Gaspar Cortereal

When the discoveries of Columbus were made known, the King of Portugal felt a strong desire to send out a similar expedition at the expense of the crown. But the Spanish monarchs had, with wise sagacity, obtained from Pope Alexander the Sixth (the pontiff who, by accident, took a fatal draught from a poisoned bowl which he had prepared for another), the gift of all lands that lay three hundred leagues westward of the Azores; and the Portuguese sovereign dared not interfere with these rights of Spain. But when the news of Cabot's discovery of a continent in the northwest, reached Lisbon, King Emanuel the Great, immediately fitted out two caravels for a voyage toward that continent, and placed them under the command of Gaspar Cortereal. He was a gentleman of enterprising and determined character, who had been reared in the household of the Portuguese monarch, and ardently thirsted for glory. He first touched the northern extremity of Newfoundland, and, it is believed, discovered the Gulf of St. Lawrence. He went up the coast of Labrador almost to Hudson's Bay, discovering nothing of importance not already seen by Cabot. The natives appeared to him rugged and strong, and capital subjects for slaves; so he seized fifty-nine of them, carried them on board his vessels, and with this living treasure he returned to Portugal. There he made a profitable sale of his captives. "They are extremely fitted to endure labor," wrote the Venetian ambassador at the Portuguese court, "and will probably turn out the best slaves which have been discovered up to this time."

The profits of this voyage excited the cupidity of Cortereal and his king, and they determined to engage in an active slave-trade with Labrador (Labrador), so named because of the admirable qualities of the natives as laborers. Cortereal went on a second voyage in 1501, and was lost at sea. His brother Michael went in search of him and was never heard of afterward. The king sent a ship to search for the brothers, but no tidings of them were brought back. These disasters frustrated the cruel designs of the slave-traders, and the Portuguese monarch sought to win glory for his favorite and his crown, by claiming that Cortereal was not only the first discoverer of Newfoundland, but that he was the first to see the continent in that region. In a Portuguese map published in 1508, the coast of Labrador is called Terra Corterealis or Cortereal's Land; and in support of the claim that he was the first discoverer of it, maps were actually forged. But all efforts to deprive Cabot of that honor failed.

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