Christians of Abyssinia and the East would be ultimately effected by ascending the Western Nile or Senegal River to its sources, which were universally supposed to be near those of the Egyptian Nile. This expectation, however, he associated with the remote future; his present policy was to secure Guinea as a dependency for Portugal and a rich appanage for the Order of Christ, by the construction of forts, the establishment of parochial settlements, and the foundation of churches. The economic character of the Iffante's enterprise was felt, even in his lifetime, to be so little in accordance with the character which history demands for its heroes, that a contemporary chronicle of the Guinea expeditions, compiled by one Cerveira, is known to have been suppressed, and replaced by the garbled work of Zurara, whose object it was to write the Iffante's panegyric as a great soldier and eminent Christian, and as the patriotic founder of the Greater Portugal which posterity would never cease to associate with his name. As the enterprise assumed larger proportions, the pretence that the negro was captured and shipped to Portugal for the salvation of his soul was abandoned. Even more valuable, for commercial purposes, than negro slaves, were the gold and ivory in which the tribes south of the Gambia River abounded. The Portuguese, who were now expert slave-raiders, found that the reward of their enterprise was best secured by disposing of their prey to the chiefs of other tribes, who were ready to give gold and ivory in exchange. The Guinea trade, which assumed this character almost exclusively soon after Dom Henrique's death, was now farmed out to the highest bidders. Affonso V in 1469 granted it to one Fernam Gomes for five years, at an annual rent of 500 crusados, on condition that the grantee should in each year discover a hundred leagues of coast, or five hundred leagues altogether during the term. Pursuant to these conditions Gomes pushed the task of exploration vigorously forward. His sailors rounded Cape Palmas, the south-western extremity of North Africa, whence the coast trends to the north-east, passed the "Ivory Coast," and reached what has ever since been known as "the Gold Coast11 in a special sense-the land of the Fantee, having as a background the mountains of Ashantee ; and here, a few years later, Joao II founded the fort of San Jorge da Mina, the first great permanent fortress of the Portuguese on the Guinea coast. Before the death of Affonso V (1481), his subjects had coasted along the kingdoms of Dahomey and Benin, passed the delta of the Niger, crossed the bight of Biafra, where the coast at length bends to southward, discovered the island of Fernam do Po, followed the southwards-trending coast-line past Cape Lopez, and reached Cape St Catherine, two degrees south of the equator. These explorations proved that the general outline of Southern Africa had been correctly traced on Italian charts dating from the preceding century; and the last steps in the process of exploration, which finally verified this outline, were taken with extraordinary
Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/52
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