Quarry the granite rock with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk; then may you hope with such keen and delicate instruments as human knowledge and human reason to contend against those giants, the passion and the pride of man. — John Cardinal Newman

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber




How America Got its Name

The news of Columbus's first successful journey no sooner became known in Europe than each country wanted to secure some share of the profitable trade which they fancied would soon be opened with India. Henry VII., King of England, who had refused to listen to Columbus's plan, now hired a Venetian captain named John Cabot, and sent out an expedition in 1497.

Cabot crossed the Atlantic, and explored what he thought was China, but what was really part of North America, probably the coast of Newfoundland and of the mainland from Labrador to Cape Cod. Sailing along, he found a beautiful country, saw a bear plunge into the water to catch fish, and, landing at least once, planted an English flag upon our soil, thus taking formal possession of it in the name of England.

The next year his son made a similar journey. Sailing in and out of every bay, he sought a strait which would take him past these wild lands to the rich cities of the East, which he fancied were very near there. Of course he failed to find such a strait between Nova Scotia and Cape Hatteras, but the English later claimed all this part of the country, because it had been discovered by the Cabots. Still, for many years they made no attempt to plant a colony there, and prized their discovery so little that Henry VII. gave Cabot only Rio reward for all he had done.

The Portuguese, as we have seen, were very jealous when Columbus came back from his first journey, saying he had found the road to India. But while he was away on his third expedition, one of their captains, Vasco da Gama, sailing all around Africa and across the Indian Ocean, reached Calicut in India. He came home in 1499, with a rich cargo of silks and spices; and the Portuguese rejoiced greatly that they were the first to reach India by sea.

The next year some Portuguese ships, on their way around Africa, happened to go so far west that they sighted the coast of South America. Spain and Portugal had by this time drawn a line of demarcation on the map, agreeing that all lands west of it should belong to Spain, and all east to Portugal. As the new land was east of this line, the King of Portugal sent a fleet to explore it, and thus found it was a great continent. All the lands already discovered by the Spanish and English were supposed to form part of Asia; but this land was so far south that it was called the New World.

The pilot of the Portuguese fleet was a young Italian named Americus Vespucius. He took note of all he saw, and wrote an interesting account of his voyage. This narrative described the country, and as every one wanted to hear about the new discovery, it was soon published. A German geographer, reading the account of Americus, was so delighted with it that he suggested that the new continent should be named America, in honor of the man who had explored and described it so well. The name was thus given at first only to part of South America; but when, years afterwards, it was found that all the western lands belonged to the same continent, the whole of the New World was called America. Thus, by an accident, our country bears the name of Americus, instead of that of Columbus, its real discoverer, for it was the latter who showed the way to it, although he believed till his death that he had found only a new road to Asia.

Many writers claim that the first voyage of Americus to the West was in 1497, four years before his exploration of South America, and that he then landed on the American continent, shortly before Cabot, and more than a year before Columbus reached the mainland. According to them, Americus was thus the first to reach the continent which bears his name.



Contents

Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell