Page images

they expected so many advantages to flow into the kingdoms, subject to their government.

Columbus was invested with every mark of honour, that gratitude or admiration could suggest, confirming to him and his heirs the agreement made at Santa Fé. His family was ennobled, the king and queen and the whole court treated him on every occasion with all the ceremonious respect, usually paid to persons of the highest rank. An order was immediately made to equip, without delay, an armament of such force, as might enable him to take possession of those countries which he had already discovered, as well as to search for those more opulent regions, which he still confidently expected to find. Colum. bus's fame now quickly spread over Europe; his successful voyage had excited general attention.

Men of science spoke of it with rapture, and congratulated one another upon their felicity, in having lived at a period when the boundaries of human knowledge, were so much extended.

Various opinions were formed, concerning the new found countries, and what division of the earth they belonged to. Columbus erroneously and tenaciously adhered to his original idea, that they were part of those vast regions of Asia, comprehended under the general name of India : this sentiment gained strength from the productions of the countries he had discovered. Gold was known to abound in India, of which precious metal he had brought some samples from the islands he had visited.

Cotton another production of the east, was common there. The pimento of the islands, he imagined to be a species of the East Indian pepper. He mistook a root, somewhat resembling rhubarb, for that valuable drug, which was then supposed to be a plant peculiar to the East Indies; the birds were adorned with the same rich plumage, that distinguishes those of India. The alligator of the one country, was considered as the crocodile of the other. After weighing all these circumstances, the different nations of Europe, adopted the opinion of Colum. bus; they considered the countries he had discovered, as a part of India.

The name of West Indies, was therefore given to them, by Ferdinand and Isabella even after the error was detected, and the true position of the new world known :

the name still remains, and the appellation of West Indies is given by all the people of Europe to the country, and that of Indians to its inhabitants.

The specimens of the riches and the productions of the new country which Columbus produced were so alluring; and the exaggerated accounts of his companions (so nalu. ral to travellers) excited a wonderful spirit of enterprize among the Spaniards. Though unaccustomed to naval expeditions they were eager to set out upon another voyage. Volunteers of all ranks were anxiously solicitous to be employed. The vast prospect which opened to their imagination, flattered their ambition and their avarice; neither the danger, nor length of the navigation intimidat. ed them. Ferdinand's natural caution gave way to the torrent of public opinion : he seemed to have caught the same spirit with his subjects.

Another expedition was carried on with a rapidity unusual to the Spaniards. A fleet consisting of seventeen ships was equipped; some of which were of good burden: they had on board fifteen hundred persons, among whom were many of noble families, who had served in honoura. ble stations. Most of these intending to remain in the country, were furnished with every thing necessary for conquest or settlement, with all kinds of domestic animals, and also seeds and plants, that were likely to thrive in the climate of the West Indies, together with such utensils as might be useful in an infant colony : and artificers were engaged to attend the expedition.

But formidable and well provided as this fleet was, Ferdinand and Isabella, (slaves to the superstition of the fourteenth century) were not willing to rest their title to the possession of the newly discovered countries, until they applied to the Roman pontiff, who, in that age was supposed to have a right of dominion over all the kingdoms of the earth.

Alexander VI. a pontiff, infamous for every crime that disgraces humanity, filled the papal throne at that time: as he was born Ferdinand's subject, and solicitous to procure that monarch's protection, in prosecuting his ambitious schemes, in favour of his own family, he instantly complied with his request. By an act of liberality which cost him nothing, he bestowed upon Ferdinand and Isabella all the countries inhabited by infidels which they had discovered, or should discover. And by virtue of that power

which he pretended he derived from Jesus Christ, he vest. ed in the crown of Castile a right to vast regions, to the possession of which he was so far from having any title, that he was unacquainted with their situation, and even with their existence; but that this grant should not seem to interfere with one he had made to the crown of Portu. gal, he appointed that a line supposed to be drawn from pole to pole one hundred leagues to the westward of the Azores should serve as a limit between them: and in the plenitude of his power, conferred all on the east of this imaginary line on the Portuguese, and all on the west of it upon the Spaniards. Zeal for propagating the Christian faith was the consideration employed by Ferdinand in soliciting this Bull, and pretended by Alexander to be his chief motive for granting it. Several friars, under the direction of Father Boyle, a Catalonian monk of great reputation, as apostolical vicar, were appointed to accompany Columbus in this second expedition, who were to devote themselves to the instruction and conversion of the natives. Those who came over with Columbus, after being imperfectly instructed in the Christian knowledge, were baptized with great solemnity; the king himself, his son, and the chief persons of his court, standing as their spon

Ferdinand and Isabella having now acquired a title, which in that age was deemed completely valid, there was nothing now retarded the departure of the fleet. Columbus was impatient to re-visit the colony he had left, and pursue that career of glory, upon which he had entered. He set sail from the bay of Cadiz on the twenty-fifth day of September. 1493, and steered farther towards the south than in his first expedition : by which he enjoyed more steadily the benefit of the regular winds which predominate between the tropics, and was carried towards a large cluster of islands, situated considerably to the east of those which he had formerly discovered.

On the second of November he made land, it was one of the Caribee or Leward islands, to which he gave the name of Deseada, on account of the impatience of his crew to discover some part of the New World. After this he touched successively at Dominica, Marigalante, Guadaloupe, Antigua, St. John de Porto Rico, and several other islands as he advanced towards the northwest. All these he found inhabited by that fierce race of people,


whom Guacanahari had represented in such frightful colours. From them the Spaniards met with such a reception as convinced them of their martial and daring spirit: and they found in their habitations the relics of those horrid feasts, which they had made upon the bodies of their enemies taken in war. Columbus, eager to know the state of the colony he had left, proceeded directly to Hispaniola. When he arrived off Navidad where he had left the thirtyeight men under the command of Arada, he was astonished that none of them appeared; and expected every moment to see them running with transports of joy to welcome their countrymen. · Foreboding in his mind what had befallen them, he rowed instantly to land. All the natives, from whom he might have received information, fled at his approach. The fort which he had built, was demolished, and the tattered garments, the broken arms and utepsils scattered about it, left no room to doubt concerning the unhappy fate of the garrison. ·

While the Spaniards were lamenting over the sad memorials of their countrymen, a brother of the cazique Guacanahari arrived, who gave Columbus a particular detail of what had happened after his departure from the island. The conduct of the Spaniards, and their familiar intercourse with the Indians, tended to diminish that veneration with which they at first inspired them.

As soon as the powerful restraints, which the presence and authority of Columbus imposed was withdrawn, the garrison threw off all subordination to the officer whom he had left in command. They roamed as free-booters through the country; the gold, the women, the provisions were all the prey of these licentious oppressors : they extended their rapacity to every corner of the island. Gentle and timid as the inhabitants were, unprovoked injuries at length rouzed their courage.

The cazique of Cibao, whose territories the Spaniards chiefly infested, on account of the gold which they contained, surprized and cut off several straggling parties. He next assembled his subjects, surrounded the fort, and set it on fire. Some of the Spaniards were killed in defending it, the rest perished in attempting to escape, by crossing an arm of the sea. Guacanahari, who still retained his affection for the Spaniards, took up arms in their defence, and received a wound, by which he was still confined.

Columbus, although he entertained some suspicions of the fidelity of Guacanahari, yet he considered that this was not a proper time to enquire into his conduct: he, therefore, rejected the advice of several of his officers, who urged him to seize the person of that prince, and revenge the death of their countrymen, by attacking his subjects. He considered it necessary to secure the friendship of some potentate of the country, in order to facilitate the settlement which he intended. Therefore, in order to prevent any future injury, he made choice of a more healthy situation than that of Navidad. He traced out the plan of a town in a large plain before a spacious bay, and made every person put his hand to a work on which their common safety depended; the houses and ramparts were soon so far advanced by their united labour, as to afford them shelter and security.

This being the first city founded in the new world, by the Europeans, Columbus named it Isabella, in honour of his patroness, the queen of Castile. Columbus had to sustain all the hardships in carrying on this necessary work, and encounter all the difficulties to which infant colonies are exposed, when they settled in an uncultivated country; he had also to contend with what was more difficult and insuperable, the laziness, the impatience, and the mutinous disposition, of his followers. The natural inactivity of the Spaniards, seemed to encrease under the enervating influence of a hot climate. Some of them were gentle. men unused to bodily fatigue; they had engaged in thcenterprize with the sanguine hopes, excited by the splendid and exaggerated accounts, of those who had returned with Columbus from his first voyage, conceiving that it was either the Cipango of Marco Polo, or the Ophir from whence Solomon imported those precious commodities, which suddenly diffused such immense riches through his kingdom.

· But when, instead of that golden harvest, which they expected to reap without much toil or pains, they found their prospect of wealth was remote and uncertain : and, if attained, it must be by slow and persevering efforts of industry; the disappointment of their hopes occasioned such dejection of mind, as led to general discontent. In vain did Columbus endeavour to revive their spirits by expatiating on the fertility of the soil, and displaying the specimens of gold daily brought in from the different parts of the island.

« PreviousContinue »