Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/57

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easy to see that the first condition of a westward voyage which was to produce a positive discovery was definitively to abandon this fruitless method, and to sail due west from the Old World; Colombo was the fint to reach America because he was the first to take this view of the Conditions of his task. His plan, early determined on and tenaciously adhered to, was to abandon Antilha and Brasil, and to assume that between the Azores and the Eastern shores and islands of Asia there were no lands to be discovered, and that there was accordingly nothing to be done but to cross the trackless Atlantic by as direct a course as .possible. This perfectly accurate forecast, and the firmness with which he adhered to the plan founded upon it, rank among the most conspicuous indications of Colombo's greatness.

The execution of such a plan involved great preparations. Three ships, provisioned for twelve months, represented Colombo's estimate of what was necessary; and whatever power should accept his offer to sail with such an equipment for the Eastern shores and islands of Asia, was destined to acquire the substantial sovereignty of that New Continent whose existence remained as yet unsuspected. Both Cristoforo and Bartolomeo Colombo had been from their youth in the maritime service of Portugal, and Cristoforo had married a Portuguese wife. In early life he had found constant employment in the Guinea voyages; having also sailed to Bristol, and from Bristol far beyond Iceland, he knew the entire field of Atlantic navigation from the Arctic circle to the equator. It was natural that his first proposal for making a westward passage to the East should be made to the King of Portugal. It was equally natural that the proposal should be rejected. The circumnavigation of Africa was nearly accomplished; of this route to the wealthy East the Portuguese would enjoy a practical monopoly, and it could be effectively defended. Contemporary explorations in the Western Atlantic left doubtful the question whether any land, island or continent, existed in this direction within practical sailing distance. Even if the westward passage were successfully accomplished, it was manifest that Portugal would be unable to monopolise it, and that the discovery must ultimately enure for the benefit of the stronger maritime nations of Western Europe. Considerations of this kind sufficed to ensure the rejection of Colombo's proposals by the prudent counsellors of Affonso V; but the projector always remembered his repulse with bitter resentment, and mockingly remarked, in after years, that the Almighty had rendered Affonso " blind and deaf to the miracle about to be wrought by Him through the agency of the King and Queen of Castile." Having failed in the land of his adoption, Colombo carried his project to the republic of which he was born a citizen, where it met with no better reception. The interest of Genoa was to keep the Oriental trade in its existing overland channels; and the same consideration prevailed with the rival city of Venice, to whose Signoria the projector made his next application.