HENRY THE NAVIGATOR

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HENRY THE NAVIGATOR, the fourth son of king John I of Portugal, was born in 1394. Portugal was then tranquil and prosperous, the people were active and enterprising, and the ambition of discovery and conquest almost universal. The Infant Henry especially distinguished himself by his zeal. The generous youth gave early and brilliant proofs of courage. His love of arms, however, was surpassed by his love of the sciences, particularly mathematics, astronomy and navigation. When the Portuguese conquered Ceuta, in 1415, Henry distinguished himself by his bravery, and was knighted by his father, after whose death he chose for his residence the city of Sagres, in Algarve, near cape St. Vincent,, and vigorously prosecuted the war against the Moors in Africa. His vessels attacked their coasts, and, on these expeditions, his sailors visited parts of the ocean which the navigators of that age had long regarded as inaccessible. But Henry meditated the discovery of countries till then unknown. Familiar with the previous progress of geographical science, he neglected no opportunity, during his campaigns in Africa, to obtain from the Moors a knowledge of the regions bordering on Egypt and Arabia, and to inquire into the probability of a passage to the treasures of India by a voyage round the western coast of Africa, The Arabians alone, at this period, were acquainted with this portion of the earth. From this source, Henry derived circumstantial information concerning the interior of Africa; also of the coast of Guinea, and other maritime regions. Pie conversed with men of learning; and, finding their testimony agreeable to the reports he had collected, he resolved to execute his designs. He erected at Sagies an observatory and a school, where young noblemen were instructed in the sciences connected with navigation. Though the compass was already known in Europe, Henry was the first who applied it u" navigation. To him, also, a principal paris escribed in the invention of the astrolabe, (q. v.) From time to time, he sent vessels on voyages of discovery to the coasts of Barbary and Guinea ; these expeditions, however, produced at first no important results. In one of these voyages, two of the pupils formed in his school, Juan Gonzalez Zarco and Tristan Vaz, driven by storms, discovered Puerto Santo and Madeira (q. v.), the latter in 1418. The first object of Henry was now to settle the new islands, and to cultivate the fertile soil. The colonists in Madeira had burnt down the thick woods, to make room for cultivation. Henry foresaw that wood was an article that would be afterwards wanted, and ordered new forests to be planted. To obviate the necessity of purchasing sugar from the Arabs, lie caused sugarcane to be brought from the Sicilies, which flourished excellently in the moist soil of the island. After the discovery of Madeira, Henry directed his thoughts to the coast of Guinea. Nothing but his unfailing perseverance could overcome the difficulties of this bold undertaking. Cape Non, it was affirmed, was the limit put by God to the ambition of man. Henry heard all the objections of his shortsighted opposers with calmness and equaiiimity. Gilianez, one of his navigators, offered to sail round the formidable cape, and to explore the coast of Guinea. He set sail in 1433, safely doubled cape Bojador, and took possession of the coast by the erection of the cross. The bold adventurer was rewarded with honors and presents. The next year, a larger vessel was sent out, which proceeded 140 miles beyond Bojador. These successful enterprises put a stop to censure, and Henry found more support. His brother Pedro, who administered the government during the minority of Alfonso V, effectually assisted him, and confirmed him in the possession of the islands of Puerto Santo and Madeira, which Henry had before received from the late king Edward. Pope Martin V not only confirmed the gift of these two islands, but also granted to the Portuguese all the countries which they should discover along the coast of Africa, as far as to the Indies. In 1440, Antonio Gonzalez and Nunno Tristan reached cape Blanco; and this new success made a favorable impression upon the nation. Young men of enterprise were the more eager to engage in voyages of discovery, as they were tempted with the prospect of obtaining gold dust. Henry had, thus far, paid nil expenses of the expeditions alone; but companies were now formed of enterprising men, who ventured upon these voyages under his guidance ; and the whole people soon became animated with the love of discoveiy. In 1446, Nunno Tristan doubled cape Verde; and, two years later, Gonzalez Vallo discovered three of the Azores islands, about 1000 miles from the continent. Henry continued these efforts with vigor till his death in 1463, at the age of 67. He had the joy to survive the discovery of Sierra Leone, and to see upon the throne of his country John II, a prince who pursued with zeal the preparations commenced with such flattering prospects of success. The important consequences which the world has derived from the extension of navigation, and the discovery of a new path to India, which was the result of his enterprises, have secured for him an undying name in history.