Spanish Voyages of Discovery

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

to increase the consequence of a family, whose vast, but just, 42 claims wore already a cause of repining to his sordid and jealous spirit. He looked round, therefore, among the crowd of adventurers, who had sprung up in the school of Celumbus, for some individual who might be ready to serve him on more accommodating terms. Among those, considered by their friends as most fitted for this purpose, was Alonzo de Ojeda, for his roving voyges and daring exploits had made him famous among the voyagers; and it was thought that an application on his part would be attended with success, for he was known to possess a staunch friend at court in the Bishop Fonseca. Unfortunately he was too far distant to urge his suit to the bishop, and what was worse, he was destitute of money. At this juncture there happened to be at Hispaniola the veteran navigator and pilot, Juan de la Cosa, who was a kind of Nestor in all nautical affairs. * The hardy Biscayan had sailed with Ojeda, and had conceived a great opinion of the courage and talents of the youthful adventurer. He had contrived, also, to fill his purse in the course of his cruising, and now, in the generous spirit of a sailor, offered to aid Ojeda with it in the prosecution of his wishes.

His offer was gladly accepted; it was agreed that Juan de la Cosa should depart for Spain, to promote the appointment of Ojeda to the command of Terra Firma, and, in case of success, should fit out, with his own funds, the necessary armament.

La Cosa departed on his embassy; he called on the Bishop Fonseca, who, as had been expected, entered warmly into the views of his favourite, Ojeda, and recommended him to the ambitious and bigot king, as a man well fitted to promote his empire in the wilderness, and to dispense the blessings of Christianity among the savages.

The recommendation of the bishop was usually effectual in the affairs of the New World, and the opinion of the veteran de la Cosa had great weight even with the sovereign; but a

____________________
*
Peter Martyr gives the following weighty testimony to the knowledge and skill of this excellent seaman: -- "Of the Spaniards, as many as thought themselves to have any knowledge of what pertained to measure the land and sea, drew cardes (charts) on parchment as concerning these navigations. Of all others they most esteem them which Juan de la Cosa, the companion of Ojeda, and another pilot, called Andres Morales, had set forth, and this as well for the great experience which both had, (to whom these tracks were as well known as the chambers of their own houses) as also that they were thought to be cunninger in that part of cosmography which teacheth the description and measuring of the sea." -- P. Martyr, Decad. ii. c. 10.

-42-

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