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Christopher Columbus by Filson Young, v6 by Filson Young

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Christopher Columbus by Filson Young, v6 by Filson Young - Full Text Free Book
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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.]






Columbus was at sea again; firm ground to him, although so treacherous
and unstable to most of us; and as he saw the Spanish coast sinking down
on the horizon he could shake himself free from his troubles, and feel
that once more he was in a situation of which he was master. He first
touched at Porto Santo, where, if the story of his residence there be
true, there must have been potent memories for him in the sight of the
long white beach and the plantations, with the Governor's house beyond.
He stayed there only a few hours and then crossed over to Madeira,
anchoring in the Bay of Funchal, where he took in wood and water. As it
was really unnecessary for him to make a port so soon after leaving,
there was probably some other reason for his visit to these islands;
perhaps a family reason; perhaps nothing more historically important than
the desire to look once more on scenes of bygone happiness, for even on
the page of history every event is not necessarily big with significance.
From Madeira he took a southerly course to the Canary Islands, and on
June 16th anchored at Gomera, where he found a French warship with two
Spanish prizes, all of which put to sea as the Admiral's fleet
approached. On June 21st, when he sailed from Gomera, he divided his
fleet of six vessels into two squadrons. Three ships were despatched
direct to Espanola, for the supplies which they carried were urgently
needed there. These three ships were commanded by trustworthy men: Pedro
de Arana, a brother of Beatriz, Alonso Sanchez de Carvajal, and Juan
Antonio Colombo--this last no other than a cousin of Christopher's from
Genoa. The sons of Domenico's provident younger brother had not
prospered, while the sons of improvident Domenico were now all in high
places; and these three poor cousins, hearing of Christopher's greatness,
and deciding that use should be made of him, scraped together enough
money to send one of their number to Spain. The Admiral always had a
sound family feeling, and finding that cousin Antonio had sea experience
and knew how to handle a ship he gave him command of one of the caravels
on this voyage--a command of which he proved capable and worthy. From
these three captains, after giving them full sailing directions for
reaching Espanola, Columbus parted company off the island of Ferro. He
himself stood on a southerly course towards the Cape Verde Islands.

His plan on this voyage was to find the mainland to the southward, of
which he had heard rumours in Espanola. Before leaving Spain he had
received a letter from an eminent lapidary named Ferrer who had travelled
much in the east, and who assured him that if he sought gold and precious
stones he must go to hot lands, and that the hotter the lands were, and
the blacker the inhabitants, the more likely he was to find riches there.
This was just the kind of theory to suit Columbus, and as he sailed
towards the Cape Verde Islands he was already in imagination gathering
gold and pearls on the shores of the equatorial continent.

He stayed for about a week at the Cape Verde Islands, getting in
provisions and cattle, and curiously observing the life of the Portuguese
lepers who came in numbers to the island of Buenavista to be cured there
by eating the flesh and bathing in the blood of turtles. It was not an
inspiriting week which he spent in that dreary place and enervating
climate, with nothing to see but the goats feeding among the scrub, the
turtles crawling about the sand, and the lepers following the turtles.
It began to tell on the health of the crew, so he weighed anchor on July
5th and stood on a southwesterly course.

This third voyage, which was destined to be the most important of all,
and the material for which had cost him so much time and labour, was
undertaken in a very solemn and determined spirit. His health, which he
had hoped to recover in Spain, had been if anything damaged by his
worryings with officialdom there; and although he was only forty-seven
years of age he was in some respects already an old man. He had entered,
although happily he did not know it, on the last decade of his life; and
was already beginning to suffer from the two diseases, gout and
ophthalmia, which were soon to undermine his strength and endurance.
Religion of a mystical fifteenth-century sort was deepening in him;
he had undertaken this voyage in the name of the Holy Trinity; and to
that theological entity he had resolved to dedicate the first new land
that he should sight.

For ten days light baffling winds impeded his progress; but at the end of
that time the winds fell away altogether, and the voyagers found
themselves in that flat equatorial calm known to mariners as the
Doldrums. The vertical rays of the sun shone blisteringly down upon
them, making the seams of the ships gape and causing the unhappy crews
mental as well as bodily distress, for they began to fear that they had
reached that zone of fire which had always been said to exist in the
southern ocean.

Day after day the three ships lay motionless on the glassy water, with
wood-work so hot as to burn the hands that touched it, with the meat
putrefying in the casks below, and the water running from the loosened
casks, and no one with courage and endurance enough to venture into the
stifling hold even to save the provisions. And through all this the
Admiral, racked with gout, had to keep a cheerful face and assure his
prostrate crew that they would soon be out of it.

There were showers of rain sometimes, but the moisture in that baking
atmosphere only added to its stifling and enervating effects. All the
while, however, the great slow current of the Atlantic was moving
westward, and there came a day when a heavenly breeze, stirred in the
torrid air and the musical talk of ripples began to rise again from the
weedy stems of the ships. They sailed due west, always into a cooler and
fresher atmosphere; but still no land was sighted, although pelicans and
smaller birds were continually seen passing from south-west to north-
east. As provisions were beginning to run low, Columbus decided on the
31st July to alter his course to north-by-east, in the hope of reaching
the island of Dominica. But at mid-day his servant Alonso Perez,
happening to go to the masthead, cried out that there was land in sight;
and sure enough to the westward there rose three peaks of land united at
the base. Here was the kind of coincidence which staggers even the
unbeliever. Columbus had promised to dedicate the first land he saw to
the Trinity; and here was the land, miraculously provided when he needed
it most, three peaks in one peak, in due conformity with the requirements
of the blessed Saint Athanasius. The Admiral was deeply affected; the
God of his belief was indeed a good friend to him; and he wrote down his
pious conviction that the event was a miracle, and summoned all hands to
sing the Salve Regina, with other hymns in praise of God and the Virgin
Mary. The island was duly christened La Trinidad. By the hour of
Compline (9 o'clock in the evening) they had come up with the south coast
of the island, but it was the next day before the Admiral found a harbour
where he could take in water. No natives were to be seen, although there
were footprints on the shore and other signs of human habitation.

He continued all day to sail slowly along the shore of the island, the
green luxuriance of which astonished him; and sometimes he stood out from
the coast to the southward as he made a long board to round this or that
point. It must have been while reaching out in this way to the southward
that he saw a low shore on his port hand some sixty miles to the south of
Trinidad, and that his sight, although he did not know it, rested for the
first time on the mainland of South America. The land seen was the low
coast to the west of the Orinoco, and thinking that it was an island he
gave it the name of Isla Sancta.

On the 2nd of August they were off the south-west of Trinidad, and saw
the first inhabitants in the shape of a canoe full of armed natives, who
approached the ships with threatening gestures. Columbus had brought out
some musicians with him, possibly for the purpose of impressing the
natives, and perhaps with the idea of making things a little more
cheerful in Espanola; and the musicians were now duly called upon to give
a performance, a tambourine-player standing on the forecastle and beating
the rhythm for the ships' boys to dance to. The effect was other than
was anticipated, for the natives immediately discharged a thick flight of
arrows at the musicians, and the music and dancing abruptly ceased.
Eventually the Indians were prevailed upon to come on board the two
smaller ships and to receive gifts, after which they departed and were
seen no more. Columbus landed and made some observations of the
vegetation and climate of Trinidad, noticing that the fruits and-trees
were similar to those of Espanola, and that oysters abounded, as well as
"very large, infinite fish, and parrots as large as hens."

He saw another peak of the mainland to the northwest, which was the
peninsula of Paria, and to which Columbus, taking it to be another
island, gave the name of Isla de Gracia. Between him and this land lay a
narrow channel through which a mighty current was flowing--that press of
waters which, sweeping across the Atlantic from Africa, enters the
Caribbean Sea, sprays round the Gulf of Mexico, and turns north again in
the current known as the Gulf Stream. While his ships were anchored at
the entrance to this channel and Columbus was wondering how he should
cross it, a mighty flood of water suddenly came down with a roar, sending
a great surging wave in front of it. The vessels were lifted up as
though by magic; two of them dragged their anchors from the bottom, and
the other one broke her cable. This flood was probably caused by a
sudden flush of fresh water from one of the many mouths of the Orinoco;
but to Columbus, who had no thought of rivers in his mind, it was very
alarming. Apparently, however, there was nothing for it but to get
through the channel, and having sent boats on in front to take soundings
and see that there was clear water he eventually piloted his little
squadron through, with his heart in his mouth and his eyes fixed on the
swinging eddies and surging circles of the channel. Once beyond it he
was in the smooth water of the Gulf of Paria. He followed the westerly
coast of Trinidad to the north until he came to a second channel narrower
than the first, through which the current boiled with still greater
violence, and to which he gave the name of Dragon's Mouth. This is the
channel between the northwesterly point of Trinidad and the eastern
promontory of Paria. Columbus now began to be bewildered, for he
discovered that the water over the ship's side was fresh water, and he
could not make out where it came from. Thinking that the peninsula of
Paria was an island, and not wishing to attempt the dangerous passage of
the Dragon's Mouth, he decided to coast along the southern shore of the
land opposite, hoping to be able to turn north round its western

Sweeter blew the breezes, fresher grew the water, milder and more balmy
the air, greener and deeper the vegetation of this beautiful region. The
Admiral was ill with the gout, and suffering such pain from his eyes that
he was sometimes blinded by it; but the excitement of the strange
phenomena surrounding him kept him up, and his powers of observation,
always acute, suffered no diminution. There were no inhabitants to be
seen as they sailed along the coast, but monkeys climbed and chattered in
the trees by the shore, and oysters were found clinging to the branches
that dipped into the water. At last, in a bay where they anchored to
take in water, a native canoe containing three, men was seen cautiously
approaching; and the men, who were shy, were captured by the device of a
sailor jumping on to the gunwale of the canoe and overturning it, the
natives being easily caught in the water, and afterwards soothed and
captivated by the unfailing attraction of hawks' bells. They were tall
men with long hair, and they told Columbus that the name of their country
was Paria; and when they were asked about other inhabitants they pointed
to the west and signified that there was a great population in that

On the 10th of August 1498 a party landed on this coast and formally took
possession of it in the name of the Sovereigns of Spain. By an unlucky
chance Columbus himself did not land. His eyes were troubling him so
much that he was obliged to lie down in his cabin, and the formal act of
possession was performed by a deputy. If he had only known! If he could
but have guessed that this was indeed the mainland of a New World that
did not exist even in his dreams, what agonies he would have suffered
rather than permit any one else to pronounce the words of annexation!
But he lay there in pain and suffering, his curious mystical mind
occupied with a conception very remote indeed from the truth.

For in that fertile hotbed of imagination, the Admiral's brain, a new and
staggering theory had gradually been taking shape. As his ships had been
wafted into this delicious region, as the airs had become sweeter, the
vegetation more luxuriant, and the water of the sea fresher,--he had
solemnly arrived at the conclusion that he was approaching the region of
the true terrestrial Paradise: the Garden of Eden that some of the
Fathers had declared to be situated in the extreme east of the Old World,
and in a region so high that the flood had not overwhelmed it. Columbus,
thinking hard in his cabin, blood and brain a little fevered, comes to
the conclusion that the world is not round but pear-shaped. He knows
that all this fresh water in the sea must come from a great distance and
from no ordinary river; and he decides that its volume and direction have
been acquired in its fall from the apex of the pear, from the very top of
the world, from the Garden of Eden itself. It was a most beautiful
conception; a theory worthy to be fitted to all the sweet sights and
sounds in the world about him; but it led him farther and farther away
from the truth, and blinded him to knowledge and understanding of what he
had actually accomplished.

He had thought the coast of Cuba the mainland, and he now began to
consider it at least possible that the peninsula of Paria was mainland
also--another part of the same continent. That was the truth--Paria was
the mainland--and if he had not been so bemused by his dreams and
theories he might have had some inkling of the real wonder and
significance of his discovery. But no; in his profoundly unscientific
mind there was little of that patience which holds men back from
theorising and keeps them ready to receive the truth. He was patient
enough in doing, but in thinking he was not patient at all. No sooner
had he observed a fact than he must find a theory which would bring it
into relation with the whole of his knowledge; and if the facts would not
harmonise of themselves he invented a scheme of things by which they were
forced into harmony. He was indeed a Darwinian before his time, an adept
in the art of inventing causes to fit facts, and then proving that the
facts sprang from the causes; but his origins were tangible, immovable
things of rock and soil that could be seen and visited by other men, and
their true relation to the terrestrial phenomena accurately established;
so that his very proofs were monumental, and became themselves the
advertisements of his profound misjudgment. But meanwhile he is the
Admiral of the Ocean Seas, and can "make it so"; and accordingly, in a
state of mental instability, he makes the Gulf of Paria to be a slope of
earth immediately below the Garden of Eden, although fortunately he does
not this time provide a sworn affidavit of trembling ships' boys to
confirm his discovery.

Meanwhile also here were pearls; the native women wore ropes of them all
over their bodies, and a fair store of them were bartered for pieces of
broken crockery. Asked as usual about the pearls the natives, also as
usual, pointed vaguely to the west and south-west, and explained that
there were more pearls in that direction. But the Admiral would not
tarry. Although he believed that he was within reach of Eden and pearls,
he was more anxious to get back to Espanola and send the thrilling news
to Spain than he was to push on a little farther and really assure
himself of the truth. How like Christopher that was! Ideas to him were
of more value than facts, as indeed they are to the world at large; but
one is sometimes led to wonder whether he did not sometimes hesitate to
turn his ideas into facts for very fear that they should turn out to be
only ideas. Was he, in his relations with Spain and the world, a trader
in the names rather than the substance of things? We have seen him going
home to Spain and announcing the discovery of the Golden Chersonesus,
although he had only discovered what he erroneously supposed to be an
indication of it; proclaiming the discovery of the Ophir of Solomon
without taking the trouble to test for himself so tremendous an
assumption; and we now see him hurrying away to dazzle Spain with the
story that he has discovered the Garden of Eden, without even trying to
push on for a few days more to secure so much as a cutting from the Tree
of Life.

These are grave considerations; for although happily the Tree of Life is
now of no importance to any human being, the doings of Admiral
Christopher were of great importance to himself and to his fellow-men at
that time, and are still to-day, through the infinite channels in which
human thought and action run and continue thoughout the world, of grave
importance to us. Perhaps this is not quite the moment, now that the
poor Admiral is lying in pain and weakness and not quite master of his
own mind, to consider fully how he stands in this matter of honesty; we
will leave it for the present until he is well again, or better still,
until his tale of life and action is complete, and comes as a whole
before the bar of human judgment.

On August 11th Columbus turned east again after having given up the
attempt to find a passage to the north round Paria. There were practical
considerations that brought him to this action. As the water was growing
shoaler and shoaler he had sent a caravel of light draft some way further
to the westward, and she reported that there lay ahead of her a great
inner bay or gulf consisting of almost entirely fresh water. Provisions,
moreover, were running short, and were, as usual, turning bad; the
Admiral's health made vigorous action of any kind impossible for him; he
was anxious about the condition of Espanola--anxious also, as we have
seen, to send this great news home; and he therefore turned back and
decided to risk the passage of the Dragon's Mouth. He anchored in the
neighbouring harbour until the wind was in the right quarter, and with
some trepidation put his ships into the boiling tideway. When they were
in the middle of the passage the wind fell to a dead calm, and the ships,
with their sails hanging loose, were borne on the dizzy surface of
eddies, overfalls, and whirls of the tide. Fortunately there was deep
water in the passage, and the strength of the current carried them safely
through. Once outside they bore away to the northward, sighting the
islands of Tobago and Grenada and, turning westward again, came to the
islands of Cubagua and Margarita, where three pounds of pearls were
bartered from the natives. A week after the passage of the Dragon's
Mouth Columbus sighted the south coast of Espanola, which coast he made
at a point a long way to the east of the new settlement that he had
instructed Bartholomew to found; and as the winds were contrary, and he
feared it might take him a long time to beat up against them, he sent a
boat ashore with a letter which was to be delivered by a native messenger
to the Adelantado. The letter was delivered; a few days later a caravel
was sighted which contained Bartholomew himself; and once more, after a
long separation, these two friends and brothers were united.

The see-saw motion of all affairs with which Columbus had to do was in
full swing. We have seen him patching up matters in Espanola; hurrying
to Spain just in time to rescue his damaged reputation and do something
to restore it; and now when he had come back it was but a sorry tale that
Bartholomew had to tell him. A fortress had been built at the Hayna
gold-mines, but provisions had been so scarce that there had been
something like a famine among the workmen there; no digging had been
done, no planting, no making of the place fit for human occupation and
industry. Bartholomew had been kept busy in collecting the native
tribute, and in planning out the beginnings of the settlement at the
mouth of the river Ozema, which was at first called the New Isabella, but
was afterwards named San Domingo in honour of old Domenico at Savona.
The cacique Behechio had been giving trouble; had indeed marched out with
an army against Bartholomew, but had been more or less reconciled by the
intervention of his sister Anacaona, widow of the late Caonabo, who had
apparently transferred her affections to Governor Bartholomew. The
battle was turned into a friendly pagan festival--one of the last ever
held on that once happy island--in which native girls danced in a green
grove, with the beautiful Anacaona, dressed only in garlands, carried on
a litter in their midst.

But in the Vega Real, where a chapel had been built by the priests of the
neighbouring settlement who were beginning to make converts, trouble had
arisen in consequence of an outrage on the wife of the cacique Guarionex.
The chapel was raided, the shrine destroyed, and the sacred vessels
carried off. The Spaniards seized a number of Indians whom they
suspected of having had a hand in the desecration, and burned them at the
stake in the most approved manner of the Inquisition--a hideous
punishment that fanned the remaining embers of the native spirit into
flame, and produced a hostile combination of Guarionex and several other
caciques, whose rebellion it took the Adelantado some trouble and display
of arms to quench.

But the worst news of all was the treacherous revolt of Francisco Roldan,
a Spaniard who had once been a servant of the Admiral's, and who had been
raised by him to the office of judge in the island--an able creature,
but, like too many recipients of Christopher's favour, a treacherous
rascal at bottom. As soon as the Admiral's back was turned Roldan had
begun to make mischief, stirring up the discontent that was never far
below the surface of life in the colony, and getting together a large
band of rebellious ruffians. He had a plan to murder Bartholomew
Columbus and place himself at the head of the colony, but this fell
through. Then, in Bartholomew's absence, he had a passage with James
Columbus, who had now returned to the island and had resumed his.
official duties at Isabella. Bartholomew, who was at another part of the
coast collecting tribute, had sent a caravel laden with cotton to
Isabella, and well-meaning James had her drawn up on the beach. Roldan
took the opportunity to represent this innocent action as a sign of the
intolerable autocracy of the Columbus family, who did not even wish a
vessel to be in a condition to sail for Spain with news of their
misdeeds. Insolent Roldan formally asks James to send the caravel to
Spain with supplies; poor James refuses and, perhaps being at bottom
afraid of Roldan and his insolences, despatches him to the Vega Real with
a force to bring to order some caciques who had been giving trouble.
Possibly to his surprise, although not to ours, Roldan departs with
alacrity at the head of seventy armed men. Honest, zealous James, no
doubt; but also, we begin to fear, stupid James.

The Vega Real was the most attractive part of the colony, and the scene
of infinite idleness and debauchery in the early days of the Spanish
settlement. As Margarite and other mutineers had acted, so did Roldan
and his soldiers now act, making sallies against several of the chain of
forts that stretched across the island, and even upon Isabella itself;
and returning to the Vega to the enjoyment of primitive wild pleasures.
Roldan and Bartholomew Columbus stalked each other about the island with
armed forces for several months, Roldan besieging Bartholomew in the
fortress at the Vega, which he had occupied in Roldan's absence, and
trying to starve him out there. The arrival in February 1498 of the two
ships which had been sent out from Spain in advance, and which brought
also the news of the Admiral's undamaged favour at Court, and of the
royal confirmation of Bartholomew's title, produced for the moment a good
moral effect; Roldan went and sulked in the mountains, refusing to have
any parley or communication with the Adelantado, declining indeed to
treat with any one until the Admiral himself should return. In the
meantime his influence with the natives was strong enough to produce a
native revolt, which Bartholomew had only just succeeded in suppressing
when Christopher arrived on August 30th.

The Admiral was not a little distressed to find that the three ships from
which he had parted company at Ferro had not yet arrived. His own voyage
ought to have taken far longer than theirs; they had now been nine weeks
at sea, and there was nothing to account for their long delay. When at
last they did appear, however they brought with them only a new
complication. They had lost their way among the islands and had been
searching about for Espanola, finally making a landfall there on the
coast of Xaragua, the south-western province of the island, where Roldan
and his followers were established. Roldan had received them and,
concealing the fact of his treachery, procured a large store of
provisions from them, his followers being meanwhile busy among the crews
of the ships inciting them to mutiny and telling them of the oppression
of the Admiral's rule and the joys of a lawless life. The gaol-birds
were nothing loth; after eight weeks at sea a spell ashore in this
pleasant land, with all kinds of indulgences which did not come within
the ordinary regimen of convicts and sailors, greatly appealing to them.
The result was that more than half of the crews mutinied and joined
Roldan, and the captains were obliged to put to sea with their small
loyal remnant. Carvajal remained behind in order to try to persuade
Roldan to give himself up; but Roldan had no such idea, and Carvajal had
to make his way by land to San Domingo, where he made his report to the
Admiral. Roldan has in fact delivered a kind of ultimatum. He will
surrender to no one but the Admiral, and that only on condition that he
gets a free pardon. If negotiations are opened, Roldan will treat with
no one but Carvajal. The Admiral, whose grip of the situation is getting
weaker and weaker, finds himself in a difficulty. His loyal army is only
some seventy strong, while Roldan has, of disloyal settlers, gaol-birds,
and sailors, much more than that. The Admiral, since he cannot reduce
his enemy's force by capturing them, seeks to do it by bribing them; and
the greatest bribe that he can think of to offer to these malcontents is
that any who like may have a free passage home in the five caravels which
are now waiting to return to Spain. To such a pass have things come in
the paradise of Espanola! But the rabble finds life pleasant enough in
Xaragua, where they are busy with indescribable pleasures; and for the
moment there is no great response to this invitation to be gone.
Columbus therefore despatches his ships, with such rabble of colonists,
gaol-birds, and mariners as have already had their fill both of pain and
pleasure, and writes his usual letter to the Sovereigns--half full of the
glories of the new discoveries he has made, the other half setting forth
the evil doings of Roldan, and begging that he may be summoned to Spain
for trial there. Incidentally, also, he requests a further licence for
two years for the capture and despatch of slaves to Spain. So the
vessels sail back on October 18, 1498, and the Admiral turns wearily to
the task of disentangling the web of difficulty that has woven itself
about him.

Carvajal and Ballester--another loyal captain--were sent with a letter to
Roldan urging him to come to terms, and Carvajal and Ballester added
their own honest persuasions. But Roldan was firm; he wished to be quit
of the Admiral and his rule, and to live independently in the island; and
of his followers, although some here and there showed signs of
submission, the greater number were so much in love with anarchy that
they could not be counted upon. For two months negotiations of a sort
were continued, Roldan even presenting himself under a guarantee of
safety at San Domingo, where he had a fruitless conference with the
Admiral; where also he had an opportunity of observing what a sorry state
affairs in the capital were in, and what a mess Columbus was making of it
all. Roldan, being a simple man, though a rascal, had only to remain
firm in order to get his way against a mind like the Admiral's, and get
his way he ultimately did. The Admiral made terms of a kind most
humiliating to him, and utterly subversive of his influence and
authority. The mutineers were not only to receive a pardon but a
certificate (good Heavens!) of good conduct. Caravels were to be sent to
convey them to Spain; and they were to be permitted to carry with them
all the slaves that they had collected and all the native young women
whom they had ravished from their homes.

Columbus signs this document on the 21st of November, and promises that
the ships shall be ready in fifty days; and then, at his wits' end, and
hearing of irregularities in the interior of the island, sets off with
Bartholomew to inspect the posts and restore them to order. In his
absence the see-saw, in due obedience to the laws that govern all see-
saws, gives a lurch to the other side, and things go all wrong again in
San Domingo. The preparations for the despatch of the caravels are
neglected as soon as his back is turned; not fifty days, but nearly one
hundred days elapse before they are ready to sail from San Domingo to
Xaragua. Even then they are delayed by storms and head-winds; and when
they do arrive Roldan and his company will not embark in them. The
agreement has been broken; a new one must be made. Columbus, returning
to San Domingo after long and harassing struggles on the other end of the
see-saw, gets news of this deadlock, and at the same time has news from
Fonseca in Spain of a far from agreeable character. His complaints
against the people under him have been received by the Sovereigns and
will be duly considered, but their Majesties have not time at the moment
to go into them. That is the gist of it, and very cold cheer it is for
the Admiral, balancing himself on this turbulent see-saw with anxious
eyes turned to Spain for encouragement and approval.

In the depression that followed the receipt of this letter he was no
match for Roldan. He even himself took a caravel and sailed towards
Xaragua, where he was met by Roldan, who boarded his ship and made his
new proposals. Their impudence is astounding; and when we consider that
the Admiral had in theory absolute powers in the island, the fact that
such proposals could be made, not to say accepted, shows how far out of
relation were his actual with his nominal powers. Roldan proposed that
he should be allowed to give a number of his friends a free passage to
Spain; that to all who should remain free grants of land should be given;
and (a free pardon and certificate of good conduct contenting him no
longer) that a proclamation should be made throughout the island
admitting that all the charges of disloyalty and mutiny which had been
brought against him and his followers were without foundation; and,
finally, that he should be restored to his office of Alcalde Mayor or
chief magistrate.

Here was a bolus for Christopher to swallow; a bolus compounded of his
own words, his own acts, his hope, dignity, supremacy. In dismal
humiliation he accepted the terms, with the addition of a clause more
scandalous still--to the effect that the mutineers reserved the right,
in case the Admiral should fail in the exact performance of any of his
promises, to enforce them by compulsion of arms or any other method they
might think fit. This precious document was signed on September 28, 1499
just twelve months after the agreement which it was intended to replace;
and the Admiral, sailing dismally back to San Domingo, ruefully pondered
on the fruits of a year's delay. Even then he was trying to make excuses
for himself, such as he made afterwards to the Sovereigns when he tried
to explain that this shameful capitulation was invalid. That he signed
under compulsion; that he was on board a ship, and so was not on his
viceregal territory; that the rebels had already been tried, and that he
had not the power to revoke a sentence which bore the authority of the
Crown; that he had not the power to dispose of the Crown property--
desperate, agonised shuffling of pride and self-esteem in the coils of
trial and difficulty. Enough of it.



A breath of salt air again will do us no harm as a relief from these
perilous balancings of Columbus on the see-saw at Espanola. His true
work in this world had indeed already been accomplished. When he smote
the rock of western discovery many springs flowed from it, and some were
destined to run in mightier channels than that which he himself followed.
Among other men stirred by the news of Columbus's first voyage there was
one walking the streets of Bristol in 1496 who was fired to a similar
enterprise--a man of Venice, in boyhood named Zuan Caboto, but now known
in England, where he has some time been settled, as Captain John Cabot.
A sailor and trader who has travelled much through the known sea-roads
of this world, and has a desire to travel upon others not so well known.
He has been in the East, has seen the caravans of Mecca and the goods
they carried, and, like Columbus, has conceived in his mind the roundness
of the world as a practical fact rather than a mere mathematical theory.
Hearing of Columbus's success Cabot sets what machinery in England he has
access to in motion to secure for him patents from King Henry VII.; which
patents he receives on March 5, 1496. After spending a long time in
preparation, and being perhaps a little delayed by diplomatic protests
from the Spanish Ambassador in London, he sails from Bristol in May 1497.

After sailing west two thousand leagues Cabot found land in the
neighbourhood of Cape Breton, and was thus in all probability the first
discoverer, since the Icelanders, of the mainland of the New World. He
turned northward, sailed through the strait of Belle Isle, and came home
again, having accomplished his task in three months. Cabot, like
Columbus, believed he had seen the territory of the Great Khan, of whom
he told the interested population of Bristol some strange things. He
further told them of the probable riches of this new land if it were
followed in a southerly direction; told them some lies also, it appears,
since he said that the waters there were so dense with fish that his
vessels could hardly move in them. He received a gratuity of L10 and a
pension, and made a great sensation in Bristol by walking about the city
dressed in fine silk garments. He took other voyages also with his son
Sebastian, who followed with him the rapid widening stream of discovery
and became Pilot Major of Spain, and President of the Congress appointed
in 1524 to settle the conflicting pretensions of various discoverers; but
so far as our narrative is concerned, having sailed across from Bristol
and discovered the mainland of the New World some years before Columbus
discovered it, John Cabot sails into oblivion.

Another great conquest of the salt unknown taken place a few days before
Columbus sailed on his third voyage. The accidental discovery of the
Cape by Bartholomew Diaz in 1486 had not been neglected by Portugal; and
the achievements of Columbus, while they cut off Portuguese enterprise
from the western ocean, had only stimulated it to greater activity within
its own spheres. Vasco da Gama sailed from Lisbon in July 1497; by the
end of November he had rounded the Cape of Good Hope; and in May 1498,
after a long voyage full of interest, peril, and hardship he had landed
at Calicut on the shores of the true India. He came back in 1499 with a
battered remnant, his crew disabled by sickness and exhaustion, and half
his ships lost; but he had in fact discovered a road for trade and
adventure to the East that was not paved with promises, dreams, or mad
affidavits, but was a real and tangible achievement, bringing its reward
in commerce and wealth for Portugal. At that very moment Columbus was
groping round the mainland of South America, thinking it to be the coast
of Cathay, and the Garden of Eden, and God knows what other
cosmographical--theological abstractions; and Portugal, busy with her
arrangements for making money, could afford for the moment to look on
undismayed at the development of the mine of promises discovered by the
Spanish Admiral.

The anxiety of Columbus to communicate the names of things before he had
made sure of their substance received another rude chastisement in the
events that followed the receipt in Spain of his letter announcing the
discovery of the Garden of Eden and the land of pearls. People in Spain
were not greatly interested in his theories of the terrestrial Paradise;
but more than one adventurer pricked up his ears at the name of pearls,
and among the first was our old friend Alonso de Ojeda, who had returned
some time before from Espanola and was living in Spain. His position as
a member of Columbus's force on the second voyage and the distinction he
had gained there gave him special opportunities of access to the letters
and papers sent home by Columbus; and he found no difficulty in getting
Fonseca to show him the maps and charts of the coast of Paria sent back
by the Admiral, the veritable pearls which had been gathered, and the
enthusiastic descriptions of the wealth of this new coast. Knowing
something of Espanola, and of the Admiral also, and reading in the
despatches of the turbulent condition of the colony, he had a shrewd idea
that Columbus's hands would be kept pretty full in Espanola itself, and
that he would have no opportunity for some time to make any more voyages
of discovery. He therefore represented to Fonseca what a pity it would
be if all this revenue should remain untapped just because one man had
not time to attend to it, and he proposed that he should take out an
expedition at his own cost and share the profits with the Crown.

This proposal was too tempting to be refused; unlike the expeditions of
Columbus, which were all expenditure and no revenue, it promised a chance
of revenue without any expenditure at all. The Paria coast, having been
discovered subsequent to the agreement made with Columbus, was considered
by Fonseca to be open to private enterprise; and he therefore granted
Ojeda a licence to go and explore it. Among those who went with him were
Amerigo Vespucci and Columbus's old pilot, Juan de la Cosa, as well as
some of the sailors who had been with the Admiral on the coast of Paria
and had returned in the caravels which had brought his account of it back
to Spain. Ojeda sailed on May 20, 1499; made a landfall some hundreds of
miles to the eastward of the Orinoco, coasted thence as far as the island
of Trinidad, and sailed along the northern coast of the peninsula of
Paria until he came to a country where the natives built their hots on
piles in the water, and to which he gave the name of Venezuela. It was
by his accidental presence on this voyage that Vespucci, the meat-
contractor, came to give his name to America--a curious story of
international jealousies, intrigues, lawsuits, and lies which we have not
the space to deal with here. After collecting a considerable quantity of
pearls Ojeda, who was beginning to run short of provisions, turned
eastward again and sought the coast of Espanola, where we shall presently
meet with him again.

And Ojeda was not the only person in Spain who was enticed by Columbus's
glowing descriptions to go and look for the pearls of Paria. There was
in fact quite a reunion of old friends of his and ours in the western
ocean, though they went thither in a spirit far different from that of
ancient friendship. Pedro Alonso Nino, who had also been on the Paria
coast with Columbus, who had come home with the returning ships, and
whose patience (for he was an exceedingly practical man) had perhaps been
tried by the strange doings of the Admiral in the Gulf of Paria, decided
that he as well as any one else might go and find some pearls. Nino is a
poor man, having worked hard in all his voyagings backwards and forwards
across the Atlantic; but he has a friend with money, one Luis Guerra, who
provides him with the funds necessary for fitting out a small caravel
about the size of his old ship the Nifta. Guerra, who has the money,
also has a brother Christoval; and his conditions are that Christoval
shall be given the command of the caravel. Practical Niflo does not care
so long as he reaches the place where the pearls are. He also applies to
Fonseca for licence to make discoveries; and, duly receiving it, sails
from Palos in the beginning of June 1499, hot upon the track of Ojeda.

They did a little quiet discovery, principally in the domain of human
nature, caroused with the friendly natives, but attended to business all
the time; with the result that in the following April they were back in
Spain with a treasure of pearls out of which, after Nifio had been made
independent for life and Guerra, Christoval, and the rest of them had
their shares, there remained a handsome sum for the Crown. An extremely
practical, businesslike voyage this; full of lessons for our poor
Christopher, could he but have known and learned them.

Yet another of our old friends profited by the Admiral's discovery. What
Vincenti Yafiez Pinzon has been doing all these years we have no record;
living at Palos, perhaps, doing a little of his ordinary coasting
business, administering the estates of his brother Martin Alonso, and,
almost for a certainty, talking pretty big about who it was that really
did all the work in the discovery of the New World. Out of the obscurity
of conjecture he emerges into fact in December 1499, when he is found at
Palos fitting out four caravels for the purpose of exploring farther
along the coast of the southern mainland. That he also was after pearls
is pretty certain; but on the other hand he was more of a sailor than an
adventurer, was a discoverer at heart, and had no small share of the
family taste for sea travel. He took a more southerly course than any of
the others and struck the coast of America south of the equator on
January 20, 1500. He sailed north past the mouths of the Amazon and
Orinoco through the Gulf of Paria, and reached Espanola in June 1500.
He only paused there to take in provisions, and sailed to the west in
search of further discoveries; but he lost two of his caravels in a gale
and had to put back to Espanola.

He sailed thence for Palos, and reached home in September 1500, having
added no inconsiderable share to the mass of new geographical knowledge
that was being accumulated. In later years he took a high place in the
maritime world of Spain.

And finally, to complete the account of the chief minor discoveries of
these two busy years, we must mention Pedro Alvarez Cabral of Portugal,
who was despatched in March 1, 1500 from Lisbon to verify the discoveries
of Da Gama. He reached Calicut six months later, losing on the voyage
four of his caravels and most of his company. Among the lost was
Bartholomew Diaz, the first discoverer of the Cape of Good Hope, who was
on this voyage in a subordinate capacity, and whose bones were left to
dissolve in the stormy waters that beat round the Cape whose barrier he
was the first to pass. The chief event of this voyage, however, was not
the reaching of Calicut nor the drowning of Diaz (which was chiefly of
importance to himself, poor soul!) but the discovery of Brazil, which
Cabral made in following the southerly course too far to the west.
He landed there, in the Bay of Porto Seguro, on May 1, 1500, and took
formal possession of the land for the Crown of Portugal, naming it Vera
Cruz, or the Land of the True Cross.

In the assumption of Columbus and his contemporaries all these doings
were held to detract from the glory of his own achievements, and were the
subject of endless affidavits, depositions, quarrels, arguments, proofs
and claims in the great lawsuit that was in after years carried on
between the Crown of Spain and the heirs of Columbus concerning his
titles and revenues. We, however, may take a different view. With the
exception of the discoveries of the Cape of Good Hope and the coast of
Brazil all these enterprises were directly traceable to Columbus's own
achievements and were inspired by his example. The things that a man can
do in his own person are limited by the laws of time and space; it is
only example and influence that are infinite and illimitable, and in
which the spirit of any achievement can find true immortality.


THE THIRD VOYAGE-(continued)

It may perhaps be wearisome to the reader to return to the tangled and
depressing situation in Espanola, but it cannot be half so wearisome as
it was for Columbus, whom we left enveloped in that dark cloud of error
and surrender in which he sacrificed his dignity and good faith to the
impudent demands of a mutinous servant. To his other troubles in San
Domingo the presence of this Roldan was now added; and the reinstated
Alcalde was not long in making use of the victory he had gained. He bore
himself with intolerable arrogance and insolence, discharging one of
Columbus's personal bodyguard on the ground that no one should hold any
office on the island except with his consent. He demanded grants of land
for himself and his followers, which Columbus held himself obliged to
concede; and the Admiral, further to pacify him, invented a very
disastrous system of repartimientos, under which certain chiefs were
relieved from paying tribute on condition of furnishing feudal service to
the settlers--a system which rapidly developed into the most cruel and
oppressive kind of slavery. The Admiral at this time also, in despair of
keeping things quiet by his old methods of peace and conciliation,
created a kind of police force which roamed about the island, exacting
tribute and meting out summary punishment to all defaulters. Among other
concessions weakly made to Roldan at this time was the gift of the Crown
estate of Esperanza, situated in the Vega Real, whither he betook himself
and embarked on what was nothing more nor less than a despotic reign,
entirely ignoring the regulations and prerogatives of the Admiral, and
taking prisoners and administering punishment just as he pleased. The
Admiral was helpless, and thought of going back to Spain, but the
condition of the island was such that he did not dare to leave it.
Instead, he wrote a long letter to the Sovereigns, full of complaints
against other people and justifications of himself, in the course of
which he set forth those quibbling excuses for his capitulation to Roldan
which we have already heard. And there was a pathetic request at the end
of the letter that his son Diego might be sent out to him. As I have
said, Columbus was by this time a prematurely old man, and feeling the
clouds gathering about him, and the loneliness and friendlessness of his
position at Espanola, he instinctively looked to the next generation for
help, and to the presence of his own son for sympathy and comfort.

It was at this moment (September 5, 1499) that a diversion arose in the
rumour that four caravels had been seen off the western end of Espanola
and duly reported to the Admiral; and this announcement was soon followed
by the news that they were commanded by Ojeda, who was collecting dye-
wood in the island forests. Columbus, although he had so far as we know
had no previous difficulties with Ojeda, had little cause now to credit
any adventurer with kindness towards himself; and Ojeda's secrecy in not
reporting himself at San Domingo, and, in fact, his presence on the
island at all without the knowledge of the Admiral, were sufficient
evidence that he was there to serve his own ends. Some gleam of
Christopher's old cleverness in handling men was--now shown by his
instructing Roldan to sally forth and bring Ojeda to order. It was a
case of setting a thief to catch a thief and, as it turned out, was not a
bad stroke. Roldan, nothing loth, sailed round to that part of the coast
where Ojeda's ships were anchored, and asked to see his licence; which
was duly shown to him and rather took the wind out of his sails. He
heard a little gossip from Ojeda, moreover, which had its own
significance for him. The Queen was ill; Columbus was in disgrace; there
was talk of superseding him. Ojeda promised to sail round to San Domingo
and report himself; but instead, he sailed to the east along the coast of
Xaragua, where he got into communication with some discontented Spanish
settlers and concocted a scheme for leading them to San Domingo to demand
redress for their imagined grievances. Roldan, however, who had come to
look for Ojeda, discovered him at this point; and there ensued some very
pretty play between the two rascals, chiefly in trickery and treachery,
such as capturing each other's boats and emissaries, laying traps for one
another, and taking prisoner one another's crews. The end of it was that
Ojeda left the island without having reported himself to Columbus, but
not before he had completed his business--which was that of provisioning
his ships and collecting dye-wood and slaves.

And so exit Ojeda from the Columbian drama. Of his own drama only one
more act remained to be played; which, for the sake of our past interest
in him, we will mention here. Chiefly on account of his intimacy with
Fonseca he was some years later given a governorship in the neighbourhood
of the Gulf of Darien; Juan de la Cosa accompanying him as unofficial
partner. Ojeda has no sooner landed there than he is fighting the
natives; natives too many for him this time; Ojeda forced to hide in the
forest, where he finds the body of de la Cosa, who has come by a shocking
death. Ojeda afterwards tries to govern his colony, but is no good at
that; cannot govern his own temper, poor fellow. Quarrels with his crew,
is put in irons, carried to Espanola, and dies there (1515) in great
poverty and eclipse. One of the many, evidently, who need a strong
guiding hand, and perish without it.

It really began to seem as though Roldan, having had his fling and
secured the excessive privileges that he coveted, had decided that
loyalty to Christopher was for the present the most profitable policy;
but the mutinous spirit that he had cultivated in his followers for his
own ends could not be so readily converted into this cheap loyalty. More
trouble was yet to come of this rebellion. There was in the island a
young Spanish aristocrat, Fernando de Guevara by name, one of the many
who had come out in the hope of enjoying himself and making a fortune
quickly, whose more than outrageously dissolute life in San Domingo had
caused Columbus to banish him thence; and he was now living near Xaragua
with a cousin of his, Adrian de Moxeca, who had been one of the
ringleaders in Roldan's conspiracy. Within this pleasant province of
Xaragua lived, as we have seen, Anacaona, the sister of Caonabo, the Lord
of the House of Gold. She herself was a beautiful woman, called by her
subjects Bloom of the Gold; and she had a still more beautiful daughter,
Higuamota, who appears in history, like so many other women, on account
of her charms and what came of them.

Of pretty Higuamota, who once lived like a dryad among the groves of
Espanola and has been dead now for so long, we know nothing except that
she was beautiful, which, although she doubtless did not think so while
she lived, turns out to have been the most important thing about her.
Young Guevara, coming to stay with his cousin Adrian, becomes a visitor
at the house of Anacaona; sees the pretty daughter and falls in love with
her. Other people also, it appears, have been in a similar state, but
Higuamota is not very accessible; a fact which of course adds to the
interest of the chase, and turns dissolute Fernando's idle preference
into something like a passion. Roldan, who has also had an eye upon her,
and apparently no more than an eye, discovers that Fernando, in order to
gratify his passion, is proposing to go the absurd length of marrying the
young woman, and has sent for a priest for that purpose. Roldan,
instigated thereto by primitive forces, thinks it would be impolitic for
a Spanish grandee to marry with a heathen; very well, then, Fernando will
have her baptized--nothing simpler when water and a priest are handy.
Roldan, seeing that the young man is serious, becomes peremptory, and
orders him to leave Xaragua. Fernando ostentatiously departs, but is
discovered a little later actually living in the house of Anacaona, who
apparently is sympathetic to Love's young dream. Once more ordered away,
this time with anger and threats, Guevara changes his tune and implores
Roldan to let him stay, promising that he will give up the marriage
project and also, no doubt, the no-marriage project. But Guevara has
sympathisers. The mutineers have not forgiven Roldan for deserting them
and becoming a lawful instead of an unlawful ruler. They are all on the
side of Guevara, who accordingly moves to the next stage of island
procedure, and sets on foot some kind of plot to kill Roldan and the
Admiral. Fortunately where there is treachery it generally works both
ways; this plot came to the ears of the authorities; the conspirators
were arrested and sent to San Domingo.

This action came near to bringing the whole island about Columbus's ears.
Adrian de Moxeca was furious at what he conceived to be the treachery of
Roldan, for Roldan was in such a pass that the barest act of duty was
necessarily one of treachery to his friends. Moxeca took the place of
chief rebel that Roldan had vacated; rallied the mutineers round him, and
was on the point of starting for Concepcion, one of the chain of forts
across the island where Columbus was at present staying, when the Admiral
discovered his plan. All that was strongest and bravest in him rose up
at this menace. His weakness and cowardice were forgotten; and with the
spirit of an old sea-lion he sallied forth against the mutineers. He had
only a dozen men on whom he could rely, but he armed them well and
marched secretly and swiftly under cloud of night to the place where
Moxeca and his followers were encamped in fond security, and there
suddenly fell upon them, capturing Moxeca and the chief ringleaders. The
rest scattered in terror and escaped. Moxeca was hurried off to the
battlements of San Domingo and there, in the very midst of a longdrawn
trembling confession to the priest in attendance, was swung off the
ramparts and hanged. The others, although also condemned to death, were
kept in irons in the fortress, while Christopher and Bartholomew, roused
at last to vigorous action, scoured the island hunting down the
remainder, killing some who resisted, hanging others on the spot, and
imprisoning the remainder at San Domingo.

After these prompt measures peace reigned for a time in the island, and
Columbus was perhaps surprised to see what wholesome effects could be
produced by a little exemplary severity. The natives, who under the
weakness of his former rule had been discontented and troublesome, now
settled down submissively to their yoke; the Spaniards began to work in
earnest on their farms; and there descended upon island affairs a brief
St. Martin's Summer of peace before the final winter of blight and death
set in. The Admiral, however, was obviously in precarious health; his
ophthalmia became worse, and the stability of his mind suffered. He had
dreams and visions of divine help and comfort, much needed by him, poor
soul, in all his tribulations and adversities. Even yet the cup was not

We must now turn back to Spain and try to form some idea of the way in
which the doings of Columbus were being regarded there if we are to
understand the extraordinary calamity that was soon to befall him. It
must be remembered first of all that his enterprise had never really been
popular from the first. It was carried out entirely by the energy and
confidence of Queen Isabella, who almost alone of those in power believed
in it as a thing which was certain to bring ultimate glory, as well as
riches and dominion, to Spain and the Catholic faith. As we have seen,
there had been a brief ebullition of popular favour when Columbus
returned from his first voyage, but it was a popularity excited solely by
the promises of great wealth that Columbus was continually holding forth.
When those promises were not immediately fulfilled popular favour
subsided; and when the adventurers who had gone out to the new islands on
the strength of those promises had returned with shattered health and
empty pockets there was less chance than ever of the matter being
regarded in its proper light by the people of Spain. Columbus had either
found a gold mine or he had found nothing--that was the way in which the
matter was popularly regarded. Those who really understood the
significance of his discoveries and appreciated their scientific
importance did not merely stay at home in Spain and raise a clamour; they
went out in the Admiral's footsteps and continued the work that he had
begun. Even King Ferdinand, for all his cleverness, had never understood
the real lines on which the colony should have been developed. His eyes
were fixed upon Europe; he saw in the discoveries of Columbus a means
rather than an end; and looked to them simply as a source of revenue with
the help of which he could carry on his ambitious schemes. And when, as
other captains made voyages confirming and extending the work of
Columbus, he did begin to understand the significance of what had been
done, he realised too late that the Admiral had been given powers far in
excess of what was prudent or sensible.

During all the time that Columbus and his brothers were struggling with
the impossible situation at Espanola there was but one influence at work
in Spain, and that was entirely destructive to the Admiral. Every
caravel that came from the New World brought two things. It brought a
crowd of discontented colonists, many of whom had grave reasons for their
discontent; and it brought letters from the Admiral in which more and
more promises were held out, but in which also querulous complaints
against this and that person, and against the Spanish settlers generally,
were set forth at wearisome length. It is not remarkable that the people
of Spain, even those who were well disposed towards Columbus, began to
wonder if these two things were not cause and effect. The settlers may
have been a poor lot, but they were the material with which Columbus had
to deal; he had powers enough, Heaven knew, powers of life and death; and
the problem began to resolve itself in the minds of those at the head of
affairs in Spain in the following terms. Given an island, rich and
luxuriant beyond the dreams of man; given a native population easily
subdued; given settlers of one kind or another; and given a Viceroy with
unlimited powers--could he or could he not govern the island? It was a
by no means unfair way of putting the case, and there is little justice
in the wild abuse that has been hurled at Ferdinand and Isabella on this
ground. Columbus may have been the greatest genius in the world; very
possibly they admitted it; but in the meanwhile Spain was resounding with
the cries of the impoverished colonists who had returned from his ocean
Paradise. No doubt the Sovereigns ignored them as much as they possibly
could; but when it came to ragged emaciated beggars coming in batches of
fifty at a time and sitting in the very courts of the Alhambra,
exhibiting bunches of grapes and saying that that was all they could
afford to live upon since they had come back from the New World, some
notice had to be taken of it. Even young Diego and Ferdinand, the
Admiral's sons, came in for the obloquy with which his name was
associated; the colonial vagabonds hung round the portals of the palace
and cried out upon them as they passed so that they began to dislike
going out. Columbus, as we know, had plenty of enemies who had access to
the King and Queen; and never had enemies an easier case to urge. Money
was continually being spent on ships and supplies; where was the return
for it? What about the Ophir of Solomon? What about the Land of Spices?
What about the pearls? And if you want to add a touch of absurdity, what
about the Garden of Eden and the Great Khan?

To the most impartial eyes it began to appear as though Columbus were
either an impostor or a fool. There is no evidence that Ferdinand and
Isabella thought that he was an impostor or that he had wilfully deceived
them; but there is some evidence that they began to have an inkling as to
what kind of a man he really was, and as to his unfitness for governing a
colony. Once more something had to be done. The sending out of a
commissioner had not been a great success before, but in the difficulties
of the situation it seemed the only thing. Still there was a good deal
of hesitation, and it is probable that Isabella was not yet fully
convinced of the necessity for this grave step. This hesitation was
brought to an end by the arrival from Espanola of the ships bearing the
followers of Roldan, who had been sent back under the terms of Columbus's
feeble capitulation. The same ships brought a great quantity of slaves,
which the colonists were able to show had been brought by the permission
of the Admiral; they carried native girls also, many of them pregnant,
many with new-born babies; and these also came with the permission of the
Admiral. The ships further carried the Admira'l's letter complaining of
the conspiracy of Roldan and containing the unfortunate request for a
further licence to extend the slave trade. These circumstances were
probably enough to turn the scale of Isabella's opinion against the
Admiral's administration. The presence of the slaves particularly
angered her kind womanly heart. "What right has he to give away my
vassals?" she exclaimed, and ordered that they should all be sent back,
and that in addition all the other slaves who had come home should be
traced and sent back; although of course it was impossible to carry out
this last order.

At any rate there was no longer any hesitation about sending out a
commissioner, and the Sovereigns chose one Francisco de Bobadilla, an
official of the royal household, for the performance of this difficult
mission. As far as we can decipher him he was a very ordinary official
personage; prejudiced, it is possible, against an administration that had
produced such disastrous results and which offended his orderly official
susceptibilities; otherwise to be regarded as a man exactly honest in the
performance of what he conceived to be his duties, and entirely
indisposed to allow sentiment or any other extraneous matter to interfere
with such due performance. We shall have need to remember, when we see
him at work in Espanola, that he was not sent out to judge between
Columbus and his Sovereigns or between Columbus and the world, but to
investigate the condition of the colony and to take what action he
thought necessary. The commission which he bore to the Admiral was in
the following terms:

"The King and the Queen: Don Christopher Columbus, our Admiral of
the Ocean-sea. We have directed Francisco de Bobadilla, the bearer
of this, to speak to you for us of certain things which he will
mention: we request you to give him faith and credence and to obey
him. From Madrid, May 26, '99. I THE KING. I THE QUEEN. By their
command. Miguel Perez de Almazan."

In addition Bobadilla bore with him papers and authorities giving him
complete control and possession of all the forts, arms, and royal
property in the island, in case it should be necessary for him to use
them; and he also had a number of blank warrants which were signed, but
the substance of which was not filled in. This may seem very dreadful to
us, with our friendship for the poor Admiral; but considering the grave
state of affairs as represented to the King and Queen, who had their
duties to their colonial subjects as well as to Columbus, there was
nothing excessive in it. If they were to send out a commissioner at all,
and if they were satisfied, as presumably they were, that the man they
had chosen was trustworthy, it was only right to make his authority
absolute. Thus equipped Francisco de Bobadilla sailed from Spain in July


Ideas to him were of more value than facts
Patience which holds men back from theorising

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