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Title: Christopher Columbus - His Life and His Work
Author: Adams, Charles Kendall
Language: English
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His Life and His Work




  His Life and His Work




  _Copyright, 1892_,
  _All rights reserved._

  University Press:



  _Nobleman and Friend_,




In this little volume I have made an attempt to present in popular form
the results of the latest researches in regard to the life and work of

While constant use has been made of the original authorities, it has
been my effort to interpret the conflicting statements with which
these sources abound, in the spirit of modern criticism. The principal
authorities used have been the Letters and the Journal of Columbus,
the History of the Admiral purporting to be by his son Fernando, the
histories of the time by Las Casas, Bernaldez, Oviedo, Peter Martyr,
and Herrera, and the invaluable collection of documents by Navarrete.
Of the greatest importance are the writings of Columbus and Las Casas.

As will appear in the course of the volume, the writings of the Admiral
abound in passages that are contradictory or irreconcilable. In the
interpretation of conflicting statements, assistance has been received
from the numerous writings of Henry Harrisse. The researches of this
acute critic in the manuscript records, as well as in the published
writings of Italy and Spain, make his works indispensable to a correct
understanding of the age of Columbus.

I have not, however, been able to adopt without reservation his views
in regard to the work attributed to the son of the Admiral. The
force of Harrisse’s reasoning is unquestionable; but, as it seems to
me, there is internal evidence that the author of the book, whether
Fernando or not, had unusual opportunities for knowledge in regard to
the matters about which he wrote. While, therefore, I have used the
work with great caution, I have not felt justified in rejecting it as
altogether spurious.

The reader will not go far in the perusal of this volume without
perceiving that I have endeavoured to emancipate myself from the
thraldom of that uncritical admiration in which it has been fashionable
to hold the Discoverer, ever since Washington Irving threw over the
subject the romantic and bewitching charm of his literary skill. Irving
revealed the spirit with which he wrote when he decried what he was
pleased to call “that pernicious erudition which busies itself with
undermining the pedestals of our national monuments.” Irving’s was
not the spirit of modern scholarship. We should seek the truth at
whatever hazard. While directed by this motive in the course of all my
investigations into the life and work of Columbus, I have tried, on the
one hand, to avoid the common error of bringing him to the bar of the
present age for trial, and, on the other, not to shrink from judging
him in accordance with those canons of justice which are applicable
alike to all time.

            C. K. A.

  March 10, 1892.



  CHAPTER I. EARLY YEARS. [1446-1484]                               1-33

  Genoa, 1.--Place of Birth, 2.--Time of Birth, 4.--Family, 6.
  --Early Studies, 7.--Early Maritime Experience, 9.--Piratical
  Expeditions, 10.--Voyage to Africa, 11.--Voyage to Iceland, 12.--
  Experience as Bookseller and Mapmaker, 14.--Removal to Portugal, 16.
  --Marriage, 17.--Children, 19.--Commercial Speculation, 21.--
  Extent of his Experience, 21.--Theory of the Sphericity of the Earth,
  23.--Progress of the Idea, 25.--Cardinal d’Ailly’s _Imago Mundi_,
  27.--Causes of Delay, 27.--Discoveries by the Norsemen, 28.--
  Toscanelli’s Letters, 29.--General Approaches to the Discovery, 32.

  CHAPTER II. ATTEMPTS TO SECURE ASSISTANCE. [1484-1492]           34-73

  Necessity of Assistance, 34.--Improbability that he applied to Genoa
  and Venice, 35.--Applications to Portugal, England, and France,
  36.--Attitude of Portugal, 37.--Departure of Columbus for Spain,
  41.--Course after reaching Spain, 43.--Condition of Spain, 44.
  --Inquisition, 44.--Plague, 45.--Debasement of the Coin, 45.
  --War against the Moors, 46.--Support of Columbus, 47.--First
  Encouragement, 48.--Audience at Salamanca, 49.--Nature of the
  Discussion, 52.--Friendliness of Deza, 53.--Result, 53.--Delays,
  53.--Occupations of the Court, 54.--Thought of going elsewhere,
  55.--Summons to a New Conference, 56.--Stipends of Money, 57.--
  Visit to Portugal, 57.--Visit to Medina Celi, 58.--Opinions of
  Scientific Men, 60.--Disgust of Columbus, 61.--Visit to La Rabida,
  62.--Service of Perez, 63.--Favourable Inclination of the Court,
  64.--Inadmissible Terms demanded, 65.--Story of the Jewels, 67.--
  Successful Representations, 67.--Columbus secures his Commission, 68.
  --Misfortune of these Extraordinary Powers, 70.--Survey of Sources of
  Assistance, 72.

  CHAPTER III. THE FIRST VOYAGE. [Aug. 3, 1492--March 15, 1493]   74-128

  Crew for the First Voyage, 74.--The Vessels, 76.--Setting sail, 77.
  --Columbus’s Diary and Letters, 77.--Repairs of the “Pinta,” 79.--
  Traditions of the Islanders, 80.--On the Voyage, 82.--Report of
  Land, 84.--Indications, 84.--Probable Truth concerning a Mutinous
  Spirit, 85.--Columbus reports a Light, 86.--Discovery of Land,
  October 12, 87.--The Place of Landing, 88.--Cronau’s Investigations,
  89.--Riding Rocks, 91.--The People, 92.--Explorations, 93.--
  Cuba, 94.--San Domingo, 94.--Shipwreck, 95.--La Navidad, 96.
  --Spirit of the Natives, 97.--Sail for Home, 98.--Spirit of
  the Discoverer, 98.--Quest for Gold, 99.--Slender Foundation of
  Promises, 100.--Attitude of Columbus toward his Crew and toward the
  Natives, 100.--Testimony of Las Casas, 104.--Final Departure, 105.
  --The Caribs, 106.--Salt-pits, 107.--Return of the “Pinta,” 107.
  --Last of the Bahamas, 108.--Furious Storms, 108.--Precautions,
  109.--Pilgrimages promised, 110.--The Azores, 110.--Lisbon, 111.
  --Couriers sent to announce Discoveries, 111.--Claims of Portugal,
  112.--Treaty of 1479, 112.--Treatment by the King of Portugal,
  114.--Reaches Palos, March 15, 1493, 115.--Arrival of the “Pinta,”
  115.--Sad end of Pinzon, 116.--Reception of Columbus at Barcelona,
  118.--Renewal of Authority, 120.--Unwarranted Promises, 121.--
  Resolves to retake Jerusalem, 121.--Hostility of Old Nobility, 121.
  --Announcement to the Pope, 122.--Bull of Demarcation, 123.--
  Preparation for a Second Voyage, 124.--Policy of Confiscation, 125.--
  Diplomatic Controversy with Portugal, 126.--Triumph of Spain, 128.--
  Removal of Line of Demarcation, 128.

  CHAPTER IV. THE SECOND VOYAGE. [Sept. 25, 1493-June 11, 1496]  129-170

  Character of the Crew, 129.--The Grand Canary, 130.--The Caribbees,
  130.--Warlike Character of the Natives, 131.--Sailing for La
  Navidad, 133.--Gloomy Forebodings, 135.--Total Loss of the Colony,
  135.--Causes of the Disaster, 136.--The Domain of Caonabo, 137.--
  Final Conflict, 138.--Visit to the Admiral’s Ship by the Cacique, 138.
  --Treachery, 139.--Founding of Isabella, 140.--Defective Character
  of the Colonists, 140.--Illness of Columbus, 141.--General Purpose,
  141.--The Expedition of Ojeda, 141.--Report of Columbus, 142.--
  Dishonest Contractors, 143.--Proposal of Columbus concerning Slaves,
  144.--Mining Hopes, 147.--Peculiarities of the Natives, 148.--
  Prevailing Distresses, 151.--Columbus visits Cuba, 152.--Oath of
  Sailors, 154.--Other Discoveries, 155.--Illness of the Admiral, 155.
  --Margarite, 156.--General Condition of the Colony, 158.--Capture
  of Caonabo, 158.--Enforcement of Tribute, 160.--Repartimientos, 161.
  --Desperate Situation, 162.--Mutiny, 164.--Father Boyle, 165.--
  The Adelantado, 165.--Investigation of Agnado, 167.--Decision of the
  Admiral to return, 169.

  CHAPTER V. THE THIRD VOYAGE. [May 30, 1498-October 1500]       171-204

  Arrival Home, 171.--Reception by the Monarchs, 172.--Delay in
  fitting out the Third Expedition, 174.--Sailing of the Fleet, 177.
  --Discovery of the Mainland, 178.--Geographical Delusions, 180.--
  Condition of Affairs at San Domingo, 183.--Bartholomew’s Expedition to
  Xaragua, 185.--Desperate Situation, 187.--Roldan’s Revolt, 188.--
  Temporary Agreement, 191.--Return of Ojeda, 193.--Cargo of Slaves,
  194.--Charges against Columbus, 199.--Arrival of Bobadilla, 200.--
  Bobadilla assumes Authority, 201.--Charges against Columbus, 202.--
  Arrest of Columbus, 203.--Columbus sent Home in Chains, 204.

  CHAPTER VI. THE FOURTH VOYAGE. [May 9, 1502-Nov. 7, 1504]      205-234

  Reception by the Public, 205.--Attitude of the Monarchs, 206.--
  Speech of the Queen, 207.--The Letter of Columbus, 210.--Character
  of the Settlers, 211.--Gradual Opening of the Islands to other
  Navigators, 212.--General Maritime Activity, 213.--Policy of
  Ferdinand, 215.--Appointment of Ovando, 215.--Character of the
  Fourth Crew, 216.--The Crusade, 218.--Activity of the Portuguese,
  218.--Sets sail on Fourth Voyage, 219.--Tries to land at San
  Domingo, 220.--Successive Storms, 221.--Desires of the Admiral, 223.
  --Reaches the Mainland, 225.--At Darien, 226.--Gold of Varagua,
  226.--Attacked by Natives, 227.--Failure to found a Colony, 227.
  --Two Vessels reach Jamaica, 228.--Wreck of the Vessels, 229.--
  Starvation impending, 229.--Letter to the King, 230.--Departure of
  Mendez, 231.--Strategy of Columbus, 232.--Attitude of Ovando, 233.
  --A Year of Delays, 234.--Return to San Domingo and Spain, 234.

  CHAPTER VII. LAST DAYS.--DEATH, CHARACTER. [1504-1506]         235-257

  Columbus at Seville, 235.--His Letters, 236.--His Complaints, 237.
  --Americus Vespucius, 237.--Columbus’s Last Will, 238.--Death, at
  Valladolid, 239.--Uncertainty as to Place of Burial, 239.--Removal
  to Seville, 239.--Removal to San Domingo, 239.--Controversy as to
  Place of the Remains at present, 240.--Tradition, 240.--Removal
  in 1796, 241.--Discoveries in 1877, 241.--The Inscriptions, 242.
  --The Casket Plate, 242.--Formal Inspection, 244.--Charge of
  Forgery, 245.--Basis of the Charge, 246.--Investigations of Cronau
  in 1891, 246.--Conclusion reached, 247.--Personal Appearance of
  the Admiral, 248.--The Portraits, 249.--The Lotto Portrait, 250.
  --Final Estimate of Columbus’s Character, 251.--His Attitude toward
  the Moral Ideas of his Age, 252.--His Attitude toward Slavery, 253.
  --His Beginning of the Spanish Policy, 254.--His Powers and his
  Responsibilities, 255.--His Purposes, 256.--Results, 257.

  INDEX                                                              259




At the northwest corner of the Italian peninsula the coast-line, as it
approaches the French border, bends around to the west in such a way as
to form a kind of rounded angle, which, according to the fertile fancy
of the Greeks, resembles the human knee. It was probably in recognition
of this geographical peculiarity that the hamlet established at this
point received some centuries before the Christian era the name which
has since been evolved into Genoa. The situation is not only one of
the most picturesque in Europe, but it is peculiarly adapted to the
development of a small maritime city. For many miles it is the only
point at which Nature has afforded a good opportunity for a harbor.
Its geographical relations with the region of the Alps and the plains
of northern Italy seem to have designated it as the natural point
where a common desire for gain should bring into profitable relations
the trading propensities of the people along the shores of the
Mediterranean. During nearly two thousand years the situation was made
all the more favourable by the ease with which it might be defended;
for the range of mountains, which encircles it at a distance of only
a few miles, made it easy for the inhabitants to protect themselves
against the assaults of their enemies.

The favouring conditions thus afforded gave to Genoa early in the
Christian era a commercial prestige of some importance. The turbulence
of the Middle Ages made rapidity of growth quite impossible; but in the
time of the Crusades this picturesque city received a large share of
that impulse which gave so much life to Venice and the other maritime
towns of Italy. Like other cities of its kind, it was filled with
seafaring men. It is easy to believe that the boys who grew up in Genoa
during the centuries of the Crusades and immediately after, had their
imaginations and memories filled to overflowing with accounts of such
wonderful adventures as those which, about that time, found expression
in the writings of Marco Polo and John de Mandeville. The tales of
seafaring adventurers always have a wonderful attraction for boys; and
we can well imagine that the yarns spun by the returning sailors of
the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries had an altogether peculiar and
exceptional fascination.

It was probably in this city of Genoa that Christopher Columbus was
born. It is certain that his parents lived there at the middle of the
fifteenth century. Whether his father had been in Genoa very many years
is doubtful; for there is one bit of record that seems to indicate
his moving into the city at some time between 1448 and 1451. That
the ancestors of the family had lived in that vicinity ever since
the twelfth or thirteenth century may be regarded as certain. But
beyond this fact very little rests upon strict historical evidence.
This uncertainty, springing as it does from the fact that the name
Columbus appears very often in the records of northern Italy during the
century before the birth of Christopher, has brought into controversy
a multitude of importunate claimants. If a kind of selfish pride was
indicated by the fact that--

    “Seven cities claimed the Homer dead,
    In which the living Homer begged his bread,”--

the same characteristic of human nature was shown in northern Italy
in more than twofold measure; for no less than sixteen Italian towns
have tried to lift themselves into greater importance by setting up a
claim to the distinction of having been the birthplace of the Great
Discoverer. But these several claims have not succeeded in producing
any conclusive evidence. The question is still in some doubt. At
least twice in his writings Columbus speaks of himself as having been
born at Genoa; and he was generally recognized as a Genoese by his
contemporaries. But his parents seem to have been somewhat migratory in
their habits. The records show that the father of Christopher was the
owner of some property in several of the towns along the foot of the
Alps. Besides his other estates, which for the most part came from his
wife, he had a house in one of the suburbs of the city of Genoa, and
also one in the city itself. Within a few years the Marquis Marcello
Staglieno, a learned Genoese antiquary, has established the fact that
No. 37 Vico Dritto Ponticello in Genoa was owned by Dominico Columbus,
the father of Christopher, during the early years of Christopher’s
life. But it has not yet been shown by any documentary evidence that
he ever lived there. The ownership of this house, and of one in the
suburbs, establishes a very strong probability that in one of them
Christopher Columbus was born. It cannot be said, however, that the
exact spot has been determined with certainty; and in view of the
conflicting evidence, Genoa is to be regarded as the place of his birth
only in that broad sense which would include a considerable number of
the surrounding dependencies. Bernaldez, Peter Martyr, Oviedo, and Las
Casas speak of his birthplace as being, not the city, but the province
of Genoa.

The original authorities, moreover, are as conflicting in regard to
time as in regard to place. The most definite statement we have is that
of Bernaldez, the contemporary and friend as well as the historian
of the discoverer. Columbus at one time was an inmate of the house
of Bernaldez, and hence it would seem that the historian had good
opportunities for ascertaining the truth. But the information he
gives in regard to the date of Columbus’s birth is only inferential,
and is far from satisfactory. He says that the Admiral died in 1506,
“at the age of seventy, a little more or a little less.” This is the
statement which has led Humboldt, Navarrete, and Irving, as well as
other careful writers, to believe that the date of his birth should be
fixed at 1436. But the acceptance of this date is involved in serious
difficulties. The discoverer, it is true, nowhere tells us his exact
age; but frequently in his writings he not only mentions the number
of years he had followed the sea, but he says he began his nautical
career at the age of fourteen. These several statements, put together,
point very definitely and consistently to a date nearly or quite ten
years later than that indicated by Bernaldez. It cannot be claimed
that the statements of Columbus are so exact as to be absolutely free
from doubt; but in the absence of any record of his birth, they are at
least entitled to careful consideration. In a letter written in 1503
the Admiral says that he was thirty-eight when he entered the service
of Spain. As he first went to Spain in 1484 or 1485, we are obliged to
infer that the service he referred to began either in that year or at
a later period. This would indicate that he was born in 1446 or later.
In 1501, moreover, he wrote that it was forty years since at the age
of fourteen he entered upon a seafaring life. This, too, would point
to about 1447 as the date of his birth. These, and other statements of
a similar nature, are at least enough to justify the inquiry whether
the error is probably with Columbus or with Bernaldez. In the case of
the historian, the very phrase “seventy, a little more or a little
less,” carries with it an implication of uncertainty. It seemed to
imply that the author judged of the age of Columbus simply from his
appearance. Now, there is abundant evidence that the superabounding
anxieties and perplexities of his career had the natural effect of
making him prematurely old. We have the statement of his son that his
hair was gray at the age of thirty; and it is easy to believe that the
perplexing vicissitudes of his career deepened and intensified the
evidences of age with unnatural rapidity. If, as we have so often and
so justly heard, it is anxiety and perplexity that bring on premature
age and decay, surely Columbus of all men must have been old long
before he reached the goal of threescore and ten. In view of all these
facts, it is probable that the conjecture of Bernaldez was incorrect,
though very naturally so, and that the date indicated by the figures
of Columbus himself is the one that is entitled to most credence. But
all we can say on the subject is that Christopher Columbus was probably
born in or about the year 1446. Harrisse, who has scrutinized all the
evidence with characteristic acumen, has reached the conclusion that
Columbus was born between the 25th of March, 1446, and the 20th of
March, 1447.

He was the eldest son of Dominico Columbus and Susannah Fontanarossa,
his wife. The other children were Bartholomew and Giacomo, or, as the
Spanish call it, Diego, and a sister, of whom nothing of importance
is known. The kith and kin of the family for some generations devoted
themselves to the humble vocation of wool-combers. The property of the
family, of which at the time Columbus was born there was barely enough
for a modest competency, appears to have come chiefly from the mother.
That the father was a man of exceptional energy, is evinced by the
vigour with which he undertook and carried on the various enterprises
with which he was connected. In his business, however, he was only
moderately prosperous; and so the family was obliged to content itself
with a small income.

The early life of Columbus is still quite thickly enshrouded with
uncertainty. His education included a reading knowledge of Latin, but
his training could have been neither comprehensive nor thorough. Many
of the historians, resting upon the statement of Fernando Columbus,
assert that he spent a year in the study of cosmogony at the University
of Pavia. But the statement is inherently improbable, and rests
upon evidence that is altogether inadequate. His father was not in
condition to send him to the university without inconvenience. It was
the custom of those times for the son to be trained for the vocation
of the father. Such a training the young Christopher had, and a formal
knowledge of geography, or cosmogony, as the study was then more
generally called, would not have added much to his chances of business
success. If he went to the university at all, he must have concluded
his studies before he was fourteen. Pavia at the time afforded no
special advantages for the prosecution of this study,--indeed, it
cannot now be discovered that it possessed any advantages whatever.
On the contrary, that celebrated university was devoted with singular
exclusiveness to the teaching of philosophy, law, and medicine. There
is no evidence in the records of the university that Columbus was
ever there. The explorer himself, though he often refers to his early
studies, nowhere intimates that he was ever at the university. It was
not till more than fifty years after the death of Columbus that his son
made the statement on which all subsequent assertions on the subject
rest for authority. That the explorer was ever at the university is
overwhelmingly improbable.

We know, however, from the best of evidence that he early became
interested in geographical studies. His father’s business does not seem
to have been very prosperous,--at least, we find him about this time
selling out his little property in Genoa and establishing himself at
Savona. Meantime, the youthful Christopher found himself yielding to
the strong current which in those years carried so many of the Genoese
into a life of maritime adventure. If our conjecture in regard to
the time of his birth is correct, it was about 1460 when he took his
first voyage. From that initiative experience for about ten years,
that is to say until 1470, we have only glimpses here and there of the
events of his life. Nor can we regard the details of this experience
as important, except as they throw light upon the development of his
intelligence and character. Fortunately for this purpose evidence
is not altogether wanting. Bits of information have been picked up
here and there, which, though it is impossible to weave them very
confidently into a connected whole, still show, in a general way, the
nature of the training he received during those important years.
If we condense into a useful form all that is positively known of
his life during the ten years from the time he was fourteen until he
was twenty-four, we shall perhaps conclude that there are only three
results that are worthy of note.

The first is the fact that he had considerable maritime experience
of a very turbulent nature. There is some reason to believe that he
accompanied the unsuccessful expedition of John of Anjou against Naples
in 1459. However this may have been, it is certain that he joined
several of the expeditions of the celebrated corsairs bearing the same
family name of Columbus. Modern eulogists of the great discoverer
have hesitated to write the ugly word which indicates the nature of
the business in which these much-dreaded fleets were engaged; but
the state papers of the time uniformly refer to the elder of these
commanders as “the Pirate Columbus.” To the younger they also refer in
no more complimentary terms. Fernando Columbus is authority for the
statement that his father accompanied the celebrated expedition that
fought the great battle off Cape St. Vincent. But the statement is a
curious illustration of the necessity of accepting the assurances of
this historian with extreme caution. He says that it was by escaping
from the wreck of the fleet that his father came for the first time to
his new home in Portugal. Now, we know that the battle alluded to did
not take place until 1485, the year after Columbus left Portugal and
went to Spain; and as he was otherwise occupied ever after he reached
Spanish soil, it is not possible that the young navigator was even with
the fleet during the engagement. We know, moreover, that he moved to
Lisbon before 1473.

But the evidence is conclusive that the Admiral had accompanied the
piratical fleets on several former expeditions. The records of Venice
show that a decree was passed against the elder pirate Columbus,
July 20, 1469, and another against the younger on the 17th of March,
1470. Although these fulminations did not put an end to this peculiar
warfare, they are of interest in this connnection as showing the school
in which Columbus received a considerable part of his early nautical
training and experience.

There may be some doubt as to how much importance should be attached
to the circumstantial statement of Fernando in regard to his father’s
connection with these celebrated freebooters. The narrative certainly
contains some irreconcilable contradictions; but although Fernando may
have been mistaken in the details, he can hardly have been mistaken
in the fact that his father accompanied several of these expeditions.
A matter of that kind could hardly fail to have been talked about in
the presence of the children. The boys may have received erroneous
impressions in reference to details. As time went on, it was naturally
easy for events with which the father was definitely connected to
become confused with those with which he had nothing whatever to do.
But the great fact of his connection with the fleet, of his experience
on the piratical ships, can hardly have been an invention of the son.
There were two pirates by the name of Columbus,--the younger being,
according to one authority, the son, according to another, the nephew
of the elder. Fernando gives us to understand distinctly that his
father was engaged in the service of both. He moreover considers this
so much a matter of pride that he endeavours to establish the fact
of a relationship between the two families. The nature of the school
in which the young Columbus received a part of his training may be
inferred by the fact that the younger of the corsairs in the course of
a few years captured as many as eighty fleets,--a part of them in the
Mediterranean, and a part in the open sea. During a large portion of
the latter half of the fifteenth century, these daring corsairs were
the dread of every fleet against whom they were employed.

There is also evidence of another schooling of a somewhat similar
nature. During the fifteenth century the Portuguese were engaged in
the slave-trade on the coast of Africa; and we are told that Columbus
sailed several times with them to the coast of Guinea as if he had been
one of them.

It must have been during this period also that the events occurred
which Columbus described in a letter written to one of the Spanish
monarchs in 1495. He says,--

    “King René (whom God has taken to himself) sent me to Tunis to
    capture the galley ‘Fernandina.’ Arriving at the island of San
    Pedro in Sardinia, I learned that there were two ships and a
    caracca with the galley, which so alarmed the crew that they
    resolved to proceed no farther, but to go to Marseilles for
    another vessel and a larger crew. Upon which, being unable to
    force their inclinations, I apparently yielded to their wish,
    and, having first changed the points of the compass, spread all
    sail (for it was evening), and at daybreak we were within the
    cape of Carthagena, when all believed for a certainty that we
    were nearing Marseilles.”

This incident shows that the schooling had given him a full competency
of intrepidity. It also shows that the ethics of the school had had
the natural effect of relieving him of all unnecessary scruples of

Another voyage of a very different nature was probably made at a little
later period. Unfortunately we are indebted for our knowledge of it
entirely to Fernando. This is the celebrated voyage to the north, of
which so much has been made in setting up the claim that Columbus was
indebted for his idea of America to information obtained in Iceland.
It would be a great satisfaction to know just what occurred in the
course of that voyage; but this now seems impossible. The only record
we have of the event is that contained in a letter of Columbus quoted
by Fernando. The letter is not now known to be in existence; but the
event alluded to seems to have taken place in the year 1477, about four
or five years after Columbus went to Lisbon, and seven years before he
went to Spain.

Columbus is quoted as saying that he “sailed one hundred leagues
beyond the island of Tile, the south part of which was distant from
the equinoctial line seventy-three leagues, and not sixty-three, as
some have asserted; neither does it lie within the line which includes
the west of that referred to by Ptolemy, but is much more westerly.
To this island, which is as large as England, the English, especially
from Bristol, came with their merchandise. At the time he was there,
the sea was not frozen, but the tides were so great as to rise and fall
twenty-six fathoms.”

Nothing more is known of this voyage than is contained in this letter;
but notwithstanding the gross inaccuracies of the statement, it seems
sufficient ground for believing that Columbus visited Iceland, or at
least went beyond it. The size of the island indicates that it could
have been no other. Whether he landed there, and if so, whether he
obtained from the natives any knowledge of the continent lying far to
the west and southwest, must, perhaps, forever be a matter of mere
conjecture. It is, however, hardly probable that in the year 1477
Columbus would go to Iceland without making inquiries in regard to
lands lying beyond. The Icelanders had long been the great explorers of
the north. As we shall presently see, Columbus had already received the
famous letter of Toscanelli, in which the practicability of reaching
Asia by sailing due west was fully set forth; and we know in other
ways that the mind of Columbus was already fully imbued with the idea
of the westward voyage of discovery. It is certain, moreover, that the
Icelanders could have given him considerable valuable information. The
voyages that had been made by the Norwegians from time to time during
the eleventh and twelfth centuries must have been known at least by the
more intelligent of the people of Iceland. It seems highly improbable,
moreover, that Columbus, already thirsting for more geographical
knowledge, would visit such an island without availing himself of every
opportunity of securing further information.

But on the other hand, we must not exaggerate the importance of this
conjecture. There is no evidence whatever that he even landed. In all
of the writings of Columbus there is nowhere any hint of any knowledge
gained from these sources; and this very important truth should not
be lost sight of in the weighing of probabilities. In view of all the
facts, it seems hardly possible that Columbus can have gained from this
expedition anything more than at best a somewhat vague confirmation of
the ideas and purposes that had already taken definite shape in his

Another fact worthy of note during these earlier years was his
vocation during the intervals between his voyages. He seems to have
interlarded his more or less piratical expeditions on the sea with
the gentle experiences of a bookseller and map-maker on the land. The
art of printing had but recently been invented, and few books had
been issued from the press; but there was some trade in books for all
that. There is abundant evidence that this youthful enthusiast, at the
period of his life between fifteen and twenty-four, availed himself
of whatever knowledge came in his way in regard to the subject that
was beginning to fill and monopolize his mind. During the fifteenth
century, as hereafter we shall have occasion to see, a large number of
books on geography became generally known. Many of the classics, after
lying dormant for a thousand years, sprang suddenly into life; and it
is quite within the scope of a reasonable historical imagination to
conjecture that, even during his years at Genoa, many of the leisure
hours of what could hardly have been a very absorbing vocation as
a bookseller were spent in gaining such knowledge as was possible
concerning the shape and size of the earth. It would be out of place
in this connection to consider details; it is enough to know that even
in his earliest writings on the subject, he alluded freely to the
geographical writers whose works he had read.

At some time between 1470 and 1473, Columbus changed his abode from
Genoa to Lisbon. There were two facts that made this transfer of his
activities both natural and beneficial. The first was that during the
early part of the fifteenth century Portugal had placed herself far in
advance of other nations, by her maritime expeditions and achievements.
Prince Henry, with a courage and enterprise that have secured for him
imperishable renown, had pushed out the boundaries of geographical
knowledge, and had awakened an enthusiastic zeal for further
discoveries. The fleets of Portugal had made themselves at length
familiar with the west coast of Africa; and the bugbear of a tropical
sea whose slimy depths were supposed to make navigation impossible,
had been dispelled. The interest of every geographical explorer had
been aroused and excited. Lisbon was the centre of this new ferment.

The second consideration of importance was the fact that Bartholomew, a
younger brother of Columbus, had established himself at the Portuguese
capital as a maker and publisher of maps and charts. For the products
of this handicraft there had been created an active demand. Nothing was
more natural, then, than that this young enthusiast, in whom there were
already welling up all kinds of maritime ambitions, should remove to
that centre of geographical knowledge and interest, and ally himself
with his brother in so congenial and promising a vocation.

It was during the years between 1473 and 1484 that a large part of the
maritime experiences of Columbus already adverted to took place. The
most of them, perhaps all of them, occurred after Columbus established
himself at Lisbon. But unfortunately, there is no contemporaneous
evidence to show the course of his life. In the records of the time we
find his name here and there in connection with such events as those we
have already mentioned; but, as yet, it is impossible to weave these
scattered statements into a connected narrative that will bear the test
of critical examination. We are obliged, therefore, to be content with
mere glimpses of individual events and experiences.

If we have judged correctly as to the year of the Admiral’s birth, he
was about twenty-six or seven when he took up his abode in Lisbon.
Not long after this change of residence, but in what year we cannot
ascertain, an event took place which must have had an important
influence, not only on his private life, but also on the development
of his maritime plans. It was at about this time that he was married;
but when, under what circumstances, and with whom, are questions which,
notwithstanding all that has been written on the subject, cannot now
be confidently determined. Following the statement of Fernando, it has
been customary for historians to say that Columbus married the daughter
of an old navigator of Porto Santo, Perestrello by name, to whom Prince
Henry had given the governorship of the island in recognition of
explorations and discoveries on the coast of Africa. But like so many
other of the statements of Fernando, this turns out on examination to
be extremely improbable. Harrisse is entitled to the credit of having
traced the history of the Perestrello family, and of having found
the names of the daughters, and even of their husbands. Not only is
the name Columbus lacking in these lists, but it contains no one of
the three sisters of Columbus’s wife. This, it is true, is negative
evidence only, but it is quite enough to shake our confidence in the
statement of Fernando. Of positive evidence there is none whatever.
The first mention of his having been married at all occurs in a letter
presently to be quoted; and the second was in the clause of his will
providing for the saying of masses for his soul and for the souls of
his father, mother, and wife. This document bears date of Aug. 25,
1505, and contains no mention of his wife’s name. A name first appears
eighteen years later, in the will of Diego, who calls himself the son
of Christopher Columbus and his wife Donna Philippa Moñiz. Elsewhere in
the same will he refers to himself as the son of Felipa Muñiz, the wife
of Columbus, whose ashes repose in the monastery of Carmen at Lisbon.
It is possible that Moñiz, or Muñiz, was not the father’s name; but the
giving of the maiden name alone in such a connection was not usual at
that time, and therefore, in the absence of other evidence, it would
seem improbable that the name given was the surname of the father. It
was not until nearly fifty years later that the narrative of Fernando
first mentions the name of Perestrello. Las Casas and other later
writers have done nothing but copy the statement of Fernando, without
further investigation. The matter would be of trifling significance
but for the fact that later historians have magnified this supposed
marriage into a matter of considerable professional importance. Las
Casas tells us that he had learned from Diego Columbus that the Admiral
and his wife lived for some time with the widow of Perestrello at
Porto Santo, and that “all the papers, charts, journals, and maritime
instruments” of the old navigators were placed at his disposal. But all
the evidence of this fact now obtainable consists simply of repetitions
of this statement. The most careful search of all the records has
failed to discover a scrap of testimony that Columbus ever lived at
Porto Santo or on any of the other islands off the coast of Africa.
Harrisse has devoted more than thirty octavo pages to a very critical
examination of all the evidence on the marriage of Columbus; but he
is unable to reach any other positive conclusion than that very many
of the early statements in regard to the matter cannot possibly be
correct. As the result of his investigations, he inclines to the belief
that the story of the Admiral’s living at Porto Santo and profiting
by the maritime possessions and experiences of Perestrello must be
abandoned. Beyond the fact that the Admiral’s wife bore the name of
Philippa Moñiz, nothing on the subject can be regarded as absolutely
known. It seems probable that Columbus was not married till after 1474;
but the exact date cannot be established.

As we shall not have occasion to refer to Columbus’s married life
again, one fact more should here be noted. Fernando asserts that his
father left Portugal in 1484 on account of the grief he experienced at
the death of his wife. That the statement was incorrect, is shown by a
letter, still in existence, in the handwriting of the Admiral himself.
This letter, which was written to Donna Juanna de la Torre, a noble
lady at the Spanish court, for the purpose of presenting his cause and
arguing it with the evident expectation that his plea would reach the
attention of the sovereigns, finally uses these words:--

    “I beg you to take into consideration all I have written, and how
    I came from afar to serve these princes,--_abandoning wife and
    children, whom for this reason I never afterward saw_.”

This lamentable recital, written sixteen years after Columbus left
Portugal for Spain, and at least nine years after he presented himself
with his son Diego at La Rabida, leaves upon our minds the inevitable
inference that when he fled from Portugal in 1484, he left behind him
a wife and at least two children. Of his legitimate offspring, his
heir and successor Diego is the only one of whom any record has been
preserved. As we shall hereafter have occasion to note, Columbus left
Portugal, not only in poverty, but under circumstances which made it
imprudent for him to return. We are obliged to infer that his wife and
children were left in indigence. Neither in the numerous writings of
Columbus nor in any of the records of the time is there any allusion to
the death of the wife or of the children. No letter that passed between
husband and wife has ever been found. It remains only to add, on the
subject of his conjugal life, that Fernando, the historian, was the
natural son of Columbus by a Spanish woman, Beatriz Enriquez by name,
and was born on the 15th of August, 1488.

Of the current life of Columbus at Lisbon we know very little. He seems
to have been a skilful draughtsman and map-maker,--at least, in one
of his letters to the Spanish king he says that God had endowed him
with “ingenuity and manual skill in designing spheres and inscribing
upon them in the proper places cities, rivers and mountains, isles and
ports.” Las Casas and Lopez de Gomera both assure us that Columbus made
use of his skill as a means of livelihood.

There is also evidence that he was engaged to some extent in commercial
enterprise or speculation. In his will he ordered considerable sums
paid to the heirs of certain noble and rich Genoese established in
Lisbon in 1482,--giving specific direction that they should not be
informed from whom the money came. We know that he left Portugal
secretly, and that the king, when inviting him to return, assured him
immunity from civil and criminal prosecution. It has been plausibly
conjectured that in the course of his commercial transactions he had
incurred debts to his rich countrymen which he had never paid, and
that at the last moment his conscience demanded absolution from these

Though the occasion of such debts is purely hypothetical, it is not
difficult to conjecture how they may have occurred. In the fifteenth
century the commercial enterprise and opportunities of Lisbon attracted
thither a large number of wealthy Florentine and Genoese merchants. We
are informed that they were engaged in various commercial ventures; and
nothing could be more natural than that they should be ready to avail
themselves of the maritime skill of their young countryman. In the
journal of Columbus, under the date of Dec. 21, 1492, he wrote:--

    “I have navigated the sea during twenty-three years, without
    noteworthy interruption; I have seen all the Levant and the
    Ponent; what is called the Northern Way,--that is England; and I
    have sailed to Guinea.”

As there is no other evidence that he went to England, it is probable
that the allusion here is to that northern voyage, which, as we have
already seen, had had the seas about Iceland as its destination. Though
it is not easy to conjecture how the phrase, “twenty-three years
without noteworthy interruption,” is to be reconciled with what we
elsewhere learn of the years just before 1492, yet it is not difficult
to understand how all the voyages referred to may have been made
during that period. Before the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope by
Bartholomew Diaz in December of 1487, the remotest navigable sea was
not far away. To visit the North, the West, or the South was not an
enterprise of long duration; and the mariner who had explored the Black
Sea, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic from the equator to Iceland and
the Baltic, might well claim to be familiar with all the seas that were
navigable to a European.

Such were the most important of the experiences, which, so far as we
can now know, gave form and fibre to the character of Columbus. If the
years were full of turbulent experiences, it is evident that they were
also years full of absorbing thought.

Soon after Columbus reached Lisbon, even if not before, he became
possessed with the great idea that important discoveries could be made
by sailing due west. Was the idea original with him? Was such a notion
entertained by others? These questions, on which so much of the credit
of Columbus depends, can only be answered after we take at least a
brief survey of the geographical knowledge of the time.

It will perhaps never be known who first propounded the theory of the
sphericity of the earth; but we are certain that it was systematically
taught by the Pythagoreans of southern Italy in the sixth century
before Christ. With the writings of Pythagoras, Plato was familiar,
and perhaps it was from this bold western speculator that the great
Athenian philosopher received the impression that finally ripened into
an unquestioning belief. Pythagoras believed the earth to be a sphere,
and his views and theories are set forth in two of Plato’s works.

But it was the great successor of Plato who was to have the credit of
giving these views systematic form. In a treatise “On the Heavens”
Aristotle gave a formal summary of the grounds leading to a belief in
the earth’s sphericity.

Greece bequeathed this doctrine to Rome, where it was specifically
taught by Pliny and Hyginus, and was referred to with seeming approval
by Cicero and Ovid. From the literature of Rome it passed into many of
the school-books of the Middle Ages.

The Greeks and Romans were fertile as speculators, but as navigators
they really did very little. Not until the last days of the Republic
did the existence of lands beyond the sea become generally known.
It was in the time of Sulla that Sertorius brought back the curious
story that, when on an expedition to Bætica, he fell in with certain
sailors, who declared that they had just returned from the Atlantic
islands, which they described as distant ten thousand stadia, or
about twelve hundred and fifty miles, from Africa, and as having a
wonderful flora and a still more wonderful climate. It was not until
a few years later that the Canaries became known as the Fortunate
Islands. Notwithstanding all that had been done by the Tyrians and
Carthaginians, Pliny refers to the Pillars of Hercules as the limit of

No systematic effort to extend the boundaries of geographical knowledge
can be attributed to the Romans. There was no international competition
in trade, for the reason that Rome had come to be self-reliant, and,
in theory at least, to possess everything that was of value. Interest
therefore was purely speculative. There was no compass; there were none
but small ships.

Added to this, it must be said that there was a general and vivid
horror of the western ocean. Pindar declared that no one, however
brave, could pass beyond Gades; “for only a god,” he said, “might
voyage in those waters.”

The views of the Romans were set forth in somewhat systematic form by
Strabo and Pomponius Mela. The work of Mela, written during the first
half of the first century, had considerable influence throughout the
Middle Ages. The first edition was printed in 1471 at Milan, and this
was followed by editions at Venice in 1478 and 1482.

Of far greater importance were the writings of Ptolemy. Near the end
of the second century he not only brought together in systematic form
the ideas of those who had gone before him, but he elaborated and set
forth a system of his own. His work thus became a great source of
geographical information throughout the twelve centuries that were
to follow. The book, however, scarcely had any popular significance
before the fifteenth century; for until that time it was locked up
within the mysteries of the Greek language. But in 1409, a version in
Latin disseminated his views throughout Europe.

In one respect the theories of Ptolemy were exceptionally important
in their bearing upon the western discoveries. It was his belief that
the further extension of geographical knowledge was to be obtained by
pushing the lines of investigation toward the west rather than toward
the north or toward the south. It is of significance in the life of
Columbus that the first edition of Ptolemy was printed in 1475, and
that several other editions were issued from the press before 1492.
It is also of interest to note that the views promulgated by the
Alexandrian geographer were essentially the views held and advocated by

The theologians generally rejected the idea of sphericity. There were,
however, some very notable exceptions. The doctrine was positively
taught by Saint Isadore of Seville, and was somewhat elaborately
set forth by the Venerable Bede. Of still more importance was the
unquestioning acceptance of this doctrine by that great protagonist
of the faith, Saint Thomas Aquinas. Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, and
Dante seem also, in a more or less definite form, to have accepted the
same doctrine.

In any account, however brief, of the early years of Columbus, a
statement should also be made concerning some of the explorers who had
performed an important part in pushing out the boundaries of knowledge.

One of the most remarkable of these was John de Mandeville. It is very
properly the fashion to regard this audacious romancer as one of the
most unscrupulous of all explorers. It is certain that he did not see
a quarter or perhaps even a tenth part of the things which he affects
to describe. But in spite of all these characteristics, there is one
passage in the book that can hardly fail to have made a deep impression
on the mind of Columbus. In this remarkable passage the author relates,
in the quaint language of the time, how he himself came to the
conclusion that the earth was a sphere. His words are,--

    “In the north the south lodestar is not seen; and in the south,
    the north is not seen.... By which say you certainly that men may
    environ all the earth, as well under as above, and turn again to
    his country, and always find men as well as in this country....
    For ye witten well that they that turn toward the antarctic,
    be straight feet against feet of them that dwell under the
    transmontayne, as well as we and they that dwell under us be feet
    against feet.”

Of still more importance in shaping directly or indirectly the opinions
of Columbus was the great work of Marco Polo. This Venetian traveller,
after spending many years in China and Japan, and having the best of
opportunities for observation, published the great work on which his
reputation as a traveller and writer is founded. He not only described
with considerable minuteness the countries which he visited, but he
pictured, though with gross exaggerations, the great wealth of many
of the eastern cities. Columbus supposed that these regions, still in
the hands of infidels, could be reached by sailing westward across the

But there was another book that had more influence upon Columbus than
all the others; and this was the “Imago Mundi” of Cardinal d’Ailly.
It was a kind of encyclopædia of geographical knowledge, in which the
author had endeavoured to bring together all the prevailing views in
regard to the form of the earth. In the copy of this remarkable book,
still preserved in the Columbian Library at Seville, there are still to
be seen numerous marginal annotations by Columbus himself. These notes
make us absolutely certain that the navigator studied very carefully
and early became familiar with the beliefs of all the geographical
writers of antiquity and of the Middle Ages.

It is natural to ask the question why, if the earth was known to be
spherical, and if the compass was already in existence, voyages of
discovery were so long delayed? If one looks at the geographical works
of the time, one sees everywhere taught the notion that the unknown
regions were peopled with monsters ready to devour any who approached.
One of the pictures in the Nuremberg Chronicle, for illustration,
represents the Atlantic as filled with monsters so huge as to be
able and ready to lift any ship easily upon its back and dash it to
destruction. The Arabs believed and taught that in the torrid zone the
moisture was so much sucked up by the heat of the sun that the residue
was impervious to the passage of ships. Popular credulity everywhere
seemed to gain the mastery over science. The early Anglo-Saxon scholars
believed that the earth was a globe; but in spite of all their
teaching, we find in an early Anglo-Saxon tract, intended to convey
abstruse information in the form of a dialogue, the following question
and answer:--

    “_Question_: Tell me, my son, why the sun is so red in the

    “_Answer_: Because it looketh down upon hell.”

It must be conceded that this doctrine was sufficiently discouraging to
western navigation.

It should not, however, be forgotten that while views concerning
the sphericity of the earth were gradually making their impression,
geographical knowledge was extending itself through the efforts of
explorers. The boldest adventurers were gradually pressing their way
into the far north. The inhabitants of Iceland--perhaps from their
geographical isolation--were especially adventurous. Within the present
century the evidence has been made complete that America was visited
and explored in the eleventh century, and that accounts of these
explorations in detail became a part of the national literature. But
Iceland was so isolated from the rest of Europe that these explorations
seem to have made no impression, even if they were at all known. The
first allusion to the discovery of America by the Scandinavians ever
printed was that of Adam von Bremen, in his work issued from the
press at Copenhagen in 1579. Although the work had been in manuscript
for centuries, there is no evidence that these explorations made any
impression upon the literature or knowledge of the time. If Columbus
visited Iceland, it is probable that he became acquainted with the
traditions of these western voyages. It is of course possible that
he obtained positive information from the stories that may have been
current among the seafaring men of Iceland in the fifteenth century.
But the matter is left in doubt by the fact that no such knowledge
was ever revealed by Columbus after his return; and it hardly seems
probable that he would have kept such an item of information locked up
in his own brain at a time when he was trying to bring every argument
to bear upon the Portuguese and Spanish courts.

While these numerous intellectual purveyors were bringing to the mind
of Columbus their varied stores of information, an event occurred which
must have had a powerful influence in shaping and intensifying his

In the year 1474 there was living at Florence the venerable astronomer
and geographer Toscanelli. This eminent savant, now seventy-eight years
of age, after having enjoyed the honours of connection with nearly all
the learned societies of that day, had been greatly interested in the
recently published book of Marco Polo. From the account given by this
Venetian traveller, Toscanelli had arrived at certain interesting
views in regard to the size of the earth. He had satisfied himself that
the open water between western Europe and eastern Asia could be crossed
in a voyage of not more than three thousand miles. The letters of
Toscanelli have been preserved, and they form a most interesting part
of the history of this period. We cannot quote from them at any length,
but the importance of the correspondence is sufficient to justify a
concise statement of the particular significance of the letters.

In the first place, in one of the letters, dated in 1474, Toscanelli
says that he had already written to the king of Portugal, urging upon
him the practicability of reaching Japan and China by sailing directly
west. He had accompanied this statement, moreover, with a map showing
what, in his opinion, would be found in the course of the proposed
voyage. Unfortunately, the original map of Toscanelli, so far as we
know, has not been preserved. Copies of it, which we may presume to
be substantially accurate, however, enable us to form a sufficient
impression as to the general nature of his geographical views. He had
no conception of another continent. On the contrary, he believed that
the eastern part of Asia, excepting as it was fringed with Cipango
(Japan) and other islands, presented its broad and hospitable front to
any navigator bold enough to sail two or three thousand miles directly
west from Portugal or Spain. These beliefs are important, because they
are the identical ones afterward held by Columbus, not only at the time
of his first voyage, but also even until the day of his death.

Another fact indicated in the Toscanelli letters is the desire
expressed by Columbus, showing clearly that as early as 1474, three
years before the reputed visit to Iceland, he had formed a definite
purpose, if possible, to visit and explore the unknown regions of the
east by sailing west.

Another peculiarity of Toscanelli’s letters relates to the wealth of
the countries to be explored. On this point he not only refers to Marco
Polo, but also speaks of the descriptions given by an ambassador in the
time of Pope Eugenius IV. He says: “I was a great deal in his company,
and he gave me descriptions of the munificence of his king, and of the
immense rivers in that territory, which contained, as he stated, two
hundred cities with marble bridges upon the banks of a single stream.”
“The city of Quinsay,” Toscanelli continues, “is thirty-five leagues in
circuit, and it contains ten large marble bridges, built upon immense
columns of singular magnificence.” Of Cipango, he says: “This island
possesses such an abundance of precious stones and metals that the
temples and royal palaces are covered with plates of gold.”

We have now seen--briefly, it is true, but perhaps with sufficient
fulness--how Columbus in various ways had received his education. If
called upon to sum up the impressions that he had gained in the course
of his experience at Genoa and Lisbon before 1484, the result would
be something like the following: First, he acquired a very definite
and positive belief in the sphericity of the earth. Secondly, through
Toscanelli, Cardinal d’Ailly, and others, he had likewise received an
equally definite and positive impression that the size of the earth
was much less than it actually is. His belief was that Japan would be
reached by sailing west a distance not greater than the distance which
actually intervenes between Portugal and the eastern coasts of America.
In the third place, these beliefs were confirmed by certain vague
reports of sailors that had been driven to the far west, and by such
articles as had been thrown by the waters upon the islands lying west
of Portugal and northern Africa.

What may be called the approaches to the discovery of America were, in
their general characteristics, not unlike those which have generally
preceded other great discoveries and inventions. Seldom in the history
of the human race has the conception and the consummation of a great
discovery been the product of a single brain. The final achievement
is ordinarily only the culminating act of the more logical mind and
the more dauntless courage. Such was the case with Columbus. The
more one becomes familiar with the thought and the enterprise of the
fifteenth century, the more clearly one sees how impossible it would
have been for America to have long remained undiscovered, even if
there had been no Columbus. We shall hereafter see how a Portuguese
fleet, in the year 1500, when sailing for Good Hope, and with no
thought of a western continent, was driven by storms to the coast of
Brazil. But none of these facts should detract from the credit of
Columbus. The great man of such a time is the one who shows that he
knows the law of development, and, bringing all possible knowledge to
his service, works, with a lofty courage and an unflagging persistency
and enthusiasm, for the object of his devotion in accordance with the
strict laws of historical sequence. Such was the method of Columbus.
Others, perhaps, were as familiar with all the geographical facts and
theories with which he had so long been storing his mind; others even
saw as clearly the conclusions to which these facts and theories so
distinctly pointed: but he alone, of all the men of his generation,
was possessed with the lofty enthusiasm, the ardent prescience, the
unhasting and unresting courage, that were the harbingers of glorious



An enterprise so vast and hazardous as that proposed by Columbus was
not likely to receive adequate assistance from any private benefactor.
Though the Portuguese had long been considered daring navigators, no
one of them had yet undertaken an expedition in any way comparable in
point of novelty and boldness with that now proposed. The explorers
of Prince Henry had skirted along the coasts of Africa, following out
lines of discovery that had already been somewhat plainly marked out.
But what Columbus now proposed was the bolder course of cutting loose
from old traditions and methods, and sailing directly west into an
unknown space. Capital was even more conservative and timid in the
fifteenth century than it is at the present time; and therefore great
expeditions were much more dependent upon governmental assistance. It
was not singular, therefore, that Columbus found himself obliged to
seek for governmental support and protection.

But in this, as in so many other details in the life of Columbus, it is
impossible at the present time to be confident that we have ascertained
the exact truth. Many of the early accounts are conflicting; and not a
few of the prevailing impressions are founded on evidence that will not
bear the test of critical examination. For example, nearly all of the
historians assert that Columbus made application for assistance to the
governments of Genoa and Venice.

The only authority for belief that the Admiral applied to Genoa is a
statement of Ramusio, who affirms that he received his information from
Peter Martyr. In the course of the narrative he says that when the
application was rejected, Columbus, at the age of forty, determined to
go to Portugal. Unfortunately, to our acceptance of this circumstantial
statement there are several very serious obstacles. In the first place,
no authority for such an assertion can be found in all the writings
of Peter Martyr. Again, the archives of Genoa have been thoroughly
explored in vain for any evidence of such an application. But most
important of all, the assertion, if true, would prove that Columbus was
born as early as 1430. We should also be obliged to infer that two of
his children by the same mother differed in age by at least thirty-six
years. The impression that Columbus made application for assistance to
Genoa may therefore safely be dismissed as apocryphal.

The evidence in regard to an application to Venice, though less
positive in its nature, is also inconclusive. The Venetian historian
Carlo Antonio Marin, whose history of Venetian commerce was not
published till the year 1800, was the first to give currency to the
story. His authority is this. He says that Francesco Pesaro said to
him some ten or twelve years before,--that is, about 1780,--that in
making some researches in the archives of the Council of Ten, he had
seen and read a letter of Columbus making application to the Venetian
Government for assistance. But although diligent search has since been
made at two different times throughout the archives for the years
between 1470 and 1492, no trace of such a letter has ever been found.
It is possible that this important document may have been destroyed
when, just before the preliminaries of Leoben, in May, 1797, a mob
invaded the hall of the Council of Ten and dispersed such of the papers
as could be found. But until some further evidence comes to light, it
must be considered doubtful whether application to Venice was ever made.

In regard to applications to Portugal, England, and France, the
evidence is less incomplete, though here, too, we meet with not a few
conflicting statements.

In one of his letters to the Spanish sovereigns Columbus says: “For
twenty-seven years I had been trying to get recognition, but at the
end of that period all my projects were turned to ridicule.... But
notwithstanding this fact,” he continues, “I pressed on with zeal, and
responded to France, Portugal, and England that I reserved for the
king and queen those countries and those domains.” Elsewhere he says:
“In order to serve your Highnesses, I listened to neither England
nor Portugal nor France, whose princes wrote me letters which your
Highnesses can see in the hands of Dr. Villalono.”

There is another bit of evidence on this subject that is not less
interesting. On the 19th of March, 1493, Duke of Medina Celi wrote to
Cardinal de Mendoza asking that he might be permitted to send vessels
every year to trade in America, and urging as a reason for this special
favor the fact that he had prevented Columbus from going to the service
of France and had held him to the service of Spain, at a time when he
had opportunities for going elsewhere.

But as if to prevent us from being too confident that we have arrived
at the exact truth, Columbus in another of his letters gives us a
statement which, if it stood alone, would seem to prove that John II.
not only made no offer, but stubbornly refused all assistance. He
says: “The king of Portugal refused with blindness to second me in my
projects of maritime discovery, for God closed his eyes, ears, and all
his senses, so that in fourteen years I was not able to make him listen
to what I advanced.”

From this it would seem to be certain that the offer of Portugal
alluded to in the letter above quoted was not made earlier than 1487,
fully two years after Columbus had arrived in Spain.

That Columbus’s application was made as early as 1474, the Toscanelli
correspondence is sufficient proof. But the moment was not auspicious.
John II., who was then reigning, appears to have had no aversion to
giving aid to such an enterprise; but he was involved in expensive
wars, and any additional drafts upon the treasury would have met with
exceptional difficulty.

But there was another reason that ought not to be overlooked. The
recent maritime history of Portugal had given the Government a very
natural feeling of self-reliance. The extraordinary efforts and
successes of Prince Henry had borne fruit. Portugal had not only
raised up a large number of skilful explorers, but had attracted to
Lisbon all the great navigators of the time. Diego Cam and Behaim
had gone beyond the Congo. Affonso de Aviero had visited the kingdom
of Benin, and Pedro de Covilham had advanced to Calicut by way of
the Red Sea. Affonso de Pavia had reached Abyssinia, and Bartholomew
Diaz was at the point of doubling the Cape of Good Hope. Thus a vast
number of expeditions had been sent out, not only to the coasts of
Africa, but also to the open sea. In 1513 De Mafra testified that
the king of Portugal had sent out two exploring expeditions that had
returned without results. In view of all these facts the refusal of the
Portuguese monarch might easily be explained on the ground of anterior
engagements to his own subjects.

But notwithstanding the assurances of Columbus himself, it is certain
that there was no absolute refusal. On the contrary, there is positive
proof that the king took the matter into most careful consideration.
He not only listened with attention to the scheme, but, if we may
believe the testimony of Fernando, gave a qualified promise of support.
Columbus accepted an invitation of the monarch to unfold his hypothesis
in reference to the extent of Asia, the splendors of the region
described by Marco Polo, the shortness of the distance across the
Atlantic, and the entire practicability of reaching the East Indies by
a directly westward course.

Of this interview we have two accounts, one written by the
Admiral’s son Fernando, and the other by De Barros, the Portuguese
historiographer. According to Fernando, his father supported the
prosecution of the plan by such excellent reasons that the king did
not hesitate to give his consent. But when Columbus, being a man of
lofty and noble ideals, demanded honorable titles and rewards, the
king found the matter quite beyond the means then at his disposal. De
Barros, on the other hand, assures us that the seeming acquiescence of
the king was simply his manner of answering what he regarded as the
unreasonable importunities of Columbus. He considered the navigator
as a vainglorious man, fond of displaying his abilities and given to
fantastic notions, such as those respecting the island of Cipango.
According to this same authority, it was but another way of getting rid
of Columbus that the king referred the whole subject to a committee of
the Council for Geographical Affairs.

It is said that councils of war never fight, and that advisory boards
regard the promoters of new schemes as their natural enemies. The
committee to whom the king referred the proposal of Columbus was made
up of two Jewish physicians and a bishop. Although the physicians,
Roderigo and Joseph, were reputed as the most able cosmographers of
the realm, they had not much hesitation in deciding that the project
was extravagant and visionary. With this judgment the ecclesiastical
member of the council seems to have agreed.

The king, however, as if unwilling to lose any valuable opportunity,
does not appear to have been satisfied with this answer. As the story
goes, he convoked his royal council, and asked their advice whether to
adopt this new route, or to pursue that which had already been opened.

Von Concelos, the historian of King John II., has given a graphic
account of the discussion held before this council. The Bishop of
Ceuta, the same important dignitary that had been a member of the
committee of three, opposed this scheme in a cool and deliberate
speech. The opposite side was presented by Dom Pedro de Meneses with so
much eloquence and power that the impression he made quite surpassed
that of the colder reasonings of the bishop. What followed was
apparently prompted by a consciousness that the advocates of the scheme
were likely to be successful. The bishop now proposed a very unworthy
scheme. He asked that Columbus might be kept in suspense while a vessel
should be secretly despatched by the king to discover whether there was
any foundation for his theory. The king appears not to have been above
the adoption of so base a proposition. Columbus was required to furnish
for the consideration of the council a plan of his proposed voyage,
together with the charts and maps with which he intended to guide his
course. A small vessel was despatched, ostensibly to the Cape de Verde
islands, but with private instructions to proceed on the route pointed
out by Columbus. The officer had no heart in the enterprise, and it was
a complete failure. Sailing westward for several days, they encountered
storms, and the sailors, losing their courage, returned to ridicule the
project as impossible.

When these facts came to be known, they produced a very natural
impression on the mind of Columbus. Disgusted with the treatment he had
received from the Portuguese, he quitted Lisbon for Spain at a date
which cannot be determined with precision, but probably in the latter
part of the year 1484 or in the early part of 1485. His departure
had to be secret, lest he should be detained either by the king or
his creditors. Color is given to the supposition that he was under
grave charges of some kind by the fact that King John, when, some
years later, inviting him to return to Portugal, deemed it necessary
to insure him “against arrest on account of any process, civil or
criminal, that might be pending against him.”

Now, in considering all these accounts, it is not difficult to imagine
that in his efforts to promote his great schemes, Columbus had been
kept in poverty. But the reasons for his leaving in secret, and even
his movements on leaving Portugal, are involved in uncertainty.

It has also very often been held by modern historians that Columbus,
immediately after entering Spain, found his way to the monastery of
La Rabida, near Palos. The authority for this belief, moreover, is
nothing less than a circumstantial account given by Fernando. But the
assertion has been proved to be incorrect. In the trial of 1513, in
which Diego Columbus attempted to establish certain claims against the
Government, two witnesses gave sworn testimony in regard to the meeting
at La Rabida. This testimony is still to be seen in the records of
the trial; and the details of the evidence make it almost absolutely
certain that the visit of Columbus to that famous monastery was not
when he first entered Spain in 1484 or 1485, but as late as September
or October of 1491.

Of another interesting effort, however, we have more positive
information. It was probably before leaving Portugal that he despatched
his brother Bartholomew to make application to the king of England.
But whatever the date of the application, it was not successful.
Whether the presentation of the case was made orally or in writing can
perhaps never be determined. It is known that he was in England for a
considerable period; but no trace of the application itself has ever
been found in the English authorities of the time. After remaining
in England probably until 1488, Bartholomew went to France, where he
remained until 1494. Though it seems probable that he received some
encouragement at the French court, even the probability rests upon no
documentary evidence except the assertion of Columbus, already quoted.
That hopes were held out, may perhaps be inferred from the fact that
when, almost at the last moment, Columbus turned his back upon the
Spanish court, he decided to go to France.

As to the course pursued by Columbus after he reached Spain, there
is also some uncertainty. This is owing to the impossibility of
reconciling some of the statements of Fernando with many of the other
statements found in the contemporaneous records. If the narrative of
the son in regard to the course of the father is followed, the student
will find himself in a labyrinth of difficulties. Fernando would have
us believe that immediately after entering Spain his father went to the
court of Medina Celi, and a little later had his famous experience at
the monastery of La Rabida. But it is impossible to reconcile such a
statement with the subsequent current of events. We know, as we shall
presently see, that Columbus was two years in the house of the Duke
of Medina Celi, and that at the end of that period he took a letter
of introduction and commendation to Cardinal Mendoza at the court of
Ferdinand and Isabella. We know also that the visit to La Rabida was
the cause of a letter being written which induced Columbus to take
that journey to the court, which resulted in the ultimate adoption
of his cause. The letter of Medina, moreover, assured the monarch
that Columbus was on the point of taking his enterprise to the court
of France. This assertion appears to be altogether incompatible with
the supposition that the abode of Columbus with Medina Celi was in
the early part of his residence in Spain. Not to present a tedious
array of irreconcilable details, it is perhaps enough to say that
if the statement of Fernando is once rejected, the way is, for the
most part, easy and clear. If we once adopt the supposition that the
abode with Medina Celi began in 1489, and that the visit to La Rabida
was in September or October of 1491, we shall rest on the authority
of Las Casas, and shall find that the difficulties in the way of
accounting for the movements of Columbus are chiefly removed. Against
this supposition, moreover, there is no evidence except the statement
of Fernando, published not less than eighty years after the events it
purports to describe.

With this explanation let us endeavour to point out the course of
Columbus in the light of the original evidence.

Before we can understand the course that was taken, we must glance at
the general condition of Spain.

The modern Inquisition was established in Castile by royal decree in
September of 1480. It proceeded with so much energy that in the course
of the following year, it is estimated that no less than two thousand
persons were burned at the stake. The queen appears to have had some
scruples in regard to this wholesale slaughter; but these were allayed
by Pope Sixtus the Fourth, who encouraged her by an audacious reference
to the example of Christ, who, he said, established his kingdom by the
destruction of idolatry. This teaching was effective. In the autumn
of 1483 the terrible Torquemada was appointed Inquisitor-General, and
clothed with full powers to reorganize the Holy Office and exterminate
heresy. From that time until the end of this inquisitor’s term of
office, according to the estimation of Llorente, the annual number
of persons condemned to torture was more than six thousand, and in
the course of the whole period more than ten thousand were burned
alive. The success of the Inquisition in Castile was so satisfactory
that Ferdinand resolved to introduce it into Aragon. Notwithstanding
a remonstrance of the Cortes, the _auto-da-fé_, with all its horrors,
was set up at Saragossa in the month of May, 1485. The Aragonese,
despairing of any other way of protecting themselves, resolved upon an
appalling act of violence. Arbues, the most odious of the inquisitors,
was attacked by a band of conspirators and assassinated on his knees
before the great altar of the cathedral, in a manner that reminds us
of the death of Thomas à Becket at Canterbury. The whole kingdom was
consequently thrown into turmoil.

But there were other causes of anxiety. This very year the prevalence
of the plague added to the general solicitude. In some of the southern
districts of the kingdom the ravages of the pestilence showed not
only the appalling condition of the people, but also the necessity of
governmental assistance. In several of the cities as many as eight or
ten thousand of the inhabitants were swept away. In Seville alone the
number that perished this very year was no less than fifteen thousand.

Just at this juncture, moreover, the coin of the realm was adulterated,
and a fatal shock was given to commercial credit. The people very
generally refused to receive the debased money in payment of debts.
Prices of ordinary articles rose to such a height as to be above
the reach of the poorer classes of the community. Great destitution
prevailed, and the resources of the Government were put to the severest
strain. Even if there had been no other tax upon the treasures of
the king and queen, the time would not have been propitious for an
application like that of Columbus.

But there was another and a still more important reason. For more
than three years the terrible war against the Moors had been taxing
the resources of the united armies of Ferdinand and Isabella. When
the Genoese navigator entered Spain, the court was making active
preparations for a vigorous continuation of that titanic struggle. The
rival kings of Granada had formed a coalition that now called for the
most prompt and vigorous action. The headquarters of the king and queen
were established at Cordova, where the active operations in the field
could be most easily and successfully directed; and all the resources
of Castile and Aragon were called into requisition to meet these
emergencies in the famous contest of the Cross against the Crescent.

No one can fairly judge either of the generosity or of the justice
of the monarchs in dealing with Columbus, without taking into
consideration all these prior obligations. At the very moment when this
enterprising navigator applied for assistance, there must have arisen
to the minds of Ferdinand and Isabella a vivid consciousness of the
ominous ferment caused by the work of the Inquisition; of the suffering
occasioned by the plague; of the starvation that everywhere appealed
for help in consequence of the debasement of the currency and the rise
in prices; and, finally, of the all-absorbing necessity of bringing
every resource of the country to bear upon the ending of this terrible
war against Granada. Nor can it be forgotten that the war was still
to make its demands upon the country for six years. In view of all
the facts, it is difficult to imagine a concurrence of circumstances
more unfavorable to the application. The monarchs could not have been
justly blamed if they had summarily declared that a granting of the
application was impossible. And yet, that they were unwilling to reject
the application outright, the course of events abundantly shows.

Columbus, in a letter dated the 14th of January, 1493, says that seven
years the twentieth of that month had rolled away since he entered the
service of the Spanish monarchs. This exact statement, corroborated
in substance as it is by others, would seem to fix the date of his
entering the Spanish service as the 20th of January, 1486. What the
nature of this service was, cannot now be determined. Nor do we know
whether from this time he received pecuniary support. The first record
of such assistance, indeed the first authentic documentary evidence
of his being in Spain, occurs in an entry in the books of the royal
treasurer for the 5th of May, 1487. Under this date is found the
following entry: “To-day paid three thousand maravedis [about twenty
dollars] to Christopher Columbus, stranger, who is here employed in
certain things for their Highnesses, under the direction of Alphonso
de Quintanilla, by order of the bishop.” In one of his letters to
Ferdinand, Columbus says: “As soon as your Highness had knowledge of
my desire [to visit the Indies], you protected me and honored me with

While there is nothing in these assertions to indicate the exact date
when Columbus began to receive pecuniary assistance, we are justified
in the inference that it was in January of 1486.

There is no evidence, however, that Columbus presented himself at the
Spanish capital before the following spring. Surely the times must have
seemed to him inauspicious. The monarchs had established themselves at
Cordova as the most convenient place for the headquarters of the army.
Early in the year, the king marched off to lay siege to the Moorish
city of Illora, while Isabella remained at Cordova to forward the
necessary troops and supplies. A little later we find both monarchs,
in person, carrying on the siege of Moclin. Scarcely had they returned
to Cordova, however, when they were obliged to set out for Galicia to
suppress the rebellion of the Count of Lemos.

During this summer of military turmoil, Columbus remained at Cordova
vainly waiting for an opportunity to present his cause. Fortunately
he was not without some encouragement; for he had gained the favor of
Alonzo de Quintanilla, whose guest he became, and through whom he made
the acquaintance of Geraldini, the preceptor of the younger children of
Ferdinand and Isabella.

When the monarchs repaired to the northern town of Salamanca for the
winter, Columbus also went thither with his friends Quintanilla and
Geraldini. Here it was that the cause of the explorer first had a
formal hearing.

At this audience it is not probable that Queen Isabella was present;
at least, the only part of the discussion taken by the monarchs seems
to have been that of the king. It is said that Columbus unfolded his
scheme with entire self-possession. He appears to have been neither
dazzled nor daunted; for in a letter to the sovereign, in 1501, he
declares that on this occasion “he felt himself kindled as with a fire
from on high, and considered himself as an agent chosen by Heaven to
accomplish a grand design.”

But so important a matter as that now urged upon the sovereigns was not
to be entered upon lightly or in haste. However willing the king may
have been to be the promoter of discoveries far more important than
those which had shed glory upon Portugal, he was too cool and shrewd
a man to decide a matter hastily which involved so many scientific
principles. Of the details of what followed we have no authentic
account. After more than a hundred years had passed away, and the glory
of the discovery had come in some measure to be appreciated, the claim
was set up that a congress or junta of learned men was called together,
and that the whole subject was submitted to their consideration. The
account, however, is accompanied with many suspicious circumstances.
The historian Remesal was a Dominican monk and a member of the
monastery of St. Stephen at Salamanca, where, it is said, the junta
was held. In his narrative he claims that the ecclesiastical members,
for the most part monks of St. Stephen, listened with approval to
the presentation of the case, while those who might be called the
scientific members strenuously opposed it. This statement, which is
the basis of Irving’s account, is not only inherently improbable, but
is supported by no contemporaneous evidence whatever. The absence of
such evidence, moreover, is enough to condemn the whole story. The
records of the monastery, which are supposed to be complete, contain
no reference to any such meeting. Las Casas, himself a Dominican,
would have been sure to introduce the account into his narrative if it
had rested upon any basis of fact. He makes no allusion to any such
meeting, and we are forced to conclude that the story was fabricated
for ecclesiastical purposes. But although no such formal meeting was
ever held, there is evidence that Ferdinand obtained, in an informal
way, the opinions of some of the most learned men of the time.

The city of Salamanca, where this order was issued, seemed in every way
favourable for such a hearing; for at this ancient capital was situated
one of the most renowned universities of Spain. It is difficult to
suppose that the professors of that venerable institution were not
familiar with the latest theories in regard to the sphericity of the
earth; but notwithstanding this fact, Columbus had to confront, not
only the prudent conservatism of learning, but also the obstinate
conservatism of the Church. The faculties were made up partly of
ecclesiastics, and partly of others who soon became fully imbued
with the ecclesiastical spirit. It was at a time when there was
no more thought of tolerating heresy than there was of tolerating
arson. The Inquisition, as we have just seen, had recently been
established. In both the king and the queen an ardent religious zeal
was united with great political and military skill, as well as great
personal popularity. Heresy was the most dangerous of crimes, and
the strictest adherence to traditional doctrines was encouraged by
all the considerations of loyalty, of interest, and of prudence. To
the dark colours in which heresy was painted by the Church in the
fifteenth century, a still deeper hue was now added by the horrors
of the Moorish wars. It is therefore easy to explain why the people
of Spain surpassed the people of other countries in the fervour of
religious intolerance. Columbus was obliged to plead the cause of his
departure from traditional methods in an atmosphere charged with all
these predispositions, prejudices, and motives. By the vulgar crowd the
navigator had persistently been scoffed at as a visionary; but with
something of the hopeful enthusiasm of an adventurer, he had steadily
maintained the belief that it was only necessary to meet a body of
enlightened men to insure their conversion to his cause.

But his hopefulness was destined to be disabused. We can well believe
that his project appeared in a somewhat unfavourable light before the
learned men of the day. To them he was simply an obscure navigator,
and a foreigner at that, depending upon nothing more than the force
of the reasons he might be able to present. Some of them, no doubt,
looked upon him simply as an adventurer, while others were disposed to
manifest their impatience at any doctrinal innovation. The predominance
of opinion seemed to intrench itself in the belief that after so many
cosmographers and navigators had been studying and exploring the globe
for centuries, it was simply an absurd presumption to suppose that any
new discoveries of importance were now to be made.

The discussion, almost at the very first, was taken out of the
domain of science. Instead of attempting to present astronomical and
geographical objections to the proposed voyage, the objectors assailed
the scheme with citations from the Bible and from the Fathers of the
Church. The book of Genesis, the Psalms of David, the Prophets, and
the Gospels were all put upon the witness-stand and made to testify
to the impossibility of success. Saint Chrysostom, Saint Augustine,
Lactantius, Saint Jerome, Saint Gregory, and a host of others, were
cited as confirmatory witnesses. Philosophical and mathematical
demonstrations received no consideration. The simple proposition of
Columbus that the earth was spherical was met with texts of Scripture
in a manner that was worthy of Father Jasper.

These various presentations, however, were by no means in vain;
for there was far from unanimity of opinion. There were a few who
admitted that Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Isadore might be right
in believing the earth to be globular in form; though even these were
inclined to deny that circumnavigation was possible. It is a pleasure
to note, however, that there was one conspicuous exception to the
general current of opposition and resistance. Whether dating from this
period we do not know, but it is certain that an early interest was
taken in the cause by Diego de Deza, a learned friar of the order of
St. Dominic, who afterward became archbishop of Seville, one of the
highest ecclesiastical dignitaries of the realm. Deza appears to have
risen quite above the limitations of mere ecclesiastical lore; for he
not only took a generous interest in the cause of the explorer, but he
seconded and encouraged his efforts with all the means at his command.
Perhaps it was by his efforts that so deep an impression was made on
the most learned men of the conference. However this may have been, the
ignorant and the prejudiced remained obstinate in their opposition, and
so the season at Salamanca passed away without bringing the monarchs to
any decision.

After the winter of 1486-87, there occurred a long and painful period
of delays. In the following spring the court departed from Salamanca
and went to Cordova to prepare for the memorable campaign against
Malaga. Columbus accompanied the expedition in the vain hope that there
would be an opportunity for a further hearing. At one time when the
Spanish armies were encamped on the hills and plains surrounding the
beleaguered city, Columbus was summoned to court; but amid the din
of a terrible contest there was no place for a calm consideration of
the great maritime project. The summer was full of incident and peril.
At one time the king was surprised and nearly cut off by the craft of
the old Moorish monarch; at another a Moorish fanatic attempted to
assassinate both king and queen, only to be cut to pieces after he had
wounded the prince of Portugal and the Marchioness de Moya, supposing
them to be Ferdinand and Isabella.

But it is easy to imagine that this seemingly untoward event
contributed to help on the cause of Columbus. The Marchioness de Moya
had warmly espoused his cause, and the attempt upon her life can hardly
have failed to appeal to the interest of Queen Isabella.

Malaga surrendered in August, and the king and queen almost immediately
returned to Cordova. The pestilence, however, very soon made that old
city an unsafe abode. For a while the court was in what might be called
the turmoil of migration. At one time it was in Valladolid, at another
in Saragossa, at another in Medina de Campo. But during all this period
its ardent business was the pressing forward of the Spanish armies into
the Moorish territories. As every reader of Irving knows, the ground
was stubbornly contested, inch by inch. Columbus remained for the most
part with the army; but he sought in vain for the quiet necessary for a
dispassionate hearing.

It could hardly have been otherwise. Ferdinand and Isabella have
often been reproached with needless delays in the matter of rendering
the required assistance; but such a reproach cannot be justified. The
custom of the time sanctioned, even if it did not require, that the
court should accompany the military camp. The Government was not only
at the head of the army, but it was actually and continuously in the
field. All other questions were absorbed by the military interests
of the moment; and it would have been singular indeed, if, in such
a situation, the resources of the treasury had been called upon to
subsidize an expedition that as yet had been unable to secure the
approval of the learned men who had been asked to consider its merits.
It would be difficult to show that the course taken by the monarchs
was not both wise and natural. The period of the war was a fit time in
which to ascertain the merits of the proposal; and if after the contest
should be brought to an end, the reports should be found favorable, the
expedition could be fitted out with such assistance as might comport
with the condition of the treasury and the necessities of the case.

But, on the other hand, it was not singular that Columbus was at this
time wearied and discouraged by the delays. The end of the war was
still involved in great uncertainty, and there was no assurance that
even at the return of peace his proposals would receive the royal
approval and support. It was not unnatural, then, that he began to
think of applying elsewhere for assistance. In the spring of 1488 he
wrote to the king of Portugal, asking permission to return to that
country. The reply, received on the 20th of March, not only extended
the desired invitation, but also gave him the significant assurance
of protection against any suits of a criminal or civil nature that
might be pending against him. About the same time he seems also to
have received a letter from Henry VII. of England, inviting him to
that country, and holding out certain vague promises of encouragement.
Though this letter was doubtless the fruit of the efforts made by his
brother Bartholomew, there is no evidence that Columbus ever thought
favourably of accepting the invitation. Why it was that he delayed
going to Portugal until late in the autumn cannot be determined with
certainty. It is, however, not difficult to conjecture. Harrisse has
found in the treasury-books memoranda of small amounts of money paid
to Columbus from time to time during his stay in the vicinity of the
Spanish court. Ferdinand and Isabella were sufficiently interested in
the project to be unwilling that he should carry his proposition to
another monarch. At least, they were anxious that he should not commit
himself elsewhere until they should have had opportunity to examine
into the project with care; and then, at the close of the war, if it
seemed best, they would give him the needed support. Accordingly,
elaborate preparations for a new hearing were at once made. No less
than three royal orders were issued,--one summoning Columbus to a
council of learned men at Seville; one directing the city authorities
to provide lodgings for the navigator, as for an officer of the
government; another commanding the magistrates of the cities along the
way to furnish accommodations for him and for his attendants.

These orders were all carried out; but the conference was postponed,
and finally interrupted by the opening of the campaign for the summer.
The annals of Seville contain a statement that in this campaign
Columbus was found fighting and “giving proofs of the distinguishing
valor which accompanied his wisdom and his lofty desires.” What we
positively know of the course of events may be summed up as follows.
On the 3d of July, 1487, he received the second stipend in money. At
the end of the following August we find him at the siege of Malaga.
In the winter of 1487-88 he was at Cordova, when his relations with
Beatriz Enriquez resulted in the birth of his son Fernando on the 15th
of August, 1488. On the 16th of June of this year Columbus received
the third allowance of money. Early in the spring he had asked for
permission to return to Portugal, and the letter granting his request
bears date of the 20th of March. The journey was not undertaken,
however, until after the birth of his son. When he went, and how long
he remained in Portugal, are uncertain; for the only positive proof
that he took the journey at all is a memorandum in his own handwriting,
dated at Lisbon in December of 1488. It is, however, interesting to
note that this memorandum, made in his copy of Cardinal d’Ailly’s
“Imago Mundi,” calls attention to the return of Diaz from his voyage to
the Cape of Good Hope. It is, however, definitely ascertained that he
returned in the spring of 1489; for on the 12th of May of that year an
order was issued to all the authorities of the cities through which he
passed, to furnish him all needed support and assistance at the royal

The fact that this is the last time that Columbus figures in the
order-books of the treasury has led Harrisse to infer that the
navigator saw no immediate chance of success, and so for a time
abstained from the further pressing of his suit.

We are thus brought to the autumn of 1489, when Columbus, seeing
little reason for hope, but still not so discouraged as to abandon
his cause, formed an acquaintance which proved to be of incalculable
value. How the acquaintance came about, we have no means of knowing.
The authorities are so at variance with one another on the subject
that there has been much difference of opinion as to the time when the
acquaintance was formed. Irving and the larger number of modern writers
have supposed that the events which resulted from this connection
occurred soon after Columbus entered Spain. Harrisse, however, has
pointed out with great acumen the difficulties in the way of accepting
this supposition, and has established at least an overwhelming
probability that the residence of the navigator with the Duke of Medina
Celi extended from the early months of 1490 to the end of 1491.

At the beginning of the fifteenth century Spain was still very largely
made up of principalities that were practically independent. Two of
these were possessed and governed by the Dukes of Medina Sidonia
and Medina Celi. In the wars against Naples, as well as in the long
struggle against the Moors, these noblemen fitted out expeditions
and conducted campaigns with something like regal independence and
magnitude. They lived in royal splendour, and dispensed a royal
hospitality. As their vast states lay along the sea-coast at the
southwest of Spain, where they had ships and ports, as well as hosts of
retainers, it is not singular that this enterprising refugee from the
Spanish camp found his way into their domains.

With Medina Sidonia, Columbus seems to have had no special success,
though the nobleman is reported to have given him many interviews. The
very splendour of the project may have thrown over it such a colouring
of improbability as to raise a feeling of distrust. To the hard-headed
old hero of so many campaigns, the proposal was simply the undertaking
of an Italian visionary.

But upon Medina Celi the navigator made a more favourable impression.
Unfortunately, we are dependent for information almost solely upon the
statements of the duke. But the narrative has the air of probability.
He says that he entertained Columbus for two years at his house. At one
time he had gone so far as to set apart and fit out several of his own
ships for the purposes of an expedition; but it suddenly occurred to
him that an enterprise of such magnitude and importance should go forth
under no less sanction than that of the sovereign power. Finding that
Columbus in his disappointment had decided to turn next to the king of
France, the duke determined to write to Queen Isabella and recommend
him strongly to her favourable consideration. Among other things, he
wrote that the glory of such an enterprise, if successful, should be
kept by the monarchs of Spain. Of the kind favour of the duke there can
be no question; for the letter of introduction carried by Columbus is
still preserved. This important document not only commends the bearer
to favourable consideration, but it also asks that in case the favour
should be granted, the duke himself might have the privilege of a share
in the enterprise, and that the expedition might be fitted out at his
own port of St. Marie, as a recompense for having waived his privilege
in favour of the grant.

During the next year and a half the prospect seemed in no way more
propitious. Columbus, even though he now had the support of Medina
Celi, must have been reduced to something like desperation. The court
was making preparations for a final campaign against Granada, with a
full determination never to raise the siege until the Spanish flag
should float above the last Moorish citadel. Columbus knew that when
once the campaign should be entered upon, it would be vain to expect
any attention to his cause. Accordingly, he pressed for an immediate
answer. The sovereigns called upon the queen’s confessor, Talavera, to
obtain the opinions of the scientific men and to report their decision.
This order was complied with; but after due consideration, a majority
decided that the proposed scheme was vain and impossible.

This answer would seem to have been, for the time at least, conclusive;
but the men consulted were by no means unanimous. On the contrary,
several of the learned members strenuously exerted themselves in favour
of the enterprise. Of these the most earnest and influential was the
friar Diego de Deza, who, owing to his influential position as tutor of
Prince John, had ready access to the royal ear. The matter, therefore,
was not peremptorily dismissed. The monarchs, instead of rejecting the
application outright, ordered Talavera to inform Columbus that the
expense of the war and the cares attending it made it impossible to
undertake any new enterprise; but that when peace should be assured,
the sovereigns would have leisure and inclination to reconsider the
whole question.

Disheartened and indignant at what he considered nothing more than a
courtly method of evading and dismissing his suit, Columbus resolved
immediately to turn his back upon the Spanish court. For six years
he had now pleaded his cause, apparently in vain. Hoping for nothing
further, he determined to seek the patronage of the king of France.

It is interesting to note that, taking his boy Diego with him, he
made his way to that very seaport town upon which a little later he
was to bestow an undying fame by embarking from it on his memorable
expedition. Notwithstanding the fact that Medina Celi had given him a
home, he must have been reduced to extreme poverty. He seems not only
to have travelled on foot, but also to have been under the necessity
of begging even for a crust of bread.

Just before he was to reach the port at Palos, Columbus stopped at the
gate of the convent of Santa Maria de la Rabida to ask for food and
water for himself and his little boy. It happened that the prior of
the convent was Juan Parez de Marchena, a friar who had once been the
confessor of Queen Isabella. He appears to have had some geographical
knowledge; for he at once interested himself in the conversation of
Columbus, and was greatly impressed with the grandeur of his views.
On hearing that the navigator was to abandon Spain and turn to the
court of France, his patriotism was aroused. He not only urged the
hospitality of the convent upon the traveller until further advice
could be taken, but within a few days he enlisted two or three persons
of influence for his cause. One of these was Garcia Fernandez, a
physician; another was Martin Alonzo Pinzon, an experienced navigator
of Palos. Pinzon, on hearing what was proposed, was so fully convinced
of the feasibility of the plan that he offered to bear the expense of
the new application, and, if successful, to assist the expedition with
his purse and his person.

But it was to the prior of the convent that Columbus was to be most
indebted. The result of their several interviews was the determination
that the queen’s old confessor should make one further appeal. With
this end in view, a courier was despatched with a letter. It was
successful. After a wearisome journey of fourteen days, the messenger
returned with a note summoning Perez to the royal court, then encamped
about Granada. At midnight of the same day the prior mounted his mule
and set out on his mission of persuasion.

On arriving at the camp, Perez was received with a welcome that gave
him great freedom. As the queen’s old confessor, he had immediate
access to the royal presence, and he pleaded the project of the
navigator with fervid enthusiasm. He defended the scientific principles
on which it was founded; he urged the unquestionable capacity of
Columbus to carry out the undertaking; he pictured not only the
advantages that must come from success, but also the glory that would
accrue to the Government under whose patronage success should be

The queen listened with attention. It is interesting to note that
the cause was warmly seconded by the queen’s favourite, the same
Marchioness de Moya whose life had been imperilled by the dagger of the
Moorish fanatic. A decision was reached without much delay. The queen
not only requested that Columbus might be sent to her, but she gave the
messengers a purse to bear the necessary expenses, and to enable the
maritime suitor to travel and present himself with decency and comfort.

The successful friar at once returned to the convent, and reported the
result of his mission to his waiting friends. Without delay, Columbus
exchanged his garb for one suited to the atmosphere of the court, and
set out for the royal presence.

In his journal, as quoted by Las Casas, Columbus tells us that he
arrived at Granada in time to see the end of that memorable war. After
a struggle of nearly eight hundred years, the Crescent had at length
succumbed to the Cross, and the banners of Spain were planted on the
highest tower of the Alhambra. The jubilee that followed had all the
characteristics of Spanish magnificence. But in these festivities
Columbus probably took only the part of an observer. By one of the
Spanish historians he is represented as “melancholy and dejected in the
midst of general rejoicings.”

As soon as the festivities were over, his cause had a hearing. Fernando
de Talavera, now elevated to the archbishopric of Granada, was
appointed to carry on the negotiations. At the very outset, however,
difficulties arose that seemed to be insuperable. Columbus would listen
to none but princely conditions. He made the stupendous mistake of
demanding that he should be admiral and viceroy over all the countries
he might discover. As pecuniary compensation, he also asked for a tenth
of all gains either by trade or conquest.

It can hardly be considered singular that the courtiers were indignant
at what they regarded as his extravagant requirements. Though Columbus
had seen much and hard service at sea, his experience hitherto had
not been of a nature to reveal any extraordinary ability. For six
years he had been simply a wandering suppliant for royal favour.
What he now demanded was to be put into the very highest rank in the
realm. As admiral and viceroy he would stand next to the sovereigns
on land, as well as on sea. What he asked as compensation, though it
would stimulate every temptation to abuse, was not of so unreasonable
a nature. But to promote this obscure navigator, and a foreigner at
that, over all the veterans who had for perhaps half a century been
faithfully earning recognition, seemed very naturally to the archbishop
preposterous indeed. One of the courtiers observed with a sneer that
it was a shrewd arrangement that he proposed, whereby in any event
he would have the honor of the command and the rank, while he had
nothing whatever to lose in case of failure. Though Columbus, doubtless
remembering the offer of Pinzon, offered to furnish one eighth of the
cost, on condition of having one eighth of the profits, his terms were
pronounced inadmissible. The commission represented to the queen that,
even in case of success, the demands would be exorbitant, while in case
of failure, as evidence of extraordinary credulity, they would subject
the Crown to ridicule.

More than all this, the terms demanded were of such a nature as to stir
the jealousy and hostility of all the less fortunate naval commanders.
Columbus has been represented by Irving and many of the other
biographers as having shown in these demands a loftiness of spirit and
a firmness of purpose that are worthy of the highest commendation. But
when one looks at the far-reaching consequences of the terms insisted
upon, one can hardly fail to see in them the source of very much of the
unhappiness and opposition that followed him throughout his career.
The strenuousness of his terms, by throwing wide open the door to every
form of abuse, detracted from his happiness and diminished his claim to

But Columbus would listen to nothing less than all these conditions.
More moderate terms were offered, and such as now seem in every way to
have been honourable and advantageous. But all was in vain. He would
not cede a single point in his demands. The negotiations accordingly
had to be broken off. He determined to abandon the court of Spain
forever rather than detract one iota from the dignity of the great
enterprise he had in view. We are told that, taking leave of his
friends, he mounted his mule and sallied forth from Santa Fé, intending
immediately to present his cause at the court of France.

But no sooner had he gone than the friends who had ardently supported
him were filled with something like consternation. They determined to
make one last appeal directly to the queen. The agents of this movement
were the royal treasurer, Luis de Santangel, and Alonzo de Quintanilla.
Santangel was the one who presented the cause. On two points he placed
special stress, and he urged them with great power and eloquence. The
first may be condensed into the phrase that while the loss would, in
any event, be but trifling, the gain, in case of success, would be
incalculable. In the second place he urged that if the enterprise were
not undertaken by Spain, it would doubtless be taken up by one of the
rival nations and carried to triumphant success. He then appealed
to what the queen was in the habit of doing for the glory of God,
the exaltation of the Church, and the extension of her own power and
dominion. Here, it was urged, was an opportunity to surpass them all.
He called attention to the offer of Columbus to bear an eighth of the
expense, and advised her that the requisites for the enterprise would
not exceed three thousand crowns. The Marchioness de Moya was present,
and added her eloquence to that of Santangel.

These representations had the desired effect, and the queen resolved
on the spot to undertake the enterprise. The story, so often repeated,
that the queen pledged her jewels for the necessary expense, rests
upon no contemporaneous evidence, and has recently been shown to be
extremely improbable. It was not necessary, for Santangel declared that
he was ready to supply the money out of the treasury of Aragon. The
adoption of the cause by the queen was complete and unconditional.

It was in the narrow pass at the foot of Mount Elvira, a few miles from
Granada, that the swift messenger of this good news overtook Columbus
on his dejected retreat. No very fertile fancy is required to imagine
with some confidence the emotions of the explorer as he listened to the
story of the queen’s new decision. Turning the rein, he hastened his
jaded mule with all possible speed to the royal court at Santa Fé.

For reasons which it is not easy to understand, there were still
considerable delays before the requisite papers received their final
signature. Whether there were disagreements still to be adjusted
cannot now be known. Columbus returned to the court early in February,
but it was not until the 17th of April that the stipulations had been
duly made out and signed.

In form the papers were the work of the royal secretary, but they
received the assent and signature of both monarchs. The principal
commission is of so much importance that it is here given in full:--

    1. First, your Highnesses, in virtue of your dominion over
    the said seas, shall constitute from this time forth the said
    Don Christopher Columbus your admiral in all the islands and
    territories which he may discover or acquire in the said seas,
    this power to continue in him during his life, and at his death
    to descend to his heirs and successors from one to another
    perpetually, with all the dignities and prerogatives appertaining
    to the said office, and according to the manner in which this
    dignity has been held by Don Alonzo Henriquez, your High Admiral
    of Castile, and by the other admirals in their several districts.

    2. Furthermore, your Highnesses shall constitute the said Don
    Christopher Columbus your viceroy and governor-general in all the
    said islands and territories to be discovered in the said seas;
    and for the government of each place three persons shall be named
    by him, out of which number your Highnesses shall select one to
    hold the office in question.

    3. Furthermore, in the acquisition by trade, discovery, or any
    other method, of all goods, merchandise, pearls, precious stones,
    gold, silver, spices, and all other articles, within the limits
    of the said admiralty, the tenth part of their value shall be the
    property of the said Don Christopher Columbus, after deducting
    the amount expended in obtaining them, and the other nine tenths
    shall be the property of your Highnesses.

    4. Furthermore, if any controversy or law-suit should arise in
    these territories relating to the goods which he may obtain
    there, or relating to any goods which others may obtain by trade
    in the same places, the jurisdiction in the said cases shall,
    by virtue of his office of admiral, pertain to him alone or
    his deputy, provided the said prerogative belong to the office
    of admiral, according as that dignity has been held by the
    above-mentioned Admiral Don Alonzo Henriquez, and the others
    of that rank in their several districts, and provided the said
    regulation be just.

    5. Furthermore, in the fitting out of any fleets for the purpose
    of trade in the said territories, the said Don Christopher
    Columbus shall on every such occasion be allowed the privilege
    of furnishing one eighth of the expenses of the expedition, and
    shall at such times receive an eighth part of the profits arising

In the formal commission we find these words:

    “We therefore by this commission confer on you the office
    of admiral, viceroy, and governor, to be held in hereditary
    possession forever, with all the privileges and salaries
    pertaining thereto.”

Surely these were extraordinary powers. From any unjust exercise of
supreme authority in the lands Columbus might discover, there was to be
no appeal. The authority was limited, moreover, by neither custom nor
method. In the matter of governorships he was to have the sole right
of nomination, and in all questions of dispute in regard to his own
interest in goods obtained either by himself or by anybody else, he or
his deputy was to have sole jurisdiction.

The temptation to exercise these powers for the oppression of
a barbarous people would seem, even under the most favourable
circumstances, to be quite as much as human nature could bear. But the
circumstances were not favourable. The danger was in the fact that a
high pecuniary premium was put upon the abuse of authority.

The promise of a tenth of all that the Admiral might acquire by
trade, discovery, “or any other method,” was a powerful stimulant
to cruelty and cupidity. Unfortunately, the age was one when every
people that did not avow Christianity was regarded as legitimate
spoil for the Christian invader. This fact took away the last feeble
guarantee of public opinion. In estimating the character of Columbus
we must remember that he was subjected to the temptations of unlimited
authority, of immeasurable opportunity, and of exemption from all
accountability, either to the Government or to public opinion. His
place in history must ultimately be determined by the manner in which
it shall be shown that he administered this trust.

The fact should not be overlooked that there was always a powerful
religious motive in all the plans of Columbus. One of his purposes
in seeking to reach eastern Asia by sailing westward was an opening
of the way for the conversion of the people to Christianity. His
writings abound in expressions of this desire. In all his plans for
his expedition he made prominent his wish to gain the means necessary
for the conquest of the Holy Land. In his nature and his faith there
was much of the religious zeal of the mediæval Crusader, united
with a tendency to indulge in the fervid religious rhetoric of the
seventeenth-century Puritan. Columbus hoped, by these explorations in
the west, to acquire the means of succeeding in that enterprise of
bringing Jerusalem back into the control of Christianity, which for
three centuries had baffled the efforts of all Christendom.

During the six long years of Columbus’s waiting in Spain, the relations
of Ferdinand and Isabella to the projects of Columbus were such as
to merit our high commendation. We have seen that immediately after
his cause was presented to the sovereigns for consideration, it was
referred to the most learned men in the vicinity of the court. It is
difficult to conjecture how any disposition of the question could,
at that time, have been more appropriate. Whenever the subject was
presented anew, a similar reference of the subject was made. From no
one of these references was there received a favourable report. But
when the war had been brought to a close, and when, in consequence,
there was opportunity for a personal examination of the matter, the
whole subject was taken into sympathetic consideration. The romantic
and religious elements of the project appealed strongly to Isabella.
Ferdinand acted with characteristic caution. The needed money appears
to have been taken from the chest of the king, but only on condition
that in due time it should be restored, if need be, from the chest of
the queen. Thus it may be said that the husband loaned the trifling
subsidy necessary for the enterprise, on the security of his wife.
This arrangement suited both monarchs, and therefore both signed the
commissions of the Admiral.

If we were asked for the names of those who rendered the highest
service to Columbus during this trying period, the answer would not be
easy. In the immediate vicinity of the court Alfonso de Quintanilla
was the first to espouse his cause with ardour, and he remained an
unswerving advocate. Among those to whom the cause was submitted for
advice, the ecclesiastic, Diego de Deza, is entitled to the credit of
having been the first and the most faithful of supporters. The Duke of
Medina Celi gave to the navigator the support which detained him at a
moment when he seemed to be on the point of abandoning Spain forever.
The friar of La Rabida, Juan Parez de Marchena, the old confessor of
the queen, made a successful effort to renew the suit after all hope
had been abandoned. And finally, when the demands of Columbus seemed
preposterous for their magnitude, the united efforts of Santangel, the
Marchioness de Moya, Quintanilla, and Talavera succeeded in bringing
the queen up to the point of a favourable decision. To all of these
advocates no small quota of the credit for success is due. But in
distributing this credit there must be no forgetting or obscuring
of the work of Columbus himself. We have seen that the advocacy of
the navigator was full of inconsistencies and extravagances. He was
a foreigner, and one that looked very much like an adventurer. The
time and the circumstances seemed the most inopportune. All these
facts argued strongly against his cause. But in spite of them all,
his knowledge, his courage, his faith, his tact, and his persistency
were enough to hold a band of powerful advocates firmly to his great
cause, and, in the end, bring it to success. Whatever abatements from
an unreasonable glorification of Columbus modern research may feel
compelled to make, these are great qualities, which the progress of
time can never efface or obscure.



The commission of Columbus bore date of April 30, 1492. On the same day
was signed a royal requisition on the inhabitants of the town of Palos,
requiring them to furnish at their own expense two caravels for the
expedition. This singular proceeding was in consequence of some offence
which the town had given the king and queen, for which the people had
been condemned to render the service of two vessels for the period of
twelve months, whenever the royal pleasure should call for them. The
vessels moreover were to be armed at the expense of the town. Within
ten days from the sight of the letter the authorities were required
to have the two vessels in complete readiness for the enterprise. The
royal treasury was also further relieved by the fact that they were
required to furnish the money for the wages of the crew during a period
of four months.

Another royal order bearing the same date was of greater importance in
its influence on the character of the expedition. All the magistrates
in the realm were informed that “every person belonging to the crews
of the fleet of said Christopher Columbus” were “exempt from all
hindrance or incommodity either in their persons or goods;” and that
they were “privileged from arrest or detention on account of any
offence or crime which may have been committed by them up to the date
of this instrument, and during the time they may be on the voyage, and
for two months after their return to their homes.”

This remarkable order must have been inspired by the fear that the
requisite crews for the vessels could not readily be obtained. The
special inducements held out to the criminal classes appealed to every
debtor, to every defaulter, and to every criminal. Here was immunity
from the pursuit of justice. Such an order could hardly have failed
to have a powerful influence on the character of the crew. The fleet
became a refuge for runaway criminals and debtors; and accordingly it
was not singular that sailors of respectability were slow to enlist.
Popular opinion at Palos was violently opposed to the expedition.
Though the town was required to furnish two caravels within ten days
after receiving the royal order, weeks passed before the necessary
vessels could be procured. A third ship was provided for out of the
funds furnished for the expedition. Every shipowner refused to lend
his vessel for the enterprise. Another royal order had to be issued,
authorizing Columbus to press the ships and men into the service.
Meanwhile the mariners of Palos held aloof, partly in the belief that
the proposed expedition was simply the work of a monomaniac, and partly
from the fact that the ships had been made a refuge for criminals.
But Juan Parez, the friar whose influence had already made itself so
powerfully felt, was active in persuading men to embark. The Pinzons,
who, it will be remembered, had offered to defray one eighth of the
expense, now came forward to aid the enterprise with their money and
their personal service. Agreeing to take command of two of the vessels,
their wealth and their influence gave a new impulse to the undertaking.
But enlistments went forward very slowly; and even after men had been
enrolled, the least cause of dissatisfaction induced them to desert.
In the putting of the ships in order, the work was so badly done as to
justify the suspicion that a deliberate effort was put forth to make
them unseaworthy.

Though the sovereigns had supposed that ten days would be time enough
to put the fleet in readiness for the voyage, it was with the utmost
difficulty that the work was accomplished in ten weeks. Columbus
had chosen small vessels of less than a hundred tons’ burden each,
believing that they would be better adapted for service along the coast
and in the rivers. It has been estimated that even the longest of them
was only sixty-five feet in length, and not more than twenty feet in
breadth. The “Santa Maria,” commanded by the Admiral himself, was the
only one that was decked midships. The others, the “Pinta” and the
“Nina,” were built high in the prow and stern, that they might the more
easily mount the waves, and were covered only at the ends. The “Pinta”
was commanded by Columbus’s old friend Martin Alonzo Pinzon, while his
brother, Vincente Yañez Pinzon, was captain of the “Nina.” On all
the ships there were a hundred and twenty souls, ninety of them being

Harrisse has computed the sum provided for the expedition at 1,640,000
maravedis, or about $3640. Of this amount Santangel, as the agent of
the monarchs, furnished 1,140,000 maravedis, while Columbus, aided
by the Pinzons, provided the remaining five hundred thousand. The
fleet’s contingent contained a notary for drawing up necessary papers,
and a historiographer to put the story in formal order. There was an
interpreter learned in all Asiatic tongues, and a metallurgist to
examine the ores. Though the fleet was equipped with a physician and a
surgeon, it does not appear that it had a priest. The squadron was at
length ready to put to sea. We are told that on the last days before
sailing, everybody in Palos was impressed with the solemnity of the
undertaking. Officers and crew united in going to the church in the
most formal manner and confessing themselves, and after partaking of
the sacrament, in committing themselves to the special guidance and
protection of Heaven. It was an hour before sunrise, on Friday, the 3d
of August, when the ships were cut from their moorings and entered upon
their perilous adventure.

Fortunately we are not without Columbus’s own account of this voyage.
The Admiral kept a diary, which, though it is not now known to be in
existence, was carefully epitomized by Las Casas, and the abstract,
very largely in Columbus’s own words, is preserved. There are also
still in existence the two letters of Columbus by means of which
the great discovery was formally announced to the world. It is to
these three priceless documents that we are chiefly indebted for our
knowledge of the voyage. In the introduction to the diary Columbus
says: “I determined to keep an account of the voyage, and to write
down punctually everything we performed or saw from day to day.” He
also adds: “Moreover, besides describing every night the occurrences
of the day, and every day those of the preceding night, I intend to
draw up a nautical chart which shall contain the several parts of the
ocean and land in their proper situations; and also to compose a book
to represent the whole by pictures, with latitudes and longitudes, on
all which accounts it behooves me to abstain from sleep and make many
efforts in navigation, which things will demand much labour.”

The contemplated geographical work was never written; but the purpose
of the navigator is of interest, as it creates a presumption in favor
of carefulness in the preparation of the diary.

The general course of the fleet was in a southwesterly direction,
the purpose being to touch at the Canary Islands. This intention was
fortunate; for on Monday, the fourth day out, the rudder of the “Pinta”
become loose, and threatened to make a continuance of the voyage
with this vessel impossible. The Admiral suspected that the accident
happened with the connivance of disaffected members of the crew. Many
of the men had shown an uncompromising opposition to the expedition
before setting out, and there could be no doubt that any accident that
would interrupt the voyage would be most welcome. The “Pinta,” however,
was in command of Martin Alonzo Pinzon, an officer of capacity and
courage, to whose faith in the enterprise Columbus had already been
largely indebted while fitting out the fleet and securing the crew. The
skill and vigour of the commander caused the rudder to be put in place;
but it was again unshipped on the following day, and it was necessary
to put into port for repairs.

Owing to delays occasioned by the condition of the “Pinta,” it was not
until the 12th of August that the little fleet reached port in one
of the Canary Islands. Here it was found that the condition of the
disabled caravel was worse than had been supposed. Besides having her
rudder out of order, she was leaky, and the form of her sails seemed
not to be adapted to the perils of an Atlantic voyage. Columbus tried
to find another vessel for which he could effect an exchange; however,
he was not successful, and so it was found necessary to delay the
voyage until the little ship could be put into seaworthy condition. The
rudder was made secure, the form of the sails was changed, and every
practicable precaution was taken to prevent leakage. But it was not
until the 6th of September--more than a month from the day of leaving
the port at Palos--that the fleet was once more ready to sail.

During the stay at the Canaries two or three interesting things
happened. Columbus reports that they “saw a great eruption of flames
from the Peak of Teneriffe, which is a lofty mountain.” But more
important to the matter in hand were the several reports he heard in
regard to the existence of land in the west. The Admiral says he “was
assured by many respectable Spaniards inhabiting the island of Ferro
that they every year saw land to the west of the Canaries,” and also
that “others of Gomera affirmed the same with the like assurances.”
He also makes note of the fact that when he was “in Portugal in 1484
there came a person to the king from the island of Madeira soliciting
a vessel to go in quest of land, which he affirmed he saw every year,
and always of the same appearance.” Still further he says that “he
remembers the same was said by the inhabitants of the Azores, and
described as in a similar direction, and of the same shape and size.”

This interesting delusion, which is supposed to have had its origin in
certain meteoric appearances, had taken a firm hold of the credulity
of the people. The country which they imagined they saw in the west
bore the name of the isle of Brandon, in commemoration of Saint
Brandon, a Benedictine monk of the sixth century, who, it was believed,
spent seven years in the region to which his name was finally given.
Belief in the existence of land not very far west of the Canary group
was current in the fifteenth century, and several expeditions were
undertaken, by order of the king of Portugal, for the discovery of this
mystical continent. As yet, however, the repeated failures of these
efforts had not convinced the inhabitants of the islands west of Africa
that land within any possible range of vision from the Canaries had
no existence except in the imaginations of the beholders. The special
connection of this credulity with the expedition of Columbus is in the
influence which it must have had upon the spirits of the crew. While
there was an air of mystery about it that may have been depressing
to certain temperaments, to the mass of the crew it can hardly have
failed to give some encouragement. But at the same time it undoubtedly
provided the way for a depressing reaction when, after days of
fruitless sailing, no land was discovered.

On the morning of the 6th of September the little fleet put out from
the harbour of Gomera and entered again upon its course. A report was
brought by a vessel from the neighbouring island of Ferro that there
were three Portuguese caravels cruising in search of Columbus. This
circumstance was interpreted to mean a hostile intent on the part of
the king of Portugal, owing to the fact that the Admiral had abandoned
his service and resorted to the patronage of Spain. But if the report
was true, the Spanish squadron was successful in evading its enemies.
The course now taken was due west; but owing to a strong head-sea,
progress for several days was very slow.

We have already had occasion to see that Columbus never attached very
great importance to the matter of precision in the statement of fact.
The recent scrutiny to which his writings have been subjected has
revealed so many contradictions and inaccuracies that we are forced
into the belief that he often used words in a very general rather than
in a specific and strictly accurate sense. We shall not infrequently
have occasion to note this habit of mind,--a peculiarity which it
will be necessary to remember if we would form an accurate conclusion
as to the value of his testimony. He seems not to have been without
conscience; but it is not too much to say that whenever there was a
powerful motive for misrepresentation, Columbus did not hesitate to
ask himself whether the end would not justify the means. The modern
ethical standard, which requires absolute truthfulness at all hazards,
did not prevail at the end of the fifteenth century; but it is not
without much regret that even at that period we find one whom we would
gladly rank as a moral hero admitting frankly that he systematically
prevaricated in order to convey a false impression. If, on the one
hand, there are those who will succeed in finding adequate excuse for
the misrepresentation indulged in, on the other it will be hard to find
any one who will regard such misrepresentation as a characteristic of
lofty conscientiousness.

In the journal of September 9 we find this entry:--

    “Sailed this day nineteen leagues, and determined to count less
    than the true number, that the crew might not be dismayed if the
    voyage should prove long.”

On the following day Columbus says,--

    “This day and night sailed sixty leagues, at the rate of ten
    miles an hour, which are two leagues and a half. Reckoned only
    forty-eight leagues, that the crew might not be terrified if they
    should be long upon the voyage.”

In the days following, similar entries were made, always with the same
end in view. Interesting evidences of life were often observed. On the
13th of September one of the crew saw a tropical bird, which, it was
believed, never goes farther than twenty-five leagues from land. On
the 16th large patches of weed were found which appeared to have been
recently washed away from land; on account of which the Admiral writes
that “they judged themselves to be near some island;” “the continent,”
continues the narrator, “we shall find farther ahead.” These
indications multiplied from day to day. On the 18th the “Pinta,” which,
notwithstanding her bad condition, was a swift sailer, ran ahead of the
other vessels, the captain having informed the Admiral that he had seen
large flocks of birds toward the west, and that he expected that night
to reach land. Though as yet they had only reached the centre of the
Atlantic, on the 19th the ships were visited by two pelicans,--birds
which, it was said, were not accustomed to go twenty leagues from land.
On the 21st the ocean seemed to be covered with weeds; and the same
day a whale was seen,--“an indication of land,” says the journal, “as
whales always keep near the coast.” The next day a wind sprang up,
whereupon the Admiral observes: “This head-wind was very necessary to
me, for my crew had grown much alarmed, dreading that they never should
meet in these seas with a fair wind to return to Spain.”

On September 25 the disappointing monotony of these indications was
interrupted. At sunset Pinzon called out from his vessel that he saw
land. The Admiral says, when he heard him declare this, he fell down
on his knees and returned thanks to God. Pinzon and his crew repeated
“Gloria in excelsis Deo,” as did the crew of the Admiral. Those on
board the “Nina” ascended the rigging, and all declared that they saw
land. The Admiral judged that the land was distant about twenty-five
leagues. It was not until the afternoon of the 26th that they
discovered that what they had taken for land was nothing but clouds.

As revealed by the journal, the events of each day were much like
those of every other. The most striking feature of the voyage was the
constantly occurring indications of land. After the little fleet passed
mid-ocean there was scarcely a day that did not bring some sign that
beckoned them on. Seaweed abounded, and as a sounding of two hundred
fathoms revealed nothing but a steady undercurrent of the ocean, the
weeds could not have come from the bottom of the sea. At one time a
green rush was found, which, the commanders thought, must have grown in
the open air, with its roots in the soil. At another, a piece of wood
was taken aboard that gave unmistakable signs of having been somewhat
curiously wrought by the hand of man. But the most significant tokens
were the birds. They appeared in considerable numbers almost, if not
quite, every day, many of them known to be unaccustomed to wander for
any very great distance from land. To every thinking man on board the
squadron they seemed to give evidence absolutely unmistakable that they
were not far from land, and that the object of their expedition was
likely to be successful. The birds, moreover, so far as any general
direction of their flying could be regarded as an indication, seemed
to have their home in a southwesterly direction. This fact led the
commander of the “Pinta” to urge the Admiral to change his course.
At first Columbus thought it best, in spite of the course of the
birds, to keep on due west. But at length the indications were so
unmistakable and so persistent that he yielded, and set the rudders for
a southwesterly course. But for this incident, seemingly very trifling
in itself, the fleet, as Humboldt has remarked, would have entered
the Gulf Stream before touching land, and would have been borne to a
landfall somewhere on the coast of the future United States.

Many of the later historians of Columbus, taking the hint from Oviedo,
have given graphic pictures of the way in which the skill and the tact
of the Admiral prevented the crew of the fleet from breaking out into
mutinous revolt and turning the vessels toward home. It has been said
that at one time there was a serious purpose of throwing the Admiral
into the sea, and declaring that he fell overboard while making an
observation; at another, that Columbus found himself compelled to
promise that unless land was discovered within three days, he would
abandon the expedition, turn about, and sail for home. But these
stories must now, for the most part, be regarded as apocryphal. None of
them are mentioned by Columbus himself, nor do they appear in the other
early accounts of the voyage. No hint of mutiny or even of any lack of
due subordination appears in the searching trials of 1513 and 1515,
when every event that could possibly have a bearing upon the methods
of Columbus was brought upon the witness-stand. As a matter of fact,
the voyage was for the most part an uneventful one, save as its placid
progress was occasionally excited by the variations of the compass, an
unusual amount of seaweed, or an unwonted flight of birds. That the
hopes and fears of the crews were alert cannot of course be doubted,
but there is no evidence sufficient to justify the belief that the life
of the Admiral or the advance of the expedition was ever in serious

In the evening of the 11th of October, Columbus thought that he
discovered a light moving with fitful gleams in the darkness. He called
to him two of his companions, one of whom confirmed his impression,
while the other could not. The journal says that “The Admiral again
perceived it once or twice, appearing like the light of a candle
moving up and down, which some thought an indication of land.” But
evidently Columbus did not regard this as a discovery, for he not only
reminded the crew of the reward of a pension that awaited the one
who should first see land, but he also offered a silk doublet as an
additional inducement to the search. They were still some forty-two
miles from the coast, which lies so low that it could hardly have been
seen at a distance of twenty. It was four hours later that land was
first unmistakably seen in the moonlight, at a distance of about two
leagues. There can be no question that if a light was really seen at
all, it was on a boat at some distance from the shore. A reward of ten
thousand maravedis per year had been promised by the king and queen to
the person on the expedition who should first descry land. Columbus in
his journal admits that land was first seen and announced by Rodrigo
de Triana of the “Pinta” at two o’clock on the morning of October
12th; and it would be a pleasure to record that he subsequently had
sufficient magnanimity to waive his own very absurd claim in favour of
the poor sailor to whom it was so justly due. But after his return he
set up the demand for himself; and to him it was promptly adjudged and
paid by the king and queen. It is said that the poor sailor, thinking
himself ignobly defrauded, renounced Christianity and went to live
among the Mohammedans, whom he regarded as a juster people.

It was then on Friday, October 12, that the fleet first came to land
upon an island which the natives called Guanahani. Early in the
morning Columbus and the brothers Pinzon and the notary entered a
boat with the royal standard and made for the shore. The rest of the
crews immediately followed. As soon as they had landed, the requisite
formalities were performed, and witnesses were summoned to note that,
before all others, Columbus took possession of the island for the king
and queen, his sovereigns. He gave it the name of San Salvador.

Over the question as to the spot where Columbus first landed there
has been much difference of opinion. The narrative of the Admiral
concerning this important part of his voyage, though it has been
preserved entire, is not so free from ambiguities, or so definite
in its positive statements, as to relieve the subject of doubt. The
reckoning of Columbus, moreover, on the matter of longitude and
latitude was not sufficiently accurate to throw much light on the
subject. Accordingly, several of the Bahamas have had their advocates.
The modern San Salvador, or Cat Island, was believed to be the place
of landing by Humboldt and Irving. South of Cat Island lie Watling’s,
Samana, Acklin, and the Grand Turk; and no one of them has been without
its ardent supporters. Recently, however, the most careful students of
the problem have unmistakably drifted toward the belief that the spot
of the landfall should be confidently fixed upon Watling’s Island.

The arguments in favour of this locality were first elaborately
set forth by Captain Becher in a volume published in 1856, and
were followed by Peschel two years later in his “History of Modern
Discovery.” Mr. R. H. Major, a careful student of the subject, was for
many years inclined to favour Turk’s Island; but in 1870 he conceded
that the weight of evidence was in favour of Watling’s. Lieutenant
Murdock of the American navy and Mr. Charles A. Schott of the United
States Coast Survey reached the same conclusion by independent studies
in 1884, as did also Mr. Clements R. Markham in 1889. Finally, and
perhaps most important of all, the Bahamas were visited and this
problem was carefully studied in November of 1890 by the German
explorer Herr Rudolf Cronau, with the result of establishing Watling’s
Island as the site of the landfall beyond any reasonable doubt.

Cronau’s investigations are twofold in their nature: the first point
of his inquiry being devoted to the reasons for thinking Watling’s the
island on which Columbus landed; the second, to establishing the point
at which the landfall took place. Though it is on this last point that
special significance is to be attached to his investigations, it may
not be out of place to give a brief summary of the argument as a whole.

Columbus describes the island as low, covered with abundant and
luxuriant vegetation, and as having a large body of water in the
interior. In one place he speaks of the island as “small,” at another
as “pretty large.” After the first landing, he goes N. N. E. in the
small boats, and soon passes through a narrow entrance into a harbour
“large enough to accommodate the fleets of Christendom.” In this
harbour he discovers an admirable site of a fort, which he describes
with minute care. He says, moreover, that the part of the island
visited is protected by an outlying reef of rocks not far from the
shore. Las Casas, who became very familiar with the islands during the
life of Columbus, and who probably knew where the first landing was
made, states that the form of the island was oblong, or “bean-shaped.”
The length of Watling’s Island is about twelve English miles, the
breadth between four and six. All these characteristics apply to
Watling’s, and in their entirety they apply to no other.

There are, however, certain difficulties in the way of accepting this
theory. The most serious is the fact that the rocks off the northern,
eastern, and southern parts of the island are so formidable as to
offer no safe place for anchorage, and that an approach from none of
these directions could afford the view described by Columbus. It is
in meeting this difficulty that the ingenious theory of Cronau is of
importance. It is in substance as follows.

The journal of Columbus tells us that on Thursday, October 11, the
ships “encountered a heavier sea than they had met with before in the
whole voyage.” It also states that in the course of twenty-four hours
they made the remarkable run of fifty-nine leagues, running at times
“ten miles an hour, at others twelve, at others seven.” In the evening
of the 11th, “from sunset till two hours after midnight,” the average
rate was “twelve miles an hour.” It was at ten o’clock that Columbus
reports that he saw the light, and consequently the vessel must have
advanced forty-eight miles before two o’clock on the morning of the
12th, when land was seen by Triana from the “Pinta.” These facts,
together with the extraordinary length of the run on the 11th, indicate
unmistakably that the roughness of the sea was caused by a strong
easterly wind, for by no other means could so rapid an advance have
been made. At “two o’clock,” says the Admiral, “land was discovered
at a distance of two leagues.” In which direction the land lay is not
indicated. All sails “except the square sail” were taken in, and the
vessels “lay to” till day,--probably about four or five hours. The
supposition of Cronau is that a wind which up to two o’clock carried
them when under full sail twelve miles an hour, must have borne the
ships, when under square sail, at least ten or fifteen miles before
dawn. It would have been impossible in a heavy sea to land on the rocky
coast of the east side; and whatever the advance, it must have been
either on the north or on the south. It seems reasonable to suppose
that the fleet found itself at the break of day west of the island. In
any case, good seamanship required that they should seek anchorage in a
high wind on the lee, or west side; and accordingly, the only natural
course was for them to turn about and approach the island from the
west. On the supposition that this course was pursued, no difficulties
whatever are found in reconciling Columbus’s narrative with the present
condition of the island. At about the middle of the west coast the
locality at present known as Riding Rocks must have presented then,
as it does now, an inviting anchorage. All the features of the coast
as described by Columbus are now easily identified. The sail to the
N. E. E., which under any other hypothesis presents insurmountable
difficulties, is now easily explained. Taking a boat and following
along the same course, Cronau entered the mouth of the harbour, and
readily distinguished all the characteristics described by the Admiral.

If the data given by Columbus afford no very definite clew to the spot
on which the landing took place, his account of what he saw, especially
of the people, is so replete with interest as to justify a quotation of
some length. After describing the formalities of the taking possession
of the island, and noting that the trees seemed very green, that there
were many streams of water and divers sorts of fruits, Columbus gives
the following graphic account of the natives:--

    “As I saw that they were very friendly to us, and perceived
    that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith
    by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some red
    caps, and strings of beads to wear upon the neck, and many other
    trifles of small value, wherewith they were much delighted, and
    became wonderfully attached to us. Afterwards they came swimming
    to the boats, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread, javelins,
    and many other things, which they exchanged for articles we gave
    them, such as glass beads and hawk’s bells, which trade was
    carried on with the utmost good will. But they seemed on the
    whole to me to be a very poor people. They all go completely
    naked, even the women, though I saw but one girl. All whom I
    saw were young, not above thirty years of age, well made, with
    fine shapes and faces; their hair short and coarse like that
    of a horse’s tail, combed toward the forehead, except a small
    portion which they suffer to hang down behind, and never cut.
    Some paint themselves with black, which makes them appear like
    those of the Canaries, neither black nor white; others with
    white, others with red, and others with such colours as they can
    find. Some paint the face, and some the whole body; others only
    the eyes, and others the nose. Weapons they have none, nor are
    they acquainted with them; for I showed them swords, which they
    grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance. They
    have no iron, their javelins being without it, and nothing more
    than sticks, though some have fish-bones or other things at the
    ends. They are all of a good size and stature, and handsomely
    formed. I saw some with scars of wounds upon their bodies, and
    demanded by signs the cause of them. They answered me in the
    same way, that there came people from the other islands in the
    neighbourhood who endeavoured to make prisoners of them, and they
    defended themselves. I thought then, and still believe, that
    these were from the continent. It appears to me that the people
    are ingenious, and would be very good servants; and I am of the
    opinion that they would readily become Christians, as they appear
    to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are
    spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return to
    carry home six of them to your Highnesses, that they may learn
    our language. I saw no beasts in the island, nor any sort of
    animals except parrots.”

The next three months of this renowned expedition were spent in going
from island to island, in making brief visits to the various places
that seemed to promise any interesting or important revelation, and in
seeking for objects of interest and value. The Admiral was in constant
hope of learning something that would direct him to Cipango. In all
the islands the people were found to speak the same language and to
have the same general characteristics. After visiting and exploring
Long Island and Saometo, which he respectively named Fernandina and
Isabella, he at length, on the 21st day of October, landed on the
northern coast of a large island which the natives called Colba. This
was the modern Cuba. He explored the picturesque region far to the
west, and found it so large that he supposed it to be a continent.
The Indians, however, informed him that it was only an island. As he
perceived neither towns nor villages near the sea-coast, but only
scattered habitations, the people of which fled at his approach, he
sent two of his men into the interior to learn whether the inhabitants
had either king or chief. The men, after an absence of three days,
reported that they found a vast number of settlements built of wood and
straw, with “innumerable people.” Yet they were able to discover no
indications of any kind of government. To the island the name Juana was
given, in honor of Don Juan.

Columbus did not attempt to circumnavigate the island. After coasting
far to the west, and noting carefully the rivers and harbours, he
resolved to retrace his course. From the point where the first landing
was made, he sailed a hundred and seven leagues toward the east, when
he came to a cape from which he reports that he saw another island,
about eighteen leagues away. This was the island now known as San
Domingo, or Hayti, to which Columbus gave the name Hispaniola. Sailing
thither, and skirting along its northern coast, the explorers found it
more beautiful even than any of the others they had seen. The journal
describes the harbours as far more safe and commodious than any to be
found in Christian countries; the rivers were large and noble, the land
was high, with beautiful mountains and lofty ridges covered with a
thousand varieties of beautiful trees that “seemed to reach to heaven.”
Most gratifying of all, they learned from the Indians that there were
“large mines of fine gold.”

It was here that Columbus decided to establish the first permanent
settlement. Through the carelessness of the pilot, however, the
Admiral’s own vessel struck upon a rock off the northwestern coast of
the island, and, finally, in spite of all the efforts of the crew, had
gone to pieces. The assistance rendered by the natives in rescuing
the stores of the wreck afforded touching evidence of their friendly
feeling. The timbers of the ship furnished the material for a structure
that should at once be a storehouse and a fort. It was resolved to
leave provisions for a year, together with seeds and implements for the
cultivation of the soil.

As to the number of the crew that were left at this new settlement,
the authorities do not agree. It is probable, however, that there were
about forty. In the narrative of Columbus, the words are these: “I
have directed that there shall be provided a store of timber for the
construction of the fort, with a provision of bread and wine for more
than a year, seed for planting, the long boat of the ship, a calker, a
carpenter, a gunner, a cooper, and many other persons among the number
of those who have earnestly desired to serve your Highnesses and
oblige me by remaining here, and searching for the gold mine.” As the
wreck and the consequent determination to build a fort and establish a
colony occurred on Christmas Day, the Admiral named the new settlement
“La Navidad.”

The people of the island manifested a most friendly disposition. The
abode of the king was about a league and a half distant from the shoal
where the wreck had taken place. Columbus relates that when the Spanish
messengers informed the cacique of the misfortune, he “shed tears and
despatched all the people of the town with large canoes to unload the
ship.” Again he says that the king, “with his brothers and relations,
came to the shore and took every care that the goods should be brought
safely to land and carefully preserved. From time to time, he sent his
relations to the Admiral, weeping and consoling him, and entreating
him not to be afflicted at his loss, for he would give him all he
had.” The Admiral still further observes that “in no part of Castile
would more strict care have been taken of the goods, that the smallest
trifle be not lost.” And again: “The king ordered several houses to be
cleared for the purpose of storing the goods.” On the following day,
Wednesday, December 26, the Admiral’s journal contains this memorandum:
“At sunrise the king of the country visited the Admiral on board the
‘Nina,’ and with tears in his eyes entreated him not to indulge in
grief, for he would give him all he had; that he had already assigned
the Spaniards on shore two large houses, and, if necessary, would
grant others, and as many canoes as could be used in bringing the goods
and crew to land,--which, in fact, he had done the day before, without
the smallest trifle being purloined.” In forming an opinion of a policy
which in a few years completely annihilated the inhabitants of these
islands, this estimate of their character ought not to be forgotten.

Before leaving this settlement, Columbus took the precaution to give
to the natives an exhibition of the force of fire-arms. A lombard was
loaded and fired against the side of the stranded ship. The shot,
much to the amazement of the natives, passed through the hull of the
vessel, and struck the water on the farther side. He also gave them a
representation of a battle fought by parties of the crew, and conducted
in accordance with Christian methods. This was done, as he informs us,
“to strike terror into the inhabitants and make them friendly to the
Spaniards left behind.”

Having left the settlement in charge of Diego de Arana, and three
others as subordinate officers, and having conferred upon them all
the powers he had himself received from the king and queen, Columbus
prepared to enter upon his homeward voyage. The commander of the
“Pinta,” who, as we shall presently see, had entered upon an exploring
expedition of his own, had now rejoined the Admiral; and on the 4th of
January the two little ships turned their rudders and set sail for home.

In the study of the journal and the letters of Columbus, in so far as
they relate to the first voyage, a number of impressions are strongly,
and, it should perhaps be said, painfully, stamped upon the mind of the

While the desire of the explorer to Christianize the island was never
lost sight of, he was prevented from any missionary work, not only
by the fact that the expedition was unaccompanied by priests, but
also by the nature of the expedition itself. It was simply a voyage
of discovery; and the movements from one island to another were
necessarily too rapid to admit of anything more than a temporary
impression. Nothing more, therefore, was done to propagate Christianity
than to leave here and there upon the islands the mysterious emblems
of the new faith. The preaching of the Gospel was reserved for future

But the ultimate Christianizing of the natives was only one of the
religious motives that inspired the expedition. For many years
Columbus had entertained the hope that gold might be found in quantity
sufficient to enable the Spanish Government to rescue the Holy
Sepulchre from the possession of infidels. The project inspired him
throughout his life. From these, as well as from personal motives, he
was therefore particularly desirous of finding gold. Nothing is more
painfully obvious in his journal than the power of this pecuniary
motive. The quest for gold lured him on from one island to another,
and from the sea-coast to the interior. He everywhere makes inquiries
for gold, and again and again he hears reports of gold mines; but
his efforts in search of them are always unsuccessful. However, he
never abandons hope. The journal abounds in expression of optimistic
expectation that gold in vast quantities will yet be found, and
that the object of this search will yet be fully realized. But the
gold-bearing mines everywhere eluded him, and indeed the natives appear
to have possessed the precious metal in no more than very trifling
quantities. Still, the hopes of Columbus were kept sanguine to the
last. It was only ten days before the expedition sailed for home
that he entered upon his journal the expression of a most sanguine
expectation. Las Casas tells us that in his journal for December 26th,
Columbus “adds that he hopes to find on his return from Castile a ton
of gold collected by them in trading with the natives, and that they
will have succeeded in discovering the mine and the spices, and all
these in such abundance that before three years the king and queen
may undertake the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre. ‘For I have before
protested to your Highnesses,’ continues Columbus, ‘that the profits
of this enterprise shall be employed in the conquest of Jerusalem, at
which your Highnesses smiled, and said you were pleased, and had the
same inclination.’”

In one of the letters of the Admiral announcing the discovery, known as
the Sanchez Letter, the Admiral writes in still more sanguine terms. He
says: “To sum up the whole, and state briefly the great profits of this
voyage, I am able to promise the acquisition, by a trifling assistance
from their Majesties, of any quantity of gold, drugs, cotton, and
mastick, which last article is found only in the island of Scio; also
any quantity of aloe, and as many slaves for the service of the marine
as their Majesties may stand in need of.”

In the letter written to the royal treasurer, Santangel, Columbus
invariably speaks in terms of similar confidence. “In conclusion,
and to speak only of what I have performed,” says he, “this voyage,
so hastily despatched, will, as their Highnesses may see, enable any
desirable quantity of gold to be obtained, by a very small assistance
afforded me on their part.” On the eve of sailing for Spain, after
referring to the opposition he had received from the clergy and others
about the court, he says: “These last have been the cause that the
royal crown of your Highnesses does not possess this day a hundred
millions of reals more than when I entered your service, from which
time it will be seven years the 20th day of this month of January.”

The reader will hardly fail to observe that these promises, so
comprehensive in their nature, rested upon a very slender foundation.
Very little gold had been seen by the explorers, and the mines had
all baffled their most diligent search. The ardent nature of Columbus
found no difficulty in converting hopes into confident expectations.
How painfully these were destined to be disappointed, we shall have
occasion hereafter to see.

Another matter that is worthy of notice is the general attitude of
Columbus toward his crew and toward the islanders. It may be difficult
to determine how far it was Columbus’s fault; but the fact is
unmistakable that there are no indications of any attachment to him by
any of the members of his crew. His habit of deceiving them in regard
to the distance passed over, and in regard to the needle, is likely
to have occasioned general distrust. Certain it is that Martin Alonzo
Pinzon, the ardent friend whose support at Palos made the expedition
possible, deserted him without warning soon after the fleet reached
the first land. The Admiral himself says, in his journal of November
21st, that Pinzon, “incited by cupidity,” sailed away with the “Pinta”
“without leave of the Admiral,” and that “by his language and action he
occasioned many other troubles.”

But the conduct of Pinzon was even to Columbus something of a mystery;
for elsewhere in his journal he “confesses himself unable to learn the
cause of the unfavorable disposition which this man had manifested
toward him throughout the voyage.” Elsewhere the Admiral says Pinzon
“was actuated solely by haughtiness and cupidity in abandoning him.”
Again he says that both of the Pinzon brothers “had a party attached to
them, the whole of whom had displayed great haughtiness and avarice,
disobeying his commands, regardless of the honours he had conferred
upon them.”

It is evident that Columbus was quite devoid of tact in the management
of men; for the bitterness that at a later period manifested itself
could not otherwise be accounted for.

Toward the natives Columbus seems not to have been actuated by any
motives of cruelty. He is not to be harshly judged, moreover, if his
methods were simply those of the fifteenth rather than those of the
nineteenth century. But human nature is ever essentially the same,
and it is therefore easy to understand the history of the change
that rapidly came over the spirit of the natives. Immediately after
he arrived at the islands, Columbus took a number of the natives by
force, and kept them upon the ship. On the 12th day of November he
writes: “Yesterday a canoe came to the ship with six young men; five
of them came on board, whom I ordered to be detained, in order to have
them with me. I then sent ashore to one of the houses and took seven
women and three children; this I did that the Indians might tolerate
their captivity better with their company.” In the same connection the
Admiral adds: “These women will be of great help to us in acquiring
their language, which is the same throughout all these countries, the
inhabitants keeping up a communication among the islands by means of
their canoes.” Again, on the 14th of January, only two days before
taking final leave, Las Casas says that, “wishing to make prisoners
of some Indians, he intended to despatch a boat in the night to visit
their houses for this purpose; but the wind blowing strong from the
east and northeast occasioned a rough sea, which prevented it.” On the
following day he says: “There came four young Indians on board the
caravel, where they gave so good an account to the Admiral of the
island to the east that he determined to take them along with him.”

It is impossible to reflect upon this habit of the Admiral without
realizing that, however friendly and hospitable the natives had shown
themselves at first, the impression soon made upon their minds must
have been one of the utmost repugnance and enmity. To indulge in
any other supposition would be to suppose that the natives were not
human beings. The captives seem for the most part to have been kindly
treated, and they may not have manifested an unconquerable aversion
to their captivity; but this unscrupulous policy of kidnapping the
natives whenever opportunity offered, could not have been otherwise
than disastrous to all friendly relations. It is impossible to conceive
that the islanders were so devoid of all human sensibilities as to see
with indifference their husbands and wives, their sons and daughters,
stolen from them for the gratification of the lust and the cupidity of
their visitors. Nor, aside from all moral considerations, on the part
of the wisest historian of the time was there any failure to understand
the disastrous consequences of such a policy. Las Casas was fully alive
to all the political significance of this course of action. While this
great moralist, whose nobility of character raises him far above all
the other public men of his time, fully acquits Columbus of any wrong
intent, he does not hesitate to indict him for initiating a policy
that was the cause of all the crimes and disasters that ensued. The
right to kidnap was of course resented by the natives. The consequence
was a war of extermination. The sad fate of the colony of La Navidad
can never be fully understood, for reasons which in due time we shall
see; but it would have been strange indeed if men, endowed with even
the feeblest attributes of human nature, had not been desirous of
exterminating a race actuated by such a policy. The words of Las
Casas are at once so judicious and so just that they ought not to be
abridged. After speaking of the ardent desire of Columbus to bring
as much profit as possible to Ferdinand and Isabella, he uses these
admirable words:--

    “For this cause the Admiral thought and watched and worked for
    nothing more than to contrive that there might come advantage
    and income to the sovereigns.... Ignoring that which ought not
    to be ignored concerning divine and natural right and the right
    judgment of reason, he introduced and commenced to establish such
    principles and to sow such seeds that there originated and grew
    from them such a deadly and pestilential herb, and one which
    produced such deep roots, that it has been sufficient to destroy
    and devastate all these Indies, without human power sufficing to
    impede or intercept such great and irreparable evils.”

And then, with a charming discrimination and charity, the same
benignant author continues,--

    “I do not doubt that if the Admiral had believed there would
    succeed such pernicious detriment as did succeed, and had known
    as much of the primary and secondary conclusions of natural and
    divine right as he knew of cosmography and other human doctrines,
    he would never have dared to introduce or establish a thing
    which was to produce such calamitous evils; for no one can say
    that he was not a good and Christian man.”

The course taken by Columbus does not show that he was exceptionally
immoral; for morality is at least so conventional as to be entitled
to be judged in the light of the age under consideration. But his
course does show that he was not above the moral debasement of the
age in which he lived, on the one hand, and, on the other, that
he was destitute, not only of the characteristics of what we call
statesmanship, but also of ordinary tact and good judgment. Nothing
could have been easier than by a judicious use of rewards and
inducements to persuade a sufficient number of the natives to accompany
the fleet in a most friendly spirit. Either this was not perceived,
or it was not desired. In either case, the whole history is a sad
commentary on the management of the Admiral.

In spite of the popular superstition, Columbus did not hesitate to
set sail for home on Friday. It had been on Friday that he left
Palos; on Friday that he left the Canaries; and now on Friday, the
4th of January, he took leave of the colony at La Navidad and ordered
the pilots to set the rudder for home. On the 9th day of January
they proceeded thirty-six leagues, as far as Punta Roxa, or Red
Point, where the Admiral records that they found tortoises as big as
bucklers, and where also he saw three mermaids that raised themselves
far above the water. Of the latter the Admiral has the frankness to
say that although they had something like a human face, they were
not so handsome as they are painted. Two days later Columbus came to
a mountain covered with snow, which he named Monte de Plata; and, a
little beyond, after passing a succession of capes, which were duly
named, he came to a vast bay in which he determined to remain to
observe the conjunction that was to be seen on the 17th. Here for the
first time he found men with bows and arrows, and not only bought a bow
and some arrows, but learned from one of the natives that the Caribs
were to the eastward, and that gold was to be found on an island not
far away, which he called the island of St. John. Bernaldez says that
“in the islands of these Caribs, as well as in the neighbouring ones,
there is gold in incalculable quantity, cotton in vast abundance, and
especially spices, such as pepper, which is four times as strong and
pungent as the pepper that we use in Spain.”

It soon became evident that these people were of a less pacific nature
than the other islanders whom Columbus had met. A band of fifty-five
of the natives, armed with bows and arrows and swords of hard wood, as
well as heavy spears, attempted to seize seven of the Spaniards. An
altercation ensued. Two of the Indians were wounded, whereupon they all
fled, leaving their arms behind them. The incident is worthy of note
from the fact that it was the only time during this expedition that the
Spaniards and the natives came to blows. The breach was easily healed,
however, for on the following day the Indians returned as though
nothing had happened, and a complete reconciliation took place. The
Admiral gave the native king a red cap, and the next day “the king sent
his gold crown and provisions.”

On the 15th, Columbus entered the port of a little island where there
were good salt pits. The soil, the woods, and the plains convinced
him that at last he had come to the island of Cipango. Perhaps he was
confirmed in this impression by the current reports that the gold
mines of Cibao were not far distant. On the next day the Spaniards
discovered the caravel “Pinta” sailing toward them. Twenty days
before, Pinzon, apparently moved by a resistless ambition, had gone
off on an independent cruise. Columbus now received the excuse of the
captain,--that he acted under necessity; and though he thought it by no
means satisfactory, he was willing to condone the offence.

The Admiral now decided to sail directly for Spain; and accordingly the
Spaniards prepared at once to leave the bay, which they called De las
Flechas, or the Bay of Arrows. When they had advanced about sixteen
leagues, the Indians pointed to the island of St. John, which, they
said, was the home of the Caribs, or cannibals. Columbus did not think
it wise, however, to delay for further investigation or inquiry. Sails
were set, and the prows of the two little ships were turned toward
home. It was on the 16th of January that the last of the Bahamas passed
to the rearward out of sight.

During several days the navigators had no adverse fortune. The killing
of a tunny-fish and a shark afforded a welcome addition to their
larder, as they were now reduced to bread and wine. The “Pinta” soon
proved to be in poor condition for the voyage, as her mizzen-mast was
out of order and could carry but little sail. The sea was calm and the
course was east by northeast until February 4, when it was changed to
east. On the 10th the pilots and the captains took observations to
determine their bearings, but with very unsatisfactory results. The
imperfect condition of the science of navigation was well illustrated
by the fact that their reckonings differed by a hundred and fifty

The calm monotony of the voyage was broken on the 13th. All night they
laboured with a high wind and furious sea. On the next day the storm
increased, “the waves crossing and dashing against one another, so that
the vessel was overwhelmed.” In the following night the two little
ships made signals by lights as long as one could see the other. At
sunrise the wind increased, and the sea became more and more terrible.
The “Pinta” was nowhere to be seen, and the Admiral thought her lost.
The journal records that he ordered lots to be cast for one of them to
go on a pilgrimage to St. Mary of Guadaloupe, and carry a wax taper of
five pounds weight, and that he caused them all to take oath that the
one on whom the lot fell should make the pilgrimage. For this purpose
as many peas were put into a hat as there were persons on board, one of
the peas being marked with a cross. The first person to put his hand
in the hat was the Admiral, and he drew the crossed pea. Two other
lots were taken, one of these also falling to Columbus. They then made
a vow to go in procession in penitential garments to the first church
dedicated to Our Lady which they might meet with on arriving at land,
and there pay their devotions.

But notwithstanding these vows the danger continued to increase. Lack
of ballast was partially supplied by filling with sea-water such casks
as they could make available. It is easy to conjecture what the anxiety
of the Admiral must have been. One of the vessels had been lost in the
Indies; the “Pinta” had also probably perished; and now the fury of
the hurricane was such as to make it extremely improbable that even
the “Nina” would survive. In such a calamitous event no word of the
discovery would ever reach Europe, and all the worst conjectures of the
opponents of the expedition would seem to have been fulfilled.

As a possible means of preventing so disastrous a result, Columbus
wrote upon parchment an account of the voyage and of the discoveries
he had made, and after rolling it up in waxed cloth, well tied, and
putting it into a large wooden cask, he threw it into the sea. Another
he placed upon the deck of the vessel, in order that in case all upon
the vessel should be lost, there might be a chance that the results of
the voyage might still be made known.

At sunrise of the 15th, land was discovered, which some thought to be
Madeira, and others the rock of Cintra, near Lisbon. According to the
Admiral’s reckoning, however, they were nearer the Azores. But the
power of the storm was still so great that it was not until the morning
of the 18th that they were able to come to an anchorage, and to find
that they were in the group of the Azores, at the island of St. Mary.

Columbus now sent a half of the crew on shore to fulfil their vows,
intending on their return to go himself with the other half, for the
same purpose. But the first company of pilgrims were set upon by the
Portuguese and taken prisoners. An attempt, though unsuccessful, was
also made to capture the Admiral. A severe altercation occurred, in
which the captain of the island ordered the Admiral on shore, and the
Admiral in turn displayed his commission and threatened the island with
devastation. It was not until the 22d that the parleyings came to an
end and the captured portion of the crew was restored.

Though for a few days the weather was propitious, on the 27th another
storm came on, which continued for several days. On the 3d day of
March a violent squall struck the vessel and split all the sails.
They were again in such imminent danger that another pilgrimage was
promised, and the crew all made a vow to fast on bread and water on the
first Saturday after their landing. Having lost its sails, the vessel
was now driven under bare poles before the wind. Through the night
Columbus says that the “Nina” was kept afloat “with infinite labor and
apprehension.” But at the dawn of the 4th of March the Spaniards found
they were off the rock of Cintra. Though from what had occurred, the
Admiral entertained a strong distrust of the Portuguese Government,
there was no alternative but to run into the port for shelter.

In view of his experience during the returning voyage, Columbus can
hardly have been surprised to learn from some of the oldest mariners
of the place that so tempestuous a winter had never been known. He
received numerous congratulations on what was regarded as a miraculous

Immediately on reaching the port the Admiral made formal announcement
of his discoveries. A courier was despatched to the king and queen of
Spain with the tidings. To the king of Portugal a letter was also sent
requesting permission and authority to land at Lisbon, as a report
that his vessel was laden with treasure had spread abroad and gave
him a feeling of insecurity at the mouth of the Tagus, where he was
surrounded by needy and unscrupulous adventurers. Accompanying this
request was the assurance that the vessel had not visited any of the
Portuguese colonies, but had come from Cipango and India, which he had
discovered in the course of his westward voyage.

For some days after his arrival Columbus seemed to be in some danger.
For nearly a century Lisbon had derived its highest glory from maritime
discovery, and it was therefore not singular that the advent of a
vessel with such tidings should have filled the people with wonder
and surprise. From morning till night the little ship was thronged
with visitors piqued with curiosity. On the day after his arrival, the
captain of a large Portuguese man-of-war summoned Columbus on board
his ship to give an account of himself and his voyage. The explorer
replied that he held a commission as admiral from the sovereigns of
Spain, and, as such, he must refuse to leave his vessel, or to send
any one in his place. This attitude of lofty dignity was successful.
The Portuguese commander visited the caravel with sound of drums and
trumpets, and made the most generous offers of protection and service.

On the 8th of March Columbus received an invitation to visit the king
at Valparaiso. Complying with this invitation, he received a friendly
greeting. King John did not scruple to say that in his opinion,
according to the articles stipulated with the Spanish monarchs, the new
discovery belonged to him rather than to Castile.

This claim was not without some show of reason. In the time of the
Crusades the doctrine had been promulgated and generally accepted that
Christian princes had a right to invade and seize upon the territories
of infidels under the plea of defeating the enemies of Christ and of
extending the sway of the Church. What particular Christian monarch was
to have the right to a given territory was to be determined by papal
decision. Under this authority Pope Martin V. conceded to the Crown of
Portugal all the lands that might be discovered between Cape Bojador
and the Indies. This concession was formally consented to and ratified
by Spain and Portugal in the treaty of 1479. Though it was evident
that the intent of the treaty only related to such lands as might be
discovered in a passage to the Indies by an easterly course, there
was no verbal limitation, and therefore it can hardly be regarded as
singular that the Portuguese monarch should now claim that it included
within its provisions any lands that might be discovered in even a
westerly voyage.

But it is evident that Columbus regarded this question as one to be
determined by the monarchs themselves rather than by any discussion
between his royal host and himself. Accordingly, he was content merely
to observe that he had not been aware of the agreement to which
allusion had been made, and that when setting out on his voyage, he
had received explicit instructions not to interfere with any of the
Portuguese settlements.

Perhaps the only importance to be attached to this visit to the
Portuguese port is the fact that by it Columbus was made fully aware
that the king of Portugal intended to contest the rights of Spain to
the newly discovered lands. The claim of the king was eagerly taken up
and seconded by his courtiers, some of whom were the very men who, ten
years before, had advised against giving Columbus the assistance he
needed, and consequently were piqued at the success that had finally
crowned his efforts. They assured the monarch that the new lands,
even if they were not the identical ones that had been reached by the
Portuguese navigators who had sailed toward the east, were at least so
near them as to make an independent title invalid. From one absurdity
they went on to another, until they reached the conclusion that the
claims of the discoverer were absurd and preposterous, and that they
were entitled to no consideration whatever. Spanish and Portuguese
historians agree that the king’s advisers even went so far as to
propose the assassination of the Admiral, in order to prevent any
future complications.

It is to the credit of the monarch that, notwithstanding these ignoble
proposals of his ministers, he treated Columbus with distinguished
personal consideration. The hospitality extended was scarcely less than
princely, and on the departure of the navigator the king gave him a
royal escort that was commanded to show him every kindness. On his way
back to Lisbon the Admiral accepted an invitation to visit the queen
at the monastery of Villa Franca, where he regaled her with a glowing
and circumstantial account of the expedition and the islands he had

It must not be supposed, however, that the king was ingenuous. On
the contrary, he listened with favour to some of the more subtle and
sinister suggestions of his courtiers. The proposal that met with most
countenance was the advice that they should fit out a strong fleet at
once, and despatch it under command of one of the foremost captains
of the Portuguese service, to take possession of the newly discovered
country before a second Spanish expedition could reach its destination.

After thus passing nine days within the domain of Portugal, Columbus
hoisted anchor on the 13th of March, and reached the port of Palos on
Friday, the 15th, where he was received with great demonstrations of

By the people of this little Spanish port the expedition had been
regarded as chimerical and desperate. But the crews had formed no very
small portion of the able-bodied men of the town. Many, therefore, had
given up their friends as abandoned to the mysterious horrors with
which credulity had always peopled the unknown seas. But now, many of
their friends had not only returned, but they brought back accounts
of the discovery of a new world. The bells were rung, the shops were
closed, business of all kinds was suspended, a solemn procession
was formed, and wherever Columbus was observed, he was hailed with

The court was at Barcelona. The Admiral at once despatched a letter to
the king and queen, announcing his arrival, and informing them that he
would await their orders at Seville. Before he departed from Palos,
however, an event of great interest occurred. On the very evening of
the arrival of Columbus, and while the bells of triumph were still
ringing, the “Pinta,” commanded by Martin Alonzo Pinzon, entered the
river. The two little vessels had parted company in the terrible storm
off the Azores; and each, supposing that the other was lost, by a
singular coincidence now, on the same day, reached the port from which
they had together set out more than six months before.

The connection of Martin Alonzo Pinzon with the first voyage of
Columbus is a subject which has received more or less of the attention
of every historian of that remarkable event. Unfortunately, the ending
of his career was one that threw an indelible stain upon the credit
of his name. The concluding facts of his life may be briefly stated.
After parting from the “Nina,” the “Pinta,” driven by the storm far to
the north, and finding its way with infinite difficulty into the Bay
of Biscay, took refuge in the port of Bayonne. Pinzon seems to have
deemed it safe to presume that the “Nina” and all its crew had been
lost. Accordingly, he wrote to the monarchs of Spain, announcing the
discoveries he had made, and asking permission to wait upon the court
and give the particulars in person. As soon as the storm abated, he
set out for the port of Palos, evidently anticipating a triumphant
entry; but when, on nearing the harbour, he beheld the ship of the
Admiral, and heard the joyful acclamations with which Columbus had been
received, his heart must have failed him. It is said that he feared
to go ashore, lest Columbus should put him under arrest for having
deserted him on the coast of Cuba,--at least he landed privately, and
kept out of sight till the Admiral had taken his departure for the
Spanish court. Deeply dejected, and broken in health, he betook himself
to his home, to await the answer to the letter he had written to the
king and queen. At length the answer came. It was reproachful in tone,
and even forbade the appearance of Pinzon at court. This seemed to
complete the humiliation of the old sailor, for he sank rapidly into a
species of despair, and a few days later died, the victim of chagrin.

Nevertheless the services that Pinzon rendered to the expedition
ought not to go unrecognized. As we have already seen, his generosity
had enabled Columbus to offer to defray one eighth of the expense of
the expedition. More important still, at the moment when it seemed
impossible to recruit, or even conscript, a crew, it was no other than
Martin Alonzo Pinzon that came forward as the earnest and successful
champion of the expedition. He had been a navigator of distinction,
and his wealth, his social rank, and his experience gave him an
influence that withstood the tide of prejudice and made the securing
of a crew possible. He not only offered to give the enterprise his
moral and pecuniary support, but he gave proof of the integrity of his
declarations by offering to command one of the vessels in person, while
his brother was to command another. It cannot be denied that these
were great and important services, without which it would have been
far more difficult, if not, indeed, impossible, to put the expedition
into sailing condition. But the extent of these services seems to have
poisoned his mind in regard to his relations to his chief. During the
voyage there were symptoms of an insubordinate spirit. The commission
under which the fleet sailed gave to Columbus unquestionable authority;
but Pinzon chafed under his restraints, and no sooner had they reached
the coast of Cuba than he deserted his commander and undertook a voyage
of discovery of his own. The sequel unfortunately showed that in
spirit he was not above ignoring entirely the work of Columbus, and
arrogating to himself the credit of the discovery.

Columbus, on the other hand, received in answer to his letter of
announcement a most gracious reply from the Spanish sovereigns. That he
was held in high favour, was shown by the simple form of the letter,
which addressed him as “Don Christopher Columbus, our Admiral of the
Ocean Sea, and Viceroy and Governor of the Islands discovered in the
Indies.” The letter expressed the great satisfaction of the monarchs
with his achievement, and requested him not only to repair immediately
to court, but also to inform them by return of courier what was to
be done on their part to prepare the way immediately for a second
expedition. Columbus lost no time in complying with their commands. He
sent a memorandum of the ships, munitions, and men needed, and taking
the six Indians and various curiosities he had brought with him, set
out for an audience at Barcelona.

The fame of the discovery had been noised abroad, and even grossly
exaggerated reports of the wonderful curiosities brought back had
obtained currency. The people, therefore, everywhere thronged into the
streets to get sight of Columbus and of his Indians, as they made the
long journey from Palos to the court.

On reaching Barcelona the Admiral found that every preparation had
been made to receive him with the most imposing ceremonials. It has
been customary to compare his entrance into the city with a Roman
triumph. Certainly there was not a little to justify such a comparison.
The Indians, painted and decorated in savage fashion, birds and
animals of unknown species, rare plants supposed to possess great
healing qualities, Indian coronets, bracelets, and other decorations
of gold,--all these were paraded and displayed in order to convey an
idea of the importance and the wealth of the newly discovered country.
At the rear of the train, Columbus, on horseback, was escorted by a
brilliant cavalcade of Spanish hidalgos.

The sovereigns had determined to receive him with a stately ceremony
worthy of his discovery. Upon a throne specially set up for the purpose
the king and queen, with Prince Juan at their side, and surrounded
with noble lords and ladies, awaited his coming into their presence.
Columbus, also surrounded with a brilliant retinue, entered the hall
and approached the throne. Las Casas, who was present, tells us
that the Admiral was stately and commanding in person, and that the
modest smile that played upon his countenance showed that “he enjoyed
the state and glory in which he came.” Though he was probably only
forty-eight years of age, his prematurely gray hairs had already given
him a venerable appearance. The sovereigns had made it evident that
they desired to bestow upon him the admiration and gratitude of the
nation. As he approached, they arose and saluted him as if receiving
a person of the highest rank. When he was about to kneel, for the
purpose of kissing the hands of the sovereigns, in accordance with
the conventional ceremonies of that proud court, they ordered him in
the most gracious manner to arise, and then to seat himself in their

At their bidding, Columbus then proceeded to give an account of his
voyage and of his discoveries. The authorities agree that this was done
in a sedate and discreet manner, though it is difficult to avoid the
conviction that the Admiral promised for the future far more than was
warranted by anything that had as yet been discovered. But the thought
was never absent from his mind that the islands were just off the coast
of Asia, and that they were not far from all the wealth of Cipango and
Cathay. With this belief he did not hesitate to assure their Majesties
that what he had already discovered was but a harbinger of incalculable
wealth, and that by further explorations whole nations and peoples
would be brought to the true faith.

The contemporaneous historians tell us that at the conclusion of this
account the sovereigns were so affected that their eyes filled with
tears of gratitude, and that they fell upon their knees and poured
forth their thanks to God for the great blessing of this discovery. The
_Te Deum_ was sung by the choir of the chapel, and Las Casas remarks
that it seemed as if “in that hour they communicated with celestial

It is not strange that in this mood the monarchs were ready, not only
to continue, but even to extend the authority already bestowed upon
Columbus. Accordingly, they confirmed the grants made at Santa Fé the
year before, they granted him the royal arms of Castile and Leon, and
for his sake they conferred special honours on his brothers Bartholomew
and Diego. Columbus in turn committed himself to great things in the
future. His ordinary religious fervour seems to have been greatly
reinforced by the ceremonies of the day. In his desire to promote the
conquest of the Holy Sepulchre he now went so far as to make a solemn
vow that for this purpose he would furnish within seven years an army
consisting of four thousand horse and fifty thousand foot, and that
he would also provide a similar force within the next five years that
should follow.

It was unquestionably a weakness of Columbus that he was always prone
to promise more than he could fulfil. This is perhaps the besetting
fault of very fervid natures. But the consequences are often far
reaching. Columbus thus prepared the way, or at least gave the
opportunity, for virulent criticism and even hostility. Not a few
of the old nobility had been piqued by the honours conferred upon a
parvenu and a foreigner. All such were ready to organize an attack if
the new favourite should show any weakness or fail to fulfil any of his
promises. This important element in the situation should prepare us to
understand much of what is to follow.

In all affairs of international interest in the fifteenth century the
Roman pontiff played a conspicuous part. There were unusual reasons why
a formal announcement to the Pope of the success of Columbus should be
made without delay. Such announcement was prompted, not only by the
importance of the discovery, but also by the religious motive that
formed so large an element in the purpose of the discoverer. But there
was an additional reason. As we have already seen, the king of Portugal
had hinted that the newly discovered lands, in view of the treaty of
1479, would be found to belong to himself rather than to the monarchs
of Castile and Aragon. The Pope was the international mediator in all
questions of this kind. The Spanish sovereigns accordingly determined
to turn to the Pope without delay.

The pontiff at that time was Alexander VI., who, though he has been
stigmatized as having been guilty of nearly every vice, was not
unmindful of the political significance of his position. Born a
subject of Aragon, he might be supposed to think favourably of the
claims of Spain; but Ferdinand judged his character accurately, and
therefore thought it not wise to trust anything to chance or accident.
Accordingly, he despatched ambassadors to the court of Rome to
announce the new discovery with due formality, and to set forth the
gain that must accrue to the Church from the acquisition of so vast
a new territory. The ambassadors were charged to say that great care
had been taken not to trench upon the possessions that had been ceded
to Portugal. On one further point the instructions of Ferdinand were
characteristic of his great political acumen. He desired to intimate
as delicately as possible, but at the same time with unequivocal
distinctness, that whatever the papal pleasure might be, he should
maintain and defend his newly acquired possessions at all hazards.
This he did by instructing his ambassadors to say that in the opinion
of many learned men it was not necessary that he should obtain the
papal sanction for the title of the newly discovered lands, but that
notwithstanding this fact, as pious and devoted princes, the king and
queen supplicated his Holiness to issue a papal bull conceding the
lands which Columbus had discovered, or hereafter might discover, to
the Crown of Castile.

The news was received by Alexander with great joy; and the request
was the more readily granted because of the favour which the Spanish
sovereigns had recently acquired at Rome by the successful termination
of the terrible conflict with the Moors. Indeed, these new discoveries
appear to have been regarded as in some sense an appropriate reward
for the vigorous prosecution of that crusade against the infidels. A
bull was accordingly issued on the 2d of May, 1493, conceding to the
Spanish sovereigns the same rights and privileges in respect to the
newly discovered lands in the West as had previously been granted to
the king of Portugal in regard to their discoveries in Africa. In order
to prevent the liability of dispute as to jurisdiction, this bull was
accompanied with another to determine a line of demarcation. The pope
established an imaginary line “one hundred leagues west of the Azores
and Cape de Verde Islands,” extending from pole to pole. All lands west
of this line that had not been discovered by some other Christian power
before the preceding Christmas, and that had been or might hereafter be
discovered by Spanish navigators, should belong to the Crown of Spain;
all east of that line, to the Crown of Portugal.

While these negotiations were going on with the Pope, great activity
was displayed in preparation for the next voyage. In order to further
the interests of Spain in the West, what in these days we should
perhaps call a bureau of discovery was now established. This was
placed under the superintendence of Fonseca, archdeacon of Seville,
who afterward received several high ecclesiastical honours, including
the patriarchate of the Indies. He was already a man of position and
influence; but the writers of the time agree that he was possessed
of a worldly spirit, and was devoted to temporal rather than to
spiritual affairs. He seemed, however, to be so well adapted to the
forming and the fitting out of armadas that, notwithstanding his
high ecclesiastical dignities, the monarchs saw fit to keep him in
virtual control of Indian affairs for about thirty years. Though he
had great business abilities, he was capable of intense animosity, and
was by no means above gratifying his private resentments in the most
malignant and vindictive spirit. To assist Fonseca, Francisco Pinelo
was appointed treasurer, and Juan de Soria comptroller. Their office
was fixed at Seville, but the jurisdiction of the company, as we shall
see, extended over a wide territory. Cadiz was made the special port of
entry, with a custom-house for the new branch of maritime service.

The despotic rigour with which affairs were then kept in the hands
of the government is well illustrated by the character of the orders
that were issued. No one was permitted to go to the New World, either
to trade or to form an establishment for other reasons, without an
express license from the sovereigns, from Fonseca, or from Columbus.
A still more despotic spirit was shown in the royal order commanding
that “all ships in the ports of Andalusia, with their captains, pilots,
and crews,” should hold themselves in readiness to serve in the new
expedition. Columbus and Fonseca were authorized to purchase, at their
own price, any vessel that was needed, and, in case of necessity, to
take it by force. They were also authorized to seize the requisite
arms, provisions, and ammunitions “at any place or in any vessel in
which they might be found,” paying therefor such a price as they
themselves might fix upon as fair and just. They were also authorized
to compel, not mariners alone, but officers holding any rank or station
whatsoever, to embark on their fleet, under such conditions and pay
as they might deem reasonable. Finally, all civil authorities were
called upon to render every assistance in expediting the armament, and
were warned not to allow any impediment to be thrown in the way, on
penalty of loss of office and confiscation of estate. To provide the
necessary expenses, the Crown pledged two thirds of the church tithes
and the sequestered property of the Jews, who, by the edict of the
preceding year, had been deprived of their jewels and other possessions
and ordered out of the realm. If, notwithstanding these somewhat ample
resources, there should still be a lack of funds, the treasurer was
authorized to contract a loan. These orders were issued while Columbus
was still at Barcelona, and presumably with his approval.

Under these rigorous instructions, and in view of the popular interest
in the enterprise, preparations for the new voyage went forward without
delay. Fonseca gave himself to the collecting of vessels and their
equipment with great energy. But notwithstanding the great resources
placed at his disposal, the preparation of the fleet necessarily made
slow progress. Confronting these great powers, there were the perpetual
obstacles of human nature and individual interest. Even despotism has
its limitations. So much opposition was found to be in the way of the
practical confiscation of ships and munitions that it was not until the
summer was far gone that the fleet was ready to sail. Columbus had left
Barcelona on the 28th day of May; it was not till the 25th of September
that the fleet were ready to weigh anchor and turn their prows to the

There were special reasons why the Spanish sovereigns desired Columbus
to hasten his departure on the second voyage. A diplomatic controversy
of more than usual subtilty had sprung up between Ferdinand and
Isabella and King John of Portugal. The Portuguese monarch, probably
moved by chagrin as well as by envy, entertained a firm determination
not to abandon his claims to the new discoveries, except from the most
absolute necessity. One of the historians of King John’s reign admits
that this monarch distributed bribes freely among the courtiers of
Ferdinand, and that by this means he had no difficulty in learning
of the secret purposes of the Spanish court. Ambassadors were freely
interchanged for the purpose of settling the questions of jurisdiction
that had been raised. At one time the envoy of Ferdinand was intrusted
with two communications, one of which was friendly, while the other was
stern and imperative in its nature. In case he should find a pacific
disposition on the part of the Portuguese king, he was to deliver the
former; but if he should learn of any hostile intent to seize upon or
disturb the newly discovered lands, he was to present the communication
couched in peremptory terms, forbidding him to undertake any enterprise
of the kind.

The import of both these communications was made known to John by
his spies at the Spanish court. Accordingly, he conducted himself
in such a way as to draw forth only the more pacific despatch. But
notwithstanding this show of courtesy, Ferdinand had little difficulty
in learning that the Portuguese monarch was planning to seize upon
the new possessions before the second expedition of Columbus could
reach its destination. His policy, therefore, was not only to hasten
the preparations of the new expedition, but also to delay as much as
possible by dilatory negotiations the movements of King John. In this
latter purpose his great diplomatic acumen had full scope, and was
entirely successful. He proposed that the question of their respective
rights should be submitted for arbitration. The envoys consumed much
time in passing with great ceremony between the two courts. King John
considered it prudent neither to accept nor to decline this proposition
until he had taken the precaution to make due inquiries of the Pope.
The answer was what, in view of the papal bull above referred to,
might have been expected. The Portuguese ambassador was informed that
his Holiness would adhere to his decision establishing the line of
demarcation at a hundred leagues west of the Azores. Thus Ferdinand
secured a twofold triumph. The Pope had confirmed his title, and time
enough had elapsed to enable the Spanish fleet to reach the disputed
ground before the fleet of King John could be put in readiness to sail.

It remains to be added on this subject that King John, finding himself
defeated in his attempts to gain possession of the newly discovered
territories, now addressed himself to the task of having the line
of demarcation extended farther to the west. In this he was more
successful. After prolonged negotiations, it was finally agreed, and
the agreement was embodied in the treaty of Tordesillas, June 7, 1494,
that the papal line of partition should be moved to three hundred and
seventy leagues west of the Cape de Verde Islands. This treaty remained
in force during the age of discovery, and its importance is attested by
the fact that it prevented all further discussions.



On the morning of the 25th of September, 1493, all was in readiness for
the second voyage. The fleet, consisting of seventeen vessels, large
and small, was at anchor in the bay of Cadiz. The scene presented a
sharp contrast to that of the modest embarkation at Palos the year
before. Now there was no difficulty in recruiting men; on the contrary,
those who were permitted to accompany the expedition were regarded as
peculiarly fortunate. Stories of the untold wealth of the new regions
had been freely circulated and were very generally believed. It was the
wellnigh fatal misfortune of the expedition that the men who embarked
on this second voyage believed they were bound for golden regions,
where nothing but wealth and the indolent pleasures of the tropics
awaited them. This current but unfortunate belief determined, in large
measure, the personal character of the passengers and the crew. Many of
them were adventurers pure and simple; some were high-spirited hidalgos
seeking romantic experiences; some were hardy mariners looking for
new laurels in unknown seas; some were visionary explorers going out
simply for novelty and excitement; some were scheming speculators eager
for profit at the expense of innocent natives; some were priests more
or less devoutly solicitous for the conversion of the Indians and the
propagation of the Catholic faith. Unfortunately, among them all there
was nothing of that sturdy yeomanry which has ever been found so useful
in making colonization successful.

Before sunrise the whole fleet was in motion. Steering to the
southwest, in order to avoid the domains of Portugal, they arrived at
the Grand Canary on the 1st of October. Here they were detained a few
days in order to take in a quantity of swine, calves, goats, and sheep,
with which to stock the newly discovered lands. The Admiral took the
precaution of giving to each of the captains sealed orders, indicating
the route to be taken,--which, however, were not to be opened except in
case a vessel should lose sight of the fleet. Happily this precaution
proved not to have been necessary. Weighing anchor again, the fleet, on
the 7th of October, took a southwesterly course, with the purpose of
making the Caribbees. After a prosperous voyage, they came upon land on
the morning of the 3d of November.

The group of islands among which Columbus now found himself was the
beautiful cluster which, from the eastern end of Porto Rico, bends
around in the shape of a crescent toward the south, and forms a broken
barrier between the main ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The first island
they reached he called Dominica, in recognition of the fact that it
was discovered on Sunday; but the group as a whole, at a later period,
he somewhat humorously denominated St. Ursula and the Eleven Thousand

After cruising around several of the smaller islands, the Admiral
discovered a place for safe anchorage, and went ashore. As the
natives fled in confusion, the Spaniards had excellent opportunities
of inspecting their ways of living. A village was found, consisting
of twenty or thirty houses arranged about a hollow square. Each had
its portico for shelter from the sun. Within were found hammocks of
netting, utensils of earthenware, and a rude form of cotton cloth. In
one of the houses was discovered a cooking utensil, apparently of iron,
but probably of some kind of stone which, when burned, has a metallic
lustre. But what struck the Spaniards with special interest, and even
with horror, was the sight of human bones,--giving evidence, as the
discoverers supposed, that they were indeed in the land of cannibals.

On the following day the boats again made a landing,--this time on an
island which was named Guadaloupe,--and succeeded in capturing a boy
and several women. From these Columbus learned that the inhabitants
of the island were in league with the peoples of two other islands,
and that this rude confederacy made war on all the rest. Its habit
was to go on predatory excursions to neighbouring islands, to make
prisoners of the youngest and handsomest of the women as servants and
companions, and to capture men and children to be killed and eaten.
It was also learned that nearly all the warriors of the island were
absent. At the time of the arrival, the king, with three hundred men,
was on a cruise in quest of prisoners; the women meantime, being expert
archers, were left to defend their homes from invasion.

The fleet was detained for several days by the temporary loss of one of
the captains and eight of his men. The commander of one of the caravels
had gone on an exploring expedition, and penetrated into the forest
with a part of his crew. The night passed without their return, and the
greatest apprehensions were felt for their safety. Several parties were
sent out in various directions in quest of them; but no tidings could
be obtained. It was not until several days had elapsed, and the fleet
was about to sail, that, to the joy of all, they made a signal from the
shore. Their abject appearance immediately revealed how terribly they
had suffered. For days they had wandered about in a vast and trackless
forest, climbing mountains, fording streams, utterly bewildered, and
almost in despair lest the Admiral, thinking them dead, should set sail
and leave them to perish. Notwithstanding the universal joy over their
return, the Admiral, with very questionable judgment, put the captain
under arrest, and stopped a part of the rations of the other men. As
they had strayed away without permission, Columbus thought so gross a
breach of discipline should not go unpunished. It seems not to have
occurred to him that the penalty had already been inflicted, and that
he now had an opportunity to secure the loyalty instead of the enmity
of the offenders.

On the 10th of November the Admiral hoisted anchor, and with all on
board turned the ships to the northwest for La Navidad. After a few
days at one of the intermediate islands, he sent a boat on shore for
water and for information. The boat’s crew found a village occupied
exclusively by women and children. A few of these were seized and taken
on board the ships. In one of the affrays, however, it was learned that
the Carib women could ply their bows and arrows with amazing vigour and
skill. Though the Spaniards generally covered themselves successfully
with their bucklers, two of them were severely wounded. On their
return to the ships, a canoe containing Carib women was upset, when,
to the amazement of the Spaniards, it was found that the natives could
discharge their arrows while swimming, as skilfully as though they had
been upon land. One of the arrows thus discharged penetrated quite
through a Spanish buckler.

It is difficult to read the original accounts of this expedition
without receiving from it a very painful impression. Wherever the
Spaniards landed, they must have left a remembrance of bitter enmity.
Their inquiries everywhere were for gold, and their exploits were
little less or more than the capture of women and children. The natives
may have been cannibals indeed; but aside from all question of moral
obligation, one cannot overlook the fact that they were capable of
animosities, and that in consequence they were in position to help or
to hinder the success of the Spanish expedition. It is not easy to
understand how, as a matter of policy alone, any course could have been
more unwise than that which was pursued.

It was the 22d of November before the fleet arrived off the eastern
extremity of Hispaniola. Great excitement prevailed among the crew in
anticipation of meeting the colonists at La Navidad. Arriving at the
Gulf of Las Flechas, or, as it is now called, Semana Bay, Columbus
thought it wise to send ashore one of the Indians whom the year before
he had captured at this place and taken with him to Spain. The Indian
had been converted to Christianity, and had learned so much of the
Spanish language that the Admiral had confident hopes of his rendering
important service. The native was gorgeously dressed, and loaded with
trinkets with which to make a favourable impression on his countrymen.
It is a significant fact that, although he made fair promises of every
kind, he was never seen or heard of again. The loss was all the more
important as now there was remaining with the fleet only one of the
Indians that had been taken to Spain, and there was no certainty that
even this one would not escape at the first opportunity.

On the 25th the Admiral cast anchor in the harbour of Monte Christi,
desirous of taking further observations about the mouth of the stream
which, in the former voyage, he had called the Rio del Oro, or the
Golden River. But all the pleasant anticipations of the adventurers
now began to be overcast with gloomy forebodings. On the banks they
discovered two dead bodies, with arms extended and bound by the wrists
to a wooden stake in the form of a cross. Other evidences were not
wanting to warrant the fear that some misfortune had befallen Arana and
his companions. Two days later, anchors were dropped off the harbour of
Navidad. Cannon were fired; but there came back no welcoming response.
There was no sign of life,--nothing but a deathlike silence. It was now
evident that disaster had overtaken the colony. On the following day
the terrible fact was revealed that every member had perished.

The first shock occasioned by this information was, however, slightly
alleviated by the friendly bearing of the natives. At first it was
feared that there had been treachery on the part of the Indians in whom
the Admiral had reposed confidence and friendship; but the accounts
given by the natives tended to dispel this fear, and to convince the
Spaniards that the colonists had perished from other causes. Some of
them, it was said, had died of sickness; some had fallen in quarrels
among themselves; and some, having gone to other parts of the island,
had taken Indian wives and adopted the customs of the natives. These
accounts justified the hope that some of the garrison were yet alive,
and might return to the fleet and give an account, not only of the
disaster, but also of the interior of the island.

But on going ashore to reconnoitre, Columbus found very little reason
for comfort or hope. The fortress was a ruin, the palisades were beaten
down, the chests were broken open, the provisions were spoiled,--in
short, the whole settlement presented the appearance of having been
sacked and destroyed. Here and there were to be found broken utensils
and torn garments, but no traces of the garrison were to be seen.
Cannon were fired, but no response was awakened, and nothing but a
mournful silence reigned over the desolation.

Columbus had ordered Arana, in case of attack or danger, to secrete the
treasure in a well; but all their efforts to discover where anything
had been concealed were now in vain. It was not until the search
had been kept up for several days that even dead bodies were found.
Suspicions were revived that there had been treachery on the part of
the cacique; but a little exploration resulted in the discovery that
the tribal village of that official had also shared in the disaster
that had befallen the garrison.

Little by little the general facts of the calamity came to be known.
The colony, with the exception of the commander, was made up of men of
the lowest order. The list included a considerable number of mariners
that were given to every kind of excess and turbulence. Surrounded by
savage tribes, they were dependent on the good-will of the natives, as
well as on their own prudence and good conduct. Oviedo assures us that
they soon fell into every species of wanton abuse. Some were prompted
by unrestrained avarice, and some by gross sensuality. Not content
with the two or three wives apiece which the good-natured cacique
allowed them, they gave themselves up to the most unbridled license
with the wives and daughters of the Indians. The natural consequences
followed. Fierce brawls ensued over their ill-gotten spoils and the
favours of the Indian women. The injunctions of Columbus that they
should keep together in the fortress and maintain military order were
neglected and forgotten. Many deserted the garrison, and lived at
random among the natives. These were gradually formed into groups, to
protect themselves and despoil the rest. Violent affrays ensued. One
company, under the command of a subordinate officer, set out for the
mines of Cibao, of which, from the first, they had heard marvellous
accounts. The region to which they went was in the eastern part of the
island,--a territory governed by Caonabo, a Carib chieftain famous for
his fierce and warlike exploits. He was the hero of the island; and the
departure of Columbus gave him an opportunity to rid the country of
those who threatened to eclipse his authority. When now his territory
was actually invaded, he determined to exterminate the colony. The
campaign appears not to have been a long or difficult one. The cacique
of the region surrounding La Navidad was faithful to his promises, and
fought with the Spaniards against the Carib chieftain. But even their
united efforts were unsuccessful. The local cacique, Guacanagari,
and his subjects fought faithfully in defence of their guests, but
they were soon overpowered. Some of the Spaniards were killed in
the struggle, some were driven into the sea and drowned, some were
massacred on shore; not a single one was ever heard of again alive.

The cacique Guacanagari continued to manifest his friendly interest in
Columbus and his crew, though it was evident that his belief in the
heavenly origin and character of the Spaniards had been sadly shaken.
It is said that the gross licentiousness of the garrison had already
impaired his veneration for the heaven-born visitors. When, therefore,
Columbus proposed to establish a permanent settlement in the region,
Guacanagari expressed his satisfaction, but observed that the region
was unhealthy, and that perhaps the Spaniards could do better in some
other locality.

While these parleyings were going on, an event occurred of interesting
and even romantic significance. The cacique visited the ship of the
Admiral, and was greatly interested in all that he saw. Among other
objects of curiosity were the women whom the visitors had taken as
prisoners on the Caribbean Islands. One of these, who by reason of her
stately beauty had been named Catilina, particularly attracted the
interest and admiration of the chieftain. Several days later, a brother
of the cacique came on board under pretence of bargaining gold for
Spanish trinkets. In the course of his visit he succeeded in having an
interview with Catilina. At midnight, just before the fleet was about
to sail, the tropical beauty awakened her companions. Though the ship
was anchored three miles from land and the sea was rough, they let
themselves down by the sides of the vessel, and swam vigorously for the
shore. The watchmen, however, were awakened, and a boat was quickly
sent out in pursuit. But the skill and vigour of the women were such
that they reached the land in safety. Though four of them were retaken
on the beach, Catilina and the rest of her companions made good their
escape to the forest. On the following day, when Columbus sent to
demand of Guacanagari the return of the fugitives, it was found that
the cacique had removed his effects and his followers to the interior.
This sudden departure confirmed the suspicion in the mind of Columbus
that Guacanagari was a traitor to the Spaniards; he even thought that
the chief had been the perfidious betrayer of the garrison.

This suspicion made Columbus all the more willing to seek another spot
for a permanent settlement. After some days spent in explorations, it
was determined to establish a post at about ten leagues east of La
Navidad, where they found a spacious harbour, protected on one side by
a natural rampart of rocks, and on the other by an impervious forest,
as Bernaldez says, “so close that a rabbit could hardly make his way
through it.” A green and beautiful plain, extending back from the sea,
was watered by two rivers, which promised to furnish the needed power
for mills. The streams abounded in fish, the soil was covered with an
exuberant vegetation, and the climate appeared to be temperate and
genial. This site had the further advantage of proximity to the gold
mines in the mountains of Cibao.

Here the first American city was projected, to which Columbus, in
honour of the queen, gave the name of Isabella. Streets and squares
were promptly laid out; a church, a public storehouse, and a residence
for the Admiral were begun without delay. The public houses were built
of stone, while those intended for private occupation were constructed
of wood, plaster, and such other materials as the situation afforded.

It was not long, however, before there was abundant evidence that the
colony was made up of men very ill adapted to the peculiar hardships
of the situation. The labour of clearing lands, building houses, and
planting orchards and gardens can be successfully carried on only by
men accustomed to vigorous manual labour. The stagnant and malarious
atmosphere bore hard upon those who had been accustomed to old and
highly cultivated lands. Long after landing, moreover, the Spaniards
were obliged to subsist very largely upon salt food and mouldy
bread. It is not strange that the maladies peculiar to new countries
broke out with violence. Disaffections of mind also became wellnigh
universal. Many of the adventurers had embarked with the expectation
of finding the golden regions of Cipango and Cathay, where fortunes
were to be accumulated without effort. Instead of the realization of
these hopes, they now found that they were doomed to struggle with
the hard conditions of Nature, and to toil painfully for the merest
subsistence. What with the ravages of disease and the general gloom
of despondency, the situation soon became painful indeed. Even the
strength of Columbus himself was obliged finally to succumb to the
cares and anxieties of the situation. But though for several weeks he
was confined to his bed by illness, he still had the fortitude to give
directions about the building of the city and the superintending of the
general affairs of the colony.

The situation was indeed depressing. Columbus had hoped that soon
after reaching his destination he should be able to send back to
Spain glowing reports of what had been accomplished by the settlers
at La Navidad, as well as in regard to his own discoveries. But the
destruction of the colony had now rendered such a report impossible.
In order, however, to relieve the disappointment at home as much as
possible, he determined to send out two exploring expeditions, in the
hope that the cities and mines, of which he had heard and dreamed so
much, might be discovered. He was still ardent in the belief that the
island of Hispaniola was none other than Cipango, and that somewhere
not far away would be found the cities of boundless wealth of which
Marco Polo and Toscanelli had written.

To lead the two expeditions of discovery, Columbus selected two
cavaliers by the name of Ojeda and Gorvalan. The former had already,
before leaving Spain, made himself famous for his daring spirit and
great vigour and agility of body. The latter seems also to have
been well adapted to the task before him. The expeditions pressed
southward into the very heart of the island. That of Ojeda was the
more interesting and the more important. After climbing the adjacent
mountain range, the explorers found themselves on the edge of a vast
plain, or _vega_, that was studded with villages and hamlets. The
inhabitants were everywhere hospitable. Five or six days were needed
to cross the plain and reach the chain of mountains that were said to
enclose the golden region of Cibao. Caonabo, the redoubtable chief of
the region, nowhere appeared to dispute their passage. The natives
everywhere received the explorers with kindness, and pointed out
to them numerous evidences of natural wealth. Particles of shining
gold were seen in the mountain-streams, and if we may believe the
chroniclers of the time, Ojeda himself, in one of the brooks, picked
up a large mass of native metal. As the object of the expedition was
merely to explore the nature of the country, Ojeda was now satisfied
with the result, and accordingly he led back his band of explorers
to the fleet. He gave a glowing account of the golden resources of
the island, and his story was corroborated by the report of Gorvalan.
Columbus decided at once to send back a report to the Spanish monarchs.
Twelve of the ships were ordered to put themselves in readiness for the
return voyage.

The report sent by Columbus was one of great importance. He described
the exploring expeditions in glowing terms, and repeated his former
hopes of being able soon to make abundant shipments of gold and other
articles of value. Special stress was laid on the beauty and fertility
of the land, including its adaptation to the raising of the various
grains and vegetables produced in Europe. Time, however, would be
required, he said, to obtain the provisions necessary for subsistence
from the fields and gardens; and therefore the colonists must rely,
for a considerable time to come, upon shipments from home. He then
enumerated the articles that would be especially needed. He censured
the contractors that had furnished the wine, charging them with using
leaky casks, and then called for an additional number of workmen and
mechanics and men skilled in the working of ores.

This interesting report is still preserved, with the comments of the
Spanish sovereigns written on the margins. To the descriptions of
what had been done, as well as to the recommendations for the future,
commendation and assent were given in generous and complimentary terms.
One or two passages are of exceptional interest. In regard to the wine,
Columbus writes,--

    “A large portion of the wine that we brought with us has run
    away, in consequence, as most of the men say, of the bad
    cooperage of the butts made at Seville; the article that we stand
    most in need of now, and shall stand in need of, is wine.”

To this declaration, which would seem to be good evidence that
dishonest or negligent contractors are not the peculiarity of the
nineteenth century, the following was the royal response:--

    “Their Highnesses will give instructions to Don Juan de Fonseca
    to make inquiry respecting the imposition in the matter of the
    casks, in order that those who supplied them shall, at their own
    expense, make good the loss occasioned by the waste of the wine,
    together with the costs.”

But the most interesting, as well as the most significant part of the
report is that which pertains to what was nothing less than a purpose
to open a slave-trade on a large scale between the islands and the
mother-country. In a former portion of the letter, Columbus had already
called attention to the advantages that would flow from a system of
sending slaves to Spain to be educated in the Spanish language, and
then brought back to the islands as interpreters. To this proposal the
royal assent was given in the following characteristic words:--

    “He has done well, and let him do what he says; but let
    him endeavour by all possible means to connect them to our
    holy Catholic religion, and do the same with respect to the
    inhabitants of all the islands to which he may go.”

But to the more elaborate and systematic proposal, a different answer
was returned. The paragraph of the memorial containing the proposition
is so curious a combination of sophistry and good motives that it
will bear quoting as a whole. The reader should perhaps be reminded
that although the paper was intended for the king and queen, it was
addressed to Antonio de Torres, as ambassador. The following is the
language of Columbus:--

    “You will tell their Highnesses that the welfare of the souls
    of the said cannibals, and the inhabitants of this island also,
    has suggested the thought that the greater number that are sent
    over to Spain the better, and thus good service may result to
    their Highnesses in the following manner. Considering what great
    need we have of cattle and beasts of burden, both for food and
    to assist the settlers in this and all these islands, both for
    peopling the land and cultivating the soil, their Highnesses
    might authorize a suitable number of caravels to come here
    every year to bring over said cattle and provisions and other
    articles; these cattle, etc., might be sold at moderate prices
    for account of the bearers, and the latter might be paid with
    slaves taken from among the Caribbees, who are a wild people, fit
    for any work, well proportioned and very intelligent, and who,
    when they have got rid of the cruel habits to which they have
    been accustomed, will be better than any other kind of slaves.
    When they are out of their country, they will forget their cruel
    customs; and it will be easy to obtain plenty of these savages
    by means of row-boats that we propose to build. It is taken
    for granted that each of the caravels sent by their Highnesses
    will have on board a confidential man, who will take care that
    the vessels do not stop anywhere else than here, where they are
    to unload and reload their vessels. Their Highnesses might fix
    duties on the slaves that may be taken over, upon their arrival
    in Spain. You will ask for a reply upon this point, and bring
    it to me, in order that I may be able to take the necessary
    measures, should the proposition merit the approbation of their

To this elaborate scheme for reducing the natives to slavery the
sovereigns gave the diplomatic answer characteristic of those who
would say no in a manner that would give the least offence. The royal
language was the following:--

    “The consideration of this subject has been suspended for a time
    until further advices arrive from the other side; let the Admiral
    write more fully what he thinks upon the matter.”

The authority asked for certainly was not granted; but, on the other
hand, there was no intimation that the proposition would, in the end,
meet with a refusal. Columbus seems to have thought it not imprudent to
take advantage of the doubt; for Bernaldez tells us that the Admiral
“made incursions into the interior, and captured vast numbers of the
natives; and the second time that he sent home, he sent five hundred
Indian men and women, all in the flower of their age, between twelve
years and thirty-five or thereabouts, all of whom were delivered at
Seville to Don Juan de Fonseca.” “They came,” continued Bernaldez, “as
they went about in their own country, naked as they were born; from
which they experienced no more embarrassment than the brutes.” “They
were sold,” the narrator adds, “but proved of very little service, for
the greater part of them died of the climate.”

Of interesting significance also are the passages and answers relating
to gold. In one of the paragraphs Columbus calls attention to the
fact that although the gold discovered has been found in the streams,
it must have come from the earth, and that the procuring of it will
involve the delay necessarily attending the establishment of mining
operations. He recommends that labourers in considerable numbers be
sent out from the quicksilver mines. To these suggestions the king

    “It is the most necessary thing possible that he should strive to
    find the way to this gold.”

And to the suggestion in regard to the mines he responds,--

    “This shall be completely provided for in the next voyage out;
    meanwhile Don Juan de Fonseca has their Highnesses’ orders to
    send as many miners as he can find. Their Highnesses write also
    to Almaden with instructions to select the greatest number that
    can be procured, and to send them up.”

After the departure of the vessels for Spain, the Admiral, having for
the most part recovered his health, determined to make an expedition in
person into the heart of the island. Accordingly, on the 12th of March,
1494, he set out with the requisite number of men, foot and horse, for
the province of Cibao. This region was distant about eighteen leagues.
To reach his destination it was necessary to cross the beautiful plain
which had already been described by Ojeda, and to which the Admiral now
gave the name of Royal Vega. On the border of Cibao he decided to build
a fortress, which should be at once a protection and a rallying-point.
The natives as yet continued to be friendly, and came in considerable
numbers to barter bits of gold for such trinkets as the Spaniards might
give in exchange. The gold mines, however, seemed to be as far away
as ever, although glowing accounts were given by the natives of the
nuggets that were to be discovered beyond the mountains. But instead
of completing his explorations in person, Columbus now determined to
return to the fleet and make a voyage to what he supposed to be the
continent. The fortress, to which he gave the name St. Thomas, was
intrusted to a garrison under the command of Margarite, an officer of
high rank and much experience.

It is of interest to note at this point that the early opinions of
the Spaniards in regard to the Indians had slowly undergone a very
considerable change. Further acquaintance had convinced Columbus that
they were not quite so guileless and docile as at first he had supposed
them to be. They were found to know something of war,--at least to
be acquainted with certain rude methods of attack and defence. The
proximity of the Caribs was giving them a constant schooling in the art
of self-protection.

It is at this point that Bernaldez, a companion and friend of Columbus,
gives an interesting account of the products of the islands and of
some of the peculiarities of the natives. The following passage is
perhaps the most graphic and circumstantial account left us by any
contemporaneous writer:--

    “As the people of all these islands are destitute of iron, it
    is wonderful to see their tools, which are of stone, very sharp
    and admirably made, such as axes, adzes, and other instruments,
    which they use in constructing their dwellings. Their food is
    bread, made from roots, which God has given them instead of
    wheat; for they have neither wheat nor rye, nor barley, nor oats,
    nor spelt-wheat, nor panic-grass, nor anything resembling them.
    No kind of food that the Castilians had as yet tasted was like
    anything that we have here. There were no beans, nor chick-peas,
    nor vetches, nor lentils, nor lupines, nor any quadruped or
    animal, excepting some small dogs, and the others, which look
    like large rats, or something between a large rat and a rabbit,
    and are very good and savoury for eating, and have feet and paws
    like rats, and climb trees. The dogs are of all colours,--white,
    black, etc. There are lizards and snakes, but not many, for the
    Indians eat them, and think them as great a dainty as partridges
    are to the Castilians. The lizards are like ours in size, but
    different in shape, though, in a little island near the harbour
    called San Juan, where the squadron remained several days, a
    lizard was several times seen, as large round as a young calf,
    and as smooth as a lance; and several times they attempted to
    kill it, but could not, on account of the thickness of the trees,
    and it fled into the sea. Besides eating lizards and snakes,
    these Indians devour all the spiders and worms that they find, so
    that their beastliness appears to exceed that of any beast.”

Modern investigation has thrown much light on the physical
characteristics of the native inhabitants of the Lucayan or Bahama
islands. Some years ago Ecker and Wyman studied the subject, and more
recently Prof. W. K. Brooks has visited the islands and presented a
memoir to the National Academy of Sciences on the peculiarities of the
bones discovered in the course of his investigations. It is clearly
established that the natives belonged to a large and well-developed
race. Ecker found bones which he thought must have belonged to a race
of giants. But Professor Brooks is of the opinion that they “did not
depart essentially from the Spanish average.” His measurements showed
that “The skulls are large, and about equal in size to the average
modern civilized white skull.”

It is pathetic to reflect that this race was, in a few years, swept
completely out of existence by the methods of the Spaniards. The annals
of cruelty present no darker picture than that given us by Las Casas,
who at the time was a sad witness of what was taking place. The five
shiploads of slaves sent back by Columbus in the course of his second
expedition was but the beginning of a policy which did not end till the
six hundred islands of the Bahamas were completely depopulated. The
work begun by the Admiral was completed by bloodhounds in less than
a generation. The race perished, and may be said to have left only
a single word as a monument. The Spaniards took from them the word
“hammock,” and gave it to all the languages of western Europe.

After Columbus returned to Isabella from St. Thomas he devoted himself
for some days to putting the colony in order, preparatory to his own
departure on a further voyage of discovery. Second only to the desire
of Ferdinand and Isabella for gold, was their wish that Columbus
should devote himself, as far as possible, to further discoveries.
This disposition, so perfectly in accord with the enterprising spirit
of the Admiral, was fostered by a common jealousy of the Portuguese;
for while the ships of Columbus, after going westward, were exploring
what they supposed to be the islands of the East, the fleets of John
II. of Portugal were making their way toward India by going eastward.
The more rapidly, therefore, each nation could advance, the more
of the “much-coveted lands” each nation would hereafter be able to
claim. Acting in accordance with this impulse and policy, Columbus was
determined to leave the garrisons at Isabella and St. Thomas, and, with
a sufficient crew, proceed to explore and plant his standards on what
he confidently supposed to be the continent.

This purpose was in many respects unfortunate; for the garrisons were
in no condition to be intrusted with the independent working out of
their own destiny. There was wellnigh universal discontent. It is easy
to imagine the condition of affairs. Sickness everywhere prevailed.
The encampments--for they were little else--were, as we must not
forget, made up of men of all ranks and stations. Some were hidalgos,
some were men who had been attached to the court, some were common
labourers; but all men, high and low, were obliged to labour with their
hands, under regulations that were strictly enforced. Many had joined
the expedition in the belief that they would find gold in abundance;
but now they found sickness and hardships of the most exacting kind.
These discontents found expression at length in a mutinous spirit that
threatened to seize the ships and leave Columbus alone to his fate.
The chief mutineer, Bernald Diaz, was seized and sent for trial to
Spain. But the disappointments were so numerous and so intense that
many members of the expedition, especially those high in rank, thinking
that Columbus had deceived them, not only charged him with all their
discomforts, but even showed a relentless disposition to pursue him to
his ruin. It was with this state of affairs, impending or actually in
existence, that Columbus, on the 24th of April, 1494, hoisted sail for
Cuba and the other lands in the west. His brother Diego was left in
command at Isabella.

On approaching the easternmost point of Cuba the fleet turned to the
left, with the intention of exploring the southern coast, instead of
the northern, as the Admiral had done in the first voyage. Bernaldez,
who probably often talked the matter over with Columbus, distinctly
tells us that it was the object of the Admiral to find the province and
city of Cathay. The naïve and confident statement of this historian
is worthy of note, for it doubtless reflected the belief entertained
by Columbus till the day of his death. Bernaldez says: “This province
is in the dominion of the Grand Kahn, and, as described by John de
Mandeville and others who have seen it, is the richest province in the
world, and the most abundant in gold and silver and other metals, and
silks. The people are all idolaters, and are a very acute race, skilled
in necromancy, learned in all the arts and courtesies; and of this
place many marvels are written, which may be found in the narrative of
the noble English knight, John de Mandeville, who visited the country,
and lived for some time with the Grand Kahn.” And then, after stating
how it was that, in his opinion, Columbus missed his mark, he says:
“And so I told him, and made him know and understand, in the year 1496,
when he first returned to Castile after this expedition, and when he
was my guest, and left with me some of his papers in the presence of
Juan de Fonseca.... From these papers,” he continues, “I have drawn and
have compared them with others, which were written by that honourable
gentleman, the Doctor Chanca, and other noble gentlemen who came with
the Admiral in the voyages already described.”

Bernaldez also tells us that Columbus at first supposed the land, which
he called Juana, but which the natives called Cuba, to be an island,
and that it was not until he had made a voyage along the coast that he
inferred confidently that it was the mainland. To the questions of the
Admiral on this subject, the Indians were able to give no satisfactory
answer; “for,” says Bernaldez, “they are a stupid race, who think that
all the world is an island, and do not know what a continent is.”

The westward sail was continued, with some interruptions, from the
1st of May till the 12th of June, without any occurrence sufficiently
remarkable to require extended notice. One statement of exceptional
interest, however, is made by the writer already so frequently quoted.
Bernaldez says that “at this point it occurred to the Admiral that,
if he should be prospered, he might succeed in returning to Spain by
the East, going to the Ganges, thence to the Arabian Gulf, by land,
from Ethiopia to Jerusalem and to Joppa, whence he might embark on
the Mediterranean, and arrive at Cadiz.” Although, in the opinion of
the narrator, this passage would be possible, he says it would be
very perilous; “for from Ethiopia to Jerusalem, the inhabitants are
all Moors.” He rightly inferred that so near the close of the Moorish
wars, the Spaniards would do well not to intrust themselves to the
vicissitudes of a journey through Arabia.

On the 12th of June the mutinous spirit of the crew was so general that
the Admiral decided to turn back. It is easy to understand that he did
so with great reluctance. He had determined to reach the continent, and
if possible go to Cathay, the home of that luxury and wealth which had
so excited the readers of John de Mandeville. Would he now return and
confess to failure? In order to answer this question, he resorted to
a device that must ever remain as a conspicuous stigma, not only upon
his character, but also upon his good sense. He resolved to establish
a geographical fact by a certificate under oath. He drew up the eighty
men of his crew, and required them to swear before a notary that it
was possible to go from Cuba to Spain by land. Accordingly, it was
solemnly sworn that Cuba was a part of the mainland,--that is to say,
Cathay; and it was further ordered that if any sceptic should deny this
important fact, he should be fined ten thousand maravedis. If any lack
of faith in this great geographical fact should disclose itself on the
part of any common sailor, the culprit, as he would, of course, not
have the money, was to have a hundred lashes, and then be incapacitated
for further lying by having his tongue pulled out.

In the course of this voyage, Columbus made many discoveries, among
them the island of Jamaica and the group known as the Garden of the
Queen. Among these islands the ships often ran aground, and the
difficulties of navigation were such that for many days the Admiral
is said to have secured no sleep whatever. At length, however, an
unconquerable drowsiness and illness came on, which left him helpless
in the hands of the crew. Taking advantage of this situation, the
mariners turned the ships toward Isabella, where they arrived, after
an absence of more than five months, on the 29th of September. The
fruits of the voyage were several discoveries of important islands, and
a further and wider knowledge of the characteristics of the natives.
There was, however, no clew to any gold mines or other resources that
might be profitably taken back to Spain.

The illness of Columbus continued during five months after his return
to Isabella. It was fortunate that in the course of his voyage of
exploration the colony was visited by his brother Bartholomew.
But affairs were in a sad state of confusion. During the absence
of the Admiral, everything had seemed to contribute to a general
disorganization. This unfortunate state of the colony was partly owing
to a very injudicious order issued by Columbus, and partly to the
unwise methods of administration that had prevailed during his absence.

Columbus before going away had ordered the military commander,
Margarite, to put himself at the head of four hundred men and go
through the country for the twofold purpose of obtaining provisions and
of impressing upon the natives a further respect for Spanish power. Of
the instructions given there were only two provisions that seem to have
been important. In the first place, they were to obtain provisions,--by
purchase, if possible, if not, by any other means; and secondly, they
were to capture, either by force or artifice, Caonabo and his brothers.

Fernando Columbus tells us that Margarite, instead of striving to
overrun and reduce the island, took his soldiers into the great plain
known as the Royal Vega, and there gave them up to all forms of wanton
excesses. But he soon fell into disputes with the council instituted by
the Admiral. After sending its members insolent letters, and finding
that he could not reduce them to obedience, he went aboard one of
the first ships that came from Spain, and sailed for home. This he
appears to have done without giving any account of himself, or leaving
any direction in regard to his command. “Upon this,” says Fernando,
“every one went away among the Indians wherever he thought fit, taking
away their goods and their women, and committing such outrages that
the Indians resolved to be revenged on those they found alone or
straggling; so that the cacique had killed ten, and privately ordered
a house to be fired in which were eleven sick.” The same authority
further states that “Most of the Christians committed a thousand
insolences, for which they were mortally hated by the Indians, who
refused to submit to them.”

Such was the condition of affairs on the return of Columbus. All was
in such confusion that the very existence of the colony was threatened
with the fate that had overtaken La Navidad; and it was for essentially
the same cause. The weakness of Margarite and his subsequent desertion
of his command had thrown the garrison into anarchy, and given it up to
the unbridled indulgence of the most provoking and offensive excesses.
Fernando Columbus himself says of the Indians that in consequence of
the “thousand insolences” of the Christians, “it was no difficult
matter for them all to agree to cast off the Spanish yoke.” That the
provocation was chargeable to the Spaniards is admitted both by Don
Fernando and by Las Casas. But the fact that the invaders had brought
this threatening condition of affairs upon themselves can hardly be
thought to have lessened the obligations of Columbus. What he was now
confronted with was a condition, not a theory as to how that condition
had been brought about. In order to save the colony from immediate and
perhaps fatal disaster, he was obliged to act without hesitation.

While Caonabo was threatening the garrison at St. Thomas, another of
the caciques, Gustignana by name, approached with a large force to
within two days’ march of Isabella. It is even said that his army
consisted of a hundred thousand men. Columbus was able to muster
a hundred and sixty Spanish foot, twenty horsemen, and as many
bloodhounds. The force was divided into two battalions, one being
under the command of the Admiral himself, and the other under that of
his brother Bartholomew. The Spaniards were clad in armour, while the
natives had only their naked bodies to oppose to the ferocity of the
bloodhounds and the cross-bows and musketry of the invaders. At the
first onset the Indians were thrown into confusion, and a terrible
carnage ensued. Vast numbers were either killed outright or torn by the
dogs; while others, perhaps less fortunate, were taken prisoners, to be
sent to Spain as slaves. The force of the Indians was completely broken
up and dispersed; but Caonabo, who was besieging St. Thomas, was still
at large.

This Carib chieftain was very naturally a source of great anxiety to
the Admiral. He had been defeated by Ojeda; but he was still at the
head of a formidable force, and his own intrepidity and skill made
him a constant object of dread. Columbus determined to secure him
by treachery. Ojeda was selected to carry out this purpose; and the
instructions given by the Admiral were base and treacherous in the
extreme. The wily Spanish officer was to beguile the Indian chieftain
to a friendly interview; and thus, having thrown him off his guard, was
to put him in irons and escape with him to the Spanish garrison. The
Admiral’s plan was carried out.

The accounts of this ignoble transaction, as given by Las Casas and the
later historians of the time, do not differ in essential particulars,
though there are differences in unimportant details. The authorities,
moreover, are not agreed as to the time when this daring exploit
occurred. Herrera says that it took place before the great battle,
almost immediately after the return of Columbus from Cuba. Attributing
the design to the Admiral, this historian says, “He contrived to send
Alonzo de Ojeda with only nine Spaniards, under colour of carrying a
present.” According to the same authority, the capture took place about
sixty or seventy leagues from Isabella. Herrera’s account is graphic
and circumstantial. Other authorities tell us that it was the last
act required to reduce the island into subjection. But the precise
date is not important. Las Casas, who visited the island six years
after the event took place, and received his information on the spot,
has preserved the account which has generally been followed by the
subsequent annalists and historians.

It is not difficult to understand how the friendly relations which at
first prevailed between the Spaniards and the Indians were gradually
converted into distrust, and finally into deadly hostility. For this
change the Spaniards must ever be held responsible. All the original
accounts agree that the natives of Hispaniola were remarkable alike
for their gentleness, their friendliness, and their generosity, and
that they looked upon the Spaniards as superior beings that had
descended from heaven. The son of the Admiral himself tells us that as
time passed on, the Spaniards were guilty of “a thousand insolences,
especially to the Indian women.” We have already seen how Columbus sent
home five shiploads of inoffensive natives of Hispaniola to be sold in
the Spanish markets.

It was easy now for the invaders to go one step farther in this process
of subjugation. The capture of Caonabo had removed the last serious
obstacle to a complete control of the island. Fernando tells us that
the country now became so peaceable that “one single Christian went
safely wherever he pleased.” Supreme power was now in the hand of
the Admiral, and he determined to make use of it in the interest of
that great object of his expedition which as yet had been completely

In order that the call for gold might at length be gratified, he
determined to impose a tribute on all the population of the island. The
matter was thus provided for: Every Indian above fourteen years old who
was in the vicinity of the mines was required to pay every three months
a little bellful of gold, and to take for it a brass or tin token, and
to wear this about the neck, as a receipt or evidence that payment had
been made. All persons not living in the vicinity of the mines were
every three months to pay twenty-five pounds of cotton.

When this order was issued, the natives were thrown into something like
despair. They asserted that they knew not how to collect the gold, and
that the gathering of so large an amount would be impossible. The
cacique of the Royal Vega tried to persuade the Admiral to modify the
order. He offered to convert the whole of the Royal Vega, stretching
from Isabella to the sea on the opposite shore, into a huge farm, which
would supply the whole of Castile with bread, on condition that the
tribute in gold should be relaxed; but Columbus would not accept the
proposition, as he wished to collect such objects of value as he could
take back to Spain.

It was found impossible to enforce the requirements imposed. The gold
in requisite amounts could not be found. Columbus was therefore obliged
to modify his demands. In some instances the amounts called for were
lessened; in some the nature of the demand was modified; in others
service was accepted in place of tribute.

As time passed on, it was found that personal service was the only
form of tax that could readily be enforced; and, accordingly, more and
more the natives were driven into working the farms of the Spanish
settlements. As early as 1496 the fields of the Spaniards had come to
be very generally tilled and harvested in this manner. Out of this form
of taxation grew the system of _repartimientos_, or _encomiendas_, as
they were afterward called. In order to enforce the payment of such
tributes as were required, four forts in addition to those of Isabella
and St. Thomas were built and equipped, at such points as would give
most complete command and control of the island.

It requires no very vivid imagination to enable one to understand the
desperate situation into which the natives found they had been driven.
They had enjoyed a roving independence and that ample leisure which is
so dear to all the aboriginal inhabitants of the tropics. This pleasant
life was now at an end; the yoke of servitude was fastened upon them,
and there was no prospect save in the thraldom of perpetual slavery.
They were obliged to bend their bodies under the fervour of a tropical
sun, either to raise food for their taskmasters, or to sift the sands
of the streams for the shining grains of gold. Peter Martyr relates,
with an unspeakable pathos, how their sorrows and sufferings wove
themselves into doleful songs and ballads, and how with plaintive tunes
and mournful voices they bewailed the servitude into which they had
been thrown.

At last they determined to avail themselves of a most desperate remedy.
They observed how entirely dependent the Spaniards were upon such food
as was supplied by the natives. They now agreed, by a general concert
of action, not to cultivate the articles of food, and to destroy
those already growing, in order by famine to starve the strangers or
drive them from the island. This policy was carried into effect. They
abandoned their homes, laid waste the fields, and withdrew to the
mountains, where they hoped to subsist on roots and herbs.

Although this policy produced some distress among the Spaniards, still
they had the resources of home; and it is certain that the suffering
of the natives even from hunger was far greater than was the suffering
of the invaders. The Spaniards pursued the Indians from one retreat to
another, following them into caverns, pursuing them into thick forests,
and driving them up mountain heights, until, worn out with fatigue and
hunger, the wretched creatures gave themselves up without conditions
to the mercy of their pursuers. After thousands of them had perished
miserably through famine, fatigue, disease, and terror, the survivors
abandoned all opposition, and bent their necks despairingly to the yoke.

While this pitiful state of affairs was taking place on the island,
matters of equal significance and interest were occurring in Spain;
and it is now necessary that we turn our attention thither in order to
understand the meaning of that disfavour into which Columbus was now
rapidly drifting.

Even after the second voyage was undertaken, there were not a few who
ventured to declare that Columbus had been cruel and unjust to his
subordinates, and that the assurances and promises by means of which
the second fleet had been fitted out, were such as never could be
fulfilled. The malcontents included persons high in royal favour; and
even Fonseca, who, as we have seen, had been made a special minister
or secretary for the Indies, looked upon the Admiral with distrust,
if not with positive disfavour. There was also about the royal court
a nucleus of opposition consisting of members of the old nobility,
who saw their own hereditary significance completely eclipsed by this
untitled adventurer from abroad. Here, then, was a fertile soil ready
to receive any seed of accusation or complaint that might be brought
back from the newly discovered lands. Such accusations and complaints
were not long withheld.

The provisions taken out on the second voyage were not abundant in
amount, and many of them, as we have already seen, were spoiled
or injured in the course of the passage. On reaching Hispaniola,
and finding that the colony at La Navidad had perished, it became
immediately evident that new supplies must be obtained. The Admiral was
naturally reluctant to call upon the Government for further assistance.
Although such a course was found to be absolutely necessary, the demand
was made as small as possible, in the hope that a large portion of the
articles needed could be either raised or bought on the island. In
the interests of this policy the most rigorous methods were adopted
to increase the productive force of the colony. In the building of
Isabella, and in the tilling of the fields, many a delicate hand that
had never touched an implement of industry was now forced into manual
labour. It is not necessary to inquire whether Columbus enforced his
rule with impolitic or unnecessary rigour. It is certain, however, that
discontents became rife, that these soon grew to formidable proportions
and finally ripened into a mutinous determination to throw off the
Admiral’s authority. By good fortune, Columbus discovered the mutinous
intent before the final outbreak; but the purpose was so widespread,
and embraced within its plans so many of the officers high in command,
that he felt obliged, not only to put the leaders in irons, but also to
transfer all the guns, ammunition, and naval stores to his own ship.
Herrera tells us that “this was the first mutiny that occurred in the
Indies,” and that “it was the source of all the opposition the Admiral
and his successors met withal.”

But the suppression of the mutiny did not lessen the discontents. One
of the authorities says: “The better sort were obliged to work, which
was as bad as death to them, especially having little to eat.” The
Admiral had recourse to force, and this deepened the ill-will. One of
the priests, Father Boyle, took up the cause of the malcontents, and
was loud in his accusations of cruelty. Herrera tells us that so many
persons of distinction died of starvation and sickness that, long after
Isabella was abandoned, “so many dreadful cries were heard in that
place that people durst not go that way.”

Another cause of discontent was the fact that Columbus placed so great
authority in the hands of his brothers. Diego Columbus had attended the
Admiral on his second voyage, and on arriving at Hispaniola, was made
second in command. The other brother, Bartholomew, reached the colony
while the Admiral was exploring Cuba and Jamaica. Far abler and wiser
than Diego, Bartholomew was at once, on the return of the Admiral,
raised to the rank of Adelantado, or Lieutenant-Governor. Bartholomew
is described as “somewhat harsh in his temper, very brave and free, for
which some hated him.” The Spanish hidalgos always looked upon Columbus
as a foreigner, and the favour he showed his brothers only tended to
deepen their discontents and multiply their complaints.

Added to all other sources of dissatisfaction was the most potent fact
of all,--that the amount of gold sent home as compared with what had
been promised, was doubtful in quality and insignificant in amount.
Indeed, the first assayer who accompanied the expedition even declared
that the metal discovered was not gold, but only a base imitation.

Such were the grounds of ill-feeling in the colony, and from time to
time they were reported to friends in the mother-country. We have
already seen how Don Pedro Margarite, when reproached by the council
for not restraining the license of his soldiery, ignominiously threw
down his command and sailed for home. Scarcely less important was the
report carried home by Father Boyle, whose access to the spiritual
advisers of the king and queen gave him peculiar facilities for
poisoning the royal minds. Thus it was that complaints of every kind
found ears that welcomed them. Herrera assures us concerning Don
Margarite and Father Boyle that “being come to the court, they gave an
account that there was no gold in the Indies, and that all the Admiral
said was mere sham and banter.”

The complaints at length became so numerous and so circumstantial
that the monarchs felt obliged to institute a formal and responsible
inquiry. The officer chosen for this service was Don John Agnado,
a groom of the bedchamber, who had accompanied Columbus on his
first voyage, and had acquitted himself with so much credit that the
Admiral had especially recommended his promotion. The appointment was
apparently an excellent one, and one that would commend itself to the
favour of Columbus. Agnado, armed with credentials giving him ample
authority, took four ships laden with provisions and sailed for the
colonies, where he arrived in October, 1495.

When the commissioner reached Hispaniola, he found that the Admiral was
engaged in his campaign against the brothers of Caonabo. The garrison
at Isabella was in charge of the Adelantado. Don Agnado at once made
known his extraordinary power and authority by reproving some of the
ministers and seizing others. After showing that he had no respect
for the authority of Don Bartholomew, he put himself at the head of a
troop of horse and foot, and began an advance into the interior for the
purpose of going to the Admiral. This course had the natural effect
on the garrison and on the islanders. The supposition became general
that a new governor had been appointed, and that he was about to seize
his predecessor and perhaps even put him to death. The smothered
discontents now burst forth into flames. Those who fancied themselves
aggrieved by the rigour of the Admiral’s rule, those who had found the
life of adventure only a life of hardship, those who complained either
of the wars or of the tribute, all the malcontents of every race and
kind, now hastened to greet the new governor and to denounce the old.

It was immediately evident that the authority of Columbus was in peril.
On learning of the arrival of Don Agnado, he determined to return to
Isabella, and there welcome the commissioner with the formality that
was due to his royal errand. Accordingly, he received the letter of
their Royal Highnesses with the sound of trumpets and with the greatest
solemnity. But all this ceremony only seemed to add to the force of the
commission itself. The authority of Don Agnado was vouched for by the
following letter of the king and queen:--

    “Cavaliers, esquires, and other persons who by our command are in
    the Indies: We send you thither Juan Agnado, our Gentleman of the
    Chamber, who will speak to you on our part. We command that you
    give him faith and credence.”

The manner in which Agnado began to pursue his inquiries must have
convinced Columbus that the tide of his fortune was turning. It
became evident that the reports of Margarite and Boyle had poisoned
public opinion about the court. The inquiries, moreover, produced
a disquieting effect upon the natives. A number of caciques met at
the headquarters of one of them, and determined to formulate their
complaints of the Admiral and to pledge their loyalty to his successor.
Columbus knew well that these facts would be duly reported by the
commissioner. He determined, therefore, at once to return to Spain, in
order to represent his own cause at court.

There was another reason why Columbus desired to appear before the
sovereigns. By the royal charter given before the first voyage, he
was to be viceroy of all the lands he might discover, and was to have
control of all matters of trade and immigration. But now Fonseca had
violated this provision of the charter, by giving a number of licenses
to private adventurers to trade in the new countries, independently of
the Admiral. Columbus saw the evil that was impending, and desired to
protest against the issue of such licenses.

The Admiral’s departure, however, was delayed by one of those terrible
hurricanes which sometimes sweep across the West Indies. The four
vessels brought by Don Agnado sank in the harbour, and there were
remaining only the two caravels belonging to the Admiral. There was
some further delay, moreover, by the report that rich gold mines had
been discovered near the southern coast. Investigations seemed to
authenticate the report. The Admiral thought it best to establish a
strong post in the vicinity of the mine, and so a fort was built which
received the name of Saint Christopher.

In the course of the winter months the other forts were put in a
condition to make a strong resistance in case of revolt during the
Admiral’s absence. It was the 10th of March, 1496, before he was ready
to sail. The Adelantado was left in command at Isabella. The Admiral
sailed on board the “Nina,” while Agnado took passage on the other
caravel. More than two hundred of the colonists returned with the
Admiral,--some of them broken in health, some of them merely sick at

The voyage was one of numerous delays. A few days were spent in
coasting along the Caribbean islands; but even after they were well
at sea, contrary winds prevailed and very slow progress was made.
Provisions finally ran so low that they had to be doled out in
pittances, and it is said that all the Admiral’s authority was needed
to prevent the ship’s company from killing and eating the Carib
prisoners who were on board. It was only after a voyage of three
months’ duration that the ships put into the Bay of Cadiz on the 11th
of June, 1496.



The circumstances attending the disembarking of Columbus on his return
after the second voyage were of a nature to emphasize rather than allay
the popular opinion that had been aroused against him. Three years
before, the expedition had gone out with the most joyous anticipations.
Representatives of noble and gentle families had begged the privilege
of going in the hope of easily finding either renown or fortune. All
these expectations had been disappointed. A large proportion of those
who had gone out had lost their lives; many others remained to battle
still longer with poverty, and perhaps even with hunger; while the two
hundred or more wretched creatures who now “crawled out of the ships”
told their tales of disastrous experience to the eyes as well as to the
ears of the people. It is related that Columbus himself was unshaven,
and that he was clad with the robe and girdled with the cord of the

On arriving at the port of Cadiz, the Admiral found three caravels
on the point of sailing with provisions for the colony. Seeking an
interview with the commander, he learned much in regard to the state
of feeling that awaited him. In view of this information, he wrote
a letter to the Adelantado, not only to apprise him of his own safe
arrival, but also to urge him to endeavour by every possible means to
bring the island into a peaceful and productive condition. He urged
his brother to appease all discontents and commotions, and to use the
utmost diligence in exploring and working the mines that had recently
been discovered.

As soon as tidings of his arrival reached the sovereigns, they sent
Columbus a letter congratulating him on his safe return, and inviting
him to court. Accordingly, he at once made all necessary preparations
to go to Almazan, where the court was at that time established.
Desiring to keep alive an interest in his discoveries, he made a
studious display of the curiosities and treasures he had brought with
him. As at the end of the first voyage, the people along the way showed
great interest in the natives and in the products of the new islands.

The king and queen, though temporarily absent, soon returned to
Almazan, and gave him a gracious reception. It was evident that however
much of adverse criticism they may have heard, they were disposed to
hold in strict reserve any questionings they may have had in regard to
the general wisdom of his administrative methods.

Columbus gave a full account of his explorations in Cuba, and dwelt
in detail upon the promises held forth by the gold mines recently
discovered. If we may judge from its immediate consequences, we must
infer that the report made a favourable and deep impression.

The sovereigns even went so far as to give special and exceptional
evidence of their approval. In April of 1497 they confirmed anew
the commissions and hereditary privileges granted before the first
voyage; they confirmed and even made hereditary the appointment of
Bartholomew Columbus to the office of Adelantado, which at first had
been criticised as an undue exercise of authority by the Admiral; they
promised to comply with his request for eight ships with which to
complete his explorations and annex the mainland to their dominions. A
little later the queen also appointed his son Fernando as a page.

Other favours of a less personal nature were also freely granted. It
was determined that there should be sent out on the new fleet three
hundred and thirty men in the pay of the sovereigns. Others might be
enlisted by the Admiral, on condition that their pay could be provided
for in some other way. Those who volunteered to go without pay were
to receive a third part of the gold they might get out of the mines,
and nine tenths of all other products. The residue in both cases was
to be turned over to the royal officers. The Admiral also obtained
the privilege of transporting all criminals to the Indies, to serve
there for a number of years. This exceedingly unwise and unfortunate
provision, putting, as it did, the stamp of ignominy upon service in
the colony, exerted a pernicious influence, not only in preventing
enlistments, but also in demoralizing future life in the colonies.

These favours and promises by the sovereigns were more than Columbus
had dared even to hope for. But notwithstanding the kind, if not the
enthusiastic, favour of the sovereigns, the promises were not speedily
to be fulfilled. There were several reasons why the furnishing of the
ships was a matter of most annoying delay. During the long months of
waiting, Columbus was under the roof of Andres Bernaldez, who turned to
account many of his interviews with the Admiral in his History of the
Spanish Kings. Columbus left with Bernaldez several important documents
which the historian made the basis of much of his History. It is from
Bernaldez that we get the most definite account of the temper and
opposition of the people, as well as the grounds of their discontent.
The whole may be expressed in the single word “disappointment.” The
cost of the expeditions had been very great, and the returns very
small. A tradition has assumed the form of a popular belief that the
gold brought back to Spain by this second expedition was so abundant
that it was used to ornament palaces and gild cathedrals. But this
belief must be discarded; for we learn from Bernaldez that the gold
brought back consisted mainly of personal ornaments.

There were several causes for delay in fitting out the third
expedition. Spain was now at war with France in regard to that vexed
question which involved the suzerainty of Naples. Besides a powerful
army in Italy under Gonzalo de Cordova, Spain was obliged to keep
an army on her own frontier, which was threatened with an invasion
from France. A strong fleet had to be kept in the Mediterranean, and
another was called for to defend the Atlantic coasts of the Spanish
peninsula. But even these were not all. Ferdinand and Isabella, if
not far-seeing, were far-reaching in their ambition to extend their
international importance by judicious matrimonial alliances of their
children. This was to be done, not simply by the marriage of Catherine
of Aragon with Prince Henry of England, but also by the far more
important double alliance with Austria. The arrangements for the
Austrian nuptials were now complete, and a magnificent armada of a
hundred and twenty ships, with twenty thousand persons on board, had
been sent as a convoy of the Princess Juana to Flanders, where she was
to marry Philip, the archduke of Austria, and bring back the Austrian
Princess Margarita, who was to complete the double Austrian alliance by
marrying Prince Juan.

These several demands quite exhausted the maritime resources of the
Spanish Government. Delay therefore in the equipment of ships for
the third expedition of Columbus was inevitable. But there were also
other reasons that emphasized and reinforced the same tendencies. The
affairs of the Indian Office, after once having been sequestered, had
now been restored to the control of Fonseca. For a time they had been
transferred to the direction of Antonio de Torres; but in consequence
of high and unreasonable demands, he had been removed from office, and
Fonseca, the Bishop of Badajoz, had been reinstated. Fonseca had never
been actively helpful to Columbus, and as time had passed on, what at
first had an air of indifference, gradually changed to ill-concealed
enmity. In the position to which he had now been reinstated it was easy
for him to impede, if not frustrate, all the navigator’s plans. The
delay became intolerable. In the spring of 1498, Columbus, after nearly
two years had elapsed since his second return, presented a direct
appeal to the queen, making urgent representations of the misery to
which the colonists had been reduced. The appeal was successful; two
ships with supplies for the colony were despatched early in February,

The fitting out of the vessels that were to be commanded by Columbus
himself was retarded by many very annoying conditions. Fonseca seemed
determined to throw every obstacle in his way. It was everywhere
evident, moreover, that the popular favour in which the Admiral had
been more or less generally held was fast slipping away. At one time
he thought of abandoning the enterprise altogether; and in one of his
letters he intimates that he was restrained from doing so only by his
unwillingness to disoblige or disappoint the queen.

Of the various annoyances that occurred, there were two that are worthy
of note. The sovereigns ordered six million maravedis to be set apart
for the equipment of the new expedition. But soon after the arrival of
the three caravels of slaves in the autumn of 1495, word was circulated
that the fleet was freighted with _bars of gold_. The report had so
much influence on the sovereigns that they revoked their order for
six million maravedis, and directed that the necessary money for the
new expedition should be taken from the gold brought home. What was
the chagrin of Columbus and of all his friends to find that what was
only a wretched joke of one of the ship’s commanders had been taken in
serious earnest even by Ferdinand and Isabella. When the truth came
to be known, it was found that the bars of gold were only slaves kept
behind bars, with the design of converting them into gold in the market
of Seville. It is not difficult to imagine the indignation of Isabella
when the truth came to be known. The other affair alluded to was the
personal altercation that occurred between Columbus and Breviesca,
the treasurer of Fonseca. The very day when the squadron was about to
embark, Columbus was assailed in so insolent a manner by this official
that he lost his self-control, and not only struck his accuser to the
ground, but kicked him in his paroxysm of rage. As to the extent of the
provocation, Las Casas, who relates the anecdote, leaves us in doubt;
but the influence of such a spectacle could hardly have been favourable
to the Admiral.

It was the 30th day of May, 1498, before the expedition was ready to
sail. The fleet, consisting of six ships loaded with provisions and
other necessaries for the planters in Hispaniola, was detained at the
Canary and Cape de Verde islands until the 5th of July. From the island
of Ferro Columbus decided to send three of the vessels to Hispaniola,
and to sail in a more southerly direction with the rest, for the
purpose of making further discoveries. He designed to make the course
southwest until they should reach the equinoctial line, and then to
take a course due west. But the currents flowed so strongly toward the
north, and the heat was so severe, that this purpose was abandoned
before they reached the equator. Fernando, with characteristic
exaggeration, says that “had it not rained sometimes, and the sun been
clouded, he thought they would have been burned alive, together with
the ships, for the heat was so violent that nothing could withstand
it.” Las Casas, who had other sources of authentic information besides
the narrative of Columbus, declares that but for this heat and the
fact that the vessels were becalmed eight days, the Admiral would have
taken a course so far to the south that the fleet would have been
carried to the coast of Brazil. Be this as it may, the effect of the
temperature on the men and on the provisions was such that on the last
day of July the Admiral, thinking they were now south of the Caribbean
islands, resolved to abandon their course and make for Hispaniola.
Sailing toward the northwest one day, the man at the lookout descried
land to the westward, which, because of the three mountains that arose
above the horizon, Columbus called Trinidad. This discovery led to a
little delay. Cruising about the island for a considerable time without
finding a harbour, he came to deep soundings near Point Alcatraz, where
he decided to take in water and make such repairs as the shrinkage of
the timbers had made necessary. From the point where they now were, the
low lands about the mouth of the Orinoco were plainly visible; and
the incident is memorable because, notwithstanding the assertion of
Oviedo that Vespucius anticipated Columbus in reaching the mainland, it
was probably here that the Spaniards obtained the first sight of the
western continent. It was on the 1st day of August, 1498,--two months
and ten days after Vasco da Gama had cast anchor in the bay of Calicut.

After necessary delays the little fleet resumed its westerly course.
Although in his letter to the Spanish court, the Admiral gives a
graphic account of the rush of waters from the Orinoco, he seems not
at first to have suspected that he was in sight of the mainland. The
waters delivered to the ocean by this river came with such impetuous
force that they seemed to produce a ridge along the top of which the
squadron was borne at a furious rate into the Gulf of Paria. “Even
to-day,” wrote Columbus, “I shudder lest the waters should have upset
the vessel when they came under its bows.” We now know that the tumult
of the waters was very largely the result of the African current
wedging in between the island of Trinidad and the mainland, and forming
that stupendous flow which on emerging from the Caribbean Sea is known
as the Gulf Stream.

In sailing along the coast the Admiral met with nothing but friendly
treatment from the natives. The region at the left of the Gulf of
Paria he called Gracia. At length the immense volume of waters passing
through the mouths of the Orinoco led him to surmise that the land
he had been calling an island was in fact the continent. Holding
this conjecture with increasing confidence, he was unwilling to give
any considerable time to further exploration; and accordingly, after
passing through what he called the Boca del Drago, or Dragon’s Mouth,
he sailed directly for Hispaniola. His departure was hastened by the
desire, not only of landing the stores he had in charge, but also of
learning the truth in regard to the reports of disturbance among the
colonists that had reached Spain before his embarkation.

Before following him, however, to the unhappy colony, it may not be
out of place to make note of a few of his reflections, as recorded
in his own words. There is nothing in the life of Columbus more
interesting than his letter to the court describing this third voyage,
and commenting on the various phenomena which he observed. The minute
and ingenious details of this letter not only show how easily he was
captivated by delusions, but they also throw a flood of light on his
general habit of mind. It is impossible to quote the letter at length,
but a few of his conclusions may not be omitted.

In remarking that Ptolemy and all the other ancient writers regarded
the earth as spherical, he says that they had had no opportunity of
observing the region he was now exploring, and that in consequence
they had fallen into error. To his mind it was clear that the form
of the earth was not globular, but pear-shaped, and that the form
of a pear about the stem was the form of the earth in the region he
had discovered. He had at all times noted a marked change in the
temperature on crossing the one hundredth meridian. The north star also
perceptibly changed its relative position in regard to the horizon
at this point. The deflection of the needle here changed from five
degrees to the east to as many degrees to the west. The waters of the
great river flowing into the Gulf of Paria could hardly come with
a tumultuous volume for any other reason. As they sailed away from
this region, they were so rapidly descending that they easily made
sixty-five leagues in a day, which they could hardly have done on an
ascending or a level sea.

It was his opinion, moreover, derived from numerous considerations,
that the point at the stem of the pear represented the garden of
Paradise. “I do not suppose,” he writes, “that the earthly Paradise
is in the form of a rugged mountain, as the descriptions of it have
made it appear, but that it is on the summit of the spot which I have
described as being in the form of the neck of a pear. The approach
to it from a distance must be by a constant and gradual ascent; but
I believe that, as I have already said, no one could ever reach the
top. I think also that the water I have described may proceed from it,
though it be far off, and that stopping at the place I have just left,
it forms this lake.” He further states: “There are great indications of
this being the terrestrial paradise, for its site coincides with the
opinion of the holy and wise theologians whom I have mentioned.”

The speculations of Columbus in regard to the currents of the ocean and
their effects on the shape of the islands are interesting; but they are
important only as revealing the observing and generalizing habit of
his mind. His remarks on the characteristics of the natives are more
important. Their superior intelligence and courage, as well as their
lighter colour, and even their long, smooth hair, he attributes to the
mildness of the climate, occasioned by the altitude of this portion of
the pear-shaped earth.

Resuming the general course of his voyage toward the northwest, after
pausing for a time at Margarita he arrived at the harbour of San
Domingo on the 30th of August, 1498.

In order to understand the condition of affairs on the arrival of the
Admiral, it is necessary to call attention briefly to the history of
the island during the two years of his absence.

We find that early in the administration of the Adelantado he sent to
Spain three hundred slaves from Hispaniola. As these were represented
as having been taken while they were killing Christians, this
disposition of them seems not to have met with any insurmountable
disfavour. Indeed, the sovereigns had given orders that all those
who should be found guilty should be sent to Spain. The way was thus
opened for an iniquitous traffic by a royal order that simply provided
for an inevitable flexibility of interpretation under an imperfect
administration of justice. There was no reason to anticipate that there
would in the future be any insurmountable obstacle to a profitable
exercise of the trade in slaves. Human nature, as it revealed itself in
the fifteenth century, might well be trusted to find the means.

The order, already alluded to, authorizing judges to transport
criminals to the Indies, had already begun to exert its baleful
influence; and a still more pernicious result came from the further
edict giving an indulgence to such criminals as should go out at their
own expense and serve under the Admiral. The provisions of this edict,
which must have been recommended by Columbus himself, could hardly have
been more ingeniously framed for the purpose of bringing the greatest
harm to the colony. They not only made all labour disreputable, but
they drew into the colonies the worst classes of criminals. Those
to whom an indulgence was most desirable, were the very men who had
committed the most flagrant crimes; and these were the persons that
most eagerly accepted the opportunity. Three years later, when Columbus
was under accusation, he excused the acts complained of by referring to
the badness of the men who were allowed to go out under this edict; but
he did not call attention to the fact that the edict was one which he
himself had recommended. Of these he said, with unwonted emphasis: “I
swear that numbers of men have gone to the Indies who did not deserve
water from God or man.” The colony as made up in 1493 was not of a
nature to bear with impunity such an influx of rascality.

Another royal order that contributed not a little to the future
turbulence of the islands was the one which provided for what are
known as the _repartimientos_. This edict was also issued in 1497, and
it authorized the Admiral to give in the most formal way any of the
lands discovered to any Spaniard, with all rights “to hold, to sell, to
traffic with, and to alienate and to do with it and in it all that he
likes or may think good.”

Here, then, was introduced an ingenious instrument of interminable
discord. The ill effects of these several edicts were not mitigated
by the methods of government pursued by the Adelantado; but, on the
contrary, Don Bartholomew was so unwise as to contribute in many ways
to the prevailing dissatisfaction and turbulence.

Before the Admiral had sailed for home, as we have already seen, gold
mines had been discovered near the southern coast of the island. He
had promptly reported the discovery and had recommended the opening
of the mines and the establishment of a port at no remote distance.
The recommendations were favorably received by the monarchs, and the
captain of the fleet which Columbus met as he was entering the bay
of Cadiz was the bearer of the letter of approval. The Admiral, on
receiving this letter, at once wrote to his brother, ordering him to
begin work at once to carry out the royal pleasure in regard to the
mines and the establishment of a port on the southern coast of the
island. He also directed him to spare no pains to conciliate all the
adverse interests and bind them into harmonious unity of purpose.

Don Bartholomew on receiving this letter at once proceeded southward
and fixed upon the mouth of the river Ozama as the site of the new
port. Sending for artisans and labourers, he at once began the
building of a fortress which he named San Domingo, and which afterward
gave its name to the chief port and city of the island. The purpose
of the Admiral and of his brother seems to have been ultimately to
abandon Isabella and to establish in the new town on the southern coast
the seat of government of the colony. In accordance with this design,
Don Bartholomew planned to transport to the southern coast all of the
working population at Isabella excepting so many as were necessary to
complete the two caravels now in process of construction.

Scarcely was the building of the new port and town fairly undertaken
when the Adelantado became involved in what seems to have been a most
needless and disastrous undertaking. No one of the early authorities
gives any justifiable reason for the enterprise. The brief statement of
Herrera has the advantage of clearness, and is perhaps as trustworthy
as any other. His language is: “The work having begun, Don Bartholomew
resolved to view the kingdom of Behechio, called Xaragua, of whose
state and government and of whose sister Anacaona he had heard so much
talk.” That this intimation concerning Anacaona is not altogether
gratuitous may be inferred from numerous statements in the original
authorities. Fernando Columbus, in explaining why his uncle wished to
establish himself in Xaragua, gives several reasons touching climate,
soil, etc., and then adds: “But above all, because the women were the
handsomest and of the most pleasing conversation of any.” It is a
deplorable fact, but one that can hardly be ignored, that the motives
here ascribed to Don Bartholomew were a constant element, not only of
distrust and hatred in all the relations of the Spaniards with the
natives, but also a constant element of danger and depletion.[1]

    [1] Fernando Columbus, in describing the condition of the
        colony on the return of the Admiral, says, “Perciocchè gran
        parte della gente, da lui lasciatavi, era già morta, e
        degli altri ve n’ erano piu di cento sessanta ammalati di
        mal Francese” (Vita di Christoforo Colombo, descritta da
        Ferdinando, suo figlio, Londra, 1867, cap. lxxiii. p. 239).

The expedition into Xaragua--a province situated in the western portion
of the island--was fraught with many new complications. The cacique
Behechio at first seemed disposed to offer a spirited and warlike
resistance. But on receiving the assurance that the mission was a
friendly one, for the purpose of paying respect to himself and his
sister, he adopted the policy of welcoming the Adelantado in the most
friendly manner. Don Bartholomew, with his soldiers, was thus admitted
to the very heart of the kingdom. It was now easy for him to complete
his errand by imposing tribute. Behechio answered that tribute would
be impossible, as there was no gold within his kingdom; whereupon the
lieutenant declared that he would be content to receive tribute in
the products of the territory. On these conditions and in this manner
it was that the suzerainty of the Spaniards was established over the
western portion of the island.

On returning to Isabella, Don Bartholomew had found a deplorable
state of affairs. During his absence more than three hundred of the
colonists had died of various diseases. Among the living, moreover,
discontents were universal. He distributed the sick among the various
forts and friendly Indian villages in the vicinity, and then set out
for San Domingo, collecting tribute by the way. In all these energetic
proceedings he constantly augmented the accumulations of ill-will, not
only on the part of the Spaniards, but also on that of the natives. The
islanders needed only an occasion and a leader to ignite them into a
general conflagration; and neither was long wanting. The authorities do
not quite agree as to the exact time when the outburst took place; but
the matter of a precise date is not important. Of the fact itself there
seems no room for doubt.

There was everywhere complaint on the part of the natives of the
tribute imposed upon them; and nothing but the hopelessness of the
situation had prevented them so long from a general attempt to throw
off their hateful yoke. On the occasion of this last tribute several
of the minor chiefs complained to the cacique Guarionex, and urged a
general rising of the Indians. This cacique was greatly respected for
his intelligence, as well as for his prudence and his courage. Though
well aware of the power of the Spaniards, he finally consented to put
himself at the head of a general revolt. A battle ensued, in which the
Spaniards, as usual, were successful, taking Guarionex and many other
important persons captive. The Adelantado ordered the movers in the
insurrection to be put to death; but he thought it politic and prudent
to deliver Guarionex up to his people.

Having thus settled the revolt in the centre of the island, and hearing
that the tribute of Behechio was ready for him, Don Bartholomew left
the region between Isabella and San Domingo in the control of his
brother Diego, and took his departure for the west to visit Xaragua.
But the occasion of his going was the signal for further revolt. Now,
however, he had to confront an insurrection, not of the Indians, but of
the Spaniards themselves.

Before the Admiral had left Hispaniola for Spain in 1496, he appointed
Francis Roldan chief justice of the island. This officer was endowed
with an arrogant and turbulent temper, and it soon became apparent that
there were abundant causes of friction between him and the Adelantado.
Disagreement between the executive and judicial authorities is always
more or less liable to occur in primitive governments; and although
the chief authority must have been in the hands of the governor, it is
probable that their functions were never very clearly defined. Roldan
early began to show signs of a restive spirit, which waxed stronger and
stronger until it broke forth into open defiance. By a watchful seizing
of opportunities for encouraging the complaints of the people, and by
ingeniously declaring how the methods of rule ought to be modified, he
had no difficulty in attaching to him a formidable party. The absence
of Don Bartholomew and the weakness of Don Diego now afforded him
an opportunity. Fernando Columbus gives details of Roldan’s plan to
assassinate the Adelantado and then make himself master of the island.
He was to await the return of Don Bartholomew to Isabella, and then,
having put him to death, was to proclaim himself chief ruler of the
island. The Adelantado, however, received tidings of the insurrection
before reaching Isabella, and so put himself on his guard. But no
effort to bring Roldan to terms was successful. The leader of the
rebellion had secured a numerous following, both of natives and of
Spaniards; and the consequence was that for months the island was kept
in such turbulence that no progress could be made either in working the
mines or in building the new city.

The two vessels which the Admiral sent out with provisions arrived
in the spring of 1498. The same ships brought the royal commission
confirming the appointment of Don Bartholomew as Adelantado, or Lord
Lieutenant, of the islands, and conveying the further information that
the Admiral himself, with a fleet of six ships, was soon to embark for
the same destination. The commission was duly proclaimed, and on the
strength of this confirmation of authority and the prospect of the
speedy arrival of the Admiral, a new effort was made to bring Roldan
to terms. But even this attempt was not successful. After ravaging
considerable portions of the centre of the island, Roldan entered with
his followers into the luxuriant regions of Xaragua, there to await
coming events. Though Roldan was not subdued, it is probable that the
arrival of reinforcements saved the government of Don Bartholomew from
complete destruction.

In midsummer the three ships despatched by Columbus from the Canaries
with provisions arrived off the south coast of the island. Ignorant of
the situation of San Domingo, and carried by strong winds and currents
in a westerly direction, they made their landing, as if adverse fates
were in control, in the very territory held by Roldan. As if to give
added significance to this misfortune, the captains decided that the
labouring-men should go ashore, and make their way on foot to San
Domingo. The result was that, according to Herrera, Roldan “easily
persuaded them to stay with him, telling them at the same time how
they would live with him, which was only going about from one town to
another, taking the gold and what else they saw fit.”

Such was the condition of affairs when Christopher Columbus arrived
on the 22d of August, 1498. It was not until some days later that the
three caravels with supplies, after returning from Xaragua, reached the
same port. In one of his letters, written a year later, Columbus says:
“I found nearly half the colonists of Hispaniola in a state of revolt.”

The formidable extent of this insurrection is revealed, not only by
the numbers that participated in it, but also by the spirit shown
by those in revolt, as well as by those in authority. Neither Don
Bartholomew nor the Admiral thought it prudent to move against Roldan
and attempt to crush him by force. This hesitating prudence can only
be explained by the fear that such a movement would weaken rather than
strengthen the colony; and such a fear could be justified only by a
very wide-spread and deep-seated spirit of dissatisfaction. Columbus
evidently expected on his arrival to find that the revolt of Roldan had
its root in a personal antipathy to the Adelantado, and that as soon
as he should himself resume direct control of affairs, all discontent
would subside. But in this he was bitterly disappointed. The Alcalde
continued to maintain an attitude of stubborn defiance. Negotiations
were entered into from time to time; but they proceeded slowly, and
only served to show the extent and the spirit of the party in revolt.

It was while these perplexing events were taking place that Columbus
sent back to Spain such of the ships as were not needed in the colonies.

In November of 1498 an elaborate agreement was reached, the details
of which reveal at once the weakness of Columbus and the strength of
Roldan. It had all the characteristics of a treaty, in which every
concession, except that of abandoning the island to the rebellion, was
made by the Admiral. Columbus agreed to furnish within fifty days two
vessels for transporting the rebels to Spain, to furnish them with
ample provisions for the voyage, to allow one slave, man or woman, to
each of Roldan’s men, to pledge his honour as a Spanish gentleman that
he would do nothing to detain or obstruct the vessels, and to write to
the sovereigns a letter designed to absolve Roldan and his men from all

But even this treaty, duly signed and sealed on the 21st of November,
did not bring this painful history to an end. The vessels were not
ready in time. It was the midsummer of the following year before
Columbus had put the ships at the disposal of Roldan and his men. This
may not have been the fault of the Admiral, but it furnished a least a
pretext for abandoning the contract on the part of Roldan. His men seem
to have been unwilling to return to the restraints of civilization, and
it was necessary to begin negotiations on another basis. The settlement
finally agreed upon and signed on the 5th of November, 1499, contained
the four following provisions: First, that fifteen of Roldan’s men
should be sent to Spain in the first vessel that went; secondly, that
to those that remained, Columbus should give land and houses for their
pay; thirdly, that proclamation should be made that all that had
happened had resulted from false reports and through the fault of bad
men; and fourthly, that Columbus should now appoint Roldan perpetual
judge. The conditions of this agreement were fulfilled, and thus,
after Columbus had put forth efforts extending over nearly a year and
a half, the rebellion was brought to an end by a treaty that is a sad
commentary on the condition of affairs in the island.

But quiet was not yet by any means to be restored. No sooner was
Roldan’s rebellion suppressed than the appearance of another turbulent
spirit on the scene threatened to make the permanent establishment of
peace impossible. Alonzo de Ojeda, soon after his treacherous exploit
in the capture of the cacique Caonabo, had been despatched with four
vessels on a voyage of exploration. With the details of his expedition,
however interesting in themselves, we have nothing in this connection
to do, except to note the fact that he returned to Hispaniola just
after matters had been adjusted between Columbus and Roldan. However
Ojeda may have felt toward his chief at the time of his departure, it
is evident that he brought back from his voyage a malignant enmity.
He was a strong partisan of Fonseca, and he now represented that
the queen was at the point of death, that her demise would deprive
Columbus of his last friend, and that it would not be difficult so to
arrange matters that Columbus would soon be stripped of his authority.
To the honour of Roldan it must be said that he not only opposed a
stern resistance to all Ojeda’s schemes, but that he acted with strict
loyalty to the interests of Columbus. Nevertheless, for months the
island was kept in turmoil, the forces of Roldan were pitted against
those of Ojeda, and it was not until after several hostile skirmishes
that the hopes of this new rebel were finally dispelled.

Meanwhile reports of the unhappy situation were finding their way back
to Spain. Ojeda lost no opportunity to write to Fonseca and to pour
the poison of his representations into the mind of the minister. Don
Fernando tells us that during the period of these disorders “many of
the rebels sent letters from Hispaniola, and others, when returned
to Spain, did not cease to give false information to the king and his
council against the Admiral and his brother.”

It was while these various occurrences were taking place that Columbus
sent back to Spain five of the vessels that had set out with him on
his third voyage. The freightage and the news borne by the ships were
most unfortunate for the cause of the Admiral. The caravels were laden
with slaves for the Spanish market. Such a method of recruiting the
colonial treasury was not indeed unknown, for slaves had already before
been sent back and sold for the benefit of the expedition. But hitherto
the Indian slave-trade had been kept within the domain of custom and
ecclesiastical sanction. In the fifteenth century infidels taken in
war were thrown upon the slave-market without provoking ecclesiastical
protest. In the war against the Moors the victors often sold prisoners
in large numbers, and even the sensibilities of Isabella seem not to
have been offended by such a proceeding. But the Indians now to be
sent to the auction-block had been taken in a very different way. Many
of the native men and women had found the tribute of service demanded
of them so oppressive or revolting that they had fled to the forests
as a means of escape. But in this dash for liberty they were pursued,
and often overtaken. Those who were captured were thrown into the
ships and held in close confinement until the time of sailing. It is
painful to relate that Columbus not only sanctioned and directed this
proceeding, but that in his letter to the sovereigns he even entered
into an account of the pecuniary advantage that would arise from these
slave-dealing transactions. He estimated that as many slaves could
be furnished as the Spanish market would demand, and that from this
species of traffic a revenue of as much as forty million maravedis
might be derived. Not only this, but he even alludes to the intended
adoption on the part of private individuals of a system of exchange of
slaves for goods wanted in colonial life. According to this scheme, as
outlined by the Admiral, the colonists were to furnish slaves to the
shipowners who were to take this human freightage to Spain, and then,
having disposed of it and taken their commission, invest the remaining
proceeds in the articles needed, and carry them back to the traders in
the islands. The plan had all the cold-hearted brutality of a practised

The misfortune of this policy to Columbus was in the relation of the
king and queen respectively to the colonial enterprise. Ferdinand had
never shown himself heartily favourable to the projects of the Admiral.
The queen, on the other hand, had taken a much larger and juster view
of the importance and glory of the discovery. But Isabella had from the
first been extremely sensitive on the matter of reducing the native
Indians to a condition of slavery. Before she would consent to the
sale of a former consignment, she had required that proofs should be
furnished of their having been taken in open warfare, and also that
an ecclesiastical commission should certify to the regularity and
propriety of such a proceeding. These requirements, if no other,
should have prevented Columbus from presuming very much upon any
indulgent leniency on this subject. In view of the queen’s previous
attitude in regard to the matter of slavery, no intelligent observer
can think it strange that the course Columbus was now taking gave great
offence, if it did not arouse an earnest indignation.

It is evident, moreover, that the scruples of the queen in regard
to the general wisdom of Columbus’s course must have received new
significance from the news that came from the island. It is true
that Columbus himself wrote an elaborate account of the causes of
the revolt; but it is also true that the same ships that carried the
slaves and the report of the Admiral, carried also several descriptions
of affairs by Roldan and his followers. The Admiral and the Lord
Lieutenant were freely charged with every species of enormity. Nor were
these charges confined to generalities. The rebels went so far as to
declare that the tyranny of the rule in the islands was so intolerable
that nothing but revolt was possible. They also very adroitly called
attention to the fact that notwithstanding all the reports that
received currency in regard to the discoveries of gold, no gold of any
amount had as yet found its way back to Spain.

Besides these reports, numerous others of a more private nature were
sent by colonists to their friends at home, all of them laden with
gloom and dissatisfaction. That the administrations of the Admiral and
the Lord Lieutenant were very unpopular, there can be no doubt whatever
in the mind of any one who reads the original accounts; and these
expressions of popular disfavour streamed back to the mother-country by
every means of conveyance. Nor did these tidings fall upon unwelcoming
ears. Those who had sent out friends only to hear of their death or
misfortunes; those who were filled with envy at the success of one whom
they regarded as merely a foreign adventurer; those who were embittered
by disappointment that no pecuniary returns had been received,--all
these and thousands of others now united in one general cry of
denunciation. The Admiral’s son Fernando gives a vivid picture of the
complaints made against his father. Columbus himself, in writing to the
nurse of Prince Juan at this period, said: “I have now reached a point
where there is no man so vile but thinks it his right to insult me....
If I had plundered the Indies, even to the country where is the fabled
altar of St. Peter’s, and had given them all to the Moors, they could
not have shown toward me more bitter enmity than they have done in

That much of this unpopularity was unjust and unreasonable, there can
be no doubt whatever. But even when we have conceded this, there still
remains the great fact of a popular outcry; and such an outcry always
justifies at least an inquiry. It must not, therefore, be regarded
as strange that the Spanish sovereigns at length decided to make an
official investigation. Indeed, any other course would have been little
less than a culpable disregard of a powerful public sentiment.

Such were the influences that were borne in upon the king and queen.
There is evidence that soon after the return of the five vessels
with their cargo of slaves, Ferdinand and Isabella began to take
into consideration the question of suspending the Admiral. They did
not, however, act in haste. The ships arrived with their ill-omened
freightage in November of 1498. In the course of the following winter
the monarchs decided definitively that an investigation should be
made. On the 21st of March, 1499, they issued a commission authorizing
Francis de Bobadilla “to ascertain what persons have raised themselves
against justice in the island of Hispaniola, and to proceed against
them according to law.”

Bobadilla was an officer of the royal household and a commander of
one of the military and religious orders. His general reputation was
good. Oviedo says that he was “a very honest and religious man.” The
misfortune of the appointment was not so much in the badness of the
man as in the badness of the situation in which he was placed. The
instructions given by Ferdinand and Isabella have been preserved; and
as we read them we cannot escape the conviction that they subjected
Bobadilla to a temptation greater than ordinary human nature could
bear. He received a series of commissions, each conferring greater
authority than that conferred by the one before, each intended to be
used only in case of imperative emergency. In one of these commissions
Bobadilla was authorized to issue his commands in the royal name and to
send back to Spain “any cavaliers or other persons,” in case he should
think such a course necessary for the service. Another commission
authorizes Bobadilla to require Columbus to surrender “the fortresses,
ships, houses, arms, ammunition, cattle, and all other royal property,
under penalty of the customary punishment for disobedience of a royal

Having received these general instructions, Bobadilla was made the
bearer of the following letter to the Admiral:--

    DON CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, _our Admiral of the Ocean_:

    We have commanded the commendador, Francis de Bobadilla, the
    bearer of this, that he speak to you on our part some things
    which he will tell you. We pray you give him faith and credence,
    and act accordingly.

But notwithstanding this authority, for some reason that has not been
adequately explained, Bobadilla was not despatched to the Indies until
a year from the following July. It is very easy to conjecture that the
sovereigns were more than willing that, if possible, Columbus should
still work out the problem for himself. They may have desired Bobadilla
to try his influence at first from a distance, in the hope that extreme
measures might not have to be resorted to. But this purpose seems not
to have been successful. If we accept of this explanation of the delay,
we can hardly withhold from the sovereigns some measure of commendation
for their caution and prudence.

But caution and prudence formed no part of the policy pursued after
Bobadilla was sent to Hispaniola. It is difficult to believe that the
commissioner acted without at least the royal approval of a policy of
vigour, though it is impossible to suppose that the sovereigns would
have given their sanction in detail to the manner in which he performed
his mission. Bobadilla seems at least not to have been unwilling to
act with energy and directness. There is no evidence that he was not
high-principled, or that he was actuated by any other motives than
those of the public good; but he was a person of strong prejudices and
of narrowness of mind, and consequently he was unable to distinguish
between vigour and coarse brutality.

The arrival of Bobadilla at San Domingo was on the 23d of August, 1499.
He found affairs in extreme disorder. The first information he received
was that seven of the rebels had just been hanged, and that five more
had been condemned and were awaiting a similar fate. Las Casas tells
us that as Bobadilla entered the river, he beheld on either hand a
gibbet, and on it the body of a prominent Spaniard lately executed!
The impression thus made upon his mind was no doubt intensified by the
rumours that came from every quarter. He seems to have regarded what
he saw and heard as conclusive evidence of the Admiral’s cruelty and

The next morning, after mass, Bobadilla ordered the letter authorizing
him to make investigations to be read before the assembled populace
about the church-door. The commission authorized him to seize persons
and fortresses, to sequestrate the property of delinquents, and
finally called upon the Admiral and all others in authority to assist
in the discharge of his duties. The Admiral and the Adelantado were
in another part of the island, the command at San Domingo having been
intrusted to Don Diego. After the reading of the commission, Bobadilla
demanded of the acting governor that he surrender the prisoners that
were held for execution, together with the evidence concerning them.
The reply was given that the prisoners were held by command of the
Admiral, and that the Admiral’s authority was superior to any that
Bobadilla might possess, and therefore that the prisoners could not be
given up. This defiant answer to his demand provoked Bobadilla into
bringing forward all the reserves of his authority. Accordingly, on the
next morning, as soon as mass was said, he caused his other letter to
be proclaimed, investing him with the government of the islands and of
the continent. After taking the oath of office, he produced the third
letter of the Crown, ordering Columbus to deliver up all the royal
property; and then, as if to clinch popular favour, he produced an
additional mandate, requiring him, at the earliest practicable moment,
to pay all arrears of wages due to persons in the royal service.

This proclamation had the desired effect. The populace, many of whom
were suffering from arrears in payment of wages, hailed the new
governor as a benefactor and a saviour.

Thus it was that, by a very natural series of events, the narrow
mind of Bobadilla was led on to a precipitate assumption of all the
authority conferred upon him. He decided to act with an energy that
amounted to brutality. His next step was to take possession of the
Admiral’s house, and then, sending the royal letter, to summon the
Admiral before him. No resistance was offered either by Columbus or
by either of his brothers. Indeed, the authority conferred by the
commission and the attitude of the populace made resistance impossible.
Bobadilla, without hesitation, not only arrested them, but put them
into chains.

No sooner was it apparent that the commissioner was disposed to act
with energy than the whole pack of malcontents set up their cry of
accusation. They told how Columbus had made them work on the fortresses
and other buildings even when they were sick; how he had condemned them
to be whipped even for stealing a peck of wheat when they were dying
with hunger; how he had not baptized Indians, because he desired to
make slaves rather than Christians; and, finally, how he had entered
into unjust wars with the natives, in order that he might capture
slaves to be sent to the markets in Spain. Many of these accusations,
if the facts could have been understood, might doubtless have been
explained in a way to reflect no discredit upon the Admiral; they might
even have shown proof of his firmness and sagacity as a ruler. But
there was no opportunity for explanation. It is only certain that the
populace rejoiced in the coming of Bobadilla, and that they encouraged
him in all his acts of violence.

Thus it was that the disaster toward which so many things had been
tending was finally consummated. It has been fortunate for the memory
of Columbus that the act of suspension was carried out with such total
disregard of what the navigator had accomplished. In accordance with
a well-known impulse of human nature, the sympathies of all generous
minds from that time to this have been enlisted in his favour. These
sympathies have often led to a forgetfulness of the grievances under
which the colonists were suffering. But in the light of all the facts
that are accessible, it is difficult to believe that the sovereigns
were wrong in providing for his removal. The only cause of just
complaint is the fact that it was not done in a manner that was worthy
of his great achievements.

Bobadilla acted with such brutal energy, and the outcries of the
poplace were so violent, that Columbus believed his life was to be
sacrificed. There is no reason to suppose, however, that Bobadilla
ever for a moment thought of bringing the Admiral to execution. He
decided at once to send the prisoners to Spain. Alonzo de Villejo was
put in charge of the Admiral and of the two brothers. Las Casas says
of Villejo: “He was a worthy hidalgo and my particular friend.” When
the new custodian with his guard entered the prison, Columbus supposed
it was to conduct him to the scaffold. Villejo at once reassured him,
however, and told him his errand was to transfer him to the ship, and
that they were at once to embark for Spain. Columbus may well have felt
like one restored from death to life. But as the officers took him to
the ship, they were followed by the insulting scoffs of the rabble; for
all seemed to take a brutal satisfaction in heaping indignities upon
his head.

On shipboard Villejo treated his illustrious prisoner with every
consideration. He offered to remove the irons; but to this Columbus
would not consent. It is a signifiant indication of his character
that he haughtily answered: “No, their Majesties ordered me to submit
to whatever Bobadilla might command; by their authority I was put in
chains, and by their authority alone shall they be removed.” Fernando
tells us that his father was in the habit of keeping the manacles in
his cabinet, and that he requested that they might be buried with him.

After a prosperous voyage, the ship reached the port of Cadiz in
November, 1500.



The arrival of Columbus in chains at the port of Cadiz produced a deep
sensation. It was but natural that there should be an instantaneous
reaction in his favour. Even those who had not hesitated to criticise
or even denounce him, were now moved with a deep and natural sympathy
at the ignominy that had overtaken him. The reaction took possession of
all classes, and the agitation of the community was scarcely less than
it had been when, seven years before, with banners flying and music
sounding, he had departed from the same port with a fleet of seventeen
ships for his second voyage.

The tidings of his imprisonment soon spread abroad. In the luxurious
city of Seville there was deep and general indignation. The court
was at Granada. Columbus, still ignorant as to how far the course of
Bobadilla had received royal authority, abstained from writing to the
monarchs. While on shipboard, however, he had written an elaborate
letter to Donna Juana de la Torres, formerly a nurse of Prince Juan,
and still a great favourite of the queen. The letter was doubtless
written in the supposition that it would reach the court without
delay; and with the permission of the master of the ship, it was
despatched by the hand of Antonio de Torres, a friend of Columbus and
a brother of Juana. Las Casas tells us that it was by this letter
that Ferdinand and Isabella first learned of the indignities that had
been heaped upon the Admiral. Other tidings, however, soon followed.
A friendly letter from Vallejo confirmed in all essential points the
narrative of Columbus. A despatch was also received from the alcalde to
whose hands Columbus had been consigned to await the pleasure of the

Ferdinand and Isabella acted without hesitation. Las Casas tells us
that the queen was deeply agitated by the letter of Columbus. Even
the more prudent Ferdinand did not deem it necessary to wait for the
despatches from Bobadilla. They declared at once that the commissioner
had exceeded his instructions, and ordered that Columbus should not
only be set free, but should be treated with every consideration. They
invited him to court, and ordered a credit of two thousand ducats (a
sum equal to more than ten thousand dollars at the present day) to
defray his expenses.

Columbus reached the court at Granada on the 17th of December. His
hearing before the king and queen is said not to have been that of
a man who had been disgraced and humiliated, but rather that of one
whose proud spirit was meeting undeserved reproach with a lofty
scorn. He was richly dressed, and attended with a retinue becoming
his high office. The king and queen received him with unqualified
distinction, and encouraged him with gracious expressions of favour. At
length, regaining his self-possession, Columbus delivered an earnest
vindication of his course. He explained what he had done, declaring
that if at any time he had erred, it had been through inexperience
in government, and the extraordinary difficulties under which he had

Isabella replied in a speech that did great credit to her discretion as
well as her sympathy. She declared that while she fully appreciated the
magnitude of his services and the rancour of his enemies, she feared
that he had given cause for complaint. Charlevoix has reported what
purports to be the speech of the queen.

    “Common report,” she said, “accuses you of acting with a degree
    of severity quite unsuitable for an infant colony, and likely
    to excite rebellion there. But the matter as to which I find
    it hardest to give you my pardon is your conduct in reducing
    to slavery a number of Indians who had done nothing to deserve
    such a fate. This was contrary to my express orders. As your ill
    fortune willed it, just at the time when I heard of this breach
    of my instructions, everybody was complaining of you, and no
    one spoke a word in your favour. And I felt obliged to send to
    the Indies a commissioner to investigate matters and give me a
    true report, and, if necessary, to put limits to the authority
    which you were accused of overstepping. If you were found guilty
    of the charges, he was to relieve you of the government and to
    send you to Spain to give an account of your stewardship. This
    was the extent of his commission. I find that I have made a bad
    choice in my agent, and I shall take care to make an example of
    Bobadilla which will serve as a warning to others not to exceed
    their powers. I cannot, however, promise to reinstate you at once
    in your government. People are too much inflamed against you,
    and must have time to cool. As to your rank of Admiral, I never
    intended to deprive you of it. But you must abide your time and
    trust in me.”

The course pursued by the monarchs was not altogether above reproach;
for in their haste to make amends to Columbus, they were not unwilling
to throw an unjust imputation upon Bobadilla. Whatever had been the
intention of the monarchs, it is now plain that the commissioner had
not exceeded his authority in making the arrest; and that the monarchs
should be willing to dismiss their agent without waiting even to
receive his report, is evidence that they had either forgotten the
nature of their instructions, or that they were now carried away by the
representations of the Admiral or the clamours of the populace.

The Admiral, however, had but little reason to be satisfied. He cared
not so much for the removal of Bobadilla as for his own reinstatement.
This he deemed necessary to a complete vindication; but in this he was
doomed to disappointment. There is no evidence that Ferdinand ever
looked with favour on the restoration of Columbus to his command.

The misfortune that had befallen the Admiral was of a nature to awaken
sympathy in every generous mind. Even down to the present day this
feeling is so wide spread that it is difficult to secure a judicious
discrimination between the fact of his removal and the manner in which
the removal was accomplished. But these two phases of the subject
are entirely distinct, and ought to be independently considered. The
manner of the removal can have no justification. This was admitted
by the monarchs, who in order to shield themselves from obloquy were
not unwilling to bring an unjust charge against the commissioner. It
is now plain that the fault of Bobadilla was not in exceeding his
authority, but in the unwise and immoderate use of the discretion that
had been placed in his hands. It is by no means certain that a careful
investigation of affairs in the island, followed by a judicious and
moderate report, would not have resulted in a removal of the Admiral
from his command; for it is quite possible that even if Columbus was
not deserving of censure, the relations of the different interests were
in such turmoil that a governor who had had no connection with affairs
thus far, would be more successful in subduing anarchy and in bringing
order out of chaos.

But whether such a result would have ensued, can never be more than a
matter of mere conjecture. It is certain that the difficulties of the
situation had not been successfully overcome by Columbus or by either
of his brothers. It is incontestable that even as late as the arrival
of Bobadilla, affairs on the island were in great confusion, and that
the rebellion had been subdued only by the granting of terms that were
not very creditable either to Columbus or to Spanish civilization.

There is nothing remaining that throws more light on the condition of
affairs in Hispaniola at the time of which we are speaking, than the
letter of Columbus to the old nurse of Don Juan. Any one who reads it
thoughtfully must receive a number of very heterogeneous impressions.
With a little more than usual intensity, it breathes a loyal and
pietistic spirit. It conveys a very delicate, but at the same time a
very just, reproach to the monarchs for bestowing on Bobadilla the
authority which he received. Nothing could have been more justly or
felicitously expressed than the sentence in which he declared: “I have
been wounded extremely by the thought that a man should have been
sent out to make inquiry into my conduct who knew that if he sent
home a very aggravated account of the result of his investigation, he
would remain at the head of the government.” He showed, moreover, the
unpardonable precipitancy with which Bobadilla had acted, in making his
arrests right and left before he had had time to conduct any proper

But after all these mitigations are admitted, and after Columbus has
received every credit that can be accorded him, there still remains the
fact that the island had been in turmoil almost from the first; that
the Indians, who, according to the testimony of Columbus himself, had
been at the first everywhere friendly and peaceable, had now become
universally hostile; that even if these disorders had largely occurred
in the absence of the Admiral, it was nevertheless true that they had
all occurred under officers appointed by Columbus himself; that even
if, as he said, vast numbers of men had gone to the Indies “who did
not deserve water from God or man,” still, all the men that had gone
had been accepted for the purpose by the Admiral himself; that if he
complained that the Spanish settlers “would give as much for a woman
as for a farm,” and that “this sort of trading is very common,” still
this iniquity was all under an administration of which he himself was
the head, and directly under subordinates whom he himself had appointed
to command and, most important of all, under a system which he himself
had recommended, and for which he alone was responsible. It may well be
asserted that the comprehensive nature of his own commission, and the
fact that his appointments had not been interfered with, estopped him
from asserting that all responsibility for failure was to be charged
to the wickedness and the weakness of his subordinates. Had Columbus
been completely adequate to the situation, he would have bound his
subordinates to him in unquestioning loyalty. The truth is, however,
that from first to last, with the exception of his brothers, those who
were nearest him in command sooner or later became his enemies,--and
generally the enmity was not long delayed.

But there were other considerations that led Ferdinand to hesitate.
The colony had not been prosperous from any point of view. It had been
a continuous and unlessening source of expense, and had brought as
yet very small returns. The hopes that the early reports of Columbus
had aroused had ended in disappointment. The Admiral had confidently
expected to come upon all the wealth of the Great Khan and of Cathay.
Even the gold mines of Ophir, which he believed he had at length
discovered, brought no returns.

In the mean time, however, the court was besieged with the
importunities of enterprising navigators who desired permission to make
explorations without governmental support. The only favour they asked
was the privilege of sailing and of bringing back to the royal treasury
the due quota of their gains. They promised to plant the Spanish
standard in all the lands of the west, and thus, without depleting
the treasury, maintain and even advance the glories of the Spanish

To such importunities the Government began to yield as early as 1495.
The privileges that were granted were in obvious violation of the
exclusive rights bestowed upon Columbus before the first voyage. But
it was not easy to observe the letter of that contract. The lands
discovered were so much vaster in extent than even Columbus had
anticipated that it would be unreasonable to expect a comprehensive
observance of the monopoly granted. Though the Admiral made repeated
and not unreasonable complaints of the privileges bestowed upon others
in violation of his charter, yet the custom of granting such privileges
was never completely discontinued. Nor would it have been reasonable
to suppose that a monopoly of navigation and government in the western
world could forever remain exclusively in the sacred possession of
a single family. It was simply a question as to when that monopoly
should cease. That there was no purpose to do injustice, was shown
in the requirement that the interests of Columbus in the products of
the island should be respected to the letter by Bobadilla and his

During the eight years that had now elapsed since the first voyage
of the Admiral, a considerable number of navigators had already
immortalized themselves by important discoveries and explorations. The
Cabots, going out from Bristol, where they had doubtless learned of
the projects and the success of Columbus, sailed westward by a more
northerly route, and after reaching the continent a year before South
America was touched by the Spanish navigator, explored the coast as
far as from Newfoundland to Florida. As early as 1487, after seventy
years of slow advances down the six thousand miles of western African
coast, the Portuguese, under Bartholomew Diaz, as we have already
noted, had reached the Cape of Good Hope; and ten years later, just as
Columbus was preparing for his third voyage, Vasca da Gama doubled the
Cape, and in the following spring cast anchor in the bay at Calicut.
In the spring of 1499 Pedro Alonzo Nino, who had accompanied Columbus
as a pilot in the voyage to Cuba and Paria, obtained a license, and
not only explored the coast of Central America for several hundred
miles, but traded his European goods to such advantage as to enable
him to return after one of the most extensive and lucrative voyages
yet accomplished. In the same year, Vincente Yanez Pinzon, who had
commanded one of the ships in the first expedition of Columbus, pushed
boldly to the southwest, and, crossing the equator, came finally to the
great headland which is now known as Cape St. Augustine, and for their
Catholic Majesties not only took possession of the territories called
the Brazils, but discovered what was afterwards appropriately named the
River of the Amazons. In the year 1500 Diego Lepe, fired with the zeal
for discovery that had set the port of Palos aglow, went still farther
to the south, and, turning Cape St. Augustine, ascertained that either
the mainland or an enormous island ran far away to the southwest.

Most important and significant of all, the fleet which, in the year
1500, was sent out from Portugal under Pedro Cabral, for the Cape of
Good Hope, in striving, according to the advice of Da Gama, to avoid
the dangers of the coast islands, drifted so far west that when it was
caught in a violent easterly storm, it was driven upon the coast of
Brazil, and thus proved that even if Columbus had not lived and sailed,
America would have been made known to Europe in the very first year of
the sixteenth century.

Thus it was that, not to speak in detail of the explorations of
navigators of lesser note, the English explorers in the north, and
the Spanish and Portuguese in the south, had, before the end of the
year 1500, given to Europe a definite, though an incorrect, conception
of the magnitude of the new world. There is no evidence that as yet
anybody had supposed the newly discovered lands to be any other than
the eastern borders of Asia and Africa. But it must have been evident
enough to many others, as well as to King Ferdinand, that these new
possessions were too vast and too important to be intrusted to the
governorship of any one man. They appealed alike to ambition, to
avarice, and to jealousy.

The policy adopted was one of delay. Columbus was naturally impatient
to return to the office of which he had been deprived. The court,
however, while treating him with every external consideration, would
not bring itself to give an affirmative answer. Another course was
finally adopted. It was agreed that Bobadilla should be removed, that
another governor, who had had no part in the administrative quarrels,
should be appointed for a term of two years, and that Columbus should
be intrusted with a new exploring expedition.

The person chosen to supersede Bobadilla was Nicholas de Ovando, a
commander of the Order of Alcantara. The picture given of him by Las
Casas is one that might well conciliate the prepossessions of the
reader. According to this high authority, he was gracious in manner,
fluent in speech, had great veneration for justice, was an enemy to
avarice, and had such an aversion to ostentation that when he arose to
be grand commander, he would never allow himself to be addressed by
the title attaching to his office. Yet he was a man of ardent temper,
and so, in the opinion of Las Casas, was incapable of governing the
Indians, upon whom he inflicted incalculable injury.

Before Ovando was ready to sail, there was considerable delay. It had
been decided to give him command, not only of Hispaniola, but also of
the other islands and of the mainland. The fleet was to be the largest
yet sent to the western world. When at length it was ready, it mustered
thirty sail, and had on board about twenty-five hundred souls.

That the new governor might appear with becoming dignity, he was
allowed an unusual amount of ostentation. A sumptuous attire of silk
brocades and precious stones was prescribed, and he was permitted a
body-guard of seventy-two yeomen.

Las Casas accompanied this expedition, and consequently we have
the great advantage of his own personal observations. He tells
us that a great crowd of adventurers thronged the fleet,--“eager
speculators, credulous dreamers, and broken-down gentlemen of desperate
fortunes,--all expecting to enrich themselves with little effort.”
But it is evident also that there was another class on which greater
hopes might reasonably be placed. In the original accounts, significant
attention is called to the fact that among those who formed the
expedition there were seventy-three married men with their families,
all of respectable character. Among those enumerated we notice, not
only a chief-justice to replace Roldan, but a physician, a surgeon,
and an apothecary,--in short, persons of all ranks that seemed to be
necessary for the supply and the development of the island.

That the sovereigns were not unmindful of the rights of Columbus, was
evinced by the provisions made for the protection of his interests.
Ovando was ordered to examine into all the accounts, for the purpose
of ascertaining the amount of the damages Columbus had suffered. All
the property belonging to the Admiral that had been confiscated by
Bobadilla was to be restored, and the same care was to be taken of the
interests of the Admiral’s brothers. Not only were the arrears of the
revenues to be paid, but they were also to be secured for the future.
To this end Columbus was permitted to have an agent present at the
smelting and the working of the gold, in order that his own rights
might be duly protected.

But notwithstanding these evidences of royal favour, the Admiral was
much depressed in spirit. In the course of the long months during
which he was condemned to wait for the final action of the sovereigns,
he had much time for reflection; and it is not singular that his
thoughts turned to his long-neglected scheme for the rescue of the
Holy Sepulchre. From the years of his early manhood, the desirability
of such an act had held possession of his soul. It was characteristic
of his immoderate ardour that he even recorded a vow that within seven
years from the time of the discovery he would furnish fifty thousand
foot soldiers and four thousand horse for the accomplishment of this
purpose. The time had elapsed, and the vow remained unfulfilled. It had
not, however, passed out of his remembrance; and he now appealed to the
monarchs to take the matter up as a national enterprise. The war with
Granada had come to a victorious end; the Duke of Medina Sidonia had
given new lustre to the Spanish name in Italy; the Spanish armies were
now at leisure; Ferdinand and Isabella were firm supporters of the
Church: and what could be more appropriate than that they should now
prove their superior devotion and power by the vigorous presecution of
an enterprise that had baffled the efforts of united Christendom for
more than two centuries? The visionary element in the mind of Columbus
was never more plainly revealed.

These dreamy speculations and importunities, however, were only
temporary in their nature. The mind of the explorer soon reverted to
more practical affairs. It was spurred on in this direction and in that
by the successes of Portuguese explorers in the East. Vasco da Gama had
shown that navigation beyond the Cape of Good Hope was practicable, and
Pedro Cabral had not only gone as far as the marts of Hindostan, but
had returned with ships laden with precious commodities of infinite
variety. The discoveries in the West had thus far brought no return;
and yet, according to every theory that Columbus had entertained, the
islands he had discovered were only the border-land--only the fringe,
so to speak--of that vast Eastern region that was flaming with Oriental
gold. There must be a passage from the west that opened into the Indian
Sea. The coast of Paria stretched on toward the west, the southern
coast of Cuba extended in the same direction, and the currents of the
Caribbean Sea seemed to indicate that at some point still farther west
there was a strait that connected the waters of the Atlantic and the
Indian Ocean. To discover such a passage was an ambition worthy even
of the lofty spirits of Columbus. He believed that somewhere west or
southwest of the lands he had discovered such a strait would be found;
and it was to find such a passage that he resolved to undertake a
fourth voyage.

Columbus appears to have remained at Granada with the court from
December of 1499 until late in the year 1501. He then repaired to
Seville, where he was able within a few months to fit out an exploring
squadron of four ships. The insignificant size of vessels of those days
may be inferred from the fact that, according to Fernando, the largest
of the ships was of seventy tons’ burden, and the smallest of fifty.
The crew consisted of one hundred and fifty men and boys, among whom
were the Admiral’s brother, Don Bartholomew, and his son Fernando, the

There were long and unaccountable delays, and the fleet did not sail
from Cadiz before the 9th of May, 1502. Stopping for further supplies
at St. Catherine’s and Arzilla, as well as at the Grand Canary and
Martinique, it was not until the 25th that the westward voyage for the
Indies was fairly begun. The first design was to go directly to the
coast of Paria; but although the voyage was an unusually smooth one,
Columbus, declaring one of the vessels to be unseaworthy, or at least
to be in great need of repairs, decided to make for St. Domingo in
order to effect an exchange of vessels. This port was safely reached
before the end of June; but the object of his coming was destined to be
speedily frustrated.

To avoid the consequences of a surprise, Columbus had taken the
precaution to send one of his captains with despatches to inform Ovando
of his approach and the nature of his errand. Besides referring to the
condition of one of the ships, he begged the privilege of temporary
shelter for his fleet. Columbus himself, in his letter, says nothing of
any motive, excepting his desire to purchase a vessel to take the place
of the one that had become disabled; but Fernando attributes to him
the additional purpose of securing shelter from a violent storm which
he saw to be impending. According to his son’s doubtful authority, the
Admiral even ventured to advise that the departure of the fleet about
to sail for Spain, with the treasures that Bobadilla had collected,
should be delayed until the coming storm was past. Columbus himself,
however, never made any such claim. But no part of the message was
of any avail. It was evident that the new commander, Ovando, who had
now been several months in power, was not free from ill-will toward
the Admiral. Las Casas is of the opinion that he had received secret
instructions from the sovereigns not to admit the Admiral to the
island. It seems certain that at that time San Domingo abounded with
enemies of Columbus, and the decision may have been reached simply by
considerations of prudence. The hospitality of the harbour was refused,
and the outgoing fleet of eighteen sail was not detained.

Denied the privilege of the harbour, Columbus drew his little fleet up
under the shelter of the island. On the last day of June a terrible
hurricane broke upon them. The vessels were torn from their moorings,
and driven apart into the wide sea. Each of the ships lost sight of
the others, and each supposed that all the others were lost. The fury
of the winds and waves continued throughout many days and nights; and
such was the raging tumult of the elements that it seemed impossible
for a single vessel to escape. By what was considered a miraculous
interposition of Providence, however, all the ships of Columbus
out-rode the storm. The fact that the “unseaworthy” vessel survived
with the others, gives colour to the suspicion that the claim of
unseaworthiness was only a pretence for the purpose of getting access
to the port. The vessel which the Admiral commanded was driven as
far as Jamaica; and if we may believe the sweeping and unqualified
language of the Admiral, “during sixty days there was no cessation
of the tempest, which was one continuation of rain, thunder, and
lightning.” In this same connection Columbus writes to the sovereigns:
“Eighty-eight days did this fearful tempest continue, during which I
was at sea, and saw neither sun nor stars. My ships lay exposed, with
sails torn; and anchors, cables, rigging, boats, and a great quantity
of provisions were lost. My people were very weak and humbled in
spirit, many of them promising to lead a religious life, and all making
vows and promising to perform pilgrimages, while some of them would
frequently go to their messmates to make confession. Other tempests
have been experienced, but never of so long a duration or so fearful as

But if the Admiral was finally successful in bringing the shattered
remains of his fleet together, it was not until the 12th of September
that they reached the place of safety and promise to which the
commander gave the name Gracios à Dios. It was far otherwise with the
larger squadron. The commander, after refusing to heed the predictions
of the Admiral, had just set out for Spain. On board were Bobadilla
and Roldan, as well as the others that had taken a prominent part
in accusing Columbus, and securing his arrest and imprisonment. The
vessels were also laden with so much gold and other articles of value
as a relentless avarice and cruelty could bring together to justify the
administration. The details of the disaster have not been preserved.
All that we know is that of the eighteen vessels only four escaped
complete destruction. Every important personage on board the fleet
was lost. Of the four less unfortunate ships, three were in such a
shattered condition that they were obliged to return to San Domingo,
while only one, “The Needle,” was able to make its way to Spain. To the
unquestioning religious faith of the time, the proof of providential
direction was made complete by the singular fact that the gold on board
“The Needle,” the poorest vessel of the fleet, was the portion that
belonged to Columbus. Las Casas regards the event as a signal example
of those awful judgments with which Providence sometimes overwhelms
those who have incurred divine displeasure.

For a knowledge of the explorations of Columbus during the fourth
voyage we are indebted to a very elaborate letter of the Admiral
himself, and to the accounts by Fernando, Las Casas, and Porras, all of
whom were, at the time, either with the Admiral or at San Domingo. The
accounts do not agree in all particulars, but essentially they are not
unlike. As to the general course of the expedition, and the reasons for
the course taken, there is substantial agreement.

At the end of the succession of storms in the autumn of 1502 Columbus
found himself among the islands south of Cuba. The way was now open for
the prosecution of the design which had led to the organization of the
expedition. He was in search of an open passage. His idea, of course,
could not have been very clearly defined; for he still believed that
the islands he had already visited were only the remote edge of the
Asiatic continent. As yet he had no reason for definite belief as to
whether Cuba was an island or was a part of the mainland; though, as
we have already seen, he had once required his crew to swear on their
return that it was the mainland, under penalty of having their tongues
wrenched out in case of disobedience. As his purpose now was avowedly
that of an explorer pure and simple, it would seem that three ways
were clearly open to him. He had already in his second voyage made
himself sufficiently familiar with eastern Cuba to know that whether
an island or a part of the mainland, it was a vast projection into the
east; and he must have inferred that its relations with the regions
beyond could most easily and naturally be ascertained by sailing in a
westerly direction, either along the northern or along the southern
coast. The other course open to him was a bold push for new regions by
sailing into the open sea to the southwest. The obvious disadvantage
of this course was the fact that whatever might be discovered, the
relations of the new regions to those already explored would still
be involved in mystery. Whether Cuba were an island or a part of the
continent, could not in this way be determined. In the way of promised
advantages, moreover, this direction would seem to have held out
no greater inducements than either of the others. If he had sailed
along the northern coast of Cuba, he would have determined the fact
of its insularity, and then would have been free to explore farther
for the mainland. But the more promising course was on the other side
of the island; for in this way the source of the currents, on which
the navigator placed so much reliance, could have been traced,--or at
least it could have been determined whether the phenomenal flow of
waters originated, as Columbus supposed, in an open strait. The least
promising course of all was the abandonment of Cuba and the striking
out of an independent course to the southwest; for when land should
be reached, there could be no determination whether the new coast had
any connection with the land already discovered, and it would still
be undetermined whether the strait for which he was searching, if it
existed at all, lay to the east or to the west of the new landfall. But
this least promising course was the one Columbus determined to take. It
was a great blunder, for which no good reason has ever been given.

Sailing in a southwesterly direction, the storms still continuing, he
at length approached the mainland at a small island which he called the
Isle of Pines. He then turned to the east, and in a few days reached
the coast of Honduras. After waiting for a short time to trade with
the natives, he kept on his way in the same general direction, in the
face of a stormy current and violent winds. It was not until the 14th
of September that they rounded the cape which in thankfulness to God he
named Cape Gracios à Dios. At this point the current divided, a part
flowing west, and a part south. Taking advantage of the latter, they
proceeded down the Mosquito coast without difficulty. On the 25th of
September they came to an inviting spot which he called the “Garden.”
The natives seemed more intelligent than any Columbus had yet seen. In
order that he might have a supply of interpreters, the Admiral seized
seven of them, two of whom he retained by force even when, October 5,
he sailed away. This forcible detention was greatly resented by the
tribe, but the prayers of the emissaries sent for their release had no

Pushing still farther south and east, the Spaniards came in about ten
days to Caribaro Bay. The natives, who wore gold plates as ornaments,
were defiant, and expressed their unwelcoming mood by blasts upon
conch-shells and the brandishing of spears. The Spanish lombards,
however, soon brought them to a more submissive spirit. A little
farther along, the vessels came to Varagua, a territory lying just
west of the Isthmus of Darien. Here the Admiral heard glowing accounts
of gold not far away. His interpreters told him that ten days inland
the natives revelled in the precious metals and all other valuable
commodities. Had he listened and obeyed, he would have discovered the
Pacific. But, for once, he turned a deaf ear to the allurement, and
so lost his opportunity. That the natives hinted at the great waters
beyond the isthmus, is plain from the words of Columbus. He says: “They
say that the sea surrounds Cuguare, and that ten days’ journey from
thence is the river Ganges.”

His farther voyage south brought no important results. The ships were
worm-eaten, and the crew were clamorous for the gold of Varagua. On the
5th of December Columbus decided reluctantly to retrace his course.
By one of those singular adversities of fortune, the winds which had
hitherto blown strongly from the east now veered and blew as strongly
from the west. Gale after gale followed. Columbus called it the “Coast
of Contrasts.” The situation of the navigators became all the more
desperate through the horrors of impending famine. Worms had made their
bread revolting, and the crew were driven to catch sharks for food.

For weeks the violence of the storms continued. In attempting to make
their way back, a full month was taken up by the Spaniards in passing a
hundred miles. The whole winter was consumed without important results.
At Varagua earnest hopes were entertained that the long-sought, but
ever-elusive gold-fields were at length to be found. Columbus says
that he saw more indications of gold in two days than he had seen in
Hispaniola in four years; he therefore decided upon a settlement, and
began to build houses. Eighty members of the crew were to be left to
establish a permanent footing.

But misfortune succeeded misfortune. The natives began to organize for
the purpose of making such a settlement impossible. In one of their
conflicts the cacique, known as the Quibian, was taken prisoner by the
Adelantado. He was intrusted to the care of a Spanish officer, who
imprudently yielded to the chief’s persuasions to remove his shackles.
The consequence was that in an unguarded moment the cacique sprang
over the side of the boat and dived to the bottom. The night was dark,
and as he came to the surface he was not detected. Columbus believed
him drowned; but it soon appeared that he had reached the shore and
organized so formidable an opposition to the settlement as to place the
colony in extreme peril.

Provisions and ammunition now began to run short. The Admiral was
tortured with gout, and this was followed by a fever. While affairs
were in this condition a portion of the prisoners threw open a
hatchway, and, thrusting the guards aside, plunged into the sea and
escaped. Those who had failed to get away were thrust back into the
hold; but in the morning it was found that they had all committed
suicide by hanging. The resolute spirit thus shown was a sad foreboding
of disaster. The sea was so rough that for days there could be no
communication between the Admiral on ship and the Adelantado on shore.
When at length a brave swimmer succeeded in reaching the land, he found
a portion of Bartholomew’s force in revolt. The mutineers formed a
plan to desert the commander and effect an escape to the ships. There
was nothing to do but to rescue the colony, if possible, and abandon
the coast.

When affairs appeared to be in a most hopeless condition, the tempest
abated, and fair weather came on. One of the caravels, however, had
been stranded and wrecked. In order to bring off the stores and the
colony, a raft was constructed, and after long effort the survivors
were rescued and taken aboard the remaining vessels. One of these,
however, proved to be so much worm-eaten and otherwise disabled that it
had to be abandoned. Taking the scanty stores into the two remaining
caravels, the adventurers now turned their prows toward Hispaniola.

The course of the vessels, however, in order to meet the strong
westerly currents, was eastward. The crew were thrown into
consternation by the thought that the Admiral, notwithstanding the
unseaworthy condition of the ships, was making for Spain. But Columbus
had no such purpose. His design was to zigzag his course in such a
manner that none of the crew could find the way back to the gold coast.
He says that he remembered how a former crew had returned to the
pearl-fisheries of Paria; and he now wrote: “None of them can explain
whither I went, nor whence I came. They do not know the way to return

Having accomplished his bewildering purpose, the Admiral now turned to
the northwest. Falling into the currents, the vessels floated beyond
Hispaniola; and on the 30th of May they found themselves in the group
of islands which Columbus had already called “The Gardens.” That his
old delusion was still kept up, is evident from his declaration that he
“had come to Mango, which is near Cathay.”

Here again a succession of storms came on and threatened to shatter the
crazy hulks to pieces. Columbus tried to find shelter in the lee of one
of the islands; but he lost all his anchors save one, and the crews
were able to keep the ships afloat only by “three pumps, and the use
of their pots and kettles.” Evidently this condition of affairs could
not long continue. On the 23d of June he reached Jamaica, and a little
later he saw no other course than to run both of his ships aground.
The first he ran ashore on the 23d of July; and on the 12th of August
he brought the other alongside, and managed to lash them together. The
tide soon filled them with water. He built cabins on the forecastles,
in which the crew could live until they could find relief.

The navigators’ scanty supply of food was ruined, and their first
thought, therefore, was to barter for supplies with the natives.
Fortunately, they were successful. Diego Mendez, the commander of one
of the vessels, took the matter in hand, and making the circuit of the
island in company with three other Spaniards, bargained advantageously
with several of the caciques.

The next thought of the Admiral was to send to Ovando for a rescuing
vessel. He proposed to Mendez that he should go in an open boat, as
the only possible means of establishing a connection with San Domingo.
Mendez offered to go in case no one else would volunteer. The others
all held back. He then fitted up a row-boat, and taking one other
Spaniard and six natives as oarsmen, committed himself to a voyage of
nearly two hundred miles in those tempestuous waters.

To Mendez, Columbus committed a long letter addressed to the monarchs
of Spain,--the very letter, no doubt, to which we are indebted for much
of our knowledge of this disastrous voyage. It bears date July 7, 1503,
and may well be regarded as the unmistakable evidence of a distracted,
if not of an unbalanced, mind.

Though the writer had much to say of the voyage, the most prominent
characteristic of the writing was its rambling and incoherent
references to the troubles of his earlier years. It was a veritable
appeal _ad misericordiam_, and was full of inaccuracies, not to say
positive misstatements. He says,--

    “I was twenty-eight years old when I came into your Highnesses’
    services, and now I have not a hair upon me that is not gray, my
    body is infirm, and all that was left to me, as well as to my
    brother, has been taken away and sold, even to the frock that I
    wore, to my great dishonour. Solitary in my trouble, sick, and
    in daily expectation of death, I am surrounded by millions of
    hostile savages full of cruelty. Weep for me whoever has charity,
    truth, and justice.”

Surely this is not the outpouring of a great soul. On the contrary,
it is simply pitiful; for it is impossible to forget that in earlier
years he had described these “millions of hostile savages” as the
embodiment of hospitable kindness. It was not until the innocent
natives had learned by bitter experience that there was no device
of avarice or cruelty or licentiousness of which they were not made
the victims that their unsuspecting hospitality was turned into a
prudent hostility. If Columbus was only twenty-eight when he entered
the service of the Spanish monarchs, he must have been born in 1456;
he must have been only eighteen when he had the correspondence with
Toscanelli; and at the time of his writing, he must have been only
forty-seven. Recurring to geographical affairs, he writes: “The world
is but small; out of seven divisions of it, the dry part occupies six,
and the seventh is entirely covered with water. I say that the world
is not so large as vulgar opinion makes it.” Referring to his search
for gold, he exclaims: “Gold is the most precious of all commodities;
gold constitutes treasure; and he who possesses it has all the needs
of this world, as also the means of rescuing souls from Purgatory and
introducing them to the enjoyments of Paradise.”

After the departure of Mendez the long months of autumn and winter
wore on. Columbus during much of the time was confined to his bed by
illness. Discontents, and finally insubordination, became rife. The
malcontents put themselves under the leadership of Francisco de Porras,
a daring navigator, who at one time had commanded one of the vessels.
On the 2d of January, 1504, Porras appeared in the cabin of the sick
Admiral. An unfortunate altercation ensued, which resulted in dividing
the little band into two hostile camps. The outcome was that Porras
and forty-one others threw themselves into active rebellion. They took
forcible possession of ten canoes, and committed themselves to the
sea with the mad purpose of going to San Domingo. A short experience,
however, was enough to drive them back, and they now devoted themselves
actively to getting supplies from the natives of Jamaica. This of
course interfered greatly with the comforts of Columbus and his little
band. Indeed it might have proved fatal but for one of those ingenious
expedients of which the mind of the Admiral was so prolific.

An eclipse of the moon was to take place on the night of February 29,
1504. Columbus caused it to be widely circulated among the natives that
the God of the Spaniards was greatly displeased with their lack of
loyalty, and was about to manifest his displeasure by an obscuration of
the moon. As the eclipse came on, the words of the Admiral appeared to
be verified. The natives were convulsed with fear. He now declared that
the divine anger would be appeased if they would show proper contrition
and would furnish the needed supplies. The caciques threw themselves at
his feet, and promised everything he might need. Just before the moon
was to emerge from the shadow, he assured them that the divine wrath
was placated, and that a sign would soon be manifested. As the eclipse
passed off, the astonishment and satisfaction of the poor wretches were
complete. From that time Columbus had no lack of sufficient supplies.

The expedition of Mendez was not without the most trying vicissitudes.
Almost immediately after starting, the little bark encountered so heavy
a sea that it was obliged to turn back. A few days later, however,
another boat was ready, and Mendez committed himself a second time
to this daring enterprise. Rough weather was encountered, and for
a considerable period it seemed that all would be lost. One of the
natives died, and his body was cast into the sea. But at length, in
four days after leaving the eastern point of Jamaica, the Spaniards
reached the port of Novissa, at the western end of Hispaniola. Mendez
soon found that Ovando, instead of being at San Domingo, was engaged
in suppressing a revolt in the western province of Zaroyna. Though
Ovando was not so ungracious as to meet the question with a point-blank
refusal, he showed no disposition to render prompt assistance. Thus
it was that, in spite of all the urgency of Mendez, month after month
passed away without action. It was only after there had come to be
considerable popular clamour in favour of Columbus that Ovando saw the
expediency of sending the necessary succour. It is more than probable
that he would have been relieved to find that the rescuing ship had
arrived too late. It was not until the 25th of June, 1504, that the
Admiral and his little crew of wretched followers were gladdened by the
sight of approaching relief. It is easy to understand how Columbus,
a little later, could say that in no part of his life did he ever
experience so joyful a day; for he had never hoped to leave the place
alive. More than a year had passed in the tormenting experiences that
followed the shipwreck on the northern coast of Jamaica.

Ovando extended to Columbus a gracious show of hospitality by making
him a guest in his own household. But there was no real cordiality. It
was not long, indeed, before an active dispute arose over an important
question of jurisdiction. Ovando demanded the surrender of Porras, that
he might be duly punished for his insurrection. Columbus held that
however complete the jurisdiction of the governor might be over the
island of Hispaniola, it did not extend to the crew of the Admiral.
Ovando, though he did not formally yield the point, thought it not
prudent to press the claim. There were also important differences in
regard to the pecuniary rights of Columbus, whose agent had already
become involved in serious difficulties. From all these untoward
circumstances it became apparent that the stay of Columbus could
not be advantageously prolonged. Accordingly, with such money as he
could collect, he fitted out two vessels for a homeward voyage. He
had arrived at San Domingo on the 15th of August. On the 12th of the
following month the two vessels were ready for sea. Storm succeeded
storm, however, and the ship of the Admiral had to be sent back for
repairs. After a very tempestuous voyage, Columbus, with his brother
and son, entered the port of San Lucar on the 7th of November, 1504.



The career of Columbus was now practically at an end. From the port he
went to Seville, where, broken in health as well as in spirit, he was
obliged to remain for nearly four months. We find that on the 23d of
February, 1505, a royal order was issued to furnish him with a mule,
that he might have an easy seat in his journey toward the court at
Segovia. He appears in the course of the year to have found his way
to Salamanca, and then to have followed the court to Valladolid; but
farther he was not able to go.

During the year and a half that was left to him after his return
from the fourth voyage, Columbus exerted himself constantly and in
various ways to improve his personal interests. He had much leisure
for writing; and, fortunately, his letters have been preserved and
published in the collection of Navarrete. It would perhaps have been
better for his fame if they had not survived; for while the errors and
contradictions perplex every thoughtful reader, the spirit breathed
throughout is one of petulancy and comprehensive censure. He rehearsed
in various forms the story of his early efforts, of his unappreciated
labours, of his services in behalf of the Crown, and of failure to
receive the proper recognition and reward. Unfortunately, the death
of Queen Isabella occurred only a few days after his return. This
melancholy event not only withdrew from the service of Columbus the
most important of all patrons, but it so absorbed all the attention
of the court that his claims received no attention whatever. To his
repeated importunities no answer came for some months. The king
had always been either indifferent or inimical. The statements of
Porras had been received, and they had evidently made an impression
unfavourable to Columbus. The inference from the attitude of the
court is inevitable that in the course of the two and a half years
of the Admiral’s absence during his fourth voyage his popularity had
so declined that he had almost ceased to be regarded as a person of
importance. It is certain that the complaints against him had now made
so strong an impression on the king and on those in authority that
there was no disposition to listen to his importunities.

Still, Columbus continued to write. In one letter he arraigned the
administration of Ovando, charging it with the same crimes that had so
often been alleged against himself. He declared that the governor was
detested by all; that a suitable person could restore order in three
months; that the abuses should at once be remedied by the appointment
of a judicious successor; that new fortresses should be at once
built,--“all of which,” he says, “I can do in his Highness’s service;
and any other, not having my personal interest at stake, cannot do
it as well.” At another time he urges Diego to sue the king for a
mandatory letter forcing Ovando to make immediate payment of Columbus’s
share of the revenues. Concerning Vespucius, who had already returned
from his second voyage and written the famous letter of Sept. 4, 1504,
he wrote in the following terms: “Within two days I have talked with
Americus Vespucius.... He has always manifested a disposition to be
friendly to me. Fortune has not always favoured him, and in this he is
not different from many others. His ventures have not always been as
successful as he would wish. He left me full of the kindest purposes
toward me, and will do anything for me that is in his power. I did not
know what to tell him as to the way in which he could help me, because
I knew not why he had been called to court. Find out what he can do,
and he will do it; but so manage that he will not be suspected of
aiding me.” This letter is of most interesting significance, because
at the very moment of its date, the letter of Vespucius was making the
impression upon Europe which was to eclipse the renown of Columbus and
give the name of its author to the western continent. That there was
any purpose on the part of Vespucius inimical to the fame of Columbus
there is no reason whatever to believe.

The multitudinous letters of Columbus seem to have made no impression.
Las Casas says: “The more he petitioned, the more bland the king was
in avoiding any conclusion.” The same author further declares that
Ferdinand “hoped, by exhausting the patience of the Admiral, to induce
him to accept some estates in Castile in place of his powers in the
Indies. But Columbus rejected all such offers with indignation.”

During the later months of 1505, and the early months of 1506, it was
becoming more and more apparent that preparations for the end must
not be long delayed. The mind of the Admiral came to be much occupied
with the testamentary disposition of his rights and titles. Property
in hand he really seems to have had none; but he still was not without
hope that in a final settlement his claims in the Indies would be
fully recognized. Accordingly, in his last will, which was duly signed
and witnessed on the 19th of May, 1506, he made disposition of his
titles and his rights. He confirmed his legitimate son, Diego, his
heir; but in default of heirs of Diego, his rights were to pass to his
illegitimate son, Fernando. If in this line there should be a like
default, his property was to go to his brother, the Adelantado, and
his male descendants. If these all should fail, the estate was to go
to the female line in a similar succession. Two other provisions of
the will are worthy of note. He makes his old scheme of a crusade to
recover the Holy Sepulchre contingent upon the income of the estate.
He then provides for the maintenance of Beatrix Enriquez, the mother
of Fernando, and says: “Let this be done for the discharge of my
conscience, for it weighs heavy on my soul,--the reasons for which I am
not here permitted to give.”

It was on the 20th of May, 1506, the very next day after signing the
will, that the restless soul of Columbus passed away. His death
occurred at Valladolid, in a house that is still shown to interested
travellers. It is melancholy to add that the event made no impression
either upon the city or upon the nation. We are told, as the result of
the most careful search, that the only official document that makes
mention of the decease of Columbus is one written by the monarch to
Ovando, bearing date of the 2d of June. Neither Bernaldez nor Oviedo
designates the day of the month. By the chroniclers of the time, as
Harrisse has said, the event seems to have passed “completely unheeded.”

Nor is there any certainty as to the place of burial. In the will
which Columbus signed just before his death he indicated a desire to
have his remains taken to San Domingo. It has generally been supposed,
however, that a temporary interment took place in a Franciscan convent
at Valladolid. The will of Diego seems to indicate that as early as the
year 1513 the coffin containing his remains was conveyed to Seville,
where, for nearly or quite thirty years, it rested in the Carthusian
convent of Las Cuevas. Royal provisions relating to the removal to San
Domingo have been preserved, bearing dates of 1537, 1539, and 1540.
From these orders and from the fact that the cathedral at San Domingo
was completed in the year 1541, the inference has been drawn that the
transfer took place in that year or a little later. There is evidence
that the removal had been accomplished before the year 1549.

The controversy that has taken place over the present resting-place of
the remains is perhaps enough to justify a somewhat detailed statement
of the several points at issue.

Columbus’s son Diego and his grandson Luis died respectively in 1526
and 1572. Their remains were also transferred to the cathedral at San
Domingo; though at what date there is considerable uncertainty. Some
rather obscure records have been discovered in Spain which have been
thought to indicate that the removal took place about the beginning of
the seventeenth century. Nearly all that we are justified in asserting
without qualification is the fact that, from the period of this removal
until near the end of the eighteenth century, the cathedral at San
Domingo contained the remains of Columbus as well as those of his son
and his grandson.

So far as can now be ascertained, there were no inscriptions on the
exterior of any of the vaults. The only guide to the site of the
exact resting-place of the Admiral was a memorandum in the records
of the cathedral to the effect that the body rested in the chancel
at the right of the high altar. But as this memorandum bears date of
1676, it could hardly be regarded as anything more than the record
of a tradition. During the long period between the early part of the
sixteenth century and the end of the eighteenth, the floors of the
cathedral were several times repaired; but, so far as is known, the
vaults were not disturbed or even discovered.

In the course of the French Revolution the tumult into which San
Domingo was thrown resulted in giving the French so much influence
that by the treaty of Basle, signed on the 22d of July, 1795, Spain
was obliged to cede to France the western portion of the island.
The natural pride of the Spaniards, however, inspired them with a
praiseworthy desire to transfer the remains of the discoverer to
Spanish soil. Accordingly, explorations were made beneath the floor
on the right of the altar of the cathedral. A vault was found and
opened, which contained a small leaden box and the remains of a human
body. Its situation in the cathedral corresponded with the indications
of tradition. The box or casket was in a very dilapidated condition;
but so far as could be discovered, there was no inscription upon it.
No doubt, however, was entertained in regard to its genuineness. The
contents of the vault were placed in a gilded sarcophagus, and with
great ceremony, on the 19th of January, 1796, were transported to
Havana. Here they were placed near the high altar of the cathedral,
where, in 1822, the monument was erected which still adorns the spot
and commemorates the discoveries of the Admiral.

For nearly a century no question was raised as to the genuineness of
the remains thus exhumed and carried to Havana. But in 1877, in the
course of some changes in the chancel of the cathedral at San Domingo,
two other graves were opened. Each contained a leaden casket. That on
the left side of the altar bore an inscription which, translated into
English, runs: “To the Admiral Don Luis Columbus, duke of Jamaica,
marquis of Veragua.” The inscriptions on the casket which was
discovered on the right of the altar were of far more interest and

But before indicating in detail the significance of this discovery, let
us take note of the relative position of the vaults. The one containing
the casket with the inscription of Luis upon it, was at the extreme
left of the chancel and against the wall; while that containing the
one which now appeared to hold the remains of the discoverer was next
the wall on the opposite side. Adjoining this newly opened vault, and
between it and the altar, was the narrower vault, the contents of which
had been taken to Havana in 1796. It is natural to infer that the vault
situated next the cathedral wall was the first one constructed, and
that the smaller and inner vault was added at a later day.

On the newly discovered casket were three inscriptions rudely cut. On
the exterior were the three letters “C. C. A.,”--probably signifying
“Cristoval Colon, Almirante.” On the outside of the cover were the
abbreviations, “D. de la A. Pre. Ate.,” which have been interpreted
as standing for “Descubridor de la America, Primero Almirante,”--“The
Discoverer of America, the first Admiral.” On the inside of the cover,
in Gothic letters, was an abbreviated inscription which is commonly
translated as “The celebrated and extraordinary man, Don Christopher

It is to be noted also that there was lying upon the bottom of the
casket a small silver plate about three inches in length by one and
a third in breadth. Near the ends of this plate were two small holes
corresponding with two holes in the posterior wall of the casket.
With the plate were also two screws that corresponded in size with
the holes in the box and the plate. Very curiously, the plate was
found to have an inscription on either side. One of these was simply
“Cristoval Colon,” while the other, in somewhat abbreviated form, was
“Ultima parte de los restos del primero Almirante Cristoval Colon,
Descubridor,”--“The last remains of the first Admiral, Christopher
Columbus, the Discoverer.” The significance of these two inscriptions,
as it must have been understood that one of them would be concealed
by resting against the wall of the box, has been the subject of many
conjectures. But the most rational explanation is the supposition that
when the engraver had incised the name “Cristoval Colon” on one side,
it was found unsatisfactory, from its brevity, and accordingly the more
elaborate inscription was placed on the other side. With the contents
of this leaden box there was also found a corroded musket-ball. This
bullet is supposed to have been in the body of Columbus at the time of
his burial. We have no account of his having been wounded while he was
in Portugal or Spain, or in the course of any of his voyages; but in
his letter to the king written from Jamaica while on his fourth voyage,
he says that his wound “had broken out afresh.” This expression has led
Cronau to conjecture that in some of his earlier maritime experiences,
the Admiral had received a bullet which he carried in his body to the
end of his life.

The discovery of this casket very naturally awakened the greatest
interest in San Domingo, and indeed wherever the story of Columbus
was known. The bishop of the cathedral, recognizing the importance of
the event, invited to a formal inspection of the remains, not only
the representatives of the civil government, but also all the foreign
consuls that were present in San Domingo. These united in the belief
that the bones of the Admiral were still in the cathedral, and that the
remains which had been carried to Havana in 1796 were those of his son
Diego. Having arrived at this conclusion, the authorities enclosed the
casket, with its contents, in a glass case, and locked it with three
keys, two of which were to be guarded by members of the Government, and
one by the bishop. They then bound the glass case with ribbons, which
were carefully sealed, not only with the seals of the cathedral and of
the Government, but also with those of all the foreign consuls then at
San Domingo. Finally, they placed the sarcophagus containing the box
and the remains in a side chapel of the cathedral.

So full an account of this interesting discovery would hardly have
been appropriate, but for the controversy which immediately ensued.
The Spanish authorities in the mother-country and in Cuba were very
naturally reluctant to believe, except upon the most conclusive
evidence, that a mistake had been made in 1796. The cry of fraud was
soon raised. The inscriptions, a rough fac-simile of which had been
made and published by the bishop, were declared to be the work of a
modern forger. Pamphlet after pamphlet was issued from the press, until
there came to be a voluminous literature on the subject.

Against the genuineness of the inscriptions there were only two
arguments of any considerable weight. The first was in the assertion
that the inscriptions were of too modern and crude a nature to have
been placed upon the casket in the sixteenth century by those having
in charge the moving of the remains. The other was the presence of
the abbreviation which was supposed to stand for America. It was
confidently alleged that the Spaniards had refused to adopt the
name America until after the time of the removal. In both of these
objections there seemed to be considerable force. But they cannot
be regarded as conclusive; for in the first place a more careful
copying of the inscriptions has revealed the fact that they are not so
dissimilar to the prevailing methods of the sixteenth century as was at
first supposed; and in answer to the second objection, it is to be said
that Waldseemüller’s book suggesting the name America was published
in April of 1507, and that as early as 1520 the name America began to
appear on the maps published for common use. It must be conceded that
the crudeness of the inscriptions seems incompatible with what we may
well conceive to have been the ceremonious nature of a removal of such
importance conducted under royal patronage. But no account whatever of
the ceremony has been preserved. We simply know that the removal was
permitted by royal order; and the fact that no record of the event is
now extant would seem to give plausibility to the conjecture that the
remains were transported privately by the family alone. If such was
the case, the nature of the inscriptions placed upon the leaden box
would depend upon circumstances in regard to which we can now have no
knowledge whatever.

In the autumn of 1890 the German explorer Rudolf Cronau determined to
investigate this vexed question, and if possible remove it from the
domain of doubt. Armed with letters of introduction from the German
Government, he passed a month in San Domingo for the purpose of
examining every phase of the subject. He not only obtained evidence
from the workmen who had exhumed the casket in 1877, but he also
secured the privilege of conducting a public examination of the
inscriptions. In the presence of the consuls of the United States,
England, France, Germany, and Italy, as well as the officials of the
cathedral and of the city, he conducted the examination on the 11th
of January, 1891. Removing the glass case from the side chapel to the
nave of the cathedral, he deposited it upon a table prepared for the
purpose. The seals placed upon the case in 1877 having been examined
and declared to be intact, the surrounding ribbons were then removed,
and with the help of the several keys the case was opened.

It is unnecessary to describe all the processes of investigation.
It is, however, important to say that all the inscriptions were
photographed upon zinc, in order that they might be etched in exact
fac-simile. They have since been reproduced in the first volume of
Cronau’s “Amerika.” As the result of his examination, the author
expresses his confident belief that the inscriptions were cut in the
sixteenth century; for the processes of oxidation that have taken place
since the inscriptions were made, seem to preclude the possibility
of their being the work of a modern hand. He states that a careful
investigation of all the circumstances attending the opening of the
tomb in 1877 failed to give any trace of opportunity for a forging of
the inscriptions. The character of the bishop in charge in 1877 was
above reproach. The presence of the bullet is, in the opinion of the
author, to be regarded as confirmatory proof of genuineness, inasmuch
as it is hardly conceivable that it would have been placed in the
casket by any fraudulent intent. In short, it is the opinion of Cronau
that the difficulties in the way of supporting the theory of fraud
are so much greater than those in the way of supporting the theory of
genuineness that the charges of fraud must be dismissed, and the theory
of genuineness must be finally and conclusively adopted. It seems
probable that this conclusion will be accepted by the most judicious
investigators of the subject, and that in consequence the belief will
come to prevail that the remains of Columbus are now at San Domingo,
and not at Havana.

After the ceremony of inspection was completed, the casket and its
contents were replaced in the glass box, and this, after being wound
about with red, white, and blue ribbons and put under the seals of the
several consuls and of the local authorities, was returned to the side
chapel as its permanent resting-place.

It would be a great pleasure if we could know that it is now easy to
obtain definite and precise information in regard to those subtile
peculiarities of manner and expression which marked and determined the
appearance of the Admiral. But it seems to be impossible. Of brief
descriptions by personal acquaintances there is an abundance; and in
these accounts, moreover, there is substantial agreement. Trevisan,
after meeting the Admiral in 1501, says of him: “He was a robust man,
with a tall figure, a ruddy complexion, and a long visage.” Oviedo, who
knew him with some intimacy, says: “Of good figure and a stature above
the medium, Columbus had strong limbs, keen eyes, a well-proportioned
body, very red hair, a complexion that was a little ruddy and marked
with freckles.” Las Casas, who saw him often and under diverse
circumstances, described him in these words: “He had a figure that was
above medium height, a countenance long and imposing, an aquiline nose,
clear blue eyes, a light complexion tinged with red, beard and hair
blond in youth, but early turned to white. He was rough in character,
with little amiability of speech, affable, however, when he wished to
be, and passionate when he was irritated.”

In the matter of dress Columbus was in the habit of wearing sombre
colors, often appearing in the frock of one of the religious orders.
Las Casas in one place says: “I saw the Admiral at Seville, on his
return from the second voyage, clad as a Franciscan friar.” Bernaldez
relates that he saw him in 1496 “bound about with the cord of the
Franciscan monks;” and Diego Columbus affirms that his father died
“clad in the frock of the Franciscan order, to which he was much

It is from these descriptions that the numerous portraits which have
passed for likenesses of the Admiral have generally been composed. In
all the vast number of paintings and engravings bearing his name, there
is probably not one that can be regarded as unquestionably authentic;
for it is not known that a single painting or drawing of him was ever
made by any person that had ever seen him. Harrisse makes the sweeping
statement, “as for the portraits painted, engraved, or sculptured,
which figure in the collections, in public places, and in prints, there
is not one that is authentic; they are all pure fancy.” This learned
critic probably means that the numerous pictures have been made, not
from life, but from extant descriptions of the Admiral, according to
the fancy of the individual artists.

Any one at all familiar with the various portraits that pass, here
and there, for likenesses of Columbus, must have been impressed with
the fact that, while a few of them present considerable resemblance
to one another, they are, almost without exception, lacking in those
elements of individuality that are necessary to impress themselves
firmly on the attention and memory of the beholder. From the collection
as a whole, one is apt to derive a very confused impression as to how
Columbus really appeared. If there is to be any exception to this
general statement, it should perhaps be made in favour of the portrait
by Lorenzo Lotto, recently discovered at Venice. Lotto was quite the
most distinguished of the contemporaneous painters whose portraits of
Columbus have been preserved. He was absent from Venice during the
later years of Columbus’s life, and it is possible that he was in Spain
during the winter and spring just before the Admiral set out for his
fourth voyage. We know that Columbus was in Granada during the winter
and spring of 1501-1502, and that during those winter months the
Venetian ambassador Pisani and his secretary Camerino were assiduous
in courting and entertaining him, in order to obtain maps, charts, and
other information about the newly discovered countries. It is possible
that Lotto also was present at Granada and that he had an opportunity
to paint the portrait from life. But there is no positive evidence on
the subject. After all the possibilities are admitted, there is nothing
more than a doubtful conjecture that he ever saw the discoverer; still
less is it probable that Columbus sat for his portrait.

The painting by Lotto is said by critics to be a striking example in
color and in general treatment of this artist’s early style. As a
portrait, it unquestionably has admirable and striking characteristics;
though it is impossible to form any positive opinion as to the accuracy
of the likeness. It bears a general resemblance to the picture in the
Ministry of the Marine at Madrid, as well as to the Capriolo engraving
and to the portrait in the collection of Count D’Orchi at Como. It
is scarcely too much to say that Lotto, more than any of the others,
seems to have succeeded in delineating certain subtleties of feature
and expression which reveal unmistakable character. Whatever the
opportunities of this artist for knowing the personal appearance of
Columbus, it is certain that he was contemporaneous with the Admiral,
and that he lived in an Italian city that was greatly moved by the work
of the discoverer. It is known, moreover, that the Venetian ambassador
and his secretary were at that time sending home glowing accounts of
the significance of the recent voyages. The pre-eminent excellence of
the painting, the mood and character which it reveals, and its very
striking correspondence with the descriptions of the discoverer by
his acquaintances, have led to its selection for the frontispiece of
this volume. The portrait was purchased in the summer of 1891 by an
enterprising art collector of Chicago.

It remains only to say a concluding word in regard to the estimation in
which the character and the work of Columbus are finally to be held.

It is not easy to establish a standard by which to judge of a man
whose life was in an age that is past. In defiance of all scholarship,
the judgments of critics continue to differ in regard to Alexander,
Julius Cæsar, and even Frederick the Great, and Napoleon. On the one
hand, nothing can be more unjust than to bring to the judgment of the
present age a man whose activities were exerted amid surroundings
and influences that have long since changed and passed away; while,
on the other, nothing is more unsafe than to regard the opinions of
contemporaries as the just and final judgment of humanity. Between
these two dangers we must seek the basis of a judgment in those eternal
verities which are applicable to every age. Since civilization began,
good men have ever recognized certain principles of right and justice
as applicable to all men and all time. Did his life and his work tend
to the elevation of mankind? If so, did these results flow from his
conscious purpose? If temporary wrong and injustice were done, were
these accessory to the firmer establishment of those broad principles
which must underlie all security and happiness? These, or such as
these, are the questions which it is necessary to ask when we undertake
to form a judgment in regard to any man that has performed a great part
or exerted a great influence. If we apply these principles in forming
an opinion of Columbus, what will be the result?

In point of character,--considering the term in the largest and
broadest possible sense,--we shall probably not find very much to
admire. The moral atmosphere which he created about him was not much
better or much worse than the general atmosphere of the age in which
he lived. He entered no protest against any of the abuses of the time.
On the contrary, he was ever ready to avail himself of those abuses
whenever he could do so to his own advantage. In his age the most
sensitive natures were beginning to revolt against the horrors of the
slave-trade. But Columbus, in his letters and his journal describing
his first voyage, points out the riches that would result to Spain
by filling the slave-markets with captives from the newly discovered
islands. He repeatedly urged a policy of slave-catching upon the
Government; and gave just offence by persistency in such a policy,
after receiving a plain intimation that it could not be adopted. There
is no evidence that he ever abandoned the idea that a true policy
required that ships in going from the mother-country to the islands
should be loaded with cattle, and that the same ships in going back
from the islands to the mother-country should be loaded with slaves.
His first letters glow with accounts of the gentleness and hospitality
of the natives. The Indians regarded the new comers as visitors from
heaven. When Columbus’s own vessel was shipwrecked, the inhabitants on
the coast not only rendered every possible assistance, but offered to
give up everything they had for the accommodation of the unfortunate
visitors. Columbus himself testifies that the native cacique shed
“tears of sympathy.” Such was the spirit with which the Spaniards
were met, and such was the spirit until the policy of kidnapping and
devastation was begun. Gradually the Spaniards began to seize the
natives as prisoners whenever opportunity offered. Men were found to be
less desirable captives than women and children.

Las Casas, the most discriminating and thoughtful, as well as the most
humane, of all writers of the time, has in a single sentence described
the beginning of the evil. These are his fruitful words: “Since men
are never accustomed to fall into a single error, nor into a sin to be
committed alone, without a greater one by and by following, so it fell
out that the Admiral ... sent a boat with certain sailors to a house
that stood on the side of the river toward the west, and they took and
carried off seven women, small and great, with three children. This he
says he did because Spaniards with women behave themselves better than
without them. A genteel excuse has he given to colour and justify a
deed so nefarious.” From a general policy, the beginning of which is
so significantly described by Las Casas, it came about very naturally
that, notwithstanding the noteworthy gentleness of the natives, it was
soon discovered that they were not absolutely devoid of the instincts
and impulses of human nature. The inevitable result followed. The
natives determined to defend their wives and their children. A war of
extermination ensued. The number of the inhabitants upon these islands
was variously estimated by Las Casas and others of his day. The lowest
estimate that can now be reconciled with the original accounts is forty
thousand. In the course of the fourteen years between the discovery and
Columbus’s death the number had been reduced by fully one half; and it
was only a few years later when the last of them, hunted like beasts
and torn by bloodhounds, perished from the earth. We are accustomed
to regard Cortez and Pizarro as exceptional embodiments of inhumanity
and cruelty. But Cortez and Pizarro only followed the example that had
already been set.

Nor is it possible to acquit Columbus of responsibility for the course
that was taken. His position gave him plenary powers. No man ever had
fewer scruples in the exercise of all the authority conferred upon
him. It is indeed true that the policy of the Spaniards showed itself
at its worst after the authority of Columbus was at an end. But it is
also true that this policy in all its most deplorable features was
inaugurated by him; and therefore he is to be held responsible at the
bar of history for the evil consequences that ensued.

Nor, again, can we say that the end justified the means. Columbus never
expected or desired to discover a new country. His motive in urging
the support of the voyages was twofold. He desired, on the one hand,
to bring back the wealth that would enable his sovereigns to conquer
Jerusalem for Christianity; and, on the other, to acquire wealth and
fame for himself. The only condition of success was the finding of
vast amounts of gold. The reports of John de Mandeville and Marco Polo
had filled his mind with confidence that the necessary gold existed
and could be acquired, if only it could be found. Hence his restless
activity. Never dreaming till the day of his death that the islands he
had discovered were not off the coast of Asia, he thought himself not
far away from the mines that had brought such wealth to Cipango and
Cathay. Everything, therefore, was made to contribute to this fruitless
search. No thoughtful person can read the original accounts of the four
voyages without being impressed with the fact that he was constantly
led on from one thing to another by the alluring reports of gold. This
endless and fruitless quest was the cause of the worst features of his
misgovernment. The gold mines stubbornly refused to reveal themselves.
Recourse was then had to that pitiless system of _repartimientos_, or
enforced labour, which everywhere threw the natives into despair. Then
it was that, in the words of Las Casas, “The Admiral went over a great
part of the island, making cruel war on all the kings and peoples who
would not come into obedience.” Elsewhere the same great authority
says: “In those days and months the greatest outrages and slaughter
of people and depopulation of villages went on, because the Indians
put forth all their strength to see if they could drive from their
territories a people so murderous and cruel.” The original authorities
prove beyond question that the policy was simply one of unqualified
cupidity, cruelly and relentlessly enforced.

We have already seen that the death of Columbus attracted no general
attention and awakened no general comment. This remarkable fact was
in strict consonance with the spirit of the time, for the exploits of
other voyagers had already caught the public ear and monopolized public
attention. Americus Vespucius had returned from his second voyage
and had aroused the attention of all Europe by means of his glowing
accounts of the new continent. The Cabots from England had at least
skirted along the coasts of what is now known as North America. The
Portuguese had discovered a safe passage to the Indies by sailing to
the south and east, and had begun to raise the question of their rights
in consequence of the independent discovery of Brazil, in the year
1500, by Pedro Cabral. Pizarro had learned the art of war under the
unscrupulous Ojeda, and Cortez had had the schooling of long interviews
with Columbus at San Domingo. Balboa and Magellan had already completed
their apprenticeship, and were now about to astonish the world by
revealing to it the Pacific Ocean. In the very year of Columbus’s
death, fishermen from Portugal were already plying their vocation with
profit on the banks of Newfoundland; and less than a year later, the
Spaniard Velasco had entered the St. Lawrence. Within the short life
of one generation the whole coast from Cape Breton to the Straits of
Magellan became the scene of maritime activity. In all parts of the Old
World, as well as of the New, it was evident that Columbus had kindled
a fire in every mariner’s heart. That fire was the harbinger of a new
era, for it was not to be extinguished.


  Agnado, Don John, appointed inspector, 166.

  Assistance, obstacles to, 44;
    arguments at Salamanca, 52.

  Barcelona, Columbus’s reception at, 118.

  Bobadilla, Francis de, 198;
    brutal energy of, 203.

  Boyle, Father, mutinous spirit of, 166.

  Brooks, W. K., account of the Lucayan Indians, 149.

  Bull of demarcation, 122.

  Cabral, Pedro, discovers Brazil, 214.

  Caonabo, bravery of, 142, 157.

  Caribbean Sea, visit to, 131.

  Caribs, discovery of, 106;
    character of, 132.

  Catilina, loss of, 138.

  Columbus, Bartholomew, his birth, 6;
    abode at Lisbon, 16;
    goes to England and France, 42;
    in charge at Isabella, 169;
    authority confirmed, 173;
    disasters, 184.

  Columbus, Christopher, place of his birth, 1;
    time of his birth, 4;
    parentage, 6;
    early years, 7;
    geographical studies, 8;
    early maritime experience, 9;
    voyage to the north, 11;
    vocation as a bookseller, 14;
    his geographical learning, 15;
    his moving to Lisbon, 15;
    his marriage, 17;
    leaves Portugal, 19;
    commercial enterprises, 21;
    ideas of discovery, 22;
    sphericity of the earth, 23;
    influence of the _Imago Mundi_, 27;
    letters of Toscanelli, 29;
    attempts to secure assistance, 34;
    refusal of Portugal, 40;
    leaves Portugal for Spain, 41;
    seeks assistance, 44;
    obstacles, 45;
    royal support, 47;
    meeting at Salamanca, 53;
    relations with Beatriz Henriquez, 57;
    visit to Portugal, 58;
    Talavera, 60;
    goes to La Rabida, 62;
    visits the court, 64;
    terms demanded, 65;
    terms of the commission, 68;
    the first voyage, 74;
    conduct of the crew, 85;
    indications of land, 85;
    discovery of land, 87;
    settlement at La Navidad, 96;
    sails for home, 105;
    storms, 108;
    reception at Lisbon, 114;
    at Palos, 115;
    at Barcelona, 118;
    renewal of commission, 122;
    preparation for second voyage, 126;
    the Caribbean Sea, 131;
    loss of La Navidad, 136;
    founding of Isabella, 140;
    report to the monarchs, 143;
    slavery proposed, 144;
    visits Cuba, 152;
    oath required of the men, 154;
    return, 155;
    additional demands for gold, 162;
    general spirit of revolt, 164;
    Agnado, 166;
    determination to return, 168;
    reaches Spain, 172;
    residence with Bernaldez, 174;
    preparations for third voyage, 175;
    sailing, 177;
    discovers Trinidad, 178;
    discovers mainland, 179;
    reaches Isabella, 184;
    revolt of Roldan, 188;
    unfavourable reports, 196;
    Bobadilla appointed, 197;
    arrest and confinement of Columbus, 203;
    reaches Spain in chains, 205;
    judgment of Isabella, 207;
    importunities, 211;
    fourth expedition sails, 216;
    is denied the port at San Domingo, 220;
    terrible storms, 222;
    sails along the Mosquito coast, 225;
    Varagua, 225;
    disasters, 227;
    disappointment and withdrawal, 228;
    shipwreck on coast of Jamaica, 229;
    final rescue, 233;
    return to Spain, 234;
    last days, 235;
    numerous letters, 236;
    makes his will, 238;
    death, 238;
    burial, 239;
    removal of remains, 240;
    question of dispute, 241;
    personal appearance, 248;
    portraits, 248;
    estimate of his character, 252.

  Columbus, Diego, appointment of, 201.

  Columbus, Fernando, his birth, 20.

  Crew of the first expedition, 76;
    of the second, 125;
    of the fourth, 216.

  Cronau, his theory as to the landfall, 89;
    investigation of the place of the remains, 246.

  Cuba, discovery of, 94.

  D’Ailly, Cardinal, influence of his _Imago Mundi_, 27.

  Deza, Diego de, friendliness of, 53.

  Diaz, Bartholomew, discovers Cape of Good Hope, 22.

  Diaz, Bernald, mutiny of, 152.

  Discovery, first ideas of Columbus concerning, 32.

  Discoveries of the Cabots and others, 213, 256.

  England, application to, 36.

  Fonseca, appointment of, to superintendency, 124;
    unfriendliness to Columbus, 176.

  France, application to, 36.

  Genoa, probable place of Columbus’s birth, 1;
    assistance, 33.

  Gold, its place in the mind of Columbus, 98;
    quest of, 147;
    tribute for, 160;
    reported discovery of, 184.

  Guanahani, discovery and situation of, 87.

  Iceland, probable voyage of Columbus to, 12, 28.

  Indians, character of, 92, 148;
    friendly nature of, 96;
    attitude of Columbus toward, 102;
    revolt of, 157, 160, 162;
    friendliness of, 179.

  Inquisition in Spain, 44.

  Isabella, city of, founded, 140;
    condition of, in 1500, 209.

  Isabella, of Castile, attitude toward Columbus, 49;
    judgment concerning Columbus, 207.

  La Navidad, colony settled at, 96;
    loss of colony, 135.

  La Rabida, monastery of, 41;
    visit of Columbus to, 62.

  Las Casas, his judicious estimate of Columbus, 253.

  Lisbon, home of Columbus, 13.

  Mandeville, John de, writings of, 26.

  Margarite, expedition of, 156;
    return to Spain, 156.

  Marriage of Columbus, 17.

  Medina Celi, assists Columbus, 43, 59.

  Mendez, Diego, daring sail from Jamaica, 230.

  Moorish war, 46.

  Moya, The Marchioness de, assistance of, 54.

  Mutinous spirit in Isabella, 164.

  Ojeda, expedition of, 142, 147, 157;
    unfriendliness of, 193.

  Ovando, succeeds Bobadilla, 215;
    refuses hospitality to Columbus, 220;
    shipwreck, 222;
    grants hospitality, 234.

  Pinzon, Martin Alonzo, 76;
    his treachery and death, 115.

  Piratical experiences of Columbus, 9.

  Porras, Francisco de, revolt of, 231.

  Portraits of Columbus, 249.

  Portugal, refuses assistance, 39.

  Prince Henry, 34.

  Ptolemy, Geography of, 24.

  Quintanilla, Alonzo de, 48.

  Remains of Columbus at San Domingo, 241.

  _Repartimientos_, establishment of, 161, 183.

  Roldan, revolt of, 188;
    settlement of difficulties, 191.

  Salamanca, audience at, 49.

  Slavery, proposed by Columbus, 144;
    persisted in, 182, 194.

  Sphericity of the earth, 22;
    history of the doctrine, 23;
    speculations of Columbus regarding, 180.

  Talavera, 60, 64.

  Tordesillas, treaty of, 128.

  Toscanelli, letters of, 29.

  Trinidad, discovery of, 178.

  Venice, relations of, to Columbus, 35.

  Vespucius, Americus, relations of, to Columbus, 237.

  Voyage, the first, preparation for, 76;
    preparation for the second, 125;
    for the third, 171.

  Watling’s Island, the place of the landfall, 89.


  _The following is a list of the subjects and authors so far
    arranged for in this series. The volumes will be published at the
    uniform price of $1.00, and will appear in rapid succession_:--

  =Christopher Columbus= (1436-1506), and the Discovery of the
      New World. By CHARLES KENDALL ADAMS, President of Cornell

  =John Winthrop= (1588-1649), First Governor of the Massachusetts
      Colony. By Rev. JOSEPH H. TWICHELL.

  =Robert Morris= (1734-1806), Superintendent of Finance under the
      Continental Congress. By Prof. WILLIAM G. SUMNER, of Yale

  =James Edward Oglethorpe= (1689-1785), and the Founding of the
      Georgia Colony. By HENRY BRUCE, Esq.

  =John Hughes, D.D.= (1797-1864), First Archbishop of New-York: a
      Representative American Catholic. By HENRY A. BRANN, D.D.

  =Robert Fulton= (1765-1815): His Life and its Results. By Prof.
      R. H. THURSTON, of Cornell University.

  =Francis Higginson= (1587-1630), Puritan, Author of “New England’s
      Plantation,” etc. By THOMAS W. HIGGINSON.

  =Peter Stuyvesant= (1602-1682), and the Dutch Settlement of
      New-York. By BAYARD TUCKERMAN, Esq., author of a “Life of
      General Lafayette,” editor of the “Diary of Philip Hone,” etc.,

  =Thomas Hooker= (1586-1647), Theologian, Founder of the Hartford
      Colony. By GEORGE L. WALKER, D.D.

  =Charles Sumner= (1811-1874), Statesman. By ANNA L. DAWES.

  =Thomas Jefferson= (1743-1826), Third President of the United
      States. By JAMES SCHOULER, Esq., author of “A History of the
      United States under the Constitution.”

  =William White= (1748-1836), Chaplain of the Continental Congress,
      Bishop of Pennsylvania, President of the Convention to organize
      the Protestant Episcopal Church in America. By Rev. JULIUS H.
      WARD, with an Introduction by Right Rev. Henry C. Potter, D.D.,
      Bishop of New-York.

  =Jean Baptiste Lemoine=, _sieur_ de Bienville (1680-1768), French
      Governor of Louisiana, Founder of New Orleans. By GRACE KING,
      author of “Monsieur Motte.”

  =Alexander Hamilton= (1757-1804), Statesman, Financier, Secretary
      of the Treasury. By Prof. WILLIAM G. SUMNER, of Yale University.

  =Father Juniper Serra= (1713-1784), and the Franciscan Missions in
      California. By JOHN GILMARY SHEA, LL.D.

  =Cotton Mather= (1663-1728), Theologian, Author, Believer in
      Witchcraft and the Supernatural. By Prof. BARRETT WENDELL, of
      Harvard University.

  =Robert Cavelier=, _sieur_ de La Salle (1643-1687), Explorer of
      the Northwest and the Mississippi. By EDWARD G. MASON, Esq.,
      President of the Historical Society of Chicago, author of
      “Illinois” in the Commonwealth Series.

  =Thomas Nelson= (1738-1789), Governor of Virginia, General in the
      Revolutionary Army. Embracing a Picture of Virginian Colonial
      Life. By THOMAS NELSON PAGE, author of “Mars Chan,” and other
      popular stories.

  =George and Cecilius Calvert, Barons Baltimore of Baltimore=
      (1605-1676), and the Founding of the Maryland Colony. By
      WILLIAM HAND BROWNE, editor of “The Archives of Maryland.”

  =Sir William Johnson= (1715-1774), and The Six Nations. By WILLIAM
      ELLIOT GRIFFIS, D.D., author of “The Mikado’s Empire,” etc.,

  =Sam. Houston= (1793-1862), and the Annexation of Texas. By HENRY
      BRUCE, Esq.

  =Joseph Henry, LL.D.= (1797-1878), Savant and Natural Philosopher.
      By FREDERIC H. BETTS, Esq.

  =Ralph Waldo Emerson.= By Prof. HERMAN GRIMM, author of “The Life
      of Michael Angelo,” “The Life and Times of Goethe,” etc.

  _753 and 755 Broadway, New York_.

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Index not checked for proper alphabetization or correct page references.

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