James W. (James William) Buel.

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prisoners, and then the proposal was openly made that they
be killed and eaten. This proposition, however, Columbus
strongly resented, and when the enraged men were disposed


to execute their threats in defiance of his orders he put
himself between them and the cowering Caribs, exhibiting
at once such dignity and resolution that the sailors shrank
from his glowering gaze. Next the men proposed that the
Indians should be thrown overboard, that the consumption
of food might be thus diminished. But this proposition
was likewise refused by the Admiral, and the mutinous spirit
of the men rapidly increased. In an hour when hunger and
rage were upon the point of manifesting themselves in vio-
lent action the Admiral perceived from his chart that the
vessels were near Cape St. Vincent. He tried with this
assurance to soothe the rage of the crew, but they only
mocked at his hopefulness and faith. With the coming of
the evening he ordered the taking in of sails lest the vessels
might in the darkness be run upon the rocks of the expected
shore, which orders the men obeyed with sullen looks. But
in the morning there, sure enough, rose St. Vincent from
the sea, and the usual reaction from despair to confidence
was exhibited by the men gathering around Columbus and
apologizing for their insubordination.

It was the nth of June when the harbor of Cadiz was
reached and the storm-shattered ships brought to safe
anchorage. Such was the pitiable condition to which both
passengers and crew had now been reduced that the going
ashore was a spectacle most melancholy and disheartening.
Nor may we conclude this narrative of the second voyage
without noting the end of Caonabo. That haughty chieftain
had maintained his indignant but silent anger against the
Spaniards until his barbaric pride at last yielded to death,
which occurred just before the completion of the voyage.
By his side in his last hours were assembled his brother, his
nephew, and the Amazonian princess of Guadaloupe, and
the other captives. Thus he expired — perhaps the bravest
and most capable chieftain of the West Indies. Certainly


his character was of a kind to impress itself strongly upon
the minds and memories of the Spaniards, who could but
hold him in respect for his courai^c and manly bearing. His
body was committed to the sea ; there in that deep, oozy
bed which has swallowed up in everlasting silence so many
of the secrets and tragedies of human life, the Curib King
of Cibao sleeps until the final day, while —

*' Descends on the Atlantic
The ^gantic
Storm -wind of the I^quiuox."


Fame is as fickle as fortune and rarely more enduring.
Like the flower that blooms in beauty for a season and is
cut down by chilling frosts, so does fame perish under the
withering breath of calumny and envious rivalry. Rewards
for great deeds are rarely bestowed upon the living, so slow
is man's appreciation, the disposition of mankind being to
withhold acknowledgment of dues, to confer apotheosis
after death, when jealousy has nothing more to feed upon.
How singularly trite do these observations appear when we
apply them to the life of Columbus ! In the beginning, so
obscure as to invite the ridicule of dignitaries when appeal-
ing to the great for recognition of his beneficient scheme ;
in his success raised to such eminence as won the homage
of the world when even roN^alty would pay to him a degree
of reverence. But while winning renown the sleuth-hound
of vindictive envy was pursuing with relentless muzzle of
hate to tear with teeth of spite and malice his reputation
and bring him into national disrepute.

So well had the power of malevolence been exercised by
his enemies that when Columbus landed from his second
voyage there were none to give him becoming welcome ;
none to offer congratulations ; no royal messenger to greet
his return. Stung by the deceits of those who should have
been his votaries, and overwhelmed by the success of his
traducers, Columbus for a while seriously contemplated re-
tirement from the vanities of the world within the con-
vent Willis of La Rabida, whither his best friend. Father



Perez, had returned to end his days. To this purpose he
adopted the garb of a Franciscan monk and wrapped about
him the cord of consecration, intending henceforth to de-
vote himself to pious contemplation, trusting in God to re-
ward the services which those who were most advantaged
by them neglected to recognize.

Informing the Spanish sovereigns of his arrival, it was
not until one month afterwards that a reply came to his
notification in the form of a message written from Almozan,
which was manifest proof that the director of marine had
awaited the report of Aguado, as well as statements of others
who had proved themselves hostile to his acts and purposes,
before giving him any recognition. But strange as it may
appear, the royal message, tardy as it was, felicitated him
upon his successful voyage and invited him to repair at
once to Burgos, where the court had a temporary residence.
So encouraging and congratulatory was the letter that
Columbus, roused from his despondency, cast aside his
Franciscan habit and proceeded at once to Burgos, carry-
ing with him the rich trophies of his second expedition,
among which were many masks and nuggets of gold to please
the avaricious eyes of Ferdinand. Several of the Indian
captives also accompanied him, including the brother of
Caonabo, who wore around his neck a chain of gold weigh-
ing six hundred castellanos, equal to the value of $3,200.

Greatly to his delight, Columbus was received by Isabella
with many marks of admiration, as if to show him that her
faith in his integrity and noble intentions had not been af-
fected by the base charges of his enemies; and with a feel-
ing of thankfulness and pride he narrated to their High-
nesses his new discoveries among the Antilles, and presented
the valuable as well as many curious specimens which he
had brought from the New World. Ferdinand was sensibly
touched by the nuggets of gold that were shown in proof


of Columbus' statements concerning the wealth of Hispan-
iola, but Isabella's interest was excited most by the many
curious objects exposed, including images, weapons, birds,
animals and plants, of which Columbus brought a large
collection. So pleased were the Spanish sovereigns with
the interview that in dismissing Columbus they took occa-
sion to publicly honor him to the great confusion of his

A week later the Queen consulted Columbus, by letter
written from Laredo, as to the best route to be taken by
the fleet of one hundred and thirty vessels commissioned
to convey to Flanders the Infanta Dofla Juana, afifianced
to Archduke Philip of Austria, which furnished additional
evidence of her confidence in him as a faithful servitor.
But while Columbus was grateful for these royal kindnesses,
he chafed under disappointments which threatened the
colonists in Hispaniola. On arriving at Cadiz he found
three caravels, under command of his old pilot, Pedro Alonzo
Nino, ready to sail with supplies for the colonists, and was
barely able to receive dispatches intended for him and to
transmit a few additional instructions to his brother, Don
Bartholomew, before the flotilla departed. These supplies
were sufficient to meet present emergencies, but the neces-
sity for Columbus' quick return to Hispaniola was still very
great, because he had left the island in a disturbed state, as
already explained, and in case the islanders rose in rebellion
or withheld supplies the colonists would be in a dangerous
situation. He had therefore expected to meet his accusers
at the Spanish Court, clear his good name, recruit a large
additional force, and with a fleet well laden with stores ac-
complish his return to Hispaniola in less than three months.
Instead of realizing his expectations he found no opportu-
nity to present his requests to the Queen, whose urgent
engagements gave her no time to consider his needs. He


Avas therefore compelled to wait in silence, to restrain his
impatience, and trust to time for a favorable presentation
of his necessities. Month after month thus slipped by until
autumn arrived, and nothing was as yet done towards secur-
ing a fleet of vessels. When at length application was made,
Ferdinand met the request with the statement that the con-
dition of the public treasury would not permit of the equip-
ment of another squadron ; besides, neither vessels nor
men were procurable for the purpose.

In his dilemma Columbus finally found opportunity to
appeal to Isabella, who promptly responded with an advance
of six million maravedis from the treasury of Castile ; but
about this time, October 20th, Pedro Alonzo Nino returned
from Hispaniola, and proceeding to his home, sent a letter
to the court announcing that he had a large amount of gold
on board his ships. Upon receipt of this news Ferdinand
diverted the six million maravedis contributed by the Queen
to perfecting the fortifications of Roussillon, threatened by
the French, and ordered that a like sum be supplied to Co-
lumbus from the gold brought by Nino's caravels. Thus
affairs rested until the latter part of December, when it was
ascertained that the large amount of gold which Nino
claimed to have brought from Hispaniola was in the form
of three hundred Indian captives, which he explained might
be converted into the treasure of which he exultingly spoke.

This harmful metaphor, or rather absurd hyperbole, threw
Ferdinand into a fit of rage, while the Queen was both
angered and chagrined, and Columbus was grieved beyond
expression. Isabella, mild in manner and always generous,
was nevertheless prompted to punish the presumption of
Nino, or whoever was responsible for the violation of her
orders, and she was only persuaded from such a course by
the defense that was set up, wherein allegation was made
that the Indian captives were charged with the murder of


many Spaniards, who had been brought to Spain for sen-
tence, enslavement being the most fitting punishment.

After his awakening from a golden dream, the enemies
of Columbus assailed him anew with increased disparage-
ment and virulence, but Isabella continued steadfast in her
friendship through all the evil report that mendacity could
devise. But she was not able to give him substantial en-
couragement until April 23d, 1497, when she issued an ordi-
nance for the purchase of supplies for the expedition and
granted permission to the Admiral to enlist under pay of
the crown three hundred and thirty persons, representing the
various trades, who should become colonists of the Indies ;
at the same time reaffirming all the privileges granted to
him by the compact signed at Santa Fe five years before.
But it now became necessary to make some modifications
in that agreement, because Columbus had been unable to
carry out his part of the covenant. He joyfully accepted
the conditions, which were indeed of his own proposing,
that for an eighth of the revenue accruing from his explora-
tions he was to provide a like part of the expense, but to
his mortification his expeditions, while of great geographical
importance and prospective commercial value to the Spanish
Crown, had not been attended by those profits which his
over-sanguine mind had pictured, and hence he was too
poor to comply with his agreements. Thus was he therefore
still dependent upon the Queen's bounty, even as much
as when a petitioner for royal patronage under which to
equip his first expedition.

Queen Isabella was as magnanimous as she was pious,
and being appreciative of the honor which his glorious deeds
had conferred upon her crown she remitted that part of the
agreement which imposed pecuniary obligations upon Co-
lumbus, and yet confirmed to him not only the rights stip-
ulated in the original compact but also made a generous


tender to him of a dukedom in Ilispaniola, comprising a
tract one hundred and fifty miles long by half as many
wide. This kindly proffer, however, he declined, foreseeing
that its acceptance would only serve to expose him to more
malignant attacks of his enemies, who would make the most
of such a gift as an evidence of his sordid ambition. But
the Queen, anxious to show her regard for his unselfish
service, granted to him the right of perpetual entail of his
estates and titles, and at the same time rescinded the pre-
rogatives given in 1495 to other explorers to make dis-
coveries in the New World.

In the exercise of the privilege the Queen had in her
magnanimity conferred, Columbus executed his will at Se-
ville in April, 1498, by which he made a devisement to his
male descendants and in default of these to his female line-
age, of all his property, titles, royalties and benefits accruing
under the terms of his agreements with the Spanish crown.
By this testament he provided generously for his brother
Bartholomew, then serving as Adelantado or governor in
his absence at Hayti, and likewise settled bountiful portions
upon his sons Diego and Fernando, though the bequests were
of properties prospective rather than real. His relatives at
Genoa were also remembered liberally, after which he set
aside one-tenth of all the revenues that remained for char-
itable purposes. Nor did he forget to provide for the exe-
cution of his controlling ambition, which was the recovery
of the Holy Sepulcher, to which end his will contained a re-
quest that Diego, or whoever inherited his estate, should
invest whatever moneys he could spare in the stock of the
bank of St. George at Genoa, there to remain as a permanent
and growing fund until it could be used in reasonable effort
to accomplish the conquest of Jerusalem. If the king did
not undertake the recovery, then at an auspicious time
Diego himself was charged to set on foot a crusade at his


own risk and invite other sovereigns to join him in wresting
the holy shrine from the profanation of infidels.

The hopes renewed by these evidences of the Queen's
regard lifted Columbus again into latitudes of golden ex-
pectation, a felicitous feeling which was further accentuated
by official permission to equip another expedition at govern-
ment expense, consisting of three hundred and thirty per-
sons in the royal pay, and a fleet of six vessels ; of those to
be enlisted for the expedition, one hundred men v/ent as
foot-soldiers, and there were forty servants, thirty sailors,
thirty cabin boys, fifty agriculturists, twenty miners, twenty
mechanics, ten gardeners and thirty females. As an in-
centive to enlistment Columbus was authorized to grant
lands to those desiring to engage in agriculture, and to issue
patents after an occupation of four years.

But while the interests of the colonists were thus pro-
moted by generous concessions, the Queen showed her care
for the natives by charging Columbus to treat them with
the greatest leniency, and to see that their religious instruc-
tion was attended to ; in short, to conciliate them by acts
of kindness and in no case to exercise harshness except as a
last resort in restraint of rebellious or murderous propen-

The preliminaries having been arranged, Columbus pub-
lished a call for volunteers under the royal manifesto, but it
only served to bring him into unexpected difficulties which
threatened to abort all his plans. The activity of enemies
operating to bring him into odium and to depict the world
of his discovery as a land of misery, poverty, hardships and
death, chilled the ardor of enthusiasts and adventurers so
effectually that none could be induced to proffer their serv-
ices. The sorry showing which Columbus had been able
to make on his return from two expeditions likewise inspired
ship-owners with caution, and these now hesitated to charter


their vessels for such an enterprise. His plans being thus
brought to an abrupt termination through the influences of
envy and cowardice, Columbus \vas compelled to apply to
the Queen for permission to impress men and ships for his
service. This request was not fully complied with, but the
second proposal that a company be recruited from con-
demned criminals was accepted. Under this arrangement
culprits convicted of crimes other than heresy, treason,
counterfeiting and murder were permitted to enlist, and
their terms of imprisonment were commuted to service under
Columbus in the New World for periods proportionate to
the atrocity of their crimes.

But even after the required ships and recruits were ob-
tained, vexatious delays continued to harass Columbus and
threaten the departure of the expedition. A change was
made about this time in the superintendence of Indian
affairs which necessitated a withdrawal of commissions
issued jointly to Columbus and Antonio de Torres ; while
Fonseca, one of Columbus' most bitter enemies, was rein-
stated as De Torres' successor. The commissions and con-
tracts had therefore to be issued anew, which it took some
time to do. As if in confirmation of the old adage that
troubles never come singly, in the midst of these anno}'-
ances the good Queen was overwhelmed with intelligence
of the death of her only son and heir apparent to Leon and
Castile, Prince Juan, whom Fernando and Diego had served
as pages. To add to the woe that had crushed her great
heart, her daughter, J nana, just married to the Archduke
Philip of Austria, was seized by a mental malady that
clouded her mind forever.

Poor Isabella ! Even a queen filled with such tender
graces as thine may not escape the blinding calamities that
break the hearts of mothers whose throne is set up in the
alTections of their children. But bravely, as became a

THi!: NEW WOULD. 58^

woman consecrated to the holiest service of God and man,
she bore up under her afflictions, and though her eyes were
filled with scalding tears her ears opened to the appeals of
Columbus. She never forgot that across the great sea was
a feeble colony possibly suffering, aye, dying, for want of
supplies which she only could furnish. So, from the money
which she intended as an endowment for her daughter Isa-
bella, who was soon to marry Emmanuel, King of Portugal,
she took enough to load two ships with supplies, and these
were dispatched early in 1498 under the command of Pedro
Fernandez Coronel. Then as an evidence of her special
regard for Columbus she made P^ernando and Diego pages
in her own court.

Fonseca spared no pains in his malignant effort to harass
Columbus, which his new position enabled him to do so
effectually that on several occasions the great mariner was
so disheartened as to secretly resoK-e to abandon his enter-
prise. And these resolutions would no doubt have deter
mined his actions had they not been overborne by the kind
encouragement of the Queen, for whom, especially under
her afflictions, he entertained the tenderest attachment born
of profound sympathy. But every harassment has an end,
as life itself, and Columbus, after great length of time, found
himself making progress. The six vessels were finally fitted
for sea, crews and companies obtained, to Vv-hich a surgeon,
apothecary, physician, several priests and a band of musi-
cians were added.

The annoyances from which he had now suffered for two
years were to continue even to the hour of his departure,
and their effects were felt the remainder of his life. Among
the pestiferous hirelings of Fonseca was a Christianized Jew
named Ximeno Breviesca, who held the position of account-
ant to his equally unworthy master. This most turbulent
and insolent fellow seized the occasion to assail Columbus


with all manner of vituperation, even at the time of weigh-
ing the anchors, evidently obeying Fonseca's wishes to
humiliate him before the people whom he had been ap-
pointed to command. Incensed beyond the power of further
control, Columbus struck down the wretch and administered
to his contemptible body the kicks which he deserved. It
was only the spirit of manhood asserting itself against the
wolfish instinct of contumelious jealousy that had bitten his
heels and showed its ravening teeth wherever he had gone ;
but enemies turned this exhibition of outraged nature
against him by pointing to the act as a proof of his over-
bearing cruelty with which he had long been charged by
his traducers.


The equipment of the expedition having at last been
completed, Columbus ordered the anchors lifted and his
fleet of six caravels departed on May 13th, 1498, from the
harbor of San Lucar de Barramed*. Gayly the vessels
trimmed their sails and swept out of the mouth of the
Guadalquivir, past the old Moorish castle that stood com-
manding the entrance to the harbor, a mute reminder of the
commercial importance of the port before the invaders had
been driven out of Spain through 4he persistent valor of
Spanish arms.

This third voyage of discovery was undertaken in pur-
suance of two distinct purposes, namely: Believing that
Cuba was part of the main continent with a severe trend
towards the west, along which he had sailed a considerable
distance, Columbus concluded that another continent lay
somewhere towards the south, an opinion first advanced by
King John II., of Portugal. This conjectured continent he
now determined to seek ; but he was actuated to this search
not merely by the honors such a discovery might bestow,
for his ambition now took a more decidedly commercial
turn, but also with the hope of being able to satisfy the
covetous desires of Ferdinand and Isabella, who had become
importunate for some compensation for the large expen-
ditures which the two previous voyages had entailed. Co-
lumbus was also greatly influenced by the opinion advanced
by a philosophic lapidary, who maintained that all produc-
tions of nature were sublimated by the rays of a torrid sun,



and that not only was vegetation forced into the greatest
exuberance by the tropic heat, but that precious metals and
stones were likewise produced in the largest profusion under
the rays of a vertical sun. Towards the equinoctial line he
accordingly bent his way in the belief that, discovering a
southern continent he would find there in great abundance
those precious articles which would enrich his sovereigns,
and that while thus obtaining their favor he would also
bring confusion to his enemies.

The voyage was directed southward to Porto Santo and
Madeira, now known as the Canary Islands, upon reaching
which Columbus came unexpectedly upon a French warship
that had just captured two Spanish prizes. He abandoned
his purpose for the time being, and pursued the French
vessel, the commander of which, having discovered the great
odds against him, had sought safety in flight. Two days
were thus lost. But Columbus had the satisfaction of
recovering one of the Spanish vessels and seriously crippling
the French cruiser. Turning south again, he proceeded to
the island of Faroe, where he brought his vessels to for
some needed repairs. He then decided to divide his fleet
by sending three of the vessels, with all the stores that he
could spare, directly to the colonists at San Domingo, while
he retained the other three to pursue the purpose for which
the expedition was organized.

The next detention occurred upon reaching the Cape
Verd Islands, where he arrived on the 27th of June, and
having taken in some additional supplies and a quantity of
water, he set sail in a southwesterly direction until he fell
into the calms, where his crew suffered all the agonies of
extreme heat, and his provisions were so seriously injured
as to render a great part of them unfit for human food. As
they gradually advanced further into this fiery heat the
fears of the sailors were increased, as they well might be,


by the alarming effects which they now observed. The
pitch with which the ships were smeared was melted and
the seams opened, admitting the water, so that it was only
by the most extraordinary exertions that they were kept
afloat. So also the wooden vessels in which their store of
fresh water was kept shrank until the hoops dropped off
and the contents were wasted. Occasional showers fell, but
these seemed rather to intensify than alleviate the dreadful
heat, for the humidity of the atmosphere was thereby in-
creased and rendered all the more oppressive.

This alarming situation continued for eight days and was

Online LibraryJames W. (James William) BuelLibrary of American history (Volume 1) → online text (page 21 of 37)