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BOOK Marco Polo, and that they were not very diftant from the Ganges, or from the countries which had been conquered by Alexander. Even when at laft convinced that they were different, he still flattered himself that thofe rich countries were at no great distance, and in a fubfequent voyage, accordingly, went in queft of them along the coaft of Terra Firma, and towards the ifthmus of Darien.

IN confequence of this mistake of Columbus, the name of the Indies has ftuck to those unfortunate countries ever fince; and when it was at laft clearly discovered that the new were altogether different from the old Indies, the former were called the Weft, in contradiftinction to the latter, which were called the Eaft Indies.

IT was of importance to Columbus, however, that the countries which he had discovered, whatever they were, fhould be reprefented to the court of Spain as of very great confequence; and, in what conftitutes the real riches of every country, the animal and vegetable productions of the foil, there was at that time nothing which could well justify fuch a representation of them.

THE Cori, fomething between a rat and a rabbit, and fuppofed by Mr. Buffon to be the fame with the Aperea of Brazil, was the largest viviparous quadruped in St. Domingo. This fpecies feems never to have been very numerous, and the dogs and cats of the Spaniards are faid to have long ago almost entirely extirpated it, as well as fome other tribes of a still fmaller fize. Thefe, however, together with a pretty large lizard, called

the Ivana or Iguana, conftituted the principal part CHAP. of the animal food which the land afforded.

THE Vegetable food of the inhabitants, though from their want of induftry not very abundant, was not altogether fo fcanty. It confifted in Indian corn, yams, potatoes, bananes, &c. plants which were then altogether unknown in Europe, and which have never fince been very much efteemed in it, or fuppofed to yield a fuftenance equal to what is drawn from the common forts of grain and pulfe, which have been cultivated in this part of the world time out of mind.

THE cotton plant indeed afforded the material of a very important manufacture, and was at that time to Europeans undoubtedly the most valuable of all the vegetable productions of thofe islands. But though in the end of the fifteenth century the muflins and other cotton goods of the Eaft Indies were much efteemed in every part of Europe, the cotton manufacture itself was not cultivated in any part of it. Even this production, therefore, could not at that time appear in the eyes of Europeans to be of very great confequence.

FINDING nothing either in the animals or vegetables of the newly discovered countries, which could justify a very advantageous representation of them, Columbus turned his view towards their minerals; and in the richness of the productions of this third kingdom, he flattered himfelf, he had found a full compenfation for the infignificancy of thofe of the other two. The



BOOK little bits of gold with which the inhabitants ornamented their drefs, and which, he was informed, they frequently found in the rivulets and torrents that fell from the mountains, were fufficient to fatisfy him that thofe mountains abounded with the richeft gold mines. St. Domingo, therefore, was reprefented as a country abounding with gold, and, upon that account (according to the prejudices not only of the present times, but of thofe times), an inexhaustible source of real wealth to the crown and kingdom of Spain. When Columbus, upon his return from his first voyage, was introduced with a fort of triumphal honours to the fovereigns of Caftile and Arragon, the principal productions of the countries which he had discovered were carried in folemn proceffion before him. The only valuable part of them confifted in fome little fillets, bracelets, and other ornaments of gold, and in fome bales of cotton. The reft were mere objects of vulgar wonder and curiofity; fome reeds of an extraordinary fize, fome birds of a very beautiful plumage, and fome ftuffed fkins of the huge alligator and manati; all of which were preceded by fix or feven of the wretched natives, whofe fingular colour and appearance added greatly to the novelty of the fhew.

IN confequence of the reprefentations of Columbus, the council of Caftile determined to take poffeffion of countries of which the inhabitants were plainly incapable of defending themselves. The pious purpofe of converting them to Chriftianity fanctified the injuftice of the project. But



the hope of finding treasures of gold there, was CHA P. the fole motive which prompted to undertake it; and to give this motive the greater weight, it was proposed by Columbus that the half of all the gold and filver that should be found there should belong to the crown. This propofal was approved of by the council.

As long as the whole or the far greater part of the gold, which the first adventurers imported into Europe, was got by so very easy a method as the plundering of the defenceless natives, it was not perhaps very difficult to pay even this heavy tax. But when the natives were once fairly ftript of all that they had, which, in St. Domingo, and in all the other countries difcovered by Columbus, was done completely in fix or eight years, and when in order to find more it had become neceffary to dig for it in the mines, there was no longer any poffibility of paying this tax. The rigorous exaction of it, accordingly, firft occafioned, it is faid, the total abandoning of the mines of St. Domingo, which have never been wrought fince. It was foon reduced therefore to a third; then to a fifth; afterwards to a tenth; and at laft to a twentieth part of the grofs produce of the gold mines. The tax upon filver continued for a long time to be a fifth of the grofs produce. It was reduced to a tenth only in the courfe of the prefent century. But the firft adventurers do not appear to have been much interested about filver. Nothing less precious than gold feemed worthy of their attention.


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ALL the other enterprises of the Spaniards in the new world, fubfequent to thofe of Columbus, seem to have been prompted by the same motive. It was the facred thirst of gold that carried Oleda, Nicueffa, and Vafco Nugnes de Balboa, to the isthmus of Darien, that carried Cortez to Mexico, and Almagro and Pizzarro to Chili and Peru. When thofe adventurers arrived upon any unknown coaft, their firft enquiry was always if there was any gold to be found there; and according to the information which they received concerning this particular, they determined either to quit the country or to settle in it,


Or all those expensive and uncertain projects, however, which bring bankruptcy upon the greater part of the people who engage in them, there is none perhaps more perfectly ruinous than the fearch after new filver and gold mines. It is perhaps the most disadvantageous lottery in the world, or the one in which the gain of those who draw the prizes bears the leaft proportion to the lofs of those who draw the blanks: for though the prizes are few and the blanks many, the common price of a ticket is the whole fortune of a very rich man. Projects of mining, inftead of replacing the capital employed in them, together with the ordinary profits of stock, commonly abforb both capital and profit. They are the projects, therefore, to which of all others a prudent law-giver, who defired to increase the capital of his nation, would least chufe to give any extraordinary encouragement, or to turn towards


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