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"One single matter of fact, faithfully and honestly delivered, is worth
a thousand comments and flourishes."

This work is a register of events relating to the West
Indies, arranged in the only manner suited to the subject,
for the plan comprehends the whole of the Columbian
islands, and as they belong to different European powers,
and some even of those which are subject to the same
crown, have little or no connexion with each other, there
is no other natural or convenient order wherein their his-
tory can be composed, than that which a chronological
series offers.

The materials are presented in an unpretending form,
but it is hoped and believed that the work contains more

Much confusion lias arisen from the Juan. Its proximity to St. John's in-

sarae name being given to different creases the confusion. There is Caria-

islands in the West Indies, and from cou, one of the Grenadines, and Cura-

the same island having different names. 90a. The Bahamas were the Lucayos.

There is Barbadoes, Barbudo, and Espaniola, St. Domingo, and Hayti,

the Saints were at one time called Bar- are all names for one island j and St.

bata. Domingo is the name of the principal

Columbus named Isla Larga St. Per- city in the Spanish part of the same

nandina, which name was afterwards island.

given to Cuba, although Columbus had There are two islands called Anguila,

named that island Juana. one to windward of St. Martin's, the

St. Christopher's is familiarly called other among the Bahamas in the Canal

St. Kitt's. de Santaren.

St. Salvador's is also called Cat Old Providence was called St. Catha-

Island. rines j and there is New Providence.

Puerto Rico was often called San There is the island of Samana to the


information tlian can be found in any other, concerning
that part of the world.

"If in some places I be found to set down whole pas-
sages as they are already set down by others, and may
seem rather to transcribe than to write, yet this, I sup-
pose, may be excused, as being all of one common stock,
and no matter from whence the water comes, so it comes
clear to the reader's use. Lastly, for the work itself, I
dare be bold to say, that it hath been collected out of
authors both ancient and modern, with great care and

" If the reader will inform me of any mistake, I will
thankfully mend it, and add what I have unwarily omitted ;
what I have been too dark in explaining, I will explain
better, when I have a clearer light to guide me."

" Thus hoping the courteous and discreet will mildly
excuse, if not approve what I have rudely done, I submit
myself to every humour, and expect differing censures
answerable to the dissonant inclinations of every reader."

Epistle to the Reader, Baker's Chronicle.

Camden's Britannia, 1695. Life by Gibson.

Lok's Translation of Peter Martyr, 1612.

north of Crooked Island, and the penin- rita ; and the Tortugas, about 100 miles

sula of Samana in Espaniola. to the northward of the Havana, which

Two islands are called Santa Cruz, Peter Heylyn, in his Cosmographie,

one near the Virgin Islands, the other thus quaintly describes, " well known

near Yucatan ; exclusive of Cozumel, among the sailors, because much

which was also called Santa Cruz. avoided, or rather avoided because

There is the island of Tortuga, the known ; the danger of their company

first grand rendezvous of the pirates off making their further acquaintance

Espaniola J Las Tortugas, near Marga- shunned."




1 HAT the new World would soon have been discovered by other
na\ngators is no diminution of Columbus's fame. He alone sailed
with the intention of crossing that ocean whose limits it was sup-
posed impious to attempt to pass, because they were the boundaries
of the habitable world. Other illustrious men have suffered equal
physical hardships, shewn equal skill, and possessed equal science ;
but none had ever this awful feeling to contend with.

In addition to the reasons which Columbus, as a cosmoo-rapher
had for supposing that he should find land by steerino- to the west-
ward, he had the following testimonies to strengthen them :

Four hundred and fifty leagues to the westward of Cape St. Vin-
cent, after a long continuance of westerly winds, Martin Vicente
found a piece of wood curiously wi'ought. Pedro Correa, the hus-
band of the sister of Columbus's wife, had found a similar piece off"
Puerto Santo, and some large canes, each joint of which would hold
a gallon and a half, similar to those which Ptolemy describes as
growing in India.

At the if^res the west winds had driven trees on shore, unlike
any which grow in Europe. And at Flores the sea had thrown up
the bodies of two men whose features and complexion were neither
those of Europeans, Moors or Negroes ; and two canoes had been
found there.

Antonio Leme also thought that he had seen three islands when
he was driven far to the westward ; others had thought the same ; and
Jasper and.Miguel de Corte Real, the sons of the discoverer of Ter-
cera, had perished in seeking them.

Columbus's first proposals were to the Genoese government, his
second to the King, D. Joam the Second, of Portugal, who referred
him to D. Diego Ortiz, Bishop of Ceuta, and the Jewish doctors

Herrera, D. 1. L. I. C. 2.


Ilodrigo and Joseph ; diey pretending to treat his plans as visionary,
advised that a vessel shoidd be sent secredy to anticipate his disco-
veries. The dishonourable attempt was made, and failed. Dis-
gusted with this duplicity, and having lost his wife, Columbus se-
credy embarked for Spain, and at the same time sent his brother
Bartholomew to England. Columbus landed at Palos, and leaving
his son in die monastery of Rabida, under the care of Juan Perez de
Marchena, proceeded to die court at Cordova. Alonzo de Quinta-
nilla (Contador Mayor), in whose house he was entertained, procured
attention to his offers. The Queen's confessor, Hernando de Tala-
vera, was desired to form a junta of cosmographers, to confer about
it ; but there were not many of that profession in Spain, nor were
they the best in the world, neither would Columbus open out his
plans so fully as he had done, lest the same thing which had hap-
pened in Portugal might occur here. One said so many years had
passed since the creation of the world, and there had been so many
wise men, conversant in maritime affairs, who had taken no notice
of those lands which Columbus thought he could find, that it was
not to be supposed he was wiser than all who had lived before
him. Others said, the world was so large that three years sailing
would not be sufficient to reach the end of the east in the way Co-
lumbus intended to steer ; in confirmation of wliich they quoted
Seneca, who said that many learned men disagreed in their opinions
whether the sea was infinite or not, and doubted if it could be navi-
gated, and if it could, whether they would find an inhabited country,
or whether they could get to it. They also said that no part of the
sphere was inhabited below the land and the water ; but that our he-
misphere was a small crown or girdle upon the water, and all the rest
sea. Nevertheless, they conceded that it was possible to get to the
end of the east, and also from Spain to the extremity of the west.

Others said, that if Columbus steered directly to the west he
would never be able to return, because of the roundness of the sphere.
Whosoever should quit this hemisphere known by Ptolemy, would
get so much lower that it would be impossible to return, it would
be like getting up a steep mountain. Columbus's answers to these
objections were not satisfactory, because they were not" understood.
The junta declared the enterprise to be vain and impossible, and that
it was inconsistent with the dignity of such great princes to de-
termine upon such loose information. After a long delay their
majesties ordered Columbus to be told that they were engaged in
so many wars, and particularly in die conquest of Granada, that
they could not enter into new expences at that time, but when these
wars were finished tliey would order his pretensions to be better
cxaniijied ; and so they dismissed him. Columbus was at Seville when
lie received this answer ; it wiis a melancholy reward for five years
attendance upon the court. He now proposed his plans to the
Dukes of Medina Sidonia, and Medina Cell : these also declined

Ilcmia, D. 1. L. 1. C. 7, 8.


the enterprise ; and Columbus then wrote to the King of France for
permission to pass to England in search of his brother. With this
intention he went to the monastery of Rabida for his son D. Diego,
lo place him at Cordova, and told Juan Perez de Marchena v.hat
he was about to do. Upon his advice Columbus consented to defer
his departure. Juan called in Garci Hernandez to confer about his
plans. Garci Hernandez, as a philosopher, was quite satisfied with
them ; and as Juan was known to the Queen, having been her con-
fessor, he wrote to her, and received orders to repair to the court
at Santa Fe. He left Columbus at Palos, and having seen the
Queen, sent him 20,000 maravedis, to pay his expences to court ;
and upon his arrival the negotiations recommenced. Tlie Prior
de Prado and others were against the enterprise : the titles of
admiral and viceroy, which Columbus asked, were too mucl?, they
said, if he succeeded ; and if not, it was foolish :o .grau- them.
Tlie conference was broken off, and he determined to go to Cordova,
and from thence to France. Alonzo de QuintJinilla, and I uys de
Santangel, " escrivano de raciones" to the crown of Arragon, were
grieved at the failure of the undertaking. At the ^eques^, of Juan
and Quintanilla, the Cardinal D. Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza
heard Columbus, and thought favourably of him; and as Columbus's
enemies said that he offered nothing on liis part for the discovery,
but to go as captain-general of a squadron belonging to their
majesties, to satisfy them, Columbus offered to bear one-eighth part
of the expense ; notwithstanding this, nothing was done.

While the Spanish court were celebrating festivals for the con-
quest of Granada, Columbus, oppressed with the thoughts of having
lost seven years in applications, determined to quit Spain, and in
January 1492 set out for Cordova; he had scarce departed, when
Luis de Santangel, receiver of the ecclesiastical rents in Arragon,
energetically represented to the Queen the loss it would be if any other
power should gain tliis prize ; that 2500 piastres, the whole amount
of what Columbus wanted, was a paltry sum ; that the honours and
rewards demanded by him were not vmreasonable, as he took upon
himself a share in the expense, and risked his honour and his life.
Quintillana, minister of finance, who had entered during this ad-
dress, seconded and confirmed Santangel's opinions; the Queen
thanked them for their advice, and promised to undertake the whole
affair herself for the crown of Castile ; she added, that it would be
necessary to delay the expedition till she had recovered somewhat
from the war ; but if this delay should not fall in with their wishes,
she was ready to mortgage her jewels for the sum. Santangel
offered to advance the money, and begged the royal commands might
be immediately given to fit out the fleet without delay.

A messenger was dispatched in pursuit of Columbus : he was
overtaken on the bridge of Pinas, two miles from Granada ; and
on his return to Santa Fe received with such kindness, that lie

Munoz, B. 2. sect. 30.
B 2


forgot all his vexations. An order was issued to Juan de Coloma,
secretary of state, to draw out the contract.

Upon the ITth of April 1492, at Santa Fe, the Spanish sove-
reigns signed their grant to Columbus ; what follows is the substance

By the Ist^ He is appointed admiral in all the islands and con-
tinents which he shall discover, during his life, andhis heirs and suc-
cessors after him, with all the pre-eminences and prerogatives which
belong to the High Admiral of Castile.

By the 2nd, He is appointed viceroy and governor-general over
the said islands and continents, with power to select three persons
for the government of each and any of them, of whom their high-
nesses shall elect one.

By the 3rd, The tenth part of all things and merchandize what-
soever, found within the limits of his admiralty, after all expences
have been deducted that may have been incun-ed, is gi'anted to him ;
and the power to take cognizance, and decide upon all commercial
disputes, is also granted to him or his substitute.

By the 4th, If he chooses to contribute the eighth part of the
expence of equipping all vessels that shall be employed in that
trade, he may take the eighth part of the profits.

Upon the 30th of April Columbus's charter of privileges was
signed by the King and Queen in the city of Granada.

The preamble declares at great length the right divine of kings, and
then the hope that Columbus will discover and conquer certain islands
and main land in the ocean ; over which they say, " you shall be our
admiral, viceroy, and governor, and from this time forward may
style yourself Don Christopher Columbus ; likewise your children and
successors in the said office may call themselves don, admiral,
viceroy, and governor of them ; you and your lieutenants may hear
and determine all suits and causes in the same manner as the
admirals of our kingdoms exercise their authority, and punish de-
linquents, and receive the fees annexed to the said offices."

All persons are ordered to observe towards him all the honours,
gi'aces, favours, liberties, pre-eminences, prerogatives, exemptions,
and immunities, and all and every other thing, which by right of
the said offices of admiral, viceroy, and governor, he was to have
and enjoy, and which the patent grants " now and for ever."

Tlie document also orders that the patent of privilege, " folded up
in the form of a roll" in the strongest manner, shall be given to
Cohinibus if lie demands it, under the penalty of 10,000 maravedis,
and cites him to appear at court within fifteen days, under the same

Their majesties commanded that every thing necessaiy for the
voyage should be immediately procured ; an order was sent to the
town of Seville, that aruis, provisions, and all other necessaries for
the voyage, should pass duty free ; the town of Palos was bound to

Munoz, B.2. scct.30,31. Mcmorialsof Columbus, 2d Doc. Munoz, vol. 1 . sect. .32. B.2.


furnish the crown with two caravels for three month's every year,
and these two vessels were appointed for the expedition.

The care of finding a third vessel to complete the number
stipulated by Colimibus, and the arrangements for the whole, were
left to himself, for wliich purpose the sum of 17,000 florins was
advanced, and paid into his hands by Santangel ; and as a mark
of royal favour, at the request of Columbus, the liberties and privi-
leges of the mariners of Seville were confirmed and extended to tliese

He left the court on the 12 th of May, with instructions not to
infringe by any means on the possessions and islands of the Portu-
guese in Africa. Most of the crews were natives of Palos, Moguer,
Huelva, and the neighbouring places. The largest vessel, a carack,
was named Santa Maria, on board of which Columbus, as admiral,
hoisted his flag; to command the second, called the Pinta, he
appointed Martin Alonzo Pinzon, whose brother, Francisco Martin,
was steersman ; the third was called the Nina, and was rigged with
latteen sails ; she was commanded by Yanez Pinzon, the third bro-
ther.^ Sancho Ruiz, Pero Alonso Mino, and Bartholomew Roldan,
went as pilots ; Rodrigo Sanchez, of Segovia, as superintendant
of the fleet ; Diego de Arana, of Cordova, as alguazil-mayor ;
Rodrigo de Escobedo as notary royal, Alonzo as physician, and Juan
as surgeon, and a few servants, in all 120 persons, (Herrera says
90. ID. 1 L. c. 10.)^ They all took the sacrament before they
embarked, and on Friday August 3d sailed from Palos towards
the Canary Islands. On the Monday following the Pinta broke
her rudder^ ; Martin Alonzo, the best seaman among them, could
only render it serviceable four days longer. They got with difficulty
to the great Canary Island on the 9th of August, and remained there
^ month, during which time they rigged the Nina with square sails'*
instead of latteen, and fitted a new rudder to the Pinta, previous to
which it was deliberated whether it would not be better to take a
vessel of forty tons burthen (wliich was about her tonnage) in her

On Thursday the 6th of September Columbus sailed again, and
shaped his course due west from Gomera. At the last sight of the
islands many of the crew began to lament, and gave over all hope
of ever seeing land again.

The admiral, foreseeing their despondency would increase with
the distance, kept two journals, a secret and accurate one, and a
public one in which the distance was shortened. Two hundred
leagues from Ferro, to his surprise, he found tlie needle did not

Munoz, vol. i. B. 2. sect. 33. 1.

1 Of the which one was a great carack " Peter Martyr says 220. 1 D. 1 B.

with decks, and the other two were light ^ Columbus suspected that Gomez Rus

merchant ships without decks, which the cen and Christovel Caniten did it wilfully

Spaniards call Carauclas.— Peter Martyr, — MS. Journal,

J Decade, 1 Buok. - , ■• (Redondo.) — MS. Journal.

B 3


point as usual td the north, but varied to the westward; this vari-
ation, hitherto unknown, he marked down. The officers and pilots
were terrified and amazed, convinced that if the compass became
useless all hopes must vanish ; but Columbus dispelled their fears,
by attributing it to the diurnal motion of the polar star round the
pole, which he supposed to be the true solution.

On the 14th of September the Nina saw a great bird, and the
next day a sui^prising flame descend at a distance, and soon after-
wards large fields of sea weed, which some of the crew were fearful
would impede their course ; one of the men found a Hving crab in
the supposed grass. These signs much increased their hopes of seeing
land. They soon saw more sea fowl, and several tunnies. When
they had sailed upwards of 400 leagues, Martin Alonzo Pinzon,
captain of the Pinta, declared he had seen many birds to the west,
and marks of land, hid by thick fogs, to the north. Columbus
thought it might be a cluster of small islands ; but as he was firmly
persuaded the Indian counti'ies must be farther off, he continued
standing to the westward.

The fears .of the crew now burst out in open murmurings ; they
had sailed so far into the boundless deep that the boldest sailor was
affrighted ; the fine weather they considered the forerunner of de-
struction; and, from the continued easterly winds, they judged it
would be impossible to return. More birds were seen, and even
Columbus began to think that the land was not far off; he there-
fore tried for soundings, but, with 200 fathoms, found no bottom.
The following days more objects induced him to keep the lead
going. The wind now shifted to the S.W., but with very light airs.
Columbus in vain attempted to persuade the men that this calm
arose from the shelter of some neighbouring land ; he was neither
believed nor respected : he now almost despaired of insm'ing suffi-
cient obedience to continue the voyage.

On the 22d, the admiral says, " this contrary wind was very
needful for me, because my people, who thought that it would
never blow fair in these seas for returning to Spain, were very

But this was a transient joy, the crew thought of the vast ocean
v/hicli lay between them and their native country, and a dreadful
fear had seized on all ; they cursed the author of their misfortunes ^
and declared that to go farther was impious temerity, which would
call down the severest punishment. The general determination was
to return ; and some added, that if the admiral did not immediately
accede to this, they would throw him overboard, and give out that
he had fallen into the sea as he was consulting the stars. Columbus
still kept on ; some he intimidated, and appealed to the honour of

On the 23d, a heavy swell came on without any wind; the
admiral say?-, <' it appears to me that a high sea never was more

Munoz, B. 2. sect. 2, 3, 4, 5.

1492.] OF THE WEST INDIES. , 7

necessary, except when they came out of Egypt against Moses, who
dehvered the Jews from captivity."

On the 25th, by the advice of Martin Alonzo Pinzon, who thought
he saw land in the S. W., Columbus steered that way ; it proved a
cloud, and to the great mortification of the crew, the admiral kept
again to the westward. ^

In the admiral's public journal he had marked the distance run
from the Isle of Ferro at 584 leagues, on the 1st of October; but
in his private journal it was 707. The different captains and pilots,
as well as the admiral, concealed the true distance, lest it should
dishearten the men ; but the journals differed very much from each
other : in the Nina's the distance was marked at 650 leagues, and in
the Pima's 634.

On the 2d October, the admiral says, " the sea is smooth and
fine, and constantly so : many thanks be given to God for this."

The King had promised a pension of 10,000 maravedis to tha
first who saw the land ; this added to the men's impatience ; and to
prevent the frequent disappointments which depressed their spirits,
Columbus ordered that the first person who should cry out " Land"
should be excluded from the bounty, if the land were not discovered
within thi'ee days afterwards.

On the 6th, Martin Alonzo Pinzon hailed the admiral again to
keep more to the southward for the Isle Cipango"; the admiral
said, " if they should be mistaken, they should be longer in making
the land, and that it was better at once to go to terra firm a, and
afterwards to the islands."

On the 7th October, the Nina, which, from being the best sailor,
was usually a-head, believing she had discovered land, hoisted her.
flag and fired a gun. ^ This was soon proved to be an illusion ; it
increased the agitation in the minds of the crews, and produced
such insubordination, that on the following day, October the 8th,
Columbus and the Pinzones were obliged to enter into an agree-
ment with the men, that, in case land was not discovered in three
days, they would return. As they had sailed 750 leagues west from
the Canaries, Colmnbus hoped to find the IsleCipango; he therefore
kept two points more to the southward, according to the flight the
birds took now constantly seen.

On the morning of the 9 th they thought the air breathed fresh and
odoriferous, such as they had felt at Seville in April ; eA^ery moment
gave fresh hopes ; the soundings, the variable winds, revived their

Munoz, B. 2. sect. 6, 7. MS. Journal.

' The 27th. — They killed a Dolphin. agujas nornestean une quarta y en amene-

28th Two were killed in the other vessels. ciendo estan con la estrella justo." From

30th The admiral says, " nota que les this he says, it appears that the star moves

estrellas que se llaman les guardias quando like the others, and the needles always point

Online LibraryThomas SoutheyChronological history of the West Indies (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 41)