The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

BOOK II.

CHAPTER I.
PROCEEDINGS OF COLUMBUS AFTER LEAVING PORTUGAL—HIS
APPLICATIONS IN SPAIN—CHARACTERS OF FERDINAND AND
ISABELLA.

[ 1485.]

The immediate movements of Columbus on leaving Portugal are involved in uncertainty. It is said that about this time he made a proposition of his enterprise, in person, as he had formerly done by letter, to the government of Genoa. The republic, however, was in a languishing decline, and embarrassed by a foreign war. Caffa, her great deposit in the Crimea, had fallen into the hands of the Turks, and her flag was on the point of being driven from the Archipelago. Her spirit was broken with her fortunes; for with nations, as with individuals, enterprise is the child of prosperity, and is apt to languish in evil days when there is most need of its exertion. Thus Genoa, disheartened by her reverses, shut her ears to the proposition of Columbus, which might have elevated her to ten- fold splendor, and perpetuated within her grasp the golden wand of commerce. While at Genoa, Columbus is said to have made arrangements out of his scanty means for the comfort of his aged father. It is also affirmed that about this time he carried his proposal to Venice, where it was declined on account of the critical state of national affairs. This, however, is merely traditional, and unsupported by documentary evidence. The first firm and indisputable trace we have of Columbus after leaving Portugal is in the south of Spain, in 1485, where we find him seeking his fortune among the Spanish nobles, several of whom had vast possessions, and exercised almost independent sovereignty in their domains.

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