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Christopher Columbus and How He Received and Imparted the Spirit of Discovery By Justin Winsor Characters: 57979

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

The natives of Guanahani.

We learn that, after these ceremonies on the shore, the natives began fearlessly to gather about the strangers. Columbus, by causing red caps, strings of beads, and other trinkets to be distributed among them, made an easy conquest of their friendship. Later the men swam out to the ship to exchange their balls of thread, their javelins, and parrots for whatever they could get in return.

The description which Columbus gives us in his journal of the appearance and condition of these new people is the earliest, of course, in our knowledge of them. His record is interesting for the effect which the creatures had upon him, and for the statement of their condition before the Spaniards had set an impress upon their unfortunate race.

They struck Columbus as, on the whole, a very poor people, going naked, and, judging from a single girl whom he saw, this nudity was the practice of the women. They all seemed young, not over thirty, well made, with fine shapes and faces. Their hair was coarse, and combed short over the forehead; but hung long behind. The bodies of many were differently colored with pigments of many hues, though of some only the face, the eyes, or the nose were painted. Columbus was satisfied that they had no knowledge of edged weapons, because they grasped his sword by the blade and cut themselves. Their javelins were sticks pointed with fishbones. When he observed scars on their bodies, they managed to explain to him that enemies, whom the Admiral supposed to come from the continent, sometimes invaded their island, and that such wounds were received in defending themselves. They appeared to him to have no religion, which satisfied him that the task of converting them to Christianity would not be difficult. They learned readily to pronounce such words as were repeated to them.

1492. October 13.

Affinities of the Lucayans.

On the next day after landing, Saturday, Columbus describes again the throng that came to the shore, and was struck with their broad foreheads. He deemed it a natural coincidence, being in the latitude of the Canaries, that the natives had the complexion prevalent among the natives of those islands. In this he anticipated the conclusions of the anthropologists, who have found in the skulls preserved in caves both in the Bahamas and in the Canaries, such striking similarities as have led to the supposition that ocean currents may have borne across the sea some of the old Guanche stock of the Canaries, itself very likely the remnant of the people of the European river-drift.

Professor W. K. Brooks, of the Johns Hopkins University, who has recently published in the Popular Science Monthly (November, 1889) a study of the bones of the Lucayans as found in caves in the Bahamas, reports that these relics indicate a muscular, heavy people, about the size of the average European, with protuberant square jaws, sloping eyes, and very round skulls, but artificially flattened on the forehead,-a result singularly confirming Columbus's description of broader heads than he had ever seen.


"The Ceboynas," says a recent writer on these Indians, "gave us the hammock, and this one Lucayan word is their only monument," for a population larger than inhabits these islands to-day were in twelve years swept from the surface of the earth by a system devised by Columbus.


The Admiral also describes their canoes, made in a wonderful manner of a single tree-trunk, and large enough to hold forty or forty-five men, though some were so small as to carry a single person only. Their oars are shaped like the wooden shovels with which bakers slip their loaves into ovens. If a canoe upsets, it is righted as they swim.

Gold among them.

Columbus was attracted by bits of gold dangling at the nose of some among them. By signs he soon learned that a greater abundance of this metal could be found on an island to the south; but they seemed unable to direct him with any precision how to reach that island, or at least it was not easy so to interpret any of their signs. "Poor wretches!" exclaims Helps, "if they had possessed the slightest gift of prophecy, they would have thrown these baubles into the deepest sea."

Columbus traffics with them.

They pointed in all directions, but towards the east as the way to other lands; and implied that those enemies who came from the northwest often passed to the south after gold. He found that broken dishes and bits of glass served as well for traffic with them as more valuable articles, and balls of threads of cotton, grown on the island, seemed their most merchantable commodity.

1492. October 14, sails towards Cipango.

With this rude foretaste, Columbus determined to push on for the richer Cipango. On the next day he coasted along the island in his boats, discovering two or three villages, where the inhabitants were friendly. They seemed to think that the strangers had come from heaven,-at least Columbus so interpreted their prostrations and uplifted hands. Columbus, fearful of the reefs parallel to the shore, kept outside of them, and as he moved along, saw a point of land which a ditch might convert into an island. He thought this would afford a good site for a fort, if there was need of one.

1492. October 14.

Columbus proposes to enslave the natives.

1492. October 15.

1492. October 16.

It was on this Sunday that Columbus, in what he thought doubtless the spirit of the day in dealing with heathens, gives us his first intimation of the desirability of using force to make these poor creatures serve their new masters. On returning to the ships and setting sail, he soon found that he was in an archipelago. He had seized some natives, who were now on board. These repeated to him the names of more than a hundred islands. He describes those within sight as level, fertile, and populous, and he determined to steer for what seemed the largest. He stood off and on during the night of the 14th, and by noon of the 15th he had reached this other island, which he found at the easterly end to run five leagues north and south, and to extend east and west a distance of ten leagues. Lured by a still larger island farther west he pushed on, and skirting the shore reached its western extremity. He cast anchor there at sunset, and named the island Santa Maria de la Concepcion. The natives on board told him that the people here wore gold bracelets. Columbus thought this story might be a device of his prisoners to obtain opportunities to escape. On the next day, he repeated the forms of landing and taking possession. Two of the prisoners contrived to escape. One of them jumped overboard and was rescued by a native canoe. The Spaniards overtook the canoe, but not till its occupants had escaped. A single man, coming off in another canoe, was seized and taken on board; but Columbus thought him a good messenger of amity, and loading him with presents, "not worth four maravedis," he put him ashore. Columbus watched the liberated savage, and judged from the wonder of the crowds which surrounded him that his ruse of friendship had been well played.

Columbus sees a large island.

Another large island appeared westerly about nine leagues, famous for its gold ornaments, as his prisoners again declared. It is significant that in his journal, since he discovered the bits of gold at San Salvador, Columbus has not a word to say of reclaiming the benighted heathen; but he constantly repeats his hope "with the help of our Lord," of finding gold. On the way thither he had picked up a second single man in a canoe, who had apparently followed him from San Salvador. He determined to bestow some favors upon him and let him go, as he had done with the other.

1492. October 16.

This new island, which he reached October 16, and called Fernandina, he found to be about twenty-eight leagues long, with a safer shore than the others. He anchored near a village, where the man whom he had set free had already come, bringing good reports of the stranger, and so the Spaniards got a kind reception. Great numbers of natives came off in canoes, to whom the men gave trinkets and molasses. He took on board some water, the natives assisting the crew. Getting an impression that the island contained a mine of gold, he resolved to follow the coast, and find Samaot, where the gold was said to be. Columbus thought he saw some improvement in the natives over those he had seen before, remarking upon the cotton cloth with which they partly covered their persons. He was surprised to find that distinct branches of the same tree bore different leaves. A single tree, as he says, will show as many as five or six varieties, not done by grafting, but a natural growth. He wondered at the brilliant fish, and found no land creatures but parrots and lizards, though a boy of the company told him that he had seen a snake. On Wednesday he started to sail around the island. In a little haven, where they tarried awhile, they first entered the native houses.


They found everything in them neat, with nets extended between posts, which they called hamacs,-a name soon adopted by sailors for swinging-beds. The houses were shaped like tents, with high chimneys, but not more than twelve or fifteen together. Dogs were running about them, but they could not bark. Columbus endeavored to buy a bit of gold, cut or stamped, which was hanging from a man's nose; but the savage refused his offers.


1492. October 19.

The ships continued their course about the island, the weather not altogether favorable; but on October 19 they veered away to another island to the west of Fernandina, which Columbus named Isabella, after his Queen. This he pronounced the most beautiful he had seen; and he remarks on the interior region of it being higher than in the other islands, and the source of streams. The breezes from the shore brought him odors, and when he landed he became conscious that his botanical knowledge did not aid him in selecting such dyestuffs, medicines, and spices as would command high prices in Spain. He saw a hideous reptile, and the canonizers, after their amusing fashion, tell us that "to see and attack him were the same thing for Columbus, for he considered it of importance to accustom Spanish intrepidity to such warfare."

To find gold Columbus's main object.

1492. October 21.

The reptile proved inoffensive. The signs of his prisoners were interpreted to repeat here the welcome tale of gold. He understood them to refer to a king decked with gold. "I do not, however," he adds, "give much credit to these accounts, for I understand the natives but imperfectly." "I am proceeding solely in quest of gold and spices," he says again.

Cuba heard of.

1492. October 24. Isabella.

On Sunday they went ashore, and found a house from which the occupants had recently departed. The foliage was enchanting. Flocks of parrots obscured the sky. Specimens were gathered of wonderful trees. They killed a snake in a lake. They cajoled some timid natives with beads, and got their help in filling their water cask. They heard of a very large island named Colba, which had ships and sailors, as the natives were thought to say. They had little doubt that these stories referred to Cipango. They hoped the native king would bring them gold in the night; but this not happening, and being cheered by the accounts of Colba, they made up their minds that it would be a waste of time to search longer for this backward king, and so resolved to run for the big island.

October 26.

Starting from Isabella at midnight on October 24, and passing other smaller islands, they finally, on Sunday, October 26, entered a river near the easterly end of Cuba.


The track of Columbus from San Salvador to Cuba has been as variously disputed as the landfall; indeed, the divergent views of the landfall necessitate such later variations.


They landed within the river's mouth, and discovered deserted houses, which from the implements within they supposed to be the houses of fishermen. Columbus observed that the grass grew down to the water's edge; and he reasoned therefrom that the sea could never be rough. He now observed mountains, and likened them to those of Sicily. He finally supposed his prisoners to affirm by their signs that the island was too large for a canoe to sail round it in twenty days. There were the old stories of gold; but the mention of pearls appears now for the first time in the journal, which in this place, however, we have only in Las Casas's abridgment.

Columbus supposes himself at Mangi.

When the natives pointed to the interior and said, "Cubanacan," meaning, it is supposed, an inland region, Columbus imagined it was a reference to Kublai Khan; and the Cuban name of Mangon he was very ready to associate with the Mangi of Mandeville.

As he still coasted westerly he found river and village, and made more use of his prisoners than had before been possible. They seem by this time to have settled into an acquiescent spirit. He wondered in one place at statues which looked like women. He was not quite sure whether the natives kept them for the love of the beautiful, or for worship.

Columbus supposes himself on the coast of Cathay.

He found domesticated fowl; and saw a skull, which he supposed was a cow's, which was probably that of the sea-calf, a denizen of these waters. He thought the temperature cooler than in the other islands, and ascribed the change to the mountains. He observed on one of these eminences a protuberance that looked like a mosque. Such interpretation as the Spaniards could make of their prisoners' signs convinced them that if they sailed farther west they would find some potentate, and so they pushed on. Bad weather, however, delayed them, and they again opened communication with the natives. They could hear nothing of gold, but saw a silver trinket; and learned, as they thought, that news of their coming had been carried to the distant king. Columbus felt convinced that the people of these regions were banded enemies of the Great Khan, and that he had at last struck the continent of Cathay, and was skirting the shores of the Zartun and Quinsay of Marco Polo. Taking an observation, Columbus found himself to be in 21° north latitude, and as near as he could reckon, he was 1142 leagues west of Ferro. He really was 1105.

1492. November 2-5.

Cuba explored.



From Friday, November 2, to Monday, November 5, two Spaniards, whom Columbus had sent into the interior, accompanied by some Indians, had made their way unmolested in their search for a king. They had been entertained here and there with ceremony, and apparently worshiped as celestial comers. The evidences of the early Spanish voyagers give pretty constant testimony that the whites were supposed to have come from the skies. Columbus had given to his envoys samples of cinnamon, pepper, and other spices, which were shown to the people. In reply, his messengers learned that such things grew to the southeast of them. Columbus later, in his first letter, speaks of cinnamon as one of the spices which they found, but it turned out to be the bark of a sort of laurel. Las Casas, in mentioning this expedition, says that the Spaniards found the natives smoking small tubes of dried leaves, filled with other leaves, which they called tobacos. Sir Arthur Helps aptly remarks on this trivial discovery by the Spaniards of a great financial resource of modern statesmen, since tobacco has in the end proved more productive to the Spanish crown than the gold which Columbus sought. The Spaniards found no large villages; but they perceived great stores of fine cotton of a long staple. They found the people eating what we must recognize as potatoes. The absence of gold gave Columbus an opportunity to wish more fervently than before for the conversion of some of these people.

One-eyed and dog-faced men.


While this party was absent, Columbus found a quiet beach, and careened his ships, one at a time. In melting his tar, the wood which he used gave out a powerful odor, and he pronounced it the mastic gum, which Europe had always got from Chios. As this work was going on, the Spaniards got from the natives, as best they could, many intimations of larger wealth and commerce to the southeast. Other strange stories were told of men with one eye, and faces like dogs, and of cruel, bloodthirsty man-eaters, who fought to appease their appetite on the flesh of the slain.

1492. November 12.


It was not till the 12th of November that Columbus left this hospitable haven, at daybreak, in search of a place called Babeque, "where gold was collected at night by torch-light upon the shore, and afterward hammered into bars." He the more readily retraced his track, that the coast to the westward seemed to trend northerly, and he dreaded a colder climate. He must leave for another time the sight of men with tails, who inhabited a province in that direction, as he was informed.

Again the historian recognizes how a chance turned the Spaniards away from a greater goal. If Columbus had gone on westerly and discovered the insular character of Cuba, he might have sought the main of Mexico and Yucatan, and anticipated the wonders of the conquest of Cortez. He never was undeceived in believing that Cuba was the Asiatic main.

Columbus captures some natives.

Columbus sailed back over his course with an inordinate idea of the riches of the country which he was leaving. He thought the people docile; that their simple belief in a God was easily to be enlarged into the true faith, whereby Spain might gain vassals and the church a people. He managed to entice on board, and took away, six men, seven women, and three children, condoning the act of kidnapping-the canonizers call it "retaining on board"-by a purpose to teach them the Spanish language, and open a readier avenue to their benighted souls. He allowed the men to have women to share their durance, as such ways, he says, had proved useful on the coast of Guinea.

The Admiral says in his first letter, referring to his captives, "that we immediately understood each other, either by words or signs." This was his message to expectant Europe. His journal is far from conveying that impression.

1492. November 14.

The ships now steered east-by-south, passing mountainous lands, which on November 14 he tried to approach. After a while he discovered a harbor, which he could enter, and found it filled with lofty wooded islands, some pointed and some flat at the top. He was quite sure he had now got among the islands which are made to swarm on the Asiatic coast in the early accounts and maps. He now speaks of his practice in all his landings to set up and leave a cross. He observed, also, a promontory in the bay fit for a fortress, and caught a strange fish resembling a hog. He was at this time embayed in the King's Garden, as the archipelago is called.

Pinzon deserts.

1492. November 23.

Shortly after this, when they had been baffled in their courses, Martin Alonso Pinzon, incited, as the record says, by his cupidity to find the stores of gold to which some of his Indian captives had directed him, disregarded the Admiral's signals, and sailed away in the "Pinta." The flagship kept a light for him all night, at the mast-head; but in the morning the caravel was out of sight. The Admiral takes occasion in his journal to remark that this was not the first act of Pinzon's insubordination. On Friday, November 23, the vessels approached a headland, which the Indians called Bohio.

1492. November 24.

The prisoners here began to manifest fear, for it was a spot where the one-eyed people and the cannibals dwelt; but on Saturday, November 24, the ships were forced back into the gulf with the many islands, where Columbus found a desirable roadstead, which he had not before discovered.

1492. November 25.

On Sunday, exploring in a boat, he found in a stream "certain stones which shone with spots of a golden hue; and recollecting that gold was found in the river Tagus near the sea, he entertained no doubt that this was the metal, and directed that a collection of the stones should be made to carry to the King and Queen." It becomes noticeable, as Columbus goes on, that every new place surpasses all others; the atmosphere is better; the trees are more marvelous. He now found pines fit for masts, and secured some for the "Nina."

As he coasted the next day along what he believed to be a continental coast, he tried in his journal to account for the absence of towns in so beautiful a country. That there were inhabitants he knew, for he found traces of them on going ashore. He had discovered that all the natives had a great dread of a people whom they called Caniba or Canima, and he argued that the towns were kept back from the coast to avoid the chances of the maritime attacks of this fierce people. There was no doubt in the mind of Columbus that these inroads were conducted by subjects of the Great Khan.

While he was still stretching his course along this coast, observing its harbors, seeing more signs of habitation, and attempting to hold intercourse with the frightened natives, now anchoring in some haven, and now running up adjacent rivers in a galley, he found time to jot down in this journal for the future perusal of his sovereigns some of his suspicions, prophecies, and determinations. He complains of the difficulty of understanding his prisoners, and seems conscious of his frequent misconceptions of their meaning. He says he has lost confidence in them, and somewhat innocently imagines that they would escape if they could! Then he speaks of a determination to acquire their language, which he supposes to be the same through all the region. "In this way," he adds, "we can learn the riches of the country, and make endeavors to convert these people to our religion, for they are without even the faith of an idolater." He descants upon the salubrity of the air; not one of his crew had had any illness, "except an old man, all his life a sufferer from the stone." There is at times a somewhat amusing innocence in his conclusions, as when finding a cake of wax in one of the houses, which Las Casas thinks was brought from Yucatan, he "was of the opinion that where wax was found there must be a great many other valuable commodities."

1492. December 4.

Leaves Cuba or Juana.

Bohio. Espa?ola.


The ships were now detained in their harbor for several days, during which the men made excursions, and found a populous country; they succeeded at times in getting into communication with the natives. Finally, on December 4, he left the Puerto Santo, as he called it, and coasting along easterly he reached the next day the extreme eastern end of what we now know to be Cuba, or Juana as he had named it, after Prince Juan. Cruising about, he seems to have had an apprehension that the land he had been following might not after all be the main, for he appears to have looked around the southerly side of this end of Cuba and to have seen the southwesterly trend of its coast. He observed, the same day, land in the southeast, which his Indians called Bohio, and this was subsequently named Espa?ola. Las Casas explains that Columbus here mistook the Indian word meaning house for the name of the island, which was really in their tongue called Haiti. It is significant of the difficulty in identifying the bays and headlands of the journal, that at this point Las Casas puts on one side, and Navarrete on the opposite side, of the passage dividing Cuba from Espa?ola, one of the capes which Columbus indicates. Changing his course for this lofty island, he dispatched the "Nina" to search its shore and find a harbor. That night the Admiral's ship beat about, waiting for daylight. When it came, he took his observations of the coast, and espying an island separated by a wide channel from the other land, he named this island Tortuga. Finding his way into a harbor-the present St. Nicholas-he declares that a thousand caracks could sail about in it. Here he saw, as before, large canoes, and many natives, who fled on his approach. The Spaniards soon began as they went on to observe lofty and extensive mountains, "the whole country appearing like Castile." They saw another reminder of Spain as they were rowing about a harbor, which they entered, and which was opposite Tortuga, when a skate leaped into their boat, and the Admiral records it as a first instance in which they had seen a fish similar to those of the Spanish waters. He says, too, that he heard on the shore nightingales "and other Spanish birds," mistaking of course their identity. He saw myrtles and other trees "like those of Castile." There was another obvious reference to the old country in the name of Espa?ola, which he now bestowed upon the island. He could find few of the inhabitants, and conjectured that their towns were back from the coast. The men, however, captured a handsome young woman who wore a bit of gold at her nose; and having bestowed upon her gifts, let her go. Soon after, the Admiral sent a party to a town of a thousand houses, thinking the luck of the woman would embolden the people to have a parley. The inhabitants fled in fear at first; but growing bolder came in great crowds, and brought presents of parrots.

Columbus finds his latitude.

It was here that Columbus took his latitude and found it to be 17°,-while in fact it was 20°. The journal gives numerous instances during all these explorations of the bestowing of names upon headlands and harbors, few of which have remained to this day. It was a common custom to make such use of a Saint's name on his natal day.

Saints' names.

Dr. Shea in a paper which he published in 1876, in the first volume of the American Catholic Quarterly, has emphasized the help which the Roman nomenclature of Saints' days, given to rivers and headlands, affords to the geographical student in tracking the early explorers along the coasts of the New World. This method of tracing the progress of maritime discovery suggested itself early to Oviedo, and has been appealed to by Henry C. Murphy and other modern authorities on this subject.

1492. December 14.


Finally, on Friday, December 14, they sailed out of the harbor toward Tortuga. He found this island to be under extensive cultivation like a plain of Cordoba. The wind not holding for him to take the course which he wished to run, Columbus returned to his last harbor, the Puerto de la Concepcion. Again on Saturday he left it, and standing across to Tortuga once more, he went towards the shore and proceeded up a stream in his boats. The inhabitants fled as he approached, and burning fires in Tortuga as well as in Espa?ola seemed to be signals that the Spaniards were moving.


During the night, proceeding along the channel between the two islands, the Admiral met and took on board a solitary Indian in his canoe. The usual gifts were put upon him, and when the ships anchored near a village, he was sent ashore with the customary effect. The beach soon swarmed with people, gathered with their king, and some came on board. The Spaniards got from them without difficulty the bits of gold which they wore at their ears and noses. One of the captive Indians who talked with the king told this "youth of twenty-one," that the Spaniards had come from heaven and were going to Babeque to find gold; and the king told the Admiral's messenger, who delivered to him a present, that if he sailed in a certain course two days he would arrive there. This is the last we hear of Babeque, a place Columbus never found, at least under that name. Humboldt remarks that Columbus mentions the name of Babeque more than fourteen times in his journal, but it cannot certainly be identified with Espa?ola, as the Historie of 1571 declares it to be. D'Avezac has since shared Humboldt's view. Las Casas hesitatingly thought it might have referred to Jamaica.

Then the journal describes the country, saying that the land is lofty, but that the highest mountains are arable, and that the trees are so luxuriant that they become black rather than green. The journal further describes this new people as stout and courageous, very different from the timid islanders of other parts, and without religion. With his usual habit of contradiction, Columbus goes on immediately to speak of their pusillanimity, saying that three Spaniards were more than a match for a thousand of them. He prefigures their fate in calling them "well-fitted to be governed and set to work to till the land and do whatsoever is necessary."

1492. December 17.


It was on Monday, De

cember 17, while lying off Espa?ola, that the Spaniards got for the first time something more than rumor respecting the people of Caniba or the cannibals. These new evidences were certain arrows which the natives showed to them, and which they said had belonged to those man-eaters. They were pieces of cane, tipped with sticks which had been hardened by fire.


"They were exhibited by two Indians who had lost some flesh from their bodies, eaten out by the cannibals. This the Admiral did not believe." It was now, too, that the Spaniards found gold in larger quantities than they had seen it before. They saw some beaten into thin plates. The cacique-here this word appears for the first time-cut a plate as big as his hand into pieces and bartered them, promising to have more to exchange the next day. He gave the Spaniards to understand that there was more gold in Tortuga than in Espa?ola. It is to be remarked, also, in the Admiral's account, that while "Our Lord" is not recorded as indicating to him any method of converting the poor heathen, it was "Our Lord" who was now about to direct the Admiral to Babeque.

1492. December 18.

The next day, December 18, the Admiral lay at anchor, both because wind failed him, and because he would be able to see the gold which the cacique had promised to bring. It also gave him an opportunity to deck his ships and fire his guns in honor of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin.

In due time the king appeared, borne on a sort of litter by his men, and boarding the ship, that chieftain found Columbus at table in his cabin. The cacique was placed beside the Admiral, and similar viands and drinks were placed before him, of which he partook. Two of his dusky followers, sitting at his feet, followed their master in the act. Columbus, observing that the hangings of his bed had attracted the attention of the savage, gave them to him, and added to the present some amber beads from his own neck, some red shoes, and a flask of orange-flower water. "This day," says the record, "little gold was obtained; but an old man indicated that at a distance of a hundred leagues or more were some islands, where much gold could be found, and in some it was so plentiful that it was collected and bolted with sieves, then melted and beaten into divers forms. One of the islands was said to be all gold, and the Admiral determined to go in the direction which this man pointed."

1492. December 20.

St. Thomas Island.

That night they tried in vain to stand out beyond Tortuga, but on the 20th of December, the record places the ships in a harbor between a little island, which Columbus called St. Thomas, and the main island. During the following day, December 21, he surveyed the roadstead, and going about the region in his boats, he had a number of interviews with the natives, which ended with an interchange of gifts and courtesies.

1492. December 22.

On Saturday, December 22, they encountered some people, sent by a neighboring cacique, whom the Admiral's own Indians could not readily understand, the first of this kind mentioned in the journal. Writing in regard to a party which Columbus at this time sent to visit a large town not far off, he speaks of having his secretary accompany them, in order to repress the Spaniards' greediness,-an estimate of his followers which the Admiral had not before suffered himself to record, if we can trust the Las Casas manuscript. The results of this foray were three fat geese and some bits of gold. As he entered the adventure in his journal, he dwelt on the hope of gold being on the island in abundance, and if only the spot could be found, it might be got for little or nothing. "Our Lord, in whose hands are all things, be my help," he cries. "Our Lord, in his mercy, direct me where I may find the gold mine."


The Admiral now learns the name of another chief officer, Nitayno, whose precise position was not apparent, but Las Casas tells us later that this word was the title of one nearest in rank to the cacique. When an Indian spoke of a place named Cibao, far to the east, where the king had banners made of plates of gold, the Admiral, in his eager confidence, had no hesitation in identifying it with Cipango and its gorgeous prince. It proved to be the place where in the end the best mines were found.

1492. December 23.

In speaking of the next day, Sunday, December 23, Las Casas tells us that Columbus was not in the habit of sailing on Sunday, not because he was superstitious, but because he was pious; but that he did not omit the opportunity at this time of coursing the coast, "in order to display the symbols of Redemption."

Columbus shipwrecked.

Christmas found them in distress. The night before, everything looking favorable, and the vessel sailing along quietly, Columbus had gone to bed, being much in need of rest. The helmsman put a boy at the tiller and went to sleep. The rest of the crew were not slow to do the same. The vessel was in this condition, with no one but the boy awake, when, carried out of her course by the current, she struck a sand bank. The cry of the boy awakened the Admiral, and he was the first to discover the danger of their situation. He ordered out a boat's crew to carry an anchor astern, but, bewildered or frightened, the men pulled for the "Nina." The crew of that caravel warned them off, to do their duty, and sent their own boat to assist. Help, however, availed nothing. The "Santa Maria" had careened, and her seams were opening. Her mast had been cut away, but she failed to right herself. The Admiral now abandoned her and rowed to the "Nina" with his men. Communicating with the cacique in the morning, that chieftain sent many canoes to assist in unloading the ship, so that in a short time everything of value was saved. This assistance gave occasion for mutual confidences between the Spaniards and the natives. "They are a loving, uncovetous people," he enters in his journal. One wonders, with the later experience of his new friends, if the cacique could have said as much in return. The Admiral began to be convinced that "the Lord had permitted the shipwreck in order that he might choose this place for a settlement." The canonizers go further and say, "the shipwreck made him an engineer."

Irving, whose heedless embellishments of the story of these times may amuse the pastime reader, but hardly satisfy the student, was not blind to the misfortunes of what Columbus at the time called the divine interposition. "This shipwreck," Irving says, "shackled and limited all Columbus's future discoveries. It linked his fortunes for the remainder of his life to this island, which was doomed to be to him a source of cares and troubles, to involve him in a thousand perplexities, and to becloud his declining years with humiliation and disappointment."

Fort built.

The saving of his stores and the loss of his ship had indeed already suggested what some of his men had asked for, that they might be left there, while the Admiral returned to Spain with the tidings of the discovery, if-as the uncomfortable thought sprung up in his mind-he had not already been anticipated by the recreant commander of the "Pinta." Accordingly Columbus ordered the construction of a fort, with tower and ditch, and arrangements were soon made to provide bread and wine for more than a year, beside seed for the next planting-time. The ship's long-boat could be left; and a calker, carpenter, cooper, engineer, tailor, and surgeon could be found among his company, to be of the party who were to remain and "search for the gold mine." He says that he expected they would collect a ton of gold in the interval of his absence; "for I have before protested to your Highnesses," he adds as he makes an entry for his sovereigns to read, "that the profits shall go to making a conquest of Jerusalem."

Garrison of La Navidad.

We know the names of those who agreed to stay on the island. Navarrete discovered the list in a proclamation made in 1507 to pay what was due them to their next of kin. This list gives forty names, though some accounts of the voyage say they numbered a few less. The company included the Irishman and Englishman already mentioned.

1492. December 27.

December 30.

December 31.

On the 27th of December, Columbus got the first tidings of the "Pinta" since she deserted him; and he sent a Spaniard, with Indians to handle the canoe, to a harbor at the end of the island, where he supposed Pinzon's ship to be. Columbus was now perfecting his plans for the fort, and tried to make out if Guacanagari, the king, was not trying to conceal from him the situation of the mines. On Sunday, December 30, the Spanish and native leaders vied with each other in graciousness. The savage put his crown upon the Admiral. Columbus took off his necklace and scarlet cloak and placed them on the king. He clothed the savage's naked feet with buskins and decked the dusky hand with a silver ring. On Monday, work was resumed in preparing for their return to Spain, for, with the "Pinta" gone-for the canoe sent to find her had returned unsuccessful-and the "Nina" alone remaining, it was necessary to diminish the risk attending the enterprise.

1493. January 2.

On January 2, 1493, there was to be leave-taking of the cacique. To impart to him and to his people a dread of Spanish power, in the interests of those to be left, he made an exhibition of the force of his bombards, by sending a shot clean through the hull of the dismantled wreck. It is curious to observe how Irving, with a somewhat cheap melodramatic instinct, makes this shot tear through a beautiful grove like a bolt from heaven!

The king made some return by ordering an effigy of Columbus to be finished in gold, in ten days,-as at least so Columbus understood one of his Indians to announce the cacique's purpose.

1493. January 4.

January 6.

Having commissioned Diego de Arana as commander and Pedro Gutierrez and Roderigo de Escoveda to act as his lieutenants of the fort and its thirty-nine men, Columbus now embarked, but not before he had addressed all sorts of good advice to those he was to leave behind,-advice that did no good, if the subsequent events are clearly divined. It was not, however, till Friday, January 4, 1493, that the wind permitted him to stand out of the harbor of the Villa de Navidad, as he had named the fort and settlement from the fact of his shipwreck there on the day of the nativity. Two days later they met the "Pinta," and Pinzon, her commander, soon boarded the Admiral to explain his absence, "saying he had left against his will." The Admiral doubted such professions; but did not think it prudent to show active resentment, as Las Casas tells us. The fact apparently was that Pinzon had not found the gold he went in search of and so he had returned to meet his commander. He had been coasting the island for over twenty days, and had been seen by the natives, who made the report to the Admiral already mentioned. Some Indians whom he had taken captive were subsequently released by the Admiral, for the usual ulterior purpose. It is curious to observe how an act of kidnapping which emulated the Admiral's, if done by Pinzon, is called by the canonizers, "joining violence to rapine."


At this time Columbus records his first intelligence respecting an island, Yamaye, south of Cuba, which seems to have been Jamaica, where, as he learned, gold was to be found in grains of the size of beans, while in Espa?ola the grains were nearly the size of kernels of wheat. He was also informed of an island to the east, inhabited by women only. He also understood that the people of the continent to the south were clothed, and did not go naked like those of the islands.

Both vessels now having made a harbor, and the "Nina" beginning to leak, a day was spent in calking her seams. Columbus was not without apprehension that the two brothers, Martin Alonso Pinzon of the "Pinta," and Vicente Ja?ez Pinzon who had commanded the "Nina," might now with their adherents combine for mischief. He was accordingly all the more anxious to hasten his departure, without further following the coast of Espa?ola. Going up a river to replenish his water, he found on taking the casks on board that the crevices of the hoops had gathered fine bits of gold from the stream. This led him to count the neighboring streams, which he supposed might also contain gold.

Columbus sees mermaids.

It was not only gold which he saw. Three mermaids stood high out of the water, with not very comely faces to be sure, but similar to those of human beings; and he recalled having seen the like on the pepper coast in Guinea. The commentators suppose they may have been sea-calves indistinctly seen.

1493. January 10. The ships sail for Spain.

January 12. Caribs.

The two ships started once more on the 10th, sometimes lying to at night for fear of shoals, making and naming cape after cape. On the 12th, entering a harbor, Columbus discovered an Indian, whom he took for a Carib, as he had learned to call the cannibals which he so often heard of. His own Indians did not wholly understand this strange savage. When they sent him ashore the Spaniards found fifty-five Indians armed with bows and wooden swords. They were prevailed upon at first to hold communication; but soon showed a less friendly spirit, and Columbus for the first time records a fight, in which several of the natives were wounded. An island to the eastward was now supposed to be the Carib region, and he desired to capture some of its natives. Navarrete supposes that Porto Rico is here referred to. He also observed, as his vessels went easterly, that he was encountering some of the same sort of seaweed which he had sailed through when steering west, and it occurred to him that perhaps these islands stretched easterly, so as really to be not far distant from the Canaries. It may be observed that this propinquity of the new islands to those of the Atlantic, longer known, was not wholly eradicated from the maps till well into the earlier years of the sixteenth century.

Caribs and Amazons.

They had secured some additional Indians near where they had had their fight, and one of them now directed Columbus towards the island of the Caribs. The leaks of the vessels increasing and his crews desponding, Columbus soon thought it more prudent to shift his course for Spain direct, supposing at the same time that it would take him near Matinino, where the tribe of women lived. He had gotten the story somehow, very likely by a credulous adaptation of Marco Polo, that the Caribs visited this island once a year and reclaimed the male offspring, leaving the female young to keep up the tribe.

In following the Admiral along these coasts of Cuba and Espa?ola, no attempt has here been made to identify all his bays and rivers. Navarrete and the other commentators have done so, but not always with agreement.

1493. January 16.

On the 16th, they had their last look at a distant cape of Espa?ola, and were then in the broad ocean, with seaweed and tunnies and pelicans to break its monotony. The "Pinta," having an unsound mast, lagged behind, and so the "Nina" had to slacken sail.

Homeward voyage.

Columbus now followed a course which for a long time, owing to defects in the methods of ascertaining longitude, was the mariner's readiest recourse to reach his port. This was to run up his latitudes to that of his destination, and then follow the parallel till he sighted a familiar landmark.

1493. February 10.

February 13.

A gale.

By February 10, when they began to compare reckonings, Columbus placed his position in the latitude of Flores, while the others thought they were on a more southern course, and a hundred and fifty leagues nearer Spain. By the 12th it was apparent that a gale was coming on. The next day, February 13, the storm increased. During the following night both vessels took in all sail and scudded before the wind. They lost sight of each other's lights, and never joined company. The "Pinta" with her weak mast was blown away to the north. The Admiral's ship could bear the gale better, but as his ballast was insufficient, he had to fill his water casks with sea-water. Sensible of their peril, his crew made vows, to be kept if they were saved. They drew lots to determine who should carry a wax taper of five pounds to St. Mary of Guadalupe, and the penance fell to the Admiral. A sailor by another lot was doomed to make a pilgrimage to St. Mary of Lorette in the papal territory. A third lot was drawn for a night watch at St. Clara de Mogues, and it fell upon Columbus. Then they all vowed to pay their devotions at the nearest church of Our Lady if only they got ashore alive.

A narrative of his voyage thrown overboard.

There was one thought which more than another troubled Columbus at this moment, and this was that in case his ship foundered, the world might never know of his success, for he was apprehensive that the "Pinta" had already foundered. Not to alarm the crew, he kept from them the fact that a cask which they had seen him throw overboard contained an account of his voyage, written on parchment, rolled in a waxed cloth. He trusted to the chance of some one finding it. He placed a similar cask on the poop, to be washed off in case the ship went down. He does not mention this in the journal.

1493. January 15.

January 16. Land seen.

At the Azores.

1493. February 18.

After sunset on the 15th there were signs of clearing in the west, and the waves began to fall. The next morning at sunrise there was land ahead. Now came the test of their reckoning. Some thought it the rock of Cintra near Lisbon; others said Madeira; Columbus decided they were near the Azores. The land was soon made out to be an island; but a head wind thwarted them. Other land was next seen astern. While they were saying their Salve in the evening, some of the crew discerned a light to leeward, which might have been on the island first seen. Then later they saw another island, but night and the clouds obscured it too much to be recognized. The journal is blank for the 17th of February, except that under the next day, the 18th, Columbus records that after sunset of the 17th they sailed round an island to find an anchorage; but being unsuccessful in the search they beat out to sea again. In the morning of the 18th they stood in, discovered an anchorage, sent a boat ashore, and found it was St. Mary's of the Azores. Columbus was right!

1493. February 21.

After sunset he received some provisions, which Juan de Caste?eda, the Portuguese governor of the island, had sent to him. Meanwhile three Spaniards whom Columbus sent ashore had failed to return, not a little to his disturbance, for he was aware that there might be among the Portuguese some jealousy of his success. To fulfill one of the vows made during the gale, he now sent one half his crew ashore in penitential garments to a hermitage near the shore, intending on their return to go himself with the other half. The record then reads: "The men being at their devotion, they were attacked by Caste?eda with horse and foot, and made prisoners." Not being able to see the hermitage from his anchorage, and not suspecting this event, but still anxious, he made sail and proceeded till he got a view of the spot. Now he saw the horsemen, and how presently they dismounted, and with arms in their hands, entering a boat, approached the ship. Then followed a parley, in which Columbus thought he discovered a purpose of the Portuguese to capture him, and they on their part discovered it to be not quite safe to board the Admiral. To enforce his dignity and authority as a representative of the sovereigns of Castile, he held up to the boats his commission with its royal insignia; and reminded them that his instructions had been to treat all Portuguese ships with respect, since a spirit of amity existed between the two Crowns. It behooved the Portuguese, as he told them, to be wary lest by any hostile act they brought upon themselves the indignation of those higher in authority. The lofty bearing of Caste?eda continuing, Columbus began to fear that hostilities might possibly have broken out between Spain and Portugal. So the interview ended with little satisfaction to either, and the Admiral returned to his old anchorage. The next day, to work off the lee shore, they sailed for St. Michael's, and the weather continuing stormy he found himself crippled in having but three experienced seamen among the crew which remained to him. So not seeing St. Michael's they again bore away, on Thursday the 21st, for St. Mary's, and again reached their former anchorage.

The storms of these latter days here induced Columbus in his journal to recall how placid the sea had been among those other new-found islands, and how likely it was the terrestrial] paradise was in that region, as theologians and learned philosophers had supposed. From these thoughts he was aroused by a boat from shore with a notary on board, and Columbus, after completing his entertainment of the visitors, was asked to show his royal commission. He records his belief that this was done to give the Portuguese an opportunity of retreating from their belligerent attitude. At all events it had that effect, and the Spaniards who had been restrained were at once released. It is surmised that the conduct of Caste?eda was in conformity with instructions from Lisbon, to detain Columbus should he find his way to any dependency of the Portuguese crown.

1493. February 24.

February 25.

Rock of Cintra seen.

In the Tagus.

Sends letter to the king of Portugal.

On Sunday, the 24th, the ship again put out to sea; on Wednesday, they encountered another gale; and on the following Sunday, they were again in such peril that they made new vows. At daylight the next day, some land which they had seen in the night, not without gloomy apprehension of being driven upon it, proved to be the rock of Cintra. The mouth of the Tagus was before them, and the people of the adjacent town, observing the peril of the strange ship, offered prayers for its safety. The entrance of the river was safely made and the multitude welcomed them. Up the Tagus they went to Rastelo, and anchored at about three o'clock in the afternoon. Here Columbus learned that the wintry roughness which he had recently experienced was but a part of the general severity of the season. From this place he dispatched a messenger to Spain to convey the news of his arrival to his sovereigns, and at the same time he sent a letter to the king of Portugal, then sojourning nine leagues away. He explained in it how he had asked the hospitality of a Portuguese port, because the Spanish sovereigns had directed him to do so, if he needed supplies. He further informed the king that he had come from the "Indies," which he had reached by sailing west. He hoped he would be allowed to bring his caravel to Lisbon, to be more secure; for rumors of a lading of gold might incite reckless persons, in so lonely a place as he then lay, to deeds of violence.

Name of India.

The Historie says that Columbus had determined beforehand to call whatever land he should discover, India, because he thought India was a name to suggest riches, and to invite encouragement for his project.

While this letter to the Portuguese king was in transit, the attempt was made by certain officers of the Portuguese navy in the port of Rastelo to induce Columbus to leave his ship and give an account of himself; but he would make no compromise of the dignity of a Castilian admiral. When his resentment was known and his commission was shown, the Portuguese officers changed their policy to one of courtesy.

The next day, and on the one following, the news of his arrival being spread about, a vast multitude came in boats from all parts to see him and his Indians.

1493. March 8.

Columbus visits the king.

On the third day, a royal messenger brought an invitation from the king to come and visit the court, which Columbus, not without apprehension, accepted. The king's steward had been sent to accompany him and provide for his entertainment on the way. On the night of the following day, he reached Val do Paraiso, where the king was. This spot was nine leagues from Lisbon, and it was supposed that his reception was not held in that city because a pest was raging there. A royal greeting was given to him. The king affected to believe that the voyage of Columbus was made to regions which the Portuguese had been allowed to occupy by a convention agreed upon with Spain in 1479. The Admiral undeceived him, and showed the king that his ships had not been near Guinea.

We have another account of this interview at Val do Paraiso, in the pages of the Portuguese historian, Barros, tinged, doubtless, with something of pique and prejudice, because the profit of the voyage had not been for the benefit of Portugal. That historian charges Columbus with extravagance, and even insolence, in his language to the king. He says that Columbus chided the monarch for the faithlessness that had lost him such an empire. He is represented as launching these rebukes so vehemently that the attending nobles were provoked to a degree which prompted whispers of assassination. That Columbus found his first harbor in the Tagus has given other of the older Portuguese writers, like Faria y Sousa, in his Europa Portuguesa, and Vasconcelles and Resende, in their lives of Jo?o II., occasion to represent that his entering it was not so much induced by stress of weather as to seek a triumph over the Portuguese king in the first flush of the news. It is also said that the resolution was formed by the king to avail himself of the knowledge of two Portuguese who were found among Columbus's men. With their aid he proposed to send an armed expedition to take possession of the new-found regions before Columbus could fit out a fleet for a second voyage. Francisco de Almeida was even selected, according to the report, to command this force. We hear, however, nothing more of it, and the Bull of Demarcation put an end to all such rivalries.

If, on the contrary, we may believe Columbus himself, in a letter which he subsequently wrote, he did not escape being suspected in Spain of having thus put himself in the power of the Portuguese in order to surrender the Indies to them.

1493. March 11. Columbus leaves the court.

Sails from the Tagus.

Reaches Palos, March 15, 1493.

Spending Sunday at court, Columbus departed on Monday, March 11, having first dispatched messages to the King and Queen of Spain. An escort of knights was provided for him, and taking the monastery of Villafranca on his way, he kissed the hand of the Portuguese queen, who was there lodging, and journeying on, arrived at his caravel on Tuesday night. The next day he put to sea, and on Thursday morning was off Cape St. Vincent. The next morning they were off the island of Saltes, and crossing bar with the flood, he anchored on March 15, 1493, not far from noon, where he had unmoored the "Santa Maria" over seven months before.

"I made the passage thither in seventy-one days," he says in his published letter; "and back in forty-eight, during thirteen of which number I was driven about by storms."

The "Pinta's" experiences.

The "Pinta," which had parted company with the Admiral on the 14th of February, had been driven by the gale into Bayona, a port of Gallicia, in the northwest corner of Spain, whence Pinzon, its commander, had dispatched a messenger to give information of his arrival and of his intended visit to the Court. A royal order peremptorily stayed, however, his projected visit, and left the first announcement of the news to be proclaimed by Columbus himself. This is the story which later writers have borrowed from the Historie.

She reaches Palos.

Death of Pinzon.

Oviedo tells us that the "Pinta" put to sea again from the Gallician harbor, and entered the port of Palos on the same day with Columbus, but her commander, fearing arrest or other unpleasantness, kept himself concealed till Columbus had started for Barcelona. Not many days later Pinzon died in his own house in Palos. Las Casas would have us believe that his death arose from mortification at the displeasure of his sovereigns; but Harrisse points out that when Charles V. bestowed a coat-armor on the family, he recognized his merit as the discoverer of Espa?ola. There is little trustworthy information on the matter, and Mu?oz, whose lack of knowledge prompts inferences on his part, represents that it was Pinzon's request to explain his desertion of Columbus, which was neglected by the Court, and impressed him with the royal displeasure.

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