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[Transcriber's Note: Every effort has been made to replicate this
text as faithfully as possible, including obsolete and variant
spellings and other inconsistencies. Text that has been changed to
correct an obvious error by the publisher is noted at the end of this
ebook.]




AMERIGO VESPUCCI

BY

FREDERICK A. OBER


HEROES OF AMERICAN HISTORY


_ILLUSTRATED_


[Illustration]


HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
1907


Copyright, 1907, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

_All rights reserved._

Published February, 1907.


[Illustration: AMERIGO VESPUCCI]




CONTENTS


CHAP. PAGE

I. YOUNG AMERIGO AND HIS FAMILY 1

II. AMERIGO'S FRIENDS AND TEACHERS 15

III. VESPUCCI'S FAVORITE AUTHORS 32

IV. IN THE SERVICE OF SPAIN 45

V. CONVERSATIONS WITH COLUMBUS 59

VI. VESPUCCI'S DEBATABLE VOYAGE 76

VII. VESPUCCI'S "SECOND" VOYAGE 101

VIII. WITH OJEDA THE FIGHTER 126

IX. CANNIBALS, GIANTS, AND PEARLS 138

X. FAMOUS FELLOW-VOYAGERS 148

XI. ON THE COAST OF BRAZIL 165

XII. THE "FOURTH PART OF THE EARTH" 179

XIII. THE FOURTH GREAT VOYAGE 194

XIV. KING FERDINAND'S FRIEND 209

XV. PILOT-MAJOR OF SPAIN 221

XVI. HOW AMERICA WAS NAMED 237




ILLUSTRATIONS


AMERIGO VESPUCCI _Frontispiece_

A CONJECTURAL RESTORATION OF
TOSCANELLI'S MAP _Facing p._ 20

MARCO POLO " 40

OJEDA'S FIRST VOYAGE " 130

ROUTES OF THE DISCOVERERS " 166

NORTH AMERICA FROM THE GLOBE OF
JOHANN SCHÖNER " 244




AUTHORITIES ON AMERIGO VESPUCCI


XVIth CENTURY. Vespucci's letters to Soderini and L. P. F. de' Medici,
reproduced in this volume.

XVIIth CENTURY. Herrera, in his _Historia General_ (etc.), Madrid,
1601; "probably followed Las Casas, whose MSS. he had."

XVIIIth CENTURY. Dandini, A. M., _Vita e Lettere di Amerigo Vespucci_,
Florence, 1745.

Canovai, Stanislac, _Elogia di Amerigo Vespucci_, 1778.

XIXth CENTURY. Navarrete, M. F. de, _Noticias Exactas de Americo
Vespucio_, contained in his Coleccion, Madrid, 1825-1837.

Humboldt, Alexander von, _Examen Critique de l'Histoire de la
Géographie de Nouveau Continent_, Paris, 1836-1839.

Lester, C. Edwards, _The Life and Voyages of Americus Vespucius_, New
York, 1846; reprinted, in de luxe edition, New York, 1903.

Varnhagen, F. A., Baron de Porto Seguro, _Amerigo Vespucci, son
Caractère, ses Écrits_ (etc.), Lima, 1865; Vienna, 1874. A collection
of monographs called by Fiske "the only intelligent modern treatise on
the life and voyages of this navigator."

Fiske, John, _The Discovery of America_, Boston, 1899; contains an
exhaustive critical examination of Vespucci's voyages to which the
reader should refer for more extended information.




AMERIGO VESPUCCI[1]




I

YOUNG AMERIGO AND HIS FAMILY

1451-1470


Cradled in the valley of the Arno, its noble architecture fitly
supplementing its numerous natural charms, lies the Tuscan city of
Florence, the birthplace of immortal Dante, the early home of Michael
Angelo, the seat of the Florentine Medici, the scene of Savonarola's
triumphs and his tragic end. Fame has come to many sons of Florence,
as poets, statesmen, sculptors, painters, travellers; but perhaps none
has achieved a distinction so unique, apart, and high as the subject
of this volume, after whom the continents of the western hemisphere
were named.

Amerigo Vespucci was born in Florence, March 9, 1451, just one hundred
and fifty years after Dante was banished from the city in which both
first saw the light. The Vespucci family had then resided in that city
more than two hundred years, having come from Peretola, a little town
adjacent, where the name was highly regarded, as attached to the most
respected of the Italian nobility. Following the custom of that
nobility, during the period of unrest in Italy, the Vespuccis
established themselves in a stately mansion near one of the city
gates, which is known as the Porta del Prato. Thus they were within
touch of the gay society of Florence, and could enjoy its advantages,
while at the same time in a position, in the event of an uprising, to
flee to their estates and stronghold in the country.

While the house in which Christopher Columbus was born remains
unidentified, and the year of his birth undecided, no such ambiguity
attaches to the place and year of Vespucci's nativity. Above the
doorway of the mansion which "for centuries before the discovery of
America was the dwelling-place of the ancestors of Amerigo Vespucci,
and his own birthplace," a marble tablet was placed, in the second
decade of the eighteenth century, bearing the following inscription:

"_To AMERICO VESPUCCIO, a noble Florentine,
Who, by the discovery of AMERICA,
Rendered his own and his Country's name illustrious,
[As] the AMPLIFIER OF THE WORLD.
Upon this ancient mansion of the VESPUCCI,
Inhabited by so great a man,
The holy fathers of Saint John of God
Have placed this Tablet, sacred to his memory._
A.D. 1719."

At that time, about midway between the date of Vespucci's death and
the present, the evidence was strong and continuous as to the
residence in that building (which was then used as a hospital) of the
family whose name it commemorates. Here was born, in 1451, the third
son of Anastasio and Elizabetta Vespucci, whose name, whether rightly
or not, was to be bestowed upon a part of the world at that time
unknown.

The Vespuccis were then aristocrats, with a long and boasted lineage,
but without great wealth to support their pretensions. They were
relatively poor; they were proud; but they were not ashamed to engage
in trade. Some of their ancestors had filled the highest offices
within the gift of the state, such as _prioris_ and _gonfalonieres_,
or magistrates and chief magistrates, while the first of the Vespuccis
known to have borne the prænomen Amerigo was a secretary of the
republic in 1336.

It is incontestable that Amerigo Vespucci was well-born, and in his
youth received the advantages of an education more thorough than was
usually enjoyed by the sons of families which had "the respectability
of wealth acquired in trade," and even the prestige of noble
connections. No argument is needed to show that the position of a
Florentine merchant was perfectly compatible with great
respectability, for the Medici themselves, with the history of whose
house that of Florence is bound up most intimately, were merchant
princes. The vast wealth they acquired in their mercantile operations
in various parts of Europe enabled them to pose as patrons of art and
literature, and supported their pretensions to sovereign power. The
Florentine Medici attained to greatest eminence during the latter
half of the century in which Amerigo Vespucci was born, and he was
acquainted both with Cosimo, that "Pater Patriæ, who began the
glorious epoch of the family," and with "Lorenzo the Magnificent," who
died in 1492.

The Florentines, in fact, were known as great European traders or
merchants as early as the eleventh century, while their bankers and
capitalists not only controlled the financial affairs of several
states, or nations, but exerted a powerful influence in the realm of
statesmanship and diplomacy. The little wealth the Vespucci enjoyed at
the time of Amerigo's advent was derived from an ancestor of the
century previous, who, besides providing endowments for churches and
hospitals, left a large fortune to his heirs. His monument may be seen
within the chapel built by himself and his wife, and it bears this
inscription, in old Gothic characters: "The tomb of Simone Piero
Vespucci, a merchant, and of his children and descendants, and of his
wife, who caused this chapel to be erected and decorated--for the
salvation of her soul. Anno Dom. 1383."

The immediate ancestors, then, of Amerigo Vespucci were highly
respectable, and they were honorable, having held many positions of
trust, with credit to themselves and profit to the state. At the time
of Amerigo's birth his father, Anastasio Vespucci, was secretary of
the Signori, or senate of the republic; an uncle, Juliano, was
Florentine ambassador at Genoa; and a cousin, Piero Vespucci, so ably
commanded a fleet of galleys despatched against the corsairs of the
Barbary coast that he was sent as ambassador to the King of Naples, by
whom he was specially honored.

Another member of the family, one Guido Antonio, became locally famous
as an expounder of the law and a diplomat. Respecting him an epitaph
was composed, the last two lines of which might, if applied to
Amerigo, have seemed almost prophetic:

"_Here lies GUIDO ANTONIO, in this sepulchre--
HE WHO SHOULD LIVE FOREVER,
Or else never have seen the light._"

This epitaph was written of the lawyer, who departed unknown and
unwept by the world, while his then obscure kinsman, Amerigo,
subsequently achieved a fame that filled the four quarters of the
earth.

The youth of Amerigo is enshrouded in the obscurity which envelops
that of the average boy in whatever age, for no one divined that he
would become great or famous, and hence he was not provided with a
biographer. This is unfortunate, of course, but we must console
ourselves with the thought that he was not unusually precocious, and
probably said little that would be considered worth preserving. It
happened that after he became world-large in importance, tales and
traditions respecting his earliest years crept out in abundance; but
these may well be looked upon with suspicion.



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