Men Who Found America - F. W. Hutchinson
This book provides an excellent introduction to the exploration of the Americas. It provides adventure packed short biographies of Columbus, Cortez, Pizarro, Hudson, La Salle, Balboa, De Vaca, Raleigh, Champlain, and many others. The author is very even handed in his treatment of explorers and Indians, and makes moral distinctions between the most abusive conquistadors, and the relatively noble missionary explorers.
COLUMBUS WAS DRESSED IN SHINING STEEL, WITH A BEAUTIFIL RED CLOAK, AND HE CARRIED THE RED AND YELLOW FLAG OF SPAIN.
How quickly the years pass! But yesterday they were babies; now he is a great boy, clamoring for trousers with vast, mysterious pockets; and she, dear little girl, is a mother, caressing her dolls with an infinity of maternal graces. Could they but stay young! Were there but a fountain, like the one in these stories, to keep them forever safe in a mother's arms. It is sad to think of their ever leaving Baby-land.
There is no country like unto this beautiful bourn of our children. Here are the dim, magic forests, the enchanted castles, the deep, hidden caves, the secret tree-hollows, where dwell sparrows and fairies and lost little children. In this land the princess is ever young and ever beautiful; the bold Prince Charming slays always the wicked, watchful dragon; the fierce Ogre, with his one malevolent eye forever eats the tender children at his ravenous evening meal. The land is always full, yet always filling; the sun is forever shining, and flowers spring up under the patter of little feet. Here bad is bad, and good is good, and always the good comes true. For is there not a fairy godmother to save the child from all the childish evil in the world?
What a land of adventure it is! What daring deeds! What heroic exploits! The little white crib, into which we tuck him so tenderly—why, that is no crib at all! It is a great ship, with flapping sails unfurled, creaking under stress of storm and sea, sailing oceans unknown to lands of which we have never heard. It is also a locomotive, a dizzy air-ship, an automobile, and, in turn, a fort, a palace, a forest and a wicked robber's cave. Resolutely the little captain, aeronaut, king, robber and policeman marches through all this brave realm of limitless adventure.
Only too soon the child must leave this warm, fair land, and, losing his baby's heritage, enter upon the schoolboy's estate. The wicked giants, the fairy princesses, the wonderful, magic animals who talk and think, vanish forever before the spelling-book and arithmetic. A little learning is a dangerous thing.
Soon the little pilgrim must make his exploration of life and knowledge. He, too, "must find America." Still, let us not tear him from his own charmed domains, nor blow our icy breath upon the warm creatures of his quickening imagination. Let us rather gently bring our world to him, so that, as his eyelids open after his deep child's sleep, he may see this new country in his lap, as on the dawn of the Christmas morn he finds the gracious gifts of Santa Claus upon the laden, glittering tree.
Into the wild, romantic life of the nursery I venture to bring these twelve tales of twelve great men and brave. They are strange stories, and should be welcomed as strangers. And they are true—as true as Cinderella, as true as Sinbad, as true as all the golden dreams of childhood.
And it is no wonder; for these stories of exploration are first cousins to those your children already know. Aladdin's lamp was not more magically pregnant than the Devil's courage of the Spaniards in the fairyland of El Dorado; Dick Whittington himself was not more marvelously transformed than the swineherd who came to rule a new-found nation; and bad Bluebeard, or even the gaunt wolf, who ate Red Riding Hood's grandmother, was not so fantastically melodramatic as the wicked, wicked man who hid in a barrel.
And so I send these stories to the little children in the hope that they may pass from the true tales of fairies to these other true tales without shock or rude awakening. May the old, beautiful visions linger, and at last fade but gently into the wildly unreal truth of the actual world! May the two, the tale of the nursery and the tale of the great dominion beyond the nursery, live together in friendship and amity, so that, when at last the little one comes to lose his fund of baby lore, it will pass from him as gently as the fleeing consciousness leaves the drowsy child!
To the little children of America, and to the children who have borne and reared children, to all who must find America, these little tales of "The Man Who Found America" and other stories are affectionately dedicated.