian
Goth or Visigoth subdues tJ1e polished Roman, or civ­
ilized man with his many implements invades and op­
presses the simple savage, then come the cruelty and
dire mismanagement which are born of ignorance and
want of sympathy. And thus, as in all human af­
fairs, we have to discover the righteousness that there
is in right understanding.*
"With all due appreciation, however, of the subject
of slavery, it must be confessed that it is one which,
* "Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and
equity; yea, every good path.
""When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleas­
ant unto thy soul."-Prov., chap. ii., v. 9, IO.
24. .Introductory Remarks. 21
if treated by itself alone, would lack dramatic interest
for a history. It has no single thread to run upon,
like the account of any man's life, or the history of a
nation. The story of slavery is fragmentary and con­
fused-having a different state of progress to deal with
in different parts of the world at the same tiine-and
is deficient in distinct epochs to be illustrated by great
adventures. :Moreover, people think that they have
already heard all about it; but this, however, is not so.
It may therefore be allowed that the reader must
bring with him much of the interest which he would
have to maintain in studying the history of slavery,
if considered strictly by itself. Even then, however,
it would not be without that clement of the sublime,
whicl,i consists in great extent, although of desolation.
In looking over a vast morass, unmarked by tower, or
citadel, or town, which the horizon descends upon but
does not bound, the shaping mind may discover more
to think of than in the landscape that laughs with
every variety of scenic beauty. And here, too, in this
subject of slavery is one which, were it ever so dull,
presents at all times an indefinite extent of human
struggle and human suffering. Happily, however, a
subject so deeply and terribly connected with human­
ity, and which demands the study of the historian,
has entwined itself with the most interesting events
in secular history; and whenever these are truly and
fully told, it can not but appear, even though it be
sedulously kept in the background.
J'iiy intention in this work is to make a contribution
to the general history of the second period of slavery,
by giving such an account of the origin and progress
of modern slavery as will embrace the principal events
which led to the subjection of the Indians of the New
25. 22 .Di-scovery of the Canary Islands.
·world, and to the introduction of negro 'slavery in
America and the vVest Indies. The work will thus
become, in great part, a history of Spanish America;
and, as such, will track Columbus over seas hitherto
unsounded by mortal man, will follow the fortunes of
V asco N ui'iez, Cortes, and Pizarro; and through the
mother country-at that time the most important and
menacing state in the world-be intimately connected
with the perplexed affairs of European politics in the
sixteenth century.
Previously, however, to entering upon these inter­
esting times, the history of modern slavery must com­
mence with the history of African discovery ; and the
first great step in that was the discovery of the Ca­
nary Islands. These were the "Elysian fields" and
"fortunate islands" of antiquity. Perhaps there is
no country in the world that has been so many times
discovered, conquered, and invaded, or so much fabled
about, as these islands. There is scarcely a nation
upon earth of any maritime repute that has not had
to do with them. Phcenicians, Carthaginians, Ro­
mans, :Moors, Genoese, Normans, Portuguese, and
Spaniards of every province (Aragonese, Castilians,
Gallicians, Biscayans, Andalucians) have all made
their appearance, in these islands.* The. Carthagin­
ians are said to have discovered them, and to have
reserved them as an asylum in case of extreme dan­
ger to the state. Sertorius, the Roman general, who
partook the fallen fortunes of :Marius, is said to have
meditated retreat to these "islands of the blessed,"
and by some ·writers is supposed to have gone there.
* VIERA Y CLAVIGo, Historia General de las Islas de Canaria, Mad­
rid, 1772, lib. iii.
26. Discovery of tile Canary Islands. 23
Juba, the :Mauritanian prince, son of the Juba cele­
brated by Sallust; sent ships to examine them, and
has left a description of them.*
Then came the death of empires, and darkness fell
upon the human race, at least upon the records of
their history. "\Vhen the world revived, and especial­
ly when the use of the loadstone began to be known
among mariners, the Canary Islands were again dis­
covered. Petrarch is referred to by Viera to prove
that the Genoese sent out an expedition to these isl­
ands. t Las Casas mentions that an English or French
vessel bound from France or England to Spain was
driven by contrary winds to the Canary Islands, and
on its return spread abroad in France an account of
the voyage.t The information thus obtained (or per­
* v IERA, lib. i., sec. 18.
t PETRARCA, de Vita Solitarid, lib. ii., sec. 6, cap. 3.
t LAs CAsAs, Historia General de las lndias, MS., lib. i., cap. 17.
The original of this work is to be found in the library of the Royal
Academy of History at Madrid. Four or five copies have been taken,
of which the author possesses one. It is a work of the highest his­
torical value, as Las Casas saw with his own eyes, and was himself
engaged in, many of the transactions which he narrates; and, more­
over, he had taken care to collect contemporary documents, relating to
important events, which have since perished.
The course of the narrative is often broken by outbursts of gener­
ous indignation at the treatment of the Indians, or by laborious trains
of argument to prove that they were free men. These parts, there­
fore, of the history, which were very fitly addressed to the reader of
his own time, have ceased to interest the modem reader, who is gen­
erally too much disposed to agree with Las Casas to care to listen to
his arguments or his denunciations. Occasionally, as will be seen, the
narrative is admirable, sparkling with the vivacity and intelligence of
the writer, and adequately expressing the deep concern which he took
in his subject. Indeed, his history is in great part his autobiography.
It would be surprising that a work of such value should not have
been printed, but for the fact that Herrera, the royal historiographer
of the Indies in the seventeenth century, has made the greatest use of
Las Casas, weaving in long extracts from the Historia General, taken
almost verbatim.
27. 24 Bethencourt's .Expedition.
haps in other ways of which there is no record) stimu­
lated Don Luis de la Cerda, Count of Clermont, great
grandson of Don Alonzo the "\Vise of Castile, to seek
for the investiture of the Crown of the Canaries, which
was given to him with much pomp by Clement the
Sixth, at Avignon, A.D. 1344, Petrarch being pres­
ent.* This sceptre proved a barren one. The affairs
of France, with which state the new king of the Ca­
naries was connected, drew off his attention, and he
died without having visited his dominions. The next
authentic information that we have of the Canary Isl­
ands is that, in the times of Don Juan the First of
Castile, and of Don Enrique his son, these islands
were much visited by the Spaniards. t In 1399, we
are told that certain Andalucians, Biscayans, Guipuz­
coans,. with the consent of Don Enrique, fitted out an
expedition of :five vessels, and making a descent on
the island of Lanzarotc, one of the Canaries, took cap­
tive the king and queen, and one hundred and seventy
of the islanders.t
Ilitherto there had been nothing but discoveries,
rediscoveries, and invasions of these islands; but, at
last, a colonist appears upon the scene. This was
Juan de Bethencourt, a great Norman baron, lord of
St. Martin le Gaillard, in the county of Eu, of Bethen­
court, of Granville, of Sancerre, and other places in
Normandy, and chamberlain to Charles the Sixth of
France. Those who are at all familiar with the his­
tory of that period, and with the mean and cowardly
barbarity which characterized the long-continued con­
tests between the rival factions of Orleans and Bur­
gundy, may well imagine that any Frenchman would
* V !ERA, lib. i., sec. 21.
t OnTIZ DE ZUNIGA, Annalcs, A.D. 13!J!J, p. 262.
:j: \"1ERA, lib. iii, src 2'1.
28. Betliencourt's .Expedition. 25
then be very glad to find a career in some other coun­
try. ·whatever was the motive of Juan de Blthen­
court, he carried out his purpose in the most resolute
manner. Leaving his young wife, and selling part ·of
his estate, he embarked at Rochelle in 1402 with men
and means for the putpose of conquering, and estab­
lishing himself in, the Canary Islands. It is not requi­
site to give a minute description of this expedition.
Suffice it to say, that Bethencourt met with fully the
usual difficulties, distresses, treacheries, and disasters
that attach themselves to this race of enterprising
men. After his arrival at the Canaries,finding his
means insufficient, he repaired to the court of Castile,
did acts of homage to the king, Enrique the Third,
and afterward renewed them to his son Juan the
Second, thereby much strengthening the claim which
the Spanish monarchs already made to the dominion
of these islands. Bethen_court, returning to the isl~
ands with renewed resomces, made himself master of
the greater part of them, reduced several of the na­
tives to slavery, introduced the Christian faith, built
churches, and established vassalage. On the occasion
of quitting his colony in A.D. 1405, he called all his
vassals together, and represented to them that he had
named for his lieutenant and governor l\Iaciot de Be­
thencourt, his relation ; that he himself was going to
Spain and to Rome to seek for a bishop for them ;
and he concluded his oration with these words: "l\Iy
loved vassals, great or small, plebeians or nobles, if
you have any thing to ask me or to inform me of, if
you find in my conduct any thing to complain of, do
not fear to speak ; I desire to do favor and justice to
all the world."*
* VIERA, lib. iv., sec. 20.
VoL. I.-B
29. 26 Portuguese .Discoveries in .Africa.
The assembly he- was addressing contained none of
the slaves he had made. vVe are told, however, and
that by eye-witnesses, that the poor natives them­
selves bitterly regretted his departure, and, wading
through the water, followed his vessel as far as they
could. After his visit to Spain and to Rome, he re­
turned to his paternal domains in Normandy, where,
while meditating another voyage to his colony, he died
A.D. 1425.
:Maciot de Bethencourt ruled for some time success­
fully; but afterward falling into disputes with the
bishop, and his affairs generally not prospering, liia­
ciot sold his rights to Prince Henry of Portugal­
also, as it strangely appears, to another person-and
afterward settled in Madeira. The claims . to the
government of the Canaries were for many years in
a most entangled state, and the right to the sovereign­
ty over these islands was a constant ground of dispute
between the crowns of Spain and Portugal.
Thus ended the enterprise of Juan de Bethencourt,
which, though it can not be ·said to have led to any
very large or lasting results, yet, as it was the first
modern attempt of the kind, deserves to be chronicled
before commencing with Prince Henry of Portugal's
long-continued and connected efforts in the same di­
rection. The eyents also which preceded and accom­
panied Bethencourt's enterprise need to be recorded,
in order to show the part which many nations, espe­
cially the Spaniards, had in the first discoveries on the
Coast of Africa.
·we now turn to the history of the discoveries made;
or rather caused to be made, by Prince Henry of Por­
tugal. This prince was born in 1394. He was the
30. Portuguese Discoveries in Africa. 27
third son of John the First of Portugal and Philippa
the daughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of ·Lancaster.
That good Plantagenet blood on the mother's side
was doubtless not without avail to. a man whose life '
was to be spent in continuous and insatiate efforts to
work out a great idea. Prince Henry was with his
father at the memorable capture of Ceuta, the ancient
Septem, in the year 1415. This town, which lies
opposite to Gibraltar, was of great magnificence, and
one of the principal marts in that age for the produc­
tions of the Eastern World.~ It was here that the
Portuguese nation first planted a firm foot in Africa;
and the date of this town's capture may, perhaps, be
taken as that from which Prince Henry began to med­
itate farther and far greater conquests. His aims,
however, were directed to a point long beyond the
range of the mere conquering soldier. He was espe­
cially learned for that age of the world, being skilled
in mathematical and geographical knowledge. And it I
may be noticed here, that the greatest geographical --....
discoveries have been made by men conversant with
· the book-knowledge of their own time. A work, for
instance, often seen in the hands of Columbus, which
his son mentions as having had much influence .with
him, was the learned treatise of Cardinal Petro de
Aliaco (Pierre d'Ailly), the Imago JJ:fundi.. .
But to return to Prince Henry of Portugal. We
learn that he had conversed much with those who had
made voyages in different parts of the world, and par­
ticularly with Moors from Fez and Morocco, so that
* "Toda Europa considerava a Ceuta como hum erario das preciosi­
dades do Oriente, indo a ella buscar as drogas de pre~o, que produzia,
nao so Alexandria, e Damasco, mas a Libia, e o Egypto."-Vida do·
Infante, Lisboa, 1758, p. 26. ...
31. 28 Portuguese .Discoveries iii Africa.
he came to hear of the Azenegues, a people bordering
on the country of the negroes of Jalof.
Such was the scanty information of a positive kind
which the prince had to guide his endeavors. Then
there were the suggestions and the inducements which
to a willing mind were to be found in the shrewd con­
jectures of learned men, the fables of chivalry, and,
perhaps, in the confused records of forgotten knowl­
edge once possessed by Arabic geographers. The sto­
ry of Prester John, which had spread over Europe
since the Crusades, was well known to the Portuguese
prince. A mysterious voyage of a certain wandering
saint, called Saint Brendan, was not without its influ­
ence upon an enthusiastic mind. Moreover, there were
many sound motives urging the prince to maritime
discovery, among which a desire to fathom the power
of the Moors, a wish to find a new outlet for traffic,
and a longing to spread the blessings of the faith, may
be enumerated. The especial reason which impelled
Prince Henry to take the burden of discovery on him­
32. Portuguese .Discoveries in Africa. 29
self was, that neither mariner nor merchant would be
likely to adopt an enterprise in which there was no
clear hope of profit.* It belonged, therefore, to great
men and princes, and among such he knew of no one
but himself who was inclined to it. This is not an
uncommon motive. A man sees something that ought
to be done, knows of no one who will do it but him­
self, and so is driven to the enterprise, even should it
be repugnant to him.
And now, the first thing for those to do who would
thoroughly understand the records of maritime discov­
ery, is the same as it was for Prince Henry, in which
we may be sure he was not remiss, namely, to stucly
our maps and charts. Without frequent reference to
* " E porque o dicto scnhor quis desto saber a verdade, parecen­
dolhe que se elle ou alguu outro senhor se nom trabalhasse de o saber,
nehuiis rnareantes, nern rnercadores, nunca se dclle antremeteryam,
porque claro sta que nunca nehuiis daquestes se trabalharn de navegar
senom pera donde conhecidamente speram proveito." -A:i:uRARA,
Chronica de Guine, cap. 7.
33. 30 Portuguese .Discoveries in Africa.
m~ps, a narrative like the present forms in
our mind
only a mirage of names, and dates, and facts; is
wrongly apprehended even while we are regarding it,
and soon vanishes away. The map of the world being
before us, let us reduce it to the proportions it filled
in Prince Henry's time; let us look at our infant
world. First, take away those two continents, for so .
we may almost call them, each much larger than a
Europe, to the far west. Then cancel that square,
massive-looking piece to the extreme southeast: hap­
pily there are no penal settlements there yet.* Then
turn to Africa : instead of that form of inverted cone
which it presents, and which we now know there are
physical reasons for its presenting, make a cimeter
shape of it by running a slightly-curved line from Juba
on the eastern side to Cape Nam on the western. De­
clare all below that line unknown. Hitherto we have
only been doing the work of destruction, but now scat­
ter emblems of Hippogriffs and Anthropophagi on the
outskirts of what is left in the map, obeying a maxim.
not confined to the ancient geographers only: where
you know nothing, place tenors. Looking at the map·
thus completed, we can hardly help thinking to our­
selves, with a smile, what a small space, comparativeM
ly speaking, the known history of the world has been
transacted in up to the last four hundred years. The
idea of the universality of the Roman dominion shrinks
a little, and we begin to fancy that Ovid might have
escaped his tyrant. t The ascertained confines of the
world were now, however, to be more than doubled in
the course of one century ; and to Prince Henry of
* This was written before gold was discovered in Australia, and
when penal settlements were the most notable things in the colony.
t "But the empire of the Romans filled the world ; and when that
34. Portuguese .Discoveries in Africa. 31
Portugal, as to the first promoter of these vast discov­
eries, our attention must be directed.
This prince, having once the well-grounded idea in
his mind that Africa did not end where it was com­
monly supposed, namely, at Cape Nam (Not), but that
there was a world beyond that forbidding negative,
seems never to have rested until he had made known
that quarter of the globe to his own. He fixed his
abode upon the promontory of Sagres, at the southern
part of Portugal, whence for many a year he could
watch for the rising specks of white sail bringing back
his captains to tell him of new countries and new men.
We may wonder that he never went himself, but he
may have thought that he served the cause better by
remaining at home, and forming a centre whence the
electric energy of enterprise was communicated to many
discoverers, and then again collected from them. J\Iore­
over, he was much engaged in the public affairs of his
country. In the course of his life he was three times
in Africa, carrying on war against the Moors ; and at
home, besides the care and trouble which the state of
the Portuguese court and government must have given
him, he was occupied in promoting science and encour­
aging education.
In 1415, as before noticed, he was at Ceuta. In
1418 he was settled on the promontory of Sagres.
empire fell into the hands of a single person, the world became a safe
and dreary prison for his enemies. The slave of imperial despotism,
whether he was condemned to drag his gildM-chain in Rome and the
senate, or to wear out a life of exile on the barren rocks of Seriphus,
or the frozen banks of the Danube, expected his fate in silent despair.
To resist was fatal, and it was impossible to fly. On every side he
was encompassed with a vast extent of sea and land, which he could
never hope to traverse without being discovered, seized, and restored
to his irritated master."-GrnsoN's Decline and Fall, vol. i., p. 97, Ox­
ford edition.
35. 32 Portuguese Ducoveries in .Africa.
One night in that year he is thought to have had a
dream of promise, for on the ensuing morning he sud­
denly ordered two vessels to be got ready forthwith,
and to be placed under the command of two gentlemen
of his household, J oham Gorn;al vez Zarco and Tristam
Vaz, whom he ordered to proceed down the Barbary
coast on a voyage of discovery.
A contemporary chronicler, AzuRARA, whose work*
has recently been discovered and published, tells th~
story more simply, and merely states that these cap~
tains were young men, who, after the ending of th~
Ceuta campaign, were as cager for employment as th~
prince for discovery, and that they were ordered on
a voyage having for its object the general molestatioll ·
of the Moors, as well as that of making discoveries
beyond Cape Nam. The Portuguese mariners had a
proverb about this cape, "He who would pass Cape
Not, either will return or not" ( Quem passar o Oabo
de Nam, ou tomara ou nam), intimating that if he
did not tmn before passing the cape, he would never
return at all. On the present occasion it was not
destined to be passed ; for these captains, J oham Gon­
c;alvez Zarco and Tristam Vaz, were driven out of their
course by storms, and accidentally discovered a little
island, where they took refuge, and from that circum­
stance called the island Porto Santo. "They found
there a race of people living in no settled polity, but
* This authentic and most valuable record was discovered in the
Bibliothcque Imperiale at Paris, by Senhor Fernando Denis, in 1837;
was published by the Portuguese embassador, the Visconde Da Carre­
ira, who transcribed the MS. with his own hand, and was annotated
by the learned Visconde Da Santarem. It is a book well worth the
care that has been bestowed upon it, as being" 0 primeiro livro escripto
por au tor europeo sobre os paizes situados na costa occidental d' Africa
alem do Caho Bojador."
36. Portuguese .Discoveries in .Africa. 33
not altogether barbarous or savage, and possessing a
kindly and most fertile soil."* I give this description
of the first land discovered by Prince Henry's cap­
'­ (;! eftJooilJfope'
* " Hallaron alli gente nada polltica, mas no de! todo biirbara 6 sel­
vage, y posseedora de un benevolo y fertilissimo terreno."-FARIA Y
SousA, Asia Portuguesa, Lisbon, ~666, tom. i., part i., cap. 1.
37. 34 Portuguese .Discoveries in Africa.
tains, hinking it would well apply to many other lands
about to be found out by his captains and by other
discoverers. J oham Gonc;alvez Zarco and Tristam
Vaz returned. Their master was delighted with the
news they brought him, more on account of its prom­
ise than its substance. In the same year he sent them
out again, together with a third captain, named Bar­
tholomew Perestrelo, assigning a ship to each captain.
His object was not only to discover more lands, but
also to improve those which had been discovered. He
sent, therefore, various seeds and animals to Porto
Santo. This seems to 11ave been a man worthy to
direct discovery. Unfortunately, however, among the
animals some. rabbits were introduced into the new
island, and they conquered it, not for the prince, but
for themselves. Hereafter we shall find that they gave
his people much trouble, and caused no little reproach
to him.
"\Ve come now to the year 1419. Perestrelo, for
some cause not known, returned to Portugal a,t that
time. After his departure, J oham Gon9alvez Zarco
and Tristam Vaz, seeing from Porto Santo something
that seemed like a cloud, but yet different (the origin
of so much discovery, noting the. difference in the like­
ness), built two boats, and, making for this cloud, soon
found themselves afongside a peautiful island, abound­
ing in many things, but most of all in trees, on which
account they gave it the name of Madeira (wood).
The two discoverers, Joham Gon9alvez Zarco and
Tristam Vaz, entered the island at different parts.
The prince their master_ afterward rewarded them
with the captaincies of those parts. To Perestrelo he
gave the island of Porto Santo to colonize it. Pere­
strelo, however, did not make much of his captaincy,
38. Portuguese Discoveries in Africa. 35
but after a strenuous contest with the rabbits, having
killed an army of them, died himself. This captain
has a place in history as being the father-in-law of Co­
lumbus, who, indeed, lived at Porto Santo for some
_time, and here, on new-found land, meditated far bold­
er discoveries•
.Joham Gon9alvez Zarco and Tristam Vaz began the
cultivation of their island of Madeira, but met with
an untoward event at first. In clearing the wood,
they kindled a fire among it, which burned for seven
years, we are told ; and in the end, that which had
given its name to the whole island, and which, in the
words of the historian, overshadowed the whole land,
became the most deficient commodity. The captains
founded churches in the island; and the King of Por­
tugal, Don Duarte, gave the temporalities to Prince
Henry, and all the spiritualities to the knights of
·while these things were occurring at l\Iadeira and
Porto Santo, Prince Henry had been prosecuting his
general scheme of discovery, sending out two or three
vessels a year, with orders to go down the coast from
Cape Nam, and make what discoveries they could;
but these did not amount to much, for the captains
never advanced beyond Cape Bojador, which is situ­
ated seventy leagues to the south of Cape Nam.. This
Cape Bojador was formidable in itself, being termin­
ated by a ridge of rocks with fierce currents running
round them ; but was much more formidable from the
fancies which the mariners had formed of the sea and
land beyond it. " It is clear," they were wont to say,
"that beyond this cape there is no people whatever;
the land is as bare as Libya-no water, no trees, no
grass in it ; the sea so shallow that· at a league from
39. 36 Portuguese .Discoveries in Africa.
the fand it is only a fathom deep; the currents so
fierce that the ship which passes that cape will never
'f!> C'l/CocilHo
l·eturn ;"* and thus their theories were brought in to
justify their fears.
This outstretcher (for such is the meaning of the
40. Portuguese .Discoveries in Africa. 37
word Bojador) was therefore as a. bar drawn aCToss
that advance in maritime discovery which had for so
long a time been the first object of Prince Henry's life.
The prince had now been working at his discoveries
for twelve years, with little approbation from the gen­
erality of persons (con poca aprovacion de muclws),
the discovery of these islands, Porto Santo and :Ma­
deira, serving to whet his appetite for farther enter­
prise, but not winning the common voice in favor of
. prosecuting discoveries on the coast of Africa. The
people at home, improving upon the reports of the
sailors, said that "the land which the prince sought
·after was merely some sandy place like the deserts of
Libya ; that princes had possessed the empire of the
world, and yet had not undertaken such designs as
his, nor ·shown such anxiety to find new kingdoms ;
that the men who arrived in these foreign parts (if they
did arrive) turned from white into black men; that
the king, Don John, the prince's father, had endowed
foreigners with land- in his kingdom, to break up and
cultivate it-a thing very different from taking people
out of Portugal, which had need of them, to bring them
among savages to be eaten, and to place them upon
lands of which the mother-country had no need; that
the Author of the world had provided these islands
solely for the habitation of wild beasts, of which an
additional proof was, that those rabbits the discoverers
themselves had introduced were now dispossessing
them of the island."*
There is much here of the usual captiousness to be
found in the criticism of by-standers upon action, mix­
ed with a great deal of false assertion and premature
knowledge of the ways of Providence. Still it were
* FARIA y SousA, tom. i., part i., cap. I.
41. 38 Portuguese J)iscoveries in Africa.
to be wished that most criticism upon action was as
wise ; Tor that part of the common talk which spoke
of keeping their own population to bring out their own
resources had a wisdom in it, which the men of future
centuries were yet to discover throughout the Penin­
Prince Henry, as may be seen by his perseverance
up to this time, was not a man to have his purposes
diverted by such criticism, much of which must have
been in his eyes worthless and inconsequent in the
extreme. Nevertheless, he had his own misgivings.
His captains came back one after another with no
good tidings of discoyery, but with petty plunder
gained, as they returned, from incursions on the Moor­
ish coast. The prince concealed from them his cha­
grin at the fruitless nature of their attempts, brit prob­
ably did not feel it less on that account. He began
to think, vVas it for him to hope to discover that land
which had been hidden from so many princes ? Still
he felt within himself the incitement of "a virtuous
obstinacy," which would not let hiin rest. Would it
not, he thought, be ingratitude to God, who thus
moved his mind to these attempts, if he were to de­
sist from his work, or be negligent in it?* He re­
* Porem quando os capitaes tomavam, faziam algumas entradas na
costa de Berberia (como atras dissemos), com que elles refaziam parte
da despeza, o que o Infante passava com soffrimento, sem por isso
mostrar aos homens descontentamento de seu ·servi90, dado que nao
cumprissem o principal a que eram enviados. Porque como era Prin­
cipe Catholico, e todalas suas cousas punha em as miios de Deos, pa­
rccia-lhe que niio era merecedor que per clle fosse dcscuberto, o que
tanto tempo havia que estava escondido aos Principes passados de Hes­
panha. · Com tudo, porque sentia em si hum estimulo de virtuosa per­
fia, que o niio leixava descan9ar em outra cousa, parecia-lhe que era
ingratidao a Deos dar-Ihe estes movimentos, quo niio desistisse da obra,
e elle ser a isso negligente."-BA1tRos, Lisbon, 1778, dee. i., lib. i.,
cap. 4.
42. Portuguese IJUicoveries in Africa. 39
solved, therefore, to send out again Gil Eannes, one
of his household, who had been sent the year before,
but had returned, like the rest, having discovered
nothing. He had been driven to the Canary Islands,
and had seized upon some of the natives there, whom
he brought back. With this transaction the prince
had shown himself dissatisfied ; and Gil Eannes, now
intrusted again with command, resolved to meet all
dangers rather than to disappoint the wishes of his
master. Before his departure, the prince called him
aside and said, " You can not meet with such peril
that the hope of your reward shall not be much great­
er; and, in truth, I wonder what imagination this is
that you have all taken up--in a matter, too, of so
little certainty ; for if these things which are reported
had any authority, however little, I would not blame
you so much. But you quote to me the opinions of
four mariners, who, as they were driven out of their
way to Frandes or to some other ports to which they
commonly navigated, had not, and could not have
'Used, the needle and the chart ; but do you go, how­
ever, and make· your voyage without regard to their
opinion, and, by the ·grace of God, you will not bring
out of it any thing but honor and profit."*
We may well imagine that these stirring words of
the prince must have confirmed Gil Eannes in his re­
solve to. efface the stain of his former misadventure;
and he succeeded in doing so ; for he passed the dread­
ed Cape Bojador-a great event in the history of Af­
rican discovery, and one that in that day was consid­
ered equal to a labor of Hercules. Gil Eannes re­
turned to a grateful and most delighted master. · He
informed the prince that he had landed, and that the
* AzURARA, cap. 9.
43. 40 Portuguese .Discoveries in Africa.
soil appeared to him unworked and fruitful; and, like
a prudent man, he could not only tell of foreign plants,
but had brought some of them home with him in a
barrel of the new-found earth-plants much like those
which bear in Portugal the roses of Santa Maria. The
prince rejoiced to see them, and gave thanks to God,
" as if they had been the fruit and sign of the prom­
ised land; and besought our Lady, whose name the
plants bore, that she would guide and set forth the
doings in this discovery to the praise and glory of
God, and to the increase of His holy faith."*
The pious wish expressed above is the first of the
kind that we have occasion to notice in this history;
but similar wishes seem to have been predominant in
the minds of the greatest discoverers and promoters
of discovery in those times. I believe this desire of
theirs to have been thoroughly genuine ~nd deep-seat­
ed ; and, in fact, that the discoveries would not have
been made at that period but for the impulse given to
them by the most pious minds longing to promote, by
all means in their power, the spread ·of what to them
was the only true and saving faith. There is much
to blame in the conduct of the first discoverers in M- .
rica and America; it is, however, but just to acknowl­
edge that t?e love of gold was not by any means the
only motive which urged them, or which co:uld have
urged them, to such endeavors as theirs. vVe shall
more readily admit the above conclusion if we keep
in our minds the views then universally entertained
of the merits and efficacy of mere formal communion
with the Church, and the fatal consequences of not
being within that communion. A man so enlightened
* DARRos, dee. i., lib. i., cap. 4. AzuRARA, cap. 9.
44. Portuguese .Discoveries i:n Africa. 41
as LAS CASAS scorns to be bound by passages brought
against him in argument from the works of heathen
writers-men who are now living in hell, as he says;
and Columbus, in giving an account of his third voy­
age to the Catholic sovereigns, says that in temporal
matters he has only a "blanca" for the offertory, and
that in spiritual matters he is so apart from the holy
sacraments of the holy Church, that if he were to die
where he is, his soul w;ould be forgotten (que se olvi-.
dard desta dnima si se aparta acd del cuerpo). "Weep
for me," he adds, "ye that are charitable, true, or just."
And, doubtless, in the minds of the common people,
the advantage of this communion with the Churcq
stood at the highest. This will go a long way to ex­
plain the wondeiful inconsistency, as it seems to us,
of the most cruel men appealing to their good works
as promoters of the faith. And the maintenance of
such Church principles will altogether account for the
strange oversights which pure and high minds have
made in the means of carrying out those principles,
fascinated as they were by the brilliancy and magni­
tude of the main object they had in vie,,..
The Old World had now obtained a glimpse be­
yond Cape Bojador. The fearful " outstretcher" had
no longer much interest for them, being a thing that
was overcome, and which was to descend from an im­
possibility to a landmark, from which, by degrees, they
would almost silently steal down the coast, counting
their miles by thousands, until Vasco de Gama should
boldly cany them round to India.
After the passing of Cape Bojador there was a lull
45. 42 Portuguese J)i,scoveries in Africa.
in Portuguese discovery, the period from 1434 to 1441
being spent in enterprises of very little distinctness or
importance: Indeed, during the latter part of this pe­
riod the prince was fully occapied with the affairs of
Portugal. In 1437 he accompanied the unfortunate
expedition to Tangier, in which his brother Ferdinand
was taken prisoner, who afterward ended his days in
slavery to the 1\Ioor. In 1438, King Duarte dying,
the troubles of the regency occupied Prince Henry's
attention. In 1441, however, there was a voyage
which led to very important consequences. In that
year Antonio Gorn;alvez, master of the robes to Prince
Henry, was sent out with a vessel to load it with skins
of" sea-wolves," a number of them having been seen,
during a former voyage, in the mouth of a river about
fifty-four leagues beyond Cape Bojador. Gon9alvez
resolved to signalize his voyage by a feat that should
gratify his master more than the capture of sea-wolves,
and he accordingly planned and executed successfully
an expedition for capturing some Azeneghi l\Ioors, in
order, as he told his companions, to take home " some
of the language of that country." Nufi.o Tristam, an­
other of Prince Henry's captains, afterward falling in
with Gon9alvez, a farther capture of 1\Ioors was made,
and Gon9alvez returned to Portugal with his spoil.
In the same year Prince Henry applied to Pope
Martin the :Fifth, praying that his Holiness would grant
to the Portuguese crown all that it should conquer,
from Cape Bojador to the Indies, together with plenary
indulgence for those who should die while engaged in
such conquests. The Pope granted these requests.
"And now," says a Portuguese historian, "with this
apostolic grace, with the breath of royal favor, and al­
ready with the applause of the people, the prince pur­
46. Portuguese .Discoveries in Africa. 43
sued his purpose with more courage and with greater
In 1442, the Moors whom Antonio Gorn;alvez had
captured in the previous year promised to give black
slaves in ransom for themselves, if he would take
them back to their own country ; and the prince, ap­
proving of this, ordered Gorn;alvez to set sail immedi­
ately, "insisting as the foundation of the matter that
if Gon9alvez should not be able to obtain so many
negroes (as had been mentioned) in exchange for the
three Moors, yet that he should take them; for, what­
ever number he should get, he would gain souls, be­
cause they (the negroes) might be converted to the
faith, which could not be managed with the :Uoors."t
Here again may be seen the religious motive predom­
inating; and, indeed, the same motive may be deduced
from numerous passages in which this prince's con­
duct comes before us.
Gon9alvez obtained ten black slaves, some gold
dust, a target of buffalo hide, and some ostriches' eggs,
in exchange for two of the Moors, and, returning with
his cargo, excited general wonderment on account of
the color of the slaves.t These, then, we may pre­
sume, were the first black slaves that made their ap­
pearance in the Peninsula since the extinction of the
old slavery.
* FARIA Y SousA, tom. i., part i., cap. 1.
t " Ordcnou o Infante de o despachar logo em hum navio, fazendo
fundamento, que quando Antao Gon~alves nao pudcsse haver tantos
negros .a troco destes tres Mouros, ja de quantos quer que fossem gan­
hava almas; porque se eonverteriam aFe,
o que elle nao podia acabar
com os Mouros."-BARRos, dee. i,, lib. i., cap. 7.
+" Entraron en el Reyno con admiracion comun, causada del color
de los esclavos."-FARIA Y SovsA, tom. i., part i., cap. 1•.
.. .
47. 44 Portuguese .Discoveriea in .Africa.
I am not ignorant that there are reasons for ~llcging
that negroes had before this era been seized and car­
ried to Seville. The Ecclesiastical and Secular .An­
nals of that city, under the date 1474, record that ne­
gro slaves abounded there, and that the fifths levied on
them produced considerable gains to the royal reve­
nue; it is also mentioned that there had been traffic
of this kind in the days of Don Enrique the Third,
about 1399, but that it had since then fallen into the
hands of the Portuguese. The chronicler states that
the negroes of Seville were treated very kindly from
the time of King Enrique, being allowed to keep their
dances and festi,yals ; and that one of them was named
"mayoral" of the rest, who protected them against
their masters, and before the courts of law, and also
settled their own private quarrels. There is a letter
from Ferdinand and Isabella in the year 1474, to a
celebrated negro, Juan de Valladolid, commonly called
the "Negro Count" (el Conde Negro), nominating him
to this office of" mayoral of the negroes," which runs
thus: "For the many good, loyal, and signal services
which you have done us, and do each day, and becaus(f
we know your sufficiency, ability, and good disposition,
we constitute you mayoral and judge of all the negroes
and mulattoes, free or slaves, which are in the very
loyal and noble city of Seville, and throughout the
whole archbishopric thereof, and that the said negroes
and mulattoes may not hold any festivals, nor plead­
ings among themselves, except before you, Juan de
Valladolid, negro, our judge and mayoral of the said
negroes and mulattoes ; and we command that you,
and you only, should take cognizance of the disputes,
pleadings, marriages, and other things which may take
place among them, forasmuch as you are a person suf­
48. .
Portuguese .Discoveries in .;{frica. 45
ficient for that office, and deserving of your power, and
you know the laws and ordinances which ought to be
kept, and we are informed that you are of noble lineage
among the said negroes. "*
But the above merely shows that in the year 1474
there were many negroes in Seville, and that laws and
ordinances had been made about them. These ne­
groes might all, however, have been imported into Se­
ville since the Portuguese discoveries. True it is,
that in the times of Don Enrique the Third, and dur­
ing Bethencourt's occupation of the Canary Islands,
slaves from thence had been brought to France and
Spain; but these islanders were not negroes, and it
certainly may be doubted whether any negroes were
imported into Seville previous to 1443.
Returning to the course of Portuguese affairs, an
historian of that nation informs us that the gold ob­
tained by Gon9alvez "awakened, as it always does,
covetousness ;"t and there is no doubt that it proved
an important stimulus to farther discovery. The next
year Nuno Tristam went farther down the African
coast ; and, off Adeget, one of the Arguim Islands,
captured eighty natives, whom he brought to Portugal.
These, however, were not negroes, but Azenegues.
The tide of popular opinion was now not merely
turned, but was rushing in full flow in favor of Prince
Henry and his discoveries. The discoverers were
found to come back rich in slaves and other commod­
,ities; whereas it was remembered that in former wars
and undertakings, those who had been engaged in them
* ORTIZ DE Zuili1GA, Annales Eclesiasticos y Seculares de Sevilla, p.
374. Madrid, 1677.
t FARIA Y SousA.
49. 46 Portuguese JJiscoveries in Africa._
had generally returned in great distress. Strangers,
too, now came from afar, scenting the prey. A new
~ CefCooilDO
mode of life, as the Portuguese said, had been found
out ; and " the greater part of the kingdom was moved
with a sudden desire to follow this way to Guinea."*
* BARRos, dee. i., lib. i., cap. 8.
50. Portuguese .Discoveries in Africa. 47
In 1444, a company was formed at Lagos, who re­
ceived permission from the prince to undertake discov­
ery along the coast of Africa, paying him a certain por­
tion.ofany gains which they might make. This has
been considered as a company founded for carrying on
the slave-trade; but the evidence is by no means suf­
ficient to show that its founders meant such to be its
purpose. It might rather be compared to an expedi­
tion sent out, as we should say in modern times, with
letters of marque, in which, however, the prizes chiefly
hoped for wer<;i, not ships, nor merchandise, but men.
The only thing of any moment, however, which the
expedition accomplished, was to attack successfully
the inhabitants of the islands Nar and Tider, and to
bring back about two hundred slaves.* I grieve to
say that there is no· ev~dence of Prince Henry's put­
ting a check to any of these proceedings ; but, on the
contrary, it appears that he awarded with large honors
Larn;arote, one of the principal men of this expedition,
and received his own fifth of the slaves. Yet I have
scarcely a doubt that the words of the historian are
substantially true-that discovery, not gain, was still
the prince's leading idea. t vVe have an account from
an eye-witness of the partition of the slaves brought
back by Larn;arote, which, as it is the first transaction
of the kind on record, is worthy of notice, more espe­
cially as it may enable the reader to understand· the
motives of the prince, and of other men of those times.
* BARROS does not say of what race these slaves were, but merely
calls them" almas." FARIA v SousA gives them the name of"Moors,"
a very elastic word. I imagine that they were Azenegues.
t " Porque huma das cousas, que o Infante naquelle tempo trazia
ante os olhos, e em que o mais podiam comprazer, e servir, era em
aquelle descubrimento, por ser cousa, que ella plantara, e creara com
tanta industria, e despeza."-BARRos, dee: i., lib. i., cap. 8.
51. 48 Azurara's Lament.
It is to be found in the Chronicle, before referred to,
of AzURARA. The merciful chronicler is smitten to
the heart at the sorrow he witnesses, but still believes
it to be for good, and that he must not let his mere
earthly commiseration get the better of his piety.
"0 thou heavenly Father," he exclaims, "who, with
thy powerful hand, without movement of thy divine
essence, governest all the infinite company of thy holy
city, and who drawest together all the axles of the up­
per worlds, divided into nine spheres, moving the times
of their long and short periods as it pleases thee! I
implore thee that my tears may not condemn my con­
science, for not its law, but· our common humanity
constrains my humanity to lament piteously the suf­
ferings of these people (slaves). .And if the brute an­
imals, with their mere bestial sentiments, by a natural
instinct, recognize the misfortunes of their like, what
must this my human nature do, seeing thus before my
eyes this wretched company, remembering that I my­
self am of the generation of the sons of Adam! The
other day, which was the eighth of August, very early
in the morning, by reason of the heat, ·the mariners
began to bring-to their vessels, and, as they had been
commanded, to draw forth those captives to take them
out of the vessel; whom, placed together on that plain,
it was a marvelous sight to behold, for among them
there were some of a reasonable degree of whiteness,
handsome and well made; others less white, resem­
bling leopards in their color ; others as black as Ethi­
opians, and so ill formed, as well in their faces as their
bodies, that it seemed to the beholder,s as if they saw
the forms of a lower hemisphere. *But what heart
* " Mas qua! serya o cora~om, por duro que seer podesse, que nom
fosse pungido de piedoso sentimen to, veendo assy aquella companha ;
52. .Azurara's Lament. 49
was that, how hard soever, which was not pierced with
sorrow, seeing that company ; for some had sunken
cheeks, and their faces bathed in tears, looking at each
other; others were groaning very dolorously, looking
at the heights of the heavens, fixing their eyes upon
them, crying out loudly, as if they were asking succor
from the Father of nature ; others struck their faces
with their hands, throwing themselves on the earth;
others made their lamentations in songs, according to
the customs of their country, which, although we could
not understand their language, we saw corresponded
well to the height of their sorrow. But now, for the
increase of'their grief, came those who had the charge
of the distribution, and they began to put them apart
one from the other, in order to equalize the portions ;
wherefore it was necessary to part children and par­
ents, husbands and wives, and brethren from each oth­
er. Neither in the partition of friends and relations
was any law kept, only each fell where the lot took
him. 0 powerful fortune! who goest hither and thith­
er with thy wheels, compassing the things of the world
as it pleaseth thee, if thou canst, place before the eyes
ca huiis tiinham as caras baixas, e os rostros Javados com Jagrimas,
olhando huiis contra os outros ; outros estavam gemendo muy dooras­
amente, esguardando a altura dos ceeos, firmando os olhos em elles,
braadando altamente, como se pedissem acorro ao Padre da natureza ;
outros feryam seu rostro com suas palmas, Jan9andosse tendidos em
meo do chaiio ; outros faziam suas lamenta9ooes em maneira de canto,
segundo o costume de sua terra, nasquaaes postoque as pallavras da
linguajem aos nossos nom podesse seer entendida, hem correspondya
ao graao de sua tristeza. ]\fas pera seu doo seer mais acrecentado,
sobreveherom aquelles que tiinham carregb da partilha, e come~arom
de os apartarem huiis dos outros ; afim de poerem seus quinhooes cm
igualleza; onde conviinha de necessydade de se apartarem os filhos
dos padres, e os molheres dos maridos, e os huiis irmailos dos outros.
A amigos nem a parentes nom se guardava nhiia ley, somente cada
huii caya onde o a sorte levava !"
VoL. I.-C
53. uU A.zurara's Lament.
of this miserable nation some knowledge of the things
that are to come after them, that they may receive
some consolation in the midst of their great sadness !
and you others who have the business of this partition,
look with pity on such great misery, and consider how
can those be parted whom you can not disunite!
·who will be able to make this partition without great
difficulty ? for while they were placing in one part the
children that saw their parents in another, the children
sprang up perseveringly and fled to them; the moth­
ers inclosed their children in their arms, and threw
themselves with them on the ground, receiving wounds
with little pity for their own flesh, so that their off­
spring might not be tom from them ! And so, with
labor and difficulty, they concluded the partition, for,
besides the trouble they had with the captives, the
plain was full of people, as well of the place as of the
villages and neighborhood around, who in that day
gave rest to their hands, the mainstay of their liveli­
hood, only to see this novelty. And as they looked
upon these things, some deploring, some reasoning
upon them, they made such a riotous noise as greatly
to disturb those who had the management of this dis­
tribution. The Infante was there upon a powerful
horse, accompanied by his people, looking out his share,
but as a man who for his part did not care for gain,
for, of the forty-six souls which fell to his fifth, he
speedily made his choice, as all his principal riches
were in his contentment, considering with great delight
the salvation of those souls which before were lost.
And certainly his thought was not vain, for as soon as
they had knowledge of our language, they readily be­
came Christians; and I, who have made this history
in this volume, have seen in the town of Lagos young
54. Portuguese .Discoveries in Africa. 51
men and young women, the sons and grandsons of
those very captives, born in this land, as good and as
true Christians as if they had lineally descended, since
the commencement of the law of Christ, from those
who were first baptized."*
The good AzunARA wished that these captives
might have some foresight of the things to happen
after their death. I do not think, however, that it
would have proved much comiolation to them to have
foreseen that they were almost the first of many mill­
ions to be dealt with as they had been; for in this
year, 1444, Europe may be said to have made a dis­
tinct beginning in the slave-trade, henceforth to spread
on all sides like the waves upon stirred water, and
not, like them, to become fainter and fainter as the
circles widen.
In 1445, an expedition was fitted out by Prince
Henry himself, and the command given to Gonsalvo
de Cintra, ''"ho was unsuccessful in an attack on the
natives near Cape Blanco. He and some other of the
principal men of the expedition lost their lives. These
were the first Portuguese who died in battle on that
coast. In the same year the prince sent out three
other vessels. The captains received orders from the
Infante, Don Pedro, who was then regent of Portugal,
to enter the River d'Oro, and make all endeavors to
* AzuRARA, cap. 25. I have not scrupled to give AzuRARA's de­
scription of this remarkable scene without abridgment ; and, indeed,
throughout this narrative I shall be obliged to quote largely; Many
of the works referred to are in manuscript. Several even of the print­
ed ones are of the highest rarity. In such a case, it seems to be ri
service to literature to quote as copiously from the original documents
as can be done without embarrassing the narrative or encumbering the
55. 52 Portuguese .Di.scoveries in .Africa.
convert the natives to the faith, and even, if they
should not receive baptism, to make peace and alliance
with them. This did not succeed. It is probable
Cl­ '
a '!fCooilHiJpe~
that the captains founceedingly tame and apparently profitless in compari­
son with the pleasant forays made by their predcces­
56. Portuguese JHscoveries in Africa. 53
sors. T11e attempt, however, shows much intelligence
and humanity on the part of those in power in Portu­
gal. That the instructions were sincere, is proved by
the fact of this expedition returning with only one
negro, gained in ransom, and a Moor who came of his
own accord to see the Christian country.
This same year 1445 is signalized by a great event
in the progress of discovery along the African coast.
Dinis Dyaz, called by BARROS, and the historians who
followed him, Dinis Fernandez, sought employment
from the Infante, and being intrusted by him with the
command of a vessel, pushed boldly down the coast,
and passed the River Sanaga (Senegal), which divides
the Azcnegues (whom the first discoverers always
called l\foors) from the negroes of Jalof. The inhab­
itants were much astonished at the presence of the
Portuguese vessel on their coasts, and at first took it
for a fish, or a bird, or a phantasm ; but when in their
rude boats (hollowed logs) they neared it, and saw
that there were men in it, judiciously concluding that
it was a more dangerous thing than fish, or bird, or
phantasm, they fled. Dinis Fernandez, however, cap­
tured four of them off that coast; but as his object was
discovery, not slave-hunting,* he went on till he dis­
covered Cape Verde, and then returned to his country,
to be received with much honor and favor by Prince
Henry. These four negroes taken by Dinis Fernan­
dez were the first taken in their own country by the
Portuguese. t That the prince was still engaged in
* " Como seu proposito mais era descubrir terra por servir o infante,
que trazer cativos pera seu proprio proveito. "-BARRos, dee. i., lib. i.,
cap. 9.
t "Os quaaes forom os primeiros que em sua propria terra forom
filhados per Xpaiios, nem ha hi cronica nem estorya em que se conte
o contrairo."-AzuRARA, cap. 31.
57. 54 Portuguese Discoveries in .Africa.
high thoughts of discovery and conversion, we may
conclude from observing that he rewarded and honor- ·
ed Dinis :Fernandez as much as if he had brought him
large booty; for the prince "thought little of what­
ever he could do for those who came to him with these
signs and tokens of another greater hope which he en­
In this case, too, as in others, we should do great
injustice if we supposed that Prince Henry had any
of the pleasure of a slave-dealer in obtaining these
ncgroes: it is far more probable that he valued them
as persons capable of furnishing intelligence, and, per­
haps, of becoming interpreters for his future expedi­
tions ; not that; without these especial motives, he
would have thought it any thing but great gain for a
man to be made a slave, if it were the means of bring­
ing him into communion with the Church.
After this, several expeditions, which did not lead
to much, occupied the prince's time till 1447. In
that year, a fleet, large for those times, of fourteen
vessels, was fitted out at Lagos by the people there,
and the command given by Prince Henry to Lan9a­
rote. The object seems -to have been, from a speech
that is recorded of Lan9arote's, to make war upon the
Azeneghi l\Ioors, and especially to take revenge for
the defeat before mentioned which Gonsalvo de Cintra
suffered in 1445, near Cape Blanco. That purpose
effected, Lan9arote went southward, extending the
discovery of the coast to the River Garn bia. In the
course of his proceedings on that coast, we find again
that Prince Henry's instructions insisted much upon
* " Que sempre !he parecia pouco o que fazia aquelles, que !he
vinham com estas mostras, e sinaes d'outra maior esperan~a que elle
tinha."-IlARRos, dee. i., lib. i., cap. 9.
58. Portuguese .Discovenes in Africa. 55
the maintenance of peace with the natives.* An­
other instance of the same disposition on his part de­
serves to be especially recorded. The expedition had
been received in a friendly manner at Gomera, one of
the Canary Islands. Notwithstanding this kind re­
ception, some of the natives were taken prisoners.
On their being brought to Portugal, Prince Henry
had them clothed and afterward set at liberty in the
place from which they had been taken. t
This expedition under Larn;arote had no great re­
sult. The Portuguese went a little farther down the
coast than they had ever been before, but they did
not succeed in making friends of the natives, who had
already been treated in a hostile manner by some Por­
tuguese from Madeira. Neither did the expedition
make great spoil of any kind. They had got into
feuds with the natives, and were preparing to attack
them, when a storm dissipated their fleet and caused
them to return home.
It appears, I think, from the general course of pro­
ceedings of the Portuguese in those times, that they
considered there was always war between them and
the Azeneghi J\Ioors-that is, in the territory from
Ceuta as far as the Senegal River; but that they had
no declared hostility against the negroes of Jalof, or
of any country farther south, though · skirmishes
would be sure to happen from ill-understo?d attempts
* " Gomes Pires, a quern o Capitiio Lam;:arote mandou em hum
bate!, que fosse a elles, parecendo-Ihe que os provocava mais a paz,
que Jhe o inf11nte muito encommendava em seu regimento, Ian~ou-lhes
em terra hum bollo, hum espelho, e huma folba de papel, em que hia
t " Infilos libres, y.luzidos en su naturaleza."-FARIA Y SouZA, tom, i., part
i,ca~i ·
59. 56 Portuguese .Discoveries in Africa.
at friendship on the one side, and just or needless
fears on the other.
The last public enterprise of which Prince Henry
had the direction was worthy to close his administra­
tion of the affairs relating to Portuguese discovery.
He caused two. embassadors to be dispatched to the
King of the Cape Verde teITitory to ,treat of peace,
and to introduce the Christian faith. One of the em­
bassadors, a Danish* gentleman, was treacherously
killed by the natives, and upon that the other re­
turned, having accomplished nothing.
Don Alfonso the Fifth, the nephew of Prince Henry,
now took the reins of government, and the future ex­
peditions along the coast of Africa proceeded in his
name. Still it does not appear that Prince Henry
ceased to liave power and influence in the manage­
ment of African affairs; and the first thing that the
king did in them was to enact that no one should
pass Cape Bojador without a license from Prince
Henry. Some time between 1448. and 1454 a for­
tress was built in one of the islands of Arguim, which
islands had already become a place of bargain for gold
and negro slaves. t This was the first Portuguese
establishment on the coast of Africa. It seems that
a system of trade was now established between the
Portuguese and the negroes.t
* This employment of a foreigner, which is not the only instance,
seems to show that the Portuguese prince cultivated good relations
with intelligent men of other countries.
t " Porque las Islas de Arguim concurria rescate de oro, y negros,
mando el Rey lcvantar a una del!as el Castillo de aquel nombre (y foe
el primero que se levant6 en nuestras conquistas)."-FARIA. Y SousA,
tom. i., part. i., cap. 2.
:j: " A este tempo o negocio de Guine andava ja mui corrente entre
os nossos, e os moradores daquellas partes, e huns com es outros se
communicavam em as cousas do commercio com paz, e amor, sem
60. Portuguese Discoveries in Africa. 51
Having come to an important point in the course
of Portuguese discovery, we may now make a pause,
not without some satisfaction at having got through a
tedious part of the narrative-a part chiefly marked
by names, dates, and bare events, which stand in the
undiversified story like solitary post-houses in the
"steppes" of Russia or the "landes" in France.
Admitting, 110wever, to the full, any tediousness
that there may be in this account of early Portuguese
discovery, we ought not, I think, to consider it un­
interesting. The beginnings of great things, even if
obscure, trivial, isolated, without the details which
bring reality into presence, and round which the hopes
and the fortunes of men have not yet gathered, still
can not be devoid of interest to any thoughtful, fore­
casting ·mind. The traveler willingly dismounts to
see the streamlet which is the origin of a great river,
and the man of imagination (who is patient in research
because he is imaginative), as, in science, he labori­
ously follows with delight the tracks now hardened in
the sandstone of obscure birds which paddled over
those buried plains ages ago, so, in history, he will
often find material to meditate upon, and to observe,
in slight notices, which, however, like the others, in­
dicate much to him of by-gone times and wondrous
aqucllas entradas, e saltos de roubos de gucrra, que no princlpio
houve."....;..BARRos, dee. i., lib. ii., cap. 2. See also AzuRARA, cap. 95.
T the close of the preceding chapter it was in­
A timated that the narrative of these Portuguese
voyages is rather uninviting. Could we recall, how­
ever, the voyagers themselves, and listen to their
story, we should find it animating enough. Each
enterprise, as we have it now, with its few dry facts,
seems a meagre affair ; but it was far otherwise to the
men who were concerned in it. "\Ve have seen that
piety had a large part in these undertakings: doubt­
less the love of adventure and the craving for novelty
had their influences also.* And what adventure it
was ! new trees, new animals, new stars, to be seen :
nothing bounded, nothing trite; nothing which had
the bloom taken off it by much previous description!
These early voyagers, moreover, were like children
coming out to take their first gaze into the world,
with ready credulity and unlimited fancy, willing to
* "They err who regard the Conquistadores as led only by a thirst
for gold, or even exclusively by religious fanaticism. Dangers always
exalt the poetry of life ; and, moreover, the powerful age which we
here seek to depict in regard to its influence on the development of
cosmical ideas, gave to all enterprises, as well as to the impressions
of nature offered by distant voyages, the charm of novelty and sur­
prise, which begins to be wanting to our present more learned.age in
the many regions of the earth which are now open to us."-HuM­
BOLDT's Kosmos, Sabine's translation, London, 1848, vol. ii., p 272.
62. Oa da .llfosto's Voyage. 59
believe in fairies and demons, Amazons and " forms
of a lower hemisphere," mystic islands, and. fountains
of perpetual youth.
'rhen, too, besides the hopes and fears of each in­
dividual of the crew, the conjoint enterprise had in it ,
a life to be lived and a career to be worked out. It
started to do something ; fulfilled its purpose, or at
least some purpose; and then came back radiant with
success, from that time forward to be a great fact in
history. Or, on the other hand, there was some small
failure or mischance, perhaps, early in the voyage:
the sailors then began to reckon up. ill omens, and
to say that little good would come of this business.
Farther on, some serious misadventure happened
which made them turn·; or from the mere lapse of
time, they were obliged to bethink themselves of get­
ting back. Safety, not renown nor profit, now be­
came their object, and their hope was at best but the
negative of some fear. Thereupon, no doubt, ensued
a good deal of recrimination among themselves, for
very few people are magnanimous enough to share ill­
success kindly together. Then, in the long, dull even­
ings of their voyage homeward, as they sat looking
on the waters, they thought what excuses and ex­
planations they would make to their friends at home,
and how shame and vexation would mingle with their
joy at returning.
This transaction, teeming as it did with anxious
life, must make a poor show in some chronicle : they
sailed ; and did something, or failed in doing, and
then came back ; and this was in such a year : brief
records, like the entry in an almanac, or the few em­
phatic words on a tombstone!
At the period, however, we are now entering upon,
63. 60 Oa da Kosto's Voyage.
the annals of maritime discovery are fortunately en­
riched by the account of a voyager who could tell
more of the details of what he saw than we 11ave hith­
erto heard from other voyagers, and who was himself
his own chronicler.
In 1454, Cada :M:osto, a young Venetian, who had
already gained some experience in voyaging, happened
to be on board a Venetian galley that was detained
by contrary winds at Cape St. Vincent. Prince Henry
was then living close to the cape. He sent his sec­
retary and the. Venetian consul on board the galley.
They told of the great things the prince had done,
showed samples of the commodities that came from
the lands discovered by him ·(Madeira sugars, Drag­
on's-blood, and other articles), and spoke of the gains
made by Portuguese voyagers being as great as 700
or 1000 per cent. Ca da J\Iosto expressed his wish
to be employecl, was informed of the terms that would
be granted, and heard that a Venetian would be well
received by the prince, "because he was of opinion
that spices and other rich merchanclise might be found
in these parts, and knew that the Venetians understood
these commodities better than any other nation."*
In fine, Cada J\Iosto saw the prince, and was evi­
dently much impressed by his noble bearing. He
obtained his wishes, and, being furnished with a cara­
vel, he embarked his merchandise in it, and set off on
a voyage of discovery. There was now for the first
time an intelligent man on board one of these vessels,
giving us his own account of the voyage.
From Ca da 1.Iosto the reader at once learns the
state of things with regard to the slave-trade. The
* AsTLEY's Voyages, vol. i., p. 574.
64. Ca da .J.1fosto's Voyage. Gl
Portuguese factory at Arguim was the head-quarters
of the trade. Thither came all kinds of merchandise,
and gold and slaves were taken back in return. The
"Arabs" of that district (Moors the Portuguese would
have called them) were the middle men in this affair.
They took their Barbary horses to the negro country,
and "there bartered with the great men for slaves,"
getting from ten to eighteen slaves for each horse.
They also brought silks of Granada and Tunis, and
silver, in exchange for which they received slaves and
gold. These Arabs, or Moors, had a place of trade of
their own, called Roden, behind Cape Blanco.
the slaves were brought, "from whence, Cada Jl.Iosto
says, they are sent to the mountains of Barka, and
from thence to Sicily; part of them are also brought
to Tunis, and along the coast of Barbary, and the rest
to Argin, and sold to the licensed Portuguese. Every
year between seven and eight hundred slaves are sent
from Argin to Portugal. 1'*
" Before this trade was settled," says Ca da l\Iosto,
"the Portuguese used to seize upon the Moors them­
selves (as appears occasionally from the evidence that
has before been referred to), and also the Azcncgues
who live farther toward the south; but now peace is
restored to all, and the Infante suffers no farther dam­
age to be done to these people. He is in hopes that,
by conversing with Christians, they may easily be
brought over to the Romish faith, as they are not, as
yet, well established in that of Mohammed, of which
they know nothing but by hearsay."t
No doubt the prince's good intentions were greatly
furthered by the convenience of this mode of trading.
In short, gain made for itself its usual convenient
* AsTLEY's Voyages, vol. i., p. 577. t Ibid., p. 578.
65. 62 Ca da Nosto's Voyage.
channels to work in, and saved itself as much as it
could the.trouble of discovery, or of marauding.
Ca da Mosto being, as was said before, the first
modem European visiting Africa who gives, himself,
an account of it, and being, moreover, apparently an
honest and intelligent man, all that he narrates is
most valuable. He notices the difference of the peo­
ple and the country on the opposite sides of the Sen­
egal River. On the northern side he finds the men
small, spare, and tawny; the country arid and bar­
ren: on the southern side, the men "exceeding black,
tall, corpulent, and well made; the country green
and full of green trees." This latter is the country
of J alof, the same that Prince Henry first heard of
in his intercourse with the :Moors. Ca da lifosto
gives a minute description of the people, which is well
worth noting. Both men and women, he says, wash
themselves four or five times a day, being very clean­
ly as to their persons, but not so in eating, in which
they observe no rule. Although very ignorant and
awkward in going about any thing which they have
not been accustomed to, yet in their own business
which they are acquainted with, they are as expert
as any Europeans can be. They are full of words,
and never have done talking; and are, for the most
part, liars and cheats. Yet, on the other hand, they
are very charitable, for they give a dinner, or a night's
lodging and a supper, to all strangers who come to
their houses, without expecting any return.
" These negro lords often make war among them­
selves and with their neighbors. They have no cav­
alry for want of horses : they wear no arms save a
large target for their defense, made of the skin of a
~east called Danta, which is very difficult to be pierced,
66. Oa da Jlfosto's Voyage. 63
and Azagays, or light darts, in throwing of which
they are very dexterous. These darts are pointed
with iron, the length of a span, barbed in different
manners, so that they make dangerous wounds in
the body wherever they enter, tearing the flesh griev­
ously when pulled out. They also have a Moorish
weapon, which is like a Turkish half-sword; that is,
bent like a bow, and made of ir~n (without any steel)
brought from the kingdom of Gambia by the negroes,
who thereof m().ke their arms; and if they have any
rron in their own country, they know nothing of it,
or want industry to work it. They use also anoth­
er weapon, like our javelin, besides which they have
no other arms.
" As they have but few arms, their wars are very
bloody, for their strokes do not fall in vain. They
are extremely bold and fierce, choosing rather to be
killed than to save their lives by flight. They are
not afraid to die, nor scared, as other people are, when
they see a companion slain. They have no ships, nei­
ther did they ever see any before the Portuguese came
upon their coast. Those inhabiting near the river,
and some who live by the sea, have Zappolies or Al­
madias, made out of a single piece of wood, the largest
whereof carries three or four men. In these they fish
sometimes, and go up and down the river. These ne­
groes are the greatest swimmers in the world, by the
experiments the author has seen of them in these
\ parts."*
Ca da J\Iosto left the country of the J alofs and pro­
ceeded eight hundred miles farther, as he says, but he
must, I think, have over-estimated his reckoning, to
* AsTLEY's Voyages, vol. i., p. 582.
67. G4 Cada Nosto's Voyage.
the country of a negro potentate called King Budo­
mel. Budomel received the voyager courteously, and
made purchases of him, which were paid for in slaves.
Cada l\losto gives an account of the religion of Budo­
mel's country, which deserves ·notice: it seems to
show that the religion of the court, at least, was l\Io­
hammedan ; but it was not very strong in the affec­
tions of the people, alfd must have been comparatively
a recent introduction.*
Perhaps there is hardly any thing \yhich tells more
of the condition and the skill of a people than their
markets. According to Ca Budomcl's country indicated the poverty of the people,
and showed that they had not advanced beyond the
state of barter in their commercial transactions. t
* "Toward evening, Iludomel ordered the Azanaghi or Arabs, whom
he always has about him, to say prayers. His manner was thus : Be­
ing entered into the mosque (which was in one of the courts) with
some of the principal negroes, he first stood with his eyes lifted up,
then he advanced two steps and spoke a few words softly, after which
he stretched himself on the ground and kissed it. The Azanaghi and
all the rest did the same. Then rising, he repeated the same acts over
again ten or twelve times, which took up half an hour. \Vhen he had
done, he asked the author's opinion of their manner of worship, and
to give him some account of his own religion. Hereupon Ca da Mos­
to told him, in presence of his doctors, that the religion of Mohammed
was false, and the Rornish the true one. This made the Arabs mad,
and Budomel laugh;· who, on this occasion, said that he looked upon
the religion of the Europeans to be good, for that none but God could
have given them so much riches and understanding. He ·added, how­
ever, that the Mohammedan Law must be also good; and that he be­
lieved the negroes were more sure of salvation than the Christians,
because God was a just Lord;· and therefore, as he had given the lat­
ter a Paradise in this world, it ought to be possessed in the world to
come by the negroes, who had scarce any thing here in comparison of
the others."-AsTLEY's Voyages, vol. i., p. 584.
t " He, Ca da Mosto, went three or four times to see one of their.
markets or fairs, which was kept on Mondays and Fridays in a mead­
ow not far from the place where.he was lodged. Hither repaired,