The True Story of Christopher Columbus HTML version
What Columbus Discovered
A little over three hundred years ago there was a Pope of Rome whose name was Gregory
XIII. He was greatly interested in learning and science, and when the scholars and wise
men of his day showed him that a mistake in reckoning time had long before been made
he set about to make it right. At that time the Pope of Rome had great influence with the
kings and queens of Europe, and whatever he wished them to do they generally did.
So they all agreed to his plan of renumbering the days of the year, and a new reckoning
of time was made upon the rule that most of you know by heart in the old rhyme:
Thirty days hath September, April, June and November; All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February which alone Hath twenty-eight—and this, in fine, One year in four
And the order of the days of the months and the year is what is called, after Pope
Gregory, the Gregorian Calendar.
This change in reckoning time made, of course, all past dates wrong. The old dates,
which were called Old Style, had to be made to correspond with the new dates which
were called New Style.
Now, according to the Old Style, Columbus discovered the islands he thought to be the
Indies (and which have ever since been called the West Indies) on the twelfth of October,
1492. But, according to the New Style, adopted nearly one hundred years after his
discovery, the right date would be the twenty-first of October. And this is why, in the
Columbian memorial year of 1892, the world celebrated the four hundredth anniversary
of the discovery of America on the twenty-first of October; which, as you see, is the same
as the twelfth under the Old Style of reckoning time.
But did Columbus discover America? What was this land that greeted his eyes as the
daylight came on that Friday morning, and he saw the low green shores that lay ahead of
As far as Columbus was concerned he was sure that he had found some one of the
outermost islands of Cipango or Japan. So he dropped his anchors, ordered out his
rowboat, and prepared to take possession of the land in the name of the queen of Spain,
who had helped him in his enterprise.
Just why or by what right a man from one country could sail up to the land belonging to
another country and, planting in the ground the flag of his king, could say, "This land
belongs to my king!" is a hard question to answer. But there is an old saying that tells us,
Might makes right; and the servants of the kings and queens—the adventurers and
explorers of old—used to go sailing about the world with this idea in their heads, and as
soon as they came to a land they, had never seen before, up would go their flag, and they