James W. (James William) Buel.

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intercourse, he was disappointed again in his expectations
of finding the mountains and valleys of gold, towards which
his heart and hopes continually inclined ; so on December
14th, he departed to renew the search for the golden king-
dom of Babeque. He presently discovered another island
to which he gave the name of Tortugas, or Turtle Island,
and coasted it until he determined that its size was incon-


siderable, though he observed that the island was ^vell
watered by rivers and lakes, and that it supported a lux-
urious vegetation.

After a cruise of three days, without important results,
Columbus returned to the coast of Hispaniola (little Spain),
and put into a pleasant harbor which he named Puerto de
Paz, with the purpose to renew his explorations of the in-
terior. The report of his return was quickly noised abroad
through the island, and on the i8th, one the caciques, or
chiefs of the natives, came in state, borne as he was by four
men in a wicker-work basket or what might be called a
palanquin, and accompanied by his ministers, to pay his
respects to the Spaniards. Proceeding on board the Sa?ita
JMaria, as Columbus was at dinner, the cacique was con-
ducted to the salon, where he bowed most courteously to
the Admiral, and accepted an invitation to dine, though he
ate very little. After the meal was ended, as an exhibition
of his amity and regard, the cacique presented Columbus
with a belt wrought of cocoanut fiber in a most artistic man-
ner, and ornamented with thin plates of gold ; in return for
which the delighted Admiral gave his imperial guest a coun-
terpane of many colors, a collar of amber beads, a pair of
red buskins, and a glass flask filled with orange-flower
water, the fragrance of which was very pleasant. After
this exchange of presents, the cacique took his leave, but
his brother, perceiving the profit that had attended the
visit, came on board and so far forgot his dignity as to beg
for similar mementos of the white man's generosity, nor did
his boldness go wholly unrewarded.

While lying in Puerto de Paz, Columbus was entertained
by the natives with extravagant stories of incredible wealth,
one of whom declared that he knew an island not far distant
where all the mountains were of gold, and the shores were
of the same precious metal. But such tales no longer had


the effect they once produced upon Columbus, though he
did not yet abandon hope that he would yet arrive upon
some island where gold so abounded as to enable him to
load his vessels with it, and enrich him beyond the dreams
of kings.

On the 20th of December, the anchors were raised and on
the same day the harbor of St. Thomas was found and
named, where upon landing before a large village, the capi-
tal of the island, the natives flocked about the Spaniards in
greater numbers than before. So liberal were the island-
ers that they gave more than their white visitors were
able to receive, which caused Columbus to restrain their
prodigality by issuing an order forbidding any of his men
accepting anything unless they bestowed something in re-
turn. At this harbor, where Columbus remained several
days, spending much of his time on shore, he was received
by an embassy from the monarch of the island, the Grand
Cacique Guacanagari, who dispatched a messenger bearing
as a present to the Admiral a delicately wrought belt, to
which were suspended colored bits of bone, and a face dex-
trously carved in wood, with the eyes, nose and tongue of
beaten gold, accompanied by a pressing invitation from the
chief to visit his palace.

Not being willing to leave the ships, as the weather ap-
peared threatening, Columbus sent his royal notary, and six
men bearing many presents, to accept the hospitalities of
Guacanagari and to convey to him assurances of regard and
an intention to visit him as soon as the weather became fair.
The Spanish embassy was received with great ceremony,
and given every privilege to enjoy whatever the town or its
people afforded, and upon being conducted to the presence
of the great chief they were made recipients of his most
bounteous favors. Receiving from the hands of the Span-
iards the presents which Columbus had forwarded, he


invited them to remain over night in the town, but this
tiicy had to decHne in pursuance of orders requiring them
to return on the same day ; whereupon the chief deHvered
to them, as presents for the Admiral, several pieces of gold
and two large parrots that had been taught to utter several
words of the native tongue, which were curiosities that
Columbus highly prized.

On their return to the ships the Spaniards were accom-
panied by more than a thousand natives, who followed
after them in canoes with liberal gifts of fruit, curious na-
tive handiwork, and a few pieces of gold, which they gave
with freedom. Seeing that the latter was held in greatest
estimation, several of the natives declared, as an induce-
ment to prolong the stay of their visitors, that in a district
called Cibao, somewhere in the interior, there abounded
great treasures of gold and precious stones, to which place
they would gladly pilot the Spaniards.

This report acted as fresh fuel to the flame of his
avarice, and visions of Ouainsay, the rich kingdom of Kubla
Khan, and possessions of the wealth which had been the
basis of his ambition, again rose in luring grandeur before
the longing eyes of Columbus, and he became filled with
desire to gain that glittering region.

But the tropical winter was at hand and tempestuous
weather became an interposing barrier to his aspirations.
On Christmas eve, when the anchors were weighed to pro-
ceed on a voyage around the island to a point nearer Cibao,
the sky was serene, and with a feeling of security Columbus
retired to sleep, leaving his subordinate officers in charge
of the Santa Maria. It appears that the helmsman soon
followed the example of the Admiral and went to sleep,
leaving an inexperienced cabin-boy at the rudder, while the
other officers, lulled into a false security by the calmness
of the sea, fell likewise into drowsy unconcern. The ves-


sel directly entered a current that swept rapidly through
channels about the islands, by which she was carried with
full sail upon a sand-bar where she stuck fast and heeled
before the wind. The shock of grounding awakened
Columbus and also his derelict oflficers, who now rushed
upon the deck to behold the result of their neglect and lend
assistance in repairing the misfortune for which they were
accountable. The roar of breakers lent an aspect of fury to
the darkness of night, and the sailors became distracted
with fear and superstition. In this condition Columbus
undertook to save his vessel by ordering a company of his
men to take a boat and carry an anchor out astern, in order
to warp the ship from her perilous position. The men
seemed prompt to obey, but the moment they launched
the boat they shoved off without the anchor and made
with all speed for the Nina, which was nearly a league
distant. Pinzon, the master, discovering how they had
deserted, refused to receive them on board and ordered
them back to their duty ; but so slowly did they comply
that a boat from the Nina, with a relief crew, reached the
stranded vessel in advance of the returning deserters.
Meanwhile, the breakers had thrown the Santa Maria still
farther upon the sand, where she lay careening and beating
with great force. Columbus ordered the masts to be cut
away, hoping thus to relieve her, but his efforts were all in
vain. The seams now opened, admitting the water, but the
tide presently receded, leaving her fast, yet safe for the
time from the destructive force of the breakers. Had the
sea been tempestuous all must have been drowned, but
good fortune so far attended them that all escaped to the
Nina, and in the morning Columbus sent two of his men,
Diego de Arana and Pedro Guttierrez, to the great chief
Guacanagari to acquaint him with their disaster. This
sad news moved the compassionate cacique to tears, but he


did not stop to ponder over the misfortune. He imme-
diately ordered great numbers of his people to go in canoes
to the aid of Columbus, and to implicitly obey his orders in
securing the cargo and safety of the ship. At the same
time he dispatched a messenger to the Admiral with ex-
pressions of his sincere regret and to offer him " the whole
of his possessions,"

So efficient were the services of the natives, that in a
short while all the goods were taken out of the ship and
carried to a secure place on the shore, where a guard was
placed over them by the chief, lest some of his people
might be tempted to appropriate some articles for which
their fancy longed. No civilized magistrate could have
done more to assist and protect the interests of unfortunate
friends than did this honest, generous-minded cacique. Nor
was the virtue of his actions limited to himself, but ex-
tended to all the natives, who appeared to be innocent of
any thought of profit from the disaster. "The S3'mpathies
of the people for Columbus in his loss, and the reception he
received from the Indian sovereign, mitigated the bitter-
ness of the accident. In no part of the civilized world
would he have received warmer or more cordial hospi-

But the loss was great enough. The Pinta was gone ;
and now the Admiral's flag-ship, with open seams, lay pros-
trate on the perilous sands, quaking with each impact of
the sea ; shivering like a wounded creature at every blow
of the hand that smote it down. O thou Santa Maria,
thou famous remembrancer of the centuries I The names
of none of those that sailed in search of the Golden Fleece are
so well preserved among the eternities of history as is thine.
No vessel of Rome, of Greece, of Carthage, of Egypt, that
carried conquering Cresar, triumphant Alexander, valiant
Hannibal, or beauteous Cleopatra, shall be so well known


to coming ages as thou art. No ship of the Spanish Ar-
mada, or of Lord Howard, who swept it from the sea — no
looming monster, no Great Eastern or frowning ironclad
of modern navies, shall be held like thee in perpetual remem-
brance by all the sons of men. For none ever bore such a
hero on such a mission, that has glorified all nations by
giving the greatest of all countries to the world.

Touched by the generous treatment which he received at
the hands of Guacanagari and his subjects, Columbus pays
them this beautiful tribute : " They are a loving, uncove-
tous people ; so docile in all things that I swear to your
majesties there is not in the world a better race or a more
delightful country. They love their neighbors as them-
selves ; and their talk is ever sweet and gentle, accom-
panied with smiles ; and though they be naked, yet their
manners are decorous and praiseworthy."

It may be with soberness asked : Was it better, in the
eyes of God, to convert these virtuous people from the
happy innocence of their primitive condition, to the civili-
zation of the Spaniards, under which they became the most
degraded specimens of the West India race, or to have left
them to enjoy the blessings of loving confidence, conten-
tment, honesty and universal brotherhood which charac-
terized them at the time of Columbus' coming ? In truth,
it does appear that these simple people had found Christ
before they heard His name, or saw the cross that the civil-
ized Spaniards erected to teach them how He died.

To arouse him from the despondency of his situation, the
cacique had the rescued goods carried into three buildings
prepared for the purpose, and then gave Columbus an
urgent invitation to accept the hospitalities of his capital.
Since the voyage could not be continued until the Sa7ita
Maria was repaired and floated, or her final loss determined,
the Admiral availed himself of the courtesies so cordially


extended and went on shore, where he was magnificently
received. A banquet was then set by the native king, at
which Columbus and several of his officers were regaled
with every delicacy that the island afforded. At the meal
the cacique conducted himself with a dignity and decorum
scarcely surpassed by the most civilized potentates, and as
if he had long been accustomed to entertaining distinguished
representatives from the first powers of the world.

In return for the kindnesses received, Columbus invited
Guacanagari and his ministers to dine with him on board
the Nina, which gave the cacique intense delight, and was
followed by an interchange of courtesies mutually profitable
and pleasurable. A familiarity thus became established,
and Columbus had opportunity of displaying before the
natives some of the arts and instruments of power of Cas-
tilian civilization. The Spanish arms were exhibited and
the sailors were put through evolutions to show their mili-
tary precision and skill in the handling of arbalets, Moorish
hand-bows, arquebuses, and the destruction that might be
produced by their artillery of falconets. Having demon-
strated the effectiveness of Spanish weapons, Columbus
explained to the chief how he might make his island proof
against the invasion of Caribs, who were accustomed to
make predatory incursions into Hispaniola for purposes of
spoliation. The Caribs of the Bahamas and of South
America were indeed terrors to all the other Vv^est Indies
islanders, who suffered constantly from their depredations,
and were not infrequently enslaved by them ; so that the
suggestions of Columbus were hailed with great delight by
Guacanagari, and his request for permission to erect a fort
on the island was accordingly granted with gladness. On
the other hand, Columbus utilized this privilege as a proof
of priority of occupation against all claims which might be
thereafter made by other nations sending expeditions into

Etchiug by RuBsell.


The first discover}' of North America was undoubtedly made by Norse-
men, notwithstanding the vagueness of creditable history, as well as of
legend, upon this very important subject. The origin of the Norsemen, or
" Northmen," as the word signifies, is therefore a matter of particular
interest to Americans. Upon the death of Augustus, B. C. 14, the army
proclaimed Gerraanicus, one of the greatest of Roman generals, Csesar, but
he refused the imperial crown through loyalty to the legitimate successor.
A sedition was threatened by the dissatisfied soldiers, to abate which
Germanicus led his powerful army across the Rhine and descended with.
great impetuosity upon the Germans. He beat them in every engagement,
and delivering a crushing defeat upon Arminius, captured his Empress and
the members of the imperial household. The etching printed on the
opjxisite page represents this great historical incident. The Germans
fled before their Roman conquerors to the hyperborean countries, Denmark,
Norway and Sweden, where they found the climate too rigorous for the
profitable pursuit of agriculture and were accordingly driven to the neces-
sity of deriving their support from the sea. Along the coast their settle-
ments were made and in the course of a few years they developed into a
sea-faring people. War being an almost universal profession in the early
centuries, the tribes of Northmen, as they found themselves growing
stronger, made descents upon the neighboring countries of Scotia and
England, and ultimately became such terrible freebooters that they were
the very scourge of the sea. Their boats were everywhere ; no dangers
deterred them, and conquest of knowu lauds was followed by quests for
new ones, in which pursuit they discovered aud settled Iceland, and
extended their vovat'es to the western c<Jiitiueiit ns earlv as the vear oSi;.


these waters, for it was his intent to recommend the island
as possessing special advantages for successful coloniza-

At the conclusion of the very impressive exhibition made
by the Spaniards, the cacique provided an entertainment
for his guests, which, though devoid of military aspect, was
none the less interesting. The most athletic natives
appeared and strove for honors in a tournament of wrest-
ling, jumping, dancing, and in several unique games peculiar
to the islanders, in every way acquitting themselves in the
most creditable manner. When the games were finished,
Guacanagari presented Columbus with a necklace of gold
pellets, deftly united, and a crown of the same material.
He also gave his distinguished guest a small wooden image,
supposed to possess some potent influence, the eyes, ears
and tongue of which were made of gold hammered into thin
sheets, and received in return a handsome mirror, an ewer,
wash-pitcher, a shirt and pair of gloves.

The sailors, while not sharing in the gifts bestowed by
the chief, profited equally well by exchanging with the
natives hawk's bells, glass trinkets and other gewgaws, for
pieces of gold, cotton and provisions. To this advantage-
ous trafific was the added pleasure of the reverential regard
in which the Indians held their guests, esteeming them, as
they did, as beings so superior by birth that their advent
must have been from the sky.

There was nothing for the sailors now to do but wander
at will about the island and enjoy its many blessings ;
where pleasing and restful conditions abounded ; where
ambition was satiated by the prodigality of nature, the sen-
suousness of air, the mellifluence of flowering sweets and
delicious fruitage ; where the smile of peace, the laugh of
content, the hand of plenty, diffused universal joy and made
life a dream of pleasure.


Columbus was himself so impressed by the beauty and
advantage of these surroundings that he decided to effect
at once a colonization of the island, and to this end he called
for volunteers to remain as a nucleus until he could return
to Spain and bring additional force. Much to his gratifica-
tion, a considerable number indicated their willingness to
accept the conditions offered. They were the more ready
to embrace this opportunity to spend their lives in elegant
ease, because of peculiar circumstances : the perils of a
return voyage were not without effect, especially since only
one vessel, the A^ifur, remained, and she the smallest and
frailest of the three ; but there was the more influential
condition of intimacy with had been established between
many of the sailors and the maidens of the islands. We
may hope that a few at least of the connections thus formed
were of the heart, and that a consecration of these informal
marriages was found in the ennobling emotions and senti-
ments that inspired them, without which the most sacred
of human bonds is profaned.

Forty-two men having signified their consent to remain
on the island as colonists, Columbus set about the imme-
diate construction of a fort, in the building of which the
timbers of the stranded Santa Maria were used for a block-
house and tower and her guns were recovered and mounted
to complete the equipment. The fort thus established, as
well as the harbor which it defended, Avas named in honor
of The Nativity, La Natividad, and the command was given
to Diego de Arana, who was also appointed governor.
Among the colonists were several artisans, including a car-
penter, cooper, tailor, gunsmith, and also a physician, and the
comfort and necessities of the whole were carefully provided
for by leaving a quantity of wine, provisions, clothing and
merchandise for barter, all of which were stored in a natural
cave of considerable dimensions over which the fort was


built. Besides those there was a Hbcral supply of small
arms, which the colonists were cautioned to carry against
surprise from invaders, and there was also a quantity of seed
to sow in the land.

Having thus secured the safety of the colonists, Colum-
bus delivered a touching address, in which he sought to
impress them with the responsibilities they were about to
assume as the first white settlers in the new world, and the
deep sense of thankfulness which they should feel towards
God for the watchful care and tender mercies He had
shown them. He exhorted them to be diligent in the prop-
agation of the Christian religion among the poor natives
who had so hospitably received them, and to yield loyal
obedience to the officers appointed over them. He coun-
seled them particularly, in their intercourse with the natives,
to observe the rights of all, to practice a pious continence
in regard to women, to keep inviolate the bond of brother-
hood in which their safety lay, and to remain within the juris-
diction of the cacique, to whose favors they owed so much
and who would extend to them his protection.

On the 2d of January, 1493, Columbus gave a banquet to
Guacanagari and took this last occasion of manifesting to
him his appreciation of the many kindnesses which had
been conferred upon him and his men since landing on the
island. He accordingly gave the cacique a scarlet mantle,
a pair of buskins, a silver ring and a necklace of beads.
After bestowing these gifts he embraced the chief with such
tenderness that tears came to the eyes of both, and amid
such emotions the two parted.

A strong shore wind detained the Nina until the morning
of January 4, when the final partings occurred, and the brave
little ship lifted her sails and started to traverse the wide
sea that separated her passengers from the shores of Spain.
Many of these were gladdened with thoughts of home and


waiting friends, and there were others — natives of Hispan-
iola — who had consented to brave the dangers of the ocean
world for a sight of that country whence the Spaniards came,
and which they believed must be some celestial clime border-
ing the region of the sun.


Grand even to the fulfillment of his first ambition was
the discovery that would set his name on the very spire of
Fame's temple, yet this supreme accomplishment could not
totally repress the sense of present danger. How, then, can
we estimate the misgivings, the hopes, the passions which
must have agitated Columbus when the emerald banks of
Hayti faded from his view, and a vast expanse of water
spread away, suggestive of storm and peril that lay between
him and the shores of Spain ? There was elation for him,
however, in the flattering belief that the colony planted in
the New World would prove a nucleus around which would
gather not only a glorious prestige, but from which would
spread a great wave of Christianity and commerce to per-
petuate his fame ; and there was joy in the anticipation of
vast accumulation of gold, which he believed the colonists
would surely find on the island in quantities to load many
ships. In this enrichment of his sovereigns he was to
receive an eighth, which would enable him to accomplish
his primal ambition. Lifted into ecstasy by his ever active
imagination, while contemplating the golden sands and
mountains of Cabique, a glorious vision filled his soul. The
coffers of Spain were bursting with stores of gold, which
inspired Christendom with new resolution to attempt a
recovery of the Holy Land. What the Crusaders through
two centuries had been unable to accomplish should now
be done under the gilded banners of Castile and Aragon.
See the marshaling of a numberless host, whose armors



dazzle from afar like dew-drops in the grass ; whose flaming
falchions cleave the sun and flash its luster back in gleams
scintillant. In God's name, under the legend of the cross,
he sees the marching army, hears the inspiring blare of
trumpet, and sights the standards of Spain, beside which
waves in glory his own banner, emblazoned with devices that
proclaim the splendor of his achievements : five anchors on
a field of azure, map of the sea, thrice turreted, crenelated
tower, and rampant lion. Oh, what a brilliant dream !
Alas, there is no beauty like that of dying day, when the
palaces of cloud-land are set aflame with rays of a blood-red
sun. There is no pall so great as when the fires die out
and leave banks of blackened clouds rolling on the bosom of
threatening night. So, from his dream of chivalry — of glory
full attained — he awoke at last to find the vision faded, and
that all his hopes were dead.

If he was transported by the anticipation of gains which
he believed must come from his discoveries, he was dejected
by harassments that sprang from fear, doubts and dangers.

Online LibraryJames W. (James William) BuelLibrary of American history (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 37)