Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/460

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AMERICA 412 AMERICA Origin of the Ciiven to the New World. —The name "America" is the outcome not so much of an accident as of an incident. For nearly a century after Columbus, the Spaniards who had the first right to baptize the continent, having been its first European occupants, persisted in calling their vast American possessions the "Western Indies". That name was justifiable in so far as the discovery occurred while they were in search of Asia. The belief that America was a part of that continent was dispelled only by Balboa's journey across the Isthmus in 1513. Six years previous to that feat, however, the name A merica had been applied by some German scholars to the New World. It was not done with the object of diminishing the glory of Columbus, nor of enforc- ing the claims of other explorers, but simply in igno- rance of the facts. Amerigo Vespucci, a Florentine pilot, first in the service of Spain, then of Portugal, and again in Spanish employ, had made at least two voyages to the Western seas. It is not the purpose here to discuss the voyages Vespucci claimed to have made to the American coast, or that ha^■e been attributed to him. For these still somehat enigmatic tales, and the documents relating thereto, see Vespucci, Amerigo. It suffices to state that at least some of his letters were published as early as 1504. As in one of them his first voyage is placed in 1497-98. and he there claims to have touched the American Continent, it would give him the priority over Columbus (a claim, however, Vespucci never advanced). It is easily seen how the perusal of these reports might induce scholars living remote from the Peninsula and America, to attribute to him the real discovery of the New World and to sug- gest that it should be named after him. Out of a chapel founded by St. Deodatus, in the sev- enth century, in what is now French Lorraine, a college had sprung up at Saint Di^, Vosges, in the ele-enth century. Among its professors was Martin Waldseerauller(Hylacomylus,)who occupied the chair of cosinograpliy. Struck by the alleged date of 1497 for Vespucci's first trip to the new continent, he concluded that to the Florentine belonged the honour of the first discovery, and that the New World should hence be named after him. So when, in 1507, a printing-press was established at Saint Di6, through the efforts, chiefly, of the secretary of the Duke of Lorraine, he published, together with Mathias Ring- mann, professor of Latin, a geographical work of small compass, entitled " Cosmographiffi Introductio", in which he inserted the following passage: "I do not see why it may not be permitted to call this fourth part after Americus, the discoverer, a man of saga- cious mind, by the name of Amerige — that is to say, the land of Americus — or America, since both Europe and Asia have a feminine form of name, from the names of women". This suggestion might have had no further consequence, had not the name of America been placed on a map published by Hyla- comylus in the same year, whether to designate only that part the discovery of which was credited to Vespucci, or the whole continent as far as known, IS not certain. As the " Cosmographia; Introductio" was a geographical treatise it was gradually accepted by cosmographers outside of Spain, although Las Casas protested against the name America, as a misnomer and a slur on the fame of Columbus. Foreign nations successively adopted the name proposed by WaldseemiiUer. Even Spain finally yielded, substituting "America" for "Occidental Indies" and "New World" as late as the middle of the eighteenth century. As far as known, Vespucci him.solf took no interest in the of the name America. He never laid any claim to being the first discoverer of the new continent, except as far as the (doubtful) date of his first voyage seems to do so. He was a personal friend of Columbus as long as the latter lived, and died (1512) with the fame of having been a useful and honourable man. Neither can WaldseemiiUer be charged with raslily giving Ves- pucci's name to America. More blame for not in- vestigating the matter with care, and for blindly following a suggestion thrown out by WaldseemiiUer, attaches to subsequent students of cosmography like Mercator and Ortehus, especially to the latter, for he had at liis command the original Spanish docu- ments, having been for a time royal cosmographer. An attempt to trace the origin of the name to some obscure Indian tribe, said to have been called AmeT- riquCfhas met with no favour. Colonization of America. I. Spanish. — The European nations which settled the American Conti- nent after its discovery by Columbus, and exerted the greatest influence on the civilization of the New World, were principally five. They rank, in point of date, as follows: Spain, Portugal, France, England, Holland. Sweden made an attempt at colonization, but, as the Swedish colony was limited to a very small fraction of the area of eastern North America and endured not more than seventeen years, it need only be mentioned here. Russian colonization of Alaska and the Danish occupation of one of the Lesser Antilles may also be pa.ssed over as unimportant. Spain began to colonize the larger Antilles in 1493. The rapidity 'ith which she explored and conquered the territories discovered was amazing. Not sixty years after the landing of Columbus Spanish colonies dotted the continent, from northern Mexico as far south as central and southern Chile. Not only were they along the coast, but in Mexico and Central America they were scattered from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and in South America from the Pacific shore eastward to the crest of the Andes and to the La Plata River. Vast unsettled stretches of land inter- vened between the colonies in many sections, but these sections could be, and were, traversed from time to time, so that intercourse could be kept up. The entire northern coast of South America was under Spanish sway, and explorations had been carried on, approximately, as far as lat. 42° north along the Pacific; in the interior as far as lat. 40°; the southern United States had been traversed beyond the Missis- sippi, and Florida, Alabama, and Georgia taken possession of along the Atlantic shore. The whole Pacific coast, from lat. 44° to the southern extremity of Tierra del Fuego, was already known, settled in places, and frequently visited, and while the Orinoco River had been explored both from its mouth and from the west, expeditions from Venezuela penetrated to the Amazon and explored the whole length of its course from the side of Ecuador. These extraordi- nary achievements were accomplished by a nation that, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, counted, so far as we can estimate, not ten millions of people. Such extraordinary acti'ity, energy and, it cannot be denied, in many cases sagacity also, was the out- come of the character of the Spanish people and of their formation. In the first place, the Spaniards are a much mixed race. Since the times of Roman domination, nearly every people of any conset|uencc that overran Europe (Huns and Northern Germans excepted) occupied, for a while at least, parts of Spanish soil, and left traces of (heir presence in language, customs, and, in some cases (the Visigoths) in laws and organization. Southern inaders from Africa, the Moors, had still further contributed to the mixture. Defence of the Spanish soil and, particularly, salvation of the Christian faith, the people's dearest patrimony, against these Mohamme- dan conquerors, liad made of the Spaniards al>oe all a warrior people. But seven centuries of incessant warfare neither fashioned a very tendor-heartcd race nor contributed to enrich the country. Spain had