Cabled from Portugal
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CABLED FROM PORTUGAL.
Everybody knows that Columbus applied to King John II of Portugal for aid to discover America, before he appealed to the Spanish throne: but the particulars of the interview at which he was refused have only just been discovered at enormous expense and by the merest accident, by a reporter for this paper.
"King. I want aid." said the blunt sailor, "to discover a westerly passage to the Indies."
"That's certainly an infant industry," said King John, "and as such entitled to the money of the people; but if you will read the works of Prof. Densmore, of New York, you will find that the natural lines of commerce are north and south and not east and west."
"But," said Columbus, "I expect to find Eldorado and to make gold as cheap as silver in Portugal."
"Clearly you have not read Bourke Cochrane's $10,000 speeches," answered King John, "or you would knew that it would be suicidal to the creditor class to depreciate the standard of value."
"But it would help the poor debtors." weakly answered the sailor.
"Mr. Matthew Marshall, who caters fo the self-respectables in the Xew York Sun," replied the king, "has shown that the poor are the principal creditors and the rich are the debtors."
"Consider, king; I will get pearls and skins, and spices, and other goods from the new countries," said Columbus.
"I fear," replied the king, "that, as Prof. Grunting says, you will only expose the older and higher races to the competition of the newer and the lower."
"Well, at least we can get things that the Indians make," said Columbus.
"Have you considered Prof. Carey's proof that this will decrease work?" asked his majesty.
"It will increase goods." returned Columbus.
"Increase over-production. you mean'."' said the king.
"There are many things in those places that we don't have here, we could exchange—"
"The Indians, I understand, dress in breech-clouts or less." said King John, "and have few wants. Think how commerce with them will lower the standard of living for our wage-earners."
"Think of the vast possessions, the new lands—"
"New lands!" cried the indignant king, "have we not been legislating and adjudicating to keep wages at a figure that will enable us to compete in the markets of the world? And you, with your free land, would make them simply exorbitant."
"It will be an outlet for our overpopulation." urged Columbus, in desperation.
"It will raise a spirit of independence," said the king, sharply, "that will be fatal to organized society—that is, to ME."
"No," said poor Columbus, "if I bring you the wealth of the Indies, pearls and gold, and—"
"We do not desire that this happy country should be flooded with pauper gold." replied the king.
"It will make this people rich." said the sailor, "if you will only help."
"You will create a money power in the realm." replied the king, "no, you need talk no more."
"Hear me," said Columbus, "this discovery will bring the commerce of the world to our doors; we can get spices for the picking up and ivory for the price of bone."
"It is all a scheme," answered the king, "to ruin this country, in the interest of her rivals, by decreasing prices here. T believe in Portugal for the Portuguese and am not going to assist in making my country the dumping ground for surplus foreign goods."
"See how the discovery would foster navigation." urged the persistent sailor.
"Now, if you have any plan of registry, for destroying foreign shipping and confining our own to the coasting trade, or for filling up the sea so as to assure us the control of our home market. I will listen." said the king.
Columbus went away discouraged.
"If I'd let that dago trick me into free trade," said John, "this country would have gone to ruin, just like Spain."—Bolton Hall, in The Coming Nation.
- Bolton Hall, “Cabled from Portugal,” The Public 1, no. 37 (December 17, 1898): 13.