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Of America in general. A M ERICA, llae 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 Eur topean, it might with more justice have been called Columbia, from the great man who made it known to the Europeaps ; and is frequently so callcd by the British race of inhabitants there.
This New World, as it is emphatically called, extends from the frozça regions of the north, where its limits are impervious to buman observation, on account of the impassable barriers of ice, which never yield to the influe cnce of the summer sun, through an extent of country, in which successively pass all the climates to be found in the other regions of the earth, and at 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 40th E. to the goch 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 thoutand fix hundred and ninety ; though in the middle it is not above fixty or seventy ruiles over.
It is bounded on the gorth by the feas about the north pole ; and on the E. by Davis's Straits, which separate it froin Greenland, and by the great Adan:ic 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 but temperate and excenlive rigions of New Holland; also from New Guinea, and an immense number of fruitful and populous islands. Abour the fixty-cighth degree of north latitude, it very nearly joins the most callern point of Ala, a fact which the indefatigablé labours of Captain
Cook ascertained, the low countries being there only 16 or 18 leagues apari..
It is very remarkable, that the climates of North America, are many degrees colder than any of the countries under the same 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 wich the coast of France ; Nova Scoria and New England are in the same larilude as the Bay of Biscay; New-York and Pennsylvania lic opposite to Spain and Portugal. Hence the coldeft 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 since the records of history speak of Asia, Africa, and Europe.
This vall continent is divided almost in two by an isthmus about fifteen hundred miles in length, and in one place so narrow as to be only about sixty miles over ; bui being mountaneous, it would be impossible, perhaps, to open a communication there between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. All the continent to the north of this illbmus, together with the isthmus itself, is lyled North America ; and all to the south' of it, including that even on this side the equator, is styled South America. This narrow neck is called the i thinus of Darien.' * North America is far from being mountaneous, and chiefly confills of gentle afcenis and level plains; the principal hills in this extenswe tract are called the Anallachian, 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 lengih exceed any chain of mountains in the other three parts of the earth; for beginning near the ilhinus of Darien, they extend to che fraits of Magellans, cutting the whole southern part of America in iwo, 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 advantages of fertility, but for the convenience of trade, and the intercourse of the distant iohabitants by water. In North America the great river Mifilippi, rifing about the falls of St. Anthony, in latitude *47° N. runs above two thousand miles, chiefly from N. to S. receiving in iis course the Ohio, the Millorie, the Illinois, the Quisconsin, the St. Croix, 'the St. Pierre,' and other large rivers, navigable almost to their very Yources, and taying open the inmost recesses of this continent. Near the heads of there are extensive lak:s of fresh water, which have a communication with each other, and with the grcát river St. Laurence, which is navigable for ships above four hundred sviles from its mouth, where iç is said to binety miles broad. On the eastern lide of North America are the fine Tivers Hudson, Deleware,. James, Posowmak, Susquehanna, Connecticut, and several orders of great length and depth, which with many others of the "most remarkable, shall be described in the proper places. • In South America are the two largelt 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 chouland 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 accellion of other confiderable rivers, pouring such an iminenfe flood into the sea, that it makes it taste freth-for.. feveral leagues from the shore.v a
.. A country of loch valt extent on cach fide the equator, mus pecessarily have a variety of ioils as well as climates ; but if we except the mot northern and southern paris, which here, as everywhere elie, are naturally barren, the reft is an immense treasury of nature, producing moit of the metals, nunc rals, plants, fruits,' trees, and woods, to be met with in the other parts of the world, and any of them in greater quantities and higher perfection. The gold and silver of South America have supplied Europe with such im. tnenfe quantities of those precioris merals, that the value of specie, 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 o thirty-two is to one. And in the revolution of about thiruv years, which time has elapred Gnce he made the calculation, the difference has become confiderably greater ; notwithstanding the immenfe quantities of filver annually carried to China, which never returns. "*. ...
i The southern division of this country also produces an immense quantity of diamonds, pearls, emeralds, amethysts, and other valuable stones, 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, whic, though of less price, are of much greater use. Of this sort are the constant and plentiful supplies of cochincal, indigo, anatto, logwood, brasil folic, pimento, lignum-vile, rice, ginger, cacao, or the chocolate nut, Sugar, tobacco, banilas, corton, red-wood, the balsams of Tolu, Perù, and Chili, Jesuit's bark, mechoacan, fallafras, farsaparilla, caflia, tamarinds, hides, furs, ambergris, and a great váriety of woods, roots, and plants, to which, before the discovery of America, we were either entire ftrangers, of forced to procure them at an esorbitant price from Aga, and Africa."
America has also a variety of moft excellent fruits, which although they grow wild, come so great perfection ; as pine-aaples, pomegranates, citrons, lemons, oranges, mancarons, cherries, pears, apples, figs, grapes ; valt Dombers of culinary, medicinal, and other herbs, roots and plants,
Add to this, the surprising fertility with which the soil is blefled, by which mans exotic productions are nourished in as'great perfection as in cheir 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 first landing of the Europeans, they found neliher corn, wine, nor oil, and the inhabitants in many places knew nor the use of cora, bu made their bread of pulse or roots. Our kind of sheep, goats, cows, afles, and horses, were not to be found there, bough the land abounded with pallures ; and at first the night of a man on horseback would throw a whole troop of the innocent and simple inhabitants into a dreadful panic. . But all these animals have been transported thither in such plenty, and have inercaf ed to fast in those fertile pariures, that the country has no want of them, as appears from the innumerable hide, particularly of oxen, continually ex. ported. However, in the room of these domestic animals, they had othess Do less valuable, and to which the Europeans, upon the firk discovery, wers
utter ftrangers ; these we fall describe in the countries where they are bred.
The same may be faid of the valt variety of birds to he 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 (hape, bright and glowing colours. The "feas, lakes, and rivers, alto abound with the greatest variety of
Before the arrival of the Europeans, they had arts of their own ; having fome nokon of painting, they also formed pictures by the beautiful arrangement of featliers of all colours, and in fome parts: built palaces and temples. Though the use of iron was unknown, they polished precious stones, cut dowri trees, and made not only small canoes, but boats of considerable bulk. Their harchets were headed witb a sharp flint, and of Pints 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 more enlighiened parts of ibe earth, were entirely unknown.
Having chus given a short account of America in general, we shall next lay before our readers thofe circumstances, which led to its discovery,
Of the Discovery of the Well-Indies, and of South America.
V ANKIND owe the discovery of the weltern world to the gold, the filver, the precious llones, the spices, folks, and costly manufactures, of the Ealt ; and even these incentives were for a confiderable time, insufficient to prompt to the undertaking, alıbough the mos ikilful navigator of the age proffered 10 risk bis life in the attempt.
That wonderful property communicated to the needle by the loadstone, which conftituies its polarity, had been discovered about an hundred and seventy years before any navigator was found hardy enough to cross the equinoctial line, and the Poraguese were the firft to achieve it. The property of the loadftanc, or magnet, to attraât iron, was well known to che ancients, and appears to have excited their astonishment. Cicero speaks of it as fuch an incredible fact, as could not be believed, if it was not demonfrably provecho Laicreuius likewise speaks of this wonderful magnetic quality, and Pliny, the naturalist, employs a whole chapter on this sone, 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 !". Bin 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 meals, through oceans of an incondciveable extent, and of giving them aecels 10 every part of the globe ! - The compass,” to adopt the words of an able writer, s may be faid to have opened to map the dominion of the sea, and to have put him in full posselüon of the earth, by enabling him to vilic every pari of it."