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Amerigo Vespucci by  Frederick A. Ober
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VESPUCCI'S SECOND VOYAGE

1499–1500

That letter from Vespucci to the friend of his youth, Soderini, purporting to narrate the events of his first voyage, has proved a prolific source of doubt and perplexity. Although it was written before Columbus died, and although it was published while most of the actors therein mentioned were yet living, its authenticity was unchallenged until nearly a century after its appearance. Herrera, it is believed, was the first to accuse Vespucci of "artfully and wilfully falsifying in his narrative, with a view to stealing from Columbus the honor of being the discoverer of America." This charge was made public in his work on the West Indies, published in 1601, and ever since Vespucci has been stigmatized as an impostor.

There is no official record of the voyage he claimed to have made in 1497-1498, and historians are silent as to his actions, in fact, during the period between 1496 and 1504. This signifies little, according to the historian Gomara, who says: "Learning that the territories which Columbus had discovered were very extensive, many persons proceeded to continue the exploration of them. Some went at their own expense, others at that of the king, all thinking to enrich themselves, to acquire honor, and to gain the royal approbation. But, as most of these persons did nothing but discover, memorials of them all have not come to my knowledge, especially of those who went in the direction of Paria, from the year 1495 to the year 1500."

Some writers have sought to "establish an alibi" by showing that Vespucci was in Spain throughout the period which, he says, was passed by him at sea, on this "first" voyage; but they have not been successful in doing so. Some, again, have declared that the narrative of the "four" voyages, beginning in May, 1497, was made up of that on which Vespucci certainly sailed with Ojeda, in May, 1499. "The points of resemblance"—as the reader may see for himself—"are so many and so striking as to seem not only conclusive, but to preclude any other theory," says Alexander Humboldt, who, in his Examen Critique, made an exhaustive research into the Vespucci letters. Humboldt completely vindicated the character of Vespucci, leaving no shade of doubt upon his integrity, but he did not unravel the mystery.

How happens it that Vespucci could make a voyage of which no record exists or was ever known to exist? Why did he not mention the names of the fleet's commander? Why do his descriptions of scenery and people so closely resemble those of scenery and people seen on the second voyage? He alludes several times to his forthcoming book, The Four Voyages (Quattro Giornate); but no trace has ever been found of that book, while the fragmentary letters to his "patrons," Soderini and Francesco de Medici, have survived to the present day.

Men of the keenest acumen and perfectly equipped for historical research, such as Humboldt, Irving, and Navarrete, have devoted themselves to the solution of this problem, but without complete success. The first and the last named have cleared his name from the aspersions of centuries; the second and third, in their endeavors to magnify Columbus by belittling Vespucci, have not convinced posterity that the Florentine was a liar and a villain. He was neither one nor the other; and that he was far more humane than his friend Columbus has been amply shown in his treatment of the Indians. He and his companions made a few slaves; they attacked the cannibals in behalf of rival natives; but they did not, in their lust for gold, put Indians to the torture, enslave whole tribes and communities, and commit massacres.

Vespucci's character is comparatively free from the stain of blood-guiltiness; from his dealings with men at all times, we infer him upright and honorable; yet he rests under a cloud of suspicion, because that so-called first voyage, which he says he took in 1497-1498, cannot be explained. Suspicion also attaches to his name because it was chosen as an appellation for the New World, which Columbus was the means of revealing to Europe; but for this (as will be shown in a succeeding chapter) he was not accountable.

Professor Fiske, following Vespucci's ardent defender, the Viscount Varnhagen, deduces from the vague generalizations in this letter that the voyage was made chiefly along the Honduras, Yucatan, Mexican, and Florida coasts, as far north, perhaps, as Chesapeake Bay. The cannibals attacked by the Spaniards were found, he says, in the Bermudas—where no Indians were ever seen, so far as known, and no cannibals inhabit, save, perhaps, the great Shakespeare's "Caliban." He accounts for the lost voyage by declaring that it may have been taken with Pinzon and Solis, who were said to have been on the coast of Honduras in 1506. There is no certainty as to that date, and the voyage may as well have been made in 1497-1498, as indirectly shown by a passage in Oviedo's history, as follows: "Some persons have attributed the discovery of the bay of Honduras to Don Christopher Columbus, the first admiral; but this is not true, for it was discovered by the pilots Vicente Yanez Pinzon, Juan Diaz de Solis, and Pedro de Ledesma, with three caravels; and that was before Vicente Yanez had discovered the river Amazon."

The Amazon and a portion of the Brazil coast were discovered by Pinzon in January, 1500; and as the historian has proved to his own satisfaction that the gallant Vicente Yanez was in Spain during the years 1505 and 1506, it is probable that Oviedo is right. It is also probable, or at least possible, that Vespucci was with Pinzon on that Honduras voyage as consulting navigator, having been sent by the king, as he says, to "assist," in his capacity of astronomer and cosmographer. In this capacity, in fact, he went on all his voyages, for he rarely, if ever, held command. Captains, commanders, chief mates, and admirals there might be in plenty, but such a pilot and navigator as Vespucci was hard to find.

It is not unreasonable to presume that they were together, for the one was a skilful sailor, the other a great navigator, and both renowned for their hardihood and daring. King Ferdinand had no more loyal servants than these two, and as they had served him faithfully in their respective professions, the one on land, the other at sea, and inasmuch as both were intimately acquainted with Columbus and his plans, it was like the crafty old king to send them off to scour the seas his exacting "Admiral" claimed to control. Thereafter—whether Pinzon and Vespucci sailed together or not—their voyages alternated along the coast of South America, first one and then the other, and in 1505-1506 an expedition was actually projected, in which the king intended both should share. It did not sail, because the Portuguese objected, as its object was the exploration of the Brazilian coast south of the Tropic of Capricorn, to all which the great rivals of the Spaniards then made claim.

A seeming confirmation of this voyage is found in the map Juan de la Cosa made, in the year 1500, after he had been in company with Ojeda and Vespucci to the coast of pearls. He was with Columbus, in 1494, when the Admiral forced all his men to swear that Cuba was, to the best of their belief, part of the Asian continent. Yet, within six years, La Cosa depicts it on his map as an island—and that was before Ocampo had proved it one, by sailing around it, in 1508. It is thought that La Cosa obtained his information as to the insular character of Cuba from Vespucci, when they voyaged together on the coast of Terra Firma, which we now know as the northern shores of South America.

Admitting, still, the critics say, that Vespucci made the voyage he claimed, with Pinzon or with some one else, in 1497-1498, how does that affect the claim of Columbus? It does not affect it at all, for, though Vespucci may have discovered the continent a few months previous to his rival—and he never put forth the claim that he did so—Columbus, by his voyages of 1492 and 1493, led the way thither. If Vespucci, as some have asserted, claimed to have sailed in 1497, in order to establish a priority of discovery, he did it in a very bungling manner, and at a time when it might easily have been refuted, so many of his companions were then living. Besides, though his name was bestowed upon the newly discovered continent—perhaps as a consequence of the writing of this very letter—it was done without his knowledge and without the remotest suggestion of such a thing from him. This should be made clear: that Amerigo Vespucci had no thought of depriving his friend, Christopher Columbus, of a single leaf of his laurels, hard-won and well-deserved as he knew them to be.

There is no doubt whatever that Vespucci made a voyage in 1499-1500, along with Alonzo de Ojeda and the great pilot Juan de la Cosa, but whether this may be styled his first or his second must be left to the intelligence of the reader, for the historians are at odds themselves, and it might seem presumptuous in the biographer to assume to decide. This voyage was narrated by him in the following letter, written within a month of his return, to Lorenzo di Pier Francesco de Medici, of Florence. It is dated, "Seville, July 18, 1500," and has been called by one of his countrymen "the oldest known writing of Amerigo relating to his voyages to the New World." Mr. John Fiske, in The Discovery of America, denounces this letter as a forgery; but why, and for what reason it should have been written by another, he does not state.

MOST EXCELLENT AND DEAR LORD,—

It is a long time since I have written to your Excellency, and for no other reason than that nothing has occurred to me worthy of being commemorated. This present letter will inform you that about a month ago I arrived from the Indies, by way of the great ocean, brought by the grace of God safely to this city of Seville. I think your Excellency will be gratified to learn the results of my voyage, and the most surprising things which have been presented to my observation. If I am somewhat tedious, let my letter be read in your more idle hours, as fruit is eaten after the cloth is removed from the table.

"You will please to note that, commissioned by his highness the King of Spain, I set out with two small ships, the 18th of May, 1499, on a voyage of discovery to the southwest, by way of the Fortunate Isles, which are now called the Canaries. After having provided ourselves there with all things necessary, first offering our prayers to God, we set sail from an island which is called Gomera, and, turning our prows southwardly, sailed twenty-four days with a fresh wind, without seeing any land. At the end of that time we came within sight of land, and found that we had sailed about thirteen hundred leagues, and were at that distance from the city of Cadiz, in a southwesterly direction. When we saw the land we gave thanks to God, and then launched our boats and, with sixteen men, went to the shore, which we found thickly covered with trees, astonishing both on account of their size and their verdure, for they never lose their foliage. The sweet odors which they exhaled (for they were all aromatic) highly delighted us, and we were rejoiced in regaling our senses.

"We rowed along the shore in the boats to see if we could find any suitable place for landing; but, after toiling from morning till night, we found no way of passage, the land being low and densely covered with trees. We concluded, therefore, to return to the ships and make an attempt to land at some other spot.

"One very remarkable circumstance we observed in these seas, which was that, at fifteen leagues distance from the land, we found the water fresh, like that of a river, and we filled all our empty casks with it. Sailing in a southerly direction, still along the coast, we saw two larger rivers issuing from the land; and I think that these two rivers, by reason of their magnitude, caused the freshness of the water in the sea adjoining. Seeing that the coast was invariably low, we determined to enter one of these rivers with the boats, and did so, after furnishing them with provisions for four days, and twenty men well armed. We entered the river and rowed up it nearly two days, making a distance of about eighteen leagues; but we found the low land still continuing and so thickly covered with trees that a bird could scarcely fly through them.

"We saw signs that the inland parts of the country were inhabited; nevertheless, as our vessels were anchored in a dangerous place, in case an adverse wind should arise, at the end of two days we concluded to return. Here we saw an immense number of birds, including parrots in great variety, some crimson in color, others green and lemon, others entirely green, and others again that were black and flesh-colored [these last were probably toucans]. And oh! the songs of other species of birds, so sweet and so melodious, as we heard them among the trees, that we often lingered, listening to their charming music. The trees, too, were so beautiful and smelled so sweetly that we almost imagined ourselves in a terrestrial paradise; yet none of those trees, or the fruit of them, were similar to anything in our part of the world.

"On our way back we saw many people of various descriptions fishing in the river. Having arrived at our ships, we raised anchor and set sail in a southerly direction, standing off to sea about forty leagues. While sailing on this course, we encountered a current running from southeast to northwest, so strong and furious that we were put into great fear and were exposed to imminent peril. This current was so strong that the Strait of Gibraltar and that of the Faro of Messina appeared to us like mere stagnant water in comparison with it. We could scarcely make headway against it, though we had the wind fresh and fair; so, seeing that we made no progress, or but very little, we determined to turn our prows to the northwest.

"As, if I remember aright, your Excellency understands something of cosmography, I intend to describe to you our progress in our navigation by the latitude and longitude. We sailed so far to the south that we entered the torrid zone and penetrated the circle of Cancer . . . . Having passed the equinoctial line and sailed six degrees to the south of it, we lost sight of the north star altogether, and even the stars of Ursa Major—or, to speak better, the guardians which revolve about the firmament—were scarcely seen. Very desirous of being the author who should designate the other polar star of the firmament, I lost, many a time, my night's sleep, while contemplating the movement of the stars about the southern pole. I desired to ascertain which had the least motion, and which might be nearest to the firmament; but I was not able to accomplish it with such poor instruments as I used, which were the quadrant and astrolabe. I could not distinguish a star which had less than ten degrees of motion; so that I was not satisfied, within myself, to name any particular one for the pole of the meridian, on account of the large revolution which they all made around the firmament.

"While I was arriving at this conclusion, I recollected a verse of our poet Dante, which may be found in the first chapter of his "Purgatory," where he imagines he is leaving this hemisphere to repair to the other and attempting to describe the antarctic pole, and says:

"'To the right hand I turned, and fixed my mind

On the other pole attentive, where I saw

Four stars ne'er seen before, save by the ken

Of our first parents. Heaven of their rays

Seemed joyous. O! thou northern site, bereft

Indeed, and widowed, since of these deprived!'

"It seems to me that the poet wished to describe in these verses, by the four stars, the pole of the other firmament, and I have little doubt, even now, that what he says may be true. I observed four stars in the figure of an almond which had but little motion; and if God gives me life and health I hope to go again into that hemisphere and not to return without observing the pole. In conclusion I would remark that we extended our navigation so far south that our difference in latitude from the city of Cadiz was sixty degrees and a half, because, at that city, the pole is elevated thirty-five degrees and a half, and we had passed six degrees beyond the equinoctial line. Let this suffice as to our latitude. You must observe that this our navigation was in the months of July, August, and September, when, as you know, the sun is longest above the horizon in our hemisphere and describes the greatest arch in the day and the least in the night. On the contrary, while we were at the equinoctial line, or near it, the difference between the day and night was not perceptible. They were of equal length, or very nearly so . . .

"It appears to me, most excellent Lorenzo, that by this voyage most of the philosophers are controverted who say that the torrid zone cannot be inhabited on account of the great heat. I have found the case to be quite the contrary. The air is fresher and more temperate in that region than beyond it, and the inhabitants are more numerous here than they are in the other zones, for reasons which will be given below. Thus, it is certain, that practice is more valuable than theory.

"Thus far I have related the navigation I accomplished in the South and West. It now remains for me to inform you of the appearance of the country we discovered, the nature of the inhabitants and their customs, the animals we saw, and of many other things worthy of remembrance which fell under my observation. After we turned our course to the north, the first land we found inhabited was an island at ten degrees distant from the equinoctial line [island of Trinidad]. When we arrived at it we saw on the sea-shore a great many people, who stood looking at us with astonishment.

"We anchored within about a mile of land, fitted out the boats, and twenty-two men, well armed, made for the land. The people, when they saw us landing and perceived that we were different from themselves (because they have no beards and wear no clothing of any description, being also of a different color—brown, while we were white), began to be afraid of us and all ran into the woods. With great exertion, by means of signs, we reassured them and found that they were a race called cannibals, the greater part, or all of whom, live on human flesh. Your Excellency may be assured of this fact. They do not eat one another, but, navigating with certain barks which they call canoes, they bring their prey from the neighboring islands or countries inhabited by those who are their enemies, or of a different tribe from their own. They never eat any women, unless they consider them as outcasts. These things we verified in many places where we found similar people. We often saw the bones and heads of those who had been eaten, and they who had made the repast admitted the fact and said that their enemies stood in greater fear of them on that account.

"Still, they are a people of gentle disposition and fine stature, of great activity and much courage. They go entirely naked, and the arms which they carry are rare bows, arrows, and spears, with which they are excellent marksmen. In fine, we held much intercourse with them, and they took us to one of their villages, about two leagues inland, and gave us our breakfast. They gave whatever was asked of them, though I think more through fear than affection; and after having been with them all one day we returned to the ships, sailing along the coasts, and finding another large village of the same tribe. We landed in the boats and found they were waiting for us, all loaded with provisions, and they gave us enough to make a very good breakfast, according to their ideas.

"Seeing they were such kind people and treated us so well, we did not take anything from them, but made sail until we arrived at a body of water which is called the Gulf of Paria. We anchored off the mouth of a great river, which causes the gulf to be fresh, and saw a large village close to the sea. We were surprised at the great number of people to be seen there, though they were without weapons and peaceably disposed. We went ashore with the boats, and they received us with great friendship and took us to their houses, where they had made good preparations for a feast. Here they gave us three sorts of wine to drink; not the juice of the grape, but made of fruits, like beer, and they were excellent. Here, also, we ate many fresh acorns, a most royal fruit, and also others, all different from ours, and all of aromatic flavor.

"What was more, they gave us some small pearls and eleven large ones, telling us that if we would wait some days they would go and fish for them and bring us many of the kind. We did not wish to be detained, so, with many parrots of different colors, and in good friendship, we parted from them. From these people it was we learned that those of the before-mentioned island were cannibals and ate human flesh. We issued from the gulf and sailed along the coast, seeing continually great numbers of people; and when we were so disposed we treated with them, and they gave us everything we desired. They all go as naked as they were born, without being ashamed, and if all were related concerning the little shame they have it would be bordering on impropriety, therefore it is better to suppress it.

"After having sailed about four hundred leagues, continually along the coast, we concluded that this land was a continent, which might be bounded by the eastern parts of Asia, this being the commencement of the western parts of the continent, because it happened that we saw divers animals, such as lions, stags, goats, wild hogs, rabbits, and other land animals which are not found in islands, but only on the main-land. Going inland one day with twenty men, we saw a serpent all of twenty-four feet in length and as large in girth as myself. We were very much afraid, and the sight of it caused us to return immediately to the sea. Ofttimes, indeed, I saw many ferocious animals and enormous serpents. When we had navigated four hundred leagues along the coast, we began to find people who did not wish for our friendship, but stood waiting for us with their bows and arrows. When we went ashore they disputed our landing in such a manner that we were obliged to fight them, and at the end of the battle they found they had the worst of it, for, as they were naked, we always made great slaughter. Many times not more than sixteen of us fought with no less than two thousand, in the end defeating them, killing many, and plundering their houses.

"One day we saw a great crowd of savages, all posted in battle array, to prevent our landing. We fitted out twenty-six men, well armed, and covered the boats on account of the arrows which were shot at us and which always wounded some before we landed. After they had hindered us as long as they could, we leaped on shore and fought a hard battle with them. The reason why they had so much courage and made such great exertion against us was that they did not know what kind of a weapon the sword was, or how it cuts! So great was the multitude of people who charged upon us, discharging at us such a cloud of arrows that we could not withstand the assault, and, nearly abandoning the hope of life, we turned our backs and ran for the boats. While thus disheartened and flying, one of our sailors, a Portuguese, who had remained to guard the boats, seeing the danger we were in, leaped on shore and with a loud voice called out to us: 'Face to the enemy, sons, and God will give you the victory!' Throwing himself upon his knees, he made a prayer, then rushed furiously upon the savages, and we all joined him, wounded as we were. On that they turned their backs and began to flee; and finally we routed them, killing more than a hundred and fifty. We burned their houses also—at least one hundred and eighty in number. Then, as we were badly wounded and weary, we went into a harbor to recruit, where we stayed twenty days, solely that the physician might cure us. All escaped save one, who was wounded in the left breast and died.

"After we were cured we recommenced our navigation; and through the same cause we were often obliged to fight with a great many people, and always had the victory over them. Thus continuing our voyage, we came to an island fifteen leagues distant from the main-land. As at our arrival we saw no collection of people, eleven of us landed. Finding a path inland, we walked nearly two leagues and came to a village of about twelve houses, in which were seven women who were so large that there was not one among them who was not a span and a half taller than myself. When they saw us they were very much frightened, and the principal one among them, who seemed certainly a discreet woman, led us by signs into a house and had refreshments prepared for us. They were such large women that we were about determining to carry off two of the younger ones as a present to our king; but while we were debating this subject, thirty-six men entered the hut where we were drinking. They were of such great stature that each one was taller when upon his knees than I when standing erect. In fact, they were giants; each of the women appeared a Penthesilia, and the men Antei. When they came in, some of our number were so frightened that they did not consider themselves safe, for they were armed with very large bows and arrows, besides immense clubs made in the form of swords. Seeing that we were small of stature they began to converse with us, in order to learn who we were and from what parts we came. We gave them fair words, and answered them, by signs, that we were men of peace and intent only upon seeing the world. Finally, we held it our wisest course to part from them without questioning in our turn; so we returned by the same path in which we had come—they accompanying us quite to the sea-shore, till we went aboard the ships.

"Nearly half the trees on this island are of dye-woods, as good as any from the East. Going from this island to another in the vicinity, at ten leagues distance, we found a very large village, the houses of which were built over the sea, like those of Venice, with much ingenuity. While we were struck with admiration at this circumstance, we determined to go to see them; and as we went into their houses the people owning them attempted to prevent us. They found out at last the sharpness of our swords, and thought it best to let us enter. Then we found these houses filled with the finest cotton, and the beams of their dwellings are made of dye-woods. In all the parts where we landed we found a great quantity of cotton, and the country filled with cotton-trees. All the vessels of the world, in fact, might be laden in these parts with cotton and dye-wood.

"We sailed three hundred leagues farther along this coast, constantly finding savage but brave people, and very often fighting with and vanquishing them. We found seven different languages among them, each of which was not understood by those who spoke the others. It is said that there are not more than seventy-seven languages in the world; but I say that there are more than a thousand, as there are more than forty which I have heard myself. After having sailed seven hundred leagues or more our ships became leaky, so that we could hardly keep them free, with two pumps going. The men also were much fatigued, and the provisions growing short. We were then within a hundred and twenty leagues of the island called Hispaniola, discovered by the Admiral Columbus six [eight] years before. So we determined to proceed to it and, as it was inhabited by Christians, to repair our ships there, allow our men a little repose, and recruit our stock of provisions; because, from this island to Castile there are three hundred leagues of ocean, without any land intervening. In seven days we arrived at this island, where we stayed two months, refitted our ships, and obtained a supply of provisions.

"We afterwards sailed through a shoal of islands, more than a thousand in number. We sailed in this sea nearly two hundred leagues, directly north, until our people had become worn with fatigue, through having been already nearly a year at sea. Their allowance per diem was only six ounces of bread for eating, and three small measures of water for drinking. Whereupon we concluded to take some prisoners as slaves, and loading the ships with them to return at once to Spain. Going, therefore, to certain islands, we possessed ourselves by force of two hundred and thirty-two, and then steered our course for Castile. In sixty-seven days we crossed the ocean, arriving at the Azores, thence sailed by way of the Canary Islands and the Madeiras to Cadiz.

"We were absent thirteen months on this voyage, exposing ourselves to awful dangers, discovering a very large country of Asia, and a great many islands, the largest of them all inhabited. According to the calculations I have made with the compass, we have sailed about five thousand leagues . . . We discovered immense regions, saw a vast number of people, all naked, and speaking various languages, numerous wild animals, various kinds of birds, and an infinite quantity of trees, all aromatic. We brought home pearls in their growing state, and gold in the grain; we brought two stones, one of emerald color, the other of amethyst, which was very hard, at least half a span long, and three fingers thick. The sovereigns esteem them most highly and have preserved them among their jewels. We brought home also a piece of crystal, which some jewelers say is beryl, and, according to what the Indians told us, they had a great quantity of the same. We brought fourteen flesh-colored pearls, with which the queen was highly delighted. We brought many other stones which appeared beautiful to us; but of all these we did not bring a large number, as we were continually busied in our investigations and did not tarry long in any place.

"When we arrived at Cadiz we sold many slaves, two hundred then remaining to us, the others having died at sea. After deducting the expense of transportation we gained only about five hundred ducats, which, having to be divided into fifty-five parts, made the share of each very small. However, we contented ourselves with life, and rendered thanks to God that during the whole voyage, out of fifty-seven Christian men, which was our number, only two had died, they having been killed by Indians. I have had two quartan agues since my return; but I hope, by the favor of God, to be well soon, as they do not continue long now and are without chills. I have passed over many things worthy of being remembered, in order not to be more tedious than necessary, all of which are reserved for the pen, and in the memory.

"They are fitting out three ships for me here, that I may go on a new voyage of discovery, and I think they will be ready by the middle of September. May it please our Lord to give me health and a good voyage, as I hope again to bring very great news and discover the island of Trapobana, which is between the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Ganges. Afterwards I intend to return to my country and seek repose in the days of my old age . . . . I have resolved, most excellent Lorenzo, that as I have thus given you an account by letter of what has occurred to me, to send you two plans and descriptions of the world, made and arranged by my own hand and skill. There will be a map on a plain surface, and the other a view of the world in a spherical form, which I intend to send you by sea, in care of one Francesco Lotti, a Florentine, who is here. I think you will be pleased with them, particularly the globe, as I made one, not long since, for these sovereigns, and they esteem it highly. I could have wished to come with them personally; but my new departure for making other discoveries will not permit me that great pleasure . . .

"I suppose your excellency has heard the news brought by the fleet which the King of Portugal sent two years ago to make discoveries on the coast of Guinea. I do not call such a voyage as that one of discovery, but only a visit to discovered lands; because, as you will see by the map, their navigation was continually within sight of land, and they sailed round the whole southern part of the continent of Africa, which is proceeding by a way spoken of by all cosmographical authors. It is true that the navigation has been very profitable, which is a matter of great consideration here in this kingdom, where inordinate covetousness reigns.

"I understand they passed from the Red Sea and extended their voyage into the Persian Gulf, to a city called Calicut, which is situated between the Persian Gulf and the river Indus. More lately, the King of Portugal has received from sea twelve ships very richly laden, and he has sent them again to those parts, where they will certainly do a profitable business, if they arrive in safety.

"May our Lord preserve and increase the exalted state of your excellency, as I desire.

"AMERIGO VESPUCCI.

"July 18th, 1500."

Respecting the letter in which the so-called first voyage is described, the same great authority, Mr. Fiske, from whom we have already quoted, says: "The perplexity surrounding the account of the first voyage of Vespucius is chiefly due to the lack of intelligence with which it has been read. There is no reason for imagining dishonesty in his narrative, and no reason for not admitting it as evidence on the same terms upon which we admit other contemporary documents." Perhaps we may be allowed to claim the same privilege for the foregoing letter; yet another historian, the amiable biographer of Columbus, Mr. Irving, while freely quoting from it, in his account of the voyage made with Alonzo de Ojeda, by imputation discredits it, and loses no occasion to disparage its author.

In order that nothing may be lacking, for the purpose of forming an accurate estimate of Vespucci's character and doings, Mr. Irving's account of the Ojeda voyage, somewhat condensed, is presented in the succeeding chapter. In constructing this story he, to use his own words, "collated the narratives of Vespucci, Las Casas, Herrera, and Peter Martyr, and the evidence given in the lawsuit of Diego Columbus, and has endeavored as much as possible to reconcile them." That he did not altogether succeed is the opinion of Mr. Fiske, who says, rather caustically, that "from its mixing the first and second voyages of Vespucci [the account] is so full of blunders as to be worse than worthless to the general reader."

However this may be, the story is interesting, and in a sense valuable, as it corroborates the statements of one to whom Mr. Irving was not favorably inclined.


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