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The History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella The Catholic, V2 by William H. Prescott

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tone of excitement, which their unexpected successes had kindled in the
nation. [2] The various specimens sent home in the return ships, of the
products of these unknown regions, confirmed the agreeable belief that
they formed part of the great Asiatic continent, which had so long excited
the cupidity of Europeans. The Spanish court, sharing in the general
enthusiasm, endeavored to promote the spirit of discovery and
colonization, by forwarding the requisite supplies, and complying promptly
with the most minute suggestions of Columbus. But, in less than two years
from the commencement of his second voyage, the face of things experienced
a melancholy change. Accounts were received at home of the most alarming
discontent and disaffection in the colony; while the actual returns from
these vaunted regions were so scanty, as to bear no proportion to the
expenses of the expedition.

This unfortunate result was in a great measure imputable to the misconduct
of the colonists themselves. Most of them were adventurers, who had
embarked with no other expectation than that of getting together a fortune
as speedily as possible in the golden Indies. They were without
subordination, patience, industry, or any of the regular habits demanded
for success in such an enterprise. As soon as they had launched from their
native shore, they seemed to feel themselves released from the constraints
of all law. They harbored jealousy and distrust of the admiral as a
foreigner. The cavaliers and hidalgos, of whom there were too many in the
expedition, contemned him as an upstart, whom it was derogatory to obey.
From the first moment of their landing in Hispaniola, they indulged the
most wanton license in regard to the unoffending natives, who, in the
simplicity of their hearts, had received the white men as messengers from
Heaven. Their outrages, however, soon provoked a general resistance, which
led to such a war of extermination, that, in less than four years after
the Spaniards had set foot on the island, one-third of its population,
amounting, probably, to several hundred thousands, were sacrificed! Such
were the melancholy auspices, under which the intercourse was opened
between the civilized white man and the simple natives of the western
world. [3]

These excesses, and a total neglect of agriculture,--for none would
condescend to turn up the earth for any other object than the gold they
could find in it,--at length occasioned an alarming scarcity of
provisions; while the poor Indians neglected their usual husbandry, being
willing to starve themselves, so that they could starve out their
oppressors. [4] In order to avoid the famine which menaced his little
colony, Columbus was obliged to resort to coercive measures, shortening
the allowance of food, and compelling all to work, without distinction of
rank. These unpalatable regulations soon bred general discontent. The
high-mettled hidalgos, especially, complained loudly of the indignity of
such mechanical drudgery, while Father Boil and his brethren were equally
outraged by the diminution of their regular rations. [5]

The Spanish sovereigns were now daily assailed with complaints of the mal-
administration of Columbus, and of his impolitic and unjust severities to
both Spaniards and natives. They lent, however, an unwilling ear to these
vague accusations; they fully appreciated the difficulties of his
situation; and, although they sent out an agent to inquire into the nature
of the troubles which threatened the existence of the colony, they were
careful to select an individual who they thought would be most grateful to
the admiral; and when the latter in the following year, 1496, returned to
Spain, they received him with the most ample acknowledgments of regard.
"Come to us," they said, in a kind letter of congratulation, addressed to
him soon after his arrival, "when you can do it without inconvenience to
yourself, for you have endured too many vexations already." [6]

The admiral brought with him, as before, such samples of the productions
of the western hemisphere, as would strike the public eye, and keep alive
the feeling of curiosity. On his journey through Andalusia, he passed some
days under the hospitable roof of the good curate, Bernaldez, who dwells
with much satisfaction on the remarkable appearance of the Indian chiefs,
following in the admiral's train, gorgeously decorated with golden collars
and coronets and various barbaric ornaments. Among these he particularly
notices certain "belts and masks of cotton and of wood, with figures of
the Devil embroidered and carved thereon, sometimes in his own proper
likeness, and at others in that _of a cat or an owl_. There is much
reason," he infers, "to believe that he appears to the islanders in this
guise, and that they are all idolaters, having Satan for their lord!" [7]

But neither the attractions of the spectacle, nor the glowing
representations of Columbus, who fancied he had discovered in the mines of
Hispaniola the golden quarries of Ophir, from which King Solomon had
enriched the temple of Jerusalem, could rekindle the dormant enthusiasm of
the nation. The novelty of the thing had passed. They heard a different
tale, moreover, from the other voyagers, whose wan and sallow visages
provoked the bitter jest, that they had returned with more gold in their
faces than in their pockets. In short, the skepticism of the public seemed
now quite in proportion to its former overweening confidence; and the
returns were so meagre, says Bernaldez, "that it was very generally
believed there was little or no gold in the island." [8]

Isabella was far from participating in this unreasonable distrust. She had
espoused the theory of Columbus, when others looked coldly or
contemptuously on it. [9] She firmly relied on his repeated assurances,
that the track of discovery would lead to other and more important
regions. She formed a higher estimate, moreover, of the value of the new
acquisitions than any founded on the actual proceeds in gold and silver;
keeping ever in view, as her letters and instructions abundantly show, the
glorious purpose of introducing the blessings of Christian civilization
among the heathen. [10] She entertained a deep sense of the merits of
Columbus, to whose serious and elevated character her own bore much
resemblance; although the enthusiasm, which distinguished each, was
naturally tempered in hers with somewhat more of benignity and discretion.

But although the queen was willing to give the most effectual support to
his great enterprise, the situation of the country was such as made delay
in its immediate prosecution unavoidable. Large expense was necessarily
incurred for the actual maintenance of the colony; [11] the exchequer was
liberally drained, moreover, by the Italian war, as well as by the profuse
magnificence with which the nuptials of the royal family were now
celebrating. It was, indeed, in the midst of the courtly revelries
attending the marriage of Prince John, that the admiral presented himself
before the sovereigns at Burgos, after his second voyage. Such was the low
condition of the treasury from these causes, that Isabella was obliged to
defray the cost of an outfit to the colony, at this time, from funds
originally destined for the marriage of her daughter Isabella with the
king of Portugal. [12]

This unwelcome delay, however, was softened to Columbus by the
distinguished marks which he daily received of the royal favor; and
various ordinances were passed, confirming and enlarging his great powers
and privileges in the most ample manner, to a greater extent, indeed, than
his modesty, or his prudence, would allow him to accept. [13] The language
in which these princely gratuities were conferred, rendered them doubly
grateful to his noble heart, containing, as they did, the most emphatic
acknowledgments of his "many good, loyal, distinguished, and continual
services," and thus testifying the unabated confidence of his sovereigns
in his integrity and prudence. [14]

Among the impediments to the immediate completion of the arrangements for
the admiral's departure on his third voyage, may be also noticed the
hostility of Bishop Fonseca, who, at this period, had the control of the
Indian department; a man of an irritable, and, as it would seem, most
unforgiving temper, who, from some causes of disgust which he had
conceived with Columbus previous to his second voyage, lost no opportunity
of annoying and thwarting him, for which his official station
unfortunately afforded him too many facilities. [15]

From these various circumstances the admiral's fleet was not ready before
the beginning of 1498. Even then further embarrassment occurred in manning
it, as few were found willing to embark in a service which had fallen into
such general discredit. This led to the ruinous expedient of substituting
convicts, whose regular punishments were commuted into transportation, for
a limited period, to the Indies. No measure could possibly have been
devised more effectual for the ruin of the infant settlement. The seeds of
corruption, which had been so long festering in the Old World, soon shot
up into a plentiful harvest in the New, and Columbus, who suggested the
measure, was the first to reap the fruits of it.

At length, all being in readiness, the admiral embarked on board his
little squadron, consisting of six vessels, whose complement of men,
notwithstanding every exertion, was still deficient, and took his
departure from the port of St. Lucar, May 30th, 1498. He steered in a more
southerly direction than on his preceding voyages, and on the first of
August succeeded in reaching _terra firma_; thus entitling himself to
the glory of being the first to set foot on the great southern continent,
to which he had before opened the way. [16]

It is not necessary to pursue the track of the illustrious voyager, whose
career, forming the most brilliant episode to the history of the present
reign, has been so recently traced by a hand which few will care to
follow. It will suffice briefly to notice his personal relations with the
Spanish government, and the principles on which the colonial
administration was conducted.

On his arrival at Hispaniola, Columbus found the affairs of the colony in
the most deplorable confusion. An insurrection had been raised by the arts
of a few factious individuals against his brother Bartholomew, to whom he
had intrusted the government during his absence. In this desperate
rebellion all the interests of the community were neglected. The mines,
which were just beginning to yield a golden harvest, remained unwrought.
The unfortunate natives were subjected to the most inhuman oppression.
There was no law but that of the strongest. Columbus, on his arrival, in
vain endeavored to restore order. The very crews he brought with him, who
had been unfortunately reprieved from the gibbet in their own country,
served to swell the mass of mutiny. The admiral exhausted art,
negotiation, entreaty, force, and succeeded at length in patching up a
specious reconciliation by such concessions as essentially impaired his
own authority. Among these was the grant of large tracts of land to the
rebels, with permission to the proprietor to employ an allotted number of
the natives in its cultivation. This was the origin of the celebrated
system of repartimientos, which subsequently led to the foulest abuses
that ever disgraced humanity. [17]

Nearly a year elapsed after the admiral's return to Hispaniola, before he
succeeded in allaying these intestine feuds. In the mean while, rumors
were every day reaching Spain of the distractions of the colony,
accompanied with most injurious imputations on the conduct of Columbus and
his brother, who were loudly accused of oppressing both Spaniards and
Indians, and of sacrificing the public interests, in the most unscrupulous
manner, to their own. These complaints were rung in the very ears of the
sovereigns by numbers of the disaffected colonists, who had returned to
Spain, and who surrounded the king, as he rode out on horseback, clamoring
loudly for the discharge of the arrears, of which they said the admiral
had defrauded them. [18]

There were not wanting, even, persons of high consideration at the court,
to give credence and circulation to these calumnies. The recent discovery
of the pearl fisheries of Paria, as well as of more prolific veins of the
precious metals in Hispaniola, and the prospect of an indefinite extent of
unexplored country, opened by the late voyage of Columbus, made the
viceroyalty of the New World a tempting bait for the avarice and ambition
of the most potent grandee. They artfully endeavored, therefore, to
undermine the admiral's credit with the sovereigns, by raising in their
minds suspicions of his integrity, founded not merely on vague reports,
but on letters received from the colony, charging him with disloyalty,
with appropriating to his own use the revenues of the island, and with the
design of erecting an independent government for himself. [19]

Whatever weight these absurd charges may have had with Ferdinand, they had
no power to shake the queen's confidence in Columbus, or lead her to
suspect his loyalty for a moment. But the long-continued distractions of
the colony made her feel a natural distrust of his capacity to govern it,
whether from the jealousy entertained of him as a foreigner, or from some
inherent deficiency in his own character. These doubts were mingled, it is
true, with sterner feelings towards the admiral, on the arrival, at this
juncture, of several of the rebels with the Indian slaves assigned to them
by his orders. [20]

It was the received opinion among good Catholics of that period, that
heathen and barbarous nations were placed by the circumstance of their
infidelity without the pale both of spiritual and civil rights. Their
souls were doomed to eternal perdition. Their bodies were the property of
the Christian nation who should occupy their soil. [21] Such, in brief,
were the profession and the practice of the most enlightened Europeans of
the fifteenth century; and such the deplorable maxims which regulated the
intercourse of the Spanish and Portuguese navigators with the uncivilized
natives of the western world. [22] Columbus, agreeably to these views,
had, very soon after the occupation of Hispaniola, recommended a regular
exchange of slaves for the commodities required for the support of the
colony; representing, moreover, that in this way their conversion would be
more surely effected,--an object, it must be admitted, which he seems to
have ever had most earnestly at heart. Isabella, however, entertained
views on this matter far more liberal than those of her age. She had been
deeply interested by the accounts she had received from the admiral
himself of the gentle, unoffending character of the islanders; and she
revolted at the idea of consigning them to the horrors of slavery, without
even an effort for their conversion. She hesitated, therefore, to sanction
his proposal; and when a number of Indian captives were advertised to be
sold in the markets of Andalusia, she commanded the sale to be suspended,
till the opinion of a counsel of theologians and doctors, learned in such
matters, could be obtained, as to its conscientious lawfulness. She
yielded still further to the benevolent impulses of her nature, causing
holy men to be instructed as far as possible in the Indian languages, and
sent out as missionaries for the conversion of the natives. [23] Some of
them, as Father Boil and his brethren, seem, indeed, to have been more
concerned for the welfare of their own bodies, than for the souls of their
benighted flock. But others, imbued with a better spirit, wrought in the
good work with disinterested zeal, and, if we may credit their accounts,
with some efficacy. [24]

In the same beneficent spirit, the royal letters and ordinances urged over
and over again the paramount obligation of the religious instruction of
the natives, and of observing the utmost gentleness and humanity in all
dealings with them. When, therefore, the queen learned the arrival of two
vessels from the Indies, with three hundred slaves on board, which the
admiral had granted to the mutineers, she could not repress her
indignation, but impatiently asked, "By what authority does Columbus
venture thus to dispose of my subjects?" She instantly caused proclamation
to be made in the southern provinces, that all who had Indian slaves in
their possession, granted by the admiral, should forthwith provide for
their return to their own country; while the few, still held by the crown,
were to be restored to freedom in like manner. [25]

After a long and visible reluctance, the queen acquiesced in sending out a
commissioner to investigate the affairs of the colony. The person
appointed to this delicate trust was Don Francisco de Bobadilla, a poor
knight of Calatrava. He was invested with supreme powers of civil and
criminal jurisdiction. He was to bring to trial and pass sentence on all
such as had conspired against the authority of Columbus. He was authorized
to take possession of the fortresses, vessels, public stores, and property
of every description, to dispose of all offices, and to command whatever
persons he might deem expedient for the tranquillity of the island,
without distinction of rank, to return to Spain, and present themselves
before the sovereigns. Such, in brief, was the sum of the extraordinary
powers intrusted to Bobadilla. [26]

It is impossible now to determine what motives could have led to the
selection of so incompetent an agent, for an office of such high
responsibility. He seems to have been a weak and arrogant man, swelled up
with immeasurable insolence by the brief authority thus undeservedly
bestowed on him. From the very first, he regarded Columbus in the light of
a convicted criminal, on whom it was his business to execute the sentence
of the law. Accordingly, on his arrival at the island, after an
ostentatious parade of his credentials, he commanded the admiral to appear
before him, and, without affecting the forms of a legal inquiry, at once
caused him to be manacled, and thrown into prison. Columbus submitted
without the least show of resistance, displaying in this sad reverse that
magnanimity of soul, which would have touched the heart of a generous
adversary. Bobadilla, however, discovered no such sensibility; and, after
raking together all the foul or frivolous calumnies, which hatred or the
hope of favor could extort, he caused the whole loathsome mass of
accusation to be sent back to Spain with the admiral, whom he commanded to
be kept strictly in irons during the passage; "afraid," says Ferdinand
Columbus bitterly, "lest he might by any chance swim back again to the
island." [27]

This excess of malice served, as usual, however, to defeat itself. So
enormous an outrage shocked the minds of those most prejudiced against
Columbus. All seemed to feel it as a national dishonor, that such
indignities should be heaped on the man, who, whatever might be his
indiscretions, had done so much for Spain, and for the whole civilized
world; a man, who, in the honest language of an old writer, "had he lived
in the days of ancient Greece or Rome, would have had statues raised, and
temples and divine honors dedicated to him, as to a divinity!" [28]

None partook of the general indignation more strongly than Ferdinand and
Isabella, who, in addition to their personal feelings of disgust at so
gross an act, readily comprehended the whole weight of obloquy, which its
perpetration must necessarily attach to them. They sent to Cadiz without
an instant's delay, and commanded the admiral to be released from his
ignominious fetters. They wrote to him in the most benignant terms,
expressing their sincere regret for the unworthy usage which he had
experienced, and requesting him to appear before them as speedily as
possible, at Granada, where the court was then staying. At the same time,
they furnished him a thousand ducats for his expenses, and a handsome
retinue to escort him on his journey.

Columbus, revived by these assurances of the kind dispositions of his
sovereigns, proceeded without delay to Granada, which he reached on the
17th of December. Immediately on his arrival he obtained an audience. The
queen could not repress her tears at the sight of the man, whose
illustrious services had met with such ungenerous requital, as it were, at
her own hands. She endeavored to cheer his wounded spirit with the most
earnest assurances of her sympathy and sorrow for his misfortunes.
Columbus, from the first moment of his disgrace, had relied on the good
faith and kindness of Isabella; for, as an ancient Castilian writer
remarks, "she had ever favored him beyond the king her husband, protecting
his interests, and showing him especial kindness and good-will." When he
beheld the emotion of his royal mistress, and listened to her consolatory
language, it was too much for his loyal and generous heart; and, throwing
himself on his knees, he gave vent to his feelings, and sobbed aloud. The
sovereigns endeavored to soothe and tranquillize his mind, and, after
testifying their deep sense of his injuries, promised him, that impartial
justice should be done his enemies, and that he should be reinstated in
his emoluments and honors. [29]

Much censure has attached to the Spanish government for its share in this
unfortunate transaction; both in the appointment of so unsuitable an agent
as Bobadilla, and the delegation of such broad and indefinite powers. With
regard to the first, it is now too late, as has already been remarked, to
ascertain on what grounds such a selection could have been made. There is
no evidence of his being indebted for his promotion to intrigue or any
undue influence. Indeed, according to the testimony of one of his
contemporaries, he was reputed "an extremely honest and religious man,"
and the good bishop Las Casas expressly declares that "no imputation of
dishonesty or avarice had ever rested on his character." [30] It was an
error of judgment; a grave one, indeed, and must pass for as much as it is

But in regard to the second charge, of delegating unwarrantable powers, it
should be remembered, that the grievances of the colony were represented
as of a most pressing nature, demanding a prompt and peremptory remedy;
that a more limited and partial authority, dependent for its exercise on
instructions from the government at home, might be attended with ruinous
delays; that this authority must necessarily be paramount to that of
Columbus, who was a party implicated, and that, although unlimited
jurisdiction was given over all offences committed against him, yet
neither he nor his friends were to be molested in any other way than by
temporary suspension from office, and a return to their own country, where
the merits of their case might be submitted to the sovereigns themselves.

This view of the matter, indeed, is perfectly conformable to that of
Ferdinand Columbus, whose solicitude, so apparent in every page, for his
father's reputation, must have effectually counterbalanced any repugnance
he may have felt at impugning the conduct of his sovereigns. "The only
ground of complaint," he remarks, in summing up his narrative of the
transaction, "which I can bring against their Catholic Highnesses is, the
unfitness of the agent whom they employed, equally malicious and ignorant.
Had they sent out a suitable person, the admiral would have been highly
gratified; since he had more than once requested the appointment of some
one with full powers of jurisdiction in an affair, where he felt some
natural delicacy in moving, in consequence of his own brother having been
originally involved in it." And, as to the vast magnitude of the powers
intrusted to Bobadilla, he adds," It can scarcely be wondered at,
considering the manifold complaints against the admiral made to their
Highnesses." [31]

Although the king and queen determined without hesitation on the complete
restoration of the admiral's honors, they thought it better to defer his
reappointment to the government of the colony, until the present
disturbances should be settled, and he might return there with personal
safety and advantage. In the mean time, they resolved to send out a
competent individual, and to support him with such a force as should
overawe faction, and enable him to place the tranquillity of the island on
a permanent basis.

The person selected was Don Nicolas de Ovando, comendador of Lares, of the
military order of Alcantara. He was a man of acknowledged prudence and
sagacity, temperate in his habits, and plausible and politic in his
address. It is sufficient evidence of his standing at court, that he had
been one of the ten youths selected to be educated in the palace as
companions for the prince of the Asturias. He was furnished with a fleet
of two and thirty sail, carrying twenty-five hundred persons, many of them
of the best families in the kingdom, with every variety of article for the
nourishment and permanent prosperity of the colony; and the general
equipment was in a style of expense and magnificence, such as had never
before been lavished on any armada destined for the western waters. [32]

The new governor was instructed immediately on his arrival to send
Bobadilla home for trial. Under his lax administration, abuses of every
kind had multiplied to an alarming extent, and the poor natives, in
particular, were rapidly wasting away under the new and most inhuman
arrangement of the _repartimientos_, which he established. Isabella
now declared the Indians free; and emphatically enjoined on the
authorities of Hispaniola to respect them as true and faithful vassals of
the crown. Ovando was especially to ascertain the amount of losses
sustained by Columbus and his brothers, to provide for their full
indemnification, and to secure the unmolested enjoyment in future of all
their lawful rights and pecuniary perquisites. [33]

Fortified with the most ample instructions in regard to these and other
details of his administration, the governor embarked on board his
magnificent flotilla, and crossed the bar of St. Lucar, February 15th,
1502. A furious tempest dispersed the fleet, before it had been out a
week, and a report reached Spain that it had entirely perished. The
sovereigns, overwhelmed with sorrow at this fresh disaster, which
consigned so many of their best and bravest to a watery grave, shut
themselves up in their palace for several days. Fortunately, the report
proved ill-founded. The fleet rode out the storm in safety, one vessel
only having perished, and the remainder reached in due time its place of
destination. [34]

The Spanish government has been roundly taxed with injustice and
ingratitude for its delay in restoring Columbus to the full possession of
his colonial authority; and that too by writers generally distinguished
for candor and impartiality. No such animadversion, however, as far as I
am aware, is countenanced by contemporary historians; and it appears to be
wholly undeserved. Independent of the obvious inexpediency of returning
him immediately to the theatre of disaffection, before the embers of
ancient animosity had had time to cool, there were several features in his
character, which make it doubtful whether he were the most competent
person, in any event, for an emergency demanding at once the greatest
coolness, consummate address, and acknowledged personal authority. His
sublime enthusiasm, which carried him victorious over every obstacle,
involved him also in numerous embarrassments, which men of more phlegmatic
temperament would have escaped. It led him to count too readily on a
similar spirit in others,--and to be disappointed. It gave an exaggerated
coloring to his views and descriptions, that inevitably led to a reaction
in the minds of such as embarked their all on the splendid dreams of a
fairy land, which they were never to realize. [35] Hence a fruitful source
of discontent and disaffection in his followers. It led him, in his
eagerness for the achievement of his great enterprises, to be less
scrupulous and politic as to the means, than a less ardent spirit would
have been. His pertinacious adherence to the scheme of Indian slavery, and
hhis impolitic regulation compelling the labor of the hidalgos, are
pertinent examples of this. [36] He was, moreover, a foreigner, without
rank, fortune, or powerful friends; and his high and sudden elevation
naturally raised him up a thousand enemies among a proud, punctilious, and
intensely national people. Under these multiplied embarrassments,
resulting from peculiarities of character and situation, the sovereigns
might well be excused for not intrusting Columbus, at this delicate
crisis, with disentangling the meshes of intrigue and faction, in which
the affairs of the colony were so unhappily involved.

I trust these remarks will not be construed into an insensibility to the
merits and exalted services of Columbus. "A world," to borrow the words,
though not the application, of the Greek historian, "is his monument." His
virtues shine With too bright a lustre to be dimmed by a few natural
blemishes; but it becomes necessary to notice these, to vindicate the
Spanish government from the imputation of perfidy and ingratitude, where
it has been most freely urged, and apparently with the least foundation.

It is more difficult to excuse the paltry equipment with which the admiral
was suffered to undertake his fourth and last voyage. The object proposed
by this expedition was the discovery of a passage to the great Indian
Ocean, which, he inferred sagaciously enough from his premises, though, as
it turned out, to the great inconvenience of the commercial world, most
erroneously, must open somewhere between Cuba and the coast of Paria. Four
caravels, only, were furnished for the expedition, the largest of which
did not exceed seventy tons' burden; a force forming a striking contrast
to the magnificent armada lately intrusted to Ovando, and altogether too
insignificant to be vindicated on the ground of the different objects
proposed by the two expeditions. [37]

Columbus, oppressed with growing infirmities, and a consciousness,
perhaps, of the decline of popular favor, manifested unusual despondency
previously to his embarkation. He talked even of resigning the task of
further discovery to his brother Bartholomew. "I have established," said
he, "all that I proposed,--the existence of land in the west. I have
opened the gate, and others may enter at their pleasure; as indeed they
do, arrogating to themselves the title of discoverers, to which they can
have little claim, following as they do in my track." He little thought
the ingratitude of mankind would sanction the claims of these adventurers
so far as to confer the name of one of them on that world, which his
genius had revealed. [38]

The great inclination, however, which the admiral had to serve the
Catholic sovereigns, and especially the most serene queen, says Ferdinand
Columbus, induced him to lay aside his scruples, and encounter the perils
and fatigues of another voyage. A few weeks before his departure, he
received a gracious letter from Ferdinand and Isabella, the last ever
addressed to him by his royal mistress, assuring him of their purpose to
maintain inviolate all their engagements with him, and to perpetuate the
inheritance of his honors in his family. [39] Comforted and cheered by
assurances, the veteran navigator, quitting the port of Cadiz, on the 9th
of March, 1502, once more spread his sails for those golden regions, which
he had approached so near, but was destined never to reach.

It will not be necessary to pursue his course further than to notice a
single occurrence of most extraordinary nature. The admiral had received
instructions not to touch at Hispaniola on his outward voyage. The leaky
condition of one of his ships, however, and the signs of an approaching
storm, induced him to seek a temporary refuge there; at the same time, he
counselled Ovando to delay for a few days the departure of the fleet, then
riding in the harbor, which was destined to carry Bobadilla and the rebels
with their ill-gotten treasures back to Spain. The churlish governor,
however, not only refused Columbus admittance, but gave orders for the
instant departure of the vessels. The apprehensions of the experienced
mariner were fully justified by the event. Scarcely had the Spanish fleet
quitted its moorings, before one of those tremendous hurricanes came on,
which so often desolate these tropical regions, sweeping down everything
before it, and fell with such violence on the little navy, that out of
eighteen ships, of which it was composed, not more than three or four
escaped. The rest all foundered, including those which contained
Bobadilla, and the late enemies of Columbus. Two hundred thousand
_castellanos_ of gold, half of which belonged to the government, went
to the bottom with them. The only one of the fleet which made its way back
to Spain was a crazy, weather-beaten bark, which contained the admiral's
property, amounting to four thousand ounces of gold. To complete these
curious coincidences, Columbus with his little squadron rode out the storm
in safety under the lee of the island, where he had prudently taken
shelter, on being so rudely repulsed from the port. This even-handed
retribution of justice, so uncommon in human affairs, led many to discern
the immediate interposition of Providence. Others, in a less Christian
temper, referred it all to the necromancy of the admiral. [40]


[1] "Inter has Italiae procellas magis indies ac magis alas protendit
Hispania, imperium auget, gloriam nomenque suum ad Antipodes porriget."
Peter Martyr, Opus Epist., epist. 146.

[2] See, among others, a letter of Dr. Chanca, who accompanied Columbus on
his second voyage. It is addressed to the authorities of Seville. After
noticing the evidences of gold in Hispaniola, he says; "Ansi que de cierto
los Reyes nuestros Señores desde agora se pueden tener por los mas
prosperos e mas ricos Principes del mundo, porque tal cosa hasta agora no
se ha visto ni leido de ningnno en el mundo, porque verdaderamente a otro
camino que los navios vuelvan puedan llevar tanta cantidad de oro que se
pueden maravillar cualesquiera que lo supieren." In another part of the
letter, the Doctor is equally sanguine in regard to the fruitfulness of
the soil and climate. Letra de Dr. Chanca, apud Navarrete, Coleccion de
Viages, tom. i. pp. 198-224.

[3] Fernando Colon, Hist. de Almirante, cap. 60, 62.--Muñoz, Hist. del
Nuevo-Mundo, lib. 5, sec. 25.--Herrera, Indias Occidentales, dec. 1, lib.
2, cap. 9.--Benzoni, Novi Orbis Hist., lib. 1, cap. 9.

[4] The Indians had some grounds for relying on the efficacy of
starvation, if, as Las Casas gravely asserts, "one Spaniard consumed in a
single day as much as would suffice three families!" Llorente, Oeuvres de
Don Barthélemi de las Casas, precedées de sa Vie, (Paris, 1822,) tom. i.
p. 11.

[5] Martyr, De Rebus Oceanicis, dec. 1, lib. 4.--Goinara, Hist. de las
Indias, cap. 20, tom. ii.--Herrera, Indias Occidentales, dec. 1, lib. 2,
cap. 12.

[6] Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, tom. ii., Doc. Dipl., no. 101.--
Fernando Colon, Hist. del Almirante, cap. 64.--Muñoz, Hist. del Nuevo-
Mundo, lib. 5, sec. 31.

[7] Bernaldez, Reyes Católicos, MS., cap. 131.--Herrera expresses the same
charitable opinion. "Muy claramente se conocio que el demonio estava,
apoderado de aquella gente, y la traia ciega y engañada, hablandoles, y
mostrandoles en diversas figuras." Indias Occidentales, lib. 3, cap. 4.

[8] Bernaldez, Reyes Católicos, MS., cap. 131.--Muñoz, Hist. del Nuevo-
Mundo, lib. 6, sec. 1.

[9] Columbus, in his letter to Prince John's nurse, dated 1500, makes the
following ample acknowledgment of the queen's early protection of him. "En
todos hobo incredulidad, y a la Reina mi Señora dio Nuestro Señor el
espiritu de inteligencia y esfuerzo grande, y la hizo de todo heredera
como a cara y muy amada hija." "Su Alteza lo aprobaba al contrario, y lo
sostuvo fasta que pudo." Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, tom. i. p. 266.

[10] See the letters to Columbus, dated May 14th, 1493, August, 1494, apud
Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, tom. ii. pp. 66, 154, et mult. al.

[11] The salaries alone, annually disbursed by the crown to persons
resident in the colony, amounted to six million maravedies. Muñoz, Hist.
del Nuevo-Mundo, lib. 5, sec. 33.

[12] Idem, lib. 6, sec. 2.--Fernando Colon, Hist. del Almirante, cap. 64.
--Herrera, Indias Occidentales, lib. 3, cap. 1.

[13] Such, for example, was the grant of an immense tract of land in
Hispaniola, with the title of count or duke, as the admiral might prefer.
Muñoz, Hist. del Nuevo-Mundo, lib. 6, sec. 17.

[14] The instrument establishing the _mayorazgo_, or perpetual entail
of Columbus's estates, contains an injunction, that "his heirs shall never
use any other signature than that of 'the Admiral, _el Almirante_,
whatever other titles and honors may belong to them." That title indicated
his peculiar achievements, and it was an honest pride which led him by
this simple expedient to perpetuate the remembrance of them in his
posterity. See the original document, apud Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages,
tom. ii. pp. 221-235.

[15] Muñoz, Hist. del Nuevo-Mundo, lib. 6, sec. 20.--Fernando Colon, Hist.
del Almirante, cap. 64.--Zuñiga, Annales de Sevilla, año 1496.

[16] Peter Martyr, De Rebus Oceanicis, dec. 1, lib. e.--Navarrete,
Coleccion de Viages, tom. ii., Doc. Dipl., nos. 116, 120.--Tercer Viage de
Colon, apud Navarrete, tom. i. p. 245.--Benzoni, Novi Orbis Hist., lib. 1,
cap. 10, ll.--Herrera, Indias Occidentales, dec. 1, lib. 3, cap. 10, ll.--
Muñoz, Hist. del Nuevo-Mundo, lib. 6, sec. 19.

[17] Gomara, Hist. de las Indias, cap. 20.--Benzoni, Novi Orbis Hist.,
lib. 1, cap. 10, ll.--Garibay, Compendio, tom. ii. lib. 19, cap. 7.--
Fernando Colon, Hist. del Almirante, cap. 73-82.--Peter Martyr, De Rebus
Oceanicis, dec. 1, lib. 5.--Herrera, Indias Occidentales, dec. 1, lib. 3,
cap. 16.--Muñoz, Hist. del Nuevo-Mundo, lib. 6, sec. 40-42.

[18] Garibay, Compendio, tom. ii. lib. 19, cap. 7.--Peter Martyr, De Rebus
Oceanicis, dec. 1, lib. 7.--Gomara, Hist. de las Indias, cap. 23.--
Benzoni, Novi Orbis Hist., cap. 11.

Ferdinand Columbus mentions that he and his brother, who were then pages
to the queen, could not stir out into the courtyard of the Alhambra,
without being followed by fifty of these vagabonds, who insulted them in
the grossest manner, "as the sons of the adventurer, who had led so many
brave Spanish hidalgos to seek their graves in the land of vanity and
delusion which he had found out." Hist. del Almirante, cap. 85.

[19] Benzoni, Novi Orbis Hist., lib. 1, cap. 12.--National feeling
operated, no doubt, as well as avarice to sharpen the tooth of slander
against the admiral. "Aegre multi patiuntur," says Columbus's countryman,
with honest warmth, "peregrinum hominem, et quidem e nostrâ Italia ortum,
tantum honoris ac gloriae consequutum, ut non tantum Hispanicae gentis,
sed et cujusvis alterius homines superaverit." Benzoni, lib. 1, cap. 5.

[20] Herrera, Indias Occidentales, lib. 4, cap. 7, 10, and more especially
lib. 6, cap. 13.--Las Casas, Oeuvres, ed. de Llorente, tom. i. p. 306.

[21] "La qualité de Catholique Romain," says the philosophic Villers,
"avait tout-à-fait remplacé celle d'homme, et même de Chrétien. Qui
n'était pas Catholique Romain, n'était pas homme, était moins qu'homme; et
eût-il été un souverain, c'était une bonne action que de lui ôter la vie."
(Essai sur la Réformation, p. 56. ed. 1820.) Las Casas rests the title of
the Spanish crown to its American possessions on the original papal grant,
made on condition of converting the natives to Christianity. The pope, as
vicar of Jesns Christ, possesses plenary authority over all men for the
safety of their souls. He might, therefore, in furtherance of this, confer
on the Spanish sovereigns _imperial supremacy_ over all lands discovered
by them,--not, however, to the prejudice of authorities already existing
there, and over such nations only as voluntarily embraced Christianity.
Such is the sum of his thirty propositions, submitted to the council of
the Indies for the inspection of Charles V. (Oeuvres, ed. De Llorente,
tom. i. pp. 286-311.) One may see in these arbitrary and whimsical
limitations, the good bishop's desire to reconcile what reason told him
were the natural rights of man, with what faith prescribed as the
legitimate prerogative of the pope. Few Roman Catholics at the present day
will be found sturdy enough to maintain this lofty prerogative, however
carefully limited. Still fewer in the sixteenth century would have
challenged it. Indeed, it is but just to Las Casas, to admit, that the
general scope of his arguments, here and elsewhere, is very far in advance
of his age.

[22] A Spanish casuist founds the right of his nation to enslave the
Indians, among other things, on their smoking tobacco, and not trimming
their beards _à l'Espagnole_. At least, this is Montesquieu's
interpretation of it. (Esprit des Loix, lib. 15, chap. 3.) The doctors of
the Inquisition could hardly have found a better reason.

[23] 23 Muñoz, Hist. del Nuevo-Mundo, lib. 5, sec. 34.--Navarrete,
Coleccion de Viages, tom. ii., Doc. Dipl., no. 92.--Herrera, Indias
Occidentales, lib. 3, cap. 4.

[24] "Among other things that the holy fathers carried out," says Robles,
"was a little organ and several bells, which greatly delighted the simple
people, so that from one to two thousand persons were baptized every day."
(Vida de Ximenez, p. 120.)

Ferdinand Columbus remarks with some _naïveté_, that "the Indians were so
obedient from their fear of the admiral, and at the same time so desirous
to oblige him, that they voluntarily became Christians!" Hist. del
Almirante, cap. 84.

[25] Herrera, Indias Occidentales, lib. 4, cap. 7.--Navarrete, Coleccion
de Viages, tom. ii., Doc. Dipl., no. 134.

Las Casas observes, that "so great was the queen's indignation at the
admiral's misconduct in this particular, that nothing but the
consideration of his great public services saved him from immediate
disgrace." Oeuvres, ed. de Llorente, tom. i. p. 306.

[26] Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, tom. ii., Doc. Dipl., nos. 127-130.
The original commission to Bobadilla was dated March 21st, and May 21st,
1499; the execution of it, however, was delayed until July, 1500, in the
hope, doubtless, of obtaining such tidings from Hispaniola as should
obviate the necessity of a measure so prejudicial to the admiral.

[27] Fernando Colon, Hist. del Almirante, cap. 86.--Garibay, Compendio,
tom. ii. lib. 19, cap. 7.--Peter Martyr, De Rebus Oceanicis, dec. 1, lib.
7.--Gomara, Hist. de las Indias, cap. 23.--Herrera, Indias Occidentales,
lib. 4, cap. 10.--Benzoni, Novi Orbis Hist., lib. 1, cap. 12.

[28] Benzoni, Novi Orbis Hist., lib. 1, cap. 12.--Herrera, Indias
Occidentales, lib. 6, cap. 15.

Ferdinand Columbus tells us, that his father kept the fetters in which he
was brought home, hanging up in an apartment of his house, as a perpetual
memorial of national ingratitude, and, when he died, ordered them to be
buried in the same grave with himself. Hist. del Almirante, cap. 86.

[29] Garibay, Compendio, tom. ii. lib. 19, cap. 7.--Peter Martyr, De Rebus
Oceanicis, dec. 1, lib. 7.--Fernando Colon, Hist. del Almirante, cap. 86,
87.--Herrera, Indias Occidentales, dec. I, lib. 4, cap. 8-10.--Benzoni,
Novi Orbis Hist., lib. 1, cap. 12.

[30] Oviedo, Hist. Gen. de las Ind., p. 1, lib. 3, cap. 6.--Las Casas,
lib. 2, cap. 6, apud Navarrete, tom. i., introd., p. 99.

[31] Fernando Colon, Hist. del Almirante, cap. 86.

[32] Herrera, Indias Occidentales, dec. 1, lib. 4, cap. 11.--Fernando
Colon, Hist. del Almirante, cap. 87.--Benzoni, Novi Orbis Hist., lib. 1,
cap. 12.--Mem. de la Acad. de Hist., tom. vi. p. 385.

[33] Herrera, Indias Occidentales, lib. 4, cap. 11-13.--Navarrete,
Coleccion de Viages, tom. ii., Doc. Dipl., nos. 138,144.--Fernando Colon,
Hist. del Almirante, cap. 87.

[34] Herrera, Indias Occidentales, lib. 5, cap. 1.

[35] The high devotional feeling of Columbus led him to trace out
allusions in Scripture to the various circumstances and scenes of his
adventurous life. Thus he believed his great discovery announced in the
Apocalypse, and in Isaiah; he identified, as I have before stated, the
mines of Hispaniola with those which furnished Solomon with materials for
his temple; he fancied that he had determined the actual locality of the
garden of Eden in the newly discovered region of Paria. But his greatest
extravagance was his project of a crusade for the recovery of the Holy
Sepulchre. This he cherished from the first hour of his discovery,
pressing it in the most urgent manner on the sovereigns, and making actual
provision for it in his testament. This was a flight, however, beyond the
spirit even of this romantic age, and probably received as little serious
attention from the queen, as from her more cool and calculating husband.
Peter Martyr, De Rebus Oceanicis, dec. 1, lib. 6.--Tercer, Viage de Colon,
apud Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, tom. i. p. 259.--tom. ii., Doc.
Dipl., no. 140.--Herrera, Indias Occidentales, lib. 6, cap. 15.

[36] Another example was the injudicious punishment of delinquents by
diminishing their regular allowance of food, a measure so obnoxious as to
call for the interference of the sovereigns, who prohibited it altogether.
(Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, tom. ii., Doc. Dipl., 97.) Herrera, who
must be admitted to have been in no degree insensible to the merits of
Columbus, closes his account of the various accusations urged against him
and his brothers, with the remark, that, "with every allowance for
calumny, they must be confessed not to have governed the Castilians with
the moderation that they ought to have done." Indias Occidentales, lib. 4,
cap. 9.

[37] Garibay, Compendio, tom. ii. lib. 19, cap. 14.--Fernando Colon, Hist.
del Almirante, cap. 88.--Herrera, Indias Occidentales, lib. 5, cap. 1.--
Benzoni, Novi Orbis Hist., cap. 14.

[38] It would be going out of our way to investigate the pretensions of
Amerigo Vespucci to the honor of first discovering the South American
continent. The reader will find them displayed with perspicuity and candor
by Mr. Irving, in his "Life of Columbus." (Appendix, No. 9.) Few will be
disposed to contest the author's conclusion respecting their fallacy,
though all may not have the same charity as he, in tracing its possible
origin to an editorial blunder, instead of wilful fabrication on the part
of Vespucci; in which light, indeed, it seems to have been regarded by the
two most ancient and honest historians of the event, Las Casas and

Mr. Irving's conclusions, however, have since been confirmed, in the
fullest manner, by M. de Humboldt, in the fifth volume of his "Géographie
du Nouveau Continent," published in 1839, a year after the preceding
portion of this note was first printed; in which he has assembled a mass
of testimony, suggesting the most favorable impressions of Vespucci's
innocence of the various charges brought against him.

Since the appearance of Mr. Irving's work, Señor Navarrete has published
the third volume of his "Coleccion de Viages y Descubrimientos," etc.,
containing, among other things, the original letters recording Vespucci's
American voyages, illustrated by all the authorities and facts, that could
come within the scope of his indefatigable researches. The whole weight of
evidence leads irresistibly to the conviction, that Columbus is entitled
to the glory of being the original discoverer of the southern continent,
as well as islands, of the western hemisphere. (Coleccion de Viages, tom.
iii. pp. 183-334.)

In addition to the preceding writers, the American reader will find the
claims of Vespucci discussed, with much ingenuity and careful examination
of authorities, by Mr. Cushing, in his "Reminiscences of Spain," vol. ii.
pp. 210 et seq.

[39] Fernando Colon, Hist. del Almirante, cap. 87.--Herrera notices this
letter, written, he says, "con tanta humanidad, que parecia extraordinaria
de lo que usavan con otros, y no sin razon, pues jamas nadie les hizo tal
servicio," Indias Occidentales, lib. 5, cap. 1.

Among other instances of the queen's personal regard for Columbus, may be
noticed her receiving his two sons, Diego and Fernando, as her own pages,
on the death of Prince John, in whose service they had formerly been.
(Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, tom. ii., Doc. Dipl., 125.)

By an ordinance of 1593, we find Diego Colon made _contino_ of the
royal household, with an annual salary of 50,000 maravedies. Ibid., Doc.
Dipl., no. 150.

[40] Peter Martyr, De Rebus Oceanicis, dec. 1, lib. 10.--Garibay,
Compendio, tom. ii. lib. 19, cap. 14.--Fernando Colon, Hist. del
Almirante, cap. 88.--Benzoni, Novi Orbis Hist., cap. 12.--Herrera, Indias
Occidentals, lib. 5, cap. 2.



Careful Provision for the Colonies.--License for Private Voyages.--
Important Papal Concessions.--The Queen's Zeal for Conversion.--Immediate
Profits from the Discoveries.--Their Moral Consequences.--Their
Geographical Extent.

A consideration of the colonial policy pursued during Isabella's lifetime
has been hitherto deferred to avoid breaking the narrative of Columbus's
personal adventures. I shall now endeavor to present the reader with a
brief outline of it, as far as can be collected from imperfect and scanty
materials; for, however incomplete in itself, it becomes important as
containing the germ of the gigantic system developed in later ages.

Ferdinand and Isabella manifested from the first an eager and enlightened
curiosity in reference to their new acquisitions, constantly interrogating
the admiral minutely as to their soil and climate, their various vegetable
and mineral products, and especially the character of the uncivilized
races who inhabited them. They paid the greatest deference to his
suggestions, as before remarked, and liberally supplied the infant
settlement with whatever could contribute to its nourishment and permanent
prosperity. [1] Through their provident attention, in a very few years
after its discovery, the island of Hispaniola was in possession of the
most important domestic animals, as well as fruits and vegetables of the
Old World, some of which have since continued to furnish the staple of a
far more lucrative commerce than was ever anticipated from its gold mines.

Emigration to the new countries was encouraged by the liberal tenor of the
royal ordinances passed from time to time. The settlers in Hispaniola were
to have their passage free; to be excused from taxes; to have the absolute
property of such plantations on the island as they should engage to
cultivate for four years; and they were furnished with a gratuitous supply
of grain and stock for their farms. All exports and imports were exempted
from duty; a striking contrast to the narrow policy of later ages. Five
hundred persons, including scientific men and artisans of every
description, were sent out and maintained at the expense of government. To
provide for the greater security and quiet of the island, Ovando was
authorized to gather the residents into towns, which were endowed with the
privileges appertaining to similar corporations in the mother country; and
a number of married men, with their families, were encouraged to establish
themselves in them, with the view of giving greater solidity and
permanence to the settlement. [3]

With these wise provisions were mingled others savoring too strongly of
the illiberal spirit of the age. Such were those prohibiting Jews, Moors,
or indeed any but Castilians, for whom the discovery was considered
exclusively to have been made, from inhabiting, or even visiting, the New
World. The government kept a most jealous eye upon what it regarded as its
own peculiar perquisites, reserving to itself the exclusive possession of
all minerals, dyewoods, and precious stones, that should be discovered;
and although private persons were allowed to search for gold, they were
subjected to the exorbitant tax of two-thirds, subsequently reduced to
one-fifth, of all they should obtain, for the crown. [4]

The measure which contributed more effectually than any other, at this
period, to the progress of discovery and colonization, was the license
granted, under certain regulations, in 1495, for voyages undertaken by
private individuals. No use was made of this permission until some years
later, in 1499. The spirit of enterprise had flagged, and the nation had
experienced something like disappointment on contrasting the meagre
results of their own discoveries with the dazzling successes of the
Portuguese, who had struck at once into the very heart of the jewelled
east. The report of the admiral's third voyage, however, and the beautiful
specimens of pearls which he sent home from the coast of Paria, revived
the cupidity of the nation. Private adventurers now proposed to avail
themselves of the license already granted, and to follow up the track of
discovery on their own account. The government, drained by its late heavy
expenditures, and jealous of the spirit of maritime adventure beginning to
show itself in the other nations of Europe, [5] willingly acquiesced in a
measure, which, while it opened a wide field of enterprise for its
subjects, secured to itself all the substantial benefits of discovery,
without any of the burdens.

The ships fitted out under the general license were required to reserve
one-tenth of their tonnage for the crown, as well as two-thirds of all the
gold, and ten per cent. of all other commodities which they should
procure. The government promoted these expeditions by a bounty on all
vessels of six hundred tons and upwards, engaged in them. [6]

With this encouragement the more wealthy merchants of Seville, Cadiz, and
Palos, the old theatre of nautical enterprise, freighted and sent out
little squadrons of three or four vessels each, which they intrusted to
the experienced mariners, who had accompanied Columbus in his first
voyage, or since followed in his footsteps. They held in general the same
course pursued by the admiral on his last expedition, exploring the coasts
of the great southern continent. Some of the adventurers returned with
such rich freights of gold, pearls, and other precious commodities, as
well compensated the fatigues and perils of the voyage. But the greater
number were obliged to content themselves with the more enduring but
barren honors of discovery. [7]

The active spirit of enterprise now awakened, and the more enlarged
commercial relations with the new colonies, required a more perfect
organization of the department for Indian affairs, the earliest vestiges
of which have been already noticed in a preceding chapter. [8] By an
ordinance dated at Alcalá, January 20th, 1503, it was provided that a
board should be established, consisting of three functionaries, with the
titles of treasurer, factor, and comptroller. Their permanent residence
was assigned in the old alcazar of Seville, where they were to meet every
day for the despatch of business. The board was expected to make itself
thoroughly acquainted with whatever concerned the colonies, and to afford
the government all information, that could be obtained, affecting their
interests and commercial prosperity. It was empowered to grant licenses
under the regular conditions, to provide for the equipment of fleets, to
determine their destination, and furnish them instructions on sailing. All
merchandise for exportation was to be deposited in the alcazar, where the
return cargoes were to be received, and contracts made for their sale.
Similar authority was given to it over the trade with the Barbary coast
and the Canary Islands. Its supervision was to extend in like manner over
all vessels which might take their departure from the port of Cadiz, as
well as from Seville. With these powers were combined others of a purely
judicial character, authorizing them to take cognizance of questions
arising out of particular voyages, and of the colonial trade in general.
In this latter capacity they were to be assisted by the advice of two
jurists, maintained by a regular salary from the government. [9]

Such were the extensive powers intrusted to the famous _Casa de
Contratacion_, or House of Trade, on this its first definite
organization; and, although its authority was subsequently somewhat
circumscribed by the appellate jurisdiction of the Council of the Indies,
it has always continued the great organ by which the commercial
transactions with the colonies have been conducted and controlled.

The Spanish government, while thus securing to itself the more easy and
exclusive management of the colonial trade, by confining it within one
narrow channel, discovered the most admirable foresight in providing for
its absolute supremacy in ecclesiastical affairs, where alone it could be
contested. By a bull of Alexander the Sixth, dated November 16th, 1501,
the sovereigns were empowered to receive all the tithes in the colonial
dominions. [10] Another bull, of Pope Julius the Second, July 28th, 1508,
granted them the right of collating to all benefices, of whatever
description, in the colonies, subject only to the approbation of the Holy
See. By these two concessions, the Spanish crown was placed at once at the
head of the church in its transatlantic dominions, with the absolute
disposal of all its dignities and emoluments. [11]

It has excited the admiration of more than one historian, that Ferdinand
and Isabella, with their reverence for the Catholic church, should have
had the courage to assume an attitude of such entire independence of its
spiritual chief. [12] But whoever has studied their reign, will regard
this measure as perfectly conformable to their habitual policy, which
never suffered a zeal for religion, or a blind deference to the church, to
compromise in any degree the independence of the crown. It is much more
astonishing, that pontiffs could be found content to divest themselves of
such important prerogatives. It was deviating widely from the subtle and
tenacious spirit of their predecessors; and, as the consequences came to
be more fully disclosed, furnished ample subject of regret to those who
succeeded them.

Such is a brief summary of the principal regulations adopted by Ferdinand
and Isabella for the administration of the colonies. Many of their
peculiarities, including most of their defects, are to be referred to the
peculiar circumstances under which the discovery of the New World was
effected. Unlike the settlements on the comparatively sterile shores of
North America, which were permitted to devise laws accommodated to their
necessities, and to gather strength in the habitual exercise of political
functions, the Spanish colonies were from the very first checked and
controlled by the over-legislation of the parent country. The original
project of discovery had been entered into with indefinite expectations of
gain. The verification of Columbus's theory of the existence of land in
the west gave popular credit to his conjecture, that that land was the
far-famed Indies. The specimens of gold and other precious commodities
found there, served to maintain the delusion. The Spanish government
regarded the expedition as its own private adventure, to whose benefits it
had exclusive pretensions. Hence those jealous regulations for securing to
itself a monopoly of the most obvious sources of profit, the dyewoods and
precious metals.

These impolitic provisions were relieved by others better suited to the
permanent interests of the colony. Such was the bounty offered in various
ways on the occupation and culture of land; the erection of
municipalities; the right of inter-colonial traffic, and of exporting and
importing merchandise of every description free of duty. [13] These and
similar laws show that the government, far from regarding the colonies
merely as a foreign acquisition to be sacrificed to the interests of the
mother country, as at a later period, was disposed to legislate for them
on more generous principles, as an integral portion of the monarchy.

Some of the measures, even, of a less liberal tenor, may be excused, as
sufficiently accommodated to existing circumstances. No regulation, for
example, was found eventually more mischievous in its operation than that
which confined the colonial trade to the single port of Seville, instead
of permitting it to find a free vent in the thousand avenues naturally
opened in every part of the kingdom; to say nothing of the grievous
monopolies and exactions, for which this concentration of a mighty traffic
on so small a point was found, in later times, to afford unbounded
facility. But the colonial trade was too limited in its extent, under
Ferdinand and Isabella, to involve such consequences. It was chiefly
confined to a few wealthy seaports of Andalusia, from the vicinity of
which the first adventurers had sallied forth on their career of
discovery. It was no inconvenience to them to have a common port of entry,
so central and accessible as Seville, which, moreover, by this arrangement
became a great mart for European trade, thus affording a convenient market
to the country for effecting its commercial exchanges with every quarter
of Christendom. [14] It was only when laws, adapted to the incipient
stages of commerce, were perpetuated to a period when that commerce had
swelled to such gigantic dimensions as to embrace every quarter of the
empire, that their gross impolicy became manifest.

It would not be giving a fair view of the great objects proposed by the
Spanish sovereigns in their schemes of discovery, to omit one which was
paramount to all the rest, with the queen at least,--the propagation of
Christianity among the heathen. The conversion and civilization of this
simple people form, as has been already said, the burden of most of her
official communications from the earliest period. [15] She neglected no
means for the furtherance of this good work, through the agency of
missionaries exclusively devoted to it, who were to establish their
residence among the natives, and win them to the true faith by their
instructions, and the edifying example of their own lives. It was with the
design of ameliorating the condition of the natives, that she sanctioned
the introduction into the colonies of negro slaves born in Spain. This she
did on the representation that the physical constitution of the African
was much better fitted than that of the Indian to endure severe toil under
a tropical climate. To this false principle of economizing human
suffering, we are indebted for that foul stain on the New World, which has
grown deeper and darker with the lapse of years. [16]

Isabella, however, was destined to have her benevolent designs, in regard
to the natives, defeated by her own subjects. The popular doctrine of the
absolute rights of the Christian over the heathen seemed to warrant the
exaction of labor from these unhappy beings to any degree, which avarice
on the one hand could demand, or human endurance concede on the other. The
device of the _repartimientos_ systematized and completed the whole
scheme of oppression. The queen, it is true, abolished them under Ovando's
administration, and declared the Indians "as free as her own subjects."
[17] But his representation, that the Indians, when no longer compelled to
work, withdrew from all intercourse with the Christians, thus annihilating
at once all hopes of their conversion, subsequently induced her to consent
that they should be required to labor moderately and for a reasonable
compensation. [18] This was construed with their usual latitude by the
Spaniards. They soon revived the old system of distribution on so terrific
a scale, that a letter of Columbus, written shortly after Isabella's
death, represents more than six-sevenths of the whole population of
Hispaniola to have melted away under it! [19] The queen was too far
removed to enforce the execution of her own beneficent measures; nor is it
probable, that she ever imagined the extent of their violation, for there
was no intrepid philanthropist, in that day, like Las Casas, to proclaim
to the world the wrongs and sorrows of the Indian. [20] A conviction,
however, of the unworthy treatment of the natives seems to have pressed
heavily on her heart; for in a codicil to her testament, dated a few days
only before her death, she invokes the kind offices of her successor in
their behalf in such strong and affectionate language, as plainly
indicates how intently her thoughts were occupied with their condition
down to the last hour of her existence. [21]

The moral grandeur of the maritime discoveries under this reign must not
so far dazzle us, as to lead to a very high estimate of their immediate
results in an economical view. Most of those articles which have since
formed the great staples of South American commerce, as cocoa, indigo,
cochineal, tobacco, etc., were either not known in Isabella's time, or not
cultivated for exportation. Small quantities of cotton had been brought to
Spain, but it was doubted whether the profit would compensate the expense
of raising it. The sugar-cane had been transplanted into Hispaniola, and
thrived luxuriantly in its genial soil. But it required time to grow it to
any considerable amount as an article of commerce; and this was still
further delayed by the distractions as well as avarice of the colony,
which grasped at nothing less substantial than gold itself. The only
vegetable product extensively used in trade was the brazil-wood, whose
beautiful dye and application to various ornamental purposes made it, from
the first, one of the most important monopolies of the crown.

The accounts are too vague to afford any probable estimate of the precious
metals obtained from the new territories previous to Ovando's mission.
Before the discovery of the mines of Hayna it was certainly very
inconsiderable. The size of some of the specimens of ore found there would
suggest magnificent ideas of their opulence. One piece of gold is reported
by the contemporary historians to have weighed three thousand two hundred
castellanos, and to have been so large, that the Spaniards served up a
roasted pig on it, boasting that no potentate in Europe could dine off so
costly a dish. [22] The admiral's own statement, that the miners obtained
from six gold castellanos to one hundred or even two hundred and fifty in
a day, allows a latitude too great to lead to any definite conclusion.
[23] More tangible evidence of the riches of the island is afforded by the
fact that two hundred thousand castellanos of gold went down in the ships
with Bobadilla. But this, it must be remembered, was the fruit of gigantic
efforts, continued, under a system of unexampled oppression, for more than
two years. To this testimony might be added that of the well-informed
historian of Seville, who infers from several royal ordinances that the
influx of the precious metals had been such, before the close of the
fifteenth century, as to affect the value of the currency, and the regular
prices of commodities. [24] These large estimates, however, are scarcely
reconcilable with the popular discontent at the meagreness of the returns
obtained from the New World, or with the assertion of Bernaldez, of the
same date with Zuñiga's reference, that, "so little gold had been brought
home as to raise a general belief that there was scarcely any in the
island." [25] This is still further confirmed by the frequent
representations of contemporary writers, that the expenses of the colonies
considerably exceeded the profits; and may account for the very limited
scale on which the Spanish government, at no time blind to its own
interests, pursued its schemes of discovery, as compared with its
Portuguese neighbors, who followed up theirs with a magnificent apparatus
of fleets and armies, that could have been supported only by the teeming
treasures of the Indies. [26]

While the colonial, commerce failed to produce immediately the splendid
returns which were expected, it was generally believed to have introduced
a physical evil into Europe, which, in the language of an eminent writer,
"more than counterbalanced all the benefits that resulted from the
discovery of the New World." I allude to the loathsome disease, which
Heaven has sent as the severest scourge of licentious intercourse between
the sexes; and which broke out with all the virulence of an epidemic in
almost every quarter of Europe, in a very short time after the discovery
of America. The coincidence of these two events led to the popular belief
of their connection with each other, though it derived little support from
any other circumstance. The expedition of Charles the Eighth, against
Naples, which brought the Spaniards, soon after, in immediate contact with
the various nations of Christendom, suggested a plausible medium for the
rapid communication of the disorder; and this theory of its origin and
transmission, gaining credit with time, which made it more difficult to be
refuted, has passed with little examination from the mouth of one
historian to another to the present day.

The extremely brief interval which elapsed, between the return of Columbus
and the simultaneous appearance of the disorder at the most distant points
of Europe, long since suggested a reasonable distrust of the correctness
of the hypothesis; and an American, naturally desirous of relieving his
own country from so melancholy a reproach, may feel satisfaction that the
more searching and judicious criticism of our own day has at length
established beyond a doubt that the disease, far from originating in the
New World, was never known there till introduced by Europeans. [27]

Whatever be the amount of physical good or evil, immediately resulting to
Spain from her new discoveries, their moral consequences were inestimable.
The ancient limits of human thought and action were overleaped; the veil
which had covered the secrets of the deep for so many centuries was
removed; another hemisphere was thrown open; and a boundless expansion
promised to science, from the infinite varieties in which nature was
exhibited in these unexplored regions. The success of the Spaniards
kindled a generous emulation in their Portuguese rivals, who soon after
accomplished their long-sought passage into the Indian seas, and thus
completed the great circle of maritime discovery. [28] It would seem as if
Providence had postponed this grand event, until the possession of
America, with its stores of precious metals, might supply such materials
for a commerce with the east, as should bind together the most distant
quarters of the globe. The impression made on the enlightened minds of
that day is evinced by the tone of gratitude and exultation, in which they
indulge, at being permitted to witness the consummation of these glorious
events, which their fathers had so long, but in vain, desired to see. [29]

The discoveries of Columbus occurred most opportunely for the Spanish
nation, at the moment when it was released from the tumultuous struggle in
which it had been engaged for so many years with the Moslems. The severe
schooling of these wars had prepared it for entering on a bolder theatre
of action, whose stirring and romantic perils raised still higher the
chivalrous spirit of the people. The operation of this spirit was shown in
the alacrity with which private adventurers embarked in expeditions to the
New World, under cover of the general license, during the last two years
of this century. Their efforts, combined with those of Columbus, extended
the range of discovery from its original limits, twenty-four degrees of
north latitude, to probably more than fifteen south, comprehending some of
the most important territories in the western hemisphere. Before the end
of 1500, the principal groups of the West Indian islands had been visited,
and the whole extent of the southern continent coasted, from the Bay of
Honduras to Cape St. Augustine. One adventurous mariner, indeed, named
Lepe, penetrated several degrees south of this, to a point not reached by
any other voyager for ten or twelve years after. A great part of the
kingdom of Brazil was embraced in this extent, and two successive
Castilian navigators landed and took formal possession of it for the crown
of Castile, previous to its reputed discovery by the Portuguese Cabral;
[30] although the claims to it were subsequently relinquished by the
Spanish Government, conformably to the famous line of demarkation
established by the treaty of Tordesillas. [31]

While the colonial empire of Spain was thus every day enlarging, the man
to whom it was all due was never permitted to know the extent or the value
of it. He died in the conviction in which he lived, that the land he had
reached was the long-sought Indies. But it was a country far richer than
the Indies; and, had he on quitting Cuba struck into a westerly, instead
of southerly direction, it would have carried him into the very depths of
the golden regions, whose existence he had so long and vainly predicted.
As it was, he "only opened the gates," to use his own language, for others
more fortunate than himself; and before he quitted Hispaniola for the last
time, the young adventurer arrived there, who was destined, by the
conquest of Mexico, to realize all the magnificent visions, which had been
derided as only visions, in the lifetime of Columbus.

* * * * *

The discovery of the New World was fortunately reserved for a period when
the human race was sufficiently enlightened to form some conception of its
importance. Public attention was promptly and eagerly directed to this
momentous event, so that few facts worthy of note, during the whole
progress of discovery from its earliest epoch, escaped contemporary
record. Many of these notices have, indeed, perished through neglect, in
the various repositories in which they were scattered. The researches of
Navarrete have rescued many, and will, it is to be hoped, many more, from
their progress to oblivion. The first two volumes of his compilation,
containing the journals and letters of Columbus, the correspondence of the
sovereigns with him, and a vast quantity of public and private documents,
form, as I have elsewhere remarked, the most authentic basis for a history
of that great man. Next to these in importance is the "History of the
Admiral," by his son Ferdinand, whose own experience and opportunities,
combined with uncommon literary attainments, eminently qualified him for
recording his father's extraordinary life. It must be allowed, that he has
done this with a candor and good faith seldom warped by any overweening,
though natural, partiality for his subject. His work met with a whimsical
fate. The original was early lost, but happily not before it had been
translated into the Italian, from which a Spanish version was afterwards
made; and from this latter, thus reproduced in the same tongue in which it
originally appeared, are derived the various translations of it into the
other languages of Europe. The Spanish version, which is incorporated into
Barcia's collection, is executed in a slovenly manner, and is replete with
chronological inaccuracies; a circumstance not very wonderful, considering
the curious transmigration it has undergone.

Another contemporary author of great value is Peter Martyr, who took so
deep an interest in the nautical enterprise of his day, as to make it,
independently of the abundant notices scattered through his
correspondence, the subject of a separate work. His history, "De Rebus
Oceanicis et Novo Orbe," has all the value which extensive learning, a
reflecting, philosophical mind, and intimate familiarity with the
principal actors in the scenes he describes, can give. Indeed, that no
source of information might be wanting to him, the sovereigns authorized
him to be present at the Council of the Indies, whenever any communication
was made to that body, respecting the progress of discovery. The principal
defects of his work arise from the precipitate manner in which the greater
part of it was put together, and the consequently imperfect and
occasionally contradictory statements which appear in it. But the honest
intentions of the author, who seems to have been fully sensible of his own
imperfections, and his liberal spirit, are so apparent, as to disarm
criticism in respect to comparatively venial errors.

But the writer who has furnished the greatest supply of materials for the
modern historian is Antonio de Herrera. He did not flourish, indeed, until
near a century after the discovery of America; but the post which he
occupied of historiographer of the Indies gave him free access to the most
authentic and reserved sources of information. He has availed himself of
these with great freedom; transferring whole chapters from the unpublished
narratives of his predecessors, especially of the good bishop Las Casas,
whose great work, "Crónica de las Indias Occidentales," contained too much
that was offensive to national feeling to be allowed the honors of the
press. The Apostle of the Indians, however, lives in the pages of Herrera,
who, while he has omitted the tumid and overheated declamation of the
original, is allowed by the Castilian critics to have retained whatever is
of most value, and exhibited it in a dress far superior to that of his
predecessor. It must not be omitted, however, that he is also accused of
occasional inadvertence in stating as fact, what Las Casas only adduced as
tradition or conjecture. His "Historia General de las Indias
Occidentales," bringing down the narrative to 1554, was published in four
volumes, at Madrid, in 1601. Herrera left several other histories of the
different states of Europe, and closed his learned labors in 1625, at the
age of sixty.

No Spanish historian had since arisen to contest the palm with Herrera on
his own ground, until, at the close of the last century, Don Juan Bautista
Muñoz was commissioned by the government to prepare a history of the New
World. The talents and liberal acquisitions of this scholar, the free
admission opened to him in every place of public and private deposit, and
the immense mass of materials collected by his indefatigable researches,
authorized the most favorable auguries of his success. These were
justified by the character of the first volume, which brought the
narrative of early discovery to the period of Bobadilla's mission, written
in a perspicuous and agreeable style, with such a discriminating selection
of incident and skilful arrangement, as convey the most distinct
impression to the mind of the reader. Unfortunately, the untimely death of
the author crushed his labors in the bud. Their fruits were not wholly
lost, however. Señor Navarrete, availing himself of them, in connection
with those derived from his own extensive investigations, is pursuing in
part the plan of Muñoz, by the publication of original documents; and Mr.
Irving has completed this design in regard to the early history of Spanish
discovery, by the use which he has made of these materials in constructing
out of them the noblest monument to the memory of Columbus.


[1] See, in particular, a letter to Columbus, dated August, 1494; (apud
Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, tom. ii., Doc. Dipl., no. 79;) also an
elaborate memorial presented by the admiral in the same year, setting
forth the various necessities of the colony, every item of which is
particularly answered by the sovereigns, in a manner showing how
attentively they considered his suggestions.--Ibid., tom. i. pp. 226-241.

[2] Abundant evidence of this is furnished by the long enumeration of
articles subjected to tithes, contained in an ordinance dated October 5th,
1501, showing with what indiscriminate severity this heavy burden was
imposed from the first on the most important products of human industry.
Recopilacion de Leyes de los Reynos de las Indias, (Madrid, 1774,) tom. i.
lib. 1, tit. 16, ley 2.

[3] Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, tom. ii., Doc. Dipl., no. 86, April
10th, 1495.--Nos. 103, 105-108, April 23d, 1497.--No. 110, May 6th, 1497.
--No. 121, July 22d, 1497.--Herrera, Indias Occidentales, dec. 1, lib. 4,
cap. 12.

[4] Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, tom. ii., Doc. Dipl., nos. 86, 121.--
Herrera, Indias Occidentales, lib. 3, cap. 2.--Muñoz, Hist. del Nuevo-
Mundo, lib. 5, sec. 34.

The exclusion of foreigners, at least all but "Catholic Christians," is
particularly recommended by Columbus in his first communication to the
crown. Primer Viage de Colon.

[5] Among the foreign adventurers were the two Cabots, who sailed in the
service of the English monarch, Henry VII., in 1497, and ran down the
whole coast of North America, from Newfoundland to within a few degrees of
Florida, thus encroaching, as it were, on the very field of discovery
preoccupied by the Spaniards.

[6] Muñoz, Hist. del Nuevo-Mundo, lib. 5, sect. 32.--Navarrete, Coleccion
de Viages, Doc. Dipl., no. 86.

[7] Columbus seems to have taken exceptions at the license for private
voyages, as an infringement of his own prerogatives. It is difficult,
however, to understand in what way. There is nothing in his original
capitulations with the government having reference to the matter, (see
Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, Doc. Dipl., no. 5,) while, in the letters
patent made out previously to his second voyage, the right of granting
licenses is expressly reserved to the crown, and to the superintendent,
Fonseca, equally with the admiral. (Doc. Dipl., no. 35.) The only legal
claim which he could make in all such expeditions as were not conducted
under him, was to one-eighth of the tonnage, and this was regularly
provided for in the general license. (Doc. Dipl., no. 86.) The sovereigns,
indeed, in consequence of his remonstrances, published an ordinance, June
2d, 1497, in which, after expressing their unabated respect for all the
rights and privileges of the admiral, they declared, that whatever shall
be found in their previous license repugnant to these shall be null and
void. (Doc. Dipl., 113.) The hypothetical form in which this is stated
shows that the sovereigns, with an honest desire of keeping their
engagements with Columbus, had not a very clear perception in what manner
they had been violated.

Peter Martyr, De Rebus Oceanicis, Dec. 1, lib. 9.--Herrera, Indias
Occidentales, lib. 4, cap. 11.--Benzoni, Novi Orbis Hist., cap. 13.

[8] Part I. Chap. 18, of this History.

[9] Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, tom. ii., Doc. Dipl., no. 148.--
Solorzano y Pereyra, Política Indiana, (Madrid, 1776,) lib. 6, cap. 17.--
Linage de Veitia, Norte de la Contratacion de las Indias Occidentales,
(Sevilla, 1672,) lib. 1, cap. 1.--Zuñiga, Annales de Sevilla, año 1503.--
Herrera, Indias Occidentales, lib. 5, cap. 12.--Navagiero, Viaggio, fol.

[10] See the original bull, apud Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, tom. ii.
apend. 14, and a Spanish version of it, in Solorzano, Política Indiana,
lib. 4, cap. 1, sec. 7.

[11] Solorzano, Política Indiana, tom. ii. lib. 4, cap. 2, sec. 9--Riol,
Informe, apud Semanario Erudite, tom. iii. pp. 160, 161.

[12] Among others see Raynal, History of the East and West Indies,
translated by Justamond, (London, 1788,) vol. iv. p. 277.--Robertson,
History of America, (London, 1796,) vol. iii. p. 283.

[13] Muñoz, Hist. del Nuevo-Mundo, lib. 5, sec. 32, 33.--Herrera, Indias
Occidentales, lib. 4, cap. 11, 12.--Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, tom.
ii., Doc. Dipl., no. 86.

[14] The historian of Seville mentions that it was the resort especially
of the merchants of Flanders, with whom a more intimate intercourse had
been opened by the intermarriages of the royal family with the house of
Burgundy. See Zuñiga, Annales de Sevilla, p. 415.

[15] Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, tom. ii., Doc. Dipl., no. 45, et loc.
al.--Las Casas, amidst his unsparing condemnation of the guilty, does
ample justice to the pure and generous, though, alas! unavailing efforts
of the queen. See Oeuvres, ed. de Llorente, tom. i. pp. 21, 307, 395, et

[16] Herrera, Indias Occidentales, lib. 4, cap. 12.--A good account of the
introduction of negro slavery into the New World, comprehending the
material facts, and some little known, may be found in the fifth chapter
of Bancroft's "History of the United States;" a work in which the author
has shown singular address in creating a unity of interest out of a
subject which, in its early stages, would seem to want every other unity.
It is the deficiency of this, probably, which has prevented Mr. Grahame's
valuable History from attaining the popularity, to which its solid merits
justly entitle it. Should the remaining volumes of Mr. Bancroft's work be
conducted with the same spirit, scholarship, and impartiality as the
volume before us, it cannot fail to take a permanent rank in American

[17] Herrera, Indias Occidentales, lib. 4, cap. 11.

[18] Dec. 20th, 1503.--Ibid., lib. 5, cap. 11.--See the instructions to
Ovando in Navarrete, (Coleccion de Viages, tom. ii., Doc. Dipl., no. 153.)
"Pay them regular wages," says the ordinance, "for their labor," "como
personas libres como lo son, y no como siervos." Las Casas, who analyzes
these instructions, which Llorente, by the by, has misdated, exposes the
atrocious manner in which they were violated, in every particular, by
Ovando and his successors. Oeuvres, ed. de Llorente, tom. i. p. 309, et

[19] Ibid., ubi supra.--Las Casas, Hist. Ind., lib. 2, cap. 36, MS., apud
Irving, vol. iii. p. 412.--The venerable bishop confirms this frightful
picture of desolation, in its full extent, in his various memorials
prepared for the Council of the Indies. Oeuvres, ed. de Llorente, tom. i.

[20] Las Casas made his first voyage to the Indies, it is true, in 1498,
or at latest 1502; but there is no trace of his taking an active part in
denouncing the oppressions of the Spaniards earlier than 1510, when he
combined his efforts with those of the Dominican missionaries lately
arrived in St. Domingo, in the same good work. It was not until some years
later, 1515, that he returned to Spain and pleaded the cause of the
injured natives before the throne. Llorente, Oeuvres de Las Casas, tom. i.
pp. 1-23.--Nic. Antonio, Bibliotheca Nova, tom. i. pp. 191, 192.

[21] See the will, apud Dormer, Discursos Varios, p. 381.

[22] Herrera, Indias Occidentales, lib. 5, cap. 1.--Fernando Colon, Hist.
del Almirante, cap. 84.--Oviedo, Relacion Sumaria de la Historia Natural
de las Indias, cap. 84, apud Barcia, Historiadores Primitivos, tom. i.

[23] Tercer Viage de Colon, apud Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, tom. i.
p. 274.

[24] Zuñiga, Annales de Sevilla, p. 415. The alteration was in the gold
currency; which continued to rise in value till 1497, when it gradually
sunk, in consequence of the importation from the mines of Hispaniola.
Clemencin has given its relative value as compared with silver, for
several different years; and the year he assigns for the commencement of
its depreciation, is precisely the same with that indicated by Zuñiga.
(Mem. de la Acad. de Hist., tom. vi. Ilust. 20.) The value of silver was
not materially affected till the discovery of the great mines of Potosí
and Zacatecas.

[25] Bernaldez, Reyes Católicos, MS., cap. 131.

[26] The estimates in the text, it will be noticed, apply only to the
period antecedent to Ovando's administration, in 1502. The operations
under him were conducted on a far more extensive and efficient plan. The
system of _repartimientos_ being revived, the whole physical force of
the island, aided by the best mechanical apparatus, was employed in
extorting from the soil all its hidden stores of wealth. The success was
such that in 1506, within two years after Isabella's death, the four
foundries established in the island yielded an annual amount, according to
Herrera, of 450,000 ounces of gold. It must be remarked, however, that
one-fifth only of the gross sum obtained from the mines was at that time
paid to the crown. It is a proof how far these returns exceeded the
expectations at the time of Ovando's appointment, that the person then
sent out, as marker of the gold, was to receive, as a reasonable
compensation, one per cent, of all the gold assayed. The perquisite,
however, was found to be so excessive, that the functionary was recalled,
and a new arrangement made with his successor. (See Herrera, Indias
Occidentales, dec. 1, lib. 6, cap. 18.) When Navagiero visited Seville, in
1520, the royal fifth of the gold, which passed through the mints,
amounted to about 100,000 ducats annually. Viaggio, fol. 15.

[27] The curious reader is particularly referred to a late work, entitled
_Lettere sutta Storia de' Mali Venerei, di Domenico Thiene, Venezia_,
1823; for the knowledge and loan of which I am indebted to my friend, Dr.
Walter Channing. In this work, the author has assembled all the early
notices of the disease of any authority, and discussed their import with
great integrity and judgment. The following positions may be considered as
established by his researches. 1. That neither Columbus nor his son, in
their copious narratives and correspondence, allude in any way to the
existence of such a disease in the New World. I must add, that an
examination of the original documents, published by Navarrete since the
date of Dr. Thiene's work, fully confirms this statement. 2. That among
the frequent notices of the disease, during the twenty-five years
immediately following the discovery of America, there is not a single
intimation of its having been brought from that country; but, on the
contrary, a uniform derivation of it from some other source, generally
France. 3. That the disorder was known and circumstantially described
previous to the expedition of Charles VIII., and of course could not have
been introduced by the Spaniards in that way, as vulgarly supposed. 4.
That various contemporary authors trace its existence in a variety of
countries, as far back as 1493, and the beginning of 1494, showing a
rapidity and extent of diffusion perfectly irreconcilable with its
importation by Columbus in 1493. 5. Lastly, that it was not till after the
close of Ferdinand and Isabella's reigns, that the first work appeared
affecting to trace the origin of the disease to America; and this,
published 1517, was the production not of a Spaniard, but a foreigner.

A letter of Peter Martyr to the learned Portuguese Arias Barbosa,
professor of Greek at Salamanca, noticing the symptoms of the disease in
the most unequivocal manner, will settle at once this much vexed question,
if we can rely on the genuineness of the date, the 5th of April, 1488,
about five years before the return of Columbus. Dr. Thiene, however,
rejects the date as apocryphal, on the ground, 1. That the name of "morbus
Gallicus," given to the disease by Martyr, was not in use till after the
French invasion, in 1494. 2. That the superscription of Greek professor at
Salamanca was premature, as no such professorship existed there till 1508.

As to the first of these objections, it may be remarked, that there is but
one author prior to the French invasion, who notices the disease at all.
He derives it from Gaul, though not giving it the technical appellation of
_morbus Gallicus_; and Martyr, it may be observed, far from confining
himself to this, alludes to one or two other names, showing that its title
was then quite undetermined. In regard to the second objection, Dr. Thiene
does not cite his authority for limiting the introduction of Greek at
Salamanca to 1508. He may have found a plausible one in the account of
that university compiled by one of its officers, Pedro Chacon, in 1569,
inserted in the eighteenth volume of the Semanario Erudito, (Madrid,
1789.) The accuracy of the writer's chronology, however, may well be
doubted from a gross anachronism on the same page with the date referred
to, where he speaks of Queen Joanna as inheriting the crown in 1512.
(Hist. de la Universidad de Salamanca, p. 55.) Waiving this, however, the
fact of Barbosa being Greek professor at Salamanca in 1488 is directly
intimated by his pupil the celebrated Andrew Resendi. "Arias Lusitanus,"
says he, "quadraginta, et eo plus annos Salmanticae tum Latinas litteras,
tum Graecas, magnâ cum laude professus est." (Responsio ad Quevedum, apud
Barbosa, Bibliotheca Lusitana, tom. i. p. 77.) Now, as Barbosa, by general
consent, passed several years in his native country, Portugal, before his
death in 1530, this assertion of Resendi necessarily places him at
Salamanca in the situation of Greek instructor some time before the date
of Martyr's letter. It may be added, indeed, that Nic. Antonio, than whom
a more competent critic could not be found, so far from suspecting the
date of the letter, cites it as settling the period when Barbosa filled
the Greek chair at Salamanca, (See Bibliotheca Nova, tom. i. p. 170.)

Martyr's epistle, if we admit the genuineness of the date, must dispose at
once of the whole question of the American origin of the venereal disease.
But as this question is determined quite as conclusively, though not so
summarily, by the accumulated evidence from other sources, the reader will
probably think the matter not worth so much discussion.

[28] This event occurred in 1497, Vasco de Gama doubling the Cape of Good
Hope, November 20th, in that year, and reaching Calicut in the following
May, 1498. La Clède, Hist. de Portugal, tom. iii. pp. 104-109.

[29] See, among others, Peter Martyr, Opus Epist, epist. 181.

[30] Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, tom. iii. pp. 18-26.--Cabral's
pretensions to the discovery of Brazil appear not to have been doubted
until recently. They are sanctioned both by Robertson and Raynal.

[31] The Portuguese court formed, probably, no very accurate idea of the
geographical position of Brazil. King Emanuel, in a letter to the Spanish
sovereigns acquainting them with Cabral's voyage, speaks of the newly
discovered region as not only convenient, but _necessary_, for the
navigation to India. (See the letter, apud Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages,
tom. iii. no. 13.) The oldest maps of this country, whether from ignorance
or design, bring it twenty-two degrees east of its proper longitude, so
that the whole of the vast tract now comprehended under the name of
Brazil, would fall on the Portuguese side of the partition line agreed on
by the two governments, which, it will be remembered, was removed to 370
leagues west of the Cape de Verd Islands. The Spanish court made some show
at first of resisting the pretensions of the Portuguese, by preparations
for establishing a colony on the northern extremity of the Brazilian
territory. (Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, tom. iii. p. 39.) It is not
easy to understand how it came finally to admit these pretensions. Any
correct admeasurement with the Castilian league would only have included
the fringe, as it were, of the northeastern promontory of Brazil. The
Portuguese league, allowing seventeen to a degree, may have been adopted,
which would embrace nearly the whole territory which passed under the name
of Brazil, in the best ancient maps, extending from Para on the north, to
the great river of San Pedro on the south. (See Malte Brun, Universal
Geography, (Boston, 1824-9,) book 91.) Mariana seems willing to help the
Portuguese, by running the partition line one hundred leagues farther west
than they claimed themselves. Hist. de España, tom. ii. p. 607.


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