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Of America in general.
MERICA, the fourth grand division of the earth, received its name from Americus Vefpufus, a Florentine ; who was far from deserving that honour, to which he had no other claim than a few inconsiderable dil coveries after Columbus had led the way, and his drawing a map of the country : if therefore it was proper for it to receive the name of any European, it might with more jullice have been called Columbia, from the great man who made it known to the Europeaps ; and is frequently so called by the British race of inhabitants there.
This New World, as it is emphatically called, extends from the frozen regions of the north, where its limits are impervious 10 buman observation, on account of the impassable barriers of ice, which never yield to the influm coce of the summer sun, through an extent of country, in which successively pass all the climates to be found in the orber regions of the earth, and ac length terminates on the south, in the snow-capped rocks of Terra del Fuego. Thus the continent of America extends from about the eightieth degree, N. to the fifty-six degree S. latitude ; and where its breadth is known from the oth É. to the 50th W. longitude from Philadelphia, without including the illands, fretching between eight and nine thousand miles in length: but in its greatest breadth, were certainly known, three thouland fix hundred and ninety ; though in the middle it is not above fixty or seventy ruiles over.
It is bounded on the north by the seas about the north pole ; and on the E. by Davis's Straits, which separate it froin Greenland, and by the great Adanic Ocean, which divides it from Europe and Africa ; on the S. by the vast Southern or Pacific Ocean ; and on the W. by the north Pacific Ocean, which separates it from the eastern part of the continent of Aga, the desolate bue rensperate and extenlive rigions of New Holland; also from New Guinea, and an immense number of fruitful and populous islands. About the fixty-eighth degree of north latitude, it very nearly joins the most eaflern point of Aba, a fact which the indefatigable labours of Captain
Cook ascertained, the low countries being there only 16 or 18 longues aparı..
It is very remarkable, that the climates of North America, are many grees colder than any of the countries under the fame latitude in 'Europe ; thus New Britain, which is nearly in the same latitude with Great Britain, is insupportably cold to an European : the greatest part of the frozen country of Newfoundland, the bay of St. Laurence, and Cape Breton, lie parallel wish the coast of France ; Nova Scotia and New England are in the same latitude as the Bay of Biscays; New-York and Pennsylvania lic opposite to Spain and Portugal. Hence the coldelt winds of North America blow from the N. and the W. as they do here from the N, and the E. Many causes have been assigned for this remarkable increase of cold in America, to that felt under the same parallel of latitude in Europe : one is the wind travelling over a vast extent of land from the north and welt
, before it reaches those parts of America above mentioned ; and some philosophers have maintained, that America was entirely ovet spread with an immense ocean, long fince the records of history speak of Asia, Africa, and Europe.
This vali continent is divided almost in iwo by an isthmus about fifteen hundred miles in lengih, and in one place so narrow as to be only about sixty miles over ; but being mountaneous, it
, would be imposlible, perhaps, to open a communication there between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.
All the continent to the north of this isthmus, together, with the isthmus itself, is styled North America ; and all to the fourh' of it, including that even on this side the equator, is styled South America. This narrow neck is called the ilthinus of Darien.
North America is far from being mountar.eous, and chiefly consils of gentle afcenis and level plains ; the principal hills in this extenswe tract are called the Apalachiani, or Alleghany mountains, which extend on the back of the United States." But in South America is the immense long and lofty chain called the Cordillera of the Andes, which in height and length exceed any chain of mountains in the other three parts of the earth ; for beginning near the inhonis of Darien, they extend to iħe fraits of Magellans, cutting the whole fouthern
part of America in two, and running a length of four thousand three hundred miles. . America is also well watered by rivers, not only for the support of animal life, and all the' ádvantages of fertility, but for the convenience of trade, and the intercourse of the dillant inhabitants by water. in North America the
great river MiMiMppi, rifing about the falls of St. Anthony, in latitude 47° N. runs above two thousand Priles, chiefly from N. to S. receiving in its course the Ohio, the Mifforie, the Illinois, the "Ouifconfin, the St. Croix, the St. Pierre, and other large rivers
, navigable almost to their very Yorces, and laying open the inmós recefles of this continent. Near the heads of these are extensive lak:s of fresh water, which have a communication with each other, and with the grčát river St. Laurence, which is navigable for ship abote four hundred miles from its mouth, where it is said to Binety miles broad. On the eastern lide of North America are the fine Tivers Hudson, Deleware,. James, Porowmak, Susquehanna, Connecticut, and severa! or hers' of great length and depth, which with many others of the ·most remarkable, Mall be described in the proper places.
In South Ainerica are the two largell rivers in the known world, the river of Amazone; and ihe Rio de la Plaia : the first rises in Peru, and, after a course of above three thousand Gx 'hundred miles, in which it receives a
prodigious number of navigable rivers, falls into the ocean between Brazil and Guinea. The Rio de la Plata, or Plate river, rises in the heart of the country, and becomes lo large by the accelón of other confiderable rivers, pouring such an immenfe flood into the sea, that it makes it talte freth - for feveral leagues from the shore. '
A country of foch vall extent on each side the equator, mult necessarily have a variety of soils as well as climates ; but if we except the mot northern and southern parts, which here, as everywhere elie, are naturally barren, the reit is an immense treasury of nature, producing most of the metals, munca rals, plants, fruits, crees, and woods, to be met with in the other parts of the world, and many of them in greater quantities and higher perfection. The gold and silver of South America have fupplied Europe with such im. tense quantities of those precious merals, that the value of fpecie, in consequence, is greatly decreased ; according to Montesquieu, the quantity theri in circolarion when he wrote, was, to that before the discovery of the Indies a thirty-two is to one. And in the revolution of about thiruv .years, which time has elapfel ince he made the calculation, the difference has becoin confiderably greater ; notwithftanding the immense quantities of filver anDually carried to China, which never returns.
The southern division of this country also produces an immense quantity of diamonds, pearls, emeralds, an.cthysts, and other valuable ftones, which are brought into Europe, in such quantities, as have also greatly lowered their value,
To these may be added a great number of other commodities, which, though of less price, arz of much greater use. Of this sort are the con fant and plentiful supplies of cochineal, indigo, anatto, logwood, brasil fuffic; pimento, lignum-vitæ, rice, ginger, cacao, or the chocolate nut, Sugar, tobacco, banrlas, cotton, red-wood, the balsams of Tölu, Perù, and Chili, Jefuit's bark, mechoacan, fassafras, farsaparilla, caflia, tamarinds, Hides, furs, ambergris, and a great variety of woods, roots, and plants, to which
, before the discovery of America, we were either entire ftrangers, or forced to procure them at an esorbitant price from Aga, and Africa.
America has also a variety of most excellent fruits, which although they grow wild, come jo great perfection ; as pine-aaples, pomegranatcs, citrons, lemons, oranges, mancaións, cherries, pears, apples, figs, grapes ; valt numbers of culinary, medicinal, and other herbs, roots and plants.
Add to this, the surprising fertility with which the soil is blessed, by which mars exotic productions are nourished in as 'great perfection as in their native ground.
With all this plenty and variety, the vast continent of America formerly laboured under the want of many necessary and useful commodities for upon the forit landing of the Europeans, they found neither corn, wine, nor oil, and the inhabitants in many places knew nor the use of cora, bure made their bread of pulse or roots. Our kind of fhetp, goats, cows,affes, and horses, were not to be found there, though the band abounded with paftures ; and at first the light of a man on horseback would throw a whole troop of the innocent and fimple inhabitants into a dreadful panic. But all these animals have been transported thither in fuch plenty, and have inerealed fo faft in those fertile pastures, that the country has no want of them, as appears from the innumerable hides, particularly of oxen, continually exported. However, in the room of these domestic animals, 'they had óthess. Do less valuable, and to which the Europeans, upon the firh discovery, were
utter ftrangers ; these we fall describe in the countries where they are bred.
The fame may be faid of the vast variety of birds to be seen here, fome of which greatly-furpass all chat' are to be found in any other parts of the world, for their surprising beauty, fine shape, bright and glowing colours. The Teas, lakes, and rivers, alto abound with the greatest variety of fish.
Before the arrival of the Europeans, they had arts of their own; having forne. Dokon of painting, they also formed pictures by the beautiful arrangement of feathers of all colours, and in forne parts built palaces and temples. Though the use of iron was unknown, they polifhed precious stones, cut down trees, and inade not only small canoes, but boats of considerable bulk. Their hatehets were headed with a sharp flint, and of fines they made knives. Thus, at the arrival of the Europeans, they afforded a lively picture of the primitive fate of mankind in the infancy of the world. For, at that pe. riod the arts, the sciences, and all the learning that had long flourished in these môre enlightened parts of the earth, were entirely unknown.
Having chus given a short account of America in general, wc ball next lay before our readers those circumltances, which led to its discovery.
Of the Discovery of the Well-Indies, and of South America.
ANKIND owe the discovery of the western world to the gold, the filver, the precious flones, the spices, filks, and costly manufactures, of the Eaft ; and even these incentives were for a confiderable time, insufficient to prompt to the undertaking, although the mof ikilful navigator of the age proffered to risk his life in the attempt.
That wonderful property communicated to the needle by the loadstone, which constitutes its polarity, had been discovered about an hundred and seventy years before any navigator was found hardy enough to cross che equinoctial line, and the Portuguese were the firft to achieve it. The property of the loadstenc, or magnet, to attra&t iron, was well known to the ancients, and appears to have exeited their astonishment. Cicero (peaks of it as such an incredible fact, as could not be believed, if it was not demonfrably provecho Laicreciuslikewise speaks of this wonderful magnetic quality, and Pliny, the naturalift, employs a whole chapter on this fone, called by tho ancients magnety which chapter he introduces by saying, “ what can be more wonderful! or in what part of Nature is there any thing more improbable !". But to what ad height would the wonder of the ancients : bave been raised, could they have bad the foreknowledge, that, in future times, another property fhould be found in this operative substance, by which an inftrument would be obtained capable of directing daring, merals, through oceans of an incondcivcable extent, and of giving them access to every part of the globe! * The compass,” to adopt the words of an able writer, 5 may be faid to have opened ko man the dominion of the sea, and to have put him in full posieluon of the earth, by enabling him to visit every part of it."