Continuation of Portuguese Discoveries, from Cape St Catherine to the kingdom of Congo.
We are still obliged to continue the account of the Portuguese discoveries historically, from the want of any regular journals of their early voyages along the African coast. In the original efforts of the illustrious Don Henry, although the progress was extremely slow, we have much to admire in the character of that prince, who possessed genius to stretch beyond the trammels of custom and authority, boldly thinking for himself, pointing out the way of extending the knowledge of our globe by maritime discoveries, and persevering nobly in his renewed efforts, in spite of the timid ignorance of his unexperienced pilots and mariners. But it is not easy to explain the continuance of that slow progress, which was even retarded during the years which elapsed between the demise of that prince of mariners in 1463, and that of Alphonso in 1481; when the increased experience of the Portuguese, in their frequent voyages to the new discovered Atlantic islands and African coast, ought to have inspired them with fresh vigour and extended views of discovery and commerce. The military character of Alphonso may, however, explain this in a great degree, as all his energies were directed towards the extension of dominion in the Moorish kingdom of Fez; and the business of discovery was devolved as a burdensome and unprofitable task on the farmers of the trade to the coast of Africa, which appears to have become extensive and lucrative, after the discovery of Guinea and its islands, and the establishment of the sugar colonies in these islands. We learn, likewise, from the preceding voyage of the Portuguese pilot to the island of St Thomas, that the mariners still confined themselves almost entirely to creeping along the coast, from cape to cape, and from island to island, not daring to trust themselves to the trackless ocean, under the now sure guidance of the heavenly luminaries; but which they then did not sufficiently understand, nor did they possess sufficient instruments for directing their course in the ocean. It would appear that they had then no other method of computing the longitude but by means of the log, or dead reckoning, which is liable to perpetual uncertainty from currents and lee-way, and which a storm, even of short continuance, must have thrown into total confusion. Their instruments and methods for determining even the latitudes, appear to have then been imperfect and little understood. In the sequel of this deduction, we shall find the first Portuguese squadron which sailed for India, conducted across the Indian ocean by a Moorish pilot.