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Christopher Columbus and How He Received and Imparted the Spirit of Discovery By Justin Winsor Characters: 39778

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Peter Martyr tells us of the common ignorance and dread pervading the ordinary ranks of society, before and during the absence of Columbus, in respect to all that part of the earth's circumference which the sun looked upon beyond Gades, till it again cast its rays upon the Golden Chersonesus. During this absence from the known and habitable regions of the globe, that orb was thought to sweep over the ominous and foreboding Sea of Darkness. No one could tell how wide that sea was. The learned disagreed in their estimates. A conception, far under the actual condition, had played no small part in making the voyage of Columbus possible. Men possessed legends of its mysteries. Fables of its many islands were repeated; but no one then living was credibly thought to have tested its glooms except by sailing a little beyond the outermost of the Azores.

Palos aroused at the return of Columbus.

It calls for no stretch of the imagination to picture the public sentiment in little Palos during the months of anxiety which many households had endured since that August morning, when in its dim light Columbus, the Pinzons, and all their companions had been wafted gently out to sea by the current and the breeze. The winter had been unusually savage and weird. The navigators to the Atlantic islands had reported rough passages, and the ocean had broken wildly for long intervals along the rocks and sands of the peninsular shores. It is a natural movement of the mind to wrap the absent in the gloom of the present hour; and while Columbus had been passing along the gentle waters of the new archipelago, his actual experiences had been in strange contrast to the turmoil of the sea as it washed the European shores. He had indeed suffered on his return voyage the full tumultuousness of the elements, and we can hardly fail to recognize the disquiet of mind and falling of heart which those savage gales must have given to the kin and friends of the untraceable wanderers.

The stories, then, which we have of the thanksgiving and jubilation of the people of Palos, when the "Nina" was descried passing the bar of the river, fall readily among the accepted truths of history. We can imagine how despondency vanished amid the acclaims of exultation; how multitudes hung upon the words of strange revelations; how the gaping populace wondered at the bedecked Indians; and how throngs of people opened a way that Columbus might lead the votive procession to the church. The canonizers of course read between the lines of the records that it was to the Church of Rabida that Columbus with his men now betook themselves. It matters little.

There was much to mar the delight of some in the households. Comforting reports must be told of those who were left at La Navidad. No one had died, unless the gale had submerged the "Pinta" and her crew. She had not been seen since the "Nina" parted with her in the gale.

The story of her rescue has already been told. She entered the river before the rejoicings of the day were over, and relieved the remaining anxiety.

The Court at Barcelona.

The Spanish Court was known to be at this time at Barcelona, the Catalan port on the Mediterranean. Columbus's first impulse was to proceed thither in his caravel; but his recent hazards made him prudent, and so dispatching a messenger to the Court, he proceeded to Seville to wait their majesties' commands. Of the native prisoners which he had brought away, one had died at sea, three were too sick to follow him, and were left at Palos, while six accompanied him on his journey.

1493. March 30. Columbus summoned to Court.

The messenger with such startling news had sped quickly; and Columbus did not wait long for a response to his letter. The document (March 30) showed that the event had made a deep impression on the Court. The new domain of the west dwarfed for a while the conquests from the Moors. There was great eagerness to complete the title, and gather its wealth. Columbus was accordingly instructed to set in motion at once measures for a new expedition, and then to appear at Court and explain to the monarchs what action on their part was needful. The demand was promptly answered; and having organized the necessary arrangements in Seville for the preparation of a fleet, he departed for Barcelona to make homage to his sovereigns. His Indians accompanied him. Porters bore his various wonders from the new islands. His story had preceded him, and town after town vied with each other in welcoming him, and passing him on to new amazements and honors.

1493. April. In Barcelona.

Received by the sovereigns.

By the middle of April he approached Barcelona, and was met by throngs of people, who conducted him into the city. His Indians, arrayed in effective if not accustomed ornament of gold, led the line. Bearers of all the marvels of the Indies followed, with their forty parrots and other strange birds of liveliest plumage, with the skins of unknown animals, with priceless plants that would now supplant the eastern spices, and with the precious ornaments of the dusky kings and princes whom he had met. Next, on horseback, came Columbus himself, conspicuous amid the mounted chivalry of Spain. Thus the procession marched on, through crowded streets, amid the shouts of lookers-on, to the alcazar of the Moorish kings in the Calle Ancha, at this time the residence of the Bishop of Urgil, where it is supposed Ferdinand and Isabella had caused their thrones to be set up, with a canopy of brocaded gold drooping about them. Here the monarchs awaited the coming of Columbus.

King Ferdinand.

Queen Isabella.

Ferdinand, as the accounts picture him, was a man whose moderate stature was helped by his erectness and robes to a decided dignity of carriage. His expression in the ruddy glow of his complexion, clearness of eye, and loftiness of brow, grew gracious in any pleasurable excitement. The Queen was a very suitable companion, grave and graceful in her demeanor. Her blue eyes and auburn tresses comported with her outwardly benign air, and one looked sharply to see anything of her firmness and courage in the prevailing sweetness of her manner. The heir apparent, Prince Juan, was seated by their side. The dignitaries of the Court were grouped about.

Columbus before the Court.

Las Casas tells us how commanding Columbus looked when he entered the room, surrounded by a brilliant company of cavaliers. When he approached the royal dais, both monarchs rose to receive him standing; and when he stooped to kiss their hands, they gently and graciously lifted him, and made him sit as they did. They then asked to be told of what he had seen.

As Columbus proceeded in his narrative, he pointed out the visible objects of his speech,-the Indians, the birds, the skins, the barbaric ornaments, and the stores of gold. We are told of the prayer of the sovereigns at the close, in which all joined; and of the chanted Te Deum from the choir of the royal chapel, which bore the thoughts of every one, says the narrator, on the wings of melody to celestial delights. This ceremony ended, Columbus was conducted like a royal guest to the lodgings which had been provided for him.

It has been a question if the details of this reception, which are put by Irving in imaginative fullness, and are commonly told on such a thread of incidents as have been related, are warranted by the scant accounts which are furnished us in the Historie, in Las Casas, and in Peter Martyr, particularly since the incident does not seem to have made enough of an impression at the time to have been noticed at all in the Dietaria of the city, a record of events embodying those of far inferior interest as we would now value them. Mr. George Sumner carefully scanned this record many years ago, and could find not the slightest reference to the festivities. He fancies that the incidents in the mind of the recorder may have lost their significance through an Aragonese jealousy of the supremacy of Leon and Castile.

It is certainly true that in Peter Martyr, the contemporary observer of this supposed pageantry, there is nothing to warrant the exuberance of later writers. Martyr simply says that Columbus was allowed to sit in the sovereigns' presence.

Whatever the fact as to details, it seems quite evident that this season at Barcelona made the only unalloyed days of happiness, freed of anxiety, which Columbus ever experienced. He was observed of all, and everybody was complacent to him. His will was apparently law to King and subject. Las Casas tells us that he passed among the admiring throngs with his face wreathed with smiles of content. An equal complacency of delight and expectation settled upon all with whom he talked of the wonders of the land which he had found. They dreamed as he did of entering into golden cities with their hundred bridges, that might cause new exultations, to which the present were as nothing. It was a fatal lure to the proud Spanish nature, and no one was doomed to expiate the folly of the delusion more poignantly than Columbus himself.

Spread of the news.

Now that India had been found by the west, as was believed, and Barcelona was very likely palpitating with the thought, the news spread in every direction. What were the discoveries of the Ph?nicians to this? What questions of ethnology, language, species, migrations, phenomena of all sorts, in man and in the natural world, were pressing upon the mind, as the results were considered? Were not these parrots which Columbus had exhibited such as Pliny tells us are in Asia?

The great event had fallen in the midst of geographical development, and was understood at last. Marco Polo and the others had told their marvels of the east. The navigators of Prince Henry had found new wonders on the sea. Regiomontanus, Behaim, and Toscanelli had not communed in vain with cosmographical problems. Even errors had been stepping-stones; as when the belief in the easterly over-extension of Asia had pictured it near enough in the west to convince men that the hazard of the Sea of Darkness was not so great after all.

Peter Martyr records the event.

Spain was then the centre of much activity of mind. "I am here," records Peter Martyr, "at the source of this welcome intelligence from the new found lands, and as the historian of such events, I may hope to go down to posterity as their recorder." We must remember this profession when we try to account for his meagre record of the reception at Barcelona.

That part of the letter of Peter Martyr, dated at Barcelona, on the ides of May, 1493, which conveyed to his correspondent the first tidings of Columbus's return, is in these words, as translated by Harrisse: "A certain Christopher Colonus, a Ligurian, returned from the antipodes. He had obtained for that purpose three ships from my sovereigns, with much difficulty, because the ideas which he expressed were considered extravagant. He came back and brought specimens of many precious things, especially gold, which those regions naturally produce." Martyr also tells us that when Pomponius Laetus got such news, he could scarcely refrain "from tears of joy at so unlooked-for an event." "What more delicious food for an ingenious mind!" said Martyr to him in return. "To talk with people who have seen all this is elevating to the mind." The confidence of Martyr, however, in the belief of Columbus that the true Indies had been found was not marked. He speaks of the islands as adjacent to, and not themselves, the East.

The news in England.

Sebastian Cabot remembered the time when these marvelous tidings reached the court of Henry VII. in London, and he tells us that it was accounted a "thing more divine than human."

Columbus's first letter.

A letter which Columbus had written and early dispatched to Barcelona, nearly in duplicate, to the treasurers of the two crowns was promptly translated into Latin, and was sent to Italy to be issued in numerous editions, to be copied in turn by the Paris and Antwerp printers, and a little more sluggishly by those of Germany.

Influence of the event.

There is, however, singularly little commenting on these events that passed into print and has come down to us; and we may well doubt if the effect on the public mind, beyond certain learned circles, was at all commensurate with what we may now imagine the recognition of so important an event ought to have been. Nordenski?ld, studying the cartography and literature of the early discoveries in America in his Facsimile Atlas, is forced to the conclusion that "scarcely any discovery of importance was ever received with so much indifference, even in circles where sufficient genius and statesmanship ought to have prevailed to appreciate the changes they foreshadowed in the development of the economical and political conditions of mankind."

1493. June 19. Carjaval's oration.

It happened on June 19, 1493, but a few weeks after the Pope had made his first public recognition of the discovery, that the Spanish ambassador at the Papal Court, Bernardin de Carjaval, referred in an oration to "the unknown lands, lately found, lying towards the Indies;" and at about the same time there was but a mere reference to the event in the Los Tratados of Doctor Alonso Ortis, published at Seville.

Columbus in favor.

While this strange bruit was thus spreading more or less, we get some glimpses of the personal life of Columbus during these days of his sojourn in Barcelona. We hear of him riding through the streets on horseback, on one side of the King, with Prince Juan on the other.

Reward for first seeing land.

We find record of his being awarded the pension of thirty crowns, as the first discoverer of land, by virtue of the mysterious light, and Irving thinks that we may condone this theft from the brave sailor who unquestionably saw land the first, by remembering that "Columbus's whole ambition was involved." It seems to others that his whole character was involved.

Story of the egg.

We find him a guest at a banquet given by Cardinal Mendoza, and the well-known story of his making an egg stand upright, by chipping one end of it, is associated with this merriment of the table. An impertinent question of a shallow courtier had induced Columbus to show a table full of guests that it was easy enough to do anything when the way was pointed out. The story, except as belonging to a traditional stock of anecdotes, dating far back of Columbus, always ready for an application, has no authority earlier than Benzoni, and loses its point in the destruction of the end on which the aim was to make it stand. This has been so palpable to some of the repeaters of the story that they have supposed that the feat was accomplished, not by cracking the end of the egg, but by using a quick motion which broke the sack which holds the yolk, so that that weightier substance settled at one end, and balanced the egg in an upright position.

So passed the time with the new-made hero, in drinking, as Irving expresses it, "the honeyed draught of popularity before enmity and detraction had time to drug it with bitterness."

1493. May 20. Receives a coat of arms.

We find the sovereigns bestowing upon him, on the 20th of May, a coat of arms, which shows a castle and a lion in the upper quarters, and in those below, a group of golden islands in a sea of waves, on the one hand, and the arms to which his family had been entitled, on the other. Humboldt speaks of this archipelago as the first map of America, but he apparently knew only Oviedo's description of the arms, for the latter places the islands in a gulf formed by a mainland, and in this fashion they are grouped in a blazon of the arms which is preserved at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Paris-a duplicate being at Genoa. Harrisse says that this design is the original water-color, made under Columbus's eye in 1502. In this picture,-which is the earliest blazonry which has come down to us,-the other lower quarter has the five golden anchors on a blue ground, which it is claimed was adjudged to Columbus as the distinctive badge of an Admiral of Spain. The personal arms are relegated to a minor overlying shield at the lower point of the escutcheon. Oviedo also says that trees and other objects should be figured on the mainland.


[From Oviedo's Cosmica.]

The lion and castle of the original grant were simply reminders of the arms of Leon and Castile; but Columbus seems, of his own motion, so far as Harrisse can discover, to have changed the blazonry of those objects in the drawing of 1502 to agree with those of the royal arms. It was by the same arrogant license, apparently, that he introduced later the continental shore of the archipelago; and Harrisse can find no record that the anchors were ever by any authority added to his blazon, nor that the professed family arms, borne in connection, had any warrant whatever.

The earliest engraved copy of the arms is in the Historia General of Oviedo in 1535, where a profile helmet supports a crest made of a globe topped by a cross. In Oviedo's Coronica of 1547, the helmet is shown in front view. There seems to have been some wide discrepancies in the heraldic excursions of these early writers. Las Casas, for instance, puts the golden lion in a silver field,-when heraldry abhors a conjunction of metals, as much as nature abhors a vacuum. The discussion of the family arms which were added by Columbus to the escutcheon made a significant part of the arguments in the suit, many years later, of Baldassare (Balthazar) Colombo to possess the Admiral's dignities; and as Harrisse points out, the emblem of those Italian Colombos of any pretensions to nobility was invariably a dove of some kind,-a device quite distinct from those designated by Columbus. This assumption of family arms by Columbus is held by Harrisse to be simply a concession to the prejudices of his period, and to the exigencies of his new position.

The arms have been changed under the dukes of Veragua to show silver-capped waves in the sea, while a globe surmounted by a cross is placed in the midst of a gulf containing only five islands.

His alleged motto.

There is another later accompaniment of the arms, of which the origin has escaped all search. It is far more familiar than the escutcheon, on which it plays the part of a motto. It sometimes represents that Columbus found for the allied crowns a new world, and at other times that he gave one to them.

Por Castilla é por Leon

Nuevo Mundo halló Colon.

A Castilla, y a Leon

Nuevo Mundo dió Colon.

Oviedo is the earliest to mention this distich in 1535. It is given in the Historie, not as a motto of the arms, but as an inscription placed by the king on the tomb of Columbus some years after his death. If this is true, it does away with the claims of Gomara that Columbus himself added it to his arms.

* * *

Diplomacy of the Bull of Demarcation.

But diplomacy had its part to play in these events. As the Christian world at that time recognized the rights of the Holy Father to confirm any trespass on the possessions of the heathen, there was a prompt effort on the part of Ferdinand to bring the matter to the attention of the Pope. As early as 1438, bulls of Martin V. and Eugene IV. had permitted the Spaniards to sail west and the Portuguese south; and a confirmation of the same had been made by Pope Nicholas the Fifth. In 1479, the rival crowns of Portugal and Spain had agreed to respect their mutual rights under these papal decisions.

The messengers whom Ferdinand sent to Rome were instructed to intimate that the actual possession which had been made in their behalf of these new regions did not require papal sanction, as

they had met there no Christian occupants; but that as dutiful children of the church it would be grateful to receive such a benediction on their energies for the faith as a confirmatory bull would imply. Ferdinand had too much of wiliness in his own nature, and the practice of it was too much a part of the epoch, wholly to trust a man so notoriously perverse and obstinate as Alexander VI. was. Though Mu?oz calls Alexander the friend of Ferdinand, and though the Pope was by birth an Aragonese, experience had shown that there was no certainty of his support in a matter affecting the interest of Spain.

1493. May 3. The Bull issued.

A folio printed leaf in Gothic characters, of which the single copy sold in London in 1854 is said to be the only one known to bibliographers, made public to the world the famous Bull of Demarcation of Alexander VI., bearing date May 3, 1493. If one would believe Hakluyt, the Pope had been induced to do this act by his own option, rather than at the intercession of the Spanish monarchs. Under it, and a second bull of the day following, Spain was entitled to possess, "on condition of planting the Catholic faith," all lands not already occupied by Christian powers, west of a meridian drawn one hundred leagues west of the Azores and Cape de Verde Islands, evidently on the supposition that these two groups were in the same longitude, the fact being that the most westerly of the southern, and the most easterly of the northern, group possessed nearly the same meridian. Though Portugal was not mentioned in describing this line, it was understood that there was reserved to her the same privilege easterly.


[A bust in the Berlin Museum.]

There was not as yet any consideration given to the division which this great circle meridian was likely to make on the other side of the globe, where Portugal was yet to be most interested. The Cape of Good Hope had not then been doubled, and the present effect of the division was to confine the Portuguese to an exploration of the western African coast and to adjacent islands. It will be observed that in the placing of this line the magnetic phenomena which Columbus had observed on his recent voyage were not forgotten, if the coincidence can be so interpreted. Humboldt suggests that it can.

Line of no variation.

To make a physical limit serve a political one was an obvious recourse at a time when the line of no variation was thought to be unique and of a true north and south direction; but within a century the observers found three other lines, as Acosta tells us in his Historia Natural de las Indias, in 1589; and there proved to be a persistent migration of these lines, all little suited to terrestrial demarcations. Roselly de Lorgues and the canonizers, however, having given to Columbus the planning of the line in his cell at Rabida, think, with a surprising prescience on his part, and with a very convenient obliviousness on their part, that he had chosen "precisely the only point of our planet which science would choose in our day,-a mysterious demarcation made by its omnipotent Creator," in sovereign disregard, unfortunately, of the laws of his own universe!

Suspicious movements in Portugal.

Meanwhile there were movements in Portugal which Ferdinand had not failed to notice. An ambassador had come from its king, asking permission to buy certain articles of prohibited exportation for use on an African expedition which the Portuguese were fitting out. Ferdinand suspected that the true purpose of this armament was to seize the new islands, under a pretense as dishonorable as that which covered the ostensible voyage to the Cape de Verde Islands, by whose exposure Columbus had been driven into Spain. The Spanish monarch was alert enough to get quite beforehand with his royal brother. Before the ambassador of which mention has been made had come to the Spanish Court, Ferdinand had dispatched Lope de Herrera to Lisbon, armed with a conciliatory and a denunciatory letter, to use one or the other, as he might find the conditions demanded. The Portuguese historian Resende tells us that Jo?o, in order to give a wrong scent, had openly bestowed largesses on some and had secretly suborned other members of Ferdinand's cabinet, so that he did not lack for knowledge of the Spanish intentions from the latter members. He and his ambassadors were accordingly found by Ferdinand to be inexplicably prepared at every new turn of the negotiations.

In this way Jo?o had been informed of the double mission of Herrera, and could avoid the issue with him, while he sent his own ambassadors to Spain, to promise that, pending their negotiations, no vessel should sail on any voyage of discovery for sixty days. They were also to propose that instead of the papal line, one should be drawn due west from the Canaries, giving all new discoveries north to the Spaniards, and all south to the Portuguese. This new move Ferdinand turned to his own advantage, for it gave him the opportunity to enter upon a course of diplomacy which he could extend long enough to allow Columbus to get off with a new armament. He then sent a fresh embassy, with instructions to move slowly and protract the discussion, but to resort, when compelled, to a proposition for arbitration. Jo?o was foiled and he knew it. "These ambassadors," he said, "have no feet to hurry and no head to propound." The Spanish game was the best played, and the Portuguese king grew fretful under it, and intimated sometimes a purpose to proceed to violence, but he was restrained by a better wisdom. We depend mainly upon the Portuguese historians for understanding these complications, and it is to be hoped that some time the archives of the Vatican may reveal the substance of these tripartite negotiations of the papal court and the two crowns.

* * *

1493. May. Honors of Columbus confirmed.

May 28. Columbus leaves Barcelona.

June. In Seville.


Before Columbus had left Barcelona, a large gratuity had been awarded to him by his sovereigns; an order had been issued commanding free lodgings to be given to him and his followers, wherever he went, and the original stipulations as to honors and authority, made by the sovereigns at Santa Fé, had been confirmed (May 28). A royal seal was now confided to his keeping, to be set to letters patent, and to commissions that it might be found necessary to issue. It might be used even in appointing a deputy, to act in the absence of Columbus. His appointments were to hold during the royal pleasure. His own power was defined at the same time, and in particular to hold command over the entire expedition, and to conduct its future government and explorations. He left Barcelona, after leavetakings, on May 28; and his instructions, as printed by Navarrete, were signed the next day. It is not unlikely they were based on suggestions of Columbus made in a letter, without date, which has recently been printed in the Cartas de Indias (1877). Early in June, he was in Seville, and soon after he was joined by Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca, archdeacon of Seville, who, as representative of the Crown, had been made the chief director of the preparations. It is claimed by Harrisse that this priest has been painted by the biographers of Columbus much blacker than he really was, on the strength of the objurgations which the Historie bestows upon him. Las Casas calls him worldly; and he deserves the epithet if a dominating career of thirty years in controlling the affairs of the Indies is any evidence of fitness in such matters. His position placed him where he had purposes to thwart as well as projects to foster, and the record of this age of discovery is not without many proofs of selfish and dishonorable motives, which Fonseca might be called upon to repress. That his discrimination was not always clear-sighted may be expected; that he was sometimes perfidious may be true, but he was dealing mainly with those who could be perfidious also. That he abused his authority might also go without dispute; but so did Columbus and the rest. In the game of diamond-cut-diamond, it is not always just to single out a single victim for condemnation, as is done by Irving and the canonizers.

It was while at Seville, engaged in this work of preparation, that Fonseca sought to check the demands of Columbus as respects the number of his personal servitors. That these demands were immoderate, the character of Columbus, never cautious under incitement, warrants us in believing; and that the official guardian of the royal treasury should have views of his own is not to be wondered at. The story goes that the sovereigns forced Fonseca to yield, and that this was the offense of Columbus which could neither be forgotten nor forgiven by Fonseca, and for which severities were visited upon him and his heirs in the years to come. Irving is confident that Fonseca has escaped the condemnation which Spanish writers would willingly have put upon him, for fear of the ecclesiastical censors of the press.

Council for the Indies.

The measures which were now taken in accordance with the instructions given to Columbus, already referred to, to regulate the commerce of the Indies, with a custom house at Cadiz and a corresponding one in Espa?ola under the control of the Admiral, ripened in time into what was known as the Council for the Indies. It had been early determined (May 23) to control all emigration to the new regions, and no one was allowed to trade thither except under license from the monarchs, Columbus, or Fonseca.

New fleet equipped.

A royal order had put all ships and appurtenances in the ports of Andalusia at the demand of Fonseca and Columbus, for a reasonable compensation, and compelled all persons required for the service to embark in it on suitable pay. Two thirds of the ecclesiastical tithes, the sequestered property of banished Jews, and other resources were set apart to meet these expenses, and the treasurer was authorized to contract a loan, if necessary. To eke out the resources, this last was resorted to, and 5,000,000 maravedis were borrowed from the Duke of Medina-Sidonia. All the transactions relating to the procuring and dispensing of moneys had been confided to a treasurer, Francisco Pinelo; with the aid of an accountant, Juan de Soria. Everything was hurriedly gathered for the armament, for it was of the utmost importance that the preparations should move faster than the watching diplomacy.

Artillery which had been in use on shipboard for more than a century and a half was speedily amassed. The arquebuse, however, had not altogether been supplanted by the matchlock, and was yet preferred in some hands for its lightness. Military stores which had been left over from the Moorish war and were now housed in the Alhambra, at this time converted into an arsenal, were opportunely drawn upon.

Beradi and Vespucius.

The labor of an intermediary in much of this preparation fell upon Juonato Beradi, a Florentine merchant then settled in Seville, and it is interesting to know that Americus Vespucius, then a mature man of two and forty, was engaged under Beradi in this work of preparation.

1493. June 20.

From the fact that certain horsemen and agriculturists were ordered to be in Seville on June 20, and to hold themselves in readiness to embark, it may be inferred that the sailing of some portion of the fleet may at that time have been expected at a date not much later.


[From Jost Amman's Beschreibung, 1586.]

Isabella's interest.

Indians baptized.

The interest of Isabella in the new expedition was almost wholly on its emotional and intellectual side. She had been greatly engrossed with the spiritual welfare of the Indians whom Columbus had taken to Barcelona. Their baptism had taken place with great state and ceremony, the King, Queen, and Prince Juan officiating as sponsors. It was intended that they should re?mbark with the new expedition. Prince Juan, however, picked out one of these Indians for his personal service, and when the fellow died, two years later, it was a source of gratification, as Herrera tells us, that at last one of his race had entered the gates of heaven! Only four of the six ever reached their native country. We know nothing of the fate of those left sick at Palos.

Father Buil.

The Pope, to further all methods for the extension of the faith, had commissioned (June 24) a Benedictine monk, Bernardo Buil (Boyle), of Catalonia, to be his apostolic vicar in the new world, and this priest was to be accompanied by eleven brothers of the order. The Queen intrusted to them the sacred vessels and vestments from her own altar. The instructions which Columbus received were to deal lovingly with the poor natives. We shall see how faithful he was to the behest.

Isabella's musings were not, however, all so piously confined. She wrote to Columbus from Segovia in August, requiring him to make provisions for bringing back to Spain specimens of the peculiar birds of the new regions, as indications of untried climates and seasons.

Astronomy and navigation.

Again, in writing to Columbus, September 5, she urged him not to rely wholly on his own great knowledge, but to take such a skillful astronomer on his voyage as Fray Antonio de Marchena,-the same whom Columbus later spoke of as being one of the two persons who had never made him a laughing-stock. Mu?oz says the office of astronomer was not filled.

Dealing with the question of longitude was a matter in which there was at this time little insight, and no general agreement. Columbus, as we have seen, suspected the variation of the needle might afford the basis of a system; but he grew to apprehend, as he tells us in the narrative of his fourth voyage, that the astronomical method was the only infallible one, but whether his preference was for the opposition of planets, the occultations of stars, the changes in the moon's declination, or the comparisons of Jupiter's altitude with the lunar position,-all of which were in some form in vogue,-does not appear. The method by conveyance of time, so well known now in the use of chronometers, seems to have later been suggested by Alonso de Santa Cruz,-too late for the recognition of Columbus; but the instrumentality of water-clocks, sand-clocks, and other crude devices, like the timing of burning wicks, was too uncertain to obtain even transient sanction.


The astrolabe, for all the improvements of Behaim, was still an awkward instrument for ascertaining latitude, especially on a rolling or pitching ship, and we know that Vasco da Gama went on shore at the Cape de Verde Islands to take observations when the motion of the sea balked him on shipboard.


[From Jost Amman's Beschreibung, Frankfort.]

Cross-staff and Jackstaff.

Whether the cross-staff or Jackstaff, a seaboard implement somewhat more convenient than the astrolabe, was known to Columbus is not very clear,-probably it was not; but the navigators that soon followed him found it more manageable on rolling ships than the older instruments. It was simply a stick, along which, after one end of it was placed at the eye, a scaled crossbar was pushed until its two ends touched, the lower, the horizon, and the upper, the heavenly body whose altitude was to be taken. A scale on the stick then showed, at the point where the bar was left, the degree of latitude.

Errors in latitude.

The best of such aids, however, did not conduce to great accuracy, and the early maps, in comparison with modern, show sometimes several degrees of error in scaling from the equator. An error once committed was readily copied, and different cartographical records put in service by the professional map makers came sometimes by a process of averages to show some surprising diversities, with positive errors of considerable extent. The island of Cuba, for instance, early found place in the charts seven and eight degrees too far north, with dependent islands in equally wrong positions.

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Seventeen vessels ready.

As the preparations went on, a fleet of seventeen vessels, large and small, three of which were called transports, had, according to the best estimates, finally been put in readiness. Scillacio tells us that some of the smallest had been constructed of light draft, especially for exploring service. Horses and domestic animals of all kinds were at last gathered on board. Every kind of seed and agricultural implement, stores of commodities for barter with the Indians, and all the appurtenances of active life were accumulated. Mu?oz remarks that it is evident that sugar cane, rice, and vines had not been discovered or noted by Columbus on his first voyage, or we would not have found them among the commodities provided for the second.


Their companies.

In making up the company of the adventurers, there was little need of active measures to induce recruits. Many an Hidalgo and cavalier took service at their own cost. Galvano, who must have received the reports by tradition, says that such was the "desire of travel that the men were ready to leap into the sea to swim, if it had been possible, into these new found parts." Traffic, adventure, luxury, feats of arms,-all were inducements that lured one individual or another. Some there were to make names for themselves in their new fields. Such was Alonso de Ojeda, a daring youth, expert in all activities, who had served his ambition in the Moorish wars, and had been particularly favored by the Duke of Medina-Celi, the friend of Columbus.

Las Casas, Ponce de Leon, La Cosa, etc.

We find others whose names we shall again encounter. The younger brother of Columbus, Diego Colon, had come to Spain, attracted by the success of Christopher. The father and uncle of Las Casas, from whose conversations with the Admiral that historian could profit in the future, Juan Ponce de Leon, the later discoverer of Florida, Juan de la Cosa, whose map is the first we have of the New World, and Dr. Chanca, a physician of Seville, who was pensioned by the Crown, and to whom we owe one of the narratives of the voyage, were also of the company.

1,500 souls embark.

The thousand persons to which the expedition had at first been limited became, under the pressure of eager cavaliers, nearer 1,200, and this number was eventually increased by stowaways and other hangers-on, till the number embarked was not much short of 1,500. This is Oviedo's statement. Bernaldez and Peter Martyr make the number 1,200, or thereabouts. Perhaps these were the ordinary hands, and the 300 more were officers and the like, for the statements do not render it certain how the enumerations are made. So far as we know their names, but a single companion of Columbus in his first voyage was now with him. The twenty horsemen, already mentioned are supposed to be the only mounted soldiers that embarked. Columbus says, in a letter addressed to their majesties, that "the number of colonists who desire to go thither amounts to two thousand," which would indicate that a large number were denied. The letter is undated, and may not be of a date near the sailing; if it is, it probably indicates to some degree the number of persons who were denied embarkation. As the day approached for the departure there was some uneasiness over a report of a Portuguese caravel sailing westward from Madeira, and it was proposed to send some of the fleet in advance to overtake the vessel; but after some diplomatic fence between Ferdinand and Jo?o, the disquiet ended, or at least nothing was done on either side.

At one time Columbus had hoped to embark on the 15th of August; but it was six weeks later before everything was ready.

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