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HISTORY OF BARBADOS.
GEOGRAPHICAL AND STATISTICAL
INTRODUCTORY REMARKS ON THE WEST INDIAN ARCHIPELAGO IN GENERAL.
THE West Indian Archipelago consists of a group of islands which extend from the Gulf and Straits of Florida to the Gulf of Paria. They are situated between the tenth and the twenty-eighth degree of north latitude, and between the fifty-ninth and eighty-fifth degree of west longitude from Greenwich. Their general direction is from the coast of East Florida, southeast to Cabo Engaño, which forms the eastern point of Hispaniola or St. Domingo; from thence they describe a curved line, first eastward, and then southward. On the east and north they are bounded by the Atlantie; on the south by the Caribbean Sea, which separates them from the northern coast of the republic of Colombia; and on the west, the Gulf of Mexico intervenes between these islands and Mexico. The south-eastern group, or those which extend from the Gulf of Florida to the southeast, contain the largest; they are Cuba, St. Domingo, Jamaica and Porto Rico; the others, which stretch from north to south, are smaller; the principal islands of this group are Guadaloupe, Martinico, Barbados, and Trinidad.
Without entering into a disquisition as to whether America was not known previous to its discovery by Columbus, I would only observe here that the great navigator landed on the 12th of October, 1492, on St. Salvador, one of the Bahama Islands, where he erected a cross and took possession of it in the name of his catholic majesty. The southern point
of this island is called to this day Columbus Point. The Archipelago received its name under the erroneous impression, that the great discoverer landed at Cipango, bordering on the eastern shores of Asia, and lying in the neighbourhood of the rich countries of which Mandeville and the Poli had given such glowing descriptions. From this error the new discoveries received the name of the West Indies, an appellation by which they are recognised in the titles of the Spanish Crown, and which has been adopted generally.
Some geographers of the fifteenth century called this group Antillia. The first trace of this name occurs in the 'Oceanica' of Peter Martyr d'Anghiera. Bartholmeus de las Casas observes that the Portuguese preferred calling Hispaniola by the name of Antillia. At that time the new discoveries were divided into the Islas de Lucayos and Islas de Barlovento, or Islas de los Caribes and de los Canibales; however, a considerable period elapsed before the name of Antilles was generally adopted.
A more advanced state of geographical knowledge rendered local distinctions necessary, and the broad expanse of sea which is surrounded by the chain of islands between Florida, the river Orinoco and the coast of America, was divided into three distinct parts, the Gulf of Mexico, the Bay of Honduras, and the Caribbean Sea. The earlier Spanish navigators divide the chain of islands into the Islas de Barlovento and Islas de los Caribes; at a later period the latter were likewise called Islas de Sotavento, from whence the name Windward and Leeward Islands arose.
In strict propriety, the islands of Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola and Porto Rico, constitute the Leeward Islands, and those which extend from Porto Rico to the Gulf of Paria, or the Islas de los Caribes of the discoverers, the Windward Islands: English mariners however have adopted a different division, and they have applied the term of Windward and Leeward Islands exclusively to the Caribbee chain, and subdivide these islands according to their situation in the course of trade, into Windward and Leeward Islands; consequently the Windward Islands commence with Trinidad and terminate with Martinico, and the Leeward commence with Dominica and extend to Porto Rico.
The division of the continental geographer into the Greater or Lesser Antilles is no doubt preferable. The Greater Antilles constitute the Leeward Islands, and the remainder, excluding the Bahamas, the Lesser Antilles, which are subdivided into Windward and Leeward Islands. The first compose the Caribbee Islands, the second the small islands which extend from the Gulf of Maracaybo to the coast of Paria. According to this system we have the following great division:
1 See the first book of the Decades of the Ocean in the famous History of the Indies by Hackluyt, 2nd edition, p. 9 (b); and for an able disquisition, Histoire de la Géographie du Nouveau Continent, par Alexandre de Humboldt, Paris, 1837, 8vo. vol. ii. p. 195. 2 Hist. Gen. de Indias, lib. i. cap. 164.