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

Part 5 out of 10

his island to watch the movements of the caravel. Esquibel departed by
night, therefore, in the vessel, with fifty followers, and keeping under
the deep shadows cast by the land, arrived at Saona unperceived, at the
dawn of morning. Here he anchored close in with the shore, hid by its
cliffs and forests, and landed forty men, before the spies of Cotabanama
had taken their station. Two of these were surprised and brought to
Esquibel, who, having learnt from them that the cacique was at hand,
poniarded one of the spies, and bound the other, making him serve as

A number of Spaniards ran in advance, each anxious to signalize himself by
the capture of the cacique. They came to two roads, and the whole party
pursued that to the right, excepting one Juan Lopez, a powerful man,
skillful in Indian warfare. He proceeded in a footpath to the left,
winding among little hills, so thickly wooded that it was impossible to
see any one at the distance of half a bow-shot. Suddenly, in a narrow
pass, overshadowed by rocks and trees, he encountered twelve Indian
warriors, armed with bows and arrows, and following each other in single
file according to their custom. The Indians were confounded at the sight
of Lopez, imagining that there must be a party of soldiers behind him.
They might readily have transfixed him with their arrows, but they had
lost all presence of mind. He demanded their chieftain. They replied that
he was behind, and, opening to let him pass, Lopez beheld the cacique in
the rear. At sight of the Spaniard, Cotabanama bent his gigantic bow, and
was on the point of launching one of his three-pronged arrows, but Lopez
rushed upon him and wounded him with his sword. The other Indians, struck
with panic, had already fled. Cotabanama, dismayed at the keenness of the
sword, cried out that he was Juan de Esquibel, claiming respect as having
exchanged names with the Spanish commander. Lopez seized him with one hand
by the hair, and with the other aimed a thrust at his body; but the
cacique struck down the sword with his hand, and, grappling with his
antagonist, threw him with his back upon the rocks. As they were both men
of great power, the struggle was long and violent. The sword was beneath
them, but Cotabanama, seizing the Spaniard by the throat with his mighty
hand, attempted to strangle him. The sound of the contest brought the
other Spaniards to the spot. They found their companion writhing and
gasping, and almost dead, in the gripe of the gigantic Indian. They seized
the cacique, bound him, and carried him captive to a deserted Indian
village in the vicinity. They found the way to his secret cave, but his
wife and children, having received notice of his capture by the fugitive
Indians, had taken refuge in another part of the island. In the cavern was
found the chain with which a number of Indian captives had been bound, who
had risen upon and slain three Spaniards who had them in charge, and had
made their escape to this island. There were also the swords of the same
Spaniards, which they had brought off as trophies to their cacique. The
chain was now employed to manacle Cotabanama.

The Spaniards prepared to execute the chieftain on the spot, in the centre
of the deserted village. For this purpose a pyre was built of logs of wood
laid crossways, in form of a gridiron, on which he was to be slowly
broiled to death. On further consultation, however, they were induced to
forego the pleasure of this horrible sacrifice. Perhaps they thought the
cacique too important a personage to be executed thus obscurely. Granting
him, therefore, a transient reprieve, they conveyed him to the caravel,
and sent him, bound with heavy chains, to San Domingo. Ovando saw him in
his power, and incapable of doing further harm; but he had not the
magnanimity to forgive a fallen enemy, whose only crime was the defence of
his native soil and lawful territority. He ordered him to be publicly
hanged like a common culprit. [219] In this ignominious manner was the
cacique Cotabanama executed, the last of the five sovereign princes of
Hayti. His death was followed by the complete subjugation of his people,
and sealed the last struggle of the natives against their oppressors. The
island was almost unpeopled of its original inhabitants, and meek and
mournful submission and mute despair settled upon the scanty remnant that

Such was the ruthless system which had been pursued, during the absence of
the admiral, by the commander Ovando; this man of boasted prudence and
moderation, who was sent to reform the abuses of the island, and above
all, to redress the wrongs of the natives. The system of Columbus may have
borne hard upon the Indians, born and brought up in untasked freedom, but
it was never cruel nor sanguinary. He inflicted no wanton massacres nor
vindictive punishments; his desire was to cherish and civilize the
Indians, and to render them useful subjects; not to oppress, and
persecute, and destroy them. When he beheld the desolation that had swept
them from the land during his suspension from authority, he could not
restrain the strong expression of his feelings. In a letter written to the
king after his return to Spain, he thus expresses himself on the subject:
"The Indians of Hispaniola were and are the riches of the island; for it
is they who cultivate and make the bread and the provisions for the
Christians; who dig the gold from the mines, and perform all the offices
and labors both of men and beasts. I am informed that, since I left this
island, six parts out of seven of the natives are dead; all through ill
treatment and inhumanity; some by the sword, others by blows and cruel
usage, others through hunger. The greater part have perished in the
mountains and glens, whither they had fled, from not being able to support
the labor imposed upon them." For his own part, he added, although he had
sent many Indians to Spain to be sold, it was always with a view to their
being instructed in the Christian faith, and in civilized arts and usages,
and afterwards sent back to their island to assist in civilizing their
countrymen. [220]

The brief view that has been given of the policy of Ovando, on certain
points on which Columbus was censured, may enable the reader to judge more
correctly of the conduct of the latter. It is not to be measured by the
standard of right and wrong established in the present more enlightened
age. We must consider him in connection with the era in which he lived. By
comparing his measures with those men of his own times praised for their
virtues and abilities, placed in precisely his own situation, and placed
there expressly to correct his faults, we shall be the better able to
judge how virtuously and wisely, under the peculiar circumstances of the
case, he may be considered to have governed.


Chapter I.

Departure of Columbus for San Domingo.--His Return to Spain.

The arrival at Jamaica of the two vessels under the command of Salcedo had
caused a joyful reverse in the situation of Columbus. He hastened to leave
the wreck in which he had been so long immured, and hoisting his flag on
board of one of the ships, felt as if the career of enterprise and glory
were once more open to him. The late partisans of Porras, when they heard
of the arrival of the ships, came wistful and abject to the harbor,
doubting how far they might trust to the magnanimity of a man whom they
had so greatly injured, and who had now an opportunity of vengeance. The
generous mind, however, never harbors revenge in the hour of returning
prosperity; but feels noble satisfaction in sharing its happiness even
with its enemies. Columbus forgot, in his present felicity, all that he
had suffered from these men; he ceased to consider them enemies, now that
they had lost the power to injure; and he not only fulfilled all that he
had promised them, by taking them on board the ships, but relieved their
necessities from his own purse, until their return to Spain; and
afterwards took unwearied pains to recommend them to the bounty of the
sovereigns. Francisco Porras alone continued a prisoner, to be tried by
the tribunals of his country.

Oviedo assures us that the Indians wept when they beheld the departure of
the Spaniards; still considering them as beings from the skies. From the
admiral, it is true, they had experienced nothing but just and gentle
treatment, and continual benefits; and the idea of his immediate influence
with the Deity, manifested on the memorable occasion of the eclipse, may
have made them consider him as more than human, and his presence as
propitious to their island; but it is not easy to believe that a lawless
gang like that of Porras, could have been ranging for months among their
villages, without giving cause for the greatest joy at their departure.

On the 28th of June the vessels set sail for San Domingo. The adverse
winds and currents which had opposed Columbus throughout this ill-starred
expedition, still continued to harass him. After a weary struggle of
several weeks, he reached, on the 3d of August, the little island of
Beata, on the coast of Hispaniola. Between this place and San Domingo the
currents are so violent, that vessels are often detained months, waiting
for sufficient wind to enable them to stem the stream. Hence Columbus
dispatched a letter by land to Ovando, to inform him of his approach, and
to remove certain absurd suspicions of his views, which he had learnt from
Salcedo were still entertained by the governor; who feared his arrival in
the island might produce factions and disturbances. In this letter he
expresses, with his usual warmth and simplicity, the joy he felt at his,
deliverance, which was so great, he says, that, since the arrival of Diego
de Salcedo with succor, he had scarcely been able to sleep. The letter had
barely time to precede the writer, for, a favorable wind springing up, the
vessels again made sail, and, on the 13th of August, anchored in the
harbor of San Domingo.

If it is the lot of prosperity to awaken envy and excite detraction, it is
certainly the lot of misfortune to atone for a multitude of faults. San
Domingo had been the very hot-bed of sedition against Columbus in the day
of his power; he had been hurried from it in ignominious chains, amidst
the shouts and taunts of the triumphant rabble; he had been excluded from
its harbor, when, as commander of a squadron, he craved shelter from an
impending tempest; but now that he arrived in its waters, a broken-down
and shipwrecked man, all past hostility was overpowered by the popular
sense of his late disasters. There was a momentary burst of enthusiasm in
his favor; what had been denied to his merits was granted to his
misfortunes; and even the envious, appeased by his present reverses,
seemed to forgive him for having once been so triumphant.

The governor and principal inhabitants came forth to meet him, and
received him with signal distinction. He was lodged as a guest in the
house of Ovando, who treated him with the utmost courtesy and attention.
The governor was a shrewd and discreet man, and much of a courtier; but
there were causes of jealousy and distrust between him and Columbus too
deep to permit of cordial intercourse. The admiral and his son Fernando
always pronounced the civility of Ovando overstrained and hypocritical;
intended to obliterate the remembrance of past neglect, and to conceal
lurking enmity. While he professed the utmost friendship and sympathy for
the admiral, he set at liberty the traitor Porras, who was still a
prisoner, to be taken to Spain for trial. He also talked of punishing
those of the admiral's people who had taken arms in his defence, and in
the affray at Jamaica had killed several of the mutineers. These
circumstances were loudly complained of by Columbus; but, in fact, they
rose out of a question of jurisdiction between him and the governor. Their
powers were so undefined as to clash with each other, and they were both
disposed to be extremely punctilious. Ovando assumed a right to take
cognizance of all transactions at Jamaica; as happening within the limits
of his government, which included all the islands and Terra Firma.
Columbus, on the other hand, asserted the absolute command, and the
jurisdiction both civil and criminal given to him by the sovereigns, over
all persons who sailed in his expedition, from the time of departure until
their return to Spain. To prove this, he produced his letter of
instructions. The governor heard him with great courtesy and a smiling
countenance; but observed, that the letter of instructions gave him no
authority within the bounds of his government. [221] He relinquished the
idea, however, of investigating the conduct of the followers of Columbus,
and sent Porras to Spain, to be examined by the board which had charge of
the affairs of the Indies.

The sojourn of Columbus at San Domingo was but little calculated to yield
him satisfaction. He was grieved at the desolation of the island by the
oppressive treatment of the natives, and the horrible massacre which had
been perpetrated by Ovando and his agents. He had fondly hoped, at one
time, to render the natives civilized, industrious, and tributary subjects
to the crown, and to derive from their well-regulated labor a great and
steady revenue. How different had been the event! The five great tribes
which peopled the mountains and the valleys at the time of the discovery,
and rendered, by their mingled towns and villages and tracts of
cultivation, the rich levels of the Vegas so many "painted gardens," had
almost all passed away, and the native princes had perished chiefly by
violent or ignominious deaths. Columbus regarded the affairs of the island
with a different eye from Ovando. He had a paternal feeling for its
prosperity, and his fortunes were implicated in its judicious management.
He complained, in subsequent letters to the sovereigns, that all the
public affairs were ill conducted; that the ore collected lay unguarded in
large quantities in houses slightly built and thatched, inviting
depredation; that Ovando was unpopular, the people were dissolute, and the
property of the crown and the security of the island in continual risk
from mutiny and sedition. [222] While he saw all this, he had no power to
interfere, and any observation or remonstrance on his part was ill
received by the governor.

He found his own immediate concerns in great confusion. His rents and dues
were either uncollected, or he could not obtain a clear account and a full
liquidation of them. Whatever he could collect was appropriated to the
fitting out of the vessels which were to convey himself and his crews to
Spain. He accuses Ovando, in his subsequent letters, of having neglected,
if not sacrificed, his interests during his long absence, and of having
impeded those who were appointed to attend to his concerns. That he had
some grounds for these complaints would appear from two letters still
extant, [223] written by Queen Isabella to Ovando, on the 27th of
November, 1503, in which she informs him of the complaint of Alonzo
Sanchez de Carvajal, that he was impeded in collecting the rents of the
admiral; and expressly commands Ovando to observe the capitulations
granted to Columbus; to respect his agents, and to facilitate, instead
of obstructing, his concerns. These letters, while they imply ungenerous
conduct on the part of the governor towards his illustrious predecessor,
evince likewise the personal interest taken by Isabella in the affairs of
Columbus, during his absence. She had, in fact, signified her displeasure
at his being excluded from the port of San Domingo, when he applied there
for succor for his squadron, and for shelter from a storm; and had
censured Ovando for not taking his advice and detaining the fleet of
Bobadilla, by which it would have escaped its disastrous fate. [224] And
here it may be observed, that the sanguinary acts of Ovando towards the
natives, in particular the massacre at Xaragua, and the execution of the
unfortunate Anacaona, awakened equal horror and indignation in Isabella;
she was languishing on her death-bed when she received the intelligence,
and with her dying breath she exacted a promise from King Ferdinand that
Ovando should immediately be recalled from his government. The promise
was tardily and reluctantly fulfilled, after an interval of about four
years, and not until induced by other circumstances; for Ovando
contrived to propitiate the monarch, by forcing a revenue from the

The continual misunderstandings between the admiral and the governor,
though always qualified on the part of the latter with great complaisance,
induced Columbus to hasten as much as possible his departure from the
island. The ship in which he had returned from Jamaica was repaired and
fitted out, and put under the command of the Adelantado; another vessel
was freighted, in which Columbus embarked with his son and his domestics.
The greater part of his late crews remained at San Domingo; as they were
in great poverty, he relieved their necessities from his own purse, and
advanced the funds necessary for the voyage home of those who chose to
return. Many thus relieved by his generosity had been among the most
violent of the rebels.

On the 12th of September, he set sail; but had scarcely left the harbor
when, in a sudden squall, the mast of his ship was carried away. He
immediately went with his family on board of the vessel commanded by the
Adelantado, and, sending back the damaged ship to port, continued on his
course. Throughout the voyage he experienced the most tempestuous weather.
In one storm the mainmast was sprung in four places. He was confined to
his bed at the time by the gout; by his advice, however, and the activity
of the Adelantado, the damage was skillfully repaired; the mast was
shortened; the weak parts were fortified by wood taken from the castles or
cabins which the vessels in those days carried on the prow and stern; and
the whole was well secured by cords. They were still more damaged in a
succeeding tempest; in which the ship sprung her foremast. In this
crippled state they had to traverse seven hundred leagues of a stormy
ocean. Fortune continued to persecute Columbus to the end of this, his
last and most disastrous expedition. For several weeks he was
tempest-tossed--suffering at the same time the most excruciating pains
from his malady--until, on the seventh day of November, his crazy and
shattered bark anchored in the harbor of San Lucar. Hence he had himself
conveyed to Seville, where he hoped to enjoy repose of mind and body, and
to recruit his health after such a long series of fatigues, anxieties,
and hardships. [225]

Chapter II.

Illness of Columbus at Seville.--Application to the Crown for a
Restitution of His Honors.--Death of Isabella.


Broken by age and infirmities, and worn down by the toils and hardships of
his recent expedition, Columbus had looked forward to Seville as to a
haven of rest, where he might repose awhile from his troubles. Care and
sorrow, however, followed him by sea and land. In varying the scene he but
varied the nature of his distress. "Wearisome days and nights" were
appointed to him for the remainder of his life; and the very margin of his
grave was destined to be strewed with thorns.

On arriving at Seville, he found all his affairs in confusion. Ever since
he had been sent home in chains from San Domingo, when his house and
effects had been taken possession of by Bobadilla, his rents and dues had
never been properly collected; and such as had been gathered had been
retained in the hands of the governor Ovando. "I have much vexation from
the governor," says he, in a letter to his son Diego. [226] "All tell me
that I have there eleven or twelve thousand castellanos; and I have not
received a quarto. ... I know well, that, since my departure, he must have
received upwards of five thousand castellanos." He entreated that a letter
might be written by the king, commanding the payment of these arrears
without delay; for his agents would not venture even to speak to Ovando on
the subject, unless empowered by a letter from the sovereign.

Columbus was not of a mercenary spirit; but his rank and situation
required large expenditure. The world thought him in the possession of
sources of inexhaustible wealth; but, as yet, those sources had furnished
him but precarious and scanty streams. His last voyage had exhausted his
finances, and involved him in perplexities. All that he had been able to
collect of the money due to him in Hispaniola, to the amount of twelve
hundred castellanos, had been expended in bringing home many of his late
crew, who were in distress; and for the greater part of the sum the crown
remained his debtor. While struggling to obtain his mere pecuniary dues,
he was absolutely suffering a degree of penury. He repeatedly urges the
necessity of economy to his son Diego, until he can obtain a restitution
of his property, and the payment of his arrears. "I receive nothing of the
revenue due to me," says he, in one letter; "I live by borrowing." "Little
have I profited," he adds, in another, "by twenty years of service, with
such toils and perils; since, at present, I do not own a roof in Spain. If
I desire to eat or sleep, I have no resort but an inn; and, for the most
times, have not wherewithal to pay my bill."

Yet in the midst of these personal distresses, he was more solicitous for
the payment of his seamen than of himself. He wrote strongly and
repeatedly to the sovereigns, entreating the discharge of their arrears,
and urged his son Diego, who was at court, to exert himself in their
behalf. "They are poor," said he, "and it is now nearly three years since
they left their homes. They have endured infinite toils and perils, and
they bring invaluable tidings, for which their majesties ought to give
thanks to God and rejoice." Notwithstanding his generous solicitude for
these men, he knew several of them to have been his enemies; nay, that
some of them were at this very time disposed to do him harm rather than
good; such was the magnanimity of his spirit and his forgiving

The same zeal, also, for the interests of his sovereigns, which had ever
actuated his loyal mind, mingled with his other causes of solicitude. He
represented in his letter to the king, the mismanagement of the royal
rents in Hispaniola, under the administration of Ovando. Immense
quantities of ore lay unprotected in slightly-built houses, and liable to
depredations. It required a person of vigor, and one who had an individual
interest in the property of the island, to restore its affairs to order,
and draw from it the immense revenues which it was capable of yielding;
and Columbus plainly intimated that he was the proper person.

In fact, as to himself, it was not so much pecuniary indemnification that
he sought, as the restoration of his offices and dignities. He regarded
them as the trophies of his illustrious achievements; he had received the
royal promise that he should be reinstated in them; and he felt that as
long as they were withheld, a tacit censure rested upon his name. Had he
not been proudly impatient on this subject, he would have belied the
loftiest part of his character; for he who can be indifferent to the
wreath of triumph, is deficient in the noble ambition which incites to
glorious deeds.

The unsatisfactory replies received to his letters disquieted his mind. He
knew that he had active enemies at court ready to turn all things to his
disadvantage, and felt the importance of being there in person to defeat
their machinations: but his infirmities detained him at Seville. He made
an attempt to set forth on the journey, but the severity of the winter and
the virulence of his malady obliged him to relinquish it in despair. All
that he could do was to reiterate his letters to the sovereigns, and to
entreat the intervention of his few but faithful friends. He feared the
disastrous occurrences of the last voyage might be represented to his
prejudice. The great object of the expedition, the discovery of a strait
opening from the Caribbean to a southern sea, had failed. The secondary
object, the acquisition of gold, had not been completed. He had discovered
the gold mines of Veragua, it is true; but he had brought home no
treasure; because, as he said, in one of his letters, "I would not rob nor
outrage the country; since reason requires that it should be settled, and
then the gold may be procured without violence."

He was especially apprehensive that the violent scenes in the island of
Jamaica might, by the perversity of his enemies, and the effrontery of the
delinquents, be wrested into matters of accusation against him, as had
been the case with the rebellion of Roldan. Porras, the ringleader of the
late faction, had been sent home by Ovando, to appear before the board of
the Indies; but without any written process, setting forth the offences
charged against him. While at Jamaica, Columbus had ordered an inquest of
the affair to be taken; but the notary of the squadron who took it, and
the papers which he drew up, were on board of the ship in which the
admiral had sailed from Hispaniola, but which had put back dismasted. No
cognizance of the case, therefore, was taken by the council of the Indies;
and Porras went at large, armed with the power and the disposition to do
mischief. Being related to Morales, the royal treasurer, he had access to
people in place, and an opportunity of enlisting their opinions and
prejudices on his side. Columbus wrote to Morales, inclosing a copy of the
petition which the rebels had sent to him when in Jamaica, in which they
acknowledged their culpability, and implored his forgiveness; and he
entreated the treasurer not to be swayed by the representations of his
relative, nor to pronounce an opinion unfavorable to him, until he had an
opportunity of being heard.

The faithful and indefatigable Diego Mendez was at this time at the court,
as well as Alonzo Sanchez de Carvajal, and an active friend of Columbus
named Geronimo. They could bear the most important testimony as to his
conduct, and he wrote to his son Diego to call upon them for their good
offices. "I trust," said he, "that the truth and diligence of Diego Mendez
will be of as much avail as the lies of Porras." Nothing can surpass the
affecting earnestness and simplicity of the general declaration of
loyalty, contained in one of his letters. "I have served their majesties,"
says he, "with as much zeal and diligence as if it had been to gain
Paradise; and if I have failed in any thing, it has been because my
knowledge and powers went no further."

While reading these touching appeals, we can scarcely realize the fact,
that the dejected individual thus wearily and vainly applying for
unquestionable rights, and pleading almost like a culprit, in cases
wherein he had been flagrantly injured, was the same who but a few years
previously had been received at this very court with almost regal honors,
and idolized as a national benefactor; that this, in a word, was Columbus,
the discoverer of the New World; broken in health, and impoverished in his
old days by his very discoveries.

At length the caravel bringing the official proceedings relative to the
brothers Porras arrived at the Algarves, in Portugal, and Columbus looked
forward with hope that all matters would soon be placed in a proper light.
His anxiety to get to court became every day more intense. A litter was
provided to convey him thither, and was actually at the door, but the
inclemency of the weather and his increasing infirmities obliged him again
to abandon the journey. His resource of letter-writing began to fail him:
he could only write at night, for in the daytime the severity of his
malady deprived him of the use of his hands. The tidings from the court
were every day more and more adverse to his hopes; the intrigues of his
enemies were prevailing; the cold-hearted Ferdinand treated all his
applications with indifference; the generous Isabella lay dangerously ill.
On her justice and magnanimity he still relied for the full restoration of
his rights, and the redress of all his grievances. "May it please the Holy
Trinity," says he, "to restore our sovereign queen to health; for by her
will every thing be adjusted which is now in confusion." Alas! while
writing that letter, his noble benefactress was a corpse!

The health of Isabella had long been undermined by the shocks of repeated
domestic calamities. The death of her only son, the prince Juan; of her
beloved daughter and bosom friend, the princess Isabella; and of her
grandson and prospective heir, the prince Miguel, had been three cruel
wounds to a heart full of the tenderest sensibility. To these was added
the constant grief caused by the evident infirmity of intellect of her
daughter Juana, and the domestic unhappiness of that princess with her
husband, the archduke Philip. The desolation which walks through palaces
admits not the familiar sympathies and sweet consolations which alleviate
the sorrows of common life. Isabella pined in state, amidst the obsequious
homages of a court, surrounded by the trophies of a glorious and
successful reign, and placed at the summit of earthly grandeur. A deep and
incurable melancholy settled upon her, which undermined her constitution,
and gave a fatal acuteness to her bodily maladies. After four months of
illness, she died on the 2eth of November, 1504, at Medina del Campo, in
the fifty-fourth year of her age; but long before her eyes closed upon the
world, her heart had closed on all its pomps and vanities. "Let my body,"
said she in her will, "be interred in the monastery of San Francisco,
which is in the Alhambra of the city of Granada, in a low sepulchre,
without any monument except a plain stone, with the inscription cut on it.
But I desire and command, that if the king, my lord, should choose a
sepulchre in any church or monastery in any other part or place of these
my kingdoms, my body be transported thither, and buried beside the body of
his highness; so that the union we have enjoyed while living, and which,
through the mercy of God, we hope our souls will experience in heaven, may
be represented by our bodies in the earth." [227]

Such was one of several passages in the will of this admirable woman,
which bespoke the chastened humility of her heart; and in which, as has
been well observed, the affections of conjugal love were delicately
entwined with piety, and with the most tender melancholy. [228] She
was one of the purest spirits that ever ruled over the destinies of a
nation. Had she been spared, her benignant vigilance would have prevented
many a scene of horror in the colonization of the New World, and might
have softened the lot of its native inhabitants. As it is, her fair name
will ever shine with celestial radiance in the dawning of its history.

The news of the death of Isabella reached Columbus when he was writing a
letter to his son Diego. He notices it in a postscript or memorandum,
written in the haste and brevity of the moment, but in beautifully
touching and mournful terms. "A memorial," he writes, "for thee, my dear
son Diego, of what is at present to be done. The principal thing is to
commend affectionately, and with great devotion, the soul of the queen our
sovereign to God. Her life was always catholic and holy, and prompt to all
things in his holy service: for this reason we may rest assured that she
is received into his glory, and beyond the cares of this rough and weary
world. The next thing is to watch and labor in all matters for the service
of our sovereign the king, and to endeavor to alleviate his grief. His
majesty is the head of Christendom. Remember the proverb which says, when
the head suffers all the members suffer. Therefore all good Christians
should pray for his health and long life; and we, who are in his employ,
ought more than others to do this with all study and diligence."

It is impossible to read this mournful letter without being moved by the
simply eloquent yet artless language in which Columbus expresses his
tenderness for the memory of his benefactress, his weariness under the
gathering cares and ills of life, and his persevering and enduring loyalty
towards the sovereign who was so ungratefully neglecting him. It is in
these unstudied and confidential letters that we read the heart of

Chapter III.

Columbus Arrives at Court.--Fruitless Application to the King for Redress.


The death of Isabella was a fatal blow to the fortunes of Columbus. While
she lived, he had every thing to anticipate from her high sense of
justice, her regard for her royal word, her gratitude for his services,
and her admiration of his character. With her illness, however, his
interests had languished, and when she died, he was left to the justice
and generosity of Ferdinand!

During the remainder of the winter and a part of the spring, he continued
at Seville, detained by painful illness, and endeavoring to obtain redress
from the government by ineffectual letters. His brother the Adelantado,
who supported him with his accustomed fondness and devotion through all
his trials, proceeded to court to attend to his interests, taking with him
the admiral's younger son Fernando, then aged about seventeen. The latter,
the affectionate father repeatedly represents to his son Diego as a man in
understanding and conduct, though but a stripling in years; and inculcates
the strongest fraternal attachment, alluding to his own brethren with one
of those simply eloquent and affecting expressions which stamp his heart
upon his letters. "To thy brother conduct thyself as the elder brother
should unto the younger. Thou hast no other, and I praise God that this is
such a one as thou dost need. Ten brothers would not be too many for thee.
Never have I found a better friend to right or left, than my brothers."

Among the persons whom Columbus employed at this time in his missions to
the court, was Amerigo Vespucci. He describes him as a worthy but
unfortunate man, who had not profited as much as he deserved by his
undertakings, and who had always been disposed to render him service. His
object in employing him appears to have been to prove the value of his
last voyage, and that he had been in the most opulent parts of the New
World; Vespucci having since touched upon the same coast, in a voyage with
Alonzo de Ojeda.

One circumstance occured at this time which shed a gleam of hope and
consolation over his gloomy prospects. Diego de Deza, who had been for
some time bishop of Palencia, was expected at court. This was the same
worthy friar who had aided him to advocate his theory before the board of
learned men at Salamanca, and had assisted him with his purse when making
his proposals to the Spanish court. He had just been promoted and made
archbishop of Seville, but had not yet been installed in office. Columbus
directs his son Diego to intrust his interests to this worthy prelate.
"Two things," says he, "require particular attention. Ascertain whether
the queen, who is now with God, has said any thing concerning me in her
testament, and stimulate the bishop of Palencia, he who was the cause that
their highnesses obtained possession of the Indies, who induced me to
remain in Castile when I was on the road to leave it." [230] In another
letter he says, "If the bishop of Palencia has arrived, or should arrive,
tell him how much I have been gratified by his prosperity, and that if I
come, I shall lodge with his grace, even though he should not invite me,
for we must return to our ancient fraternal affection."

The incessant applications of Columbus, both by letter and by the
intervention of friends, appear to have been listened to with cool
indifference. No compliance was yielded to his requests, and no deference
was paid to his opinions, on various points concerning which he interested
himself. New instructions were sent out to Ovando, but not a word of their
purport was mentioned to the admiral. It was proposed to send out three
bishops, and he entreated in vain to be heard previous to their election.
In short, he was not in any way consulted in the affairs of the New World.
He felt deeply this neglect, and became every day more impatient of his
absence from court. To enable himself to perform the journey with more
ease, he applied for permission to use a mule, a royal ordinance having
prohibited the employment of those animals under the saddle, in
consequence of their universal use having occasioned a decline in the
breed of horses. A royal permission was accordingly granted to Columbus,
in consideration that his age and infirmities incapacitated him from
riding on horse-back; but it was a considerable time before the state of
his health would permit him to avail himself of that privilege.

The foregoing particulars, gleaned from letters of Columbus recently
discovered, show the real state of his affairs, and the mental and bodily
affliction sustained by him during his winter's residence at Seville, on
his return from his last disastrous voyage. He has generally been
represented as reposing there from his toils and troubles. Never was
honorable repose more merited, more desired, and less enjoyed.

It was not until the month of May that he was able, in company with his
brother the Adelantado, to accomplish his journey to court, at that time
held at Segovia. He, who but a few years before had entered the city of
Barcelona in triumph, attended by the nobility and chivalry of Spain, and
hailed with rapture by the multitude, now arrived within the gates of
Segovia, a wayworn, melancholy, and neglected man; oppressed more by
sorrow than even by his years and infirmities. When he presented himself
at court, he met with none of that distinguished attention, that cordial
kindness, that cherishing sympathy, which his unparalleled services and
his recent sufferings had merited. [231]

The selfish Ferdinand had lost sight of his past services, in what
appeared to him the inconvenience of his present demands. He received him
with many professions of kindness: but with those cold ineffectual smiles,
which pass like wintry sunshine over the countenance, and convey no warmth
to the heart.

The admiral now gave a particular account of his late voyage; describing
the great tract of Terra Firma, which he had explored, and the riches of
the province of Veragua. He related also the disasters sustained in the
island of Jamaica; the insurrection of the Porras and their band; and all
the other griefs and troubles of this unfortunate expedition. He had but a
cold-hearted auditor in the king; and the benignant Isabella was no more
at hand to soothe him with a smile of kindness, or a tear of sympathy. "I
know not," gays the venerable Las Casas, "what could cause this dislike
and this want of princely countenance in the king, towards one who had
rendered him such pre-eminent benefits; unless it was that his mind was
swayed by the false testimonies which had been brought against the
admiral; of which I have been enabled to learn something from persons much
in favor with the sovereign." [232]

After a few days had elapsed, Columbus urged his suit in form; reminding
the king of all that he had done, and all that had been promised him under
the royal word and seal, and supplicating that the restitutions and
indemnifications which had been so frequently solicited, might be awarded
to him; offering in return to serve his majesty devotedly for the short
time he had yet to live; and trusting, from what he felt within him, and
from what he thought he knew with certainty, to render services which
should surpass all that he had yet performed a hundred-fold. The king, in
reply, acknowledged the greatness of his merits, and the importance of his
services, but observed, that, for the more satisfactory adjustment of his
claims, it would be advisable to refer all points in dispute to the
decision of some discreet and able person. The admiral immediately
proposed as arbiter his friend the archbishop of Seville, Don Diego de
Deza, one of the most able and upright men about the court, devotedly
loyal, high in the confidence of the king, and one who had always taken
great interest in the affairs of the New World. The king consented to the
arbitration, but artfully extended it to questions which he knew would
never be put at issue by Columbus; among these was his claim to the
restoration of his office of viceroy. To this Columbus objected with
becoming spirit, as compromising a right which was too clearly defined and
solemnly established to be put for a moment in dispute. It was the
question of rents and revenues alone, he observed, which he was willing to
submit to the decision of a learned man, not that of the government of the
Indies. As the monarch persisted, however, in embracing both questions in
the arbitration, the proposed measure was never carried into effect.

It was, in fact, on the subject of his dignities alone that Columbus was
tenacious; all other matters he considered of minor importance. In a
conversation with the king he absolutely disavowed all wish of entering
into any suit or pleading as to his pecuniary dues; on the contrary, he
offered to put all his privileges and writings into the hands of his
sovereign, and to receive out of the dues arising from them, whatever his
majesty might think proper to award. All that he claimed without
qualification or reserve, were his official dignities, assured to him
under the royal seal with all the solemnity of a treaty. He entreated, at
all events, that these matters might speedily be decided, so that he might
be released from a state of miserable suspense, and enabled to retire to
some quiet corner, in search of that tranquillity and repose necessary to
his fatigues and his infirmities.

To this frank appeal to his justice and generosity, Ferdinand replied with
many courteous expressions, and with those general evasive promises, which
beguile the ear of the court applicant, but convey no comfort to his
heart. "As far as actions went," observes Las Casas, "the king not merely
showed him no signs of favor, but, on the contrary, discountenanced him as
much as possible; yet he was never wanting in complimentary expressions."

Many months were passed by Columbus in unavailing solicitation, during
which he continued to receive outward demonstrations of respect from the
king, and due attention from cardinal Ximenes, archbishop of Toledo, and
other principal personages; but he had learned to appreciate and distrust
the hollow civilities of a court. His claims were referred to a tribunal,
called "The council of the discharges of the conscience of the deceased
queen, and of the king." This is a kind of tribunal, commonly known by the
name of the Junta de Descargos, composed of persons nominated by the
sovereign, to superintend the accomplishment of the last will of his
predecessor, and the discharge of his debts. Two consultations were held
by this body, but nothing was determined. The wishes of the king were too
well known to be thwarted. "It was believed," says Las Casas, "that if the
king could have done so with a safe conscience, and without detriment to
his fame, he would have respected few or none of the privileges which he
and the queen had conceded to the admiral, and which had been so justly
merited." [Footonte: Las Caaas, Hist. Ind., lib. ii. cap. 37.]

Columbus still flattered himself that, his claims being of such
importance, and touching a question of sovereignty, the adjustment of them
might be only postponed by the king until he could consult with his
daughter Juana, who had succeeded to her mother as queen of Castile, and
who, was daily expected from Flanders, with her husband, king Philip. He
endeavored, therefore, to bear his delays with patience; but he had no
longer the physical strength and glorious anticipations which once
sustained him through his long application at this court. Life itself was
drawing to a close.

He was once more confined to his bed by a tormenting attack of the gout,
aggravated by the sorrows and disappointments which preyed upon his heart.
From this couch of anguish he addressed one more appeal to the justice of
the king. He no longer petitioned for himself: it was for his son Diego.
Nor did he dwell upon his pecuniary dues; it was the honorable trophies of
his services which he wished to secure and perpetuate in his family. He
entreated that his son Diego might be appointed, in his place, to the
government of which he had been so wrongfully deprived. "This," he said,
"is a matter which concerns my honor; as to all the rest, do as your
majesty may think proper; give or withhold, as may be most for your
interest, and I shall be content. I believe the anxiety caused by the
delay of this affair is the principal cause of my ill health." A petition
to the same purpose was presented at the same time by his son Diego,
offering to take with him such persons for counselors as the king should
appoint, and to be guided by their advice.

These petitions were treated by Ferdinand with his usual professions and
evasions. "The more applications were made to him," observes Las Casas,
"the more favorably did he reply; but still he delayed, hoping, by
exhausting their patience, to induce them to wave their privileges, and
accept in place thereof titles and estates in Castile." Columbus rejected
all propositions of the kind with indignation, as calculated to compromise
those titles which were the trophies of his achievements. He saw, however,
that all further hope of redress from Ferdinand was vain. From the bed to
which he was confined, he addressed a letter to his constant friend Diego
de Deza, expressive of his despair. "It appears that his majesty does not
think fit to fulfill that which he, with the queen, who is now in glory,
promised me by word and seal. For me to contend for the contrary, would be
to contend with the wind. I have done all that I could do. I leave the
rest to God, whom I have ever found propitious to me in my necessities."

The cold and calculating Ferdinand beheld this illustrious man sinking
under infirmity of body, heightened by that deferred hope which "maketh
the heart sick." A little more delay, a little more disappointment, and a
little longer infliction of ingratitude, and this loyal and generous heart
would cease to beat: he should then be delivered from the just claims of a
well-tried servant, who, in ceasing to be useful, was considered by him to
have become importunate.

Chapter IV.

Death of Columbus.

In the midst of illness and despondency, when both life and hope were
expiring in the bosom of Columbus, a new gleam was awakened and blazed up
for the moment with characteristic fervor. He heard with joy of the
landing of king Philip and queen Juana, who had just arrived from Flanders
to take possession of their throne of Castile. In the daughter of Isabella
he trusted once more to find a patroness and a friend. King Ferdinand and
all the court repaired to Laredo to receive the youthful sovereigns.
Columbus would gladly have done the same, but he was confined to his bed
by a severe return of his malady; neither in his painful and helpless
situation could he dispense with the aid and ministry of his son Diego.
His brother, the Adelantado, therefore, his main dependence in all
emergencies, was sent to represent him, and to present his homage and
congratulations. Columbus wrote by him to the new king and queen,
expressing his grief at being prevented by illness from coming in person
to manifest his devotion, but begging to be considered among the most
faithful of their subjects. He expressed a hope that he should receive at
their hands the restitution of his honors and estates, and assured them,
that, though cruelly tortured at present by disease, he would yet be able
to render them services, the like of which had never been witnessed.

Such was the last sally of his sanguine and unconquerable spirit; which,
disregarding age and infirmities, and all past sorrows and
disappointments, spoke from his dying bed with all the confidence of
youthful hope; and talked of still greater enterprises, as if he had a
long and vigorous life before him. The Adelantado took leave of his
brother, whom he was never to behold again, and set out on his mission to
the new sovereigns. He experienced the most gracious reception. The claims
of the admiral were treated with great attention by the young king and
queen, and flattering hopes were given of a speedy and prosperous
termination to his suit.

In the meantime the cares and troubles of Columbus were drawing to a
close. The momentary fire which had reanimated him was soon quenched by
accumulating infirmities. Immediately after the departure of the
Adelantado, his illness increased in violence. His last voyage had
shattered beyond repair a frame already worn and wasted by a life of
hardship; and continual anxieties robbed him of that sweet repose so
necessary to recruit the weariness and debility of age. The cold
ingratitude of his sovereign chilled his heart. The continued suspension
of his honors, and the enmity and defamation experienced at every turn,
seemed to throw a shadow over that glory which had been the great object
of his ambition. This shadow, it is true, could be but of transient
duration; but it is difficult for the most illustrious man to look beyond
the present cloud which may obscure his fame, and anticipate its permanent
lustre in the admiration of posterity.

Being admonished by failing strength and increasing sufferings that his
end was approaching, he prepared to leave his affairs in order for the
benefit of his successors.

It is said that on the 4th of May he wrote an informal testamentary
codicil on the blank page of a little breviary, given him by Pope
Alexander VI. In this he bequeathed that book to the republic of Genoa,
which he also appointed successor to his privileges and dignities, on the
extinction of his male line. He directed likewise the erection of an
hospital in that city with the produce of his possessions in Italy. The
authenticity of this document is questioned, and has become a point of
warm contest among commentators. It is not, however, of much importance.
The paper is such as might readily have been written by a person like
Columbus in the paroxysm of disease, when he imagined his end suddenly
approaching, and shows the affection with which his thoughts were bent on
his native city. It is termed among commentators a military codicil,
because testamentary dispositions of this kind are executed by the soldier
at the point of death, without the usual formalities required by the civil
law. About two weeks afterwards, on the eve of his death, he executed a
final and regularly authenticated codicil, in which he bequeathed his
dignities and estates with better judgment.

In these last and awful moments, when the soul has but a brief space in
which to make up its accounts between heaven and earth, all dissimulation
is at an end, and we read unequivocal evidences of character. The last
codicil of Columbus, made at the very verge of the grave, is stamped with
his ruling passion and his benignant virtues. He repeats and enforces
several clauses of his original testament, constituting his sou Diego his
universal heir. The entailed inheritance, or mayorazgo, in case he died
without male issue, was to go to his brother Don Fernando, and from him,
in like case, to pass to his uncle Don Bartholomew, descending always to
the nearest male heir; in failure of which it was to pass to the female
nearest in lineage to the admiral. He enjoined upon whoever should inherit
his estate never to alienate or diminish it, but to endeavor by all means
to augment its prosperity and importance. He likewise enjoined upon his
heirs to be prompt and devoted at all times, with person and estate, to
serve their sovereign and promote the Christian faith. He ordered that Don
Diego should devote one tenth of the revenues which might arise from his
estate, when it came to be productive, to the relief of indigent relatives
and of other persons in necessity; that, out of the remainder, he should
yield certain yearly proportions to his brother Don Fernando, and his
uncles Don Bartholomew and Don Diego; and that the part allotted to Don
Fernando should be settled upon him and his male heirs in an entailed and
unalienable inheritance. Having thus provided for the maintenance and
perpetuity of his family and dignities, he ordered that Don Diego, when
his estates should be sufficiently productive, should erect a chapel in
the island of Hispaniola, which God had given to him so marvelously, at
the town of Conception, in the Vega, where masses should be daily
performed for the repose of the souls of himself, his father, his mother,
his wife, and of all who died in the faith. Another clause recommends to
the care of Don Diego, Beatrix Enriquez, the mother of his natural son
Fernando. His connection with her had never been sanctioned by matrimony,
and either this circumstance, or some neglect of her, seems to have
awakened deep compunction in his dying moments. He orders Don Diego to
provide for her respectable maintenance; "and let this be done," he adds,
"for the discharge of my conscience, for it weighs heavy on my soul."
[234] Finally, he noted with his own hand several minute sums, to be paid
to persons at different and distant places, without their being told
whence they received them. These appear to have been trivial debts of
conscience, or rewards for petty services received in times long past.
Among them is one of half a mark of silver to a poor Jew, who lived at
the gate of the Jewry, in the city of Lisbon. These minute provisions
evince the scrupulous attention to justice in all his dealings, and that
love of punctuality in the fulfillment of duties, for which he was
remarked. In the same spirit, he gave much advice to his son Diego, as
to the conduct of his affairs, enjoining upon him to take every month an
account with his own hand of the expenses of his household, and to sign
it with his name; for a want of regularity in this, he observed, lost
both property and servants, and turned the last into enemies. His dying
bequests were made in presence of a few faithful followers and servants,
and among them we find the name of Bartholomeo Fiesco, who had
accompanied Diego Mendez in the perilous voyage in a canoe from Jamaica
to Hispaniola.

Having thus scrupulously attended to all the claims of affection, loyalty,
and justice upon earth, Columbus turned his thoughts to heaven; and having
received the holy sacrament, and performed all the pious offices of a
devout Christian, he expired with great resignation, on the day of
ascension, the 20th of May, 1506, being about seventy years of age.
[235] His last words were, "_In manus tuas Domine, commendo spiritum
meum:_" Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. [236]

His body was deposited in the convent of St. Francisco, and his obsequies
were celebrated with funereal pomp at Valladolid, in the parochial church
of Santa Maria de la Antigua. His remains were transported afterwards, in
1513, to the Carthusian monastery of Las Cuevas of Seville, to the chapel
of St. Ann or of Santo Christo, in which chapel were likewise deposited
those of his son Don Diego, who died in the village of Montalban, on the
23d of February, 1526. In the year 1536 the bodies of Columbus and his son
Diego were removed to Hispaniola, and interred in the principal chapel of
the cathedral of the city of San Domingo; but even here they did not rest
in quiet, having since been again disinterred and conveyed to the Havanna,
in the island of Cuba.

We are told that Ferdinand, after the death of Columbus, showed a sense of
his merits by ordering a monument to be erected to his memory, on which
was inscribed the motto already cited, which had formerly been granted to
him by the sovereigns: A Castilla y a Leon nuevo mundo dio Colon (_To
Castile and Leon Columbus gave a new world_). However great an honor a
monument may be for a subject to receive, it is certainly but a cheap
reward for a sovereign to bestow. As to the motto inscribed upon it, it
remains engraved in the memory of mankind, more indelibly than in brass or
marble; a record of the great debt of gratitude due to the discoverer,
which the monarch had so faithlessly neglected to discharge.

Attempts have been made in recent days, by loyal Spanish writers, to
vindicate the conduct of Ferdinand towards Columbus. They were doubtless
well intended, but they have been futile, nor is their failure to be
regretted. To screen such injustice in so eminent a character from the
reprobation of mankind, is to deprive history of one of its most important
uses. Let the ingratitude of Ferdinand stand recorded in its full extent,
and endure throughout all time. The dark shadow which it casts upon his
brilliant renown, will be a lesson to all rulers, teaching thein what is
important to their own fame in their treatment of illustrious men.

Chapter V.

Observations on the Character of Columbus.

In narrating the story of Columbus, it has been the endeavor of the author
to place him in a clear and familiar point of view; for this purpose he
has rejected no circumstance, however trivial, which appeared to evolve
some point of character; and he has sought all kinds of collateral facts
which might throw light upon his views and motives. With this view also he
has detailed many facts hitherto passed over in silence, or vaguely
noticed by historians, probably because they might be deemed instances of
error or misconduct on the part of Columbus; but he who paints a great man
merely in great and heroic traits, though he may produce a fine picture,
will never present a faithful portrait. Great men are compounds of great
and little qualities. Indeed, much of their greatness arises from their
mastery over the imperfections of their nature, and, their noblest actions
are sometimes struck forth by the collision of their merits and their

In Columbus was singularly combined the practical and the poetical. His
mind had grasped all kinds of knowledge, whether procured by study or
observation, which bore upon his theories; impatient of the scanty aliment
of the day, "his impetuous ardor," as has well been observed, "threw him
into the study of the fathers of the church; the Arabian Jews, and the
ancient geographers;" while his daring but irregular genius, bursting from
the limits of imperfect science, bore him to conclusions far beyond the
intellectual vision of his contemporaries. If some of his conclusions were
erroneous, they were at least ingenious and splendid; and their error
resulted from the clouds which still hung over his peculiar path of
enterprise. His own discoveries enlightened the ignorance of the age;
guided conjecture to certainty, and dispelled that very darkness with
which he had been obliged to struggle.

In the progress of his discoveries he has been remarked for the extreme
sagacity and the admirable justness with which he seized upon the
phenomena of the exterior world. The variations, for instance, of
terrestrial magnetism, the direction of currents, the groupings of marine
plants, fixing one of the grand climacteric divisions of the ocean, the
temperatures changing not solely with the distance to the equator, but
also with the difference of meridians: these and similar phenomena, as
they broke upon him, were discerned with wonderful quickness of
perception, and made to contribute important principles to the stock of
general knowledge. This lucidity of spirit, this quick convertibility of
facts to principles, distinguish him from the dawn to the close of his
sublime enterprise, insomuch that, with all the sallying ardor of his
imagination, his ultimate success has been admirably characterized as a
"conquest of reflection." [237]

It has been said that mercenary views mingled with the ambition of
Columbus, and that his stipulations with the Spanish court were selfish
and avaricious. The charge is inconsiderate and unjust. He aimed at
dignity and wealth in the same lofty spirit in which he sought renown;
they were to be part and parcel of his achievement, and palpable evidence
of its success; they were to arise from the territories he should
discover, and be commensurate in importance. No condition could be more
just. He asked nothing of the sovereigns but a command of the countries he
hoped to give them, and a share of the profits to support the dignity of
his command. If there should be no country discovered, his stipulated
viceroyalty would be of no avail; and if no revenues should be produced,
his labor and peril would produce no gain. If his command and revenues
ultimately proved magnificent, it was from the magnificence of the regions
he had attached to the Castilian crown. What monarch would not rejoice to
gain empire on such conditions? But he did not risk merely a loss of
labor, and a disappointment of ambition, in the enterprise;--on his
motives being questioned, he voluntarily undertook, and, with the
assistance of his coadjutors, actually defrayed, one-eighth of the whole
charge of the first expedition.

It was, in fact, this rare union already noticed, of the practical man of
business with the poetical projector, which enabled him to carry his grand
enterprises into effect through so many difficulties; but the pecuniary
calculations and cares, which gave feasibility to his schemes, were never
suffered to chill the glowing aspirations of his soul. The gains that
promised to arise from his discoveries, he intended to appropriate in the
same princely and pious spirit in which they were demanded. He
contemplated works and achievements of benevolence and religion; vast
contributions for the relief of the poor of his native city; the
foundation of churches, where masses should be said for the souls of the
departed; and armies for the recovery of the holy sepulchre in Palestine.
Thus his ambition was truly noble and lofty; instinct with high thought
and prone to generous deed.

In the discharge of his office he maintained the state and ceremonial of a
viceroy, and was tenacious of his rank and privileges; not from a mere
vulgar love of titles, but because he prized them as testimonials and
trophies of his achievements: these he jealously cherished as his great
rewards. In his repeated applications to the king, he insisted merely on
the restitution of his dignities. As to his pecuniary dues and all
questions relative to mere revenue, he offered to leave them to
arbitration or even to the absolute disposition of the monarch; but not so
his official dignities; "these things," said he nobly, "affect my honor."
In his testament, he enjoined on his son Diego, and whoever after him
should inherit his estates, whatever dignities and titles might afterwards
be granted by the king, always to sign himself simply "the admiral," by
way of perpetuating in the family its real source of greatness.

His conduct was characterized by the grandeur of his views, and the
magnanimity of his spirit. Instead of scouring the newly-found countries,
like a grasping adventurer eager only for immediate gain, as was too
generally the case with contemporary discoverers, he sought to ascertain
their soil and productions, their rivers and harbors: he was desirous of
colonizing and cultivating them; of conciliating and civilizing the
natives; of building cities; introducing the useful arts; subjecting every
thing to the control of law, order, and religion; and thus of founding
regular and prosperous empires. In this glorious plan he was constantly
defeated by the dissolute rabble which it was his misfortune to command;
with whom all law was tyranny, and all order restraint. They interrupted
all useful works by their seditions; provoked the peaceful Indians to
hostility; and after they had thus drawn down misery and warfare upon
their own heads, and overwhelmed Columbus with the ruins of the edifice he
was building, they charged him with being the cause of the confusion.

Well would it have been for Spain had those who followed in the track of
Columbus possessed his sound policy and liberal views. The New World, in
such cases, would have been settled by pacific colonists, and civilized by
enlightened legislators; instead of being overrun by desperate
adventurers, and desolated by avaricious conquerors.

Columbus was a man of quick sensibility, liable to great excitement, to
sudden and strong impressions, and powerful impulses. He was naturally
irritable and impetuous, and keenly sensible to injury and injustice; yet
the quickness of his temper was counteracted by the benevolence and
generosity of his heart. The magnanimity of his nature shone forth through
all the troubles of his stormy career. Though continually outraged in his
dignity, and braved in the exercise of his command; though foiled in his
plans, and endangered in his person by the seditions of turbulent and
worthless men, and that too at times when suffering under anxiety of mind
and anguish of body sufficient to exasperate the most patient, yet he
restrained his valiant and indignant spirit, by the strong powers of his
mind, and brought himself to forbear, and reason, and even to supplicate:
nor should we fail to notice how free he was from all feeling of revenge,
how ready to forgive and forget, on the least signs of repentance and
atonement. He has been extolled for his skill in controlling others; but
far greater praise is due to him for his firmness in governing himself.

His natural benignity made him accessible to all kinds of pleasurable
sensations from external objects. In his letters and journals, instead of
detailing circumstances with the technical precision of a mere navigator,
he notices the beauties of nature with the enthusiasm of a poet or a
painter. As he coasts the shores of the New World, the reader participates
in the enjoyment with which he describes, in his imperfect but picturesque
Spanish, the varied objects around him; the blandness of the temperature,
the purity of the atmosphere, the fragrance of the air, "full of dew and
sweetness," the verdure of the forests, the magnificence of the trees, the
grandeur of the mountains, and the limpidity and freshness of the running
streams. New delight springs up for him in every scene. He extols each new
discovery as more beautiful than the last, and each as the most beautiful
in the world; until, with his simple earnestness, he tells the sovereigns,
that, having spoken so highly of the preceding islands, he fears that they
will not credit him, when he declares that the one he is actually
describing surpasses them all in excellence.

In the same ardent and unstudied way he expresses his emotions on various
occasions, readily affected by impulses of joy or grief, of pleasure or
indignation. When surrounded and overwhelmed by the ingratitude and
violence of worthless men, he often, in the retirement of his cabin, gave
way to bursts of sorrow, and relieved his overladen heart by sighs and
groans. When he returned in chains to Spain, and came into the presence
of Isabella, instead of continuing the lofty pride with which he had
hitherto sustained his injuries, he was touched with grief and tenderness
at her sympathy, and burst forth into sobs and tears.

He was devoutly pious; religion mingled with the whole course of his
thoughts and actions, and shone forth in his most private and unstudied
writings. Whenever he made any great discovery, he celebrated it by solemn
thanks to God. The voice of prayer and melody of praise rose from his
ships when they first beheld the New World, and his first action on
landing was to prostrate himself upon the earth and return thanksgivings.
Every evening, the _Salve Regina_, and other vesper hymns, were
chanted by his crew and masses were performed in the beautiful groves
bordering the wild shores of this heathen land. All his great enterprises
were undertaken in the name of the Holy Trinity, and he partook of the
communion previous to embarkation. He was a firm believer in the efficacy
of vows and penances and pilgrimages, and resorted to them in times of
difficulty and danger. The religion thus deeply seated in his soul
diffused a sober dignity and benign composure over his whole demeanor. His
language was pure and guarded, and free from all imprecations, oaths, and
other irreverent expressions.

It cannot be denied, however, that his piety was mingled with
superstition, and darkened by the bigotry of the age. He evidently
concurred in the opinion, that all nations which did not acknowledge the
Christian faith were destitute of natural rights; that the sternest
measures might be used for their conversion, and the severest punishments
inflicted upon their obstinacy in unbelief. In this spirit of bigotry he
considered himself justified in making captives of the Indians, and
transporting them to Spain to have them taught the doctrines of
Christianity, and in selling them for slaves if they pretended to resist
his invasions. In so doing he sinned against the natural goodness of his
character, and against the feelings which he had originally entertained
and expressed towards this gentle hospitable people; but he was goaded on
by the mercenary impatience of the crown, and by the sneers of his enemies
at the unprofitable result of his enterprises. It is but justice to his
character to observe, that the enslavement of the Indians thus taken in
battle was at first openly countenanced by the crown, and that, when the
question of right came to be discussed at the entreaty of the queen,
several of the most distinguished jurists and theologians advocated the
practice; so that the question was finally settled in favor of the Indians
solely by the humanity of Isabella. As the venerable bishop Las Casas
observes, where the most learned men have doubted, it is not surprising
that an unlearned mariner should err.

These remarks, in palliation of the conduct of Columbus, are required by
candor. It is proper to show him in connection with the age in which he
lived, lest the errors of the times should be considered as his individual
faults. It is not the intention of the author, however, to justify
Columbus on a point where it is inexcusable to err. Let it remain a blot
on his illustrious name, and let others derive a lesson from it.

We have already hinted at a peculiar trait in his rich and varied
character; that ardent and enthusiastic imagination which threw a
magnificence over his whole course of thought. Herrera intimates that he
had a talent for poetry, and some slight traces of it are on record in the
book of prophecies which he presented to the Catholic sovereigns. But his
poetical temperament is discernible throughout all his writings and in all
his actions. It spread a golden and glorious world around him, and tinged
every thing with its own gorgeous colors. It betrayed him into visionary
speculations, which subjected him to the sneers and cavilings of men of
cooler and safer but more groveling minds. Such were the conjectures
formed on the coast of Paria about the form of the earth, and the
situation of the terrestrial paradise; about the mines of Ophir in
Hispaniola, and the Aurea Chersonesus in Veragua; and such was the heroic
scheme of a crusade for the recovery of the holy sepulchre. It mingled
with his religion, and filled his mind with solemn and visionary
meditations on mystic passages of the Scriptures, and the shadowy portents
of the prophecies. It exalted his office in his eyes, and made him
conceive himself an agent sent forth upon a sublime and awful mission,
subject to impulses and supernatural intimations from the Deity; such as
the voice which he imagined spoke to him in comfort amidst the troubles of
Hispaniola, and in the silence of the night on the disastrous coast of

He was decidedly a visionary, but a visionary of an uncommon and
successful kind. The manner in which his ardent, imaginative, and
mercurial nature was controlled by a powerful judgment, and directed by an
acute sagacity, is the most extraordinary feature in his character. Thus
governed, his imagination, instead of exhausting itself in idle flights,
lent aid to his judgment, and enabled him to form conclusions at which
common minds could never have arrived, nay, which they could not perceive
when pointed out.

To his intellectual vision it was given to read the signs of the times,
and to trace, in the conjectures and reveries of past ages, the
indications of an unknown world; as soothsayers were said to read
predictions in the stars, and to foretell events from the visions of the
night. "His soul," observes a Spanish writer, "was superior to the age in
which he lived. For him was reserved the great enterprise of traversing
that sea which had given rise to so many fables, and of deciphering the
mystery of his time." [238]

With all the visionary fervor of his imagination, its fondest dreams fell
short of the reality. He died in ignorance of the real grandeur of his
discovery. Until his last breath he entertained the idea that he had
merely opened a new way to the old resorts of opulent commerce, and had
discovered some of the wild regions of the East. He supposed Hispaniola to
be the ancient Ophir which had been visited by the ships of Solomon, and
that Cuba and Terra Firma were but remote parts of Asia. What visions of
glory would have broken upon his mind could he have known that he had
indeed discovered a new continent, equal to the whole of the old world in
magnitude, and separated by two vast oceans from all the earth hitherto
known by civilized man! And how would his magnanimous spirit have been
consoled, amidst the afflictions of age and the cares of penury, the
neglect of a fickle public, and the injustice of an ungrateful king, could
he have anticipated the splendid empires which were to spread over the
beautiful world he had discovered; and the nations, and tongues, and
languages which were to fill its lands with his renown, and revere and
bless his name to the latest posterity!


Containing Illustrations and Documents.

No. I.

Transportation of the Remains of Columbus from St. Domingo to the Havana.

At the termination of a war between France and Spain, in 1795, all the
Spanish possessions in the island of Hispaniola were ceded to France, by
the 9th article of the treaty of peace. To assist in the accomplishment of
this cession, a Spanish squadron was dispatched to the island at the
appointed time, commanded by Don Gabriel de Aristizabal, lieutenant-general
of the royal armada. On the 11th December, 1795, that commander wrote to
the field-marshal and governor, Don Joaquin Garcia, resident at St.
Domingo, that, being informed that the remains of the celebrated admiral
Don Christopher Columbus lay in the cathedral of that city, he felt it
incumbent on him as a Spaniard, and as commander-in-chief of his majesty's
squadron of operations, to solicit the translation of the ashes of that
hero to the island of Cuba, which had likewise been discovered by him, and
where he had first planted the standard of the cross. He expressed a desire
that this should be done officially, and with great care and formality,
that it might not remain in the power of any one, by a careless
transportation of these honored remains, to lose a relic, connected with
an event which formed the most glorious epoch of Spanish history, and that
it might be manifested to all nations, that Spaniards, notwithstanding the
lapse of ages, never ceased to pay all honors to the remains of that
"worthy and adventurous general of the seas;" nor abandoned them, when the
various public bodies, representing the Spanish dominion, emigrated from
the island. As he had not time, without great inconvenience, to consult
the sovereign on this subject, he had recourse to the governor, as royal
vice-patron of the island, hoping that his solicitation might be granted,
and the remains of the admiral exhumed and conveyed to the island of Cuba,
in the ship San Lorenzo.

The generous wishes of this high-minded Spaniard met with warm concurrence
on the part of the governor. He informed him in reply, that the duke of
Veraguas, lineal successor of Columbus, had manifested the same
solicitude, and had sent directions that the necessary measures should be
taken at his expense; and had at the same time expressed a wish that the
bones of the Adelantado, Don Bartholomew Columbus, should likewise be
exhumed; transmitting inscriptions to be put upon the sepulchres of both.
He added, that although the king had given no orders on the subject, yet
the proposition being so accordant with the grateful feelings of the
Spanish nation, and meeting with the concurrence of all the authorities of
the island, he was ready on his part to carry it into execution. The
commandant-general Aristizabal then made a similar communication to the
archbishop of Cuba, Don Fernando Portillo y Torres, whose metropolis was
then the city of St. Domingo, hoping to receive his countenance and aid in
this pious undertaking. The reply of the archbishop was couched in terms
of high courtesy towards the gallant commander, and deep reverence for the
memory of Columbus, and expressed a zeal in rendering this tribute of
gratitude and respect to the remains of one who had done so much for the
glory of the nation.

The persons empowered to act for the duke of Veraguas, the venerable dean
and chapter of the cathedral, and all the other persons and authorities to
whom Don Gabriel de Aristizabal made similar communications, manifested
the same eagerness to assist in the performance of this solemn and
affecting rite.

The worthy commander Aristizabal, having taken all these preparatory steps
with great form and punctilio, so as that the ceremony should be performed
in a public and striking manner, suitable to the fame of Columbus, the
whole was carried into eflect with becoming pomp and solemnity.

On the 20th December, 1795, the most distinguished persons of the place,
the dignitaries of the church, and civil and military officers, assembled
in the metropolitan cathedral. In the presence of this august assemblage,
a small vault was opened above the chancel, in the principal wall on the
right side of the high altar. Within were found the fragments of a leaden
coffin, a number of bones, and a quantity of mould, evidently the remains
of a human body. These were carefully collected and put into a case of
gilded lead, about half an ell in length and breadth, and a third in
height, secured by an iron lock, the key of which was delivered to the
archbishop. The case was inclosed in a coffin covered with black velvet,
and ornamented with lace and fringe of gold. The whole was then placed in
a temporary tomb or mansoleum.

On the following day, there was another grand convocation at the
cathedral, when the vigils and masses for the dead were solemnly chanted
by the archbishop, accompanied by the commandant-general of the armada,
the Dominican and Franciscan friars, and the friars of the order of Mercy,
together with the rest of the distinguished assemblage. After this a
funeral sermon was preached, by the archbishop.

On the same day, at four o'clock in the afternoon, the coffin was
transported to the ship with the utmost state and ceremony, with a civil,
religious, add military procession, banners wrapped in mourning, chants
and responses, and discharges of artillery. The most distinguished persons
of the several orders took turn to support the coffin. The key was taken
with great formality from the hands of the archbishop by the governor, and
given into the hands of the commander of the armada, to be delivered by
him to the governor of the Havana, to be held in deposit until the
pleasure of the king should be known. The coffin was received on board of
a brigantine called the Discoverer, which, with all the other shipping,
displayed mourning signals, and saluted the remains with the honors paid
to an admiral.

From the port of St. Domingo the coffin was conveyed to the bay of Ocoa
and there transferred to the ship San Lorenzo. It was accompanied by a
portrait of Columbus, sent from Spain by the duke of Veraguas, to be
suspended close by the place where the remains of his illustrious ancestor
should be deposited.

The ship immediately made sail and arrived at Havana in Cuba, on the 15th
of January, 1796. Here the same deep feeling of reverence to the memory of
the discoverer was evinced. The principal authorities repaired on board of
the ship, accompanied by the superior naval and military officers. Every
thing was conducted with the same circumstantial and solemn ceremonial.
The remains were removed with great reverence, and placed in a felucca, in
which they were conveyed to land in the midst of a procession of three
columns of feluccas and boats in the royal service, all properly
decorated, containing distinguished military and ministerial officers. Two
feluccas followed, in one of which was a marine guard of honor, with
mourning banners and muffled drums; and in the other were the
commandant-general, the principal minister of marine, and the military
staff. In passing the vessels of war in the harbor, they all paid the
honors due to an admiral and captain-general of the navy. On arriving at
the mole, the remains were met by the governor of the island, accompanied
by the generals and the military staff. The coffin was then conveyed
between files of soldiery which lined the streets to the obelisk, in the
place of arms, where it was received in a hearse prepared for the purpose.
Here the remains were formally delivered to the governor and
captain-general of the island, the key given up to him, the coffin opened
and examined, and the safe transportation of its contents authenticated.
This ceremony being concluded, it was conveyed in grand procession and
with the utmost pomp to the cathedral. Masses and the solemn ceremonies
of the dead were performed by the bishop, and the mortal remains of
Columbus deposited with great reverence in the wall on the right side of
the grand altar. "All these honors and ceremonies," says the document,
from whence this notice is digested, [239] "were attended by the
ecclesiastical and secular dignitaries, the public bodies and all the
nobility and gentry of Havana, in proof of the high estimation and
respectful remembrance in which they held the hero who had discovered the
New World, and had been the first to plant the standard of the cross on
that island."

This is the last occasion that the Spanish nation has had to testify its
feelings towards the memory of Columbus, and it is with deep satisfaction
that the author of this work has been able to cite at large a ceremonial
so solemn, affecting, and noble in its details, and so honorable to the
national character.

When we read of the remains of Columbus, thus conveyed from the port of
St. Domingo, after an interval of nearly three hundred years, as sacred
national relics, with civic and military pomp, and high religious
ceremonial; the most dignified and illustrious men striving who most
should pay them reverence; we cannot but reflect that it was from this
very port lie was carried off loaded with ignominious chains, blasted
apparently in fame and fortune, and followed by the revilings of the
rabble. Such honors, it is true, are nothing to the dead, nor can they
atone to the heart, now dust and ashes, for all the wrongs and sorrows it
may have suffered; but they speak volumes of comfort to the illustrious,
yet slandered and persecuted living, encouraging them bravely to bear with
present injuries, by showing them how true merit outlives all calumny, and
receives its glorious reward in the admiration of after ages.

No. II.

Notice of the Descendants of Columbus.

On the death of Columbus his son Diego succeeded to his rights, as
viceroy and governor of the New World, according to the express
capitulations between the sovereigns and his father. He appears by the
general consent of historians to have been a man of great integrity, of
respectable talents, and of a frank and generous nature. Herrera speaks
repeatedly of the gentleness and urbanity of his manners, and pronounces
him of a noble disposition and without deceit. This absence of all guile
frequently laid him open to the stratagems of crafty men, grown old in
deception, who rendered his life a continued series of embarrassments; but
the probity of his character, with the irresistible power of truth, bore
him through difficulties in which more politic and subtle men would have
been entangled and completely lost.

Immediately after the death of the admiral, Don Diego came forward as
lineal successor, and urged the restitution of the family offices and
privileges, which had been suspended during the latter years of his
father's life. If the cold and wary Ferdinand, however, could forget his
obligations of gratitude and justice to Columbus, he had less difficulty
in turning a deaf ear to the solicitations of his son. For two years Don
Diego pressed his suit with fruitless diligence. He felt the apparent
distrust of the monarch the more sensibly, from having been brought up
under his eye, as a page in the royal household, where his character ought
to be well known and appreciated. At length, on the return of Ferdinand
from Naples in 1508, he put to him a direct question, with the frankness
attributed to his character. He demanded "why his majesty would not grant
to him as a favor, that which was his right, and why he hesitated to
confide in the fidelity of one who had been reared in his house."
Ferdinand replied that he could fully confide in him, but could not repose
so great a trust at a venture in his children and successors. To this Don
Diego rejoined, that it was contrary to all justice and reason to make him
suffer for the sins of his children who might never be born. [240]

Still, though he had reason and justice on his side, the young admiral
found it impossible to bring the wary monarch to a compliance. Finding all
appeal to all his ideas of equity or sentiments of generosity in vain, he
solicited permission to pursue his claim in the ordinary course of law.
The king could not refuse so reasonable a request, and Don Diego commenced
a process against king Ferdinand before the council of the Indies, founded
on the repeated capitulations between the crown and his father, and
embracing all the dignities and immunities ceded by them.

One ground of opposition to these claims was, that if the capitulation,
made by the sovereigns in 1492, had granted a perpetual viceroyalty to the
admiral and his heirs, such grant could not stand; being contrary to the
interest of the state, and to an express law promulgated in Toledo in
1480; wherein it was ordained that no office, involving the administration
of justice, should be given in perpetuity; that therefore, the viceroyalty
granted to the admiral could only have been for his life; and that even
during that term it had justly been taken from him for his misconduct.
That such concessions were contrary to the inherent prerogatives of the
crown, of which the government could not divest itself. To this Don Diego
replied, that as to the validity of the capitulation, it was a binding
contract, and none of its privileges ought to be restricted. That as by
royal schedules dated in Villa Franca, June 2d, 1506, and Almazan, Aug.
28, 1507, it had been ordered that he, Don Diego, should receive the
tenths, so equally ought the other privileges to be accorded to him. As to
the allegation that his lather had been deprived of his viceroyalty for
his demerits, it was contrary to all truth. It had been audacity on the
part of Bobadilla to send him a prisoner to Spain in 1500, and contrary to
the will and command of the sovereigns, as was proved by their letter,
dated from Valencia de la Torre in 1502, in which they expressed grief at
his arrest, and assured him that it should be redressed, and his
privileges guarded entire to himself and his children. [241]

This memorable suit was commenced in 1508, and continued for several
years. In the course of it the claims of Don Diego were disputed,
likewise, on the plea that his father was not the original discoverer of
Terra Firma, but only subsequently of certain portions of it. This,
however, was completely controverted by overwhelming testimony. The claims
of Don Diego were minutely discussed and rigidly examined; and the
unanimous decision of the council of the Indies in his favor, while it
reflected honor on the justice and independence of that body, silenced
many petty cavilers at the fair fame of Columbus. [242] Notwithstanding
this decision, the wily monarch wanted neither means nor pretexts to delay
the ceding of such vast powers, so repugnant to his cautious policy. The
young admiral was finally indebted for his success in this suit to
previous success attained in a suit of a different nature. He had become
enamored of Dona Maria de Toledo, daughter of Fernando de Toledo, grand
commander of Leon, and niece to Don Fadrique de Toledo, the celebrated
duke of Alva, chief favorite of the king. This was aspiring to a high
connection. The father and uncle of the lady were the most powerful
grandees of the proud kingdom of Spain, and cousins german to Ferdinand.
The glory, however, which Columbus had left behind, rested upon his
children, and the claims of Don Diego, recently confirmed by the council,
involved dignities and wealth sufficient to raise him to a level with the
loftiest alliance. He found no difficulty in obtaining the hand of the
lady, and thus was the foreign family of Columbus ingrafted on one of the
proudest races of Spain. The natural consequences followed. Diego had
secured that magical power called "connections;" and the favor of
Ferdinand, which had been so long withheld from him, as the son of
Columbus, shone upon him, though coldly, as the nephew of the duke of
Alva. The father and uncle of his bride succeeded, though with great
difficulty, in conquering the repugnance of the monarch, and after all he
but granted in part the justice they required. He ceded to Don Diego
merely the dignities and powers enjoyed by Nicholas de Ovando, who was
recalled; and he cautiously withheld the title of viceroy.

The recall of Ovando was not merely a measure to make room for Don Diego;
it was the tardy performance of a promise made to Isabella on her
death-bed. The expiring queen had demanded it as a punishment for the
massacre of her poor Indian subjects at Xaragua, and the cruel and
ignominious execution of the female cacique Anacaona. Thus retribution was
continually going its rounds in the checkered destinies of this island,
which has ever presented a little epitome of human history; its errors and
crimes, and consequent disasters.

In complying with the request of the queen, however, Ferdinand was
favorable towards Ovando. He did not feel the same generous sympathies
with his late consort, and, however Ovando had sinned against humanity in
his treatment of the Indians, he had been a vigilant officer, and his very
oppressions had in general proved profitable to the crown. Ferdinand
directed that the fleet which took out the new governor should return
under the command of Ovando, and that he should retain undisturbed
enjoyment of any property or Indian slaves that might be found in his
possession. Some have represented Ovando as a man far from mercenary; that
the wealth wrung from the miseries of the natives was for his sovereign,
not for himself; and it is intimated that one secret cause of his disgrace
was his having made an enemy of the all-powerful and unforgiving Fonseca.

The new admiral embarked at St. Lucar, June 9, 1509, with his wife, his
brother Don Fernando, who was now grown to man's estate, and had been well
educated, and his two uncles, Don Bartholomew and Don Diego. They were
accompanied by a numerous retinue of cavaliers, with their wives, and of
young ladies of rank and family, more distinguished, it is hinted, for
high blood than large fortune, and who were sent out to find wealthy
husbands in the New World. [244]

Though the king had not granted Don Diego the dignity of viceroy, the
title was generally given to him by courtesy, and his wife was universally
addressed by that of vice-queen.

Don Diego commenced his rule with a degree of splendor hitherto unknown in
the colony. The vice-queen, who was a lady of great desert, surrounded by
the noble cavaliers and the young ladies of family who had come in her
retinue, established a sort of court, which threw a degree of lustre over
the half savage island. The young ladies were soon married to the
wealthiest colonists, and contributed greatly to soften those rude manners
which had grown up in a state of society hitherto destitute of the
salutary restraint and pleasing decorum produced by female influence.

Don Diego had considered his appointment in the light of a vice-royalty,
but the king soon took measures which showed that he admitted of no such
pretension. Without any reference to Don Diego, he divided the coast of
Darien into two great provinces, separated by an imaginary line running
through the Gulf of Uraba, appointing Alonzo de Ojeda governor of the
eastern province, which he called New Andalusia, and Diego de Nicuessa
governor of the western province, which included the rich coast of
Veragua, and which he called Castilla del Oro, or Golden Castile. Had the
monarch been swayed by principles of justice and gratitude, the settlement
of this coast would have been given to the Adelantado, Don Bartholomew
Columbus, who had assisted in the discovery of the country, and, together
with his brother the admiral, had suffered so greatly in the enterprise.
Even his superior abilities for the task should have pointed him out to
the policy of the monarch; but the cautious and [245] calculating
Ferdinand knew the lofty spirit of the Adelantado, and that he would be
disposed to demand high and dignified terms. He passed him by, therefore,
and preferred more eager and accommodating adventurers.

Don Diego was greatly aggrieved at this measure, thus adopted without his
participation or knowledge. He justly considered it an infringement of the
capitulations granted and repeatedly confirmed to his father and his
heirs. He had further vexations and difficulties with respect to the
government of the island of St. Juan, or Porto Rico, which was conquered
and settled about this time; but after a variety of cross purposes, the
officers whom he appointed were ultimately recognized by the crown.

Like his father, he had to contend with malignant factions in his
government; for the enemies of the father transferred their enmity to the
son. There was one Miguel Pasamonte, the king's treasurer, who became his
avowed enemy, under the support and chiefly at the instigation of the
bishop Fonseca, who continued to the son the implacable hostility which he
had manifested to the father. A variety of trivial circumstances
contributed to embroil him with some of the petty officers of the colony,
and there was a remnant of the followers of Bohian who arrayed themselves
against him. [246]

Two factions soon arose in the island; one of the admiral, the other of
the treasurer Pasamonte. The latter affected to call themselves the party
of the king. They gave all possible molestation to Don Diego, and sent
home the most virulent and absurd misrepresentations of his conduct. Among
others, they represented a large house with many windows which he was
building, as intended for a fortress, and asserted that he had a design to
make himself sovereign of the island. King Ferdinand, who was now
advancing in years, had devolved the affairs of the Indies in a great
measure on Fonseca,[247] who had superintended them from the
first, and he was greatly guided by the advice of that prelate, which was
not likely to be favorable to the descendants of Columbus. The complaints
from the colonies were so artfully enforced, therefore, that he
established in 1510 a sovereign court at St. Domingo, called the royal
audience, to which an appeal might be made from all sentences of the
admiral, even in cases reserved hitherto exclusively for the crown. Don
Diego considered this a suspicious and injurious measure intended to
demolish his authority.

Frank, open, and unsuspicious, the young admiral was not formed for a
contest with the crafty politicians arrayed against him, who were ready
and adroit in seizing upon his slightest errors, and magnifying them into
crimes. Difficulties were multiplied in his path which it was out of his
power to overcome. He had entered upon office full of magnanimous
intentions; determined to put an end to oppression, and correct all
abuses; all good men therefore had rejoiced at his appointment; but he
soon found that he had overrated his strength, and undervalued the
difficulties awaiting him. He calculated from his own good heart, but he
had no idea of the wicked hearts of others. He was opposed to the
repartimientos of Indians, that source of all kinds of inhumanity; but he
found all the men of wealth in the colony, and most of the important
persons of the court, interested in maintaining them. He perceived that
the attempt to abolish them would be dangerous, and the result
questionable: at the same time this abuse was a source of immense profit
to himself. Self-interest, therefore, combined with other considerations,
and what at first appeared difficult, seemed presently impracticable. The
repartimientos continued in the state in which he found them, excepting
that he removed such of the superintendents as had been cruel and
oppressive, and substituted men of his own appointment, who probably
proved equally worthless. His friends were disappointed, his enemies
encouraged; a hue and cry was raised against him by the friends of those
he had displaced; and it was even said that if Ovando had not died about
this time, he would have been sent out to supplant Don Diego.

The subjugation and settlement of the island of Cuba in 1510, was a
fortunate event in the administration of the present admiral. He
congratulated king Ferdinand on having acquired the largest and most
beautiful island in the world without losing a single man. The
intelligence was highly acceptable to the king; but it was accompanied by
a great number of complaints against the admiral. Little affection as
Ferdinand felt for Don Diego, he was still aware that most of these
representations were false, and had their origin in the jealousy and envy
of his enemies. He judged it expedient, however, in 1512, to send out Don
Bartholomew Columbus with minute instructions to his nephew the admiral.

Don Bartholomew still retained the office of Adelantado of the Indies;
although Ferdinand, through selfish motives, detained him in Spain, while
he employed inferior men in voyages of discovery. He now added to his
appointments the property and government of the little island of Mona
during life, and assigned him a repartimiento of two hundred Indians, with
the superintendence of the mines which might be discovered in Cuba; an
office which proved very lucrative. [248]

Among the instructions given by the king to Don Diego, he directed that,
in consequence of the representations of the Dominican friars, the labor
of the natives should be reduced to one-third; that negro slaves should be
procured from Guinea as a relief to the Indians; [249] and that Carib
slaves should be branded on the leg, to prevent other Indians from being
confounded with them and subjected to harsh treatment. [250]

The two governors, Ojeda and Nicuessa, whom the king had appointed to
colonize and command at the Isthmus of Darien, in Terra Firma, having
failed in their undertaking, the sovereign, in 1514, wrote to Hispaniola,
permitting the Adelantado, Don Bartholomew, if so inclined, to take charge
of settling the coast of Veragua, and to govern that country under the
admiral Don Diego, conformably to his privileges. Had the king consulted
his own interest, and the deference due to the talents and services of the
Adelantado, this measure would have been taken at an earlier date. It was
now too late: illness prevented Don Bartholomew from executing the
enterprise; and his active and toilsome life was drawing to a close.

Many calumnies having been sent home to Spain by Pasamonte and other
enemies of Don Diego, and various measures being taken by government,
which he conceived derogatory to his dignity, and injurious to his
privileges, he requested and obtained permission to repair to court, that
he might explain and vindicate his conduct. He departed, accordingly, on
April 9th, 1515, leaving the Adelantado with the vice-queen, Dofia Maria.
He was received with great honor by the king; and he merited such a
reception. He had succeeded in every enterprise he had undertaken or
directed. The pearl fishery had been successfully established on the coast
of Cubagua; the islands of Cuba and of Jamaica had been subjected and
brought under cultivation without bloodshed; his conduct as governor had
been upright; and he had only excited the representations made against
him, by endeavoring to lessen the oppression of the natives. The king
ordered that all processes against him in the court of appeal and
elsewhere, for damages done to individuals in regulating the
repartimientos, should be discontinued, and the cases sent to himself for
consideration. But with all these favors, as the admiral claimed a share
of the profits of the provinces of Castilla del Oro, saying that it was
discovered by his father, as the names of its places, such as Nombre de
Dios, Porto Bello, and el Retrete, plainly proved, the king ordered that
interrogatories should be made among the mariners who had sailed with
Christopher Columbus, in the hope of proving that he had not discovered
the coast of Darien nor the Gulf of Uraba. "Thus," adds Herrera, "Don
Diego was always involved in litigations with the fiscal, so that he might
truly say that he was heir to the troubles of his father." [251]

Not long after the departure of Don Diego from St. Domingo, his uncle, Don
Bartholomew, ended his active and laborious life. No particulars are given
of his death, nor is there mention made of his age, which must have been
advanced. King Ferdinand is said to have expressed great concern at the
event, for he had a high opinion of the character and talents of the
Adelantado: "a man," says Herrera, "of not less worth than his brother the
admiral, and who, if he had been employed, would have given great proofs
of it; for he was an excellent seaman, valiant and of great heart."
[252] Charlevoix attributes the inaction in which Don Bartholomew had been
suffered to remain for several years, to the jealousy and parsimony of the
king. He found the house already too powerful, and the Adelantado, had he
discovered Mexico, was a man to make as good conditions as had been made
by the admiral his brother. [253] It was said, observed Herrera, that the
king rather preferred to employ him in his European affairs, though it
could only have been to divert him from other objects. On his death the
king resumed to himself the island of Mona, which he had given to him for
life, and transferred his repartimiento of two hundred Indians to the
vice-queen Dona Maria.

While the admiral Don Diego was pressing for an audience in his
vindication at court, King Ferdinand died on the 23d January, 1516. His
grandson and successor, Prince Charles, afterwards the emperor Charles V.,
was in Flanders. The government rested for a time with Cardinal Ximenes,
who would not undertake to decide on the representations and claims of the
admiral. It was not until 1520 that he obtained from the emperor Charles
V. a recognition of his innocence of all the charges against him. The
emperor, finding that what Pasamonte and his party had written were
notorious calumnies, ordered Don Diego to resume his charge, although the
process with the fiscal was still pending, and that Pasamonte should be
written to, requesting him to forget all past passions and differences and
to enter into amicable relations with Don Diego. Among other acts of
indemnification he acknowledged his right to exercise his office of
viceroy and governor in the island of Hispaniola, and in all parts
discovered by his father. [254] His authority was, however, much
diminished by new regulations, and a supervisor appointed over him with
the right to give information to the council against him, but with no
other powers. Don Diego sailed in the beginning of September, 1520, and
on his arrival at St. Domingo, finding that several of the governors,
presuming on his long absence, had arrogated to themselves independence,
and had abused their powers, he immediately sent persons to supersede
them, and demanded an account of their administration. This made him a
host of active and powerful enemies both in the colonies and in Spain.

Considerable changes had taken place in the island of Hispaniola, during
the absence of the admiral. The mines had fallen into neglect, the
cultivation of the sugar-cane having been found a more certain source of
wealth. It became a by-word in Spain that the magnificent palaces erected
by Charles V. at Madrid and Toledo were built of the sugar of Hispaniola.
Slaves had been imported in great numbers from Africa, being found more
serviceable in the culture of the cane than the feeble Indians. The
treatment of the poor negroes was cruel in the extreme; and they seem to
have had no advocates even among the humane. The slavery of the Indians
had been founded on the right of the strong; but it was thought that the
negroes, from their color, were born to slavery; and that from being
bought and sold in their own country, it was their natural condition.
Though a patient and enduring race, the barbarities inflated on them at
length roused them to revenge, and on the 27th December, 1522, there was
the first African revolt in Hispaniola. It began in a sugar plantation of
the admiral Don Diego, where about twenty slaves, joined by an equal
number from a neighboring plantation, got possession of arms, rose on
their superintendents, massacred them, and sallied forth upon the country.
It was their intention to pillage certain plantations, to kill the whites,
reinforce themselves by freeing their countrymen, and either to possess
themselves of the town of Agua, or to escape to the mountains.

Don Diego set out from St. Domingo in search of the rebels, followed by
several of the principal inhabitants. On the second day he stopped on the
banks of the river Nizao to rest his party and suffer reinforcements to
overtake him. Here one Melchor de Castro, who accompanied the admiral,
learnt that the negroes had ravaged his plantation, sacked his house,
killed one of his men, and carried off his Indian slaves. Without asking
leave of the admiral, he departed in the night with two companions,
visited his plantation, found all in confusion, and, pursuing the negroes,
sent to the admiral for aid. Eight horsemen were hastily dispatched to his
assistance, armed with bucklers and lances, and having six of the infantry
mounted behind them. De Castro had three horsemen beside this
reinforcement, and at the head of this little band overtook the negroes at
break of day. The insurgents put themselves in battle array, armed with
stones and Indian spears, and uttering loud shouts and outcries. The
Spanish horsemen braced their bucklers, couched their lances, and charged
them at full speed. The negroes were soon routed, and fled to the rocks,
leaving six dead and several wounded. De Castro also was wounded in the
arm. The admiral coming up, assisted in the pursuit of the fugitives. As
fast as they were taken they were hanged on the nearest trees, and
remained suspended as spectacles of terror to their countrymen. This
prompt severity checked all further attempts at revolt among the African
slaves. [255]

In the meantime the various enemies whom Don Diego had created, both in
the colonies and in Spain, were actively and successfully employed. His
old antagonist, the treasurer Pasnmonte, had charged him with usurping
almost all the powers of the royal audience, and with having given to the
royal declaration, re-establishing him in his office of viceroy, an extent
never intended by the sovereign. These representations had weight at
court, and in 1523 Don Diego received a most severe letter from the
council of the Indies, charging him with the various abuses and excesses
alleged against him, and commanding him, on pain of forfeiting all his
privileges and titles, to revoke the innovations he had made, and restore
things to their former state. To prevent any plea of ignorance of this
mandate, the royal audience was enjoined to promulgate it and to call upon
all persons to conform to it, and to see that it was properly obeyed. The
admiral received also a letter from the council, informing him that Jus
presence was necessary in Spain, to give information of the foregoing
matters, and advice relative to the reformation of various abuses, and to
the treatment and preservation of the Indians; he was requested,
therefore, to repair to court without waiting for further orders.

Don Diego understood this to be a peremptory recall, and obeyed
accordingly. On his arrival in Spain, he immediately presented himself
before the court at Victoria, with the frank and fearless spirit of an
upright man, and pleaded his cause so well, that the sovereign and council
acknowledged his innocence on all the points of accusation. He convinced
them, moreover, of the exactitude with which he had discharged his duties;
of his zeal for the public good, and the glory of the crown; and that all
the representations against him rose from the jealousy and enmity of
Pasaraonte and other royal oflicers in the colonies, who were impatient of
any superior authority in the island to restrain them.

Having completely established his innocence, and exposed the calumnies of
his enemies, Don Diego trusted that he would soon obtain justice as to all
his claims. As these, however, involved a participation in the profits of
vast and richly productive provinces, he experienced the delays and
difficulties usual with such demands, for it is only when justice costs
nothing that it is readily rendered. His earnest solicitations at length
obtained an order from the emperor, that a commission should be formed,
composed of the grand chancellor, the friar Loyasa, confessor to the
emperor, and president of the royal council of the Indies, and a number of
other distinguished personages. They were to inquire into the various
points in dispute between the admiral and the fiscal, and into the
proceedings which had taken place in the council of the Indies, with the
power of determining what justice required in the case. The affair,
however, was protracted to such a length, and accompanied by so many
toils, vexations, and disappointments, that the unfortunate Diego, like
his father, died in the pursuit. For two years he had followed the court
from city to city, during its migrations from Victoria to Burgos,
Valladolid, Madrid, and Toledo. In the winter of 1525, the emperor set out
from Toledo for Seville. The admiral undertook to follow him, though his
constitution was broken by fatigue and vexation, and he was wasting under
the attack of a slow fever. Oviedo, the historian, saw him at Toledo two
days before his departure, and joined with his friends in endeavoring to
dissuade him from a journey in such a state of health, and at such a
season. Their persuasions were in vain. Don Diego was not aware of the
extent of his malady: he told them that he should repair to Seville by the
church of our Lady of Guadaloupe, to offer up his devotions at that
shrine; and he trusted, through the intercession of the mother of God,
soon to be restored to health. [257] He accordingly left Toledo in a
litter on the 21st of February, 1526, having previously confessed and
taken the communion, and arrived the same day at Montalvan, distant about
six leagues. There his illness increased to such a degree that he saw his
end approaching. He employed the following day in arranging the affairs
of his conscience, and expired on February 23d, being little more than
fifty years of age, his premature death having been hastened by the
griefs and troubles he had experienced. "He was worn out," says Herrera,
"by following up his claims, and defending himself from the calumnies of
his competitors, who, with many stratagems and devices, sought to obscure
the glory of the father and the virtue of the son." [258]

We have seen how the discovery of the New World rendered the residue of
the life of Columbus a tissue of wrongs, hardships, and afflictions, and
how the jealousy and enmity he had awakened were inherited by his son. It
remains to show briefly in what degree the anticipations of perpetuity,
wealth, and honor to his family were fulfilled.

When Don Diego Columbus died, his wife and family were at St. Domingo. He
left two sons, Luis and Christopher, and three daughters, Maria, who
afterwards married Don Sancho de Cardono; Juana, who married Don Luis de
Cneva; and Isabella, who married Don George of Portugal, count of Gelves.
He had also a natural son named Christopher. [259]

After the death of Don Diego, his noble-spirited vice queen, left with a
number of young children, endeavored to assert and maintain the rights of
the family. Understanding that, according to the privileges accorded to
Christopher Columbus, they had a just claim to the vice-royalty of the
province of Veragua, as having been discovered by him, she demanded a
license from the royal audience of Hispaniola, to recruit men and fit out
an armada to colonize that country. This the audience refused, and sent
information of the demand to the emperor. He replied, that the vice-queen
should be kept in suspense until the justice of her claim could be
ascertained; as, although he had at various times given commissions to
different persons to examine the doubts and objections which had been
opposed by the fiscal, no decision had ever been made.[260] The
enterprise thus contemplated by the vice-queen was never carried into

Shortly afterwards she sailed for Spain, to protect the claim of her
eldest son, Don Luis, then six years of age. Charles V. was absent, but
she was most graciously received by the empress. The title of admiral of
the Indies was immediately conferred on her son, Don Luis, and the emperor
augmented his revenues, and conferred other favors on the family. Charles
V., however, could never be prevailed on to give Don Luis the title of
viceroy, although that dignity had been decreed to his father, a few years
previous to his death, as an hereditary right.[261]

In 1538, the young admiral, Don Luis, then about eighteen years of age,
was at court, having instituted proceedings before the proper tribunals,
for the recovery of the viceroyalty. Two years afterwards the suit was
settled by arbitration, his uncle Don Fernando, and Cardinal Loyasa,
president of the council of the Indies, being umpires. By a compromise Don
Luis was declared captain-general of Hispaniola, but with such limitations
that it was little better than a bare title. Don Luis sailed for
Hispaniola, but did not remain there long. He found his dignities and
privileges mere sources of vexation, and finally entered into a
compromise, which relieved himself and gratified the emperor. He gave up
all pretensions to the viceroyalty of the New World, receiving in its
stead the titles of Duke of Veragua and Marquis of Jamaica. [262] He
commuted also the claim to the tenth of the produce of the Indies for a
pension of one thousand doubloons of gold.[263]

Don Luis did not long enjoy the substitution of a certain, though
moderate, revenue for a magnificent but unproductive claim. He died
shortly afterwards, leaving no other male issue than an illegitimate son,
named Christopher. He left two daughters by his wife, Dona Maria de
Mosquera, one named Phillippa, and the other Maria, which last became a
nun in the convent of St. Quirce, at Valladolid.

Don Luis, having no legitimate son, was succeeded by his nephew Diego, son
to his brother Christopher. A litigation took place between this young
heir and his cousin Phillippa, daughter of the late Don Luis. The convent
of St. Quirce also put in a claim, on behalf of its inmate, Dona Maria,
who had taken the veil. Christopher, natural son to Don Luis, likewise
became a prosecutor in the suit, but was set aside on account of his
illegitimacy. Don Diego and his cousin Phillippa soon thought it better to
join claims and persons in wedlock, than to pursue a tedious contest. They
were married, and their union was happy, though not fruitful. Diego died
without issue in 1578, and with him the legitimate male line of Columbus
became extinct.

One of the most important lawsuits that the world has ever witnessed now
arose for the estates and dignities descended from the great discoverer.
Don Diego had two sisters, Francisca and Maria, the former of whom, and
the children of the latter, advanced their several claims. To these
parties was added Bernard Colombo of Cogoleto, who claimed as lineal
descendant from Bartholomew Columbus, the Adelantado, brother to the
discoverer. He was, however, pronounced ineligible, as the Adelantado had
no acknowledged, and certainly no legitimate, offspring.

Baldassar, or Balthazar, Colombo, of the house of Cuccaro and Conzano, in
the dukedom of Montferrat, in Piedmont, was an active and persevering
claimant. He came from Italy into Spain, where he devoted himself for many
years to the prosecution of this suit. He produced a genealogical tree of
his family, in which was contained one Domenico Colombo, lord of Cuccaro,
whom he maintained to be the identical father of Christopher Columbus, the
admiral. He proved that this Domenico was living at the requisite era, and
produced many witnesses who had heard that the navigator was born in the
castle of Cuccaro; whence, it was added, he and his two brothers had
eloped at an early age, and had never returned. [264] A monk is also
mentioned among the witnesses, who made oath that Christopher and his
brothers were born in that castle of Cuccaro. This testimony was
afterwards withdrawn by the prosecutor; as it was found that the monk's
recollection must have extended back considerably upward of a century.
[265] The claim of Balthazar was negatived. His proofs that Christopher
Columbus was a native of Cuccaro were rejected, as only hearsay, or
traditionary evidence. His ancestor Domenico, it appeared from his own
showing, died in 1456; whereas it was established that Domenico, the
father of the admiral, was living upwards of thirty years after that

The cause was finally decided by the council of the Indies, on the 2d
December, 1608. The male line was declared to be extinct. Don Nuno or
Nugno Gelves de Portugallo was put in possession, and became duke of
Veragua. He was grandson to Isabella, third daughter of Don Diego (son of
the discoverer) by his vice-queen, Dona Maria de Toledo. The descendants
of the two elder sisters of Isabella had a prior claim, but their lines
became extinct previous to this decision of the suit. The Isabella just
named had married Don George of Portugal, count of Gelves. "Thus," says
Charlevoix, "the dignities and wealth of Columbus passed into a branch of
the Portuguese house of Braganza, established in Spain, of which the heirs
are entitled _De Portugallo, Colon, Duke de Veragua, Marques de la
Jamaica, y Almirante de las Indias_." [Charlevoix, Hist. St. Doming.,
tom. i. lib. vi. p. 447.]

The suit of Balthazar Colombo of Cuccaro was rejected under three
different forms, by the council of the Indies; and his application for an
allowance of support, under the legacy of Columbus, in favor of poor
relations, was also refused; although the other parties had assented to
the demand. [266] He died in Spain, where he had resided many years in
prosecution of this suit. His son returned to Italy, persisting in the
validity of his claim: he said that it was in vain to seek justice in
Spain; they were too much interested to keep those dignities and estates
among themselves; but he gave out that he had received twelve thousand
doubloons of gold in compromise from the other parties. Spotorno, under
sanction of Ignazio de Giovanni, a learned canon, treats this assertion
as a bravado, to cover his defeat, being contradicted by his evident
poverty. [267] The family of Cuccaro, however, still maintain their
right, and express great veneration for the memory of their illustrious
ancestor, the admiral; and travelers occasionally visit their old castle
in Piedmont with great reverence, as the birthplace of the discoverer of
the New World.

No. III.

Fernando Columbus.

Fernando Columbus (or Colon, as he is called in Spain), the natural son
and historian of the admiral, was born in Cordova. There is an uncertainty
about the exact time of his birth. According to his epitaph, it must have
been on the 28th September, 1488; but according to his original papers
preserved in the library of the cathedral of Seville, and which were
examined by Don Diego Ortiz de Zuniga, historian of that city, it would
appear to have been on the 29th of August, 1487. His mother, Dona Beatrix
Enriquez, was of a respectable family, but was never married to the
admiral, as has been stated by some of his biographers.

Early in 1494, Fernando was carried to court, together with his elder
brother Diego, by his uncle Don Bartholomew, to enter the royal household
in quality of page to the prince Don Juan, son and heir to Ferdinand and
Isabella. He and his brother remained in this situation until the death of
the prince; when they were taken by Queen Isabella as pages into her own
service. Their education, of course, was well attended to, and Fernando in
after-life gave proofs of being a learned man.

In the year 1502, at the tender age of thirteen or fourteen years,
Fernando accompanied his father in his fourth voyage of discovery, and
encountered all its singular and varied hardships with a fortitude that is
mentioned with praise and admiration by the admiral.

After the death of his father, it would appear that Fernando made two
voyages to the New World. He accompanied the emperor Charles V. also, to
Italy, Flanders, and Germany; and according to Zuffiga (Anales de Seville
de 1539, No. 3), traveled over all Europe and a part of Africa and Asia.
Possessing talents, judgment, and industry, these opportunities were not
lost upon him, and he acquired much information in geography, navigation,
and natural history. Being of a studious habit, and fond of books, he
formed a select, yet copious, library, of more than twenty thousand
volumes, in print and in manuscript. With the sanction of the emperor
Charles V., he undertook to establish an academy and college of
mathematics at Seville; and for this purpose commenced the construction of
a sumptuous edifice, without the walls of the city, facing the
Guadalquiver, in the place where the monastery of San Laureano is now
situated. His constitution, however, had been broken by the sufferings he
had experienced in his travels and voyages, and a premature death
prevented the completion of his plan of the academy, and broke off other
useful labors. He died in Seville on the 12th of July, 1539, at the age,
according to his epitaph, of fifty years, nine months, and fourteen days.
He left no issue, and was never married. His body was interred, according
to his request, in the cathedral of Seville. He bequeathed his valuable
library to the same establishment.

Don Fernando devoted himself much to letters. According to the inscription
on his tomb, he composed a work in four books, or volumes, the title of
which is defaced on the monument, and the work itself is lost. This is
much to be regretted, as, according to Zuniga, the fragments of the


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