The merit and glory of these wonderful achievements are unquestionably due to the Portuguese nation, and the first and principal share to the sublime genius of their illustrious prince, the infant DON HENRY, Duke of Viseo and Grand Master of the order of Christ, whose enlarged mind first planned the fitting out of maritime expeditions for discovery, and by the imitation of whose example all subsequent discoveries have been accomplished. Every thing of the kind before his time was isolated or accidental, and every subsequent attempt has been pursued on scientific or known principles, which he invented and established. Although America was discovered by Columbus, in the service of Spain, some years before the Portuguese were able to accomplish their long sought route to India; and although the discovery of America was performed infinitely quicker than that of southern Africa and the route to India, Columbus having accomplished his design at the very first attempt, and even without any previous knowledge of the countries he went in search of; while the endeavours of the Portuguese occupied a great number of years in almost fruitless attempts, and extremely tedious progression; yet Don Henry first set on foot the navigation of the ocean through unknown seas, and inspired, other nations with the idea of making discoveries of distant and unexplored regions; and ultimately great as were the discoveries of Columbus, they may be said to have been accidentally made in the erroneous attempt to go by a nearer route to the regions of which Don Henry and his successors had long been in search.
These attempts of the Portuguese had been continued for nearly fourscore years before any of their neighbours seem to have entertained the most distant idea of engaging in foreign discoveries, even viewing their endeavours as downright knight-errantry, proceeding from a distempered imagination, as well in the first promoter as in those who continued to prosecute his scheme. In a word, the relation of these discoveries forms one of the most curious portions of modern history, as comprizing a great number of the most extraordinary transactions that ever happened in any period of the world. For this reason they are well worthy of being particularly narrated, that the curious may be made acquainted with every successive step in such important enterprizes, and by what almost insensible degrees such vast undertakings were ultimately accomplished. And as the intercourse of Europeans has operated a great change in the countries to which they penetrated, and upon their original inhabitants, so that both now appear in a very different light from what they did before these expeditions and discoveries; therefore, every circumstance belonging to these transactions deserves the most serious notice.