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Christopher Columbus and How He Received and Imparted the Spirit of Discovery By Justin Winsor Characters: 46943

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1494. September 29. Columbus in Isabella.

It was the 29th of September, 1494, when the "Nina," with the senseless Admiral on board, and her frail consorts stood into the harbor of Isabella. Taken ashore, the sick man found no restorative like the presence of his brother Bartholomew, who had reached Isabella during the Admiral's absence.

Finds Bartholomew Columbus there.

Bartholomew's career in England.

Several years had elapsed since the two congenial brothers had parted. We have seen that this brother had probably been with Bartholomew Diaz when he discovered the African cape. It is supposed, from the inscriptions on it, that the map delivered by Bartholomew to Henry VII. had shown the results of Diaz's discoveries. This chart had been taken to England, when Bartholomew had gone thither, to engage the interest of Henry VII. in Columbus's behalf. There is some obscurity about the movements of Bartholomew at this time, but there is thought by some to be reason to believe that he finally got sufficient encouragement from that Tudor prince to start for Spain with offers for his brother. The Historie tells us that the propositions of Bartholomew were speedily accepted by Henry, and this statement prevails in the earlier English writers, like Hakluyt and Bacon; but Oviedo says the scheme was derided, and Geraldini says it was declined. Bartholomew reached Paris just at the time when word had come there of Columbus's return from his first voyage. His kinship to the Admiral, and his own expositions of the geographical problem then attracting so much attention, drew him within the influence of the French court, and Charles VIII. is said to have furnished him the means-as Bartholomew was then low in purse -to pursue his way to Spain.

In Spain.

He was, however, too late to see the Admiral, who had already departed from Cadiz on this second voyage. Finding that it had been arranged for his brother's sons to be pages at Court, he sought them, and in company with them he presented himself before the Spanish monarchs at Valladolid. These sovereigns were about fitting out a supply fleet for Espa?ola, and Bartholomew was put in command of an advance section of it. Sailing from Cadiz on April 30, 1494, with three caravels, he reached Isabella on St. John's Day, after the Admiral had left for his western cruise.

His character.

Created Adelantado.

If it was prudent for Columbus to bring another foreigner to his aid, he found in Bartholomew a fitter and more courageous spirit than Diego possessed. The Admiral was pretty sure now to have an active and fearless deputy, sterner, indeed, in his habitual bearing than Columbus, and with a hardihood both of spirit and body that fitted him for command. These qualities were not suited to pacify the haughty hidalgos, but they were merits which rendered him able to confront the discontent of all settlers, and gave him the temper to stand in no fear of them. He brought to the government of an ill-assorted community a good deal that the Admiral lacked. He was soberer in his imagination; not so prone to let his wishes figure the future; more practiced, if we may believe Las Casas, in the arts of composition, and able to speak and write much more directly and comprehensibly than his brother. He managed men better, and business proceeded more regularly under his control, and he contrived to save what was possible from the wreck of disorder into which his brother's unfitness for command had thrown the colony. This is the man whom Las Casas enables us to understand, through the traits of character which he depicts. Columbus was now to create this brother his representative, in certain ways, with the title of Adelantado.

It was also no small satisfaction to the Admiral, in his present weakness, to learn of the well-being of his children, and of the continued favor with which he was held at Court, little anticipating the resentment of Ferdinand that an office of the rank of Adelantado should be created by any delegated authority.

Papal Bull of Extension.

Columbus had pursued his recent explorations in some measure to forestall what he feared the Portuguese might be led to attempt in the same direction, for he had not been unaware of the disturbance in the court at Lisbon which the papal line of demarcation had created. He was glad now to learn from his brother that his own fleet had hardly got to sea from Cadiz, in September, 1493, when the Pope, by another bull on the 26th of that month, had declared that all countries of the eastern Indies which the Spaniards might find, in case they were not already in Christian hands, should be included in the grant made to Spain. This Bull of Extension, as it was called, was a new thorn in the side of Portugal, and time would reveal its effect. Alexander had resisted all importunities to recede from his position, taken in May.

* * *

Events in Espa?ola during the absence of Columbus.

Let us look now at what had happened in Espa?ola during the absence of Columbus; but in the first place, we must mark out the native division of the island with whose history Columbus's career is so associated. Just back of Isabella, and about the Vega Real, whose bewildering beauties of grove and savanna have excited the admiration of modern visitors, lay the territory tributary to a cacique named Guarionex, which was bounded south by the Cibao gold mountains. South of these interior ridges and extending to the southern shore of the island lay the region (Maguana) of the most warlike of all the native princes, Caonabo, whose wife, Anacaona, was a sister of Behechio, who governed Xaragua, as the larger part of the southern coast, westward of Caonabo's domain, including the long southwestern peninsula, was called. The northeastern part of the island (Marien) was subject to Guacanagari, the cacique neighboring to La Navidad. The eastern end (Higuay) of the island was under the domination of a chief named Cotabanana.

It will be remembered that before starting for Cuba the Admiral had equipped an expedition, which, when it arrived at St. Thomas, was to be consigned to the charge of Pedro Margarite. This officer had instructions to explore the mountains of Cibao, and map out its resources. He was not to harass the natives by impositions, but he was to make them fear his power. It was also his business to avoid reducing the colony's supplies by making the natives support this exploring force. If he could not get this support by fair means, he was to use foul means. Such instructions were hazardous enough; but Margarite was not the man to soften their application. He had even failed to grasp the spirit of the instructions which had been given by Columbus to ensnare Caonabo, which were "as thoroughly base and treacherous as could well be imagined," says Helps, and the reader can see them in Navarrete.


[From Charlevoix's L'Isle Espagnole, Amsterdam, 1733.]

This commander had spent his time mainly among the luxurious scenes of the Vega Real, despoiling its tribes of their provisions, and squandering the energies of his men in sensual diversions. The natives, who ought to have been his helpers, became irritated at his extortions and indignant at the invasion of their household happiness. The condition in the tribes which this riotous conduct had induced looked so threatening that Diego Columbus, as president of the council, wrote to Margarite in remonstrance, and reminded him of the Admiral's instructions to explore the mountains.


The haughty Spaniard, taking umbrage at what he deemed an interference with his independent command, readily lent himself to the faction inimical to Columbus. With his aid and with that of Father Boyle, a brother Catalonian, who had proved false to his office as a member of the ruling council and even finally disregardful of the royal wishes that he should remain in the colony, an uneasy party was soon banded together in Isabella. The modern French canonizers, in order to reconcile the choice by the Pope of this recusant priest, claim that his Holiness, or the king for him, confounded a Benedictine and Franciscan priest of the same name, and that the Benedictine was an unlucky changeling-perhaps even purposely-for the true monk of the Franciscans.

In the face of Diego, this cabal found little difficulty in planning to leave the island for Spain in the ships which had come with Bartholomew Columbus. Diego had no power to meet with compulsion the defiance of these mutineers, and was subjected to the sore mortification of seeing the rebels sail out of the harbor for Spain. There was left to Diego, however, some satisfaction in feeling that such dangerous ringleaders were gone; but it was not unaccompanied with anxiety to know what effect their representations would have at Court. A like anxiety now became poignant in the Admiral's mind, on his return.

The stories which Diego and Bartholomew were compelled to tell Columbus of the sequel of this violent abandonment of the colony were sad ones. The license which Pedro Margarite had permitted became more extended, when the little armed force of the colony found itself without military restraint. It soon disbanded in large part, and lawless squads of soldiers were scattered throughout the country, wherever passion or avarice could find anything to prey upon. The long-suffering Indians soon reached the limits of endurance. A few acts of vengeance encouraged them to commit others, and everywhere small parties of the Spaniards were cut off as they wandered about for food and lustful conquests. The inhabitants of villages turned upon such stragglers as abused their hospitalities. Houses where they sheltered themselves were fired. Detached posts were besieged.

Caonabo and Fort St. Thomas.

While this condition prevailed, Caonabo planned to surprise Fort St. Thomas. Ojeda, here in control with fifty men, commanded about the only remnant of the Spanish forces which acknowledged the discipline of a competent leader. The vigilant Ojeda did not fail to get intelligence of Caonabo's intentions. He made new vows to the Virgin, before an old Flemish picture of Our Lady which hung in his chamber in the fort, and which never failed to encourage him, wherever he tarried or wherever he strayed. Every man was under arms, and every eye was alert, when their commander, as great in spirit as he was diminutive in stature, marshaled his fifty men along his ramparts, as Caonabo with his horde of naked warriors advanced to surprise him. The outraged cacique was too late. No unclothed natives dared to come within range of the Spanish crossbows and arquebuses. Ojeda met every artful and stealthy approach by a sally that dropped the bravest of Caonabo's warriors.

The cacique next tried to starve the Spaniards out. His parties infested every path, and if a foraging force came out, or one of succor endeavored to get in, multitudes of the natives foiled the endeavor. Famine was impending in the fort. The procrastinations of the arts of beleaguering always help the white man behind his ramparts, when the savage is his enemy. The native force dwindled under the delays, and Caonabo at last abandoned the siege.

Caonabo's league.

The native leader now gave himself to a larger enterprise. His spies told him of the weakened condition of Isabella, and he resolved to form a league of the principal caciques of the island to attack that settlement. Wherever the Spaniards had penetrated, they had turned the friendliest feelings into hatred, and in remote parts of the island the reports of the Spanish ravages served, almost as much as the experience of them, to embitter the savage. It was no small success for Caonabo to make the other caciques believe that the supernatural character of the Spaniards would not protect them if a combined attack should be arranged. He persuaded all of them but Guacanagari, for that earliest friend of Columbus remained firm in his devotion to the Spaniards. The Admiral's confidence in him had not been misplaced. He was subjected to attacks by the other chieftains, but his constancy survived them all. In these incursions of his neighbors, his wives were killed and captured, and among them the dauntless Catalina, as is affirmed; but his zeal for his white neighbors did not abate.

Columbus and Guacanagari.

When Guacanagari heard that Columbus had returned, he repaired to Isabella, and from this faithful ally the Admiral learned of the plans which were only waiting further developments for precipitate action.

Fort Conception.

Columbus, thus forewarned, was eager to break any confederacy of the Indians before it could gather strength. He had hardly a leader disengaged whom he could send on the warpath. It was scarcely politic to place Bartholomew in any such command over the few remaining Spanish cavaliers whose spirit was so necessary to any military adventure. He sent a party, however, to relieve a small garrison near the villages of Guatiguana, a tributary chief to the great cacique Guarionex; but the party resorted to the old excesses, and came near defeating the purposes of Columbus. Guatiguana was prevailed upon, however, to come to the Spanish settlement, and Columbus, to seal his agreement of amity with him, persuaded him to let the Lucayan interpreter marry his daughter. To this diplomatic arrangement the Admiral added the more powerful argument of a fort, called La Concepcion, which he later built where it could command the Vega Real.

* * *

Torres's ships arrive.

It was not long before four ships, with Antonio Torres in command, arrived from Spain, bringing a new store of provisions, another physician, and more medicines, and, what was much needed, artificers and numerous gardeners. There was some hope now that the soil could be made to do its part in the support of the colony.

1494. June 7. Treaty of Tordesillas.

To the Admiral came a letter, dated August 16, from Ferdinand and Isabella, giving him notice that all the difficulties with Portugal had been amicably adjusted. The court of Lisbon, finding that Pope Alexander was not inclined to recede from his position, and Spain not courting any difference that would lead to hostilities, both countries had easily been brought to an agreement, which was made at Tordesillas, June 7, 1494, to move the line of demarcation so much farther as to fall 370 leagues west of the Cape de Verde Islands. Each country then bound itself to respect its granted rights under the bull thus modified. The historical study of this diplomatic controversy over the papal division of the world is much embarrassed by the lack of documentary records of the correspondence carried on by Spain, Portugal, and the Pope.

The sovereign's letter to Columbus,

This letter of August 16 must have been very gratifying to Columbus. Their Majesties told him that one of the principal reasons of their rejoicing in his discoveries was that they felt it all due to his genius and perseverance, and that the events had justified his foreknowledge and their expectations. So now, in their desire to define the new line of demarcation, and in the hope that it might be found to run through some ocean island, where a monument could be erected, they turned to him for assistance, and they expected that if he could not return to assist in these final negotiations, he would dispatch to them some one who was competent to deal with the geographical problem.

and to the colonists.

Torres had also brought a general letter of counsel to the colonists, commanding them to obey all the wishes and to bow to the authority of the Admiral. Whatever his lack of responsibility, in some measure at least, for the undoubted commercial failure of the colony, its want of a product in any degree commensurate both with expectation and outlay could not fail, as he well understood, to have a strong effect both on the spirit of the people and on the constancy of his royal patrons, who might, under the urging of Margarite and his abettors, have already swerved from his support.

1495. February 24. The fleet returns to Spain.

Carrying slaves.

Columbus and slavery.

Reasons of this kind made it imperative that the newly arrived ships should be returned without delay, and with such reassuring messages and returns as could be furnished. The fleet departed on February 24, 1495. Himself still prostrate, and needing his brother Bartholomew to act during this season of his incapacity, there was no one he could spare so well to meet the wishes of the sovereigns as his other brother. So armed with maps and instructions, and with the further mission of protecting the Admiral's interest at Court, Diego embarked in one of the caravels. All the gold which had been collected was consigned to Diego's care, but it was only a sorry show, after all. There had been a variety of new fruits and spices, and samples of baser metals gathered, and these helped to complete the lading. There was one resource left. He had intimated his readiness to avail himself of it in the communication of his views to the sovereigns, which Torres had already conveyed to them. He now gave the plan the full force of an experiment, and packed into the little caravels full five hundred of the unhappy natives, to be sold as slaves. "The very ship," says Helps, "which brought that admirable reply from Ferdinand and Isabella to Columbus, begging him to seek some other way to Christianity than through slavery, even for wild man-devouring Caribs, should go back full of slaves taken from among the mild islanders of Hispaniola." The act was a long step in the miserable degradation which Columbus put upon those poor creatures whose existence he had made known to the world. Almost in the same breath, as in his letter to Santangel, he had suggested the future of a slave traffic out of that very existence. It is an obvious plea in his defense that the example of the church and of kings had made such heartless conduct a common resort to meet the financial burdens of conquest. The Portuguese had done it in Africa; the Spaniards had done it in Spain. The contemporary history of that age may be said to ring with the wails and moans of such negro and Moorish victims. A Holy Religion had unblushingly been made the sponsor for such a crime. Theologians had proved that the Word of God could ordain misery in this world, if only the recompense came-or be supposed to come-in a passport to the Christian's heaven.

The merit which Columbus arrogated to himself was that he was superior to the cosmographical knowledge of his time. It was the merit of Las Casas that he threw upon the reeking passions of the enslaver the light of a religion that was above sophistry and purer than cupidity. The existence of Las Casas is the arraignment of Columbus.

It may be indeed asking too much of weak humanity to be good in all things, and therein rests the pitiful plea for Columbus, the originator of American slavery.

* * *

Attacked by bloodhounds.

Events soon became ominous. A savage host began to gather in the Vega Real, and all that Columbus, now recovering his strength, could marshal in his defense was about two hundred foot and twenty horse, but they were cased in steel, and the natives were naked. In this respect, the fight was unequal, and the more so that the Spaniards were now able to take into the field a pack of twenty implacable bloodhounds. The bare bodies of the Indians had no protection against their insatiate thirst.

1495. March 27. Columbus marches,

and fights in the Vega Real.

It was the 27th of March, 1495, when Columbus, at the head of this little army, marched forth from Isabella, to confront a force of the natives, which, if we choose to believe the figures that are given by Las Casas, amounted to 100,000 men, massed under the command of Manicaotex. The whites climbed the Pass of the Hidalgos, where Columbus had opened the way the year before, and descended into that lovely valley, no longer a hospitable paradise. As they approached the hostile horde, details were sent to make the attacks various and simultaneous. The Indians were surprised at the flashes of the arquebuses from every quarter of the woody covert, and the clang of their enemies' drums and the bray of their trumpets drowned the savage yells. The native army had already begun to stagger in their wonder and perplexity, when Ojeda, seizing the opportune moment, dashed with his mounted lancemen right into the centre of the dusky mass. The bloodhounds rushed to their sanguinary work on his flanks. The task was soon done. The woods were filled with flying and shrieking savages. The league of the caciques was broken, and it was only left for the conquerors to gather up their prisoners. Guacanagari, who had followed the white army with a train of his subjects, looked on with the same wonder which struck the Indians who were beaten.

1495. April 25.

There was no opportunity for him to fight at all. The rout had been complete. This notable conflict taking place on April 25, 1495, is a central point in a somewhat bewildering tangle of events, as our authorities relate them, so that it is not easy in all cases to establish their sequence.

* * *

Caonabo captured by Ojeda.

The question of dealing with Caonabo was still the most important of all. It was solved by the cunning and dash of Ojeda. Presenting his plan to the Admiral, he was commanded to carry it out. Taking ten men whom he could trust, Ojeda boldly sought the village where Caonabo was quartered, and with as much intrepidity as cunning put himself in the power of that cacique. The chieftain was not without chivalry, and the confidence and audacity of Ojeda won him. Hospitality was extended, and the confidences of a mutual respect soon ensued. Ojeda proposed that Caonabo should accompany him to Isabella, to make a compact of friendship with the Viceroy. All then would be peaceful. Caonabo, who had often wondered at the talking of the great bell in the chapel at Isabella, as he had heard it when skulking about the settlement, eagerly sprang to the lure, when Ojeda promised that he should have the bell. Ojeda, congratulating himself on the success of his bait, was disconcerted when he found that the cacique intended that a large force of armed followers should make the visit with him. To prevent this, Ojeda resorted to a stratagem, which is related by Las Casas, who says it was often spoken of when that priest first came to the island, six years later. Mu?oz was not brought to believe the tale; but Helps sees no obstacle to giving it credence.

The Spaniards and the Indians were all on the march together, and had encamped by a river. Ojeda produced a set of burnished steel manacles, and told the cacique that they were ornaments such as the King of Spain wore on solemn occasions, and that he had been commanded to give them to the most distinguished native prince. He first proposed a bath in the river. The swim over, Caonabo was prevailed upon to be put behind Ojeda astride the same horse. Then the shining baubles were adjusted, apparently without exciting suspicion, amid the elation of the savage at his high seat upon the wondrous beast. A few sweeping gallops of the horse, guided by Ojeda, and followed by the other

mounted spearmen, scattered the amazed crowd of the cacique's attendants. Then at a convenient gap in the circle Ojeda spurred his steed, and the whole mounted party dashed into the forest and away. The party drew up only when they had got beyond pursuit, in order to bind the cacique faster in his seat. So in due time, this little cavalcade galloped into Isabella with its manacled prisoner.

Meets Columbus.

The meeting of Columbus and his captive was one of very different emotions in the two,-the Admiral rejoicing that his most active foe was in his power, and the cacique abating nothing of the defiance which belonged to his freedom. Las Casas tells us that, as Caonabo lay in his shackles in an outer apartment of the Admiral's house, the people came and looked at him. He also relates that the bold Ojeda was the only one toward whom the prisoner manifested any respect, acknowledging in this way his admiration for his audacity. He would maintain only an indifferent haughtiness toward the Admiral, who had not, as he said, the courage to do himself what he left to the bravery of his lieutenant.

Ojeda attacks the Indians.

Ojeda presently returned to his command at St. Thomas, only to find that a brother of Caonabo had gathered the Indians for an assault. Dauntless audacity again saved him. He had brought with him some new men, and so, leaving a garrison in the fort, he sallied forth with his horsemen and with as many foot as he could muster and attacked the approaching host. A charge of the glittering horse, with the flashing of sabres, broke the dusky line. The savages fled, leaving their commander a prisoner in Ojeda's hands.

Columbus followed up these triumphs by a march through the country. Every opposition needed scarce more than a dash of Ojeda's cavalry to break it. The Vega was once more quiet with a sullen submission. The confederated caciques all sued for peace, except Behechio, who ruled the southwestern corner of the island. The whites had not yet invaded his territory, and he retired morosely, taking with him his sister, Anacaona, the wife of the imprisoned Caonabo.

Repartimientos and encomiendas.

The battle and the succeeding collapse had settled the fate of the poor natives. The policy of subjecting men by violence to pay the tribute of their lives and property to Spanish cupidity was begun in earnest, and it was shortly after made to include the labor on the Spanish farms, which, under the names of repartimientos and encomiendas, demoralized the lives of master and slave. When prisoners were gathered in such numbers that to guard them was a burden, there could be but little delay in forcing the issue of the slave trade upon the Crown as a part of an established policy. To the mind of Columbus, there was now some chance of repelling the accusations of Margarite and Father Boyle by palpable returns of olive flesh and shining metal. A scheme of enforced contribution of gold was accordingly planned. Each native above the age of fourteen was required to pay every three months, into the Spanish coffers, his share of gold, measured by the capacity of a hawk's bell for the common person, and by that of a calabash for the cacique. In the regions distant from the gold deposits, cotton was accepted as a substitute, twenty-five pounds for each person. A copper medal was put on the neck of every Indian for each payment, and new exactions were levied upon those who failed to show the medals. The amount of this tribute was more than the poor natives could find, and Guarionex tried to have it commuted for grain; but the golden greed of Columbus was inexorable. He preferred to reduce the requirements rather than vary the kind. A half of a hawk's bell of gold was better than stores of grain. "It is a curious circumstance," says Irving, "that the miseries of the poor natives should thus be measured out, as it were, by the very baubles which first fascinated them."

Forts built.

To make this payment sure, it was necessary to establish other armed posts through the country; and there were speedily built that of Magdalena in the Vega, one called Esperanza in Cibao, another named Catalina, beside La Concepcion, which has already been mentioned.

The natives debased.

The change which ensued in the lives of the natives was pitiable. The labor of sifting the sands of the streams for gold, which they had heretofore made a mere pastime to secure bits to pound into ornaments, became a depressing task. To work fields under a tropical sun, where they had basked for sportive rest, converted their native joyousness into despair. They sang their grief in melancholy songs, as Peter Martyr tells us. Gradually they withdrew from their old haunts, and by hiding in the mountains, they sought to avoid the exactions, and to force the Spaniards, thus no longer supplied by native labor with food, to abandon their posts and re tire to Isabella, if not to leave the island.

Guacanagari disappears.

Scant fare for themselves and the misery of dank lurking-places were preferable to the heavy burdens of the taskmasters. They died in their retreats rather than return to their miserable labors. Even the long-tried friend of the Spaniards, Guacanagari, was made no exception. He and his people suffered every exaction with the rest of their countrymen. The cacique himself is said eventually to have buried himself in despair in the mountain fastnesses, and so passed from the sight of men.

The Spaniards were not so easily to be thwarted. They hunted the poor creatures like game, and, under the goading of lashes, such as survived were in time returned to their slavery. So thoroughly was every instinct of vengeance rooted out of the naturally timid nature of the Indians that a Spaniard might, as Las Casas tells us, march solemnly like an army through the most solitary parts of the island and receive tribute at every demand.

* * *

Columbus's interests in Spain.

It is time to watch the effect of the representations of Margarite and Father Boyle at the Spanish Court. Columbus had been doubtless impelled, in these schemes of cruel exaction, by the fear of their influence, and with the hope of meeting their sneers at his ill success with substantial tribute to the Crown. The charges against Columbus and his policy and against his misrepresentation had all the immediate effect of accusations which are supported by one-sided witnesses. Every sentiment of jealousy and pride was played upon, and every circumstance of palliation and modification was ignored. The suspicious reservation which had more or less characterized the bearing of Ferdinand towards the transactions of the hero could become a background to the newer emotions. Fonseca and the comptroller Juan de Soria are charged with an easy acceptance of every insinuation against the Viceroy. The canonizers cannot execrate Fonseca enough. They make him alternately the creature and beguiler of the King. His subserviency, his trading in bishoprics, and his alleged hatred of Columbus are features of all their portraits of him.

Aguado sent to Espa?ola.

The case against the Admiral was thus successfully argued. Testimony like that of the receiver of the Crown taxes in rebuttal of charges seemed to weigh little. Movements having been instituted at once (April 7, 1495) to succor the colony by the immediate dispatch of supplies, it was two days later agreed with Beradi-the same with whom Vespucius had been associated, as we have seen-to furnish twelve ships for Espa?ola. The resolution was then taken to send an agent to investigate the affairs of the colony. If he should find the Admiral still absent,-for the length of his cruise to Cuba had already, at that time, begun to excite apprehension of his safety,-this same agent was to superintend the distribution of the supplies which he was to take. At this juncture, in April, 1495, Torres, arriving with his fleet, reported the Admiral's safe return, and submitted the notarial document, in which Columbus had made it clear to his own satisfaction that the Golden Chersonesus was in sight. Whether that freak of geographical prescience threw about his expedition a temporary splendor, and again wakened the gratitude of the sovereigns, as Irving says it did, may be left to the imagination; but the fact remains that the sovereigns did not swerve from their purpose to send an inquisitor to the colony, and the same Juan Aguado who had come back with credentials from the Admiral himself was selected for the mission.

1495. April 10. All Spaniards allowed to explore.

Nameless voyagers.

There were some recent orders of the Crown which Aguado was to break to the Admiral, from which Columbus could not fail to discover that the exclusiveness of his powers was seriously impaired. On the 10th of April, 1495, it had been ordered that any native-born Spaniard could invade the seas which had been sacredly apportioned to Columbus, that such navigator might discover what he could, and even settle, if he liked, in Espa?ola. This order was a ground of serious complaint by Columbus at a later day, for the reason that this license was availed of by unworthy interlopers. He declares that after the way had been shown even the very tailors turned explorers. It seems tolerably certain that this irresponsible voyaging, which continued till Columbus induced the monarchs to rescind the order in June, 1497, worked developments in the current cartography of the new regions which it is difficult to trace to their distinct sources. Gomara intimates that during this period there were nameless voyagers, of whose exploits we have no record by which to identify them, and Navarrete and Humboldt find evidences of explorations which cannot otherwise be accounted for.

Enemies of Columbus.

How far this condition of affairs was brought about by the importunities of the enemies of Columbus is not clear. The surviving Pinzons are said to have been in part those who influenced the monarchs, but doubtless a share of profits, which the Crown required from all such private speculation, was quite as strong an incentive as any importunities of eager mariners. The burdens of the official expeditions were onerous for an exhausted treasury, and any resource to replenish its coffers was not very narrowly scrutinized in the light of the pledges which Columbus had exacted from a Crown that was beginning to understand the impolicy of such concessions.

Fonseca and Diego Colon.

There was also at this time a passage of words between Fonseca and Diego Colon that was not without irritating elements. The Admiral's brother had brought some gold with him, which he claimed as his own. Fonseca withheld it, but in the end obeyed the sovereign's order and released it. It was no time to add to the complications of the Crown's relations with the distant Viceroy.

Royal letter to Columbus.

Aguado bore a royal letter, which commanded Columbus to reduce the dependents of the colony to five hundred, as a necessary retrenchment. There had previously been a thousand. Directions were also given to control the apportionment of rations. A new metallurgist and master-miner, Pablo Belvis, was sent out, and extraordinary privileges in the working of the mines were given to him. Mu?oz says that he introduced there the quicksilver process of separating the gold from the sand. A number of new priests were collected to take the place of those who had returned, or who desired to come back.

Columbus and slavery.

Such were the companions and instructions that Aguado was commissioned to bear to Columbus. There was still another movement in the policy of the Crown that offered the Viceroy little ground for reassurance. The prisoners which he had sent by the ships raised a serious question. It was determined that any transaction looking to the making slaves of them had not been authorized; but the desire of Columbus so to treat them had at first been met by a royal order directing their sale in the marts of Andalusia. A few days later, under the influence of Isabella, this order had been suspended, till an inquiry could be made into the cause of the capture of the Indians, and until the theologians could decide upon the justifiableness of such a sale. If we may believe Bernaldez, who pictures their misery, they were subsequently sold in Seville. Mu?oz, however, says that he could not find that the trouble which harassed the theologians was ever decided. Such hesitancy was calculated to present a cruel dilemma to the Viceroy, since the only way in which the clamor of the Court for gold could be promptly appeased came near being prohibited by what Columbus must have called the misapplied mercy of the Queen. He failed to see, as Mu?oz suggests, why vassals of the Crown, entering upon acts of resistance, should not be subjected to every sort of cruelty. Humboldt wonders at any hesitancy when the grand inquisitor, Torquemada, was burning heretics so fiercely at this time that such expiations of the poor Moors and Jews numbered 8,800 between 1481 and 1498!

1495. October. Aguado at Isabella.

Aguado, with four caravels, and Diego Columbus accompanying him, having sailed from Cadiz late in August, 1495, reached the harbor of Isabella some time in October. The new commissioner found the Admiral absent, occupied with affairs in other parts of the island. Aguado soon made known his authority. It was embraced in a brief missive, dated April 9, 1495, and as Irving translates it, it read: "Cavaliers, esquires, and other persons, who by our orders are in the Indies, we send to you Juan Aguado, our groom of the chambers, who will speak to you on our part. We command you to give him faith and credit." The efficacy of such an order depended on the royal purpose that was behind it, and on the will of the commissioner, which might or might not conform to that purpose. It has been a plea of Irving and others that Aguado, elated by a transient authority, transcended the intentions of the monarchs. It is not easy to find a definite determination of such a question. It appears that when the instrument was proclaimed by trumpet, the general opinion did not interpret the order as a suspension of the Viceroy's powers. The Adelantado, who was governing in Columbus's absence, saw the new commissioner order arrests, countermand directions, and in various ways assume the functions of a governor. Bartholomew was in no condition to do more than mildly remonstrate. It was clearly not safe for him to provoke the great body of the discontented colonists, who professed now to find a champion sent to them by royal order.

Meets Columbus.

Columbus heard of Aguado's arrival, and at once returned to Isabella. Aguado, who had started to find him with an escort of horse, missed him on the road, and this delayed their meeting a little. When the conference came, Columbus, with a dignified and courteous air, bowed to a superior authority. It has passed into history that Aguado was disappointed at this quiet submission, and had hoped for an altercation, which might warrant some peremptory force. It is also said that later he endeavored to make it appear how Columbus had not been so complacent as was becoming.

It was soon apparent that this displacement of the Admiral was restoring even the natives to hope, and their caciques were not slow in presenting complaints, not certainly without reason, to the ascendant power, and against the merciless extortions of the Admiral.

Accuses Columbus.

The budget of accusations which Aguado had accumulated was now full enough, and he ordered the vessels to make ready to carry him back to Spain. The situation for Columbus was a serious one. He had in all this trial experienced the results of the intrigues of Margarite and Father Boyle. He knew of the damaging persuasiveness of the Pinzons. He had not much to expect from the advocacy of Diego. There was nothing for him to do but to face in person the charges as re?nforced by Aguado. He resolved to return in the ships. "It is not one of the least singular traits in his history," says Irving, "that after having been so many years in persuading mankind that there was a new world to be discovered, he had almost an equal trouble in proving to them the advantage of the discovery." He himself never did prove it.

Ships wrecked in the harbor.

The ships were ready. They lay at anchor in the roadstead. A cloud of vapor and dust was seen in the east. It was borne headlong before a hurricane such as the Spaniards had never seen, and the natives could not remember its equal. It cut a track through the forests. It lashed the sea until its expanse seethed and writhed and sent its harried waters tossing in a seeming fright. The uplifted surges broke the natural barriers and started inland. The ships shuddered at their anchorage; cables snapped; three caravels sunk, and the rest were dashed on the beach. The tumult lasted for three hours, and then the sun shone upon the havoc.


[From Charlevoix's L'Isle Espagnole (Amsterdam, 1733).]

There was but one vessel left in the harbor, and she was shattered. It was the "Nina," which had borne Columbus in his western cruise. As soon as the little colony recovered its senses, men were set to work repairing the solitary caravel, and constructing another out of the remnants of the wrecks.

Miguel Diaz finds gold.

Hayna mines.

Solomon's Ophir.

While this was going on, a young Spaniard, Miguel Diaz by name, presented himself in Isabella. He had been in the service of the Adelantado, and was not unrecognized. He was one who had some time before wounded another Spaniard in a duel, and, supposing that the wound was mortal, he had, with a few friends, fled into the woods and wandered away till he came to the banks of the Ozema, a river on the southern coast of the island, at the mouth of which the city of Santo Domingo now stands. Here, as he said, he had attracted the attention of a female cacique, there reigning, and had become her lover. She confided to him the fact that there were rich gold mines in her territory, and to make him more content in her company, she suggested that perhaps the Admiral, if he knew of the mines, would abandon the low site of Isabella, and find a better one on the Ozema. Acting on this suggestion, Diaz, with some guides, returned to the neighborhood of Isabella, and lingered in concealment till he learned that his antagonist had survived his wound. Then, making bold, he entered the town, as we have seen. His story was a welcome one, and the Adelantado was dispatched with a force to verify the adventurer's statement. In due time, the party returned, and reported that at a river named Hayna they had found such stores of gold that Cibao was poor in comparison. The explorers had seen the metal in all the streams; they observed it in the hillsides. They had discovered two deep excavations, which looked as if the mines had been worked at some time by a more enterprising people, since of these great holes the natives could give no account. Once more the Admiral's imagination was fired. He felt sure that he had come upon the Ophir of Solomon. These ancient mines must have yielded the gold which covered the great Temple. Had the Admiral not discovered already the course of the ships which sought it? Did they not come from the Persian gulf, round the Golden Chersonesus, and so easterly, as he himself had in the reverse way tracked the very course? Here was a new splendor for the Court of Spain. If the name of India was redolent of spices, that of Ophir could but be resplendent with gold! That was a message worth taking to Europe.

The two caravels were now ready. The Adelantado was left in command, with Diego to succeed in case of his death. Francisco Roldan was commissioned as chief magistrate, and the Fathers Juan Berzognon and Roman Pane remained behind to pursue missionary labors among the natives. Instructions were left that the valley of the Ozema should be occupied, and a fort built in it. Diaz, with his queenly Catalina, had become important.

1496. March 10. Columbus and Aguado sail for Spain, carrying Caonabo.

There was a motley company of about two hundred and fifty persons, largely discontents and vagabonds, crowded into the two ships. Columbus was in one, and Aguado in the other. So they started on their adventurous and wearying voyage on March 10, 1496. They carried about thirty Indians in confinement, and among them the manacled Caonabo, with some of his relatives. Columbus told Bernaldez that he took the chieftain over to impress him with Spanish power, and that he intended to send him back and release him in the end. His release came otherwise. There is some disagreement of testimony on the point, some alleging that he was drowned during the hurricane in the harbor, but the better opinion seems to be that he died on the voyage, of a broken spirit. At any rate, he never reached Spain, and we hear of him only once while on shipboard.

1496. April 6.

We have seen that on his return voyage in 1492 Columbus had pushed north before turning east. It does not appear how much he had learned of the experience of Torres's easterly passages. Perhaps it was only to make a new trial that he now steered directly east. He met the trade winds and the calms of the tropics, and had been almost a month at sea when, on April 6, he found himself still neighboring to the islands of the Caribs. His crew needed rest and provisions, and he bore away to seek them. He anchored for a while at Marigalante, and then passed on to Guadaloupe.

At Guadaloupe.

1496. June.

1496. June 11. Cadiz.

He had some difficulty in landing, as a wild, screaming mass of natives was gathered on the beach in a hostile manner. A discharge of the Spanish arquebuses cleared the way, and later a party scouring the woods captured some of the courageous women of the tribe. These were all released, however, except a strong, powerful woman, who, with a daughter, refused to be left, for the reason, as the story goes, that she had conceived a passion for Caonabo. By the 20th, the ships again set sail; but the same easterly trades baffled them, and another month was passed without much progress. By the beginning of June, provisions were so reduced that there were fears of famine, and it began to be considered whether the voyagers might not emulate the Caribs and eat the Indians. Columbus interfered, on the plea that the poor creatures were Christian enough to be protected from such a fate; but as it turned out, they were not Christian enough to be saved from the slave-block in Andalusia. The alert senses of Columbus had convinced him that land could not be far distant, and he was confirmed in this by his reckoning. These opinions of Columbus were questioned, however, and it was not at all clear in the minds of some, even of the experienced pilots who were on board, that they were so near the latitude of Cape St. Vincent as the Admiral affirmed. Some of these navigators put the ships as far north as the Bay of Biscay, others even as far as the English Channel. Columbus one night ordered sail to be taken in. They were too near the land to proceed. In the morning, they saw land in the neighborhood of Cape St. Vincent. On June 11, they entered the harbor of Cadiz.

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