Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/60

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of the Cape Verde Islands, and intended to mark a midway line between the Azores, the westernmost of Portugal's possessions, and the new islands in the West Indies, supposed to be the easternmost parts of the Spanish acquisitions. The action of the Holy See in assuming to partition the globe between the sovereigns of Spain and Portugal has often been ridiculed. Such ridicule, it will be seen, is misplaced; and the papal claim to universal dominion, in its practical bearings, represented nothing more than a simple counterclaim against the more ancient and equally extravagant pretensions of the successors of Mohammad.

A second voyage made by Colombo in 1493, a third in 1498, and a fourth in 1502, added something, but not much, to the sum of his discoveries; and his administration as governor of the new Spanish acquisitions was only remarkable for demonstrating his utter incapacity for the post. Naturally enough, his conception of his duties and of the purpose which the new possessions of Spain were destined to serve, was based on the policy of the Portuguese on the coast of Guinea. Gold, and slaves as a means to gold, and as the only product immediately procurable and readily exchangeable for gold, were the only commodities worth carrying to Europe; and the scantier the supply of the former, the greater was the necessity for pushing the quest of the latter. The true riches of the Indies, Colombo wrote, are the Indians. The wretched natives, unable to procure the small quantity of gold demanded of them as a poll-tax, were provoked to resistance, and then captured and shipped by him in great numbers to Europe to be sold in the market of Seville. But the feeble and intractable Indians proved of little value as labourers; and it was at length ordered that this revolting traffic must cease. The Spanish adventurers who accompanied him frustrated his plans and procured his recall; and at his death in 1506, fourteen years after his unique nautical achievement, the first seaman in Europe, who might in half that time have revealed the whole American coast, had only added to the map the West Indian archipelago and the coasts of Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Darien, and Paria in Venezuela. In a few years his name was almost forgotten; and, by a strange freak of fortune, one Americo Vespucci, a man of mercantile pursuits who happened more than once to visit the New World and wrote accounts of his adventures, was credited by an ignorant public with Colombo's discovery, and from him the new continent received its name.

Meanwhile, the success of Colombo's first and second voyages urged on the Portuguese the necessity of prosecuting to its conclusion their own national enterprise. Dom Manoel the Fortunate now succeeded to the throne (1495); and Vasco da Gama, a young seaman who had been selected by Joao II, after the return of Diaz, to command the expedition which was to complete the work of sixty years by carrying the Portuguese flag round the newly-discovered southern cape to the shores of India, was commissioned to undertake the task. A voyage