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Christopher Columbus by Filson Young, v4 by Filson Young

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This etext was produced by David Widger

[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]






From the moment when Columbus set foot on Spanish soil in the spring of
1493 he was surrounded by a fame and glory which, although they were
transient, were of a splendour such as few other men can have ever
experienced. He had not merely discovered a country, he had discovered a
world. He had not merely made a profitable expedition; he had brought
the promise of untold wealth to the kingdom of Spain. He had not merely
made himself the master of savage tribes; he had conquered the
supernatural, and overcome for ever those powers of darkness that had
been thought to brood over the vast Atlantic. He had sailed away in
obscurity, he had returned in fame; he had departed under a cloud of
scepticism and ridicule, he had come again in power and glory. He had
sailed from Palos as a seeker after hidden wealth, hidden knowledge; he
returned as teacher, discoverer, benefactor. The whole of Spain rang
with his fame, and the echoes of it spread to Portugal, France, England,
Germany, and Italy; and it reached the ears of his own family, who had
now left the Vico Dritto di Ponticello in Genoa and were living at

His life ashore in the first weeks following his return was a succession
of triumphs and ceremonials. His first care on landing had been to go
with the whole of his crew to the church of Saint George, where a Te Deum
was sung in honour of his return; and afterwards to perform those vows
that he had made at sea in the hour of danger. There was a certain
amount of business to transact at Palos in connection with the paying of
the ships' crews, writing of reports to the Sovereigns, and so forth; and
it is likely that he stayed with his friends at the monastery of La
Rabida while this was being done. The Court was at Barcelona; and it was
probably only a sense of his own great dignity and importance that
prevented Christopher from setting off on the long journey immediately.
But he who had made so many pilgrimages to Court as a suitor could revel
in a position that made it possible for him to hang back, and to be
pressed and invited; and so when his business at Palos was finished he
sent a messenger with his letters and reports to Barcelona, and himself,
with his crew and his Indians and all his trophies, departed for Seville,
where he arrived on Palm Sunday.

His entrance into that city was only a foretaste of the glory in which he
was to move across the whole of Spain. He was met at the gates of the
city by a squadron of cavalry commanded by an envoy sent by Queen
Isabella; and a procession was formed of members of the crew carrying
parrots, alive and stuffed, fruits, vegetables, and various other
products of the New World.

In a prominent place came the Indians, or rather four of them, for one
had died on the day they entered Palos and three were too ill to leave
that town; but the ones that took part in the procession got all the more
attention and admiration. The streets of Seville were crowded; crowded
also were the windows, balconies, and roofs. The Admiral was entertained
at the house of the Count of Cifuentes, where his little museum of dead
and live curiosities was also accommodated, and where certain favoured
visitors were admitted to view it. His two sons, Diego and Ferdinand,
were sent from Cordova to join him; and perhaps he found time to visit
Beatriz, although there is no record of his having been to Cordova or of
her having come to Seville.

Meanwhile his letters and messengers to the King and Queen had produced
their due effect. The almost incredible had come to pass, and they saw
themselves the monarchs not merely of Spain, but of a new Empire that
might be as vast as Europe and Africa together. On the 30th of March
they despatched a special messenger with a letter to Columbus, whose eyes
must have sparkled and heart expanded when he read the superscription:
"From the King and Queen to Don Christoval Colon, their Admiral of the
Ocean Seas and Viceroy and Governor of the Islands discovered in the
Indies." No lack of titles and dignities now! Their Majesties express a
profound sense of his ability and distinction, of the greatness of his
services to them, to the Church, and to God Himself. They hope that he
will lose no time, but repair to Barcelona immediately, so that they can
have the pleasure of hearing from his own lips an account of his
wonderful expedition, and of discussing with him the preparations that
must immediately be set on foot to fit out a new one. On receiving this
letter Christopher immediately drew up a list of what he thought
necessary for the new expedition and, collecting all his retinue and his
museum of specimens, started by road for Barcelona.

Every one in Spain had by this time heard more or less exaggerated
accounts of the discoveries, and the excitement in the towns and villages
through which he passed was extreme. Wherever he went he was greeted and
feasted like a king returning from victorious wars; the people lined the
streets of the towns and villages, and hung out banners, and gazed their
fill at the Indians and at the strange sun-burned faces of the crew. At
Barcelona, where they arrived towards the end of April, the climax of
these glittering dignities was reached. When the King and Queen heard
that Columbus was approaching the town they had their throne prepared
under a magnificent pavilion, and in the hot sunshine of that April day
they sat and waited the--coming of the great man. A glittering troop of
cavalry had been sent out to meet him, and at the gates of the town a
procession was formed similar to that at Seville. He had now six natives
with him, who occupied an important place in the procession; sailors
also, who carried baskets of fruit and vegetables from Espanola, with
stuffed birds and animals, and a monstrous lizard held aloft on a stick.
The Indians were duly decked out in all their paint and feathers; but if
they were a wonder and marvel to the people of Spain, what must Spain
have been to them with its great buildings and cities, its carriages and
horses, its glittering dresses and armours, its splendour and luxury!
We have no record of what the Indians thought, only of what the crowd
thought who gaped upon them and upon the gaudy parrots that screeched and
fluttered also in the procession. Columbus came riding on horseback, as
befitted a great Admiral and Viceroy, surrounded by his pilots and
principal officers; and followed by men bearing golden belts, golden
masks, nuggets of gold and dust of gold, and preceded by heralds,
pursuivants, and mace-bearers.

What a return for the man who three years before had been pointed at and
laughed to scorn in this same brilliant society! The crowds pressed so
closely that the procession could hardly get through the streets; the
whole population was there to witness it; and the windows and balconies
and roofs of the houses, as well as the streets themselves, were thronged
with a gaily dressed and wildly excited crowd. At length the procession
reaches the presence of the King and Queen and, crowning and
unprecedented honour! as the Admiral comes before them Ferdinand and
Isabella rise to greet him. Under their own royal canopy a seat is
waiting for him; and when he has made his ceremonial greeting he is
invited to sit in their presence and give an account of his voyage.

He is fully equal to the situation; settles down to do himself and his
subject justice; begins, we may be sure, with a preamble about the
providence of God and its wisdom and consistency in preserving the
narrator and preparing his life for this great deed; putting in a deal of
scientific talk which had in truth nothing to do with the event, but was
always applied to it in Columbus's writings from this date onwards; and
going on to describe the voyage, the sea of weeds, the landfall, his
intercourse with the natives, their aptitude for labour and Christianity,
and the hopes he has of their early conversion to the Catholic Church.
And then follows a long description of the wonderful climate, "like May
in Andalusia," the noble rivers, and gorgeous scenery, the trees and
fruits and flowers and singing birds; the spices and the cotton; and
chief of all, the vast stores of gold and pearls of which the Admiral had
brought home specimens. At various stages in his narrative he produces
illustrations; now a root of rhubarb or allspice; now a raw nugget of
gold; now a piece of gold laboured into a mask or belt; now a native
decorated with the barbaric ornaments that were the fashion in Espanola.
These things, says Columbus, are mere first-fruits of the harvest that is
to come; the things which he, like the dove that had flown across the sea
from the Ark and brought back an olive leaf in its mouth, has brought
back across the stormy seas to that Ark of civilisation from which he had
flown forth.

It was to Columbus an opportunity of stretching his visionary wings and
creating with pompous words and images a great halo round himself of
dignity and wonder and divine distinction,--an opportunity such as he
loved, and such as he never failed to make use of.

The Sovereigns were delighted and profoundly impressed. Columbus wound
up his address with an eloquent peroration concerning the glory to
Christendom of these new discoveries; and there followed an impressive
silence, during which the Sovereigns sank on their knees and raised hands
and tearful eyes to heaven, an example in which they were followed by the
whole of the assembly; and an appropriate gesture enough, seeing what was
to come of it all. The choir of the Chapel Royal sang a solemn Te Deum
on the spot; and the Sovereigns and nobles, bishops, archbishops,
grandees, hidalgos, chamberlains, treasurers, chancellors and other
courtiers, being exhausted by these emotions, retired to dinner.

During his stay at Barcelona Columbus was the guest of the Cardinal-
Archbishop of Toledo, and moved thus in an atmosphere of combined
temporal and spiritual dignity such as his soul loved. Very agreeable
indeed to him was the honour shown to him at this time. Deep down in his
heart there was a secret nerve of pride and vanity which throughout his
life hitherto had been continually mortified and wounded; but he was able
now to indulge his appetite for outward pomp and honour as much as he
pleased. When King Ferdinand went out to ride Columbus would be seen
riding on one side of him, the young Prince John riding on the other
side; and everywhere, when he moved among the respectful and admiring
throng, his grave face was seen to be wreathed in complacent smiles. His
hair, which had turned white soon after he was thirty, gave him a
dignified and almost venerable appearance, although he was only in his
forty-third year; and combined with his handsome and commanding presence
to excite immense enthusiasm among the Spaniards. They forgot for the
moment what they had formerly remembered and were to remember again--that
he was a foreigner, an Italian, a man of no family and of poor origin.
They saw in him the figure-head of a new empire and a new glory, an
emblem of power and riches, of the dominion which their proud souls
loved; and so there beamed upon him the brief fickle sunshine of their
smiles and favour, which he in his delusion regarded as an earnest of
their permanent honour and esteem.

It is almost always thus with a man not born to such dignities, and who
comes by them through his own efforts and labours. No one would grudge
him the short-lived happiness of these summer weeks; but although he
believed himself to be as happy as a man can be, he appears to quietly
contemplating eyes less happy and fortunate than when he stood alone on
the deck of his ship, surrounded by an untrustworthy crew, prevailing by
his own unaided efforts over the difficulties and dangers with which he
was surrounded. Court functions and processions, and the companionship
of kings and cardinals, are indeed no suitable reward for the kind of
work that he did. Courtly dignities are suited to courtly services; but
they are no suitable crown for rough labour and hardship at sea, or for
the fulfilment of a man's self by lights within him; no suitable crown
for any solitary labour whatsoever, which must always be its own and only

It is to this period of splendour that the story of the egg, which is to
some people the only familiar incident in Columbian biography, is
attributed. The story is that at a banquet given by the Cardinal-Arch
bishop the conversation ran, as it always did in those days when he was
present, on the subject of the Admiral's discoveries; and that one of the
guests remarked that it was all very well for Columbus to have done what
he did, but that in a country like Spain, where there were so many men
learned in science and cosmography, and many able mariners besides, some
one else would certainly have been found who would have done the same
thing. Whereupon Columbus, calling for an egg, laid a wager that none of
the company but him self could make it stand on its end without support.
The egg was brought and passed round, and every one tried to make it
stand on end, but without success. When it came to Columbus he cracked
the shell at one end, making a flat surface on which the egg stood
upright; thus demonstrating that a thing might be wonderful, not because
it was difficult or impossible, but merely because no one had ever
thought of doing it before. A sufficiently inane story, and by no means
certainly true; but there is enough character in this little feat,
ponderous, deliberate, pompous, ostentatious, and at bottom a trick and
deceitful quibble, to make it accord with the grandiloquent public manner
of Columbus, and to make it easily believable of one who chose to show
himself in his speech and writings so much more meanly and pretentiously
than he showed himself in the true acts and business of his life.

But pomp and parade were not the only occupation of these Barcelona days.
There were long consultations with Ferdinand and Isabella about the
colonisation of the new lands; there were intrigues, and parrying of
intrigues, between the Spanish and Portuguese Courts on the subject of
the discoveries and of the representative rights of the two nations to be
the religious saviours of the New World. The Pope, to whose hands the
heathen were entrusted by God to be handed for an inheritance to the
highest and most religious bidder, had at that time innocently divided
them into two portions, to wit: heathen to the south of Spain and
Portugal, and heathen to the west of those places. By the Bull of 1438,
granted by Pope Martin V., the heathen to the west had been given to the
Spanish, and the heathen to the south to the Portuguese, and the two
crowns had in 1479 come to a working agreement. Now, however, the
existence of more heathen to the west of the Azores introduced a new
complication, and Ferdinand sent a message to Pope Alexander VI. praying
for a confirmation of the Spanish title to the new discoveries.

This Pope, who was a native of Aragon and had been a subject of
Ferdinand, was a stolid, perverse, and stubborn being; so much is
advertised in his low forehead, impudent prominent nose, thick sensual
lips, and stout bull neck. This Pope considers the matter; considers,
by such lights as he has, to whom he shall entrust the souls of these new
heathen; considers which country, Spain or Portugal, is most likely to
hold and use the same for the increase of the Christian faith in general,
the furtherance of the Holy Catholic Church in special, and the
aggrandisement of Popes in particular; and shrewdly decides that the
country in which the. Inquisition can flourish is the country to whom
the heathen souls should be entrusted. He therefore issues a Bull, dated
May 3, 1493, granting to the Spanish the possession of all lands, not
occupied by Christian powers, that lie west of a meridian drawn one
hundred leagues to the westward of the Azores, and to the Portuguese
possession of all similar lands lying to the eastward of that line. He
sleeps upon this Bull, and has inspiration; and on the morrow, May 4th,
issues another Bull, drawing a line from the arctic to the antarctic
pole, and granting to Spain all heathen inheritance to the westward of
the same. The Pope, having signed this Bull, considers it further-
assisted, no doubt, by the Portuguese Ambassador at the Vatican, to whom
it has been shown; realises that in the wording of the Bull an injustice
has been done to Portugal, since Spain is allowed to fix very much at her
own convenience the point at which the line drawn from pole to pole shall
cut the equator; and also because, although Spain is given all the lands
in existence within her territory, Portugal is only given the lands which
she may actually have occupied. Even the legal mind of the Pope,
although much drowsed and blunted by brutish excesses, discerns
faultiness in this document; and consequently on the same day issues a
third Bull, in which the injustice to Portugal is redressed. Nothing so
easy, thinks the Pope, as to issue Bulls; if you make a mistake in one
Bull, issue another; and, having issued three Bulls in twenty-four hours,
he desists for the present, having divided the earthly globe.

Thus easy it is for a Pope to draw lines from pole to pole, and across
the deep of the sea. Yet the poles sleep still in their icy virginal
sanctity, and the blue waves through which that papal line passes shift
and shimmer and roll in their free salt loneliness, unaffected by his
demarcation; the heathen also, it appears, since that distant day, have
had something to say to their disposition. If he had slept upon it
another night, poor Pope, it might have occurred to him that west and
east might meet on a meridian situated elsewhere on the globe than one
hundred miles west of the Azores; and that the Portuguese, who for the
moment had nothing heathen except Africa left to them, might according to
his demarcation strike a still richer vein of heathendom than that
granted to Spain. But the holy Pontiff, bull neck, low forehead,
impudent prominent nose, and sensual lips notwithstanding, is exhausted
by his cosmographical efforts, and he lets it rest at that. Later, when
Spain discovers that her privileges have been abated, he will have to
issue another Bull; but not to-day. Sufficient unto the day are the
Bulls thereof. For the moment King proposes and Pope disposes; but the
matter lies ultimately in the hands of the two eternal protagonists, man
and God.

In the meantime here are six heathen alive and well, or at any rate well
enough to support, willy-nilly, the rite of holy baptism. They must have
been sufficiently dazed and bewildered by all that had happened to them
since they were taken on board the Admiral's ship, and God alone knows
what they thought of it all, or whether they thought anything more than
the parrots that screamed and fluttered and winked circular eyes in the
procession with them. Doubtless they were willing enough; and indeed,
after all they had come through, a little cold water could not do them
any harm. So baptized they were in Barcelona; pompously baptized with
infinite state and ceremony, the King and Queen and Prince Juan
officiating as sponsors. Queen Isabella, after the manner of queens,
took a kindly feminine interest in these heathen, and in their brethren
across the sea. She had seen a good deal of conquest, and knew her
Spaniard pretty intimately; and doubtless her maternal heart had some
misgivings about the ultimate happiness of the gentle, handsome creatures
who lived in the sunshine in that distant place. She made their souls
her especial care, and honestly believed that by providing for their
spiritual conversion she was doing them the greatest service in her
power. She provided from her own private chapel vestments and altar
furniture for the mission church in Espanola; she had the six exiles in
Barcelona instructed under her eye; and she gave Columbus special orders
to inflict severe punishments on any one who should offer the natives
violence or injustice of any kind. It must be remembered to her credit
that in after days, when slavery and an intolerable bloody and brutish
oppression had turned the paradise of Espanola into a shambles, she
fought almost singlehanded, and with an ethical sense far in advance of
her day, against the system of slavery practised by Spain upon the
inhabitants of the New World.

The dignities that had been provisionally granted to Columbus before his
departure on the first voyage were now elaborately confirmed; and in
addition he was given another title--that of Captain-General of the large
fleet which was to be fitted out to sail to the new colonies. He was
entrusted with the royal seal, which gave him the right to grant letters
patent, to issue commissions, and to Appoint deputies in the royal name.
A coat-of-arms was also granted to him in which, in its original form,
the lion and castle of Leon and Castile were quartered with islands of
the sea or on a field azure, and five anchors or on a field azure. This
was changed from time to time, chiefly by Columbus himself, who
afterwards added a continent to the islands, and modified the blazonry of
the lion and castle to agree with those on the royal arms--a piece of
ignorance and childish arrogance which was quite characteristic of him.

[A motto has since been associated with the coat-of-arms, although
it is not certain that Columbus adopted it in his lifetime. In one
form it reads:
"Por Castilla e por Leon
Nueva Mundo hallo Colon."]

(For Castile and Leon Columbus found a New World.)

And in the other:

"A Castilla y a Leon
Nuevo Mundo dio Colon."

(To Castile and Leon Columbus gave a New World.)

Equally characteristic and less excusable was his acceptance of the
pension of ten thousand maravedis which had been offered to the member of
the expedition who should first sight land. Columbus was granted a very
large gratuity on his arrival in Barcelona, and even taking the product
of the islands at a tenth part of their value as estimated by him, he
still had every right to suppose himself one of the richest men in Spain.
Yet he accepted this paltry pension of L8. 6s. 8d. in our modern
money(of 1900), which, taking the increase in the purchasing power of
money at an extreme estimate, would not be more than the equivalent of
$4000 now. Now Columbus had not been the first person to see land; he
saw the light, but it was Rodrigo de Triana, the look-out man on the
Pinta, who first saw the actual land. Columbus in his narrative to the
King and Queen would be sure to make much of the seeing of the light, and
not so much of the actual sighting of land; and he was on the spot, and
the reward was granted to him. Even if we assume that in strict equity
Columbus was entitled to it, it was at least a matter capable of
argument, if only Rodrigo de Triana had been there to argue it; and what
are we to think of the Admiral of the Ocean Seas and Viceroy of the
Indies who thus takes what can only be called a mean advantage of a poor
seaman in his employ? It would have been a competence and a snug little
fortune to Rodrigo de Triana; it was a mere flea-bite to a man who was
thinking in eighth parts of continents. It may be true, as Oviedo
alleges, that Columbus transferred it to Beatriz Enriquez; but he had no
right to provide for her out of money that in all equity and decency
ought to have gone to another and a poorer man. His biographers, some of
whom have vied with his canonisers in insisting upon seeing virtue in his
every action, have gone to all kinds of ridiculous extremes in accounting
for this piece of meanness. Irving says that it was "a subject in which
his whole ambition was involved"; but a plain person will regard it as an
instance of greed and love of money. We must not shirk facts like this
if we wish to know the man as he really was. That he was capable of
kindness and generosity, and that he was in the main kind-hearted, we
have fortunately no reason to doubt; and if I dwell on some of his less
amiable characteristics it is with no desire to magnify them out of their
due proportion. They are part of that side of him that lay in shadow, as
some side of each one of us lies; for not all by light nor all by shade,
but by light and shade combined, is the image of a man made visible to

It is quite of a piece with the character of Columbus that while he was
writing a receipt for the look-out man's money and thinking what a pretty
gift it would make for Beatriz Enriquez he was planning a splendid and
spectacular thank-offering for all the dignities to which he had been
raised; and, brooding upon the vast wealth that was now to be his, that
he should register a vow to furnish within seven years an expedition of
four thousand horse and fifty thousand foot for the rescue of the Holy
Sepulchre, and a similar force within five years after the first if it
should be necessary. It was probable that the vow was a provisional one,
and that its performance was to be contingent on his actual receipt and
possession of the expected money; for as we know, there was no money and
no expedition. The vow was in effect a kind of religious flourish much
beloved by Columbus, undertaken seriously and piously enough, but
belonging rather to his public than to his private side. A much more
simple and truly pious act of his was, not the promising of visionary but
the sending of actual money to his old father in Savona, which he did
immediately after his arrival in Spain. The letter which he wrote with
that kindly remittance, not being couched in the pompous terms which he
thought suitable for princes, and doubtless giving a brief homely account
of what he had done, would, if we could come by it, be a document beyond
all price; but like every other record of his family life it has utterly

He wrote also from Barcelona to his two brothers, Bartholomew and
Giacomo, or James, since we may as well give him the English equivalent
of his name. Bartholomew was in France, whither he had gone some time
after his return from his memorable voyage with Bartholomew Diaz; he was
employed as a map-maker at the court of Anne de Beaujeu, who was reigning
in the temporary absence of her brother Charles VIII. Columbus's letter
reached him, but much too late for him to be able to join in the second
expedition; in fact he did not reach Seville until five months after it
had sailed. James, however, who was now twenty-five years old, was still
at Savona; he, like Columbus, had been apprenticed to his father, but had
apparently remained at home earning his living either as a wool-weaver or
merchant. He was a quiet, discreet young fellow, who never pushed
himself forward very much, wore very plain clothes, and was apparently
much overawed by the grandeur and dignity of his elder brother. He was,
however, given a responsible post in the new expedition, and soon had his
fill of adventure.

The business of preparing for the new expedition was now put in hand, and
Columbus, having taken leave of Ferdinand and Isabella, went to Seville
to superintend the preparations. All the ports in Andalusia were ordered
to supply such vessels as might be required at a reasonable cost, and the
old order empowering the Admiral to press mariners into the service was
renewed. But this time it was unnecessary; the difficulty now was rather
to keep down the number of applicants for berths in the expedition, and
to select from among the crowd of adventurers who offered themselves
those most suitable for the purposes of the new colony. In this work
Columbus was assisted by a commissioner whom the Sovereigns had appointed
to superintend the fitting out of the expedition. This man was a cleric,
Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca, Archdeacon of Seville, a person of excellent
family and doubtless of high piety, and of a surpassing shrewdness for
this work. He was of a type very commonly produced in Spain at this
period; a very able organiser, crafty and competent, but not altogether
trustworthy on a point of honour. Like so many ecclesiastics of this
stamp, he lived for as much power and influence as he could achieve; and
though he was afterwards bishop of three sees successively, and became
Patriarch of the Indies, he never let go his hold on temporal affairs.
He began by being jealous of Columbus, and by objecting to the personal
retinue demanded by the Admiral; and in this, if I know anything of the
Admiral, he was probably justified. The matter was referred to the
Sovereigns, who ordered Fonseca to carry out the Admiral's wishes; and
the two were immediately at loggerheads. When the Council for the Indies
was afterwards formed Fonseca became head, of it, and had much power to
make things pleasant or otherwise for Columbus.

It became necessary now to raise a considerable sum of money for the new
expedition. Two-thirds of the ecclesiastical tithes were appropriated,
and a large proportion of the confiscated property of the Jews who had
been banished from Spain the year before; but this was not enough; and
five million maravedis were borrowed from the Duke of Medina Sidonia in
order to complete the financial supplies necessary for this very costly
expedition. There was a treasurer, Francisco Pinelo, and an accountant,
Juan de Soria, who had charge of all the financial arrangements; but the
whole of the preparations were conducted on a ruinously expensive scale,
owing to the haste which the diplomatic relations with Portugal made
necessary. The provisioning was done by a Florentine merchant named
Juonato Beradi, who had an assistant named Amerigo Vespucci--who, by a
strange accident, was afterwards to give his name to the continent of the
New World.

While these preparations were going on the game of diplomacy was being
played between the Courts of Spain and Portugal. King John of Portugal
had the misfortune to be badly advised; and he was persuaded that,
although he had lost the right to the New World through his rejection of
Columbus's services when they were first offered to him, he might still
discover it for himself, relying for protection on the vague wording of
the papal Bulls. He immediately began to prepare a fleet, nominally to
go to the coast of Africa, but really to visit the newly discovered lands
in the west. Hearing of these preparations, King Ferdinand sent an
Ambassador to the Portuguese Court; and King John agreed also to appoint
an Ambassador to discuss the whole matter of the line of demarcation, and
in the meantime not to allow any of his ships to sail to the west for a
period of sixty days after his Ambassador had reached Barcelona. There
followed a good deal of diplomatic sharp practice; the Portuguese bribing
the Spanish officials to give them information as to what was going on,
and the Spaniards furnishing their envoys with double sets of letters and
documents so that they could be prepared to counter any movement on the
part of King John. The idea of the Portuguese was that the line of
demarcation should be a parallel rather than a meridian; and that
everything north of the Canaries should belong to Spain and everything
south to Portugal; but this would never do from the Spanish point of
view. The fact that a proposal had come from Portugal, however, gave
Ferdinand an opportunity of delaying the diplomatic proceedings until his
own expedition was actually ready to set sail; and he wrote to Columbus
repeatedly, urging him to make all possible haste with his preparations.
In the meantime he despatched a solemn embassy to Portugal, the purport
of which, much beclouded and delayed by preliminary and impossible
proposals, was to submit the whole question to the Pope for arbitration.
And all the time he was busy petitioning the Pope to restore to Spain
those concessions granted in the second Bull, but taken away again in the

This, being much egged on to it, the Pope ultimately did; waking up on
September 26th, the day after Columbus's departure, and issuing another
Bull in which the Spanish Sovereigns were given all lands and islands,
discovered or not discovered, which might be found by sailing west and
south. Four Bulls; and after puzzling over them for a year, the Kings of
Spain and Portugal decided to make their own Bull, and abide by it,
which, having appointed commissioners, they did on June 7, 1494., when by
the Treaty of Tordecillas the line of demarcation was finally fixed to
pass from north to south through a point 370 leagues west of the Cape
Verde Islands.



July, August, and September in the year 1493 were busy months for
Columbus, who had to superintend the buying or building and fitting of
ships, the choice and collection of stores, and the selection of his
company. There were fourteen caravels, some of them of low tonnage and
light draught, and suitable for the navigation of rivers; and three large
carracks, or ships of three to four hundred tons. The number of
volunteers asked for was a thousand, but at least two thousand applied
for permission to go with the expedition, and ultimately some fourteen or
fifteen hundred did actually go, one hundred stowaways being included in
the number. Unfortunately these adventurers were of a class compared
with whom even the cut-throats and gaol-birds of the humble little
expedition that had sailed the year before from Palos were useful and
efficient. The universal impression about the new lands in the West was
that they were places where fortunes could be picked up like dirt, and
where the very shores were strewn with gold and precious stones; and
every idle scamp in Spain who had a taste for adventure and a desire to
get a great deal of money without working for it was anxious to visit the
new territory. The result was that instead of artisans, farmers,
craftsmen, and colonists, Columbus took with him a company at least half
of which consisted of exceedingly well-bred young gentlemen who had no
intention of doing any work, but who looked forward to a free and lawless
holiday and an early return crowned with wealth and fortune. Although
the expedition was primarily for the establishment of a colony, no
Spanish women accompanied it; and this was but one of a succession of
mistakes and stupidities.

The Admiral, however, was not to be so lonely a person as he had been on
his first voyage; friends of his own choice and of a rank that made
intimacy possible even with the Captain-General were to accompany him.
There was James his brother; there was Friar Bernardo Buil, a Benedictine
monk chosen by the Pope to be his apostolic vicar in the New World; there
was Alonso de Ojeda, a handsome young aristocrat, cousin to the
Inquisitor of Spain, who was distinguished for his dash and strength and
pluck; an ideal adventurer, the idol of his fellows, and one of whose
daring any number of credible and incredible tales were told. There was
Pedro Margarite, a well-born Aragonese, who was destined afterwards to
cause much trouble; there was Juan Ponce de Leon, the discoverer of
Florida; there was Juan de La Cosa, Columbus's faithful pilot on the
Santa Maria on his first voyage; there was Pedro de Las Casas, whose son,
at this time a student in Seville, was afterwards to become the historian
of the New World and the champion of decency and humanity there. There
was also Doctor Chanca, a Court physician who accompanied the expedition
not only in his professional capacity but also because his knowledge of
botany would enable him to make, a valuable report on the vegetables and
fruits of the New World; there was Antonio de Marchena, one of Columbus's
oldest friends, who went as astronomer to the expedition. And there was
one Coma, who would have remained unknown to this day but that he wrote
an exceedingly elegant letter to his friend Nicolo Syllacio in Italy,
describing in flowery language the events of the second voyage; which
letter, and one written by Doctor Chanca, are the only records of the
outward voyage that exist. The journal kept by Columbus on this voyage
has been lost, and no copy of it remains.

Columbus settled at Cadiz during the time in which he was engaged upon
the fitting out of the expedition. It was no light matter to superintend
the appointment of the crews and passengers, every one of whom was
probably interviewed by Columbus himself, and at the same time to keep
level with Archdeacon Fonseca. This official, it will be remembered,
had a disagreement with Columbus as to the number of personal attendants
he was to be allowed; and on the matter being referred to the King and
Queen they granted Columbus the ridiculous establishment of ten footmen
and twenty other servants.

Naturally Fonseca held up his hands and wondered where it would all end.
It was no easy matter, moreover, on receipt of letters from the Queen
about small matters which occurred to her from time to time, to answer
them fully and satisfactorily, and at the same time to make out all the
lists of things that would likely be required both for provisioning the
voyage and establishing a colony. The provisions carried in those days
were not very different from the provisions carried on deep-sea vessels
at the present time--except that canned meat, for which, with its horrors
and conveniences, the world may hold Columbus responsible, had not then
been invented. Unmilled wheat, salted flour, and hard biscuit formed the
bulk of the provisions; salted pork was the staple--of the meat supply,
with an alternative of salted fish; while cheese, peas, lentils and
beans, oil and vinegar, were also carried, and honey and almonds and
raisins for the cabin table. Besides water a large provision of rough
wine in casks was taken, and the dietary scale would probably compare
favourably with that of the British and American mercantile service sixty
years ago. In addition a great quantity of seeds of all kinds were taken
for planting in Espanola; sugar cane, rice, and vines also, and an
equipment of agricultural implements, as well as a selection of horses
and other domestic animals for breeding purposes. Twenty mounted
soldiers were also carried, and the thousand and one impedimenta of
naval, military, and domestic existence.

In the middle of all these preparations news came that a Portuguese
caravel had set sail from Madeira in the direction of the new lands.
Columbus immediately reported this to the King and Queen, and suggested
detaching part of his fleet to pursue her; but instead King John was
communicated with, and he declared that if the vessel had sailed as
alleged it was without his knowledge and permission, and that he would
send three ships after her to recall her--an answer which had to be
accepted, although it opened up rather alarming possibilities of four
Portuguese vessels reaching the new islands instead of one. Whether
these ships ever really sailed or not, or whether the rumour was merely a
rumour and an alarm, is not certain; but Columbus was ordered to push on
his preparations with the greatest possible speed, to avoid Portuguese
waters, but to capture any vessels which he might find in the part of the
ocean allotted to Spain, and to inflict summary punishment on the crews.
As it turned out he never saw any Portuguese vessels, and before he had
returned to Spain again the two nations had come to an amicable agreement
quite independently of the Pope and his Bulls. Spain undertook to make
no discoveries to the east of the line of demarcation, and Portugal none
to the west of it; and so the matter remained until the inhabitants of
the discovered lands began to have a voice in their own affairs.

With all his occupations Columbus found time for some amenities, and he
had his two sons, Diego and Ferdinand, staying with him at Cadiz. Great
days they must have been for these two boys; days filled with excitement
and commotion, with the smell of tar and the loading of the innumerable
and fascinating materials of life; and many a journey they must have made
on the calm waters of Cadiz harbour from ship to ship, dreaming of the
distant seas that these high, quaintly carven prows would soon be
treading, and the wonderful bays and harbours far away across the world
into the waters of which their anchors were to plunge.

September 24th, the day before the fleet sailed, was observed as a
festival; and in full ceremonial the blessing of God upon the enterprise
was invoked. The ships were hung with flags and with dyed silks and
tapestries; every vessel flew the royal standard; and the waters of the
harbour resounded with the music of trumpets and harps and pipes and the
thunder of artillery. Some Venetian galleys happened to enter the
harbour as the fleet was preparing to weigh, and they joined in the
salutes and demonstrations which signalled the departure. The Admiral
hoisted his flag on the 'Marigalante', one of the largest of the ships;
and somewhere among the smaller caravels the little Nina, re-caulked and
re-fitted, was also preparing to brave again the dangers over which she
had so staunchly prevailed. At sunrise on the 25th the fleet weighed
anchor, with all the circumstance and bustle and apparent confusion that
accompanies the business of sailing-ships getting under weigh. Up to the
last minute Columbus had his two sons on board with him, and it was not
until the ripples were beginning to talk under the bow of the Marigalante
that he said good-bye to them and saw them rowed ashore. In bright
weather, with a favourable breeze, in glory and dignity, and with high
hopes in his heart, the Admiral set out once more on the long sea-road.



The second voyage of Columbus, profoundly interesting as it must have
been to him and to the numerous company to whom these waters were a
strange and new region, has not the romantic interest for us that his
first voyage had. To the faith that guided him on his first venture
knowledge and certainty had now been added; he was going by a familiar
road; for to the mariner a road that he has once followed is a road that
he knows. As a matter of fact, however, this second voyage was a far
greater test of Columbus's skill as a navigator than the first voyage had
been. If his navigation had been more haphazard he might never have
found again the islands of his first discovery; and the fact that he made
a landfall exactly where he wished to make it shows a high degree of
exactness in his method of ascertaining latitude, and is another instance
of his skill in estimating his dead-reckoning. If he had been equipped
with a modern quadrant and Greenwich chronometers he could not have made
a quicker voyage nor a more exact landfall.

It will be remembered that he had been obliged to hurry away from
Espanola without visiting the islands of the Caribs as he had wished to
do. He knew that these islands lay to the south-east of Espanola, and on
his second voyage he therefore took a course rather more southerly in
order, to make them instead of Guanahani or Espanola. From the day they
left Spain his ships had pleasant light airs from the east and north-east
which wafted them steadily but slowly on their course. In a week they
had reached the Grand Canary, where they paused to make some repairs to
one of the ships which, was leaking. Two days later they anchored at
Gomera, and loaded up with such supplies as could be procured there
better than in Spain. Pigs, goats, sheep and cows were taken on board;
domestic fowls also, and a variety of orchard plants and fruit seeds, as
well as a provision of oranges, lemons, and melons. They sailed from
Gomera on the 7th of October, but the winds were so light that it was a
week later before they had passed Ferro and were once more in the open

On setting his course from Ferro Columbus issued sealed instructions to
the captain of each ship which, in the event of the fleet becoming
scattered, would guide them to the harbour of La Navidad in Espanola;
but the captains had strict orders not to open these instructions unless
their ships became separated from the fleet, as Columbus still wished to
hold for himself the secret of this mysterious road to the west. There
were no disasters, however, and no separations. The trade wind blew soft
and steady, wafting them south and west; and because of the more
southerly course steered on this voyage they did not even encounter the
weed of the Sargasso Sea, which they left many leagues on their starboard
hand. The only incident of the voyage was a sudden severe hurricane, a
brief summer tempest which raged throughout one night and terrified a
good many of the voyagers, whose superstitious fears were only allayed
when they saw the lambent flames of the light of Saint Elmo playing about
the rigging of the Admiral's ship. It was just the Admiral's luck that
this phenomenon should be observed over his ship and over none of the
others; it added to his prestige as a person peculiarly favoured by the
divine protection, and confirmed his own belief that he held a heavenly
as well as a royal commission.

The water supply had been calculated a little too closely, and began to
run low. The hurried preparation of the ships had resulted as usual in
bad work; most of them were leaking, and the crew were constantly at work
at the pumps; and there was the usual discontent. Columbus, however,
knew by the signs as well as by his dead-reckoning that he was somewhere
close to land; and with a fine demonstration of confidence he increased
the ration of water, instead of lowering it, assuring the crews that they
would be ashore in a day or two. On Saturday evening, November 2nd,
although no land was in sight, Columbus was so sure of his position that
he ordered the fleet to take in sail and go on slowly until morning. As
the Sunday dawned and the sky to the west was cleared of the morning bank
of clouds the look-out on the Marigalante reported land ahead; and sure
enough the first sunlight of that day showed them a green and verdant
island a few leagues away.

As they approached it Columbus christened it Dominica in honour of the
day on which it was discovered. He sailed round it; but as there was no
harbour, and as another island was in sight to the north, he sailed on in
that direction. This little island he christened Marigalante; and going
ashore with his retinue he hoisted the royal banner, and formally took
possession of the whole group of six islands which were visible from the
high ground. There were no inhabitants on the island, but the voyagers
spent some hours wandering about its tangled woods and smelling the rich
odours of spice, and tasting new and unfamiliar fruits. They next sailed
on to an island to the north which Columbus christened Guadaloupe as a
memorial of the shrine in Estremadura to which he had made a pious
pilgrimage. They landed on this island and remained a week there, in the
course of which they made some very remarkable discoveries.

The villagers were not altogether unfriendly, although they were shy at
first; but red caps and hawks' bells had their usual effect. There were
signs of warfare, in the shape of bone-tipped arrows; there were tame
parrots much larger than those of the northern islands; they found
pottery and rough wood carving, and the unmistakable stern timber of a .
European vessel. But they discovered stranger things than that. They
found human skulls used as household utensils, and gruesome fragments of
human bodies, unmistakable remains of a feast; and they realised that at
last they were in the presence of a man-eating tribe. Later they came to
know, something of the habits of the islanders; how they made raiding
expeditions to the neighbouring islands, and carried off large numbers of
prisoners, retaining the women as concubines and eating the men. The
boys were mutilated and fattened like capons, being employed as labourers
until they had arrived at years of discretion, at which point they were
killed and eaten, as these cannibal epicures did not care for the flesh
of women and boys. There were a great number of women on the island, and
many of them were taken off to the ships--with their own consent,
according to Doctor Chanca. The men, however, eluded the Spaniards and
would not come on board, having doubtless very clear views about the
ultimate destination of men who were taken prisoners. Some women from a
neighbouring island, who had been captured by the cannibals, came to
Columbus and begged to be taken on board his ship for protection; but
instead of receiving them he decked them with ornaments and sent them
ashore again. The cannibals artfully stripped off their ornaments and
sent them back to get some more.

The peculiar habits of the islanders added an unusual excitement to shore
leave, and there was as a rule no trouble in collecting the crews and
bringing them off to the ships at nightfall. But on one evening it was
discovered that one of the captains and eight men had not returned. An
exploring party was sent of to search for them, but they came back
without having found anything, except a village in the middle of the
forest from which the inhabitants had fled at their approach, leaving
behind them in the cooking pots a half-cooked meal of human remains--an
incident which gave the explorers a distaste for further search. Young
Alonso de Ojeda, however, had no fear of the cannibals; this was just the
kind of occasion in which he revelled; and he offered to take a party of
forty men into the interior to search for the missing men. He went right
across the island, but was able to discover nothing except birds and
fruits and unknown trees; and Columbus, in great distress of mind, had to
give up his men for lost. He took in wood and water, and was on the
point of weighing anchor when the missing men appeared on the shore and
signalled for a boat. It appeared that they had got lost in a tangled
forest in the interior, that they had tried to climb the trees in order
to get their bearings by the stars, but without success; and that they
had finally struck the sea-shore and followed it until they had arrived
opposite the anchorage.

They brought some women and boys with them, and the fleet must now have
had a large number of these willing or unwilling captives. This was the
first organised transaction of slavery on the part of Columbus, whose
design was to send slaves regularly back to Spain in exchange for the
cattle and supplies necessary for the colonies. There was not very much
said now about religious conversion, but only about exchanging the
natives for cattle. The fine point of Christopher's philosophy on this
subject had been rubbed off; he had taken the first step a year ago on
the beach at Guanahani, and after that the road opened out broad before
him. Slaves for cattle, and cattle for the islands; and wealth from
cattle and islands for Spain, and payment from Spain for Columbus, and
money from Columbus for the redemption of the Holy Sepulchre--these were
the links in the chain of hope that bound him to his pious idea. He had
seen the same thing done by the Portuguese on the Guinea coast, and it
never occurred to him that there was anything the matter with it. On the
contrary, at this time his idea was only to take slaves from among the
Caribs and man-eating islanders as a punishment for their misdeeds; but
this, like his other fine ideas, soon had to give way before the tide of
greed and conquest.

The Admiral was now anxious to get back to La Navidad, and discover the
condition of the colony which he had left behind him there. He therefore
sailed from Guadaloupe on November 20th and steered to the north-west.
His captive islanders told him that the mainland lay to the south; and if
he had listened to them and sailed south he would have probably landed on
the coast of South America in a fortnight. He shaped his course instead
to the north-west, passing many islands, but not pausing until the 14th,
when he reached the island named by him Santa Cruz. He found more Caribs
here, and his men had a brush with them, one of the crew being wounded by
a poisoned arrow of which he died in a few days. The Carib Chiefs were
captured and put in irons. They sailed again and passed a group of
islets which Columbus named after Saint Ursula and the Eleven Thousand
Virgins; discovered Porto Rico also, in one of the beautiful harbours of
which they anchored and stayed for two days. Sailing now to the west
they made land again on the 22nd of November; and coasting along it they
soon sighted the mountain of Monte Christi, and Columbus recognised that
he was on the north coast of Espanola.



On the 25th November 1493, Columbus once more dropped his anchor in the
harbour of Monte Christi, and a party was sent ashore to prospect for a
site suitable for the new town which he intended to build, for he was not
satisfied with the situation of La Navidad. There was a large river
close by; and while the party was surveying the land they came suddenly
upon two dead bodies lying by the river-side, one with a rope round its
neck and the other with a rope round its feet. The bodies were too much
decomposed to be recognisable; nevertheless to the party rambling about
in the sunshine and stillness of that green place the discovery was a
very gruesome one. They may have thought much, but they said little.
They returned to the ship, and resumed their search on the next day, when
they found two more corpses, one of which was seen to have a large
quantity of beard. As all the natives were beardless this was a very
significant and unpleasant discovery, and the explorers returned at once
and reported what they had seen to Columbus. He thereupon set sail for
La Navidad, but the navigation off that part of the coast was necessarily
slow because of the number of the shoals and banks, on one of which the
Admiral's ship had been lost the year before; and the short voyage
occupied three days.

They arrived at La Navidad late on the evening of the 27th--too late to
make it advisable to land. Some natives came out in a canoe, rowed round
the Admiral's ship, stopped and looked at it, and then rowed away again.
When the fleet had anchored Columbus ordered two guns to be fired; but
there was no response except from the echoes that went rattling among the
islands, and from the frightened birds that rose screaming and circling
from the shore. No guns and no signal fires; no sign of human habitation
whatever; and no sound out of the weird darkness except the lap of the
water and the call of the birds . . . . The night passed in anxiety
and depression, and in a certain degree of nervous tension, which was
relieved at two or three o'clock in the morning by the sound of paddles
and the looming of a canoe through the dusky starlight. Native voices
were heard from the canoe asking in a loud voice for the Admiral; and
when the visitors had been directed to the Marigalante they refused to go
on board until Columbus himself had spoken to them, and they had seen by
the light of a lantern that it was the Admiral himself. The chief of
them was a cousin of Guacanagari, who said that the King was ill of a
wound in his leg, or that he would certainly have come himself to welcome
the Admiral. The Spaniards? Yes, they were well, said the young chief;
or rather, he added ominously, those that remained were well, but some
had died of illness, and some had been killed in quarrels that had arisen
among them. He added that the province had been invaded by two
neighbouring kings who had burned many of the native houses. This news,
although grave, was a relief from the dreadful uncertainty that had
prevailed in the early part of the night, and the Admiral's company,
somewhat consoled, took a little sleep.

In the morning a party was sent ashore to La Navidad. Not a boat was in
sight, nor any native canoes; the harbour was silent and deserted. When
the party had landed and gone up to the place where the fort had been
built they found no fort there; only the blackened and charred remains of
a fort. The whole thing had been burned level with the ground, and amid
the blackened ruins they found pieces of rag and clothing. The natives,
instead of coming to greet them, lurked guiltily behind trees, and when
they were seen fled away into the woods. All this was very disquieting
indeed, and in significant contrast to their behaviour of the year
before. The party from the ship threw buttons and beads and bells to the
retiring natives in order to try and induce them to come forward, but
only four approached, one of whom was a relation of Guacanagari. These
four consented to go into the boat and to be rowed out to the ship.
Columbus then spoke to them through his interpreter; and they admitted
what had been only too obvious to the party that went ashore--that the
Spaniards were all dead, and that not one of the garrison remained. It
seemed that two neighbouring kings, Caonabo and Mayreni, had made an
attack upon the fort, burned the buildings, and killed and wounded most
of the defenders; and that Guacanagari, who had been fighting on their
behalf, had also been wounded and been obliged to retire. The natives
offered to go and fetch Guacanagari himself, and departed with that

In the greatest anxiety the Admiral and his company passed that day and
night waiting for the King to come. Early the next morning Columbus
himself went ashore and visited the spot where the settlement had been.
There he found destruction whole and complete, with nothing but a few
rags of clothing as an evidence that the place had ever been inhabited by
human beings. As Guacanagari did not appear some of the Spaniards began
to suspect that he had had a hand in the matter, and proposed immediate
reprisal; but Columbus, believing still in the man who had "loved him so
much that it was wonderful" did not take this view, and his belief in
Guacanagari's loyalty was confirmed by the discovery that his own
dwelling had also been burned down.

Columbus set some of his party searching in the ditch of the fort in case
any treasure should have been buried there, as he had ordered it should
be in event of danger, and while this was going on he walked along the
coast for a few miles to visit a spot which he thought might be suitable
for the new settlement. At a distance of a mile or two he found a
village of seven or eight huts from which the inhabitants fled at his
approach, carrying such of their goods as were portable, and leaving the
rest hidden in the grass. Here were found several things that had
belonged to the Spaniards and which were not likely to have been
bartered; new Moorish mantles, stockings, bolts of cloth, and one of the
Admiral's lost anchors; other articles also, among them a dead man's head
wrapped up with great care in a small basket. Shaking their own living
heads, golumbus and his party returned. Suddenly they came on some
suspicious-looking mounds of earth over which new grass was growing. An
examination of these showed them to be the graves of eleven of the
Spaniards, the remains of the clothing being quite sufficient to identify
them. Doctor Chanca, who examined them, thought that they had not been
dead two months. Speculation came to an end in the face of this eloquent
certainty; there were the dead bodies of some of the colonists; and the
voyagers knelt round with bare heads while the bodies were replaced in
the grave and the ceremony of Christian burial performed over them.

Little by little the dismal story was elicited from the natives, who
became less timid when they saw that the Spaniards meant them no harm.
It seemed that Columbus had no sooner gone away than the colonists began
to abandon themselves to every kind of excess. While the echo of the
Admiral's wise counsels was yet in their ears they began to disobey his
orders. Honest work they had no intention of doing, and although Diego
Arana, their commander, did his best to keep order, and although one or
two of the others were faithful to him and to Columbus, their authority
was utterly insufficient to check the lawless folly of the rest. Instead
of searching for gold mines, they possessed themselves by force of every
ounce of gold they could steal or seize from the natives, treating them
with both cruelty and contempt. More brutal excesses followed as a
matter of course. Guacanagari, in his kindly indulgence and generosity,
had allowed them to take three native wives apiece, although he himself
and his people were content with one. But of course the Spaniards had
thrown off all restraint, however mild, and ran amok among the native
inhabitants, seizing their wives and seducing their daughters. Upon this
naturally followed dissensions among themselves, jealousy coming hot upon
the heels of unlawful possession; and, in the words of Irving, "the
natives beheld with astonishment the beings whom they had worshipped as
descended from the skies abandoned to the grossest of earthly passions
and raging against each other with worse than brutal ferocity."

Upon their strifes and dissensions followed another breach of the
Admiral's wise regulations; they no longer cared to remain together in
the fort, but split up into groups and went off with their women into the
woods, reverting to a savagery beside which the gentle existence of the
natives was high civilisation. There were squabbles and fights in which
one or two of the Spaniards were killed; and Pedro Gutierrez and Rodrigo
de Escovedo, whom Columbus had appointed as lieutenants to Arana, headed
a faction of revolt against his authority, and took themselves off with
nine other Spaniards and a great number of women. They had heard a great
deal about the mines of Cibao, and they decided to go in search of them
and secure their treasures for themselves. They went inland into a
territory which was under the rule of King Caonabo, a very fierce Carib
who was not a native of Espanola, but had come there as an adventurer and
remained as a conqueror. Although he resented the intrusion of the
Spaniards into the island he would not have dared to come and attack them
there if they had obeyed the Admiral's orders and remained in the
territory of Guacanagari; but when they came into his own country he had
them in a trap, and it was easy for him to fall upon those foolish
swaggering Spaniards and put them to death. He then decided to go and
take the fort.

He formed an alliance with the neighbouring king, Mayreni, whose province
was in the west of the island. Getting together a force of warriors
these two kings marched rapidly and stealthily through the, forest for
several days until they arrived at its northern border. They came in the
dead of night to the neighbourhood of La Navidad, where the inhabitants
of the fortress, some ten in number, were fast asleep. Fast asleep were
the remaining dozen or so of the Spaniards who were living in houses or
huts in the neighbourhood; fast asleep also the gentle natives, not
dreaming of troubles from any quarter but that close at hand. The sweet
silence of the tropical night was suddenly broken by frightful yells as
Caonabo and his warriors rushed the fortress and butchered the
inhabitants, setting fire to it and to the houses round about. As their
flimsy huts burst into flames the surprised Spaniards rushed out, only to
be fallen upon by the infuriated blacks. Eight of the Spaniards rushed
naked into the sea and were drowned; the rest were butchered.
Guacanagari manfully came to their assistance and with his own followers
fought throughout the night; but his were a gentle and unwarlike people,
and they were easily routed. The King himself was badly wounded in the
thigh, but Caonabo's principal object seems to have been the destruction
of the Spaniards, and when that was completed he and his warriors, laden
with the spoils, retired.

Thus Columbus, walking on the shore with his native interpreter, or
sitting in his cabin listening with knitted brow to the accounts of the
islanders, learns of the complete and utter failure of his first hopes.
It has come to this. These are the real first-fruits of his glorious
conquest and discovery. The New World has served but as a virgin field
for the Old Adam. He who had sought to bring light and life to these
happy islanders had brought darkness and death; they had innocently
clasped the sword he had extended to them and cut themselves. The
Christian occupation of the New World had opened with vice, cruelty, and
destruction; the veil of innocence had been rent in twain, and could
never be mended or joined again. And the Earthly Paradise in which life
had gone so happily, of which sun and shower had been the true rulers,
and the green sprouting harvests the only riches, had been turned into a
shambles by the introduction of human rule and civilised standards of
wealth. Gold first and then women, things beautiful and innocent in the
happy native condition of the islands, had been the means of the
disintegration and death of this first colony. These are serious
considerations for any coloniser; solemn considerations for a discoverer
who is only on the verge and beginning of his empire-making; mournful
considerations for Christopher as he surveys the blackened ruins of the
fort, or stands bare-headed by the grass-covered graves.

There seemed to be a certain hesitancy on the part of Guacanagari to
present himself; for though he kept announcing his intention of coming to
visit the Admiral he did not come. A couple of days after the discovery
of the remains, however, he sent a message to Columbus begging him to
come and see him, which the Admiral accordingly did, accompanied by a
formal retinue and carrying with him the usual presents. Guacanagari was
in bed sure enough complaining of a wounded leg, and he told the story of
the settlement very much as Columbus had already heard it from the other
natives. He pointed to his own wounded leg as a sign that he had been
loyal and faithful to his friendly promises; but when the leg was
examined by the surgeon in order that it might be dressed no wound could
be discovered, and it was obvious to Doctor Chanca that the skin had not
been broken. This seemed odd; Friar Buil was so convinced that the whole
story was a deception that he wished the Admiral to execute Guacanagari
on the spot. Columbus, although he was puzzled, was by no means
convinced that Guacanagari had been unfaithful to him, and decided to do
nothing for the present. He invited the cacique to come on board the
flagship; which he did, being greatly interested by some of the Carib
prisoners, notably a handsome woman, named by the Spaniards Dofia
Catalina, with whom he held a long conversation.

Relations between the Admiral and the cacique, although outwardly
cordial, were altogether different from what they had been in, the happy
days after their first meeting; the man seemed to shrink from all the
evidence of Spanish power, and when they proposed to hang a cross round
his neck the native king, much as he loved trinkets and toys, expressed a
horror and fear of this jewel when he learned that it was an emblem of
the Christian faith. He had seen a little too much of the Christian
religion; and Heaven only knows with what terror and depression the
emblem of the cross inspired him. He went ashore; and when a messenger
was sent to search for him a few days afterwards, it was found that he
had moved his whole establishment into the interior of the island. The
beautiful native woman Catalina escaped to shore and disappeared at the
same time; and the two events were connected in the minds of some of the
Spaniards, and held, wrongly as it turned out, to be significant of a
deep plot of native treachery.

The most urgent need was to build the new settlement and lay out a town.
Several small parties were sent out to reconnoitre the coast in both
directions, but none of them found a suitable place; and on December 7th
the whole fleet sailed to the east in the hope of finding a better
position. They were driven by adverse winds into a harbour some thirty
miles to the east of Monte Christi, and when they went ashore they
decided that this was as good a site as any for the new town. There was
about a quarter of a mile of level sandy beach enclosed by headlands on
either side; there was any amount of rock and stones for building, and
there was a natural barrier of hills and mountains a mile or so inland
that would protect a camp from that side.--The soil was very fertile,
the vegetation luxuriant; and the mango swamps a little way inland
drained into a basin or lake which provided an unlimited water supply.
Columbus therefore set about establishing a little town, to which he gave
the name of Isabella. Streets and squares were laid out, and rows of
temporary buildings made of wood and thatched with grass were hastily run
up for the accommodation of the members of the expedition, while the
foundations of three stone buildings were also marked out and the
excavations put in hand. These buildings were the church, the
storehouse, and a residence for Columbus as Governor-General. The stores
were landed, the horses and cattle accommodated ashore, the provisions,
ammunition, and agricultural implements also. Labourers were set to
digging out the foundations of the stone buildings, carpenters to cutting
down trees and running up the light wooden houses that were to serve as
barracks for the present; masons were employed in hewing stones and
building landing-piers; and all the crowd of well-born adventurers were
set to work with their hands, much to their disgust. This was by no
means the life they had imagined, and at the first sign of hard work they
turned sulky and discontented. There was, to be sure, some reason for
their discontent. Things had not quite turned out as Columbus had
promised they should; there was no store of gold, nor any sign of great
desire on the part of the natives to bring any; and to add to their other
troubles, illness began to break out in the camp. The freshly-turned
rank soil had a bad effect on the health of the garrison; the lake, which
had promised to be so pleasant a feature in the new town, gave off
dangerous malarial vapours at night; and among the sufferers from this
trouble was Columbus himself, who endured for some weeks all the pains
and lassitude of the disagreeable fever.

The ships were now empty and ready for the return voyage, and as soon as
Columbus was better he set to work to face the situation. After all his
promises it would never do to send them home empty or in ballast; a cargo
of stones from the new-found Indies would not be well received in Spain.
The natives had told him that somewhere in the island existed the gold
mines of Cibao, and he determined to make an attempt to find these, so
that he could send his ships home laden with a cargo that would be some
indemnity for the heavy cost of the expedition and some compensation for
the bad news he must write with regard to his first settlement. Young
Ojeda was chosen to lead an expedition of fifteen picked men into the
interior; and as the gold mines were said to be in a part of the island
not under the command of Guacanagari, but in the territory of the dreaded
Caonabo, there was no little anxiety felt about the expedition.

Ojeda started in the beginning of January 1494, and marched southwards
through dense forests until, having crossed a mountain range, he came
down into a beautiful and fertile valley, where they were hospitably
received by the natives. They saw plenty of gold in the sand of the
river that watered the valley, which sand the natives had a way of
washing so that the gold was separated from it; and there seemed to be so
much wealth there that Ojeda hurried back to the new city of Isabella to
make his report to Columbus. The effect upon the discontented colonists
was remarkable. Once more everything was right; wealth beyond the dreams
of avarice was at their hand; and all they had to do was to stretch out
their arms and take it. Columbus felt that he need no longer delay the
despatch of twelve of his ships on the homeward voyage. If he had not
got golden cargoes for them, at any rate he had got the next best thing,
which was the certainty of gold; and it did not matter whether it was in
the ships or in his storehouse. He had news to send home at any rate,
and a great variety of things to ask for in return, and he therefore set
about writing his report to the Sovereigns. Other people, as we know,
were writing letters too; the reiterated promise of gold, and the
marvellous anecdotes which these credulous settlers readily believed from
the natives, such as that there was a rock close by out of which gold
would burst if you struck it with a club, raised greed and expectation in
Spain to a fever pitch, and prepared the reaction which followed.

We may now read the account of the New World as Columbus sent it home to
the King and Queen of Spain in the end of January 1494, and as they read
it some weeks later. Their comments, written in the margin of the
original, are printed in italics at the end of each paragraph. It was
drawn up in the form of a memorandum, and entrusted to Antonio de Torres,
who was commanding the return expedition.

"What you, Antonio de Torres, captain of the ship Marigalante and Alcalde
of the City of Isabella, are to say and supplicate on my part to the King
and Queen, our Lords, is as follows:--

"First. Having delivered the letters of credence which you carry
from me for their Highnesses, you will kiss for me their Royal feet
and hands and will recommend me to their Highnesses as to a King and
Queen, my natural Lords, in whose service I desire to end my days:
as you will be able to say this more fully to their Highnesses,
according to what you have seen and known of me.

["Their Highnesses hold him in their favour.]

"Item. Although by the letters I write to their Highnesses, and
also the father Friar Buil and the Treasurer, they will be able to
understand all that has been done here since our arrival, and this
very minutely and extensively: nevertheless, you will say to their
Highnesses on my part, that it has pleased God to give me such
favour in their service, that up to the present time. I do not find
less, nor has less been found in anything than what I wrote and said
and affirmed to their Highnesses in the past: but rather, by the
Grace of God, I hope that it will appear, by works much more clearly
and very soon, because such signs and indications of spices have
been found on the shores of the sea alone, without having gone
inland, that there is reason that very much better results may be
hoped for: and this also may be hoped for in the mines of gold,
because by two persons only who went to investigate, each one on his
own part, without remaining there because there was not many people,
so many rivers have been discovered so filled with gold, that all
who saw it and gathered specimens of it with the hands alone, came
away so pleased and say such things in regard to its abundance, that
I am timid about telling it and writing it to their Highnesses: but
because Gorbalan, who was one of the discoverers, is going yonder,
he will tell what he saw, although another named Hojeda remains
here, a servant of the Duke of Medinaceli, a very discreet youth and
very prudent, who without doubt and without comparison even,
discovered much more according to the memorandum which he brought of
the rivers, saying that there is an incredible quantity in each one
of them for this their Highnesses may give thanks to God, since He
has been so favourable to them in all their affairs.

["Their Highnesses give many thanks to God for this, and
consider as a very signal service all that the Admiral has done
in this matter and is doing: because they know that after God
they are indebted to him for all they have had, and will have
in this affair: and as they are writing him more fully about
this, they refer him to their letter.]

"Item. You will say to their Highnesses, although I already have
written it to them, that I desired greatly to be able to send them a
larger quantity of gold in this fleet, from that which it is hoped
may be gathered here, but the greater part of our people who are
here, have fallen suddenly ill: besides, this fleet cannot remain
here longer, both on account of the great expense it occasions and
because this time is suitable for those persons who are to bring the
things which are greatly needed here, to go and be able to return:
as, if they delay going away from here, those who are to return will
not be able to do so by May: and besides this, if I wished to
undertake to go to the mines or rivers now, with the well people who
are here, both on the sea and in the settlement on land, I would
have many difficulties and even dangers, because in order to go
twenty-three or twenty-four leagues from here where there are
harbours and rivers to cross, and in order to cover such a long
route and reach there at the time which would be necessary to gather
the gold, a large quantity of provisions would have to be carried,
which cannot be carried on the shoulders, nor are there beasts of
burden here which could be used for this purpose: nor are the roads
and passes sufficiently prepared, although I have commenced to get
them in readiness so as to be passable: and also it was very
inconvenient to leave the sick here in an open place, in huts, with
the provisions and supplies which are on land: for although these
Indians may have shown themselves to the discoverers and show
themselves every day, to be very simple and not malicious
nevertheless, as they come here among us each day, it did not appear
that it would be a good idea to risk losing these people and the
supplies. This loss an Indian with a piece of burning wood would be
able to cause by setting fire to the huts, because they are always
going and coming by night and by day: on their account, we have
guards in the camp, while the settlement is open and defenceless.

["That he did well.]

"Moreover, as we have seen among those who went by land to make
discoveries that the greater part fell sick after returning, and
some of them even were obliged to turn back on the road, it was also
reasonable to fear that the same thing would happen to those who are
well, who would now go, and as a consequence they would run the risk
of two dangers: the one, that of falling sick yonder, in the same
work, where there is no house nor any defence against that cacique
who is called Caonabb, who is a very bad man according to all
accounts, and much more audacious and who, seeing us there, sick and
in such disorder, would be able to undertake what he would not dare
if we were well: and with this difficulty there is another--that of
bringing here what gold we might obtain, because we must either
bring a small quantity and go and come each day and undergo the risk
of sickness, or it must be sent with some part of the people,
incurring the same danger of losing it.

["He did well.]

"So that, you will say to their Highnesses, that these are the
causes why the fleet has not been at present detained, and why more
gold than the specimens has not been sent them: but confiding in the
mercy of God, who in everything and for everything has guided us as
far as here, these people will quickly become convalescent, as they
are already doing, because only certain places in the country suit
them and they then recover; and it is certain that if they had some
fresh meat in order to convalesce, all with the aid of God would
very quickly be on foot, and even the greater part would already be
convalescent at this time: nevertheless they will be re-established.
With the few healthy ones who remain here, each day work is done
toward enclosing the settlement and placing it in a state of some
defence and the supplies in safety, which will be accomplished in a
short time, because it is to be only a small dry wall. For the
Indians are not a people to undertake anything unless they should
find us sleeping, even though they might have thought of it in the
manner in which they served the others who remained here. Only on
account of their (the Spaniards') lack of caution--they being so
few--and the great opportunities they gave the Indians to have and
do what they did, they would never have dared to undertake to injure
them if they had seen that they were cautious. And this work being
finished, I will then undertake to go to the said rivers, either
starting upon the road from here and seeking the best possible
expedients, or going around the island by sea as far as that place
from which it is said it cannot be more than six or seven leagues to
the said rivers. In such a manner that the gold can be gathered and
placed in security in some fortress or tower which can then be
constructed there, in order to keep it securely until the time when
the two caravels return here, and in order that then, with the first
suitable weather for sailing this course, it may be sent to a place
of safety.

["That this is well and must be done in this manner.]

"Item. You will say to their Highnesses, as has been said, that the
cause of the general sicknesses common to all is the change of water
and air, because we see that it extends to all conditions and few
are in danger: consequently, for the preservation of health, after
God, it is necessary that these people be provided with the
provisions to which they are accustomed in Spain, because neither
they, nor others who may come anew, will be able to serve their
Highnesses if they are not well: and this provision must continue
until a supply is accumulated here from what shall be sowed and
planted here. I say wheat and barley, and vines, of which little
has been done this year because a site for the town could not be
selected before, and then when it was selected the few labourers who
were here became sick, and they, even though they had been well, had
so few and such lean and meagre beasts of burden, that they were
able to do but little: nevertheless, they have sown something, more
in order to try the soil which appears very wonderful, so that from
it some relief may be hoped in our necessities. We are very sure,
as the result makes it apparent to us, that in this country wheat as
well as the vine will grow very well: but the fruit must be waited
for, which, if it corresponds to the quickness with which the wheat
grows and of some few vine-shoots which were planted, certainly will
not cause regret here for the productions of Andalusia or Sicily:
neither is it different with the sugar-canes according to the manner
in which some few that were planted have grown. For it is certain
that the sight of the land of these islands, as well of the
mountains and sierras and waters as of the plains where there are
rich rivers, is so beautiful, that no other land on which the sun
shines can appear better or as beautiful.

["Since the land is such, it must be managed that the greatest
possible quantity of all things shall be sown, and Don Juan de
Fonseca is to be written to send continually all that is
necessary for this purpose.]

"Item. You will say that, inasmuch as much of the wine which the
fleet brought was wasted on this journey, and this, according to
what the greater number say, was because of the bad workmanship
which the coopers did in Seville, the greatest necessity we feel
here at the present time is for wines, and it is what we desire most
to have and although we may have biscuit as well as wheat sufficient
for a longer time, nevertheless it is necessary that a reasonable
quantity should also be sent, because the journey is long and
provision cannot be made each day and in the same manner some salted
meat, I say bacon, and other salt meat better than that we brought
on this journey. It is necessary that each time a caravel comes
here, fresh meat shall be sent, and even more than that, lambs and
little ewe lambs, more females than males, and some little yearling
calves, male and female, and some he-asses and she-asses and some
mares for labour and breeding, as there are none of these animals
here of any value or which can be made use of by man. And because I
apprehend that their Highnesses may not be, in Seville, and that the
officials or ministers will not provide these things without their
express order, and as it is necessary they should come at the first
opportunity, and as in consultation and reply the time for the
departure of the vessels-which must be here during all of Maywill be
past: you will say to their Highnesses that I charged and commanded
you to pledge the gold you are carrying yonder and place it in
possession of some merchant in Seville, who will furnish therefor
the necessary maravedis to load two caravels with wine and wheat and
the other things of which you are taking a memorandum; which
merchant will carry or send the said gold to their Highnesses that
they may see it and receive it, and cause what shall have been
expended for fitting out and loading of the said two caravels to be
paid: and in order to comfort and strengthen these people remaining
here, the utmost efforts must be made for the return of these
caravels for all the month of May, that the people before commencing
the summer may see and have some refreshment from these things,
especially the invalids: the things of which we are already in great
need here are such as raisins, sugar, almonds, honey and rice, which
should have been sent in large quantities and very little was sent,
and that which came is already used and consumed, and even the
greater part of the medicines which were brought from there, on
account of the multitude of sick people. You are carrying memoranda
signed by my hand, as has been said, of things for the people in
good health as well as for the sick. You will provide these things
fully if the money is sufficient, or at least the things which it is
most necessary to send at once, in order that the said two vessels
can bring them, and you can arrange with their Highnesses, to have
the remaining things sent by other vessels as quickly as possible.

["Their Highnesses sent an order to Don Juan de Fonseca to
obtain at once information about the persons who committed the
fraud of the casks, and to cause all the damage to the wine to
be recovered from them, with the costs: and he must see that
the canes which are sent are of good quality, and that the
other things mentioned here are provided at once.]

"Item. You will say to their Highnesses that as there is no
language here by means of which these people can be made to
understand our Holy Faith, as your Highnesses and also we who are
here desire, although we will do all we can towards it--I am sending
some of the cannibals in the vessels, men and women and male and
female children, whom their Highnesses can order placed with persons
from whom they can better learn the language, making use of them in
service, and ordering that little by little more pains be taken with
them than with other slaves, that they may learn one from the other:
if they do not see or speak with each other until some time has
passed, they will learn more quickly there than here, and will be
better interpreters--although we will not cease to do as much as
possible here. It is true that as there is little intercourse
between these people from one island to another, there is some
difference in their language, according to how far distant they are
from each other. And as, of the other islands, those of the
cannibals are very large and very well populated, it would appear
best to take some of their men and women and send them yonder to
Castile, because by taking them away, it may cause them to abandon
at once that inhuman custom which they have of eating men: and by
learning the language there in Castile, they will receive baptism
much more quickly, and provide for the safety of their souls. Even
among the peoples who are not cannibals we shall gain great credit,
by their seeing that we can seize and take captive those from whom
they are accustomed to receive injuries, and of whom they are in
such terror that they are frightened by one man alone. You will
certify to their Highnesses that the arrival here and sight of such
a fine fleet all together has inspired very great authority here and
assured very great security for future things: because all the
people on this great island and in the other islands, seeing the
good treatment which those who well behave receive, and the bad
treatment given to those who behave ill, will very quickly render
obedience, so that they can be considered as vassals of their
Highnesses. And as now they not only do willingly whatever is
required of them by our people, but further, they voluntarily
undertake everything which they understand may please us, their
Highnesses may also be certain that in many respects, as much for
the present as for the future, the coming of this fleet has given
them a great reputation, and not less yonder among the Christian
princes: which their Highnesses will be better able to consider and
understand than I can tell them.

["That he is to be told what has befallen the cannibals who
came here. That it is very well and must be done in this
manner, but that he must try there as much as possible to bring
them to our Holy Catholic faith and do the same with the
inhabitants of the islands where he is.]

"Item. You will say to their Highnesses that the safety of the
souls of the said cannibals, and further of those here, has inspired
the thought that the more there are taken yonder, the better it will
be, and their Highnesses can be served by it in this manner: having
seen how necessary the flocks and beasts of burden are here, for the
sustenance of the people who must be here, and even of all these
islands, their Highnesses can give licence and permission to a
sufficient number of caravels to come here each year, and bring the
said flocks and other supplies and things to settle the country and
make use of the land: and this at reasonable prices at the expense
of those who bring them: and these things can be paid for in slaves
from among these cannibals, a very proud and comely people, well
proportioned and of good intelligence, who having been freed from
that inhumanity, we believe will be better than any other slaves.
They will be freed from this cruelty as soon as they are outside
their country, and many of them can be taken with the row-boats
which it is known how to build here: it being understood, however,
that a trustworthy person shall be placed on each one of the
caravels coming here, who shall forbid the said caravels to stop at
any other place or island than this place, where the loading and
unloading of all the merchandise must be done. And further, their
Highnesses will be able to establish their rights over these slaves
which are taken from here yonder to Spain. And you will bring or
send a reply to this, in order that the necessary preparations may
be made here with more confidence if it appears well to their

["This project must be held in abeyance for the present until
another method is suggested from there, and the Admiral may
write what he thinks in regard to it.]

"Item. Also you will say to their Highnesses that it is more
profitable and costs less to hire the vessels as the merchants hire
them for Flanders, by tons, rather than in any other manner:
therefore I charged you to hire the two caravels which you are to
send here, in this manner: and all the others which their Highnesses
send here can be hired thus, if they consider it for their service
but I do not intend to say this of those vessels which are to come
here with their licence, for the slave trade.

["Their Highnesses order Don Juan de Fonseca to hire the
caravels in this manner if it can be done.]

"Item. You will say to their Highnesses, that to avoid any further
cost, I bought these caravels of which you are taking a memorandum
in order to retain them here with these two ships: that is to say
the Gallega and that other, the Capitana, of which I likewise
purchased the three-eighths from the master of it, for the price
given in the said memorandum which you are taking, signed by my
hand. These ships not only will give authority and great security
to the people who are obliged to remain inland and make arrangements
with the Indians to gather the gold, but they will also be of
service in any other dangerous matter which may arise with a strange
people; besides the caravels are necessary for the discovery of the
mainland and the other islands which lie between here and there: and
you will entreat their Highnesses to order the maravedis which these
ships cost, paid at the times which they have been promised, because
without doubt they will soon receive what they cost, according to
what I believe and hope in the mercy of God.

["The Admiral has done well, and to tell him that the sum has
been paid here to the one who sold the ship, and Don Juan de
Fonseca has been ordered to pay for the two caravels which the
Admiral bought.]

"Item. You will say to their Highnesses, and will supplicate on my
part as humbly as possible, that it may please them to reflect on
what they will learn most fully from the letters and other writings
in regard to the peace and tranquillity and concord of those who are
here: and that for the service of their Highnesses such persons may
be selected as shall not be suspected, and who will give more
attention to the matters for which they are sent than to their own
interests: and since you saw and knew everything in regard to this
matter, you will speak and will tell their Highnesses the truth
about all the things as you understood them, and you will endeavour
that the provision which their Highnesses make in regard to it shall
come with the first ships if possible, in order that there may be no
scandals here in a matter of so much importance in the service of
their Highnesses.

["Their Highnesses are well informed in regard to this matter,
and suitable provision will be made for everything.]

"Item. You will tell their Highnesses of the situation of this
city, and the beauty of the surrounding province as you saw and
understood it, and how I made you its Alcade, by the powers which I
have for same from their Highnesses: whom I humbly entreat to hold
the said provision in part satisfaction of your services, as I hope
from their Highnesses.

["It pleases their Highnesses that you shall be Alcade.]

"Item. Because Mosen Pedro Margarite, servant of their Highnesses,
has done good service, and I hope he will do the same henceforward
in matters which are entrusted to him, I have been pleased to have
him remain here, and also Gaspar and Beltran, because they are
recognised servants of their Highnesses, in order to intrust them
with matters of confidence. You will specialty entreat their
Highnesses in regard to the said Mosen Pedro, who is married and has
children, to provide him with some charge in the order of Santiago,
whose habit he wears, that his wife and children may have the
wherewith to live. In the same manner you will relate how well and
diligently Juan Aguado, servant of their Highnesses, has rendered
service in everything which he has been ordered to do, and that I
supplicate their Highnesses to have him and the aforesaid persons in
their charge and to reward them.

["Their Highnesses order 30,000 maravedis to be assigned to
Mosen Pedro each year, and to Gaspar and Beltran, to each one,
15,000 maravedis each year, from the present, August 15, 1494,
henceforward: and thus the Admiral shall cause to be paid to
them whatever must be paid yonder in the Indies, and Don Juan
de Fonseca whatever must be paid here: and in regard to Juan
Iguado, their Highnesses will hold him in remembrance.]

"Item. You will tell their Highnesses of the labour performed by
Dr. Chanca, confronted with so many invalids, and still more because
of the lack of provisions and nevertheless, he acts with great
diligence and charity in everything pertaining to his office. And
as their Highnesses referred to me the salary which he was to
receive here, because, being here, it is certain that he cannot take
or receive anything from any one, nor earn money by his office as he
earned it in Castile, or would be able to earn it being at his ease
and living in a different manner from the way he lives here;
therefore, notwithstanding he swears that he earned more there,
besides the salary which their Highnesses gave him, I did not wish
to allow more than 50,000 maravedis each year for the work he
performs here while he remains here. This I entreat their
Highnesses to order allowed to him with the salary from here, and
that, because he says and affirms that all the physicians of their
Highnesses who are employed in Royal affairs or things similar to
this, are accustomed to have by right one day's wages in all the
year from all the people. Nevertheless, I have been informed and
they tell me, that however this may be, the custom is to give them a
certain sum, fixed according to the will and command of their
Highnesses in compensation for that day's wages. You will entreat
their Highnesses to order provision made as well in the matter of
the salary as of this custom, in such manner that the said Dr.
Chanca may have reason to be satisfied.

["Their Highnesses are pleased in regard to this matter of Dr.
Chanca, and that he shall be paid what the Admiral has assigned
him, together with his salary.
"In regard to the day's wages of the physicians, they are not
accustomed to receive it, save where the King, our Lord, may be
in persona.]

"Item. You will say to their Highnesses that Coronel is a man for
the service of their Highnesses in many things, and how much service
he has rendered up to the present in all the most necessary matters,
and the need we feel of him now that he is sick; and that rendering
service in such a manner, it is reasonable that he should receive
the fruit of his service, not only in future favours, but in his
present salary, so that he and those who are here may feel that
their service profits them; because, so great is the labour which
must be performed here in gathering the gold that the persons who
are so diligent are not to be held in small consideration; and as,
for his skill, he was provided here by me with the office of
Alguacil Mayor of these Indies; and since in the provision the
salary is left blank, you will say that I supplicate their
Highnesses to order it filled in with as large an amount as they may
think right, considering his services, confirming to him the
provision I have given him here, and assuring it to him annually.

["Their Highnesses order that 15,000 maravedis more than his
salary shall be assigned him each year, and that it shall be
paid to him with his salary.]

"In the same manner you will tell their Highnesses how the lawyer
Gil Garcia came here for Alcalde Mayor and no salary has been named
or assigned to him; and he is a capable person, well educated and
diligent, and is very necessary here; that I entreat their
Highnesses to order his salary named and assigned, so that he can
sustain himself, and that it may be paid from the money allowed for
salaries here.

"[Their Highnesses order 20,000 maravedis besides his salary
assigned to him each year, as long as he remains yonder, and
that it shall be paid him when his salary is paid.]

"Item. You will say to their Highnesses, although it is already
written in the letters, that I do not think it will be possible to
go to make discoveries this year, until these rivers in which gold
is found are placed in the most suitable condition for the service
of their Highnesses, as afterwards it can be done much better.
Because it is a thing which no one can do without my presence,
according to my will or for the service of their Highnesses, however
well it may be done, as it is doubtful what will be satisfactory to
a man unless he is present.

["Let him endeavour that the amount of this gold may be known
as precisely as possible.]

"Item. You will say to their Highnesses that the Squires who came
from Granada showed good horses in the review which took place at
Seville, and afterward at the embarkation I did not see them because
I was slightly unwell, and they replaced them with such horses that
the best of them do not appear to be worth 2000 maravedis, as they
sold the others and bought these; and this was done in the same way
to many people as I very well saw yonder, in the reviews at Seville.
It appears that Juan de Soria, after he had been given the money for
the wages, for some interest of his own substituted others in place
of those I expected to find here, and I found people whom I had
never seen. In this matter he was guilty of great wickedness, so
that I do not know if I should complain of him alone. On this
account, having seen that the expenses of these Squires have been
defrayed until now, besides their wages and also wages for their
horses, and it is now being done: and they are persons who, when
they are sick or when they do not desire to do so, will not allow
any use to be made of their horses save by themselves: and their,
Highnesses do not desire that these horses should be purchased of
them, but that they should be used in the service of their
Highnesses: and it does not appear to them that they should do
anything or render any service except on horseback, which at the
present time is not much to the purpose: on this account, it seems
that it would be better to buy the horses from them, since they are
of so little value, and not have these disagreements with them every
day. Therefore their Highnesses may determine this as will best
serve them.

["Their Highnesses order Don Juan de Fonseca to inform himself
in regard to this matter of the horses, and if it shall be
found true that this fraud was committed, those persons shall
be sent to their Highnesses to be punished: and also he is to
inform himself in regard to what is said of the other people,
and send the result in the examination to their Highnesses; and
in regard to these Squires, their Highnesses command that they
remain there and render service, since they belong to the
guards and servants of their Highnesses: and their Highnesses
order the Squires to give up the horses each time it is
necessary and the Admiral orders it, and if the horses receive
any injury through others using them, their Highnesses order
that the damage shall be paid to them by means of the Admiral.]

"Item. You will say to their Highnesses that more than 200 persons
have come here without wages, and there are some of them who render
good service. And as it is ordered that the others rendering
similar service should be paid: and as for these first three years
it would be of great benefit to have 1000 men here to settle, and
place this island and the rivers of gold in very great security, and
even though there were 100 horsemen nothing would be lost, but
rather it seems necessary, although their Highnesses will be able to
do without these horsemen until gold is sent: nevertheless, their
Highnesses must send to say whether wages shall be paid to these 200
persons, the same as to the others rendering good service, because
they are certainly necessary, as I have said in the beginning of
this memorandum.

["In regard to these 200 persons, who are here said to have
gone without wages, their Highnesses order that they shall take
the places of those who went for wages, who have failed or
shall fail to fulfil their engagements, if they are skilful and
satisfactory to the Admiral. And their Highnesses order the
Purser (Contador) to enrol them in place of those who fail to
fulfil their engagements, as the Admiral shall instruct him.]

"Item. As the cost of these people can be in some degree lightened
and the better part of the expense could be avoided by the same
means employed by other Princes in other places: it appears, that it
would be well to order brought in the ships, besides the other
things which are for the common maintenance and the medicines, shoes
and the skins from which to order the shoes made, common shirts and
others, jackets, linen, sack-coats, trowsers and cloths suitable for
wearing apparel, at reasonable prices: and other things like
conserves which are not included in rations and are for the
preservation of health, which things all the people here would
willingly receive to apply on their wages and if these were
purchased yonder in Spain by faithful Ministers who would act for
the advantage of their Highnesses, something would be saved.
Therefore you will learn the will of their Highnesses about this
matter, and if it appears to them to be of benefit to them, then it
must be placed in operation.

["This arrangement is to be in abeyance until the Admiral
writes more fully, and at another time they will send to order
Don Juan de Fonseca with Jimeno de Bribiesca to make provision
for the same.]

"Item. You will say to their Highnesses that inasmuch as yesterday
in the review people were found who were without arms, which I think
happened in part by that exchange which took place yonder in
Seville, or in the harbour when those who presented themselves armed
were left, and others were taken who gave something to those who
made the exchange, it seems that it would be well to order 200
cuirasses sent, and 100 muskets and 100 crossbows, and a large
quantity of arsenal supplies, which is what we need most, and all
these arms can be given to those who are unarmed.

["Already Don Juan de Fonseca has been written to make
provision for this.]

"Item. Inasmuch as some artisans who came here, such as masons and
other workmen, are married and have wives yonder in Spain, and would
like to have what is owing them from their wages given to their
wives or to the persons to whom they will send their requirements in
order that they may buy for them the things which they need here I
supplicate their Highnesses to order it paid to them, because it is
for their benefit to have these persons provided for here.

["Their Highnesses have already sent orders to Don Juan de
Fonseca to make provision for this matter.]

"Item. Because, besides the other things which are asked for there
according to the memoranda which you are carrying signed by my hand,
for the maintenance of the persons in good health as well as for the
sick ones, it would be very well to have fifty casks of molasses
(miel de azucar) from the island of Madeira, as it is the best
sustenance in the world and the most healthful, and it does not
usually cost more than two ducats per cask, without the cask: and if
their Highnesses order some caravel to stop there in returning, it
can be purchased and also ten cases of sugar, which is very
necessary; as this is the best season of the year to obtain it, I
say between the present time and the month of April, and to obtain
it at a reasonable price. If their Highnesses command it, the order
could be given, and it would not be known there for what place it is

["Let Don Juan de Fonseca make provision for this matter.]

"Item. You will say to their Highnesses that although the rivers
contain gold in the quantity related by those who have seen it, yet
it is certain that the gold is not engendered in the rivers but
rather on the land, the waters of the rivers which flow by the mines
bringing it enveloped in the sands: and as among these rivers which
have been discovered there are some very large ones, there are
others so small that they are fountains rather than rivers, which
are not more than two fingers of water in depth, and then the source
from which they spring may be found: for this reason not only
labourers to gather it in the sand will be profitable, but others to
dig for it in the earth, which will be the most particular operation
and produce a great quantity. And for this, it will be well for
their Highnesses to send labourers, and from among those who work
yonder in Spain in the mines of Almaden, that the work may be done
in both ways. Although we will not await them here, as with the
labourers we have here we hope, with the aid of God, once the people
are in good health, to amass a good quantity of gold to be sent on
the first caravels which return.

["This will be fully provided for in another manner. In the
meantime their Highnesses order Don Yuan de Fonseca to send the
best miners he can obtain; and to write to Almaden to have the
greatest possible number taken from there and sent.]

"Item. You will entreat their Highnesses very humbly on my part, to
consider Villacorta as speedily recommended to them, who, as their
Highnesses know, has rendered great service in this business, and
with a very good will, and as I know him, he is a diligent person
and very devoted to their service: it will be a favour to me if he
is given some confidential charge for which he is fitted, and where
he can show his desire to serve them and his diligence: and this you
will obtain in such a way that Villacorta may know by the result,
that what he has done for me when I needed him profits him in this

["It will be done thus.]

"Item. That the said Mosen Pedro and Gaspar and Beltran and others
who have remained here gave up the captainship of caravels, which
have now returned, and are not receiving wages: but because they are
persons who must be employed in important matters and of confidence,
their compensation, which must be different from the others, has not
been determined. You will entreat their Highnesses on my part to
determine what is to be given them each year, or by the month,
according to their service.

"Done in the city of Isabella, January 30, 1494.

["This has already been replied to above, but as it is stated
in the said item that they enjoy their salary, from the present
time their Highnesses order that their wages shall be paid to
all of them from the time they left their captainships."]

This document is worth studying, written as it was in circumstances that
at one moment looked desperate and at another were all hope. Columbus
was struggling manfully with difficulties that were already beginning to
be too much for him. The Man from Genoa, with his guiding star of faith
in some shore beyond the mist and radiance of the West--see into what
strange places and to what strange occupations this star has led him!
The blue visionary eyes, given to seeing things immediately beyond the
present horizon, must fix themselves on accounts and requisitions, on the
needs of idle, aristocratic, grumbling Spaniards; must fix themselves
also on that blank void in the bellies of his returning ships, where the
gold ought to have been. The letter has its practical side; the
requisitions are made with good sense and a grasp of the economic
situation; but they have a deeper significance than that. All this talk
about little ewe lambs, wine and bacon (better than the last lot, if it
please your Highnesses), little yearling calves, and fifty casks of
molasses that can be bought a ducat or two cheaper in Madeira in the
months of April and May than at any other time or place, is only half
real. Columbus fills his Sovereigns' ears with this clamour so that he
shall not hear those embarrassing questions that will inevitably be asked
about the gold and the spices. He boldly begins his letter with the old
story about "indications of spices" and gold "in incredible quantities,"
with a great deal of "moreover" and "besides," and a bold, pompous,
pathetic "I will undertake"; and then he gets away from that subject by
wordy deviations, so that to one reading his letter it really might seem
as though the true business of the expedition was to provide Coronel,
Mosen Pedro, Gaspar, Beltran, Gil Garcia, and the rest of them with work
and wages. Everything that occurs to him, great or little, that makes it
seem as though things were humming in the new settlement, he stuffs into
this document, shovelling words into the empty hulls of the ships, and
trying to fill those bottomless pits with a stream of talk. A system of
slavery is boldly and bluntly sketched; the writer, in the hurry and
stress of the moment, giving to its economic advantages rather greater
prominence than to its religious glories. The memorandum, for all its
courageous attempt to be very cool and orderly and practical, gives us,
if ever a human document did, a picture of a man struggling with an
impossible situation which he will not squarely face, like one who should
try to dig up the sea-shore and keep his eyes shut the while.

In the royal comments written against the document one seems to trace the
hand of Isabella rather than of Ferdinand. Their tone is matter-of-fact,
cool, and comforting, like the coolness of a woman's hand placed on a
feverish brow. Isabella believed in him; perhaps she read between the
lines of this document, and saw, as we can see, how much anxiety and
distress were written there; and her comments are steadying and
encouraging. He has done well; what he asks is being attended to; their
Highnesses are well informed in regard to this and that matter; suitable
provision will be made for everything; but let him endeavour that the
amount of this gold may be known as precisely as possible. There is no
escaping from that. The Admiral (no one knows it better than himself)
must make good his dazzling promises, and coin every boastful word into a
golden excelente of Spain. Alas! he must no longer write about the lush
grasses, the shining rivers, the brightly coloured parrots, the gaudy
flies and insects, the little singing birds, and the nights that are like
May in Cordova. He must find out about the gold; for it has come to grim
business in the Earthly Paradise.


Amerigo Vespucci
Cannibal epicures did not care for the flesh of women and boys
Columbus, calling for an egg, laid a wager
Desire to get a great deal of money without working for it
Establishment of ten footmen and twenty other servants
Exchanging the natives for cattle
First organised transaction of slavery on the part of Columbus
Having issued three Bulls in twenty-four hours, he desisted
Juan Ponce de Leon, the discoverer of Florida
No Spanish women accompanied it (2d expedition)

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