James W. (James William) Buel.

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Columbus sent to the rebels, as an offering of good-will, a
piece of bacon left by Escobar, exhorting them to return
under promise to remit their crimes with a full pardon and
an agreement to give them a place on the ship which he said
would soon be sent for his deliverance. But De Porras was
so distrustful that when he learnt of the approach of the
agents of Columbus he took care that they should not have
communication with any but himself. He told the men
that he had no desire to return to the Admiral ; that his
party were fully satisfied with their condition and desired
only to be left alone in peace. But he added that in case
two ships of rescue should arrive Columbus should give him
and his followers one of them with half the stores and pro-
visions, and he followed this suggestion with a threat that
if this were not done they would come and take it for them-
selves. Such was the communication which De Porras re-
turned to the peaceful overtures that were made by Colum-
bus. But to satisfy his followers, whose fidelity he did not
fully trust, he declared to them that the purpose of the Ad-
miral was simply to get them into his power and then
punish them for their laudable endeavor to save themselves
from the certain death which awaited them had they re-
mained on the stranded vessels. He further treated the
story of the visit of a ship from Ovando as a delusion and


a snare. He said that Columbus was in league with the
powers of darkness and a practicer of the black art. The
ship that had seemed to approach the harbor was nothing
therefore but a phantom conjured to deceive the men who
had remained faithful to him. He counseled his followers
further, that the only way remaining to them was to fall
upon Columbus and his minions, take them prisoners, and
then conduct their affairs with respect to the one great
question of escaping from the island.

The effect of these misrepresentations was all that De
Porras could desire. The rebels rallied to his call and made
a descent upon the stranded vessels with the intention of
either taking Columbus prisoner or killing him outright.
But their murderous scheme was discovered by some friend-
ly Indians who brought information of the plot to the Ad-
miral, who assembled fifty of his trusted soldiers under the
command of Don Bartholomew, and sent them out to repel
the attack. When the two forces approached each other on
the 19th of May (1504), Bartholomew, acting under the Ad-
miral's direction, sent messengers to confer with the insur-
gents and offer terms of settlement. But these De Porras
refused to hear, confident in his ability to execute his pur-
pose. The first aim of the rebels was to kill Bartholomew,
and for this purpose six of the most intrepid followers were
stationed about De Porras with instructions to follow him
into the fight. The attack was accordingly made directly
upon Don Bartholomew himself. But this courageous
man, who was an intrepid fighter as well as a great com-
mander, received his assailants with such vigor that several
of the rebels fell dead under the blows of liis sword.
Having disposed of the first antagonists he came face to
face with De Porras himself, and a personal duel was fought
in which, at the first pass, Don Bartholomew was wounded
through the buckler. But the sword fortunately hung in a


cleft, and seizing his enemy In his powerful grasp Don Bar-
tholomew overmastered him, but sparing the wretch's life
was satisfied to take him prisoner. No sooner had their
leader fallen thus early in the fray than the insurgents with-
drew, leaving Don Bartholomew to return in triumph to
the Admiral, bringing De Porras and a half-dozen other
prisoners. When De Porras was brought before Columbus
he no doubt expected a punishment commensurate with his
crimes. But humane and generous impulses were always
predominant in the heart of the Admiral, and instead of
executing him on the spot, as he might justly have done,
he was satisfied to hold him a prisoner and even extend a
proposition of surrender to the other mutineers, promising
freely to pardon and receive them into his service as before,
which magnanimous proposal they were glad to accept.
But as a measure of prudence Columbus deemed it ad-
visable to hold De Porras a prisoner until such time as he
could be tried and convicted according to law.

About the time that affairs were thus reduced to quiet in
Jamaica, the long-expected succor came in the form of two
ships well supplied for the deliverance of the stranded
Spaniards. A year had now elapsed since the departure of
Mendez in the almost forlorn hope of reaching Hispaniola
by canoe. During this time he had assiduously agitated
the rescue of the Admiral and his companions. It is the
opinion of Las Casas that public sentiment in Hispaniola
gradually bore more and more heavily upon Ovando for his
seeming neglect of his great countryman in his distress, and
the time came when the governor was constrained to make
a virtue of necessity by sending out a relief expedition
from San Domingo to Jamaica.

One of the ships ordered for this purpose had been
equipped by Diego Mendez himself out of the revenues due
Columbus, and to him was therefore intrusted the command,



while the other was committed to Diego cie Salcedo, who
had been one of the Admiral's officers at San Domingo.
On the 28th of June (1504) the two vessels arrived at the
harbor of Santa Gloria, and the long stranded mariners were
taken on board with their few remaining effects, and the
sails were at once set for San Domingo. But the weather
was so inclement and the winds so constantly violent and
contrary, that it was not until the 13th of August following
that the voyage was accomplished and the aged discoverer
of the New World was permitted once more to land in the
town which he had founded as the capital of his New Indian

We are gratified to learn that upon his arrival the reaction
in favor of Columbus was so great that he was hailed with
enthusiasm by the very men who had sent him forth with
gyves on his wrists to be carried as a common criminal to
Spain. It is not possible to suppose that these acts of
public applause, temporary and fictitious as they were,
could be grateful to Ovando even though his rival were an
aged man stricken with many maladies and worn down un-
der the accumulation of many griefs. Nevertheless the
governor made a show of uniting in the kindly reception,
taking the Admiral even to his own house and extending to
him the fullest courtesy and respect. In a short time,
however, causes of difference began to work between the
two men, and the irrelations henceforth, though superficially
amicable, were never sincere. The first dispute between
them arose over their respective authority to punish the
prisoners that Columbus had brought to the island for trial.
The governor claimed that Jamaica as well as Hispaniola
was a part of his government, while Columbus contended
that under the last letters issued to him by Isabella he had
full rights to try and punish any offenders against his
authority. Another ground of complaint which Columbus


urged against Ovando was neglect to collect the revenues
which were due him from the island according to the
original compact with the sovereigns. Under these stipula-
tions Columbus was entitled to an eighth of all the tributes
collected from the natives, as well as the products of the
mines, and he had, therefore, reason to expect a large sum
to his credit upon his return, unless the revenues had been
wasted and his rights neglected. But he found himself
practically penniless, and thus again dependent upon the
generosity of the crown.


Under the governorship of Ovando affairs in Hispaniola
had become more deplorable than they had appeared at any
time since the Spanish discovery. We may therefore pause
here in the narrative of incidents in the life of Columbus in
order to hastily sketch the progress of events in that island
from the time of the arrival of Ovando down to the return
of Columbus. We have seen how great a company of colo-
nists and adventurers, 2,500 in all, he brought with him, and
with how much eclat he came to San Domingo and under-
took the duties of viceroy after the temporary suspension
of Columbus from that office.

The men whom Ovando had thus brought to the New
World were, with the exception of seventy colonial fami-
lies, of the same general character as those who had pre-
ceded them. Fully a thousand of the number had gone
out with the expectation that gold would be found in such
great abundance throughout the island of Hispanolia that
it would be gathered in unlimited quantities at the expense
of no other exertion than the shoveling of it into bags
which were brought along for that purpose. They had no
sooner arrived, therefore, than a great rush for the gold
fields of Hayna was made, each man taking Avith him his
mining implements and a limited supply of provisions.

There is no disappointment so bitter as that which follows

a miner who sets out under the glowing prospects excited

by stories of inexhaustible wealth, and coming to the mine

so flatteringly described finds that the precious ore exists



in the sparsest quantities and is obtainable only by the
most onerous and persistent exertions. This experience has
been common to many men in many ages.

The Spaniards made a rush across the intervening coun-
try, and reaching the gold fields undid their packs and be-
gan to dig. It required only a day or two to dispel the
illusion. Here and there small quantities of fine gold-dust
might be found in the sand, and occasionally particles of
the precious metal would glitter in a spadeful of earth
thrown up by hands unused to working with delving imple-
ments. But fatigue and exhaustion came after a few hours
of this unrequited labor, and then the miners, disgusted and
hungry, sat down by running streams and springs of water
to devour their provisions. But ever devouring and never
producing soon exhausted the supply which they had
brought with them, and the Indians refusing to supply them
with either fruit or products of the fields, the hungry miners
were brought face to face with famine, and they gave over
their golden dreams for the harsh necessity of seeking food
to avoid starvation. Worn out, homesick, despondent,
starving, many of them perished in the forests, but a ma-
jority returned to San Domingo and inaugurated a mild
reign of terror.

The situation was so serious that the governor undertook
to deal with the mining question by creating a regular sys-
tem under which the business of gathering gold might be
profitably conducted. He saw that the disappointment of
those who had come out under his promise of great gain was
such that it might end in compromising him not only with his
followers but with the sovereigns ; for not a few had influ-
ential relatives residing at court who would voice and urge
their complaints. To afford them some relief and encour-
agement, Ovando issued an edict reducing the percentage
of the gold due to the crown to one-fifth, and then inaugu-


rated a system of slavery by which each Spaniard was allowed
according to his rank the use of the free labor of a certain
number of Indians. The very evils which had been the
source of so much complaint against the former administra-
tion, namely, that the Spaniards were abusive to the Indians,
treating them with untold cruelties by compulsory labor in
the mines and fields, were thus revived by Ovando, and it
was not long before the severity of his system surpassed all
that had been witnessed or heard of before.

As a justification of his course the governor set forth to
the sovereigns that a reduction of the natives to regular
labor under the authority of a master class was a necessity
of the conditions present in the colony ; that otherwise the
tributes could not be collected ; that the natives were by
nature indolent, and in short that the only method of bring-
ing them to the blessings of a cizilized and Christian life
was to subject them to servitude under which a Catholic
training could be the more effectually given them. The
Queen herself was deceived somewhat by that part of the
argument which related to the allotment of the Indians as
slaves to the Spaniards, who were expected to exert a
Christianizing influence over them. Little did her Majesty
understand the profound hypocrisy of this excuse. Like-
wise she failed to comprehend the utter indifference of the
Spanish masters in Hispaniola to all considerations of the
welfare of the wretched natives.

The Spaniards proceeded under their license to demand
of the caciques the required assignment of laborers, and the
chieftains were compelled by the government to comply.
At first there was some show of respect for native rights,
but this presently ceased. In the beginning it was agreed
that the Indians should have a small wage as recompense
for their labor, and that they should also be instructed in
the catechism of the Church and be baptized by the priests.

THE Nr':W WORLD. 379

But the whole thing was a mockery. Even the limit of the
period of service to six months of the year was presently
extended to eight months, and might have been extended
to twelve, since the feeble constitution of the natives gener-
ally gave way under the intolerable tasks imposed upon
them during their first term of servitude.

No sooner was the system regularly organized than it be-
came apparent that the native foods, mostly of fruits, would
not suffice for the men engaged in severe toil. But the
Spaniards had no other food to waste upon their Indian
slaves, being concerned in getting the most out of them that
was possible, regardless of what the result might be. Some-
times a very small distribution of meats was made to them,
but such was the hunger of the poor wretches that they
struggled and fought like ravening animals for the scraps
and bones that fell from the tables of their masters. As
they sank and fainted under their tasks the lash of exacting
masters began to descend upon their backs. Their flagging
industry was quickened by the horrid thong of the driver, so
mercilessly applied that to this added misery they succumbed
in such numbers that only a small proportion survived to
the end of their term of service, and many of these perished
before they could reach their homes, which in not a few
cases were as much as a hundred miles distant from the
place of their labors. Thus the roadsides and forests were
strewn with the victims of this horror and despair, and the
air was polluted with the decay of human bodies.

While these indescribable abuses prevailed in the vicinity
of San Domingo, in the mines of Hayna another form of
calamity came upon the hapless Indians in the fairest west-
ern province of Hispaniola. It has been recounted how
the followers of Roldan had been granted a partition of land
in Xaragua, whither they had betaken themselves after the
collapse of their rebellion. It is needless to afifirm that such


men, without family tics and under no restraint of civil
authority, were incapable of developing into anything better
than licentious vagabonds. The Spaniards thus distributed
throughout a once happy district were a standing menace
to the peace and prosperity of the natives. They were no
better than robbers and tyrants following no other law than
the impulse of passion and degenerate will.

A short time after the foundering of the squadron which
Ovando had dispatched to Spain with Bobadilla, Roldan
and others, Behechio, who held the scepter of native
authority in Xaragua, died and was succeeded by his sister,
the amiable, beautiful and devoted Anacaona. Her acquaint-
ance with Don Bartholomew has been mentioned in a
former chapter, wherein was described the royal welcome
which she accorded him and the devoted friendship which
she ever manifested for the Spaniards. Nevertheless she
seems to have discriminated between the good and bad and
to have gained by superior intelligence a knowledge of the
degraded character of the Roldan followers who were in her
territory. Against these she probably cherished a just
enmity, as they were and had been a constant source of
menace and trouble to her government. With respect to
Ovando and his government, however, she had so far as the
record shows a favorable opinion.

The reader will readily perceive how easily, under such
circumstances, the Roldan rebels living in Xaragua might
become the agents of mischief between the Spanish authority
and the native government. We are, therefore, not surprised
to learn that local difficulties and disagreements between
the late Roldan rebels and the Xaraguans might be reported
with the wildest exaggerations to the authorities at San
Domingo, with appeals for interference. The minds of the
governor and his counsel would thus be poisoned against
the natives, and in the disturbed if not chaotic condition of


the government there would be little disposition to accord
justice to a people who had been outraged in every possible
manner almost from the time that the Spaniards set foot
upon Hispaniola. This advantage was accordingly taken.
The Spanish Xaraguans began to complain against Anacaona
and excited the governor against her on the charge that she
was secretly concerting a rebellion and had already made
arrangements to that end. They sought to substantiate
this by pointing to the fact that the Indians had delayed
the payment of the last tribute with a view to collecting
provisions and preparing themselves to make a descent upon
the settlers.

Alarmed at these reports, which he seems to have been
disposed to believe without investigation, Ovando deter-
mined to visit Xaragua and settle all difficulties in his own
arbitrary way. Accordingly he collected an army of three
hundred infantry and seventy cavalry which he equipped in
the most thorough manner for an expedition of conquest,
though he was careful to give it out that his purpose was
merely to pay a state visit of friendship to Queen Anacaona.
The latter, having no distrust of her enemy, gathered all her
chieftains, head men and nobility, including men and women,
into her town and prepared to receive the governor in a
manner which had been so captivating to Don Bartholomew
and his cavaliers. A description of their reception may be
repeated with added circumstances of picturesqueness and
enthusiasm. Again the beautiful maidens of noble birth
came forth dancing, waving palm branches and singing their
native songs, many of which had been composed by the
Queen herself, for as already stated she was an Indian
Sappho. The finest house was set in order for the governor,
and the army was well quartered and provisioned ; nor was
anything omitted by the Queen to manifest her regard for
the Spaniards. To provide an entertainment for her visitors,


many games were introduced, and for three days such sports
as the Indians had been able to devise for the white men
were indulged in to the great delight of all present. But
even while this pleasant entertainment was in progress and
the friendly regard of the Queen was being manifested, the
purpose grew and matured in the mind of Ovando to
destroy with horrid perfidy the unsuspecting people whose
friendly hospitality appeared to be unbounded. He con-
ceived the project of accomplishing his purpose in so
dramatic and spectacular a manner as to make the event one
of the most tragic incidents in the annals of the times. He
informed the Indians at the conclusion of their sports that
he and his men would in their turn perform a game for the
entertainment of the Queen and all present. The spectacle
should be given in the public square, and the games would
be a jousting match, performed after a manner the Spanish
chivalry had borrowed from the Moors. Meanwhile Ovando
ordered his soldiers to appear in the public square not only
with reeds for lances and sticks for swords, but also with
their real weapons whetted and charged for slaughter.

The situation was such as to favor the atrocity. Nearly
all the caciques and Xaraguans were gathered in a large
house which had been assigned to Ovando, while the public
square was filled with the common people. The governor
had just risen from a dinner given in his honor by the
Queen, and had gone out into the open air to pitch quoits
with some of his officers. As soon as the cavalry arrived it
was marshaled in array, Ovando, while lifting a quoit in
one hand, raised the other and grasped a gold ornament
suspended from his neck as a signal for the massacre to
begin ! Instantly a trumpet sounded, the cavalry put their
lances at rest, the infantry drew their swords, and simul-
taneously the murderous army rushed to the assault. The
house where the caciques were assembled was surrounded


and all of them taken prisoner to the number of forty.
Some authorities declare there were eighty. These were
bound and then put to torture in order to extort a
confession of a plot conceived by the Indians to slaugh-
ter the Spaniards. Some of the Indians, in their terror
and suffering, shrieked out impossible things respecting
their Queen, and these false ejaculations were considered
by the defamers as legal proof of guilt. Then the cavalry
began in earnest. The horsemen rode down and thrust
through the natives without discrimination or mercy. The
aged, the children, the women were all given up together to
the horror of a bloody and mutilated death. The caciques
were confined within the house, and being bound to prevent
the possibility of their escape, the building was fired and
they all perished in the most miserable and horrible manner.
Anacaona was rudely seized by vulgar soldiers, and being
bound with chains was carried to San Domingo, where she
was subjected to the mockery of a trial, and without the
shadow of legal evidence and against all indications of guilt
was hung in the streets.

Horror and frightful criminality, however, did not termi-
nate the riot with Anacaona's execution, for the massacre
extended until all the better families in Xaragua were deci-
mated. The terrible story runs to the effect that for six
months together the Spaniards, breaking into bands and
making their way from village to village, and even to the
fastnesses of the woods and hills, cut down the unoffend-
ing and defenseless natives with all manner of added atro-
city, until Xaragua was a desolation. When the work was
finally completed and the ruin needed no further touch of
infamy, Ovando wrote to the sovereigns a gilded report of
how he had succeeded in restoring good order and how he
had founded a town in commemoration of the happy de-
liverance of the Spaniards, to which he had given the sig-


nificant name of Santa Maria de la verdadera Pas, that is,
St. Mary of the True Peace.

The destruction of Xaragua marked the conquest and
consequent ruin of the fourth of the native kingdoms of
Hispaniola. There now remained onl)'' the fifth and last,
namely, the mountainous district of Xiguey. The reader
will remember that it was upon the shores of this province
that the first blood had been shed by Spanish soldiers in
the West Indies. The people were Caribbeans by descent,
and were, in the year 1504, ruled by a cacique named Cota-
banama, an original Goliath of Gath. His stature is rep-
resented as being of herculean proportions, and he was no
less famous for his strength, while his reputation as a great
warrior was coextensive with the island. For the past
twelve years the relations between the Indians of this dis-
trict and the Spaniards had been strained. On one occa-
sion a Spaniard on the coast, accompanied by his blood-
hound, had hissed the brute upon one of Cotabanama's
under caciques, who was torn to pieces for the sport of the
foreigner. This gross outrage rankled in the breasts of the
Indians, and they determined to seize the first opportunity
to have their revenge. In course of time a boat bear-
ing eight Spaniards came to the little island of Saona, in
sight of the coast of Xiguey. The natives, fired with a re-
membrance of the horrible outrage perpetrated upon one of
their innocent people, surrounded the crew and massacred
them to a man. This was regarded by Governor Ovando
as an insurrection, and he immediately fitted out a force of
four hundred men, under command of Juan de Esquibel, to

Online LibraryJames W. (James William) BuelLibrary of American history (Volume 1) → online text (page 28 of 37)