Copyright
James W. (James William) Buel.

Library of American history (Volume 1) online

. (page 25 of 37)
Online LibraryJames W. (James William) BuelLibrary of American history (Volume 1) → online text (page 25 of 37)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


he was likewise seized, with his brother Don Diego, and cast
into prison вАФ the three being isolated to prevent communi-
cation and all fettered alike. Insufficiently clothed and
compelled to lie upon a cold stone pavement, Columbus
suffered excruciating agony from rheumatism and twinges
of gout which had not left him free from pain for a period
of nearly two years. But he was uncomplaining, in the



332 COLUMBUS.

hope and belief that his wrongs would be redressed when he
should return to Castile and could present his case to the
sovereigns.

Bobadilla, having now the three Columbus brothers secure
in a dungeon, began to inquire into the charges which had
been preferred by summoning to the inquest all the rebels,
ringleaders, criminals and prisoners who had been punished
by the Admiral, the Adelantado and Don Diego for their
crimes. The result might have been readily foreseen. They
were found guilty upon all the charges. The malignancy of
Bobadilla did not, however, extend to the execution of his
prisoners as Columbus had anticipated, but still shackled he
sent them on board the caravel Gorda for transportation to
Spain, wdth a lengthy report justifying their condemnation,
and recommending them to the severest punishment. The
care of Columbus and his brothers was committed to Alonzo
de Vallejo, with Andreas Martin as master of the vessel,
which departed early in October for the shores of Spain.

The spectacle of the discoverer of a new world, who had
passed through ordeals which few men in this life are called
upon to bear, whose acts had conferred upon the world the
largest possible measure of benefits, was one so grievous to be-
hold that the sympathies of Vallejo and Martin were aroused,
and they volunteered to remove the chains which shackled the
feet of the aged Admiral. But this alleviation of his injuries
Columbus refused, as he did not wish to appear to contra-
vene the orders given by the representative of his sovereigns,
preferring to bear the pain and anguish of mind and body
which his galling fetters produced rather than find relief
through an infringement of the orders under which he was
being transported.

In these afflictions Columbus was no doubt sustained by a
feeling that he had been called upon to bear the revilings and
the persecutions of those in authority, that his great mission



THE NEW WORLD. 333

might thus become prominent in the world's estimation, a feel-
ing which he betrayed in a letter which he wrote to a friend
of the Queen, in which he appears to liken himself unto John
and those of the prophets who had passed through the dark
valley of persecution and thence upwards with the world's
applause to the sublime heights of heavenly reward.

The voyage to Spain was blessed with such favorable
winds that the passage was accomplished in five weeks, a
much quicker trip than had ever before been made ; nor was
it attended by any unpleasantness of rough sea or foul
weather. So careful in his attention to the wants of Colum-
bus had been the master of the Gorda that, excepting the
inconvenience of his fetters, the Admiral had fared exceed-
ingly well, and when the ship came to anchor in the Bay of
Cadiz, on the 20th of November, Captain Martin dispatched
a confidential messenger to Granada, where the sovereigns
were then residing, with a letter from Columbus to the nurse
or preceptress of the infant Don Juan, who was his particu-
lar friend and in the highest confidence of the Queen. This
letter, which rehearsed all his difficulties and wrongs in San
Domingo, was borne with such celerity that it reached its
destination considerably in advance of the condemnation
proceedings and reports of Bobadilla ; and as Columbus had
anticipated, after reading the letter the nurse placed it in
the hands of the Queen. The indignation and grief of Isa-
bella was so great over the insufferable wrongs that had been
put upon the viceroy that she sent a courier with all haste
to her officer of marine in Cadiz, commanding him forthwith
to release Columbus and his brothers. The sovereigns also
joined in a letter to the Admiral, deploring the indignities
that had been put upon him, and gave assurances that what
he had suffered was through the unwarranted acts of a rep-
resentative unfortunately chosen. But their reparation for
the offenses of Bobadilla was not confined to mere expres-



334 COLUMBUS.

sions of regard and mortification, for desiring to demonstrate
their feeling by substantial tokens, they sent Columbus a
purse of two thousand ducats (equivalent to more than eight
thousand dollars at the present day) to remedy the destitu-
tion in which he had been placed, and accompanied the gift
with an invitation to attend at court when his convenience
would allow.

As soon as he was thus freed and restored to honor the
Admiral prepared to accept the invitation of his sovereigns
and visit them at Granada. By one of those remarkable
reactions to which his mind was subject he chose to prepare
himself in state for the journey. He purchased an elegant
court dress and cloak in the style of the Spanish nobility,
and set out with attendants suitable for a man of noble
rank. He arrived at Granada on the 17th of December,
1500, and was received by the King and Queen in the hall
of the Alhambra.

The scene was worthy of the poet's song and the painter's
brush. The hair of the Admiral was now white as the
almond blossom. His aspect was venerable in the highest
degree ; but the furrows of grief and care were deeply
plowed in his aged face. The manner of the sovereigns,
especially of the Queen, was as gracious, in fact more con-
descending than it had ever been before, for it is narrated
that when Isabella saw him approach the tears coursed
down her face and the woman could scarcely be restrained
by the Queen. As for Columbus, his feelings quite over-
came him and he sank down weeping, sobbing at the feet of
her whose friendship for more than a decade of years had
been his chief defense and hope in the day of extremity and
despair.

A long and interesting interview was now held between
the discoverer and their Majesties. Their bearing towards
him and their words of cheer soon revived him from des-



THE NEW WORLD. 335

pondency, and he entered with spirit and animation upon
an account of the incidents and results of his third voyage,
and upon a justification of his purposes and poHcy in the
government of Hispaniola.

The reaction in his favor, which occurred all over Spain
immediately the news of his arrival in chains had been
spread, as well as his appearance and the wrongs he had
suffered, predisposed the King and Queen so greatly in his
favor that they refused to receive and read the report or
protocol of Bobadilla. For a while they showered every
possible attention upon him, and gave him a room in the
palace, where he was permitted to exercise all the freedom
and dignity of the most noble officers of the realm. Though
Isabella was particularly anxious to make amends for the
evil conduct of which he had been the chief sufferer
through the unadvised appointment of Bobadilla, after the
first few weeks of special favor Columbus found that oppor-
tunities were not yet open for him to prosecute to the end
the enterprises which he still had in his mind.

It is more than probable that Ferdinand prejudiced the
Queen more or less against her natural inclination to recon-
firm him in the governorship of Hispaniola, of which he had
been deprived by the usurpation of Bobadilla, for, when
Columbus approached her with a request for the renewal of
her patronage for a fourth expedition, she reminded him of
some of the cruelties which he had inaugurated in direct
opposition to her wishes, if not commands. She accused
him of having subjected many of the natives to slavery, and
of his insistence in continuing the slave traffic, which she had
hoped to end by explicit commands; that in his treatment
of the Indians of San Domingo he should at all times be
actuated by a merciful disposition and regard for their
temporal as well as their spiritual welfare. She took occa-
sion also to remind him that many acts of apparent cruelty



336 COLUMBUS.

had been committed of which, it appeared to her, rebellious
feelings and overt acts had been the immediate outcome.
For these several reasons she deemed it unadvisable to re-
instate him at once in the governorship of Hispaniola, and
begged that he would wait at least two years, until affairs
had quieted down in that island under the administration
of a new governor whom she had in her mind to tempora-
rily appoint. But as an alleviation of this apparently harsh
act the Queen assured him that she had no disposition to
deprive him of any of the honors which he had won, or of
the dignities which had already been conferred. He should,
therefore, continue to hold the position of nominal gover-
nor of the island and viceroy of the high seas.

As for Bobadilla, there was no other thought on the part
of the sovereigns than to depose him, if not to dismiss him
in disgrace. Even if Ferdinand was willing to reap the
benefit of the things that had been done, he was by no
means willing to incur the odium of defending and uphold-
ing his agent. Bobadilla was, therefore, consigned to that
ignominious place in the page of history where he presents
a striking example of the impetuous, vainglorious and cruel
autocrat of an hour.

The sovereigns decided to send out at once a royal vice-
roy with orders to supersede Bobadilla, and not only to re-
store order in the island, but to give attention and direction
to the nascent industries of the colony, to the end that all
might as soon as possible become regular and organized.

After due consideration, their Majesties chose for the im-
portant place of Governor of Hispaniola a Spanish noble-
man and military commander of the Order of Alcantara,
named Nicholas de Ovando, a man of excellent traits, but
lacking in some essential qualities for a successful adminis-
tration of affairs in the condition which Bobadilla had left
them in the island. But when we consider that he was a



THE NEW WORLD. 337

close friend of Fonseca, the appointment was not so bad as
Columbus had reason to expect.

The fleet appointed to accompany Ovando was the
largest which had yet sailed to the New World, consisting of
thirty vessels, five of which were from ninety to one hun-
dred and fifty tons burden, twenty-four caravels of from
thirty to ninety, and one bark of twenty-five tons. The
number of souls who embarked in this fleet was about
twenty-five hundred, many of whom where persons of rank
jmd distinguished families. There were also live stock,
artillery, arms, munitions of all kinds, everything, in short,
which was required for the supply of the island. The fleet
put to sea on the 13th of February, 1502. In the early part
of the voyage it encountered a terrible storm, in which one
of the ships foundered with one hundred and tw'enty passen-
gers, while the others were compelled to throw overboard
everything that was on deck, and the whole fleet was com-
pletely scattered. The shores of Spain were strewn with
articles from the fleet, and a rumor quickly spread that
all the ships had perished. When this news reached the
sovereigns they were so overcome with grief that they re-
fused to see any one for a period of eight days. For-
tunately the rumor proved to be incorrect, for but one ship
was lost. The others assembled again at the island of
Gomera in the Canaries and pursued their voyage, arriving
at San Domingo on the 15th of April.

Being deprived of his command, and arrested in the
exciting pursuit which he had begun ten years before,
Columbus became depressed with melancholy reflections on
the unjust treatment to which he had been subjected, not
only by the appointment of the sovereigns, but by a two
years' relegation to inaction, a time which was inexpres-
sibly dreary to one who had been so long and actively en-
gaged in adventurous enterprises.

22



338 COLUMBUS.

But though disappointed in his hopes of immediate res-
toration to his government, he still had the visions and
speculations in which his mind had been so richly produc-
tive since boyhood. It will be remembered that among the
Admiral's dreams had been one relative to the recovery
of Jerusalem from the Turks. This, indeed, had been a
project of co-ordinate importance in his mind with the dis-
covery of a westward route to the Indies. The vow which
he had recorded to undertake the recovery of the Holy
Sepulcher from the infidels v/ithin a period of seven years
he had not been able to fulfill, and the hope of raising fifty
thousand infantry and five thousand horse from his own
means seemed further removed now than ever. Indeed,
instead of being in a situation of power, wealth and influence
sufficient for that great undertaking, he now found himself
lodged at the Spanish Court, not wholly unembarrassed in
resources, cordially disliked by the Spanish nobility, and
dependent almost entirely upon the pledge of the Queen
for his hopes of future aggrandizement. But while his
condition was calculated to affect his ambitions, had there
been any extraneous influences, his spirit was aroused to
the grand results which might be obtained if he could in-
duce the King and Queen to undertake a recovery of Jeru-
salem.

The Spanish Court was, as we have seen, sitting in Gran-
ada, that ancient and glorious stronghold of the Moors
around and in which the arts and learning and religion of
the Arabs had flourished for eight centuries. There was
the old palace of the Moorish kings, the Alhambra of great
fame, with its richly adorned halls and court of lions, from
which the last of the Islamite kings had been driven only
nine years bafore. The Admiral himself had witnessed
that famous surrender in which the Crescent, after many
centuries of splendid elevation, bowed to the Cross and the



THE NEW WORLD. 339

followers of the Prophet were driven back into Africa and
the East. What more natural than that the mind of
Columbus should follow in the course of the retreating
Moors ; that he should pursue them along the African coast
to Egypt, to Acre, to the Holy Gity ? He gave himself up
to his old-time speculation and devoted a large part of the
liine months of his residence at Granada to the promotion
of his scheme for the retaking of Jerusalem. But after this
long fruitless effort with both the King and Queen to un-
dertake a crusade, he found the uselessness of pressing fur-
ther a scheme in which Ferdinand could not be prevailed
upon to take any interest.



CHAPTER XVIII.

All his efforts to arouse the fiery religious zeal of the
Spanish sovereigns availing him nothing towards the reali-
zation of his pious dreams, Columbus turned his ambition
once more to further exploration in the waters of the Occi-
dent. He now conceived the idea that he had reached a
northern and southern continent between which there must
be a strait or passage, which if once gained would bring him
to the land of Cathay, where he might secure the inestimable
riches and reward which had been the prime motive of his first
voyage. So well did he set forth his plans and schemes
before the Queen that she approved of his design and sig-
nified her willingness to become his patron on a fourth ex-
pedition. With these assurances, notwithstanding his age,
Columbus set about in the most vigorous spirit prepara-
tions for a fourth voyage. Before taking his leave of the
Queen, however, he asked permission to take with him his
second son, Don Fernando, now in his fourteenth year,
who with his brother had been acting as page to the Queen
for nearly two years. Having gained her consent to this
request Fernando was commissioned as a naval officer, and
the Admiral then proceeded to Seville to give the necessary
orders for the fitting out of his proposed expedition. Co-
lumbus desired also the company of his two brothers, neither
of whom, however, was disposed in the beginning to con-
tinue longer in a service which had brought them nothing
but revilings and suffering. Don Bartholomew, however,
was finally persuaded to sacrifice his inclinations to fraternal
340'



THE NEW WORLD. 341

love, and consented to embark with the Admiral. But
Don Diego could not forget the crying injustice committed
towards the viceroy and himself, and he accordingly resolved
to quit the world and in future serve only the Church, act-
ing upon which determination he embraced the ecclesiastical
state, in which he continued to the end.

The fleet equipped for the fourth voyage consisted of
four small vessels, ranging from fifty to seventy tons burden
each, and the crews comprised one hundred and fifty men.
All the preparations, while they were possibly adequate for
the intended expedition, were modest to a degree and could
but be in strongest contrast with the extraordinary magnifi-
cence and splendor of the fleet which had been prepared
for Nicholas de Ovando. When Columbus asked that on
the outward voyage he might be permitted to touch at
Hispaniola, his request was refused on the pretense that
the priests and the officials of the island were incensed
against him and that his presence would only tend to in-
tensify the difificulties against which Ovando had to contend.

The little fleet departed from Cadiz on the nth of May,
1502, passed over to the coast of Morocco and anchored
before Ercilla on the 13th, intending to offer some assist-
ance to the Portuguese garrison, which it was learned was
closely besieged by the Moors. But on his arrival there
the Admiral learned that the siege had been raised, so after
a short detention he continued on his way and arrived at
the Canary Islands on the 20th, leaving there five days
later for the New World. The trade winds were so favor-
able that the little squadron sped swiftly on its course with-
out shifting a sail, arriving on the 13th of June at Mantinano
(probably the modern Martinique), one of the Caribbee
Islands. Here the ships' supplies were renewed and the
men permitted to revive their energies by a three days' so-
journ on land. Then the voyage was continued to Domin-



342 COLUMBUS.

ico and from that island to Santa Cruz, thence to Porto
Rico and finally to San Domingo.

It will be remembered that Columbus had solicited the
privilege of visiting the capital of his own island, but had
been refused, A misfortune, however, had come upon the
fleet which might well give the Admiral an excuse for de-
parting from the letter of his instructions. The largest of
his ships had proved to be so defective that she could no
longer keep her place in the fleet without severe detention
to the other vessels. Columbus deemed it expedient, there-
fore, to put in at San Domingo to exchange the bad ship
for one of the vessels of Ovando's fleet, which he could so
well spare. It thus happened that at the time when
Ovando had completed the preliminaries of administration,
when Bobadilla and many others had been put on board
for the home-bound voyage, the fleet of Columbus on the
29th of June arrived at the harbor of San Domingo. At
first the Admiral lay off and sent one of his captains to
Ovando with polite messages and a request that an exchange
of vessels might be made. But the governor would not
accept the proposal, and even refused to grant Columbus
the privilege of bringing his ships to shelter in the harbor.
The Admiral had noted just at the time of his arrival the
unmistakable signs of an approaching tempest, and he re-
quested an opportunity to shelter his squadron until the
coming hurricane should pass. To the less weather-wise,
however, there were no such indications, and Ovando no
doubt imagined that the request of Columbus was a pretext
for opening communication with friends on shore. At all
events the act of courtesy was withheld, and the discoverer
of the New World was excluded from anchoring in the har-
bor of his own capital.

But this was by no means the end of the incident. The
messengers whom Columbus had sent learned while on shore



i



THE NEW WORLD. 343

of the intended departure of Ovando's squadron for Spain.
Moved by a lofty spirit of humanity which well becomes
so great a man, the Admiral, though refused permission to
come to a place of safety, sent back his ofificers to solemnly
warn Ovando of the approaching storm and to counsel him
by all means to forbid the departure of the fleet until the
danger had passed. This warning, however, was put aside
as of no value, being disregarded by the pilots and mariners
as it was by Ovando. In this false security the fleet of
Ovando sailed away and reached the eastern extremity of
the island ; but, as Columbus had predicted, the fleet was
now suddenly arrested by a fearful tempest which struck
the vessels with such impetuosity that they were driven
upon the rocks, and the shore was soon strewn with the
wreckage. The ship on which Bobadilla, Roldan and many
other of the insurgents had been placed for transportation
to Spain, including the cacique Guarionex and other Indian
prisoners, and in which gold and other treasures gathered
during Bobadilla's administration were stored, was caught
in the dreadful fury of the storm and torn to pieces as
though it had been a toy. The vessel broke and rolled
helplessly on the surge for a moment, then plunged head
foremost with all on board into the great vortex of the sea
and disappeared forever ! A judgment very different from
that which might have been rendered by Bishop Fonseca
in the packed courts of Seville was thus suddenly passed
upon the reckless and despotic adventurers whose misdeeds
had affected so disastrously the fortunes of Columbus ; and
both the men and their crimes were swiftly buried in the
endless oblivion of the angry sea.

The ruin of Ovando's squadron was complete. A single
vessel, one of the smallest of all, which strangely enough
had as a part of its cargo the revenues of Columbus, col-
lected for him in Hispaniola by Alonzo de Cavajal, his



344 COLUMBUS.

agent, escaped from the tornado and reached Spahi in
safety. It might well seem to the Spanish sovereigns that
all discouragement and fate itself were against them in their
attempt to take the West Indies for their own. To Colum-
bus and his band the late events appeared as a signal inter-
position of Providence. His own ships escaped without
extreme damage and were able to come together after the
tempest and make their way in safety to Port Hermoso, on
the south coast of the island, about twenty-five miles from
San Domingo. Here Columbus refitted his vessels, and
having taken on some additional stores, notwithstanding
that the weather continued stormy, he renewed his voyage ;
but before proceeding many leagues the storm increased to
such an extent that he was driven back to Port Jacquemel,
where he remained until the 14th of July. Departing from
this place, he skirted the coast of Jamaica and paid a brief
visit to the Queen's Gardens, the small group of islands
which he had discovered eight years before. Thence con-
tinuing his voyage in a southwesterly direction, he dis-
covered an island so covered with lofty pines that he gave
to it the name of Isla dc Pinos, the Indian name of which
was Gua7iaja, which it has since retained though sometimes
called Bonacca. A short stay was made at this island, dur-
ing which time Don Bartholomew went on shore and made
some interesting discoveries among the people, whom he
found hospitable though differing greatly in their ethnic
peculiarities from other natives with whom he had come in
contact. Among the interesting curiosities which he was
permitted to see while visiting this island was a state barge
formed from the trunk of a single tree, and yet fully eight
feet in width and as much as seventy feet long. On this
great canoe the cacique had a sort of cabin constructed and
fitted up in the most luxurious manner, in which he spent a
great part of his time. Columbus was pleased to find th.it



THE NEW WORLD. 34S

these people made a free use of the metals, though bone
and wood were still largely employed in the manufacture
of implements. Instead of the rude celts, or stone hatchets
of the Bahamas and Antilles, these natives used copper for
nearly all their weapons, and in fashioning these they dis-
played no little skill.

The pottery of the Guanajans had a fair claim to ele-
gance, as did their textile fabrics, which were chiefly of
cotton dyed with considerable skill. The products of the
island were cocoa, the chocolate tree, Indian gum and the



Online LibraryJames W. (James William) BuelLibrary of American history (Volume 1) → online text (page 25 of 37)