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we may assume that commerce has existed in all ages, and among all inhabitants of the world, the circumstances of modern times serve to throw light on the dark ages of ethnology.
When, in the year 1492, three Spanish vessels were sailing westwards, striving to reach the distant lands of the Atlantic, a sort of council of war was held on board the Santa Maria, on the 7th of October, between the two chiefs of the enterprise, Christopher Columbus and Martin Alonzo Pinzon. Until then a direct westward course had been held, the squadron lay between latitudes 25° and 26°, so that in four or five days the trade-wind would have carried it either to the most northern of the Bahamas or to Florida. The elder, Pinzon, nevertheless insisted on directing the course to the south-west, assigning no other reason than the inspiration of his heart (el corazon me da). From no conviction, but from conciliatory motives, the discoverer of the New World actually allowed the course to be altered 45° for a few days, so that on Friday, October 11th, the coral island of Guanahani was sighted. The great Alexander von Humboldt has stated that had this change of course not taken place, the ships would have arrived at Florida, and the Spaniards would have peopled the United States instead of Central America, so that but for the inspiration of Martin Pinzon's heart, the New World would now have had quite different ethnographical features."
But in reality it made no difference at what point America was first sighted, for even before the discovery the region to be occupied by the Spanish colonists was tolerably well defined by the distribution of the precious metals. For as soon as Columbus saw the golden ornaments in the ears and noses of the harmless Lucayans, he endeavoured to ascertain by signs whence the precious metal had been procured. He felt his way from island to island as far as Cuba, going first towards the northwest, and when this direction did not satisfy him, turning towards the south-east till he came to Hayti. Here, from whence gold had been spread over the Antilles, he founded his first settlement. Much has been written of the Spanish thirst for gold, but had they not followed the traces of gold, transatlantic colonies
6 Kosmos, vol. ii. 1847.
could not have arisen so early as the end of the fifteenth century. All agricultural colonies which the French and English attempted to found on the shores of the United States in the sixteenth century, literally perished by starvation. Cut off from their own country, where division of labour was already practised, the settlers, when they had exhausted the outfit brought with them from the Old World, necessarily fell back into the same grade of civilization as the red aborigines, unless constant fresh supplies were conveyed to them from their old home. Such supplies required high remuneration, as the voyage to the New World still involved great perils. The consignments could not be paid for in cereals, for these were not yet worth the cost of freight. It was the discovery of tobacco, an article of commerce worth the cost of carriage to Europe which, in the beginning of the seventeenth century, made Virginia, the first purely agricultural colony of the New World, flourish. It is therefore primarily owing to tobacco, and perhaps to the fur trade, that the present society of North America is of Anglo-Saxon origin. That Canada was once purely French, and is still half French, is due to another natural product. Round about Newfoundland lie incredibly rich cod fisheries, the produce of which, even in the beginning of the sixteenth century, repaid the cost of carriage across the Atlantic; for even in the middle ages it was brought from Iceland. Fishermen from the north of France, who gave their name to Cape Breton, have visited Newfoundland annually ever since 1503. From these well-known waters Jacques Cartier then discovered the St. Lawrence, and, following in his track, the French reached Canada. A valuable article of export is required to enable a first settlement to strike root: but if it has once obtained a footing, it grows like the mustard seed of the Gospel. The Spaniards in no way interfered with the French and English colonists in the United States as long as the two latter did not venture dangerously near their southern possessions. They had no reason to disturb the pious Puritans. The present domains of the United States bear upon the charts of the Spanish discoverers, the legend, worthless territories (tierras de ningun provecho), because they produced no gold. All must therefore acknowledge that it was quite indifferent to the history of civilization whether the Spanish ships
did or did not bear off from the west to the south-west on October 7th, 1492. The Spaniards went in pursuit of gold, and when they had stripped a district of its treasure they abandoned it again, as was the case in the Isthmus of Darien; but colonies of planters first grew up on tropical islands, where the cultivation of sugar by means of negro slaves yielded profits. It is certain that America became Spanish and has remained Spanish in all such districts as produce gold and silver, and that it is only later settlements that have taken root in regions where tropical agriculture or profitable cattle-breeding might be carried on.
It is strange that the Spaniards knew the richest gold district. of the New World for two hundred and fifty years without suspecting its treasures. California was theirs; there their missionaries preached, there their soldiers kept watch in castles (presidios) over the rapacious Comantshes and Apatshes, yet not one among them guessed that they were in the midst of the El Dorado which they had so long sought in vain. Yet they may find. some comfort in the fact that the Russians also held California for a time, and vacated it only a few years before the name of this country served as a trumpet-call to draw all the adventurers of both worlds to the Sacramento. Had the gold of California been discovered at the close of the sixteenth century, then, indeed, the course of the world's history might have taken another direction. California and Australia are the best witnesses at the present day, that the local distribution of nations depends on the existence in larger or smaller quantities of tempting treasures on or in the soil. Gold alone prompted the national emigrations to the Pacific Ocean.
Australia was affected as was California. An old map lately found in the British Museum has unexpectedly shown that the Portuguese visited a northern point of this continent in the year 1601.7 After them the Dutch frequently reached the western and northern coasts, and on two occasions, the southern shore; hence this part of the world is still often called New Holland. Yet these regions were to them what the United States were to the
7 P. H. Major, Discovery of Australia by the Portuguese in 1601. London, 1861.
Spaniards in the sixteenth century-worthless territories. The English regarded their discoveries on the east coast of Australia in the same manner when, at the end of the last century, they degraded them to a place of exile for their convicts. Thus Australia continued to be neglected by Portuguese, Dutch, and English, until the cry of gold was raised, when a new period of immigration instantly dawned.
About five years ago we heard that the Russians had sold Alaska to the United States. But how did the Russians come to Alaska? Did they go by the Baltic or the White Sea, round Cape Horn, or the Cape of Good Hope? Certainly not; they passed over the Ural mountains in the year 1577 to the Ob, not because their own country had become too small for them, but in the hope of great gains in the far East. As the Spaniards stripped the Caziques of the New World of their rings and anklets, so did the Cossacks, as the invaders of Siberia were named, with the valuable furs which they found in the possession of the chiefs of the hunting tribes. The thirst for plunder urged them with incredible rapidity eastward; and even in 1639 they had reached the shores of the Sea of Okhotsk. In Behring's Sea they found the most highly prized of all furs, that of the sea-otters, which in Steller's time were extremely numerous, but are now dying out, if not already extinct. Of course it was constantly necessary to seek for new and virgin hunting-grounds, and thus the Russian fur merchants reached the New World, where they founded New Archangel at Sitka. Up to the recent advance of the Russians across the steppes of Kirghiz, it may be said that the extension of their power in Northern Asia has been coextensive with the distribution of the animals yielding fur.
Although we have hitherto seen the destiny of great regions and great nations determined by the occurrence of valuable commodities of the mineral and animal kingdoms, yet many vegetable products have had a similar effect; this was especially the case in the earlier times when the present skill in packing and naturalizing of plants had not been acquired. Thus it was the desire for the treasures of the East Indies which first led the Portuguese on the African shore of the Atlantic to venture southwards. India (which name at that time included the whole of
Southern Asia as well as China and Japan) was erroneously considered a metalliferous country, although it is really much poorer in gold and silver than Africa itself. But the jewels of Ceylon and of the future Golconda, the pearl banks in the Gulf of Manaar, in the Persian Gulf, and in the Red Sea, were realities; and in addition to these there were various costly spices and valued drugs. The well-known fact that the various spices, medicinal and aromatic plants, were distributed within very narrow regions, produced great effects. Pepper, which at that time ranked from a mercantile point of view as the first of spices, could be procured only from the Malabar coast, India, or from the island of Sumatra. The nutmeg was as yet confined to the islands of the Sea of Banda; cloves were found only on five small volcanic islands near the Island of Gelolo, which are, properly speaking, the Moluccas. True, camphor was and still is to be obtained only in two small districts-one in Sumatra and the other in Borneo. The Portuguese were thus obliged to sail to the limits of the then known world before they reached the original habitats of these vegetable treasures. It may appear strange that such baits were requisite to allure the Dutch after the Portuguese, and after the Dutch the French and the English, to Southern Asia, but the spread of civilization is in a great measure due to the fact that these treasures were so capriciously distributed, and existed in such small quantities, for otherwise Europeans would not even yet have spread over the whole globe. The Portuguese were in all the original habitats of the spices, that is to say, on the west, but not on the east coast of Hindustan, in the great commercial centres of the Malays, and on the spice islands of the extreme east of Asia.
The cause of their settlement in Brazil is told by the very name of this empire. In 1493 the Pope had distributed the globe between the Spaniards and the Portuguese, and on the western boundary of the latter, or under the "first meridian," as it was termed, lay a large portion of the South American territory, which, after the discovery, and for a long time subsequently, was named the "Land of the Holy Cross ;" but it was called Brazil, or The Land of Logwood, after the first and most important consignment that it was able to send home, for it was only much later that gold and diamonds were obtained behind the mountains on