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The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (Vol. II) by Washington Irving

Part 2 out of 10

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kept secret from his followers.

Carvajal, overjoyed at this prospect of a final arrangement, lost no time
in conveying the proposition of Roldan to the admiral. The latter
immediately forwarded the required passport or security, sealed with the
royal seal, accompanied by a letter written in amicable terms, exhorting
his quiet obedience to the authority of the sovereigns. Several of the
principal persons also, who were with the admiral, wrote, at his request,
a letter of security to Roldan, pledging themselves for the safety of
himself and his followers during the negotiation; provided they did
nothing hostile to the royal authority or its representative.

While Columbus was thus, with unwearied assiduity and loyal zeal,
endeavoring to bring the island back to its obedience, he received a reply
from Spain, to the earnest representations made by him, in the preceding
autumn, of the distracted state of the colony and the outrages of these
lawless men, and his prayers for royal countenance and support. The letter
was written by his invidious enemy, the Bishop Fonseca, superintendent of
Indian affairs. It acknowledged the receipt of his statement of the
alleged insurrection of Roldan, but observed that this matter must be
suffered to remain in suspense, as the sovereigns would investigate and
remedy it presently. [43]

This cold reply had a disheartening effect upon Columbus. He saw that his
complaints had little weight with the government; he feared that his
enemies were prejudicing him with the sovereigns; and he anticipated
redoubled insolence on the part of the rebels, when they should discover
how little influence he possessed in Spain. Full of zeal, however, for the
success of his undertaking, and of fidelity to the interests of the
sovereigns, he resolved to spare no personal sacrifice of comfort or
dignity in appeasing the troubles of the island. Eager to expedite the
negotiation with Roldan, therefore, he sailed in the latter part of August
with two caravels to the port of Azua, west of San Domingo, and much
nearer to Xaragua. He was accompanied by several of the most important
personages of the colony. Roldan repaired thither likewise, with the
turbulent Adrian de Moxica, and a number of his band. The concessions
already obtained had increased his presumption; and he had, doubtless,
received intelligence of the cold manner in which the complaints of the
admiral had been received in Spain. He conducted himself more like a
conqueror, exacting triumphant terms, than a delinquent seeking to procure
pardon by atonement. He came on board of the caravel, and with his usual
effrontery, propounded the preliminaries upon which he and his companions
were disposed to negotiate.

First, that he should be permitted to send several of his company, to the
number of fifteen, to Spain, in the vessels which were at San Domingo.
Secondly, that those who remained should have lands granted them, in place
of royal pay. Thirdly, that it should be proclaimed, that every thing
charged against him and his party had been grounded upon false testimony,
and the machinations of person disaffected to the royal service. Fourthly,
that he should be reinstated in his office of alcalde mayor, or chief
judge. [44]

These were hard and insolent conditions to commence with, but they were
granted. Roldan then went on shore, and communicated them to his
companions. At the end of the two days the insurgents sent their
capitulations, drawn up in form, and couched in arrogant language,
including all the stipulations granted at Fort Conception, with those
recently demanded by Roldan, and concluding with one, more insolent than
all the rest, namely, that if the admiral should fail in the fulfillment
of any of these articles, they should have a right to assemble together,
and compel his performance of them by force, or by any other means they
might think proper. [45] The conspirators thus sought not merely
exculpation of the past, but a pretext for future rebellion.

The mind grows wearied and impatient with recording, and the heart of the
generous reader must burn with indignation at perusing, this protracted
and ineffectual struggle of a man of the exalted merits and matchless
services of Columbus, in the toils of such miscreants. Surrounded by doubt
and danger; a foreigner among a jealous people; an unpopular commander in
a mutinous island; distrusted and slighted by the government he was
seeking to serve; and creating suspicion by his very services; he knew not
where to look for faithful advice, efficient aid, or candid judgment. The
very ground on which he stood seemed giving way under him, for he was told
of seditious symptoms among his own people. Seeing the impunity with which
the rebels rioted in the possession of one of the finest parts of the
island, they began to talk among themselves of following their example, of
abandoning the standard of the admiral, and seizing upon the province of
Higuey, at the eastern extremity of the island, which was said to contain
valuable mines of gold.

Thus critically situated, disregarding every consideration of personal
pride and dignity, and determined, at any individual sacrifice, to secure
the interests of an ungrateful sovereign, Columbus forced himself to sign
this most humiliating capitulation. He trusted that afterwards, when he
could gain quiet access to the royal ear, he should be able to convince
the king and queen that it had been compulsory, and forced from him by the
extraordinary difficulties in which he had been placed, and the imminent
perils of the colony. Before signing it, however, he inserted a
stipulation, that the commands of the sovereigns, of himself, and of the
justices appointed by him, should be punctually obeyed. [46]

Chapter IV.

Grants Made to Roldan and His Followers.--Departure of Several of the
Rebels for Spain.


When Roldan resumed his office of alcalde mayor, or chief judge, he
displayed all the arrogance to be expected from one who had intruded
himself into power by profligate means. At the city of San Domingo, he was
always surrounded by his faction; communed only with the dissolute and
disaffected; and, having all the turbulent and desperate men of the
community at his beck, was enabled to intimidate the quiet and loyal by
his frowns. He bore an impudent front against the authority even of
Columbus himself, discharging from office one Rodrigo Perez, a lieutenant
of the admiral, declaring that none but such as he appointed should bear a
staff of office in the island. [47] Columbus had a difficult and painful
task in bearing with the insolence of this man, and of the shameless
rabble which had returned, under his auspices, to the settlements. He
tacitly permitted many abuses; endeavoring by mildness and indulgence to
allay the jealousies and prejudices awakened against him, and by various
concessions to lure the factious to the performance of their duty. To such
of the colonists generally as preferred to remain in the island, he
offered a choice of either royal pay or portions of lands, with a number
of Indians, some free, others as slaves, to assist in the cultivation. The
latter was generally preferred; and grants were made out, in which he
endeavored, as much as possible, to combine the benefit of the individual
with the interests of the colony.

Roldan presented a memorial signed by upwards of one hundred of his late
followers, demanding grants of lands and licenses to settle, and choosing
Xaragua for their place of abode. The admiral feared to trust such a
numerous body of factious partisans in so remote a province; he contrived,
therefore, to distribute them in various parts of the island; some at
Bonao, where their settlement gave origin to the town of that name; others
on the bank of the Rio Verde, or Green River, in the Vega; others about
six leagues thence, at St. Jago. He assigned to them liberal portions of
land, and numerous Indian slaves, taken in the wars. He made an
arrangement, also, by which the caciques in their vicinity, instead of
paying tribute, should furnish parties of their subjects, free Indians, to
assist the colonists in the cultivation of their lands: a kind of feudal
service, which was the origin of the repartimientos, or distributions of
free Indians among the colonists, afterwards generally adopted, and
shamefully abused, throughout the Spanish colonies: a source of
intolerable hardships and oppressions to the unhappy natives, and which
greatly contributed to exterminate them from the island of Hispaniola.[48]
Columbus considered the island in the light of a conquered country, and
arrogated to himself all the rights of a conqueror, in the name of the
sovereigns for whom he fought. Of course all his companions in the
enterprise were entitled to take part in the acquired territory, and to
establish themselves there as feudal lords, reducing the natives to the
condition of villains or vassals. [49] This was an arrangement widely
different from his original intention of treating the natives with
kindness, as peaceful subjects of the crown. But all his plans had been
subverted, and his present measures forced upon him by the exigency of
the times, and the violence of lawless men. He appointed a captain with
an armed band, as a kind of police, with orders to range the provinces;
oblige the Indians to pay their tributes; watch over the conduct of the
colonists; and check the least appearance of mutiny or insurrection. [50]

Having sought and obtained such ample provisions for his followers, Roldan
was not more modest in making demands for himself. He claimed certain
lands in the vicinity of Isabella, as having belonged to him before his
rebellion; also a royal farm, called La Esperanza, situated on the Vega,
and devoted to the rearing of poultry. These the admiral granted him, with
permission to employ, in the cultivation of the farm, the subjects of the
cacique whose ears had been cut off by Alonzo de Ojeda in his first
military expedition into the Vega. Roldan received also grants of land in
Xaragua, and a variety of live-stock from the cattle and other animals
belonging to the crown. These grants were made to him provisionally, until
the pleasure of the sovereigns should be known; [51] for Columbus yet
trusted, that when they should understand the manner in which these
concessions had been extorted from him, the ringleaders of the rebels
would not merely be stripped of their ill-gotten possessions, but receive
well-merited punishment.

Roldan, having now enriched himself beyond his hopes, requested permission
of Columbus to visit his lands. This was granted with great reluctance. He
immediately departed for the Vega, and stopping at Bonao, his late
headquarters, made Pedro Riquelme, one of his most active confederates,
alcalde, or judge of the place, with the power of arresting all
delinquents, and sending them prisoners to the fortress of Conception,
where he reserved to himself the right of sentencing them. This was an
assumption of powers not vested in his office, and gave great offence to
Columbus. Other circumstances created apprehensions of further troubles
from the late insurgents. Pedro Riquelme, under pretext of erecting
farming buildings for his cattle, began to construct a strong edifice on a
hill, capable of being converted into a formidable fortress. This, it was
whispered, was done in concert with Roldan, by way of securing a
stronghold in case of need. Being in the neighborhood of the Vega, where
so many of their late partisans were settled, it would form a dangerous
rallying place for any new sedition. The designs of Riquelme were
suspected and his proceedings opposed by Pedro de Arana, a loyal and
honorable man, who was on the spot. Representations were made by both
parties to the admiral, who prohibited Riquelme from proceeding with the
construction of his edifice. [52]

Columbus had prepared to return, with his brother Don Bartholomew, to
Spain, where he felt that his presence was of the utmost importance to
place the late events of the island in a proper light; having found that
his letters of explanation were liable to be counteracted by the
misrepresentations of malevolent enemies. The island, however, was still
in a feverish state. He was not well assured of the fidelity of the late
rebels, though so dearly purchased; there was a rumor of a threatened
descent into the Vega, by the mountain tribes of Ciguay, to attempt the
rescue of their captive cacique Mayobanex, still detained a prisoner in
the fortress of Conception. Tidings were brought about the same time from
the western parts of the island, that four strange ships had arrived at
the coast, under suspicious appearances. These circumstances obliged him
to postpone his departure, and held him involved in the affairs of this
favorite but fatal island.

The two caravels were dispatched for Spain in the beginning of October,
taking such of the colonists as chose to return, and among them a number
of Roldan's partisans. Some of these took with them slaves, others carried
away the daughters of caciques whom they had beguiled from their families
and homes. At these iniquities, no less than at many others which equally
grieved his spirit, the admiral was obliged to connive. He was conscious,
at the same time, that he was sending home a reinforcement of enemies and
false witnesses, to defame his character and traduce his conduct, but he
had no alternative. To counteract, as much as possible, their
misrepresentations, he sent by the same caravel the loyal and upright
veteran Miguel Ballester, together with Garcia de Barrantes, empowered to
attend to his affairs at court, and furnished with the dispositions taken
relative to the conduct of Roldan and his accomplices.

In his letters to the sovereigns, he entreated them to inquire into the
truth of the late transactions. He stated his opinion that his
capitulations with the rebels were null and void, for various reasons,
viz.--they had been extorted from him by violence, and at sea, where he
did not exercise the office of viceroy--there had been two trials relative
to the insurrection, and the insurgents having been condemned as traitors,
it was not in the power of the admiral to absolve them from their
criminality--the capitulations treated of matters touching the royal
revenue, over which he had no control, without the intervention of the
proper officers;--lastly, Francisco Roldan and his companions, on leaving
Spain, had taken an oath to be faithful to the sovereigns, and to the
admiral in their name, which oath they had violated. For these and similar
reasons, some just, others rather sophistical, he urged the sovereigns not
to consider themselves bound to ratify the compulsory terms ceded to these
profligate men, but to inquire into their offences, and treat them
accordingly. [53]

He repeated the request made in a former letter, that a learned judge
might be sent out to administer the laws in the island, since he himself
had been charged with rigor, although conscious of having always observed
a guarded clemency. He requested also that discreet persons should be sent
out to form a council, and others for certain fiscal employments,
entreating, however, that their powers should be so limited and defined,
as not to interfere with his dignity and privileges. He bore strongly on
this point; as his prerogatives on former occasions had been grievously
invaded. It appeared to him, he said, that princes ought to show much
confidence in their governors; for without the royal favor to give them
strength and consequence, every thing went to ruin under their command; a
sound maxim, forced from the admiral by his recent experience, in which
much of his own perplexities, and the triumph of the rebels, had been
caused by the distrust of the crown, and its inattention to his

Finding age and infirmity creeping upon him, and his health much impaired
by his last voyage, he began to think of his son Diego, as an active
coadjutor; who, being destined as his successor, might gain experience
under his eye, for the future discharge of his high duties. Diego, though
still serving as a page at the court, was grown to man's estate, and
capable of entering into the important concerns of life. Columbus
entreated, therefore, that he might be sent out to assist him, as he felt
himself infirm in health and broken in constitution, and less capable of
exertion than formerly. [54]

Chapter V.

Arrival of Ojeda with a Squadron at the Western Part of the Island.--Roldan
Sent to Meet Him.


Among the causes which induced Columbus to postpone his departure for
Spain, has been mentioned the arrival of four ships at the western part of
the island. These had anchored on the 5th of September in a harbor a
little below Jacquemel, apparently with the design of cutting dye-woods,
which abound in that neighborhood, and of carrying off the natives for
slaves. Further reports informed him that they were commanded by Alonzo de
Ojeda, the same hot-headed and bold-hearted cavalier who had distinguished
himself on various occasions in the previous voyages of discovery, and
particularly in the capture of the cacique Caonabo. Knowing the daring and
adventurous spirit of this man, Columbus felt much disturbed at his
visiting the island in this clandestine manner, on what appeared to be
little better than a freebooting expedition. To call him to account, and
oppose his aggressions, required an agent of spirit and address. No one
seemed better fitted for the purpose than Roldan. He was as daring as
Ojeda, and of a more crafty character. An expedition of the kind would
occupy the attention of himself and his partisans, and divert them from
any schemes of mischief. The large concessions recently made to them
would, he trusted, secure their present fidelity, rendering it more
profitable for them to be loyal than rebellious.

Roldan readily undertook the enterprise. He had nothing further to gain by
sedition, and was anxious to secure his ill-gotten possessions and atone
for past offences by public services. He was vain as well as active, and
took a pride in acquitting himself well in an expedition which called for
both courage and shrewdness. Departing from San Domingo with two caravels,
he arrived on the 29th of September within two leagues of the harbor where
the ships of Ojeda were anchored. Here he landed with five-and-twenty
resolute followers, well armed, and accustomed to range the forests. He
sent five scouts to reconnoitre. They brought word that Ojeda was several
leagues distant from his ships, with only fifteen men, employed in making
cassava bread in an Indian village. Roldan threw himself between them and
the ships, thinking to take them by surprise. They were apprised, however,
of his approach by the Indians, with whom the very name of Roldan inspired
terror, from his late excesses in Xaragua. Ojeda saw his danger; he
supposed Roldan had been sent in pursuit of him, and he found himself cut
off from his ships. With his usual intrepidity he immediately presented
himself before Roldan, attended merely by half a dozen followers. The
latter craftily began by conversing on general topics. He then inquired
into his motives for landing on the island, particularly on that remote
and lonely part, without first reporting his arrival to the admiral. Ojeda
replied, that he had been on a voyage of discovery, and had put in there
in distress, to repair his ships and procure provisions. Roldan then
demanded, in the name of the government, a sight of the license under
which he sailed. Ojeda, who knew the resolute character of the man he had
to deal with, restrained his natural impetuosity, and replied that his
papers were on board of his ship. He declared his intention, on departing
thence, to go to San Domingo, and pay his homage to the admiral, having
many things to tell him which were for his private ear alone. He intimated
to Roldan that the admiral was in complete disgrace at court; that there
was a talk of taking from him his command, and that the queen, his
patroness, was ill beyond all hopes of recovery. This intimation, it is
presumed, was referred to by Roldan in his dispatches to the admiral,
wherein he mentioned that certain things had been communicated to him by
Ojeda, which he did not think it safe to confide to a letter.

Roldan now repaired to the ships. He found several persons on board with
whom he was acquainted, and who had already been in Hispaniola. They
confirmed the truth of what Ojeda had said, and showed a license signed by
the Bishop of Fonseca, as superintendent of the affairs of the Indias,
authorizing him to sail on a voyage of discovery. [55]

It appeared, from the report of Ojeda and his followers, that the glowing
accounts sent home by Columbus of his late discoveries on the coast of
Paria, his magnificent speculations with respect to the riches of the
newly-found country, and the specimen of pearls transmitted to the
sovereigns, had inflamed the cupidity of various adventurers. Ojeda
happened to be at that time in Spain. He was a favorite of the Bishop of
Fonseca, and obtained a sight of the letter written by the admiral to the
sovereigns, and the charts and maps of his route by which it was
accompanied. Ojeda knew Columbus to be embarrassed by the seditions of
Hispaniola; he found, by his conversations with Fonseca and other of the
admiral's enemies, that strong doubts and jealousies existed in the mind
of the king with respect to his conduct, and that his approaching downfall
was confidently predicted. The idea of taking advantage of these
circumstances struck Ojeda, and, by a private enterprise, he hoped to be
the first in gathering the wealth of these newly-discovered regions. He
communicated his project to his patron, Fonseca. The latter was but too
ready for any tiling that might defeat the plans and obscure the glory of
Columbus; and it may be added that he always showed himself more disposed
to patronize mercenary adventurers than upright and high-minded men. He
granted Ojeda every facility; furnishing him with copies of the papers and
charts of Columbus, by which to direct himself in his course, and a letter
of license signed with his own name, though not with that of the
sovereigns. In this, it was stipulated that he should not touch at any
land belonging to the King of Portugal, nor any that had been discovered
by Columbus prior to 1495. The last provision shows the perfidious
artifice of Fonseca, as it left Paria and the Pearl Islands free to the
visits of Ojeda, they having been discovered by Columbus subsequent to the
designated year. The ships were to be fitted out at the charges of the
adventurers, and a certain proportion of the products of the voyage were
to be rendered to the crown.

Under this license Ojeda fitted out four ships at Seville, assisted by
many eager and wealthy speculators. Among the number was the celebrated
Amerigo Vespucci, a Florentine merchant, well acquainted with geography
and navigation. The principal pilot of the expedition was Juan de la Cosa,
a mariner of great repute, a disciple of the admiral, whom he had
accompanied in his first voyage of discovery, and in that along the
southern coast of Cuba, and round the island of Jamaica. There were
several also of the mariners, and Bartholomew Roldan, a distinguished
pilot, who had been with Columbus in his voyage to Paria. [56] Such was
the expedition which, by a singular train of circumstances, eventually
gave the name of this Florentine merchant, Amerigo Vespucci, to the whole
of the New World.

This expedition had sailed in May, 1499. The adventurers had arrived on
the southern continent, and ranged along its coast, from two hundred
leagues east of the Oronoco, to the Gulf of Paria. Guided by the charts of
Columbus, they had passed through this gulf, and through the Boca del
Dragon, and had kept along westward to Cape de la Vela, visiting the
island of Margarita and the adjacent continent, and discovering the Gulf
of Venezuela. They had subsequently touched at the Caribbee Islands, where
they had fought with the fierce natives, and made many captives, with the
intention of selling them in the slave-markets of Spain. Thence, being in
need of supplies, they had sailed to Hispaniola, having performed the most
extensive voyage hitherto made along the shores of the New World.

Having collected all the information that he could obtain concerning these
voyagers, their adventures and designs, and trusting to the declaration of
Ojeda, that he should proceed forthwith to present himself to the admiral,
Roldan returned to San Domingo to render a report of his mission.

Chapter VI.

Manoevres of Roldan and Ojeda.


When intelligence was brought to Columbus of the nature of the expedition
of Ojeda, and the license under which he sailed, he considered himself
deeply aggrieved, it being a direct infraction of his most important
prerogatives, and sanctioned by authority which ought to have held them
sacred. He awaited patiently, however, the promised visit of Alonzo de
Ojeda to obtain fuller explanations. Nothing was further from the
intention of that roving commander than to keep such promise: he had made
it merely to elude the vigilance of Roldan. As soon as he had refitted his
vessels and obtained a supply of provisions, he sailed round to the coast
of Xaragua, where he arrived in February. Here he was well received by the
Spaniards resident in that province, who supplied all his wants. Among
them were many of the late comrades of Roldan; loose, random characters,
impatient of order and restraint, and burning with animosity against the
admiral, for having again brought them under the wholesome authority of
the laws.

Knowing the rash and fearless character of Ojeda, and finding that there
were jealousies between him and the admiral, they hailed him as a new
leader, come to redress their fancied grievances, in place of Roldan, whom
they considered as having deserted them. They made clamorous complaints to
Ojeda of the injustice of the admiral, whom they charged with withholding
from them the arrears of their pay.

Ojeda was a hot-headed man, with somewhat of a vaunting spirit, and
immediately set himself up for a redresser of grievances. It is said also
that he gave himself out as authorized by government, in conjunction with
Carvajal, to act as counselors, or rather supervisors of the admiral; and
that one of the first measures they were to take, was to enforce the
payment of all salaries due to the servants of the crown. [58] It is
questionable, however, whether Ojeda made any pretension of the kind,
which could so readily be disproved, and would have tended to disgrace
him with the government. It is probable that he was encouraged in his
intermeddling, chiefly by his knowledge of the tottering state of the
admiral's favor at court, and of his own security in the powerful
protection of Fonseca. He may have imbibed also the opinion, diligently
fostered by those with whom he had chiefly communicated in Spain, just
before his departure, that these people had been driven to extremities by
the oppression of the admiral and his brothers. Some feeling of
generosity, therefore, may have mingled with his usual love of action and
enterprise, when he proposed to redress all their wrongs, put himself at
their head, march at once to San Domingo, and oblige the admiral to pay
them on the spot, or expel him from the island.

The proposition of Ojeda was received with acclamations of transport by
some of the rebels; others made objections. Quarrels arose: a ruffianly
scene of violence and brawl ensued, in which several were killed and
wounded on both sides; but the party for the expedition to San Domingo
remained triumphant.

Fortunately for the peace and safety of the admiral, Roldan arrived in the
neighborhood, just at this critical juncture, attended by a crew of
resolute fellows. He had been dispatched by Columbus to watch the
movements of Ojeda, on hearing of his arrival on the coast of Xaragua.
Apprised of the violent scenes which were taking place, Roldan, when on
the way, sent to his old confederate Diego de Escobar, to follow him with
all the trusty force he could collect. They reached Xaragua within a day
of each other. An instance of the bad faith usual between bad men was now
evinced. The former partisans of Roldan, finding him earnest in his
intention of serving the government, and that there was no hope of
engaging him in their new sedition, sought to waylay and destroy him on
his march, but his vigilance and celerity prevented them. [59]

Ojeda, when he heard of the approach of Roldan and Escobar, retired on
board of his ships. Though of a daring spirit, he had no inclination, in
the present instance, to come to blows, where there was a certainty of
desperate fighting, and no gain; and where he must raise his arm against
government. Roldan now issued such remonstrances as had often been
ineffectually addressed to himself. He wrote to Ojeda, reasoning with him
on his conduct, and the confusion he was producing in the island, and
inviting him on shore to an amicable arrangement of all alleged
grievances. Ojeda, knowing the crafty, violent character of Roldan,
disregarded his repeated messages, and refused to venture within his
power. He even seized one of his messengers, Diego de Truxillo, and
landing suddenly at Xaragua, carried off another of his followers, named
Toribio de Lenares; both of whom he detained in irons, on board of his
vessel, as hostages for a certain Juan Pintor, a one-armed sailor, who had
deserted, threatening to hang them if the deserter was not given up.

Various manoeuvres took place between these two well-matched opponents;
each wary of the address and prowess of the other. Ojeda made sail, and
stood twelve leagues to the northward, to the province of Cahay, one of
the most beautiful and fertile parts of the country, and inhabited by a
kind and gentle people. Here he landed with forty men, seizing upon
whatever he could find of the provisions of the natives. Roldan and
Escobar followed along shore, and were soon at his heels. Roldan then
dispatched Escobar in a light canoe, paddled swiftly by Indians, who,
approaching within hail of the ship, informed Ojeda that, since he would
not trust himself on shore, Roldan would come and confer with him on
board, if he would send a boat for him.

Ojeda now thought himself secure of his enemy; he immediately dispatched a
boat within a short distance of the shore, where the crew lay on their
oars, requiring Roldan to come to them. "How many may accompany me?"
demanded the latter. "Only five or six," was the reply. Upon this Diego de
Escobar and four others waded to the boat. The crew refused to admit more.
Roldan then ordered one man to carry him to the barge, and another to walk
by his side, and assist him. By this stratagem, his party was eight
strong. The instant he entered the boat, he ordered the oarsmen to row to
shore. On their refusing, he and his companions attacked them sword in
hand, wounded several, and made all prisoners, excepting an Indian archer,
who, plunging under the water, escaped by swimming.

This was an important triumph for Roldan. Ojeda, anxious for the recovery
of his boat, which was indispensable for the service of the ship, now made
overtures of peace. He approached the shore in his remaining boat, of
small size, taking with him his principal pilot, an arquebusier, and four
oarsmen. Roldan entered the boat he had just captured, with seven rowers
and fifteen fighting men, causing fifteen others to be ready on shore to
embark in a large canoe, in case of need. A characteristic interview took
place between these doughty antagonists, each keeping warily on his guard.
Their conference was carried on at a distance. Ojeda justified his hostile
movements by alleging that Roldan had come with an armed force to seize
him. This the latter positively denied, promising him the most amicable
reception from the admiral, in case he would repair to San Domingo. An
arrangement was at length effected; the boat was restored, and mutual
restitution of the men took place, with the exception of Juan Pintor, the
one-armed deserter, who had absconded; and on the following day, Ojeda,
according to agreement, set sail to leave the island, threatening however
to return at a future time with more ships and men. [61]

Roldan waited in the neighborhood, doubting the truth of his departure. In
the course of a few days, word was brought that Ojeda had landed on a
distant part of the coast. He immediately pursued him with eighty men in
canoes, sending scouts by land. Before he arrived at the place, Ojeda had
again made sail, and Roldan saw and heard no more of him. Las Casas
asserts, however, that Ojeda departed either to some remote district of
Hispaniola, or to the island of Porto Rico, where he made up what he
called his _Cavalgada_, or drove of slaves; carrying off numbers of
the unhappy natives, whom he sold in the slave-market of Cadiz. [62]

Chapter VII.

Conspiracy of Guevara and Moxica.


When men have been accustomed to act falsely, they take great merit to
themselves for an exertion of common honesty. The followers of Roldan were
loud in trumpeting forth their unwonted loyalty, and the great services
they had rendered to government in driving Ojeda from the island. Like all
reformed knaves, they expected that their good conduct would be amply
rewarded. Looking upon their leader as having every thing in his gift, and
being well pleased with the delightful province of Cahay, they requested
him to share the land among them, that they might settle there. Roldan
would have had no hesitation in granting their request, had it been made
during his freebooting career; but he was now anxious to establish a
character for adherence to the laws. He declined, therefore, acceding to
their wishes, until sanctioned by the admiral. Knowing, however, that he
had fostered a spirit among these men which it was dangerous to
contradict, and that their rapacity, by long indulgence, did not admit of
delay, he shared among them certain lands of his own, in the territory of
his ancient host Behechio, cacique of Xaragua. He then wrote to the
admiral for permission to return to San Domingo, and received a letter in
reply, giving him many thanks and commendations for the diligence and
address which he had manifested, but requesting him to remain for a time
in Xaragua, lest Ojeda should be yet hovering about the coast, and
disposed to make another descent in that province.

The troubles of the island were not yet at an end, but were destined again
to break forth, and from somewhat of a romantic cause. There arrived about
this time, at Xaragua, a young cavalier of noble family, named Don
Hernando de Guevara. He possessed an agreeable person and winning manners,
but was headstrong in his passions and dissolute in his principles. He was
cousin to Adrian de Moxica, one of the most active ringleaders in the late
rebellion of Roldan, and had conducted himself with such licentiousness at
San Domingo, that Columbus had banished him from the island. There being
no other opportunity of embarking, he had been sent to Xaragua, to return
to Spain in one of the ships of Ojeda, but arrived after their departure.
Roldan received him favorably, on account of his old comrade, Adrian de
Moxica, and permitted him to choose some place of residence until further
orders concerning him should arrive from the admiral. He chose the
province of Cahay, at the place where Roldan had captured the boat of
Ojeda. It was a delightful part of that beautiful coast; but the reason
why Guevara chose it, was the vicinity to Xaragua. While at the latter
place, in consequence of the indulgence of Roldan, he was favorably
received at the house of Anacaona, the widow of Caonabo, and sister of the
cacique Behechio. That remarkable woman still retained her partiality to
the Spaniards, notwithstanding the disgraceful scenes which had passed
before her eyes; and the native dignity of her character had commanded the
respect even of the dissolute rabble which infested her province. By her
late husband, the cacique Caonabo, she had a daughter named Higuenamota,
just grown up, and greatly admired for her beauty. Guevara being often in
company with her, a mutual attachment ensued. It was to be near her that
he chose Cahay as a residence, at a place where his cousin Adrian de
Moxica kept a number of dogs and hawks, to be employed in the chase.
Guevara delayed his departure. Roldan discovered the reason, and warned
him to desist from his pretensions and leave the province. Las Casas
intimates that Roldan was himself attached to the young Indian beauty, and
jealous of her preference of his rival. Anacaona, the mother, pleased with
the gallant appearance and ingratiating manners of the youthful cavalier,
favored his attachment; especially as he sought her daughter in marriage.
Notwithstanding the orders of Roldan, Guevara still lingered in Xaragua,
in the house of Anacaona; and sending for a priest, desired him to baptize
his intended bride.

Hearing of this, Roldan sent for Guevara, and rebuked him sharply for
remaining at Xaragua, and attempting to deceive a person of the importance
of Anacaona, by ensnaring the affections of her daughter. Guevara avowed
the strength of his passion, and his correct intentions, and entreated
permission to remain. Roldan was inflexible. He alleged that some evil
construction might be put on his conduct by the admiral; but it is
probable his true motive was a desire to send away a rival, who interfered
with his own amorous designs. Guevara obeyed; but had scarce been three
days at Cahay, when, unable to remain longer absent from the object of his
passion, he returned to Xaragua, accompanied by four or five friends, and
concealed himself in the dwelling of Anacaona. Roldan, who was at that
time confined by a malady in his eyes, being apprised of his return, sent
orders for him to depart instantly to Cahay. The young cavalier assumed a
tone of defiance. He warned Roldan not to make foes when he had such great
need of friends; for, to his certain knowledge, the admiral intended to
behead him. Upon this, Roldan commanded him to quit that part of the
island, and repair to San Domingo, to present himself before the admiral.
The thoughts of being banished entirely from the vicinity of his Indian
beauty checked the vehemence of the youth. He changed his tone of haughty
defiance into one of humble supplication; and Roldan, appeased by this
submission, permitted him to remain for the present in the neighborhood.

Roldan had instilled willfulness and violence into the hearts of his late
followers, and now was doomed to experience the effects. Guevara, incensed
at his opposition to his passion, meditated revenge. He soon made a party
among the old comrades of Roldan, who detested, as a magistrate, the man
they had idolized as a leader. It was concerted to rise suddenly upon him,
and either to kill him or put out his eyes. Roldan was apprised of the
plot, and proceeded with his usual promptness. Guevara was seized in the
dwelling of Anacaona, in the presence of his intended bride; seven of his
accomplices were likewise arrested. Roldan immediately sent an account of
the affair to the admiral, professing, at present, to do nothing without
his authority, and declaring himself not competent to judge impartially in
the case. Columbus, who was at that time at Fort Conception, in the Vega,
ordered the prisoner to be conducted to the fortress of San Domingo.

The vigorous measures of Roldan against his old comrades produced
commotions in the island. When Adrian de Moxica heard that his cousin
Guevara was a prisoner, and that, too, by command of his former
confederate, he was highly exasperated, and resolved on vengeance.
Hastening to Bonao, the old haunt of rebellion, he obtained the
co-operation of Pedro Riquelme, the recently-appointed alcalde. They went
round among their late companions in rebellion, who had received lands and
settled in various parts of the Vega, working upon their ready passions,
and enlisting their feelings in the cause of an old comrade. These men
seem to have had an irresistible propensity to sedition. Guevara was a
favorite with them all; the charms of the Indian beauty had probably their
influence; and the conduct of Roldan was pronounced a tyrannical
interference, to prevent a marriage agreeable to all parties, and
beneficial to the colony. There is no being so odious to his former
associates as a reformed robber, or a rebel, enlisted in the service of
justice. The old scenes of faction were renewed; the weapons which had
scarce been hung up from the recent rebellions were again snatched down
from the walls, and rash preparations were made for action. Moxica soon
saw a body of daring and reckless men ready, with horse and weapon, to
follow him on any desperate enterprise. Blinded by the impunity which had
attended their former outrages, he now threatened acts of greater
atrocity, meditating not merely the rescue of his cousin, but the death of
Roldan and the admiral.

Columbus was at Fort Conception, with an inconsiderable force, when this
dangerous plot was concerted in his very neighborhood. Not dreaming of any
further hostilities from men on whom he had lavished favors, he would
doubtless have fallen into their power, had not intelligence been brought
him of the plot by a deserter from the conspirators. He saw at a glance
the perils by which he was surrounded, and the storm about to burst upon
the island. It was no longer a time for lenient measures; he determined to
strike a blow which should crush the very head of rebellion.

Taking with him but six or seven trusty servants, and three esquires, all
well armed, he set out in the night for the place where the ringleaders
were quartered. Confiding probably in the secrecy of their plot, and the
late passiveness of the admiral, they appear to have been perfectly
unguarded. Columbus came upon them by surprise, seized Moxica and several
of his principal confederates, and bore them off to Fort Conception. The
moment was critical; the Vega was ripe for a revolt; he had the fomenter
of the conspiracy in his power, and an example was called for, that should
strike terror into the factious. He ordered Moxica to be hanged on the top
of the fortress. The latter entreated to be allowed to confess himself
previous to execution. A priest was summoned. The miserable Moxica, who
had been so arrogant in rebellion, lost all courage at the near approach
of death. He delayed to confess, beginning and pausing, and re-commencing,
and again hesitating, as if he hoped, by whiling away time, to give a
chance for rescue. Instead of confessing his own sins, he accused others
of criminality, who were known to be innocent; until Columbus, incensed at
this falsehood and treachery, and losing all patience, in his mingled
indignation and scorn, ordered the dastard wretch to be swung off from the
battlements. [63]

This sudden act of severity was promptly followed up. Several of the
accomplices of Moxica were condemned to death and thrown in irons to await
their fate. Before the conspirators had time to recover from their
astonishment, Pedro Riquelme was taken, with several of his compeers, in
his ruffian den at Bonao, and conveyed to the fortress of San Domingo;
where was also confined the original mover of this second rebellion,
Hernando de Guevara, the lover of the young Indian princess. These
unexpected acts of rigor, proceeding from a quarter which had been long so
lenient, had the desired effect. The conspirators fled for the most part
to Xaragua, their old and favorite retreat. They were not suffered to
congregate there again, and concert new seditions. The Adelantado,
seconded by Roldan, pursued them with his characteristic rapidity of
movement and vigor of arm. It has been said that he carried a priest with
him, in order that, as he arrested delinquents, they might be confessed
and hanged upon the spot; but the more probable account is that he
transmitted them prisoners to San Domingo. He had seventeen of them at one
time confined in one common dungeon, awaiting their trial, while he
continued in indefatigable pursuit of the remainder. [64]

These were prompt and severe measures; but when we consider how long
Columbus had borne with these men; how much he had ceded and sacrificed to
them; how he had been interrupted in all his great undertakings, and the
welfare of the colony destroyed by their contemptible and seditious
brawls; how they had abused his lenity, defied his authority, and at
length attempted his life,-we cannot wonder that he should at last let
fall the sword of justice, which he had hitherto held suspended.

The power of faction was now completely subdued; and the good effects of
the various measures taken by Columbus, since his last arrival, for the
benefit of the island, began to appear. The Indians, seeing the inefficacy
of resistance, submitted to the yoke. Many gave signs of civilization,
having, in some instances, adopted clothing and embraced Christianity.
Assisted by their labors, the Spaniards now cultivated their lands
diligently, and there was every appearance of settled and regular

Columbus considered all this happy change as brought about by the especial
intervention of heaven. In a letter to Dona Juana de la Torre, a lady of
distinction, aya or nurse of Prince Juan, he gives an instance of those
visionary fancies to which he was subject in times of illness and anxiety.
In the preceding winter, he says, about the festival of Christmas, when
menaced by Indian war and domestic rebellion, when distrustful of those
around him and apprehensive of disgrace at court, he sank for a time into
complete despondency. In this hour of gloom, when abandoned to despair, he
heard in the night a voice addressing him in words of comfort, "Oh man of
little faith! why art thou cast down? Fear nothing, I will provide for
thee. The seven years of the term of gold are not expired; in that, and in
all other things, I will take care of thee."

The seven years term of gold here mentioned, alludes to a vow made by
Columbus on discovering the New World, and recorded by him in a letter to
the sovereigns, that within seven years he would furnish, from the profits
of his discoveries, fifty thousand foot and five thousand horse, for the
deliverance of the holy sepulchre, and an additional force of like amount,
within five years afterwards.

The comforting assurance given him by the voice was corroborated, he says,
that very day, by intelligence received of the discovery of a large tract
of country rich in mines. [65] This imaginary promise of
divine aid thus mysteriously given, appeared to him at present in still
greater progress of fulfillment. The troubles and dangers of the island
had been succeeded by tranquillity. He now anticipated the prosperous
prosecution of his favorite enterprise, so long interrupted,--the
exploring of the regions of Paria, and the establishment of a fishery in
the Gulf of Pearls. How illusive were his hopes! At this moment events
were maturing which were to overwhelm him with distress, strip him of his
honors, and render him comparatively a wreck for the remainder of his

Book XIII.

Chapter I.

Representations at Court Against Columbus.--Bobadilla Empowered to Examine
into His Conduct.


While Columbus was involved in a series of difficulties in the factious
island of Hispaniola, his enemies were but too successful in undermining
his reputation in the court of Spain. The report brought by Ojeda of his
anticipated disgrace was not entirely unfounded; the event was considered
near at hand, and every perfidious exertion was made to accelerate it.
Every vessel from the New World came freighted with complaints,
representing Columbus and his brothers as new men, unaccustomed to
command, inflated by their sudden rise from obscurity; arrogant and
insulting towards men of birth and lofty spirit; oppressive of the common
people, and cruel in their treatment of the natives. The insidious and
illiberal insinuation was continually urged, that they were foreigners,
who could have no interest in the glory of Spain, or the prosperity of
Spaniards; and contemptible as this plea may seem, it had a powerful
effect. Columbus was even accused of a design to cast off all allegiance
to Spain, and either make himself sovereign of the countries he had
discovered, or yield them into the hands of some other power: a slander
which, however extravagant, was calculated to startle the jealous mind of

It is true, that by every ship Columbus likewise sent home statements,
written with the frankness and energy of truth, setting forth the real
cause and nature of the distractions of the island, and pointing out and
imploring remedies, which, if properly applied, might have been
efficacious. His letters, however, arriving at distant intervals, made but
single and transient impressions on the royal mind, which were speedily
effaced by the influence of daily and active misrepresentation. His
enemies at court, having continual access to the sovereigns, were enabled
to place every thing urged against him in the strongest point of view,
while they secretly neutralized the force of his vindications. They used a
plausible logic to prove either bad management or bad faith on his part.
There was an incessant drain upon the mother country for the support of
the colony. Was this compatible with the extravagant pictures he had drawn
of the wealth of the island, and its golden mountains, in which he had
pretended to find the Ophir of ancient days, the source of all the riches
of Solomon? They inferred that he had either deceived the sovereigns by
designing exaggerations, or grossly wronged them by malpractices, or was
totally incapable of the duties of government.

The disappointment of Ferdinand, in finding his newly-discovered
possessions a source of expense instead of profit, was known to press
sorely on his mind. The wars, dictated by his ambition, had straitened his
resources, and involved him in perplexities. He had looked with confidence
to the New World for relief, and for ample means to pursue his triumphs;
and grew impatient at the repeated demands which it occasioned on his
scanty treasury. For the purpose of irritating his feelings and
heightening his resentment, every disappointed and repining man who
returned from the colony was encouraged, by the hostile faction, to put in
claims for pay withheld by Columbus, or losses sustained in his service.
This was especially the case with the disorderly ruffians shipped off to
free the island from sedition. Finding their way to the court of Granada,
they followed the king when he rode out, filling the air with their
complaints, and clamoring for their pay. At one time, about fifty of these
vagabonds found their way into the inner court of the Alhambra, under the
royal apartments; holding up bunches of grapes, as the meagre diet left
them by their poverty, and railing aloud at the deceits of Columbus, and
the cruel neglect of government. The two sons of Columbus, who were pages
to the queen, happening to pass by, they followed them with imprecations,
exclaiming, "There go the sons of the admiral, the whelps of him who
discovered the land of vanity and delusion, the grave of Spanish
hidalgos." [66]

The incessant repetition of falsehood will gradually wear its way into the
most candid mind. Isabella herself began to entertain doubts respecting
the conduct of Columbus. Where there was such universal and incessant
complaint, it seemed reasonable to conclude that there must exist some
fault. If Columbus and his brothers were upright, they might be
injudicious; and, in government, mischief is oftener produced through
error of judgment, than iniquity of design. The letters written by
Columbus himself presented a lamentable picture of the confusion of the
island. Might not this arise from the weakness and incapacity of the
rulers? Even granting that the prevalent abuses arose in a great measure
from the enmity of the people to the admiral and his brothers, and their
prejudices against them as foreigners, was it safe to intrust so important
and distant a command to persons so unpopular with the community?

These considerations had much weight in the candid mind of Isabella, but
they were all-powerful with the cautious and jealous Ferdinand. He had
never regarded Columbus with real cordiality; and ever since he had
ascertained the importance of his discoveries, had regretted the extensive
powers vested in his hands. The excessive clamors which had arisen during
the brief administration of the Adelantado, and the breaking out of the
faction of Roldan, at length determined the king to send out some person
of consequence and ability, to investigate the affairs of the colony, and,
if necessary for its safety, to take upon himself the command. This
important and critical measure it appears had been decided upon, and the
papers and powers actually drawn out, in the spring of 1499. It was not
carried into effect, however, until the following year. Various reasons
have been assigned for this delay. The important services rendered by
Columbus in the discovery of Paria and the Pearl Islands may have had some
effect on the royal mind. The necessity of fitting out an armament just at
that moment, to co-operate with the Venetians against the Turks; the
menacing movements of the new king of France, Louis XII; the rebellion of
the Moors of the Alpuxarra mountains in the lately-conquered kingdom of
Granada; all these have been alleged as reasons for postponing a measure
which called for much consideration, and might have important effects upon
the newly-discovered possessions. [67] The most probable reason, however,
was the strong disinclination of Isabella to take so harsh a step against
a man for whom she entertained such ardent gratitude and high admiration.

At length the arrival of the ships with the late followers of Roldan,
according to their capitulation, brought matters to a crisis. It is true
that Ballester and Barrantes came in these ships, to place the affairs of
the island in a proper light; but they brought out a host of witnesses in
favor of Roldan, and letters written by himself and his confederates,
attributing all their late conduct to the tyranny of Columbus and his
brothers. Unfortunately, the testimony of the rebels had the greatest
weight with Ferdinand; and there was a circumstance in the case which
suspended for a time the friendship of Isabella, hitherto the greatest
dependence of Columbus.

Having a maternal interest in the welfare of the natives, the queen had
been repeatedly offended by what appeared to her pertinacity on the part
of Columbus, in continuing to make slaves of those taken in warfare, in
contradiction to her known wishes. The same ships which brought home the
companions of Roldan, brought likewise a great number of slaves. Some,
Columbus had been obliged to grant to these men by the articles of
capitulation; others they had brought away clandestinely. Among them were
several daughters of caciques, seduced away from their families and their
native island by these profligates. Some of these were in a state of
pregnancy, others had new-born infants. The gifts and transfers of these
unhappy beings were all ascribed to the will of Columbus, and represented
to Isabella in the darkest colors. Her sensibility as a woman, and her
dignity as a queen, were instantly in arms. "What power," exclaimed she
indignantly, "has the admiral to give away my vassals?" [68] Determined,
by one decided and peremptory act, to show her abhorrence of these
outrages upon humanity, she ordered all the Indians to be restored to
their country and friends. Nay more, her measure was retrospective. She
commanded that those formerly sent to Spain by the admiral should be
sought out, and sent back to Hispaniola. Unfortunately for Columbus, at
this very juncture, in one of his letters, he advised the continuance of
Indian slavery for some time longer, as a measure important for the
welfare of the colony. This contributed to heighten the indignation of
Isabella, and induced her no longer to oppose the sending out of a
commission to investigate his conduct, and, if necessary, to supersede
him in command.

Ferdinand was exceedingly embarrassed in appointing this commission,
between his sense of what was due to the character and services of
Columbus, and his anxiety to retract with delicacy the powers vested in
him. A pretext at length was furnished by the recent request of the
admiral that a person of talents and probity, learned in the law, might be
sent out to act as chief judge; and that an impartial umpire might be
appointed, to decide in the affair between himself and Roldan. Ferdinand
proposed to consult his wishes, but to unite those two officers in one;
and as the person he appointed would have to decide in matters touching
the highest functions of the admiral and his brothers, he was empowered,
should he find them culpable, to supersede them in the government; a
singular mode of insuring partiality!

The person chosen for this momentous and delicate office was Don Francisco
de Bobadilla, an officer of the royal household, and a commander of the
military and religious order of Calatrava. Oviedo pronounces him a very
honest and religious man; [69] but he is represented by others, and his
actions corroborate the description, as needy, passionate, and ambitious;
three powerful objections to his exercising the rights of judicature in a
case requiring the utmost patience, candor, and circumspection, and where
the judge was to derive wealth and power from the conviction of one of the

The authority vested in Bobadilla is defined in letters from the
sovereigns still extant, and which deserve to be noticed chronologically;
for the royal intentions appear to have varied with times and
circumstances. The first was dated on the 21st of March, 1499, and
mentions the complaint of the admiral, that an alcalde, and certain other
persons, had risen in rebellion against him. "Wherefore," adds the latter,
"we order you to inform yourself of the truth of the foregoing; to
ascertain who and what persons they were who rose against the said admiral
and our magistracy, and for what cause; and what robberies and other
injuries they have committed; and furthermore, to extend your inquiries to
all other matters relating to the premises; and the information obtained,
and the truth known, whomsoever you find culpable, _arrest their
persons, and sequestrate their effects;_ and thus taken, proceed
against them and the absent, both civilly and criminally, and impose and
inflict such fines and punishments as you may think fit." To carry this
into effect, Bobadilla was authorized, in case of necessity, to call in
the assistance of the admiral, and of all other persons in authority.

The powers here given are manifestly directed merely against the rebels,
and in consequence of the complaints of Columbus. Another letter, dated on
the 21st of May, two months subsequently, is of quite different purport.
It makes no mention of Columbus, but is addressed to the various
functionaries and men of property of the islands and Terra Firma,
informing them of the appointment of Bobadilla to the government, with
full civil and criminal jurisdiction. Among the powers specified, is the
following;--"It is our will, that if the said commander, Francisco de
Bobadilla, should think it necessary for our service, and the purposes of
justice, that any cavaliers, or other persons who are at present in those
islands, or may arrive there, should leave them, and not return and reside
in them, and that they should come and present themselves before us, he
may command it in our name, and oblige them to depart; and whomsoever he
thus commands, we hereby order, that immediately, without waiting to
inquire or consult us, or to receive from us any other letter or command,
and without interposing appeal or supplication, they obey whatever he
shall say and order, under the penalties which he shall impose on our
part," &c. &c.

Another letter, dated likewise on the 21st of May, in which Columbus is
styled simply, "admiral of the ocean sea," orders him and his brothers to
surrender the fortress, ships, houses, arms, ammunition, cattle, and all
other royal property, into the hands of Bobadilla, as governor, under
penalty of incurring the punishments to which those subject themselves who
refuse to surrender fortresses and other trusts, when commanded by their

A fourth letter, dated on the 26th of May, and addressed to Columbus,
simply by the title of admiral, is a mere letter of credence, ordering him
to give faith and obedience to whatever Bobadilla should impart.

The second and third of these letters were evidently provisional, and only
to be produced, if, on examination, there should appear such delinquency
on the part of Columbus and his brothers as to warrant their being
divested of command.

This heavy blow, as has been shown, remained suspended for a year; yet,
that it was whispered about, and triumphantly anticipated by the enemies
of Columbus, is evident from the assertions of Ojeda, who sailed from
Spain about the time of the signature of those letters, and had intimate
communications with Bishop Fonseca, who was considered instrumental in
producing this measure. The very license granted by the bishop to Ojeda to
sail on a voyage of discovery in contravention of the prerogatives of the
admiral, has the air of being given on a presumption of his speedy
downfall; and the same presumption, as has already been observed, must
have encouraged Ojeda in his turbulent conduct at Xaragua.

At length the long-projected measure was carried into effect. Bobadilla
set sail for San Domingo about the middle of July, 1500, with two
caravels, in which were twenty-five men, enlisted for a year, to serve as
a kind of guard. There were six friars likewise, who had charge of a
number of Indians sent back to their country. Besides the letters patent,
Bobadilla was authorized, by royal order, to ascertain and discharge all
arrears of pay due to persons in the service of the crown; and to oblige
the admiral to pay what was due on his part, "so that those people might
receive what was owing to them, and there might be no more complaints." In
addition to all these powers, Bobadilla was furnished with many blank
letters signed by the sovereigns, to be filled up by him in such manner,
and directed to such persons, as he might think advisable, in relation to
the mission with which he was intrusted. [70]

Chapter II.

Arrival of Bobadilla at San Domingo--His Violent Assumption of the Command.


Columbus was still at Fort Conception, regulating the affairs of the
Vega, after the catastrophe of the sedition of Moxica; his brother, the
Adelantado, accompanied by Roldan, was pursuing and arresting the fugitive
rebels in Xaragua; and Don Diego Columbus remained in temporary command at
San Domingo. Faction had worn itself out; the insurgents had brought down
ruin upon themselves; and the island appeared delivered from the
domination of violent and lawless men.

Such was the state of public affairs, when, on the morning of the 23d of
August, two caravels were descried off the harbor of San Domingo, about a
league at sea. They were standing off and on, waiting until the sea
breeze, which generally prevails about ten o'clock, should carry them into
port. Don Diego Columbus supposed them to be ships sent from Spain with
supplies, and hoped to find on board his nephew Diego, whom the admiral
had requested might be sent out to assist him in his various concerns. A
canoe was immediately dispatched to obtain information; which, approaching
the caravels, inquired what news they brought, and whether Diego, the son
of the admiral, was on board. Bobadilla himself replied from the principal
vessel, announcing himself as a commissioner sent out to investigate the
late rebellion. The master of the caravel then inquired about the news of
the island, and was informed of the recent transactions. Seven of the
rebels, he was told, had been hanged that week, and five more were in the
fortress of San Domingo, condemned to suffer the same fate. Among these
were Pedro Riquelme and Fernando de Guevara, the young cavalier whose
passion for the daughter of Anacaona had been the original cause of the
rebellion. Further, conversation passed, in the course of which Bobadilla
ascertained that the admiral and the Adelantado were absent, and Don Diego
Columbus in command.

When the canoe returned to the city, with the news that a commissioner had
arrived to make inquisition into the late troubles, there was a great stir
and agitation throughout the community. Knots of whisperers gathered at
every corner; those who were conscious of malpractices were filled with
consternation; while those who had grievances, real or imaginary, to
complain of, especially those whose pay was in arrear, appeared with joyful
countenances. [71]

As the vessels entered the river, Bobadilla beheld on either bank a gibbet
with the body of a Spaniard hanging on it, apparently but lately executed.
He considered these as conclusive proofs of the alleged cruelty of
Columbus. Many boats came off to the ship, every one being anxious to pay
early court to this public censor. Bobadilla remained on board all day, in
the course of which he collected much of the rumors of the place; and as
those who sought to secure his favor were those who had most to fear from
his investigations, it is evident that the nature of the rumors must
generally have been unfavorable to Columbus. In fact, before Bobadilla
landed, if not before he arrived, the culpability of the admiral was
decided in his mind.

The next morning he landed with all his followers, and went to the church
to attend mass, where he found Don Diego Columbus, Rodrigo Perez, the
lieutenant of the admiral, and other persons of note. Mass being ended,
and those persons, with a multitude of the populace, being assembled at
the door of the church, Bobadilla ordered his letters patent to be read,
authorizing him to investigate the rebellion, seize the persons, and
sequestrate the property of delinquents, and proceed against them with the
utmost rigor of the law; commanding also the admiral, and all others in
authority, to assist him in the discharge of his duties. The letter being
read, he demanded of Don Diego and the alcaldes, to surrender to him the
persons of Fernando Guevara, Pedro Riquelme, and the other prisoners, with
the depositions taken concerning them; and ordered that the parties by
whom they were accused, and those by whose command they had been taken,
should appear before him.

Don Diego replied, that the proceedings had emanated from the orders of
the admiral, who held superior powers to any Bobadilla could possess, and
without whose authority he could do nothing. He requested, at the same
time, a copy of the letter patent, that he might send it to his brother,
to whom alone the matter appertained. This Bobadilla refused, observing
that, if Don Diego had power to do nothing, it was useless to give him a
copy. He added, that since the office and authority he had proclaimed
appeared to have no weight, he would try what power and consequence there
was in the name of governor; and would show them that he had command, not
merely over them, but over the admiral himself.

The little community remained in breathless suspense, awaiting the
portentous movements of Bobadilla. The next morning he appeared at mass,
resolved on assuming those powers which were only to have been produced
after full investigation, and ample proof of the mal-conduct of Columbus.
When mass was over, and the eager populace had gathered round the door of
the church, Bobadilla, in presence of Don Diego and Rodrigo Perez, ordered
his other royal patent to be read, investing him with the government of
the islands, and of Terra Firma.

The patent being read, Bobadilla took the customary oath, and then claimed
the obedience of Don Diego, Rodrigo Perez, and all present, to this royal
instrument; on the authority of which he again demanded the prisoners
confined in the fortress. In reply, they professed the utmost deference to
the letter of the sovereigns, but again observed that they held the
prisoners in obedience to the admiral, to whom the sovereigns had granted
letters of a higher nature.

The self-importance of Bobadilla was incensed at this non-compliance,
especially as he saw it had some effect upon the populace, who appeared to
doubt his authority. He now produced the third mandate of the crown,
ordering Columbus and his brothers to deliver up all fortresses, ships,
and other royal property. To win the public completely to his side, he
read also the additional mandate issued on the 30th of May, of the same
year, ordering him to pay the arrears of wages due to all persons in the
royal service, and to compel the admiral to pay the arrears of those to
whom he was accountable.

This last document was received with shouts by the multitude, many having
long arrears due to them in consequence of the poverty of the treasury.
Flushed with his growing importance, Bobadilla again demanded the
prisoners; threatening, if refused, to take them by force. Meeting with
the same reply, he repaired to the fortress to execute his threats. This
post was commanded by Miguel Diaz, the same Arragonian cavalier who had
once taken refuge among the Indians on the banks of the Ozema, won the
affections of the female cacique Catalina, received from her information
of the neighboring gold mines, and induced his countrymen to remove to
those parts.

When Bobadilla came before the fortress, he found the gates closed, and
the alcayde, Miguel Diaz, upon the battlements. He ordered his letters
patent to be read with a loud voice, the signatures and seals to be held
up to view, and then demanded the surrender of the prisoners. Diaz
requested a copy of the letters; but this Bobadilla refused, alleging that
there was no time for delay, the prisoners being under sentence of death,
and liable at any moment to be executed. He threatened, at the same time,
that if they were not given up, he would proceed to extremities, and Diaz
should be answerable for the consequences. The wary alcayde again required
time to reply, and a copy of the letters; saying that he held the fortress
for the king, by the command of the admiral, his lord, who had gained
these territories and islands, and that when the latter arrived, he should
obey his orders. [72]

The whole spirit of Bobadilla was roused within him at the refusal of the
alcayde. Assembling all the people he had brought from Spain, together
with the sailors of the ships, and the rabble of the place, he exhorted
them to aid him in getting possession of the prisoners, but to harm no one
unless in case of resistance. The mob shouted assent, for Bobadilla was
already the idol of the multitude. About the hour of vespers he set out,
at the head of this motley army, to storm a fortress destitute of a
garrison, and formidable only in name, being calculated to withstand only
a naked and slightly-armed people. The accounts of this transaction have
something in them bordering on the ludicrous, and give it the air of
absurd rhodomontade. Bobadilla assailed the portal with great impetuosity,
the frail bolts and locks of which gave way at the first shock, and
allowed him easy admission. In the meantime, however, his zealous
myrmidons applied ladders to the walls, as if about to carry the place by
assault, and to experience a desperate defence. The alcayde, Miguel Diaz,
and Don Diego de Alvarado, alone appeared on the battlements; they had
drawn swords, but offered no resistance. Bobadilla entered the fortress in
triumph, and without molestation. The prisoners were found in a chamber in
irons. He ordered that they should be brought up to him to the top of the
fortress, where, having put a few questions to them, as a matter of form,
he gave them in charge to an alguazil named Juan de Espinosa. [73]

Such was the arrogant and precipitate entrance into office of Francisco de
Bobadilla. He had reversed the order of his written instructions; having
seized upon the government before he had investigated the conduct of
Columbus. He continued his career in the same spirit; acting as if the
case had been prejudged in Spain, and he had been sent out merely to
degrade the admiral from his employments, not to ascertain the manner in
which he had fulfilled them. He took up his residence in the house of
Columbus, seized upon his arms, gold, plate, jewels, horses, together with
his letters, and various manuscripts, both public and private, even to his
most secret papers. He gave no account of the property thus seized; and
which he no doubt considered already confiscated to the crown, excepting
that he paid out of it the wages of those to whom the admiral was in
arrears. [74] To increase his favor with the people, he proclaimed, on the
second day of his assumption of power, a general license for the term of
twenty years, to seek for gold, paying merely one eleventh to government,
instead of a third as heretofore. At the same time, he spoke in the most
disrespectful and unqualified terms of Columbus, saying that he was
empowered to send him home in chains, and that neither he nor any of his
lineage would ever again be permitted to govern in the island. [75]

Chapter III.

Columbus Summoned to Appear before Bobadilla.


When the tidings reached Columbus at Fort Conception of the high-handed
proceedings of Bobadilla, he considered them the unauthorized acts of some
rash adventurer like Ojeda. Since government had apparently thrown open
the door to private enterprise, he might expect to have his path
continually crossed, and his jurisdiction infringed by bold intermeddlers,
feigning or fancying themselves authorized to interfere in the affairs of
the colony. Since the departure of Ojeda another squadron had touched upon
the coast, and produced a transient alarm, being an expedition under one
of the Pinzons, licensed by the sovereigns to make discoveries. There had
also been a rumor of another squadron hovering about the island, which
proved, however, to be unfounded. [76]

The conduct of Bobadilla bore all the appearance of a lawless usurpation
of some intruder of the kind. He had possessed himself forcibly of the
fortress, and consequently of the town. He had issued extravagant licenses
injurious to the government, and apparently intended only to make
partisans among the people; and had threatened to throw Columbus himself
in irons. That this man could really be sanctioned by government, in such
intemperate measures, was repugnant to belief. The admiral's consciousness
of his own services, the repeated assurances he had received of high
consideration on the part of the sovereigns, and the perpetual
prerogatives granted to him under their hand and seal, with all the
solemnity that a compact could possess, all forbade him to consider the
transactions at San Domingo otherwise than as outrages on his authority by
some daring or misguided individual.

To be nearer to San Domingo, and obtain more correct information, he
proceeded to Bonao, which was now beginning to assume the appearance of a
settlement, several Spaniards having erected houses there, and cultivated
the adjacent country. He had scarcely reached the place, when an alcalde,
bearing a staff of office, arrived there from San Domingo, proclaiming the
appointment of Bobadilla to the government, and bearing copies of his
letters patent. There was no especial letter or message sent to the
admiral, nor were any of the common forms of courtesy and ceremony
observed in superseding him in the command; all the proceedings of
Bobadilla towards him were abrupt and insulting.

Columbus was exceedingly embarrassed how to act. It was evident that
Bobadilla was intrusted with extensive powers by the sovereigns, but that
they could have exercised such a sudden, unmerited, and apparently
capricious act of severity, as that of divesting him of all his commands,
he could not believe. He endeavored to persuade himself that Bobadilla was
some person sent out to exercise the functions of chief judge, according
to the request he had written home to the sovereigns, and that they had
intrusted him likewise with provisional powers to make an inquest into the
late troubles of the island. All beyond these powers he tried to believe
were mere assumptions and exaggerations of authority, as in the case of
Aguado. At all events, he was determined to act upon such presumption, and
to endeavor to gain time. If the monarchs had really taken any harsh
measures with respect to him, it must have been in consequence of
misrepresentations. The least delay might give them an opportunity of
ascertaining their error, and making the necessary amends.

He wrote to Bobadilla, therefore, in guarded terms, welcoming him to the
island; cautioning him against precipitate measures, especially in
granting licenses to collect gold; informing him that he was on the point
of going to Spain, and in a little time would leave him in command, with
every thing fully and clearly explained. He wrote at the same time to the
like purport to certain monks who had come out with Bobadilla, though he
observes that these letters were only written to gain time. [77] He
received no replies: but while an insulting silence was observed towards
him, Bobadilla filled up several of the blank letters, of which he had a
number signed by the sovereigns, and sent them to Roldan, and other of the
admiral's enemies, the very men whom he had been sent out to judge. These
letters were full of civilities and promises of favor. [78]

To prevent any mischief which might arise from the licenses and
indulgences so prodigally granted by Bobadilla, Columbus published by word
and letter, that the powers assumed by him could not be valid, nor his
licenses availing, as he himself held superior powers granted to him in
perpetuity by the crown, which could no more be superseded in this
instance, than they had been in that of Aguado.

For some time Columbus remained in this anxious and perplexed state of
mind, uncertain what line of conduct to pursue in so singular and
unlooked-for a conjuncture. He was soon brought to a decision. Francisco
Velasquez, deputy treasurer, and Juan de Trasierra, a Franciscan friar,
arrived at Bonao, and delivered to him the royal letter of credence,
signed by the sovereigns on the 26th of May, 1499, commanding him to give
implicit faith and obedience to Bobadilla; and they delivered, at the same
time, a summons from the latter to appear immediately before him.

This laconic letter from the sovereigns struck at once at the root of all
his dignity and power. He no longer made hesitation or demur, but,
complying with the peremptory summons of Bobadilla, departed, almost alone
and unattended, for San Domingo. [79]

Chapter IV.

Columbus and His Brothers Arrested and Sent to Spain in Chains.


The tidings that a new governor had arrived, and that Columbus was in
disgrace, and to be sent home in chains, circulated rapidly through the
Vega, and the colonists hastened from all parts to San Domingo to make
interest with Bobadilla. It was soon perceived that there was no surer way
than that of vilifying his predecessor. Bobadilla felt that he had taken a
rash step in seizing upon the government, and that his own safety required
the conviction of Columbus. He listened eagerly, therefore, to all
accusations, public or private; and welcome was he who could bring any
charge, however extravagant, against the admiral and his brothers.

Hearing that the admiral was on his way to the city, he made a bustle of
preparation, and armed the troops, affecting to believe a rumor that
Columbus had called upon the caciques of the Vega to aid him with their
subjects in a resistance to the commands of government. No grounds appear
for this absurd report, which was probably invented to give a coloring of
precaution to subsequent measures of violence and insult. The admiral's
brother, Don Diego, was seized, thrown in irons, and confined on board of
a caravel, without any reason being assigned for his imprisonment.

In the meantime Columbus pursued his journey to San Domingo, traveling in
a lonely manner, without guards or retinue. Most of his people were with
the Adelantado, and he had declined being attended by the remainder. He
had heard of the rumors of the hostile intentions of Bobadilla; and
although he knew that violence was threatened to his person, he came in
this unpretending manner, to manifest his pacific feelings, and to remove
all suspicion. [80]

No sooner did Bobadilla hear of his arrival, than he gave orders to put
him in irons, and confine him in the fortress. This outrage to a person of
such dignified and venerable appearance, and such eminent merit, seemed,
for the time, to shock even his enemies. When the irons were brought,
every one present shrank from the task of putting them on him, either from
a sentiment of compassion at so great a reverse of fortune, or out of
habitual reverence for his person. To fill the measure of ingratitude
meted out to him, it was one of his own domestics, "a graceless and
shameless cook," says Las Casas, "who, with unwashed front, riveted the
fetters with as much readiness and alacrity, as though he were serving him
with choice and savory viands. I knew the fellow," adds the venerable
historian, "and I think his name was Espinosa." [81]

Columbus conducted himself with characteristic magnanimity under the
injuries heaped upon him. There is a noble scorn which swells and supports
the heart, and silences the tongue of the truly great, when enduring the
insults of the unworthy. Columbus could not stoop to deprecate the
arrogance of a weak and violent man like Bobadilla. He looked beyond this
shallow agent, and all his petty tyranny, to the sovereigns who had
employed him. Their injustice or ingratitude alone could wound his spirit;
and he felt assured that when the truth came to be known, they would blush
to find how greatly they had wronged him. With this proud assurance, he
bore all present indignities in silence.

Bobadilla, although he had the admiral and Don Diego in his power, and had
secured the venal populace, felt anxious and ill at ease. The Adelantado,
with an armed force under his command, was still in the distant province
of Xaragua, in pursuit of the rebels. Knowing his soldier-like and
determined spirit, he feared he might take some violent measure when he
should hear of the ignominious treatment and imprisonment of his brothers.
He doubted whether any order from himself would have any effect, except to
exasperate the stern Don Bartholomew. He sent a demand, therefore, to
Columbus, to write to his brother, requesting him to repair peaceably to
San Domingo, and forbidding him to execute the persons he held in
confinement: Columbus readily complied. He exhorted his brother to submit
quietly to the authority of his sovereigns, and to endure all present
wrongs and indignities, under the confidence that when they arrived at
Castile, every thing would be explained and redressed. [82]

On receiving this letter, Don Bartholomew immediately complied.
Relinquishing his command, he hastened peacefully to San Domingo, and on
arriving experienced the same treatment with his brothers, being put in
irons and confined on board of a caravel. They were kept separate from
each other, and no communication permitted between them. Bobadilla did not
see them himself, nor did he allow others to visit them; but kept them in
ignorance of the cause of their imprisonment, the crimes with which they
were charged, and the process that was going on against them. [83]

It has been questioned whether Bobadilla really had authority for the
arrest and imprisonment of the admiral and his brothers; [84]
and whether such violence and indignity was in any case contemplated by
the sovereigns. He may have fancied himself empowered by the clause in the
letter of instructions, dated March 21st, 1499, in which, speaking of the
rebellion of Roldan, "he is authorized to _seize the persons and
sequestrate the property_ of those who appeared to be culpable, and
then to proceed against them and against the absent, with the highest
civil and criminal penalties." This evidently had reference to the persons
of Roldan and his followers, who were then in arms, and against whom
Columbus had sent home complaints; and this, by a violent construction,
Bobadilla seems to have wrested into an authority for seizing the person
of the admiral himself. In fact, in the whole course of his proceedings,
he reversed and confounded the order of his instructions. His first step
should have been to proceed against the rebels; this he made the last. His
last step should have been, in case of ample evidence against the admiral,
to have superseded him in office; and this he made the first, without
waiting for evidence. Having predetermined, from the very outset, that
Columbus was in the wrong, by the same rule he had to presume that all the
opposite parties were in the right. It became indispensable to his own
justification to inculpate the admiral and his brothers; and the rebels he
had been sent to judge became, by this, singular perversion of rule,
necessary and cherished evidences, to criminate those against whom they
had rebelled.

The intentions of the crown, however, are not to be vindicated at the
expense of its miserable agent. If proper respect had been felt for the
rights and dignities of Columbus, Bobadilla would never have been
intrusted with powers so extensive, undefined, and discretionary; nor
would he have dared to proceed to such lengths, with such rudeness and
precipitation, had he not felt assured that it would not be displeasing to
the jealous-minded Ferdinand.

The old scenes of the time of Aguado were now renewed with tenfold
virulence, and the old charges revived, with others still more
extravagant. From the early and never-to-be-forgotten outrage upon
Castilian pride, of compelling hidalgos, in time of emergency, to labor in
the construction of works necessary to the public safety, down to the
recent charge of levying war against the government, there was not a
hardship, abuse, nor sedition in the island, that was not imputed to the
misdeeds of Columbus and his brothers. Besides the usual accusations of
inflicting oppressive labor, unnecessary tasks, painful restrictions,
short allowances of food, and cruel punishments upon the Spaniards, and
waging unjust wars against the natives, they were now charged with
preventing the conversion of the latter, that they might send them slaves
to Spain, and profit by their sale. This last charge, so contrary to the
pious feelings of the admiral, was founded on his having objected to the
baptism of certain Indians of mature age, until they could be instructed
in the doctrines of Christianity; justly considering it an abuse of that
holy sacrament to administer it thus blindly. [85]

Columbus was charged, also, with having secreted pearls, and other
precious articles, collected in his voyage along the coast of Paria, and
with keeping the sovereigns in ignorance of the nature of his discoveries
there, in order to exact new privileges from them; yet it was notorious
that he had sent home specimens of the pearls, and journals and charts of
his voyage, by which others had been enabled to pursue his track.

Even the late tumults, now that the rebels were admitted as evidence, were
all turned into matters of accusation. They were represented as spirited
and loyal resistances to tyranny exercised upon the colonists and the
natives. The well-merited punishments inflicted upon certain of the
ring-leaders were cited as proofs of a cruel and revengeful disposition,
and a secret hatred of Spaniards. Bobadilla believed, or affected to
believe, all these charges. He had, in a manner, made the rebels his
confederates in the ruin of Columbus. It was become a common cause with
them. He could no longer, therefore, conduct himself towards them as a
judge. Guevara, Riquelme, and their fellow-convicts, were discharged
almost without the form of a trial, and it is even said were received
into favor and countenance. Roldan, from the very first, had been
treated with confidence by Bobadilla, and honored with his
correspondence. All the others, whose conduct had rendered them liable
to justice, received either a special acquittal or a general pardon. It
was enough to have been opposed in any way to Columbus, to obtain full
justification in the eyes of Bobadilla.

The latter had now collected a weight of testimony, and produced a crowd
of witnesses, sufficient, as he conceived, to insure the condemnation of
the prisoners, and his own continuance in command. He determined,
therefore, to send the admiral and his brothers home in chains, in the
vessels ready for sea, transmitting at the same time the inquest taken in
their case, and writing private letters, enforcing the charges made
against them, and advising that Columbus should on no account be restored
to the command, which he had so shamefully abused.

San Domingo now swarmed with miscreants just delivered from the dungeon
and the gibbet. It was a perfect jubilee of triumphant villany and dastard
malice. Every base spirit, which had been awed into obsequiousness by
Columbus and his brothers when in power, now started up to revenge itself
upon them when in chains. The most injurious slanders were loudly
proclaimed in the streets; insulting pasquinades and inflammatory libels
were posted up at every corner; and horns were blown in the neighborhood
of their prisons, to taunt them with the exultings of the rabble. [86]
When these rejoicings of his enemies reached him in his dungeon, and
Columbus reflected on the inconsiderate violence already exhibited by
Bobadilla, he knew not how far his rashness and confidence might carry
him, and began to entertain apprehensions for his life.

The vessels being ready to make sail, Alonzo de Villejo was appointed to
take charge of the prisoners, and carry them to Spain. This officer had
been brought up by an uncle of Fonseca, was in the employ of that bishop,
and had come out with Bobadilla. The latter instructed him, on arriving at
Cadiz, to deliver his prisoners into the hands of Fonseca, or of his
uncle, thinking thereby to give the malignant prelate a triumphant
gratification. This circumstance gave weight with many to a report that
Bobadilla was secretly instigated and encouraged in his violent measures
by Fonseca, and was promised his protection and influence at court, in
case of any complaints of his conduct. [87]

Villejo undertook the office assigned him, but he discharged it in a more
generous manner than was intended. "This Alonzo de Villejo," says the
worthy Las Casas, "was a hidalgo of honorable character, and my particular
friend." He certainly showed himself superior to the low malignity of his
patrons. When he arrived with a guard to conduct the admiral from the
prison to the ship, he found him in chains in a state of silent
despondency. So violently had he been treated, and so savage were the
passions let loose against him, that he feared he should be sacrificed
without an opportunity of being heard, and his name go down sullied and
dishonored to posterity. When he beheld the officer enter with the guard,
he thought it was to conduct him to the scaffold. "Villejo," said he,
mournfully, "whither are you taking me?" "To the ship, your Excellency, to
embark," replied the other. "To embark!" repeated the admiral, earnestly;
"Villejo! do you speak the truth?" "By the life of your Excellency,"
replied the honest officer, "it is true!" With these words the admiral was
comforted, and felt as one restored from death to life. Nothing can be
more touching and expressive than this little colloquy, recorded by the
venerable Las Casas, who doubtless had it from the lips of his friend

The caravels set sail early in October, bearing off Columbus shackled like
the vilest of culprits, amidst the scoffs and shouts of a miscreant
rabble, who took a brutal joy in heaping insults on his venerable head,
and sent curses after him from the shores of the island he had so recently
added to the civilized world. Fortunately the voyage was favorable, and of
but moderate duration, and was rendered less disagreeable by the conduct
of those to whom he was given in custody. The worthy Villejo, though in
the service of Fonseca, felt deeply moved at the treatment of Columbus.
The master of the caravel, Andreas Martin, was equally grieved: they both
treated the admiral with profound respect and assiduous attention. They
would have taken off his irons, but to this he would not consent. "No,"
said he proudly, "their majesties commanded me by letter to submit to
whatever Bobadilla should order in their name; by their authority he has
put upon me these chains; I will wear them until they shall order them to
be taken off, and I will preserve them afterwards as relics and memorials
of the reward of my services." [88]

"He did so," adds his son Fernando; "I saw them always hanging in his
cabinet, and he requested that when he died they might be buried with
him." [89]

Book XIV.

Chapter I.

Sensation in Spain on the Arrival of Columbus in Irons.--His Appearance at


The arrival of Columbus at Cadiz, a prisoner and in chains, produced
almost as great a sensation as his triumphant return from his first
voyage. It was one of those striking and obvious facts, which speak to the
feelings of the multitude, and preclude the necessity of reflection. No
one stopped to inquire into the case. It was sufficient to be told that
Columbus was brought home in irons from the world he had discovered. There
was a general burst of indignation in Cadiz, and in the powerful and
opulent Seville, which was echoed throughout all Spain. If the ruin of
Columbus had been the intention of his enemies, they had defeated their
object by their own violence. One of those reactions took place, so
frequent in the public mind, when persecution is pushed to an unguarded
length. Those of the populace who had recently been loud in their clamor
against Columbus, were now as loud in their reprobation of his treatment,
and a strong sympathy was expressed, against which it would have been
odious for the government to contend.

The tidings of his arrival, and of the ignominious manner in which he had
been brought, reached the court at Granada, and filled the halls of the
Alhambra with murmurs of astonishment. Columbus, full of his wrongs, but
ignorant how far they had been authorized by the sovereigns, had forborne
to write to them. In the course of his voyage, however, he had penned a
long letter to Dona Juana de la Torre, the aya of Prince Juan, a lady high
in favor with Queen Isabella. This letter, on his arrival at Cadiz,
Andreas Martin, the captain of the caravel, permitted him to send off
privately by express. It arrived, therefore, before the protocol of the
proceedings instituted by Bobadilla, and from this document the sovereigns
derived their first intimation of his treatment. [90] It contained a
statement of the late transactions of the island, and of the wrongs he had
suffered, written with his usual artlessness and energy. To specify the
contents would be but to recapitulate circumstances already recorded. Some
expressions, however, which burst from him in the warmth of his feelings,
are worthy of being noted. "The slanders of worthless men," says he, "have
done me more injury than all my services have profited me." Speaking of
the misrepresentations to which he was subjected, he observes: "Such is
the evil name which I have acquired, that if I were to build hospitals and
churches, they would be called dens of robbers." After relating in
indignant terms the conduct of Bobadilla, in seeking testimony respecting
his administration from the very men who had rebelled against him, and
throwing himself and his brothers in irons, without letting them know the
offences with which they were charged, "I have been much aggrieved," he
adds, "in that a person should be sent out to investigate my conduct, who
knew that if the evidence which he could send home should appear to be of
a serious nature, he would remain in the government." He complains that,
in forming an opinion of his administration, allowances had not been made
for the extraordinary difficulties with which he had to contend, and the
wild state of the country over which he had to rule. "I was judged," he
observes, "as a governor who had been sent to take charge of a
well-regulated city, under the dominion of well-established laws, where
there was no danger of every thing running to disorder and ruin; but I
ought to be judged as a captain, sent to subdue a numerous and hostile
people, of manners and religion opposite to ours, living not in regular
towns, but in forests and mountains. It ought to be considered that I have
brought all these under subjection to their majesties, giving them
dominion over another world, by which Spain, heretofore poor, has suddenly
become rich. Whatever errors I may have fallen into, they were not with an
evil intention; and I believe their majesties will credit what I say. I
have known them to be merciful to those who have willfully done them
disservice; I am convinced that they will have still more indulgence for
me, who have erred innocently, or by compulsion, as they will hereafter be
more fully informed; and I trust they will consider my great services, the
advantages of which are every day more and more apparent."

When this letter was read to the noble-minded Isabella, and she found how
grossly Columbus had been wronged and the royal authority abused, her
heart was filled with mingled sympathy and indignation. The tidings were
confirmed by a letter from the alcalde or corregidor of Cadiz, into whose
hands Columbus and his brothers had been delivered, until the pleasure of
the sovereigns should be known; [91] and by another letter from Alonzo de
Villejo, expressed in terms accordant with his humane and honorable
conduct towards his illustrious prisoner.

However Ferdinand might have secretly felt disposed against Columbus, the
momentary tide of public feeling was not to be resisted. He joined with
his generous queen in her reprobation of the treatment of the admiral, and
both sovereigns hastened to give evidence to the world, that his
imprisonment had been without their authority, and contrary to their
wishes. Without waiting to receive any documents that might arrive from
Bobadilla, they sent orders to Cadiz that the prisoners should be
instantly set at liberty, and treated with all distinction. They wrote a
letter to Columbus, couched in terms of gratitude and affection,
expressing their grief at all that he had suffered, and inviting him to
court. They ordered, at the same time, that two thousand ducats should be
advanced to defray his expenses. [92]

The loyal heart of Columbus was again cheered by this declaration of his
sovereigns. He felt conscious of his integrity, and anticipated an
immediate restitution of all his rights and dignities. He appeared at
court in Granada on the 17th of December, not as a man ruined and
disgraced, but richly dressed, and attended by an honorable retinue. He
was received by the sovereigns with unqualified favor and distinction.
When the queen beheld this venerable man approach, and thought on all he
had deserved and all he had suffered, she was moved to tears. Columbus had
borne up firmly against the rude conflicts of the world,-he had endured
with lofty scorn the injuries and insults of ignoble men; but he possessed
strong and quick sensibility. When he found himself thus kindly received
by his sovereigns, and beheld tears in the benign eyes of Isabella, his
long-suppressed feelings burst forth: he threw himself on his knees, and
for some time could not utter a word for the violence of his tears and
sobbings. [93]

Ferdinand and Isabella raised him from the ground, and endeavored to
encourage him by the most gracious expressions. As soon as he regained
self-possession, he entered into an eloquent and high-minded vindication
of his loyalty, and the zeal he had ever felt for the glory and advantage
of the Spanish crown, declaring that if at any time he had erred, it had
been through inexperience in government, and the extraordinary
difficulties by which he had been surrounded.

There needed no vindication on his part. The intemperance of his enemies
had been his best advocate. He stood in presence of his sovereigns a
deeply-injured man, and it remained for them to vindicate themselves to
the world from the charge of ingratitude towards their most deserving
subject. They expressed their indignation at the proceedings of Bobadilla,
which they disavowed, as contrary to their instructions, and declared that
he should be immediately dismissed from his command.

In fact, no public notice was taken of the charges sent home by Bobadilla,
nor of the letters written in support of them. The sovereigns took every
occasion to treat Columbus with favor and distinction, assuring him that
his grievances should be redressed, his property restored, and he
reinstated in all his privileges and dignities.

It was on the latter point that Columbus was chiefly solicitous. Mercenary
considerations had scarcely any weight in his mind. Glory had been the
great object of his ambition, and he felt that, as long as he remained
suspended from his employments, a tacit censure rested on his name. He
expected, therefore, that the moment the sovereigns should be satisfied of
the rectitude of his conduct, they would be eager to make him amends; that
a restitution of his viceroyalty would immediately take place, and he
should return in triumph to San Domingo. Here, however, he was doomed to
experience a disappointment which threw a gloom over the remainder of his
days. To account for this flagrant want of justice and gratitude in the
crown, it is expedient to notice a variety of events which had materially
affected the interests of Columbus in the eyes of the politic Ferdinand.

Chapter II.

Contemporary Voyages of Discovery.

The general license granted by the Spanish sovereigns in 1495, to
undertake voyages of discovery, had given rise to various expeditions by
enterprising individuals, chiefly persons who had sailed with Columbus in
his first voyages. The government, unable to fit out many armaments
itself, was pleased to have its territories thus extended, free of cost,
and its treasury at the same time benefited by the share of the proceeds
of these voyages, reserved as a kind of duty to the crown. These
expeditions had chiefly taken place while Columbus was in partial disgrace
with the sovereigns. His own charts and journal served as guides to the
adventurers; and his magnificent accounts of Paria and the adjacent coasts
had chiefly excited their cupidity.

Beside the expedition of Ojeda, already noticed, in the course of which he
touched at Xaragua, one had been undertaken at the same time by Pedro
Alonzo Nino, native of Moguer, an able pilot, who had been with Columbus
in the voyages to Cuba and Paria. Having obtained a license, he interested
a rich merchant of Seville in the undertaking, who fitted out a caravel of
fifty tons burden, under condition that his brother Christoval Guevra
should have the command. They sailed from the bar of Saltes, a few days
after Ojeda had sailed from Cadiz, in the spring of 1499, and arriving on
the coast of Terra Firma, to the south of Paria, ran along it for some
distance, passed through the Gulf, and thence went one hundred and thirty
leagues along the shore of the present republic of Columbia, visiting what
was afterwards called the Pearl Coast. They landed in various places;
disposed of their European trifles to immense profit, and returned with a
large store of gold and pearls; having made, in their diminutive bark, one
of the most extensive and lucrative voyages yet accomplished.

About the same time, the Pinzons, that family of bold and opulent
navigators, fitted out an armament of four caravels at Palos, manned in a
great measure by their own relations and friends. Several experienced
pilots embarked in it who had been with Columbus to Paria, and it was
commanded by Vicente Yanez Pinzon, who had been captain of a caravel in
the squadron of the admiral on his first voyage.

Pinzon was a hardy and experienced seaman, and did not, like the others,
follow closely in the track of Columbus. Sailing in December, 1499, he
passed the Canary and Cape Verde Islands, standing southwest until he lost
sight of the polar star. Here he encountered a terrible storm, and was
exceedingly perplexed and confounded by the new aspect of the heavens.
Nothing was yet known of the southern hemisphere, nor of the beautiful
constellation of the cross, which in those regions has since supplied to
mariners the place of the north star. The voyagers had expected to find at
the south pole a star correspondent to that of the north. They were
dismayed at beholding no guide of the kind, and thought there must be some
prominent swelling of the earth, which hid the pole from their view.

Pinzon continued on, however, with great intrepidity. On the 26th of
January, 1500, he saw, at a distance, a great headland, which he called
Cape Santa Maria de la Consolacion, but which has since been named Cape
St. Augustine. He landed and took possession of the country in the name of
their catholic majesties; being a part of the territories since called the
Brazils. Standing thence westward, he discovered the Maragnon, since
called the River of the Amazons; traversed the Gulf of Paria, and
continued across the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, until he found
himself among the Bahamas, where he lost two of his vessels on the rocks,
near the island of Jumeto. He returned to Palos in September, having added
to his former glory that of being the first European who had crossed the
equinoctial line in the western ocean, and of having discovered the famous
kingdom of Brazil, from its commencement at the River Maragnon to its most
eastern point. As a reward for his achievements, power was granted to him
to colonize and govern the lands which he had discovered, and which
extended southward from a little beyond the River of Maragnon to Cape St.
Augustine. [95]

The little port of Palos, which had been so slow in furnishing the first
squadron for Columbus, was now continually agitated by the passion for
discovery. Shortly after the sailing of Pinzon, another expedition was
fitted out there, by Diego Lepe, a native of the place, and manned by his
adventurous townsmen. He sailed in the same direction with Pinzon; but
discovered more of the southern continent than any other voyager of the
day, or for twelve years afterwards. He doubled Cape St. Augustine, and
ascertained that the coast beyond ran to the southwest. He landed and
performed the usual ceremonies of taking possession in the name of the
Spanish sovereigns, and in one place carved their names on a magnificent
tree, of such enormous magnitude, that seventeen men with their hands
joined could not embrace the trunk. What enhanced the merit of his
discoveries was, that he had never sailed with Columbus. He had with him,
however, several skillful pilots, who had accompanied the admiral in his
voyage. [96]

Another expedition of two vessels sailed from Cadiz, in October, 1500,
under the command of Rodrigo Bastides of Seville. He explored the coast of
Terra Firma, passing Cape de la Vela, the western limits of the previous
discoveries on the main-land, continuing on to a port since called The
Retreat, where afterwards was founded the seaport of Nombre de Dios. His
vessels being nearly destroyed by the teredo, or worm which abounds in
those seas, he had great difficulty in reaching Xaragua in Hispaniola,
where he lost his two caravels, and proceeded with his crew by land to San
Domingo. Here he was seized and imprisoned by Bobadilla, under pretext
that he had treated for gold with the natives of Xaragua. [97]

Such was the swarm of Spanish expeditions immediately resulting from the
enterprises of Columbus; but others were also undertaken by foreign
nations. In the year 1497, Sebastian Cabot, son of a Venetian merchant
resident in Bristol, sailing in the service of Henry VII of England,
navigated to the northern seas of the New World. Adopting the idea of
Columbus, he sailed in quest of the shores of Cathay, and hoped to find a
northwest passage to India. In this voyage he discovered Newfoundland,
coasted Labrador to the fifty-sixth degree of north latitude, and then
returning, ran down southwest to the Floridas, when, his provisions
beginning to fail, he returned to England. [98] But vague and scanty
accounts of this voyage exist, which was important as including the first
discovery of the northern continent of the New World.

The discoveries of rival nations, however, which most excited the
attention and jealousy of the Spanish crown, were those of the Portuguese.
Vasco de Gama, a man of rank and consummate talent and intrepidity, had,
at length, accomplished the great design of the late Prince Henry of
Portugal, and by doubling the Cape of Good Hope, in the year 1497, had
opened the long-sought-for route to India.

Immediately after Gama's return, a fleet of thirteen sail was fitted out
to visit the magnificent countries of which he brought accounts. This
expedition sailed on the 9th of March, 1500, for Calicut, under the
command of Pedro Alvarez de Cabral. Having passed the Cape de Verde
Islands, he sought to avoid the calms prevalent on the coast of Guinea, by
stretching far to the west. Suddenly, on the 25th of April, he came in
sight of land unknown to any one in his squadron; for, as yet, they had
not heard of the discoveries of Pinzon and Lepe. He at first supposed it
to be some great island; but after coasting it for some time, he became
persuaded that it must be part of a continent. Having ranged along it
somewhat beyond the fifteenth degree of southern latitude, he landed at a
harbor which he called Porto Securo, and taking possession of the country
for the crown of Portugal, dispatched a ship to Lisbon with the important
tidings. [99] In this way did the Brazils come into the possession of
Portugal, being to the eastward of the conventional line settled with
Spain as the boundaries of their respective territories. Dr. Robertson,
in recording this voyage of Cabral, concludes with one of his just and
elegant remarks.

"Columbus's discovery of the New World was," he observes, "the effort of
an active genius, guided by experience, and acting upon a regular plan,
executed with no less courage than perseverance. But from this adventure
of the Portuguese, it appears that chance might have accomplished that
great design, which it is now the pride of human reason to have formed and
perfected. If the sagacity of Columbus had not conducted mankind to
America, Cabral, by a fortunate accident, might have led them, a few years
later, to the knowledge of that extensive continent." [100]

Chapter III.

Nicholas de Ovando Appointed to Supersede Bobadilla.


The numerous discoveries briefly noticed in the preceding chapter had
produced a powerful effect upon the mind of Ferdinand. His ambition, his
avarice, and his jealousy were equally inflamed. He beheld boundless
regions, teeming with all kinds of riches, daily opening before the
enterprises of his subjects; but he beheld at the same time other nations
launching forth into competition, emulous for a share of the golden world
which he was eager to monopolize. The expeditions of the English, and the
accidental discovery of the Brazils by the Portuguese, caused him much
uneasiness. To secure his possession of the continent, he determined to
establish local governments or commands, in the most important places, all
to be subject to a general government, established at San Domingo, which
was to be the metropolis.

With these considerations, the government, heretofore granted to Columbus,
had risen vastly in importance; and while the restitution of it was the
more desirable in his eyes, it became more and more a matter of repugnance
to the selfish and jealous monarch. He had long repented having vested
such great powers and prerogatives in any subject, particularly in a
foreigner. At the time of granting them, he had no anticipation of such
boundless countries to be placed under his command. He appeared almost to
consider himself outwitted by Columbus in the arrangement; and every
succeeding discovery, instead of increasing his grateful sense of the
obligation, only made him repine the more at the growing magnitude of the
reward. At length, however, the affair of Bobadilla had effected a
temporary exclusion of Columbus from his--high office, and that without
any odium to the crown, and the wary monarch, secretly determined that the
door thus closed between him and his dignities should never again be

Perhaps Ferdinand may really have entertained doubts as to the innocence
of Columbus, with respect to the various charges made against him. He may
have doubted also the sincerity of his loyalty, being a stranger, when he
should find himself strong in his command, at a great distance from the
parent country, with immense and opulent regions under his control.
Columbus, himself, in his letters, alludes to reports circulated by his
enemies, that he intended either to set up an independent sovereignty, or
to deliver his discoveries into the hands of other potentates; and he
appears to fear that these slanders might have made some impression on the
mind of Ferdinand. But there was one other consideration which had no less
force with the monarch in withholding this great act of justice--Columbus
was no longer indispensable to him. He had made his great discovery; he
had struck out the route to the New World, and now any one could follow
it. A number of able navigators had sprung up under his auspices, and
acquired experience in his voyages. They were daily besieging the throne
with offers to fit out expeditions at their own cost, and to yield a share
of the profits to the crown. Why should he, therefore, confer princely
dignities and prerogatives for that which men were daily offering to
perform gratuitously?

Such, from his after conduct, appears to have been the jealous and selfish
policy which actuated Ferdinand in forbearing to reinstate Columbus in
those dignities and privileges so solemnly granted to him by treaty, and
which it was acknowledged he had never forfeited by misconduct.

This deprivation, however, was declared to be but temporary; and plausible
reasons were given for the delay in his reappointment. It was observed
that the elements of those violent factions, recently in arms against him,
yet existed in the island; his immediate return might produce fresh
exasperation; his personal safety might be endangered, and the island
again thrown into confusion. Though Bobadilla, therefore, was to be
immediately dismissed from command, it was deemed advisable to send out
some officer of talent and discretion to supersede him, who might
dispassionately investigate the recent disorders, remedy the abuses which
had arisen, and expel all dissolute and factious persons from the colony.
He should hold the government for two years, by which time it was trusted
that all angry passions would be allayed, and turbulent individuals
removed: Columbus might then resume the command with comfort to himself
and advantage to the crown. With these reasons, and the promise which
accompanied them, Columbus was obliged to content himself. There can be no
doubt that they were sincere on the part of Isabella, and that it was her
intention to reinstate him in the full enjoyment of his rights and
dignities, after his apparently necessary suspension. Ferdinand, however,
by his subsequent conduct, has forfeited all claim to any favorable
opinion of the kind.

The person chosen to supersede Bobadilla was Don Nicholas de Ovando,
commander of Lares, of the order of Alcantara. He is described as of the
middle size, fair complexioned, with a red beard, and a modest look, yet a
tone of authority. He was fluent in speech, and gracious and courteous in
his manners. A man of great prudence, says Las Casas, and capable of
governing many people, but not of governing the Indians, on whom he
inflicted incalculable injuries. He possessed great veneration for
justice, was an enemy to avarice, sober in his mode of living, and of such
humility, that when he rose afterwards to be grand commander of the order
of Alcantara, he would never allow himself to be addressed by the title of
respect attached to it. [101] Such is the picture drawn of him by
historians; but his conduct in several important instances is in direct
contradiction to it. He appears to have been plausible and subtle, as well
as fluent and courteous; his humility concealed a great love of command,
and in his transactions with Columbus he was certainly both ungenerous and

The various arrangements to be made, according to the new plan of colonial
government, delayed for some time the departure of Ovando. In the
meantime, every arrival brought intelligence of the disastrous state of
the island, under the mal-administration of Bobadilla. He had commenced
his career by an opposite policy to that of Columbus. Imagining that
rigorous rule had been the rock on which his predecessors had split, he
sought to conciliate the public by all kinds of indulgence. Having at the
very outset relaxed the reins of justice and morality, he lost all command
over the community; and such disorder and licentiousness ensued, that
many, even of the opponents of Columbus, looked back with regret upon the
strict but wholesome rule of himself and the Adelantado.

Bobadilla was not so much a bad as an imprudent and a weak man. He had not
considered the dangerous excesses to which his policy would lead. Rash in
grasping authority, he was feeble and temporizing in the exercise of it:
he could not look beyond the present exigency. One dangerous indulgence
granted to the colonists called for another; each was ceded in its turn,
and thus he went on from error to error,--showing that in government there
is as much danger to be apprehended from a weak as from a bad man.

He had sold the farms and estates of the crown at low prices, observing
that it was not the wish of the monarchs to enrich themselves by them, but
that they should redound to the profit of their subjects. He granted
universal permission to work the mines, exacting only an eleventh of the
produce for the crown. To prevent any diminution in the revenue, it became
necessary, of course, to increase the quantity of gold collected. He
obliged the caciques, therefore, to furnish each Spaniard with Indians, to
assist him both in the labors of the field and of the mine. To carry this
into more complete effect, he made an enumeration of the natives of the
island, reduced them into classes, and distributed them, according to his
favor or caprice, among the colonists. The latter, at his suggestion,
associated themselves in partnerships of two persons each, who were to
assist one another with their respective capitals and Indians, one
superintending the labors of the field, and the other the search for gold.
The only injunction of Bobadilla was, to produce large quantities of ore.
He had one saying continually in his mouth, which shows the pernicious and
temporizing principle upon which he acted: "Make the most of your time,"
he would say, "there is no knowing how long it will last," alluding to the
possibility of his being speedily recalled. The colonists acted up to his
advice, and so hard did they drive the poor natives, that the eleventh
yielded more revenue to the crown than had ever been produced by the third
under the government of Columbus. In the meantime, the unhappy natives
suffered under all kinds of cruelties from their inhuman taskmasters.
Little used to labor, feeble of constitution, and accustomed in their
beautiful and luxuriant island to a life of ease and freedom, they sank
under the toils imposed upon them, and the severities by which they were
enforced. Las Casas gives an indignant picture of the capricious tyranny
exercised over the Indians by worthless Spaniards, many of whom had been
transported convicts from the dungeons of Castile. These wretches, who in
their own countries had been the vilest among the vile, here assumed the
tone of grand cavaliers. They insisted upon being attended by trains of
servants. They took the daughters and female relations of caciques for
their domestics, or rather for their concubines, nor did they limit

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