No fool can be silent at a feast. — Solon of Athens

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

Prince Henry the Navigator

Among the first books printed were the accounts of the travels of two daring men, Marco Polo and Sir John Mandeville. These men had visited many of the countries of the East, and the first had even gone to China, which was then called Cathay. The stories these travelers told were so interesting and exciting that people became anxious to visit these strange countries, and especially to trade there and thus grow rich.

Ever since the days of Alexander the Great, if not sooner, a certain amount of trading had been done with the East. But as all the silk, sugar, spices, etc., had to be brought by coasting vessels to the head of the Persian Gulf or the Red Sea, and thence overland by caravans to some port on the Black or the Mediterranean, they became very costly.

A Caravan

Sometimes, too, the goods were brought all the way from China or India, or the heart of Africa, through deserts and over mountains to the Black, the Mediterranean, or the Red Sea, by caravan, although it took a long while to travel all those weary miles.

For some time the Turks allowed this trade to go on, but by and by they began to treat the traders so badly that the traffic almost stopped. The cities of Venice and Genoa in Italy, whose ships had constantly sailed to and fro in the Mediterranean and Black seas, to carry these goods from port to port, were now nearly idle, and the people who had grown so rich were about to become poor.

As the Turks were too strong to be driven away, the traders longed to find another road to reach India, Cathay, and Cipango, or Japan. A way of reaching these countries by sea was what they most desired, because it is much easier to carry goods in ships than on camels.

The Venetians and Genoese, however, were not the only ones who wished to find a new road to the East. Many of the European coast cities fancied that if they could only discover it, they could keep the trade all to themselves, and thus grow richer and more powerful than their neighbors.

One of the countries which most coveted the Eastern trade was Portugal, where a bright boy was heir to the throne. This lad, Prince Henry of Portugal, once went with his father to Ceuta in Africa. Although then very young, he listened eagerly to the wonderful stories told about Guinea, on the southern side of the Sahara. He soon began to wonder if it would not be possible to get there by sailing along the coast instead of crossing the African desert. This, you must know, was a great undertaking, because people found nothing to eat or drink there, and suffered much from the heat. Besides, the wind called the simoom raised such clouds of dust that whole caravans were sometimes buried in the sand.

By looking at the maps in your geography, you can see that it was easy to sail from Portugal to Guinea; but at that time people knew nothing of the west coast of Africa. Prince Henry, in hopes of solving the problem, began to study very, hard. Before long he read in an old book that a wise man thought it possible to sail all around Africa, and he longed to find out if this was true.

As soon as he grew up, he therefore hired a number of seamen to try it, and showed such interest in sea voyages that he is often called the Navigator. The mariners thus sent out, little by little explored the coast of Africa, and creeping farther south every journey, they discovered the Madeira and Canary Islands.

But the sight of the smoke above the volcano of Tenerife so terrified them that they dared go no farther. It was only some time later that Portuguese mariners reached the Cape Verde Islands and Senegal. But one of their number had in the meantime learned, from a Flemish seaman, that there was a group of islands westward, and the Portuguese, going there, planted a colony on the Azores, which still belong to them.


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