James W. (James William) Buel.

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of the continent. But the human equation entered in. The
discontent of his men, his ov/n preconception, cherished for
more than eighteen months, that Cuba was an outlying part
of Asia, once more diverted him from the possibility im-
mediately within his grasp, and turned him back from what
may well seem to the blind eyes of men the true line of his
strange destiny.

This place where the ships were anchored, in the Bay of
Cortez, was the westernmost point ever reached by the
discoverer of America. When we consider how near he
came to discovering that Cuba was an island, that Florida
on the north was scarcely a day's sail away, and that the
continent on the west was so near at hand, the fate seems
hard by which the great mariner was projected so far to the
west without being able to reach the true shore of the New

Having, as he believed, established for all futurity the
continental character of Cuba, regardless of what might be
its true geographical configuration, on the 13th of June Co-
lumbus continued in a southeasterly course until he dis-


covered another island, to which he gave the udmeotEvan-
gclista, afterwards known as Isle de los Finos, or Island of
Pines. Here he took on a fresh supply of wood and water
and then stood out to sea with the intention of circumnavi-
gating Jamaica. But instead of finding a direct course he
was intercepted by a cluster of islands, several of which
were of coral formation, and thus a source of the greatest
peril. From these dangers he did not escape without much
damage to the Santa Clara, which ran upon a dangerous
bar and was only saved from destruction by the almost
superhuman efforts of the crew.

His course having been changed by obstacles encoun-
tered, Columbus turned again towards Cuba, the coast of
which he sighted on the 6th of July, and going on shore the
following day, he set up a cross and began a solemn celebra-
tion of Mass, While he was thus engaged some natives
had watched the proceedings until one of their venerable
priests, comprehending its import, came forward and ad-
dressed Columbus, first proffering him a basket of fruit as a
peace-offering. The aged priest told him, through the in-
terpreter, that he understood the ceremony which he had
thus witnessed to be an act of worship ; that he did not
doubt the greatness and glory of the people and country
whence the Spaniards were descended, but that haughtiness
and pride were not becoming even in the greatest. He
then explained to the Admiral that the philosophy of his
religion taught him to believe that the souls of the dead
have, according to merit, two destinies after leaving the
body. Those who had spent their lives in wickedness were
compelled to go into a horrible country where all was dark
and dangerous ; but the ghosts of those who in their earth-
lives were good in all their actions towards mankind jour-
neyed after death into a land of blessedness and light.
This rule of division he assured the Spaniards would be ap-


plied even to themselves, however superior they might be
ill their civiHzation ; and lie even declared that the Admiral
himself would be punished with banishment into the dismal
abodes if he were not just and gracious to the people among
whom he had come.

The speech of the native priest had in it an element not
only of ethical soundness but of orthodoxy as well, which
greatly surprised Columbus, who heartily improved the oc-
casion to confirm the aboriginals' notions and to extend
toward them the doctrine of Christianity. Columbus ac-
cordingly explained to him the practical part of his mission
— that he had come to these island countries to subdue the
cannibals in order that the dread of their race might be
taken away ; but that for the rest he was on an embassy of
peace from his sovereigns, to whom he always, gave the
greatest praise and glory. He also described to the natives
some of the leading features of the Old World civilization,
especially its splendors and mighty cities and the vast yield
of its cultivated fields. The interest of the old priest was
so excited by these explanations that he sought the privilege
of going on board and sailing away with Columbus, and he
was only restrained from this intention by his wife and chil-
dren throwing themselves at his feet and beseeching him
with tears not to leave them.

Columbus continued on the coast of Cuba on this last
visit until the i6th of July, when he resumed his voyage.
But upon regaining the Queen's Gardens the squadron was
assailed by a terrific storm which raged with such great fury
that for two days the vessels were in the greatest danger,
and reached Cabo la Cruz in an almost dismantled condition.
Here it was necessary to beach the vessels for needed re-
pairs to the bottoms, as well as to supply them with new
sails, after which he resumed the voyage with intention to

proceed to Jamaica and there carry into execution his plans


for circumnavigating that island. In pursuance of this de-
sign Columbus left La Cruz and gained the shore of Ja-
maica in a sail of two days, but was for a while prevented
from continuing around its coast by the interruption of
another storm, which compelled him to put into a harbor
of that shore, where the natives received him with great
kindness. In one instance a cacique came in the manner
of royalty, accompanied by his queen and her daughters
and a retinue of councilors and guards, all ornamented and
painted according to aboriginal custom and etiquette. Ob-
taining permission, they came on board the Sajita Clara and
were there hospitably received and entertained by Colum-
bus, whose kindness so affected the cacique that, though
ruler of a rich government, he expressed his desire to abdi-
cate and return with the Spaniards to the celestial country
whence he supposed they had come. For many reasons
Columbus could not accept this proposal, but he had to use
much persuasion to induce the chief and his family to return
on shore and resume their royal functions among their

Proceeding from one point of the island to another, as
temporary abatement of the storm permitted a continuance
of the voyage, on the 19th of August the circumnavigation
of the island was completed, after which the Admiral steered
for San Domingo, and three days thereafter came in sight
of Cape San Miguel. From this point efforts were made to
proceed directly to Isabella, but many new islands were
encountered, to which names were given and short landings
made. But these presently became so numerous that the
sand-bars presented serious obstacles and detained the
squadron nearly two weeks before they could be extricated
from the dangers which surrounded them.

The hardships of the voyage, though alternating at times
with pleasant episodes on the shores of the various islands


visited, had been extreme, and the crews were well-nigh the
limits of their endurance. The Admiral himself, more than
ever before, sliowed the efTects of the great strain and
sleepless anxiety to which he had been subjected. In his
case exhaustion was not only of the body, but also of the
mind and spirit. He could but feel, now that he was re-
turning to his colony, that the aggregate results of his
voyage fell far short, not indeed of reasonable expectation,
but of that visionary and picturesque dream of which he
himself had been the principal author. A rapturous vision
of the Indies was entertained by Ferdinand and Isabella
and by all the people of Spain ; indeed, the nations of Eu-
rope were on tiptoe to catch the first tidings of things more
marvelous than had yet been related concerning the bor-
ders of the newly discovered world. Failing to realize
these gorgeous anticipations, we may imagine the depress-
ing effect produced by the disappointments which Columbus
must have so keenly felt.

Whatever may have been the cause, Columbus, on leav-
ing the island of Mona and steering for Isabella, broke
down completely and yielded to some form of malady which
physical science may well be puzzled to understand. He
became drowsy, and his senses, one by one, were covered
with an oblivious veil through which no thought, no per-
ception of external things, could penetrate. He fell into a
sort of coma almost as deep as death ; indeed, it was believed
by the ofificers and men, including Dr. Chanca, that the
hour of the Admiral had come. They accordingly set all
sail and, catching a favoring trade wind, bore off directly
for the harbor of Isabella, where, on the 29th of September,
1494, they arrived, bringing back Columbus, who, though
still living, was wholly insensible.

The joy felt by those who had remained faithful to the
government of Diego was very great when they saw the


squadron of three vessels making into the bay, but the
jubilation was quickly chilled when the knowledge of the
Admiral's condition became known,

We may here observe that it was nearly five months from
the time that he was stricken down before Columbus recov-
ered his health, and even at the expiration of that long
period of debility his powers were not fully restored.
Indeed, advancing age prevented rejuvenation and he was
never himself again. His restoration was due in the largest
measure to the unfaltering care of Father Juan Perez, who,
having shared with the Admiral all the disappointments and
hardships of the recent voyage, could not be persuaded to
leave him at any time throughout the long period of his
severe illness, but watched unremittingly beside the couch
of his sick friend, speaking words of encouragement and
ministering in every possible way to his needs.

When Columbus opened his eyes to consciousness, after
many days of insensibility, he found his brother Bartholo-
mew standing by his side. His surprise was not only
inexpressible, but for a while he believed himself dreaming
and that his mind was still held fast in the shackles of the
disease that had stricken him down ; and well it might be
so, for long had it been since he had seen the face of his
faithful and resolute brother. How, then, and why had
Bartholomew Columbus come so far to receive and minister
to his half-dead brother ? The story is long and full of
interest, but we may not here pause to enter fully into the
episodes and details of the extended adventures which had
kept Bartholomew at the courts of Europe. The reader
will readily recall the situation of affairs at the time when
Columbus' mule was turned about on the bridge of Finos
on the evening of the last day of his appeal for the patron-
age of Ferdinand and Isabella. Believing that his cause
was ended in Spain, Columbus had dispatched Barthol.


omew to the Court of Henry VH., of England, to propose
to that monarch the project of discovery. Tradition tells
us — for the facts may not be obtained from any authenti-
cated history — that the vessel in which he sailed was run
down by pirates, who, after despoiling the ship of all its
valuables, left the crew on some shore which is not named
in the story. Bartholomew, robbed of his resources, was
for a long time harassed by pressing want, his poverty being
the greater because of his ignorance of the language of the
people among whom he was thus harshly thrown. It was,
therefore, several years before he succeeded in reaching
England, and having at last arrived at that country he was
compelled to spend two years more in acquiring the English
language, learning the usages of the people, and in other-
wise preparing himself to properly appear at the court of
that nation. It was not until the middle of 1493, it is said,
that he obtained an audience with the king, to whom he
first presented a painted atlas, and then followed his request
for aid to Christopher's enterprise with such convincing rea-
soning that the monarch not only welcomed the proposal,
but signified his desire to enter as quickly as possible upon
the preliminaries of a contract, acceding to the demands
made in the stipulations which Christopher had presented
to the King of Portugal.

Rejoicing at the success of his mission to England, Bar-
tholomew departed in great haste to seek his brother.
While passing through Paris on his way back to Spain he
was first informed of the discovery of the New World and
of the triumphal reception of the great discoverer by the
Majesties of Spain and Portugal. Immediately Charles
VIII. heard of Bartholomew's presence in Paris he sent for
him, and not only welcomed him as the brother of the most
distinguished explorer of the world's history, but, finding
him in need of money, induced Bartholomew to accept a


hundred gold crowns to defray the expenses of his return
to Spain.

Not considering that it was now important to hasten his
journey, Bartholomew remained a while in France, and when
he reached Seville it was to learn that Christopher had
departed on his second voyage. Greatly disappointed at
being thus prevented from accompanying him, Bartholomew
visited Doiia Beatrix, at Cordova, and then took his nephews
Diego and Fernando, who were studying there, to Valla-
dolid and presented them at court, where they were ten-
derly received and retained for a considerable while.

Ferdinand and Isabella w^ere both much impressed by the
chivalric bearing of Bartholomew, as well as by his knowl-
edge of many languages, including Latin, Portuguese, Span-
ish, Danish, and English, and for his great skill as a navi-
gator. To show her appreciation of his several conspicu-
ous attainments and merits, the Queen granted him letters
of nobility and the command of three ships, which she
ordered him to load with provisions and take to the colony
in Hispaniola. When he arrived at Isabella, however, he
found that the Admiral had started upon his second explo-
ration of Cuba, and he was therefore compelled to endure
the anxiety of five months' further separation before cir-
cumstances permitted him to greet at last the distinguished
brother whom he had not seen for more than eight long
and eventful years.


Over the whole island of Hispaniola there brooded the
spirit of disquiet, which only needed the Admiral's absence
to bring forth insubordination and riotous spoliation. Fol-
lowing his departure the succeeding events may be thus
briefly traced : As for the local affairs at Isabella, the ad-
ministration had been conducted with tolerable success and
conformably with the Admiral's instructions. It was only
as the colony had been embroiled by the conduct of Mar-
garite, leader of the military expedition in the interior, that
confusion, clamor and injustice had arisen among the col-
onists of the coast. It should be said once for all that
Don Diego Columbus, whom the Admiral had left in author-
ity, was a man of mild manners and moderate characteristics
such asunsuited him to a considerable degree for the respon-
sibilities and duties of this rough frontier government. But
doubtless he would have succeeded better had he not been
from the first impeded and treated with contempt by the
military commandant and his followers.

It will be remembered that by the Admiral's order Ojeda
was assigned to the command of Fort St. Thomas and the
leadership of the exploring expedition to Margarite. The
latter was strictly enjoined to explore the mountain region
and if possible discover the sources of gold. He was also
to traverse as far as possible the five provinces of the island
and prepare himself by actual observation and experience
to report on the products and resources of every district
visited. But, astonishing to relate, this reckless and obsti-



nate commander, as soon as he knew that the Admiral had
gone forth on his voyage of discovery, discarded his instruc-
tions and entered upon a career of insubordination and
wickedness so flagrant as to brand him with the contempt,
if not the hatred, of after time.

Instead of going forward to explore the gold-bearing
mountains of Cibao — instead even of marching northward
through the countries of unvisited and unknown caciques —
Margarite turned about from Fort St. Thomas, marched
back into the populous and fertile regions of the Vega Real,
and quartered himself and his men among the native vil-
lages. Here he began at once a course of inaction, licentious-
ness and outrage so brutal and vile as to defy narration.
They began their abuse of the natives by violently appro-
priating whatever pleased them, paying nothing for their
provisions, taking what they would, and wastefully destroy-
ing the residue.

It was not long until the supplies in the villages ran low
and the natives found themselves without food. At the
same time the Spaniards began to take all the gold which
the Indians had gathered, with no pains to recompense them
even with trinkets. The next step was to compel the natives
to gather more of the shining dust for their masters. The
latter assumed the manner of slave-drivers and abused the
timid people of the towns as though they were dogs and
cattle. From seeking wives respectfully, the Spaniards
began to claim the native women and to take them without
reeard to the rights or rank of the fathers, husbands and
brothers. The women of the villages were in the power of
the stranger, and mere lust ran riot until the barbaric nature
of the islanders, however meek and subservient, could bear
it no longer.

While this reign of shame and wickedness prevailed in
the villages of the Vega, under the example and leadership


of Margarite, the evil extended along social and political
lines to the colony at Isabella. In general the Hidalgo ele-
ment among the Spaniards fell into sympathy with Mar-
garite. When the news of the proceedings of the latter
were carried to Don Diego he immediately laid the matter
before his council, and the result was a letter of rebuke to
the offending officer and his command. He was reminded
of the instructions which had been given him by the Ad-
miral, and directed, in compliance therewith, to break off
from his corrupt life in the Vega and prosecute the expedi-
tion of discovery. Instead, however, of accepting this
authoritative paper and obeying it, Margarite broke into
open rebellion. He renounced Diego Columbus and the
council, declaring himself independent, and affecting con-
tempt for the parvenu Columbuses, who, through the vicis-
situdes of fortune, had gained a rank under which they
thought to lord it overmen having in their blood noble cur-
rents of ancient Spain.

In this contumacy the captain was supported by the
reckless young nobles of the colony, whom, as the reader
will remember, the Admiral himself had found so much
difficulty in controlling. The general result was the establish-
ment of an aristocratical faction in the island, embracing the
Hidalgos and all the Adullamites of the colony. The
name of these was legion, and legitimate authority was
soon paralyzed in their presence.

Perhaps after all Diego and the council might have been
able to maintain order if it had not been for the defection
of the Vicar Buyl and his subordinate ecclesiastics. Those
priests, including Father Perez, who were faithful to the
Admiral first and last, had generally accompanied him
on his voyages, while the Buyl faction remained in the
island and had gone over in a body to the malcontents.
In such a state of affairs sedition was the natural, perhaps


the inevitable, result. When Bartholomew Columbus ar-
rived disorder was king. Nor had he any other than moral
force with which to support his brother in the government.
On the other hand Margarite felt himself strong. He had the
backing of the nobility and the priesthood. Besides, both
he and Buyl believed with good reason that they stood
well with Ferdinand, and that the Admiral was not, and
never had been, in great favor with the monarch.

Thus fortified by the circumstances, Margarite and the
vicar made a conspiracy to seize the three ships constitut-
ing the fleet of Bartholomew Columbus and to sail back to
Spain, where the whole cave of Adullam might discharge
itself in the royal court. The enterprise gathered head,
and this time was successful. The mutineers seized the
vessels, and under the lead of Margarite and the Vicar Buyl
sailed away for the mother country. Nor was there any
power to prevent them from doing so. Among the many
squadrons bearing from port to port of our poor world their
cargoes of lies, this seditious fleet, commanded by a brig-
and and a priest, was conspicuous for carrying the heaviest

All this was done long before the return of the Admiral.
As for the army, whether in the Vega Real or straggling
back to Isabella, it had no longer a commander and quickly
fell to pieces of neglect and insubordination. The soldiers
broke into bands and ranged at will among the Indian
towns, taking the same course of vice, outrage and deprav-
ity which they had pursued with the consent and by the
example of Margarite. The natives, driven to desperation,
at length rose against the wretched criminals who had vio-
lated every principle of honor and decency, and the Span-
iards soon began to feel the sting of retributive justice. In
one case ten of the straggling soldiers were taken by Chief
Guarionex and put to death without much regard to form.


He next succeeded in throwing a large force of his warriors
around the fortress, where another band numbering forty-
six had taken possession, and the houses were fired.
Ahnost all of the Spaniards perished, either in the flames or
by the darts of the enemy. In the next place the garrison
of a little block-house called Magdalena was cooped up in
a siege and was unable to extricate itself until reinforce-
ments were sent out from Isabella.

The situation was sufificiently alarming. As soon as the
Admiral's health w^as in a measure restored he applied him-
self with diligence to the restoration of order. Matters had
now gone so far, however, that mere personal kindness
could nor avail, and diplomacy had to give place to war.
The greater part of all the islanders had become positively
hostile. There were, as we have said, in Hispaniola five
provinces or principal caciquedoms. The first and most
northerly of these was called Marten in the native tongue,
and was ruled over by Guacanagari. The second was
called Maguana, lying on the southern coast between the
lagoons and the River Ozema. The third was the great cen-
tral province of Xaragita, lying over to the southwest and
having for its most conspicuous physical feature the great
headland called Cape Tiburon. The fourth division was
called Higiiey, and occupied the eastern extremity of the
island as far north as Samana Bay and the River Yuna.
The fifth and most important of all included the great, fer-
tile and populous plain of the Vega Real.

As we have said, the ruler of the first-named district was
that Guacanagari whose generous friendship had been ex-
tended to Columbus in the perilous day when the Santa
Maria was wrecked on the coast. The second cacique, by
far the ablest and most warlike, was of Carib extraction
and was, as the reader knows, called Caonabo (King of the
Golden Realm). The third ruler was named Behechio. He


it was whose sister, the peerless beauty Anacaona, was the
wife of King Caonabo. The cacique of Higuey was named
Cotubanama, whose subjects had many Carib elements in
their disposition, but who was not himself of a warlike
character. The cacique of the Vega Real region was, as we
have seen, that Guarionex with whom for about six months
the Spaniards had been in close relations.

Of these five caciques four were now hostile to the Span-
iards, and possibly Guacanagari might himself have been ad-
ded to the league but for the fact that the others, suspecting
his unchangeable friendship for the foreigners, had attacked
him in his own village, and besides massacring several of
his people had killed the beautiful Catalina, who, it will be
remembered, escaped from Columbus' vessel and fled into
the forest, where she was directly afterwards followed by
the chief who made her his wife. This violent outrage con-
firmed the friendly feelings which he had before entertained
for the Spaniards, and to their fortunes he now attached
himself more firmly than ever. Immediately upon the
Admiral's return Guacanagari opened communication with
him and supplied valuable information respecting the move-
ments that were going on in the island, and otherwise

Online LibraryJames W. (James William) BuelLibrary of American history (Volume 1) → online text (page 18 of 37)