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THE BOSTON REVIEW,
Librum tuum legi & quam diligentissime potui annotavi, quae commutanda,
quae eximenda, arbitrarer. Nam ego dicere verum assuevi. Neque ulli patientius reprehenduntur, quam qui maxime laudari merentur. Plin.
ART. 22. The New Cyclopaedia, &c. by Abraham Rees and others. First.
American edition, revised, corrected, enlarged and adapted to this country, by several literary and scientifick characters. Vol. II. part 1. Philadelphia, Samuel F. Bradford, 4to. Continued.
OUR readers will recollect, that the article AMERICA in this work is divided into two parts. The first consists of the original article of the English edition (which it appears was translated from the French Encyclopaedia interspersed with copious remarks of the American editors; this we reviewed in a late number of the Anthology. The second, which we shall now examine, is an entirely new article, composed for the American edition ; it contains considerably more matter than the original article, and is introduced with the following remarks :
“The brief and desultory manner in which the preceding article is written, the many mistakes and long exploded absurdities it contains, and the deficiency of eundour, or at least of correct information it evidently betrays, would have justified us in rejecting the whole ; but in order to exhibit to our countrymen the opinions still entertained in Europe respecting America, it was deem. ed proper to insert it without alteration or abridgement, but with a few observations by way of comment which were thought indispensable. As many errors, however, still remain unnoticed, and much interesting matter neglected which this important article seems properly to require, no apology it is hoped will be thought necessary for taking the reader over the same grounds he has so superficially examined, and of viewing more leisurely, and we trust more justly, the magnificent scenery before us. The extent to which this article is already drawn will circumscribe the range of our observations, we will, however, endeavour to correct a few important mis-statements, and to add from the best authorities such information as may tend to give a clearer and juster view of the subject."
We need not spend time to refute the opinion here advanced by the editors, that the want of candour, or of correct information, or any other deficiency would have justified them in rejecting this or any other article of Dr. Rees's work, because they have, by agreeing to conduct this edition on different principles, acknowledged that such rejection would be improper in itself, and in direct violation of their engagements to the public. We cannot, however, withhold one reflection upon their morality in this case. They make a solemn agreement with their subscribers, that they will republish the English Cyclopaedia without retrenchments ; but when their work comes out, the subscribers are told, that there are some articles which, in the opinion of the editors, are deficient in “candour" or “correct information,” and therefore they think themselves justified in rejecting the whole of such articles! And they retain them in their work, not because they feel under any moral obligation to fulfil their agreement with their subscribers, but because the rejection would deprive them of an opportunity of “ exhibiting the opinions still entertained in Europe respecting America,” and of exposing the want of “candour and correct information” of the English editors. In a word, they adhere to their agreement not because such a thing is proper in itself, but because it gives them an opportunity of abusing their neighbours.
We shall make but one more observation upon this paragraph. We do not think the reader will ever require an “apology” of these gentlemen for being carried “ over the same ground” a second time, when they can satisfy him, that such a journey in their company will in fact enable him to “ view the ground more justiy,” than he may
have done under the direction of his European guides.But, before they make such a demand upon his civility, they ought to be very confident (and in truth a want of confidence does not seem to be their greatest failing) they ought, we say, to be very confident that he will be fully compensated for his pains. How far this is the case in the present article will appear from the following examination.
The article begins with a very concise account of Columbus's discovery of America, and “ for a particular narrative of this extraordinary expedition, and of the distinguished navigator by whom it was conducted,” the reader is referred to the article COLUMBUS. For the “ narrative of the expedition" we should have thought the present article to be a natural place; but as the editors have thought
; otherwise, we will only observe, that we shall be glad to peruse it whatever they may choose to insert it.
The voyages of the Cabots are next mentioned. It is said, that “ in May, 1498, Cabot with his second son Sebastian embarked” on his voyage of discovery. The date of this voyage is a contested point, and we hoped to have seen it briefly discussed, or at least some intimation given of the uncertainty respecting it. Smith, in his Historie of Virginia, says---- John and Sebastian (Cabot] well “ provided, setting sayle, ranged a great part of this unknown world “ in the yeare 1497. For though Cullumbus had found certaine Iles, “ it was in 1498 ere he saw the Continent, which was a yeare after “ Cabot.” Prince, in his Annals, places Cabot's first voyage in 1496,
and has this note upon it : “ Purchase says, Sebastian, in Ramusio, « places his first voyage in 1496 ; tho' the Map under his Picture in " the Privy Gallery, with Cambden, in 1497, and so Smith. But “ Stow in 1498 ; unless the voyage he mentions be another.” Mather, in his Magnalia says, “ the two Cabots father and son, entering up® on their generous undertakings in 1497, made further discoveries " than Columbus or Vesputius.” Dr. Morse also, in the last edition of his geography, places Cabot's two voyages in 1496 and 1497, but mentions none in 1498 ; and Guthrie, in his geography, speaks of it as made in 1497.* We observe also, that the American editors call the first land discovered by Cabot, Prima vista, which Dr. Morse and others have called Bona vista.
The reader is next presented with a very brief account of the map of Andrea Biancho, on which a part of America is laid down under the name of Antilles, fifty six years before the voyage of Columbus. The editors treat this as little ter than a fable. They do not de ny the existence or the authenticity of Biancho's map, but observe that “a short explanation may serve entirely to obliterate this wonderful discovery. As human follies” say they “ are generally similar, a recollection of what happened forty years ago, when many philosophers asserted the indispensable existence of a great southern continent, in order to balance Europe and Asia, will serve to illustrate the present subject. The mathematicians of the middle ages in like manner imagined, that some lands were necessary on the opposite part of the globe, to balance the known continent. As these lands were to them wholly imaginary, they were laid down at random, and the very map of Biancho, which gives a kind of oblong square form, of a regularity unknown to Nature, is a proof that the whole is ideal. These imaginary lands were in the middle ages called Anti-insulae, or Antinsulae, whence the French Antilles, simply implying islands opposite to the known continents; the extent of which latter was at that period, considered as about a third part of their real size."
If this statement (which we have seen elsewhere) is to be taken as conjectural reasoning, it does not appear to us conclusive. We do not think that, because the Antilles were laid down erroneously, it follows that they had not been discovered. If this were a sound mode of reasoning, we might apply it with as much force to many other parts of the globe, which are known to have a great regularity of form. If the island of Sicily, for example, were a newly discovered country, and should be laid down in the form of a triangle of a pretty regular form, we might argue that it was highly improba ble there should be any such island, because it was “ of a regularity of form unknown to nature.” And, to take another example, how highly improbable might we say it was that “ Nature" should have made the kingdom of Italy in the shape of a man's leg; or (to come nearer home) the land of Cape Cod in the form of a bended arm ! If, however, this statement is not to be taken as a mere hypothesis, but as matter of fact, we should have been glad to see the authori
* Since writing the above, we have found this subject briefly examined by the accurate Dr. Holmes, in his American Annals. He agrees with most of the quthorities in placing Cabot's voyage in the year 1497.
ties upon which it is founded. We have dwelt the longer upon this part of the subject, because we have observed that Dr. Morse has for many years retained the account of Biancho's map in his geography as “ a curious fact," without giving the least intimation, we believe, of any solution like the above “ explanation.”
The editors conclude their remarks upon this subject thus : “ From this brief investigation it will sufficiently appear, that there is no room to deprive Columbus of one atom of his glory, as Behaim, who was the most complete geographer of his time, evinces that there was no prior discovery upon the route followed by that great navigator."
We should be glad to know upon what authority this assertion is founded; for, admitting it to be the fact (of which we may be allowed to doubt) that no part of America was discovered before the voyage of Columbus, still it appears very extraordinary that Behaim should have “evinced that there had been no prior discovery upon the route followed by Columbus ;” for Behaim himself has very strong claims to a prior discovery on that same route, or, at least, to a discovery of some part of America. And we may remark here, by the way, that we are surprised to find no notice taken in this arti€le of the history of Behaim (or Bohem, as it is frequently written) and his discoveries ; and that the editors should say, that from the year 1003, when Newfoundland was visited by the Norwegians, no further discovery of America has hitherto been traced by the utmost exertion of learned research, till the time of Columbus. Now Behaim is supposed to have discovered the coast of America, and to have sailed as far as the Straits of Magellan, or to the country of some savage tribes whom he called Patagonians, seven or eight years before Columbus made his voyage. The editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica observe on this subject, that “ a fact so little known “ and apparently so derogatory to the fame of Columbus ought not “ to be admitted without sufficient proof; but the proofs which have “ been urged in support of its authority are such as cannot be contro“ verted." We say, we are surprised that no notice is taken of Behaim's discoveries, as Mr. Otto's memoir upon the subject was originally published in the transactions of the American Philosophical Society as long ago as the year 1786, and republished in Nicholson's Philosophical Journal in 1797. We think too, that a little inquiry would have led the American editors to some Portuguese and other authorities upon the subject of this extraordinary geographer, which are not referred to by Mr. Otto; for the Portuguese authors, although their accoụnts are mixed with fabulous relations, are not so entirely silent in respect to Behaim, as Mr. Otto seems to suppose.
The editors next give us an account of discoveries in America from the time of Columbus to that of Cooke and Vancouver. All that period, which is about three hundred years, is compressed into the space of two columns. This, we presume, is what they call viewing the subject “ leisurely” and “justly,” and is a specimen of the manner in which they intend to compensate their readers for the “ superficial” nature of the original article.
This sketch is followed by some interesting extracts from Robertson's history, chiefly relating to the soil and climate of America.
At the fortieth column of this article, we enter upon that part which seems to be more properly original in the American edition of this work. We are presented with a variety of facts (so they seem to be considered) from the President's Messages to Congress, communicating some of the late discoveries made by Capt. Lewis and his company.
The first remark of the editors is an answer to the old opinion, mentioned in the first part of this article, that “ in America the forest usurps every thing." Upon this they observe :
“ This is far from being the case, and the more its remote interior regions are explored, the more striking this error becomes. The vast solitudes of Patagonia are almost entirely without trees. Immense plains of luxuriant pas. ture are found in Brasil, Chili, and many other parts of South America that feed innumerable herds of cattle, deer and horses. From the Panis town to Santa Fè in North America is nearly three hundred miles and the whole country is an entire prairie, a few scattering cedar knobs excepted. The Indians in those plains, so far from having canoes, do not even know the use of them, there not being for hundreds of miles a tree large enough to make a fowl. trough!" This last fact is certainly conclusive.
We next find the extraordinary story of the surface of the country which is for many miles in breadth trodden like a large roud" by buffaloe and deer, &c. which was mentioned in a former part of our review. We have here also a very glowing description of those extraordinary tracts of country called prairies, of which we have heard so much in the late publications of our country; a description, which, we must say, resembles the fictions of the Arabian Nights, more than the sober narrative of truth. But our readers shall judge for themselves.
“ By the expression, plains or prairies, is not to be understood a dead flat, lesembling certain savannas whose soil is stiff and impenetrable, often under water, and bearing only a coarse grass resembling reeds. These prairies are neither flat nor hilly, but undulating into gently swelling lawns, and expanding into spacious vallies, in the centre of which is always found a little
timber growing on the banks of brooks and rivulets of the finest waters. The whole of these prairies are represented to be composed of the richest and most fertile soil, the most luxuriant and succulent herbage covers the surface of the earth, interspersed with a profusion of flowers and flowering shrubs of the most ornamental kinds. Those who have viewed only a skirt of these prairies speak of them with enthusiasm, as if it was only there that nature was to be found per. fect; they declare, that the fertility and bcauty of the rising grounds, the ex, treme richness of the vales, the coolness and excellent qualities of the water found in every valley, the salubrity of the atmosphere, and above all the grandeur of the enchanting landscape which this country presents, inspire the soul with sensations not to be felt in any other region of the globe ,!” The editors very properly give their authority for this extravagant rant ; President Jefferson's Message, where it is stated on the authority of one of the President's travellers, who had it from we are not told whom. Reflecting people, who consider the natural propensity of travellers, will know how much to believe of this and other extraordinary relations of that extraordinary country.
In the next paragraph, we find a very singular opinion (to call it by no worse a name) of these scrupulously religious editors, that America is probably the most antient of the two continents! After