Ohio History Journal

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THE USEFUL RESULTS OF HISTORICAL CONTROVERSY

THE USEFUL RESULTS OF HISTORICAL CONTROVERSY

An Illustration and Suggestion.

 

 

 

WILLIAM Z. DAVIS, LL. D.

Judge, Ohio Supreme Court.

The present controversy about the discovery of the North

Pole suggests the thought that the truth of history is established

by adverse criticism and thorough investigaton; and that the truth

cannot be hidden forever. A striking illustration of this is found

in the bibliography of the discussion over the question, Who dis-

covered the North American Continent?

Christopher Columbus died in the belief that he had found

the mainland of Cathay and while he had in truth touched the

shores of South America, he never saw the mainland of North

America. The distinguished honor of first finding out this won-

derful land of ours was for a long time awarded to Amerigo

Vespucci and hence the name America; but more recent histor-

ical investigators have placed that great achievement to the

credit of John Cabot; and some, apparently with good reason,

even doubt that Vespucci was ever near the countries which he

claims to have discovered. If he was, his mendacity was equal

to his heroism. For example, he says that after reaching the 23

north latitude, he sailed along the coast, steadily northwest, a dis-

tance of eight hundred and seventy leagues. That is, if we fol-

low his course, he sailed from about Tampico, Mexico, through

the latter country northwesterly along the line of the Rocky

Mountains to a point somewhere in the Dominion of Can-

ada. The case against Vespucci is strongly stated by Ridpath,

New Complete Hist. U. S., edition of 1904, chap. X.

But long before the time of any of these voyagers the ven-

turesome and hardy Norse sailors had trailed first to Iceland,

then to Greenland, then to a place on the continent which they

called Vinland, or Wineland. There they established and main-

tained a colony for three years; there was born the first white

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