James W. (James William) Buel.

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sight of land, but it was quickly hushed by a sudden real-
ization of danger that broke in frantic dashing of huge
billows along the rocky shore. So all day the Nina held
to sea, bounding up and down on the great waves, until the
following morning the promontory of Cintra, near Lisbon,
was recognized, when an effort was made to enter the
estuary of the Tagus, which was accomplished some time
in the afternoon.

The inhabitants of the town of Cascaes, and along the
shore, had watched with painful suspense the dangerous
buffeting of the strange vessel, every moment, for many
hours, expecting its engulfment, and when at last a safe
anchorage was reached thousands of persons came down to
the bay and put off in boats to offer welcomes and congrat-
ulations, which changed to praise and thanksgiving when
they learned that the stranger was the Nina, with Colum-
bus and his followers, bearing tidings from a new world.
Directly the anchor M^as let go, Columbus dispatched a
letter to King John, who was then with his court at Val-
paraiso, thirty miles from Lisbon, requesting permission to
enter and refit at the port of Lisbon, and asking protection
during his stay in Portuguese waters, at the same time de-
scribing, in the briefest way, the discoveries which he had
made. Before a reply could be received, however, Colum-
bus became involved in trouble with Alonzo de Acuna,
commander of a man-of-war which lay in the road-stead,
who peremptorily summoned the Admiral to report in per-
son the object of his entering Portuguese waters. To this
command the Admiral returned a defiant answer, but sent
his commission bearing the autographs of Ferdinand and


Isabella, which had the most pronounced effect. Thus
learning his name, rank and mission, Acuna immediately
returned his profound acknowledgments and proceeded to
pay homage to the returned explorer as flattering as one
brave man may pay another. Launching his largest boat,
Acuna decorated it with bunting, in which Portuguese and
Spanish banners were blended, and taking on board his
military band, paid a visit of imposing display to Colum-
bus, to whom he offered his services in the most generous

The excitement which followed fast upon the report of
Columbus' return and discoveries was indescribably intense,
largely increased by the belief that his escape from the
storms that had prevailed with unexampled fury must be
due to a special manifestation of Providence in his behalf.
The people made haste to inform him that no other such
tempest had occurred within the memory of man. Scarcely
any shipping along the coast of Europe had escaped de-
struction, in proof of which the shores were strewn with
wrecks of vessels; and yet the Nina, small and frail as she
was, had survived all the wrathful violence of wind and
waves, to bring back results of the grandest effort ever
undertaken by an ambitious mind.

The friendliness and enthusiasm of those that had gathered
about the estuary of the Tagus was presently reinforced
by receipt of a message from King John, in which the re-
quests made by Columbus were not only granted, but he
was complimented in the most flattering words of praise,
and urgently invited to visit the court at its sitting in Val-
paraiso. The same messenger that handed this cordial
communication to Columbus also bore a patronizing letter
from the King, directed to his officers, ordering that the
Admiral and his crew be furnished without cost everything
which they might require.


Recognizing the giaciousness and apparent sincerity of
the King, Columbus was resolved to accept the invitation,
and accordingly set out, accompanied by one of his pilots,
acting as aide-de-camp , for Valparaiso. But scarcely had he
started when he was met by several ofificers of the King's
household, who had been sent to serve as his retinue and
escort him on the journey. Having started at a late hour,
it was necessary for Columbus to pass the night at Sa-
camben, where, to his surprise, a princely entertainment
was provided for him, at which the entire town united in
demonstrations in his honor.

The reception which King John accorded Columbus on
his arrival at Valparaiso was as magnificent as would have
characterized the welcome of the most powerful prince in
all Europe. The most distinguished ambassador may not
sit, or stand with covered head, in the presence of royalty,
but so great was his courtesy towards and favor for Colum-
bus, that the King treated him with the most cordial con-
sideration regardless of rank, and conducting him to a seat
directly before the throne, requested the great navigator to
recite the story of his wonderful discoveries.

The interest of King John was as intense as his regret
was poignant, and he followed the narrative of Columbus
as one might do who realized that he had lost a world
through his own folly ; when he made his first comment
on the results of the discoveries, it was to betray the
jealousy and chagrin which disturbed his mind. Said he,
" Your enterprise well deserves the praise of all mankind, but
I feel the greater joy because, according to the treaty which
we concluded with Castile, 1479, and the Papal Bull of par-
tition, the discovery of these new countries, and their con-
quest, pertain to the crown of Portugal of right." To this
unwarranted inference, which clearly exposed the King's
feelings, Columbus deferentially replied that he had not


read the treaty and was not informed as to its nature ; but
that acting under instructions from the Spanish sovereigns,
which had taken the form of an order pubHshed in all the
seaports of Andalusia, he had carefully avoided trenching
upon Portuguese possessions. At this, the King cut him
short by reminding him that the question would be settled
without the intervention of his services as umpire.

The interview thus terminated for that day, and Colum-
bus was given over to the attention and care of the highest
officers of the court, but on the following day, which was
Sunday, King John invited Columbus to another conversa-
tion, during which the monarch asked many questions,
manifestly with the view of informing himself as fully as
possible concerning the inhabitants, soil, climate, products,
landscape, and, above all, the route to the new world, and
the distance at which it lay ; to all of which questions a
frank reply was returned, and at the conclusion of this
audience Columbus was dismissed and the King summoned
his Council for a conference. What transpired at this
deliberation can only be conjectured, but nearly all authori-
ties agree that a project for robbing Columbus of his dis-
coveries was discussed, and that some of the more perfidious
counselors even recommended his assassination. But such
a proposal is so monstrous that, in view of the gracious
attitude which the King publicly assumed to manifest his
appreciation of Columbus, as well as his subsequent gen-
erous conduct, the assertion appears preposterous. Sinis-
ter designs may have been, and no doubt were, harbored
against the Admiral by his many enemies, some of whom
were very near the Portuguese Court, but the King was
too chivalrous to entertain such iniquitous desire. He no
doubt sincerely believed, in the imperfect knowledge of
geography at the time, that some of the rights of Portugal,
which had been guaranteed to her by the Papal Bull, and


accorded to the infant Don Henry, had been infringed by
the explorations of Columbus, but he was too shrewd a
monarch to believe that such right, if violated, could be
preserved through the assassination of one who was but an
instrument or agent of the Spanish sovereigns.

But while opposed to personal outrage. King John was
open to other proposals, one of which flattered his expecta-
tions as appearing to provide a means for acquiring peace-
able possession of the new lands beyond the sea. The
suggestion which found favor was that the King should at
once equip a powerful squadron, able to maintain itself
against Spain, seize the Portuguese sailors who had returned
with Columbus, who would serve as guides, and thus
equipped, send the fleet to the new lands to hold them
against all claims of previous discovery. In the event of
rupture between Portugal and Spain, King John could
justify his act by the treaty of 1479, ^"cl call upon the Pope
to defend the Bull guaranteeing certain rights to Don

This crafty advice so pleased the King that he immedi-
ately resolved to adopt it as the basis of his policy. To
enable him the better to carry it into effect, without at once
arousing the hostility of Spain, he abated none of his
courtesies to Columbus, but rather increased them. When
the Admiral, therefore, expressed a desire to proceed to
Spain, King John offered him a large escort to conduct him
thither by land ; but Columbus desired to return to Palos
first by water, so as to discharge his crew at that port,
where many of them lived, and accordingly declined the
monarch's proposal. But that he might not part from
Columbus without further marks of his favor, the King
presented him with several valuable gifts and sent Don
Martin de Morofla and several lords of the court to conduct
him safely to his vessel.


The Queen, who was meanwhile sojourning at the monas-
tery of Villa Franca, sent word to Columbus to call upon
her while on his way back to the coast, which he did, and
entertained her with recital of his discoveries and adven-
tures in the New World. After the interview with her
Majesty he continued on to the Tagus, and on the follow-
ing day set sail for Palos, where he arrived in safety about
noon, March 15th, after an absence from that port of two
hundred and twenty-five days. Thus was accomplished in
the brief space of seven and one-half months the most
important voyage, because most resultful, in all the annals
of mankind ; one which crowns the brow of civilization with
the most imperishable chaplet that fame has ever bestowed ;
which, next to the salvation of the world, was the gift of a
new one, and thus next to the prophet stands the discoverer.


The city of Palos, from whose quays the Columbian
argonauts had set out on their great mission, stood smiling
at a sea which, now tamed by a gentle breeze, lapped her
feet with the affectionate joy that a hunter's hound caresses
the hand of its master. Across the wide expanse of fathom-
less waters the declining sun stretched his fingers of warmth
as if to greet with congratulation and welcome the mariner
who had explored the lands kissed by his fading beams.
To howling storm had succeeded the laughter of zephyrs,
and dashing wave-beats that heaved with fury against her
rock-bound coast now fell away like one ashamed of anger,
and came stealing up the beach leaving a lace-like tracery
of foam upon the shore. This peaceful scene of nature,
where sea, and sky, and landscape had blended in a har-
mony that charmed the sensuous appetites of man in the
soft and sun-lighted climes of Southern Spain, appeared
like nature's preparation to receive with triumphal rejoicing
the return of that great Admiral, who, like Ulysses, had
survived a thousand ocean perils, but who, unlike that
heroic Ithacan, had brought back his followers, and the
story of a new world found where the sun falls into the sea.

When the white but tattered sails of the Nina appeared
in the offing, bearing towards the gates of Palos, excite-
ment in the city — whither the news of Columbus' return
had preceded him — became unbounded. Many wondered
what fate had befallen the Pi?ita, but in the general belief
long entertained that all had perished, there was unspeakable



joy at the survival of even one vessel of the exploring
squadron. So when the Nifia dropped anchor before Palos,
thousands flocked to the docks in their eagerness to meet
friends or relatives who had sailed with Columbus, or to
hear the dread story of how they had perished. One of
the first to descry the incoming vessel was the faithful
Juan Perez, the Father Guardian of La Rabida, Avho had
watched with true paternal concern for many days from
the upper window of the convent for the return of his
friend. The Father's long deferred hopes being at last
realized, he rushed w^ith inexpressible delight towards the
landing place, where he received Columbus, as he came on
shore, with wide-open arms, and raised his eyes in thank-
fulness to heaven for the blessings of that hour, and for
the gift from God, through His instrument, of anew world.
But faithful to the vows he had taken when peril was
greatest, Columbus hastened to the chapel of Palos, there
to return thanks and give praises to heaven for the suc-
cess which had attended his expedition, and for the Provi-
dence that had permitted his safe return,

De Lorgues says that Columbus was not alone in his de-
votions before the shrine of the Virgin, but that the sacri-
legious interruption of their vows by the Portuguese Gov-
ernor on Santa ]\Iaria required its full accomplishment
now, and that accordingly all the seamen, bare-footed and
in their shirts, from the cabin boy even to the Admiral, in
the piteous garb of shipwrecked mariners, went in proces-
sion through the streets of Palos, to the chapel of La
Rabida, and there offered their supplications in unison.

While at his devotions Columbus heard a cry of joy
raised outside of the chapel, and rising from his knees,
learned with rapturous delight that the Finia had been
descried, and was now making her way across the bay to-
wards the mouth of the Odiel. Tlie pilot of the Pinta was


the first to reach the shore, who in response to the urgings
of Columbus gave report of the circumstances that had at-
tended his ship after her separation from the Nina. The
sails of the Pinta had been rent in tatters by the irresistible
blasts of the storm, while her rudder was crippled by the
powerful impact of heavy seas. Thus, practically helpless,
she was driven into the Bay of Biscay. For a while she
appeared to be doomed to certain destruction upon the
breakers, but Pinzon, with his usual skill and apparently
providential help, succeeded in casting an anchor which
happily held her off the shore, where the vessel rode for
more than a day before he considered it safe to make an
effort to put into the harbor of Bayonne. On the 8th of
March the storm had sufficiently subsided to permit of
Pinzon bringing his shattered bark into the harbor, where,
considering his situation, and believing that the Nina and
her crew had undoubtedly perished, he proceeded to assert
his claim to the honors and fame of the expedition. Ac-
cordingly, he ventured to compose a letter to Ferdinand
and Isabella, setting forth the principal incidents of the
voyage, as he chose to relate them, and of the finding of
the Indies, in which he claimed to have been the principal
discoverer. This communication he dispatched to the
Spanish Court at Barcelona, and then put to sea, arriving
at Palos within a few hours after the return of Columbus.
Having heard this report of the actions of Pinzon, Columbus
expressed his surprise that the commander had not as yet
come on shore, to which the pilot replied that discovering
the Nina safe in the anchorage of Palos, Pinzon was greatly
surprised and chagrined, and believing that his bad faith
would soon be revealed, had taken his boat and gone pri-
vately to shore. Effort was made then to find him, but he
kept himself in privacy, determined not to meet Columbus,
pondering over the perfidy which he had exhibited, and


which was soon to break upon his head in the fullest power
of smitten conscience.

In a few days there came in answer to his communica-
tion sent from Bayonne a letter from the sovereigns, who,
hearing of the Admiral's arrival, and perceiving the falsity
of Pinzon's heart and purpose, upbraided him for his con-
duct and forbade him to come into their presence. The
proud spirit of the captain gave way under this stroke.
He sank under the unspeakable grief and mortification
which this rebuke inspired, and in a few days died, as every
one believed, of a broken heart.

The defection of Martin Alonzo Pinzon is not without
many examples in history, and considering the avaricious
and condemnable ambitions of the age, as well as the at-
tendant circumstances, his attempt to supplant Columbus
may be partially condoned. It must be admitted that to
him was due, in a large degree, the success of the expedi-
tion. Being one of the first in Spain to appreciate the
plans of Columbus, he not only used his influence to create
favorable public opinion towards the expedition, but also
aided it with great liberality. Not only did he contribute
a vessel from his own means, but he embarked with his
brothers and friends in the quest, thus hazarding both his
property and his life in the enterprise. These circumstances,
though receiving no consideration at the time, were sub-
sequently generously regarded by Charles V., who, in recog-
nition of the eminent services which Pinzon had rendered,
granted his family the rank and privileges of nobility, and
also conferred upon them a coat of arms emblematic of
the great discovery.

The first formal act of Columbus was to send a letter to
Ferdinand and Isabella announcing briefly his arrival at
Palos and the success of his undertaking. While awaiting
a reply thereto he was the center of public interest and was


assailed by a thousand inquiries concerning the new world
from which he had just returned. For a greater part of the
interval he was the guest of Father Perez, to whom fell the
pleasant task of saying mass and offering thanksgiving for
the return of the expedition and the glorious work that had
been accomplished. After this the sailors were for the
most part discharged, many of whom had their homes in
the town or neighborhood, and a few, as will be recalled,
were under conviction for high crimes at the time of their
departure. But such was the temper of the public mind in
thankfulness for the great discoveries made that punishment
of the criminals was not only remitted, but they were con-
verted into men of historic renown. It was thus for a few
days that Columbus passed the time in the Monastery of La
Rabida, conversing with the Fathers of St. Francis and out-
lining his plans for the future. He also availed himself of
the opportunity to send letters to his wife at Cordova, and
to transmit a communication by messenger to Genoa, bear-
ing the good news to the people of his native town, and
asking his venerable father, and his brother Guiacomo,
known in history as Don Diego, to come at once to see him
in Spain. Nor did the discoverer and his friend, Father
Perez, fail to forward a petition to the Pope, praying the
issuance of a Papal ordinance establishing a line of demar-
cation north and south one hundred leagues to the west of
the Azores, thus dividing the seas and land, and providing
that west of this line all new discoveries and possessions
should belong to Spain. This petition of the Admiral was
used as the basis of the famous Papal Bull issued by Pope
Alexander VL on the 3d of May, 1493.

Having attended to these preliminaries, Columbus pro-
ceeded to Seville, where he received the first communica-
tion from their Majesties, containing a request for him to
repair at once to Barcelona for a personal interview. As


he had been in expectation of such a command he immedi-
ately set forth on his journey, vvliich was destined to be
the most memorable personal event ever witnessed in the
Spanish peninsula. The route of the Admiral lay through
the provinces of Valencia, Murcia and Castile, the fairest
portions of Spain, and the journey developed into a trium-
phal procession commemorated in song and story for more
than a century afterwards, and which may be heard in Spain
to this day. The route all along was thronged v/ith people,
who gave themselves up to transports of jubilant demon-
stration. Crowds of shouting people followed after the
procession, eager to get a glance at the greatest man of the
age, and moved with equal curiosity to behold the strange
beings and wonderful things which lie had brought with
him from the Indies.

Meanwhile, the Spanish sovereigns made extraordinary
preparations to receive the man who had brought such great
honor to their names. A solemn and beautiful scene was
prepared in the great throne-room where the sovereigns
held their court, and where the (flitc of the nobility were
gathered to welcome the great Admiral in the presence of
their Majesties. As Columbus approached Barcelona on
the morning of April 15th, many gayly-dressed cavaliers rode
forth to meet him, and to act as a guard of honor in con-
ducting him into the city. A marvelous sight was pre-
sented as the cavalcade passed through the gates of the
city. The streets were not only crowded with people, but
the housetops were covered with humanity, rending the
air with shouts of admiration and welcome. Columbus,
too, had carefully prepared his little procession so that the
effect might be as striking as possible. Six of the ten
natives whom he had brought with him from the Indies
(one dying on the return voyage and three being left sick in
Palos), gorgeously painted and adorned in their own fashion,


were placed in the front. After them were borne parrots
and other creatures, Hving or dead, which the Admiral had
collected as examples of the animal life of the New World.
Following these were carried a collection of natural produc-
tions, including cotton, tobacco and medicinal plants, and
next to these were exposed to view, on litters, ornaments
made from gold, and specimens of precious stones which
had been obtained from the natives. At the rear rode
Columbus, accompanied by a brilliant throng of hidalgos
and grandees of Spain.

No prouder moment in the life of any man has been re-
corded than that when the great Admiral of the ocean seas
was ushered before Spain's sovereigns. While eminently
practical in many positions requiring genius to direct, Co-
lumbus was acutely susceptible to the blandishments and
praises of men, the spectacular appealing especially to his
nature. Those who have best studied his character have
therefore many times pointed out the qualities of a knight
and crusader, which were particularly prominent in his com-
position. The apparent elation of spirit which this scene
inspired in him was conspicuous in his bearing, though he
never subordinated his dignity to the pomp of egotism.
He was excusable, too, in contrasting the harsh buffetings,
disappointments and mortifications which he had suffered
for nearly a quarter of a century, with the triumph which
he had achieved, and the national homage thus paid to his
persistence and genius.

Upon being ushered into the royal presence Columbus
beheld Ferdinand and Isabella seated upon their thrones
under a splendid canopy of gold brocade, while beside them
sat Prince Juan, heir apparent to the Spanish crown. Upon
either hand were arranged many nobles and oflficers of the
government, including grandees of Castile, Aragon, Valencia
and Catalonia, and counselors of state, ministers and other


dignitaries, while as many richly dressed ladies attended
upon the Queen. Columbus, whose appearance had now
grown venerable through the markings of care in his coun-
tenance and hair, walked forward to salute their Majesties,
his face lighted up with a smile of intense gratification.
About to kneel in their presence and kiss their hands ac-
cording to the courtly manners of the age, the King and
Queen hesitated to accept the obeisance of a man who had
reflected such distinguished honors not only upon himself,
but upon the Spanish Crown as well. They accordingly
themselves arose from their seats, and raising him from his
bended posture, invested him with the insignia of a grandee,
and commanded him to sit in a richly decorated arm-chair
immediately in front of them, a thing unknown at royal re-
ceptions, except in cases of princes and nobles of the highest
rank. Thus seated, Columbus was to recite to the royal
ears the interesting story of his voyage and wonderful dis-
coveries. Presenting the trophies and exhibits of his ex-
pedition, Columbus next introduced the natives, whom he
brought from the strange country of the Indies, and in
presenting them before the interested King and Queen de-

Online LibraryJames W. (James William) BuelLibrary of American history (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 37)