James W. (James William) Buel.

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ing covenants between the sovereigns and Don Christopher
Columbus, and stating in the introductory part the nature
of the petition which Columbus had submitted, the docu-
ment proceeded to confer upon him certain specific rights,
among which was a confirmation of all the benefits pre-
viously granted, and which were to descend in perpetuity
to his heirs; besides which were delegated extraordinary
powers, not only as governor of all the new possessions, but
such judicial authority as made him the supreme arbiter of
all disputes arising therein. In short, he was practically
made King of the new world, with all the royal prerogatives
thereto attaching.

The new squadron, prepared and supplied under the
direction of De Fonseca. was in its extent and character
strongly contrasted with the little fleet which had made the
first voyage to the Indies. The armament consisted of
three vessels of the largest build, nine ships of medium
burden and five caravels. The cargo was of the most mis-
cellaneous description. Several breeds of domestic animals,
which had not been found in the Indies, were taken on


board, including horses and svvinc. A large variety of
plants and collections of seeds and implements of husbandry-
were provided, with a view to the agricultural development
of the new lands. The place selected for the equipment of
the fleet was Cadiz, though the management was located
at Seville. Meanwhile Columbus, satisfied with his fame
and honor, bade farewell to the King and Queen, left Barce-
lona on the 28th day of May, and made his way to the
coast. On the day of his departure the Spanish Court
attended the Admiral from the palace to his own residence,
and there he took final leave of their Majesties. It was the
high noon of his destiny.

Before fixing our attention upon the squadron which was
fitted and provisioned at Cadiz during the summer months,
it may be well to glance for a moment at the serious ques-
tions which were now pending between Spain and Portugal.
It will be remembered that after the arrival of Columbus at
Lisbon, and his interview with King John, the latter had
been advised by his council to anticipate the Spanish gov-
ernment in the occupation and possession of the new lands
discovered in the West. This advice was adopted b}'' the
King, and orders were secretly given for the equipment of
a fleet to sail into the western waters and seize upon the
islands and mainland found by Columbus. In order to
cover the movement, it was given out that the expedition
was intended for the African coast, where the Portuguese
had already fixed themselves by discovery and posses-

The King of Portugal now sent to Barcelona one of his
diplomatists, Ruy de Sande, to allay any suspicion that
might be entertained by the Spanish Court respecting the
movements and purposes of Portugal. The ambassador
was instructed to speak to King Ferdinand about certain
aggressions of the Spanish fishermen beyond Cape Bojador,


and to ask that an interdict be issued on that question.
The sovereigns of Spain were congratulated on the success
of the Columbian voyage and thanked that the Admiral
had, in the prosecution of his enterprise, kept clear of the
Portuguese possessions and fields of discovery. There had
been an understanding between the two courts that tiie
Spaniards in their maritime adventures should steer to
the west of the Canaries, leaving the seas on the south as
the preserve of Portugal. De Sande was instructed to
gain from the Spanish King a reafifirmation of this arrange-
ment, and to hint that any difference of opinion between
the two powers should be settled by negotiation.

There has not been a time in modern history when the
jealousy and distrust of two monarchs were more deeply
inflamed than in the case of Ferdinand and King John.
Both sovereigns were endowed by nature with a suspicious
and wary disposition. In abilities the two were not dis-
similar, and their ambitions were of a like trend and limita-
tion. Their principles of action were such as might be
expected in an age when the Inquisition was adopted as a
means of reform by the Church, and when the rules of inter-
national law were deduced from the writings of Machiavelli.
In their purpose to succeed by craft and duplicity the one
king was even as the other ; but in subtlety and fox-like
shrewdness, the Spanish ruler was the superior of his adver-
sary. It appears, however, that King John, better than his
rival, had learned the potent and diabolical influence of
money in accomplishing political results. He had adopted
the plan of bribing certain spies at the Spanish Court, who,
being attached in several capacities to the government of
Ferdinand, were able to keep their employer constantly in-
formed, not only of the things done, but also of the things
purposed. In the battle of wit and craft, which now ensued
during the early part of 1493, the advantages of intrigue


remained with Ferdinand, while the benefits of systematic
bribery accrued to King John.

It is not needed that we should here relate the details of
the diplomatic contest between the two courts. At one
time Ferdinand sent his ambassador, Lope de Herrera, to
Lisbon, with two sets of instructions, and documents of
exactly opposite intent. But of this maneuver the Portu-
guese King had already been informed by his spies, and the
scheme of the Spanish King was checkmated. At a later
date, and in order to gain time, Ferdinand sent two pleni-
potentiaries to his " beloved cousin " to open a discussion
about the Western seas and the new lands found therein,
that might last until the second Columbian squadron could
set sail. But the purpose of the Spanish monarch had
again been anticipated by the wary John, and nothing was
gained by the maneuver.

In the respective relations of the two governments with
the Court of Rome, however, the case was different. At
that tribunal the advantage was wholly on the side of Spain.
The negotiations of Ferdinand with Pope Alexander had
already led to an understanding, which presently became a
status that nothing could disturb. The Papal Bull dividing
the Atlantic held against all intrigue and contrivance of the
Portuguese King, and in the existing condition of affairs he
durst not send his squadron to the West Indies.

At one time, during the summer, it was reported at
Barcelona that a Portuguese vessel had been dispatched
from the Azores on a west-bound voyage. A protest was
immediately forwarded by Ferdinand to Lisbon, and at the
same time De Fonseca was ordered to send two Spanish
caravels in pursuit. After a brief interval, communication
was received from the Portuguese Court to the effect that
no such expedition as that reported had been undertaken ;
nor did Spanish investigation ever bring such an adventure


to light. The story was doubtless a fiction. The King of
Portugal was balked in every effort which he made to re-
cover his lost prestige. For him and his kingdom the
golden opportunity was gone, and he must henceforth un-
willingly assent to the adverse destiny which had decreed
the discovery and possession of the New World to the
crown of Spctin.



A BLAZE of glory shot up like a rocket and spread its
dazzling shower over all Spain. The spirit of war, which
had produced so many valorous knights in the Moorish
contention, now gave place, by a sudden change of aspiration,
to an ambition that set its sign in the New World, where
bri^^hter opportunity for exploitation was offered in dis-
covery, adventure and conquest.

The work of fitting the second squadron for Columbus
was accordingly completed with tklat. We have already
referred to the character of the fleet, the crew and the
cargo. Under the first plan it was intended to limit the
number of sailors and passengers to one thousand ; but so
great was the enthusiasm that, by solicitation of volunteers
and the urgency of friends, the number was extended
to twelve hundred. Even this limit was surpassed under
pressure, and, by means of various excuses, intrigues and
favoritism, three hundred additional adventurers managed
to get on board.

In so far as Columbus himself determined the character
of the expedition, the passengers were selected with re-
spect to the purposes of the voyage. To this end he
secured a considerable company of artisans, representatives
of the various handicrafts, whose work, as he foresaw, would
be greatly in demand in the Indian Colonies. As to the
merchandise of the cargo, the same was selected according
to the experiences gained during the former voyage. It
was clear that the natives of the islands thus far visited


were all beguiled with showy trinkets and decorations,
such as aborigines always prefer to articles of more solid
value. The supply of this variety of commercial trifles was
accordingly made proportional to the expected demand.
Indeed the whole cargo was chosen with as much regard
as possible to the desires and necessities of those people
whom the Spaniards had visited in the preceding year.

The reader must not conclude, however, that by this
time the forces at work in the Spanish nation had become
too strong and vehement to be controlled, or even success-
fully directed, by the genius of one man. This indeed is
the philosophical reason why Columbus rose at this junc-
ture to the acme of his career. Up to this point he him-
self had been the directive agency in all that had been
planned and accomplished. Thus far the work bore the
distinct impress of his individual genius. But the historical
forces of the age now began to seize him and bear him
away. Hitherto he had contended only with the elements
of the natural world and the conservative obduracy of man;
but now a human whirlwind had been started which was
ere long to become a tornado so violent that the will of
one was only a feather in the storm. The substitution of
a general for an individual purpose began to express itself
in the selection of the crews and colonists of the second ex-
pedition. The spirit of adventure now rushed in to supply
the material of the enterprise, and henceforth passion, ca-
price and lust were to a considerable extent the prevailing
motives of the movement.

We must remember, in this connection, the existing con-
dition of Spanish society. The recent years had been con-
sumed in war and conquest. The final struggle with the
Moors had brought into the field the chivalrous and adven'
turous class of young Spaniards who joined the various
campaigns in the spirit of knights and cavaliers. The


motives of the contest were mercenary and fanatical. The
great province of Granada, with its accumulations of Moor-
ish wealth and art, was the principal prize. As usual in
such cases of spoliation and robbery, the spirit of propagan-
dism and religious zeal was set forth as the reason for the
conquest. In the case of the suppression and ruin of the
Jews the same argument was advanced by the zealots of
Church and State. In such a school it must needs be that
the graduates would come forth in the character of ad-
venturers, bigots and robbers.

The sudden subsidence of the Moorish war thus let loose
in Spanish society a large element of restless, mercenary
and half lawless chivalry, whose motives of action flew low
and settled over the quagmires of gold, and glory, and
license. The appearance of a new enterprise, a new and
startling event like that of the discovery of the Indies,
must in the nature of the case furnish an occasion and vent
for the activities and passions of such characters as those
just described. There was a strong tending of all such
towards the port of Cadiz, and it was almost impossible to
prevent the capture of the new squadron by this element.
Hither came the gold hunter, the soldier out of work, the
drifting, lawless young nobility, to find opportunity and ex-
citement by volunteering in an expedition to an unknown

There was, moreover, a certain weakness in the character
of Columbus which made him accessible to the influence of
mere adventurers and rakes. They crowded around him
and solicited the privilege of going abroad under his banner.
They seemed to constitute a part of that world in the
estimation of which he now held so conspicuous a place.
Their voice and applause seemed to be but an echo of the
public homage. To hold them at bay and put them back
was therefore diflficult, and the result was that a considerable


part of the crew was made up of a class of men who might,
with much more profit, have been sent on a mihtary cam-
paign to Damascus or Bagdad, rather than dispatched as
the first colonists and citizens of Europe to the new hemi-

It was at this juncture of affairs that the premonitions of
a break between the Admiral and Fonseca were first dis-
covered. The latter was a shrewd man of affairs, ambitious,
cold, calculating, unscrupulous in matters affecting his de-
signs. His talents might not be doubted any more than
his jealous and vindictive disposition. He was one of those
characters whose private manners and individualities were
carried into his office, where they constituted the main-
spring of his public life and policy. He was secretive in
his methods, little disposed to trust his associates, and not
infrequently perfidious in his dealings with them. When
he perceived that the popularity of the cause was inducing a
larger enlistment than had been contemplated, he procured
an interview with the Queen, at which he interposed his ob-
jections and began to speak of the additional expense and
risk thereby incurred. Attem.pting to introduce obstructive
tactics, he referred the matter a second time to the sover-
eigns, but they sent back a mandatory order to Fonseca to
concede everything to the wishes of the Admiral, to follow
his directions and second his plans in all particulars.

It was under these auspices that the fleet of seventeen
vessels was made ready in the harbor of Cadiz. The sup-
plies requisite for the voyage were drawn for the most part
from military stores which had been left over from the
Moorish war. The summer months were consumed with
the preparation, and it was not until late in September that
the armament was complete. Pains had been taken to fur-
nish the ships with capable and zealous officers. Some of
the best pilots in the kingdom, noted at that epoch for the


superior skill of its mariners, were put at the helm. Co-
lumbus himself was captain-general of the squadron, and his
commission was so full and absolute as to leave no question
respecting his authority, whether on the voyage or at the

Many noted and some highly picturesque characters were
members of the expedition. Pope Alexander had taken
full cognizance of all that was done and planned respecting
the enterprise. He deemed it well that an emissary from
the Papal Court should be on board as the representative of
the interests and supremacy of the Church. For this office
a certain Benedictine monk, named Bernardo Buyl, was
chosen as apostolic vicar for the Indies, and to him the
other prelates and ecclesiastical ofificers, eleven in number,
were commanded to be obedient. The vicar was himself a
man of large affairs. He had been ambassador to the Court
of France and was fully conversant with the international
relations of Europe. On coming to Spain he demanded
and received from the court a supply of Church materials
and paraphernalia, such as he deemed necessary for the
establishment and maintenance of the faith in the New
World. The other ecclesiastics, of higher or lower rank,
went as his companions and coadjutors in the project of
establishing Catholicism among the people of the Indian

After the Benedictine monk the most famous person that
accompanied Columbus was his best friend, the devoted
friar, Juan Perez, to whose influence was so largely due the
equipment of the first expedition, and to whom Columbus
and their Majesties were alike indebted. The good father
sailed on the Maria Galanie (Gracious Mary), and was thus
in the company of many other distinguished persons,
among whom may be remarked Gil Garcia, alcaid-major ;
Bernal Diaz dc Pisa, lieutenant of the controllers-general ;


Sebastian de Olano, receiver of the crown taxes ; the astron-
omer, Father Juan Perez de Marchena ; the physician-in-
chief, Doctor Chanca ; some hidalgos; Melchor Maldonado,
a cousin to the cosmographer of that name ; and two bap-
tized Indian interpreters, one of whom had as godfather
the brother of the Admiral, and w^as called after his name,
Diego Colon. There also was seen, as a simple passenger,
the estimable Francisco de Casaus, better known under the
name of Las Casas. His son, Barthelmy, whom his ardent
love for the Indians ought one day to immortalize, was then
pursuing his first studies at Seville.

There was also with the expedition the famous young
chevalier. Don Alonzo de Ojeda, destined to enact so im-
portant a part in the primitive annals of the West Indies.
Of him the student of American history may form an ade-
quate idea from his likeness in character, life and adventure,
to Captain John Smith, of Virginia. The parallel is in
every particular marked and striking, with the exception of
the diversity of the two characters in moral honesty.
Ojeda had the same element of daring and romance, of
rash courage, of needless hazard and skill of extrication,
which have made the name of Captain Smith so notable in
our colonial history. In the case of Ojeda, his faulty educa-
tion, and the prevailing immorality of the day, had contrib-
uted to mar his conscience and to make him unscrupulous
in obligation and duty. But for the rest he was the proto-
type of Smith.

Ojeda was a cousin to that other Alonzo de Ojeda who
was the inquisitor-general of Spain. He was a soldier and
adventurer from boyhood. He had fought with the infidels
in the Moorish war, and had acquired the reputation of un-
exampled reckless daring and audacity. In person he was
below the medium height, lithe, sinewy, agile as a haix,
with lustrous black eyes, complexioned like an Arab, the


best rider in the army, generous with everything, never
happy except in action, most pleased in a fight, with a
temper — Hke flint and steel — blazing and then cold, a
born leader, loving hazard for the sake of it, and never
safe except in danger. Happy had it been for Colum-
bus if this audacious and restless spirit had been left in

The departure of the squadron was set for Wednesday,
the 29th of September, 1493. The embarkation was made
on the preceding day. Now it was that the greater number
of that additional three hundred passengers of whom we
have spoken managed to get on board. Some of them did
so with the consent of the Admiral. Others were smuggled
into the ships by the privity of friends. Quite a number
managed their own cause of adventure, and were presently
found as stowaways when the ships stood out to sea. The
fleet weighed anchor in the early morning. The sun had
not yet risen to witness the spectacle ; but the whole Span-
ish coast, from the mouth of the Guadalquivir to the bay
of Trafalgar, was on the alert for the great event.

No stronger contrast could be well afforded than that be-
tween the departure of this second squadron and the going
forth of the first. Every circumstance of the two occa-
sions seemed to have been altered by some good genius
from darkness to light. Glory had come to take the place
of despondency ; universal applause took the place of uni-
versal caviling and grief ; power was substituted for weak-
ness, and eagerness and zeal for gloom and mutiny. The
three little ships constituting the Admiral's fleet had be-
come an armada. The meager equipment and doubtful
issue had been replaced with abundant stores, and the con-
fident outlook of certainty. Instead of the wailing and dolor
of the panic-stricken people of Palos, the multitude of Cadiz
and the surrounding country gathered with glad applause


to the shore to cheer and shout farewells to the fortunate

With the break of day the harbor was literally covered
with all manner of craft swarming around the ships, till the
water was darkened with boat-loads of living beings. They
whose friends were going on the great expedition counted
themselves happy to be thus linked with its destinies. The
Admiral himself was the focus of all compliments and
plaudits. He took his station on the flag-ship, the Maria
Galante, and before sunrise gave the order to weigh anchor.
A favoring wind had sprung up from the shore as if nature
herself was eager to join her impulses with the endeavors
and hopes of the human race. As the sails filled and the
vessels began to move, the hundreds of boats that had
darkened the harbor fell back to the shore. The Admiral's
two sons, who had come to share the hour of their father's
triumphant departure, went down last of all from his ship,
waved their boyish farewells from the water, and were rowed
to land. All the shores round about, from the point of St.
Sebastian to the little island of La Caraccan, were black
with people. The water of the bay was as blue and placid
as the sky; both earth and heaven seemed to drop a bene-
diction on the departing fleet.

The squadron proceeded under fair winds over the same
course which Columbus had taken on his first voyage,
reaching Gomera, one of the islands of the Canaries, where
he took on some necessary supplies of wood and water,
and also added to the cargo a herd of sheep and goats, be-
sides a variety of domestic fowls for the new colony which
he expected to plant in Hispaniola.

On the 7th the fleet weighed anchor and continued the
voyage, with the Maria Galante, Columbus' flag-ship, in
advance ; but though they had departed under a fair wind,
before they had gone two leagues they fell into acalmAvhich


detained them a period of six days. During all this time
they continued in sight of the harbor whence they had last
departed ; but catching at last a favorite wind, the fleet con-
tinued in a southwestward direction, until reaching a point
which Columbus reckoned to be due east from the island
of Hayti, he set his prows directly towards the west, caught
the trade winds, and by avoiding the Sargasso Sea, which
had before caused such great detention, he made a quick
voyage across the Atlantic.

On the 2d of November signs were perceived indicative
of the near approach of land. The breezes became capri-
cious, the sea changed color, and the waves, losing their
regular swell, began to assume the choppy appearance of a
bay. With the coming dawn of Sunday, November 3d,
anticipations were verified by the sight of bold outlines of
an island lying directly to the west, to which, in honor of
the day, Columbus gave the name of Dominica. Before
the ships anchored, however, three other islands were dis-
covered, and it was perceived that the ships were in the
midst of an archipelago 600 miles southeast of San Salvador.
The joy which was infused into the hearts of all who had
accompanied the expedition was so great at the auspicious
termination of the voyage that they united in an anthem,
solemnly chanted, as an expression of their gratitude to

Coasting about the shore of Dominica without finding
any safe anchorage or discovering signs of natives, the
fleet bore away to the north a short distance, until presently
another island was seen whose striking features betrayed its
volcanic origin. Upon this shore a landing was effected,
and several of the members of the expedition made a short
journey into the interior, where they discovered a mountain
peak hollowed in the center, which had become the basin
of a large lake fed by living springs, and which, overflowing,


formed a cataract pouring down in foaming spray over a
lofty precipice. In honor of the monastery in Estrema-
dura, Columbus gave to the island the name of Guadaloupe.

A farther advance towards the interior \>y several of the
bolder spirits of the expedition revealed an inland town,
but from which the inhabitants had, on the approach of
their visitors, hurriedly fled to the forest. In their precipi-
tate flight several of the natives left their children behind,
which the Spaniards captured and hung about their necks
many gewgaws, hoping thereby to attract the parents, but

Online LibraryJames W. (James William) BuelLibrary of American history (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 37)