The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

 

Venient annis

Sæcula seris, quibus Oceanus

Vincula rerum laxet, et ingens

Pateat tellus, Typhisque novos

Detegat Orbes, nec sit terris

Ultima Thule.

 

Seneca: _Medea_.

 

 

Author's Revised Edition.

 

Vol. II.

 

1892

 

 

by

 

Washington Irving.

 

 

 

 

Contents of Volume II.

 

 

 

Book XI.

 

 

  I.  Administration of the Adelantado.--Expedition to the Province of

      Xaragua

 II.  Establishment of a Chain of Military Posts.--Insurrection of

      Guarionex, the Cacique of the Vega

III.  The Adelantado Repairs to Xaragua to receive Tribute

 IV.  Conspiracy of Roldan

  V.  The Adelantado repairs to the Vega in relief of Fort Conception.

      --His Interview with Roldan

 VI.  Second Insurrection of Guarionex, and his Flight to the Mountains

      of Ciguay

VII.  Campaign of the Adelantado in the Mountains of Ciguay

 

 

 

Book XII.

 

 

  I.  Confusion in the Island.--Proceedings of the Rebels at Xaragua

 II.  Negotiation of the Admiral with the Rebels.--Departure of Ships

      for Spain

III.  Arrangement with the Rebels

 IV.  Another Mutiny of the Rebels; and Second Arrangement with them

  V.  Grants made to Roldan and his Followers.--Departure of several of

      the Rebels for Spain

 VI.  Arrival of Ojeda with a Squadron at the Western part of the Island.

      --Roldan sent to meet him

VII.  Manoeuvres of Roldan and Ojeda

 

 

 

Book XIII.

 

 

  I.  Representations at Court against Columbus.--Bobadilla empowered to

      examine into his Conduct

 II.  Arrival of Bobadilla at San Domingo.--His violent Assumption of

      the Command

III.  Columbus summoned to appear before Bobadilla

 IV.  Columbus and his Brothers arrested and sent to Spain in Chains

 

 

 

Book XIV.

 

 

  I.  Sensation in Spain on the Arrival of Columbus in Irons.--His

      Appearance at Court

 II.  Contemporary Voyages of Discovery

III.  Nicholas de Ovando appointed to supersede Bobadilla

 IV.  Proposition of Columbus relative to the Recovery of the Holy

      Sepulchre

  V.  Preparations of Columbus for a Fourth Voyage of Discovery

 

 

 

Book XV.

 

 

   I.  Departure of Columbus on his Fourth Voyage.--Refused Admission to

       the Harbor of San Domingo--Exposed to a violent Tempest

  II.  Voyage along the Coast of Honduras

 III.  Voyage along the Mosquito Coast, and Transactions at Cariari

  IV.  Voyage along Costa Rica.--Speculations concerning the Isthmus at

       Veragua

   V.  Discovery of Puerto Bello and El Retrete.--Columbus abandons the

       search after the Strait

  VI.  Return to Veragua.--The Adelantado explores the Country.

 VII.  Commencement of a Settlement on the river Belen.--Conspiracy of the

       Natives.--Expedition of the Adelantado to surprise Quibian.

VIII.  Disasters of the Settlement.

  IX.  Distress of the Admiral on board of his Ship.--Ultimate Relief of

       the Settlement.

   X.  Departure from the Coast of Veragua.--arrival at Jamaica.--Stranding

       of the Ships.

 

 

 

Book XVI.

 

 

  I.  Arrangement of Diego Mendez with the Caciques for Supplies of

      Provisions.--Sent to San Domingo by Columbus in quest of Relief.

 II.  Mutiny of Porras.

III.  Scarcity of Provisions.--Stratagem of Columbus to obtain Supplies

      from the Natives.

 IV.  Mission of Diego de Escobar to the Admiral.

  V.  Voyage of Diego Mendez and Bartholomew Fiesco in a Canoe to

      Hispaniola.

 VI.  Overtures of Columbus to the Mutineers.--Battle of the Adelantado

      with Porras and his Followers.

 

 

 

Book XVII.

 

 

  I.  Administration of Ovando in Hispaniola.--Oppression of the Natives.

 II.  Massacre at Xaragua.--Fate of Anacaona.

III.  War with the Natives of Higuey.

 IV.  Close of the War with Higuey.--Fate of Cotabanama.

 

 

 

Book XVIII.

 

 

  I.  Departure of Columbus for San Domingo.--His Return to Spain.

 II.  Illness of Columbus at Seville.--Application to the Crown for a

      Restitution of his Honors.--Death of Isabella.

III.  Columbus arrives at Court.--Fruitless Application to the King for

      Redress.

 IV.  Death of Columbus.

  V.  Observations on the Character of Columbus.

 

 

Appendix

 

Index

 

 

 

 

 

The Life and Voyages of Columbus

 

 

 

 

 

Book XI.

 

 

 

 

Chapter I.

 

Administration of the Adelantado.--Expedition to the Province of Xaragua.

 

[1498.]

 

 

 

Columbus had anticipated repose from his toils on arriving at Hispaniola,

but a new scene of trouble and anxiety opened upon him, destined to impede

the prosecution of his enterprises, and to affect all his future fortunes.

To explain this, it is necessary to relate the occurrences of the island

during his long detention in Spain.

 

When he sailed for Europe in March, 1496, his brother, Don Bartholomew,

who remained as Adelantado, took the earliest measures to execute his

directions with respect to the mines recently discovered by Miguel Diaz on

the south side of the island. Leaving Don Diego Columbus in command at

Isabella, he repaired with a large force to the neighborhood of the mines,

and, choosing a favorable situation in a place most abounding in ore,

built a fortress, to which he gave the name of San Christoval. The

workmen, however, finding grains of gold among the earth and stone

employed in its construction, gave it the name of the Golden

Tower. [1]

 

The Adelantado remained here three months, superintending the building of

the fortress, and making the necessary preparations for working the mines

and purifying the ore. The progress of the work, however, was greatly

impeded by scarcity of provisions, having frequently to detach a part of

the men about the country in quest of supplies. The former hospitality of

the island was at an end. The Indians no longer gave their provisions

freely; they had learnt from the white men to profit by the necessities of

the stranger, and to exact a price for bread. Their scanty stores, also,

were soon exhausted, for their frugal habits, and their natural indolence

and improvidence, seldom permitted them to have more provisions on hand

than was requisite for present support. [2] The Adelantado found it

difficult, therefore, to maintain so large a force in the neighborhood,

until they should have time to cultivate the earth, and raise live-stock,

or should receive supplies from Spain. Leaving ten men to guard the

fortress, with a dog to assist them in catching utias, he marched with the

rest of his men, about four hundred in number, to Fort Conception, in the

abundant country of the Vega. He passed the whole month of June collecting

the quarterly tribute, being supplied with food by Guarionex and his

subordinate caciques. In the following month (July, 1496) the three

caravels commanded by Niño arrived from Spain, bringing a reinforcement

of men, and, what was still more needed, a supply of provisions. The

latter was quickly distributed among the hungry colonists, but

unfortunately a great part had been injured during the voyage. This was a

serious misfortune in a community where the least scarcity produced murmur

and sedition.

 

By these ships the Adelantado received letters from his brother, directing

him to found a town and sea-port at the mouth of the Ozema, near to the

new mines. He requested him, also, to send prisoners to Spain such of the

caciques and their subjects as had been concerned in the death of any of

the colonists; that being considered as sufficient ground, by many of the

ablest jurists and theologians of Spain, for selling them as slaves. On

the return of the caravels, the Adelantado dispatched three hundred Indian

prisoners, and three caciques. These formed the ill-starred cargoes about

which Niño had made such absurd vaunting, as though the ships were laden

with treasure; and which had caused such mortification, disappointment,

and delay to Columbus.

 

Having obtained by this arrival a supply of provisions, the Adelantado

returned to the fortress of San Christoval, and thence proceeded to the

Ozema, to choose a site for the proposed seaport. After a careful

examination, he chose the eastern bank of a natural haven at the mouth of

the river. It was easy of access, of sufficient depth, and good anchorage.

The river ran through a beautiful and fertile country; its waters were

pure and salubrious, and well stocked with fish; its banks were covered

with trees bearing the fine fruits of the island, so that in sailing

along, the fruits and flowers might be plucked with the hand from the

branches which overhung the stream. [3] This delightful vicinity was the

dwelling-place of the female cacique who had conceived an affection for

the young Spaniard Miguel Diaz, and had induced him to entice his

countrymen to that part of the island. The promise she had given of a

friendly reception on the part of her tribe was faithfully performed.

 

On a commanding bank of the harbor, Don Bartholomew erected a fortress,

which at first was called Isabella, but afterwards San Domingo, and was

the origin of the city which still bears that name. The Adelantado was of

an active and indefatigable spirit. No sooner was the fortress completed,

than he left in it a garrison of twenty men, and with the rest of his

forces set out to visit the dominions of Behechio, one of the principal

chieftains of the island. This cacique, as has already been mentioned,

reigned over Xaragua, a province comprising almost the whole coast at the

west end of the island, including Cape Tiburon, and extending along the

south side as far as Point Aguida, or the small island of Beata. It was

one of the most populous and fertile districts, with a delightful climate;

and its inhabitants were softer and more graceful in their manners than

the rest of the islanders. Being so remote from all the fortresses, the

cacique, although he had taken a part in the combination of the

chieftains, had hitherto remained free from the incursions and exactions

of the white men.

 

With this cacique resided Anacaona, widow of the late formidable Caonabo.

She was sister to Behechio, and had taken refuge with her brother after

the capture of her husband. She was one of the most beautiful females of

the island; her name in the Indian language signified "The Golden Flower."

She possessed a genius superior to the generality of her race, and was

said to excel in composing those little legendary ballads, or areytos,

which the natives chanted as they performed their national dances. All the

Spanish writers agree in describing her as possessing a natural dignity

and grace hardly to be credited in her ignorant and savage condition.

Notwithstanding the ruin with which her husband had been overwhelmed by

the hostility of the white men, she appears to have entertained no

vindictive feeling towards them, knowing that he had provoked their

vengeance by his own voluntary warfare. She regarded the Spaniards with

admiration as almost superhuman beings, and her intelligent mind perceived

the futility and impolicy of any attempt to resist their superiority in

arts and arms. Having great influence over her brother Behechio, she

counseled him to take warning by the fate of her husband, and to

conciliate the friendship of the Spaniards; and it is supposed that a

knowledge of the friendly sentiments and powerful influence of this

princess in a great measure prompted the Adelantado to his present

expedition. [4]

 

In passing through those parts of the island which had hitherto been

unvisited by Europeans, the Adelantado adopted the same imposing measures

which the admiral had used on a former occasion; he put his cavalry in the

advance, and entered all the Indian towns in martial array, with standards

displayed, and the sound of drum and trumpet.

 

After proceeding about thirty leagues, he came to the river Neyva, which,

issuing from the mountains of Cibao, divides the southern side of the

island. Crossing this stream, he dispatched two parties of ten men each

along the sea-coast in search of brazil-wood. They found great quantities,

and felled many trees, which they stored in the Indian cabins, until they

could be taken away by sea.

 

Inclining with his main force to the right, the Adelantado met, not far

from the river, the cacique Behechio, with a great army of his subjects,

armed with bows and arrows and lances. If he had come forth with the

intention of opposing the inroad into his forest domains, he was probably

daunted by the formidable appearance of the Spaniards. Laying aside his

weapons, he advanced and accosted the Adelantado very amicably, professing

that he was thus in arms for the purpose of subjecting certain villages

along the river, and inquiring, at the same time, the object of this

incursion of the Spaniards. The Adelantado assured him that he came on a

peaceful visit to pass a little time in friendly intercourse at Xaragua.

He succeeded so well in allaying the apprehensions of the cacique, that

the latter dismissed his army, and sent swift messengers to order

preparations for the suitable reception of so distinguished a guest. As

the Spaniards advanced into the territories of the chieftain, and passed

through the districts of his inferior caciques, the latter brought forth

cassava bread, hemp, cotton, and various other productions of the land. At

length they drew near to the residence of Behechio, which was a large town

situated in a beautiful part of the country near the coast, at the bottom

of that deep bay called at present the Bight of Leogan.

 

The Spaniards had heard many accounts of the soft and delightful region of

Xaragua, in one part of which Indian traditions placed their Elysian

fields. They had heard much, also, of the beauty and urbanity of the

inhabitants: the mode of their reception was calculated to confirm their

favorable prepossessions. As they approached the place, thirty females of

the cacique's household came forth to meet them, singing their areytos, or

traditionary ballads, and dancing and waving palm branches. The married

females wore aprons of embroidered cotton, reaching half way to the knee;

the young women were entirely naked, with merely a fillet round the

forehead, their hair falling upon their shoulders. They were beautifully

proportioned; their skin smooth and delicate, and their complexion of a

clear agreeable brown. According to old Peter Martyr, the Spaniards, when

they beheld them issuing forth from their green woods, almost imagined

they beheld the fabled dryads, or native nymphs and fairies of the

fountains, sung by the ancient poets. [5] When they came before Don

Bartholomew, they knelt and gracefully presented him the green branches.

After these came the female cacique Anacaona, reclining on a kind of light

litter borne by six Indians. Like the other females, she had no other

covering than an apron of various-colored cotton. She wore round her head

a fragrant garland of red and white flowers, and wreaths of the same round

her neck and arms. She received the Adelantado and his followers with that

natural grace and courtesy for which she was celebrated; manifesting no

hostility towards them for the fate her husband had experienced at their

hands.

 

The Adelantado and his officers were conducted to the house of Behechio,

where a banquet was served up of utias, a great variety of sea and river

fish, with roots and fruits of excellent quality. Here first the Spaniards

conquered their repugnance to the guana, the favorite delicacy of the

Indians, but which the former had regarded with disgust, as a species of

serpent. The Adelantado, willing to accustom himself to the usages of the

country, was the first to taste this animal, being kindly pressed thereto

by Anacaona. His followers imitated his example; they found it to be

highly palatable and delicate; and from that time forward, the guana was

held in repute among Spanish epicures. [6]

 

The banquet being over, Don Bartholomew with six of his principal

cavaliers were lodged in the dwelling of Behechio; the rest were

distributed in the houses of the inferior caciques, where they slept in

hammocks of matted cotton, the usual beds of the natives.

 

For two days they remained with the hospitable Behechio, entertained with

various Indian games and festivities, among which the most remarkable was

the representation of a battle. Two squadrons of naked Indians, armed with

bows and arrows, sallied suddenly into the public square and began to

skirmish in a manner similar to the Moorish play of canes, or tilting

reeds. By degrees they became excited, and fought with such earnestness,

that four were slain, and many wounded, which seemed to increase the

interest and pleasure of the spectators. The contest would have continued

longer, and might have been still more bloody, had not the Adelantado and

the other cavaliers interfered and begged that the game might cease. [7]

 

When the festivities were over, and familiar intercourse had promoted

mutual confidence, the Adelantado addressed the cacique and Anacaona on

the real object of his visit. He informed him that his brother, the

admiral, had been sent to this island by the sovereigns of Castile, who

were great and mighty potentates, with many kingdoms under their sway.

That the admiral had returned to apprise his sovereigns how many tributary

caciques there were in the island, leaving him in command, and that he had

come to receive Behechio under the protection of these mighty sovereigns,

and to arrange a tribute to be paid by him, in such manner as should be

most convenient and satisfactory to himself. [8]

 

The cacique was greatly embarrassed by this demand, knowing the sufferings

inflicted on the other parts of the island by the avidity of the Spaniards

for gold. He replied that he had been apprised that gold was the great

object for which the white men had come to their island, and that a

tribute was paid in it by some of his fellow-caciques; but that in no part

of his territories was gold to be found; and his subjects hardly knew what

it was. To this the Adelantado replied with great adroitness, that nothing

was farther from the intention or wish of his sovereigns than to require a

tribute in things not produced in his dominions, but that it might be paid

in cotton, hemp, and cassava bread, with which the surrounding country

appeared to abound. The countenance of the cacique brightened at this

intimation; he promised cheerful compliance, and instantly sent orders to

all his subordinate caciques to sow abundance of cotton for the first

payment of the stipulated tribute. Having made all the requisite

arrangements, the Adelantado took a most friendly leave of Behechio and

his sister, and set out for Isabella.

 

Thus, by amicable and sagacious management, one of the most extensive

provinces of the island was brought into cheerful subjection, and had not

the wise policy of the Adelantado been defeated by the excesses of

worthless and turbulent men, a large revenue might have been collected,

without any recourse to violence or oppression. In all instances, these

simple people appear to have been extremely tractable, and meekly and even

cheerfully to have resigned their rights to the white men, when treated

with gentleness and humanity.

 

 

 

 

Chapter II.

 

Establishment of a Chain of Military Posts.--Insurrection of Guarionex,

the Cacique of the Vega.

 

[1496.]

 

 

 

On arriving at Isabella, Don Bartholomew found it, as usual, a scene of

misery and repining. Many had died during his absence; most were ill.

Those who were healthy complained of the scarcity of food, and those who

were ill, of the want of medicines. The provisions distributed among them,

from the supply brought out a few months before by Pedro Alonzo Niño, had

been consumed. Partly from sickness, and partly from a repugnance to

labor, they had neglected to cultivate the surrounding country, and the

Indians, on whom they chiefly depended, outraged by their oppressions, had

abandoned the vicinity, and fled to the mountains; choosing rather to

subsist on roots and herbs, in their rugged retreats, than remain in the

luxuriant plains, subject to the wrongs and cruelties of the white men.

The history of this island presents continual pictures of the miseries,

the actual want and poverty, produced by the grasping avidity of gold. It

had rendered the Spaniards heedless of all the less obvious, but more

certain and salubrious, sources of wealth. All labor seemed lost that was

to produce profit by a circuitous process. Instead of cultivating the

luxuriant soil around them, and deriving real treasures from its surface,

they wasted their time in seeking for mines and golden streams, and were

starving in the midst of fertility.

 

No sooner were the provisions exhausted which had been brought out by

Niño, than the colonists began to break forth in their accustomed murmurs.

They represented themselves as neglected by Columbus, who, amidst the

blandishments and delights of a court, thought little of their sufferings.

They considered themselves equally forgotten by government; while, having

no vessel in the harbor, they were destitute of all means of sending home

intelligence of their disastrous situation, and imploring relief.

 

To remove this last cause of discontent, and furnish some object for their

hopes and thoughts to rally round, the Adelantado ordered that two

caravels should be built at Isabella, for the use of the island. To

relieve the settlement, also, from all useless and repining individuals,

during this time of scarcity, he distributed such as were too ill to

labor, or to bear arms, into the interior, where they would have the

benefit of a better climate, and more abundant supply of Indian

provisions. He at the same time completed and garrisoned the chain of

military posts established by his brother in the preceding year,

consisting of five fortified houses, each surrounded by its dependent

hamlet. The first of these was about nine leagues from Isabella, and was

called la Esperanza. Six leagues beyond was Santa Catalina. Four leagues

and a half further was Magdalena, where the first town of Santiago was

afterwards founded; and five leagues further Fort Conception--which was

fortified with great care, being in the vast and populous Vega, and within

half a league from the residence of its cacique, Guarionex. [9] Having

thus relieved Isabella of all its useless population, and left none but

such as were too ill to be removed, or were required for the service and

protection of the place, and the construction of the caravels, the

Adelantado returned, with a large body of the most effective men, to the

fortress of San Domingo.

 

The military posts, thus established, succeeded for a time in overawing

the natives; but fresh hostilities were soon manifested, excited by a

different cause from the preceding. Among the missionaries who had

accompanied Friar Boyle to the island, were two of far greater zeal than

their superior. When he returned to Spain, they remained, earnestly bent

upon the fulfillment of their mission. One was called Roman Pane, a poor

hermit, as he styled himself, of the order of St. Geronimo; the other was

Juan Borgoñon, a Franciscan. They resided for some time among the Indians

of the Vega, strenuously endeavoring to make converts, and had succeeded

with one family, of sixteen persons, the chief of which, on being

baptized, took the name of Juan Mateo. The conversion of the cacique

Guarionex, however, was their main object. The extent of his possessions

made his conversion of great importance to the interests of the colony,

and was considered by the zealous fathers a means of bringing his numerous

subjects under the dominion of the church. For some time he lent a willing

ear; he learnt the Pater Noster, the Ave Maria, and the Creed, and made

his whole family repeat them daily. The other caciques of the Vega and of

the provinces of Cibao, however, scoffed at him for meanly conforming to

the laws and customs of strangers, usurpers of his domains, and oppressors

of his nation. The friars complained that, in consequence of these evil

communications, their convert suddenly relapsed into infidelity; but

another and more grievous cause is assigned for his recantation. His

favorite wife was seduced or treated with outrage by a Spaniard of

authority; and the cacique renounced all faith in a religion which, as he

supposed, admitted of such atrocities. Losing all hope of effecting his

conversion, the missionaries removed to the territories of another

cacique, taking with them Juan Mateo, their Indian convert. Before their

departure, they erected a small chapel, and furnished it with an altar,

crucifix, and images, for the use of the family of Mateo.

 

Scarcely had they departed, when several Indians entered the chapel, broke

the images in pieces, trampled them under foot, and buried them in a

neighboring field. This, it was said, was done by order of Guarionex, in

contempt of the religion from which he had apostatized. A complaint of

this enormity was carried to the Adelantado, who ordered a suit to be

immediately instituted, and those who were found culpable, to be punished

according to law. It was a period of great rigor in ecclesiastical law,

especially among the Spaniards. In Spain, all heresies in religion, all

recantations from the faith, and all acts of sacrilege, either by Moor or

Jew, were punished with fire and fagot. Such was the fate of the poor

ignorant Indians, convicted of this outrage on the church. It is

questionable whether Guarionex had any hand in this offence, and it is

probable that the whole affair was exaggerated. A proof of the credit due

to the evidence brought forward may be judged by one of the facts recorded

by Roman Pane, "the poor hermit." The field in which the holy images were

buried, was planted, he says, with certain roots shaped like a turnip, or

radish, several of which coming up in the neighborhood of the images, were

found to have grown most miraculously in the form of a cross. [10]

 

The cruel punishment inflicted on these Indians, instead of daunting their

countrymen, filled them with horror and indignation. Unaccustomed to such

stern rule and vindictive justice, and having no clear ideas nor powerful

sentiments with respect to religion of any kind, they could not comprehend

the nature nor extent of the crime committed. Even Guarionex, a man

naturally moderate and pacific, was highly incensed with the assumption of

power within his territories, and the inhuman death inflicted on his

subjects. The other caciques perceived his irritation, and endeavored to

induce him to unite in a sudden insurrection, that by one vigorous and

general effort they might break the yoke of their oppressors. Guarionex

wavered for some time. He knew the martial skill and prowess of the

Spaniards; he stood in awe of their cavalry, and he had before him the

disastrous fate of Caonabo; but he was rendered bold by despair, and he

beheld in the domination of these strangers the assured ruin of his race.

The early writers speak of a tradition current among the inhabitants of

the island, respecting this Guarionex. He was of an ancient line of

hereditary caciques. His father, in times long preceding the discovery,

having fasted for five days, according to their superstitious observances,

applied to his zemi, or household deity, for information of things to

come. He received for answer, that within a few years there should come to

the island a nation covered with clothing, which should destroy all their

customs and ceremonies, and slay their children or reduce them to painful

servitude. [11] The tradition was probably invented by the Butios, or

priests, after the Spaniards had begun to exercise their severities.

Whether their prediction had an effect in disposing the mind of Guarionex

to hostilities is uncertain. Some have asserted that he was compelled to

take up arms by his subjects, who threatened, in case of his refusal, to

choose some other chieftain; others have alleged the outrage committed

upon his favorite wife, as the principal cause of his irritation. [12] It

was probably these things combined, which at length induced him to enter

into the conspiracy. A secret consultation was held among the caciques,

wherein it was concerted, that on the day of payment of their quarterly

tribute, when a great number could assemble without causing suspicion,

they should suddenly rise upon the Spaniards and massacre them. [13]

 

By some means the garrison at Fort Conception received intimation of this

conspiracy. Being but a handful of men, and surrounded by hostile tribes,

they wrote a letter to the Adelantado, at San Domingo, imploring immediate

aid. As this letter might be taken from their Indian messenger, the

natives having discovered that these letters had a wonderful power of

communicating intelligence, and fancying they could talk, it was inclosed

in a reed, to be used as a staff. The messenger was, in fact, intercepted;

but, affecting to be dumb and lame, and intimating by signs that he was

returning home, was permitted to limp forward on his journey. When out of

sight he resumed his speed, and bore the letter safely and expeditiously

to San Domingo. [14]

 

The Adelantado, with his characteristic promptness and activity, set out

immediately with a body of troops for the fortress; and though his men

were much enfeebled by scanty fare, hard service, and long marches,

hurried them rapidly forward. Never did aid arrive more opportunely. The

Indians were assembled on the plain, to the amount of many thousands,

armed after their manner, and waiting for the appointed time to strike the

blow. After consulting with the commander of the fortress and his

officers, the Adelantado concerted a mode of proceeding. Ascertaining the

places in which the various caciques had distributed their forces, he

appointed an officer with a body of men to each cacique, with orders, at

an appointed hour of the night, to rush into the villages, surprise them

asleep and unarmed, bind the caciques, and bring them off prisoners. As

Guarionex was the most important personage, and his capture would probably

be attended with most difficulty and danger, the Adelantado took the

charge of it upon himself, at the head of one hundred men.

 

This stratagem, founded upon a knowledge of the attachment of the Indians

to their chieftains, and calculated to spare a great effusion of blood,

was completely successful. The villages, having no walls nor other

defences, were quietly entered at midnight; and the Spaniards, rushing

suddenly into the houses where the caciques were quartered, seized and

bound them, to the number of fourteen, and hurried them off to the

fortress, before any effort could be made for their defence or rescue. The

Indians, struck with terror, made no resistance, nor any show of

hostility; surrounding the fortress in great multitudes, but without

weapons, they filled the air with doleful howlings and lamentations,

imploring the release of their chieftains. The Adelantado completed his

enterprise with the spirit, sagacity, and moderation with which he had

hitherto conducted it. He obtained information of the causes of this

conspiracy, and the individuals most culpable. Two caciques, the principal

movers of the insurrection, and who had most wrought upon the easy nature

of Guarionex, were put to death. As to that unfortunate cacique, the

Adelantado, considering the deep wrongs he had suffered, and the slowness

with which he had been provoked to revenge, magnanimously pardoned him;

nay, according to Las Casas, he proceeded with stern justice against the

Spaniard whose outrage on his wife had sunk so deeply in his heart. He

extended his lenity also to the remaining chieftains of the conspiracy;

promising great favors and rewards, if they should continue firm in their

loyalty; but terrible punishments should they again be found in rebellion.

The heart of Guarionex was subdued by this unexpected clemency. He made a

speech to his people, setting forth the irresistible might and valor of

the Spaniards; their great lenity to offenders, and their generosity to

such as were faithful; and he earnestly exhorted them henceforth to

cultivate their friendship. The Indians listened to him with attention;

his praises of the white men were confirmed by their treatment of himself;

when he had concluded, they took him up on their shoulders, bore him to

his habitation with songs and shouts of joy, and for some time the

tranquillity of the Vega was restored.  [15]

 

 

 

 

Chapter III.

 

The Adelantado Repairs to Xaragua to Receive Tribute.

 

[1497.]

 

 

 

With all his energy and discretion, the Adelantado found it difficult to

manage the proud and turbulent spirit of the colonists. They could ill

brook the sway of a foreigner, who, when they were restive, curbed them

with an iron hand. Don Bartholomew had not the same legitimate authority

in their eyes as his brother. The admiral was the discoverer of the

country, and the authorized representative of the sovereigns; yet even him

they with difficulty brought themselves to obey. The Adelantado, on the

contrary, was regarded by many as a mere intruder, assuming high command

without authority from the crown, and shouldering himself into power on

the merits and services of his brother. They spoke with impatience and

indignation, also, of the long absence of the admiral, and his fancied

inattention to their wants; little aware of the incessant anxieties he was

suffering on their account, during his detention in Spain. The sagacious

measure of the Adelantado in building the caravels for some time diverted

their attention. They watched their progress with solicitude, looking upon

them as a means either of obtaining relief, or of abandoning the island.

Aware that repining and discontented men should never be left in idleness,

Don Bartholomew kept them continually in movement; and indeed a state of

constant activity was congenial to his own vigorous spirit. About this

time messengers arrived from Behechio, cacique of Xaragua, informing him

that he had large quantities of cotton, and other articles, in which his

tribute was to be paid, ready for delivery. The Adelantado immediately set

forth with a numerous train, to revisit this fruitful and happy region. He

was again received with songs and dances, and all the national

demonstrations of respect and amity by Behechio and his sister Anacaona.

The latter appeared to be highly popular among the natives, and to have

almost as much sway in Xaragua as her brother. Her natural ease, and the

graceful dignity of her manners, more and more won the admiration of the

Spaniards.

 

The Adelantado found thirty-two inferior caciques assembled in the house

of Behechio, awaiting his arrival with their respective tributes. The

cotton they had brought was enough to fill one of their houses. Having

delivered this, they gratuitously offered the Adelantado as much cassava

bread as he desired. The offer was most acceptable in the present

necessitous state of the colony; and Don Bartholomew sent to Isabella for

one of the caravels, which was nearly finished, to be dispatched as soon

as possible to Xaragua, to be freighted with bread and cotton.

 

In the meantime, the natives brought from all quarters large supplies of

provisions, and entertained their guests with continual festivity and

banqueting. The early Spanish writers, whose imaginations, heated by the

accounts of the voyagers, could not form an idea of the simplicity of

savage life, especially in these newly-discovered countries, which were

supposed to border upon Asia, often speak in terms of oriental

magnificence of the entertainments of the natives, the palaces of the

caciques, and the lords and ladies of their courts, as if they were

describing the abodes of Asiatic potentates. The accounts given of

Xaragua, however, have a different character; and give a picture of savage

life, in its perfection of idle and ignorant enjoyment. The troubles which

distracted the other parts of devoted Hayti had not reached the

inhabitants of this pleasant region. Living among beautiful and fruitful

groves, on the borders of a sea apparently for ever tranquil and unvexed

by storms; having few wants, and those readily supplied, they appeared

emancipated from the common lot of labor, and to pass their lives in one

uninterrupted holiday. When the Spaniards regarded the fertility and

sweetness of this country, the gentleness of its people, and the beauty of

its women, they pronounced it a perfect paradise.

 

At length the caravel arrived which was to be freighted with the articles

of tribute. It anchored about six miles from the residence of Behechio,

and Anacaona proposed to her brother that they should go together to

behold what she called the great canoe of the white men. On their way to

the coast, the Adelantado was lodged one night in a village, in a house

where Anacaona treasured up those articles which she esteemed most rare

and precious. They consisted of various manufactures of cotton,

ingeniously wrought; of vessels of clay, moulded into different forms; of

chairs, tables, and like articles of furniture, formed of ebony and other

kinds of wood, and carved with various devices,--all evincing great skill

and ingenuity, in a people who had no iron tools to work with. Such were

the simple treasures of this Indian princess, of which she made numerous

presents to her guest.

 

Nothing could exceed the wonder and delight of this intelligent woman,

when she first beheld the ship. Her brother, who treated her with a

fraternal fondness and respectful attention worthy of civilized life, had

prepared two canoes, gayly painted and decorated; one to convey her and

her attendants, and the other for himself and his chieftains. Anacaona,

however, preferred to embark, with her attendants, in the ship's boat with

the Adelantado. As they approached the caravel, a salute was fired. At the

report of the cannon, and the sight of the smoke, Anacaona, overcome with

dismay, fell into the arms of the Adelantado, and her attendants would

have leaped overboard, but the laughter and the cheerful words of Don

Bartholomew speedily reassured them. As they drew nearer to the vessel,

several instruments of martial music struck up, with which they were

greatly delighted. Their admiration increased on entering on board.

Accustomed only to their simple and slight canoes, every thing here

appeared wonderfully vast and complicated. But when the anchor was

weighed, the sails were spread, and, aided by a gentle breeze, they beheld

this vast mass, moving apparently by its own volition, veering from side

to side, and playing like a huge monster in the deep, the brother and

sister remained gazing at each other in mute astonishment. [16]

Nothing seems to have filled the mind of the most stoical savage with more

wonder than that sublime and beautiful triumph of genius, a ship under

sail.

 

Having freighted and dispatched the caravel, the Adelantado made many

presents to Behechio, his sister, and their attendants, and took leave of

them, to return by land with his troops to Isabella. Anacaona showed great

affliction at their parting, entreating him to remain some time longer

with them, and appearing fearful that they had failed in their humble

attempt to please him. She even offered to follow him to the settlement,

nor would she be consoled until he had promised to return again to

Xaragua. [17]

 

We cannot but remark the ability shown by the Adelantado in the course of

his transient government of the island. Wonderfully alert and active, he

made repeated marches of great extent, from one remote province to

another, and was always at the post of danger at the critical moment. By

skillful management, with a handful of men, he defeated a formidable

insurrection without any effusion of blood. He conciliated the most

inveterate enemies among the natives by great moderation, while he

deterred all wanton hostilities by the infliction of signal punishments.

He had made firm friends of the most important chieftains, brought their

dominions under cheerful tribute, opened new sources of supplies for the

colony, and procured relief from its immediate wants. Had his judicious

measures been seconded by those under his command, the whole country would

have been a scene of tranquil prosperity, and would have produced great

revenues to the crown, without cruelty to the natives; but, like his

brother the admiral, his good intentions and judicious arrangements were

constantly thwarted by the vile passions and perverse conduct of others.

While he was absent from Isabella, new mischiefs had been fomented there,

which were soon to throw the whole island into confusion.

 

 

 

 

Chapter IV.

 

Conspiracy of Roldan.

 

[1497.]

 

 

 

The prime mover of the present mischief was one Francisco Roldan, a man

under the deepest obligations to the admiral. Raised by him from poverty

and obscurity, he had been employed at first in menial capacities; but,

showing strong natural talents, and great assiduity, he had been made

ordinary alcalde, equivalent to justice of the peace. The able manner in

which he acquitted himself in this situation, and the persuasion of his

great fidelity and gratitude, induced Columbus, on departing for Spain, to

appoint him alcalde mayor, or chief judge of the island. It is true he was

an uneducated man, but, as there were as yet no intricacies of law in the

colony, the office required little else than shrewd good sense and upright

principles for its discharge. [18]

 

Roldan was one of those base spirits which grow venomous in the sunshine

of prosperity. His benefactor had returned to Spain apparently under a

cloud of disgrace; a long interval had elapsed without tidings from him;

he considered him a fallen man, and began to devise how he might profit by

his downfall. He was intrusted with an office inferior only to that of the

Adelantado; the brothers of Columbus were highly unpopular; he imagined it

possible to ruin them, both with the colonists and with the government at

home, and by dextrous cunning and bustling activity to work his way into

the command of the colony. The vigorous and somewhat austere character of

the Adelantado for some time kept him in awe; but when he was absent from

the settlement, Roldan was able to carry on his machinations with

confidence. Don Diego, who then commanded at Isabella, was an upright and

worthy man, but deficient in energy. Roldan felt himself his superior in

talent and spirit, and his self-conceit was wounded at being inferior to

him in authority. He soon made a party among the daring and dissolute of

the community, and secretly loosened the ties of order and good

government, by listening to and encouraging the discontents of the common

people, and directing them against the character and conduct of Columbus

and his brothers. He had heretofore been employed as superintendent of

various public works; this brought him into familiar communication with

workmen, sailors, and others of the lower order. His originally vulgar

character enabled him to adapt himself to their intellects and manners,

while his present station gave him consequence in their eyes. Finding them

full of murmurs about hard treatment, severe toil, and the long absence of

the admiral, he affected to be moved by their distresses. He threw out

suggestions that the admiral might never return, being disgraced and

ruined in consequence of the representations of Aguado. He sympathized

with the hard treatment they experienced from the Adelantado and his

brother Don Diego, who, being foreigners, could take no interest in their

welfare, nor feel a proper respect for the pride of a Spaniard; but who

used them merely as slaves, to build houses and fortresses for them, or to

swell their state and secure their power, as they marched about the island

enriching themselves with the spoils of the caciques. By these suggestions

he exasperated their feelings to such a height, that they had at one time

formed a conspiracy to take away the life of the Adelantado, as the only

means of delivering themselves from an odious tyrant. The time and place

for the perpetration of the act were concerted. The Adelantado had

condemned to death a Spaniard of the name of Berahona, a friend of Roldan,

and of several of the conspirators. What was his offence is not positively

stated, but from a passage in Las Casas [19] there is reason to believe

that he was the very Spaniard who had violated the favorite wife of

Guarionex, the cacique of the Vega. The Adelantado would be present at the

execution. It was arranged, therefore, that when the populace had

assembled, a tumult should be made as if by accident, and in the confusion

of the moment, Don Bartholomew should be dispatched with a poniard.

Fortunately for the Adelantado, he pardoned the criminal, the assemblage

did not take place, and the plan of the conspirators was disconcerted.

[20]

 

When Don Bartholomew was absent collecting the tribute in Xaragua, Roldan

thought it was a favorable time to bring affairs to a crisis. He had

sounded the feelings of the colonists, and ascertained that there was a

large party disposed for open sedition. His plan was to create a popular

tumult, to interpose in his official character of alcalde mayor, to throw

the blame upon the oppression and injustice of Don Diego and his brother,

and, while he usurped the reins of authority, to appear as if actuated

only by zeal for the peace and prosperity of the island, and the interests

of the sovereigns.

 

A pretext soon presented itself for the proposed tumult. When the caravel

returned from Xaragua laden with the Indian tributes, and the cargo was

discharged, Don Diego had the vessel drawn up on the land, to protect it

from accidents, or from any sinister designs of the disaffected colonists.

Roldan immediately pointed this circumstance out to his partisans. He

secretly inveighed against the hardship of having this vessel drawn on

shore, instead of being left afloat for the benefit of the colony, or sent

to Spain to make known their distresses. He hinted that the true reason

was the fear of the Adelantado and his brother, lest accounts should be

carried to Spain of their misconduct, and he affirmed that they wished to

remain undisturbed masters of the island, and keep the Spaniards there as

subjects, or rather as slaves. The people took fire at these suggestions.

They had long looked forward to the completion of the caravels as their

only chance for relief; they now insisted that the vessel should be

launched and sent to Spain for supplies. Don Diego endeavored to convince

them of the folly of their demand, the vessel not being rigged and

equipped for such a voyage; but the more he attempted to pacify them, the

more unreasonable and turbulent they became. Roldan, also, became more

bold and explicit in his instigations. He advised them to launch and take

possession of the caravel, as the only mode of regaining their

independence. They might then throw off the tyranny of these upstart

strangers, enemies in their hearts to Spaniards, and might lead a life of

ease and pleasure; sharing equally all that they might gain by barter in

the island, employing the Indians as slaves to work for them, and enjoying

unrestrained indulgence with respect to the Indian women. [21]

 

Don Diego received information of what was fermenting among the people,

yet feared to come to an open rupture with Roldan in the present mutinous

state of the colony. He suddenly detached him, therefore, with forty men,

to the Vega, under pretext of overawing certain of the natives who had

refused to pay their tribute, and had shown a disposition to revolt.

Roldan made use of this opportunity to strengthen his faction. He made

friends and partisans among the discontented caciques, secretly justifying

them in their resistance to the imposition of tribute, and promising them

redress. He secured the devotion of his own soldiers by great acts of

indulgence, disarming and dismissing such as refused full participation in

his plans, and returned with his little band to Isabella, where he felt

secure of a strong party among the common people.

 

The Adelantado had by this time returned from Xaragua; but Roldan, feeling

himself at the head of a strong faction, and arrogating to himself great

authority from his official station, now openly demanded that the caravel

should be launched, or permission given to himself and his followers to

launch it. The Adelantado peremptorily refused, observing that neither he

nor his companions were mariners, nor was the caravel furnished and

equipped for sea, and that neither the safety of the vessel, nor of the

people, should be endangered by their attempt to navigate her.

 

Roldan perceived that his motives were suspected, and felt that the

Adelantado was too formidable an adversary to contend with in any open

sedition at Isabella. He determined, therefore, to carry his plans into

operation in some more favorable part of the island, always trusting to

excuse any open rebellion against the authority of Don Bartholomew, by

representing it as a patriotic opposition to his tyranny over Spaniards.

He had seventy well-armed and determined men under his command, and he

trusted, on erecting his standard, to be joined by all the disaffected

throughout the island. He set off suddenly, therefore, for the Vega,

intending to surprise the fortress of Conception, and by getting command

of that post and the rich country adjacent, to set the Adelantado at

defiance.

 

He stopped, on his way, at various Indian villages in which the Spaniards

were distributed, endeavoring to enlist the latter in his party, by

holding out promises of great gain and free living. He attempted also to

seduce the natives from their allegiance, by promising them freedom from

all tribute. Those caciques with whom he had maintained a previous

understanding, received him with open arms; particularly one who had taken

the name of Diego Marque, whose village he made his headquarters, being

about two leagues from Fort Conception. He was disappointed in his hopes

of surprising the fortress. Its commander, Miguel Ballester, was an old

and staunch soldier, both resolute and wary. He drew himself into his

stronghold on the approach of Roldan, and closed his gates. His garrison

was small, but the fortification, situated on the side of a hill, with a

river running at its foot, was proof against any assault. Roldan had still

some hopes that Ballester might be disaffected to government, and might be

gradually brought into his plans, or that the garrison would be disposed

to desert, tempted by the licentious life which he permitted among his

followers. In the neighborhood was the town inhabited by Guarionex. Here

were quartered thirty soldiers, under the command of Captain Garcia de

Barrantes. Roldan repaired thither with his armed force, hoping to enlist

Barrantes and his party; but the captain shut himself up with his men in a

fortified house, refusing to permit them to hold any communication with

Roldan. The latter threatened to set fire to the house; but after a little

consideration, contented himself with seizing their store of provisions,

and then marched towards Fort Conception, which was not quite half a

league distant. [22]

 

 

 

 

Chapter V.

 

The Adelantado Repairs to the Vega in Relief of Fort Conception.--His

Interview with Roldan.

 

[1497.]

 

 

 

The Adelantado had received intelligence of the flagitious proceedings of

Roldan, yet hesitated for a time to set out in pursuit of him. He had lost

all confidence in the loyalty of the people around him, and knew not how

far the conspiracy extended, nor on whom he could rely. Diego de Escobar,

alcayde of the fortress of La Madalena, together with Adrian de Moxica and

Pedro de Valdivieso, all principal men, were in league with Roldan. He

feared that the commander of Fort Conception might likewise be in the

plot, and the whole island in arms against him. He was reassured, however,

by tidings from Miguel Ballester. That loyal veteran wrote to him pressing

letters for succor; representing the weakness of his garrison, and the

increasing forces of the rebels.

 

Don Bartholomew hastened to his assistance with his accustomed promptness,

and threw himself with a reinforcement into the fortress. Being ignorant

of the force of the rebels, and doubtful of the loyalty of his own

followers, he determined to adopt mild measures. Understanding that Roldan

was quartered at a village but half a league distant, he sent a message to

him, remonstrating on the flagrant irregularity of his conduct, the injury

it was calculated to produce in the island, and the certain ruin it must

bring upon himself, and summoning him to appear at the fortress, pledging

his word for his personal safety. Roldan repaired accordingly to Fort

Conception, where the Adelantado held a parley with him from a window,

demanding the reason of his appearing in arms, in opposition to royal

authority. Roldan replied boldly, that he was in the service of his

sovereigns, defending their subjects from the oppression of men who sought

their destruction. The Adelantado ordered him to surrender his staff of

office, as alcalde mayor, and to submit peaceably to superior authority.

Roldan refused to resign his office, or to put himself in the power of Don

Bartholomew, whom he charged with seeking his life. He refused also to

submit to any trial, unless commanded by the king. Pretending, however, to

make no resistance to the peaceable exercise of authority, he offered to

go with his followers, and reside at any place the Adelantado might

appoint. The latter immediately designated the village of the cacique

Diego Colon, the same native of the Lucayos Islands who had been baptized

in Spain, and had since married a daughter of Guarionex. Roldan objected,

pretending there were not sufficient provisions to be had there for the

subsistence of his men, and departed, declaring that he would seek a more

eligible residence elsewhere. [23]

 

He now proposed to his followers to take possession of the remote province

of Xaragua. The Spaniards who had returned thence gave enticing accounts

of the life they had led there; of the fertility of the soil, the

sweetness of the climate, the hospitality and gentleness of the people,

their feasts, dances, and various amusements, and, above all, the beauty

of the women; for they had been captivated by the naked charms of the

dancing nymphs of Xaragua. In this delightful region, emancipated from the

iron rule of the Adelantado, and relieved from the necessity of irksome

labor, they might lead a life of perfect freedom and indulgence, and have

a world of beauty at their command. In short, Roldan drew a picture of

loose sensual enjoyment, such as he knew to be irresistible with men of

idle and dissolute habits. His followers acceded with joy to his

proposition. Some preparations, however, were necessary to carry it into

effect. Taking advantage of the absence of the Adelantado, he suddenly

marched with his band to Isabella, and entering it in a manner by

surprise, endeavored to launch the caravel, with which they might sail to

Xaragua. Don Diego Columbus, hearing the tumult, issued forth with several

cavaliers; but such was the force of the mutineers, and their menacing

conduct, that he was obliged to withdraw, with his adherents, into the

fortress. Roldan held several parleys with him, and offered to submit to

his command, provided he would set himself up in opposition to his brother

the Adelantado. His proposition was treated with scorn. The fortress was

too strong to be assailed with success; he found it impossible to launch

the caravel, and feared the Adelantado might return, and he be inclosed

between two forces. He proceeded, therefore, in all haste to make

provisions for the proposed expedition to Xaragua. Still pretending to act

in his official capacity, and to do every thing from loyal motives, for

the protection and support of the oppressed subjects of the crown, he

broke open the royal warehouse, with shouts of "Long live the king!"

supplied his followers with arms, ammunition, clothing, and whatever they

desired from the public stores; proceeded to the inclosure where the

cattle and other European animals were kept to breed, took such as he

thought necessary for his intended establishment, and permitted his

followers to kill such of the remainder as they might want for present

supply. Having committed this wasteful ravage, he marched in triumph out

of Isabella. [24] Reflecting, however, on the prompt and vigorous

character of the Adelantado, he felt that his situation would be but

little secure with such an active enemy behind him; who, on extricating

himself from present perplexities, would not fail to pursue him to his

proposed paradise of Xaragua. He determined, therefore, to march again to

the Vega, and endeavor either to get possession of the person of the

Adelantado, or to strike some blow, in his present crippled state, that

should disable him from offering further molestation. Returning,

therefore, to the vicinity of Fort Conception, he endeavored in every way,

by the means of subtle emissaries, to seduce the garrison to desertion, or

to excite it to revolt.

 

The Adelantado dared not take the field with his forces, having no

confidence in their fidelity. He knew that they listened wistfully to the

emissaries of Roldan, and contrasted the meagre fare and stern discipline

of the garrison with the abundant cheer and easy misrule that prevailed

among the rebels. To counteract these seductions, he relaxed from his

usual strictness, treating his men with great indulgence, and promising

them large rewards. By these means he was enabled to maintain some degree

of loyalty amongst his forces, his service having the advantage over that

of Roldan, of being on the side of government and law.

 

Finding his attempts to corrupt the garrison unsuccessful, and fearing

some sudden sally from the vigorous Adelantado, Roldan drew off to a

distance, and sought by insidious means to strengthen his own power, and

weaken that of the government. He asserted equal right to manage the

affairs of the island with the Adelantado, and pretended to have separated

from him on account of his being passionate and vindictive in the exercise

of his authority. He represented him as the tyrant of the Spaniards, the

oppressor of the Indians. For himself, he assumed the character of a

redresser of grievances and champion of the injured. He pretended to feel

a patriotic indignation at the affronts heaped upon Spaniards by a family

of obscure and arrogant foreigners; and professed to free the natives from

tributes wrung from them by these rapacious men for their own enrichment,

and contrary to the beneficent intentions of the Spanish monarchs. He

connected himself closely with the Carib cacique Manicaotex, brother of

the late Caonabo, whose son and nephew were in his possession as hostages

for payment of tributes. This warlike chieftain he conciliated by presents

and caresses, bestowing on him the appellation of brother. [25] The

unhappy natives, deceived by his professions, and overjoyed at the idea of

having a protector in arms for their defence, submitted cheerfully to a

thousand impositions, supplying his followers with provisions in

abundance, and bringing to Roldan all the gold they could collect;

voluntarily yielding him heavier tributes than those from which he

pretended to free them.

 

The affairs of the island were now in a lamentable situation. The Indians,

perceiving the dissensions among the white men, and encouraged by the

protection of Roldan, began to throw off all allegiance to the government.

The caciques at a distance ceased to send in their tributes, and those who

were in the vicinity were excused by the Adelantado, that by indulgence he

might retain their friendship in this time of danger. Roldan's faction

daily gained strength; they ranged insolently and at large in the open

country, and were supported by the misguided natives; while the Spaniards

who remained loyal, fearing conspiracies among the natives, had to keep

under shelter of the fort, or in the strong houses which they had erected

in the villages. The commanders were obliged to palliate all kinds of

slights and indignities, both from their soldiers and from the Indians,

fearful of driving them to sedition by any severity. The clothing and

munitions of all kinds, either for maintenance or defence, were rapidly

wasting away, and the want of all supplies or tidings from Spain was

sinking the spirits of the well-affected into despondency. The Adelantado

was shut up in Fort Conception, in daily expectation of being openly

besieged by Roldan, and was secretly informed that means were taken to

destroy him, should he issue from the walls of the fortress. [26]

 

Such was the desperate state to which the colony was reduced, in

consequence of the long detention of Columbus in Spain, and the

impediments thrown in the way of all his measures for the benefit of the

island by the delays of cabinets and the chicanery of Fonseca and his

satellites. At this critical juncture, when faction reigned triumphant,

and the colony was on the brink of ruin, tidings were brought to the Vega

that Pedro Fernandez Coronal had arrived at the port of San Domingo, with

two ships, bringing supplies of all kinds, and a strong reinforcement of

troops. [27]

 

 

 

 

Chapter VI.

 

Second Insurrection of Guarionex, and His Flight to the Mountains of

Ciguay.

 

[1498.]

 

 

 

The arrival of Coronal, which took place on the third of February, was the

salvation of the colony. The reinforcements of troops, and of supplies of

all kinds, strengthened the hands of Don Bartholomew. The royal

confirmation of his title and authority as Adelantado at once dispelled

all doubts as to the legitimacy of his power; and the tidings that the

admiral was in high favor at court, and would soon arrive with a powerful

squadron, struck consternation into those who had entered into the

rebellion on the presumption of his having fallen into disgrace.

 

The Adelantado no longer remained mewed up in his fortress, but set out

immediately for San Domingo with a part of his troops, although a much

superior rebel force was at the village of the cacique Guarionex, at a

very short distance. Roldan followed slowly and gloomily with his party,

anxious to ascertain the truth of these tidings, to make partisans, if

possible, among those who had newly arrived, and to take advantage of

every circumstance that might befriend his rash and hazardous projects.

The Adelantado left strong guards on the passes of the roads to prevent

his near approach to San Domingo, but Roldan paused within a few leagues

of the place.

 

When the Adelantado found himself secure in San Domingo with this

augmentation of force, and the prospect of a still greater reinforcement

at hand, his magnanimity prevailed over his indignation, and he sought by

gentle means to allay the popular seditions, that the island might be

restored to tranquillity before his brother's arrival. He considered that

the colonists had suffered greatly from the want of supplies; that their

discontents had been heightened by the severities he bad been compelled to

inflict; and that many had been led to rebellion by doubts of the

legitimacy of his authority. While, therefore, he proclaimed the royal act

sanctioning his title and powers, he promised amnesty for all past

offences, on condition of immediate return to allegiance. Hearing that

Roldan was within five leagues of San Domingo with his band, he sent Pedro

Fernandez Coronal, who had been appointed by the sovereigns alguazil mayor

of the island, to exhort him to obedience, promising him oblivion of the

past. He trusted that the representations of a discreet and honorable man

like Coronal, who had been witness of the favor in which his brother stood

in Spain, would convince the rebels of the hopelessness of their course.

 

Roldan, however, conscious of his guilt, and doubtful of the clemency of

Don Bartholomew, feared to venture within his power; he determined, also,

to prevent his followers from communicating with Coronal, lest they should

be seduced from him by the promise of pardon. When that emissary,

therefore, approached the encampment of the rebels, he was opposed in a

narrow pass by a body of archers, with their cross-bows levelled. "Halt

there! traitor!" cried Roldan, "had you arrived eight days later, we

should all have been united as one man." [28]

 

In vain Coronal endeavored by fair reasoning and earnest entreaty to win

this perverse and turbulent man from his career. Roldan answered with

hardihood and defiance, professing to oppose only the tyranny and misrule

of the Adelantado, but to be ready to submit to the admiral on his

arrival. He, and several of his principal confederates, wrote letters to

the same effect to their friends in San Domingo, urging them to plead

their cause with the admiral when he should arrive, and to assure him of

their disposition to acknowledge his authority.

 

When Coronal returned with accounts of Roldan's contumacy, the Adelantado

proclaimed him and his followers traitors. That shrewd rebel, however, did

not suffer his men to remain within either the seduction of promise or the

terror of menace; he immediately set out on his march for his promised

land of Xaragua, trusting to impair every honest principle and virtuous

tie of his misguided followers by a life of indolence and libertinage.

 

In the meantime the mischievous effects of his intrigues among the

caciques became more and more apparent. No sooner had the Adelantado left

Fort Conception, than a conspiracy was formed among the natives to

surprise it. Guarionex was at the head of this conspiracy, moved by the

instigations of Roldan, who had promised him protection and assistance,

and led on by the forlorn hope, in this distracted state of the Spanish

forces, of relieving his paternal domains from the intolerable domination

of usurping strangers. Holding secret communications with his tributary

caciques, it was concerted that they should all rise simultaneously and

massacre the soldiery, quartered in small parties in their villages; while

he, with a chosen force, should surprise the fortress of Conception. The

night of the full moon was fixed upon for the insurrection.

 

One of the principal caciques, however, not being a correct observer of

the heavenly bodies, took up arms before the appointed night, and was

repulsed by the soldiers quartered in his village. The alarm was given,

and the Spaniards were all put on the alert. The cacique fled to Guarionex

for protection, but the chieftain, enraged at his fatal blunder, put him

to death upon the spot.

 

No sooner did the Adelantado hear of this fresh conspiracy, than he put

himself on the march for the Vega with a strong body of men. Guarionex did

not await his coming. He saw that every attempt was fruitless to shake off

these strangers, who had settled like a curse upon his territories. He had

found their very friendship withering and destructive, and he now dreaded

their vengeance. Abandoning, therefore, his rightful domain, the once

happy Vega, he fled with his family and a small band of faithful followers

to the mountains of Ciguay. This is a lofty chain, extending along the

north side of the island, between the Vega and the sea. The inhabitants

were the most robust and hardy tribe of the island, and far more

formidable than the mild inhabitants of the plains. It was a part of this

tribe which displayed hostility to the Spaniards in the course of the

first voyage of Columbus, and in a skirmish with them in the Gulf of

Semana the first drop of native blood had been shed in the New World. The

reader may remember the frank and confiding conduct of these people the

day after the skirmish, and the intrepid faith with which their cacique

trusted himself on board of the caravel of the admiral, and in the power

of the Spaniards. It was to this same cacique, named Mayobanex, that the

fugitive chieftain of the Vega now applied for refuge. He came to his

residence at an Indian town near Cape Cabron, about forty leagues east of

Isabella, and implored shelter for his wife and children, and his handful

of loyal followers. The noble-minded cacique of the mountains received him

with open arms. He not only gave an asylum to his family, but engaged to

stand by him in his distress, to defend his cause, and share his desperate

fortunes. [29]Men in civilized life learn magnanimity from precept,

but their most generous actions are often rivaled by the deeds of

untutored savages, who act only from natural impulse.

 

 

 

 

Chapter VII.

 

Campaign of the Adelantado in the Mountains of Ciguay.

 

[1498.]

 

 

 

Aided by his mountain ally, and by bands of hardy Ciguayans, Guarionex

made several descents into the plain, cutting off straggling parties of

the Spaniards, laying waste the villages of the natives which continued in

allegiance to them, and destroying the fruits of the earth. The Adelantado

put a speedy stop to these molestations; but he determined to root out so

formidable an adversary from the neighborhood. Shrinking from no danger

nor fatigue, and leaving nothing to be done by others which he could do

himself, he set forth in the spring with a band of ninety men, a few

cavalry, and a body of Indians, to penetrate the Ciguay mountains.

 

After passing a steep defile, rendered almost impracticable for troops by

rugged rocks and exuberant vegetation, he descended into a beautiful

valley or plain, extending along the coast, and embraced by arms of the

mountains which approached the sea. His advance into the country was

watched by the keen eyes of Indian scouts who lurked among rocks and

thickets. As the Spaniards were seeking the ford of a river at the

entrance of the plain, two of these spies darted from among the bushes on

its bank. One flung himself headlong into the water, and swimming across

the mouth of the river escaped; the other being taken, gave information

that six thousand Indians lay in ambush on the opposite shore, waiting to

attack them as they crossed.

 

The Adelantado advanced with caution, and finding a shallow place, entered

the river with his troops. They were scarcely midway in the stream when

the savages, hideously painted, and looking more like fiends than men,

burst from their concealment. The forest rang with their yells and

howlings. They discharged a shower of arrows and lances, by which,

notwithstanding the protection of their targets, many of the Spaniards

were wounded. The Adelantado, however, forced his way across the river,

and the Indians took to flight. Some were killed, but their swiftness of

foot, their knowledge of the forest, and their dexterity in winding

through the most tangled thickets, enabled the greater number to elude the

pursuit of the Spaniards, who were encumbered with armor, targets,

crossbows, and lances.

 

By the advice of one of his Indian guides, the Adelantado pressed forward

along the valley to reach the residence of Mayobanex, at Cabron. In the

way he had several skirmishes with the natives, who would suddenly rush

forth with furious war-cries from ambuscades among the bushes, discharge

their weapons, and take refuge again in the fastnesses of their rocks and

forests, inaccessible to the Spaniards.

 

Having taken several prisoners, the Adelantado sent one accompanied by an

Indian of a friendly tribe, as a messenger to Mayobanex, demanding the

surrender of Guarionex; promising friendship and protection in case of

compliance, but threatening, in case of refusal, to lay waste his

territory with fire and sword. The cacique listened attentively to the

messenger: "Tell the Spaniards," said he in reply, "that they are bad men,

cruel and tyrannical; usurpers of the territories of others, and shedders

of innocent blood. I desire not the friendship of such men; Guarionex is a

good man, he is my friend, he is my guest, he has fled to me for refuge, I

have promised to protect him, and I will keep my word."

 

This magnanimous reply, or rather defiance, convinced the Adelantado that

nothing was to be gained by friendly overtures. When severity was

required, he could be a stern soldier. He immediately ordered the village

in which he had been quartered, and several others in the neighborhood, to

be set on fire. He then sent further messengers to Mayobanex, warning him

that, unless he delivered up the fugitive cacique, his whole dominions

should be laid waste in like manner; and he would see nothing in every

direction but the smoke and flames of burning villages. Alarmed at this

impending destruction, the Ciguayans surrounded their chieftain with

clamorous lamentations, cursing the day that Guarionex had taken refuge

among them, and urging that he should be given up for the salvation of the

country. The generous cacique was inflexible. He reminded them of the many

virtues of Guarionex, and the sacred claims he had on their hospitality,

and declared he would abide all evils, rather than it should ever be said

Mayobanex had betrayed his guest.

 

The people retired with sorrowful hearts, and the chieftain, summoning

Guarionex into his presence, again pledged his word to protect him, though

it should cost him his dominions. He sent no reply to the Adelantado, and

lest further messages might tempt the fidelity of his subjects, he placed

men in ambush, with orders to slay any messenger who might approach. They

had not lain in wait long, before they beheld two men advancing through

the forest, one of whom was a captive Ciguayan, and the other an Indian

ally of the Spaniards. They were both instantly slain. The Adelantado was

following at no great distance, with only ten foot-soldiers and four

horsemen. When he found his messengers lying dead in the forest path,

transfixed with arrows, he was greatly exasperated, and resolved to deal

rigorously with this obstinate tribe. He advanced, therefore, with all his

force to Cabron, where Mayobanex and his army were quartered. At his

approach the inferior caciques and their adherents fled, overcome by

terror of the Spaniards. Finding himself thus deserted, Mayobanex took

refuge with his family in a secret part of the mountains. Several of the

Ciguayans sought for Guarionex, to kill him or deliver him up as a

propitiatory offering, but he fled to the heights, where he wandered about

alone, in the most savage and desolate places.

 

The density of the forests and the ruggedness of the mountains rendered

this expedition excessively painful and laborious, and protracted it far

beyond the time that the Adelantado had contemplated. His men suffered,

not merely from fatigue, but hunger. The natives had all fled to the

mountains; their villages remained empty and desolate; all the provisions

of the Spaniards consisted of cassava bread, and such roots and herbs as

their Indian allies could gather for them, with now and then a few utias

taken with the assistance of their dogs. They slept almost always on the

ground, in the open air, under the trees, exposed to the heavy dew which

falls in this climate. For three months they were thus ranging the

mountains, until almost worn out with toil and hard fare. Many of them had

farms in the neighborhood of Fort Conception, which required their

attention; they, therefore, entreated permission, since the Indians were

terrified and dispersed, to return to their abodes in the Vega.

 

The Adelantado granted many of them passports and an allowance out of the

scanty stock of bread which remained. Retaining only thirty men, he

resolved with these to search every den and cavern of the mountains until

he should find the two caciques. It was difficult, however, to trace them

in such a wilderness. There was no one to give a clue to their retreat,

for the whole country was abandoned. There were the habitations of men,

but not a human being to be seen; or if, by chance, they caught some

wretched Indian stealing forth from the mountains in quest of food, he

always professed utter ignorance of the hiding-place of the caciques.

 

It happened one day, however, that several Spaniards, while hunting utias,

captured two of the followers of Mayobanex, who were on their way to a

distant village in search of bread. They were taken to the Adelantado, who

compelled them to betray the place of concealment of their chieftain, and

to act as guides. Twelve Spaniards volunteered to go in quest of him.

Stripping themselves naked, staining and painting their bodies so as to

look like Indians, and covering their swords with palm-leaves, they were

conducted by the guides to the retreat of the unfortunate Mayobanex. They

came secretly upon him, and found him surrounded by his wife and children

and a few of his household, totally unsuspicious of danger. Drawing their

swords, the Spaniards rushed upon them, and made them all prisoners. When

they were brought to the Adelantado, he gave up all further search after

Guarionex, and returned to Fort Conception.

 

Among the prisoners thus taken was the sister of Mayobanex. She was the

wife of another cacique of the mountains, whose territories had never yet

been visited by the Spaniards; and she was reputed to be one of the most

beautiful women of the island. Tenderly attached to her brother, she had

abandoned the security of her own dominions, and had followed him among

rocks and precipices, participating in all his hardships, and comforting

him with a woman's sympathy and kindness. When her husband heard of her

captivity, he hastened to the Adelantado and offered to submit himself and

all his possessions to his sway, if his wife might be restored to him. The

Adelantado accepted his offer of allegiance, and released his wife and

several of his subjects who had been captured. The cacique, faithful to

his word, became a firm and valuable ally of the Spaniards, cultivating

large tracts of land, and supplying them with great quantities of bread

and other provisions.

 

Kindness appears never to have been lost upon the people of this island.

When this act of clemency reached the Ciguayans, they came in multitudes

to the fortress, bringing presents of various kinds, promising allegiance,

and imploring the release of Mayobanex and his family. The Adelantado

granted their prayers in part, releasing the wife and household of the

cacique, but still detaining him prisoner to insure the fidelity of his

subjects.

 

In the meantime the unfortunate Guarionex, who had been hiding in the

wildest parts of the mountains, was driven by hunger to venture down

occasionally into the plain in quest of food. The Ciguayans looking upon

him as the cause of their misfortunes, and perhaps hoping by his sacrifice

to procure the release of their chieftain, betrayed his haunts to the

Adelantado. A party was dispatched to secure him. They lay in wait in the

path by which he usually returned to the mountains. As the unhappy

cacique, after one of his famished excursions, was returning to his den

among the cliffs, he was surprised by the lurking Spaniards, and brought

in chains to Fort Conception. After his repeated insurrections, and the

extraordinary zeal and perseverance displayed in his pursuit, Guarionex

expected nothing less than death from the vengeance of the Adelantado. Don

Bartholomew, however, though stern in his policy, was neither vindictive

nor cruel in his nature. He considered the tranquillity of the Vega

sufficiently secured by the captivity of the cacique; and ordered him to

be detained a prisoner and hostage in the fortress. The Indian hostilities

in this important part of the island being thus brought to a conclusion,

and precautions taken to prevent their recurrence, Don Bartholomew

returned to the city of San Domingo, where, shortly after his arrival, he

had the happiness of receiving his brother, the admiral, after nearly two

years and six months' absence. [30]

 

Such was the active, intrepid, and sagacious, but turbulent and disastrous

administration of the Adelantado, in which we find evidences of the great

capacity, the mental and bodily vigor of this self-formed and almost

self-taught man. He united, in a singular degree, the sailor, the soldier,

and the legislator. Like his brother, the admiral, his mind and manners

rose immediately to the level of his situation, showing no arrogance nor

ostentation, and exercising the sway of sudden and extraordinary power

with the sobriety and moderation of one who had been born to rule. He has

been accused of severity in his government, but no instance appears of a

cruel or wanton abuse of authority. If he was stern towards the factious

Spaniards, he was just; the disasters of his administration were not

produced by his own rigor, but by the perverse passions of others, which

called for its exercise; and the admiral, who had more suavity of manner

and benevolence of heart, was not more fortunate in conciliating the good

will, and insuring the obedience of the colonists. The merits of Don

Bartholomew do not appear to have been sufficiently appreciated by the

world. His portrait has been suffered to remain too much in the shade; it

is worthy of being brought into the light, as a companion to that of his

illustrious brother. Less amiable and engaging, perhaps, in its

lineaments, and less characterized by magnanimity, its traits are

nevertheless bold, generous, and heroic, and stamped with iron firmness.

 

 

 

 

 

Book XII.

 

 

 

 

Chapter I.

 

Confusion in the Island.--Proceedings of the Rebels at Xaragua.

 

[August 30, 1498.]

 

 

 

Columbus arrived at San Domingo, wearied by a long and arduous voyage, and

worn down by infirmities; both mind and body craved repose, but from the

time he first entered into public life, he had been doomed never again to

taste the sweets of tranquillity. The island of Hispaniola, the favorite

child as it were of his hopes, was destined to involve him in perpetual

troubles, to fetter his fortunes, impede his enterprises, and imbitter the

conclusion of his life. What a scene of poverty and suffering had this

opulent and lovely island been rendered by the bad passions of a few

despicable men! The wars with the natives and the seditions among the

colonists had put a stop to the labors of the mines, and all hopes of

wealth were at an end. The horrors of famine had succeeded to those of

war. The cultivation of the earth had been generally neglected; several of

the provinces had been desolated during the late troubles; a great part of

the Indians had fled to the mountains, and those who remained had lost all

heart to labor, seeing the produce of their toils liable to be wrested

from them by ruthless strangers. It is true, the Vega was once more

tranquil, but it was a desolate tranquillity. That beautiful region, which

the Spaniards but four years before had found so populous and happy,

seeming to inclose in its luxuriant bosom all the sweets of nature, and to

exclude all the cares and sorrows of the world, was now a scene of

wretchedness and repining. Many of those Indian towns, where the Spaniards

had been detained by genial hospitality, and almost worshiped as

beneficent deities, were now silent and deserted. Some of their late

inhabitants were lurking among rocks and caverns; some were reduced to

slavery; many had perished with hunger, and many had fallen by the sword.

It seems almost incredible, that so small a number of men, restrained too

by well-meaning governors, could in so short a space of time have produced

such wide-spreading miseries. But the principles of evil have a fatal

activity. With every exertion, the best of men can do but a moderate

amount of good; but it seems in the power of the most contemptible

individual to do incalculable mischief.

 

The evil passions of the white men, which had inflicted such calamities

upon this innocent people, had insured likewise a merited return of

suffering to themselves. In no part was this more truly exemplified than

among the inhabitants of Isabella, the most idle, factious, and dissolute

of the island. The public works were unfinished; the gardens and fields

they had begun to cultivate lay neglected: they had driven the natives

from their vicinity by extortion and cruelty, and had rendered the country

around them a solitary wilderness. Too idle to labor, and destitute of any

resources with which to occupy their indolence, they quarrelled among

themselves, mutinied against their rulers, and wasted their time in

alternate riot and despondency. Many of the soldiery quartered about the

island had suffered from ill health during the late troubles, being shut

up in Indian villages where they could take no exercise, and obliged to

subsist on food to which they could not accustom themselves. Those

actively employed had been worn down by hard service, long marches, and

scanty food. Many of them were broken in constitution, and many had

perished by disease. There was a universal desire to leave the island, and

escape from miseries created by themselves. Yet this was the favored and

fruitful land to which the eyes of philosophers and poets in Europe were

fondly turned, as realizing the pictures of the golden age. So true it is,

that the fairest Elysium fancy ever devised would be turned into a

purgatory by the passions of bad men!

 

One of the first measures of Columbus on his arrival was to issue a

proclamation approving of all the measures of the Adelantado, and

denouncing Roldan and his associates. That turbulent man had taken

possession of Xaragua, and been kindly received by the natives. He had

permitted his followers to lead an idle and licentious life among its

beautiful scenes, making the surrounding country and its inhabitants

subservient to their pleasures and their passions. An event happened

previous to their knowledge of the arrival of Columbus, which threw

supplies into their hands, and strengthened their power. As they were one

day loitering on the sea-shore, they beheld three caravels at a distance,

the sight of which, in this unfrequented part of the ocean, filled them

with wonder and alarm. The ships approached the land, and came to anchor.

The rebels apprehended at first they were vessels dispatched in pursuit of

them. Roldan, however, who was sagacious as he was bold, surmised them to

be ships which had wandered from their course, and been borne to the

westward by the currents, and that they must be ignorant of the recent

occurrences of the island. Enjoining secrecy on his men, he went on board,

pretending to be stationed in that neighborhood for the purpose of keeping

the natives in obedience, and collecting tribute. His conjectures as to

the vessels were correct. They were, in fact, the three caravels detached

by Columbus from his squadron at the Canary Islands, to bring supplies to

the colonies. The captains, ignorant of the strength of the currents,

which set through the Caribbean Sea, had been carried west far beyond

their reckoning, until they had wandered to the coast of Xaragua.

 

Roldan kept his secret closely for three days. Being considered a man in

important trust and authority, the captains did not hesitate to grant all

his requests for supplies. He procured swords, lances, cross-bows, and

various military stores; while his men, dispersed through the three

vessels, were busy among the crews, secretly making partisans,

representing the hard life of the colonists at San Domingo, and the ease

and revelry in which they passed their time at Xaragua. Many of the crews

had been shipped in compliance with the admiral's ill-judged proposition,

to commute criminal punishments into transportation to the colony. They

were vagabonds, the refuse of Spanish towns, and culprits from Spanish

dungeons; the very men, therefore, to be wrought upon by such

representations, and they promised to desert on the first opportunity and

join the rebels.

 

It was not until the third day, that Alonzo Sanchez de Carvajal, the most

intelligent of the three captains, discovered the real character of the

guests he had admitted so freely on board of his vessels. It was then too

late; the mischief was effected. He and his fellow captains had many

earnest conversations with Roldan, endeavoring to persuade him from his

dangerous opposition to the regular authority. The certainty that Columbus

was actually on his way to the island, with additional forces, and

augmented authority, had operated strongly on his mind. He had, as has

already been intimated, prepared his friends at San Domingo to plead his

cause with the admiral, assuring him that he had only acted in opposition

to the injustice and oppression of the Adelantado, but was ready to submit

to Columbus on his arrival. Carvajal perceived that the resolution of

Roldan and of several of his principal confederates was shaken, and

flattered himself, that, if he were to remain some little time among the

rebels, he might succeed in drawing them back to their duty. Contrary winds

rendered it impossible for the ships to work up against the currents to

San Domingo. It was arranged among the captains, therefore, that a large

number of the people on board, artificers and others most important to the

service of the colony, should proceed to the settlement by land. They were

to be conducted by Juan Antonio Colombo, captain of one of the caravels, a

relative of the admiral, and zealously devoted to his interests. Arana was

to proceed with the ships, when the wind would permit, and Carvajal

volunteered to remain on shore, to endeavor to bring the rebels to their

allegiance.

 

On the following morning, Juan Antonio Colombo landed with forty men well

armed with cross-bows, swords, and lances, but was astonished to find

himself suddenly deserted by all his party excepting eight. The deserters

went off to the rebels, who received with exultation this important

reinforcement of kindred spirits. Juan Antonio endeavored in vain by

remonstrances and threats to bring them back to their duty. They were most

of them convicted culprits, accustomed to detest order, and to set law at

defiance. It was equally in vain that he appealed to Roldan, and reminded

him of his professions of loyalty to the government. The latter replied

that he had no means of enforcing obedience; his was a mere "Monastery of

Observation," where every one was at liberty to adopt the habit of the

order. Such was the first of a long train of evils, which sprang from this

most ill-judged expedient of peopling a colony with criminals, and thus

mingling vice and villany with the fountain-head of its population.

 

Juan Antonio, grieved and disconcerted, returned on board with the few who

remained faithful. Fearing further desertions, the two captains

immediately put to sea, leaving Carvajal on shore, to prosecute his

attempt at reforming the rebels. It was not without great difficulty and

delay that the vessels reached San Domingo; the ship of Carvajal having

struck on a sand-bank, and sustained great injury. By the time of their

arrival, the greater part of the provisions with which they had been

freighted was either exhausted or damaged. Alonzo Sanchez de Carvajal

arrived shortly afterwards by land, having been escorted to within six

leagues of the place by several of the insurgents, to protect him from the

Indians. He failed in his attempt to persuade the band to immediate

submission; but Roldan had promised that the moment he heard of the

arrival of Columbus, he would repair to the neighborhood of San Domingo,

to be at hand to state his grievances, and the reasons of his past

conduct, and to enter into a negotiation for the adjustment of all

differences. Carvajal brought a letter from him to the admiral to the same

purport; and expressed a confident opinion, from all that he observed of

the rebels, that they might easily be brought back to their allegiance by

an assurance of amnesty. [31]

 

 

 

 

Chapter II.

 

Negotiation of the Admiral with the Rebels.--Departure of Ships for Spain.

 

[1498.]

 

 

 

Notwithstanding the favorable representations of Carvajal, Columbus was

greatly troubled by the late event at Xaragua. He saw that the insolence

of the rebels, and their confidence in their strength, must be greatly

increased by the accession of such a large number of well-armed and

desperate confederates. The proposition of Roldan to approach to the

neighborhood of San Domingo, startled him. He doubted the sincerity of his

professions, and apprehended great evils and dangers from so artful,

daring, and turbulent a leader, with a rash and devoted crew at his

command. The example of this lawless horde, roving at large about the

island, and living in loose revel and open profligacy, could not but have

a dangerous effect upon the colonists newly arrived; and when they were

close at hand, to carry on secret intrigues, and to hold out a camp of

refuge to all malcontents, the loyalty of the whole colony might be sapped

and undermined.

 

Some measures were immediately necessary to fortify the fidelity of the

people against such seductions. He was aware of a vehement desire among

many to return to Spain; and of an assertion industriously propagated by

the seditious, that he and his brothers wished to detain the colonists on

the island through motives of self-interest. On the 12th of September,

therefore, he issued a proclamation, offering free passage and provisions

for the voyage to all who wished to return to Spain, in five vessels

nearly ready to put to sea. He hoped by this means to relieve the colony

from the idle and disaffected; to weaken the party of Roldan, and to

retain none about him but such as were sound-hearted and well-disposed.

 

He wrote at the same time to Miguel Ballester, the staunch and well-tried

veteran who commanded the fortress of Conception, advising him to be upon

his guard, as the rebels were coining into his neighborhood. He empowered

him also to have an interview with Roldan; to offer him pardon and

oblivion of the past, on condition of his immediate return to duty; and to

invite him to repair to San Domingo to have an interview with the admiral,

under a solemn, and, if required, a written assurance from the latter, of

personal safety. Columbus was sincere in his intentions. He was of a

benevolent and placable disposition, and singularly free from all

vindictive feelings towards the many worthless and wicked men who heaped

sorrow on his head.

 

Ballester had scarcely received this letter, when the rebels began to

arrive at the village of Bonao. This was situated in a beautiful valley,

or Vega, bearing the same name, about ten leagues from Fort Conception,

and about twenty from San Domingo, in a well-peopled and abundant country.

Here Pedro Riquelme, one of the ringleaders of the sedition, had large

possessions, and his residence became the headquarters of the rebels.

Adrian de Moxica, a man of turbulent and mischievous character, brought

his detachment of dissolute ruffians to this place of rendezvous. Roldan

and others of the conspirators drew together there by different routes.

 

No sooner did the veteran Miguel Ballester hear of the arrival of Roldan,

than he set forth to meet him. Ballester was a venerable man, gray-headed,

and of a soldier-like demeanor. Loyal, frank, and virtuous, of a serious

disposition, and great simplicity of heart, he was well chosen as a

mediator with rash and profligate men; being calculated to calm their

passions by his sobriety; to disarm their petulance by his age; to win

their confidence by his artless probity; and to awe their licentiousness

by his spotless virtue. [32]

 

Ballester found Roldan in company with Pedro Riquelme, Pedro de Gamez, and

Adrian de Moxica, three of his principal confederates. Flushed with a

confidence of his present strength, Roldan treated the proffered pardon

with contempt, declaring that he did not come there to treat of peace, but

to demand the release of certain Indians captured unjustifiably, and about

to be shipped to Spain as slaves, notwithstanding that he, in his capacity

of alcalde mayor, had pledged his word for their protection. He declared

that, until these Indians were given up, he would listen to no terms of

compact; throwing out an insolent intimation at the same time, that he

held the admiral and his fortunes in his hand, to make and mar them as he

pleased.

 

The Indians he alluded to were certain subjects of Guarionex, who had been

incited by Roldan to resist the exaction of tribute, and who, under the

sanction of his supposed authority, had engaged in the insurrections of

the Vega. Roldan knew that the enslavement of the Indians was an unpopular

feature in the government of the island, especially with the queen; and

the artful character of this man is evinced in his giving his opposition

to Columbus the appearance of a vindication of the rights of the suffering

islanders. Other demands were made of a highly insolent nature, and the

rebels declared that, in all further negotiations, they would treat with

no other intermediate agent than Carvajal, having had proofs of his

fairness and impartiality in the course of their late communications with

him at Xaragua.

 

This arrogant reply to his proffer of pardon was totally different from

what the admiral had been led to expect, and placed him in an embarrassing

situation. He seemed surrounded by treachery and falsehood. He knew that

Roldan had friends and secret partisans even among those who professed to

remain faithful; and he knew not how far the ramifications of the

conspiracy might extend. A circumstance soon occurred to show the justice

of his apprehensions. He ordered the men of San Domingo to appear under

arms, that he might ascertain the force with which he could take the field

in case of necessity. A report was, immediately circulated that they were

to be led to Bonao, against the rebels. Not above seventy men appeared

under arms, and of these not forty were to be relied upon. One affected to

be lame, another ill; some had relations, and others had friends among the

followers of Roldan: almost all were disaffected to the service.

[33]

 

Columbus saw that a resort to arms would betray his own weakness and the

power of the rebels, and completely prostrate the dignity and authority of

government. It was necessary to temporize, therefore, however humiliating

such conduct might be deemed. He had detained the five ships for eighteen

days in port, hoping in some way to have put an end to this rebellion, so

as to send home favorable accounts of the island to the sovereigns. The

provisions of the ships, however, were wasting. The Indian prisoners on

board were suffering and perishing; several of them threw themselves

overboard, or were suffocated with heat in the holds of the vessels. He

was anxious, also, that as many of the discontented colonists as possible

should make sail for Spain before any commotion should take place.

 

On the 18th of October, therefore, the ships put to sea. [34] Columbus

wrote to the sovereigns an account of the rebellion, and of his proffered

pardon being refused. As Roldan pretended that it was a mere quarrel

between him and the Adelantado, of which the admiral was not an impartial

judge, the latter entreated that Roldan might be summoned to Spain, where

the sovereigns might be his judges; or that an investigation might take

place in presence of Alonzo Sanchez de Carvajal, who was friendly to

Roldan, and of Miguel Ballester, as witness on the part of the Adelantado.

He attributed, in a great measure, the troubles of this island to his own

long detention in Spain, and the delays thrown in his way by those

appointed to assist him, who had retarded the departure of the ships with

supplies, until the colony had been reduced to the greatest scarcity.

Hence had arisen discontent, murmuring, and finally rebellion. He

entreated the sovereigns, in the most pressing manner, that the affairs of

the colony might not be neglected, and those at Seville, who had charge of

its concerns, might be instructed at least not to devise impediments

instead of assistance. He alluded to his chastisement of the contemptible

Ximeno Breviesca, the insolent minion of Fonseca, and entreated that

neither that nor any other circumstance might be allowed to prejudice him

in the royal favor, through the misrepresentations of designing men. He

assured them that the natural resources of the island required nothing but

good management to supply all the wants of the colonists; but that the

latter were indolent and profligate. He proposed to send home, by every

ship, as in the present instance, a number of the discontented and

worthless, to be replaced by sober and industrious men. He begged also

that ecclesiastics might be sent out for the instruction and conversion of

the Indians; and, what was equally necessary, for the reformation of the

dissolute Spaniards. He required also a man learned in the law, to

officiate as judge over the island, together with several officers of the

royal revenue. Nothing could surpass the soundness and policy of these

suggestions; but unfortunately one clause marred the moral beauty of this

excellent letter. He requested that for two years longer the Spaniards

might be permitted to employ the Indians as slaves; only making use of

such, however, as were captured in wars and insurrections. Columbus had

the usage of the age in excuse for this suggestion; but it is at variance

with his usual benignity of feeling, and his paternal conduct towards

these unfortunate people.

 

At the same time he wrote another letter, giving an account of his recent

voyage, accompanied by a chart, and by specimens of the gold, and

particularly of the pearls found in the Gulf of Paria. He called especial

attention to the latter as being the first specimens of pearls found in

the New World. It was in this letter that he described the newly-discovered

continent in such enthusiastic terms, as the most favored part of the east,

the source of inexhaustible treasures, the supposed seat of the terrestrial

Paradise; and he promised to prosecute the discovery of its glorious realms

with the three remaining ships, as soon as the affairs of the island should

permit.

 

By this opportunity, Roldan and his friends likewise sent letters to

Spain, endeavoring to justify their rebellion by charging Columbus and his

brothers with oppression and injustice, and painting their whole conduct

in the blackest colors. It would naturally be supposed that the

representations of such men would have little weight in the balance

against the tried merits and exalted services of Columbus: but they had

numerous friends and relatives in Spain; they had the popular prejudice on

their side, and there were designing persons in the confidence of the

sovereigns ready to advocate their cause. Columbus, to use his own simple

but affecting words was "absent, envied, and a stranger." [35]

 

 

 

 

Chapter III.

 

Negotiations and Arrangements with the Rebels.

 

[1498.]

 

 

 

The ships being dispatched, Columbus resumed his negotiation with the

rebels; determined at any sacrifice to put an end to a sedition which

distracted the island and interrupted all his plans of discovery. His

three remaining ships lay idle in the harbor, though a region of

apparently boundless wealth was to be explored. He had intended to send

his brother on the discovery, but the active and military spirit of the

Adelantado rendered his presence indispensable, in case the rebels should

come to violence. Such were the difficulties encountered at every step of

his generous and magnanimous enterprises; impeded at one time by the

insidious intrigues of crafty men in place, and checked at another by the

insolent turbulence of a handful of ruffians.

 

In his consultations with the most important persons about him, Columbus

found that much of the popular discontent was attributed to the strict

rule of his brother, who was accused of dealing out justice with a

rigorous hand. Las Casas, however, who saw the whole of the testimony

collected from various sources with respect to the conduct of the

Adelantado, acquits him of all charges of the kind, and affirms that, with

respect to Roldan in particular, he had exerted great forbearance. Be this

as it may, Columbus now, by the advice of his counselors, resolved to try

the alternative of extreme lenity. He wrote a letter to Roldan, dated the

20th of October, couched in the most conciliating terms, calling to mind

past kindnesses, and expressing deep concern for the feud existing between

him and the Adelantado. He entreated him, for the common good, and for the

sake of his own reputation, which stood well with the sovereigns, not to

persist in his present insubordination, and repeated the assurance, that

he and his companions might come to him, under the faith of his word for

the inviolability of their persons.

 

There was a difficulty as to who should be the bearer of this letter. The

rebels had declared that they would receive no one as mediator but Alonzo

Sanchez de Carvajal. Strong doubts, however, existed in the minds of those

about Columbus as to the integrity of that officer. They observed that he

had suffered Roldan to remain two days on board of his caravel at Xaragua;

had furnished him with weapons and stores; had neglected to detain him on

board, when he knew him to be a rebel; had not exerted himself to retake

the deserters; had been escorted on his way to San Domingo by the rebels,

and had sent refreshments to them at Bonao. It was alleged, moreover, that

he had given himself out as a colleague of Columbus, appointed by

government to have a watch and control over his conduct. It was suggested,

that, in advising the rebels to approach San Domingo, he had intended, in

case the admiral did not arrive, to unite his pretended authority as

colleague, to that of Roldan, as chief judge, and to seize upon the reins

of government. Finally, the desire of the rebels to have him sent to them

as an agent, was cited as proof that he was to join them as a leader, and

that the standard of rebellion was to be hoisted at Bonao. [36] These

circumstances, for some time, perplexed Columbus: but he reflected that

Carvajal, as far as he had observed his conduct, had behaved like a man of

integrity; most of the circumstances alleged against him admitted of a

construction in his favor; the rest were mere rumors, and he had

unfortunately experienced, in his own case, how easily the fairest

actions, and the fairest characters, may be falsified by rumor. He

discarded, therefore, all suspicion, and determined to confide implicitly

in Carvajal; nor had he ever any reason to repent of his confidence.

 

The admiral had scarcely dispatched this letter, when he received one from

the leaders of the rebels, written several days previously. In this they

not merely vindicated themselves from the charge of rebellion, but claimed

great merit, as having dissuaded their followers from a resolution to kill

the Adelantado, in revenge of his oppressions, prevailing upon them to

await patiently for redress from the admiral. A month had elapsed since

his arrival, during which they had waited anxiously for his orders, but he

had manifested nothing but irritation against them. Considerations of

honor and safety, therefore, obliged them to withdraw from his service,

and they accordingly demanded their discharge. This letter was dated from

Bonao, the 17th of October, and signed by Francisco Roldan, Adrian de

Moxica, Pedro de Gamez, and Diego de Escobar. [37]

 

In the meantime, Carvajal arrived at Bonao, accompanied by Miguel

Ballester. They found the rebels full of arrogance and presumption. The

conciliating letter of the admiral, however, enforced by the earnest

persuasions of Carvajal, and the admonitions of the veteran Ballester, had

a favorable effect on several of the leaders, who had more intellect than

their brutal followers. Roldan, Gamez, Escobar, and two or three others,

actually mounted their horses to repair to the admiral, but were detained

by the clamorous opposition of their men; too infatuated with their idle,

licentious mode of life, to relish the idea of a return to labor and

discipline. These insisted that it was a matter which concerned them all;

whatever arrangement was to be made, therefore, should be made in public,

in writing, and subject to their approbation or dissent. A day or two

elapsed before this clamor could be appeased. Roldan then wrote to the

admiral, that his followers objected to his coming, unless a written

assurance, or passport, were sent, protecting the persons of himself and

such as should accompany him. Miguel Ballester wrote, at the same time, to

the admiral, urging him to agree to whatever terms the rebels might

demand. He represented their forces as continually augmenting, the

soldiers of his garrison daily deserting to them; unless, therefore, some

compromise were speedily effected, and the rebels shipped off to Spain, he

feared that not merely the authority, but even the person of the admiral

would be in danger; for though the Hidalgos and the officers and servants

immediately about him would, doubtless, die in his service, the common

people were but little to be depended upon. [38]

 

Columbus felt the increasing urgency of the case, and sent the required

passport. Roldan came to San Domingo; but, from his conduct, it appeared

as if his object was to make partisans, and gain deserters, rather than to

effect a reconciliation. He had several conversations with the admiral,

and several letters passed between them. He made many complaints, and

numerous demands; Columbus made large concessions, but some of the

pretensions were too arrogant to be admitted. [39] Nothing definite was

arranged. Roldan departed under the pretext of conferring with his people,

promising to send his terms in writing. The admiral sent his Mayordomo,

Diego de Salamanca, to treat in his behalf. [40]

 

On the 6th of November, Roldan wrote a letter from Bonao, containing his

terms, and requesting that a reply might be sent to him to Conception, as

scarcity of provisions obliged him to leave Bonao. He added that he should

wait for a reply until the following Monday (the 11th). There was an

insolent menace implied in this note, accompanied as it was by insolent

demands. The admiral found it impossible to comply with the latter; but to

manifest his lenient disposition, and to take from the rebels all plea of

rigor, he had a proclamation affixed for thirty days at the gate of the

fortress, promising full indulgence and complete oblivion of the past to

Roldan and his followers, on condition of their presenting themselves

before him and returning to their allegiance to the crown within a month;

together with free conveyance for all such as wished to return to Spain;

but threatening to execute rigorous justice upon those who should not

appear within the limited time. A copy of this paper he sent to Roldan by

Carvajal, with a letter, stating the impossibility of compliance with his

terms, but offering to agree to any compact drawn up with the approbation

of Carvajal and Salamanca.

 

When Carvajal arrived, he found the veteran Ballester actually besieged in

his fortress of Conception by Roldan, under pretext of claiming, in his

official character of alcalde mayor, a culprit who had taken refuge there

from justice. He had cut off the supply of water from the fort, by way of

distressing it into a surrender. When Carvajal posted up the proclamation

of the admiral on the gate of the fortress, the rebels scoffed at the

proffered amnesty, saying that, in a little while, they would oblige the

admiral to ask the same at their hands. The earnest intercessions of

Carvajal, however, brought the leaders at length to reflection, and

through his mediation articles of capitulation were drawn up. By these it

was agreed that Roldan and his followers should embark for Spain from the

port of Xaragua in two ships, to be fitted out and victualed within fifty

days. That they should each receive from the admiral a certificate of good

conduct, and an order for the amount of their pay, up to the actual date.

That slaves should be given to them, as had been given to others, in

consideration of services performed; and as several of their company had

wives, natives of the island, who were pregnant, or had lately been

delivered, they might take them with them, if willing to go, in place of

the slaves. That satisfaction should be made for property of some of the

company which had been sequestrated, and for live-stock which had belonged

to Francisco Roldan. There were other conditions, providing for the

security of their persons: and it was stipulated that, if no reply were

received to these terms within eight days, the whole should be void.

[41]

 

This agreement was signed by Roldan and his companions at Fort Conception

on the 16th of November, and by the admiral at San Domingo on the 21st. At

the same time, he proclaimed a further act of grace, permitting such as

chose to remain in the island either to come to San Domingo, and enter

into the royal service, or to hold lands in any part of the island. They

preferred, however, to follow the fortunes of Roldan, who departed with

his band for Xaragua, to await the arrival of the ships, accompanied by

Miguel Ballester, sent by the admiral to superintend the preparations for

their embarkation.

 

Columbus was deeply grieved to have his projected enterprise to Terra

Firma impeded by such contemptible obstacles, and the ships which should

have borne his brother to explore that newly-found continent devoted to

the use of this turbulent and worthless rabble. He consoled himself,

however, with the reflection, that all the mischief which had so long been

lurking in the island, would thus be at once shipped off, and thenceforth

every thing restored to order and tranquillity. He ordered every exertion

to be made, therefore, to get the ships in readiness to be sent round to

Xaragua; but the scarcity of sea-stores, and the difficulty of completing

the arrangements for such a voyage in the disordered state of the colony,

delayed their departure far beyond the stipulated time. Feeling that he

had been compelled to a kind of deception towards the sovereigns, in the

certificate of good conduct given to Roldan and his followers, he wrote a

letter to them, stating the circumstances under which that certificate had

been in a manner wrung from him to save the island from utter confusion

and ruin. He represented the real character and conduct of those men; how

they had rebelled against his authority; prevented the Indians from paying

tribute; pillaged the island; possessed themselves of large quantities of

gold, and carried off the daughters of several of the caciques. He

advised, therefore, that they should be seized, and their slaves and

treasure taken from them, until their conduct could be properly

investigated. This letter he intrusted to a confidential person, who was

to go in one of the ships. [42]

 

The rebels having left the neighborhood, and the affairs of San Domingo

being in a state of security, Columbus put his brother Don Diego in

temporary command, and departed with the Adelantado on a tour of several

months to visit the various stations, and restore the island to order.

 

The two caravels destined for the use of the rebels sailed from San

Domingo for Xaragua about the end of February; but, encountering a violent

storm, were obliged to put into one of the harbors of the island, where

they were detained until the end of March. One was so disabled as to be

compelled to return to San Domingo. Another vessel was dispatched to

supply its place, in which the indefatigable Carvajal set sail, to

expedite the embarkation of the rebels. He was eleven days in making the

voyage, and found the other caravel at Xaragua.

 

The followers of Roldan had in the meantime changed their minds, and now

refused to embark; as usual, they threw all the blame on Columbus,

affirming that he had purposely delayed the ships far beyond the

stipulated time; that he had sent them in a state not sea-worthy, and

short of provisions, with many other charges, artfully founded on

circumstances over which they knew he could have no control. Carvajal made

a formal protest before a notary who had accompanied him, and finding that

the ships were suffering great injury from the teredo or worm, and their

provisions failing, he sent them back to San Domingo, and set out on his

return by land. Roldan accompanied him a little distance on horseback,

evidently disturbed in mind. He feared to return to Spain, yet was shrewd

enough to know the insecurity of his present situation at the head of a

band of dissolute men, acting in defiance of authority. What tie had he

upon their fidelity stronger than the sacred obligations which they had

violated? After riding thoughtfully for some distance, he paused, and

requested some private conversation with Carvajal before they parted. They

alighted under the shade of a tree. Here Roldan made further professions

of the loyalty of his intentions, and finally declared, that if the

admiral would once more send him a written security for his person, with

the guarantee also of the principal persons about him, he would come to

treat with him, and trusted that the whole matter would be arranged on

terms satisfactory to both parties. This offer, however, he added, must be

kept secret from his followers.

 

Carvajal, overjoyed at this prospect of a final arrangement, lost no time

in conveying the proposition of Roldan to the admiral. The latter

immediately forwarded the required passport or security, sealed with the

royal seal, accompanied by a letter written in amicable terms, exhorting

his quiet obedience to the authority of the sovereigns. Several of the

principal persons also, who were with the admiral, wrote, at his request,

a letter of security to Roldan, pledging themselves for the safety of

himself and his followers during the negotiation; provided they did

nothing hostile to the royal authority or its representative.

 

While Columbus was thus, with unwearied assiduity and loyal zeal,

endeavoring to bring the island back to its obedience, he received a reply

from Spain, to the earnest representations made by him, in the preceding

autumn, of the distracted state of the colony and the outrages of these

lawless men, and his prayers for royal countenance and support. The letter

was written by his invidious enemy, the Bishop Fonseca, superintendent of

Indian affairs. It acknowledged the receipt of his statement of the

alleged insurrection of Roldan, but observed that this matter must be

suffered to remain in suspense, as the sovereigns would investigate and

remedy it presently. [43]

 

This cold reply had a disheartening effect upon Columbus. He saw that his

complaints had little weight with the government; he feared that his

enemies were prejudicing him with the sovereigns; and he anticipated

redoubled insolence on the part of the rebels, when they should discover

how little influence he possessed in Spain. Full of zeal, however, for the

success of his undertaking, and of fidelity to the interests of the

sovereigns, he resolved to spare no personal sacrifice of comfort or

dignity in appeasing the troubles of the island. Eager to expedite the

negotiation with Roldan, therefore, he sailed in the latter part of August

with two caravels to the port of Azua, west of San Domingo, and much

nearer to Xaragua. He was accompanied by several of the most important

personages of the colony. Roldan repaired thither likewise, with the

turbulent Adrian de Moxica, and a number of his band. The concessions

already obtained had increased his presumption; and he had, doubtless,

received intelligence of the cold manner in which the complaints of the

admiral had been received in Spain. He conducted himself more like a

conqueror, exacting triumphant terms, than a delinquent seeking to procure

pardon by atonement. He came on board of the caravel, and with his usual

effrontery, propounded the preliminaries upon which he and his companions

were disposed to negotiate.

 

First, that he should be permitted to send several of his company, to the

number of fifteen, to Spain, in the vessels which were at San Domingo.

Secondly, that those who remained should have lands granted them, in place

of royal pay. Thirdly, that it should be proclaimed, that every thing

charged against him and his party had been grounded upon false testimony,

and the machinations of person disaffected to the royal service. Fourthly,

that he should be reinstated in his office of alcalde mayor, or chief

judge. [44]

 

These were hard and insolent conditions to commence with, but they were

granted. Roldan then went on shore, and communicated them to his

companions. At the end of the two days the insurgents sent their

capitulations, drawn up in form, and couched in arrogant language,

including all the stipulations granted at Fort Conception, with those

recently demanded by Roldan, and concluding with one, more insolent than

all the rest, namely, that if the admiral should fail in the fulfillment

of any of these articles, they should have a right to assemble together,

and compel his performance of them by force, or by any other means they

might think proper. [45] The conspirators thus sought not merely

exculpation of the past, but a pretext for future rebellion.

 

The mind grows wearied and impatient with recording, and the heart of the

generous reader must burn with indignation at perusing, this protracted

and ineffectual struggle of a man of the exalted merits and matchless

services of Columbus, in the toils of such miscreants. Surrounded by doubt

and danger; a foreigner among a jealous people; an unpopular commander in

a mutinous island; distrusted and slighted by the government he was

seeking to serve; and creating suspicion by his very services; he knew not

where to look for faithful advice, efficient aid, or candid judgment. The

very ground on which he stood seemed giving way under him, for he was told

of seditious symptoms among his own people. Seeing the impunity with which

the rebels rioted in the possession of one of the finest parts of the

island, they began to talk among themselves of following their example, of

abandoning the standard of the admiral, and seizing upon the province of

Higuey, at the eastern extremity of the island, which was said to contain

valuable mines of gold.

 

Thus critically situated, disregarding every consideration of personal

pride and dignity, and determined, at any individual sacrifice, to secure

the interests of an ungrateful sovereign, Columbus forced himself to sign

this most humiliating capitulation. He trusted that afterwards, when he

could gain quiet access to the royal ear, he should be able to convince

the king and queen that it had been compulsory, and forced from him by the

extraordinary difficulties in which he had been placed, and the imminent

perils of the colony. Before signing it, however, he inserted a

stipulation, that the commands of the sovereigns, of himself, and of the

justices appointed by him, should be punctually obeyed. [46]

 

 

 

 

Chapter IV.

 

Grants Made to Roldan and His Followers.--Departure of Several of the

Rebels for Spain.

 

[1499.]

 

 

 

When Roldan resumed his office of alcalde mayor, or chief judge, he

displayed all the arrogance to be expected from one who had intruded

himself into power by profligate means. At the city of San Domingo, he was

always surrounded by his faction; communed only with the dissolute and

disaffected; and, having all the turbulent and desperate men of the

community at his beck, was enabled to intimidate the quiet and loyal by

his frowns. He bore an impudent front against the authority even of

Columbus himself, discharging from office one Rodrigo Perez, a lieutenant

of the admiral, declaring that none but such as he appointed should bear a

staff of office in the island. [47] Columbus had a difficult and painful

task in bearing with the insolence of this man, and of the shameless

rabble which had returned, under his auspices, to the settlements. He

tacitly permitted many abuses; endeavoring by mildness and indulgence to

allay the jealousies and prejudices awakened against him, and by various

concessions to lure the factious to the performance of their duty. To such

of the colonists generally as preferred to remain in the island, he

offered a choice of either royal pay or portions of lands, with a number

of Indians, some free, others as slaves, to assist in the cultivation. The

latter was generally preferred; and grants were made out, in which he

endeavored, as much as possible, to combine the benefit of the individual

with the interests of the colony.

 

Roldan presented a memorial signed by upwards of one hundred of his late

followers, demanding grants of lands and licenses to settle, and choosing

Xaragua for their place of abode. The admiral feared to trust such a

numerous body of factious partisans in so remote a province; he contrived,

therefore, to distribute them in various parts of the island; some at

Bonao, where their settlement gave origin to the town of that name; others

on the bank of the Rio Verde, or Green River, in the Vega; others about

six leagues thence, at St. Jago. He assigned to them liberal portions of

land, and numerous Indian slaves, taken in the wars. He made an

arrangement, also, by which the caciques in their vicinity, instead of

paying tribute, should furnish parties of their subjects, free Indians, to

assist the colonists in the cultivation of their lands: a kind of feudal

service, which was the origin of the repartimientos, or distributions of

free Indians among the colonists, afterwards generally adopted, and

shamefully abused, throughout the Spanish colonies: a source of

intolerable hardships and oppressions to the unhappy natives, and which

greatly contributed to exterminate them from the island of Hispaniola.[48]

Columbus considered the island in the light of a conquered country, and

arrogated to himself all the rights of a conqueror, in the name of the

sovereigns for whom he fought. Of course all his companions in the

enterprise were entitled to take part in the acquired territory, and to

establish themselves there as feudal lords, reducing the natives to the

condition of villains or vassals. [49] This was an arrangement widely

different from his original intention of treating the natives with

kindness, as peaceful subjects of the crown. But all his plans had been

subverted, and his present measures forced upon him by the exigency of

the times, and the violence of lawless men. He appointed a captain with

an armed band, as a kind of police, with orders to range the provinces;

oblige the Indians to pay their tributes; watch over the conduct of the

colonists; and check the least appearance of mutiny or insurrection. [50]

 

Having sought and obtained such ample provisions for his followers, Roldan

was not more modest in making demands for himself. He claimed certain

lands in the vicinity of Isabella, as having belonged to him before his

rebellion; also a royal farm, called La Esperanza, situated on the Vega,

and devoted to the rearing of poultry. These the admiral granted him, with

permission to employ, in the cultivation of the farm, the subjects of the

cacique whose ears had been cut off by Alonzo de Ojeda in his first

military expedition into the Vega. Roldan received also grants of land in

Xaragua, and a variety of live-stock from the cattle and other animals

belonging to the crown. These grants were made to him provisionally, until

the pleasure of the sovereigns should be known; [51] for Columbus yet

trusted, that when they should understand the manner in which these

concessions had been extorted from him, the ringleaders of the rebels

would not merely be stripped of their ill-gotten possessions, but receive

well-merited punishment.

 

Roldan, having now enriched himself beyond his hopes, requested permission

of Columbus to visit his lands. This was granted with great reluctance. He

immediately departed for the Vega, and stopping at Bonao, his late

headquarters, made Pedro Riquelme, one of his most active confederates,

alcalde, or judge of the place, with the power of arresting all

delinquents, and sending them prisoners to the fortress of Conception,

where he reserved to himself the right of sentencing them. This was an

assumption of powers not vested in his office, and gave great offence to

Columbus. Other circumstances created apprehensions of further troubles

from the late insurgents. Pedro Riquelme, under pretext of erecting

farming buildings for his cattle, began to construct a strong edifice on a

hill, capable of being converted into a formidable fortress. This, it was

whispered, was done in concert with Roldan, by way of securing a

stronghold in case of need. Being in the neighborhood of the Vega, where

so many of their late partisans were settled, it would form a dangerous

rallying place for any new sedition. The designs of Riquelme were

suspected and his proceedings opposed by Pedro de Arana, a loyal and

honorable man, who was on the spot. Representations were made by both

parties to the admiral, who prohibited Riquelme from proceeding with the

construction of his edifice. [52]

 

Columbus had prepared to return, with his brother Don Bartholomew, to

Spain, where he felt that his presence was of the utmost importance to

place the late events of the island in a proper light; having found that

his letters of explanation were liable to be counteracted by the

misrepresentations of malevolent enemies. The island, however, was still

in a feverish state. He was not well assured of the fidelity of the late

rebels, though so dearly purchased; there was a rumor of a threatened

descent into the Vega, by the mountain tribes of Ciguay, to attempt the

rescue of their captive cacique Mayobanex, still detained a prisoner in

the fortress of Conception. Tidings were brought about the same time from

the western parts of the island, that four strange ships had arrived at

the coast, under suspicious appearances. These circumstances obliged him

to postpone his departure, and held him involved in the affairs of this

favorite but fatal island.

 

The two caravels were dispatched for Spain in the beginning of October,

taking such of the colonists as chose to return, and among them a number

of Roldan's partisans. Some of these took with them slaves, others carried

away the daughters of caciques whom they had beguiled from their families

and homes. At these iniquities, no less than at many others which equally

grieved his spirit, the admiral was obliged to connive. He was conscious,

at the same time, that he was sending home a reinforcement of enemies and

false witnesses, to defame his character and traduce his conduct, but he

had no alternative. To counteract, as much as possible, their

misrepresentations, he sent by the same caravel the loyal and upright

veteran Miguel Ballester, together with Garcia de Barrantés, empowered to

attend to his affairs at court, and furnished with the dispositions taken

relative to the conduct of Roldan and his accomplices.

 

In his letters to the sovereigns, he entreated them to inquire into the

truth of the late transactions. He stated his opinion that his

capitulations with the rebels were null and void, for various reasons,

viz.--they had been extorted from him by violence, and at sea, where he

did not exercise the office of viceroy--there had been two trials relative

to the insurrection, and the insurgents having been condemned as traitors,

it was not in the power of the admiral to absolve them from their

criminality--the capitulations treated of matters touching the royal

revenue, over which he had no control, without the intervention of the

proper officers;--lastly, Francisco Roldan and his companions, on leaving

Spain, had taken an oath to be faithful to the sovereigns, and to the

admiral in their name, which oath they had violated. For these and similar

reasons, some just, others rather sophistical, he urged the sovereigns not

to consider themselves bound to ratify the compulsory terms ceded to these

profligate men, but to inquire into their offences, and treat them

accordingly. [53]

 

He repeated the request made in a former letter, that a learned judge

might be sent out to administer the laws in the island, since he himself

had been charged with rigor, although conscious of having always observed

a guarded clemency. He requested also that discreet persons should be sent

out to form a council, and others for certain fiscal employments,

entreating, however, that their powers should be so limited and defined,

as not to interfere with his dignity and privileges. He bore strongly on

this point; as his prerogatives on former occasions had been grievously

invaded. It appeared to him, he said, that princes ought to show much

confidence in their governors; for without the royal favor to give them

strength and consequence, every thing went to ruin under their command; a

sound maxim, forced from the admiral by his recent experience, in which

much of his own perplexities, and the triumph of the rebels, had been

caused by the distrust of the crown, and its inattention to his

remonstrances.

 

Finding age and infirmity creeping upon him, and his health much impaired

by his last voyage, he began to think of his son Diego, as an active

coadjutor; who, being destined as his successor, might gain experience

under his eye, for the future discharge of his high duties. Diego, though

still serving as a page at the court, was grown to man's estate, and

capable of entering into the important concerns of life. Columbus

entreated, therefore, that he might be sent out to assist him, as he felt

himself infirm in health and broken in constitution, and less capable of

exertion than formerly. [54]

 

 

 

 

Chapter V.

 

Arrival of Ojeda with a Squadron at the Western Part of the Island.--Roldan

Sent to Meet Him.

 

[1499.]

 

 

 

Among the causes which induced Columbus to postpone his departure for

Spain, has been mentioned the arrival of four ships at the western part of

the island. These had anchored on the 5th of September in a harbor a

little below Jacquemel, apparently with the design of cutting dye-woods,

which abound in that neighborhood, and of carrying off the natives for

slaves. Further reports informed him that they were commanded by Alonzo de

Ojeda, the same hot-headed and bold-hearted cavalier who had distinguished

himself on various occasions in the previous voyages of discovery, and

particularly in the capture of the cacique Caonabo. Knowing the daring and

adventurous spirit of this man, Columbus felt much disturbed at his

visiting the island in this clandestine manner, on what appeared to be

little better than a freebooting expedition. To call him to account, and

oppose his aggressions, required an agent of spirit and address. No one

seemed better fitted for the purpose than Roldan. He was as daring as

Ojeda, and of a more crafty character. An expedition of the kind would

occupy the attention of himself and his partisans, and divert them from

any schemes of mischief. The large concessions recently made to them

would, he trusted, secure their present fidelity, rendering it more

profitable for them to be loyal than rebellious.

 

Roldan readily undertook the enterprise. He had nothing further to gain by

sedition, and was anxious to secure his ill-gotten possessions and atone

for past offences by public services. He was vain as well as active, and

took a pride in acquitting himself well in an expedition which called for

both courage and shrewdness. Departing from San Domingo with two caravels,

he arrived on the 29th of September within two leagues of the harbor where

the ships of Ojeda were anchored. Here he landed with five-and-twenty

resolute followers, well armed, and accustomed to range the forests. He

sent five scouts to reconnoitre. They brought word that Ojeda was several

leagues distant from his ships, with only fifteen men, employed in making

cassava bread in an Indian village. Roldan threw himself between them and

the ships, thinking to take them by surprise. They were apprised, however,

of his approach by the Indians, with whom the very name of Roldan inspired

terror, from his late excesses in Xaragua. Ojeda saw his danger; he

supposed Roldan had been sent in pursuit of him, and he found himself cut

off from his ships. With his usual intrepidity he immediately presented

himself before Roldan, attended merely by half a dozen followers. The

latter craftily began by conversing on general topics. He then inquired

into his motives for landing on the island, particularly on that remote

and lonely part, without first reporting his arrival to the admiral. Ojeda

replied, that he had been on a voyage of discovery, and had put in there

in distress, to repair his ships and procure provisions. Roldan then

demanded, in the name of the government, a sight of the license under

which he sailed. Ojeda, who knew the resolute character of the man he had

to deal with, restrained his natural impetuosity, and replied that his

papers were on board of his ship. He declared his intention, on departing

thence, to go to San Domingo, and pay his homage to the admiral, having

many things to tell him which were for his private ear alone. He intimated

to Roldan that the admiral was in complete disgrace at court; that there

was a talk of taking from him his command, and that the queen, his

patroness, was ill beyond all hopes of recovery. This intimation, it is

presumed, was referred to by Roldan in his dispatches to the admiral,

wherein he mentioned that certain things had been communicated to him by

Ojeda, which he did not think it safe to confide to a letter.

 

Roldan now repaired to the ships. He found several persons on board with

whom he was acquainted, and who had already been in Hispaniola. They

confirmed the truth of what Ojeda had said, and showed a license signed by

the Bishop of Fonseca, as superintendent of the affairs of the Indias,

authorizing him to sail on a voyage of discovery. [55]

 

It appeared, from the report of Ojeda and his followers, that the glowing

accounts sent home by Columbus of his late discoveries on the coast of

Paria, his magnificent speculations with respect to the riches of the

newly-found country, and the specimen of pearls transmitted to the

sovereigns, had inflamed the cupidity of various adventurers. Ojeda

happened to be at that time in Spain. He was a favorite of the Bishop of

Fonseca, and obtained a sight of the letter written by the admiral to the

sovereigns, and the charts and maps of his route by which it was

accompanied. Ojeda knew Columbus to be embarrassed by the seditions of

Hispaniola; he found, by his conversations with Fonseca and other of the

admiral's enemies, that strong doubts and jealousies existed in the mind

of the king with respect to his conduct, and that his approaching downfall

was confidently predicted. The idea of taking advantage of these

circumstances struck Ojeda, and, by a private enterprise, he hoped to be

the first in gathering the wealth of these newly-discovered regions. He

communicated his project to his patron, Fonseca. The latter was but too

ready for any tiling that might defeat the plans and obscure the glory of

Columbus; and it may be added that he always showed himself more disposed

to patronize mercenary adventurers than upright and high-minded men. He

granted Ojeda every facility; furnishing him with copies of the papers and

charts of Columbus, by which to direct himself in his course, and a letter

of license signed with his own name, though not with that of the

sovereigns. In this, it was stipulated that he should not touch at any

land belonging to the King of Portugal, nor any that had been discovered

by Columbus prior to 1495. The last provision shows the perfidious

artifice of Fonseca, as it left Paria and the Pearl Islands free to the

visits of Ojeda, they having been discovered by Columbus subsequent to the

designated year. The ships were to be fitted out at the charges of the

adventurers, and a certain proportion of the products of the voyage were

to be rendered to the crown.

 

Under this license Ojeda fitted out four ships at Seville, assisted by

many eager and wealthy speculators. Among the number was the celebrated

Amerigo Vespucci, a Florentine merchant, well acquainted with geography

and navigation. The principal pilot of the expedition was Juan de la Cosa,

a mariner of great repute, a disciple of the admiral, whom he had

accompanied in his first voyage of discovery, and in that along the

southern coast of Cuba, and round the island of Jamaica. There were

several also of the mariners, and Bartholomew Roldan, a distinguished

pilot, who had been with Columbus in his voyage to Paria. [56] Such was

the expedition which, by a singular train of circumstances, eventually

gave the name of this Florentine merchant, Amerigo Vespucci, to the whole

of the New World.

 

This expedition had sailed in May, 1499. The adventurers had arrived on

the southern continent, and ranged along its coast, from two hundred

leagues east of the Oronoco, to the Gulf of Paria. Guided by the charts of

Columbus, they had passed through this gulf, and through the Boca del

Dragon, and had kept along westward to Cape de la Vela, visiting the

island of Margarita and the adjacent continent, and discovering the Gulf

of Venezuela. They had subsequently touched at the Caribbee Islands, where

they had fought with the fierce natives, and made many captives, with the

intention of selling them in the slave-markets of Spain. Thence, being in

need of supplies, they had sailed to Hispaniola, having performed the most

extensive voyage hitherto made along the shores of the New World.

[57]

 

Having collected all the information that he could obtain concerning these

voyagers, their adventures and designs, and trusting to the declaration of

Ojeda, that he should proceed forthwith to present himself to the admiral,

Roldan returned to San Domingo to render a report of his mission.

 

 

 

 

Chapter VI.

 

Manoevres of Roldan and Ojeda.

 

[1500.]

 

 

 

When intelligence was brought to Columbus of the nature of the expedition

of Ojeda, and the license under which he sailed, he considered himself

deeply aggrieved, it being a direct infraction of his most important

prerogatives, and sanctioned by authority which ought to have held them

sacred. He awaited patiently, however, the promised visit of Alonzo de

Ojeda to obtain fuller explanations. Nothing was further from the

intention of that roving commander than to keep such promise: he had made

it merely to elude the vigilance of Roldan. As soon as he had refitted his

vessels and obtained a supply of provisions, he sailed round to the coast

of Xaragua, where he arrived in February. Here he was well received by the

Spaniards resident in that province, who supplied all his wants. Among

them were many of the late comrades of Roldan; loose, random characters,

impatient of order and restraint, and burning with animosity against the

admiral, for having again brought them under the wholesome authority of

the laws.

 

Knowing the rash and fearless character of Ojeda, and finding that there

were jealousies between him and the admiral, they hailed him as a new

leader, come to redress their fancied grievances, in place of Roldan, whom

they considered as having deserted them. They made clamorous complaints to

Ojeda of the injustice of the admiral, whom they charged with withholding

from them the arrears of their pay.

 

Ojeda was a hot-headed man, with somewhat of a vaunting spirit, and

immediately set himself up for a redresser of grievances. It is said also

that he gave himself out as authorized by government, in conjunction with

Carvajal, to act as counselors, or rather supervisors of the admiral; and

that one of the first measures they were to take, was to enforce the

payment of all salaries due to the servants of the crown. [58] It is

questionable, however, whether Ojeda made any pretension of the kind,

which could so readily be disproved, and would have tended to disgrace

him with the government. It is probable that he was encouraged in his

intermeddling, chiefly by his knowledge of the tottering state of the

admiral's favor at court, and of his own security in the powerful

protection of Fonseca. He may have imbibed also the opinion, diligently

fostered by those with whom he had chiefly communicated in Spain, just

before his departure, that these people had been driven to extremities by

the oppression of the admiral and his brothers. Some feeling of

generosity, therefore, may have mingled with his usual love of action and

enterprise, when he proposed to redress all their wrongs, put himself at

their head, march at once to San Domingo, and oblige the admiral to pay

them on the spot, or expel him from the island.

 

The proposition of Ojeda was received with acclamations of transport by

some of the rebels; others made objections. Quarrels arose: a ruffianly

scene of violence and brawl ensued, in which several were killed and

wounded on both sides; but the party for the expedition to San Domingo

remained triumphant.

 

Fortunately for the peace and safety of the admiral, Roldan arrived in the

neighborhood, just at this critical juncture, attended by a crew of

resolute fellows. He had been dispatched by Columbus to watch the

movements of Ojeda, on hearing of his arrival on the coast of Xaragua.

Apprised of the violent scenes which were taking place, Roldan, when on

the way, sent to his old confederate Diego de Escobar, to follow him with

all the trusty force he could collect. They reached Xaragua within a day

of each other. An instance of the bad faith usual between bad men was now

evinced. The former partisans of Roldan, finding him earnest in his

intention of serving the government, and that there was no hope of

engaging him in their new sedition, sought to waylay and destroy him on

his march, but his vigilance and celerity prevented them. [59]

 

Ojeda, when he heard of the approach of Roldan and Escobar, retired on

board of his ships. Though of a daring spirit, he had no inclination, in

the present instance, to come to blows, where there was a certainty of

desperate fighting, and no gain; and where he must raise his arm against

government. Roldan now issued such remonstrances as had often been

ineffectually addressed to himself. He wrote to Ojeda, reasoning with him

on his conduct, and the confusion he was producing in the island, and

inviting him on shore to an amicable arrangement of all alleged

grievances. Ojeda, knowing the crafty, violent character of Roldan,

disregarded his repeated messages, and refused to venture within his

power. He even seized one of his messengers, Diego de Truxillo, and

landing suddenly at Xaragua, carried off another of his followers, named

Toribio de Lenares; both of whom he detained in irons, on board of his

vessel, as hostages for a certain Juan Pintor, a one-armed sailor, who had

deserted, threatening to hang them if the deserter was not given up.

[60]

 

Various manoeuvres took place between these two well-matched opponents;

each wary of the address and prowess of the other. Ojeda made sail, and

stood twelve leagues to the northward, to the province of Cahay, one of

the most beautiful and fertile parts of the country, and inhabited by a

kind and gentle people. Here he landed with forty men, seizing upon

whatever he could find of the provisions of the natives. Roldan and

Escobar followed along shore, and were soon at his heels. Roldan then

dispatched Escobar in a light canoe, paddled swiftly by Indians, who,

approaching within hail of the ship, informed Ojeda that, since he would

not trust himself on shore, Roldan would come and confer with him on

board, if he would send a boat for him.

 

Ojeda now thought himself secure of his enemy; he immediately dispatched a

boat within a short distance of the shore, where the crew lay on their

oars, requiring Roldan to come to them. "How many may accompany me?"

demanded the latter. "Only five or six," was the reply. Upon this Diego de

Escobar and four others waded to the boat. The crew refused to admit more.

Roldan then ordered one man to carry him to the barge, and another to walk

by his side, and assist him. By this stratagem, his party was eight

strong. The instant he entered the boat, he ordered the oarsmen to row to

shore. On their refusing, he and his companions attacked them sword in

hand, wounded several, and made all prisoners, excepting an Indian archer,

who, plunging under the water, escaped by swimming.

 

This was an important triumph for Roldan. Ojeda, anxious for the recovery

of his boat, which was indispensable for the service of the ship, now made

overtures of peace. He approached the shore in his remaining boat, of

small size, taking with him his principal pilot, an arquebusier, and four

oarsmen. Roldan entered the boat he had just captured, with seven rowers

and fifteen fighting men, causing fifteen others to be ready on shore to

embark in a large canoe, in case of need. A characteristic interview took

place between these doughty antagonists, each keeping warily on his guard.

Their conference was carried on at a distance. Ojeda justified his hostile

movements by alleging that Roldan had come with an armed force to seize

him. This the latter positively denied, promising him the most amicable

reception from the admiral, in case he would repair to San Domingo. An

arrangement was at length effected; the boat was restored, and mutual

restitution of the men took place, with the exception of Juan Pintor, the

one-armed deserter, who had absconded; and on the following day, Ojeda,

according to agreement, set sail to leave the island, threatening however

to return at a future time with more ships and men. [61]

 

Roldan waited in the neighborhood, doubting the truth of his departure. In

the course of a few days, word was brought that Ojeda had landed on a

distant part of the coast. He immediately pursued him with eighty men in

canoes, sending scouts by land. Before he arrived at the place, Ojeda had

again made sail, and Roldan saw and heard no more of him. Las Casas

asserts, however, that Ojeda departed either to some remote district of

Hispaniola, or to the island of Porto Rico, where he made up what he

called his _Cavalgada_, or drove of slaves; carrying off numbers of

the unhappy natives, whom he sold in the slave-market of Cadiz. [62]

 

 

 

 

Chapter VII.

 

Conspiracy of Guevara and Moxica.

 

[1500.]

 

 

 

When men have been accustomed to act falsely, they take great merit to

themselves for an exertion of common honesty. The followers of Roldan were

loud in trumpeting forth their unwonted loyalty, and the great services

they had rendered to government in driving Ojeda from the island. Like all

reformed knaves, they expected that their good conduct would be amply

rewarded. Looking upon their leader as having every thing in his gift, and

being well pleased with the delightful province of Cahay, they requested

him to share the land among them, that they might settle there. Roldan

would have had no hesitation in granting their request, had it been made

during his freebooting career; but he was now anxious to establish a

character for adherence to the laws. He declined, therefore, acceding to

their wishes, until sanctioned by the admiral. Knowing, however, that he

had fostered a spirit among these men which it was dangerous to

contradict, and that their rapacity, by long indulgence, did not admit of

delay, he shared among them certain lands of his own, in the territory of

his ancient host Behechio, cacique of Xaragua. He then wrote to the

admiral for permission to return to San Domingo, and received a letter in

reply, giving him many thanks and commendations for the diligence and

address which he had manifested, but requesting him to remain for a time

in Xaragua, lest Ojeda should be yet hovering about the coast, and

disposed to make another descent in that province.

 

The troubles of the island were not yet at an end, but were destined again

to break forth, and from somewhat of a romantic cause. There arrived about

this time, at Xaragua, a young cavalier of noble family, named Don

Hernando de Guevara. He possessed an agreeable person and winning manners,

but was headstrong in his passions and dissolute in his principles. He was

cousin to Adrian de Moxica, one of the most active ringleaders in the late

rebellion of Roldan, and had conducted himself with such licentiousness at

San Domingo, that Columbus had banished him from the island. There being

no other opportunity of embarking, he had been sent to Xaragua, to return

to Spain in one of the ships of Ojeda, but arrived after their departure.

Roldan received him favorably, on account of his old comrade, Adrian de

Moxica, and permitted him to choose some place of residence until further

orders concerning him should arrive from the admiral. He chose the

province of Cahay, at the place where Roldan had captured the boat of

Ojeda. It was a delightful part of that beautiful coast; but the reason

why Guevara chose it, was the vicinity to Xaragua. While at the latter

place, in consequence of the indulgence of Roldan, he was favorably

received at the house of Anacaona, the widow of Caonabo, and sister of the

cacique Behechio. That remarkable woman still retained her partiality to

the Spaniards, notwithstanding the disgraceful scenes which had passed

before her eyes; and the native dignity of her character had commanded the

respect even of the dissolute rabble which infested her province. By her

late husband, the cacique Caonabo, she had a daughter named Higuenamota,

just grown up, and greatly admired for her beauty. Guevara being often in

company with her, a mutual attachment ensued. It was to be near her that

he chose Cahay as a residence, at a place where his cousin Adrian de

Moxica kept a number of dogs and hawks, to be employed in the chase.

Guevara delayed his departure. Roldan discovered the reason, and warned

him to desist from his pretensions and leave the province. Las Casas

intimates that Roldan was himself attached to the young Indian beauty, and

jealous of her preference of his rival. Anacaona, the mother, pleased with

the gallant appearance and ingratiating manners of the youthful cavalier,

favored his attachment; especially as he sought her daughter in marriage.

Notwithstanding the orders of Roldan, Guevara still lingered in Xaragua,

in the house of Anacaona; and sending for a priest, desired him to baptize

his intended bride.

 

Hearing of this, Roldan sent for Guevara, and rebuked him sharply for

remaining at Xaragua, and attempting to deceive a person of the importance

of Anacaona, by ensnaring the affections of her daughter. Guevara avowed

the strength of his passion, and his correct intentions, and entreated

permission to remain. Roldan was inflexible. He alleged that some evil

construction might be put on his conduct by the admiral; but it is

probable his true motive was a desire to send away a rival, who interfered

with his own amorous designs. Guevara obeyed; but had scarce been three

days at Cahay, when, unable to remain longer absent from the object of his

passion, he returned to Xaragua, accompanied by four or five friends, and

concealed himself in the dwelling of Anacaona. Roldan, who was at that

time confined by a malady in his eyes, being apprised of his return, sent

orders for him to depart instantly to Cahay. The young cavalier assumed a

tone of defiance. He warned Roldan not to make foes when he had such great

need of friends; for, to his certain knowledge, the admiral intended to

behead him. Upon this, Roldan commanded him to quit that part of the

island, and repair to San Domingo, to present himself before the admiral.

The thoughts of being banished entirely from the vicinity of his Indian

beauty checked the vehemence of the youth. He changed his tone of haughty

defiance into one of humble supplication; and Roldan, appeased by this

submission, permitted him to remain for the present in the neighborhood.

 

Roldan had instilled willfulness and violence into the hearts of his late

followers, and now was doomed to experience the effects. Guevara, incensed

at his opposition to his passion, meditated revenge. He soon made a party

among the old comrades of Roldan, who detested, as a magistrate, the man

they had idolized as a leader. It was concerted to rise suddenly upon him,

and either to kill him or put out his eyes. Roldan was apprised of the

plot, and proceeded with his usual promptness. Guevara was seized in the

dwelling of Anacaona, in the presence of his intended bride; seven of his

accomplices were likewise arrested. Roldan immediately sent an account of

the affair to the admiral, professing, at present, to do nothing without

his authority, and declaring himself not competent to judge impartially in

the case. Columbus, who was at that time at Fort Conception, in the Vega,

ordered the prisoner to be conducted to the fortress of San Domingo.

 

The vigorous measures of Roldan against his old comrades produced

commotions in the island. When Adrian de Moxica heard that his cousin

Guevara was a prisoner, and that, too, by command of his former

confederate, he was highly exasperated, and resolved on vengeance.

Hastening to Bonao, the old haunt of rebellion, he obtained the

co-operation of Pedro Riquelme, the recently-appointed alcalde. They went

round among their late companions in rebellion, who had received lands and

settled in various parts of the Vega, working upon their ready passions,

and enlisting their feelings in the cause of an old comrade. These men

seem to have had an irresistible propensity to sedition. Guevara was a

favorite with them all; the charms of the Indian beauty had probably their

influence; and the conduct of Roldan was pronounced a tyrannical

interference, to prevent a marriage agreeable to all parties, and

beneficial to the colony. There is no being so odious to his former

associates as a reformed robber, or a rebel, enlisted in the service of

justice. The old scenes of faction were renewed; the weapons which had

scarce been hung up from the recent rebellions were again snatched down

from the walls, and rash preparations were made for action. Moxica soon

saw a body of daring and reckless men ready, with horse and weapon, to

follow him on any desperate enterprise. Blinded by the impunity which had

attended their former outrages, he now threatened acts of greater

atrocity, meditating not merely the rescue of his cousin, but the death of

Roldan and the admiral.

 

Columbus was at Fort Conception, with an inconsiderable force, when this

dangerous plot was concerted in his very neighborhood. Not dreaming of any

further hostilities from men on whom he had lavished favors, he would

doubtless have fallen into their power, had not intelligence been brought

him of the plot by a deserter from the conspirators. He saw at a glance

the perils by which he was surrounded, and the storm about to burst upon

the island. It was no longer a time for lenient measures; he determined to

strike a blow which should crush the very head of rebellion.

 

Taking with him but six or seven trusty servants, and three esquires, all

well armed, he set out in the night for the place where the ringleaders

were quartered. Confiding probably in the secrecy of their plot, and the

late passiveness of the admiral, they appear to have been perfectly

unguarded. Columbus came upon them by surprise, seized Moxica and several

of his principal confederates, and bore them off to Fort Conception. The

moment was critical; the Vega was ripe for a revolt; he had the fomenter

of the conspiracy in his power, and an example was called for, that should

strike terror into the factious. He ordered Moxica to be hanged on the top

of the fortress. The latter entreated to be allowed to confess himself

previous to execution. A priest was summoned. The miserable Moxica, who

had been so arrogant in rebellion, lost all courage at the near approach

of death. He delayed to confess, beginning and pausing, and re-commencing,

and again hesitating, as if he hoped, by whiling away time, to give a

chance for rescue. Instead of confessing his own sins, he accused others

of criminality, who were known to be innocent; until Columbus, incensed at

this falsehood and treachery, and losing all patience, in his mingled

indignation and scorn, ordered the dastard wretch to be swung off from the

battlements. [63]

 

This sudden act of severity was promptly followed up. Several of the

accomplices of Moxica were condemned to death and thrown in irons to await

their fate. Before the conspirators had time to recover from their

astonishment, Pedro Riquelme was taken, with several of his compeers, in

his ruffian den at Bonao, and conveyed to the fortress of San Domingo;

where was also confined the original mover of this second rebellion,

Hernando de Guevara, the lover of the young Indian princess. These

unexpected acts of rigor, proceeding from a quarter which had been long so

lenient, had the desired effect. The conspirators fled for the most part

to Xaragua, their old and favorite retreat. They were not suffered to

congregate there again, and concert new seditions. The Adelantado,

seconded by Roldan, pursued them with his characteristic rapidity of

movement and vigor of arm. It has been said that he carried a priest with

him, in order that, as he arrested delinquents, they might be confessed

and hanged upon the spot; but the more probable account is that he

transmitted them prisoners to San Domingo. He had seventeen of them at one

time confined in one common dungeon, awaiting their trial, while he

continued in indefatigable pursuit of the remainder. [64]

 

These were prompt and severe measures; but when we consider how long

Columbus had borne with these men; how much he had ceded and sacrificed to

them; how he had been interrupted in all his great undertakings, and the

welfare of the colony destroyed by their contemptible and seditious

brawls; how they had abused his lenity, defied his authority, and at

length attempted his life,-we cannot wonder that he should at last let

fall the sword of justice, which he had hitherto held suspended.

 

The power of faction was now completely subdued; and the good effects of

the various measures taken by Columbus, since his last arrival, for the

benefit of the island, began to appear. The Indians, seeing the inefficacy

of resistance, submitted to the yoke. Many gave signs of civilization,

having, in some instances, adopted clothing and embraced Christianity.

Assisted by their labors, the Spaniards now cultivated their lands

diligently, and there was every appearance of settled and regular

prosperity.

 

Columbus considered all this happy change as brought about by the especial

intervention of heaven. In a letter to Doña Juana de la Torre, a lady of

distinction, aya or nurse of Prince Juan, he gives an instance of those

visionary fancies to which he was subject in times of illness and anxiety.

In the preceding winter, he says, about the festival of Christmas, when

menaced by Indian war and domestic rebellion, when distrustful of those

around him and apprehensive of disgrace at court, he sank for a time into

complete despondency. In this hour of gloom, when abandoned to despair, he

heard in the night a voice addressing him in words of comfort, "Oh man of

little faith! why art thou cast down? Fear nothing, I will provide for

thee. The seven years of the term of gold are not expired; in that, and in

all other things, I will take care of thee."

 

The seven years term of gold here mentioned, alludes to a vow made by

Columbus on discovering the New World, and recorded by him in a letter to

the sovereigns, that within seven years he would furnish, from the profits

of his discoveries, fifty thousand foot and five thousand horse, for the

deliverance of the holy sepulchre, and an additional force of like amount,

within five years afterwards.

 

The comforting assurance given him by the voice was corroborated, he says,

that very day, by intelligence received of the discovery of a large tract

of country rich in mines. [65] This imaginary promise of

divine aid thus mysteriously given, appeared to him at present in still

greater progress of fulfillment. The troubles and dangers of the island

had been succeeded by tranquillity. He now anticipated the prosperous

prosecution of his favorite enterprise, so long interrupted,--the

exploring of the regions of Paria, and the establishment of a fishery in

the Gulf of Pearls. How illusive were his hopes! At this moment events

were maturing which were to overwhelm him with distress, strip him of his

honors, and render him comparatively a wreck for the remainder of his

days!

 

 

 

 

 

Book XIII.

 

 

 

 

Chapter I.

 

Representations at Court Against Columbus.--Bobadilla Empowered to Examine

into His Conduct.

 

[1500.]

 

 

 

While Columbus was involved in a series of difficulties in the factious

island of Hispaniola, his enemies were but too successful in undermining

his reputation in the court of Spain. The report brought by Ojeda of his

anticipated disgrace was not entirely unfounded; the event was considered

near at hand, and every perfidious exertion was made to accelerate it.

Every vessel from the New World came freighted with complaints,

representing Columbus and his brothers as new men, unaccustomed to

command, inflated by their sudden rise from obscurity; arrogant and

insulting towards men of birth and lofty spirit; oppressive of the common

people, and cruel in their treatment of the natives. The insidious and

illiberal insinuation was continually urged, that they were foreigners,

who could have no interest in the glory of Spain, or the prosperity of

Spaniards; and contemptible as this plea may seem, it had a powerful

effect. Columbus was even accused of a design to cast off all allegiance

to Spain, and either make himself sovereign of the countries he had

discovered, or yield them into the hands of some other power: a slander

which, however extravagant, was calculated to startle the jealous mind of

Ferdinand.

 

It is true, that by every ship Columbus likewise sent home statements,

written with the frankness and energy of truth, setting forth the real

cause and nature of the distractions of the island, and pointing out and

imploring remedies, which, if properly applied, might have been

efficacious. His letters, however, arriving at distant intervals, made but

single and transient impressions on the royal mind, which were speedily

effaced by the influence of daily and active misrepresentation. His

enemies at court, having continual access to the sovereigns, were enabled

to place every thing urged against him in the strongest point of view,

while they secretly neutralized the force of his vindications. They used a

plausible logic to prove either bad management or bad faith on his part.

There was an incessant drain upon the mother country for the support of

the colony. Was this compatible with the extravagant pictures he had drawn

of the wealth of the island, and its golden mountains, in which he had

pretended to find the Ophir of ancient days, the source of all the riches

of Solomon? They inferred that he had either deceived the sovereigns by

designing exaggerations, or grossly wronged them by malpractices, or was

totally incapable of the duties of government.

 

The disappointment of Ferdinand, in finding his newly-discovered

possessions a source of expense instead of profit, was known to press

sorely on his mind. The wars, dictated by his ambition, had straitened his

resources, and involved him in perplexities. He had looked with confidence

to the New World for relief, and for ample means to pursue his triumphs;

and grew impatient at the repeated demands which it occasioned on his

scanty treasury. For the purpose of irritating his feelings and

heightening his resentment, every disappointed and repining man who

returned from the colony was encouraged, by the hostile faction, to put in

claims for pay withheld by Columbus, or losses sustained in his service.

This was especially the case with the disorderly ruffians shipped off to

free the island from sedition. Finding their way to the court of Granada,

they followed the king when he rode out, filling the air with their

complaints, and clamoring for their pay. At one time, about fifty of these

vagabonds found their way into the inner court of the Alhambra, under the

royal apartments; holding up bunches of grapes, as the meagre diet left

them by their poverty, and railing aloud at the deceits of Columbus, and

the cruel neglect of government. The two sons of Columbus, who were pages

to the queen, happening to pass by, they followed them with imprecations,

exclaiming, "There go the sons of the admiral, the whelps of him who

discovered the land of vanity and delusion, the grave of Spanish

hidalgos." [66]

 

The incessant repetition of falsehood will gradually wear its way into the

most candid mind. Isabella herself began to entertain doubts respecting

the conduct of Columbus. Where there was such universal and incessant

complaint, it seemed reasonable to conclude that there must exist some

fault. If Columbus and his brothers were upright, they might be

injudicious; and, in government, mischief is oftener produced through

error of judgment, than iniquity of design. The letters written by

Columbus himself presented a lamentable picture of the confusion of the

island. Might not this arise from the weakness and incapacity of the

rulers? Even granting that the prevalent abuses arose in a great measure

from the enmity of the people to the admiral and his brothers, and their

prejudices against them as foreigners, was it safe to intrust so important

and distant a command to persons so unpopular with the community?

 

These considerations had much weight in the candid mind of Isabella, but

they were all-powerful with the cautious and jealous Ferdinand. He had

never regarded Columbus with real cordiality; and ever since he had

ascertained the importance of his discoveries, had regretted the extensive

powers vested in his hands. The excessive clamors which had arisen during

the brief administration of the Adelantado, and the breaking out of the

faction of Roldan, at length determined the king to send out some person

of consequence and ability, to investigate the affairs of the colony, and,

if necessary for its safety, to take upon himself the command. This

important and critical measure it appears had been decided upon, and the

papers and powers actually drawn out, in the spring of 1499. It was not

carried into effect, however, until the following year. Various reasons

have been assigned for this delay. The important services rendered by

Columbus in the discovery of Paria and the Pearl Islands may have had some

effect on the royal mind. The necessity of fitting out an armament just at

that moment, to co-operate with the Venetians against the Turks; the

menacing movements of the new king of France, Louis XII; the rebellion of

the Moors of the Alpuxarra mountains in the lately-conquered kingdom of

Granada; all these have been alleged as reasons for postponing a measure

which called for much consideration, and might have important effects upon

the newly-discovered possessions. [67] The most probable reason, however,

was the strong disinclination of Isabella to take so harsh a step against

a man for whom she entertained such ardent gratitude and high admiration.

 

At length the arrival of the ships with the late followers of Roldan,

according to their capitulation, brought matters to a crisis. It is true

that Ballester and Barrantes came in these ships, to place the affairs of

the island in a proper light; but they brought out a host of witnesses in

favor of Roldan, and letters written by himself and his confederates,

attributing all their late conduct to the tyranny of Columbus and his

brothers. Unfortunately, the testimony of the rebels had the greatest

weight with Ferdinand; and there was a circumstance in the case which

suspended for a time the friendship of Isabella, hitherto the greatest

dependence of Columbus.

 

Having a maternal interest in the welfare of the natives, the queen had

been repeatedly offended by what appeared to her pertinacity on the part

of Columbus, in continuing to make slaves of those taken in warfare, in

contradiction to her known wishes. The same ships which brought home the

companions of Roldan, brought likewise a great number of slaves. Some,

Columbus had been obliged to grant to these men by the articles of

capitulation; others they had brought away clandestinely. Among them were

several daughters of caciques, seduced away from their families and their

native island by these profligates. Some of these were in a state of

pregnancy, others had new-born infants. The gifts and transfers of these

unhappy beings were all ascribed to the will of Columbus, and represented

to Isabella in the darkest colors. Her sensibility as a woman, and her

dignity as a queen, were instantly in arms. "What power," exclaimed she

indignantly, "has the admiral to give away my vassals?" [68] Determined,

by one decided and peremptory act, to show her abhorrence of these

outrages upon humanity, she ordered all the Indians to be restored to

their country and friends. Nay more, her measure was retrospective. She

commanded that those formerly sent to Spain by the admiral should be

sought out, and sent back to Hispaniola. Unfortunately for Columbus, at

this very juncture, in one of his letters, he advised the continuance of

Indian slavery for some time longer, as a measure important for the

welfare of the colony. This contributed to heighten the indignation of

Isabella, and induced her no longer to oppose the sending out of a

commission to investigate his conduct, and, if necessary, to supersede

him in command.

 

Ferdinand was exceedingly embarrassed in appointing this commission,

between his sense of what was due to the character and services of

Columbus, and his anxiety to retract with delicacy the powers vested in

him. A pretext at length was furnished by the recent request of the

admiral that a person of talents and probity, learned in the law, might be

sent out to act as chief judge; and that an impartial umpire might be

appointed, to decide in the affair between himself and Roldan. Ferdinand

proposed to consult his wishes, but to unite those two officers in one;

and as the person he appointed would have to decide in matters touching

the highest functions of the admiral and his brothers, he was empowered,

should he find them culpable, to supersede them in the government; a

singular mode of insuring partiality!

 

The person chosen for this momentous and delicate office was Don Francisco

de Bobadilla, an officer of the royal household, and a commander of the

military and religious order of Calatrava. Oviedo pronounces him a very

honest and religious man; [69] but he is represented by others, and his

actions corroborate the description, as needy, passionate, and ambitious;

three powerful objections to his exercising the rights of judicature in a

case requiring the utmost patience, candor, and circumspection, and where

the judge was to derive wealth and power from the conviction of one of the

parties.

 

The authority vested in Bobadilla is defined in letters from the

sovereigns still extant, and which deserve to be noticed chronologically;

for the royal intentions appear to have varied with times and

circumstances. The first was dated on the 21st of March, 1499, and

mentions the complaint of the admiral, that an alcalde, and certain other

persons, had risen in rebellion against him. "Wherefore," adds the latter,

"we order you to inform yourself of the truth of the foregoing; to

ascertain who and what persons they were who rose against the said admiral

and our magistracy, and for what cause; and what robberies and other

injuries they have committed; and furthermore, to extend your inquiries to

all other matters relating to the premises; and the information obtained,

and the truth known, whomsoever you find culpable, _arrest their

persons, and sequestrate their effects;_ and thus taken, proceed

against them and the absent, both civilly and criminally, and impose and

inflict such fines and punishments as you may think fit." To carry this

into effect, Bobadilla was authorized, in case of necessity, to call in

the assistance of the admiral, and of all other persons in authority.

 

The powers here given are manifestly directed merely against the rebels,

and in consequence of the complaints of Columbus. Another letter, dated on

the 21st of May, two months subsequently, is of quite different purport.

It makes no mention of Columbus, but is addressed to the various

functionaries and men of property of the islands and Terra Firma,

informing them of the appointment of Bobadilla to the government, with

full civil and criminal jurisdiction. Among the powers specified, is the

following;--"It is our will, that if the said commander, Francisco de

Bobadilla, should think it necessary for our service, and the purposes of

justice, that any cavaliers, or other persons who are at present in those

islands, or may arrive there, should leave them, and not return and reside

in them, and that they should come and present themselves before us, he

may command it in our name, and oblige them to depart; and whomsoever he

thus commands, we hereby order, that immediately, without waiting to

inquire or consult us, or to receive from us any other letter or command,

and without interposing appeal or supplication, they obey whatever he

shall say and order, under the penalties which he shall impose on our

part," &c. &c.

 

Another letter, dated likewise on the 21st of May, in which Columbus is

styled simply, "admiral of the ocean sea," orders him and his brothers to

surrender the fortress, ships, houses, arms, ammunition, cattle, and all

other royal property, into the hands of Bobadilla, as governor, under

penalty of incurring the punishments to which those subject themselves who

refuse to surrender fortresses and other trusts, when commanded by their

sovereigns.

 

A fourth letter, dated on the 26th of May, and addressed to Columbus,

simply by the title of admiral, is a mere letter of credence, ordering him

to give faith and obedience to whatever Bobadilla should impart.

 

The second and third of these letters were evidently provisional, and only

to be produced, if, on examination, there should appear such delinquency

on the part of Columbus and his brothers as to warrant their being

divested of command.

 

This heavy blow, as has been shown, remained suspended for a year; yet,

that it was whispered about, and triumphantly anticipated by the enemies

of Columbus, is evident from the assertions of Ojeda, who sailed from

Spain about the time of the signature of those letters, and had intimate

communications with Bishop Fonseca, who was considered instrumental in

producing this measure. The very license granted by the bishop to Ojeda to

sail on a voyage of discovery in contravention of the prerogatives of the

admiral, has the air of being given on a presumption of his speedy

downfall; and the same presumption, as has already been observed, must

have encouraged Ojeda in his turbulent conduct at Xaragua.

 

At length the long-projected measure was carried into effect. Bobadilla

set sail for San Domingo about the middle of July, 1500, with two

caravels, in which were twenty-five men, enlisted for a year, to serve as

a kind of guard. There were six friars likewise, who had charge of a

number of Indians sent back to their country. Besides the letters patent,

Bobadilla was authorized, by royal order, to ascertain and discharge all

arrears of pay due to persons in the service of the crown; and to oblige

the admiral to pay what was due on his part, "so that those people might

receive what was owing to them, and there might be no more complaints." In

addition to all these powers, Bobadilla was furnished with many blank

letters signed by the sovereigns, to be filled up by him in such manner,

and directed to such persons, as he might think advisable, in relation to

the mission with which he was intrusted. [70]

 

 

 

 

Chapter II.

 

Arrival of Bobadilla at San Domingo--His Violent Assumption of the Command.

 

[1500.]

 

 

 

Columbus was still at Fort Conception, regulating the affairs of the

Vega, after the catastrophe of the sedition of Moxica; his brother, the

Adelantado, accompanied by Roldan, was pursuing and arresting the fugitive

rebels in Xaragua; and Don Diego Columbus remained in temporary command at

San Domingo. Faction had worn itself out; the insurgents had brought down

ruin upon themselves; and the island appeared delivered from the

domination of violent and lawless men.

 

Such was the state of public affairs, when, on the morning of the 23d of

August, two caravels were descried off the harbor of San Domingo, about a

league at sea. They were standing off and on, waiting until the sea

breeze, which generally prevails about ten o'clock, should carry them into

port. Don Diego Columbus supposed them to be ships sent from Spain with

supplies, and hoped to find on board his nephew Diego, whom the admiral

had requested might be sent out to assist him in his various concerns. A

canoe was immediately dispatched to obtain information; which, approaching

the caravels, inquired what news they brought, and whether Diego, the son

of the admiral, was on board. Bobadilla himself replied from the principal

vessel, announcing himself as a commissioner sent out to investigate the

late rebellion. The master of the caravel then inquired about the news of

the island, and was informed of the recent transactions. Seven of the

rebels, he was told, had been hanged that week, and five more were in the

fortress of San Domingo, condemned to suffer the same fate. Among these

were Pedro Riquelme and Fernando de Guevara, the young cavalier whose

passion for the daughter of Anacaona had been the original cause of the

rebellion. Further, conversation passed, in the course of which Bobadilla

ascertained that the admiral and the Adelantado were absent, and Don Diego

Columbus in command.

 

When the canoe returned to the city, with the news that a commissioner had

arrived to make inquisition into the late troubles, there was a great stir

and agitation throughout the community. Knots of whisperers gathered at

every corner; those who were conscious of malpractices were filled with

consternation; while those who had grievances, real or imaginary, to

complain of, especially those whose pay was in arrear, appeared with joyful

countenances. [71]

 

As the vessels entered the river, Bobadilla beheld on either bank a gibbet

with the body of a Spaniard hanging on it, apparently but lately executed.

He considered these as conclusive proofs of the alleged cruelty of

Columbus. Many boats came off to the ship, every one being anxious to pay

early court to this public censor. Bobadilla remained on board all day, in

the course of which he collected much of the rumors of the place; and as

those who sought to secure his favor were those who had most to fear from

his investigations, it is evident that the nature of the rumors must

generally have been unfavorable to Columbus. In fact, before Bobadilla

landed, if not before he arrived, the culpability of the admiral was

decided in his mind.

 

The next morning he landed with all his followers, and went to the church

to attend mass, where he found Don Diego Columbus, Rodrigo Perez, the

lieutenant of the admiral, and other persons of note. Mass being ended,

and those persons, with a multitude of the populace, being assembled at

the door of the church, Bobadilla ordered his letters patent to be read,

authorizing him to investigate the rebellion, seize the persons, and

sequestrate the property of delinquents, and proceed against them with the

utmost rigor of the law; commanding also the admiral, and all others in

authority, to assist him in the discharge of his duties. The letter being

read, he demanded of Don Diego and the alcaldes, to surrender to him the

persons of Fernando Guevara, Pedro Riquelme, and the other prisoners, with

the depositions taken concerning them; and ordered that the parties by

whom they were accused, and those by whose command they had been taken,

should appear before him.

 

Don Diego replied, that the proceedings had emanated from the orders of

the admiral, who held superior powers to any Bobadilla could possess, and

without whose authority he could do nothing. He requested, at the same

time, a copy of the letter patent, that he might send it to his brother,

to whom alone the matter appertained. This Bobadilla refused, observing

that, if Don Diego had power to do nothing, it was useless to give him a

copy. He added, that since the office and authority he had proclaimed

appeared to have no weight, he would try what power and consequence there

was in the name of governor; and would show them that he had command, not

merely over them, but over the admiral himself.

 

The little community remained in breathless suspense, awaiting the

portentous movements of Bobadilla. The next morning he appeared at mass,

resolved on assuming those powers which were only to have been produced

after full investigation, and ample proof of the mal-conduct of Columbus.

When mass was over, and the eager populace had gathered round the door of

the church, Bobadilla, in presence of Don Diego and Rodrigo Perez, ordered

his other royal patent to be read, investing him with the government of

the islands, and of Terra Firma.

 

The patent being read, Bobadilla took the customary oath, and then claimed

the obedience of Don Diego, Rodrigo Perez, and all present, to this royal

instrument; on the authority of which he again demanded the prisoners

confined in the fortress. In reply, they professed the utmost deference to

the letter of the sovereigns, but again observed that they held the

prisoners in obedience to the admiral, to whom the sovereigns had granted

letters of a higher nature.

 

The self-importance of Bobadilla was incensed at this non-compliance,

especially as he saw it had some effect upon the populace, who appeared to

doubt his authority. He now produced the third mandate of the crown,

ordering Columbus and his brothers to deliver up all fortresses, ships,

and other royal property. To win the public completely to his side, he

read also the additional mandate issued on the 30th of May, of the same

year, ordering him to pay the arrears of wages due to all persons in the

royal service, and to compel the admiral to pay the arrears of those to

whom he was accountable.

 

This last document was received with shouts by the multitude, many having

long arrears due to them in consequence of the poverty of the treasury.

Flushed with his growing importance, Bobadilla again demanded the

prisoners; threatening, if refused, to take them by force. Meeting with

the same reply, he repaired to the fortress to execute his threats. This

post was commanded by Miguel Diaz, the same Arragonian cavalier who had

once taken refuge among the Indians on the banks of the Ozema, won the

affections of the female cacique Catalina, received from her information

of the neighboring gold mines, and induced his countrymen to remove to

those parts.

 

When Bobadilla came before the fortress, he found the gates closed, and

the alcayde, Miguel Diaz, upon the battlements. He ordered his letters

patent to be read with a loud voice, the signatures and seals to be held

up to view, and then demanded the surrender of the prisoners. Diaz

requested a copy of the letters; but this Bobadilla refused, alleging that

there was no time for delay, the prisoners being under sentence of death,

and liable at any moment to be executed. He threatened, at the same time,

that if they were not given up, he would proceed to extremities, and Diaz

should be answerable for the consequences. The wary alcayde again required

time to reply, and a copy of the letters; saying that he held the fortress

for the king, by the command of the admiral, his lord, who had gained

these territories and islands, and that when the latter arrived, he should

obey his orders. [72]

 

The whole spirit of Bobadilla was roused within him at the refusal of the

alcayde. Assembling all the people he had brought from Spain, together

with the sailors of the ships, and the rabble of the place, he exhorted

them to aid him in getting possession of the prisoners, but to harm no one

unless in case of resistance. The mob shouted assent, for Bobadilla was

already the idol of the multitude. About the hour of vespers he set out,

at the head of this motley army, to storm a fortress destitute of a

garrison, and formidable only in name, being calculated to withstand only

a naked and slightly-armed people. The accounts of this transaction have

something in them bordering on the ludicrous, and give it the air of

absurd rhodomontade. Bobadilla assailed the portal with great impetuosity,

the frail bolts and locks of which gave way at the first shock, and

allowed him easy admission. In the meantime, however, his zealous

myrmidons applied ladders to the walls, as if about to carry the place by

assault, and to experience a desperate defence. The alcayde, Miguel Diaz,

and Don Diego de Alvarado, alone appeared on the battlements; they had

drawn swords, but offered no resistance. Bobadilla entered the fortress in

triumph, and without molestation. The prisoners were found in a chamber in

irons. He ordered that they should be brought up to him to the top of the

fortress, where, having put a few questions to them, as a matter of form,

he gave them in charge to an alguazil named Juan de Espinosa. [73]

 

Such was the arrogant and precipitate entrance into office of Francisco de

Bobadilla. He had reversed the order of his written instructions; having

seized upon the government before he had investigated the conduct of

Columbus. He continued his career in the same spirit; acting as if the

case had been prejudged in Spain, and he had been sent out merely to

degrade the admiral from his employments, not to ascertain the manner in

which he had fulfilled them. He took up his residence in the house of

Columbus, seized upon his arms, gold, plate, jewels, horses, together with

his letters, and various manuscripts, both public and private, even to his

most secret papers. He gave no account of the property thus seized; and

which he no doubt considered already confiscated to the crown, excepting

that he paid out of it the wages of those to whom the admiral was in

arrears. [74] To increase his favor with the people, he proclaimed, on the

second day of his assumption of power, a general license for the term of

twenty years, to seek for gold, paying merely one eleventh to government,

instead of a third as heretofore. At the same time, he spoke in the most

disrespectful and unqualified terms of Columbus, saying that he was

empowered to send him home in chains, and that neither he nor any of his

lineage would ever again be permitted to govern in the island. [75]

 

 

 

 

Chapter III.

 

Columbus Summoned to Appear before Bobadilla.

 

[1500.]

 

 

 

When the tidings reached Columbus at Fort Conception of the high-handed

proceedings of Bobadilla, he considered them the unauthorized acts of some

rash adventurer like Ojeda. Since government had apparently thrown open

the door to private enterprise, he might expect to have his path

continually crossed, and his jurisdiction infringed by bold intermeddlers,

feigning or fancying themselves authorized to interfere in the affairs of

the colony. Since the departure of Ojeda another squadron had touched upon

the coast, and produced a transient alarm, being an expedition under one

of the Pinzons, licensed by the sovereigns to make discoveries. There had

also been a rumor of another squadron hovering about the island, which

proved, however, to be unfounded. [76]

 

The conduct of Bobadilla bore all the appearance of a lawless usurpation

of some intruder of the kind. He had possessed himself forcibly of the

fortress, and consequently of the town. He had issued extravagant licenses

injurious to the government, and apparently intended only to make

partisans among the people; and had threatened to throw Columbus himself

in irons. That this man could really be sanctioned by government, in such

intemperate measures, was repugnant to belief. The admiral's consciousness

of his own services, the repeated assurances he had received of high

consideration on the part of the sovereigns, and the perpetual

prerogatives granted to him under their hand and seal, with all the

solemnity that a compact could possess, all forbade him to consider the

transactions at San Domingo otherwise than as outrages on his authority by

some daring or misguided individual.

 

To be nearer to San Domingo, and obtain more correct information, he

proceeded to Bonao, which was now beginning to assume the appearance of a

settlement, several Spaniards having erected houses there, and cultivated

the adjacent country. He had scarcely reached the place, when an alcalde,

bearing a staff of office, arrived there from San Domingo, proclaiming the

appointment of Bobadilla to the government, and bearing copies of his

letters patent. There was no especial letter or message sent to the

admiral, nor were any of the common forms of courtesy and ceremony

observed in superseding him in the command; all the proceedings of

Bobadilla towards him were abrupt and insulting.

 

Columbus was exceedingly embarrassed how to act. It was evident that

Bobadilla was intrusted with extensive powers by the sovereigns, but that

they could have exercised such a sudden, unmerited, and apparently

capricious act of severity, as that of divesting him of all his commands,

he could not believe. He endeavored to persuade himself that Bobadilla was

some person sent out to exercise the functions of chief judge, according

to the request he had written home to the sovereigns, and that they had

intrusted him likewise with provisional powers to make an inquest into the

late troubles of the island. All beyond these powers he tried to believe

were mere assumptions and exaggerations of authority, as in the case of

Aguado. At all events, he was determined to act upon such presumption, and

to endeavor to gain time. If the monarchs had really taken any harsh

measures with respect to him, it must have been in consequence of

misrepresentations. The least delay might give them an opportunity of

ascertaining their error, and making the necessary amends.

 

He wrote to Bobadilla, therefore, in guarded terms, welcoming him to the

island; cautioning him against precipitate measures, especially in

granting licenses to collect gold; informing him that he was on the point

of going to Spain, and in a little time would leave him in command, with

every thing fully and clearly explained. He wrote at the same time to the

like purport to certain monks who had come out with Bobadilla, though he

observes that these letters were only written to gain time. [77] He

received no replies: but while an insulting silence was observed towards

him, Bobadilla filled up several of the blank letters, of which he had a

number signed by the sovereigns, and sent them to Roldan, and other of the

admiral's enemies, the very men whom he had been sent out to judge. These

letters were full of civilities and promises of favor. [78]

 

To prevent any mischief which might arise from the licenses and

indulgences so prodigally granted by Bobadilla, Columbus published by word

and letter, that the powers assumed by him could not be valid, nor his

licenses availing, as he himself held superior powers granted to him in

perpetuity by the crown, which could no more be superseded in this

instance, than they had been in that of Aguado.

 

For some time Columbus remained in this anxious and perplexed state of

mind, uncertain what line of conduct to pursue in so singular and

unlooked-for a conjuncture. He was soon brought to a decision. Francisco

Velasquez, deputy treasurer, and Juan de Trasierra, a Franciscan friar,

arrived at Bonao, and delivered to him the royal letter of credence,

signed by the sovereigns on the 26th of May, 1499, commanding him to give

implicit faith and obedience to Bobadilla; and they delivered, at the same

time, a summons from the latter to appear immediately before him.

 

This laconic letter from the sovereigns struck at once at the root of all

his dignity and power. He no longer made hesitation or demur, but,

complying with the peremptory summons of Bobadilla, departed, almost alone

and unattended, for San Domingo. [79]

 

 

 

 

Chapter IV.

 

Columbus and His Brothers Arrested and Sent to Spain in Chains.

 

[1500.]

 

 

 

The tidings that a new governor had arrived, and that Columbus was in

disgrace, and to be sent home in chains, circulated rapidly through the

Vega, and the colonists hastened from all parts to San Domingo to make

interest with Bobadilla. It was soon perceived that there was no surer way

than that of vilifying his predecessor. Bobadilla felt that he had taken a

rash step in seizing upon the government, and that his own safety required

the conviction of Columbus. He listened eagerly, therefore, to all

accusations, public or private; and welcome was he who could bring any

charge, however extravagant, against the admiral and his brothers.

 

Hearing that the admiral was on his way to the city, he made a bustle of

preparation, and armed the troops, affecting to believe a rumor that

Columbus had called upon the caciques of the Vega to aid him with their

subjects in a resistance to the commands of government. No grounds appear

for this absurd report, which was probably invented to give a coloring of

precaution to subsequent measures of violence and insult. The admiral's

brother, Don Diego, was seized, thrown in irons, and confined on board of

a caravel, without any reason being assigned for his imprisonment.

 

In the meantime Columbus pursued his journey to San Domingo, traveling in

a lonely manner, without guards or retinue. Most of his people were with

the Adelantado, and he had declined being attended by the remainder. He

had heard of the rumors of the hostile intentions of Bobadilla; and

although he knew that violence was threatened to his person, he came in

this unpretending manner, to manifest his pacific feelings, and to remove

all suspicion. [80]

 

No sooner did Bobadilla hear of his arrival, than he gave orders to put

him in irons, and confine him in the fortress. This outrage to a person of

such dignified and venerable appearance, and such eminent merit, seemed,

for the time, to shock even his enemies. When the irons were brought,

every one present shrank from the task of putting them on him, either from

a sentiment of compassion at so great a reverse of fortune, or out of

habitual reverence for his person. To fill the measure of ingratitude

meted out to him, it was one of his own domestics, "a graceless and

shameless cook," says Las Casas, "who, with unwashed front, riveted the

fetters with as much readiness and alacrity, as though he were serving him

with choice and savory viands. I knew the fellow," adds the venerable

historian, "and I think his name was Espinosa." [81]

 

Columbus conducted himself with characteristic magnanimity under the

injuries heaped upon him. There is a noble scorn which swells and supports

the heart, and silences the tongue of the truly great, when enduring the

insults of the unworthy. Columbus could not stoop to deprecate the

arrogance of a weak and violent man like Bobadilla. He looked beyond this

shallow agent, and all his petty tyranny, to the sovereigns who had

employed him. Their injustice or ingratitude alone could wound his spirit;

and he felt assured that when the truth came to be known, they would blush

to find how greatly they had wronged him. With this proud assurance, he

bore all present indignities in silence.

 

Bobadilla, although he had the admiral and Don Diego in his power, and had

secured the venal populace, felt anxious and ill at ease. The Adelantado,

with an armed force under his command, was still in the distant province

of Xaragua, in pursuit of the rebels. Knowing his soldier-like and

determined spirit, he feared he might take some violent measure when he

should hear of the ignominious treatment and imprisonment of his brothers.

He doubted whether any order from himself would have any effect, except to

exasperate the stern Don Bartholomew. He sent a demand, therefore, to

Columbus, to write to his brother, requesting him to repair peaceably to

San Domingo, and forbidding him to execute the persons he held in

confinement: Columbus readily complied. He exhorted his brother to submit

quietly to the authority of his sovereigns, and to endure all present

wrongs and indignities, under the confidence that when they arrived at

Castile, every thing would be explained and redressed. [82]

 

On receiving this letter, Don Bartholomew immediately complied.

Relinquishing his command, he hastened peacefully to San Domingo, and on

arriving experienced the same treatment with his brothers, being put in

irons and confined on board of a caravel. They were kept separate from

each other, and no communication permitted between them. Bobadilla did not

see them himself, nor did he allow others to visit them; but kept them in

ignorance of the cause of their imprisonment, the crimes with which they

were charged, and the process that was going on against them. [83]

 

It has been questioned whether Bobadilla really had authority for the

arrest and imprisonment of the admiral and his brothers; [84]

and whether such violence and indignity was in any case contemplated by

the sovereigns. He may have fancied himself empowered by the clause in the

letter of instructions, dated March 21st, 1499, in which, speaking of the

rebellion of Roldan, "he is authorized to _seize the persons and

sequestrate the property_ of those who appeared to be culpable, and

then to proceed against them and against the absent, with the highest

civil and criminal penalties." This evidently had reference to the persons

of Roldan and his followers, who were then in arms, and against whom

Columbus had sent home complaints; and this, by a violent construction,

Bobadilla seems to have wrested into an authority for seizing the person

of the admiral himself. In fact, in the whole course of his proceedings,

he reversed and confounded the order of his instructions. His first step

should have been to proceed against the rebels; this he made the last. His

last step should have been, in case of ample evidence against the admiral,

to have superseded him in office; and this he made the first, without

waiting for evidence. Having predetermined, from the very outset, that

Columbus was in the wrong, by the same rule he had to presume that all the

opposite parties were in the right. It became indispensable to his own

justification to inculpate the admiral and his brothers; and the rebels he

had been sent to judge became, by this, singular perversion of rule,

necessary and cherished evidences, to criminate those against whom they

had rebelled.

 

The intentions of the crown, however, are not to be vindicated at the

expense of its miserable agent. If proper respect had been felt for the

rights and dignities of Columbus, Bobadilla would never have been

intrusted with powers so extensive, undefined, and discretionary; nor

would he have dared to proceed to such lengths, with such rudeness and

precipitation, had he not felt assured that it would not be displeasing to

the jealous-minded Ferdinand.

 

The old scenes of the time of Aguado were now renewed with tenfold

virulence, and the old charges revived, with others still more

extravagant. From the early and never-to-be-forgotten outrage upon

Castilian pride, of compelling hidalgos, in time of emergency, to labor in

the construction of works necessary to the public safety, down to the

recent charge of levying war against the government, there was not a

hardship, abuse, nor sedition in the island, that was not imputed to the

misdeeds of Columbus and his brothers. Besides the usual accusations of

inflicting oppressive labor, unnecessary tasks, painful restrictions,

short allowances of food, and cruel punishments upon the Spaniards, and

waging unjust wars against the natives, they were now charged with

preventing the conversion of the latter, that they might send them slaves

to Spain, and profit by their sale. This last charge, so contrary to the

pious feelings of the admiral, was founded on his having objected to the

baptism of certain Indians of mature age, until they could be instructed

in the doctrines of Christianity; justly considering it an abuse of that

holy sacrament to administer it thus blindly. [85]

 

Columbus was charged, also, with having secreted pearls, and other

precious articles, collected in his voyage along the coast of Paria, and

with keeping the sovereigns in ignorance of the nature of his discoveries

there, in order to exact new privileges from them; yet it was notorious

that he had sent home specimens of the pearls, and journals and charts of

his voyage, by which others had been enabled to pursue his track.

 

Even the late tumults, now that the rebels were admitted as evidence, were

all turned into matters of accusation. They were represented as spirited

and loyal resistances to tyranny exercised upon the colonists and the

natives. The well-merited punishments inflicted upon certain of the

ring-leaders were cited as proofs of a cruel and revengeful disposition,

and a secret hatred of Spaniards. Bobadilla believed, or affected to

believe, all these charges. He had, in a manner, made the rebels his

confederates in the ruin of Columbus. It was become a common cause with

them. He could no longer, therefore, conduct himself towards them as a

judge. Guevara, Riquelme, and their fellow-convicts, were discharged

almost without the form of a trial, and it is even said were received

into favor and countenance. Roldan, from the very first, had been

treated with confidence by Bobadilla, and honored with his

correspondence. All the others, whose conduct had rendered them liable

to justice, received either a special acquittal or a general pardon. It

was enough to have been opposed in any way to Columbus, to obtain full

justification in the eyes of Bobadilla.

 

The latter had now collected a weight of testimony, and produced a crowd

of witnesses, sufficient, as he conceived, to insure the condemnation of

the prisoners, and his own continuance in command. He determined,

therefore, to send the admiral and his brothers home in chains, in the

vessels ready for sea, transmitting at the same time the inquest taken in

their case, and writing private letters, enforcing the charges made

against them, and advising that Columbus should on no account be restored

to the command, which he had so shamefully abused.

 

San Domingo now swarmed with miscreants just delivered from the dungeon

and the gibbet. It was a perfect jubilee of triumphant villany and dastard

malice. Every base spirit, which had been awed into obsequiousness by

Columbus and his brothers when in power, now started up to revenge itself

upon them when in chains. The most injurious slanders were loudly

proclaimed in the streets; insulting pasquinades and inflammatory libels

were posted up at every corner; and horns were blown in the neighborhood

of their prisons, to taunt them with the exultings of the rabble. [86]

When these rejoicings of his enemies reached him in his dungeon, and

Columbus reflected on the inconsiderate violence already exhibited by

Bobadilla, he knew not how far his rashness and confidence might carry

him, and began to entertain apprehensions for his life.

 

The vessels being ready to make sail, Alonzo de Villejo was appointed to

take charge of the prisoners, and carry them to Spain. This officer had

been brought up by an uncle of Fonseca, was in the employ of that bishop,

and had come out with Bobadilla. The latter instructed him, on arriving at

Cadiz, to deliver his prisoners into the hands of Fonseca, or of his

uncle, thinking thereby to give the malignant prelate a triumphant

gratification. This circumstance gave weight with many to a report that

Bobadilla was secretly instigated and encouraged in his violent measures

by Fonseca, and was promised his protection and influence at court, in

case of any complaints of his conduct. [87]

 

Villejo undertook the office assigned him, but he discharged it in a more

generous manner than was intended. "This Alonzo de Villejo," says the

worthy Las Casas, "was a hidalgo of honorable character, and my particular

friend." He certainly showed himself superior to the low malignity of his

patrons. When he arrived with a guard to conduct the admiral from the

prison to the ship, he found him in chains in a state of silent

despondency. So violently had he been treated, and so savage were the

passions let loose against him, that he feared he should be sacrificed

without an opportunity of being heard, and his name go down sullied and

dishonored to posterity. When he beheld the officer enter with the guard,

he thought it was to conduct him to the scaffold. "Villejo," said he,

mournfully, "whither are you taking me?" "To the ship, your Excellency, to

embark," replied the other. "To embark!" repeated the admiral, earnestly;

"Villejo! do you speak the truth?" "By the life of your Excellency,"

replied the honest officer, "it is true!" With these words the admiral was

comforted, and felt as one restored from death to life. Nothing can be

more touching and expressive than this little colloquy, recorded by the

venerable Las Casas, who doubtless had it from the lips of his friend

Villejo.

 

The caravels set sail early in October, bearing off Columbus shackled like

the vilest of culprits, amidst the scoffs and shouts of a miscreant

rabble, who took a brutal joy in heaping insults on his venerable head,

and sent curses after him from the shores of the island he had so recently

added to the civilized world. Fortunately the voyage was favorable, and of

but moderate duration, and was rendered less disagreeable by the conduct

of those to whom he was given in custody. The worthy Villejo, though in

the service of Fonseca, felt deeply moved at the treatment of Columbus.

The master of the caravel, Andreas Martin, was equally grieved: they both

treated the admiral with profound respect and assiduous attention. They

would have taken off his irons, but to this he would not consent. "No,"

said he proudly, "their majesties commanded me by letter to submit to

whatever Bobadilla should order in their name; by their authority he has

put upon me these chains; I will wear them until they shall order them to

be taken off, and I will preserve them afterwards as relics and memorials

of the reward of my services." [88]

 

"He did so," adds his son Fernando; "I saw them always hanging in his

cabinet, and he requested that when he died they might be buried with

him." [89]

 

 

 

 

 

Book XIV.

 

 

 

 

Chapter I.

 

Sensation in Spain on the Arrival of Columbus in Irons.--His Appearance at

Court.

 

[1500.]

 

 

 

The arrival of Columbus at Cadiz, a prisoner and in chains, produced

almost as great a sensation as his triumphant return from his first

voyage. It was one of those striking and obvious facts, which speak to the

feelings of the multitude, and preclude the necessity of reflection. No

one stopped to inquire into the case. It was sufficient to be told that

Columbus was brought home in irons from the world he had discovered. There

was a general burst of indignation in Cadiz, and in the powerful and

opulent Seville, which was echoed throughout all Spain. If the ruin of

Columbus had been the intention of his enemies, they had defeated their

object by their own violence. One of those reactions took place, so

frequent in the public mind, when persecution is pushed to an unguarded

length. Those of the populace who had recently been loud in their clamor

against Columbus, were now as loud in their reprobation of his treatment,

and a strong sympathy was expressed, against which it would have been

odious for the government to contend.

 

The tidings of his arrival, and of the ignominious manner in which he had

been brought, reached the court at Granada, and filled the halls of the

Alhambra with murmurs of astonishment. Columbus, full of his wrongs, but

ignorant how far they had been authorized by the sovereigns, had forborne

to write to them. In the course of his voyage, however, he had penned a

long letter to Doña Juana de la Torre, the aya of Prince Juan, a lady high

in favor with Queen Isabella. This letter, on his arrival at Cadiz,

Andreas Martin, the captain of the caravel, permitted him to send off

privately by express. It arrived, therefore, before the protocol of the

proceedings instituted by Bobadilla, and from this document the sovereigns

derived their first intimation of his treatment. [90] It contained a

statement of the late transactions of the island, and of the wrongs he had

suffered, written with his usual artlessness and energy. To specify the

contents would be but to recapitulate circumstances already recorded. Some

expressions, however, which burst from him in the warmth of his feelings,

are worthy of being noted. "The slanders of worthless men," says he, "have

done me more injury than all my services have profited me." Speaking of

the misrepresentations to which he was subjected, he observes: "Such is

the evil name which I have acquired, that if I were to build hospitals and

churches, they would be called dens of robbers." After relating in

indignant terms the conduct of Bobadilla, in seeking testimony respecting

his administration from the very men who had rebelled against him, and

throwing himself and his brothers in irons, without letting them know the

offences with which they were charged, "I have been much aggrieved," he

adds, "in that a person should be sent out to investigate my conduct, who

knew that if the evidence which he could send home should appear to be of

a serious nature, he would remain in the government." He complains that,

in forming an opinion of his administration, allowances had not been made

for the extraordinary difficulties with which he had to contend, and the

wild state of the country over which he had to rule. "I was judged," he

observes, "as a governor who had been sent to take charge of a

well-regulated city, under the dominion of well-established laws, where

there was no danger of every thing running to disorder and ruin; but I

ought to be judged as a captain, sent to subdue a numerous and hostile

people, of manners and religion opposite to ours, living not in regular

towns, but in forests and mountains. It ought to be considered that I have

brought all these under subjection to their majesties, giving them

dominion over another world, by which Spain, heretofore poor, has suddenly

become rich. Whatever errors I may have fallen into, they were not with an

evil intention; and I believe their majesties will credit what I say. I

have known them to be merciful to those who have willfully done them

disservice; I am convinced that they will have still more indulgence for

me, who have erred innocently, or by compulsion, as they will hereafter be

more fully informed; and I trust they will consider my great services, the

advantages of which are every day more and more apparent."

 

When this letter was read to the noble-minded Isabella, and she found how

grossly Columbus had been wronged and the royal authority abused, her

heart was filled with mingled sympathy and indignation. The tidings were

confirmed by a letter from the alcalde or corregidor of Cadiz, into whose

hands Columbus and his brothers had been delivered, until the pleasure of

the sovereigns should be known; [91] and by another letter from Alonzo de

Villejo, expressed in terms accordant with his humane and honorable

conduct towards his illustrious prisoner.

 

However Ferdinand might have secretly felt disposed against Columbus, the

momentary tide of public feeling was not to be resisted. He joined with

his generous queen in her reprobation of the treatment of the admiral, and

both sovereigns hastened to give evidence to the world, that his

imprisonment had been without their authority, and contrary to their

wishes. Without waiting to receive any documents that might arrive from

Bobadilla, they sent orders to Cadiz that the prisoners should be

instantly set at liberty, and treated with all distinction. They wrote a

letter to Columbus, couched in terms of gratitude and affection,

expressing their grief at all that he had suffered, and inviting him to

court. They ordered, at the same time, that two thousand ducats should be

advanced to defray his expenses. [92]

 

The loyal heart of Columbus was again cheered by this declaration of his

sovereigns. He felt conscious of his integrity, and anticipated an

immediate restitution of all his rights and dignities. He appeared at

court in Granada on the 17th of December, not as a man ruined and

disgraced, but richly dressed, and attended by an honorable retinue. He

was received by the sovereigns with unqualified favor and distinction.

When the queen beheld this venerable man approach, and thought on all he

had deserved and all he had suffered, she was moved to tears. Columbus had

borne up firmly against the rude conflicts of the world,-he had endured

with lofty scorn the injuries and insults of ignoble men; but he possessed

strong and quick sensibility. When he found himself thus kindly received

by his sovereigns, and beheld tears in the benign eyes of Isabella, his

long-suppressed feelings burst forth: he threw himself on his knees, and

for some time could not utter a word for the violence of his tears and

sobbings. [93]

 

Ferdinand and Isabella raised him from the ground, and endeavored to

encourage him by the most gracious expressions. As soon as he regained

self-possession, he entered into an eloquent and high-minded vindication

of his loyalty, and the zeal he had ever felt for the glory and advantage

of the Spanish crown, declaring that if at any time he had erred, it had

been through inexperience in government, and the extraordinary

difficulties by which he had been surrounded.

 

There needed no vindication on his part. The intemperance of his enemies

had been his best advocate. He stood in presence of his sovereigns a

deeply-injured man, and it remained for them to vindicate themselves to

the world from the charge of ingratitude towards their most deserving

subject. They expressed their indignation at the proceedings of Bobadilla,

which they disavowed, as contrary to their instructions, and declared that

he should be immediately dismissed from his command.

 

In fact, no public notice was taken of the charges sent home by Bobadilla,

nor of the letters written in support of them. The sovereigns took every

occasion to treat Columbus with favor and distinction, assuring him that

his grievances should be redressed, his property restored, and he

reinstated in all his privileges and dignities.

 

It was on the latter point that Columbus was chiefly solicitous. Mercenary

considerations had scarcely any weight in his mind. Glory had been the

great object of his ambition, and he felt that, as long as he remained

suspended from his employments, a tacit censure rested on his name. He

expected, therefore, that the moment the sovereigns should be satisfied of

the rectitude of his conduct, they would be eager to make him amends; that

a restitution of his viceroyalty would immediately take place, and he

should return in triumph to San Domingo. Here, however, he was doomed to

experience a disappointment which threw a gloom over the remainder of his

days. To account for this flagrant want of justice and gratitude in the

crown, it is expedient to notice a variety of events which had materially

affected the interests of Columbus in the eyes of the politic Ferdinand.

 

 

 

 

Chapter II.

 

Contemporary Voyages of Discovery.

 

 

 

The general license granted by the Spanish sovereigns in 1495, to

undertake voyages of discovery, had given rise to various expeditions by

enterprising individuals, chiefly persons who had sailed with Columbus in

his first voyages. The government, unable to fit out many armaments

itself, was pleased to have its territories thus extended, free of cost,

and its treasury at the same time benefited by the share of the proceeds

of these voyages, reserved as a kind of duty to the crown. These

expeditions had chiefly taken place while Columbus was in partial disgrace

with the sovereigns. His own charts and journal served as guides to the

adventurers; and his magnificent accounts of Paria and the adjacent coasts

had chiefly excited their cupidity.

 

Beside the expedition of Ojeda, already noticed, in the course of which he

touched at Xaragua, one had been undertaken at the same time by Pedro

Alonzo Niño, native of Moguer, an able pilot, who had been with Columbus

in the voyages to Cuba and Paria. Having obtained a license, he interested

a rich merchant of Seville in the undertaking, who fitted out a caravel of

fifty tons burden, under condition that his brother Christoval Guevra

should have the command. They sailed from the bar of Saltes, a few days

after Ojeda had sailed from Cadiz, in the spring of 1499, and arriving on

the coast of Terra Firma, to the south of Paria, ran along it for some

distance, passed through the Gulf, and thence went one hundred and thirty

leagues along the shore of the present republic of Columbia, visiting what

was afterwards called the Pearl Coast. They landed in various places;

disposed of their European trifles to immense profit, and returned with a

large store of gold and pearls; having made, in their diminutive bark, one

of the most extensive and lucrative voyages yet accomplished.

 

About the same time, the Pinzons, that family of bold and opulent

navigators, fitted out an armament of four caravels at Palos, manned in a

great measure by their own relations and friends. Several experienced

pilots embarked in it who had been with Columbus to Paria, and it was

commanded by Vicente Yañez Pinzon, who had been captain of a caravel in

the squadron of the admiral on his first voyage.

 

Pinzon was a hardy and experienced seaman, and did not, like the others,

follow closely in the track of Columbus. Sailing in December, 1499, he

passed the Canary and Cape Verde Islands, standing southwest until he lost

sight of the polar star. Here he encountered a terrible storm, and was

exceedingly perplexed and confounded by the new aspect of the heavens.

Nothing was yet known of the southern hemisphere, nor of the beautiful

constellation of the cross, which in those regions has since supplied to

mariners the place of the north star. The voyagers had expected to find at

the south pole a star correspondent to that of the north. They were

dismayed at beholding no guide of the kind, and thought there must be some

prominent swelling of the earth, which hid the pole from their view.

[94]

 

Pinzon continued on, however, with great intrepidity. On the 26th of

January, 1500, he saw, at a distance, a great headland, which he called

Cape Santa Maria de la Consolacion, but which has since been named Cape

St. Augustine. He landed and took possession of the country in the name of

their catholic majesties; being a part of the territories since called the

Brazils. Standing thence westward, he discovered the Maragnon, since

called the River of the Amazons; traversed the Gulf of Paria, and

continued across the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, until he found

himself among the Bahamas, where he lost two of his vessels on the rocks,

near the island of Jumeto. He returned to Palos in September, having added

to his former glory that of being the first European who had crossed the

equinoctial line in the western ocean, and of having discovered the famous

kingdom of Brazil, from its commencement at the River Maragnon to its most

eastern point. As a reward for his achievements, power was granted to him

to colonize and govern the lands which he had discovered, and which

extended southward from a little beyond the River of Maragnon to Cape St.

Augustine. [95]

 

The little port of Palos, which had been so slow in furnishing the first

squadron for Columbus, was now continually agitated by the passion for

discovery. Shortly after the sailing of Pinzon, another expedition was

fitted out there, by Diego Lepe, a native of the place, and manned by his

adventurous townsmen. He sailed in the same direction with Pinzon; but

discovered more of the southern continent than any other voyager of the

day, or for twelve years afterwards. He doubled Cape St. Augustine, and

ascertained that the coast beyond ran to the southwest. He landed and

performed the usual ceremonies of taking possession in the name of the

Spanish sovereigns, and in one place carved their names on a magnificent

tree, of such enormous magnitude, that seventeen men with their hands

joined could not embrace the trunk. What enhanced the merit of his

discoveries was, that he had never sailed with Columbus. He had with him,

however, several skillful pilots, who had accompanied the admiral in his

voyage. [96]

 

Another expedition of two vessels sailed from Cadiz, in October, 1500,

under the command of Rodrigo Bastides of Seville. He explored the coast of

Terra Firma, passing Cape de la Vela, the western limits of the previous

discoveries on the main-land, continuing on to a port since called The

Retreat, where afterwards was founded the seaport of Nombre de Dios. His

vessels being nearly destroyed by the teredo, or worm which abounds in

those seas, he had great difficulty in reaching Xaragua in Hispaniola,

where he lost his two caravels, and proceeded with his crew by land to San

Domingo. Here he was seized and imprisoned by Bobadilla, under pretext

that he had treated for gold with the natives of Xaragua. [97]

 

Such was the swarm of Spanish expeditions immediately resulting from the

enterprises of Columbus; but others were also undertaken by foreign

nations. In the year 1497, Sebastian Cabot, son of a Venetian merchant

resident in Bristol, sailing in the service of Henry VII of England,

navigated to the northern seas of the New World. Adopting the idea of

Columbus, he sailed in quest of the shores of Cathay, and hoped to find a

northwest passage to India. In this voyage he discovered Newfoundland,

coasted Labrador to the fifty-sixth degree of north latitude, and then

returning, ran down southwest to the Floridas, when, his provisions

beginning to fail, he returned to England. [98] But vague and scanty

accounts of this voyage exist, which was important as including the first

discovery of the northern continent of the New World.

 

The discoveries of rival nations, however, which most excited the

attention and jealousy of the Spanish crown, were those of the Portuguese.

Vasco de Gama, a man of rank and consummate talent and intrepidity, had,

at length, accomplished the great design of the late Prince Henry of

Portugal, and by doubling the Cape of Good Hope, in the year 1497, had

opened the long-sought-for route to India.

 

Immediately after Gama's return, a fleet of thirteen sail was fitted out

to visit the magnificent countries of which he brought accounts. This

expedition sailed on the 9th of March, 1500, for Calicut, under the

command of Pedro Alvarez de Cabral. Having passed the Cape de Verde

Islands, he sought to avoid the calms prevalent on the coast of Guinea, by

stretching far to the west. Suddenly, on the 25th of April, he came in

sight of land unknown to any one in his squadron; for, as yet, they had

not heard of the discoveries of Pinzon and Lepe. He at first supposed it

to be some great island; but after coasting it for some time, he became

persuaded that it must be part of a continent. Having ranged along it

somewhat beyond the fifteenth degree of southern latitude, he landed at a

harbor which he called Porto Securo, and taking possession of the country

for the crown of Portugal, dispatched a ship to Lisbon with the important

tidings. [99] In this way did the Brazils come into the possession of

Portugal, being to the eastward of the conventional line settled with

Spain as the boundaries of their respective territories. Dr. Robertson,

in recording this voyage of Cabral, concludes with one of his just and

elegant remarks.

 

"Columbus's discovery of the New World was," he observes, "the effort of

an active genius, guided by experience, and acting upon a regular plan,

executed with no less courage than perseverance. But from this adventure

of the Portuguese, it appears that chance might have accomplished that

great design, which it is now the pride of human reason to have formed and

perfected. If the sagacity of Columbus had not conducted mankind to

America, Cabral, by a fortunate accident, might have led them, a few years

later, to the knowledge of that extensive continent." [100]

 

 

 

 

Chapter III.

 

Nicholas de Ovando Appointed to Supersede Bobadilla.

 

[1501.]

 

 

 

The numerous discoveries briefly noticed in the preceding chapter had

produced a powerful effect upon the mind of Ferdinand. His ambition, his

avarice, and his jealousy were equally inflamed. He beheld boundless

regions, teeming with all kinds of riches, daily opening before the

enterprises of his subjects; but he beheld at the same time other nations

launching forth into competition, emulous for a share of the golden world

which he was eager to monopolize. The expeditions of the English, and the

accidental discovery of the Brazils by the Portuguese, caused him much

uneasiness. To secure his possession of the continent, he determined to

establish local governments or commands, in the most important places, all

to be subject to a general government, established at San Domingo, which

was to be the metropolis.

 

With these considerations, the government, heretofore granted to Columbus,

had risen vastly in importance; and while the restitution of it was the

more desirable in his eyes, it became more and more a matter of repugnance

to the selfish and jealous monarch. He had long repented having vested

such great powers and prerogatives in any subject, particularly in a

foreigner. At the time of granting them, he had no anticipation of such

boundless countries to be placed under his command. He appeared almost to

consider himself outwitted by Columbus in the arrangement; and every

succeeding discovery, instead of increasing his grateful sense of the

obligation, only made him repine the more at the growing magnitude of the

reward. At length, however, the affair of Bobadilla had effected a

temporary exclusion of Columbus from his--high office, and that without

any odium to the crown, and the wary monarch, secretly determined that the

door thus closed between him and his dignities should never again be

opened.

 

Perhaps Ferdinand may really have entertained doubts as to the innocence

of Columbus, with respect to the various charges made against him. He may

have doubted also the sincerity of his loyalty, being a stranger, when he

should find himself strong in his command, at a great distance from the

parent country, with immense and opulent regions under his control.

Columbus, himself, in his letters, alludes to reports circulated by his

enemies, that he intended either to set up an independent sovereignty, or

to deliver his discoveries into the hands of other potentates; and he

appears to fear that these slanders might have made some impression on the

mind of Ferdinand. But there was one other consideration which had no less

force with the monarch in withholding this great act of justice--Columbus

was no longer indispensable to him. He had made his great discovery; he

had struck out the route to the New World, and now any one could follow

it. A number of able navigators had sprung up under his auspices, and

acquired experience in his voyages. They were daily besieging the throne

with offers to fit out expeditions at their own cost, and to yield a share

of the profits to the crown. Why should he, therefore, confer princely

dignities and prerogatives for that which men were daily offering to

perform gratuitously?

 

Such, from his after conduct, appears to have been the jealous and selfish

policy which actuated Ferdinand in forbearing to reinstate Columbus in

those dignities and privileges so solemnly granted to him by treaty, and

which it was acknowledged he had never forfeited by misconduct.

 

This deprivation, however, was declared to be but temporary; and plausible

reasons were given for the delay in his reappointment. It was observed

that the elements of those violent factions, recently in arms against him,

yet existed in the island; his immediate return might produce fresh

exasperation; his personal safety might be endangered, and the island

again thrown into confusion. Though Bobadilla, therefore, was to be

immediately dismissed from command, it was deemed advisable to send out

some officer of talent and discretion to supersede him, who might

dispassionately investigate the recent disorders, remedy the abuses which

had arisen, and expel all dissolute and factious persons from the colony.

He should hold the government for two years, by which time it was trusted

that all angry passions would be allayed, and turbulent individuals

removed: Columbus might then resume the command with comfort to himself

and advantage to the crown. With these reasons, and the promise which

accompanied them, Columbus was obliged to content himself. There can be no

doubt that they were sincere on the part of Isabella, and that it was her

intention to reinstate him in the full enjoyment of his rights and

dignities, after his apparently necessary suspension. Ferdinand, however,

by his subsequent conduct, has forfeited all claim to any favorable

opinion of the kind.

 

The person chosen to supersede Bobadilla was Don Nicholas de Ovando,

commander of Lares, of the order of Alcantara. He is described as of the

middle size, fair complexioned, with a red beard, and a modest look, yet a

tone of authority. He was fluent in speech, and gracious and courteous in

his manners. A man of great prudence, says Las Casas, and capable of

governing many people, but not of governing the Indians, on whom he

inflicted incalculable injuries. He possessed great veneration for

justice, was an enemy to avarice, sober in his mode of living, and of such

humility, that when he rose afterwards to be grand commander of the order

of Alcantara, he would never allow himself to be addressed by the title of

respect attached to it. [101] Such is the picture drawn of him by

historians; but his conduct in several important instances is in direct

contradiction to it. He appears to have been plausible and subtle, as well

as fluent and courteous; his humility concealed a great love of command,

and in his transactions with Columbus he was certainly both ungenerous and

unjust.

 

The various arrangements to be made, according to the new plan of colonial

government, delayed for some time the departure of Ovando. In the

meantime, every arrival brought intelligence of the disastrous state of

the island, under the mal-administration of Bobadilla. He had commenced

his career by an opposite policy to that of Columbus. Imagining that

rigorous rule had been the rock on which his predecessors had split, he

sought to conciliate the public by all kinds of indulgence. Having at the

very outset relaxed the reins of justice and morality, he lost all command

over the community; and such disorder and licentiousness ensued, that

many, even of the opponents of Columbus, looked back with regret upon the

strict but wholesome rule of himself and the Adelantado.

 

Bobadilla was not so much a bad as an imprudent and a weak man. He had not

considered the dangerous excesses to which his policy would lead. Rash in

grasping authority, he was feeble and temporizing in the exercise of it:

he could not look beyond the present exigency. One dangerous indulgence

granted to the colonists called for another; each was ceded in its turn,

and thus he went on from error to error,--showing that in government there

is as much danger to be apprehended from a weak as from a bad man.

 

He had sold the farms and estates of the crown at low prices, observing

that it was not the wish of the monarchs to enrich themselves by them, but

that they should redound to the profit of their subjects. He granted

universal permission to work the mines, exacting only an eleventh of the

produce for the crown. To prevent any diminution in the revenue, it became

necessary, of course, to increase the quantity of gold collected. He

obliged the caciques, therefore, to furnish each Spaniard with Indians, to

assist him both in the labors of the field and of the mine. To carry this

into more complete effect, he made an enumeration of the natives of the

island, reduced them into classes, and distributed them, according to his

favor or caprice, among the colonists. The latter, at his suggestion,

associated themselves in partnerships of two persons each, who were to

assist one another with their respective capitals and Indians, one

superintending the labors of the field, and the other the search for gold.

The only injunction of Bobadilla was, to produce large quantities of ore.

He had one saying continually in his mouth, which shows the pernicious and

temporizing principle upon which he acted: "Make the most of your time,"

he would say, "there is no knowing how long it will last," alluding to the

possibility of his being speedily recalled. The colonists acted up to his

advice, and so hard did they drive the poor natives, that the eleventh

yielded more revenue to the crown than had ever been produced by the third

under the government of Columbus. In the meantime, the unhappy natives

suffered under all kinds of cruelties from their inhuman taskmasters.

Little used to labor, feeble of constitution, and accustomed in their

beautiful and luxuriant island to a life of ease and freedom, they sank

under the toils imposed upon them, and the severities by which they were

enforced. Las Casas gives an indignant picture of the capricious tyranny

exercised over the Indians by worthless Spaniards, many of whom had been

transported convicts from the dungeons of Castile. These wretches, who in

their own countries had been the vilest among the vile, here assumed the

tone of grand cavaliers. They insisted upon being attended by trains of

servants. They took the daughters and female relations of caciques for

their domestics, or rather for their concubines, nor did they limit

themselves in number. When they traveled, instead of using the horses and

mules with which they were provided, they obliged the natives to transport

them upon their shoulders in litters, or hammocks, with others attending

to hold umbrellas of palm-leaves over their heads to keep off the sun, and

fans of feathers to cool them; and Las Casas affirms that he has seen the

backs and shoulders of the unfortunate Indians who bore these litters raw

and bleeding from the task. When these arrogant upstarts arrived at an

Indian village, they consumed and lavished away the provisions of the

inhabitants, seizing upon whatever pleased their caprice, and obliging the

cacique and his subjects to dance before them for their amusement. Their

very pleasures were attended with cruelty. They never addressed the

natives but in the most degrading terms, and on the least offence, or the

least freak of ill-humor, inflicted blows and lashes, and even death

itself. [102]

 

Such is but a faint picture of the evils which sprang up under the feeble

rule of Bobadilla; and are sorrowfully described by Las Casas, from actual

observation, as he visited the island just at the close of his

administration. Bobadilla had trusted to the immense amount of gold, wrung

from the miseries of the natives, to atone for all errors, and secure

favor with the sovereigns; but he had totally mistaken his course. The

abuses of his government soon reached the royal ear, and above all, the

wrongs of the natives reached the benevolent heart of Isabella. Nothing

was more calculated to arouse her indignation, and she urged the speedy

departure of Ovando, to put a stop to these enormities.

 

In conformity to the plan already mentioned, the government of Ovando

extended over the islands and Terra Firma, of which Hispaniola was to be

the metropolis. He was to enter upon the exercise of his powers

immediately upon his arrival, by procuration, sending home Bobadilla by

the return of the fleet. He was instructed to inquire diligently into the

late abuses, punishing the delinquents without favor or partiality, and

removing all worthless persons from the island. He was to revoke

immediately the license granted by Bobadilla for the general search after

gold, it having been given without royal authority. He was to require, for

the crown, a third of what was already collected, and one half of all that

should be collected in future. He was empowered to build towns, granting

them the privileges enjoyed by municipal corporations of Spain, and

obliging the Spaniards, and particularly the soldiers, to reside in them,

instead of scattering themselves over the island. Among many sage

provisions, there were others injurious and illiberal, characteristic of

an age when the principles of commerce were but little understood; but

which were continued by Spain long after the rest of the world had

discarded them as the errors of dark and unenlightened times. The crown

monopolized the trade of the colonies. No one could carry merchandises

there on his own account. A royal factor was appointed, through whom alone

were to be obtained supplies of European articles. The crown reserved to

itself not only exclusive property in the mines, but in precious stones,

and like objects of extraordinary value, and also in dyewoods. No

strangers, and above all, no Moors nor Jews, were permitted to establish

themselves in the island, nor to go upon voyages of discovery. Such were

some of the restrictions upon trade which Spain imposed upon her colonies,

and which were followed up by others equally illiberal. Her commercial

policy has been the scoff of modern times; but may not the present

restrictions on trade, imposed by the most intelligent nations, be equally

the wonder and the jest of future ages?

 

Isabella was particularly careful in providing for the kind treatment of

the Indians. Ovando was ordered to assemble the caciques, and declare to

them, that the sovereigns took them and their people under their especial

protection. They were merely to pay tribute like other subjects of the

crown, and it was to be collected with the utmost mildness and gentleness.

Great pains were to be taken in their religious instruction; for which

purpose twelve Franciscan friars were sent out, with a prelate named

Antonio de Espinal, a venerable and pious man. This was the first formal

introduction of the Franciscan order into the New World. [103]

 

All these precautions with respect to the natives were defeated by one

unwary provision. It was permitted that the Indians might be compelled to

work in the mines, and in other employments; but this was limited to the

royal service. They were to be engaged as hired laborers, and punctually

paid. This provision led to great abuses and oppressions, and was

ultimately as fatal to the natives as could have been the most absolute

slavery.

 

But, with that inconsistency frequent in human conduct, while the

sovereigns were making regulations for the relief of the Indians, they

encouraged a gross invasion of the rights and welfare of another race of

human beings. Among their various decrees on this occasion, we find the

first trace of negro slavery in the New World. It was permitted to carry

to the colony negro slaves born among Christians; [104] that is to say,

slaves born in Seville and other parts of Spain, the children and

descendants of natives brought from the Atlantic coast of Africa, where

such traffic had for some time been carried on by the Spaniards and

Portuguese. There are signal events in the course of history, which

sometimes bear the appearance of temporal judgments. It is a fact worthy

of observation, that Hispaniola, the place where this flagrant sin against

nature and humanity was first introduced into the New World, has been the

first to exhibit an awful retribution.

 

Amidst the various concerns which claimed the attention of the sovereigns,

the interests of Columbus were not forgotten. Ovando was ordered to

examine into all his accounts, without undertaking to pay them off. He was

to ascertain the damages he had sustained by his imprisonment, the

interruption of his privileges, and the confiscation of his effects. All

the property confiscated by Bobadilla was to be restored; or if it had

been sold, to be made good. If it had been employed in the royal service,

Columbus was to be indemnified out of the treasury; if Bobadilla had

appropriated it to his own use, he was to account for it out of his

private purse. Equal care was to be taken to indemnify the brothers of the

admiral for the losses they had wrongfully suffered by their arrest.

 

Columbus was likewise to receive the arrears of his revenues; and the same

were to be punctually paid to him in future. He was permitted to have a

factor resident in the island, to be present at the melting and marking of

the gold, to collect his dues, and in short to attend to all his affairs.

To this office he appointed Alonzo Sanchez de Carvajal; and the sovereigns

commanded that his agent should be treated with great respect.

 

The fleet appointed to convey Ovando to his government was the largest

that had yet sailed to the New World. It consisted of thirty sail, five of

them from ninety to one hundred and fifty tons burden, twenty-four

caravels from thirty to ninety, and one bark of twenty-five tons. [105]

The number of souls embarked in this fleet was about twenty-five hundred;

many of them persons of rank and distinction, with their families.

 

That Ovando might appear with dignity in his new office, he was allowed to

use silks, brocades, precious stones, and other articles of sumptuous

attire, prohibited at that time in Spain, in consequence of the ruinous

ostentation of the nobility. He was permitted to have seventy-two

esquires, as his body-guard, ten of whom were horsemen. With this

expedition sailed Don Alonzo Maldonado, appointed as alguazil mayor, or

chief justice, in place of Roldan, who was to be sent to Spain. There were

artisans of various kinds: to these were added a physician, surgeon, and

apothecary; and seventy-three married men [106] with their families, all

of respectable character, destined to be distributed in four towns, and to

enjoy peculiar privileges, that they might form the basis of a sound and

useful population. They were to displace an equal number of the idle and

dissolute who were to be sent from the island: this excellent measure had

been especially urged and entreated by Columbus. There was also

live-stock, artillery, arms, munitions of all kinds; every thing, in

short, that was required for the supply of the island.

 

Such was the style in which Ovando, a favorite of Ferdinand, and a native

subject of rank, was fitted out to enter upon the government withheld from

Columbus. The fleet put to sea on the thirteenth of February, 1502. In the

early part of the voyage it was encountered by a terrible storm; one of

the ships foundered, with one hundred and twenty passengers; the others

were obliged to throw overboard every thing on deck, and were completely

scattered. The shores of Spain were strewed with articles from the fleet,

and a rumor spread that all the ships had perished. When this reached the

sovereigns, they were so overcome with grief that they shut themselves up

for eight days, and admitted no one to their presence. The rumor proved to

be incorrect: but one ship was lost. The others assembled again at the

island of Gomera in the Canaries, and, pursuing their voyage, arrived at

San Domingo on the 15th of April. [107]

 

 

 

 

Chapter IV.

 

Proposition of Columbus Relative to the Recovery of the Holy Sepulchre.

 

[1500-1501.]

 

 

 

Columbus remained in the city of Granada upwards of nine months,

endeavoring to extricate his affairs from the confusion into which they

had been thrown by the rash conduct of Bobadilla, and soliciting the

restoration of his offices and dignities. During this time he constantly

experienced the smiles and attentions of the sovereigns, and promises were

repeatedly made him that he should ultimately be reinstated in all his

honors. He had long since, however, ascertained the great interval that

may exist between promise and performance in a court. Had he been of a

morbid and repining spirit, he had ample food for misanthropy. He beheld

the career of glory which he had opened, thronged by favored adventurers;

he witnessed preparations making to convey with unusual pomp a successor

to that government from which he had been so wrongfully and rudely

ejected; in the meanwhile his own career was interrupted, and as far as

public employ is a gauge of royal favor, he remained apparently in

disgrace.

 

His sanguine temperament was not long to be depressed; if checked in one

direction it broke forth in another. His visionary imagination was an

internal light, which, in the darkest times, repelled all outward gloom,

and filled his mind with splendid images and glorious speculations. In

this time of evil, his vow to furnish, within seven years from the time of

his discovery, fifty thousand foot-soldiers, and five thousand horse, for

the recovery of the holy sepulchre, recurred to his memory with peculiar

force. The time had elapsed, but the vow remained unfulfilled, and the

means to perform it had failed him. The New World, with all its treasures,

had as yet produced expense instead of profit; and so far from being in a

situation to set armies on foot by his own contributions, he found himself

without property, without power, and without employ.

 

Destitute of the means of accomplishing his pious intentions, he

considered it his duty to incite the sovereigns to the enterprise; and he

felt emboldened to do so, from having originally proposed it as the great

object to which the profits of his discoveries should be dedicated. He set

to work, therefore, with his accustomed zeal, to prepare arguments for the

purpose. During the intervals of business, he sought into the prophecies

of the holy Scriptures, the writings of the fathers, and all kinds of

sacred and speculative sources, for mystic portents and revelations which

might be construed to bear upon the discovery of the New World, the

conversion of the Gentiles, and the recovery of the holy sepulchre: three

great events which he supposed to be predestined to succeed each other.

These passages, with the assistance of a Carthusian friar, he arranged in

order, illustrated by poetry, and collected into a manuscript volume, to

be delivered to the sovereigns. He prepared, at the same time, a long

letter, written with his usual fervor of spirit and simplicity of heart.

It is one of those singular compositions which lay open the visionary part

of his character, and show the mystic and speculative reading with which

he was accustomed to nurture his solemn and soaring imagination.

 

In this letter he urged the sovereigns to set on foot a crusade for the

deliverance of Jerusalem from the power of the unbelievers. He entreated

them not to reject his present advice as extravagant and impracticable,

nor to heed the discredit that might be cast upon it by others; reminding

them that his great scheme of discovery had originally been treated with

similar contempt. He avowed in the fullest manner his persuasion, that,

from his earliest infancy, he had been chosen by Heaven for the

accomplishment of those two great designs, the discovery of the New World,

and the rescue of the holy sepulchre. For this purpose, in his tender

years, he had been guided by a divine impulse to embrace the profession of

the sea, a mode of life, he observes, which produces an inclination to

inquire into the mysteries of nature; and he had been gifted with a

curious spirit, to read all kinds of chronicles, geographical treatises,

and works of philosophy. In meditating upon these, his understanding had

been opened by the Deity, "as with a palpable hand," so as to discover the

navigation to the Indies, and he had been inflamed with ardor to undertake

the enterprise. "Animated as by a heavenly fire," he adds, "I came to your

highnesses: all who heard of my enterprise mocked at it; all the sciences

I had acquired profited me nothing; seven years did I pass in your royal

court, disputing the case with persons of great authority and learned in

all the arts, and in the end they decided that all was vain. In your

highnesses alone remained faith and constancy. Who will doubt that this

light was from the holy Scriptures, illumining you as well as myself with

rays of marvelous brightness?"

 

These ideas, so repeatedly, and solemnly, and artlessly expressed, by a

man of the fervent piety of Columbus, show how truly his discovery arose

from the working of his own mind, and not from information furnished by

others. He considered it a divine intimation, a light from Heaven, and the

fulfillment of what had been fortold by our Saviour and the prophets.

Still he regarded it but as a minor event, preparatory to the great

enterprise, the recovery of the holy sepulchre. He pronounced it a miracle

effected by Heaven, to animate himself and others to that holy

undertaking; and he assured the sovereigns that, if they had faith in his

present as in his former proposition, they would assuredly be rewarded

with equally triumphant success. He conjured them not to heed the sneers

of such as might scoff at him as one unlearned, as an ignorant mariner, a

worldly man; reminding them that the Holy Spirit works not merely in the

learned, but also in the ignorant; nay, that it reveals things to come,

not merely by rational beings, but by prodigies in animals, and by mystic

signs in the air and in the heavens.

 

The enterprise here suggested by Columbus, however idle and extravagant it

may appear in the present day, was in unison with the temper of the times,

and of the court to which it was proposed. The vein of mystic erudition by

which it was enforced, likewise, was suited to an age when the reveries of

the cloister still controlled the operations of the cabinet and the camp.

The spirit of the crusades had not yet passed away. In the cause of the

church, and at the instigation of its dignitaries, every cavalier was

ready to draw his sword; and religion mingled a glowing and devoted

enthusiasm with the ordinary excitement of warfare. Ferdinand was a

religious bigot; and the devotion of Isabella went as near to bigotry as

her liberal mind and magnanimous spirit would permit. Both the sovereigns

were under the influence of ecclesiastical politicians, constantly guiding

their enterprises in a direction to redound to the temporal power and

glory of the church. The recent conquest of Granada had been considered a

European crusade, and had gained to the sovereigns the epithet of

Catholic. It was natural to think of extending their sacred victories

still further, and retaliating upon the infidels their domination of Spain

and their long triumphs over the cross. In fact, the Duke of Medina

Sidonia had made a recent inroad into Barbary, in the course of which he

had taken the city of Melilla, and his expedition had been pronounced a

renewal of the holy wars against the infidels in Africa. [108]

 

There was nothing, therefore, in the proposition of Columbus that could be

regarded as preposterous, considering the period and circumstances in

which it was made, though it strongly illustrates his own enthusiastic and

visionary character. It must be recollected that it was meditated in the

courts of the Alhambra, among the splendid remains of Moorish grandeur,

where, but a few years before, he had beheld the standard of the faith

elevated in triumph above the symbols of infidelity. It appears to have

been the offspring of one of those moods of high excitement, when, as has

been observed, his soul was elevated by the contemplation of his great and

glorious office; when he considered himself under divine inspiration,

imparting the will of Heaven, and fulfilling the high and holy purposes

for which he had been predestined. [109]

 

 

 

 

Chapter V.

 

Preparations of Columbus for a Fourth Voyage of Discovery.

 

[1501-1502.]

 

 

 

The speculation relative to the recovery of the holy sepulchre held but a

temporary sway over the mind of Columbus. His thoughts soon returned, with

renewed ardor, to their wonted channel. He became impatient of inaction,

and soon conceived a leading object for another enterprise of discovery.

The achievement of Vasco de Gama, of the long-attempted navigation to

India by the Cape of Good Hope, was one of the signal events of the day.

Pedro Alvarez Cabral, following in his track, had made a most successful

voyage, and returned with his vessels laden with the precious commodities

of the East. The riches of Calicut were now the theme of every tongue, and

the splendid trade now opened in diamonds and precious stones from the

mines of Hindostan; in pearls, gold, silver, amber, ivory, and porcelain;

in silken stuffs, costly woods, gums, aromatics, and spices of all kinds.

The discoveries of the savage regions of the New World, as yet, brought

little revenue to Spain; but this route, suddenly opened to the luxurious

countries of the East, was pouring immediate wealth into Portugal.

 

Columbus was roused to emulation by these accounts. He now conceived the

idea of a voyage, in which, with his usual enthusiasm, he hoped to surpass

not merely the discovery of Vasco de Gama, but even those of his own

previous expeditions. According to his own observations in his voyage to

Paria, and the reports of other navigators, who had pursued the same route

to a greater distance, it appeared that the coast of Terra Firma stretched

far to the west. The southern coast of Cuba, which he considered a part of

the Asiatic continent, stretched onwards towards the same point. The

currents of the Caribbean sea must pass between those lands. He was

persuaded, therefore, that there must be a strait existing somewhere

thereabout, opening into the Indian sea. The situation in which he placed

his conjectural strait, was somewhere about what at present is called the

Isthmus of Darien. [110] Could he but discover such a passage, and thus

link the New world he had discovered with the opulent oriental regions of

the old, he felt that he should make a magnificent close to his labors,

and consummate this great object of his existence.

 

When he unfolded his plan to the sovereigns, it was listened to with great

attention. Certain of the royal council, it is said, endeavored to throw

difficulties in the way; observing that the various exigencies of the

times, and the low state of the royal treasury, rendered any new

expedition highly inexpedient. They intimated also that Columbus ought not

to be employed, until his good conduct in Hispaniola was satisfactorily

established by letters from Ovando. These narrow-minded suggestions failed

in their aim: Isabella had implicit confidence in the integrity of

Columbus. As to the expense, she felt that while furnishing so powerful a

fleet and splendid retinue to Ovando, to take possession of his

government, it would be ungenerous and ungrateful to refuse a few ships to

the discoverer of the New World, to enable him to prosecute his

illustrious enterprises. As to Ferdinand, his cupidity was roused at the

idea of being soon put in possession of a more direct and safe route to

those countries with which the crown of Portugal was opening so lucrative

a trade. The project also would occupy the admiral for a considerable

time, and, while it diverted him from claims of an inconvenient nature,

would employ his talents in a way most beneficial to the crown. However

the king might doubt his abilities as a legislator, he had the highest

opinion of his skill and judgment as a navigator. If such a strait as the

one supposed were really in existence, Columbus vas, of all men in the

world, the one to discover it. His proposition, therefore, was promptly

acceded to; he was authorized to fit out an armament immediately; and

repaired to Seville in the autumn of 1501, to make the necessary

preparations.

 

Though this substantial enterprise diverted his attention from his

romantic expedition for the recovery of the holy sepulchre, it still

continued to haunt his mind. He left his manuscript collection of

researches among the prophecies in the hands of a devout friar of the name

of Gaspar Gorricio, who assisted to complete it. In February, also, he

wrote a letter to Pope Alexander VII, in which he apologizes, on account

of indispensable occupations, for not having repaired to Rome, according

to his original intention, to give an account of his grand discoveries.

After briefly relating them, he adds that his enterprises had been

undertaken with intent of dedicating the gains to the recovery of the holy

sepulchre. He mentions his vow to furnish, within seven years, fifty

thousand foot and five thousand horse for the purpose, and another of like

force within five succeeding years. This pious intention, he laments, had

been impeded by the arts of the devil, and he feared, without divine aid,

would be entirely frustrated, as the government which had been granted to

him in perpetuity had been taken from him. He informs his Holiness of his

being about to embark on another voyage, and promises solemnly, on his

return, to repair to Rome without delay, to relate everything by word of

mouth, as well as to present him with an account of his voyages, which he

had kept from the commencement to the present time, in the style of the

Commentaries of Caesar. [111]

 

It was about this time, also, that he sent his letter on the subject of

the sepulchre to the sovereigns, together with the collection of

prophecies. [112] We have no account of the manner in which the

proposition was received. Ferdinand, with all his bigotry, was a shrewd

and worldly prince. Instead of a chivalrous crusade against Jerusalem,

he preferred making a pacific arrangement with the Grand Soldan of Egypt,

who had menaced the destruction of the sacred edifice. He dispatched,

therefore, the learned Peter Martyr, so distinguished for his historical

writings, as ambassador to the Soldan, by whom all ancient grievances

between the two powers were satisfactorily adjusted, and arrangements

made for the conservation of the holy sepulchre, and the protection of

all Christian pilgrims resorting to it.

 

In the meantime Columbus went on with the preparations for his

contemplated voyage, though but slowly, owing, as Charlevoix intimates, to

the artifices and delays of Fonseca and his agents. He craved permission

to touch at the island of Hispaniola for supplies on his outward voyage.

This, however, the sovereigns forbade, knowing that he had many enemies in

the island, and that the place would be in great agitation from the

arrival of Ovando, and the removal of Bobadilla. They consented, however,

that he should touch there briefly on his return, by which time they hoped

the island would be restored to tranquillity. He was permitted to take

with him, in this expedition, his brother the Adelantado, and his son

Fernando, then in his fourteenth year; also two or three persons learned

in Arabic, to serve as interpreters, in case he should arrive at the

dominions of the Grand Khan, or of any other Eastern prince where that

language might be spoken, or partially known. In reply to letters relative

to the ultimate restoration of his rights, and to matters concerning his

family, the sovereigns wrote him a letter, dated March 14, 1502, from

Valencia de Torre, in which they again solemnly assured him that their

capitulations with him should be fulfilled to the letter, and the

dignities therein ceded enjoyed by him, and his children after him; and if

it should be necessary to confirm them anew, they would do so, and secure

them to his son. Beside which, they expressed their disposition to bestow

further honors and rewards upon himself, his brothers, and his children.

They entreated him, therefore, to depart in peace and confidence, and to

leave all his concerns in Spain to the management of his son Diego.

[113]

 

This was the last letter that Columbus received from the sovereigns, and

the assurances it contained were as ample and absolute as he could desire.

Recent circumstances, however, had apparently rendered him dubious of the

future. During the time that he passed in Seville, previous to his

departure, he took measures to secure his fame, and preserve the claims of

his family, by placing them under the guardianship of his native country.

He had copies of all the letters, grants, and privileges from the

sovereigns, appointing him admiral, viceroy, and governor of the Indies,

copied and authenticated before the alcaldes of Seville. Two sets of these

were transcribed, together with his letter to the nurse of Prince Juan,

containing a circumstantial and eloquent vindication of his rights; and

two letters to the Bank of St. George, at Genoa, assigning to it the tenth

of his revenues, to be employed in diminishing the duties on corn and

other provisions;--a truly benevolent and patriotic donation, intended for

the relief of the poor of his native city. These two sets of documents he

sent by different individuals to his friend, Doctor Nicolo Oderigo,

formerly ambassador from Genoa to the court of Spain, requesting him to

preserve them in some safe deposit, and to apprise his son Diego of the

same. His dissatisfaction at the conduct of the Spanish court may have

been the cause of this precautionary measure, that an appeal to the world,

or to posterity, might be in the power of his descendants, in case he

should perish in the course of his voyage. [114]

 

 

 

 

 

Book XV.

 

 

 

 

Chapter I.

 

Departure of Columbus on His Fourth Voyage.--Refused Admission to the

Harbor of San Domingo.--Exposed to a Violent Tempest.

 

[1502.]

 

 

 

Age was rapidly making its advances upon Columbus when he undertook his

fourth and last voyage of discovery. He had already numbered sixty-six

years, and they were years filled with care and trouble, in which age

outstrips the march of time. His constitution, originally vigorous in the

extreme, had been impaired by hardships and exposures in every clime, and

silently preyed upon by the sufferings of the mind. His frame, once

powerful and commanding, and retaining a semblance of strength and majesty

even in its decay, was yet crazed by infirmities and subject to paroxysms

of excruciating pain. His intellectual forces alone retained their wonted

health and energy, prompting him, at a period of life when most men seek

repose, to sally forth with youthful ardor, on the most toilsome and

adventurous of expeditions.

 

His squadron for the present voyage consisted of four caravels, the

smallest of fifty tons burden, the largest not exceeding seventy, and the

crews amounting in all to one hundred and fifty men. With this little

armament and these slender barks did the venerable discoverer undertake

the search after a strait, which, if found, must conduct him into the most

remote seas, and lead to a complete circumnavigation of the globe.

 

In this arduous voyage, however, he had a faithful counselor, and an

intrepid and vigorous coadjutor, in his brother Don Bartholomew, while his

younger son Fernando cheered him with his affectionate sympathy. He had

learnt to appreciate such comforts, from being too often an isolated

stranger, surrounded by false friends and perfidious enemies.

 

The squadron sailed from Cadiz on the 9th of May, and passed over to

Ercilla, on the coast of Morocco, where it anchored on the 13th.

Understanding that the Portuguese garrison was closely besieged in the

fortress by the Moors, and exposed to great peril, Columbus was ordered to

touch there, and render all the assistance in his power. Before his

arrival the siege had been raised, but the governor lay ill, having been

wounded in an assault. Columbus sent his brother, the Adelantado, his son

Fernando, and the captains of the caravels on shore, to wait upon the

governor, with expressions of friendship and civility, and offers of the

services of his squadron. Their visit and message gave high satisfaction,

and several cavaliers were sent to wait upon the admiral in return, some

of whom were relatives of his deceased wife, Doña Felippa Muñoz. After

this exchange of civilities, the admiral made sail on the same day, and

continued his voyage. [115] On the 25th of May, he arrived at the Grand

Canary, and remained at that and the adjacent islands for a few days,

taking in wood and water. On the evening of the 25th, he took his

departure for the New World. The trade winds were so favorable, that the

little squadron swept gently on its course, without shifting a sail, and

arrived on the 15th of June at one of the Caribbee Islands, called by the

natives Mantinino. [116] After stopping here for three days, to take in

wood and water, and allow the seamen time to wash their clothes, the

squadron passed to the west of the island, and sailed to Dominica, about

ten leagues distant. [117] Columbus continued hence along the inside of

the Antilles, to Santa Cruz, then along the south side of Porto Rico, and

steered for San Domingo. This was contrary to the original plan of the

admiral, who had intended to steer to Jamaica, [118] and thence to take a

departure for the continent, and explore its coasts in search of the

supposed strait. It was contrary to the orders of the sovereigns also,

prohibiting him on his outward voyage to touch at Hispaniola. His excuse

was, that his principal vessel sailed extremely ill, could not carry any

canvas, and continually embarrassed and delayed the rest of the

squadron. [119] He wished, therefore, to exchange it for one of the

fleet which had recently conveyed Ovando to his government, or to

purchase some other vessel at San Domingo; and he was persuaded that he

would not be blamed for departing from his orders, in a case of such

importance to the safety and success of his expedition.

 

It is necessary to state the situation of the island at this moment.

Ovando had reached San Domingo on the 15th of April. He had been received

with the accustomed ceremony on the shore, by Bobadilla, accompanied by

the principal inhabitants of the town. He was escorted to the fortress,

where his commission was read in form, in presence of all the authorities.

The usual oaths were taken, and ceremonials observed; and the new governor

was hailed with great demonstrations of obedience and satisfaction. Ovando

entered upon the duties of his office with coolness and prudence; and

treated Bobadilla with a courtesy totally opposite to the rudeness with

which the latter had superseded Columbus. The emptiness of mere official

rank, when unsustained by merit, was shown in the case of Bobadilla. The

moment his authority was at an end, all his importance vanished. He found

himself a solitary and neglected man, deserted by those whom he had most

favored, and he experienced the worthlessness of the popularity gained by

courting the prejudices and passions of the multitude. Still there is no

record of any suit having been instituted against him; and Las Casas, who

was on the spot, declares that he never heard any harsh thing spoken of

him by the colonists. [120]

 

The conduct of Roldan and his accomplices, however, underwent a strict

investigation, and many were arrested to be sent to Spain for trial. They

appeared undismayed, trusting to the influence of their friends in Spain

to protect them, and many relying on the well-known disposition of the

Bishop of Fonseca to favor all who had been opposed to Columbus.

 

The fleet which had brought out Ovando was now ready for sea; and was to

take out a number of the principal delinquents, and many of the idlers and

profligates of the island. Bobadilla was to embark in the principal ship,

on board of which he put an immense amount of gold, the revenue collected

for the crown during his government, and which he confidently expected

would atone for all his faults. There was one solid mass of virgin gold on

board of this ship, which is famous in the old Spanish chronicles. It had

been found by a female Indian in a brook, on the estate of Francisco de

Garay and Miguel Diaz, and had been taken by Bobadilla to send to the

king, making the owners a suitable compensation. It was said to weigh

three thousand six hundred castellanos. [121]

 

Large quantities of gold were likewise shipped in the fleet, by the

followers of Roldan, and other adventurers; the wealth gained by the

sufferings of the unhappy natives. Among the various persons who were to

sail in the principal ship, was the unfortunate Guarionex, the once

powerful cacique of the Vega. He had been confined in Fort Conception,

ever since his capture after the war of Higuey, and was now to be sent a

captive in chains to Spain. In one of the ships, Alonzo Sanchez de

Carvajal, the agent of Columbus, had put four thousand pieces of gold, to

be remitted to him; being part of his property, either recently collected,

or recovered from the hands of Bobadilla. [122]

 

The preparations were all made, and the fleet was ready to put to sea,

when, on the 29th of June, the squadron of Columbus arrived at the mouth

of the river. He immediately sent Pedro de Terreros, captain of one of the

caravels, on shore, to wait on Ovando, and explain to him that the purpose

of his coming was to procure a vessel in exchange for one of his caravels,

which was extremely defective. He requested permission also to shelter his

squadron in the harbor; as he apprehended, from various indications, an

approaching storm. This request was refused by Ovando. Las Casas thinks it

probable that he had instructions from the sovereigns not to admit

Columbus, and that he was further swayed by prudent considerations, as San

Domingo was at that moment crowded with the most virulent enemies of the

admiral, many of them in a high state of exasperation, from recent

proceedings which had taken place against them. [123]

 

When the ungracious refusal of Ovando was brought to Columbus, and he

found all shelter denied him, he sought at least to avert the danger of

the fleet, which was about to sail. He sent back the officer therefore to

the governor, entreating him not to permit the fleet to put to sea for

several days; assuring him that there were indubitable signs of an

impending tempest. This second request was equally fruitless with the

first. The weather, to an inexperienced eye, was fair and tranquil; the

pilots and seamen were impatient to depart. They scoffed at the prediction

of the admiral, ridiculing him as a false prophet, and they persuaded

Ovando not to detain the fleet on so unsubstantial a pretext.

 

It was hard treatment of Columbus, thus to be denied the relief which the

state of his ships required, and to be excluded in time of distress from

the very harbor he had discovered. He retired from the river full of grief

and indignation. His crew murmured loudly at being shut out from a port of

their own nation, where even strangers, tinder similar circumstances,

would be admitted. They repined at having embarked with a commander liable

to such treatment; and anticipated nothing but evil from a voyage, in

which they were exposed to the dangers of the sea, and repulsed from the

protection of the land.

 

Being confident, from his observations of those natural phenomena in which

he was deeply skilled, that the anticipated storm could not be distant,

and expecting it from the land side, Columbus kept his feeble squadron

close to the shore, and sought for secure anchorage in some wild bay or

river of the island.

 

In the meantime, the fleet of Bobadilla set sail from San Domingo, and

stood out confidently to sea. Within two days, the predictions of Columbus

were verified. One of those tremendous hurricanes, which sometimes sweep

those latitudes, had gradually gathered up. The baleful appearance of the

heavens, the wild look of the ocean, the rising murmur of the winds, all

gave notice of its approach. The fleet had scarcely reached the eastern

point of Hispaniola, when the tempest burst over it with awful fury,

involving every thing in wreck and ruin. The ship on board of which were

Bobadilla, Roldan, and a number of the most inveterate enemies of

Columbus, was swallowed up with all its crew, and with the celebrated mass

of gold, and the principal part of the ill-gotten treasure, gained by the

miseries of the Indians. Many of the ships were entirely lost, some

returned to San Domingo, in shattered condition, and only one was enabled

to continue her voyage to Spain. That one, according to Fernando Columbus,

was the weakest of the fleet, and had on board the four thousand pieces of

gold, the property of the admiral.

 

During the early part of this storm, the little squadron of Columbus

remained tolerably well sheltered by the land. On the second day the

tempest increased in violence, and the night coming on with unusual

darkness, the ships lost sight of each other and were separated. The

admiral still kept close to the shore, and sustained no damage. The

others, fearful of the land in such a dark and boisterous night, ran out

for sea-room, and encountered the whole fury of the elements. For several

days they were driven about at the mercy of wind and wave, fearful each

moment of shipwreck, and giving up each other as lost. The Adelantado, who

commanded the ship already mentioned as being scarcely seaworthy, ran the

most imminent hazard, and nothing but his consummate seamanship enabled

him to keep her afloat. At length, after various vicissitudes, they all

arrived safe at Port Hermoso, to the west of San Domingo. The Adelantado

had lost his long boat; and all the vessels, with the exception of that of

the admiral, had sustained more or less injury.

 

When Columbus learnt the signal destruction that had overwhelmed his

enemies, almost before his eyes, he was deeply impressed with awe, and

considered his own preservation as little less than miraculous. Both his

son Fernando, and the venerable historian Las Casas, looked upon the event

as one of those awful judgments, which seem at times to deal forth

temporal retribution. They notice the circumstance, that while the enemies

of the admiral were swallowed up by the raging sea, the only ship of the

fleet which was enabled to pursue her voyage, and reach her port of

destination, was the frail bark freighted with the property of Columbus.

The evil, however, in this, as in most circumstances, overwhelmed the

innocent as well as the guilty. In the ship with Bobadilla and Roldan

perished the captive Guarionex, the unfortunate cacique of the Vega.

[124]

 

 

 

 

Chapter II.

 

Voyage along the Coast of Honduras.

 

[1502.]

 

 

 

For several days Columbus remained in Port Hermosa to repair his vessels,

and permit his crews to repose and refresh themselves after the late

tempest. He had scarcely left this harbor, when he was obliged to take

shelter from another storm in Jacquemel, or, as it was called by the

Spaniards, Port Brazil. Hence he sailed on the 14th of July, steering for

Terra Firma. The weather falling perfectly calm, he was borne away by the

currents until he found himself in the vicinity of some little islands

near Jamaica, [125] destitute of springs, but where the seamen obtained a

supply of water by digging holes in the sand on the beach.

 

The calm continuing, he was swept away to the group of small islands, or

keys, on the southern coast of Cuba, to which, in 1494, he had given the

name of The Gardens. He had scarcely touched there, however, when the wind

sprang up from a favorable quarter, and he was enabled to make sail on his

destined course. He now stood to the southwest, and after a few days

discovered, on the 30th of July, a small but elevated island, agreeable to

the eye from the variety of trees with which it was covered. Among these

was a great number of lofty pines, from which circumstance Columbus named

it Isla de Pinos. It has always, however, retained its Indian name of

Guanaja, [126] which has been extended to a number of smaller islands

surrounding it. This group is within a few leagues of the coast of

Honduras, to the east of the great bay or gulf of that name.

 

The Adelantado, with two launches full of people, landed on the principal

island, which was extremely verdant and fertile. The inhabitants resembled

those of other islands, excepting that their foreheads were narrower.

While the Adelantado was on shore, he beheld a great canoe arriving, as

from a distant and important voyage. He was struck with its magnitude and

contents. It was eight feet wide, and as long as a galley, though formed

of the trunk of a single tree. In the centre was a kind of awning or cabin

of palm-leaves, after the manner of those in the gondolas of Venice, and

sufficiently close to exclude both sun and rain. Under this sat a cacique

with his wives and children. Twenty-five Indians rowed the canoe, and it

was filled with all kinds of articles of the manufacture and natural

production of the adjacent countries. It is supposed that this bark had

come from the province of Yucatan, which is about forty leagues distant

from this island.

 

The Indians in the canoe appeared to have no fear of the Spaniards, and

readily went alongside of the admiral's caravel. Columbus was overjoyed at

thus having brought to him at once, without trouble or danger, a

collection of specimens of all the important articles of this part of the

New World. He examined, with great curiosity and interest, the contents of

the canoe. Among various utensils and weapons similar to those already

found among the natives, he perceived others of a much superior kind.

There were hatchets for cutting wood, formed not of stone but copper;

wooden swords, with channels on each side of the blade, in which sharp

flints were firmly fixed by cords made of the intestines of fishes; being

the same kind of weapon afterwards found among the Mexicans. There were

copper bells and other articles of the same metal, together with a rude

kind of crucible in which to melt it; various vessels and utensils neatly

formed of clay, of marble, and of hard wood; sheets and mantles of cotton,

worked and dyed with various colors; great quantities of cacao, a fruit as

yet unknown to the Spaniards, but which, as they soon found, the natives

held in great estimation, using it both as food and money. There was a

beverage also extracted from maize or Indian corn, resembling beer. Their

provisions consisted of bread made of maize, and roots of various kinds,

similar to those of Hispaniola. From among these articles, Columbus

collected such as were important to send as specimens to Spain, giving the

natives European trinkets in exchange, with which they were highly

satisfied. They appeared to manifest neither astonishment nor alarm when

on board of the vessels, and surrounded by people who must have been so

strange and wonderful to them. The women wore mantles, with which they

wrapped themselves, like the female Moors of Granada, and the men had

cloths of cotton round their loins. Both sexes appeared more particular

about these coverings, and to have a quicker sense of personal modesty

than any Indians Columbus had yet discovered.

 

These circumstances, together with the superiority of their implements and

manufactures, were held by the admiral as indications that he was

approaching more civilized nations. He endeavored to gain particular

information from these Indians about the surrounding countries; but as

they spoke a different language from that of his interpreters, he could

understand them but imperfectly. They informed him that they had just

arrived from a country, rich, cultivated, and industrious, situated to the

west. They endeavored to impress him with an idea of the wealth and

magnificence of the regions, and the people in that quarter, and urged him

to steer in that direction. Well would it have been for Columbus had he

followed their advice. Within a day or two he would have arrived at

Yucatan; the discovery of Mexico and the other opulent countries of New

Spain would have necessarily followed; the Southern Ocean would have been

disclosed to him, and a succession of splendid discoveries would have shed

fresh glory on his declining age, instead of its sinking amidst gloom,

neglect, and disappointment.

 

The admiral's whole mind, however, was at present intent upon discovering

the strait. As the countries described by the Indians lay to the west, he

supposed that he could easily visit them at some future time, by running

with the trade-winds along the coast of Cuba, which he imagined must

continue on, so as to join them. At present he was determined to seek the

main-land, the mountains of which were visible to the south, and

apparently not many leagues distant:[127] by keeping along it steadfastly

to the east, he must at length arrive to where he supposed it to be

severed from the coast of Paria by an intervening strait; and passing

through this, he should soon make his way to the Spice Islands and the

richest parts of India. [128]

 

He was encouraged the more to persist in his eastern course by information

from the Indians, that there were many places in that direction which

abounded with gold. Much of the information which he gathered among these

people was derived from an old man more intelligent than the rest, who

appeared to be an ancient navigator of these seas. Columbus retained him

to serve as a guide along the coast, and dismissed his companions with

many presents.

 

Leaving the island of Guanaja, he stood southwardly for the main-land, and

after sailing a few leagues, discovered a cape, to which he gave the name

of Caxinas, from its being covered with fruit trees, so called by the

natives. It is at present known as Cape Honduras. Here, on Sunday the 14th

of August, the Adelantado landed with the captains of the caravels and

many of the seamen, to attend mass, which was performed under the trees on

the sea-shore, according to the pious custom of the admiral, whenever

circumstances would permit. On the 17th, the Adelantado again landed at a

river about fifteen miles from the point, on the bank of which he

displayed the banners of Castile, taking possession of the country in the

name of their Catholic Majesties; from which circumstances he named this

the River of Possession. [129]

 

At this place they found upwards of a hundred Indians assembled, laden

with bread and maize, fish and fowl, vegetables, and fruits of various

kinds. These they laid down as presents before the Adelantado and his

party, and drew back to a distance without speaking a word. The Adelantado

distributed among them various trinkets, with which they were well

pleased, and appeared the next day in the same place, in greater numbers,

with still more abundant supplies of provisions.

 

The natives of this neighborhood, and for a considerable distance

eastward, had higher foreheads than those of the islands. They were of

different languages, and varied from each other in their decorations. Some

were entirely naked; and their bodies were marked by means of fire with

the figures of various animals. Some wore coverings about the loins;

others short cotton jerkins without sleeves: some wore tresses of hair in

front. The chieftains had caps of white or colored cotton. When arrayed

for any festival, they painted their faces black, or with stripes of

various colors, or with circles round the eyes. The old Indian guide

assured the admiral that many of them were cannibals. In one part of the

coast the natives had their ears bored, and hideously distended; which

caused the Spaniards to call that region _la Costa de la Oreja_, or

"the Coast of the Ear." [130]

 

From the River of Possession, Columbus proceeded along what is at present

called the coast of Honduras, beating against contrary winds, and

struggling with currents which swept from the east like the constant

stream of a river. He often lost in one tack what he had laboriously

gained in two, frequently making but two leagues in a day, and never more

than five. At night he anchored under the land, through fear of proceeding

along an unknown coast in the dark, but was often forced out to sea by the

violence of the currents.[131] In all this time he experienced the same

kind of weather that had prevailed on the coast of Hispaniola, and had

attended him more or less for upwards of sixty days. There was, he says,

almost an incessant tempest of the heavens, with heavy rains, and such

thunder and lightning, that it seemed as if the end of the world was at

hand. Those who know any thing of the drenching rains and rending thunder

of the tropics, will not think his description of the storms exaggerated.

His vessels were strained so that their seams opened; the sails and

rigging were rent, and the provisions were damaged by the rain and by the

leakage. The sailors were exhausted with labor, and harassed with terror.

They many times confessed their sins to each other, and prepared for

death. "I have seen many tempests," says Columbus, "but none so violent

or of such long duration." He alludes to the whole series of storms for

upwards of two months, since he had been refused shelter at San Domingo.

During a great part of this time, he had suffered extremely from the

gout, aggravated by his watchfulness and anxiety. His illness did not

prevent his attending to his duties; he had a small cabin or chamber

constructed on the stern, whence, even when confined to his bed, he

could keep a look-out and regulate the sailing of the ships. Many times

he was so ill that he thought his end approaching. His anxious mind was

distressed about his brother the Adelantado, whom he had persuaded

against his will to come on this expedition, and who was in the worst

vessel of the squadron. He lamented also having brought with him his

son Fernando, exposing him at so tender an age to such perils and

 hardships, although the youth bore them with the courage and fortitude

of a veteran. Often, too, his thoughts reverted to his son Diego, and

the cares and perplexities into which his death might plunge him.[132]

At length, after struggling for upwards of forty days since leaving

the Cape of Honduras, to make a distance of about seventy leagues, they

arrived on the 14th of September at a cape where the coast making an

angle, turned directly south, so as to give them an easy wind and free

navigation. Doubling the point, they swept off with flowing sails and

hearts filled with joy; and the admiral, to commemorate this sudden

relief from toil and peril, gave to the Cape the name of _Gracias a

Dios_, or Thanks to God.[133]

 

 

 

 

Chapter III.

 

Voyage along the Mosquito Coast, and Transactions at Cariari.

 

[1503.]

 

 

 

After doubling Cape Gracias a Dios, Columbus sailed directly south, along

what is at present called the Mosquito shore. The land was of varied

character, sometimes rugged, with craggy promontories and points

stretching into the sea, at other places verdant and fertile, and watered

by abundant streams. In the rivers grew immense reeds, sometimes of the

thickness of a man's thigh: they abounded with fish and tortoises, and

alligators basked on the banks. At one place Columbus passed a cluster of

twelve small islands, on which grew a fruit resembling the lemon, on which

account he called them the Limonares. [134]

 

After sailing about sixty-two leagues along this coast, being greatly in

want of wood and water, the squadron anchored on the 16th of September,

near a copious river, up which the boats were sent to procure the

requisite supplies. As they were returning to their ships, a sudden

swelling of the sea, rushing in and encountering the rapid current of the

river, caused a violent commotion, in which one of the boats was swallowed

up, and all on board perished. This melancholy event had a gloomy effect

upon the crews, already dispirited and care-worn from the hardships they

had endured, and Columbus, sharing their dejection, gave the stream the

sinister name of _El rio del Desastre_, or the River of Disaster.

[135]

 

Leaving this unlucky neighborhood, they continued for several days along

the coast, until, finding both his ships and his people nearly disabled by

the buffetings of the tempests, Columbus, on the 25th of September, cast

anchor between a small island and the main-land, in what appeared a

commodious and delightful situation. The island was covered with groves of

palm-trees, cocoanut-trees, bananas, and a delicate and fragrant fruit,

which the admiral continually mistook for the mirabolane of the East

Indies. The fruits and flowers and odoriferous shrubs of the island sent

forth grateful perfumes, so that Columbus gave it the name of La Huerta,

or the Garden. It was called by the natives Quiribiri. Immediately

opposite, at a short league's distance, was an Indian village, named

Cariari, situated on the bank of a beautiful river. The country around was

fresh and verdant, finely diversified by noble hills and forests, with

trees of such height, that Las Casas says they appeared to reach the

skies.

 

When the inhabitants beheld the ships, they gathered together on the

coast, armed with bows and arrows, war-clubs, and lances, and prepared to

defend their shores. The Spaniards, however, made no attempt to land

during that or the succeeding day, but remained quietly on board repairing

the ships, airing and drying the damaged provisions, or reposing from the

fatigues of the voyage. When the savages perceived that these wonderful

beings, who had arrived in this strange manner on their coast, were

perfectly pacific, and made no movement to molest them, their hostility

ceased, and curiosity predominated. They made various pacific signals,

waving their mantles like banners, and inviting the Spaniards to land.

Growing still more bold, they swam to the ships, bringing off mantles and

tunics of cotton, and ornaments of the inferior sort of gold called

guanin, which they wore about their necks. These they offered to the

Spaniards. The admiral, however, forbade all traffic, making them

presents, but taking nothing in exchange, wishing to impress them with a

favorable idea of the liberality and disinterestedness of the white men.

The pride of the savages was touched at the refusal of their proffered

gifts, and this supposed contempt for their manufactures and productions.

They endeavored to retaliate, by pretending like indifference. On

returning to shore, they tied together all the European articles which had

been given them, without retaining the least trifle, and left them lying

on the strand, where the Spaniards found them on a subsequent day.

 

Finding the strangers still declined to come on shore, the natives tried

in every way to gain their confidence, and dispel the distrust which their

hostile demonstrations might have caused. A boat approaching the shore

cautiously one day, in quest of some safe place to procure water, an

ancient Indian, of venerable demeanor, issued from among the trees,

bearing a white banner on the end of a staff, and leading two girls, one

about fourteen years of age, the other about eight, having jewels of

guanin about their necks. These he brought to the boat and delivered to

the Spaniards, making signs that they were to be detained as hostages

while the strangers should be on shore. Upon this the Spaniards sallied

forth with confidence and filled their water-casks, the Indians remaining

at a distance, and observing the strictest care, neither by word nor

movement to cause any new distrust. When the boats were about to return to

the ships, the old Indian made signs that the young girls should be taken

on board, nor would he admit of any denial. On entering the ships the

girls showed no signs of grief nor alarm, though surrounded by what to

them must have been uncouth and formidable beings. Columbus was careful

that the confidence thus placed in him should not be abused. After

feasting the young females, and ordering them to be clothed and adorned

with various ornaments, he sent them on shore. The night, however, had

fallen, and the coast was deserted. They had to return to the ship, where

they remained all night under the careful protection of the admiral. The

next morning he restored them to their friends. The old Indian received

them with joy, and manifested a grateful sense of the kind treatment they

had experienced. In the evening, however, when the boats went on shore,

the young girls appeared, accompanied by a multitude of their friends, and

returned all the presents they had received, nor could they be prevailed

upon to retain any of them, although they must have been precious in their

eyes; so greatly was the pride of these savages piqued at having their

gifts refused.

 

On the following day, as the Adelantado approached the shore, two of the

principal inhabitants, entering the water, took him out of the boat in

their arms, and carrying him to land, seated him with great ceremony on a

grassy bank. Don Bartholomew endeavored to collect information from them

respecting the country, and ordered the notary of the squadron to write

down their replies. The latter immediately prepared pen, ink, and paper,

and proceeded to write; but no sooner did the Indians behold this strange

and mysterious process, than, mistaking it for some necromantic spell,

intended to be wrought upon them, they fled with terror. After some time

they returned, cautiously scattering a fragrant powder in the air, and

burning some of it in such a direction that the smoke should be borne

towards the Spaniards by the wind. This was apparently intended to

counteract any baleful spell, for they regarded the strangers as beings of

a mysterious and supernatural order.

 

The sailors looked upon these counter-charms of the Indians with equal

distrust, and apprehended something of magic; nay, Fernando Columbus, who

was present, and records the scene, appears to doubt whether these Indiana

were not versed in sorcery, and thus led to suspect it in others.

[136]

 

Indeed, not to conceal a foible, which was more characteristic of the

superstition of the age than of the man, Columbus himself entertained an

idea of the kind, and assures the sovereigns, in his letter from Jamaica,

that the people of Cariari and its vicinity are great enchanters, and he

intimates, that the two Indian girls who had visited his ship had magic

powder concealed about their persons. He adds, that the sailors attributed

all the delays and hardships experienced on that coast to their being

under the influence of some evil spell, worked by the witchcraft of the

natives, and that they still remained in that belief. [137]

 

[138]

 

For several days the squadron remained at this place, during which time

the ships were examined and repaired, and the crews enjoyed repose and the

recreation of the land. The Adelantado, with a band of armed men, made

excursions on shore to collect information. There was no pure gold to be

met with here, all their ornaments were of guanin; but the natives assured

the Adelantado, that, in proceeding along the coast, the ships would soon

arrive at a country where gold was in great abundance.

 

In examining one of the villages, the Adelantado found, in a large house,

several sepulchres. One contained a human body embalmed; in another, there

were two bodies wrapped in cotton, and so preserved as to be free from any

disagreeable odor. They were adorned with the ornaments most precious to

them when living; and the sepulchres were decorated with rude carvings and

paintings representing various animals, and, sometimes, what appeared to

be intended for portraits of the deceased. [139] Throughout most of the

savage tribes, there appears to have been great veneration for the dead,

and an anxiety to preserve their remains undisturbed.

 

When about to sail, Columbus seized seven of the people, two of whom,

apparently the most intelligent, he selected to serve as guides; the rest

he suffered to depart. His late guide he had dismissed with presents at

Cape Gracias a Dios. The inhabitants of Cariari manifested unusual

sensibility at this seizure of their countrymen. They thronged the shore,

and sent off four of their principal men with presents to the ships,

imploring the release of the prisoners.

 

The admiral assured them that he only took their companions as guides, for

a short distance along the coast, and would restore them soon in safety to

their homes. He ordered various presents to be given to the ambassadors;

but neither his promises nor gifts could soothe the grief and apprehension

of the natives at beholding their friends carried away by beings of whom

they had such mysterious apprehensions. [140]

 

 

 

 

Chapter IV.

 

Voyage along Costa Rica.--Speculations Concerning the Isthmus at Veragua.

 

[1502.]

 

 

 

On the 5th of October, the squadron departed from Cariari, and sailed

along what is at present called Costa Rica (or the Rich Coast), from the

gold and silver mines found in after years among its mountains. After

sailing about twenty-two leagues, the ships anchored in a great bay, about

six leagues in length and three in breadth, full of islands, with channels

opening between them, so as to present three or four entrances. It was

called by the natives Caribaro, [141] and had been pointed out by the

natives of Cariari as plentiful in gold.

 

The islands were beautifully verdant, covered with groves, and sent forth

the fragrance of fruits and flowers. The channels between them were so

deep and free from rocks that the ships sailed along them, as if in canals

in the streets of a city, the spars and rigging brushing the overhanging

branches of the trees. After anchoring, the boats landed on one of the

islands, where they found twenty canoes. The people were on shore among

the trees. Being encouraged by the Indians of Cariari, who accompanied the

Spaniards, they soon advanced with confidence. Here, for the first time on

this coast, the Spaniards met with specimens of pure gold; the natives

wearing large plates of it suspended round their necks by cotton cords;

they had ornaments likewise of guanin, rudely shaped like eagles. One of

them exchanged a plate of gold, equal in value to ten ducats, for three

hawks'-bells. [142]

 

On the following day, the boats proceeded to the mainland at the bottom of

the bay. The country around was high and rough, and the villages were

generally perched on the heights. They met with ten canoes of Indians,

their heads decorated with garlands of flowers, and coronets formed of the

claws of beasts and the quills of birds;[143] most of them had plates of

gold about their necks, but refused to part with them. The Spaniards

brought two of them to the admiral to serve as guides. One had a plate of

pure gold worth fourteen ducats, another an eagle worth twenty-two ducats.

Seeing the great value which the strangers set upon this metal, they

assured them it was to be had in abundance within the distance of two

days' journey; and mentioned various places along the coast, whence it

was procured, particularly Veragua, which was about twenty-five leagues

distant. [144]

 

The cupidity of the Spaniards was greatly excited, and they would gladly

have remained to barter, but the admiral discouraged all disposition of

the kind. He barely sought to collect specimens and information of the

riches of the country, and then pressed forward in quest of the great

object of his enterprise, the imaginary strait.

 

Sailing on the 17th of October, from this bay, or rather gulf, he began to

coast this region of reputed wealth, since called the coast of Veragua;

and after sailing about twelve leagues, arrived at a large river, which

his son Fernando calls the Guaig. Here, on the boats being sent to land,

about two hundred Indians appeared on the shore, armed with clubs, lances,

and swords of palm-wood. The forests echoed with the sound of wooden

drums, and the blasts of conch shells, their usual war signals. They

rushed into the sea up to their waists, brandishing their weapons, and

splashing the water at the Spaniards in token of defiance; but were soon

pacified by gentle signs, and the intervention of the interpreters; and

willingly bartered away their ornaments, giving seventeen plates of gold,

worth one hundred and fifty ducats, for a few toys and trifles.

 

When the Spaniards returned the next day to renew their traffic, they

found the Indians relapsed into hostility, sounding their drums and

shells, and rushing forward to attack the boats. An arrow from a

cross-bow, which wounded one of them in the arm, checked their fury, and

on the discharge of a cannon, they fled with terror. Four of the Spaniards

sprang on shore, pursuing and calling after them. They threw down their

weapons, and came, awe-struck, and gentle as lambs, bringing three plates

of gold, and meekly and thankfully receiving whatever was given in

exchange.

 

Continuing along the coast, the admiral anchored in the mouth of another

river, called the Catiba. Here likewise the sound of drums and conchs from

among the forests gave notice that the warriors were assembling. A canoe

soon came off with two Indians, who, after exchanging a few words with the

interpreters, entered the admiral's ship with fearless confidence; and

being satisfied of the friendly intentions of the strangers, returned to

their cacique with a favorable report. The boats landed, and the Spaniards

were kindly received by the cacique. He was naked like his subjects, nor

distinguished in any way from them, except by the great deference with

which he was treated, and by a trifling attention paid to his personal

comfort, being protected from a shower of rain by an immense leaf of a

tree. He had a large plate of gold, which he readily gave in exchange, and

permitted his people to do the same. Nineteen plates of pure gold were

procured at this place. Here, for the first time in the New World, the

Spaniards met with signs of solid architecture; finding a great mass of

stucco, formed of stone and lime, a piece of which was retained by the

admiral as a specimen, [145] considering it an indication of his approach

to countries where the arts were in a higher state of cultivation.

 

He had intended to visit other rivers along this coast, but the wind

coming on to blow freshly, he ran before it, passing in sight of five

towns, where his interpreters assured him he might procure great

quantities of gold. One they pointed out as Veragua, which has since given

its name to the whole province. Here, they said, were the richest mines,

and here most of the plates of gold were fabricated. On the following day,

they arrived opposite a village called Cubiga, and here Columbus was

informed that the country of gold terminated. [146] He resolved not to

return to explore it, considering it as discovered, and its mines secured

to the crown, and being anxious to arrive at the supposed strait, which

he flattered himself could be at no great distance.

 

In fact, during his whole voyage along the coast, he had been under the

influence of one of his frequent delusions. From the Indians met with at

the island of Guanaja, just arrived from Yucatan, he had received accounts

of some great, and, as far as he could understand, civilized nation in the

interior. This intimation had been corroborated, as he imagined, by the

various tribes with which he had since communicated. In a subsequent

letter to the sovereigns, he informs them that all the Indians of this

coast concurred in extolling the magnificence of the country of Ciguare,

situated at ten days' journey, by land, to the west. The people of that

region wore crowns, and bracelets, and anklets of gold, and garments

embroidered with it. They used it for all their domestic purposes, even to

the ornamenting and embossing of their seats and tables. On being shown

coral, the Indians declared that the women of Ciguare wore bands of it

about their heads and necks. Pepper and other spices being shown them,

were equally said to abound there. They described it as a country of

commerce, with great fairs and sea-ports, in which ships arrived armed

with cannon. The people were warlike also, armed like the Spaniards with

swords, bucklers, cuirasses, and cross-bows, and they were mounted on

horses. Above all, Columbus understood from them that the sea continued

round to Ciguare, and that ten days beyond it was the Ganges.

 

These may have been vague and wandering rumors concerning the distant

kingdoms of Mexico and Peru, and many of the details may have been filled

up by the imagination of Columbus. They made, however, a strong impression

on his mind. He supposed that Ciguare must be some province belonging to

the Grand Khan, or some other Eastern potentate, and as the sea reached

it, he concluded it was on the opposite side of a peninsula: bearing the

same position with respect to Veragua that Fontarabia does with Tortosa in

Spain, or Pisa with Venice in Italy. By proceeding farther eastward,

therefore, he must soon arrive at a strait, like that of Gibraltar,

through which he could pass into another sea, and visit this country of

Ciguare, and, of course, arrive at the banks of the Ganges. He accounted

for the circumstance of his having arrived so near to that river, by the

idea which he had long entertained, that geographers were mistaken as to

the circumference of the globe; that it was smaller than was generally

imagined, and that a degree of the equinoctial line was but fifty-six

miles and two-thirds. [147]

 

With these ideas Columbus determined to press forward, leaving the rich

country of Veragua unexplored. Nothing could evince more clearly his

generous ambition, than hurrying in this brief manner along a coast where

wealth was to be gathered at every step, for the purpose of seeking a

strait which, however it might produce vast benefit to mankind, could

yield little else to himself than the glory of the discovery.

 

 

 

 

Chapter V.

 

Discovery of Puerto Bello and El Retrete.--Columbus Abandons the Search

after the Strait.

 

[1502.]

 

 

 

On the 2d of November, the squadron anchored in a spacious and commodious

harbor, where the vessels could approach close to the shore without

danger. It was surrounded by an elevated country; open and cultivated,

with houses within bow-shot of each other, surrounded by fruit-trees,

groves of palms, and fields producing maize, vegetables, and the delicious

pine-apple, so that the whole neighborhood had the mingled appearance of

orchard and garden. Columbus was so pleased with the excellence of the

harbor, and the sweetness of the surrounding country, that he gave it the

name of Puerto Bello. [148] It is one of the few places along this coast

which retain the appellation given by the illustrious discoverer. It is to

be regretted that they have so generally been discontinued, as they were

so often records of his feelings, and of circumstances attending the

discovery.

 

For seven days they were detained in this port by heavy rain and stormy

weather. The natives repaired from all quarters in canoes, bringing fruits

and vegetables and balls of cotton, but there was no longer gold offered

in traffic. The cacique, and seven of his principal chieftains, had small

plates of gold hanging in their noses, but the rest of the natives appear

to have been destitute of all ornaments of the kind. They were generally

naked and painted red; the cacique alone was painted black. [149]

 

Sailing hence on the 9th of November, they proceeded eight leagues to the

eastward, to the point since known as Nombre de Dios; but being driven

back for some distance, they anchored in a harbor in the vicinity of three

small islands. These, with the adjacent country of the main-land, were

cultivated with fields of Indian corn, and various fruits and vegetables,

whence Columbus called the harbor Puerto de Bastimentos, or Port of

Provisions. Here they remained until the 23d, endeavoring to repair their

vessels, which leaked excessively. They were pierced in all parts by the

teredo or worm which abounds in the tropical seas. It is of the size of a

man's finger, and bores through the stoutest planks and timbers, so as

soon to destroy any vessel that is not well coppered. After leaving this

port, they touched at another called Guiga, where above three hundred of

the natives appeared on the shore, some with provisions, and some with

golden ornaments, which they offered in barter. Without making any stay,

however, the admiral urged his way forward; but rough and adverse winds

again obliged him to take shelter in a small port, with a narrow entrance,

not above twenty paces wide, beset on each side with reefs of rocks, the

sharp points of which rose above the surface. Within, there was not room

for more than five or six ships; yet the port was so deep, that they had

no good anchorage, unless they approached near enough to the land for a

man to leap on shore.

 

From the smallness of the harbor, Columbus gave it the name of _El

Retrete_, or The Cabinet. He had been betrayed into this inconvenient

and dangerous port by the misrepresentations of the seamen sent to examine

it, who were always eager to come to anchor, and have communication with

the shore. [150]

 

The adjacent country was level and verdant, covered with herbage, but with

few trees. The port was infested with alligators, which basked in the

sunshine on the beach, filling the air with a powerful and musky odor.

They were timorous, and fled on being attacked, but the Indians affirmed

that if they found a man sleeping on shore they would seize and drag him

into the water. These alligators Columbus pronounced to be the same as the

crocodiles of the Nile. For nine days the squadron was detained in this

port, by tempestuous weather. The natives of this place were tall, well

proportioned, and graceful; of gentle and friendly manners, and brought

whatever they possessed to exchange for European trinkets.

 

As long as the admiral had control over the actions of his people, the

Indians were treated with justice and kindness, and every thing went on

amicably. The vicinity of the ships to land, however, enabled the seamen

to get on shore in the night without license. The natives received them in

their dwellings with their accustomed hospitality; but the rough

adventurers, instigated by avarice and lust, soon committed excesses that

roused their generous hosts to revenge. Every night there were brawls and

fights on shore, and blood was shed on both sides. The number of the

Indians daily augmented by arrivals from the interior. They became more

powerful and daring as they became more exasperated; and seeing that the

vessels lay close to the shore, approached in a great multitude to attack

them.

 

The admiral thought at first to disperse them by discharging cannon

without ball, but they were not intimidated by the sound, regarding it as

a kind of harmless thunder. They replied to it by yells and howlings,

beating their lances and clubs against the trees and bushes in furious

menace. The situation of the ships so close to the shore exposed them to

assaults, and made the hostility of the natives unusually formidable.

Columbus ordered a shot or two, therefore, to be discharged among them.

When they saw the havoc made, they fled in terror, and offered no further

hostility. [151]

 

The continuance of stormy winds from the east and the northeast, in

addition to the constant opposition of the currents, disheartened the

companions of Columbus, and they began to murmur against any further

prosecution of the voyage. The seamen thought that some hostile spell was

operating, and the commanders remonstrated against attempting to force

their way in spite of the elements, with ships crazed and worm-eaten, and

continually in need of repair. Few of his companions could sympathize with

Columbus in his zeal for mere discovery. They were actuated by more

gainful motives, and looked back with regret on the rich coast they had

left behind, to go in search of an imaginary strait. It is probable that

Columbus himself began to doubt the object of his enterprise. If he knew

the details of the recent voyage of Bastides, he must have been aware that

he had arrived from an opposite quarter to about the place where that

navigator's exploring voyage from the east had terminated; consequently

that there was but little probability of the existence of the strait he

had imagined. [152]

 

At all events, he determined to relinquish the further prosecution of his

voyage eastward for the present, and to return to the coast of Veragua, to

search for those mines of which he had heard so much, and seen so many

indications. Should they prove equal to his hopes, he would have

wherewithal to return to Spain in triumph, and silence the reproaches of

his enemies, even though he should fail in the leading object of his

expedition.

 

Here, then, ended the lofty anticipations which had elevated Columbus

above all mercenary interests; which had made him regardless of hardships

and perils, and given an heroic character to the early part of this

voyage. It is true, he had been in pursuit of a mere chimera, but it was

the chimera of a splendid imagination, and a penetrating judgment. If he

was disappointed in his expectation of finding a strait through the

Isthmus of Darien, it was because nature herself had been disappointed,

for she appears to have attempted to make one, but to have attempted it in

vain.

 

 

 

 

Chapter VI.

 

Return to Veragua.--The Adelantado Explores the Country.

 

[1502.]

 

 

 

On the 5th of December, Columbus sailed from El Retrete, and relinquishing

his course to the east, returned westward, in search of the gold mines of

Veragua. On the same evening he anchored in Puerto Bello, about ten

leagues distant; whence departing on the succeeding day, the wind suddenly

veered to the west, and began to blow directly adverse to the new course

he had adopted. For three months he had been longing in vain for such a

wind, and now it came merely to contradict him. Here was a temptation to

resume his route to the east, but he did not dare trust to the continuance

of the wind, which, in these parts, appeared but seldom to blow from that

quarter. He resolved, therefore, to keep on in the present direction,

trusting that the breeze would soon change again to the eastward.

 

In a little while the wind began to blow with dreadful violence, and to

shift about in such manner as to baffle all seamanship. Unable to reach

Veragua, the ships were obliged to put back to Puerto Bello, and when they

would have entered that harbor, a sudden veering of the gale drove them

from the land. For nine days they were blown and tossed about, at the

mercy of a furious tempest, in an unknown sea, and often exposed to the

awful perils of a lee-shore. It is wonderful that such open vessels, so

crazed and decayed, could outlive such a commotion of the elements.

Nowhere is a storm so awful as between the tropics. The sea, according to

the description of Columbus, boiled at times like a caldron; at other

times it ran in mountain waves, covered with foam. At night the raging

billows resembled great surges of flame, owing to those luminous particles

which cover the surface of the water in these seas, and throughout the

whole course of the Gulf Stream. For a day and night the heavens glowed as

a furnace with the incessant flashes of lightning; while the loud claps of

thunder were often mistaken by the affrighted mariners for signal guns of

distress from their foundering companions. During the whole time, says

Columbus, it poured down from the skies, not rain, but as it were a second

deluge. The seamen were almost drowned in their open vessels. Haggard with

toil and affright, some gave themselves over for lost; they confessed

their sins to each other according to the rites of the Catholic religion,

and prepared themselves for death; many, in their desperation, called upon

death as a welcome relief from such overwhelming horrors. In the midst of

this wild tumult of the elements, they beheld a new object of alarm. The

ocean in one place became strangely agitated. The water was whirled up

into a kind of pyramid or cone, while a livid cloud, tapering to a point,

bent down to meet it. Joining together, they formed a vast column, which

rapidly approached the ships, spinning along the surface of the deep, and

drawing up the waters with a rushing sound. The affrighted mariners, when

they beheld this water-spout advancing towards them, despaired of all

human means to avert it, and began to repeat passages from St. John the

evangelist. The water-spout passed close by the ships without injuring

them, and the trembling mariners attributed their escape to the miraculous

efficacy of their quotations from the Scriptures. [153]

 

In this same night, they lost sight of one of the caravels, and for three

dark and stormy days gave it up for lost. At length, to their great

relief, it rejoined the squadron, having lost its boat, and been obliged

to cut its cable, in an attempt to anchor on a boisterous coast, and

having since been driven to and fro by the storm. For one or two days,

there was an interval of calm, and the tempest-tossed mariners had time to

breathe. They looked upon this tranquillity, however, as deceitful, and,

in their gloomy mood, beheld every thing with a doubtful and foreboding

eye. Great numbers of sharks, so abundant and ravenous in these latitudes,

were seen about the ships. This was construed into an evil omen; for among

the superstitions of the seas, it is believed that these voracious fish

can smell dead bodies at a distance; that they have a kind of presentiment

of their prey; and keep about vessels which have sick persons on board, or

which are in danger of being wrecked. Several of these fish they caught,

using large hooks fastened to chains, and sometimes baited merely with a

piece of colored cloth. From the maw of one they took out a living

tortoise; from that of another the head of a shark, recently thrown from

one of the ships; such is the indiscriminate voracity of these terrors of

the ocean. Notwithstanding their superstitious fancies, the seamen were

glad to use a part of these sharks for food, being very short of

provisions. The length of the voyage had consumed the greater part of

their sea-stores; the heat and humidity of the climate, and the leakage of

the ships, had damaged the remainder, and their biscuit was so filled with

worms, that, notwithstanding their hunger, they were obliged to eat it in

the dark, lest their stomachs should revolt at its appearance. [154]

 

At length, on the 17th, they were enabled to enter a port resembling a

great canal, where they enjoyed three days of repose. The natives of this

vicinity built their cabins in trees, on stakes or poles laid from one

branch to another. The Spaniards supposed this to be through the fear of

wild beasts, or of surprisals from neighboring tribes; the different

nations of these coasts being extremely hostile to one another. It may

have been a precaution against inundations caused by floods from the

mountains. After leaving this port, they were driven backwards and

forwards, by the changeable and tempestuous winds, until the day after

Christmas; when they sheltered themselves in another port, where they

remained until the 3d of January, 1503, repairing one of the caravels, and

procuring wood, water, and a supply of maize or Indian corn. These

measures being completed, they again put to sea, and on the day of

Epiphany, to their great joy, anchored at the mouth of a river called by

the natives Yebra, within a league or two of the river Veragua, and in the

country said to be so rich in mines. To this river, from arriving at it on

the day of Epiphany, Columbus gave the name of Belen or Bethlehem.

 

For nearly a month he had endeavored to accomplish the voyage from Puerto

Bello to Veragua, a distance of about thirty leagues; and had encountered

so many troubles and adversities, from changeable winds and currents, and

boisterous tempests, that he gave this intermediate line of sea-board the

name of _La Costa de los Contrastes_, or The Coast of Contradictions.

[155]

 

Columbus immediately ordered the mouths of the Belen, and of its

neighboring river of Veragua, to be sounded. The latter proved too shallow

to admit his vessels, but the Belen was somewhat deeper, and it was

thought they might enter it with safety. Seeing a village on the banks of

the Belen, the admiral sent the boats on shore to procure information.  On

their approach, the inhabitants issued forth with weapons in hand to

oppose their landing, but were readily pacified. They seemed unwilling to

give any intelligence about the gold mines; but, on being importuned,

declared that they lay in the vicinity of the river of Veragua. To that

river the boats were dispatched on the following day. They met with the

reception so frequent along this coast, where many of the tribes were

fierce and warlike, and are supposed to have been of Carib origin. As the

boats entered the river, the natives sallied forth in their canoes, and

others assembled in menacing style on the shores. The Spaniards, however,

had brought with them an Indian of that coast, who put an end to this show

of hostility by assuring his countrymen that the strangers came only to

traffic with them.

 

The various accounts of the riches of these parts appeared  to be

confirmed by what the Spaniards saw and heard among these people. They

procured in exchange for the veriest trifles twenty plates of gold, with

several pipes of the same metal, and crude masses of ore. The Indians

informed them that the mines lay among distant mountains; and that when

they went in quest of it they were obliged to practice rigorous fasting

and continence. [156]

 

The favorable report brought by the boats determined the admiral to remain

in the neighborhood. The river Belen having the greatest depth, two of the

caravels entered it on the 9th of January, and the two others on the

following day at high tide, which on that coast does not rise above half a

fathom. [157] The natives came to them in the most friendly manner,

bringing great quantities of fish, with which that river abounded. They

brought also golden ornaments to traffic; but continued to affirm that

Veragua was the place whence the ore was procured.

 

The Adelantado, with his usual activity and enterprise, set off on the

third day, with the boats well armed, to ascend the Veragua about a league

and a half, to the residence of Quibian, the principal cacique. The

chieftain, hearing of his intention, met him near the entrance of the

river, attended by his subjects, in several canoes. He was tall, of

powerful frame, and warlike demeanor: the interview was extremely

amicable. The cacique presented the Adelantado with the golden ornaments

which he wore, and received as magnificent presents a few European

trinkets. They parted mutually well pleased. On the following day Quibian

visited the ships, where he was hospitably entertained by the admiral.

They could only communicate by signs, and as the chieftain was of a

taciturn and cautious character, the interview was not of long duration.

Columbus made him several presents; the followers of the cacique exchanged

many jewels of gold for the usual trifles, and Quibian returned, without

much ceremony, to his home.

 

On the 24th of January, there was a sudden swelling of the river. The

waters came rushing from the interior like a vast torrent; the ships were

forced from their anchors, tossed from side to side, and driven against

each other; the foremast of the admiral's vessel was carried away, and the

whole squadron was in imminent danger of shipwreck. While exposed to this

peril in the river, they were prevented from running out to sea by a

violent storm, and by the breakers which beat upon the bar. This sudden

rising of the river, Columbus attributed to some heavy fall of rain among

a range of distant mountains, to which he had given the name of the

mountains of San Christoval. The highest of these rose to a peak far above

the clouds. [158]

 

The weather continued extremely boisterous for several days. At length, on

the 6th of February, the sea being tolerably calm, the Adelantado,

attended by sixty-eight men well armed, proceeded in the boats to explore

the Veragua, and seek its reputed mines. When he ascended the river and

drew near to the village of Quibian, situated on the side of a hill, the

cacique came down to the bank to meet him, with a great train of his

subjects, unarmed, and making signs of peace. Quibian was naked, and

painted after the fashion of the country. One of his attendants drew a

great stone out of the river, and washed and rubbed it carefully, upon

which the chieftain seated himself as upon a throne. [159] He received the

Adelantado with great courtesy; for the lofty, vigorous, and iron form of

the latter, and his look of resolution and command, were calculated to

inspire awe and respect in an Indian warrior. The cacique, however, was

wary and politic. His jealousy was awakened by the intrusion of these

strangers into his territories; but he saw the futility of any open

attempt to resist them. He acceded to the wishes of the Adelantado,

therefore, to visit the interior of his dominions, and furnished him with

three guides to conduct him to the mines.

 

Leaving a number of his men to guard the boats, the Adelantado departed on

foot with the remainder. After penetrating into the interior about four

leagues and a half, they slept for the first night on the banks of a

river, which seemed to water the whole country with its windings, as they

had crossed it upwards of forty times. On the second day, they proceeded a

league and a half farther, and arrived among thick forests, where their

guides informed them the mines were situated. In fact, the whole soil

appeared to be impregnated with gold. They gathered it from among the

roots of the trees, which were of an immense height, and magnificent

foliage. In the space of two hours each man had collected a little

quantity of gold, gathered from the surface of the earth. Hence the guides

took the Adelantado to the summit of a high hill, and showing him an

extent of country as far as the eye could reach, assured him that the

whole of it, to the distance of twenty days' journey westward, abounded in

gold, naming to him several of the principal places. [160] The Adelantado

gazed with enraptured eye over a vast wilderness of continued forest, where

only here and there a bright column of smoke from amidst the trees gave

sign of some savage hamlet, or solitary wigwam, and the wild unappropriated

aspect of this golden country delighted him more than if he had beheld it

covered with towns and cities, and adorned with all the graces of

cultivation. He returned with his party, in high spirits, to the ships, and

rejoiced the admiral with the favorable report of his expedition. It was

soon discovered, however, that the politic Quibian had deceived them. His

guides, by his instructions, had taken the Spaniards to the mines of a

neighboring cacique with whom he was at war, hoping to divert them into the

territories of his enemy. The real mines of Veragua, it was said, were

nearer and much more wealthy.

 

The indefatigable Adelantado set forth again on the 16th of February, with

an armed band of fifty-nine men, marching along the coast westward, a boat

with fourteen men keeping pace with him. In this excursion he explored an

extensive tract of country, and visited the dominions of various caciques,

by whom he was hospitably entertained. He met continually with proofs of

abundance of gold; the natives generally wearing great plates of it

suspended round their necks by cotton cords. There were tracts of land,

also, cultivated with Indian corn,--one of which continued for the extent

of six leagues; and the country abounded with excellent fruits. He again

heard of a nation in the interior, advanced in arts and arms, wearing

clothing, and being armed like the Spaniards. Either these were vague and

exaggerated rumors concerning the great empire of Peru, or the Adelantado

had misunderstood the signs of his informants. He returned, after an

absence of several days, with a great quantity of gold, and with animating

accounts of the country. He had found no port, however, equal to the river

of Belen, and was convinced that gold was nowhere to be met with in such

abundance as in the district of Veragua [161].

 

 

 

 

Chapter VII.

 

Commencement of a Settlement on the River Belen.--Conspiracy of the

Natives.--Expedition of the Adelantado to Surprise Quiban.

 

[1503.]

 

 

 

The reports brought to Columbus, from every side, of the wealth of the

neighborhood; the golden tract of twenty days' journey in extent, shown to

his brother from the mountain; the rumors of a rich and civilized country

at no great distance, all convinced him that he had reached one of the

most favored parts of the Asiatic continent. Again his ardent mind kindled

up with glowing anticipations. He fancied himself arrived at a

fountain-head of riches, at one of the sources of the unbounded wealth of

King Solomon. Josephus, in his work on the antiquities of the Jews, had

expressed an opinion, that the gold for the building of the temple of

Jerusalem had been procured from the mines of the Aurea Chersonesus.

Columbus supposed the mines of Veragua to be the same. They lay, as he

observed, "within the same distance from the pole and from the line;" and

if the information which he fancied he had received from the Indians was

to be depended on, they were situated about the same distance from the

Ganges [162].

 

Here, then, it appeared to him, was a place at which to found a colony,

and establish a mart that should become the emporium of a vast tract of

mines. Within the two first days after his arrival in the country, as he

wrote to the sovereigns, he had seen more signs of gold than in Hispaniola

during four years. That island, so long the object of his pride and hopes,

had been taken from him, and was a scene of confusion; the pearl coast of

Paria was ravaged by mere adventurers; all his plans concerning both had

been defeated; but here was a far more wealthy region than either, and one

calculated to console him for all his wrongs and deprivations.

 

On consulting with his brother, therefore, he resolved immediately to

commence an establishment here, for the purpose of securing the possession

of the country, and exploring and working the mines. The Adelantado agreed

to remain with the greater part of the people, while the admiral should

return to Spain for reinforcements and supplies. The greatest dispatch was

employed in carrying this plan into immediate operation. Eighty men were

selected to remain. They were separated into parties of about ten each,

and commenced building houses on a small eminence, situated on the bank of

a creek, about a bow-shot within the mouth of the river Belen. The houses

were of wood, thatched with the leaves of palm-trees. One larger than the

rest was to serve as a magazine, to receive their ammunition, artillery,

and a part of their provisions. The principal part was stored, for greater

security, on board of one of the caravels, which was to be left for the

use of the colony. It was true they had but a scanty supply of European

stores remaining, consisting chiefly of biscuit, cheese, pulse, wine, oil,

and vinegar; but the country produced bananas, plantains, pine-apples,

cocoanuts, and other fruit. There was also maize in abundance, together

with various roots, such as were found in Hispaniola. The rivers and

sea-coast abounded with fish. The natives, too, made beverages of various

kinds. One from the juice of the pine-apple, having a vinous flavor;

another from maize, resembling beer; and another from the fruit of a

species of palm-tree. [163] There appeared to be no danger, therefore,

of suffering from famine. Columbus took pains to conciliate the good-will

of the Indians, that they might supply the wants of the colony during his

absence, and he made many presents to Quibian, by way of reconciling him

to this intrusion into his territories. [164]

 

The necessary arrangements being made for the colony, and a number of the

houses being roofed, and sufficiently finished for occupation, the admiral

prepared for his departure, when an unlooked-for obstacle presented

itself. The heavy rains which had so long distressed him during this

expedition had recently ceased. The torrents from the mountains were over;

and the river which had once put him to such peril by its sudden swelling,

had now become so shallow that there was not above half a fathom water on

the bar. Though his vessels were small, it was impossible to draw them

over the sands, which choked the mouth of the river, for there was a swell

rolling and tumbling upon them, enough to dash his worm-eaten barks to

pieces. He was obliged, therefore, to wait with patience, and pray for the

return of those rains which he had lately deplored.

 

In the meantime, Quibian beheld, with secret jealousy and indignation,

these strangers erecting habitations, and manifesting an intention of

establishing themselves in his territories. He was of a bold and warlike

spirit, and had a great force of warriors at his command; and being

ignorant of the vast superiority of the Europeans in the art of war,

thought it easy, by a well-concerted artifice, to overwhelm and destroy

them. He sent messengers round, and ordered all his fighting-men to

assemble at his residence on the river Veragua, under pretext of making

war upon a neighboring province. Numbers of the warriors, in repairing to

his headquarters, passed by the harbor. No suspicions of their real design

were entertained by Columbus or his officers; but their movements

attracted the attention of the chief notary, Diego Mendez, a man of a

shrewd and prying character, and zealously devoted to the admiral.

Doubting some treachery, he communicated his surmises to Columbus, and

offered to coast along in an armed boat to the river Veragua, and

reconnoitre the Indian camp. His offer was accepted, and he sallied from

the river accordingly, but had scarcely advanced a league, when he

descried a large force of Indians on the shore. Landing alone, and

ordering that the boat should be kept afloat, he entered among them. There

were about a thousand armed and supplied with provisions, as if for an

expedition. He offered to accompany them with his armed boat; his offer

was declined with evident signs of impatience. Returning to his boat, he

kept watch upon them all night, until, seeing they were vigilantly

observed, they returned to Veragua.

 

Mendez hastened back to the admiral, and gave it as his opinion that the

Indians had been on their way to surprise the Spaniards. The admiral was

loth to believe in such treachery, and was desirous of obtaining clearer

information, before he took any step that might interrupt the apparently

good understanding that existed with the natives. Mendez now undertook,

with a single companion, to penetrate by land to the headquarters of

Quibian, and endeavor to ascertain his intentions. Accompanied by one

Rodrigo de Escobar, he proceeded on foot along the seaboard, to avoid the

tangled forests, and arriving at the mouth of the Veragua, found two

canoes with Indians, whom he prevailed on, by presents, to convey him and

his companion to the village of the cacique. It was on the bank of the

river; the houses were detached and interspersed among trees. There was a

bustle of warlike preparation in the place, and the arrival of the two

Spaniards evidently excited surprise and uneasiness. The residence of the

cacique was larger than the others, and situated on a hill which rose from

the water's edge. Quibian was confined to the house by indisposition,

having been wounded in the leg by an arrow. Mendez gave himself out as a

surgeon come to cure the wound: with great difficulty and by force of

presents he obtained permission to proceed. On the crest of the hill and

in front of the cacique's dwelling, was a broad, level, open place, round

which, on posts, were the heads of three hundred enemies slain in battle.

Undismayed by this dismal array, Mendez and his companion crossed the

place towards the den of this grim warrior. A number of women and children

about the door fled into the house with piercing cries. A young and

powerful Indian, son of the cacique, sallied forth in a violent rage, and

struck Mendez a blow which made him recoil several paces. The latter

pacified him by presents and assurances that he came to cure his father's

wound, in proof of which he produced a box of ointment. It was impossible,

however, to gain access to the cacique, and Mendez returned with all haste

to the harbor to report to the admiral what he had seen and learnt. It was

evident there was a dangerous plot impending over the Spaniards, and as

far as Mendez could learn from the Indians who had taken him up the river

in their canoe, the body of a thousand warriors which he had seen on his

previous reconnoitring expedition, had actually been on a hostile

enterprise against the harbor, but had given it up on finding themselves

observed.

 

This information was confirmed by an Indian of the neighborhood, who had

become attached to the Spaniards and acted as interpreter. He revealed to

the admiral the designs of his countrymen, which he had overheard. Quibian

intended to surprise the harbor at night with a great force, burn the

ships and houses, and make a general massacre. Thus forewarned, Columbus

immediately set a double watch upon the harbor. The military spirit of the

Adelantado suggested a bolder expedient. The hostile plan of Quibian was

doubtless delayed by his wound, and in the meantime he would maintain the

semblance of friendship. The Adelantado determined to march at once to his

residence, capture him, his family, and principal warriors, send them

prisoners to Spain, and take possession of his village.

 

With the Adelantado, to conceive a plan was to carry it into immediate

execution, and, in fact, the impending danger admitted of no delay. Taking

with him seventy-four men, well armed, among whom was Diego Mendez, and

being accompanied by the Indian interpreter who had revealed the plot, he

set off on the 30th of March, in boats, to the mouth of the Veragua,

ascended it rapidly, and before the Indians could have notice of his

movements, landed at the foot of the hill on which the house of Quibian

was situated.

 

Lest the cacique should take alarm and fly at the sight of a large force,

he ascended the hill, accompanied by only five men, among whom was Diego

Mendez; ordering the rest to come on, with great caution and secrecy, two

at a time, and at a distance from each other. On the discharge of an

arquebuse, they were to surround the dwelling and suffer no one to escape.

 

As the Adelantado drew near to the house, Quibian came forth, and seating

himself in the portal, desired the Adelantado to approach singly. Don

Bartholomew now ordered Diego Mendez and his four companions to remain at

a little distance, and when they should see him take the cacique by the

arm, to rush immediately to his assistance. He then advanced with his

Indian interpreter, through whom a short conversation took place, relative

to the surrounding country. The Adelantado then adverted to the wound of

the cacique, and pretending to examine it, took him by the arm. At the

concerted signal four of the Spaniards rushed forward, the fifth

discharged the arquebuse. The cacique attempted to get loose, but was

firmly held in the iron grasp of the Adelantado. Being both men of great

muscular power, a violent struggle ensued. Don Bartholomew, however,

maintained the mastery, and Diego Mendez and his companions coming to his

assistance, Quibian was bound hand and foot. At the report of the

arquebuse, the main body of the Spaniards surrounded the house, and seized

most of those who were within, consisting of fifty persons, old and young.

Among these were the wives and children of Quibian, and several of his

principal subjects. No one was wounded, for there was no resistance, and

the Adelantado never permitted wanton bloodshed. When the poor savages saw

their prince a captive, they filled the air with lamentations; imploring

his release, and offering for his ransom a great treasure, which they said

lay concealed in a neighboring forest.

 

The Adelantado was deaf to their supplications and their offers. Quibian

was too dangerous a foe to be set at liberty; as a prisoner, he would be a

hostage for the security of the settlement. Anxious to secure his prize,

he determined to send the cacique and the other prisoners on board of the

boats, while he remained on shore with a part of his men to pursue the

Indians who had escaped. Juan Sanchez, the principal pilot of the

squadron, a powerful and spirited man, volunteered to take charge of the

captives. On committing the chieftain to his care, the Adelantado warned

him to be on his guard against any attempt at rescue or escape. The sturdy

pilot replied that if the cacique got out of his hands, he would give them

leave to pluck out his beard, hair by hair; with this vaunt he departed,

bearing off Quibian bound hand and foot. On arriving at the boat, he

secured him by a strong cord to one of the benches. It was a dark night.

As the boat proceeded down the river, the cacique complained piteously of

the painfulness of his bonds. The rough heart of the pilot was touched

with compassion, and he loosened the cord by which Quibian was tied to the

bench, keeping the end of it in his hand. The wily Indian watched his

opportunity, and when Sanchez was looking another way, plunged into the

water and disappeared. So sudden and violent was his plunge, that the

pilot had to let go the cord, lest he should be drawn in after him. The

darkness of the night, and the bustle which took place, in preventing the

escape of the other prisoners, rendered it impossible to pursue the

cacique, or even to ascertain his fate. Juan Sanchez hastened to the ships

with the residue of the captives, deeply mortified at being thus outwitted

by a savage.

 

The Adelantado remained all night on shore. The following morning, when he

beheld the wild, broken, and mountainous nature of the country, and the

scattered situation of the habitations, perched on different heights, he

gave up the search after the Indians, and returned to the ships with the

spoils of the cacique's mansion. These consisted of bracelets, anklets,

and massive plates of gold, such as were worn round the neck, together

with two golden coronets. The whole amounted to the value of three hundred

ducats. [165]  One fifth of the booty was set apart for the

crown. The residue was shared among those concerned in the enterprise. To

the Adelantado one of the coronets was assigned, as a trophy of his

exploit. [166]

 

 

 

 

Chapter VIII.

 

Disasters of the Settlement.

 

[1503.]

 

 

 

It was hoped by Columbus that the vigorous measure of the Adelantado would

strike terror into the Indians of the neighborhood, and prevent any

further designs upon the settlement. Quibian had probably perished. If he

survived, he must be disheartened by the captivity of his family, and

several of his principal subjects, and fearful of their being made

responsible for any act of violence on his part. The heavy rains,

therefore, which fall so frequently among the mountains of this isthmus,

having again swelled the river, Columbus made his final arrangements for

the management of the colony, and having given much wholesome counsel to

the Spaniards who were to remain, and taken an affectionate leave of his

brother, got under weigh with three of the caravels, leaving the fourth

for the use of the settlement. As the water was still shallow at the bar,

the ships were lightened of a great part of their cargoes, and towed out

by the boats in calm weather, grounding repeatedly. When fairly released

from the river, and their cargoes re-shipped, they anchored within a

league of the shore, to await a favorable wind. It was the intention of

the admiral to touch at Hispaniola, on his way to Spain, and send thence

supplies and reinforcements. The wind continuing adverse, he sent a boat

on shore on the 6th of April, under the command of Diego Tristan, captain

of one of the caravels, to procure wood and water, and make some

communications to the Adelantado. The expedition of this boat proved fatal

to its crew, but was providential to the settlement.

 

The cacique Quibian had not perished as some had supposed. Though both

hands and feet were bound, yet in the water he was as in his natural

element. Plunging to the bottom, he swam below the surface until

sufficiently distant to be out of view in the darkness of the night, and

then emerging made his way to shore. The desolation of his home, and the

capture of his wives and children, filled him with anguish; but when he

saw the vessels in which they were confined leaving the river, and bearing

them off, he was transported with fury and despair. Determined on a signal

vengeance, he assembled a great number of his warriors, and came secretly

upon the settlement. The thick woods by which it was surrounded enabled

the Indians to approach unseen within ten paces. The Spaniards, thinking

the enemy completely discomfited and dispersed, were perfectly off their

guard. Some had strayed to the sea-shore, to take a farewell look at the

ships; some were on board of the caravel in the river; others were

scattered about the houses: on a sudden, the Indians rushed from their

concealment with yells and howlings, launched their javelins through the

roofs of palm-leaves, hurled them in at the windows, or thrust them

through the crevices of the logs which composed the walls. As the houses

were small, several of the inhabitants were wounded. On the first alarm,

the Adelantado seized a lance, and sallied forth with seven or eight of

his men. He was joined by Diego Mendez and several of his companions, and

they drove the enemy into the forest, killing and wounding several of

them. The Indians kept up a brisk fire of darts and arrows from among the

trees, and made furious sallies with their war-clubs; but there was no

withstanding the keen edge of the Spanish weapons, and a fierce blood-hound

being let loose upon them, completed their terror. They fled howling

through the forest, leaving a number dead on the field, having killed one

Spaniard, and wounded eight. Among the latter was the Adelantado, who

received a slight thrust of a javelin in the breast.

 

Diego Tristan arrived in his boat during the contest, but feared to

approach the land, lest the Spaniards should rush on board in such numbers

as to sink him. When the Indians had been put to flight, he proceeded up

the river in quest of fresh water, disregarding the warnings of those on

shore, that he might be cut off by the enemy in their canoes.

 

The river was deep and narrow, shut in by high banks, and overhanging

trees. The forests on each side were thick and impenetrable; so that there

was no landing-place, excepting here and there where a footpath wound down

to some fishing-ground, or some place where the natives kept their canoes.

 

The boat had ascended about a league above the village, to a part of the

river where it was completely overshadowed by lofty banks and spreading

trees. Suddenly, yells and war-whoops and blasts of conch shells rose on

every side. Light canoes darted forth in every direction from dark

hollows, and overhanging thickets, each dextrously managed by a single

savage, while others stood up brandishing and hurling their lances.

Missiles were launched also from the banks of the river, and the branches

of the trees. There were eight sailors in the boat, and three soldiers.

Galled and wounded by darts and arrows, confounded by the yells and blasts

of conchs, and the assaults which thickened from every side, they lost all

presence of mind, neglected to use either oars or fire-arms, and only

sought to shelter themselves with their bucklers. Diego Tristan had

received several wounds; but still displayed great intrepidity, and was

endeavoring to animate his men, when a javelin pierced his right eye; and

struck him dead. The canoes now closed upon the boat, and a general

massacre ensued. But one Spaniard escaped, Juan de Noya, a cooper of

Seville. Having fallen overboard in the midst of the action, he dived to

the bottom, swam under water, gained the bank of the river unperceived,

and made his way down to the settlement, bringing tidings of the massacre

of his captain and comrades.

 

The Spaniards were completely dismayed, were few in number, several of

them were wounded, and they were in the midst of tribes of exasperated

savages, far more fierce and warlike than those to whom they had been

accustomed. The admiral, being ignorant of their misfortunes, would sail

away without yielding them assistance, and they would be left to sink

beneath the overwhelming force of barbarous foes, or to perish with hunger

on this inhospitable coast. In their despair they determined to take the

caravel which had been left with them, and abandon the place altogether.

The Adelantado remonstrated with them in vain; nothing would content them

but to put to sea immediately. Here a new alarm awaited them. The torrents

having subsided, the river was again shallow, and it was impossible for

the caravel to pass over the bar. They now took the boat of the caravel,

to bear tidings of their danger to the admiral, and implore him not to

abandon them; but the wind was boisterous, a high sea was rolling, and a

heavy surf, tumbling and breaking at the mouth of the river, prevented the

boat from getting out. Horrors increased upon them. The mangled bodies of

Diego Tristan and his men came floating down the stream, and drifting

about the harbor, with flights of crows, and other carrion birds, feeding

on them, and hovering, and screaming, and fighting about their prey. The

forlorn Spaniards contemplated this scene with shuddering; it appeared

ominous of their own fate.

 

In the meantime the Indians, elated by their triumph over the crew of the

boat, renewed their hostilities. Whoops and yells answered each other from

various parts of the neighborhood. The dismal sound of conchs and

war-drums in the deep bosom of the woods showed that the number of the

enemy was continually augmenting. They would rush forth occasionally upon

straggling parties of Spaniards, and make partial attacks upon the houses.

It was considered no longer safe to remain in the settlement, the close

forest which surrounded it being a covert for the approaches of the enemy.

The Adelantado chose, therefore, an open place on the shore at some

distance from the wood. Here he caused a kind of bulwark to be made of the

boat of the caravel, and of chests, casks, and similar articles. Two

places were left open as embrasures, in which were placed a couple of

falconets, or small pieces of artillery, in such a manner as to command

the neighborhood. In this little fortress the Spaniards shut themselves

up; its walls were sufficient to screen them from the darts and arrows of

the Indians, but mostly they depended upon their firearms, the sound of

which struck dismay into the savages, especially when they saw the effect

of the balls, splintering and rending the trees around them, and carrying

havoc to such a distance. The Indians were thus kept in check for the

present, and deterred from venturing from the forest; but the Spaniards,

exhausted by constant watching and incessant alarms, anticipated all kinds

of evil when their ammunition should be exhausted, or they should be

driven forth by hunger to seek for food. [167]

 

 

 

 

Chapter IX.

 

Distress of the Admiral on Board of His Ship.--Ultimate Relief of the

Settlement.

 

[1503.]

 

 

 

While the Adelantado and his men were exposed to such imminent peril on

shore, great anxiety prevailed on board of the ships. Day after day

elapsed without the return of Diego Tristan and his party, and it was

feared some disaster had befallen them. Columbus would have sent on shore

to make inquiries; but there was only one boat remaining for the service

of the squadron, and he dared not risk it in the rough sea and heavy surf.

A dismal circumstance occurred to increase the gloom and uneasiness of the

crews. On hoard of one of the caravels were confined the family and

household of the cacique Quibian. It was the intention of Columbus to

carry them to Spain, trusting that as long as they remained in the power

of the Spaniards, their tribe would be deterred from further hostilities.

They were shut up at night in the forecastle of the caravel, the hatchway

of which was secured by a strong chain and padlock. As several of the crew

slept upon the hatch, and it was so high as to be considered out of reach

of the prisoners, they neglected to fasten the chain. The Indians

discovered their negligence. Collecting a quantity of stones from the

ballast of the vessel, they made a great heap directly under the hatchway.

Several of the most powerful warriors mounted upon the top, and, bending

their backs, by a sudden and simultaneous effort forced up the hatch,

flinging the seamen who slept upon it to the opposite side of the ship. In

an instant the greater part of the Indians sprang forth, plunged into the

sea, and swam for shore. Several, however, were prevented from sallying

forth; others were seized on the deck, and forced back into the

forecastle; the hatchway was carefully chained down, and a guard was set

for the rest of the night. In the morning, when the Spaniards went to

examine the captives, they were all found dead. Some had hanged themselves

with the ends of ropes, their knees touching the floor; others had

strangled themselves by straining the cords tight with their feet. Such

was the fierce, unconquerable spirit of these people, and their horror of

the white men. [168]

 

The escape of the prisoners occasioned great anxiety to the admiral,

fearing they would stimulate their countrymen to some violent act of

vengeance; and he trembled for the safety of his brother. Still this

painful mystery reigned over the land. The boat of Diego Tristan did not

return, and the raging surf prevented all communication. At length, one

Pedro Ledesma, a pilot of Seville, a man of about forty-five years of age,

and of great strength of body and mind, offered, if the boat would take

him to the edge of the surf, to swim to shore, and bring off news. He had

been piqued by the achievement of the Indian captives, in swimming to land

at a league's distance, in defiance of sea and surf. "Surely," he said,

"if they dare venture so much to procure their individual liberties, I

ought to brave at least a part of the danger, to save the lives of so many

companions." His offer was gladly accepted by the admiral, and was boldly

accomplished. The boat approached with him as near to the surf as safety

would permit, where it was to await his return. Here, stripping himself,

he plunged into the sea, and after buffeting for some time with the

breakers, sometimes rising upon their surges, sometimes buried beneath

them and dashed upon the sand, he succeeded in reaching the shore.

 

He found his countrymen shut up in their forlorn fortress, beleaguered by

savage foes, and learnt the tragical fate of Diego Tristan and his

companions. Many of the Spaniards, in their horror and despair, had thrown

off all subordination, refused to assist in any measure that had in view a

continuance in this place, and thought of nothing but escape. When they

beheld Ledesma, a messenger from the ships, they surrounded him with

frantic eagerness, urging him to implore the admiral to take them on

board, and not abandon them on a coast where their destruction was

inevitable. They were preparing canoes to take them to the ships, when the

weather should moderate, the boat of the caravel being too small; and

swore that, if the admiral refused to take them on board, they would

embark in the caravel, as soon as it could be extricated from the river,

and abandon themselves to the mercy of the seas, rather than remain upon

that fatal coast.

 

Having heard all that his forlorn countrymen had to say, and communicated

with the Adelantado and his officers, Ledesma set out on his perilous

return. He again braved the surf and the breakers, reached the boat which

was waiting for him, and was conveyed back to the ships. The disastrous

tidings from the land filled the heart of the admiral with grief and

alarm. To leave his brother on shore would be to expose him to the mutiny

of his own men, and the ferocity of the savages. He could spare no

reinforcement from his ships, the crews being so much weakened by the loss

of Tristan and his companions. Rather than the settlement should be broken

up, he would gladly have joined the Adelantado with all his people; but in

such case how could intelligence be conveyed to the sovereigns of this

important discovery, and how could supplies be obtained from Spain? There

appeared no alternative, therefore, but to embark all the people, abandon

the settlement for the present, and return at some future day, with a

force competent to take secure possession of the country. [169] The state

of the weather rendered the practicability even of this plan doubtful. The

wind continued high, the sea rough, and no boat could pass between the

squadron and the land. The situation of the ships was itself a matter of

extreme solicitude. Feebly manned, crazed by storms, and ready to fall to

pieces from the ravages of the teredo, they were anchored on a lee shore,

with a boisterous wind and sea, in a climate subject to tempests, and

where the least augmentation of the weather might drive them among the

breakers. Every hour increased the anxiety of Columbus for his brother,

his people, and his ships, and each hour appeared to render the impending

dangers more imminent. Days of constant perturbation, and nights of

sleepless anxiety, preyed upon a constitution broken by age, by maladies,

and hardships, and produced a fever of the mind, in which he was visited

by one of those mental hallucinations deemed by him mysterious and

supernatural. In a letter to the sovereigns he gives a solemn account of

a kind of vision by which he was comforted in a dismal night, when full

of despondency and tossing on a couch of pain:----

 

"Wearied and sighing," says he, "I fell into a slumber, when I heard a

piteous voice saying to me, 'O fool, and slow to believe and serve thy

God, who is the God of all! What did he more for Moses, or for his servant

David, than he has done for thee? From the time of thy birth he has ever

had thee under his peculiar care. When he saw thee of a fitting age, he

made thy name to resound marvelously throughout the earth, and thou wert

obeyed in many lands, and didst acquire honorable fame among Christians.

Of the gates of the Ocean Sea, shut up with such mighty chains, he

delivered thee the keys; the Indies, those wealthy regions of the world,

he gave thee for thine own, and empowered thee to dispose of them to

others, according to thy pleasure. What did he more for the great people

of Israel when he led them forth from Egypt? Or for David, whom, from

being a shepherd, he made a king in Judea? Turn to him, then, and

acknowledge thine error; his mercy is infinite. He has many and vast

inheritances yet in reserve. Fear not to seek them. Thine age shall be no

impediment to any great undertaking. Abraham was above an hundred years

when he begat Isaac; and was Sarah youthful? Thou urgest despondingly for

succor. Answer! who hath afflicted thee so much, and so many times?--God,

or the world? The privileges and promises which God hath made thee he hath

never broken; neither hath he said, after having received thy services,

that his meaning was different, and to be understood in a different sense.

He performs to the very letter. He fulfills all that he promises, and with

increase. Such is his custom. I have shown thee what thy creator hath done

for thee, and what he doeth for all. The present is the reward of the

toils and perils thou hast endured in serving others.' I heard all this,"

adds Columbus, "as one almost dead, and had no power to reply to words so

true, excepting to weep for my errors. Whoever it was that spake to me,

finished by saying, 'Fear not! Confide! All these tribulations are written

in marble, and not without cause.'"

 

Such is the singular statement which Columbus gave to the sovereigns of

his supposed vision. It has been suggested that this was a mere ingenious

fiction, adroitly devised by him to convey a lesson to his prince; but

such an idea is inconsistent with his character. He was too deeply imbued

with awe of the Deity, and with reverence for his sovereign, to make use

of such an artifice. The words here spoken to him by the supposed voice,

are truths which dwelt upon his mind, and grieved his spirit during his

waking hours. It is natural that they should recur vividly and coherently

in his feverish dreams; and in recalling and relating a dream one is

unconsciously apt to give it a little coherency. Besides, Columbus had a

solemn belief that he was a peculiar instrument in the hands of

Providence, which, together with a deep tinge of superstition, common to

the age, made him prone to mistake every striking dream for a revelation.

He is not to be measured by the same standard with ordinary men in

ordinary circumstances. It is difficult for the mind to realize his

situation, and to conceive the exaltations of spirit to which he must have

been subjected. The artless manner in which, in his letter to the

sovereigns, he mingles up the rhapsodies and dreams of his imagination,

with simple facts, and sound practical observations, pouring them forth

with a kind of scriptural solemnity and poetry of language, is one of the

most striking illustrations of a character richly compounded of

extraordinary and apparently contradictory elements.

 

Immediately after this supposed vision, and after a duration of nine days,

the boisterous weather subsided, the sea became calm, and the

communication with the land was restored. It was found impossible to

extricate the remaining caravel from the river; but every exertion was

made to bring off the people, and the property, before there should be a

return of bad weather. In this, the exertions of the zealous Diego Mendez

were eminently efficient. He had been for some days preparing for such an

emergency. Cutting up the sails of the caravel, he made great sacks to

receive the biscuit. He lashed two Indian canoes together with spars, so

that they could not be overturned by the waves, and made a platform on

them capable of sustaining a great burden. This kind of raft was laden

repeatedly with the stores, arms, and ammunition, which had been left on

shore, and with the furniture of the caravel, which was entirely

dismantled. When well freighted, it was towed by the boat to the ships. In

this way, by constant and sleepless exertions, in the space of two days,

almost every thing of value was transported on board the squadron, and

little else left than the hull of the caravel, stranded, decayed, and

rotting in the river. Diego Mendez superintended the whole embarkation

with unwearied watchfulness and activity. He, and five companions, were

the last to leave the shore, remaining all night at their perilous post,

and embarking in the morning with the last cargo of effects.

 

Nothing could equal the transports of the Spaniards, when they found

themselves once more on board of the ships, and saw a space of ocean

between them and those forests which had lately seemed destined to be

their graves. The joy of their comrades seemed little inferior to their

own; and the perils and hardships which yet surrounded them, were

forgotten for a time in mutual congratulations. The admiral was so much

impressed with a sense of the high services rendered by Diego Mendez,

throughout the late time of danger and disaster, that he gave him the

command of the caravel, vacant by the death of the unfortunate Diego

Tristan. [170]

 

 

 

 

Chapter X.

 

Departure from the Coast of Veragua.--Arrival at Jamaica.--Stranding of

the Ships.

 

[1503.]

 

 

 

The wind at length becoming favorable, Columbus set sail, towards the end

of April, from the disastrous coast of Veragua. The wretched condition of

the ships, the enfeebled state of the crews, and the scarcity of

provisions, determined him to make the best of his way to Hispaniola,

where he might refit his vessels and procure the necessary supplies for

the voyage to Europe. To the surprise of his pilot and crews, however, on

making sail, he stood again along the coast to the eastward, instead of

steering north, which they considered the direct route to Hispaniola. They

fancied that he intended to proceed immediately for Spain, and murmured

loudly at the madness of attempting so long a voyage, with ships destitute

of stores and consumed by the worms. Columbus and his brother, however,

had studied the navigation of those seas with a more observant and

experienced eye. They considered it advisable to gain a considerable

distance to the east, before standing across for Hispaniola, to avoid

being swept away, far below their destined port, by the strong currents

setting constantly to the west. [171] The admiral, however, did not impart

his reasons to the pilots, being anxious to keep the knowledge of his

routes as much to himself as possible, seeing that there were so many

adventurers crowding into the field, and ready to follow on his track. He

even took from the mariners their charts, [172] and boasts, in a letter to

the sovereigns, that none of his pilots would be able to retrace the route

to and from Veragua, nor to describe where it was situated.

 

Disregarding the murmurs of his men, therefore, he continued along the

coast eastward as far as Puerto Bello. Here he was obliged to leave one of

the caravels, being so pierced by worms, that it was impossible to keep

her afloat. All the crews were now crowded into two caravels, and these

were little better than mere wrecks. The utmost exertions were necessary

to keep them free from water; while the incessant labor of the pumps bore

hard on men enfeebled by scanty diet, and dejected by various hardships.

Continuing onward, they passed Port Retrete, and a number of islands to

which the admiral gave the name of Las Barbas, now termed the Mulatas, a

little beyond Point Blas. Here he supposed that he had arrived at the

province of Mangi in the territories of the Grand Khan, described by Marco

Polo as adjoining to Cathay. [173] He continued on about ten leagues

farther, until he approached the entrance of what is at present called

the Gulf of Darien. Here he had a consultation with his captains and

pilots, who remonstrated at his persisting in this struggle against

contrary winds and currents, representing the lamentable plight of the

ships, and the infirm state of the crews. [174] Bidding farewell,

therefore, to the main-land, he stood northward on the 1st of May, in

quest of Hispaniola. As the wind was easterly, with a strong current

setting to the west, he kept as near the wind as possible. So little did

his pilots know of their situation, that they supposed themselves to the

east of the Caribbee Islands, whereas the admiral feared that, with all

his exertions, he should fall to the westward of Hispaniola. [175] His

apprehensions proved to be well founded; for, on the 10th of the month,

he came in sight of two small low islands to the northwest of

 Hispaniola, to which, from the great quantities of tortoises seen about

them, he gave the name of the Tortugas; they are now known as the Caymans.

Passing wide of these, and continuing directly north, he found himself, on

the 30th of May, among the cluster of islands on the south side of Cuba,

to which he had formerly given the name of the Queen's Gardens; having

been carried between eight and nine degrees west of his destined port.

Here he cast anchor near one of the Keys, about ten leagues from the main

island. His crews were suffering excessively through scanty provisions and

great fatigue; nothing was left of the sea-stores but a little biscuit,

oil, and vinegar; and they were obliged to labor incessantly at the pumps,

to keep the vessels afloat. They had scarcely anchored at these islands,

when there came on, at midnight, a sudden tempest, of such violence, that,

according to the strong expression of Columbus, it seemed as if the world

would dissolve. [176] They lost three of their anchors almost immediately,

and the caravel Bermuda was driven with such violence upon the ship of

the admiral, that the bow of the one, and the stern of the other, were

greatly shattered. The sea running high, and the wind being boisterous,

the vessels chafed and injured each other dreadfully, and it was with

great difficulty that they were separated. One anchor only remained to

the admiral's ship, and this saved him from being driven upon the rocks;

but at daylight the cable was found nearly worn asunder. Had the darkness

continued an hour longer, he could scarcely have escaped shipwreck. [177]

 

At the end of six days, the weather having moderated, he resumed his

course, standing eastward for Hispaniola: "his people," as he says,

"dismayed and down-hearted; almost all his anchors lost, and his vessels

bored as full of holes as a honeycomb." After struggling against contrary

winds and the usual currents from the east, he reached Cape Cruz, and

anchored at a village in the province of Macaca, [178] where he had

touched in 1494, in his voyage along the southern coast of Cuba. Here he

was detained by head winds for several days, during which he was supplied

with cassava bread by the natives. Making sail again, he endeavored to

beat up to Hispaniola; but every effort was in vain. The winds and

currents continued adverse; the leaks continually gained upon his

vessels, though the pumps were kept incessantly going, and the seamen

even baled the water out with buckets and kettles. The admiral now stood,

in despair, for the island of Jamaica, to seek some secure port; for

there was imminent danger of foundering at sea. On the eve of St. John,

the 23d of June, they put into Puerto Bueno, now called Dry Harbor, but

met with none of the natives from whom they could obtain provisions, nor

was there any fresh water to be had in the neighborhood. Suffering from

hunger and thirst, they sailed eastward, on the following day, to another

harbor, to which the admiral on his first visit to the island had given

the name of Port Santa Gloria.

 

Here, at last, Columbus had to give up his long and arduous struggle

against the unremitting persecution of the elements. His ships, reduced to

mere wrecks, could no longer keep the sea, and were ready to sink even in

port. He ordered them, therefore, to be run aground, within a bow-shot of

the shore, and fastened together, side by side. They soon filled with

water to the decks. Thatched cabins were then erected at the prow and

stern for the accommodation of the crews, and the wreck was placed in the

best possible state of defence. Thus castled in the sea, he trusted to be

able to repel any sudden attack of the natives, and at the same time to

keep his men from roving about the neighborhood and indulging in their

usual excesses. No one was allowed to go on shore without especial

license, and the utmost precaution was taken to prevent any offence being

given to the Indians. Any exasperation of them might be fatal to the

Spaniards in their present forlorn situation. A firebrand thrown into

their wooden fortress might wrap it in flames, and leave them defenceless

amidst hostile thousands.

 

 

 

 

 

Book XVI.

 

 

 

 

Chapter I.

 

Arrangement of Diego Mendez with the Caciques for Supplies of Provisions.

--Sent to San Domingo by Columbus in Quest of Relief.

 

[1503.]

 

 

 

The island of Jamaica was extremely populous and fertile; and the harbor

soon swarmed with Indians, who brought provisions to barter with the

Spaniards. To prevent any disputes in purchasing or sharing these

supplies, two persons were appointed to superintend all bargains, and the

provisions thus obtained were divided every evening among the people. This

arrangement had a happy effect in promoting a peaceful intercourse. The

stores thus furnished, however, coming from a limited neighborhood of

improvident beings, were not sufficient for the necessities of the

Spaniards, and were so irregular as often to leave them in pinching want.

They feared, too, that the neighborhood might soon be exhausted, in which

case they should be reduced to famine. In this emergency, Diego Mendez

stepped forward with his accustomed zeal, and volunteered to set off, with

three men, on a foraging expedition about the island. His offer being

gladly accepted by the admiral, he departed with his comrades well armed.

He was every where treated with the utmost kindness by the natives. They

took him to their houses, set meat and drink before him and his

companions, and performed all the rites of savage hospitality. Mendez made

an arrangement with the cacique of a numerous tribe, that his subjects

should hunt and fish, and make cassava bread, and bring a quantity of

provisions every day to the harbor. They were to receive, in exchange,

knives, combs, beads, fishhooks, hawks'-bells, and other articles, from a

Spaniard, who was to reside among them for that purpose. The agreement

being made, Mendez dispatched one of his comrades to apprise the admiral.

He then pursued his journey three leagues farther, when he made a similar

arrangement, and dispatched another of his companions to the admiral.

Proceeding onward, about thirteen leagues from the ships, he arrived at

the residence of another cacique, called Huarco, where he was generously

entertained. The cacique ordered his subjects to bring a large quantity of

provisions, for which Mendez paid him on the spot, and made arrangements

for a like supply at stated intervals. He dispatched his third companion

with this supply to the admiral, requesting, as usual, that an agent might

be sent to receive and pay for the regular deliveries of provisions.

 

Mendez was now left alone, but he was fond of any enterprise that gave

individual distinction. He requested of the cacique two Indians to

accompany him to the end of the island; one to carry his provisions, and

the other to bear the hammac, or cotton net in which he slept. These being

granted, he pushed resolutely forward along the coast, until he reached

the eastern extremity of Jamaica. Here he found a powerful cacique of the

name of Ameyro. Mendez had buoyant spirits, great address, and an

ingratiating manner with the savages. He and the cacique became great

friends, exchanged names, which is a kind of token of brotherhood, and

Mendez engaged him to furnish provisions to the ships. He then bought an

excellent canoe of the cacique, for which he gave a splendid brass basin,

a short frock or cassock, and one of the two shirts which formed his stock

of linen. The cacique furnished him with six Indians to navigate his bark,

and they parted mutually well pleased. Diego Mendez coasted his way back,

touching at the various places where he had made his arrangements. He

found the Spanish agents already arrived at them, loaded his canoe with

provisions, and returned in triumph to the harbor, where he was received

with acclamations by his comrades, and with open arms by the admiral. The

provisions he brought were a most seasonable supply, for the Spaniards

were absolutely fasting; and thenceforward Indians arrived daily, well

laden, from the marts which he had established. [179]

 

The immediate wants of his people being thus provided for, Columbus

revolved in his anxious mind the means of getting from this island. His

ships were beyond the possibility of repair, and there was no hope of any

chance sail arriving to his relief, on the shores of a savage island, in

an unfrequented sea. The most likely measure appeared to be, to send

notice of his situation to Ovando, the governor at San Domingo, entreating

him to dispatch a vessel to his relief. But how was this message to be

conveyed? The distance between Jamaica and Hispaniola was forty leagues,

across a gulf swept by contrary currents; there were no means of

transporting a messenger, except in the light canoes of the savages; and

who would undertake so hazardous a voyage in a frail bark of the kind?

Suddenly the idea of Diego Mendez, and the canoe he had recently

purchased, presented itself to the mind of Columbus. He knew the ardor and

intrepidity of Mendez, and his love of distinction by any hazardous

exploit. Taking him aside, therefore, he addressed him in a manner

calculated both to stimulate his zeal, and flatter his self-love. Mendez

himself gives an artless account of this interesting conversation, which

is full of character.

 

"Diego Mendez, my son," said the venerable admiral, "none of those whom I

have here understand the great peril in which we are placed, excepting you

and myself. We are few in number, and these savage Indians are many, and

of fickle and irritable natures. On the least provocation they may throw

firebrands from the shore, and consume us in our straw-thatched cabins.

The arrangement which you have made with them for provisions, and which at

present they fulfill so cheerfully, to-morrow they may break in their

caprice, and may refuse to bring us any thing; nor have we the means to

compel them by force, but are entirely at their pleasure. I have thought

of a remedy, if it meets with your views. In this canoe, which you have

purchased, some one may pass over to Hispaniola, and procure a ship, by

which we may all be delivered from this great peril into which we have

fallen. Tell me your opinion on the matter."

 

"To this," says Diego Mendez, "I replied: 'Señor, the danger in which we

are placed, I well know, is far greater than is easily conceived. As to

passing from this island to Hispaniola, in so small a vessel as a canoe, I

hold it not merely difficult, but impossible; since it is necessary to

traverse a gulf of forty leagues, and between islands where the sea is

extremely impetuous, and seldom in repose. I know not who there is would

adventure upon so extreme a peril.'"

 

Columbus made no reply, but from his looks and the nature of his silence,

Mendez plainly perceived himself to be the person whom the admiral had in

view; "Whereupon," continues he, "I added: 'Señor, I have many times put

my life in peril of death to save you and all those who are here, and God

has hitherto preserved me in a miraculous manner. There are, nevertheless,

murmurers, who say that your Excellency intrusts to me all affairs wherein

honor is to be gained, while there are others in your company who would

execute them as well as I do. Therefore I beg that you would summon all

the people, and propose this enterprise to them, to see if among them

there is any one who will undertake it, which I doubt. If all decline it,

I will then come forward and risk my life in your service, as I many times

have done.'" [180]

 

The admiral gladly humored the wishes of the worthy Mendez, for never was

simple egotism accompanied by more generous and devoted loyalty. On the

following morning, the crew was assembled, and the proposition publicly

made. Every one drew back at the thoughts of it, pronouncing it the height

of rashness. Upon this, Diego Mendez stepped forward. "Señor," said he, "I

have but one life to lose, yet I am willing to venture it for your service

and for the good of all here present, and I trust in the protection of

God, which I have experienced on so many other occasions."

 

Columbus embraced this zealous follower, who immediately set about

preparing for his expedition. Drawing his canoe on shore, he put on a

false keel, nailed weather-boards along the bow and stern, to prevent the

sea from breaking over it; payed it with a coat of tar; furnished it with

a mast and sail; and put in provisions for himself, a Spanish comrade, and

six Indians.

 

In the meantime, Columbus wrote letters to Ovando, requesting that a ship

might be immediately sent to bring him and his men to Hispaniola. He wrote

a letter likewise to the sovereigns; for, after fulfilling his mission at

San Domingo, Diego Mendez was to proceed to Spain on the admiral's

affairs. In the letter to the sovereigns, Columbus depicted his deplorable

situation, and entreated that a vessel might be dispatched to Hispaniola,

to convey himself and his crew to Spain. He gave a comprehensive account

of his voyage, most particulars of which have already been incorporated in

this history, and he insisted greatly on the importance of the discovery

of Veragua. He gave it as his opinion, that here were the mines of the

Aurea Chersonesus, whence Solomon had derived such wealth for the building

of the Temple. He entreated that this golden coast might not, like other

places which he had discovered, be abandoned to adventurers, or placed

under the government of men who felt no interest in the cause. "This is

not a child," he adds, "to be abandoned to a step-mother. I never think of

Hispaniola and Paria without weeping. Their case is desperate and past

cure; I hope their example may cause this region to be treated in a

different manner." His imagination becomes heated. He magnifies the

supposed importance of Veragua, as transcending all his former

discoveries; and he alludes to his favorite project for the deliverance of

the Holy Sepulchre: "Jerusalem," he says, "and Mount Sion, are to be

rebuilt by the hand of a Christian. Who is he to be? God, by the mouth of

the Prophet, in the fourteenth Psalm, declares it. The abbot Joachim

[181] says that he is to come out of Spain." His thoughts then revert to

the ancient story of the Grand Khan, who had requested that sages might

be sent to instruct him in the Christian faith. Columbus, thinking that

he had been in the very vicinity of Cathay, exclaims with sudden zeal,

"Who will offer himself for this task? If our Lord permit me to return to

Spain, I engage to take him there, God helping, in safety."

 

Nothing is more characteristic of Columbus than his earnest, artless, at

times eloquent, and at times almost incoherent letters. What an instance

of soaring enthusiasm and irrepressible enterprise is here exhibited! At

the time that he was indulging in these visions, and proposing new and

romantic enterprises, he was broken down by age and infirmities, racked by

pain, confined to his bed, and shut up in a wreck on the coast of a remote

and savage island. No stronger picture can be given of his situation, than

that which shortly follows this transient glow of excitement; when, with

one of his sudden transitions of thought, he awakens, as it were, to his

actual condition.

 

"Hitherto," says he, "I have wept for others; but now, have pity upon me,

heaven, and weep for me, O earth! In niy temporal concerns, without a

farthing to offer for a mass; cast away here in the Indies; surrounded by

cruel and hostile savages; isolated, infirm, expecting each day will be my

last: in spiritual concerns, separated from the holy sacraments of the

church, so that my soul, if parted here from my body, must be for ever

lost! Weep for me, whoever has charity, truth, and justice! I came not on

this voyage to gain honor or estate, that is most certain, for all hope of

the kind was already dead within me. I came to serve your majesties with a

sound intention and an honest zeal, and I speak no falsehood. If it should

please God to deliver me hence, I humbly supplicate your majesties to

permit me to repair to Rome, and perform other pilgrimages."

 

The dispatches being ready, and the preparations of the canoe completed,

Diego Mendez embarked, with his Spanish comrade and his six Indians, and

departed along the coast to the eastward. The voyage was toilsome and

perilous. They had to make their way against strong currents. Once they

were taken by roving canoes of Indians, but made their escape, and at

length arrived at the end of the island; a distance of thirty-four leagues

from the harbor. Here they remained, waiting for calm weather to venture

upon the broad gulf, when they were suddenly surrounded and taken

prisoners by a number of hostile Indians, who carried them off a distance

of three leagues, where they determined to kill them. Some dispute arose

about the division of the spoils taken from the Spaniards, whereupon the

savages agreed to settle it by a game of chance. While they were thus

engaged, Diego Mendez escaped, found his way to his canoe, embarked in it,

and returned alone to the harbor after fifteen days' absence. What became

of his companions he does not mention, being seldom apt to speak of any

person but himself. This account is taken from the narrative inserted in

his last will and testament.

 

Columbus, though grieved at the failure of his message, was rejoiced at

the escape of the faithful Mendez. The latter, nothing daunted by the

perils and hardships he had undergone, offered to depart immediately on a

second attempt, provided he could have persons to accompany him to the end

of the island, and protect him from the natives. This the Adelantado

offered to undertake, with a large party well armed. Bartholomew Fiesco, a

Genoese, who had been captain of one of the caravels, was associated with

Mendez in this second expedition. He was a man of great worth, strongly

attached to the admiral, and much esteemed by him. Each had a large canoe

under his command, in which were six Spaniards and ten Indians--the latter

were to serve as oarsmen. The canoes were to keep in company. On reaching

Hispaniola, Fiesco was to return immediately to Jamaica, to relieve the

anxiety of the admiral and his crew, by tidings of the safe arrival of

their messenger. In the meantime, Diego Mendez was to proceed to San

Domingo, deliver his letter to Ovando, procure and dispatch a ship, and

then depart for Spain with a letter to the sovereigns.

 

All arrangements being made, the Indians placed in the canoes their frugal

provision of cassava bread, and each his calabash of water. The Spaniards,

beside their bread, had a supply of the flesh of utias, and each his sword

and target. In this way they launched forth upon their long and perilous

voyage, followed by the prayers of their countrymen.

 

The Adelantado, with his armed band, kept pace with them along the coast.

There was no attempt of the natives to molest them, and they arrived in

safety at the end of the island. Here they remained three days before the

sea was sufficiently calm for them to venture forth in their feeble barks.

At length, the weather being quite serene, they bade farewell to their

comrades, and committed themselves to the broad sea. The Adelantado

remained watching them, until they became mere specks on the ocean, and

the evening hid them from his view. The next day he set out on his return

to the harbor, stopping at various villages on the way, and endeavoring to

confirm the good-will of the natives. [182]

 

 

 

 

Chapter II.

 

Mutiny of Porras.

 

[1503.]

 

 

 

It might have been thought that the adverse fortune which had so long

persecuted Columbus was now exhausted. The envy which had once sickened at

his glory and prosperity could scarcely have devised for him a more

forlorn heritage in the world he had discovered. The tenant of a wreck on

a savage coast, in an untraversed ocean, at the mercy of barbarous hordes,

who, in a moment, from precarious friends, might be transformed into

ferocious enemies; afflicted, too, by excruciating maladies which confined

him to his bed, and by the pains and infirmities which hardship and

anxiety had heaped upon his advancing age. But he had not yet exhausted

his cup of bitterness. He had yet to experience an evil worse than storm,

or shipwreck, or bodily anguish, or the violence of savage hordes,--the

perfidy of those in whom he confided.

 

Mendez and Fiesco had not long departed when the Spaniards in the wreck

began to grow sickly, partly from the toils and exposures of the recent

voyage, partly from being crowded in narrow quarters in a moist and sultry

climate, and partly from want of their accustomed food, for they could not

habituate themselves to the vegetable diet of the Indians. Their maladies

were rendered more insupportable by mental suffering, by that suspense

which frets the spirit, and that hope deferred which corrodes the heart.

Accustomed to a life of bustle and variety, they had now nothing to do but

loiter about the dreary hulk, look out upon the sea, watch for the canoe

of Fiesco, wonder at its protracted absence, and doubt its return. A long

time elapsed, much more than sufficient for the voyage, but nothing was

seen or heard of the canoe. Fears were entertained that their messenger

had perished. If so, how long were they to remain here, vainly looking for

relief which was never to arrive? Some sank into deep despondency, others

became peevish and impatient. Murmurs broke forth, and, as usual with men

in distress, murmurs of the most unreasonable kind. Instead of

sympathizing with their aged and infirm commander, who was involved in the

same calamity, who in suffering transcended them all, and yet who was

incessantly studious of their welfare, they began to rail against him as

the cause of all their misfortunes.

 

The factious feeling of an unreasonable multitude would be of little

importance if left to itself, and might end in idle clamor; it is the

industry of one or two evil spirits which generally directs it to an

object, and makes it mischievous. Among the officers of Columbus were two

brothers, Francisco and Diego de Porras. They were related to the royal

treasurer Morales, who had married their sister, and had made interest

with the admiral to give them some employment in the expedition.

[183] To gratify the treasurer, he had appointed Francisco de Porras

captain of one of the caravels, and had obtained for his brother Diego

the situation of notary and accountant-general of the squadron. He had

treated them, as he declares, with the kindness of relatives, though

both proved incompetent to their situations. They were vain and insolent

men, and, like many others whom Columbus had benefited, requited his

kindness with black ingratitude. [184]

 

These men, finding the common people in a highly impatient and

discontented state, wrought upon them with seditious insinuations,

assuring them that all hope of relief through the agency of Mendez was

idle; it being a mere delusion of the admiral to keep them quiet, and

render them subservient to his purposes. He had no desire nor intention to

return to Spain; and in fact was banished thence. Hispaniola was equally

closed to him, as had been proved by the exclusion of his ships from its

harbor in a time of peril. To him, at present, all places were alike, and

he was content to remain in Jamaica until his friends could make interest

at court, and procure his recall from banishment. As to Mendez and Fiesco,

they had been sent to Spain by Columbus on his own private affairs, not to

procure a ship for the relief of his followers. If this were not the case,

why did not the ships arrive, or why did not Fiesco return, as had been

promised? Or if the canoes had really been sent for succor, the long time

that had elapsed without tidings of them, gave reason to believe they had

perished by the way. In such case, their only alternative would be, to

take the canoes of the Indians and endeavor to reach Hispaniola. There was

no hope, however, of persuading the admiral to such an undertaking; he was

too old, and too helpless from the gout, to expose himself to the

hardships of such a voyage. What then? were they to be sacrificed to his

interests or his infirmities?--to give up their only chance for escape,

and linger and perish with him in this desolate wreck? If they succeeded

in reaching Hispaniola, they would be the better received for having left

the admiral behind. Ovando was secretly hostile to him, fearing that he

would regain the government of the island; on their arrival in Spain, the

bishop Fonseca, from his enmity to Columbus, would be sure to take their

part; the brothers Porras had powerful friends and relatives at court, to

counteract any representations that might be made by the admiral; and they

cited the case of Roldan's rebellion, to show that the prejudices of the

public, and of men in power, would always be against him. Nay, they

insinuated that the sovereigns, who, on that occasion, had deprived him of

part of his dignities and privileges, would rejoice at a pretext for

stripping him of the remainder. [185]

 

Columbus was aware that the minds of his people were imbittered against

him. He had repeatedly been treated with insolent impatience, and

reproached with being the cause of their disasters. Accustomed, however,

to the unreasonableness of men in adversity, and exercised, by many

trials, in the mastery of his passions, he bore with their petulance,

soothed their irritation, and endeavored to cheer their spirits by the

hopes of speedy succor. A little while longer, and he trusted that Fiesco

would arrive with good tidings, when the certainty of relief would put an

end to all these clamors. The mischief, however, was deeper than he

apprehended: a complete mutiny had been organized.

 

On the 2d of January, 1504, he was in his small cabin, on the stern of his

vessel, being confined to his bed by the gout, which had now rendered him

a complete cripple. While ruminating on his disastrous situation,

Francisco de Porras suddenly entered. His abrupt and agitated manner

betrayed the evil nature of his visit. He had the flurried impudence of a

man about to perpetrate an open crime. Breaking forth into bitter

complaints, at their being kept, week after week, and month after month,

to perish piecemeal in that desolate place, he accused the admiral of

having no intention to return to Spain. Columbus suspected something

sinister from this unusual arrogance; he maintained, however, his

calmness, and, raising himself in his bed, endeavored to reason with

Porras. He pointed out the impossibility of departing until those who had

gone to Hispaniola should send them vessels. He represented how much more

urgent must be his desire to depart, since he had not merely his own

safety to provide for, but was accountable to God and his sovereigns for

the welfare of all who had been committed to his charge. He reminded

Porras that he had always consulted with them all, as to the measures to

be taken for the common safety, and that what he had done, had been with

the general approbation; still, if any other measure appeared advisable,

he recommended that they should assemble together, and consult upon it,

and adopt whatever course appeared most judicious.

 

The measures of Porras and his comrades, however, were already concerted,

and when men are determined on mutiny, they are deaf to reason. He bluntly

replied, that there was no time for further consultations. "Embark

immediately or remain in God's name, were the only alternatives." "For my

part," said he, turning his back upon the admiral, and elevating his voice

so that it resounded all over the vessel, "I am for Castile! those who

choose may follow me!" shouts arose immediately from all sides, "I will

follow you! and I! and I!" Numbers of the crew sprang upon the most

conspicuous parts of the ship, brandishing weapons, and uttering mingled

threats and cries of rebellion. Some called upon Porras for orders what to

do; others shouted "To Castile! to Castile!" while, amidst the general

uproar, the voices of some desperadoes were heard menacing the life of the

admiral.

 

Columbus, hearing the tumult, leaped from his bed, ill and infirm as he

was, and tottered out of the cabin, stumbling and falling in the exertion,

hoping by his presence to pacify the mutineers. Three or four of his

faithful adherents, however, fearing some violence might he offered him,

threw themselves between him and the throng, and taking him in their arms,

compelled him to return to his cabin.

 

The Adelantado likewise sallied forth, but in a different mood. He planted

himself, with lance in hand, in a situation to take the whole brunt of the

assault. It was with the greatest difficulty that several of the loyal

part of the crew could appease his fury, and prevail upon him to

relinquish his weapon, and retire to the cabin of his brother. They now

entreated Porras and his companions to depart peaceably, since no one

sought to oppose them. No advantage could be gained by violence; but

should they cause the death of the admiral, they would draw upon

themselves the severest punishment from the sovereigns. [186]

 

These representations moderated the turbulence of the mutineers, and they

now proceeded to carry their plans into execution. Taking ten canoes which

the admiral had purchased of the Indians, they embarked in them with as

much exultation as if certain of immediately landing on the shores of

Spain. Others, who had not been concerned in the mutiny, seeing so large a

force departing, and fearing to remain behind, when so reduced in number,

hastily collected their effects, and entered likewise into the canoes. It

this way forty-eight abandoned the admiral. Many of those who remained

were only detained by sickness, for, had they been well, most of them

would have accompanied the deserters. [187] The few who remained faithful

to the admiral, and the sick, who crawled forth from their cabins, saw the

departure of the mutineers with tears and lamentations, giving themselves

up for lost. Notwithstanding his malady, Columbus left his bed, mingling

among those who were loyal, and visiting those who were ill, endeavoring

in every way to cheer and comfort them. He entreated them to put their

trust in God, who would yet relieve them; and he promised, on his return

to Spain, to throw himself at the feet of the queen, represent their

loyalty and constancy, and obtain for them rewards that should compensate

for all their sufferings. [188]

 

In the meantime, Francisco de Porras and his followers, in their squadron

of canoes, coasted the island to the eastward, following the route taken

by Mendez and Fiesco. Wherever they landed, they committed outrages upon

the Indians, robbing them of their provisions, and of whatever they

coveted of their effects. They endeavored to make their own crimes redound

to the prejudice of Columbus, pretending to act under his authority, and

affirming that he would pay for every thing they took. If he refused, they

told the natives to kill him. They represented him as an implacable foe to

the Indians; as one who had tyrannized over other islands, causing the

misery and death of the natives, and who only sought to gain a sway here

for the purpose of inflicting like calamities.

 

Having reached the eastern extremity of the island, they waited until the

weather should be perfectly calm, before they ventured to cross the gulf.

Being unskilled in the management of canoes, they procured several Indians

to accompany them. The sea being at length quite smooth, they set forth

upon their voyage. Scarcely had they proceeded four leagues from land when

a contrary wind arose, and the waves began to swell. They turned

immediately for shore. The canoes, from their light structure, and being

nearly round and without keels, were easily overturned, and required to be

carefully balanced. They were now deeply freighted by men unaccustomed to

them, and as the sea rose, they frequently let in the water. The Spaniards

were alarmed, and endeavored to lighten them, by throwing overboard every

thing that could be spared; retaining only their arms, and a part of their

provisions. The danger augmented with the wind. They now compelled the

Indians to leap into the sea, excepting such as were absolutely necessary

to navigate the canoes. If they hesitated, they drove them overboard with

the edge of the sword. The Indians were skillful swimmers, but the

distance to land was too great for their strength. They kept about the

canoes, therefore, taking hold of them occasionally to rest themselves and

recover breath. As their weight disturbed the balance of the canoes, and

endangered their overturning, the Spaniards cut off their hands, and

stabbed them with their swords. Some died by the weapons of these cruel

men, others were exhausted and sank beneath the waves; thus eighteen

perished miserably, and none survived but such as had been retained to

manage the canoes.

 

When the Spaniards got back to land, different opinions arose as to what

course they should next pursue. Some were for crossing to Cuba, for which

island the wind was favorable. It was thought they might easily cross

thence to the end of Hispaniola. Others advised that they should return

and make their peace with the admiral, or take from him what remained of

arms and stores, having thrown almost every thing overboard during their

late danger. Others counseled another attempt to cross over to Hispaniola,

as soon as the sea should become tranquil.

 

This last advice was adopted. They remained for a month at an Indian

village near the eastern point of the island, living on the substance of

the natives, and treating them in the most arbitrary and capricious

manner. When at length the weather became serene, they made a second

attempt, but were again driven back by adverse winds. Losing all patience,

therefore, and despairing of the enterprise, they abandoned their canoes,

and returned westward; wandering from village to village, a dissolute and

lawless gang, supporting themselves by fair means or foul, according as

they met with kindness or hostility, and passing like a pestilence through

the island. [189]

 

 

 

 

Chapter III.

 

Scarcity of Provisions.--Strategem of Columbus to Obtain Supplies from the

Natives.

 

[1504.]

 

 

 

While Porras and his crew were raging about with that desperate and

joyless licentiousness which attends the abandonment of principle,

Columbus presented the opposite picture of a man true to others and to

himself, and supported, amidst hardships and difficulties, by conscious

rectitude. Deserted by the healthful and vigorous portion of his garrison,

he exerted himself to soothe and encourage the infirm and desponding

remnant which remained. Regardless of his own painful maladies, he was

only attentive to relieve their sufferings. The few who were fit for

service were required to mount guard on the wreck, or attend upon the

sick; there were none to forage for provisions. The scrupulous good faith

and amicable conduct maintained by Columbus towards the natives had now

their effect. Considerable supplies of provisions were brought by them

from time to time, which he purchased at a reasonable rate. The most

palatable and nourishing of these, together with the small stock of

European biscuit that remained, he ordered to be appropriated to the

sustenance of the infirm. Knowing how much the body is affected by the

operations of the mind, he endeavored to rouse the spirits, and animate

the hopes, of the drooping sufferers. Concealing his own anxiety, he

maintained a serene and even cheerful countenance, encouraging his men by

kind words, and holding forth confident anticipations of speedy relief. By

his friendly and careful treatment, he soon recruited both the health and

spirits of his people, and brought them into a condition to contribute to

the common safety. Judicious regulations, calmly but firmly enforced,

maintained every thing in order. The men became sensible of the advantages

of wholesome discipline, and perceived that the restraints imposed upon

them by their commander were for their own good, and ultimately productive

of their own comfort.

 

Columbus had thus succeeded in guarding against internal ills, when

alarming evils began to menace from without. The Indians, unused to lay up

any stock of provisions, and unwilling to subject themselves to extra

labor, found it difficult to furnish the quantity of food daily required

for so many hungry men. The European trinkets, once so precious, lost

their value, in proportion as they became common. The importance of the

admiral had been greatly diminished by the desertion of so many of his

followers; and the malignant instigations of the rebels had awakened

jealousy and enmity in several of the villages which had been accustomed

to furnish provisions.

 

By degrees, therefore, the supplies fell off. The arrangements for the

daily delivery of certain quantities, made by Diego Mendez, were

irregularly attended to, and at length ceased entirely. The Indians no

longer thronged to the harbor with provisions, and often refused them when

applied for. The Spaniards were obliged to forage about the neighborhood

for their daily food; but found more and more difficulty in procuring it;

thus, in addition to their other causes for despondency, they began to

entertain horrible apprehensions of famine.

 

The admiral heard their melancholy forebodings, and beheld the growing

evil, but was at a loss for a remedy. To resort to force was an

alternative full of danger, and of but temporary efficacy. It would

require all those who were well enough to bear arms to sally forth, while

he and the rest of the infirm would be left defenceless on board of the

wreck, exposed to the vengeance of the natives.

 

In the meantime, the scarcity daily increased. The Indians perceived the

wants of the white men, and had learnt from them the art of making

bargains. They asked ten times the former quantity of European articles

for any amount of provisions, and brought their supplies in scanty

quantities, to enhance the eagerness of the hungry Spaniards. At length,

even this relief ceased, and there was an absolute distress for food. The

jealousy of the natives had been universally roused by Porras and his

followers, and they withheld all provisions, in hopes either of starving

the admiral and his people, or of driving them from the island. In this

extremity, a fortunate idea presented itself to Columbus. From his

knowledge of astronomy, he ascertained that, within three days, there

would be a total eclipse of the moon in the early part of the night. He

sent, therefore, an Indian of Hispaniola, who served as his interpreter,

to summon the principal caciques to a grand conference, appointing for it

the day of the eclipse. When all were assembled, he told them by his

interpreter, that he and his followers were worshipers of a Deity who

dwelt in the skies; who favored such as did well, but punished all

transgressors. That, as they must all have noticed, he had protected Diego

Mendez and his companions in their voyage, because they went in obedience

to the orders of their commander; but had visited Porras and his

companions with all kinds of afflictions, in consequence of their

rebellion. This great Deity, he added, was incensed against the Indians

who refused to furnish his faithful worshipers with provisions, and

intended to chastise them with famine and pestilence. Lest they should

disbelieve this warning, a signal would be given that night. They would

behold the moon change its color, and gradually lose its light; a token of

the fearful punishment which awaited them.

 

Many of the Indians were alarmed at the prediction, others treated it with

derision,--all, however, awaited with solicitude the coming of the night.

When they beheld a dark shadow stealing over the moon, they began to

tremble; with the progress of the eclipse their fears increased, and when

they saw a mysterious darkness covering the whole face of nature, there

were no bounds to their terror. Seizing upon whatever provisions were at

hand, they hurried to the ships, threw themselves at the feet of Columbus,

and implored him to intercede, with his God to withhold the threatened

calamities, assuring him they would thenceforth bring him whatever he

required. Columbus shut himself up in his cabin, as if to commune with the

Deity, and remained there during the increase of the eclipse, the forests

and shores all the while resounding with the bowlings and supplications of

the savages. When the eclipse was about to diminish, he came forth and

informed the natives that his God had deigned to pardon them, on condition

of their fulfilling their promises; in sign of which he would withdraw the

darkness from the moon.

 

When the Indians saw that planet restored to its brightness, and rolling

in all its beauty through the firmament, they overwhelmed the admiral with

thanks for his intercession, and repaired to their homes, joyful at having

escaped such great disasters. Regarding Columbus with awe and reverence,

as a man in the peculiar favor and confidence of the Deity, since he knew

upon earth what was passing in the heavens, they hastened to propitiate

him with gifts; supplies again arrived daily at the harbor, and from that

time forward, there was no want of provisions. [190]

 

 

 

 

Chapter IV.

 

Mission of Diego de Escobar to the Admiral.

 

[1504.]

 

 

 

Eight months had now elapsed since the departure of Mendez and Fiesco,

without any tidings of their fate. For a long time the Spaniards had kept

a wistful look-out upon the ocean, flattering themselves that every Indian

canoe, gliding at a distance, might be the harbinger of deliverance. The

hopes of the most sanguine were now fast sinking into despondency. What

thousand perils awaited such frail barks, and so weak a party, on an

expedition of the kind! Either the canoes had been swallowed up by

boisterous waves and adverse currents, or their crews had perished among

the rugged mountains and savage tribes of Hispaniola. To increase their

despondency, they were informed that a vessel had been seen, bottom

upwards, drifting with the currents along the coasts of Jamaica. This

might be the vessel sent to their relief; and if so, all their hopes were

shipwrecked with it. This rumor, it is affirmed, was invented and

circulated in the island by the rebels, that it might reach the ears of

those who remained faithful to the admiral, and reduce them to despair.

[191] It no doubt had its effect. Losing all hope of aid from a distance,

and considering themselves abandoned and forgotten by the world, many

grew wild and desperate in their plans. Another conspiracy was formed by

one Bernardo, an apothecary of Valencia, with two confederates, Alonzo

de Zamora and Pedro de Villatoro. They designed to seize upon the

remaining canoes, and seek their way to Hispaniola. [192]

 

The mutiny was on the very point of breaking out, when one evening,

towards dusk, a sail was seen standing towards the harbor. The transports

of the poor Spaniards may be more easily conceived than described. The

vessel was of small size; it kept out to sea, but sent its boat to visit

the ships. Every eye was eagerly bent to hail the countenances of

Christians and deliverers. As the boat approached, they descried in it

Diego de Escobar, a man who had been one of the most active confederates

of Roldan in his rebellion, who had been condemned to death under the

administration of Columbus, and pardoned by his successor Bobadilla. There

was bad omen in such a messenger.

 

Coming alongside of the ships, Escobar put a letter on board from Ovando,

governor of Hispaniola, together with a barrel of wine and a side of

bacon, sent as presents to the admiral. He then drew off, and talked with

Columbus from a distance. He told him that he was sent by the governor to

express his great concern at his misfortunes, and his regret at not having

in port a vessel of sufficient size to bring off himself and his people,

but that he would send one as soon as possible. Escobar gave the admiral

assurances likewise, that his concerns in Hispaniola had been faithfully

attended to. He requested him, if he had any letter to write to the

governor in reply, to give it to him as soon as possible, as he wished to

return immediately.

 

There was something extremely singular in this mission, but there was no

time for comments; Escobar was urgent to depart. Columbus hastened,

therefore, to write a reply to Ovando, depicting the dangers and

distresses of his situation, increased as they were by the rebellion of

Porras, but expressing his reliance on his promise to send him relief,

confiding in which he should remain patiently on board of his wreck. He

recommended Diego Mendez and Bartholomew Fiesco to his favor, assuring him

that they were not sent to San Domingo with any artful design, but simply

to represent his perilous situation, and to apply for succor.  When

Escobar received this letter, he returned immediately on board of his

vessel, which made all sail, and soon disappeared in the gathering gloom

of the night.

 

If the Spaniards had hailed the arrival of this vessel with transport, its

sudden departure and the mysterious conduct of Escobar inspired no less

wonder and consternation. He had kept aloof from all communication with

them, as if he felt no interest in their welfare, or sympathy in their

misfortunes. Columbus saw the gloom that had gathered in their

countenances, and feared the consequences. He eagerly sought, therefore,

to dispel their suspicions, professing himself satisfied with the

communications received from Ovando, and assuring them that vessels would

soon arrive to take them all away. In confidence of this, he said, he had

declined to depart with Escobar, because his vessel was too small to take

the whole, preferring to remain with them and share their lot, and had

dispatched the caravel in such haste that no time might be lost in

expediting the necessary ships. These assurances, and the certainty that

their situation was known in San Domingo, cheered the hearts of the

people. Their hopes again revived, and the conspiracy, which had been on

the point of breaking forth, was completely disconcerted.

 

In secret, however, Columbus was exceedingly indignant at the conduct of

Ovando. He had left him for many months in a state of the utmost danger,

and most distressing uncertainty, exposed to the hostilities of the

natives, the seditions of his men, and the suggestions of his own despair.

He had, at length, sent a mere tantalizing message, by a man known to be

one of his bitterest enemies, with a present of food, which, from its

scantiness, seemed intended to mock their necessities.

 

Columbus believed that Ovando had purposely neglected him, hoping that he

might perish on the island, being apprehensive that, should he return in

safety, he would be reinstated in the government of Hispaniola; and he

considered Escobar merely as a spy sent to ascertain the state of himself

and his crew, and whether they were yet in existence. Las Casas, who was

then at San Domingo, expresses similar suspicions. He says that Escobar

was chosen because Ovando was certain that, from ancient enmity, he would

have no sympathy for the admiral. That he was ordered not to go on board

of the vessels, nor to land, neither was he to hold conversation with any

of the crew, nor to receive any letters, except those of the admiral. In a

word, that he was a mere scout to collect information. [193]

 

Others have ascribed the long neglect of Ovando to extreme caution. There

was a rumor prevalent that Columbus, irritated at the suspension of his

dignities by the court of Spain, intended to transfer his newly-discovered

countries into the hands of his native republic Genoa, or of some other

power. Such rumors had long been current, and to their recent circulation

Columbus himself alludes in his letter sent to the sovereigns by Diego

Mendez. The most plausible apology given, is, that Ovando was absent for

several months in the interior, occupied in wars with the natives, and

that there were no ships at San Domingo of sufficient burden to take

Columbus and his crew to Spain. He may have feared that, should they come

to reside for any length of time on the island, either the admiral would

interfere in public affairs, or endeavor to make a party in his favor; or

that, in consequence of the number of his old enemies still resident

there, former scenes of faction and turbulence might be revived.

[194] In the meantime the situation of Columbus in Jamaica, while it

disposed of him quietly until vessels should arrive from Spain, could

not, he may have thought, be hazardous. He had sufficient force and arms

for defence, and he had made amicable arrangements with the natives for

the supply of provisions, as Diego Mendez, who had made those

arrangements, had no doubt informed him. Such may have been the

reasoning by which Ovando, under the real influence of his interest, may

have reconciled his conscience to a measure which excited the strong

reprobation of his contemporaries, and has continued to draw upon him

the suspicions of mankind.

 

 

 

 

Chapter V.

 

Voyage of Diego Mendez and Bartholomew Fiesco in a Canoe to Hispaniola.

 

[1504.]

 

 

 

It is proper to give here some account of the mission of Diego Mendez and

Bartholomew Fiesco, and of the circumstances which prevented the latter

from returning to Jamaica. Having taken leave of the Adelantado at the

east end of the island, they continued all day in a direct course,

animating the Indians who navigated their canoes, and who frequently

paused at their labor. There was no wind, the sky was without a cloud, and

the sea perfectly calm; the heat was intolerable, and the rays of the sun,

reflected from the surface of the ocean, seemed to scorch their very eyes.

The Indians, exhausted by heat and toil, would often leap into the water

to cool and refresh themselves, and, after remaining there a short time,

would return with new vigor to their labors. At the going down of the sun

they lost sight of land. During the night the Indians took turns, one half

to row while the others slept. The Spaniards, in like manner, divided

their forces: while one half took repose, the others kept guard with their

weapons in hand, ready to defend themselves in case of any perfidy on the

part of their savage companions.

 

Watching and toiling in this way through the night, they were exceedingly

fatigued at the return of day. Nothing was to be seen but sea and sky.

Their frail canoes, heaving up and down with the swelling and sinking of

the ocean, seemed scarcely capable of sustaining the broad undulations of

a calm; how would they be able to live amid waves and surges, should the

wind arise? The commanders did all they could to keep up the flagging

spirits of the men. Sometimes they permitted them a respite; at other

times they took the paddles and shared their toils. But labor and fatigue

were soon forgotten in a new source of suffering. During the preceding

sultry day and night, the Indians, parched and fatigued, had drunk up all

the water. They now began to experience the torments of thirst. In

proportion as the day advanced, their thirst increased; the calm, which

favored the navigation of the canoes, rendered this misery the more

intense. There was not a breeze to fan the air, nor counteract the ardent

rays of a tropical sun. Their sufferings were irritated by the prospect

around them--nothing but water, while they were perishing with thirst. At

mid-day their strength failed them, and they could work no longer.

Fortunately, at this time the commanders of the canoes found, or pretended

to find, two small kegs of water, which they had perhaps secretly reserved

for such an extremity. Administering the precious contents from time to

time, in sparing mouthfuls, to their companions, and particularly to the

laboring Indians, they enabled them to resume their toils. They cheered

them with the hopes of soon arriving at a small island called Navasa,

which lay directly in their way, and was only eight leagues from

Hispaniola. Here they would be able to procure water, and might take

repose.

 

For the rest of the day they continued faintly and wearily laboring

forward, and keeping an anxious look-out for the island. The day passed

away, the sun went down, yet there was no sign of land, not even a cloud

on the horizon that might deceive them into a hope. According to their

calculations, they had certainly come the distance from Jamaica at which

Navasa lay. They began to fear that they had deviated from their course.

If so, they should miss the island entirely, and perish with thirst before

they could reach Hispaniola.

 

The night closed upon them without any sight of the island. They now

despaired of touching at it, for it was so small and low that, even if

they were to pass near, they would scarcely be able to perceive it in the

dark. One of the Indians sank and died, under the accumulated sufferings

of labor, heat, and raging thirst. His body was thrown into the sea.

Others lay panting and gasping at the bottom of the canoes. Their

companions, troubled in spirit, and exhausted in strength, feebly

continued their toils. Sometimes they endeavored to cool their parched

palates by taking sea-water in their mouths, but its briny acrimony rather

increased their thirst. Now and then, but very sparingly, they were

allowed a drop of water from the kegs; but this was only in cases of the

utmost extremity, and principally to those who were employed in rowing.

The night had far advanced, but those whose turn it was to take repose

were unable to sleep, from the intensity of their thirst; or if they

slept, it was but to be tantalized with dreams of cool fountains and

running brooks, and to awaken in redoubled torment. The last drop of water

had been dealt out to the Indian rowers, but it only served to irritate

their sufferings. They scarce could move their paddles; one after another

gave up, and it seemed impossible they should live to reach Hispaniola.

 

The commanders, by admirable management, had hitherto kept up this weary

struggle with suffering and despair: they now, too, began to despond.

Diego Mendez sat watching the horizon, which was gradually lighting up

with those faint rays which precede the rising of the moon. As that planet

rose, he perceived it to emerge from behind some dark mass elevated above

the level of the ocean. He immediately gave the animating cry of "land!"

His almost expiring companions were roused by it to new life. It proved to

be the island of Navasa, but so small, and low, and distant, that had it

not been thus revealed by the rising of the moon, they would never have

discovered it. The error in their reckoning with respect to the island had

arisen from miscalculating the rate of sailing of the canoes, and from not

making sufficient allowance for the fatigue of the rowers and the

opposition of the current.

 

New vigor was now diffused throughout the crews. They exerted themselves

with feverish impatience; by the dawn of day they reached the land, and,

springing on shore, returned thanks to God for such signal deliverance.

The island was a mere mass of rocks half a league in circuit. There was

neither tree, nor shrub, nor herbage, nor stream, nor fountain. Hurrying

about, however, with anxious search, they found to their joy abundance of

rain-water in the hollows of the rocks. Eagerly scooping it up with their

calabashes, they quenched their burning thirst by immoderate draughts. In

vain the more prudent warned the others of their danger. The Spaniards

were in some degree restrained; but the poor Indians, whose toils had

increased the fever of their thirst, gave way to a kind of frantic

indulgence. Several died upon the spot, and others fell dangerously ill.

[195]

 

Having allayed their thirst, they now looked about in search of food. A

few shell-fish were found along the shore, and Diego Mendez, striking a

light, and gathering drift-wood, they were enabled to boil them, and to

make a delicious banquet. All day they remained reposing in the shade of

the rocks, refreshing themselves after their intolerable sufferings, and

gazing upon Hispaniola, whose mountains rose above the horizon, at eight

leagues distance.

 

In the cool of the evening they once more embarked, invigorated by repose,

and arrived safely at Cape Tiburon on the following day, the fourth since

their departure from Jamaica. Here they landed on the banks of a beautiful

river, where they were kindly received and treated by the natives. Such

are the particulars, collected from different sources, of this adventurous

and interesting voyage, on the precarious success of which depended the

deliverance of Columbus and his crews. [196] The voyagers remained for two

days among the hospitable natives on the banks of the river to refresh

themselves. Fiesco would have returned to Jamaica, according to promise,

to give assurance to the Admiral and his companions of the safe arrival of

their messenger; but both Spaniards and Indians had suffered so much

during the voyage, that nothing could induce them to encounter the perils

of a return in the canoes.

 

Parting with his companions, Diego Mendez took six Indians of the island,

and set off resolutely to coast in his canoe one hundred and thirty

leagues to San Domingo. After proceeding for eighty leagues, with infinite

toil, always against the currents, and subject to perils from the native

tribes, he was informed that the governor had departed for Xaragua, fifty

leagues distant. Still undaunted by fatigues and difficulties, he

abandoned his canoe, and proceeded alone and on foot through forests and

over mountains, until he arrived at Xaragua, achieving one of the most

perilous expeditions ever undertaken by a devoted follower for the safety

of his commander.

 

Ovando received him with great kindness, expressing the utmost concern at

the unfortunate situation of Columbus. He made many promises of sending

immediate relief, but suffered day after day, week after week, and even

month after month to elapse, without carrying his promises into effect. He

was at that time completely engrossed by wars with the natives, and had a

ready plea that there were no ships of sufficient burden at San Domingo.

Had he felt a proper zeal, however, for the safety of a man like Columbus,

it would have been easy, within eight months, to have devised some means,

if not of delivering him from his situation, at least of conveying to him

ample reinforcements and supplies.

 

The faithful Mendez remained for seven months in Xaragua, detained there

under various pretexts by Ovando, who was unwilling that he should proceed

to San Domingo; partly, as is intimated, from his having some jealousy of

his being employed in secret agency for the admiral, and partly from a

desire to throw impediments in the way of his obtaining the required

relief. At length, by daily importunity, he obtained permission to go to

San Domingo, and await the arrival of certain ships which were expected,

of which he proposed to purchase one on account of the admiral. He

immediately set out on foot a distance of seventy leagues, part of his

toilsome journey lying through forests and among mountains infested by

hostile and exasperated Indians. It was after his departure that Ovando

dispatched the caravel commanded by the pardoned rebel Escobar, on that

singular and equivocal visit, which, in the eyes of Columbus, had the air

of a mere scouting expedition to spy into the camp of an enemy.

 

 

 

 

Chapter VI.

 

Overtures of Columbus to the Mutineers.--Battle of the Adelantado with

Porras and His Followers.

 

[1503.]

 

 

 

When Columbus had soothed the disappointment of his men at the brief and

unsatisfactory visit and sudden departure of Escobar he endeavored to turn

the event to some advantage with the rebels. He knew them to be

disheartened by the inevitable miseries attending a lawless and dissolute

life; that many longed to return to the safe and quiet path of duty; and

that the most malignant, seeing how he had foiled all their intrigues

among the natives to produce a famine, began to fear his ultimate triumph

and consequent vengeance. A favorable opportunity, he thought, now

presented to take advantage of these feelings, and by gentle means to

bring them back to their allegiance. He sent two of his people, therefore,

who were most intimate with the rebels, to inform them of the recent

arrival of Escobar with letters from the Governor of Hispaniola, promising

him a speedy deliverance from the island. He now offered a free pardon,

kind treatment, and a passage with him in the expected ships, on condition

of their immediate return to obedience. To convince them of the arrival of

the vessel, he sent them a part of the bacon which had been brought by

Escobar.

 

On the approach of these ambassadors, Francisco de Porras came forth to

meet them, accompanied solely by a few of the ringleaders of his party. He

imagined that there might be some propositions from the admiral, and he

was fearful of their being heard by the mass of his people, who, in their

dissatisfied and repentant mood, would be likely to desert him on the

least prospect of pardon. Having listened to the tidings and overtures

brought by the messengers, he and his confidential confederates consulted

for some time together. Perfidious in their own nature, thev suspected the

sincerity of the admiral; and conscious of the extent of their offences,

doubted his having the magnanimity to pardon them. Determined, therefore,

not to confide in his proffered amnesty, they replied to the messengers,

that they had no wish to return to the ships, but preferred living at

large about the island. They offered to engage, however, to conduct

themselves peaceably and amicably, on receiving a solemn promise from the

admiral, that should two vessels arrive, they should have one to depart

in: should but one arrive, that half of it should be granted to them; and

that, moreover, the admiral should share with them the stores and articles

of Indian traffic remaining in the ships, having lost all that they had,

in the sea. These demands were pronounced extravagant and inadmissible,

upon which they replied insolently that, if they were not peaceably

conceded, they would take them by force; and with this menace they

dismissed the ambassadors. [197]

 

This conference was not conducted so privately, but that the rest of the

rebels learnt the purport of the mission; and the offer of pardon and

deliverance occasioned great tumult and agitation. Porras, fearful of

their desertion, assured them that these offers of the admiral were all

deceitful; that he was naturally cruel and vindictive, and only sought to

get them into his power to wreak on them his vengeance. He exhorted them

to persist in their opposition to his tyranny; reminding them, that those

who had formerly done so in Hispaniola, had eventually triumphed, and sent

him home in irons; he assured them that they might do the same; and again

made vaunting promises of protection in Spain, through the influence of

his relatives. But the boldest of his assertions was with respect to the

caravel of Escobar. It shows the ignorance of the age, and the

superstitious awe which the common people entertained with respect to

Columbus and his astronomical knowledge. Porras assured them that no real

caravel had arrived, but a mere phantasm conjured up by the admiral, who

was deeply versed in necromancy. In proof of this, he adverted to its

arriving in the dusk of the evening; its holding communication 'with no

one but the admiral, and its sudden disappearance in the night. Had it

been a real caravel, the crew would have sought to talk with their

countrymen; the admiral, his son and brother, would have eagerly embarked

on board, and it would at any rate have remained a little while in port,

and not have vanished so suddenly and mysteriously. [198]

 

By these, and similar delusions, Porras succeeded in working upon the

feelings and credulity of his followers. Fearful, however, that they might

yield to after reflection, and to further offers from the admiral, he

determined to involve them in some act of violence which would commit them

beyond all hopes of forgiveness. He marched them, therefore, to an Indian

village called Maima, [199] about a quarter of a league from the ships,

intending to plunder the stores remaining on board the wreck, and to take

the admiral prisoner. [200]

 

Columbus had notice of the designs of the rebels, and of their approach.

Being confined by his infirmities, he sent his brother to endeavor with

mild words to persuade them from their purpose, and win them to obedience;

but with sufficient force to resist any violence. The Adelantado, who was

a man rather of deeds than of words, took with him fifty followers, men of

tried resolution, and ready to fight in any cause. They were well armed

and full of courage, though many were pale and debilitated from recent

sickness, and from long confinement to the ships. Arriving on the side of

a hill, within a bow-shot of the village, the Adelantado discovered the

rebels, and dispatched the same two messengers to treat with them, who had

already carried them the offer of pardon. Porras and his fellow-leaders,

however, would not permit them to approach. They confided in the

superiority of their numbers, and in their men being, for the most part,

hardy sailors, rendered robust and vigorous by the roving life they had

been leading in the forests and the open air. They knew that many of those

who were with the Adelantado were men brought up in a softer mode of life.

They pointed to their pale countenances, and persuaded their followers

that they were mere household men, fair-weather troops, who could never

stand before them. They did not reflect that, with such men, pride and

lofty spirit often more than supply the place of bodily force, and they

forgot that their adversaries had the incalculable advantage of justice

and law upon their side. Deluded by their words, their followers were

excited to a transient glow of courage, and, brandishing their weapons,

refused to listen to the messengers.

 

Six of the stoutest rebels made a league to stand by one another and

attack the Adelantado; for, he being killed, the rest would be easily

defeated. The main body formed themselves into a squadron, drawing their

swords and shaking their lances. They did not wait to be assailed, but,

uttering shouts and menaces, rushed upon the enemy. They were so well

received, however, that at the first shock four or five were killed, most

of them the confederates who had leagued to attack the Adelantado. The

latter, with his own hand, killed Juan Sanchez, the same powerful mariner

who had carried off the cacique Quibian; and Juan Barber also, who had

first drawn a sword against the admiral in this rebellion. The Adelantado

with his usual vigor and courage was dealing his blows about him in the

thickest of the affray, where several lay killed and wounded, when he was

assailed by Francisco de Porras. The rebel with a blow of his sword cleft

the buckler of Don Bartholomew, and wounded the hand which grasped it. The

sword remained wedged in the shield, and before Porras could withdraw it,

the Adelantado closed upon him, grappled him, and, being assisted by

others, after a severe struggle, took him prisoner. [201]

 

When the rebels beheld their leader a captive, their transient courage was

at an end, and they fled in confusion. The Adelantado would have pursued

them, but was persuaded to let them escape with the punishment they had

received; especially as it was necessary to guard against the possibility

of an attack from the Indians.

 

The latter had taken arms and drawn up in battle array, gazing with

astonishment at this fight between white men, but without taking part on

either side. When the battle was over, they approached the field, gazing

upon the dead bodies of the beings they had once fancied immortal. They

were curious in examining the wounds made by the Christian weapons. Among

the wounded insurgents was Pedro Ledesma, the same pilot who so bravely

swam ashore at Veragua, to procure tidings of the colony. He was a man of

prodigious muscular force and a hoarse deep voice. As the Indians, who

thought him dead, were inspecting the wounds with which he was literally

covered, he suddenly uttered an ejaculation in his tremendous voice, at

the sound of which the savages fled in dismay. This man, having fallen

into a cleft or ravine, was not discovered by the white men until the

dawning of the following day, having remained all that time without a drop

of water. The number and severity of the wounds he is said to have

received would seem incredible, but they are mentioned by Fernando

Columbus, who was an eye-witness, and by Las Casas, who had the account

from Ledesma himself. For want of proper remedies, his wounds were treated

in the roughest manner, yet, through the aid of a vigorous constitution,

he completely recovered. Las Casas conversed with him several years

afterwards at Seville, when he obtained from him various particulars

concerning this voyage of Columbus. Some few days after this conversation,

however, he heard that Ledesma had fallen under the knife of an assassin.

[202]

 

The Adelantado returned in triumph to the ships, where he was received by

the admiral in the most affectionate manner; thanking him as his

deliverer. He brought Porras and several of his followers prisoners. Of

his own party only two had been wounded; himself in the hand, and the

admiral's steward, who had received an apparently slight wound with a

lance, equal to one of the most insignificant of those with which Ledesma

was covered; yet, in spite of careful treatment, he died.

 

On the next day, the 20th of May, the fugitives sent a petition to the

admiral, signed with all their names, in which, says Las Casas, they

confessed all their misdeeds, and cruelties, and evil intentions,

supplicating the admiral to have pity on them and pardon them for their

rebellion, for which God had already punished them. They offered to return

to their obedience and to serve him faithfully in future, making an oath

to that effect upon a cross and a missal, accompanied by an imprecation

worthy of being recorded: "They hoped, should they break their oath, that

no priest nor other Christian might ever confess them; that repentance

might be of no avail; that they might be deprived of the holy sacraments

of the church; that at their death they might receive no benefit from

bulls nor indulgences; that their bodies might be cast out into the fields

like those of heretics and renegadoes, instead of being buried in holy

ground; and that they might not receive absolution from the pope, nor from

cardinals, nor archbishops, nor bishops, nor any other Christian priests."

[203] Such were the awful imprecations by which these men endeavored to

add validity to an oath. The worthlessness of a man's word may always be

known by the extravagant means he uses to enforce it.

 

The admiral saw, by the abject nature of this petition, how completely the

spirit of these misguided men was broken; with his wonted magnanimity, he

readily granted their prayer, and pardoned their offences; but on one

condition, that their ringleader, Francisco Porras, should remain a

prisoner.

 

As it was difficult to maintain so many persons on board of the ships, and

as quarrels might take place between persons who had so recently been at

blows, Columbus put the late followers of Porras under the command of a

discreet and faithful man; and giving in his charge a quantity of European

articles for the purpose of purchasing food of the natives, directed him

to forage about the island until the expected vessels should arrive.

 

At length, after a long year of alternate hope and despondency, the doubts

of the Spaniards were joyfully dispelled by the sight of two vessels

standing into the harbor. One proved to be a ship hired and well

victualed, at the expense of the admiral, by the faithful and

indefatigable Diego Mendez; the other had been subsequently fitted out by

Ovando, and put under the command of Diego de Salcedo, the admiral's agent

employed to collect his rents in San Domingo.

 

The long neglect of Ovando to attend to the relief of Columbus had, it

seems, roused the public indignation, insomuch that animadversions had

been made upon his conduct even in the pulpits. This is affirmed by Las

Casas, who was at San Domingo at the time. If the governor had really

entertained hopes that, during the delay of relief, Columbus might perish

in the island, the report brought back by Escobar must have completely

disappointed him. No time was to be lost if he wished to claim any merit

in his deliverance, or to avoid the disgrace of having totally neglected

him. He exerted himself, therefore, at the eleventh hour, and dispatched a

caravel at the same time with the ship sent by Diego Mendez. The latter,

having faithfully discharged this part of his mission, and seen the ships

depart, proceeded to Spain on the further concerns of the admiral. [204]

 

 

 

 

 

Book XVII.

 

 

 

 

Chapter I.

 

Administration of Ovando in Hispaniola.--Oppression of the Natives.

 

[1503.]

 

 

 

Before relating the return of Columbus to Hispaniola, it is proper to

notice some of the principal occurrences which took place in that island

under the government of Ovando. A great crowd of adventurers of various

ranks had thronged his fleet--eager speculators, credulous dreamers, and

broken-down gentlemen of desperate fortunes; all expecting to enrich

themselves suddenly in an island where gold was to be picked up from the

surface of the soil, or gathered from the mountain-brooks. They had

scarcely landed, says Las Casas, who accompanied the expedition, when they

all hurried off to the mines, about eight leagues distant. The roads

swarmed like ant-hills, with adventurers of all classes. Every one had his

knapsack stored with biscuit or flour, and his mining implements on his

shoulders. Those hidalgos, or gentlemen, who had no servants to carry

their burdens, bore them on their own backs, and lucky was he who had a

horse for the journey; he would be able to bring back the greater load of

treasure. They all set out in high spirits, eager who should first reach

the golden land; thinking they had but to arrive at the mines, and collect

riches; "for they fancied," says Las Casas, "that gold was to be gathered

as easily and readily as fruit from the trees." When they arrived,

however, they discovered, to their dismay, that it was necessary to dig

painfully into the bowels of the earth--a labor to which most of them had

never been accustomed; that it required experience and sagacity to detect

the veins of ore; that, in fact, the whole process of mining was

exceedingly toilsome, demanded vast patience and much experience, and,

after all, was full of uncertainty. They digged eagerly for a time, but

found no ore. They grew hungry, threw by their implements, sat down to

eat, and then returned to work. It was all in vain. "Their labor," says

Las Casas, "gave them a keen appetite and quick digestion, but no gold."

They soon consumed their provisions, exhausted their patience, cursed

their infatuation, and in eight days set off drearily on their return

along the roads they had lately trod so exultingly. They arrived at San

Domingo without an ounce of gold, half-famished, downcast, and despairing.

[205] Such is too often the case of those who ignorantly engage in

mining--of all speculations the most brilliant, promising, and fallacious.

 

Poverty soon fell upon these misguided men. They exhausted the little

property brought from Spain. Many suffered extremely from hunger, and were

obliged to exchange even their apparel for bread. Some formed connections

with the old settlers of the island; but the greater part were like men

lost and bewildered, and just awakened from a dream. The miseries of the

mind, as usual, heightened the sufferings of the body. Some wasted away

and died broken-hearted; others were hurried off by raging fevers, so that

there soon perished upwards of a thousand men.

 

Ovando was reputed a man of great prudence and sagacity, and he certainly

took several judicious measures for the regulation of the island, and the

relief of the colonists. He made arrangements for distributing the married

persons and the families which had come out in his fleet, in four towns in

the interior, granting them important privileges. He revived the drooping

zeal for mining, by reducing the royal share of the product from one-half

to a third, and shortly after to a fifth; but he empowered the Spaniards

to avail themselves, in the most oppressive manner, of the labor of the

unhappy natives in working the mines. The charge of treating the natives

with severity had been one of those chiefly urged against Columbus. It is

proper, therefore, to notice, in this respect, the conduct of his

successor, a man chosen for his prudence, and his supposed capacity to

govern.

 

It will be recollected, that when Columbus was in a manner compelled to

assign lands to the rebellious followers of Francisco Roldan, in 1499, he

had made an arrangement that the caciques in their vicinity should, in

lieu of tribute, furnish a number of their subjects to assist them in

cultivating their estates. This, as has been observed, was the

commencement of the disastrous system of repartimientos, or distributions

of Indians. When Bobadilla administered the government, he constrained the

caciques to furnish a certain number of Indians to each Spaniard, for the

purpose of working the mines; where they were employed like beasts of

burden. He made an enumeration of the natives, to prevent evasion; reduced

them into classes, and distributed them among the Spanish inhabitants. The

enormous oppressions which ensued have been noticed. They roused the

indignation of Isabella; and when Ovando was sent out to supersede

Bobadilla, in 1502, the natives were pronounced free; they immediately

refused to labor in the mines.

 

Ovando represented to the Spanish sovereigns, in 1503, that ruinous

consequences resulted to the colony from this entire liberty granted to

the Indians. He stated that the tribute could not be collected, for the

Indians were lazy and improvident; that they could only be kept from vices

and irregularities by occupation; that they now kept aloof from the

Spaniards, and from all instruction in the Christian faith.

 

The last representation had an influence with Isabella, and drew a letter

from the sovereigns to Ovando, in 1503, in which he was ordered to spare

no pains to attach the natives to the Spanish nation and the Catholic

religion. To make them labor moderately, if absolutely essential to their

own good; but to temper authority with persuasion and kindness. To pay

them regularly and fairly for their labor, and to have them instructed in

religion on certain days.

 

Ovando availed himself of the powers given him by this letter, to their

fullest extent. He assigned to each Castilian a certain number of Indians,

according to the quality of the applicant, the nature of the application,

or his own pleasure. It was arranged in the form of an order on a cacique

for a certain number of Indians, who were to be paid by their employer,

and instructed in the Catholic faith. The pay was so small as to be little

better than nominal; the instruction was little more than the mere

ceremony of baptism; and the term of labor was at first six months, and

then eight months in the year. Under cover of this hired labor, intended

for the good both of their bodies and their souls, more intolerable toil

was exacted from them, and more horrible cruelties were inflicted, than in

the worst days of Bobadilla. They were separated often the distance of

several days' journey from their wives and children, and doomed to

intolerable labor of all kinds, extorted by the cruel infliction of the

lash. For food they had the cassava bread, an unsubstantial support for

men obliged to labor; sometimes a scanty portion of pork was distributed

among a great number of them, scarce a mouthful to each. When the

Spaniards who superintended the mines were at their repast, says Las

Casas, the famished Indians scrambled under the table, like dogs, for any

bone thrown to them. After they had gnawed and sucked it, they pounded it

between stones and mixed it with their cassava bread, that nothing of so

precious a morsel might be lost. As to those who labored in the fields,

they never tasted either flesh or fish; a little cassava bread and a few

roots were their support. While the Spaniards thus withheld the

nourishment necessary to sustain their health and strength, they exacted a

degree of labor sufficient to break down the most vigorous man. If the

Indians fled from this incessant toil and barbarous coercion, and took

refuge in the mountains, they were hunted out like wild beasts, scourged

in the most inhuman manner, and laden with chains to prevent a second

escape. Many perished long before their term of labor had expired. Those

who survived their term of six or eight months, were permitted to return

to their homes, until the next term commenced. But their homes were often

forty, sixty, and eighty leagues distant. They had nothing to sustain them

through the journey but a few roots or agi peppers, or a little cassava

bread. Worn down by long toil and cruel hardships, which their feeble

constitutions were incapable of sustaining, many had not strength to

perform the journey, but sank down and died by the way; some by the side

of a brook, others under the shade of a tree, where they had crawled for

shelter from the sun. "I have found many dead in the road," says Las

Casas, "others gasping under the trees, and others in the pangs of death,

faintly crying, Hunger! hunger!" [206] Those who reached their homes most

commonly found them desolate. During the eight months they had been

absent, their wives and children had either perished or wandered away;

the fields on which they depended for food were overrun with weeds, and

nothing was left them but to lie down, exhausted and despairing, and die

at the threshold of their habitations. [207]

 

It is impossible to pursue any further the picture drawn by the venerable

Las Casas, not of what he had heard, but of what he had seen; nature and

humanity revolt at the details. Suffice it to say that, so intolerable

were the toils and sufferings inflicted upon this weak and unoffending

race, that they sank under them, dissolving, as it were, from the face of

the earth. Many killed themselves in despair, and even mothers overcame

the powerful instinct of nature, and destroyed the infants at their

breasts, to spare them a life of wretchedness. Twelve years had not

elapsed since the discovery of the island, and several hundred thousand of

its native inhabitants had perished, miserable victims to the grasping

avarice of the white men.

 

 

 

 

Chapter II.

 

Massacre at Xaragua.--Fate of Anacaona.

 

[1503.]

 

 

 

The sufferings of the natives under the civil policy of Ovando have been

briefly shown; it remains to give a concise view of the military

operations of this commander, so lauded by certain of the early historians

for his prudence. By this notice a portion of the eventful history of this

island will be recounted which is connected with the fortunes of Columbus,

and which comprises the thorough subjugation, and, it may also be said,

extermination of the native inhabitants. And first, we must treat of the

disasters of the beautiful province of Xaragua, the seat of hospitality,

the refuge of the suffering Spaniards; and of the fate of the female

cacique, Anacaona, once the pride of the island, and the generous friend

of white men.

 

Behechio, the ancient cacique of this province, being dead, Anacaona, his

sister, had succeeded to the government. The marked partiality which she

once manifested for the Spaniards had been greatly weakened by the general

misery they had produced in her country; and by the brutal profligacy

exhibited in her immediate dominions by the followers of Roldan. The

unhappy story of the loves of her beautiful daughter Higuenamota, with the

young Spaniard Hernando de Guevara, had also caused her great affliction;

and, finally, the various and enduring hardships inflicted on her once

happy subjects by the grinding systems of labor enforced by Bobadilla and

Ovando, had at length, it is said, converted her friendship into absolute

detestation.

 

This disgust was kept alive and aggravated by the Spaniards who lived in

her immediate neighborhood, and had obtained grants of land there; a

remnant of the rebel faction of Roldan, who retained the gross

licentiousness and open profligacy in which they had been indulged under

the loose misrule of that commander, and who made themselves odious to the

inferior caciques, by exacting services tyrannically and capriciously

under the baneful system of repartimientos.

 

The Indians of this province were uniformly represented as a more

intelligent, polite, and generous-spirited race than any others of the

islands. They were the more prone to feel and resent the overbearing

treatment to which they were subjected. Quarrels sometimes took place

between the caciques and their oppressors. These were immediately reported

to the governor as dangerous mutinies; and a resistance to any capricious

and extortionate exaction was magnified into a rebellious resistance to

the authority of government. Complaints of this kind were continually

pouring in upon Ovando, until he was persuaded by some alarmist, or some

designing mischief-maker, that there was a deep-laid conspiracy among the

Indians of this province to rise upon the Spaniards.

 

Ovando immediately set out for Xaragua at the head of three hundred

foot-soldiers, armed with swords, arquebuses, and cross-bows, and seventy

horsemen, with cuirasses, bucklers, and lances. He pretended that he was

going on a mere visit of friendship to Anacaona, and to make arrangements

about the payment of tribute.

 

When Anacaona heard of the intended visit, she summoned all her tributary

caciques, and principal subjects, to assemble at her chief town, that they

might receive the commander of the Spaniards with becoming homage and

distinction. As Ovando, at the head of his little army, approached, she

went forth to meet him, according to the custom of her nation, attended by

a great train of her most distinguished subjects, male and female; who, as

has been before observed, were noted for superior grace and beauty. They

received the Spaniards with their popular areytos, their national songs;

the young women waving palm branches and dancing before them, in the way

that had so much charmed the followers of the Adelantado, on his first

visit to the province.

 

Anacaona treated the governor with that natural graciousness and dignity

for which she was celebrated. She gave him the largest house in the place

for his residence, and his people were quartered in the houses adjoining.

For several days the Spaniards were entertained with all the natural

luxuries that the province aiforded. National songs and dances and games

were performed for their amusement, and there was every outward

demonstration of the same hospitality, the same amity, that Anacaona had

uniformly shown to white men.

 

Notwithstanding all this kindness, and notwithstanding her uniform

integrity of conduct, and open generosity of character, Ovando was

persuaded that Anacaoua was secretly meditating a massacre of himself and

his followers. Historians tell us nothing of the grounds for such a

belief. It was too probably produced by the misrepresentations of the

unprincipled adventurers who infested the province. Ovando should have

paused and reflected before he acted upon it. He should have considered

the improbability of such an attempt by naked Indians against so large a

force of steel-clad troops, armed with European weapons: and he should

have reflected upon the general character and conduct of Anacaona. At any

rate, the example set repeatedly by Columbus and his brother the

Adelantado, should have convinced him that it was a sufficient safeguard

against the machinations of the natives, to seize upon their caciques and

detain them as hostages. The policy of Ovando, however, was of a more rash

and sanguinary nature; he acted upon suspicion as upon conviction. He

determined to anticipate the alleged plot by a counter-artifice, and to

overwhelm this defenceless people in an indiscriminate and bloody

vengeance.

 

As the Indians had entertained their guests with various national games,

Ovando invited them in return to witness certain games of his country.

Among these was a tilting match or joust with reeds; a chivalrous game

which the Spaniards had learnt from the Moors of Granada. The Spanish

cavalry, in those days, were as remarkable for the skillful management, as

for the ostentatious caparison of their horses. Among the troops brought

out from Spain by Ovando, one horseman had disciplined his horse to prance

and curvet in time to the music of a viol. [208] The joust was appointed

to take place of a Sunday after dinner, in the public square, before the

house where Ovando was quartered. The cavalry and foot-soldiers had their

secret instructions. The former were to parade, not merely with reeds or

blunted tilting lances, but with weapons of a more deadly character. The

foot-soldiers were to come apparently as mere spectators, but likewise

armed and ready for action at a concerted signal.

 

At the appointed time the square was crowded with the Indians, waiting to

see this military spectacle. The caciques were assembled in the house of

Ovando, which looked upon the square. None were armed; an unreserved

confidence prevailed among them, totally incompatible with the dark

treachery of which they were accused. To prevent all suspicion, and take

off all appearance of sinister design, Ovando, after dinner, was playing

at quoits with some of his principal officers, when the cavalry having

arrived in the square, the caciques begged the governor to order the joust

to commence. [209] Anacaona, and her beautiful daughter Higuenamota, with

several of her female attendants, were present and joined in the request.

 

Ovando left his game and came forward to a conspicuous place. When he saw

that every thing was disposed according to his orders, he gave the fatal

signal. Some say it was by taking hold of a piece of gold which was

suspended about his neck; [210] others by laying his hand on the cross of

Alcantara, which was embroidered on his habit. [211] A trumpet was

immediately sounded. The house in which Anacaona and all the principal

caciques were assembled was surrounded by soldiery, commanded by Diego

Velasquez and Rodrigo Mexiatrillo, and no one was permitted to escape.

They entered, and seizing upon the caciques, bound them to the posts which

supported the roof. Anacaona was led forth a prisoner. The unhappy

caciques were then put to horrible tortures, until some of them, in the

extremity of anguish, were made to accuse their queen and themselves of

the plot with which they were charged. When this cruel mockery of

judicial form had been executed, instead of preserving them for

after-examination, fire was set to the house, and all the caciques

perished miserably in the flames.

 

While these barbarities were practised upon the chieftains, a horrible

massacre took place among the populace. At the signal of Ovando, the

horsemen rushed into the midst of the naked and defenceless throng,

trampling them under the hoofs of their steeds, cutting them down with

their swords, and transfixing them with their spears. No mercy was shown

to age or sex; it was a savage and indiscriminate butchery. Now and then a

Spanish horseman, either through an emotion of pity, or an impulse of

avarice, caught up a child, to bear it off in safety; but it was

barbarously pierced by the lances of his companions. Humanity turns with

horror from such atrocities, and would fain discredit them; but they are

circumstantially and still more minutely recorded by the venerable bishop

Las Casas, who was resident in the island at the time, and conversant with

the principal actors in this tragedy. He may have colored the picture

strongly, in his usual indignation when the wrongs of the Indians are in

question; yet, from all concurring accounts, and from many precise facts

which speak for themselves, the scene must have been most sanguinary and

atrocious. Oviedo, who is loud in extolling the justice, and devotion, and

charity, and meekness of Ovando, and his kind treatment of the Indians;

and who visited the province of Xaragua a few years afterwards, records

several of the preceding circumstances; especially the cold-blooded game

of quoits played by the governor on the verge of such a horrible scene,

and the burning of the caciques, to the number, he says, of more than

forty. Diego Mendez, who was at Xaragua at the time, and doubtless present

on such an important occasion, says incidentally, in his last will and

testament, that there were eighty-four caciques either burnt or hanged.

[212] Las Casas says, that there were eighty who entered the house with

Anacaona. The slaughter of the multitude must have been great; and this

was inflicted on an unarmed and unresisting throng. Several who escaped

from the massacre fled in their canoes to an island about eight leagues

distant, called Guanabo. They were pursued and taken, and condemned to

slavery.

 

As to the princess Anacaona, she was carried in chains to San Domingo. The

mockery of a trial was given her, in which she was found guilty on the

confessions wrung by tortures from her subjects, and on the testimony of

their butchers; and she was ignominiously hanged in the presence of the

people whom she had so long and so signally befriended. [213] Oviedo has

sought to throw a stigma on the character of this unfortunate princess,

accusing her of great licentiousness; but he was prone to criminate the

character of the native princes, who fell victims to the ingratitude and

injustice of his countrymen. Contemporary writers of greater authority

have concurred in representing Anacaona as remarkable for her native

propriety and dignity. She was adored by her subjects, so as to hold a

kind of dominion over them even during the lifetime of her brother; she

is said to have been skilled in composing the areytos, or legendary

ballads of her nation, and may have conduced much towards producing that

superior degree of refinement remarked among her people. Her grace and

beauty had made her renowned throughout the island, and had excited the

admiration both of the savage and the Spaniard. Her magnanimous spirit

was evinced in her amicable treatment of the white men, although her

husband, the brave Caonabo, had perished a prisoner in their hands; and

defenceless parties of them had been repeatedly in her power, and lived

at large in her dominions. After having, for several years, neglected

all safe opportunities of vengeance, she fell a victim to the absurd

charge of having conspired against an armed body of nearly four hundred

men, seventy of them horsemen; a force sufficient to have subjugated

large armies of naked Indians.

 

After the massacre of Xaragua, the destruction of its inhabitants still

continued. The favorite nephew of Anacaona, the cacique Guaora, who had

fled to the mountains, was hunted like a wild beast, until he was taken,

and likewise hanged. For six months the Spaniards continued ravaging the

country with horse and foot, under pretext of quelling insurrections; for,

wherever the affrighted natives took refuge in their despair, herding in

dismal caverns and in the fastnesses of the mountains, they were

represented as assembling in arms to make a head of rebellion. Having at

length hunted them out of their retreats, destroyed many, and reduced the

survivors to the most deplorable misery and abject submission, the whole

of that part of the island was considered as restored to good order; and

in commemoration of this great triumph, Ovando founded a town near to the

lake, which he called Santa Maria de la Verdadera Paz (St. Mary of the

True Peace). [214]

 

Such is the tragical history of the delightful region of Xaragua, and of

its amiable and hospitable people. A place which the Europeans, by their

own account, found a perfect paradise, but which, by their vile passions,

they filled with horror and desolation.

 

 

 

 

Chapter III.

 

War with the Natives of Higuey.

 

[1504.]

 

 

 

The subjugation of four of the Indian sovereignties of Hispaniola, and the

disastrous fate of their caciques, have been already related. Under the

administration of Ovando, was also accomplished the downfall of Higuey,

the last of those independent districts; a fertile province which

comprised the eastern extremity of the island.

 

The people of Higuey were of a more warlike spirit than those of the other

provinces, having learned the effectual use of their weapons, from

frequent contests with their Carib invaders. They were governed by a

cacique named Cotabanama. Las Casas describes this chieftain from actual

observation, and draws the picture of a native hero. He was, he says, the

strongest of his tribe, and more perfectly formed than one man in a

thousand of any nation whatever. He was taller in stature than the tallest

of his countrymen, a yard in breadth from shoulder to shoulder, and the

rest of his body in admirable proportion. His aspect was not handsome, but

grave and courageous. His bow was not easily bent by a common man; his

arrows were three-pronged, tipped with the bones of fishes, and his

weapons appeared to be intended for a giant. In a word, he was so nobly

proportioned, as to be the admiration even of the Spaniards.

 

While Cloumbus was engaged in his fourth voyage, and shortly after the

accession of Ovando to office, there was an insurrection of this cacique

and his people. A shallop, with eight Spaniards, was surprised at the

small island of Saona, adjacent to Higuey, and all the crew slaughtered.

This was in revenge for the death of a cacique, torn to pieces by a dog

wantonly set upon him by a Spaniard, and for which the natives had in vain

sued for redress.

 

Ovando immediately dispatched Juan de Esquibel, a courageous officer, at

the head of four hundred men, to quell the insurrection, and punish the

massacre. Cotabanama assembled his warriors, and prepared for vigorous

resistance. Distrustful of the mercy of the Spaniards, the chieftain

rejected all overtures of peace, and the war was prosecuted with some

advantage to the natives. The Indians had now overcome their superstitious

awe of the white men as supernatural beings, and though they could ill

withstand the superiority of European arms, they manifested a courage and

dexterity that rendered them enemies not to be despised. Las Casas and

other historians relate a bold and romantic encounter between a single

Indian and two mounted cavaliers named Valtenebro and Portevedra, in which

the Indian, though pierced through the body by the lances and swords of

both his assailants, retained his fierceness, and continued the combat,

until he fell dead in the possession of all their weapons. [215] This

gallant action, says Las Casas, was public and notorious.

 

The Indians were soon defeated and driven to their mountain retreats. The

Spaniards pursued them into their recesses, discovered their wives and

children, wreaked on them the most indiscriminate slaughter, and committed

their chieftains to the flames. An aged female cacique of great

distinction, named Higuanama, being taken prisoner, was hanged.

 

A detachment was sent in a caravel to the island of Saona, to take

particular vengeance for the destruction of the shallop and its crew. The

natives made a desperate defence and fled. The island was mountainous, and

full of caverns, in which the Indians vainly sought for refuge. Six or

seven hundred were imprisoned in a dwelling, and all put to the sword or

poniarded. Those of the inhabitants who were spared were carried off as

slaves; and the island was left desolate and deserted.

 

The natives of Higuey were driven to despair, seeing that there was no

escape for them even in the bowels of the earth: [216] they sued for

peace, which was granted them, and protection promised on condition of

their cultivating a large tract of land, and paying a great quantity of

bread in tribute. The peace being concluded, Cotabanama visited the

Spanish camp, where his gigantic proportions and martial demeanor made

him an object of curiosity and admiration. He was received with great

distinction by Esquibel, and they exchanged names; an Indian league of

fraternity and perpetual friendship. The natives thenceforward called the

cacique Juan de Esquibel, and the Spanish commander Cotabanama. Esquibel

then built a wooden fortress in an Indian village near the sea, and left

in it nine men, with a captain named Martin de Villaman. After this, the

troops dispersed, every man returning home, with his proportion of slaves

gained in this expedition.

 

The pacification was not of long continuance, About the time that succors

were sent to Columbus, to rescue him from the wrecks of his vessels at

Jamaica, a new revolt broke out in Higuey, in consequence of the

oppressions of the Spaniards, and a violation of the treaty made by

Esquibel. Martin de Villaman demanded that the natives should not only

raise the grain stipulated for by the treaty, but convey it to San

Domingo, and he treated them with the greatest severity on their refusal.

He connived also at the licentious conduct of his men towards the Indian

women; the Spaniards often taking from the natives their daughters and

sisters, and even their wives. [217] The Indians, roused at last to fury,

rose on their tyrants, slaughtered them, and burnt their wooden fortress

to the ground. Only one of the Spaniards escaped, and bore the tidings

of this catastrophe to the city of San Domingo.

 

Ovando gave immediate orders to carry fire and sword into the province of

Higuey. The Spanish troops mustered from various quarters on the confines

of that province, when Juan de Esquibel took the command, and had a great

number of Indians with him as allies. The towns of Higuey were generally

built among the mountains. Those mountains rose in terraces, from ten to

fifteeen leagues in length and breadth; rough and rocky, interspersed with

glens of a red soil, remarkably fertile, where they raised their cassava

bread. The ascent from terrace to terrace was about fifty feet; steep and

precipitous, formed of the living rock, and resembling a wall wrought with

tools into rough diamond points. Each village had four wide streets, a

stone's throw in length, forming a cross, the trees being cleared away

from them, and from a public square in the centre.

 

When the Spanish troops arrived on the frontiers, alarm-fires along the

mountains and columns of smoke spread the intelligence by night and day.

The old men, the women, and children, were sent off to the forests and

caverns, and the warriors prepared for battle. The Castilians paused in

one of the plains clear of forests, where their horses could be of use.

They made prisoners of several of the natives, and tried to learn from

them the plans and forces of the enemy. They applied tortures for the

purpose, but in vain, so devoted was the loyalty of these people to their

caciques. The Spaniards penetrated into the interior. They found the

warriors of several towns assembled in one, and drawn up in the streets

with their bows and arrows, but perfectly naked, and without defensive

armor. They uttered tremendous yells, and discharged a shower of arrows;

but from such a distance, that they fell short of their foe. The Spaniards

replied with their cross-bows, and with two or three arquebuses, for at

this time they had but few firearms. When the Indians saw several of their

comrades fall dead, they took to flight, rarely waiting for the attack

with swords: some of the wounded, in whose bodies the arrows from the

cross-bows had penetrated to the very feather, drew them out with their

hands, broke them with their teeth, and hurling them at the Spaniards with

impotent fury, fell dead upon the spot.

 

The whole force of the Indians was routed and dispersed, each family, or

band of neighbors, fled in its own direction, and concealed itself in the

fastness of the mountains. The Spaniards pursued them, but found the chase

difficult amidst the close forests, and the broken and stony heights. They

took several prisoners as guides, and inflicted incredible torments on

them, to compel them to betray their countrymen. They drove them before

them, secured by cords fastened round their necks; and some of them, as

they passed along the brinks of precipices, suddenly threw themselves

headlong down, in hopes of dragging after them the Spaniards. When at

length the pursuers came upon the unhappy Indians in their concealments,

they spared neither age nor sex; even pregnant women, and mothers with

infants in their arms, fell beneath their merciless swords. The

cold-blooded acts of cruelty which followed this first slaughter would be

shocking to relate.

 

Hence Esquibel marched to attack the town where Cotabanama resided, and

where that cacique had collected a great force to resist him. He proceeded

direct for the place along the sea-coast, and came to where two roads led

up the mountain to the town. One of the roads was open and inviting; the

branches of the trees being lopped, and all the underwood cleared away.

Here the Indians had stationed an ambuscade to take the Spaniards in the

rear. The other road was almost closed up by trees and bushes cut down and

thrown across each other. Esquibel was wary and distrustful; he suspected

the stratagem, and chose the encumbered road. The town was about a league

and a half from the sea. The Spaniards made their way with great

difficulty for the first half league. The rest of the road was free from

all embarrassment, which confirmed their suspicion of a stratagem. They

now advanced with great rapidity, and, having arrived near the village,

suddenly turned into the other road, took the party in ambush by surprise,

and made great havoc among them with their cross-bows.

 

The warriors now sallied from their concealment, others rushed out of the

houses into the streets, and discharged flights of arrows, but from such a

distance as generally to fall harmless. They then approached nearer, and

hurled stones with their hands, being unacquainted with the use of slings.

Instead of being dismayed at seeing their companions fall, it rather

increased their fury. An irregular battle, probably little else than wild

skirmishing and bush-fighting, was kept up from two o'clock in the

afternoon until night. Las Casas was present on the occasion, and, from

his account, the Indians must have shown instances of great personal

bravery, though the inferiority of their weapons, and the want of all

defensive armor, rendered their valor totally ineffectual. As the evening

shut in, their hostilities gradually ceased, and they disappeared in the

profound gloom and close thickets of the surrounding forest. A deep

silence succeeded to their yells and war-whoops, and throughout the night

the Spaniards remained in undisturbed possession of the village.

 

 

 

 

Chapter IV.

 

Close of the War with Higuey.--Fate of Cotabanama.

 

[1504.]

 

 

 

On the morning after the battle, not an Indian was to be seen. Finding

that even their great chief, Cotabanama, was incapable of vying with the

prowess of the white men, they had given up the contest in despair, and

fled to the mountains. The Spaniards, separating into small parties,

hunted them with the utmost diligence; their object was to seize the

caciques, and, above all, Cotabanama. They explored all the glens and

concealed paths leading into the wild recesses where the fugitives had

taken refuge. The Indians were cautious and stealthy in their mode of

retreating, treading in each other's foot-prints, so that twenty would

make no more track than one, and stepping so lightly as scarce to disturb

the herbage; yet there were Spaniards so skilled in hunting Indians, that

they could trace them even by the turn of a withered leaf, and among the

confused tracks of a thousand animals.

 

They could scent afar off, also, the smoke of the fires which the Indians

made whenever they halted, and thus they would come upon them in their

most secret haunts. Sometimes they would hunt down a straggling Indian,

and compel him, by torments, to betray the hiding-place of his companions,

binding him and driving him before them as a guide. Wherever they

discovered one of these places of refuge, filled with the aged and the

infirm, with feeble women and helpless children, they massacred them

without mercy. They wished to inspire terror throughout the land, and to

frighten the whole tribe into submission. They cut off the hands of those

whom they took roving at large, and sent them, as they said, to deliver

them as letters to their friends, demanding their surrender. Numberless

were those, says Las Casas, whose hands were amputated in this manner, and

many of them sank down and died by the way, through anguish and loss of

blood.

 

The conquerors delighted in exercising strange and ingenious cruelties.

They mingled horrible levity with their blood-thirstiness. They erected

gibbets long and low, so that the feet of the sufferers might reach the

ground, and their death be lingering. They hanged thirteen together, in

reverence, says the indignant Las Casas, of our blessed Saviour and the

twelve apostles. While their victims were suspended, and still living,

they hacked them with their swords, to prove the strength of their arms

and the edge of their weapons. They wrapped them in dry straw, and setting

fire to it, terminated their existence by the fiercest agony.

 

These are horrible details, yet a veil is drawn over others still more

detestable. They are related circumstantially by Las Casas, who was an

eye-witness. He was young at the time, but records them in his advanced

years. "All these things," says the venerable Bishop, "and others

revolting to human nature, did my own eyes behold; and now I almost fear

to repeat them, scarce believing myself, or whether I have not dreamt

them." [218]

 

These details would have been withheld from the present work as

disgraceful to human nature, and from an unwillingness to advance any

thing which might convey a stigma upon a brave and generous nation. But it

would be a departure from historical veracity, having the documents before

my eyes, to pass silently over transactions so atrocious, and vouched for

by witnesses beyond all suspicion of falsehood. Such occurrences show the

extremity to which human cruelty may extend, when stimulated by avidity of

gain; by a thirst of vengeance; or even by a perverted zeal in the holy

cause of religion. Every nation has in turn furnished proofs of this

disgraceful truth. As in the present instance, they are commonly the

crimes of individuals rather than of the nation. Yet it behooves

governments to keep a vigilant eye upon those to whom they delegate power

in remote and helpless colonies. It is the imperious duty of the historian

to place these matters upon record, that they may serve as warning beacons

to future generations.

 

Juan de Esquibel found that, with all his severities, it would be

impossible to subjugate the tribe of Higuey, as long as the cacique

Cotabanama was at large. That chieftain had retired to the little island

of Saona, about two leagues from the coast of Higuey, in the centre of

which, amidst a labyrinth of rocks and forests, he had taken shelter with

his wife and children in a vast cavern.

 

A caravel, recently arrived from the city of San Domingo with supplies for

the camp, was employed by Esquibel to entrap the cacique. He knew that the

latter kept a vigilant look-out, stationing scouts upon the lofty rocks of

his island to watch the movements of the caravel. Esquibel departed by

night, therefore, in the vessel, with fifty followers, and keeping under

the deep shadows cast by the land, arrived at Saona unperceived, at the

dawn of morning. Here he anchored close in with the shore, hid by its

cliffs and forests, and landed forty men, before the spies of Cotabanama

had taken their station. Two of these were surprised and brought to

Esquibel, who, having learnt from them that the cacique was at hand,

poniarded one of the spies, and bound the other, making him serve as

guide.

 

A number of Spaniards ran in advance, each anxious to signalize himself by

the capture of the cacique. They came to two roads, and the whole party

pursued that to the right, excepting one Juan Lopez, a powerful man,

skillful in Indian warfare. He proceeded in a footpath to the left,

winding among little hills, so thickly wooded that it was impossible to

see any one at the distance of half a bow-shot. Suddenly, in a narrow

pass, overshadowed by rocks and trees, he encountered twelve Indian

warriors, armed with bows and arrows, and following each other in single

file according to their custom. The Indians were confounded at the sight

of Lopez, imagining that there must be a party of soldiers behind him.

They might readily have transfixed him with their arrows, but they had

lost all presence of mind. He demanded their chieftain. They replied that

he was behind, and, opening to let him pass, Lopez beheld the cacique in

the rear. At sight of the Spaniard, Cotabanama bent his gigantic bow, and

was on the point of launching one of his three-pronged arrows, but Lopez

rushed upon him and wounded him with his sword. The other Indians, struck

with panic, had already fled. Cotabanama, dismayed at the keenness of the

sword, cried out that he was Juan de Esquibel, claiming respect as having

exchanged names with the Spanish commander. Lopez seized him with one hand

by the hair, and with the other aimed a thrust at his body; but the

cacique struck down the sword with his hand, and, grappling with his

antagonist, threw him with his back upon the rocks. As they were both men

of great power, the struggle was long and violent. The sword was beneath

them, but Cotabanama, seizing the Spaniard by the throat with his mighty

hand, attempted to strangle him. The sound of the contest brought the

other Spaniards to the spot. They found their companion writhing and

gasping, and almost dead, in the gripe of the gigantic Indian. They seized

the cacique, bound him, and carried him captive to a deserted Indian

village in the vicinity. They found the way to his secret cave, but his

wife and children, having received notice of his capture by the fugitive

Indians, had taken refuge in another part of the island. In the cavern was

found the chain with which a number of Indian captives had been bound, who

had risen upon and slain three Spaniards who had them in charge, and had

made their escape to this island. There were also the swords of the same

Spaniards, which they had brought off as trophies to their cacique. The

chain was now employed to manacle Cotabanama.

 

The Spaniards prepared to execute the chieftain on the spot, in the centre

of the deserted village. For this purpose a pyre was built of logs of wood

laid crossways, in form of a gridiron, on which he was to be slowly

broiled to death. On further consultation, however, they were induced to

forego the pleasure of this horrible sacrifice. Perhaps they thought the

cacique too important a personage to be executed thus obscurely. Granting

him, therefore, a transient reprieve, they conveyed him to the caravel,

and sent him, bound with heavy chains, to San Domingo. Ovando saw him in

his power, and incapable of doing further harm; but he had not the

magnanimity to forgive a fallen enemy, whose only crime was the defence of

his native soil and lawful territority. He ordered him to be publicly

hanged like a common culprit. [219] In this ignominious manner was the

cacique Cotabanama executed, the last of the five sovereign princes of

Hayti. His death was followed by the complete subjugation of his people,

and sealed the last struggle of the natives against their oppressors. The

island was almost unpeopled of its original inhabitants, and meek and

mournful submission and mute despair settled upon the scanty remnant that

survived.

 

Such was the ruthless system which had been pursued, during the absence of

the admiral, by the commander Ovando; this man of boasted prudence and

moderation, who was sent to reform the abuses of the island, and above

all, to redress the wrongs of the natives. The system of Columbus may have

borne hard upon the Indians, born and brought up in untasked freedom, but

it was never cruel nor sanguinary. He inflicted no wanton massacres nor

vindictive punishments; his desire was to cherish and civilize the

Indians, and to render them useful subjects; not to oppress, and

persecute, and destroy them. When he beheld the desolation that had swept

them from the land during his suspension from authority, he could not

restrain the strong expression of his feelings. In a letter written to the

king after his return to Spain, he thus expresses himself on the subject:

"The Indians of Hispaniola were and are the riches of the island; for it

is they who cultivate and make the bread and the provisions for the

Christians; who dig the gold from the mines, and perform all the offices

and labors both of men and beasts. I am informed that, since I left this

island, six parts out of seven of the natives are dead; all through ill

treatment and inhumanity; some by the sword, others by blows and cruel

usage, others through hunger. The greater part have perished in the

mountains and glens, whither they had fled, from not being able to support

the labor imposed upon them." For his own part, he added, although he had

sent many Indians to Spain to be sold, it was always with a view to their

being instructed in the Christian faith, and in civilized arts and usages,

and afterwards sent back to their island to assist in civilizing their

countrymen. [220]

 

The brief view that has been given of the policy of Ovando, on certain

points on which Columbus was censured, may enable the reader to judge more

correctly of the conduct of the latter. It is not to be measured by the

standard of right and wrong established in the present more enlightened

age. We must consider him in connection with the era in which he lived. By

comparing his measures with those men of his own times praised for their

virtues and abilities, placed in precisely his own situation, and placed

there expressly to correct his faults, we shall be the better able to

judge how virtuously and wisely, under the peculiar circumstances of the

case, he may be considered to have governed.

 

 

 

 

 

Book XVIII.

 

 

 

 

Chapter I.

 

Departure of Columbus for San Domingo.--His Return to Spain.

 

 

 

The arrival at Jamaica of the two vessels under the command of Salcedo had

caused a joyful reverse in the situation of Columbus. He hastened to leave

the wreck in which he had been so long immured, and hoisting his flag on

board of one of the ships, felt as if the career of enterprise and glory

were once more open to him. The late partisans of Porras, when they heard

of the arrival of the ships, came wistful and abject to the harbor,

doubting how far they might trust to the magnanimity of a man whom they

had so greatly injured, and who had now an opportunity of vengeance. The

generous mind, however, never harbors revenge in the hour of returning

prosperity; but feels noble satisfaction in sharing its happiness even

with its enemies. Columbus forgot, in his present felicity, all that he

had suffered from these men; he ceased to consider them enemies, now that

they had lost the power to injure; and he not only fulfilled all that he

had promised them, by taking them on board the ships, but relieved their

necessities from his own purse, until their return to Spain; and

afterwards took unwearied pains to recommend them to the bounty of the

sovereigns. Francisco Porras alone continued a prisoner, to be tried by

the tribunals of his country.

 

Oviedo assures us that the Indians wept when they beheld the departure of

the Spaniards; still considering them as beings from the skies. From the

admiral, it is true, they had experienced nothing but just and gentle

treatment, and continual benefits; and the idea of his immediate influence

with the Deity, manifested on the memorable occasion of the eclipse, may

have made them consider him as more than human, and his presence as

propitious to their island; but it is not easy to believe that a lawless

gang like that of Porras, could have been ranging for months among their

villages, without giving cause for the greatest joy at their departure.

 

On the 28th of June the vessels set sail for San Domingo. The adverse

winds and currents which had opposed Columbus throughout this ill-starred

expedition, still continued to harass him. After a weary struggle of

several weeks, he reached, on the 3d of August, the little island of

Beata, on the coast of Hispaniola. Between this place and San Domingo the

currents are so violent, that vessels are often detained months, waiting

for sufficient wind to enable them to stem the stream. Hence Columbus

dispatched a letter by land to Ovando, to inform him of his approach, and

to remove certain absurd suspicions of his views, which he had learnt from

Salcedo were still entertained by the governor; who feared his arrival in

the island might produce factions and disturbances. In this letter he

expresses, with his usual warmth and simplicity, the joy he felt at his,

deliverance, which was so great, he says, that, since the arrival of Diego

de Salcedo with succor, he had scarcely been able to sleep. The letter had

barely time to precede the writer, for, a favorable wind springing up, the

vessels again made sail, and, on the 13th of August, anchored in the

harbor of San Domingo.

 

If it is the lot of prosperity to awaken envy and excite detraction, it is

certainly the lot of misfortune to atone for a multitude of faults. San

Domingo had been the very hot-bed of sedition against Columbus in the day

of his power; he had been hurried from it in ignominious chains, amidst

the shouts and taunts of the triumphant rabble; he had been excluded from

its harbor, when, as commander of a squadron, he craved shelter from an

impending tempest; but now that he arrived in its waters, a broken-down

and shipwrecked man, all past hostility was overpowered by the popular

sense of his late disasters. There was a momentary burst of enthusiasm in

his favor; what had been denied to his merits was granted to his

misfortunes; and even the envious, appeased by his present reverses,

seemed to forgive him for having once been so triumphant.

 

The governor and principal inhabitants came forth to meet him, and

received him with signal distinction. He was lodged as a guest in the

house of Ovando, who treated him with the utmost courtesy and attention.

The governor was a shrewd and discreet man, and much of a courtier; but

there were causes of jealousy and distrust between him and Columbus too

deep to permit of cordial intercourse. The admiral and his son Fernando

always pronounced the civility of Ovando overstrained and hypocritical;

intended to obliterate the remembrance of past neglect, and to conceal

lurking enmity. While he professed the utmost friendship and sympathy for

the admiral, he set at liberty the traitor Porras, who was still a

prisoner, to be taken to Spain for trial. He also talked of punishing

those of the admiral's people who had taken arms in his defence, and in

the affray at Jamaica had killed several of the mutineers. These

circumstances were loudly complained of by Columbus; but, in fact, they

rose out of a question of jurisdiction between him and the governor. Their

powers were so undefined as to clash with each other, and they were both

disposed to be extremely punctilious. Ovando assumed a right to take

cognizance of all transactions at Jamaica; as happening within the limits

of his government, which included all the islands and Terra Firma.

Columbus, on the other hand, asserted the absolute command, and the

jurisdiction both civil and criminal given to him by the sovereigns, over

all persons who sailed in his expedition, from the time of departure until

their return to Spain. To prove this, he produced his letter of

instructions. The governor heard him with great courtesy and a smiling

countenance; but observed, that the letter of instructions gave him no

authority within the bounds of his government. [221] He relinquished the

idea, however, of investigating the conduct of the followers of Columbus,

and sent Porras to Spain, to be examined by the board which had charge of

the affairs of the Indies.

 

The sojourn of Columbus at San Domingo was but little calculated to yield

him satisfaction. He was grieved at the desolation of the island by the

oppressive treatment of the natives, and the horrible massacre which had

been perpetrated by Ovando and his agents. He had fondly hoped, at one

time, to render the natives civilized, industrious, and tributary subjects

to the crown, and to derive from their well-regulated labor a great and

steady revenue. How different had been the event! The five great tribes

which peopled the mountains and the valleys at the time of the discovery,

and rendered, by their mingled towns and villages and tracts of

cultivation, the rich levels of the Vegas so many "painted gardens," had

almost all passed away, and the native princes had perished chiefly by

violent or ignominious deaths. Columbus regarded the affairs of the island

with a different eye from Ovando. He had a paternal feeling for its

prosperity, and his fortunes were implicated in its judicious management.

He complained, in subsequent letters to the sovereigns, that all the

public affairs were ill conducted; that the ore collected lay unguarded in

large quantities in houses slightly built and thatched, inviting

depredation; that Ovando was unpopular, the people were dissolute, and the

property of the crown and the security of the island in continual risk

from mutiny and sedition. [222] While he saw all this, he had no power to

interfere, and any observation or remonstrance on his part was ill

received by the governor.

 

He found his own immediate concerns in great confusion. His rents and dues

were either uncollected, or he could not obtain a clear account and a full

liquidation of them. Whatever he could collect was appropriated to the

fitting out of the vessels which were to convey himself and his crews to

Spain. He accuses Ovando, in his subsequent letters, of having neglected,

if not sacrificed, his interests during his long absence, and of having

impeded those who were appointed to attend to his concerns. That he had

some grounds for these complaints would appear from two letters still

extant, [223] written by Queen Isabella to Ovando, on the 27th of

November, 1503, in which she informs him of the complaint of Alonzo

Sanchez de Carvajal, that he was impeded in collecting the rents of the

admiral; and expressly commands Ovando to observe the capitulations

granted to Columbus; to respect his agents, and to facilitate, instead

of obstructing, his concerns. These letters, while they imply ungenerous

conduct on the part of the governor towards his illustrious predecessor,

evince likewise the personal interest taken by Isabella in the affairs of

Columbus, during his absence. She had, in fact, signified her displeasure

at his being excluded from the port of San Domingo, when he applied there

for succor for his squadron, and for shelter from a storm; and had

censured Ovando for not taking his advice and detaining the fleet of

Bobadilla, by which it would have escaped its disastrous fate. [224] And

here it may be observed, that the sanguinary acts of Ovando towards the

natives, in particular the massacre at Xaragua, and the execution of the

unfortunate Anacaona, awakened equal horror and indignation in Isabella;

she was languishing on her death-bed when she received the intelligence,

and with her dying breath she exacted a promise from King Ferdinand that

Ovando should immediately be recalled from his government. The promise

was tardily and reluctantly fulfilled, after an interval of about four

years, and not until induced by other circumstances; for Ovando

contrived to propitiate the monarch, by forcing a revenue from the

island.

 

The continual misunderstandings between the admiral and the governor,

though always qualified on the part of the latter with great complaisance,

induced Columbus to hasten as much as possible his departure from the

island. The ship in which he had returned from Jamaica was repaired and

fitted out, and put under the command of the Adelantado; another vessel

was freighted, in which Columbus embarked with his son and his domestics.

The greater part of his late crews remained at San Domingo; as they were

in great poverty, he relieved their necessities from his own purse, and

advanced the funds necessary for the voyage home of those who chose to

return. Many thus relieved by his generosity had been among the most

violent of the rebels.

 

On the 12th of September, he set sail; but had scarcely left the harbor

when, in a sudden squall, the mast of his ship was carried away. He

immediately went with his family on board of the vessel commanded by the

Adelantado, and, sending back the damaged ship to port, continued on his

course. Throughout the voyage he experienced the most tempestuous weather.

In one storm the mainmast was sprung in four places. He was confined to

his bed at the time by the gout; by his advice, however, and the activity

of the Adelantado, the damage was skillfully repaired; the mast was

shortened; the weak parts were fortified by wood taken from the castles or

cabins which the vessels in those days carried on the prow and stern; and

the whole was well secured by cords. They were still more damaged in a

succeeding tempest; in which the ship sprung her foremast. In this

crippled state they had to traverse seven hundred leagues of a stormy

ocean. Fortune continued to persecute Columbus to the end of this, his

last and most disastrous expedition. For several weeks he was

tempest-tossed--suffering at the same time the most excruciating pains

from his malady--until, on the seventh day of November, his crazy and

shattered bark anchored in the harbor of San Lucar. Hence he had himself

conveyed to Seville, where he hoped to enjoy repose of mind and body, and

to recruit his health after such a long series of fatigues, anxieties,

and hardships. [225]

 

 

 

 

Chapter II.

 

Illness of Columbus at Seville.--Application to the Crown for a

Restitution of His Honors.--Death of Isabella.

 

[1504.]

 

 

 

Broken by age and infirmities, and worn down by the toils and hardships of

his recent expedition, Columbus had looked forward to Seville as to a

haven of rest, where he might repose awhile from his troubles. Care and

sorrow, however, followed him by sea and land. In varying the scene he but

varied the nature of his distress. "Wearisome days and nights" were

appointed to him for the remainder of his life; and the very margin of his

grave was destined to be strewed with thorns.

 

On arriving at Seville, he found all his affairs in confusion. Ever since

he had been sent home in chains from San Domingo, when his house and

effects had been taken possession of by Bobadilla, his rents and dues had

never been properly collected; and such as had been gathered had been

retained in the hands of the governor Ovando. "I have much vexation from

the governor," says he, in a letter to his son Diego. [226] "All tell me

that I have there eleven or twelve thousand castellanos; and I have not

received a quarto. ... I know well, that, since my departure, he must have

received upwards of five thousand castellanos." He entreated that a letter

might be written by the king, commanding the payment of these arrears

without delay; for his agents would not venture even to speak to Ovando on

the subject, unless empowered by a letter from the sovereign.

 

Columbus was not of a mercenary spirit; but his rank and situation

required large expenditure. The world thought him in the possession of

sources of inexhaustible wealth; but, as yet, those sources had furnished

him but precarious and scanty streams. His last voyage had exhausted his

finances, and involved him in perplexities. All that he had been able to

collect of the money due to him in Hispaniola, to the amount of twelve

hundred castellanos, had been expended in bringing home many of his late

crew, who were in distress; and for the greater part of the sum the crown

remained his debtor. While struggling to obtain his mere pecuniary dues,

he was absolutely suffering a degree of penury. He repeatedly urges the

necessity of economy to his son Diego, until he can obtain a restitution

of his property, and the payment of his arrears. "I receive nothing of the

revenue due to me," says he, in one letter; "I live by borrowing." "Little

have I profited," he adds, in another, "by twenty years of service, with

such toils and perils; since, at present, I do not own a roof in Spain. If

I desire to eat or sleep, I have no resort but an inn; and, for the most

times, have not wherewithal to pay my bill."

 

Yet in the midst of these personal distresses, he was more solicitous for

the payment of his seamen than of himself. He wrote strongly and

repeatedly to the sovereigns, entreating the discharge of their arrears,

and urged his son Diego, who was at court, to exert himself in their

behalf. "They are poor," said he, "and it is now nearly three years since

they left their homes. They have endured infinite toils and perils, and

they bring invaluable tidings, for which their majesties ought to give

thanks to God and rejoice." Notwithstanding his generous solicitude for

these men, he knew several of them to have been his enemies; nay, that

some of them were at this very time disposed to do him harm rather than

good; such was the magnanimity of his spirit and his forgiving

disposition.

 

The same zeal, also, for the interests of his sovereigns, which had ever

actuated his loyal mind, mingled with his other causes of solicitude. He

represented in his letter to the king, the mismanagement of the royal

rents in Hispaniola, under the administration of Ovando. Immense

quantities of ore lay unprotected in slightly-built houses, and liable to

depredations. It required a person of vigor, and one who had an individual

interest in the property of the island, to restore its affairs to order,

and draw from it the immense revenues which it was capable of yielding;

and Columbus plainly intimated that he was the proper person.

 

In fact, as to himself, it was not so much pecuniary indemnification that

he sought, as the restoration of his offices and dignities. He regarded

them as the trophies of his illustrious achievements; he had received the

royal promise that he should be reinstated in them; and he felt that as

long as they were withheld, a tacit censure rested upon his name. Had he

not been proudly impatient on this subject, he would have belied the

loftiest part of his character; for he who can be indifferent to the

wreath of triumph, is deficient in the noble ambition which incites to

glorious deeds.

 

The unsatisfactory replies received to his letters disquieted his mind. He

knew that he had active enemies at court ready to turn all things to his

disadvantage, and felt the importance of being there in person to defeat

their machinations: but his infirmities detained him at Seville. He made

an attempt to set forth on the journey, but the severity of the winter and

the virulence of his malady obliged him to relinquish it in despair. All

that he could do was to reiterate his letters to the sovereigns, and to

entreat the intervention of his few but faithful friends. He feared the

disastrous occurrences of the last voyage might be represented to his

prejudice. The great object of the expedition, the discovery of a strait

opening from the Caribbean to a southern sea, had failed. The secondary

object, the acquisition of gold, had not been completed. He had discovered

the gold mines of Veragua, it is true; but he had brought home no

treasure; because, as he said, in one of his letters, "I would not rob nor

outrage the country; since reason requires that it should be settled, and

then the gold may be procured without violence."

 

He was especially apprehensive that the violent scenes in the island of

Jamaica might, by the perversity of his enemies, and the effrontery of the

delinquents, be wrested into matters of accusation against him, as had

been the case with the rebellion of Roldan. Porras, the ringleader of the

late faction, had been sent home by Ovando, to appear before the board of

the Indies; but without any written process, setting forth the offences

charged against him. While at Jamaica, Columbus had ordered an inquest of

the affair to be taken; but the notary of the squadron who took it, and

the papers which he drew up, were on board of the ship in which the

admiral had sailed from Hispaniola, but which had put back dismasted. No

cognizance of the case, therefore, was taken by the council of the Indies;

and Porras went at large, armed with the power and the disposition to do

mischief. Being related to Morales, the royal treasurer, he had access to

people in place, and an opportunity of enlisting their opinions and

prejudices on his side. Columbus wrote to Morales, inclosing a copy of the

petition which the rebels had sent to him when in Jamaica, in which they

acknowledged their culpability, and implored his forgiveness; and he

entreated the treasurer not to be swayed by the representations of his

relative, nor to pronounce an opinion unfavorable to him, until he had an

opportunity of being heard.

 

The faithful and indefatigable Diego Mendez was at this time at the court,

as well as Alonzo Sanchez de Carvajal, and an active friend of Columbus

named Geronimo. They could bear the most important testimony as to his

conduct, and he wrote to his son Diego to call upon them for their good

offices. "I trust," said he, "that the truth and diligence of Diego Mendez

will be of as much avail as the lies of Porras." Nothing can surpass the

affecting earnestness and simplicity of the general declaration of

loyalty, contained in one of his letters. "I have served their majesties,"

says he, "with as much zeal and diligence as if it had been to gain

Paradise; and if I have failed in any thing, it has been because my

knowledge and powers went no further."

 

While reading these touching appeals, we can scarcely realize the fact,

that the dejected individual thus wearily and vainly applying for

unquestionable rights, and pleading almost like a culprit, in cases

wherein he had been flagrantly injured, was the same who but a few years

previously had been received at this very court with almost regal honors,

and idolized as a national benefactor; that this, in a word, was Columbus,

the discoverer of the New World; broken in health, and impoverished in his

old days by his very discoveries.

 

At length the caravel bringing the official proceedings relative to the

brothers Porras arrived at the Algarves, in Portugal, and Columbus looked

forward with hope that all matters would soon be placed in a proper light.

His anxiety to get to court became every day more intense. A litter was

provided to convey him thither, and was actually at the door, but the

inclemency of the weather and his increasing infirmities obliged him again

to abandon the journey. His resource of letter-writing began to fail him:

he could only write at night, for in the daytime the severity of his

malady deprived him of the use of his hands. The tidings from the court

were every day more and more adverse to his hopes; the intrigues of his

enemies were prevailing; the cold-hearted Ferdinand treated all his

applications with indifference; the generous Isabella lay dangerously ill.

On her justice and magnanimity he still relied for the full restoration of

his rights, and the redress of all his grievances. "May it please the Holy

Trinity," says he, "to restore our sovereign queen to health; for by her

will every thing be adjusted which is now in confusion." Alas! while

writing that letter, his noble benefactress was a corpse!

 

The health of Isabella had long been undermined by the shocks of repeated

domestic calamities. The death of her only son, the prince Juan; of her

beloved daughter and bosom friend, the princess Isabella; and of her

grandson and prospective heir, the prince Miguel, had been three cruel

wounds to a heart full of the tenderest sensibility. To these was added

the constant grief caused by the evident infirmity of intellect of her

daughter Juana, and the domestic unhappiness of that princess with her

husband, the archduke Philip. The desolation which walks through palaces

admits not the familiar sympathies and sweet consolations which alleviate

the sorrows of common life. Isabella pined in state, amidst the obsequious

homages of a court, surrounded by the trophies of a glorious and

successful reign, and placed at the summit of earthly grandeur. A deep and

incurable melancholy settled upon her, which undermined her constitution,

and gave a fatal acuteness to her bodily maladies. After four months of

illness, she died on the 2eth of November, 1504, at Medina del Campo, in

the fifty-fourth year of her age; but long before her eyes closed upon the

world, her heart had closed on all its pomps and vanities. "Let my body,"

said she in her will, "be interred in the monastery of San Francisco,

which is in the Alhambra of the city of Granada, in a low sepulchre,

without any monument except a plain stone, with the inscription cut on it.

But I desire and command, that if the king, my lord, should choose a

sepulchre in any church or monastery in any other part or place of these

my kingdoms, my body be transported thither, and buried beside the body of

his highness; so that the union we have enjoyed while living, and which,

through the mercy of God, we hope our souls will experience in heaven, may

be represented by our bodies in the earth." [227]

 

Such was one of several passages in the will of this admirable woman,

which bespoke the chastened humility of her heart; and in which, as has

been well observed, the affections of conjugal love were delicately

entwined with piety, and with the most tender melancholy. [228] She

was one of the purest spirits that ever ruled over the destinies of a

nation. Had she been spared, her benignant vigilance would have prevented

many a scene of horror in the colonization of the New World, and might

have softened the lot of its native inhabitants. As it is, her fair name

will ever shine with celestial radiance in the dawning of its history.

 

The news of the death of Isabella reached Columbus when he was writing a

letter to his son Diego. He notices it in a postscript or memorandum,

written in the haste and brevity of the moment, but in beautifully

touching and mournful terms. "A memorial," he writes, "for thee, my dear

son Diego, of what is at present to be done. The principal thing is to

commend affectionately, and with great devotion, the soul of the queen our

sovereign to God. Her life was always catholic and holy, and prompt to all

things in his holy service: for this reason we may rest assured that she

is received into his glory, and beyond the cares of this rough and weary

world. The next thing is to watch and labor in all matters for the service

of our sovereign the king, and to endeavor to alleviate his grief. His

majesty is the head of Christendom. Remember the proverb which says, when

the head suffers all the members suffer. Therefore all good Christians

should pray for his health and long life; and we, who are in his employ,

ought more than others to do this with all study and diligence."

[229]

 

It is impossible to read this mournful letter without being moved by the

simply eloquent yet artless language in which Columbus expresses his

tenderness for the memory of his benefactress, his weariness under the

gathering cares and ills of life, and his persevering and enduring loyalty

towards the sovereign who was so ungratefully neglecting him. It is in

these unstudied and confidential letters that we read the heart of

Columbus.

 

 

 

 

Chapter III.

 

Columbus Arrives at Court.--Fruitless Application to the King for Redress.

 

[1505.]

 

 

 

The death of Isabella was a fatal blow to the fortunes of Columbus. While

she lived, he had every thing to anticipate from her high sense of

justice, her regard for her royal word, her gratitude for his services,

and her admiration of his character. With her illness, however, his

interests had languished, and when she died, he was left to the justice

and generosity of Ferdinand!

 

During the remainder of the winter and a part of the spring, he continued

at Seville, detained by painful illness, and endeavoring to obtain redress

from the government by ineffectual letters. His brother the Adelantado,

who supported him with his accustomed fondness and devotion through all

his trials, proceeded to court to attend to his interests, taking with him

the admiral's younger son Fernando, then aged about seventeen. The latter,

the affectionate father repeatedly represents to his son Diego as a man in

understanding and conduct, though but a stripling in years; and inculcates

the strongest fraternal attachment, alluding to his own brethren with one

of those simply eloquent and affecting expressions which stamp his heart

upon his letters. "To thy brother conduct thyself as the elder brother

should unto the younger. Thou hast no other, and I praise God that this is

such a one as thou dost need. Ten brothers would not be too many for thee.

Never have I found a better friend to right or left, than my brothers."

 

Among the persons whom Columbus employed at this time in his missions to

the court, was Amerigo Vespucci. He describes him as a worthy but

unfortunate man, who had not profited as much as he deserved by his

undertakings, and who had always been disposed to render him service. His

object in employing him appears to have been to prove the value of his

last voyage, and that he had been in the most opulent parts of the New

World; Vespucci having since touched upon the same coast, in a voyage with

Alonzo de Ojeda.

 

One circumstance occured at this time which shed a gleam of hope and

consolation over his gloomy prospects. Diego de Deza, who had been for

some time bishop of Palencia, was expected at court. This was the same

worthy friar who had aided him to advocate his theory before the board of

learned men at Salamanca, and had assisted him with his purse when making

his proposals to the Spanish court. He had just been promoted and made

archbishop of Seville, but had not yet been installed in office. Columbus

directs his son Diego to intrust his interests to this worthy prelate.

"Two things," says he, "require particular attention. Ascertain whether

the queen, who is now with God, has said any thing concerning me in her

testament, and stimulate the bishop of Palencia, he who was the cause that

their highnesses obtained possession of the Indies, who induced me to

remain in Castile when I was on the road to leave it." [230] In another

letter he says, "If the bishop of Palencia has arrived, or should arrive,

tell him how much I have been gratified by his prosperity, and that if I

come, I shall lodge with his grace, even though he should not invite me,

for we must return to our ancient fraternal affection."

 

The incessant applications of Columbus, both by letter and by the

intervention of friends, appear to have been listened to with cool

indifference. No compliance was yielded to his requests, and no deference

was paid to his opinions, on various points concerning which he interested

himself. New instructions were sent out to Ovando, but not a word of their

purport was mentioned to the admiral. It was proposed to send out three

bishops, and he entreated in vain to be heard previous to their election.

In short, he was not in any way consulted in the affairs of the New World.

He felt deeply this neglect, and became every day more impatient of his

absence from court. To enable himself to perform the journey with more

ease, he applied for permission to use a mule, a royal ordinance having

prohibited the employment of those animals under the saddle, in

consequence of their universal use having occasioned a decline in the

breed of horses. A royal permission was accordingly granted to Columbus,

in consideration that his age and infirmities incapacitated him from

riding on horse-back; but it was a considerable time before the state of

his health would permit him to avail himself of that privilege.

 

The foregoing particulars, gleaned from letters of Columbus recently

discovered, show the real state of his affairs, and the mental and bodily

affliction sustained by him during his winter's residence at Seville, on

his return from his last disastrous voyage. He has generally been

represented as reposing there from his toils and troubles. Never was

honorable repose more merited, more desired, and less enjoyed.

 

It was not until the month of May that he was able, in company with his

brother the Adelantado, to accomplish his journey to court, at that time

held at Segovia. He, who but a few years before had entered the city of

Barcelona in triumph, attended by the nobility and chivalry of Spain, and

hailed with rapture by the multitude, now arrived within the gates of

Segovia, a wayworn, melancholy, and neglected man; oppressed more by

sorrow than even by his years and infirmities. When he presented himself

at court, he met with none of that distinguished attention, that cordial

kindness, that cherishing sympathy, which his unparalleled services and

his recent sufferings had merited. [231]

 

The selfish Ferdinand had lost sight of his past services, in what

appeared to him the inconvenience of his present demands. He received him

with many professions of kindness: but with those cold ineffectual smiles,

which pass like wintry sunshine over the countenance, and convey no warmth

to the heart.

 

The admiral now gave a particular account of his late voyage; describing

the great tract of Terra Firma, which he had explored, and the riches of

the province of Veragua. He related also the disasters sustained in the

island of Jamaica; the insurrection of the Porras and their band; and all

the other griefs and troubles of this unfortunate expedition. He had but a

cold-hearted auditor in the king; and the benignant Isabella was no more

at hand to soothe him with a smile of kindness, or a tear of sympathy. "I

know not," gays the venerable Las Casas, "what could cause this dislike

and this want of princely countenance in the king, towards one who had

rendered him such pre-eminent benefits; unless it was that his mind was

swayed by the false testimonies which had been brought against the

admiral; of which I have been enabled to learn something from persons much

in favor with the sovereign." [232]

 

After a few days had elapsed, Columbus urged his suit in form; reminding

the king of all that he had done, and all that had been promised him under

the royal word and seal, and supplicating that the restitutions and

indemnifications which had been so frequently solicited, might be awarded

to him; offering in return to serve his majesty devotedly for the short

time he had yet to live; and trusting, from what he felt within him, and

from what he thought he knew with certainty, to render services which

should surpass all that he had yet performed a hundred-fold. The king, in

reply, acknowledged the greatness of his merits, and the importance of his

services, but observed, that, for the more satisfactory adjustment of his

claims, it would be advisable to refer all points in dispute to the

decision of some discreet and able person. The admiral immediately

proposed as arbiter his friend the archbishop of Seville, Don Diego de

Deza, one of the most able and upright men about the court, devotedly

loyal, high in the confidence of the king, and one who had always taken

great interest in the affairs of the New World. The king consented to the

arbitration, but artfully extended it to questions which he knew would

never be put at issue by Columbus; among these was his claim to the

restoration of his office of viceroy. To this Columbus objected with

becoming spirit, as compromising a right which was too clearly defined and

solemnly established to be put for a moment in dispute. It was the

question of rents and revenues alone, he observed, which he was willing to

submit to the decision of a learned man, not that of the government of the

Indies. As the monarch persisted, however, in embracing both questions in

the arbitration, the proposed measure was never carried into effect.

 

It was, in fact, on the subject of his dignities alone that Columbus was

tenacious; all other matters he considered of minor importance. In a

conversation with the king he absolutely disavowed all wish of entering

into any suit or pleading as to his pecuniary dues; on the contrary, he

offered to put all his privileges and writings into the hands of his

sovereign, and to receive out of the dues arising from them, whatever his

majesty might think proper to award. All that he claimed without

qualification or reserve, were his official dignities, assured to him

under the royal seal with all the solemnity of a treaty. He entreated, at

all events, that these matters might speedily be decided, so that he might

be released from a state of miserable suspense, and enabled to retire to

some quiet corner, in search of that tranquillity and repose necessary to

his fatigues and his infirmities.

 

To this frank appeal to his justice and generosity, Ferdinand replied with

many courteous expressions, and with those general evasive promises, which

beguile the ear of the court applicant, but convey no comfort to his

heart. "As far as actions went," observes Las Casas, "the king not merely

showed him no signs of favor, but, on the contrary, discountenanced him as

much as possible; yet he was never wanting in complimentary expressions."

 

Many months were passed by Columbus in unavailing solicitation, during

which he continued to receive outward demonstrations of respect from the

king, and due attention from cardinal Ximenes, archbishop of Toledo, and

other principal personages; but he had learned to appreciate and distrust

the hollow civilities of a court. His claims were referred to a tribunal,

called "The council of the discharges of the conscience of the deceased

queen, and of the king." This is a kind of tribunal, commonly known by the

name of the Junta de Descargos, composed of persons nominated by the

sovereign, to superintend the accomplishment of the last will of his

predecessor, and the discharge of his debts. Two consultations were held

by this body, but nothing was determined. The wishes of the king were too

well known to be thwarted. "It was believed," says Las Casas, "that if the

king could have done so with a safe conscience, and without detriment to

his fame, he would have respected few or none of the privileges which he

and the queen had conceded to the admiral, and which had been so justly

merited." [Footonte: Las Caaas, Hist. Ind., lib. ii. cap. 37.]

 

Columbus still flattered himself that, his claims being of such

importance, and touching a question of sovereignty, the adjustment of them

might be only postponed by the king until he could consult with his

daughter Juana, who had succeeded to her mother as queen of Castile, and

who, was daily expected from Flanders, with her husband, king Philip. He

endeavored, therefore, to bear his delays with patience; but he had no

longer the physical strength and glorious anticipations which once

sustained him through his long application at this court. Life itself was

drawing to a close.

 

He was once more confined to his bed by a tormenting attack of the gout,

aggravated by the sorrows and disappointments which preyed upon his heart.

From this couch of anguish he addressed one more appeal to the justice of

the king. He no longer petitioned for himself: it was for his son Diego.

Nor did he dwell upon his pecuniary dues; it was the honorable trophies of

his services which he wished to secure and perpetuate in his family. He

entreated that his son Diego might be appointed, in his place, to the

government of which he had been so wrongfully deprived. "This," he said,

"is a matter which concerns my honor; as to all the rest, do as your

majesty may think proper; give or withhold, as may be most for your

interest, and I shall be content. I believe the anxiety caused by the

delay of this affair is the principal cause of my ill health." A petition

to the same purpose was presented at the same time by his son Diego,

offering to take with him such persons for counselors as the king should

appoint, and to be guided by their advice.

 

These petitions were treated by Ferdinand with his usual professions and

evasions. "The more applications were made to him," observes Las Casas,

"the more favorably did he reply; but still he delayed, hoping, by

exhausting their patience, to induce them to wave their privileges, and

accept in place thereof titles and estates in Castile." Columbus rejected

all propositions of the kind with indignation, as calculated to compromise

those titles which were the trophies of his achievements. He saw, however,

that all further hope of redress from Ferdinand was vain. From the bed to

which he was confined, he addressed a letter to his constant friend Diego

de Deza, expressive of his despair. "It appears that his majesty does not

think fit to fulfill that which he, with the queen, who is now in glory,

promised me by word and seal. For me to contend for the contrary, would be

to contend with the wind. I have done all that I could do. I leave the

rest to God, whom I have ever found propitious to me in my necessities."

[233]

 

The cold and calculating Ferdinand beheld this illustrious man sinking

under infirmity of body, heightened by that deferred hope which "maketh

the heart sick." A little more delay, a little more disappointment, and a

little longer infliction of ingratitude, and this loyal and generous heart

would cease to beat: he should then be delivered from the just claims of a

well-tried servant, who, in ceasing to be useful, was considered by him to

have become importunate.

 

 

 

 

Chapter IV.

 

Death of Columbus.

 

 

 

In the midst of illness and despondency, when both life and hope were

expiring in the bosom of Columbus, a new gleam was awakened and blazed up

for the moment with characteristic fervor. He heard with joy of the

landing of king Philip and queen Juana, who had just arrived from Flanders

to take possession of their throne of Castile. In the daughter of Isabella

he trusted once more to find a patroness and a friend. King Ferdinand and

all the court repaired to Laredo to receive the youthful sovereigns.

Columbus would gladly have done the same, but he was confined to his bed

by a severe return of his malady; neither in his painful and helpless

situation could he dispense with the aid and ministry of his son Diego.

His brother, the Adelantado, therefore, his main dependence in all

emergencies, was sent to represent him, and to present his homage and

congratulations. Columbus wrote by him to the new king and queen,

expressing his grief at being prevented by illness from coming in person

to manifest his devotion, but begging to be considered among the most

faithful of their subjects. He expressed a hope that he should receive at

their hands the restitution of his honors and estates, and assured them,

that, though cruelly tortured at present by disease, he would yet be able

to render them services, the like of which had never been witnessed.

 

Such was the last sally of his sanguine and unconquerable spirit; which,

disregarding age and infirmities, and all past sorrows and

disappointments, spoke from his dying bed with all the confidence of

youthful hope; and talked of still greater enterprises, as if he had a

long and vigorous life before him. The Adelantado took leave of his

brother, whom he was never to behold again, and set out on his mission to

the new sovereigns. He experienced the most gracious reception. The claims

of the admiral were treated with great attention by the young king and

queen, and flattering hopes were given of a speedy and prosperous

termination to his suit.

 

In the meantime the cares and troubles of Columbus were drawing to a

close. The momentary fire which had reanimated him was soon quenched by

accumulating infirmities. Immediately after the departure of the

Adelantado, his illness increased in violence. His last voyage had

shattered beyond repair a frame already worn and wasted by a life of

hardship; and continual anxieties robbed him of that sweet repose so

necessary to recruit the weariness and debility of age. The cold

ingratitude of his sovereign chilled his heart. The continued suspension

of his honors, and the enmity and defamation experienced at every turn,

seemed to throw a shadow over that glory which had been the great object

of his ambition. This shadow, it is true, could be but of transient

duration; but it is difficult for the most illustrious man to look beyond

the present cloud which may obscure his fame, and anticipate its permanent

lustre in the admiration of posterity.

 

Being admonished by failing strength and increasing sufferings that his

end was approaching, he prepared to leave his affairs in order for the

benefit of his successors.

 

It is said that on the 4th of May he wrote an informal testamentary

codicil on the blank page of a little breviary, given him by Pope

Alexander VI. In this he bequeathed that book to the republic of Genoa,

which he also appointed successor to his privileges and dignities, on the

extinction of his male line. He directed likewise the erection of an

hospital in that city with the produce of his possessions in Italy. The

authenticity of this document is questioned, and has become a point of

warm contest among commentators. It is not, however, of much importance.

The paper is such as might readily have been written by a person like

Columbus in the paroxysm of disease, when he imagined his end suddenly

approaching, and shows the affection with which his thoughts were bent on

his native city. It is termed among commentators a military codicil,

because testamentary dispositions of this kind are executed by the soldier

at the point of death, without the usual formalities required by the civil

law. About two weeks afterwards, on the eve of his death, he executed a

final and regularly authenticated codicil, in which he bequeathed his

dignities and estates with better judgment.

 

In these last and awful moments, when the soul has but a brief space in

which to make up its accounts between heaven and earth, all dissimulation

is at an end, and we read unequivocal evidences of character. The last

codicil of Columbus, made at the very verge of the grave, is stamped with

his ruling passion and his benignant virtues. He repeats and enforces

several clauses of his original testament, constituting his sou Diego his

universal heir. The entailed inheritance, or mayorazgo, in case he died

without male issue, was to go to his brother Don Fernando, and from him,

in like case, to pass to his uncle Don Bartholomew, descending always to

the nearest male heir; in failure of which it was to pass to the female

nearest in lineage to the admiral. He enjoined upon whoever should inherit

his estate never to alienate or diminish it, but to endeavor by all means

to augment its prosperity and importance. He likewise enjoined upon his

heirs to be prompt and devoted at all times, with person and estate, to

serve their sovereign and promote the Christian faith. He ordered that Don

Diego should devote one tenth of the revenues which might arise from his

estate, when it came to be productive, to the relief of indigent relatives

and of other persons in necessity; that, out of the remainder, he should

yield certain yearly proportions to his brother Don Fernando, and his

uncles Don Bartholomew and Don Diego; and that the part allotted to Don

Fernando should be settled upon him and his male heirs in an entailed and

unalienable inheritance. Having thus provided for the maintenance and

perpetuity of his family and dignities, he ordered that Don Diego, when

his estates should be sufficiently productive, should erect a chapel in

the island of Hispaniola, which God had given to him so marvelously, at

the town of Conception, in the Vega, where masses should be daily

performed for the repose of the souls of himself, his father, his mother,

his wife, and of all who died in the faith. Another clause recommends to

the care of Don Diego, Beatrix Enriquez, the mother of his natural son

Fernando. His connection with her had never been sanctioned by matrimony,

and either this circumstance, or some neglect of her, seems to have

awakened deep compunction in his dying moments. He orders Don Diego to

provide for her respectable maintenance; "and let this be done," he adds,

"for the discharge of my conscience, for it weighs heavy on my soul."

[234] Finally, he noted with his own hand several minute sums, to be paid

to persons at different and distant places, without their being told

whence they received them. These appear to have been trivial debts of

conscience, or rewards for petty services received in times long past.

Among them is one of half a mark of silver to a poor Jew, who lived at

the gate of the Jewry, in the city of Lisbon. These minute provisions

evince the scrupulous attention to justice in all his dealings, and that

love of punctuality in the fulfillment of duties, for which he was

remarked. In the same spirit, he gave much advice to his son Diego, as

to the conduct of his affairs, enjoining upon him to take every month an

account with his own hand of the expenses of his household, and to sign

it with his name; for a want of regularity in this, he observed, lost

both property and servants, and turned the last into enemies. His dying

bequests were made in presence of a few faithful followers and servants,

and among them we find the name of Bartholomeo Fiesco, who had

accompanied Diego Mendez in the perilous voyage in a canoe from Jamaica

to Hispaniola.

 

Having thus scrupulously attended to all the claims of affection, loyalty,

and justice upon earth, Columbus turned his thoughts to heaven; and having

received the holy sacrament, and performed all the pious offices of a

devout Christian, he expired with great resignation, on the day of

ascension, the 20th of May, 1506, being about seventy years of age.

[235] His last words were, "_In manus tuas Domine, commendo spiritum

meum:_" Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. [236]

 

His body was deposited in the convent of St. Francisco, and his obsequies

were celebrated with funereal pomp at Valladolid, in the parochial church

of Santa Maria de la Antigua. His remains were transported afterwards, in

1513, to the Carthusian monastery of Las Cuevas of Seville, to the chapel

of St. Ann or of Santo Christo, in which chapel were likewise deposited

those of his son Don Diego, who died in the village of Montalban, on the

23d of February, 1526. In the year 1536 the bodies of Columbus and his son

Diego were removed to Hispaniola, and interred in the principal chapel of

the cathedral of the city of San Domingo; but even here they did not rest

in quiet, having since been again disinterred and conveyed to the Havanna,

in the island of Cuba.

 

We are told that Ferdinand, after the death of Columbus, showed a sense of

his merits by ordering a monument to be erected to his memory, on which

was inscribed the motto already cited, which had formerly been granted to

him by the sovereigns: A Castilla y a Leon nuevo mundo dio Colon (_To

Castile and Leon Columbus gave a new world_). However great an honor a

monument may be for a subject to receive, it is certainly but a cheap

reward for a sovereign to bestow. As to the motto inscribed upon it, it

remains engraved in the memory of mankind, more indelibly than in brass or

marble; a record of the great debt of gratitude due to the discoverer,

which the monarch had so faithlessly neglected to discharge.

 

Attempts have been made in recent days, by loyal Spanish writers, to

vindicate the conduct of Ferdinand towards Columbus. They were doubtless

well intended, but they have been futile, nor is their failure to be

regretted. To screen such injustice in so eminent a character from the

reprobation of mankind, is to deprive history of one of its most important

uses. Let the ingratitude of Ferdinand stand recorded in its full extent,

and endure throughout all time. The dark shadow which it casts upon his

brilliant renown, will be a lesson to all rulers, teaching thein what is

important to their own fame in their treatment of illustrious men.

 

 

 

 

Chapter V.

 

Observations on the Character of Columbus.

 

 

 

In narrating the story of Columbus, it has been the endeavor of the author

to place him in a clear and familiar point of view; for this purpose he

has rejected no circumstance, however trivial, which appeared to evolve

some point of character; and he has sought all kinds of collateral facts

which might throw light upon his views and motives. With this view also he

has detailed many facts hitherto passed over in silence, or vaguely

noticed by historians, probably because they might be deemed instances of

error or misconduct on the part of Columbus; but he who paints a great man

merely in great and heroic traits, though he may produce a fine picture,

will never present a faithful portrait. Great men are compounds of great

and little qualities. Indeed, much of their greatness arises from their

mastery over the imperfections of their nature, and, their noblest actions

are sometimes struck forth by the collision of their merits and their

defects.

 

In Columbus was singularly combined the practical and the poetical. His

mind had grasped all kinds of knowledge, whether procured by study or

observation, which bore upon his theories; impatient of the scanty aliment

of the day, "his impetuous ardor," as has well been observed, "threw him

into the study of the fathers of the church; the Arabian Jews, and the

ancient geographers;" while his daring but irregular genius, bursting from

the limits of imperfect science, bore him to conclusions far beyond the

intellectual vision of his contemporaries. If some of his conclusions were

erroneous, they were at least ingenious and splendid; and their error

resulted from the clouds which still hung over his peculiar path of

enterprise. His own discoveries enlightened the ignorance of the age;

guided conjecture to certainty, and dispelled that very darkness with

which he had been obliged to struggle.

 

In the progress of his discoveries he has been remarked for the extreme

sagacity and the admirable justness with which he seized upon the

phenomena of the exterior world. The variations, for instance, of

terrestrial magnetism, the direction of currents, the groupings of marine

plants, fixing one of the grand climacteric divisions of the ocean, the

temperatures changing not solely with the distance to the equator, but

also with the difference of meridians: these and similar phenomena, as

they broke upon him, were discerned with wonderful quickness of

perception, and made to contribute important principles to the stock of

general knowledge. This lucidity of spirit, this quick convertibility of

facts to principles, distinguish him from the dawn to the close of his

sublime enterprise, insomuch that, with all the sallying ardor of his

imagination, his ultimate success has been admirably characterized as a

"conquest of reflection." [237]

 

It has been said that mercenary views mingled with the ambition of

Columbus, and that his stipulations with the Spanish court were selfish

and avaricious. The charge is inconsiderate and unjust. He aimed at

dignity and wealth in the same lofty spirit in which he sought renown;

they were to be part and parcel of his achievement, and palpable evidence

of its success; they were to arise from the territories he should

discover, and be commensurate in importance. No condition could be more

just. He asked nothing of the sovereigns but a command of the countries he

hoped to give them, and a share of the profits to support the dignity of

his command. If there should be no country discovered, his stipulated

viceroyalty would be of no avail; and if no revenues should be produced,

his labor and peril would produce no gain. If his command and revenues

ultimately proved magnificent, it was from the magnificence of the regions

he had attached to the Castilian crown. What monarch would not rejoice to

gain empire on such conditions? But he did not risk merely a loss of

labor, and a disappointment of ambition, in the enterprise;--on his

motives being questioned, he voluntarily undertook, and, with the

assistance of his coadjutors, actually defrayed, one-eighth of the whole

charge of the first expedition.

 

It was, in fact, this rare union already noticed, of the practical man of

business with the poetical projector, which enabled him to carry his grand

enterprises into effect through so many difficulties; but the pecuniary

calculations and cares, which gave feasibility to his schemes, were never

suffered to chill the glowing aspirations of his soul. The gains that

promised to arise from his discoveries, he intended to appropriate in the

same princely and pious spirit in which they were demanded. He

contemplated works and achievements of benevolence and religion; vast

contributions for the relief of the poor of his native city; the

foundation of churches, where masses should be said for the souls of the

departed; and armies for the recovery of the holy sepulchre in Palestine.

Thus his ambition was truly noble and lofty; instinct with high thought

and prone to generous deed.

 

In the discharge of his office he maintained the state and ceremonial of a

viceroy, and was tenacious of his rank and privileges; not from a mere

vulgar love of titles, but because he prized them as testimonials and

trophies of his achievements: these he jealously cherished as his great

rewards. In his repeated applications to the king, he insisted merely on

the restitution of his dignities. As to his pecuniary dues and all

questions relative to mere revenue, he offered to leave them to

arbitration or even to the absolute disposition of the monarch; but not so

his official dignities; "these things," said he nobly, "affect my honor."

In his testament, he enjoined on his son Diego, and whoever after him

should inherit his estates, whatever dignities and titles might afterwards

be granted by the king, always to sign himself simply "the admiral," by

way of perpetuating in the family its real source of greatness.

 

His conduct was characterized by the grandeur of his views, and the

magnanimity of his spirit. Instead of scouring the newly-found countries,

like a grasping adventurer eager only for immediate gain, as was too

generally the case with contemporary discoverers, he sought to ascertain

their soil and productions, their rivers and harbors: he was desirous of

colonizing and cultivating them; of conciliating and civilizing the

natives; of building cities; introducing the useful arts; subjecting every

thing to the control of law, order, and religion; and thus of founding

regular and prosperous empires. In this glorious plan he was constantly

defeated by the dissolute rabble which it was his misfortune to command;

with whom all law was tyranny, and all order restraint. They interrupted

all useful works by their seditions; provoked the peaceful Indians to

hostility; and after they had thus drawn down misery and warfare upon

their own heads, and overwhelmed Columbus with the ruins of the edifice he

was building, they charged him with being the cause of the confusion.

 

Well would it have been for Spain had those who followed in the track of

Columbus possessed his sound policy and liberal views. The New World, in

such cases, would have been settled by pacific colonists, and civilized by

enlightened legislators; instead of being overrun by desperate

adventurers, and desolated by avaricious conquerors.

 

Columbus was a man of quick sensibility, liable to great excitement, to

sudden and strong impressions, and powerful impulses. He was naturally

irritable and impetuous, and keenly sensible to injury and injustice; yet

the quickness of his temper was counteracted by the benevolence and

generosity of his heart. The magnanimity of his nature shone forth through

all the troubles of his stormy career. Though continually outraged in his

dignity, and braved in the exercise of his command; though foiled in his

plans, and endangered in his person by the seditions of turbulent and

worthless men, and that too at times when suffering under anxiety of mind

and anguish of body sufficient to exasperate the most patient, yet he

restrained his valiant and indignant spirit, by the strong powers of his

mind, and brought himself to forbear, and reason, and even to supplicate:

nor should we fail to notice how free he was from all feeling of revenge,

how ready to forgive and forget, on the least signs of repentance and

atonement. He has been extolled for his skill in controlling others; but

far greater praise is due to him for his firmness in governing himself.

 

His natural benignity made him accessible to all kinds of pleasurable

sensations from external objects. In his letters and journals, instead of

detailing circumstances with the technical precision of a mere navigator,

he notices the beauties of nature with the enthusiasm of a poet or a

painter. As he coasts the shores of the New World, the reader participates

in the enjoyment with which he describes, in his imperfect but picturesque

Spanish, the varied objects around him; the blandness of the temperature,

the purity of the atmosphere, the fragrance of the air, "full of dew and

sweetness," the verdure of the forests, the magnificence of the trees, the

grandeur of the mountains, and the limpidity and freshness of the running

streams. New delight springs up for him in every scene. He extols each new

discovery as more beautiful than the last, and each as the most beautiful

in the world; until, with his simple earnestness, he tells the sovereigns,

that, having spoken so highly of the preceding islands, he fears that they

will not credit him, when he declares that the one he is actually

describing surpasses them all in excellence.

 

In the same ardent and unstudied way he expresses his emotions on various

occasions, readily affected by impulses of joy or grief, of pleasure or

indignation. When surrounded and overwhelmed by the ingratitude and

violence of worthless men, he often, in the retirement of his cabin, gave

way to bursts of sorrow, and relieved his overladen heart by sighs and

groans. When he returned in chains to Spain, and came into the presence

of Isabella, instead of continuing the lofty pride with which he had

hitherto sustained his injuries, he was touched with grief and tenderness

at her sympathy, and burst forth into sobs and tears.

 

He was devoutly pious; religion mingled with the whole course of his

thoughts and actions, and shone forth in his most private and unstudied

writings. Whenever he made any great discovery, he celebrated it by solemn

thanks to God. The voice of prayer and melody of praise rose from his

ships when they first beheld the New World, and his first action on

landing was to prostrate himself upon the earth and return thanksgivings.

Every evening, the _Salve Regina_, and other vesper hymns, were

chanted by his crew and masses were performed in the beautiful groves

bordering the wild shores of this heathen land. All his great enterprises

were undertaken in the name of the Holy Trinity, and he partook of the

communion previous to embarkation. He was a firm believer in the efficacy

of vows and penances and pilgrimages, and resorted to them in times of

difficulty and danger. The religion thus deeply seated in his soul

diffused a sober dignity and benign composure over his whole demeanor. His

language was pure and guarded, and free from all imprecations, oaths, and

other irreverent expressions.

 

It cannot be denied, however, that his piety was mingled with

superstition, and darkened by the bigotry of the age. He evidently

concurred in the opinion, that all nations which did not acknowledge the

Christian faith were destitute of natural rights; that the sternest

measures might be used for their conversion, and the severest punishments

inflicted upon their obstinacy in unbelief. In this spirit of bigotry he

considered himself justified in making captives of the Indians, and

transporting them to Spain to have them taught the doctrines of

Christianity, and in selling them for slaves if they pretended to resist

his invasions. In so doing he sinned against the natural goodness of his

character, and against the feelings which he had originally entertained

and expressed towards this gentle hospitable people; but he was goaded on

by the mercenary impatience of the crown, and by the sneers of his enemies

at the unprofitable result of his enterprises. It is but justice to his

character to observe, that the enslavement of the Indians thus taken in

battle was at first openly countenanced by the crown, and that, when the

question of right came to be discussed at the entreaty of the queen,

several of the most distinguished jurists and theologians advocated the

practice; so that the question was finally settled in favor of the Indians

solely by the humanity of Isabella. As the venerable bishop Las Casas

observes, where the most learned men have doubted, it is not surprising

that an unlearned mariner should err.

 

These remarks, in palliation of the conduct of Columbus, are required by

candor. It is proper to show him in connection with the age in which he

lived, lest the errors of the times should be considered as his individual

faults. It is not the intention of the author, however, to justify

Columbus on a point where it is inexcusable to err. Let it remain a blot

on his illustrious name, and let others derive a lesson from it.

 

We have already hinted at a peculiar trait in his rich and varied

character; that ardent and enthusiastic imagination which threw a

magnificence over his whole course of thought. Herrera intimates that he

had a talent for poetry, and some slight traces of it are on record in the

book of prophecies which he presented to the Catholic sovereigns. But his

poetical temperament is discernible throughout all his writings and in all

his actions. It spread a golden and glorious world around him, and tinged

every thing with its own gorgeous colors. It betrayed him into visionary

speculations, which subjected him to the sneers and cavilings of men of

cooler and safer but more groveling minds. Such were the conjectures

formed on the coast of Paria about the form of the earth, and the

situation of the terrestrial paradise; about the mines of Ophir in

Hispaniola, and the Aurea Chersonesus in Veragua; and such was the heroic

scheme of a crusade for the recovery of the holy sepulchre. It mingled

with his religion, and filled his mind with solemn and visionary

meditations on mystic passages of the Scriptures, and the shadowy portents

of the prophecies. It exalted his office in his eyes, and made him

conceive himself an agent sent forth upon a sublime and awful mission,

subject to impulses and supernatural intimations from the Deity; such as

the voice which he imagined spoke to him in comfort amidst the troubles of

Hispaniola, and in the silence of the night on the disastrous coast of

Veragua.

 

He was decidedly a visionary, but a visionary of an uncommon and

successful kind. The manner in which his ardent, imaginative, and

mercurial nature was controlled by a powerful judgment, and directed by an

acute sagacity, is the most extraordinary feature in his character. Thus

governed, his imagination, instead of exhausting itself in idle flights,

lent aid to his judgment, and enabled him to form conclusions at which

common minds could never have arrived, nay, which they could not perceive

when pointed out.

 

To his intellectual vision it was given to read the signs of the times,

and to trace, in the conjectures and reveries of past ages, the

indications of an unknown world; as soothsayers were said to read

predictions in the stars, and to foretell events from the visions of the

night. "His soul," observes a Spanish writer, "was superior to the age in

which he lived. For him was reserved the great enterprise of traversing

that sea which had given rise to so many fables, and of deciphering the

mystery of his time." [238]

 

With all the visionary fervor of his imagination, its fondest dreams fell

short of the reality. He died in ignorance of the real grandeur of his

discovery. Until his last breath he entertained the idea that he had

merely opened a new way to the old resorts of opulent commerce, and had

discovered some of the wild regions of the East. He supposed Hispaniola to

be the ancient Ophir which had been visited by the ships of Solomon, and

that Cuba and Terra Firma were but remote parts of Asia. What visions of

glory would have broken upon his mind could he have known that he had

indeed discovered a new continent, equal to the whole of the old world in

magnitude, and separated by two vast oceans from all the earth hitherto

known by civilized man! And how would his magnanimous spirit have been

consoled, amidst the afflictions of age and the cares of penury, the

neglect of a fickle public, and the injustice of an ungrateful king, could

he have anticipated the splendid empires which were to spread over the

beautiful world he had discovered; and the nations, and tongues, and

languages which were to fill its lands with his renown, and revere and

bless his name to the latest posterity!

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix:

 

Containing Illustrations and Documents.

 

 

 

 

No. I.

 

Transportation of the Remains of Columbus from St. Domingo to the Havana.

 

 

 

At the termination of a war between France and Spain, in 1795, all the

Spanish possessions in the island of Hispaniola were ceded to France, by

the 9th article of the treaty of peace. To assist in the accomplishment of

this cession, a Spanish squadron was dispatched to the island at the

appointed time, commanded by Don Gabriel de Aristizabal, lieutenant-general

of the royal armada. On the 11th December, 1795, that commander wrote to

the field-marshal and governor, Don Joaquin Garcia, resident at St.

Domingo, that, being informed that the remains of the celebrated admiral

Don Christopher Columbus lay in the cathedral of that city, he felt it

incumbent on him as a Spaniard, and as commander-in-chief of his majesty's

squadron of operations, to solicit the translation of the ashes of that

hero to the island of Cuba, which had likewise been discovered by him, and

where he had first planted the standard of the cross. He expressed a desire

that this should be done officially, and with great care and formality,

that it might not remain in the power of any one, by a careless

transportation of these honored remains, to lose a relic, connected with

an event which formed the most glorious epoch of Spanish history, and that

it might be manifested to all nations, that Spaniards, notwithstanding the

lapse of ages, never ceased to pay all honors to the remains of that

"worthy and adventurous general of the seas;" nor abandoned them, when the

various public bodies, representing the Spanish dominion, emigrated from

the island. As he had not time, without great inconvenience, to consult

the sovereign on this subject, he had recourse to the governor, as royal

vice-patron of the island, hoping that his solicitation might be granted,

and the remains of the admiral exhumed and conveyed to the island of Cuba,

in the ship San Lorenzo.

 

The generous wishes of this high-minded Spaniard met with warm concurrence

on the part of the governor. He informed him in reply, that the duke of

Veraguas, lineal successor of Columbus, had manifested the same

solicitude, and had sent directions that the necessary measures should be

taken at his expense; and had at the same time expressed a wish that the

bones of the Adelantado, Don Bartholomew Columbus, should likewise be

exhumed; transmitting inscriptions to be put upon the sepulchres of both.

He added, that although the king had given no orders on the subject, yet

the proposition being so accordant with the grateful feelings of the

Spanish nation, and meeting with the concurrence of all the authorities of

the island, he was ready on his part to carry it into execution. The

commandant-general Aristizabal then made a similar communication to the

archbishop of Cuba, Don Fernando Portillo y Torres, whose metropolis was

then the city of St. Domingo, hoping to receive his countenance and aid in

this pious undertaking. The reply of the archbishop was couched in terms

of high courtesy towards the gallant commander, and deep reverence for the

memory of Columbus, and expressed a zeal in rendering this tribute of

gratitude and respect to the remains of one who had done so much for the

glory of the nation.

 

The persons empowered to act for the duke of Veraguas, the venerable dean

and chapter of the cathedral, and all the other persons and authorities to

whom Don Gabriel de Aristizabal made similar communications, manifested

the same eagerness to assist in the performance of this solemn and

affecting rite.

 

The worthy commander Aristizabal, having taken all these preparatory steps

with great form and punctilio, so as that the ceremony should be performed

in a public and striking manner, suitable to the fame of Columbus, the

whole was carried into eflect with becoming pomp and solemnity.

 

On the 20th December, 1795, the most distinguished persons of the place,

the dignitaries of the church, and civil and military officers, assembled

in the metropolitan cathedral. In the presence of this august assemblage,

a small vault was opened above the chancel, in the principal wall on the

right side of the high altar. Within were found the fragments of a leaden

coffin, a number of bones, and a quantity of mould, evidently the remains

of a human body. These were carefully collected and put into a case of

gilded lead, about half an ell in length and breadth, and a third in

height, secured by an iron lock, the key of which was delivered to the

archbishop. The case was inclosed in a coffin covered with black velvet,

and ornamented with lace and fringe of gold. The whole was then placed in

a temporary tomb or mansoleum.

 

On the following day, there was another grand convocation at the

cathedral, when the vigils and masses for the dead were solemnly chanted

by the archbishop, accompanied by the commandant-general of the armada,

the Dominican and Franciscan friars, and the friars of the order of Mercy,

together with the rest of the distinguished assemblage. After this a

funeral sermon was preached, by the archbishop.

 

On the same day, at four o'clock in the afternoon, the coffin was

transported to the ship with the utmost state and ceremony, with a civil,

religious, add military procession, banners wrapped in mourning, chants

and responses, and discharges of artillery. The most distinguished persons

of the several orders took turn to support the coffin. The key was taken

with great formality from the hands of the archbishop by the governor, and

given into the hands of the commander of the armada, to be delivered by

him to the governor of the Havana, to be held in deposit until the

pleasure of the king should be known. The coffin was received on board of

a brigantine called the Discoverer, which, with all the other shipping,

displayed mourning signals, and saluted the remains with the honors paid

to an admiral.

 

From the port of St. Domingo the coffin was conveyed to the bay of Ocoa

and there transferred to the ship San Lorenzo. It was accompanied by a

portrait of Columbus, sent from Spain by the duke of Veraguas, to be

suspended close by the place where the remains of his illustrious ancestor

should be deposited.

 

The ship immediately made sail and arrived at Havana in Cuba, on the 15th

of January, 1796. Here the same deep feeling of reverence to the memory of

the discoverer was evinced. The principal authorities repaired on board of

the ship, accompanied by the superior naval and military officers. Every

thing was conducted with the same circumstantial and solemn ceremonial.

The remains were removed with great reverence, and placed in a felucca, in

which they were conveyed to land in the midst of a procession of three

columns of feluccas and boats in the royal service, all properly

decorated, containing distinguished military and ministerial officers. Two

feluccas followed, in one of which was a marine guard of honor, with

mourning banners and muffled drums; and in the other were the

commandant-general, the principal minister of marine, and the military

staff. In passing the vessels of war in the harbor, they all paid the

honors due to an admiral and captain-general of the navy. On arriving at

the mole, the remains were met by the governor of the island, accompanied

by the generals and the military staff. The coffin was then conveyed

between files of soldiery which lined the streets to the obelisk, in the

place of arms, where it was received in a hearse prepared for the purpose.

Here the remains were formally delivered to the governor and

captain-general of the island, the key given up to him, the coffin opened

and examined, and the safe transportation of its contents authenticated.

This ceremony being concluded, it was conveyed in grand procession and

with the utmost pomp to the cathedral. Masses and the solemn ceremonies

of the dead were performed by the bishop, and the mortal remains of

Columbus deposited with great reverence in the wall on the right side of

the grand altar. "All these honors and ceremonies," says the document,

from whence this notice is digested, [239] "were attended by the

ecclesiastical and secular dignitaries, the public bodies and all the

nobility and gentry of Havana, in proof of the high estimation and

respectful remembrance in which they held the hero who had discovered the

New World, and had been the first to plant the standard of the cross on

that island."

 

This is the last occasion that the Spanish nation has had to testify its

feelings towards the memory of Columbus, and it is with deep satisfaction

that the author of this work has been able to cite at large a ceremonial

so solemn, affecting, and noble in its details, and so honorable to the

national character.

 

When we read of the remains of Columbus, thus conveyed from the port of

St. Domingo, after an interval of nearly three hundred years, as sacred

national relics, with civic and military pomp, and high religious

ceremonial; the most dignified and illustrious men striving who most

should pay them reverence; we cannot but reflect that it was from this

very port lie was carried off loaded with ignominious chains, blasted

apparently in fame and fortune, and followed by the revilings of the

rabble. Such honors, it is true, are nothing to the dead, nor can they

atone to the heart, now dust and ashes, for all the wrongs and sorrows it

may have suffered; but they speak volumes of comfort to the illustrious,

yet slandered and persecuted living, encouraging them bravely to bear with

present injuries, by showing them how true merit outlives all calumny, and

receives its glorious reward in the admiration of after ages.

 

 

 

 

No. II.

 

Notice of the Descendants of Columbus.

 

 

 

On the death of Columbus his son Diego succeeded to his rights, as

viceroy and governor of the New World, according to the express

capitulations between the sovereigns and his father. He appears by the

general consent of historians to have been a man of great integrity, of

respectable talents, and of a frank and generous nature. Herrera speaks

repeatedly of the gentleness and urbanity of his manners, and pronounces

him of a noble disposition and without deceit. This absence of all guile

frequently laid him open to the stratagems of crafty men, grown old in

deception, who rendered his life a continued series of embarrassments; but

the probity of his character, with the irresistible power of truth, bore

him through difficulties in which more politic and subtle men would have

been entangled and completely lost.

 

Immediately after the death of the admiral, Don Diego came forward as

lineal successor, and urged the restitution of the family offices and

privileges, which had been suspended during the latter years of his

father's life. If the cold and wary Ferdinand, however, could forget his

obligations of gratitude and justice to Columbus, he had less difficulty

in turning a deaf ear to the solicitations of his son. For two years Don

Diego pressed his suit with fruitless diligence. He felt the apparent

distrust of the monarch the more sensibly, from having been brought up

under his eye, as a page in the royal household, where his character ought

to be well known and appreciated. At length, on the return of Ferdinand

from Naples in 1508, he put to him a direct question, with the frankness

attributed to his character. He demanded "why his majesty would not grant

to him as a favor, that which was his right, and why he hesitated to

confide in the fidelity of one who had been reared in his house."

Ferdinand replied that he could fully confide in him, but could not repose

so great a trust at a venture in his children and successors. To this Don

Diego rejoined, that it was contrary to all justice and reason to make him

suffer for the sins of his children who might never be born. [240]

 

Still, though he had reason and justice on his side, the young admiral

found it impossible to bring the wary monarch to a compliance. Finding all

appeal to all his ideas of equity or sentiments of generosity in vain, he

solicited permission to pursue his claim in the ordinary course of law.

The king could not refuse so reasonable a request, and Don Diego commenced

a process against king Ferdinand before the council of the Indies, founded

on the repeated capitulations between the crown and his father, and

embracing all the dignities and immunities ceded by them.

 

One ground of opposition to these claims was, that if the capitulation,

made by the sovereigns in 1492, had granted a perpetual viceroyalty to the

admiral and his heirs, such grant could not stand; being contrary to the

interest of the state, and to an express law promulgated in Toledo in

1480; wherein it was ordained that no office, involving the administration

of justice, should be given in perpetuity; that therefore, the viceroyalty

granted to the admiral could only have been for his life; and that even

during that term it had justly been taken from him for his misconduct.

That such concessions were contrary to the inherent prerogatives of the

crown, of which the government could not divest itself. To this Don Diego

replied, that as to the validity of the capitulation, it was a binding

contract, and none of its privileges ought to be restricted. That as by

royal schedules dated in Villa Franca, June 2d, 1506, and Almazan, Aug.

28, 1507, it had been ordered that he, Don Diego, should receive the

tenths, so equally ought the other privileges to be accorded to him. As to

the allegation that his lather had been deprived of his viceroyalty for

his demerits, it was contrary to all truth. It had been audacity on the

part of Bobadilla to send him a prisoner to Spain in 1500, and contrary to

the will and command of the sovereigns, as was proved by their letter,

dated from Valencia de la Torre in 1502, in which they expressed grief at

his arrest, and assured him that it should be redressed, and his

privileges guarded entire to himself and his children. [241]

 

This memorable suit was commenced in 1508, and continued for several

years. In the course of it the claims of Don Diego were disputed,

likewise, on the plea that his father was not the original discoverer of

Terra Firma, but only subsequently of certain portions of it. This,

however, was completely controverted by overwhelming testimony. The claims

of Don Diego were minutely discussed and rigidly examined; and the

unanimous decision of the council of the Indies in his favor, while it

reflected honor on the justice and independence of that body, silenced

many petty cavilers at the fair fame of Columbus. [242] Notwithstanding

this decision, the wily monarch wanted neither means nor pretexts to delay

the ceding of such vast powers, so repugnant to his cautious policy. The

young admiral was finally indebted for his success in this suit to

previous success attained in a suit of a different nature. He had become

enamored of Doña Maria de Toledo, daughter of Fernando de Toledo, grand

commander of Leon, and niece to Don Fadrique de Toledo, the celebrated

duke of Alva, chief favorite of the king. This was aspiring to a high

connection. The father and uncle of the lady were the most powerful

grandees of the proud kingdom of Spain, and cousins german to Ferdinand.

The glory, however, which Columbus had left behind, rested upon his

children, and the claims of Don Diego, recently confirmed by the council,

involved dignities and wealth sufficient to raise him to a level with the

loftiest alliance. He found no difficulty in obtaining the hand of the

lady, and thus was the foreign family of Columbus ingrafted on one of the

proudest races of Spain. The natural consequences followed. Diego had

secured that magical power called "connections;" and the favor of

 Ferdinand, which had been so long withheld from him, as the son of

Columbus, shone upon him, though coldly, as the nephew of the duke of

Alva. The father and uncle of his bride succeeded, though with great

difficulty, in conquering the repugnance of the monarch, and after all he

but granted in part the justice they required. He ceded to Don Diego

merely the dignities and powers enjoyed by Nicholas de Ovando, who was

recalled; and he cautiously withheld the title of viceroy.

 

The recall of Ovando was not merely a measure to make room for Don Diego;

it was the tardy performance of a promise made to Isabella on her

death-bed. The expiring queen had demanded it as a punishment for the

massacre of her poor Indian subjects at Xaragua, and the cruel and

ignominious execution of the female cacique Anacaona. Thus retribution was

continually going its rounds in the checkered destinies of this island,

which has ever presented a little epitome of human history; its errors and

crimes, and consequent disasters.

 

In complying with the request of the queen, however, Ferdinand was

favorable towards Ovando. He did not feel the same generous sympathies

with his late consort, and, however Ovando had sinned against humanity in

his treatment of the Indians, he had been a vigilant officer, and his very

oppressions had in general proved profitable to the crown. Ferdinand

directed that the fleet which took out the new governor should return

under the command of Ovando, and that he should retain undisturbed

enjoyment of any property or Indian slaves that might be found in his

possession. Some have represented Ovando as a man far from mercenary; that

the wealth wrung from the miseries of the natives was for his sovereign,

not for himself; and it is intimated that one secret cause of his disgrace

was his having made an enemy of the all-powerful and unforgiving Fonseca.

[243]

 

The new admiral embarked at St. Lucar, June 9, 1509, with his wife, his

brother Don Fernando, who was now grown to man's estate, and had been well

educated, and his two uncles, Don Bartholomew and Don Diego. They were

accompanied by a numerous retinue of cavaliers, with their wives, and of

young ladies of rank and family, more distinguished, it is hinted, for

high blood than large fortune, and who were sent out to find wealthy

husbands in the New World. [244]

 

Though the king had not granted Don Diego the dignity of viceroy, the

title was generally given to him by courtesy, and his wife was universally

addressed by that of vice-queen.

 

Don Diego commenced his rule with a degree of splendor hitherto unknown in

the colony. The vice-queen, who was a lady of great desert, surrounded by

the noble cavaliers and the young ladies of family who had come in her

retinue, established a sort of court, which threw a degree of lustre over

the half savage island. The young ladies were soon married to the

wealthiest colonists, and contributed greatly to soften those rude manners

which had grown up in a state of society hitherto destitute of the

salutary restraint and pleasing decorum produced by female influence.

 

Don Diego had considered his appointment in the light of a vice-royalty,

but the king soon took measures which showed that he admitted of no such

pretension. Without any reference to Don Diego, he divided the coast of

Darien into two great provinces, separated by an imaginary line running

through the Gulf of Uraba, appointing Alonzo de Ojeda governor of the

eastern province, which he called New Andalusia, and Diego de Nicuessa

governor of the western province, which included the rich coast of

Veragua, and which he called Castilla del Oro, or Golden Castile. Had the

monarch been swayed by principles of justice and gratitude, the settlement

of this coast would have been given to the Adelantado, Don Bartholomew

Columbus, who had assisted in the discovery of the country, and, together

with his brother the admiral, had suffered so greatly in the enterprise.

Even his superior abilities for the task should have pointed him out to

the policy of the monarch; but the cautious and [245] calculating

Ferdinand knew the lofty spirit of the Adelantado, and that he would be

disposed to demand high and dignified terms. He passed him by, therefore,

and preferred more eager and accommodating adventurers.

 

Don Diego was greatly aggrieved at this measure, thus adopted without his

participation or knowledge. He justly considered it an infringement of the

capitulations granted and repeatedly confirmed to his father and his

heirs. He had further vexations and difficulties with respect to the

government of the island of St. Juan, or Porto Rico, which was conquered

and settled about this time; but after a variety of cross purposes, the

officers whom he appointed were ultimately recognized by the crown.

 

Like his father, he had to contend with malignant factions in his

government; for the enemies of the father transferred their enmity to the

son. There was one Miguel Pasamonte, the king's treasurer, who became his

avowed enemy, under the support and chiefly at the instigation of the

bishop Fonseca, who continued to the son the implacable hostility which he

had manifested to the father. A variety of trivial circumstances

contributed to embroil him with some of the petty officers of the colony,

and there was a remnant of the followers of Bohian who arrayed themselves

against him. [246]

 

Two factions soon arose in the island; one of the admiral, the other of

the treasurer Pasamonte. The latter affected to call themselves the party

of the king. They gave all possible molestation to Don Diego, and sent

home the most virulent and absurd misrepresentations of his conduct. Among

others, they represented a large house with many windows which he was

building, as intended for a fortress, and asserted that he had a design to

make himself sovereign of the island. King Ferdinand, who was now

advancing in years, had devolved the affairs of the Indies in a great

measure on Fonseca,[247] who had superintended them from the

first, and he was greatly guided by the advice of that prelate, which was

not likely to be favorable to the descendants of Columbus. The complaints

from the colonies were so artfully enforced, therefore, that he

established in 1510 a sovereign court at St. Domingo, called the royal

audience, to which an appeal might be made from all sentences of the

admiral, even in cases reserved hitherto exclusively for the crown. Don

Diego considered this a suspicious and injurious measure intended to

demolish his authority.

 

Frank, open, and unsuspicious, the young admiral was not formed for a

contest with the crafty politicians arrayed against him, who were ready

and adroit in seizing upon his slightest errors, and magnifying them into

crimes. Difficulties were multiplied in his path which it was out of his

power to overcome. He had entered upon office full of magnanimous

intentions; determined to put an end to oppression, and correct all

abuses; all good men therefore had rejoiced at his appointment; but he

soon found that he had overrated his strength, and undervalued the

difficulties awaiting him. He calculated from his own good heart, but he

had no idea of the wicked hearts of others. He was opposed to the

repartimientos of Indians, that source of all kinds of inhumanity; but he

found all the men of wealth in the colony, and most of the important

persons of the court, interested in maintaining them. He perceived that

the attempt to abolish them would be dangerous, and the result

questionable: at the same time this abuse was a source of immense profit

to himself. Self-interest, therefore, combined with other considerations,

and what at first appeared difficult, seemed presently impracticable. The

repartimientos continued in the state in which he found them, excepting

that he removed such of the superintendents as had been cruel and

oppressive, and substituted men of his own appointment, who probably

proved equally worthless. His friends were disappointed, his enemies

encouraged; a hue and cry was raised against him by the friends of those

he had displaced; and it was even said that if Ovando had not died about

this time, he would have been sent out to supplant Don Diego.

 

The subjugation and settlement of the island of Cuba in 1510, was a

fortunate event in the administration of the present admiral. He

congratulated king Ferdinand on having acquired the largest and most

beautiful island in the world without losing a single man. The

intelligence was highly acceptable to the king; but it was accompanied by

a great number of complaints against the admiral. Little affection as

Ferdinand felt for Don Diego, he was still aware that most of these

representations were false, and had their origin in the jealousy and envy

of his enemies. He judged it expedient, however, in 1512, to send out Don

Bartholomew Columbus with minute instructions to his nephew the admiral.

 

Don Bartholomew still retained the office of Adelantado of the Indies;

although Ferdinand, through selfish motives, detained him in Spain, while

he employed inferior men in voyages of discovery. He now added to his

appointments the property and government of the little island of Mona

during life, and assigned him a repartimiento of two hundred Indians, with

the superintendence of the mines which might be discovered in Cuba; an

office which proved very lucrative. [248]

 

Among the instructions given by the king to Don Diego, he directed that,

in consequence of the representations of the Dominican friars, the labor

of the natives should be reduced to one-third; that negro slaves should be

procured from Guinea as a relief to the Indians; [249] and that Carib

slaves should be branded on the leg, to prevent other Indians from being

confounded with them and subjected to harsh treatment. [250]

 

The two governors, Ojeda and Nicuessa, whom the king had appointed to

colonize and command at the Isthmus of Darien, in Terra Firma, having

failed in their undertaking, the sovereign, in 1514, wrote to Hispaniola,

permitting the Adelantado, Don Bartholomew, if so inclined, to take charge

of settling the coast of Veragua, and to govern that country under the

admiral Don Diego, conformably to his privileges. Had the king consulted

his own interest, and the deference due to the talents and services of the

Adelantado, this measure would have been taken at an earlier date. It was

now too late: illness prevented Don Bartholomew from executing the

enterprise; and his active and toilsome life was drawing to a close.

 

Many calumnies having been sent home to Spain by Pasamonte and other

enemies of Don Diego, and various measures being taken by government,

which he conceived derogatory to his dignity, and injurious to his

privileges, he requested and obtained permission to repair to court, that

he might explain and vindicate his conduct. He departed, accordingly, on

April 9th, 1515, leaving the Adelantado with the vice-queen, Dofia Maria.

He was received with great honor by the king; and he merited such a

reception. He had succeeded in every enterprise he had undertaken or

directed. The pearl fishery had been successfully established on the coast

of Cubagua; the islands of Cuba and of Jamaica had been subjected and

brought under cultivation without bloodshed; his conduct as governor had

been upright; and he had only excited the representations made against

him, by endeavoring to lessen the oppression of the natives. The king

ordered that all processes against him in the court of appeal and

elsewhere, for damages done to individuals in regulating the

repartimientos, should be discontinued, and the cases sent to himself for

consideration. But with all these favors, as the admiral claimed a share

of the profits of the provinces of Castilla del Oro, saying that it was

discovered by his father, as the names of its places, such as Nombre de

Dios, Porto Bello, and el Retrete, plainly proved, the king ordered that

interrogatories should be made among the mariners who had sailed with

Christopher Columbus, in the hope of proving that he had not discovered

the coast of Darien nor the Gulf of Uraba. "Thus," adds Herrera, "Don

Diego was always involved in litigations with the fiscal, so that he might

truly say that he was heir to the troubles of his father." [251]

 

Not long after the departure of Don Diego from St. Domingo, his uncle, Don

Bartholomew, ended his active and laborious life. No particulars are given

of his death, nor is there mention made of his age, which must have been

advanced. King Ferdinand is said to have expressed great concern at the

event, for he had a high opinion of the character and talents of the

Adelantado: "a man," says Herrera, "of not less worth than his brother the

admiral, and who, if he had been employed, would have given great proofs

of it; for he was an excellent seaman, valiant and of great heart."

[252] Charlevoix attributes the inaction in which Don Bartholomew had been

suffered to remain for several years, to the jealousy and parsimony of the

king. He found the house already too powerful, and the Adelantado, had he

discovered Mexico, was a man to make as good conditions as had been made

by the admiral his brother. [253] It was said, observed Herrera, that the

king rather preferred to employ him in his European affairs, though it

could only have been to divert him from other objects. On his death the

king resumed to himself the island of Mona, which he had given to him for

life, and transferred his repartimiento of two hundred Indians to the

vice-queen Doña Maria.

 

While the admiral Don Diego was pressing for an audience in his

vindication at court, King Ferdinand died on the 23d January, 1516. His

grandson and successor, Prince Charles, afterwards the emperor Charles V.,

was in Flanders. The government rested for a time with Cardinal Ximenes,

who would not undertake to decide on the representations and claims of the

admiral. It was not until 1520 that he obtained from the emperor Charles

V. a recognition of his innocence of all the charges against him. The

emperor, finding that what Pasamonte and his party had written were

notorious calumnies, ordered Don Diego to resume his charge, although the

process with the fiscal was still pending, and that Pasamonte should be

written to, requesting him to forget all past passions and differences and

to enter into amicable relations with Don Diego. Among other acts of

indemnification he acknowledged his right to exercise his office of

viceroy and governor in the island of Hispaniola, and in all parts

discovered by his father. [254] His authority was, however, much

diminished by new regulations, and a supervisor appointed over him with

the right to give information to the council against him, but with no

other powers. Don Diego sailed in the beginning of September, 1520, and

on his arrival at St. Domingo, finding that several of the governors,

presuming on his long absence, had arrogated to themselves independence,

and had abused their powers, he immediately sent persons to supersede

them, and demanded an account of their administration. This made him a

host of active and powerful enemies both in the colonies and in Spain.

 

Considerable changes had taken place in the island of Hispaniola, during

the absence of the admiral. The mines had fallen into neglect, the

cultivation of the sugar-cane having been found a more certain source of

wealth. It became a by-word in Spain that the magnificent palaces erected

by Charles V. at Madrid and Toledo were built of the sugar of Hispaniola.

Slaves had been imported in great numbers from Africa, being found more

serviceable in the culture of the cane than the feeble Indians. The

treatment of the poor negroes was cruel in the extreme; and they seem to

have had no advocates even among the humane. The slavery of the Indians

had been founded on the right of the strong; but it was thought that the

negroes, from their color, were born to slavery; and that from being

bought and sold in their own country, it was their natural condition.

Though a patient and enduring race, the barbarities inflated on them at

length roused them to revenge, and on the 27th December, 1522, there was

the first African revolt in Hispaniola. It began in a sugar plantation of

the admiral Don Diego, where about twenty slaves, joined by an equal

number from a neighboring plantation, got possession of arms, rose on

their superintendents, massacred them, and sallied forth upon the country.

It was their intention to pillage certain plantations, to kill the whites,

reinforce themselves by freeing their countrymen, and either to possess

themselves of the town of Agua, or to escape to the mountains.

 

Don Diego set out from St. Domingo in search of the rebels, followed by

several of the principal inhabitants. On the second day he stopped on the

banks of the river Nizao to rest his party and suffer reinforcements to

overtake him. Here one Melchor de Castro, who accompanied the admiral,

learnt that the negroes had ravaged his plantation, sacked his house,

killed one of his men, and carried off his Indian slaves. Without asking

leave of the admiral, he departed in the night with two companions,

visited his plantation, found all in confusion, and, pursuing the negroes,

sent to the admiral for aid. Eight horsemen were hastily dispatched to his

assistance, armed with bucklers and lances, and having six of the infantry

mounted behind them. De Castro had three horsemen beside this

reinforcement, and at the head of this little band overtook the negroes at

break of day. The insurgents put themselves in battle array, armed with

stones and Indian spears, and uttering loud shouts and outcries. The

Spanish horsemen braced their bucklers, couched their lances, and charged

them at full speed. The negroes were soon routed, and fled to the rocks,

leaving six dead and several wounded. De Castro also was wounded in the

arm. The admiral coming up, assisted in the pursuit of the fugitives. As

fast as they were taken they were hanged on the nearest trees, and

remained suspended as spectacles of terror to their countrymen. This

prompt severity checked all further attempts at revolt among the African

slaves. [255]

 

In the meantime the various enemies whom Don Diego had created, both in

the colonies and in Spain, were actively and successfully employed. His

old antagonist, the treasurer Pasnmonte, had charged him with usurping

almost all the powers of the royal audience, and with having given to the

royal declaration, re-establishing him in his office of viceroy, an extent

never intended by the sovereign. These representations had weight at

court, and in 1523 Don Diego received a most severe letter from the

council of the Indies, charging him with the various abuses and excesses

alleged against him, and commanding him, on pain of forfeiting all his

privileges and titles, to revoke the innovations he had made, and restore

things to their former state. To prevent any plea of ignorance of this

mandate, the royal audience was enjoined to promulgate it and to call upon

all persons to conform to it, and to see that it was properly obeyed. The

admiral received also a letter from the council, informing him that Jus

presence was necessary in Spain, to give information of the foregoing

matters, and advice relative to the reformation of various abuses, and to

the treatment and preservation of the Indians; he was requested,

therefore, to repair to court without waiting for further orders.

[256]

 

Don Diego understood this to be a peremptory recall, and obeyed

accordingly. On his arrival in Spain, he immediately presented himself

before the court at Victoria, with the frank and fearless spirit of an

upright man, and pleaded his cause so well, that the sovereign and council

acknowledged his innocence on all the points of accusation. He convinced

them, moreover, of the exactitude with which he had discharged his duties;

of his zeal for the public good, and the glory of the crown; and that all

the representations against him rose from the jealousy and enmity of

Pasaraonte and other royal oflicers in the colonies, who were impatient of

any superior authority in the island to restrain them.

 

Having completely established his innocence, and exposed the calumnies of

his enemies, Don Diego trusted that he would soon obtain justice as to all

his claims. As these, however, involved a participation in the profits of

vast and richly productive provinces, he experienced the delays and

difficulties usual with such demands, for it is only when justice costs

nothing that it is readily rendered. His earnest solicitations at length

obtained an order from the emperor, that a commission should be formed,

composed of the grand chancellor, the friar Loyasa, confessor to the

emperor, and president of the royal council of the Indies, and a number of

other distinguished personages. They were to inquire into the various

points in dispute between the admiral and the fiscal, and into the

proceedings which had taken place in the council of the Indies, with the

power of determining what justice required in the case. The affair,

however, was protracted to such a length, and accompanied by so many

toils, vexations, and disappointments, that the unfortunate Diego, like

his father, died in the pursuit. For two years he had followed the court

from city to city, during its migrations from Victoria to Burgos,

Valladolid, Madrid, and Toledo. In the winter of 1525, the emperor set out

from Toledo for Seville. The admiral undertook to follow him, though his

constitution was broken by fatigue and vexation, and he was wasting under

the attack of a slow fever. Oviedo, the historian, saw him at Toledo two

days before his departure, and joined with his friends in endeavoring to

dissuade him from a journey in such a state of health, and at such a

season. Their persuasions were in vain. Don Diego was not aware of the

extent of his malady: he told them that he should repair to Seville by the

church of our Lady of Guadaloupe, to offer up his devotions at that

shrine; and he trusted, through the intercession of the mother of God,

soon to be restored to health. [257] He accordingly left Toledo in a

litter on the 21st of February, 1526, having previously confessed and

taken the communion, and arrived the same day at Montalvan, distant about

six leagues. There his illness increased to such a degree that he saw his

end approaching. He employed the following day in arranging the affairs

of his conscience, and expired on February 23d, being little more than

fifty years of age, his premature death having been hastened by the

griefs and troubles he had experienced. "He was worn out," says Herrera,

"by following up his claims, and defending himself from the calumnies of

his competitors, who, with many stratagems and devices, sought to obscure

the glory of the father and the virtue of the son." [258]

 

We have seen how the discovery of the New World rendered the residue of

the life of Columbus a tissue of wrongs, hardships, and afflictions, and

how the jealousy and enmity he had awakened were inherited by his son. It

remains to show briefly in what degree the anticipations of perpetuity,

wealth, and honor to his family were fulfilled.

 

When Don Diego Columbus died, his wife and family were at St. Domingo. He

left two sons, Luis and Christopher, and three daughters, Maria, who

afterwards married Don Sancho de Cardono; Juana, who married Don Luis de

Cneva; and Isabella, who married Don George of Portugal, count of Gelves.

He had also a natural son named Christopher. [259]

 

After the death of Don Diego, his noble-spirited vice queen, left with a

number of young children, endeavored to assert and maintain the rights of

the family. Understanding that, according to the privileges accorded to

Christopher Columbus, they had a just claim to the vice-royalty of the

province of Veragua, as having been discovered by him, she demanded a

license from the royal audience of Hispaniola, to recruit men and fit out

an armada to colonize that country. This the audience refused, and sent

information of the demand to the emperor. He replied, that the vice-queen

should be kept in suspense until the justice of her claim could be

ascertained; as, although he had at various times given commissions to

different persons to examine the doubts and objections which had been

opposed by the fiscal, no decision had ever been made.[260] The

enterprise thus contemplated by the vice-queen was never carried into

effect.

 

Shortly afterwards she sailed for Spain, to protect the claim of her

eldest son, Don Luis, then six years of age. Charles V. was absent, but

she was most graciously received by the empress. The title of admiral of

the Indies was immediately conferred on her son, Don Luis, and the emperor

augmented his revenues, and conferred other favors on the family. Charles

V., however, could never be prevailed on to give Don Luis the title of

viceroy, although that dignity had been decreed to his father, a few years

previous to his death, as an hereditary right.[261]

 

In 1538, the young admiral, Don Luis, then about eighteen years of age,

was at court, having instituted proceedings before the proper tribunals,

for the recovery of the viceroyalty. Two years afterwards the suit was

settled by arbitration, his uncle Don Fernando, and Cardinal Loyasa,

president of the council of the Indies, being umpires. By a compromise Don

Luis was declared captain-general of Hispaniola, but with such limitations

that it was little better than a bare title. Don Luis sailed for

Hispaniola, but did not remain there long. He found his dignities and

privileges mere sources of vexation, and finally entered into a

compromise, which relieved himself and gratified the emperor. He gave up

all pretensions to the viceroyalty of the New World, receiving in its

stead the titles of Duke of Veragua and Marquis of Jamaica. [262] He

commuted also the claim to the tenth of the produce of the Indies for a

pension of one thousand doubloons of gold.[263]

 

Don Luis did not long enjoy the substitution of a certain, though

moderate, revenue for a magnificent but unproductive claim. He died

shortly afterwards, leaving no other male issue than an illegitimate son,

named Christopher. He left two daughters by his wife, Doña Maria de

Mosquera, one named Phillippa, and the other Maria, which last became a

nun in the convent of St. Quirce, at Valladolid.

 

Don Luis, having no legitimate son, was succeeded by his nephew Diego, son

to his brother Christopher. A litigation took place between this young

heir and his cousin Phillippa, daughter of the late Don Luis. The convent

of St. Quirce also put in a claim, on behalf of its inmate, Doña Maria,

who had taken the veil. Christopher, natural son to Don Luis, likewise

became a prosecutor in the suit, but was set aside on account of his

illegitimacy. Don Diego and his cousin Phillippa soon thought it better to

join claims and persons in wedlock, than to pursue a tedious contest. They

were married, and their union was happy, though not fruitful. Diego died

without issue in 1578, and with him the legitimate male line of Columbus

became extinct.

 

One of the most important lawsuits that the world has ever witnessed now

arose for the estates and dignities descended from the great discoverer.

Don Diego had two sisters, Francisca and Maria, the former of whom, and

the children of the latter, advanced their several claims. To these

parties was added Bernard Colombo of Cogoleto, who claimed as lineal

descendant from Bartholomew Columbus, the Adelantado, brother to the

discoverer. He was, however, pronounced ineligible, as the Adelantado had

no acknowledged, and certainly no legitimate, offspring.

 

Baldassar, or Balthazar, Colombo, of the house of Cuccaro and Conzano, in

the dukedom of Montferrat, in Piedmont, was an active and persevering

claimant. He came from Italy into Spain, where he devoted himself for many

years to the prosecution of this suit. He produced a genealogical tree of

his family, in which was contained one Domenico Colombo, lord of Cuccaro,

whom he maintained to be the identical father of Christopher Columbus, the

admiral. He proved that this Domenico was living at the requisite era, and

produced many witnesses who had heard that the navigator was born in the

castle of Cuccaro; whence, it was added, he and his two brothers had

eloped at an early age, and had never returned. [264] A monk is also

mentioned among the witnesses, who made oath that Christopher and his

brothers were born in that castle of Cuccaro. This testimony was

afterwards withdrawn by the prosecutor; as it was found that the monk's

recollection must have extended back considerably upward of a century.

[265] The claim of Balthazar was negatived. His proofs that Christopher

Columbus was a native of Cuccaro were rejected, as only hearsay, or

traditionary evidence. His ancestor Domenico, it appeared from his own

showing, died in 1456; whereas it was established that Domenico, the

father of the admiral, was living upwards of thirty years after that

date.

 

The cause was finally decided by the council of the Indies, on the 2d

December, 1608. The male line was declared to be extinct. Don Nuño or

Nugno Gelves de Portugallo was put in possession, and became duke of

Veragua. He was grandson to Isabella, third daughter of Don Diego (son of

the discoverer) by his vice-queen, Doña Maria de Toledo. The descendants

of the two elder sisters of Isabella had a prior claim, but their lines

became extinct previous to this decision of the suit. The Isabella just

named had married Don George of Portugal, count of Gelves. "Thus," says

Charlevoix, "the dignities and wealth of Columbus passed into a branch of

the Portuguese house of Braganza, established in Spain, of which the heirs

are entitled _De Portugallo, Colon, Duke de Veragua, Marques de la

Jamaica, y Almirante de las Indias_." [Charlevoix, Hist. St. Doming.,

tom. i. lib. vi. p. 447.]

 

The suit of Balthazar Colombo of Cuccaro was rejected under three

different forms, by the council of the Indies; and his application for an

allowance of support, under the legacy of Columbus, in favor of poor

relations, was also refused; although the other parties had assented to

the demand. [266] He died in Spain, where he had resided many years in

prosecution of this suit. His son returned to Italy, persisting in the

validity of his claim: he said that it was in vain to seek justice in

Spain; they were too much interested to keep those dignities and estates

among themselves; but he gave out that he had received twelve thousand

doubloons of gold in compromise from the other parties. Spotorno, under

sanction of Ignazio de Giovanni, a learned canon, treats this assertion

as a bravado, to cover his defeat, being contradicted by his evident

poverty. [267] The family of Cuccaro, however, still maintain their

right, and express great veneration for the memory of their illustrious

ancestor, the admiral; and travelers occasionally visit their old castle

in Piedmont with great reverence, as the birthplace of the discoverer of

the New World.

 

 

 

 

No. III.

 

Fernando Columbus.

 

 

 

Fernando Columbus (or Colon, as he is called in Spain), the natural son

and historian of the admiral, was born in Cordova. There is an uncertainty

about the exact time of his birth. According to his epitaph, it must have

been on the 28th September, 1488; but according to his original papers

preserved in the library of the cathedral of Seville, and which were

examined by Don Diego Ortiz de Zuñiga, historian of that city, it would

appear to have been on the 29th of August, 1487. His mother, Doña Beatrix

Enriquez, was of a respectable family, but was never married to the

admiral, as has been stated by some of his biographers.

 

Early in 1494, Fernando was carried to court, together with his elder

brother Diego, by his uncle Don Bartholomew, to enter the royal household

in quality of page to the prince Don Juan, son and heir to Ferdinand and

Isabella. He and his brother remained in this situation until the death of

the prince; when they were taken by Queen Isabella as pages into her own

service. Their education, of course, was well attended to, and Fernando in

after-life gave proofs of being a learned man.

 

In the year 1502, at the tender age of thirteen or fourteen years,

Fernando accompanied his father in his fourth voyage of discovery, and

encountered all its singular and varied hardships with a fortitude that is

mentioned with praise and admiration by the admiral.

 

After the death of his father, it would appear that Fernando made two

voyages to the New World. He accompanied the emperor Charles V. also, to

Italy, Flanders, and Germany; and according to Zuffiga (Anales de Seville

de 1539, No. 3), traveled over all Europe and a part of Africa and Asia.

Possessing talents, judgment, and industry, these opportunities were not

lost upon him, and he acquired much information in geography, navigation,

and natural history. Being of a studious habit, and fond of books, he

formed a select, yet copious, library, of more than twenty thousand

volumes, in print and in manuscript. With the sanction of the emperor

Charles V., he undertook to establish an academy and college of

mathematics at Seville; and for this purpose commenced the construction of

a sumptuous edifice, without the walls of the city, facing the

Guadalquiver, in the place where the monastery of San Laureano is now

situated. His constitution, however, had been broken by the sufferings he

had experienced in his travels and voyages, and a premature death

prevented the completion of his plan of the academy, and broke off other

useful labors. He died in Seville on the 12th of July, 1539, at the age,

according to his epitaph, of fifty years, nine months, and fourteen days.

He left no issue, and was never married. His body was interred, according

to his request, in the cathedral of Seville. He bequeathed his valuable

library to the same establishment.

 

Don Fernando devoted himself much to letters. According to the inscription

on his tomb, he composed a work in four books, or volumes, the title of

which is defaced on the monument, and the work itself is lost. This is

much to be regretted, as, according to Zuñiga, the fragments of the

inscription specify it to have contained, among a variety of matter,

historical, moral, and geographical notices of the countries he had

visited, but especially of the New World, and of the voyages and

discoveries of his father.

 

His most important and permanent work, however, was a history of the

admiral, composed in Spanish. It was translated into Italian by Alonzo de

Ulloa, and from this Italian translation have proceeded the editions which

have since appeared in various languages. It is singular that the work

only exists in Spanish, in the form of a retranslation from that of Ulloa,

and full of errors in the orthography of proper names, and in dates and

distances.

 

Don Fernando was an eye-witness of some of the facts which he relates,

particularly of the fourth voyage, wherein he accompanied his father. He

had also the papers and charts of his father, and recent documents of all

kinds to extract from, as well as familiar acquaintance with the principal

personages who were concerned in the events which he records. He was a man

of probity and discernment, and writes more dispassionately than could be

expected, when treating of matters which affected the honor, the

interests, and happiness of his father. It is to be regretted, however,

that he should have suffered the whole of his father's life, previous to

his discoveries (a period of about fifty-six years), to remain in

obscurity. He appears to have wished to cast a cloud over it, and only to

have presented his father to the reader after he had rendered himself

illustrious by his actions, and his history had become in a manner

identified with the history of the world. His work, however, is an

invaluable document, entitled to great faith, and is the corner-stone of

the history of the American Continent.

 

[Illustration: Galley, from the tomb of Fernando Columbus, at Seville.]

 

 

 

 

No. IV.

 

Age of Columbus.

 

 

 

As the date I have assigned for the birth of Columbus makes him about ten

years older than he is generally represented, at the time of his

discoveries, it is proper to state precisely my authority. In the valuable

manuscript chronicle of the reign of the Catholic sovereigns, written by

Andres Bernaldes, the curate of Los Palacios, there is a long tract on the

subject of the discoveries of Columbus: it concludes with these words:

_Murió en Valladolid, el año de 1506, en el mes de Mayo, in senectute

bona, de edad 70 años, poco mas ó menos_. (He died in Valladolid in the

year 1506, in the month of May, in a good old age, being seventy years

old, a little more or less.) The curate of Los Palacios was a

contemporary, and an intimate friend of Columbus, who was occasionally a

guest in his house; no one was more competent, therefore, to form a

correct idea of his age. It is singular, that, while the biographers of

Columbus have been seeking to establish the epoch of his birth by various

calculations and conjectures, this direct testimony of honest Andres

Bernaldes has entirely escaped their notice, though some of them had his

manuscript in their hands. It was first observed by my accurate friend Don

Antonio Uguina in the course of his exact investigations, and has been

pointed out and ably supported by Don Martin Fernandez de Navarrete, in

the introduction to his valuable collection of voyages.

 

Various circumstances in the life of Columbus will be found to corroborate

the statement of the curate; such, for example, as the increasing

infirmities with which he struggled during his voyages, and which at last

rendered him a cripple and confined him to his bed. The allusion to his

advanced age in one of his letters to the sovereigns, wherein he relates

the consolation he had received from a secret voice in the night season:

_Tu vejez no impedira a toda cosa grande. Abraham pasaba cien años

cuando engendro a Isaac, &c_. (Thy old age shall be no impediment to

any great undertaking. Abraham was above a hundred years old, when he

begat Isaac, &c.) The permission granted him by the king the year previous

to his death to travel on a mule, instead of a horse, on account of his

_age_ and infirmities; and the assertion of Oviedo that at the time

of his death he was quite old. (_era ya viejo._)

 

This fact of the advanced age of Columbus throws quite a new coloring over

his character and history. How much more extraordinary is the ardent

enthusiasm which sustained him through his long career of solicitation,

and the noble pride with which he refused to descend from his dignified

demands, and to bargain about his proposition, though life was rapidly

wasting in delays. How much more extraordinary is the hardihood with which

he undertook repeated voyages into unknown seas, amidst all kinds of

perils and hardships; the fortitude with which he bore up against an

accumulation of mental and bodily afflictions, enough to have disheartened

and destroyed the most youthful and robust, and the irrepressible buoyancy

of spirit with which to the last he still rose from under the ruined

concerns and disappointed hopes and blasted projects of one enterprise, to

launch into another, still more difficult and perilous.

 

We have been accustomed to admire all these things in Columbus when we

considered him in the full vigor of his life; how much more are they

entitled to our wonder as the achievements of a man whom the weight of

years and infirmities was pressing into the grave.

 

 

 

 

No. V.

 

Lineage of Columbus.

 

 

 

The ancestry of Christopher Columbus has formed a point of zealous

controversy, which is not yet satisfactorily settled. Several honorable

families, possessing domains in Placentia, Montferrat, and the different

parts of the Genoese territories, claim him as belonging to their houses;

and to these has recently been added the noble family of Colombo in

Modena. [Spotorno, Hist. Mem., p. 5.] The natural desire to prove

consanguinity with a man of distinguished renown has excited this rivalry;

but it has been heightened, in particular instances, by the hope of

succeeding to titles and situations of wealth and honor, when his male

line of descendants became extinct. The investigation is involved in

particular obscurity, as even his immediate relatives appear to have been

in ignorance on the subject.

 

Fernando Columbus, in his biography of the admiral, after a pompous

prelude, in which he attempts to throw a vague and cloudy magnificence

about the origin of his father, notices slightly the attempts of some to

obscure his fame, by making him a native of various small and

insignificant villages; and dwells with more complacency upon others who

make him a native of places in which there were persons of much honor of

the name, and many sepulchral monuments with arms and epitaphs of the

Colombos. He relates his having himself gone to the castle of Cucureo, to

visit two brothers of the family of Colombo, who were rich and noble, the

youngest of whom was above one hundred years of age, and who he had heard

were relatives of his father; but they could give him no information upon

the subject; whereupon he breaks forth into his professed contempt for

these adventitious claims, declaring, that he thinks it better to content

himself with dating from the glory of the admiral, than to go about

inquiring whether his father "were a merchant, or one who kept his hawks;"

[268] since, adds he, of persons of similar pursuits, there are thousands

who die every day, whose memory, even among their own neighbors and

relatives, perishes immediately, without its being possible afterwards

to ascertain even whether they existed.

 

After this, and a few more expressions of similar disdain for these empty

distinctions, he indulges in vehement abuse of Agostino Guistiniani, whom

he calls a false historian, an inconsiderate, partial, or malignant

compatriot, for having, in his psalter, traduced his father, by saying,

that in his youth he had been employed in mechanical occupations.

 

As, after all this discussion, Fernando leaves the question of his

father's parentage in all its original obscurity, yet appears irritably

sensitive to any derogatory suggestions of others, his whole evidence

tends to the conviction that he really knew nothing to boast of in his

ancestry.

 

Of the nobility and antiquity of the Colombo family, of which the admiral

probably was a remote descendant, we have some account in Herrera, "We

learn," he says, "that the emperor Otto the Second, in 940, confirmed to

the counts Pietro, Giovanni, and Alexandro Colombo, brothers, the

feudatory possessions which they held within the jurisdiction of the

cities of Ayqui, Savona, Aste, Montferrato, Turin, Viceli, Parma, Cremona,

and Bergamo, and all others which they held in Italy. It appears that the

Colombos of Cuccaro, Cucureo, and Placentia, were the same, and that the

emperor in the same year, 940, made donation to the said three brothers of

the castles of Cuccaro, Conzano, Rosignano, and others, and of the fourth

part of Bistanio, which appertained to the empire." [269]

 

One of the boldest attempts of those biographers, bent on ennobling

Columbus, has been to make him son of the Lord of Cuccaro, a burgh of

Montferrat, in Piedmont, and to prove that he was born in his father's

castle at that place; whence he and his brothers eloped at an early age,

and never returned. This was asserted in the course of a process brought

by a certain Baldasser, or Balthazar, Colombo, resident in Genoa, but

originally of Cuccaro, claiming the title and estates, on the death of

Diego Colon, duke of Veragua, in 1578, the great-grandson, and last

legitimate male descendant of the admiral. The council of the Indies

decided against this claim to relationship. Some account of the lawsuit

will be found in another part of the work.

 

This romantic story, like all others of the nobility of his parentage, is

at utter variance with the subsequent events of his life, his long

struggles with indigence and obscurity, and the difficulties he endured

from the want of family connections. How can it be believed, says Bossi,

that this same man, who, in his most cruel adversities was incessantly

taunted by his enemies with the obscurity of his birth, should not reply

to this reproach, by declaring his origin, if he were really descended

from the Lords of Cuccaro, Conzano, and Rosignano? a circumstance which

would have obtained him the highest credit with the Spanish nobility.

[270]

 

The different families of Colombo which lay claim to the great navigator,

seem to be various branches of one tree, and there is little doubt of his

appertaining remotely to the same respectable stock.

 

It appears evident, however, that Columbus sprang immediately from a line

of humble but industrious citizens, which had existed in Genoa, even from

the time of Giacomo Colombo the wool-carder, in 1311, mentioned by

Spotorno; nor is this in any wise incompatible with the intimation of

Fernando Columbus, that the family had been reduced from high estate to

great poverty, by the wars of Lombardy. The feuds of Italy, in those ages,

had broken down and scattered many of the noblest families; and while some

branches remained in the lordly heritage of castles and domains, others

were confounded with the humblest population of the cities,

 

 

 

No. VI.

 

Birthplace of Columbus.

 

 

 

There has been much controversy about the birthplace of Columbus. The

greatness of his renown has induced various places to lay claim to him as

a native, and from motives of laudable pride, for nothing reflects greater

lustre upon a city than to have given birth to distinguished men. The

original and long established opinion was in favor of Genoa; but such

strenuous claims were asserted by the states of Placentia, and in

particular of Piedmont, that the Academy of Sciences and Letters of Genoa

was induced, in 1812, to nominate three of its members, Signors Serra,

Carrega, and Piaggio, commissioners to examine into these pretensions.

 

The claims of Placentia had been first advanced in 1662, by Pietro Maria

Campi, in the ecclesiastical history of that place, who maintained that

Columbus was a native of the village of Pradello, in that vicinity. It

appeared probable, on investigation, that Bertolino Colombo,

great-grandfather to the admiral, had owned a small property in Pradello,

the rent of which had been received by Domenico Colombo of Genoa, and

after his death by his sons Christopher and Bartholomew. Admitting this

assertion to be correct, there was no proof that either the admiral, his

father, or grandfather, had ever resided on that estate. The very

circumstances of the case indicated, on the contrary, that their home was

in Genoa.

 

The claim of Piedmont was maintained with more plausibility. It was shown

that a Domenico Colombo was lord of the castle of Cuccaro in Montferrat,

at the time of the birth of Christopher Columbus, who, it was asserted,

was his son, and born in his castle. Balthazar Colombo, a descendant of

this person, instituted a lawsuit before the council of the Indies for the

inheritance of the admiral, when his male line became extinct. The council

of the Indies decided against him, as is shown in an account of that

process given among the illustrations of this history. It was proved that

Domenico Colombo, father of the admiral, was resident in Genoa both before

and many years after the death of this lord of Cuccaro, who bore the same

name.

 

The three commissioners appointed by the Academy of Sciences and Letters

of Genoa to examine into these pretensions, after a long and diligent

investigation, gave a voluminous and circumstantial report in favor of

Genoa. An ample digest of their inquest may be found in the History of

Columbus by Signer Bossi, who, in an able dissertation on the question,

confirms their opinion. It may be added, in farther corroboration, that

Peter Martyr and Bartholomew Las Casas, who were contemporaries and

acquaintances of Columbus, and Juan de Barros, the Portuguese historian,

all make Columbus a native of the Genoese territories.

 

There has been a question fruitful of discussion among the Genoese

themselves, whether Columbus was born in the city of Genoa, or in some

other part of the territory. Finale, and Oneglia, and Savona, towns on the

Ligurian coast to the west, Boggiasco, Cogoleto, and several other towns

and villages, claim him as their own. His family possessed a small

property at a village or hamlet between Quinto and Nervi, called Terra

Rossa; in Latin, Terra Kubra; which has induced some writers to assign his

birth to one of those places. Bossi says that there is still a tower

between Quinto and Nervi which bears the title of Torre dei Colombi.

[271] Bartholomew Columbus, brother to the admiral, styled himself of

Terra Rubra, in a Latin inscription on a map which he presented to Henry

VII of England, and Fernando Columbus states, in his history of the

admiral, that he was accustomed to subscribe himself in the same manner

before he attained to his dignities.

 

Cogoleto at one time bore away the palm. The families there claim the

discoverer and preserve a portrait of him. One or both of the two admirals

named Colombo, with whom he sailed, are stated to have come from that

place, and to have been confounded with him so as to have given support to

this idea. [272]

 

Savona, a city in the Genoese territories, has claimed the same honor, and

this claim has recently been very strongly brought forward. Signer

Giovanni Battista Belloro, an advocate of Savona, has strenuously

maintained this claim in an ingenious disputation, dated May 12th, 1826,

in form of a letter to the Baron du Zach, editor of a valuable

astronomical and geographical journal, published monthly at Genoa.

[273]

 

Signor Belloro claims it as an admitted fact, that Domenico Colombo was

for many years a resident and citizen of Savona, in which place one

Christopher Columbus is shown to have signed a document in 1472.

 

He states that a public square in that city bore the name of Platea

Columbi, toward the end of the 14th century; that the Ligurian government

gave the name of Jurisdizione di Colombi to that district of the republic,

under the persuasion that the great navigator was a native of Savona; and

that Columbus gave the name of Saona to a little island adjacent to

Hispaniola, among his earliest discoveries.

 

He quotes many Savonese writers, principally poets, and various historians

and poets of other countries, and thus establishes the point that Columbus

was held to be a native of Savona by persons of respectable authority. He

lays particular stress on the testimony of the Magnifico Francisco

Spinola, as related by the learned prelate Felippo Alberto Pollero,

stating that he had seen the sepulchre of Christopher Columbus in the

cathedral at Seville, and that the epitaph states him expressly to be a

native of Savona: "Hic jacet Christophorus Columbus Savonensis."

[274]

 

The prooft advanced by Signor Belloro show his zeal for the honor of his

native city, but do not authenticate the fact he undertakes to establish.

He shows clearly that many respectable writers believed Columbus to be a

native of Savona; but a far greater number can be adduced, and many of

them contemporary with the admiral, some of them his intimate friends,

others his fellow-citizens, who state him to have been born in the city of

Genoa. Among the Savonese writers, Giulio Salinorio, who investigated the

subject, comes expressly to the same conclusion: "_Geneva cittá

nobilissima era la patria de Colombo_."

 

Signor Belloro appears to be correct in stating that Domenico, the father

of the admiral, was several years resident in Savona. But it appears from

his own dissertation, that the Christopher who witnessed the testament in

1472, styled himself of Genoa: "_Christophorus Columbus lancrius de

Janua._" This incident is stated by other writers, who presume this

Christopher to have been the navigator on a visit to his father, in the

interval of his early voyages. In as far as the circumstance bears on the

point, it supports the idea that he was born at Genoa.

 

The epitaph on which Signor Belloro places his principal reliance,

entirely fails. Christopher Columbus was not interred in the cathedral of

Seville, nor was any monument erected to him in that edifice. The tomb to

which the learned prelate Felippo Alberto Pollero alludes, may have been

that of Fernando Columbus, son of the admiral, who, as has been already

observed, was buried in the cathedral of Seville, to which he bequeathed

his noble library. The place of his sepulture is designated by a broad

slab of white marble, inserted in the pavement, with an inscription,

partly in Spanish, partly in Latin, recording the merits of Fernando, and

the achievements of his father. On either side of the epitaph is engraved

an ancient Spanish Galley. The inscription quoted by Signor Belloro may

have been erroneously written from memory by the Magnifico Francisco

Spinola, under the mistaken idea that he had beheld the sepulchre of the

great discoverer. As Fernando was born at Cordova, the term Savouensis

must have been another error of memory in the Magnifico; no such word is

to be found in the inscription.

 

This question of birthplace has also been investigated with considerable

minuteness, and a decision given in favor of Genoa, by D. Gio Battista

Spotorno, of the royal university in that city, in his historical memoir

of Columbus. He shows that the family of the Columbi had long been

resident in Genoa. By'an extract from the notarial register, it appeared

that one Giacomo Colombo, a woolcarder, resided without the gate of St.

Andria, in the year 1311. An agreement, also published by the academy of

Genoa, proved, that in 1489, Domenico Colombo possessed a house and shop,

and a garden with a well, in the street of St. Andrew's gate, anciently

without the walls, presumed to have been the same residence with that of

Giacomo Colombo. He rented also another house from the monks of St.

Stephen, in the Via Mulcento, leading from the street of St. Andrew to the

Strada Giulia. [275]

 

Signor Bossi states, that documents lately found in the archives of the

monastery of St. Stephen, present the name of Domenico Colombo several

times, from 1456 to 1459, and designate him as son of Giovanni Colombo,

husband of Susanna Fontanarossa, and father of Christopher, Bartholomew,

and Giacomo [276] (or Diego). He states also that the receipts of the

canons show that the last payment of rent was made by Domenico Colombo for

his dwelling in 1489. He surmises that the admiral was born in the

before-mentioned house belonging to those monks, in Via Mulcento, and that

he was baptized in the church of St. Stephen. He adds that an ancient

manuscript was submitted to the commissioners of the Genoese academy, in

the margin of which the notary had stated that the name of Christopher

was on the register of the parish as having been baptized in that church.

[277]

 

Andres Bernaldez, the curate of los Palacios, who was an intimate friend

of Columbus, says that he was of Genoa. [278] Agostino Giustiniani, a

contemporary of Columbus, likewise asserts it in his Polyglot Psalter,

published in Genoa, in 1516. Antonio de Herrera, an author of great

accuracy, who, though not a contemporary, had access to the best

documents, asserts decidedly that he was born in the city of Genoa.

 

To these names may be added that of Alexander Geraldini, brother to the

nuncio, and instructor to the children of Ferdinand and Isadella, a most

intimate friend of Columbus. [279] Also Antonio Gallo, [280] Bartolomeo

Senarega, [281] and Uberto Foglieta, [282] all contemporaries with the

admiral, and natives of Genoa, together with an anonymous writer, who

published an account of his voyage of discovery at Venice in 1509. [283]

It is unnecessary to mention historians of later date agreeing in the

same fact, as they must have derived their information from some of these

authorities.

 

The question in regard to the birthplace of Columbus has been treated thus

minutely, because it has been, and still continues to be, a point of warm

controversy. It may be considered, however, as conclusively decided by the

highest authority, the evidence of Columbus himself. In a testament

executed in 1498, which has been admitted in evidence before the Spanish

tribunals in certain lawsuits among his descendants, he twice declares

that he was a native of the city of Genoa: "_Siendo yo nacido en

Genova._" ("I being born in Genoa.") And again, he repeats the

assertion, as a reason for enjoining certain conditions on his heirs,

which manifest the interest he takes in his native place. "I command the

said Diego, my son, or the person who inherits the said mayorazgo (or

entailed estate), that he maintain always in the city of Genoa a person of

our lineage, who shall have a house and a wife there, and to furnish him

with an income on which he can live decently, as a person connected with

onr family, and hold footing and root in that city as a native of it, so

that he may have aid and favor in that city in case of need, _for from

thence I came and there was born_." [284]

 

In another part of his testament he expresses himself with a filial

fondness in respect to Genoa. "I command the said Don Diego, or whoever

shall possess the said mayorazgo, that he labor and strive always for the

honor, and welfare, and increase of the city of Genoa, and employ all his

abilities and means in defending and augmenting the welfare and honor of

her republic, in all matters which are not contrary to the service of the

church of God, and the state of the king and queen our sovereigns, and

their successors."

 

An informal codicil, executed by Columbus at Valladolid, May 4th, 1506,

sixteen days before his death, was discovered about 1785, in the Corsini

library at Rome. It is termed a military codicil, from being made in the

manner which the civil law allows to the soldier who executes such an

instrument on the eve of battle, or in expectation of death. It was

written on the blank page of a little breviary presented to Columbus by

Pope Alexander VII. Columbus leaves the book "to his beloved country, the

Republic of Genoa."

 

He directs the erection of a hospital in that city for the poor, with

provision for its support, and he declares that republic his successor in

the admiralty of the Indies, in the event of his male line becoming

extinct.

 

The authenticity of this paper has been questioned. It has been said, that

there was no probability of Columbus having resort to a usage with which

he was, most likely, unacquainted. The objections are not cogent. Columbus

was accustomed to the peculiarities of a military life, and he repeatedly

wrote letters, in critical moments, as a precaution against some fatal

occurrence that seemed to impend. The present codicil, from its date, must

have been written a few days previous to his death, perhaps at a moment

when he imagined himself at extremity. This may account for any difference

in the handwriting, especially as he was, at times, so affected by the

gout in his hands as not to be able to write except at night. Particular

stress has been laid on the signature; but it does not appear that he was

uniform in regard to that, and it is a point to which any one who

attempted a forgery would be attentive. It does not appear, likewise, that

any advantage could have been obtained by forging the paper, or that any

such was attempted.

 

In 1502, when Columbus was about to depart on his fourth and last voyage,

he wrote to his friend, Doctor Nicolo Oderigo, formerly ambassador from

Genoa to Spain, and forwarded to him copies of all his grants and

commissions from the Spanish sovereigns, authenticated before the alcaldes

of Seville. He, at the same time, wrote to the bank of San Giorgio, at

Genoa, assigning a tenth of his revenues to be paid to that city, in

diminution of the duties on corn, wine, and other provisions.

 

Why should Colnmbus feel this strong interest in Genoa, had he been born

in any of the other Italian states which have laid claim to him? He was

under no obligation to Genoa. He had resided there but a brief portion of

his early life; and his proposition for discovery, according to some

writers, had been scornfully rejected by that republic. There is nothing

to warrant so strong an interest in Genoa, but the filial tie which links

the heart of a man to his native place, however he may be separated from

it by time or distance, and however little he may be indebted to it for

favors.

 

Again, had Columbus been born in any of the towns and villages of the

Genoese coast which have claimed him for a native, why should he have made

these bequests in favor of the _city_ of Genoa, and not of his native

town or village?

 

These bequests were evidently dictated by a mingled sentiment of pride and

affection, which would be without all object if not directed to his native

place. He was at this time elevated above all petty pride on the subject.

His renown was so brilliant, that it would have shed a lustre on any

hamlet, however obscure: and the strong love of country here manifested

would never have felt satisfied until it had singled out the spot, and

nestled down, in the very cradle of his infancy. These appear to be

powerful reasons, drawn from natural feeling, for deciding in favor of

Genoa.

 

 

 

 

No. VII.

 

The Colombos.

 

 

 

During the early part of the life of Columbus, there were two other

navigators, bearing the same name, of some rank and celebrity, with whom

he occasionally sailed; their names occurring vaguely from time to time,

during the obscure part of his career, have caused much perplexity to some

of his biographers, who have supposed that they designated the discoverer.

Fernando Columbus affirms them to have been family connections,[285] and

his father says, in one of his letters, "I am not the first admiral of our

family."

 

These two were uncle and nephew; the latter being termed by historians

Colombo the younger, (by the Spanish historians Colombo el mozo.) They

were in the Genoese service, but are mentioned, occasionally, in old

chronicles, as French commanders, because Genoa, during a great part of

their time, was under the protection, or rather the sovereignty, of

France, and her ships and captains, being engaged in the expeditions of

that power, were identified with the French marine.

 

Mention is made of the elder Colombo in Zurita's Annals of Arragon, (L.

xix. p. 261,) in the war between Spain and Portugal, on the subject of the

claim of the Princess Juana to the crown of Castile. In 1476, the king of

Portugal determined to go to the Mediterranean coast of France, to incite

his ally, Louis XI, to prosecute the war in the province of Guipuzcoa.

 

The king left Toro, says Zurita, on the 13th June, and went by the river

to the city of Porto, in order to await the armada of the king of France,

the captain of which was Colon, (Colombo,) who was to navigate by the

straits of Gibraltar to pass to Marseilles.

 

After some delays Colombo arrived in the latter part of July with the

French armada at Bermeo, on the coast of Biscay, where he encountered a

violent storm, lost his principal ship, and ran to the coast of Galicia,

with an intention of attacking Kibaldo, and lost a great many of his men.

Thence he went to Lisbon to receive the king of Portugal, who embarked in

the fleet in August, with a number of his noblemen, and took two thousand

two hundred foot soldiers, and four hundred and seventy horse, to

strengthen the Portuguese garrisons along the Barbary coast. There were in

the squadron twelve ships and five caravels. After touching at Ceuta the

fleet proceeded to Colibre, where the king disembarked in the middle of

September, the weather not permitting them to proceed to Marseilles.

(Zurita, L. xix. Ch. 51.)

 

This Colombo is evidently the naval commander of whom the following

mention is made by Jaques George de Chaufepie, in his supplement to Bayle,

(vol. 2, p. 126 of letter C.)

 

"I do not know what dependence," says Chaufepie, "is to be placed on a

fact reported in the _Ducatiana_, (Part 1, p. 143,) that Columbus was

in 1474 captain of several ships for Louis XI, and that, as the Spaniards

had made at that time an irruption into Roussillon, he thought that, for

reprisal, and without contravening the peace between the two crowns, he

could run down Spanish vessels. He attacked, therefore, and took two

galleys of that nation, freighted on the account of various individuals.

On complaints of this action being made to king Ferdinand, he wrote on the

subject to Louis XI; his letter is dated the 9th December, 1474. Ferdinand

terms Christopher Columbus a subject of Louis; it was because, as is

known, Columbus was a Genoese, and Louis was sovereign of Genoa; although

that city and Savona were held of him in fief by the duke of Milan."

 

It is highly probable that it was the squadron of this same Colombo of

whom the circumstance is related by Bossi, and after him by Spotorno on

the authority of a letter found in the archives of Milan, and written in

1476 by two illustrious Milanese gentlemen, on their return from

Jerusalem. The letter states that in the previous year 1475, as the

Venetian fleet was stationed off Cyprus to guard the island, a Genoese

squadron, commanded by one Colombo, sailed by them with an air of

defiance, shouting "Viva San Giorgia!" As the republics were then at

peace, they were permitted to pass unmolested.

 

Bossi supposes that the Colombo here mentioned was Christopher Columbus

the discoverer; but it appears rather to have been the old Genoese admiral

of that name, who according to Zurita was about that time cruising in the

Mediterranean; and who, in all probability, was the hero of both the

preceding occurrences.

 

The nephew of this Colombo, called by the Spaniards Colombo el mozo,

commanded a few years afterwards a squadron in the French service, as will

appear in a subsequent illustration, and Columbus may at various times

have held an inferior command under both uncle and nephew, and been

present on the above cited occasions.

 

 

 

 

No. VIII.

 

Expedition of John of Anjou.

 

 

 

About the time that Columbus attained his twenty-fourth year, his native

city was in a state of great alarm and peril from the threatened invasion

of Alphonso V of Aragon, king of Naples. Finding itself too weak to

contend singly with such a foe, and having in vain looked for assistance

from Italy, it placed itself under the protection of Charles the VIIth of

France. That monarch sent to its assistance John of Anjou, son of René or

Renato, king of Naples, who had been dispossessed of his crown by

Alphonso. John of Anjou, otherwise called the duke of Calabria, [286]

immediately took upon himself the command of the place, repaired its

fortifications, and defended the entrance of the harbor with strong

chains. In the meantime, Alplionso had prepared a large land force, and

assembled an armament of twenty ships and ten galleys at Ancona, on the

frontiers of Genoa. The situation of the latter was considered eminently

perilous, when Alphonso suddenly fell ill of a calenture and died; leaving

the kingdoms of Anjou and Sicily to his brother John, and the kingdom of

Naples to his son Ferdinand.

 

The death of Alphonso, and the subsequent division of his dominions, while

they relieved the fears of the Genoese, gave rise to new hopes on the part

of the house of Anjou; and the duke John, encouraged by emissaries from

various powerful partisans among the Neapolitan nobility, determined to

make a bold attempt upon Naples for the recovery of the crown. The Genoese

entered into his cause with spirit, furnishing him with ships, galleys,

and money. His father, René or Renato, fitted out twelve galleys for the

expedition in the harbor of Marseilles, and sent him assurance of an

abundant supply of money, and of the assistance of the king of France. The

brilliant nature of the enterprise attracted the attention of the daring

and restless spirits of the times. The chivalrous nobleman, the soldier of

fortune, the hardy corsair, the bold adventurer, or the military partisan,

enlisted under the banners of the duke of Calabria. It is stated by

historians, that Columbus served in the armament from Genoa, in a squadron

commanded by one of the Colombos, his relations.

 

The expedition sailed in October, 1459, and arrived at Sessa, between the

mouths of the Garigliano and the Volturno. The news of its arrival was the

signal of universal revolt; the factious barons, and their vassals,

hastened to join the standard of Anjou, and the duke soon saw the finest

provinces of the Neapolitan dominions at his command, and with his army

and squadron menaced the city of Naples itself.

 

In the history of this expedition we meet with one hazardous action of the

fleet in which Columbus had embarked.

 

The army of John of Anjou, being closely invested by a superior force, was

in a perilous predicament at the mouth of the Sarno. In this conjuncture,

the captain of the armada landed with his men, and scoured the

neighborhood, hoping to awaken in the populace their former enthusiasm for

the banner of Anjou; and perhaps to take Naples by surprise. A chosen

company of Neapolitan infantry was sent against them. The troops from the

fleet having little of the discipline of regular soldiery, and much of the

freebooting disposition of maritime rovers, had scattered themselves about

the country, intent chiefly upon spoil. They were attacked by the infantry

and put to rout, with the loss of many killed and wounded. Endeavoring to

make their way back to the ships, they found the passes seized and blocked

up by the people of Sorento, who assailed them with dreadful havoc. Their

flight now became desperate and headlong; many threw themselves from rocks

and precipices into the sea, and but a small portion regained the ships.

 

The contest of John of Anjou for the crown of Naples lasted four years.

For a time fortune favored him, and the prize seemed almost within his

grasp, but reverses succeeded: he was defeated at various points; the

factious nobles, one by one, deserted him, and returned to their

allegiance to Alfonso, and the duke was finally compelled to retire to the

island of Ischia. Here he remained for some time, guarded by eight

galleys, which likewise harassed the bay of Naples. [287] In this

squadron, which loyally adhered to him until he ultimately abandoned this

unfortunate enterprise, Columbus is stated to have served.

 

 

 

 

No. IX.

 

Capture of the Venetian Galleys, by Colombo the Younger.

 

 

 

As the account of the sea-fight by which Fernando Columbus asserts that

his father was first thrown upon the shores of Portugal, has been adopted

by various respectable historians, it is proper to give particular reasons

for discrediting it.

 

Fernando expressly says, that it was in an action mentioned by Marco

Antonio Sabelico, in the eighth book of his tenth Decade; that the

squadron in which Columbus served was commanded by a famous corsair,

called Columbus the younger, (Colombo el mozo,) and that an embassy was

sent from Venice to thank the king of Portugal for the succor he afforded

to the Venetian captains and crews. All this is certainly recorded in

Sabellicus, but the battle took place in 1485, after Columbus had

_left_ Portugal. Zurita, in his annals of Aragon, under the date of

1685, mentions this same action. He says, "At this time four Venetian

galleys sailed from the island of Cadiz and took the route for Flanders;

they were laden with merchandise from the Levant, especially from the

island of Sicily, and, passing by Cape St. Vincent, they were attacked by

a French corsair, son of captain Colon, (Colombo,) who had seven vessels

in his armada; and the galleys were captured the twenty-first of August."

[288]

 

A much fuller account is given in the life of king John II of Portugal, by

Garcia de Resende, who likewise records it as happening in 1485. He says

the Venetian galleys were taken and robbed by the French, and the captains

and crews, wounded, plundered, and maltreated, were turned on shore at

Cascoes. Here they were succored by Doña Maria de Meneses, countess of

Monsanto.

 

When king John II heard of the circumstance, being much grieved that such

an event should have happened on his coast, and being disposed to show his

friendship for the republic of Venice, he ordered that the Venetian

captains should be furnished with rich raiment of silks and costly cloths,

and provided with horses and mules, that they might make their appearance

before him in a style befitting themselves and their country. He received

them with great kindness and distinction, expressing himself with princely

courtesy, both as to themselves and the republic of Venice; and having

heard their account of the battle, and of their destitute situation, he

assisted them with a large sum of money to ransom their galleys from the

French cruisers. The latter took all the merchandises on board of their

ships, but king John prohibited any of the spoil from being purchased

within his dominions. Having thus generously relieved and assisted the

captains, and administered to the necessities of their crews, he enabled

them all to return in their own galleys to Venice.

 

The dignitaries of the republic were so highly sensible of this

munificence, on the part of king John, that they sent a stately embassy to

that monarch, with rich presents and warm expressions of gratitude.

Geronimo Donate was charged with this mission, a man eminent for learning

and eloquence; he was honorably received and entertained by king John, and

dismissed with royal presents, among which were jenets, and mules with

sumptuous trappings and caparisons, and many negro slaves richly clad.

[289]

 

The following is the account of this action as given by Sabellicus, in his

history of Venice: [290]

 

Erano andate quatro Galee delle quali Bartolommeo Minio era capitano.

Queste navigando per l'Iberico mare, Colombo il piu giovane, nipote di

quel Colombo famoso corsale, fecesi incontro a' Veniziani di notte,

appresso il sacro Promontorio, che chiamasi ora capo di san Vincenzo, con

sette navi guernite da combattere. Egli quantunque nel primo incontro

avesse seco disposto d'opprimere le navi Veniziane, si ritenne però del

combattere sin al giorno: tuttavia per esser alia battaglia più acconcio

così le seguia, che le prode del corsale toccavano le poppe de Veniziani.

Venuto il giorno incontanente i Barbari diedero 1' assalto. Sostennero i

Veniziani allora 1' empito del nemico, per numero di navi e di combattenti

superiore, e durò il conflitto atroce per molte ore. Rare fiate fu

combattuto contro simili nemici con tanta uccisione, perchè a pena si

costuina d'attaccarsi contro di loro, se non per occasione. Affermano

alcuni, che vi furono presenti, esser morte deile ciurme Veniziane da

trecento uomini. Altri dicono che fu meno: morì in quella zuffa Lorenzo

Michele capitano d'una galera e Giovanni Delfino, d'altro capitano

fratello. Era durata la zuffa dal fare del giorno fin' ad ore venti, e

erano le genti Veneziane mal Initiate. Era gia la nave Delfina in potere

de' nemici quando le altre ad una ad una si renderono. Narrano alcuni, che

furono di quel aspro conflitto participi, aver numerato nelle loro navi da

prode a poppe ottanta valorosi uomini estinti, i quali dal nemico veduti

lo mossero a gemere e dire con sdegno, che cosi avevano voluto, i

Veniziani. I corpi morti furono gettati nel mare, e i feriti posti nel

lido. Quei che rimasero vivi seguirono con le navi il capitano vittorioso

sin' a Lisbona e ivi furono tutti licenziati.... Quivi furono i Veniziaui

benignamente ricevuti dal Re, gli infermi furono medicati, gli altri

ebbero abiti e denari secondo la loro condizione.... Oltre cio vietd in

tutto il Regno, che alcuno non comprasse della preda Veniziana, portata

dai corsali. La nuova dell' avuta rovina non poco afflisse la città, erano

perduti in quella mercatanzia da ducento mila ducati; ma il danno

particolare degldi nomini uccisi diede maggior afflizione. _Marc. Ant.

Sabelico, Hist, Venet., decad. iv. lib. iii._

 

 

 

 

No. X.

 

Amerigo Vespucci.

 

 

 

Among the earliest and most intelligent of the voyagers who followed the

track of Columbus, was Amerigo Vespucci. He has been considered by many as

the first discoverer of the southern continent, and by a singular caprice

of fortune, his name has been given to the whole of the New World. It has

been strenuously insisted, however, that he had no claim to the title of a

discoverer; that he merely sailed in a subordinate capacity in a squadron

commanded by others; that the account of his first voyage is a

fabrication; and that he did not visit the main-land until after it had

been discovered and coasted by Columbus. As this question has been made a

matter of warm and voluminous controversy, it is proper to take a summary

view of it in the present work.

 

Amerigo Vespucci was born in Florence, March 9th, 1451, of a noble, but

not at that time a wealthy, family; his father's name was Anastatio; his

mother's was Elizabetta Mini. He was the third of their sons, and received

an excellent education under his uncle, Georgio Antonio Vespucci, a

learned friar of the fraternity of San Marco, who was instructor to

several illustrious personages of that period.

 

Amerigo Vespucci visited Spain, and took up his residence in Seville, to

attend to some commercial transactions on account of the family of the

Medici of Florence, and to repair, by his ingenuity, the losses and

misfortunes of an unskillful brother. [291]

 

The date of his arrival in Spain is uncertain, but from comparing dates

and circumstances mentioned in his letters, he must have been at Seville

when Columbus returned from his first voyage.

 

Padre Stanislaus Canovai, Professor of Mathematics at Florence, who has

published the life and voyages of Amerigo Vespucci, says that he was

commissioned by king Ferdinand, and sent with Columbus in his second

voyage in 1493. He states this on the authority of a passage in the

Cosmography of Sebastian Munster, published at Basle in 1550;[292] but

Munster mentions Vespucci as having accompanied Columbus in his first

voyage; the reference of Canovai is therefore incorrect; and the

suggestion of Munster is disproved by the letters of Vespucci, in which he

states his having been stimulated by the accounts brought of the

newly-discovered regions. He never mentions such a voyage in any of his

letters; which he most probably would have done, or rather would have

made it the subject of a copious letter, had he actually performed it.

 

The first notice of a positive form which we have of Vespucci, as resident

in Spain, is early in 1496. He appears, from documents in the royal

archives at Seville, to have acted as agent or factor for the house of

Juanoto Berardi, a rich Florentine merchant, resident in Seville; who had

contracted to furnish the Spanish sovereigns with three several armaments,

of four vessels each, for the service of the newly-discovered countries.

He may have been one of the principals in this affair, which was

transacted in the name of this established house. Berardi died in

December, 1495, and in the following January we find Amerigo Vespucci

attending to the concerns of the expeditions, and settling with the

masters of the ships for their pay and maintenance, according to the

agreements made between them and the late Juanoto Berardi. On the 12th

January, 1496, he received on this account 10,000 maravedis from Bernardo

Pinelo, the royal treasurer. He went on preparing all things for the

dispatch of four caravels to sail under the same contract between the

sovereigns and the house of Berardi, and sent them to sea on the 3d

February, 1496; but on the 8th they met with a storm and were wrecked; the

crews were saved with the loss of only three men. [293] While thus

employed, Amerigo Vespucci, of course, had occasional opportunity of

conversing with Columbus, with whom, according to the expression of the

admiral himself, in one of his letters to his son Diego, he appears to

have been always on friendly terms. From these conversations, and from his

agency in these expeditions, he soon became excited to visit the

newly-discovered countries, and to participate in enterprises, which were

the theme of every tongue. Having made himself well acquainted with

geographical and nautical science, he prepared to launch into the career

of discovery. It was not very long before he carried this design into

execution.

 

In 1498, Columbus, in his third voyage, discovered the coast of Paria, on

Terra Firma; which he at that time imagined to be a great island, but that

a vast continent lay immediately adjacent. He sent to Spain specimens of

pearls found on this coast, and gave the most sanguine accounts of the

supposed riches of the country.

 

In 1499, an expedition of four vessels, under command of Alonzo de Ojeda,

was fitted out from Spain, and sailed for Paria, guided by charts and

letters sent to the government by Columbus. These were communicated to

Ojeda, by his patron, the bishop Fonseca, who had the superintendence of

India affairs, and who furnished him also with a warrant to undertake the

voyage.

 

It is presumed that Vespucci aided in fitting, out the armament, and

sailed in a vessel belonging to the house of Berardi, and in this way was

enabled to take a share in the gains and losses of the expedition; for

Isabella, as queen of Castile, had rigorously forbidden all strangers to

trade with her transatlantic possessions, not even excepting the natives

of the kingdom of Aragon.

 

This squadron visited Paria and several hundred miles of the coast, which

they ascertained to be Terra Firma. They returned in June, 1500; and on

the 18th of July, in that year, Amerigo Vespucci wrote an account of his

voyage to Lorenzo de Pier Francisco de Medici of Florence, which remained

concealed in manuscript, until brought to light and published by Bandini

in 1745.

 

In his account of this voyage, and in every other narrative of his

different expeditions, Vespucci never mentions any other person concerned

in the enterprise. He gives the time of his sailing, and states that he

went with two caravels, which were probably his share of the expedition,

or rather vessels sent by the house of Berardi. He gives an interesting

narrative of the voyage, and of the various transactions with the natives,

which corresponds, in many substantial points, with the accounts furnished

by Ojeda and his mariners of their voyage, in a lawsuit hereafter

mentioned.

 

In May, 1501, Vespucci, having suddenly left Spain, sailed in the service

of Emanuel, king of Portugal; in the course of which expedition he visited

the coast of Brazil. He gives an account of this voyage in a second letter

to Lorenzo de Pier Francisco de Medici, which also remained in manuscript

until published by Bartolozzi in 1789. [294]

 

No record nor notice of any such voyage undertaken by Amerigo Vespucci, at

the command of Emanuel, is to be found in the archives of the Torre do

Tombo, the general archives of Portugal, which have been repeatedly and

diligently searched for the purpose. It is singular also that his name is

not to be found in any of the Portuguese historians, who in general were

very particular in naming all navigators who held any important station

among them, or rendered any distinguished services. That Vespucci did sail

along the coasts, however, is not questioned. His nephew, after his death,

in the course of evidence on some points in dispute, gave the correct

latitude of Cape St. Augustine, which he said he had extracted from his

uncle's journal.

 

In 1504, Vespucci wrote a third letter to the same Lorenzo de Medici,

containing a more extended account of the voyage just alluded to in the

service of Portugal.  This was the first of his narratives that appeared

in print.  It appears to have been published in Latin, at Strasburgh, as

early as 1505, under the title "Americus Vesputius de Orbe Antarctica per

Regem Portugalliæ pridem inventa." [295]

 

An edition of this letter was printed in Vicenza in 1507, in an anonymous

collection of voyages edited by Francanzio di Monte Alboddo, an

inhabitant of Vicenza. It was re-printed in Italian in 1508, at Milan,

and also in Latin, in a book entitled "Itinerarium Portugalensium." In

making the present illustration, the Milan edition in Italian [296] has

been consulted, and also a Latin translation of it by Simon Grinæus, in

his Novus Orbis, published at Basle in 1532. It relates entirely the

first voyage of Vespucci from Lisbon to the Brazils in 1501.

 

It is from this voyage to the Brazils that Amerigo Vespucci was first

considered the discoverer of Terra Firma; and his name was at first

applied to these southern regions, though afterwards extended to the

whole continent. The merits of his voyage were, however, greatly

exaggerated. The Brazils had been previously discovered, and formally

taken possession of for Spain in 1500, by Vincente Yañez Pinzon; and

also in the same year, by Pedro Alvarez Cabral, on the part of Portugal;

circumstances unknown, however, by Vespucci and his associates. The

country remained in possession of Portugal, in conformity to the line

of demarcation agreed on between the two nations.

 

Vespucci made a second voyage in the service of Portugal. He says that

he commanded a caravel in a squadron of six vessels destined for the

discovery of Malacca, which they had heard to be the great depot and

magazine of all the trade between the Ganges and the Indian sea. Such

an expedition did sail about this time, under the command of Gonzalo

Coelho. The squadron sailed, according to Vespucci, on the 10th of May,

1503. It stopped at the Cape de Verd islands for refreshments, and

afterwards sailed by the coast of Sierra Leone, but was prevented from

landing by contrary winds and a turbulent sea.  Standing to the

southwest, they ran three hundred leagues until they were three degrees

to the southward of the equinoctial line, where they discovered an

uninhabited island, about two leagues in length and one in breadth.

Here, on the 10th of August, by mismanagement, the commander of the

squadron ran his vessel on a rock and lost her. While the other vessels

were assisting to save the crew and property from the wreck, Amerigo

Vespucci was dispatched in his caravel to search for a safe harbor in

the island. He departed in his vessel without his long-boat, and with

less than half of his crew, the rest having gone in the boat to the

assistance of the wreck. Vespucci found a harbor, but waited in vain

for several days for the arrival of the ships. Standing out to sea, he

met with a solitary vessel, and learnt that the ship of the commander

had sunk, and the rest had proceeded onwards.  In company with this

vessel he stood for the Brazils, according to the command of the king,

in case that any vessel should be parted from the fleet. Arriving on

the coast, he discovered the famous bay of All Saints, where he

remained upwards of two months, in hopes of being joined by the rest

of the fleet. He at length ran 260 leagues farther south, where he

remained five months building a fort and taking in cargo of

Brazil-wood. Then, leaving in the fortress a garrison of 24 men with

arms and ammunition, he set sail for Lisbon, where he arrived in June,

1504. [297] The commander of the squadron and the other four ships were

never heard of afterwards.

 

Vespucci does not appear to have received the reward from the king of

Portugal that his services merited, for we find him at Seville early in

1505, on his way to the Spanish court, in quest of employment: and he

was bearer of a letter from Columbus to his son Diego, dated February 5,

which, while it speaks warmly of him as a friend, intimates his having

been unfortunate. The following is the letter:

 

My Dear Son,--Diego Mendez departed hence on Monday, the third of this

month. After his departure I conversed with Amerigo Vespucci, the bearer

of this, who goes there (to court) summoned on affairs of navigation.

Fortune has been adverse to him as to many others. His labors have not

profited him as much as they reasonably should have done. He goes on my

account, and with much desire to do something that may result to my

advantage, if within his power. I cannot ascertain here in what I can

employ him, that will be serviceable to me, for I do not know what may

be there required. He goes with the determination to do all that is

possible for me; see in what he may be of advantage, and co-operate

with him, that he may say and do every thing, and put his plans in

operation; and let all be done secretly, that he may not be suspected.

I have said every thing to him that I can say touching the business,

and have informed him of the pay I have received, and what is due, &c.

[298]

 

About this time Amerigo Vespucci received letters of naturalization from

king Ferdinand, and shortly afterwards he and Vincente Yafiez Pinzon were

named captains of an armada about to be sent out in the spice trade and to

make discoveries. There is a royal order, dated Toro, 11th April, 1507,

for 12,000 maravedis for an outfit for "Americo de Vespuche, resident of

Seville." Preparations were made for this voyage, and vessels procured and

fitted out, but it was eventually abandoned. There are memoranda existing

concerning it, dated in 1506, 1507, and 1508, from which it appears that

Amerigo Vespucci remained at Seville, attending to the fluctuating

concerns of this squadron, until the destination of the vessels was

changed, their equipments were sold, and the accounts settled. During this

time he had a salary of 30,000 maravedis. On the 22d of March, 1508, he

received the appointment of principal pilot, with a salary of 70,000

maravedis. His chief duties were to prepare charts, examine pilots,

superintend the fitting out of expeditions, and prescribe the route that

vessels were to pursue in their voyages to the New World. He appears to

have remained at Seville, and to have retained this office until his

death, on the 22d of February, 1512. His widow, Maria Corezo, enjoyed a

pension of 10,000 maravedis. After his death, his nephew, Juan Vespucci,

was nominated pilot, with a salary of 20,000 maravedis, commencing on the

22d of May, 1512. Peter Martyr speaks with high commendation of this young

man. "Young Vesputius is one to whom Americus Vesputius his uncle left the

exact knowledge of the mariner's faculties, as it were by inheritance,

after his death; for he was a very expert master in the knowledge of his

carde, his compasse and the elevation of the pole starre by the

quadrant.... Vesputius is my very familiar friend, and a wittie young man,

in whose company I take great pleasure, and therefore use him oftentymes

for my guest. He hath also made many voyages into these coasts, and

diligently noted such things as he hath seen." [299]

 

Vespucci, the nephew, continued in this situation during the lifetime of

Fonseca, who had been the patron of his uncle and his family. He was

divested of his pay and his employ by a letter of the council, dated the

18th of March, 1525, shortly after the death of the bishop. No further

notice of Vespucci is to be found in the archives of the Indies.

 

Such is a brief view of the career of Amerigo Vespucci; it remains to

notice the points of controversy. Shortly after his return from his last

expedition to the Brazils, he wrote a letter dated Lisbon, 4th September,

1504, containing a summary account of all his voyages. This letter is of

special importance to the matters under investigatiod, as it is the only

one known that relates to the disputed voyage, which would establish him

as the discoverer of Terra Firma. It is presumed to have been written in

Latin, and was addressed to René, duke of Lorraine, who assumed the title

of king of Sicily and Jerusalem.

 

The earliest known edition of this letter was published in Latin, in 1507,

at St. Diez in Lorraine. A copy of it has been found in the library of the

Vatican (No. 9688) by the abbe Cancellieri. In preparing the present

illustration, a reprint of this letter in Latin has been consulted,

inserted in the Novus Orbis of Grinæus, published at Bath in 1532. The

letter contains a spirited narrative of four voyages which he asserts to

have made to the New World. In the prologue he excuses the liberty of

addressing king René by calling to his recollection the ancient intimacy

of their youth, when studying the rudiments of science together, under the

paternal uncle of the voyager; and adds that if the present narrative

should not altogether please his Majesty, he must plead to him as Pliny

said to Mæcenas, that he used formerly to be amused with his triflings.

 

In the prologue to this letter, he informs king René that affairs of

commerce had brought him to Spain, where he had experienced the various

changes of fortune attendant on such transactions, and was induced to

abandon that pursuit and direct his labors to objects of a more elevated

and stable nature. He therefore purposed to contemplate various parts of

the world, and to behold the marvels which it contains. To this object

both time and place were favorable; for king Ferdinand was then preparing

four vessels for the discovery of new lands in the west, and appointed him

among the number of those who went in the expedition. "We departed," he

adds, "from the port of Cadiz, May 20, 1497, taking our course on the

great gulf of ocean; in which voyage we employed eighteen months,

discovering many lands and innumerable islands, chiefly inhabited, of

which our ancestors make no mention."

 

A duplicate of this letter appears to have been sent at the same time

(written, it is said, in Italian) to Piere Soderini, afterwards

Gonfalonier of Florence, which was some years subsequently published in

Italy, not earlier than 1510, and entitled "Lettera de Amerigo Vespucci

delle Isole nuovamente trovate in quatro suoi viaggi." We have consulted

the edition of this letter in Italian, inserted in the publication of

Padre Stanislaus Canovai, already referred to.

 

It has been suggested by an Italian writer, that this letter was written

by Vespucci to Soderini only, and the address altered to king René through

the flattery or mistake of the Lorraine editor, without perceiving how

unsuitable the reference to former intimacy, intended for Soderini, was,

when applied to a sovereign. The person making this remark can hardly have

read the prologue to the Latin edition, in which the title of "your

majesty" is frequently repeated, and the term "illustrious king" employed.

It was first published also in Lorraine, the domains of René, and the

publisher would not probably have presumed to take such a liberty with his

sovereign's name. It becomes a question, whether Vespucci addressed the

same letter to king René and to Piere Soderini, both of them having been

educated with him, or whether he sent a copy of this letter to Soderini,

which subsequently found its way into print. The address to Soderini may

have been substituted, through mistake, by the Italian publisher. Neither

of the publications could have been made under the supervision of

Vespucci.

 

The voyage specified in this letter as having taken place in 1497, is the

great point in controversy. It is strenuously asserted that no such voyage

took place; and that the first expedition of Vespucci to the coast of

Paria was in the enterprise commanded by Ojeda, in 1499. The books of the

armadas existing in the archives of the Indies at Seville, have been

diligently examined, but no record of such voyage has been found, nor any

official documents relating to it. Those most experienced in Spanish

colonial regulations insist that no command like that pretended by

Vespucci could have been given to a stranger, till he had first received

letters of naturalization from the sovereigns for the kingdom of Castile,

and he did not obtain such till 1505, when they were granted to him as

preparatory to giving him the command in conjunction with Pinzon.

 

His account of a voyage made by him in 1497, therefore, is alleged to be a

fabrication for the purpose of claiming the discovery of Paria; or rather

it is affirmed that he has divided the voyage which he actually made with

Ojeda, in 1499, into two; taking a number of incidents from his real

voyage, altering them a little, and enlarging them with descriptions of

the countries and people, so as to make a plausible narrative, which he

gives as a distinct voyage; and antedating his departure to 1497, so as to

make himself appear the first discoverer of Paria.

 

In support of this charge various coincidences have been pointed out

between his voyage said to have taken place in 1497, and that described in

his first letter to Lorenzo de Medici in 1499. These coincidences are with

respect to places visited, transactions and battles with the natives, and

the number of Indians carried to Spain and sold as slaves.

 

But the credibility of this voyage has been put to a stronger test. About

1508 a suit was instituted against the crown of Spain by Don Diego, son

and heir of Columbus, for the government of certain parts of Terra Firma,

and for a share in the revenue arising from them, conformably to the

capitulations made between the sovereigns and his father. It was the

object of the crown to disprove the discovery of the coast of Paria and

the pearl islands by Columbus; as it was maintained, that unless he had

discovered them, the claim of his heir with respect to them would be of no

validity.

 

In the course of this suit, a particular examination of witnesses took

place in 1512-13 in the fiscal court. Alonzo de Ojeda, and nearly a

hundred other persons, were interrogated on oath; that voyager having been

the first to visit the coast of Paria after Columbus had left it, and that

within a very few months. The interrogatories of these witnesses, and

their replies, are still extant, in the archives of the Indies at Seville,

in a packet of papers entitled "Papers belonging to the admiral Don Luis

Colon, about the conservation of his privileges, from ann. 1515 to 1564."

The author of the present work has two several copies of these

interrogatories lying before him. One made by the late historian Muñoz,

and the other made in 1826, and signed by Don Jose de la Higuera y Lara,

keeper of the general archives of the Indies in Seville. In the course of

this testimony, the fact that Amerigo Vespucci accompanied Ojeda in this

voyage of 1499, appears manifest, first from the deposition of Ojeda

himself. The following are the words of the record: "In this voyage which

this said witness made, he took with him Juan de la Cosa and Morego

Vespuche [Amerigo Vespucci] and other pilots." [300] Secondly, from the

coincidence of many parts of the narrative of Vespucci with events in

this voyage of Ojeda. Among these coincidences, one is particularly

striking. Vespucci, in his letter to Lorenzo de Medici, and also in that

to René or Soderini, says, that his ships, after leaving the coast of

Terra Firma, stopped at Hispaniola, where they remained about two months

and a half, procuring provisions, during which time, he adds, "we had

many perils and troubles with the very Christians who were in that

island with Columbus, and I believe through envy." [301]

 

Now it is well known that Ojeda passed some time on the western end of the

island victualing his ships; and that serious dissensions took place

between him and the Spaniards in those parts, and the party sent by

Columbus under Roldan to keep a watch upon his movements. If then

Vespucci, as is stated upon oath, really accompanied Ojeda in this voyage,

the inference appears almost irresistible, that he had not made the

previous voyage of 1497, for the fact would have been well known to Ojeda;

he would have considered Vespucci as the original discoverer, and would

have had no motive for depriving him of the merit of it, to give it to

Columbus, with whom Ojeda was not upon friendly terms.

 

Ojeda, however, expressly declares that the coast had been discovered by

Columbus. On being asked how he knew the fact, he replied, because he saw

the chart of the country discovered, which Columbus sent at the time to

the king and queen, and that he came off immediately on a voyage of

discovery, and found what was therein set down as discovered by the

admiral was correct. [302]

 

Another witness, Bernaldo de Haro, states that he had been with the

admiral, and had written (or rather copied) a letter for the admiral to

the king and queen, designating, in an accompanying sea-chart, the courses

and steerings and winds by which he had arrived at Paria; and that this

witness had heard that from this chart others had been made, and that

Pedro Alonzo Niño and Ojeda, and others, who had since, visited these

countries, had been guided by the same. [303]

 

Francisco de Molares, one of the best and most credible of all the pilots,

testified that he saw a sea-chart which Columbus had made of the coast of

Paria, _and he believed that all governed themselves by it_.

[304]

 

Numerous witnesses in this process testify to the fact that Paria was

first discovered by Columbus. Las Casas, who has been at the pains of

counting them, says that the fact was established by twenty-five

eye-witnesses and sixty ear-witnesses. Many of them testify also that the

coast south of Paria, and that extending west of the island of Margarita,

away to Venezuela, which Vespucci states to have been discovered by

himself, in 1497, was now first discovered by Ojeda, and had never before

been visited either by the admiral "or any other Christian whatever."

 

Alonzo Sanchez de Carvajal says that all the voyages of discovery which

were made to the Terra Firma, were made by persons who had sailed with the

admiral, or been benefited by his instructions and directions, following

the course he had laid down;[305] and the same is testified by many other

pilots and mariners of reputation and experience.

 

It would be a singular circumstance, if none of these witnesses, many of

whom must have sailed in the same squadron with Vespucci along this coast

in 1499, should have known that he had discovered and explored it two

years previously. If that had really been the case, what motive could he

have for concealing the fact? and why, if they knew it, should they not

proclaim it? Vespucci states his voyage in 1497 to have been made with

four caravels; that they returned in October, 1498, and that he sailed

again with two caravels in May, 1499, (the date of Ojeda's departure.)

Many of the mariners would therefore have been present in both voyages.

Why, too, should Ojeda and the other pilots guide themselves by the charts

of Columbus, when they had a man on board so learned in nautical science,

and who, from his own recent observations, was practically acquainted with

the coast? Not a word, however, is mentioned of the voyage and discovery

of Vespucci by any of the pilots, though every other voyage and discovery

is cited; nor does there even a seaman appear who has accompanied him in

his asserted voyage.

 

Another strong circumstance against the reality of this voyage is, that it

was not brought forward in this trial to defeat the claims of the heirs of

Columbus. Vespucci states the voyage to have been undertaken with the

knowledge and countenance of king Ferdinand; it must, therefore, have been

avowed and notorious. Vespucci was living at Seville in 1508, at the time

of the commencement of this suit, and, for four years afterward, a

salaried servant of the crown. Many of the pilots and mariners must have

been at hand, who sailed with him in his pretended enterprise. If this

voyage had once been proved, it would completely have settled the

question, as far as concerned the coast of Paria, in favor of the crown.

Yet no testimony appears ever to have been taken from Vespucci while

living; and when the interrogatories were made in the fiscal court in

1512-13, not one of his seamen is brought up to give evidence. A voyage so

important in its nature, and so essential to the question in dispute, is

not even alluded to, while useless pains are taken to wrest evidence from

the voyage of Ojeda, undertaken at a subsequent period.

 

It is a circumstance worthy of notice, that Vespucci commences his first

letter to Lorenzo de Medici in 1500, within a month after his return from

the voyage he had actually made to Paria, and apologizes for his long

silence, by saying that nothing had occurred worthy of mention, ("e gran

tempo che non ho scritto à vostra magnifizensa, e non lo ha causato altra

cosa ne nessuna salvo non mi essere occorso cosa degna di memoria,") and

proceeds eagerly to tell him the wonders he had witnessed in the

expedition from which he had but just returned. It would be a singular

forgetfulness to say that nothing had occurred of importance, if he had

made a previous voyage of eighteen months in 1497-8 to this

newly-discovered world; and it would be almost equally strange that he

should not make the slightest allusion to it in this letter.

 

It has been the endeavor of the author to examine this question

dispassionately; and after considering the statements and arguments

advanced on either side, he cannot resist a conviction, that the voyage

stated to have been made in 1497 did not take place, and that Vespucci has

no title to the first discovery of the coast of Paria.

 

The question is extremely perplexing from the difficulty of assigning

sufficient motives for so gross a deception. When Vespucci wrote his

letters there was no doubt entertained but that Columbus had discovered

the main-land in his first voyage; Cuba being always considered the

extremity of Asia, until circumnavigated in 1508. Vespucci may have

supposed Brazil, Paria, and the rest of that coast, part of a distinct

continent, and have been anxious to arrogate to himself the fame of its

discovery. It has been asserted, that, on his return from his voyage to

the Brazils, he prepared a maritime chart, in which he gave his name to

that part of the mainland; but this assertion does not appear to be well

substantiated. It would rather seem that his name was given to that part

of the continent by others, as a tribute paid to his supposed merit, in

consequence of having read his own account of his voyages. [306]

 

It is singular that Fernando, the son of Columbus, in his biography of his

father, should bring no charge against Vespucci of endeavoring to supplant

the admiral in this discovery. Herrera has been cited as the first to

bring the accusation, in his history of the Indies, first published in

1601, and has been much criticized in consequence, by the advocates of

Vespucci, as making the charge on his mere assertion. But, in fact,

Herrera did but copy what he found written by Las Casas, who had the

proceedings of the fiscal court lying before him, and was moved to

indignation against Vespucci, by what he considered proofs of great

imposture.

 

It has been suggested that Vespucci was instigated to this deception at

the time when he was seeking employment in the colonial service of Spain;

and that he did it to conciliate the bishop Fonseca, who was desirous of

any thing that might injure the interests of Columbus. In corroboration of

this opinion, the patronage is cited which was ever shown by Fonseca to

Vespucci and his family. This is not, however, a satisfactory reason,

since it does not appear that the bishop ever made any use of the

fabrication. Perhaps some other means might be found of accounting for

this spurious narration, without implicating the veracity of Vespucci. It

may have been the blunder of some editor, or the interpolation of some

book-maker, eager, as in the case of Trivigiani with the manuscripts of

Peter Martyr, to gather together disjointed materials, and fabricate a

work to gratify the prevalent passion of the day.

 

In the various editions of the letters of Vespucci, the grossest

variations and inconsistencies in dates will be found, evidently the

errors of hasty and careless publishers. Several of these have been

corrected by the modern authors who have inserted these letters in their

works. [307] The same disregard to exactness which led to these blunders,

may have produced the interpolation of this voyage, garbled out of the

letters of Vespucci and the accounts of other voyagers. This is merely

suggested as a possible mode of accounting for what appears so decidedly

to be a fabrication, yet which we are loath to attribute to a man of the

good sense, the character, and the reputed merit of Vespucci.

 

After all, this is a question more of curiosity than of real moment,

although it is one of those perplexing points about which grave men will

continue to write weary volumes, until the subject acquires a fictitious

importance from the mountain of controversy heaped upon it. It has become

a question of local pride with the literati of Florence; and they emulate

each other with patriotic zeal, to vindicate the fame of their

distinguished countryman. This zeal is laudable when kept within proper

limits; but it is to be regretted that some of them have so far been

heated by controversy as to become irascible against the very memory of

Columbus, and to seek to disparage his general fame, as if the ruin of it

would add any thing to the reputation of Vespucci. This is discreditable

to their discernment and their liberality; it injures their cause, and

shocks the feelings of mankind, who will not willingly see a name like

that of Columbus lightly or petulantly assailed in the course of these

literary contests. It is a name consecrated in history, and is no longer

the property of a city, or a state, or a nation, but of the whole world.

 

Neither should those who have a proper sense of the merit of Columbus put

any part of his great renown at issue upon this minor dispute. Whether or

not he was the discoverer of Paria, was a question of interest to his

heirs, as a share of the government and revenues of that country depended

upon it; but it is of no importance to his fame. In fact, the European who

first reached the mainland of the New World was most probably Sebastian

Cabot, a native of Venice, sailing in the employ of England. In 1497 he

coasted its shores from Labrador to Florida; yet the English have never

set up any pretensions on his account.

 

The glory of Columbus does not depend upon the parts of the country he

visited or the extent of coast along which he sailed; it embraces the

discovery of the whole western world. With respect to him, Vespucci is as

Yañez Pinzon, Bastides, Ojeda, Cabot, and the crowd of secondary

discoverers, who followed in his track, and explored the realms to which

he had led the way. When Columbus first touched a shore of the New World,

even though a frontier island, he had achieved his enterprises; he had

accomplished all that was necessary to his fame: the great problem of the

ocean was solved; the world which lay beyond its western waters was

discovered.

 

 

 

 

No. XI.

 

Martin Alonzo Pinzon.

 

 

 

In the course of the trial in the fiscal court, between Don Diego and the

crown, an attempt was made to depreciate the merit of Columbus, and to

ascribe the success of the great enterprise of discovery to the

intelligence and spirit of Martin Alonzo Pinzon. It was the interest of

the crown to do so, to justify itself in withholding from the heirs of

Columbus the extent of his stipulated reward. The examinations of

witnesses in this trial were made at various times and places, and upon a

set of interrogatories formally drawn up by order of the fiscal. They took

place upwards of twenty years after the first voyage of Columbus, and the

witnesses testified from recollection.

 

In reply to one of the interrogatories, Arias Perez Pinzon, son of Martin

Alonzo, declared, that, being once in Rome with his father on commercial

affairs, before the time of the discovery, they had frequent conversations

with a person learned in cosmography who was in the service of Pope

Innocent VIII, and that being in the library of the pope, this person

showed them many manuscripts, from one of which his father gathered

intimation of these new lands; for there was a passage by an historian as

old as the time of Solomon, which said, "Navigate the Mediterranean Sea to

the end of Spain and thence towards the setting sun, in a direction

between north and south, until ninety-five degrees of longitude, and you

will find the land of Cipango, fertile and abundant, and equal in

greatness to Africa and Europe." A copy of this writing, he added, his

father brought from Rome with an intention of going in search of that

land, and frequently expressed such determination; and that, when Columbus

came to Palos with his project of discovery, Martin Alonzo Pinzon showed

him the manuscript, and ultimately gave it to him just before they sailed.

 

It is extremely probable that this manuscript, of which Arias Perez gives

so vague an account from recollection, but which he appears to think the

main thing that prompted Columbus to his undertaking, was no other than

the work of Marco Polo, which, at that time, existed in manuscript in most

of the Italian libraries. Martin Alonzo was evidently acquainted with the

work of the Venetian, and it would appear, from various circumstances,

that Columbus had a copy of it with him in his voyages, which may have

been the manuscript above mentioned. Columbus had long before, however,

had a knowledge of the work, if not by actual inspection, at least through

his correspondence with Toscanelli in 1474, and had derived from it all

the light it was capable of furnishing, before he ever came to Palos. It

is questionable, also, whether the visit of Martin Alonzo to Rome, was not

after his mind had been heated by conversations with Columbus in the

convent of La Rabida. The testimony of Arias Perez is so worded as to

leave it in doubt whether the visit was not in the very year prior to the

discovery: "fue el dicho su padre á Roma aquel dicho año antes que fuese a

descubrir." Arias Perez always mentions the manuscript as having been

imparted to Columbus, after he had come to Palos with an intention of

proceeding on the discovery.

 

Certain witnesses who were examined on behalf of the crown, and to whom

specific interrogatories were put, asserted, as has already been mentioned

in a note to this work, that had it not been for Martin Alonzo Pinzon and

his brothers, Columbus would have turned back for Spain, after having run

seven or eight hundred leagues; being disheartened at not finding land,

and dismayed by the mutiny and menaces of his crew. This is stated by two

or three as from personal knowledge, and by others from hearsay. It is

said especially to have occurred on the 6th of October. On this day,

according to the journal of Columbus, he had some conversation with Martin

Alonzo, who was anxious that they should stand more to the southwest. The

admiral refused to do so, and it is very probable that some angry words

may have passed between them. Various disputes appear to have taken place

between Columbus and his colleagues respecting their route, previous to

the discovery of land; in one or two instances he acceded to their wishes,

and altered his course, but in general he was inflexible in standing to

the west. The Pinzons also, in all probability, exerted their influence in

quelling the murmurs of their townsmen and encouraging them to proceed,

when ready to rebel against Columbus. These circumstances may have become

mixed up in the vague recollections of the seamen who gave the foregoing

extravagant testimony, and who were evidently disposed to exalt the merits

of the Pinzons at the expense of Columbus. They were in some measure

prompted also in their replies by the written interrogatories put by order

of the fiscal, which specified the conversations said to have passed

between Columbus and the Pizons, and n