James W. (James William) Buel.

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decimate the colonists — The Indians reduced to slavery under
the lash — Pitiful tales of their hardships — Dying by the way-
side — Invasion of Xaragua — Inhuman atrocities — Groundless
complaints — Hospitable reception by Queen Anacaona — The
damnable plot of Ovando — A frightful massacre of the de-
fenseless natives — Persecution and death of Cotabanama —
Retribution that only brought the Indians to more dreadful
punishment— Columbus sails for Spain — His efforts to find re-



dress for his wrongs — Too weak to walk, he is borne on a litter
from his ship— Though failing rapidly, his ambitious spirit
still aspires to other achievements 376-387


hA-ST Days of Coi,UMBUS— The world's lack of appreciation—
The true measure of greatness — A victim to env}-, malice and
avarice— The friends that remained steadfast to the end— Per-
sistent efforts to recover the rights of which he had been
basely defrauded— The mendacity of Ferdinand— Day after
day of vain pleading brings the great Admiral nearer his
grave — The last sad hours of Isabella— Poor heart, broken
with an accumulation of unbearable griefs, she lays down the
crown — Her death and sepulture— Columbus thus loses a
great friend — He is now only a broken-down old man, who is
no longer an object of interest — A pathetic appeal to the
honor of a perfidious king— Hope long deferred maketh the
heart sick— The last golden dream of the dying Admiral-
Death of Columbus— The infamous tactics of Ferdinand
prove successful — Pompous funeral ceremonies, a poor dumb
show of kingly ingratitude 3SS-403


Careers oe the Columbian Descendants— The perfidy of
Ferdinand continues— The heirs of Columbus are denied the
rights and benefits conferred by will — Presentation of the
claims of Don Diego — Advantageous marriage of Diego- He
is permitted to bear the title of Admiral — Contention over
the governorship of the West Indies— The courts decide in
his favor— He departs for the Indies and assumes the vice-
royalty — Fonseca's war against Diego — Death of Don Bar-
tholomew — Introduction of slaves from Africa — Career of the
other descendants— Death of Don Liiis— The ancient house
of Cuccaro 404-414


Discovery and Conquest oe ]\Iexico — Vasco da Gama finds
a sea route to India— His reception by the Zamorin— Rivalry
between Spain and Portugal— Spain's efforts to colonize the



West Indies — The conquest of Cuba — Hernando Cortez the
wild rover — Founding of Havana — Cortez made secretary to
Valasquez — A remarkable escapade — Cortez placed in com-
mand of an exploring expedition — He reaches the shores of
Mexico — Story of his exploit of subjugation — On the shores
of Yucatan — A battle with the natives — Terrible slaughter of
Indians — Cortez marries a native Indian 415-427


Emissaries of Montezuma Visit Cortez— Hospitably treated
by the natives — An interview with the Indian governor —
Cupidity excited by displays of gold — Montezuma loads
Cortez with presents — Decision to march upon the Mexican
capital — A pretense to convert the country to Christianity — A
council set up by Cortez — In the chief city of the Totonacs —
Cortez gathers a native army — Custom of sacrificing human
victims — Bloody religion of the Aztecs — The place and means
of sacrifice — An act of astonishing perfidy — Indian maidens
tecome wives to the Spaniards — Destruction of Totonac idols
— Acceptance of the Catholic religion — Cortez destroys his
ships — The conquest entered upon 42S-440


The March to Mexico — A wonderful country — Imposing
architecture and beautiful fields — Meeting with the Tlascalans
— A bloody battle follows — Effects of the artillery fire — Cortez
in great danger — One hundred thousand natives against four
hundred Spaniards — A frightful slaughter — Again assailed by
a still greater force — The slaughter is repeated — An alliance
formed with the Tlascalans 441-450


A Triumphai, March — Cortez acquaints himself with the re-
sources of the empire — Montezuma sends many valuable
presents — Cortez is requested to withdraw from Mexican soil
— His determination to subjugate the country is thereby con-
ceived — Obsequious messages from Montezuma — Massacre
of the Cholulans — The mighty temples of Cholula — Magni-
tude of the city — A luxurious country — First sight of the



Mexican capital — A scene of bewildering splendor — Appear-
ance of the Emperor, Montezuma — The Spaniards welcomed
to Mexico — Cortez presses request that human sacrifices be
abandoned — Fear inspired by firing of cannons 451-462


The SpaniarDvS are; Pi.aced in Jeopardy — Cortez visits the
palace — The great pyramid of human sacrifice — A Christian
chapel set up — Suspicion aroused — Montezuma seized as a
hostage — Burning of native chiefs in the market-place — The
Spanish build brigantines to facilitate escape — Resolved to
overthrow the bloody religion of Mexico — Cortez meets and
defeats a force of Spaniards sent against him — His force in-
creased by the prisoners taken — A slaughter of Mexicans while
at religious devotions — A furious attack upon the Spaniards —
Wounding of Montezuma — Hand-to-hand fight on the tower
— The Spaniards retreat through a hail of arrows — A night of
terrible agony — Forty Spaniards taken prisoners and sacrificed
to Mexican gods 463-478


The Flower Glory Plucked erom the Bed of Defeat
— Cortez's first effort ends disastrously — Recruits an army
from the Totonacs — Induces another independent expedition
to join him — A plague of smallpox — Renews the siege of
Mexico — A battle upon the lake — The Spaniards fall into a
trap — Another gory sacrifice of prisoners — Starvation com-
pels resort to cannibalism — Capture of the Emperor — A noble
sovereign — Honors follow the siege — Torture of Guatemozin
— Mexicans are reduced to slavery — Reconstruction of the
capital — Complete conquest of the nation — Suspicious death of
Cortez's wife — Fatal rebellion of Oled — A march characterized
by incredible sufferings — Executions on the way — Cortez em-
barks for Cuba — Accused by his enemies — Reduced to poverty
and shame — The last daj'S of Cortez — His remains often
transferred 479-497



The story of Columbus is at once an epic and an elegy ;
a narration of bold conception, persistent courage, heroic
attainment, mingled with the gall of national ingratitude
and the malevolence of personal jealousies. The adven-
tures of the Homeric Ulysses were not more illustrious with
valor ; the afflictions of Niobe were not more tearful with
despair. East and west of his life there were bitterness and
shadows : radiant Hope tip-toeing on the pedestal of won-
drous accomplishment, and Faith bowing with grief before
envious and invidious rivalry. No character in the world's
history was ever more highly honored for chivalrous achieve-
ment ; none more maligned by perfidy or oppressed by the
spitefulness of malice. He was a product of the brave days
of old, yet was he a victim to the spirit that gave birth to
intolerance and persecution ; for the heroism that sought a
reclamation of the holy sepulcher ; that produced Ruy Diaz
Campeador (the Cid) ; that measured lances with Moham-
med-al-Nasir on the decisive and bloody field of Las Navas
de Tolosa, was twin brother to that purblind theopathy
that established and energized the Inquisition.

If we consider the slavishly superstitious, the intolerantly
bigoted, the audaciously savage age in which he lived,
which was characterized by the most desperate impulses, we
3 2S


will be prepared to understand and to appreciate the dis-
position and proclivities of Columbus ; to applaud his
courage, and to condone his vices. For he was not without
human frailties, as will be shown, but these were national
— medieval — rather than personal ; errors of the times
rather than passions peculiarly his own. His was an age
when so-called civilization saw no wrong in banishing Jews
and confiscating their property to convert it to holy purposes ;
which believed that true piety and loyalty to God were best
manifested by burning heretics at the stake as awful ex-
amples, or by torturing the impious until they confessed
the vice of their unbelief ; " for," as answered Torquemada,
" were it not better to sanctify men through afflictions of
the flesh than that they be suffered to continue in their
evil ways to the loss of their souls and their damnation
through all eternity ? "

Cruel as these horrific measures were, and barbarous as
these beliefs appear to us now, they were not the results of
human depravity or moral debasement ; so far from this be-
ing true, the people were wondrously devout, and it was the
intensity of their religious, pietistical fervor that led them
to adopt extreme methods for the conversion of all men to
the true faith, for they honestly believed that this would
alone secure for them salvation and a beatific condition
after death. " What," argued they, " is the suffering of the
body on this earth, compared with the results that affect the
endless life in that world to come ? " They accordingly ac-
cepted literally that divine injunction which demanded, or
required, the sacrifice of eye or hand should they offend,
and gave it that broader significance which to them justi-
fied a sacrifice of the sinful by any means howsoever cruel.

Though we cannot excuse the slavery that tormented for
opinion's sake, yet it is not entirely just to hastily condemn
the spirit of the masses, whose pious convictions gave crea-


tion to the Inquisition ; for no single Church bears all the
odium of persecution, any more than any one people is
chargeable with the crime of bigoted intolerance. There
have been transition periods in the life of all beliefs, and
of all denominations, during which the dominant sect has
shown jealousy and injustice. When the time shall come
that such a spirit is dead, then may we conclude that there
is no difference of opinion, and that the lion and the lamb
have laid down in perpetual truce, and universal, enduring
peace hath possessed the world.

With this understanding of the animating ambitions of the
times, I beg the reader will regard the beliefs and acts of
Columbus, since to present a faithful history of his life it
is necessary to record many facts which would otherwise
put to shame the merited fame which he won, and the re-
sults which left us such a glorious heritage — Columbia.

As the greatest men in the world's history have, as a rule,
risen from obscurity, Columbus, who perhaps conferred the
largest benefits upon mankind, was not an exception, but
rather a conspicuous exemplification of the assertion. For
so lowly was his birth that little information has been pre-
served respecting his youth, while his nativity, like the place
of his final sepulture, must forever remain a question of
contention. The time of his birth is equally a matter of con-
jecture, various dates being assigned between the years 1435
and 1448, though the preponderance of evidence points to
the former, which we shall accordingly adopt. Cuccaro, in
Montferrat, and Savona, pretend to the honor of his birth,
but the place that with best reason claims his nativity is
Genoa, which was probably also the birthplace of his father,
whose name was Dominic Columbus, the Latin orthography,
or Colombo, as it is written in Italian, or Colon, as it is
called in the Spanish. Dominic married a lassie named
Susana, who was daughter to one James Fantanarossa, of


the village of Bassago, who brought him a small income,
but so inadequate to his needs that immediately after mar-
riage he moved to the neighborhood of Genoa, where he set
up in a small way as a wool-comber, employing one work-
man and a single apprentice. The house in which he thus
began business, Avhich was at once residence and shop, was
just outside the limits of the municipality, and it was here
that Christopher was born, and also his three brothers, Bar-
tholomew, Pelligrino, and James afterwards called Don Diego.
There was also a daughter, who married a pork butcher
named Bavarello, of the vicinity, but her name and place of
nativity are unknown.

The first several years of Dominic's married life were
spent in the house in the Genoese suburbs, but he after-
wards rented the building to an innkeeper, and moved into
a somewhat more pretentious house which was located at
No. i66 Mulcento Street, where he continued the business
of weaver, but with indifferent success. It is maintained
by many of Christopher's biographers that he was descended
from a noble family that had been scattered by domestic
dissensions, such as were very common among the Italians
in the early centuries, and very good evidence is presented
in support of this claim. While the occupation of wool-
comber represented a great condescension in one who had
belonged to the noblesse rank, we know that Christopher
had a grand-uncle who held an admiral's commission in the
service of Rene, duke of Anjou, which was the most illus-
trious of all engagements in that day, and was open only
to those who had some rightful claim to distinguished an-
cestry. But that Columbus was a descendant of the great
Lombard family, as his most enthusiastic admirers declare,
there is exceeding doubt, amounting to denial.

That Dominic was a kind father, and thoroughly appre-
ciative of the importance of education, is attested by the


fact that when Christopher, his eldest child, had reached
the age of ten years, instead of putting him to service,
where he might be helpful towards increasing the slender
income, which indeed little more than sufficed for the sup-
port of the now considerable family, he was sent to be
schooled at the University of Papia. Since the branches
which distinguished that famous school were natural philos-
ophy, astrology and geography, the conclusion is irresistible
that young Christopher must have had some previous in-
struction to qualify him to enter upon such advanced studies.
At this university he continued for a period of three years,
though there were intervals in his attendance during which
he was an assistant to his father in the factory, so that he
acquired a fairly good knowledge of the trade and might
afterwards have followed it, as did his brothers, but for an
incident that lifted his feet from the dull path of obscurity
and planted them in the road that led to ineffable glory, of
which we, more than his own countrymen, are the chief

Young Christopher did not improve his advantages to
their utmost, for he was more diligent with conceits for
wider fields of adventure than in application to his text-
books, a condition which brought him into antagonism with
his teachers, that resulted either in his expulsion, or volun-
tary, but sudden and secret, withdrawal from the school.
We may, without injustice to his memory, infer that he
was guilty of conduct which led to his peremptory dismissal
from the university, since history tells us that he ran away
and took engagement as a cabin boy on a vessel lying at the
port of Genoa. To a youth full of animation and a cour-
ageous spirit, the dashing waves that beat up in restless flow
against the rugged beaches, and poured their monody of
complainings at confinement in his ear, there must have
come a longing to sail away behind his little world that


kissed the horizon scarce five leagues beyond the green hills
of the shore.

To one of such a temperament as Christopher later re-
vealed, there must have been an incentive to adventure in
the wild stories of heroism on the sea, when every day had
its savage incident of battle with pirates ; and when every
sailor who came to Genoa sat on the quays, the center of
admiring crowds, telling his hair-breadth escapes, and mov-
ing youthful ambition by descriptions of strange lands
visited between where the sun rises up out of the Mediter-
ranean, and the blue mountains of the west, where he sinks
down in dreamy slumber. All around him there were
memories of valorous examples, for the fiery ardor of the
Crusaders had not yet burned out. Fresh glories were
being won by brave spirits that dared the fury of predatory
Moors, whose ravages spread over the sea, and whose gilded
crescents tipped lofty masts in bold defiance of the cross.
Fortune and fame seemed to await the courageous, who
while fighting for religion made spoils their reward, and
thus the Mediterranean became a sea of battle, a rendez-
vous for the desperate, the daring and the adventurous.

History has not preserved the facts connected with his
first maritime service, yet our small knowledge respecting
his conduct, gathered from intimations made in subse-
quent letters to friends, leads to the belief that he shipped
with a crew most likely bound upon some piratical enter-
prise in the Levant. This suspicion is founded upon two
incidents, the particulars of which are so vaguely hinted
at in his letters that they afford good reason for the belief
that he was connected with Archipelago Corsairs. He ad-
mits having participated in at least one bloody engagement,
and concerning another De Lorgues, his most flattering
biographer, says : " In one of the combats, which has not
been retraced by history, he received a deep wound, the


cicatrix of which, though long forgotten, reopened towards
his latter years, and endangered his life." On another oc-
casion he was engaged in a naval fight which resulted in the
destruction of his vessel, and left him struggling in the
water with only a spar between him and death. With good
fortune, however, he contrived to reach the shore in safety.
Providence having reserved him for a noble purpose. This
last adventure is not well attested, and may be an apocry-
phal account by some essayist on morals not thoroughly
veracious, yet the story is not an improbable one. But as
Columbus refused to his death to make any statement con-
cerning his Mediterranean service — when he had every
reason to do so had it been patriotic — and since the com-
merce of that sea in his time was so joined with piracy as
to leave the two professions scarcely distinguishable one
from the other, honesty compels the presumption, if it does
not confirm the belief, that several years of his life were
spent with his superiors exacting tribute from merchantmen,
and also in waging war against Moorish freebooters who in-
fested the Levant.

Of the distinguished relatives of Christopher there were
two who might have naturally led him to an adoption of
such a career. One of these, who is known to history as
the elder Columbus, most probably a grand-uncle, bore a
captain's commission from Louis XL of France, who went
so far beyond the limits of recognized duty as to win for
himself the title of Arch Pirate. He is represented as a
man of almost unexampled recklessness, and of being noted
no less for his cruelty than for his boldness. Another kins-
man, supposed to have been also a grand-uncle, was Colombo
el Mozo, whose fame as a pirate rivals that of the elder.
After achieving a wonderful renown by acts of incredible
valor in the wars of the Genoese Republic, he fitted and
armed a considerable fleet of his own and sailed against the


Venetians, many of whose ships he destroyed after possess-
ing himself of their cargoes. Subsequently he went against
the pirates that patroled the African coast in quest of
prizes, and delivered such decisive blows as practically to
break up the industry in that section, but only to transfer
it, however, to other parts of the sea.

After continuing for some years in a subordinate position,
and having attained to manhood, Christopher became such
a competent navigator that he obtained command of a ves-
sel and sailed out of the Mediterranean, on cruises to lands
of the northeast, especially to Spain, France and England.
The known facts concerning his early life are so meager that
we must rest upon the very few and brief disclosures made
in his " Book of Prophecies," and these are scarcely more
than the merest intimations of a very few of his acts, so that
we cannot present his career either chronologically or with
any attempt at completeness.

About the year 1470, Christopher took up his abode in
Lisbon, whither his brother Bartholomew had gone a year
before, having quitted his trade of wool-carding to become
a cosmographer. The inference is gained from this known
circumstance, that Christopher and Bartholomew had joined
interests and were pursuing the same studies and with prob-
ably identical ambitions ; for Christopher, besides being a
navigator, began drawing charts at a fairly early age ; and
these were no doubt used by Bartholomew in illustration of
his theories respecting the constitution of the system of
worlds. It was this study that undoubtedly led to his con-
ception of the earth's shape, and liis belief that the India
of Marco Polo might be reached by a voyage towards the

Columbus, as we shall henceforth call him, was only a short
while in Lisbon before he saw a most bewitchingly beauti-
ful lady while attending mass in the Church of All Saints,


and immediately lost his heart to the fair enchantress. He
directly sought an introduction, and at the first interview
rejoiced to discover that his attentions met with favor
which encouraged him to press a lover's suit. It was not Ion"-
after his meeting with the lady that he heard from her
lips the affecting story of her life. Her name was Dofia
Felippa de Perestrello, one of the three daughters whose
father had once been a grandee, of both fame and fortune.
He had been a successful navigator, a large ship owner,
and had rendered such valuable services to Portugal that
Prince Henry rewarded him with the Governorship of Porto
Santo, a fertile island near Madeira, off the northwest coast
of Africa and on the route to the Canaries. A flourishing
colony was here established by his endeavors, and large
estates set in cultivation which were bestowed upon him as
permanent grants from the crown. It was on this beauti-
ful and prolific island that Dona Felippa and her sisters
were born, and here they spent their girlhood amid sur-
roundings dreamy, luxurious and ecstatic. The breath
of perpetual summer was here redolent with the perfume
of flower, and fruit, and wildwood, where an orchestra of
gorgeously-plumaged birds filled the sensuous air with un-
ceasing music, such as wakes the heart to blissful realiza-
tion, and makes life as sweet as a delightful sleep vision.
Ten years, nearly twenty years, thus passed in the splen-
dors of contentment before trouble invaded this bower
of acadian delight, and drove them from a garden which
peris might have envied. In an evil hour a number of
rabbits were imported into the island, without thought of
the harm which these innocent-appearing animals might
work, but they directly propagated with such amazing
fecundity that in an almost incredibly brief time they be-
came pests which resisted every effort for their destruction.
Prolific as were the crops, so great was the destruction of


these animals that the raishig of any kind of vegetable be-
came an impossibility and the colony was finally forced to
abandon the island to escape starvation. Sigfior Perestrello,
who in the meantime had invested all his means in Porto
Santo, thus found himself literally brought to poverty
through the ravages of rabbits, and removing to Lisbon,
with the small remnant of his fortune, died shortly after his
return, leaving his children to the care of some wealthy
relatives of that city.

This narrative, following the facts as recorded by nearly
all of the Columbian biographers, may be amended to ad-
vantage by opposing to the general statement the theory
that since Bartholomew Monis de Perestrello colonized
Porto Santo as early as 1420, he must have died upon the
island, leaving his government to Pedro Perestrello, his son,
who was father to the beautiful Doiia Felippa, otherwise
she must have been too old for a fair wedding, and could not

Online LibraryJames W. (James William) BuelLibrary of American history (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 37)