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November 10 , 2017

The Spanish Pioneers

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It is now an established fact of history that the Norse rovers had found and made a few expeditions to North America long before Columbus. For the historian nowadays to look upon that Norse discovery as a myth, or less than a certainty, is to confess that he has never read the Sagas. The Norsemen came, and even camped in the New World, before the year 1000; but they only camped. They built no towns, and practically added to the world’s knowledge nothing at all. They did nothing to entitle them to credit as pioneers. The honor of giving America to the world belongs to Spain,—the credit not only of discovery, but of centuries of such pioneering as no other nation ever paralleled in any land. It is a fascinating story, yet one to which our histories have so far done scant justice. History on true principles was an unknown science until within a century; and public opinion has long been hampered by the narrow statements and false conclusions of closet students. Some of these men have been not only honest but most charming writers; but their very popularity has only helped to spread their errors wider. But their day is past, and the beginnings of new light have come. No student dares longer refer to Prescott or Irving, or any of the class of which they were the leaders, as authorities in history; they rank to-day as fascinating writers of romance, and nothing more. It yet remains for some one to make as popular the truths of American history as the fables have been, and it may be long before an unmistaken Prescott appears; but meantime I should like to help young Americans to a general grasp of the truths upon which coming histories will be based. This book is not a history; it is simply a guideboard to the true point of view, the broad idea,—starting from which, those who are interested may more safely go forward to the study of details, while those who can study no farther may at least have a general understanding of the most romantic and gallant chapter in the history of America…
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