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

Part 8 out of 10

horror was so great as to deprive her of speech; she expired in three days
without uttering a word.

Machnm was struck with despair at beholding the tragical end of this
tender and beautiful being. He upbraided himself, in the transports of his
grief, with tearing her from home, her country, and her friends, to perish
upon a savage coast. All the efforts of his companions to console him were
in vain. He died within five days, broken-hearted; begging, as a last
request, that his body might be interred beside that of his mistress, at
the foot of a rustic altar which they had erected under the great tree.
They set up a large wooden cross on the spot, on which was placed an
inscription written by Macham himself, relating in a few words his piteous
adventure, and praying any Christians who might arrive there, to build a
chapel in the place dedicated to Jesus the Saviour.

After the death of their commander, his followers consulted about means to
escape from the island. The ship's boat remained on the shore. They
repaired it and put it in a state to bear a voyage, and then made sail,
intending to return to England. Ignorant of their situation, and carried
about by the winds, they were cast upon the coast of Morocco, where, their
boat being shattered upon the rocks, they were captured by the Moors and
thrown into prison. Here they understood that their ship had shared the
same fate, having been driven from her anchorage in the tempest, and
carried to the same inhospitable coast, where all her crew were made

The prisons of Morocco were in those days filled with captives of all
nations, taken by their cruisers. Here the English prisoners met with an
experienced pilot, a Spaniard of Seville, named Juan de Morales. He
listened to their story with great interest; inquired into the situation
and description of the island they had discovered; and, subsequently, on
his redemption from prison, communicated the circumstances, it is said, to
prince Henry of Portugal.

There is a difficulty in the above narrative of Alcaforado in reconciling
dates. The voyage is said to have taken place during the reign of Edward
III, which commenced in 1327 and ended in 1378. Morales, to whom the
English communicated their voyage, is said to have been in the service of
the Portuguese, in the second discovery of Madeira, in 1418 and 1420. Even
if the voyage and imprisonment had taken place in the last year of king
Edward's reign, this leaves a space of forty years.

Hacluyt gives an account of the same voyage, taken from Antonio Galvano.
He varies in certain particulars. It happened, he says, in the year 1344,
in the time of Peter IV of Aragon. Macham cast anchor in a bay since
called, after him, Machio.

The lady being ill, he took her on shore, accompanied by some of his
friends, and the ships sailed without them. After the death of the lady,
Macham made a canoe out of a tree, and ventured to sea in it with his
companions. They were cast upon the coast of Africa, where the Moors,
considering it a kind of miracle, carried him to the king of their
country, who sent him to the king of Castile. In consequence of the
traditional accounts remaining of this voyage, Henry II of Castile sent
people, in 1395, to re-discover the island.


Las Casas.

Bartholomew Las Casas, bishop of Chiapa, so often cited in all histories
of the New World, was born at Seville, in 1474, and was of French
extraction. The family name was Casaus. The first of the name who appeared
in Spain, served under the standard of Ferdinand III, surnamed the saint,
in his wars with the Moors of Andalusia. He was at the taking of Seville
from the Moors, when he was rewarded by the king, and received permission
to establish himself there. His descendants enjoyed the prerogatives of
nobility, and suppressed the letter u in their name, to accommodate it to
the Spanish tongue.

Antonio, the father of Bartholomew, went to Hispaniola with Columbus in
1493, and returned rich to Seville in 1498. [367] It has been stated by
one of the biographers of Bartholomew Las Casas, that he accompanied
Columbus in his third voyage in 1498, and returned with him in 1500. [368]
This, however, is incorrect. He was, during that time, completing his
education at Salamanca, where he was instructed in Latin, dialectics,
logic, metaphysics, ethics, and physics, after the supposed method and
system of Aristotle. While at the university, he had, as a servant, an
Indian slave, given him by his father, who had received him from Columbus.
When Isabella, in her transport of virtuous indignation, ordered the
Indian slaves to be sent back to their country, this one was taken from
Las Casas. The young man was aroused by the circumstance, and, on
considering the nature of the case, became inflamed with a zeal in favor
of the unhappy Indians, which never cooled throughout a long and active
life. It was excited to tenfold fervor, when, at about the age of
twenty-eight years, he accompanied the commander Ovando to Hispaniola in
1502, and was an eye-witness to many of the cruel scenes which took place
under his administration. The whole of his future life, a space exceeding
sixty years, was devoted to vindicating the cause, and endeavoring to
meliorate the sufferings of the natives. As a missionary, he traversed the
wilderness of the New World in various directions, seeking to convert and
civilize them; as a protector and champion, he made several voyages to
Spain, vindicated their wrongs before courts and monarchs, wrote volumes
in their behalf, and exhibited a zeal, and constancy, and intrepidity
worthy of an apostle. He died at the advanced age of ninety-two years, and
was buried at Madrid, in the church of the Dominican convent of Atocha, of
which fraternity he was a member.

Attempts have been made to decry the consistency and question the real
philanthropy of Las Casas, in consequence of one of the expedients to
which he resorted to relieve the Indians from the cruel bondage imposed
upon them. This occurred in 1517, when he arrived in Spain, on one of his
missions, to obtain measures in their favor from the government. On his
arrival in Spain, he found cardinal Ximenes, who had been left regent on
the death of King Ferdinand, too ill to attend to his affairs. He
repaired, therefore, to Valladolid, where he awaited the coming of the new
monarch Charles, archduke of Austria, afterwards the emperor Charles V. He
had strong opponents to encounter in various persons high in authority,
who, holding estates and repartimientos in the colonies, were interested
in the slavery of the Indians. Among these, and not the least animated,
was the bishop Fonseca, president of the council of the Indies.

At length the youthful sovereign arrived, accompanied by various Flemings
of his court, particularly his grand chancellor, doctor Juan de Selvagio,
a learned and upright man, whom he consulted on all affairs of
administration and justice. Las Casas soon became intimate with the
chancellor, and stood high in his esteem; but so much opposition arose on
every side that he found his various propositions for the relief of the
natives but little attended to. In his doubt and anxiety he had now
recourse to an expedient which he considered as justified by the
circumstances of the case. [369] The chancellor Selvagio and other
Flemings who had accompanied the youthful sovereign had obtained from him,
before quitting Flanders, licenses to import slaves from Africa to the
colonies; a measure which had recently in 1516 been prohibited by a decree
of cardinal Ximenes while acting as regent. The chancellor, who was a
humane man, reconciled it to his conscience by a popular opinion that one
negro could perform, without detriment to his health, the labor of several
Indians, and that therefore it was a great saving of human suffering. So
easy is it for interest to wrap itself up in plausible argument! He might,
moreover, have thought the welfare of the Africans but little affected by
the change. They were accustomed to slavery in their own country, and they
were said to thrive in the New World. "The Africans," observes Herrera,
"prospered so much in the island of Hispaniola, that it was the opinion
unless a negro should happen to be hanged, he would never die; for as yet
none had been known to perish from infirmity. Like oranges, they found
their proper soil in Hispaniola, and it seemed ever more natural to them
than their native Guinea." [370]

Las Casas, finding all other means ineffectual, endeavored to turn these
interested views of the grand chancellor to the benefit of the Indians. He
proposed that the Spaniards, resident in the colonies, might be permitted
to procure negroes for the labor of the farms and the mines, and other
severe toils, which were above the strength and destructive of the lives
of the natives. [371] He evidently considered the poor Africans as little
better than mere animals; and he acted like others, on an arithmetical
calculation of diminishing human misery, by substituting one strong man
for three or four of feebler nature. He, moreover, esteemed the Indians
as a nobler and more intellectual race of beings, and their preservation
and welfare of higher importance to the general interests of humanity.

It is this expedient of Las Casas which has drawn down severe censure upon
his memory. He has been charged with gross inconsistency, and even with
having originated this inhuman traffic in the New World. This last is a
grievous charge; but historical facts and dates remove the original sin
from his door, and prove that the practice existed in the colonies, and
was authorized by royal decree, long before he took a part in the

Las Casas did not go to the New World until 1502. By a royal ordinance
passed in 1501, negro slaves were permitted to be taken there, provided
they had been born among Christians. [372] By a letter written by Ovando,
dated 1503, it appears that there were numbers in the island of
Hispaniola at that time, and he entreats that none more might be
permitted to be brought.

In 1506 the Spanish government forbade the introduction of negro slaves
from the Levant, or those brought up with the Moors; and stipulated that
none should be taken to the colonies but those from Seville, who had been
instructed in the Christian faith, that they might contribute to the
conversion of the Indians. [373] In 1510, king Ferdinand, being informed
of the physical weakness of the Indians, ordered fifty Africans to be
sent from Seville to labor in the mines. [374] In 1511, he ordered that
a great number should be procured from Guinea, and transported to
Hispaniola, understanding that one negro could perform the work of four
Indians. [375] In 1512 and '13 he signed further orders relative to the
same subject. In 1516, Charles V granted licenses to the Flemings to
import negroes to the colonies. It was not until the year 1517, that Las
Casas gave his sanction of the traffic. It already existed, and he
countenanced it solely with a view to having the hardy Africans
substituted for the feeble Indians. It was advocated at the same time,
and for the same reasons, by the Jeronimite friars, who were missionaries
in the colonies. The motives of Las Casas were purely benevolent, though
founded on erroneous notions of justice. He thought to permit evil that
good might spring out of it; to choose between two existing abuses, and
to eradicate the greater by resorting to the lesser. His reasoning,
however fallacious it may be, was considered satisfactory and humane by
some of the most learned and benevolent men of the age, among whom was
the cardinal Adrian, afterwards elevated to the papal chair, and
characterized by gentleness and humanity. The traffic was permitted;
inquiries were made as to the number of slaves required, which was
limited to four thousand, and the Flemings obtained a monopoly of the
trade, which they afterwards farmed out to the Genoese.

Dr. Eobertson, in noticing this affair, draws a contrast between the
conduct of the cardinal Ximenes and that of Las Casas, strongly to the
disadvantage of the latter. "The cardinal," he observes, "when solicited
to encourage this commerce, peremptorily rejected the proposition, because
he perceived the iniquity of reducing one race of men to slavery, when he
was consulting about the means of restoring liberty to another; but Las
Casas, from the inconsistency natural to men who hurry with headlong
impetuosity towards a favorite point, was incapable of making this
distinction. In the warmth of his zeal to save the Americans from the
yoke, he pronounced it to be lawful and expedient to impose one still
heavier on the Africans." [376] This distribution of praise and censure is
not perfectly correct. Las Casas had no idea that he was imposing a
heavier, nor so heavy, a yoke upon the Africans. The latter were
considered more capable of labor, and less impatient of slavery. While the
Indians sunk under their tasks, and perished by thousands in Hispaniola,
the negroes, on the contrary, thrived there. Herrera, to whom Dr.
Robertson refers as his authority, assigns a different motive, and one of
mere finance, for the measures of cardinal Ximenes. He says that he
ordered that no one should take negroes to the Indies, because, as the
natives were decreasing, and it was known that one negro did more work
than four of them, there would probably be a great demand for African
slaves, and a tribute might be imposed upon the trade, from which would
result profit to the royal treasury. [377] This measure was presently
after carried into effect, though subsequent to the death of the
cardinal, and licenses were granted by the sovereign for pecuniary
considerations. Flechier, in his life of Ximenes, assigns another but a
mere political motive for this prohibition. The cardinal, he says,
objected to the importation of negroes into the colonies, as he feared
they would corrupt the natives, and by confederacies with them render
them formidable to government. De Marsolier, another biographer of Ximenes,
gives equally politic reasons for this prohibition. He cites a letter
written by the cardinal on the subject, in which he observed that he knew
the nature of the negroes; they were a people capable, it was true, of
great fatigue, but extremely prolific and enterprising; and that if they
had time to multiply in America, they would infallibly revolt, and impose
on the Spaniards the same chains which they had compelled them to wear.
[378] These facts, while they take from the measure of the cardinal that
credit for exclusive philanthropy which has been bestowed upon it,
manifest the clear foresight of that able politician; whose predictions
with respect to negro revolt have been so strikingly fulfilled in the
island of Hispaniola.

Cardinal Ximenes, in fact, though a wise and upright statesman, was not
troubled with scruples of conscience on these questions of natural right;
nor did he possess more toleration than his contemporaries towards savage
and infidel nations. He was grand inquisitor of Spain, and was very
efficient during the latter years of Ferdinand in making slaves of the
refractory Moors of Granada. He authorized, by express instructions,
expeditions to seize and enslave the Indians of the Caribbee islands, whom
he termed only suited to labor, enemies of the Christians, and cannibals.
Nor will it be considered a proof of gentle or tolerant policy, that he
introduced the tribunal of the inquisition into the New World. These
circumstances are cited not to cast reproach upon the character of
cardinal Ximenes, but to show how incorrectly he has been extolled at the
expense of Las Casas. Both of them must be judged in connection with the
customs and opinions of the age in which they lived.

Las Casas was the author of many works, but few of which have been
printed. The most important is a general history of the Indies, from the
discovery to the year 1520, in three volumes. It exists only in
manuscript, but is the fountain from which Herrera, and most of the other
historians of the New World, have drawn large supplies. The work, though
prolix, is valuable, as the author was an eye-witness of many of the
facts, had others from persons who were concerned in the transactions
recorded, and possessed copious documents. It displays great erudition,
though somewhat crudely and diffusely introduced. His history was
commenced in 1527, at fifty-three years of age, and was finished in 1559,
when eighty-five. As many things are set down from memory, there is
occasional inaccuracy, but the whole bears the stamp of sincerity and
truth. The author of the present work, having had access to this valuable
manuscript, has made great use of it, drawing forth many curious facts
hitherto neglected; but he has endeavored to consult it with caution and
discrimination, collating it with other authorities, and omitting whatever
appeared to be dictated by prejudice or over-heated zeal.

Las Casas has been accused of high coloring and extravagant declamation in
those passages which relate to the barbarities practised on the natives;
nor is the charge entirely without foundation. The same zeal in the cause
of the Indians is expressed in his writings that shone forth in his
actions, always pure, often vehement, and occasionally unseasonable.
Still, however, where he errs it is on a generous and righteous side. If
one-tenth part of what he says he "witnessed with his own eyes" be true,
and his veracity is above all doubt, he would have been wanting in the
natural feelings of humanity had he not expressed himself in terms of
indignation and abhorrence.

In the course of his work, when Las Casas mentions the original papers
lying before him, from which he drew many of his facts, it makes one
lament that they should be lost to the world. Besides the journals and
letters of Columbus, he says he had numbers of the letters of the
Adelantado, Don Bartholomew, who wrote better than his brother, and whose
writings must have been full of energy. Above all, he had the map formed
from study and conjecture, by which Columbus sailed on his first voyage.
What a precious document would this be for the world! These writings may
still exist, neglected and forgotten among the rubbish of some convent in
Spain. Little hope can be entertained of discovering them in the present
state of degeneracy of the cloister. The monks of Atocha, in a recent
conversation with one of the royal princes, betrayed an ignorance that
this illustrious man was buried in their convent, nor can any of the
fraternity point out his place of sepulture to the stranger. [379]

The publication of this work of Las Casas has not been permitted in Spain,
where every book must have the sanction of a censor before it is committed
to the press. The horrible picture it exhibits of the cruelties inflicted
on the Indians, would, it was imagined, excite an odium against their
conquerors. Las Casas himself seems to have doubted the expediency of
publishing it; for in 1560 he made a note with his own hand, which is
preserved in the two first volumes of the original, mentioning that he
left them in confidence to the college of the order of Predicators of St.
Gregorio, in Valladolid, begging of its prelates that no secular person,
nor even the collegians, should be permitted to read his history for the
space of forty years; and that after that term it might be printed if
consistent with the good of the Indies and of Spain. [380]

For the foregoing reason the work has been cautiously used by Spanish
historians, passing over in silence, or with brief notice, many passages
of disgraceful import. This feeling is natural, if not commendable; for
the world is not prompt to discriminate between individuals and the nation
of whom they are but a part. The laws and regulations for the government
of the newly-discovered countries, and the decisions of the council of the
Indies on all contested points, though tinctured in some degree with the
bigotry of the age, were distinguished for wisdom, justice, and humanity,
and do honor to the Spanish nation. It was only in the abuse of them by
individuals to whom the execution of the laws was intrusted, that these
atrocities were committed. It should be remembered, also, that the same
nation which gave birth to the sanguinary and rapacious adventurers who
perpetrated these cruelties, gave birth likewise to the early
missionaries, like Las Casas, who followed the sanguinary course of
discovery, binding up the wounds inflicted by their countrymen; men who in
a truly evangelical spirit braved all kinds of perils and hardships, and
even death itself, not through a prospect of temporal gain or glory, but
through a desire to meliorate the condition and save the souls of
barbarous and suffering nations. The dauntless enterprises and fearful
peregrinations of many of these virtuous men, if properly appreciated,
would be found to vie in romantic daring with the heroic achievements of
chivalry, with motives of a purer and far more exalted nature.


Peter Martyr.

Peter Martir, or Martyr, of whose writings much use has been made in this
history, was born at Anghierra, in the territory of Milan, in Italy, on
the second of February, 1455. He is commonly termed Peter Martyr of
_Angleria_, from the Latin name of his native place. He is one of the
earliest historians that treat of Columbus, and was his contemporary and
intimate acquaintance. Being at Rome in 1487, and having acquired a
distinguished reputation for learning, he was invited by the Spanish
ambassador, the count de Tendilla, to accompany him to Spain. He willingly
accepted the invitation, and was presented to the sovereigns at Saragossa.
Isabella, amidst the cares of the war with Granada, was anxious for the
intellectual advancement of her kingdom, and wished to employ Martyr to
instruct the young nobility of the royal household. With her peculiar
delicacy, however, she first made her confessor, Hernando de Talavera,
inquire of Martyr in what capacity he desired to serve her. Contrary to
her expectation, Martyr replied, "in the profession of arms." The queen
complied, and he followed her in her campaigns, as one of her household
and military suite, but without distinguishing himself, and perhaps
without having any particular employ in a capacity so foreign to his
talents. After the surrender of Granada, when the war was ended, the
queen, through the medium of the grand cardinal of Spain, prevailed upon
him to undertake the instruction of the young nobles of her court.

Martyr was acquainted with Columbus while making his application to the
sovereigns, and was present at his triumphant reception by Ferdinand and
Isabella in Barcelona, on his return from his first voyage. He was
continually in the royal camp during the war with the Moors, of which his
letters contain many interesting particulars. He was sent ambassador
extraordinary by Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1501, to Venice, and thence to
the grand soldan of Egypt. The soldan, in 1490 or 1491, had sent an
embassy to the Spanish sovereigns, threatening that, unless they desisted
from the war against Granada, he would put all the Christians in Egypt and
Syria to death, overturn all their temples, and destroy the holy sepulchre
at Jerusalem. Ferdinand and Isabella pressed the war with tenfold energy,
and brought it to a triumphant conclusion in the next campaign, while the
soldan was still carrying on a similar negotiation with the pope. They
afterwards sent Peter Martyr ambassador to the soldan to explain and
justify their measure. Martyr discharged the duties of his embassy with
great ability; obtained permission from the soldan to repair the holy
places at Jerusalem, and an abolition of various extortions to which
Christian pilgrims had been subjected. While on this embassy, he wrote his
work Do Legatione Babylonica, which includes a history of Egypt in those

On his return to Spain, he was rewarded with places and pensions, and in
1524 was appointed a minister of the council of the Indies. His principal
work is an account of the discoveries of the New World, in eight decades,
each containing ten chapters. They are styled Decades of the New World, or
Decades of the Ocean, and, like all his other works, were originally
written in Latin, though since translated into various languages. He had
familiar access to letters, papers, journals, and narratives of the early
discoverers, and was personally acquainted with many of them, gathering
particulars from their conversation. In writiug his Decades, he took great
pains to obtain information from Columbus himself, and from others, his

In one of his epistles, (No. 153, January, 1494, to Pomponius Laetus,) he
mentions having just received a letter from Columbus, by which it appears
he was in correspondence with him. Las Casas says that great credit is to
be given to him in regard to those voyages of Columbus, although his
Decades contain some inaccuracies relative to subsequent events in the
Indies. Munoz allows him great credit, as an author contemporary with his
subject, grave, well cultivated, instructed in the facts of which he
treats, and of entire probity. He observes, however, that his writings
being composed on the spur or excitement of the moment, often related
circumstances which subsequently proved to be erroneous; that they were
written without method or care, often confusing dates and events, so that
they must be read with some caution.

Martyr was in the daily habit of writing letters to distinguished persons,
relating the passing occurrences of the busy court and age in which he
lived. In several of these Columbus is mentioned, and also some of the
chief events of his voyages, as promulgated at the very moment of his
return. These letters not being generally known or circulated, or
frequently cited, it may be satisfactory to the reader to have a few of
the main passages which relate to Columbus. They have a striking effect in
carrying us back to the very time of the discoveries.

In one of his epistles, dated Barcelona, Mny 1st, 1493, and addressed to
C. Borromeo, he says: "Within these few days a certain Christopher
Columbus has arrived from the western antipodes; a man of Liguria, whom my
sovereigns reluctantly intrusted with three ships, to seek that region,
for they thought that what he said was fabulous. He has returned and
brought specimens of many precious things, but particularly gold, which
those countries naturally produce." [381]

In another letter, dated likewise from Barcelona, in September following,
he gives a more particular account. It is addressed to count Tendilla,
governor of Granada, and also to Hernando Talavera, archbishop of that
diocese, and the same to whom the propositions of Columbus had been
referred by the Spanish sovereigns. "Arouse your attention, ancient
sages," says Peter Martyr in his epistle; "listen to a new discovery. You
remember Columbus the Ligurian, appointed in the camp by our sovereigns to
search for a new hemisphere of land at the western antipodes. You ought to
recollect, for you had some agency in the transaction; nor would the
enterprise, as I think, have been undertaken, without your counsel. He has
returned in safety, and relates the wonders he has discovered. He exhibits
gold as proofs of the mines in those regions; Gossampine cotton, also, and
aromatics, and pepper more pnngent than that from Caucasus. All these
things, together with scarlet dye-woods, the earth produces spontaneously.
Pursuing the western sun from Gades five thousand miles, of each a
thousand paces, as he relates, he fell in with sundry islands, and took
possession of one of them, of greater circuit, he asserts, than the whole
of Spain. Here he found a race of men living contented, in a state of
nature, subsisting on fruits and vegetables, and bread formed from
roots.... These people have kings, some greater than others, and they war
occasionally among themselves, with bows and arrows, or lances sharpened
and hardened in the fire. The desire of command prevails among them,
though they are naked. They have wives also. What they worship except the
divinity of heaven, is not ascertained." [382]

In another letter, dated likewise in September, 1403, and addressed to the
cardinal and vice-chancellor Ascanius Sforza, he says:

"So great is my desire to give you satisfaction, illustrious prince, that
I consider it a gratifying occurrence in the great fluctuations of events,
when any thing takes place among us, in which you may take an interest.
The wonders of this terrestrial globe, round which the sun makes a circuit
in the space of four and twenty hours, have, until our time, as you are
well aware, been known only in regard to one hemisphere, merely from the
Golden Chersonesus to our Spanish Gades. The rest has been given up as
unknown by cosmographers, and if any mention of it has been made, it has
been slight and dubious. But now, O blessed enterprise! under the auspices
of our sovereigns, what has hitherto lain hidden since the first origin of
things, has at length begun to be developed. The thing has thus occurred--
attend, illustrious prince! A certain Christopher Columbus, a Ligurian,
dispatched to those regions with three vessels by my sovereigns, pursuing
the western sun above five thousand miles from Gades, achieved his way to
the antipodes. Three and thirty successive days they navigated with naught
but sky and water. At length from the mast-head of the largest vessel, in
which Columbus himself sailed, those on the look-out proclaimed the sight
of land. He coasted along six islands, one of them, as all his followers
declare, beguiled perchance by the novelty of the scene, is larger than

Martyr proceeds to give the usual account of the productions of the
islands, and the manners and customs of the natives, particularly the wars
which occurred among them; "as if _meum_ and _tuum_ had been
introduced among them as among us, and expensive luxuries, and the desire
of accumulating wealth; for what, you will think, can be the wants of
naked men?" "What farther may succeed," he adds, "I will hereafter
signify. Farewell." [383]

In another letter, dated Valladolid, February 1, 1494, to Hernando de
Talavera, archbishop of Granada, he observes, "The king and queen, on the
return of Columbus to Barcelona, from his honorable enterprise, appointed
him admiral of the ocean sea, and caused him, on account of his
illustrious deeds, to be seated in their presence, an honor and a favor,
as you know, the highest with our sovereigns. They have dispatched him
again to those regions, furnished with a fleet of eighteen ships. There is
prospect of great discoveries at the western antarctic antipodes."

In a subsequent letter to Pomponius Laetus, dated from Alcala de Henares,
December 9th, 1494, he gives the first news of the success of this

"Spain," says he, "is spreading her wings, augmenting her empire, and
extending her name and glory to the antipodes.... Of eighteen vessels
dispatched by my sovereigns with the admiral Columbus, in his second
voyage to the western hemisphere, twelve have returned and have brought
Gossampine cotton, huge trees of dye-wood, and many other articles held
with us as precious, the natural productions of that hitherto hidden
world; and besides all other things, no small quantity of gold. O
wonderful, Pomponius! Upon the surface of that earth are found rude masses
of native gold, of a weight that one is afraid to mention. Some weigh two
hundred and fifty ounces, and they hope to discover others of a much
larger size, from what the naked natives intimate, when they extol their
gold to our people. Nor are the Lestrigonians nor Polyphemi, who feed on
human flesh, any longer doubtful. Attend--but beware! lest they rise in
horror before thee! When he proceeded from the Fortunate islands, now
termed the Canaries, to Hispaniola, the island on which he first set foot,
turning his prow a little toward the south, he arrived at innumerable
islands of savage men, whom they call cannibals, or Caribbees; and these,
though naked, are courageous warriors. They fight skillfully with bows and
clubs, and have boats hollowed from a single tree, yet very capacious, in
which they make fierce descents on neighboring islands, inhabited by
milder people. They attack their villages, from which they carry off the
men and devour them," &c. [385]

Another letter to Pomponius Laetus, on the same subject, has been cited at
large in the body of this work. It is true these extracts give nothing
that has not been stated more at large in the Decades of the same author,
but they are curious, as the very first announcements of the discoveries
of Columbus, and as showing the first stamp of these extraordinary events
upon the mind of one of the most learned and liberal men of the age.

A collection of the letters of Peter Martyr was published in 1530, under
the title of Opus Epistolarum, Petri Martyris Anglerii; it is divided into
thirty-eight books, each containing the letters of one year. The same
objections have been made to his letters as to his Decades, but they bear
the same stamp of candor, probity, and great information. They possess
peculiar value from being written at the moment, before the facts they
record were distorted or discolored by prejudice or misrepresentation. His
works abound in interesting particulars not to be found in any
contemporary historian. They are rich in thought, but still richer in
fact, and are full of urbanity, and of the liberal feeling of a scholar
who has mingled with the world. He is a fountain from which others draw,
and from which, with a little precaution, they may draw securely. He died
in Valladolid, in 1526.

No. XXX.


Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes, commonly known as Oviedo, was born
in Madrid in 1478, and died in Valladolid in 1557, aged seventy-nine
years. He was of a noble Austrian family, and in his boyhood (in 1490) was
appointed one of the pages to prince Juan, heir-apparent of Spain, the
only son of Ferdinand and Isabella. He was in this situation at the time
of the seige and surrender of Granada, was consequently at court at the
time that Columbus made his agreement with the Catholic sovereigns, and
was in the same capacity at Barcelona, and witnessed the triumphant
entrance of the discoverer, attended by a number of the natives of the
newly-found countries.

In 1513, he was sent out to the New World by Ferdinand, to superintend the
gold foundries. For many years he served there in various offices of trust
and dignity, both under Ferdinand and his grandson and successor, Charles
V. In 1535, he was made alcayde of the fortress of St. Domingo in
Hispaniola, and afterwards was appointed histomgrapher of the Indies. At
the time of his death, he had served the crown upwards of forty years,
thirty-four of which were passed in the colonies, and he had crossed the
ocean eight times, as he mentions in various parts of his writings. He
wrote several works; the most important is a chronicle of the Indies in
fifty books, divided into three parts. The first part, containing nineteen
books, was printed at Seville in 1535, and reprinted in 1547 at Salamanca,
augmented by a twentieth book containing shipwrecks. The remainder of the
work exists in manuscript. The printing of it was commenced at Valladolid
in 1557, but was discontinued in consequence of his death. It is one of
the unpublished treasures of Spanish colonial history.

He was an indefatigable writer, laborious in collecting and recording
facts, and composed a multitude of volumes which are scattered through the
Spanish libraries. His writings are full of events which happened under
his own eye, or were communicated to him by eyewitnesses; but he was
deficient in judgment and discrimination. He took his facts without
caution, and often from sources unworthy of credit. In his account of the
first voyage of Columbus, he falls into several egregious errors, in
consequence of taking the verbal information of a pilot named Hernan Perez
Matteo, who was in the interest of the Pinzons, and adverse to the
admiral. His work is not much to be depended upon in matters relative to
Columbus. When he treats of a more advanced period of the New World, from
his own actual observation, he is much more satisfactory, though he is
accused of listening too readily to popular fables and misrepresentations.
His account of the natural productions of the New World, and of the
customs of its inhabitants, is full of curious particulars; and the best
narratives of some of the minor voyages which succeeded those of Columbus
are to be found in the unpublished part of his work.


Cura de Los Palacios.

Andres Bernaldes, or Bernal, generally known by the title of the curate of
_Los Palacios_, from having been curate of the town of Los Palacios
from about 1488 to 1513, was born in the town of Fuentes, and was for some
time chaplain to Diego Dora, archbishop of Seville, one of the greatest
friends to the application of Columbus Bernaldes was well acquainted with
the admiral, who was occasionally his guest, and in 1496, left many of his
manuscripts and journals with him, which the curate made use of in a
history of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, in which he introduced an
account of the voyages of Columbus. In his narrative of the admiral's
coasting along the southern side of Cuba, the curate is more minute and
accurate than any other historian. His work exists only in manuscript, but
is well known to historians, who have made frequent use of it. Nothing can
be more simple and artless than the account which the honest curate gives
of his being first moved to undertake his chronicle. "I who wrote these
chapters of memoirs," he says, "being for twelve years in the habit of
reading a register of my deceased grandfather, who was notary public of
the town of Fuentes, where I was born, I found therein several chapters
recording certain events and achievements which had taken place in his
time; and my grandmother his widow, who was very old, hearing me read
them, said to me, 'And thou, my son, since thou art not slothful in
writing, why dost thou not write, in this manner, the good things which
are happening at present in thy own day, that those who come hereafter may
know them, and marvelling at what they read, may render thanks to God?'

"From that time," continues he, "I proposed to do so, and as I considered
the matter, I said often to myself,' if God gives me life and health, I
will continue to write until I behold the kingdom of Granada gained by the
Christians;' and I always entertained a hope of seeing it, and did see it:
great thanks and praises be given to our Saviour Jesus Christ! And because
it was impossible to write a complete and connected account of all things
that happened in Spain, during the matrimonial union of the king Don
Ferdinand, and the queen Dona Isabella, I wrote only about certain of the
most striking and remarkable events, of which I had correct information,
and of those which I saw or which were public and notorious to all men."

The work of the worthy curate, as may be inferred from the foregoing
statement, is deficient in regularity of plan; the style is artless and
often inelegant, but it abounds in facts not to be met with elsewhere,
often given in a very graphical manner, and strongly characteristic of the
times. As he was contemporary with the events and familiar with many of
the persons of his history, and as he was a man of probity and void of all
pretension, his manuscript is a document of high authenticity. He was much
respected in the limited sphere in which he moved, "yet," says one of his
admirers, who wrote a short preface to his chronicle, "he had no other
reward than that of the curacy of Los Palacios, and the place of chaplain
to the archbishop Don Diego Deza."

In the possession of O. Rich, Esq., of Madrid, is a very curious
manuscript chronicle of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, already
quoted in this work, made up from this history of the curate of Los
Palacios, and from various other historians of the times, by some
contemporary writer. In his account of the voyage of Columbus, he differs
in some trivial particulars from the regular copy of the manuscript of the
curate. These variations have been carefully examined by the author of
this work, and wherever they appear to be for the better, have been


"Navigatione del Re de Castiglia delle Isole e Paese Nuovamente

"Naviagatio Chrisophori Colombi."

The above are the titles, in Italian and in Latin, of the earliest
narratives of the first and second voyages of Columbus that appeared in
print. It was anonymous; and there are some curious particulars in regard
to it. It was originally written in Italian by Montalbodo Fracanzo, or
Fracanzano, or by Francapano de Montabaldo, (for writers differ in regard
to the name,) and was published in Vicenza, in 1507, in a collection of
voyages, entitled "Mondo Novo, e Paese Nuovamente Ritrovate." The
collection was republished at Milan, in 1508, both in Italian, and in a
Latin translation made by Archangelo Madrignano, under the title of
"Itinerarium Portugallensium;" this title being given, because the work
related chiefly to the voyages of Luigi Cadamosto, a Venetian in the
service of Portugal.

The collection was afterwards augmented by Simon Grinaens with other
travels, and printed in Latin at Basle, in 1533, [387] by Hervagio,
entitled "Novus Orbis Regionum," &c. The edition of Basle, 1555, and the
Italian edition of Milan, in 1508, have been consulted in the course of
this work.

Peter Martyr (Decad. 2, Cap. 7,) alludes to this publication, under the
first Latin title of the book, "Itinerarium Portugallensium," and accuses
the author, whom by mistake he terms Cadamosto, of having stolen the
materials of his book from the three first chapters of his first Decade of
the Ocean, of which, he says, he granted copies in manuscript to several
persons, and in particular to certain Venetian ambassadors. Martyr's
Decades were not published until 1516, excepting the first three, which
were published in 1511, at Seville.

This narrative of the voyages of Columbus is referred to by Gio. Batista
Spotorno, in his historical memoir of Columbus, as having been written by
a companion of Columbus.

It is manifest, from a perusal of the narrative, that though the author
may have helped himself freely from the manuscript of Martyr, he must have
had other sources of information. His description of the person of
Columbus as a man tall of stature and large of frame, of a ruddy
complexion and oblong visage, is not copied from Martyr, nor from any
other writer. No historian had, indeed, preceded him, except Sabellicus,
in 1504; and the portrait agrees with that subsequently given of Columbus
in the biography written by his son.

It is probable that this narrative, which appeared only a year after the
death of Columbus, was a piece of literary job-work, written, for the
collection of voyages published at Vicenza; and that the materials were
taken from oral communication, from the account given by Sabellicus, and
particularly from the manuscript copy of Martyr's first decade.


Antonio de Herrera.

Antonio Herrera de Tordesillas, one of the authors most frequently cited
in this work, was born in 1565, of Roderick Tordesillas, and Agnes de
Herrera, his wife. He received an excellent education, and entered into
the employ of Vespasian Gonzago, brother to the duke of Mantua, who was
viceroy of Naples for Philip the Second of Spain. He was for some time
secretary to this statesman, and intrusted with all his secrets. He was
afterwards grand historiographer of the Indies to Philip II, who added to
that title a large pension. He wrote various books, but the most
celebrated is a General History of the Indies, or American Colonies, in
four volumes, containing eight decades. When he undertook this work, all
the public archives were thrown open to him, and he had access to
documents of all kinds. He has been charged with great precipitation in
the production of his two first volumes, and with negligence in not making
sufficient use of the indisputable sources of information thus placed
within his reach. The fact was, that he met with historical tracts lying
in manuscript, which embraced a great part of the first discoveries, and
he contented himself with stating events as he found them therein
recorded. It is certain that a great part of his work is little more than
a transcript of the manuscript history of the Indies by Las Casas,
sometimes reducing and improving the language when tumid; omitting the
impassioned sallies of the zealous father, when the wrongs of the Indians
were in question; and suppressing various circumstances degrading to the
character of the Spanish discoverers. The author of the present work has,
therefore, frequently put aside the history of Herrera, and consulted the
source of his information, the manuscript history of Las Casas.

Munoz observes, that "in general Herrera did little more than join
together morsels and extracts, taken from various parts, in the way that a
writer arranges chronologically the materials from which he intends to
compose a history;" he adds, that "had not Herrera been a learned and
judicious man, the precipitation with which he put together these
materials would have led to innumerable errors." The remark is just; yet
it is to be considered, that to select and arrange such materials
judiciously, and treat them learnedly, was no trifling merit in the

Herrera has been accused also of flattering his nation; exalting the deeds
of his countrymen, and softening and concealing their excesses. There is
nothing very serious in this accusation. To illustrate the glory of his
nation is one of the noblest offices of the historian; and it is difficult
to speak too highly of the extraordinary enterprises and splendid actions
of the Spaniards in those days. In softening their excesses he fell into
an amiable and pardonable error, if it were indeed an error for a Spanish
writer to endeavor to sink them in oblivion.

Vossius passes a high eulogium on Herrera. "No one," he says, "has
described with greater industry and fidelity the magnitude and boundaries
of provinces, the tracts of sea, positions of capes and islands, of ports
and harbors, the windings of rivers and dimensions of lakes; the situation
and peculiarities of regions, with the appearance of the heavens, and the
designation of places suitable for the establishment of cities." He has
been called among the Spaniards the prince of the historians of America,
and it is added that none have risen since his time capable of disputing
with him that title. Much of this praise will appear exaggerated by such
as examine the manuscript histories from which he transferred chapters
and entire books, with very little alteration, to his volumes; and a great
part of the eulogiums passed on him for his work on the Indies, will be
found really due to Las Casas, who has too long been eclipsed by his
copyist. Still Herrera has left voluminous proofs of industrious research,
extensive information, and great literary talent. His works bear the mark
of candor, integrity, and a sincere desire to record the truth.

He died in 1625, at sixty years of age, after having obtained from Philip
IV the promise of the first charge of secretary of state that should
become vacant.


Bishop Fonseca.

The singular malevolence displayed by bishop Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca
towards Columbus and his family, and which was one of the secret and
principal causes of their misfortunes, has been frequently noticed in the
course of this work. It originated, as has been shown, in some dispute
between the admiral and Fonseca at Seville in 1493, on account of the
delay in fitting out the armament for the second voyage, and in regard to
the number of domestics to form the household of the admiral. Fonseca
received a letter from the sovereigns, tacitly reproving him, and ordering
him to show all possible attention to the wishes of Columbus, and to see
that he was treated with honor and deference. Fonseca never forgot this
affront, and, what with him was the same thing, never forgave it. His
spirit appears to have been of that unhealthy kind which has none of the
balm of forgiveness; and in which a wound, once made, for ever rankles.
The hostility thus produced continued with increasing virulence throughout
the life of Columbus, and at his death was transferred to his son and
successor. This persevering animosity has been illustrated in the course
of this work by facts and observations, cited from authors, some of them
contemporary with Fonseca, but who were apparently restrained by motives
of prudence from giving full vent to the indignation which they evidently
felt. Even at the present day, a Spanish historian would be cautious of
expressing his feelings freely on the subject, lest they should prejudice
his work in the eyes of the ecclesiastical censors of the press. In this
way, bishop Fonseca has in a great measure escaped the general odium his
conduct merited.

This prelate had the chief superintendence of Spanish colonial affairs,
both under Ferdinand and Isabella and the emperor Charles V. He was an
active and intrepid, but selfish, overbearing, and perfidious man. His
administration bears no marks of enlarged and liberal policy; but is full
of traits of arrogance and meanness. He opposed the benevolent attempts of
Las Casas to ameliorate the condition of the Indians, and to obtain the
abolition of repartimientos; treating him with personal haughtiness and
asperity. [388] The reason assigned is that Fonseca was enriching himself
by those very abuses, retaining large numbers of the miserable Indians in
slavery, to work on his possessions in the colonies.

To show that his character has not been judged with undue severity, it is
expedient to point out his invidious and persecuting conduct towards
Hernando Cortez. The bishop, while ready to foster rambling adventurers
who came forward under his patronage, had never the head or the heart to
appreciate the merits of illustrious commanders like Columbus and Cortez.

At a time when disputes arose between Cortez and Diego Velazquez, governor
of Cuba, and the latter sought to arrest the conqueror of Mexico in the
midst of his brilliant career, Fonseca, with entire disregard of the
merits of the case, took a decided part in favor of Velazquez. Personal
interest was at the bottom of this favor; for a marriage was negotiating
between Velazquez and a sister of the bishop. [389] Complaints and
misrepresentations had been sent to Spain by Velazquez of the conduct of
Cortez, who was represented as a lawless and unprincipled adventurer,
attempting to usurp absolute authority in New Spain. The true services of
Cortez had already excited admiration at court, but such was the influence
of Fonseca, that, as in the case of Columbus, he succeeded in prejudicing
the mind of the sovereign against one of the most meritorious of his
subjects. One Christoval de Tapia, a man destitute of talent or character,
but whose greatest recommendation was his having been in the employ of
the bishop, [390] was invested with powers similar to those once given to
Bobadilla to the prejudice of Columbus. He was to inquire into the conduct
of Cortez, and in case he thought fit, to seize him, sequestrate his
property, and supersede him in command. Not content with the regular
official letters furnished to Tapia, the bishop, shortly after his
departure, sent out Juan Bono de Quexo with blank letters signed by his
own hand, and with others directed to various persons, charging them to
admit Tapia for governor, and assuring them that the king considered the
conduct of Cortez as disloyal. Nothing but the sagacity and firmness of
Cortez prevented this measure from completely interrupting, if not
defeating, his enterprises; and he afterwards declared, that he had
experienced more trouble and difficulty from the menaces and affronts of
the ministers of the king than it cost him to conquer Mexico. [391]

When the dispute between Cortez and Velazquez came to be decided upon in
Spain, in 1522, the father of Cortez, and those who had come from New
Spain as his procurators, obtained permission from cardinal Adrian, at
that time governor of the realm, to prosecute a public accusation of the
bishop. A regular investigation took place before the council of the
Indies of their allegations against its president. They charged him with
having publicly declared Cortez a traitor and a rebel: with having
intercepted and suppressed his letters addressed to the king, keeping his
majesty in ignorance of their contents and of the important services he
had performed, while he diligently forwarded all letters calculated to
promote the interest of Velazquez: with having prevented the
representations of Cortez from being heard in the council of the Indies,
declaring that they should never be heard there while he lived: with
having interdicted the forwarding of arms, merchandise, and reinforcements
to New Spain: and with having issued orders to the office of the India
House at Seville to arrest the procurators of Cortez and all persons
arriving from him, and to seize and detain all gold that they should
bring. These and various other charges of similar nature were
dispassionately investigated. Enough were substantiated to convict Fonseca
of the most partial, oppressive, and perfidious conduct, and the cardinal
consequently forbade him to interfere in the cause between Cortez and
Velazquez, and revoked all the orders which the bishop had issued, in the
matter, to the India House of Seville. Indeed, Salazar, a Spanish
historian, says that Fonseca was totally divested of his authority as
president of the council, and of all control of the affiairs of New Spain,
and adds that he was so mortified at the blow, that it brought on a fit of
illness, which well nigh cost him his life. [392]

The suit between Cortez and Velazquez was referred to a special tribunal,
composed of the grand chancellor and other persons of note, and was
decided in 1522. The influence and intrigues of Fonseca being no longer of
avail, a triumphant verdict was given in favor of Cortez, which was
afterwards confirmed by the emperor Charles V, and additional honors
awarded him. This was another blow to the malignant Fonseca, who retained
his enmity against Cortez until his last moment, rendered still more
rancorous by mortification and disappointment.

A charge against Fonseca, of a still darker nature than any of the
preceding, may be found lurking in the pages of Herrera, though so obscure
as to have escaped the notice of succeeding historians. He points to the
bishop as the instigator of a desperate and perfidious man, who conspired
against the life of Hernando Cortez. This was one Antonio de Villafana,
who fomented a conspiracy to assassinate Cortez, and elect Francisco
Verdujo, brother-in-law of Velazquez, in his place. While the conspirators
were waiting for an opportunity to poniard Cortez, one of them relenting,
apprised him of his danger. Villafana was arrested. He attempted to
swallow a paper containing a list of the conspirators, but being seized by
the throat, a part of it was forced from his mouth containing fourteen
names of persons of importance, Villafafia confessed his guilt, but
tortures could not make him inculpate the persons whose names were on the
list, who he declared were ignorant of the plot. He was hanged by order of
Cortez. [393]

In the investigation of the disputes between Cortez and Velazquez, this
execution of Villafana was magnified into a cruel and wanton act of power;
and in their eagerness to criminate Cortez the witnesses on the part of
Alvarez declared that Villafana had been instigated to what he had done by
letters from bishop Fonseca! (Que se movio a lo que hizo con cartas del
obispo de Burgos. [394]) It is not probable that Fonseca had recommended
assassination, but it shows the character of his agents, and what must
have been the malignant nature of his instructions, when these men thought
that such an act would accomplish his wishes.

Fonseca died at Burgos, on the 4th of November, 1524, and was interred at


Of the Situation of the Terrestrial Paradise.

The speculations of Columbus on the situation of the terrestrial
paradise, extravagant as they may appear, were such as have occupied many
grave and learned men. A slight notice of their opinions on this curious
subject may be acceptable to the general reader, and may take from the
apparent wildness of the ideas expressed by Columbus.

The abode of our first parents was anciently the subject of anxious
inquiry; and indeed mankind have always been prone to picture some place
of perfect felicity, where the imagination, disappointed in the coarse
realities of life, might revel in an Elysium of its own creation. It is an
idea not confined to our religion, but is found in the rude creeds of the
most savage nations, and it prevailed generally among the ancients. The
speculations concerning the situation of the garden of Eden resemble those
of the Greeks concerning the garden of the Hesperides; that region of
delight, which they for ever placed at the most remote verge of the known
world; which their poets embellished with all the charms of fiction; after
which they were continually longing, and which they could never find. At
one time it was in the Grand Oasis of Arabia. The exhausted travelers,
after traversing the parched and sultry desert, hailed this verdant spot
with rapture; they refreshed themselves under its shady bowers, and beside
its cooling streams, as the crew of a tempest-tost vessel repose on the
shores of some green island in the deep; and from its being thus isolated
in the midst of an ocean of sand, they gave it the name of the Island of
the Blessed. As geographical knowledge increased, the situation of the
Hesperian gardens was continually removed to a greater distance. It was
transferred to the borders of the great Syrtis, in the neighborhood of
Mount Atlas. Here, after traversing the frightful deserts of Barca, the
traveler found himself in a fair and fertile country, watered by rivulets
and gushing fountains. The oranges and citrons transported hence to
Greece, where they were as yet unknown, delighted the Athenians by their
golden beauty and delicious flavor, and they thought that none but the
garden of the Hesperides could produce such glorious fruits. In this way
the happy region of the ancients was transported from place to place,
still in the remote and obscure extremity of the world, until it was
fabled to exist in the Canaries, thence called the Fortunate or the
Hesperian islands. Here it remained, because discovery advanced no
farther, and because these islands were so distant, and so little known,
as to allow full latitude to the fictions of the poet. [395]

In like manner the situation of the terrestrial paradise, or garden of
Eden, was long a subject of earnest inquiry and curious disputation, and
occupied the laborious attention of the most learned theologians. Some
placed it in Palestine or the Holy Land; others in Mesopotamia, in that
rich and beautiful tract of country embraced by the wanderings of the
Tigris and the Euphrates; others in Armenia, in a valley surrounded by
precipitous and inaccessible mountains, and imagined that Enoch and Elijah
were transported thither, out of the sight of mortals, to live in a state
of terrestrial bliss until the second coming of our Saviour. There were
others who gave it situations widely remote, such as in the Trapoban of
the ancients, at present known as the island of Ceylon; or in the island
of Sumatra; or in the Fortunate or Canary islands; or in one of the
islands of Sunda; or in some favored spot under the equinoctial line.

Great difficulty was encountered by these speculators to reconcile the
allotted place with the description given in Genesis of the garden of
Eden; particularly of the great fountain which watered it, and which
afterwards divided itself into four rivers, the Pison or Phison, the
Gihon, the Euphrates, and the Hiddekel. Those who were in favor of the
Holy Land supposed that the Jordan was the great river which afterwards
divided itself into the Phison, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates, but that the
sands have choked up the ancient beds by which these streams were
supplied; that originally the Phison traversed Arabia Deserta and Arabia
Felix, whence it pursued its course to the gulf of Persia; that the Gihon
bathed northern or stony Arabia and fell into the Arabian Gulf or the Red
Sea; that the Euphrates and the Tigris passed by Eden to Assyria and
Chaldea, whence they discharged themselves into the Persian Gulf.

By most of the early commentators the river Gihon is supposed to be the
Nile. The source of this river was unknown, but was evidently far distant
from the spots whence the Tigris and the Euphrates arose. This difficulty,
however, was ingeniously overcome by giving it a subterranean course of
some hundreds of leagues from the common fountain, until it issued forth
to daylight in Abyssinia. [396] In like manner, subterranean courses were
given to the Tigris and the Euphrates, passing under the Bed Sea, until
they sprang forth in Armenia, as if just issuing from one common source.
So also those who placed the terrestrial paradise in islands, supposed
that the rivers which issued from it, and formed those heretofore named,
either traversed the surface of the sea, as fresh water, by its greater
lightness, may float above the salt; or that they flowed through deep
veins and channels of the earth, as the fountain of Arethusa was said to
sink into the ground in Greece, and rise in the island of Sicily, while
the river Alpheus pursuing it, but with less perseverance, rose somewhat
short of it in the sea.

Some contended that the deluge had destroyed the garden of Eden, and
altered the whole face of the earth; so that the rivers had changed their
beds, and had taken different directions from those mentioned in Genesis;
others, however, amongst whom was St. Augustine, in his commentary upon
the book of Genesis, maintained that the terrestrial paradise still
existed, with its original beauty and delights, but that it was
inaccessible to mortals, being on the summit of a mountain of stupendous
height, reaching into the third region of the air, and approaching the
moon; being thus protected by its elevation from the ravages of the

By some this mountain was placed under the equinoctial line; or under that
band of the heavens metaphorically called by the ancients "the table of
the sun," [397] comprising the space between the tropics of Cancer and
Capricorn, beyond which the sun never passed in his annual course. Here
would reign a uniformity of nights and days and seasons, and the elevation
of the mountain would raise it above the heats and storms of the lower
regions. Others transported the garden beyond the equinoctial line and
placed it in the southern hemisphere; supposing that the torrid zone might
be the flaming sword appointed to defend its entrance against mortals.
They had a fanciful train of argument to support their theory. They
observed that the terrestrial paradise must be in the noblest and happiest
part of the globe; that part must be under the noblest part of the
heavens; as the merits of a place do not so much depend upon the virtues
of the earth, as upon the happy influences of the stars and the favorable
and benign aspect of the heavens. Now, according to philosophers, the
world was divided into two hemispheres. The southern they considered the
head, and the northern the feet, or under part; the right hand the east,
whence commenced the movement of the primum mobile, and the left the west,
towards which it moved. This supposed, they observed that as it was
manifest that the head of all things, natural and artificial, is always
the best and noblest part, governing the other parts of the body, so the
south, being the head of the earth, ought to be superior and nobler than
either east, or west, or north; and in accordance with this, they cited
the opinion of various philosophers among the ancients, and more
especially that of Ptolemy, that the stars of the southern hemisphere were
larger, more resplendent, more perfect, and of course of greater virtue
and efficacy, than those of the northern: an error universally prevalent
until disproved by modern discovery. Hence they concluded that in this
southern hemisphere, in this head of the earth, under this purer and
brighter sky, and these more potent and benignant stars, was placed the
terrestrial paradise.

Various ideas were entertained as to the magnitude of this blissful
region. As Adam and all his progeny were to have lived there, had he not
sinned, and as there would have been no such thing as death to thin the
number of mankind, it was inferred that the terrestrial paradise must be
of great extent to contain them. Some gave it a size equal to Europe or
Africa; others gave it the whole southern hemisphere. St. Augustine
supposed that as mankind multiplied, numbers would be translated without
death to heaven; the parents, perhaps, when their children had arrived at
mature age; or portions of the human race at the end of certain periods,
and when the population of the terrestrial paradise had attained a certain
amount. [398] Others supposed that mankind, remaining in a state of
primitive innocence, would not have required so much space as at present.
Having no need of rearing animals for subsistence, no land would have
been required for pasturage; and the earth not being cursed with
sterility, there would have been no need of extensive tracts of country
to permit of fallow land and the alternation of crops required in
husbandry. The spontaneous and never-failing fruits of the garden would
have been abundant for the simple wants of man. Still, that the human
race might not be crowded, but might have ample space for recreation and
enjoyment, and the charms of variety and change, some allowed at least a
hundred leagues of circumference to the garden.

St. Basilius, in his eloquent discourse on paradise, [399] expatiates with
rapture on the joys of this sacred abode, elevated to the third region of
the air, and under the happiest skies. There a pure and never-failing
pleasure is furnished to every sense. The eye delights in the admirable
clearness of the atmosphere, in the verdure and beauty of the trees, and
the never-withering bloom of the flowers. The ear is regaled with the
singing of the birds, the smell with the aromatic odors of the land. In
like manner the other senses have each their peculiar enjoyments. There
the vicissitudes of the seasons are unknown and the climate unites the
fruitfulness of summer, the joyful abundance of autumn, and the sweet
freshness and quietude of spring. There the earth is always green, the
flowers are ever blooming, the waters limpid and delicate, not rushing in
rude and turbid torrents, but swelling up in crystal fountains, and
winding in peaceful and silver streams. There no harsh and boisterous
winds are permitted to shake and disturb the air, and ravage the beauty of
the groves; there prevails no melancholy, nor darksome weather, no
drowning rain, nor pelting hail; no forked lightning, nor rending and
resounding thunder; no wintry pinching cold, nor withering and panting
summer heat; nor any thing else that can give pain or sorrow or annoyance;
but all is bland and gentle and serene; a perpetual youth and joy reigns
throughout all nature, and nothing decays and dies.

The same idea is given by St. Ambrosius, in his book on Paradise, [400] an
author likewise consulted and cited by Columbus. He wrote in the fourth
century, and his touching eloquence, and graceful yet vigorous style,
insured great popularity to his writings. Many of these opinions are cited
by Glanville. usually called Bartholomeus Anglicus, in his work De
Proprietatibus Rerum; a work with which Columbus was evidently acquainted.
It was a species of encyclopedia of the general knowledge current at the
time, and was likely to recommend itself to a curious and inquiring
voyager. This author cites an assertion as made by St. Basilius and St.
Ambrosius, that the water of the fountain which proceeds from the garden
of Eden falls into a great lake with such a tremendous noise that the
inhabitants of the neighborhood are born deaf; and that from this lake
proceed the four chief rivers mentioned in Genesis. [401]

This passage, however, is not to be found in the Hexameron of either
Basilius or Ambrositis, from which it is quoted; neither is it in the
oration on Paradise by the former, nor in the letter on the same subject
written by Ambrosius to Ainbrosins Sabinus. It must be a misquotation by
Glanville. Columbus, however, appears to have been struck with it, and Las
Casas is of opinion that he derived thence his idea that the vast body of
fresh water which filled the gulf of La Ballena or Paria, flowed from the
fountain of Paradise, though from a remote distance; and that in this
gulf, which he supposed in the extreme part of Asia, originated the Nile,
the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the Ganges, which might be conducted under
the land and sea by subterranean channels, to the places where they spring
forth on the earth and assume their proper names.

I forbear to enter into various other of the voluminous speculations which
have been formed relative to the terrestrial paradise, and perhaps it may
be thought that I have already said too much on so fanciful a subject; but
to illustrate clearly the character of Columbus, it is necessary to
elucidate those veins of thought passing through his mind while
considering the singular phenomena of the unknown regions he was
exploring, and which are often but slightly and vaguely developed in his
journals and letters. These speculations, likewise, like those concerning
fancied islands in the ocean, carry us back to the time, and make us feel
the mystery and conjectural charm which reigned over the greatest part of
the world, and have since been completely dispelled by modern discovery.
Enough has been cited to show, that, in his observations concerning the
terrestrial paradise, Columbus was not indulging in any fanciful and
presumptuous chimeras, the offspring of a heated and disordered brain.
However visionary his conjectures may seem, they were all grounded on
written opinions held little less than oracular in his day; and they will
be found on examination to be far exceeded by the speculations and
theories of sages held illustrious for their wisdom and erudition in the
school and cloister.


Will of Columbus.

In the name of the Most Holy Trinity, who inspired me with the idea, and
afterwards made it perfectly clear to me, that I could navigate and go to
the Indies from Spain, by traversing the ocean westwardly; which I
communicated to the king, Don Ferdinand, and to the queen Dona Isabella,
our sovereigns; and they were pleased to furnish me the necessary
equipment of men and ships, and to make me their admiral over the said
ocean, in all parts lying to the west of an imaginary line, drawn from
pole to pole, a hundred leagues west of the Cape de Verd and Azore
islands; also appointing me their viceroy and governor over all continents
and islands that I might discover beyond the said line westwardly; with
the right of being succeeded in the said offices by my eldest son and his
heirs for ever; and a grant of the tenth part of all things found in the
said jurisdiction; and of all rents and revenues arising from it; and the
eighth of all the lands and every thing else, together with the salary
corresponding to my rank of admiral, viceroy, and governor, and all other
emoluments accruing thereto, as is more fully expressed in the title and
agreement sanctioned by their highnesses.

And it pleased the Lord Almighty, that in the year one thousand four
hundred and ninety-two, I should discover the continent of the Indies and
many islands, among them Hispaniola, which the Indians called Ayte, and
the Monicongos, Cipango. I then returned to Castile to their highnesses,
who approved of my undertaking a second enterprise for farther discoveries
and settlements; and the Lord gave me victory over the island of
Hispaniola, which extends six hundred leagues, and I conquered it and made
it tributary; and I discovered many islands inhabited by cannibals, and
seven hundred to the west of Hispaniola, among which is Jamaica, which we
call Santiago; and three hundred and thirty-three leagues of continent
from south to west, besides a hundred and seven to the north, which I
discovered in my first voyage, together with many islands, as may more
clearly be seen by my letters, memorials, and maritime charts. And as we
hope in God that before long a good and great revenue will be derived from
the above islands and continent, of which, for the reasons aforesaid,
belong to me the tenth and the eighth, with the salaries and emoluments
specified above; and considering that we are mortal, and that it is proper
for every one to settle his affairs, and to leave declared to his heirs
and successors the property he possesses or may have a right to: Wherefore
I have concluded to create an entailed estate (mayorazgo) out of the said
eighth of the lands, places, and revenues, in the manner which I now
proceed to state.

In the first place, I am to be succeeded by Don Diego, my son, who in case
of death without children is to be succeeded by my other son Ferdinand;
and should God dispose of him also without leaving children, and without
my having any other son, then my brother Don Bartholomew is to succeed;
and after him his eldest son; and if God should dispose of him without
heirs, he shall be succeeded by his sons from one to another for ever; or,
in the failure of a son, to be succeeded by Don Ferdinand, after the same
manner, from son to son successively; or in their place by my brothers
Bartholomew and Diego. And should it please the Lord that the estate,
after having continued for some time in the line of any of the above
successors, should stand in need of an immediate and lawful male heir, the
succession shall then devolve to the nearest relation, being a man of
legitimate birth, and bearing the name of Columbus derived from his father
and his ancestors. This entailed estate shall in nowise be inherited by a
woman, except in case that no male is to be found, either in this or any
other quarter of the world, of my real lineage, whose name, as well as
that of his ancestors, shall have always been Columbus. In such an event
(which may God forefend), then the female of legitimate birth, most nearly
related to the preceding possessor of the estate, shall succeed to it; and
this is to be under the conditions herein stipulated at foot, which must
be understood to extend as well to Don Diego, my son, as to the aforesaid
and their heirs, every one of them, to be fulfilled by them; and failing
to do so, they are to be deprived of the succession, for not having
complied with what shall herein be expressed; and the estate to pass to
the person most nearly related to the one who held the right: and the
person thus succeeding shall in like manner forfeit the estate, should he
also fail to comply with said conditions; and another person, the nearest
of my lineage, shall succeed, provided he abide by them, so that they may
be observed for ever in the form prescribed. This forfeiture is not to be
incurred for trifling matters, originating in lawsuits, but in important
cases, when the glory of God, or my own, or that of my family, may be
concerned, which supposes a perfect fulfillment of all the things hereby
ordained; all which I recommend to the courts of justice. And I supplicate
his Holiness, who now is, and those that may succeed in the holy church,
that if it should happen that this my will and testament has need of his
holy order and command for its fulfillment, that such order be issued in
virtue of obedience, and under penalty of excommunication, and that it
shall not be in any wise disfigured. And I also pray the king and queen,
our sovereigns, and their eldest-born, Prince Don Juan, our lord, and
their successors, for the sake of the services I have done them, and
because it is just, that it may please them not to permit this my will and
constitution of my entailed estate to be any way altered, but to leave it
in the form and manner which I have ordained, for ever, for the greater
glory of the Almighty, and that it may be the root and basis of my
lineage, and a memento of the services I have rendered their highnesses;
that, being born in Genoa, I came over to serve them in Castile, and
discovered to the west of Terra Firma, the Indies and islands before
mentioned. I accordingly pray their highnesses to order that this my
privilege and testament be held valid, avid be executed summarily and
without any opposition or demur, according to the letter. I also pray the
grandees of the realm and the lords of the council, and all others having
administration of justice, to be pleased not to suffer this my will and
testament to be of no avail, but to cause it to be fulfilled as by me
ordained; it being just that a noble, who has served the king and queen,
and the kingdom, should be respected in the disposition of his estate by
will, testament, institution of entail, or inheritance, and that the same
be not infringed either in whole or in part.

In the first place, my son Don Diego, and all my successors and
descendants, as well as ihy brothers Bartholomew and Diego, shall bear my
arms, such as I shall leave them after my days, without inserting any
thing else in them; and they shall he their seal to seal withal. Don Diego
my son, or any other who may inherit this estate, on coming into
possession of the inheritance, shall sign with the signature which I now
make vise of, which is an X with an S over it, and an M with a Roman A
over it, and over that an S, and then a Greek Y, with an S over it, with
its lines and points as is my custom, as may be seen by my signatures, of
which there are many, and it will be seen by the present one.

He shall only write "the Admiral," whatever other titles the king may have
conferred on him. This is to be understood as respects his signature, but
not the enumeration of his titles, which he can make at full length if
agreeable, only the signature is to be "the Admiral."

The said Don Diego, or any other inheritor of this estate, shall possess
my offices of admiral of the ocean, which is to the west of an imaginary
line, which his highness ordered to be drawn, running from pole to pole a
hundred leagues beyond the Azores, and as many more beyond the Cape de
Verd islands, over all which I was made, by their order, their admiral of
the sea, with all the preeminences held by Don Henrique in the admiralty
of Castile, and they made me their governor and viceroy perpetually and
for ever, over all the islands and main-land discovered, or to be
discovered, for myself and heirs, as is more fully shown by my treaty and
privilege as above mentioned.

Item: The said Don Diego, or any other inheritor of this estate, shall
distribute the revenue which it may please our Lord to grant him, in the
following manner, under the above penalty:

First--Of the whole income of this estate, now and at all times, and of
whatever may be had or collected from it, he shall give the fourth part
annually to my brother Don Bartholomew Columbus, Adelantado of the Indies;
and this is to continue till he shall have acquired an income of a million
of maravadises, for his support, and for the services he has rendered and
will continue to render to this entailed estate; which million he is to
receive, as stated, every year, if the said fourth amount to so much, and
that he have nothing elae; but if he possess a part or the whole of that
amount in rents, that thenceforth he shall not enjoy the said million, nor
any part of it, except that he shall have in the said fourth part unto the
said quantity of a million, if it should amount to so much; and as much as
he shall have of revenue beside this fourth part, whatever sum of
maravadises of known rent from property, or perpetual offices, the said
quantity of rent or revenue from property or offices shall be discounted;
and from the said million shall be reserved whatever marriage portion he
may receive with any female he may espouse; so that whatever he may
receive in marriage with his wife, no deduction shall be made on that
account from said million, but only for whatever he may acquire, or may
have, over and above his wife's dowry, and when it shall please God that
he or his heirs and descendants shall derive from their property and
offices a revenue of a million arising from rents, neither he nor his
heirs shall enjoy any longer any thing from the said fourth part of the
entailed estate, which shall remain with Don Diego, or whoever may inherit
it. Item: From the revenues of the said estate, or from any other fourth
part of it, (should its amount be adequate to it,) shall be paid every
year to my son Ferdinand two millions, till such time as his revenue shall
amount to two millions, in the same form and manner as in the case of
Bartholomew, who, as well as his heirs, are to have the million or the
part that may be wanting.

Item: The said Don Diego or Don Bartholomew shall make, out of the said
estate, for my brother Diego, such provision as may enable him to live
decently, as he is my brother, to whom I assign no particular sum, as he
has attached himself to the church, and that will he given him which is
right: and this to be given him in a mass, and before any thing shall
have' been received by Ferdinand my son, or Bartholomew my brother, or
their heirs, and also according to the amount of the income of the estate.
And in case of discord, the case is to be referred to two of our
relations, or other men of honor; and should they disagree among
themselves, they will choose a third person as arbitrator, being virtuous
and not distrusted by either party.

Item: All this revenue which I bequeath to Bartholomew, to Ferdinand, and
to Diego, shall be delivered to and received by them as prescribed under
the obligation of being faithful and loyal to Diego my son, or his heirs,
they as well as their children: and should it appear that they, or any of
them, had proceeded against him in any thing touching his honor, or the
prosperity of the family, or of the estate, either in word or deed,
whereby might come a scandal and debasement to my family, and a detriment
to my estate; in that ease, nothing farther shall be given to them or him,
from that time forward, inasmuch as they are always to be faithful to
Diego and to his successors.

Item: As it was my intention, when I first instituted this entailed
estate, to dispose, or that my son Diego should dispose for me, of the
tenth part of the income in favor of necessitous persona, as a tithe, and
in commemoration of the Almighty and Eternal God; and persisting still in
this opinion, and hoping that his High Majesty will assist me and those
who may inherit it, in this or the New World, I have resolved that the
said tithe shall be paid in the manner following:

First--It is to be understood that the fourth part of the revenue of the
estate which I have ordained and directed to be given to Don Bartholomew,
till he have an income of one million, includes the tenth of the whole
revenue of the estate; and that as in proportion as the income of my
brother Don Bartholomew shall increase, as it has to be discounted from
the revenue of the fourth part of the entailed estate, that the said
revenue shall be calculated, to know how much the tenth part amounts to;
and the part which exceeds what is necessary to make up the million for
Don Bartholomew shall be received by such of my family as may most stand
in need of it, discounting it from said tenth, if their income do not
amount to fifty thousand maravadises; and should any of these come to have
an income to this amount, such a part shall be awarded them as two
persons, chosen for the purpose, may determine along with Don Diego, or
his heirs. Thus, it is to be understood that the million which I leave to
Don Bartholomew comprehends the tenth of the whole revenue of the estate;
which revenue is to be distributed among my nearest and most needy
relations in the manner I have directed; and when Don Bartholomew have an
income of one million, and that nothing more shall be due to him on
account of said fourth part, then Don Diego my sou, or the person who may
be in possession of the estate, along with the two other persons which I
shall herein point out, shall inspect the accounts, and so direct, that
the tenth of the revenue shall still continue to be paid to the most
necessitous members of my family that may be found in this or any other
quarter of the world, who shall be diligently sought out; and they are to
be paid out of the fourth part from which Don Bartholomew is to derive his
million; which sums are to be taken into account, and deducted from the
said tenth, which, should it amount to more, the overplus, as it arises
from the fourth part, shall be given to the most necessitous persons as
aforesaid; and should it not be sufficient, that Don Bartholomew shall
have it until his own estate goes on increasing, leaving the said million
in part or in the whole.

Item: The said Don Diego my son, or whoever may be the inheritor, shall
appoint two persons of conscience and authority, and most nearly related
to the family, who are to examine the revenue and its amount carefully,
and to cause the said tenth to be paid out of the fourth from which Don
Bartholomew is to receive his million, to the most necessitated members of
my family that may be found here or elsewhere, whom they shall look for
diligently upon their consciences; and as it might happen that said Don
Diego, or others after him, for reasons which may concern their own
welfare, or the credit and support of the estate, may be unwilling to make
known the full amount of the income; nevertheless, I charge him, on his
conscience, to pay the sum aforesaid; and I charge them, on their souls
and consciences, not to denounce or make it known, except with the consent
of Don Diego, or the person that may succeed him; but let the above tithe
be paid in the manner I have directed.

Item: In order to avoid all disputes in the choice of the two nearest
relations who are to act with Don Diego or his heirs, I hereby elect Don
Bartholomew my brother for one, and Don Fernando my son for the other; and
when these two shall enter upon the business, they shall choose two other
persons among the most trusty, and most nearly related, and these again
shall elect two others when it shall be question of commencing the
examination; and thus it shall be managed with diligence from one to the
other, as well in this as in the other of government, for the service and
glory of God, and the benefit of the said entailed estate.

Item: I also enjoin Diego, or any one that may inherit the estate, to have
and maintain in the city of Genoa one person of our lineage, to reside
there with his wife, and appoint him a sufficient revenue to enable him to
live decently, as a person closely connected with the family, of which he
is to be the root and basis in that city; from winch great good may accrue
to him, inasmuch as i was born there, and came from thence.

Item: The said Don Diego, or whoever shall inherit the estate, must remit
in bills, or in any other way, all such sums as he may be able to save out
of the revenue of the estate, and direct purchases to be made in his name,
or that of his heirs, in a stock in the Bank of St. George, which gives an
interest of six per cent, and in secure money; and this shall be devoted
to the purpose I am about to explain.

Item: As it becomes every man of property to serve God, either personally
or by means of his wealth, and as all moneys deposited with St. George are
quite safe, and Genoa is a noble cily, and powerful by sea, and as at the
time that I undertook to set out upon the discovery of the Indies, it was
with the intention of supplicating the king and queen, our lords, that
whatever moneys should be derived from the said Indies, should be invested
in the conquest of Jerusalem; and as I did so supplicate them; if they do
this, it will be well; if not, at all events, the said Diego, or such
person as may succeed him in this trust, to collect together all the money
he can, and accompany the king our lord, should he go to the conquest of
Jerusalem, or else go there himself with all the force he can command; and
in pursuing this intention, it will please the Lord to assist towards the
accomplishment of the plan; and should he not be able to effect the
conquest of the whole, no doubt he will achieve it in part. Let him
therefore collect and make a fund of all his wealth in St. George of
Genoa, and let it multiply there till such time as it may appear to him
that something of consequence may be effected as respects the project on
Jerusalem; for I believe that when their highnesses shall see that this is
contemplated, they will wish to realize it themselves, or will afford him,
as their servant and vassal, the means of doing it for them.

Item: I charge my son Diego and my descendants, especially whoever may
inherit this estate, which consists, as aforesaid, of the tenth of
whatsoever may be had or found in the Indies, and the eighth part of the
lands and rents, all which, together with my rights and emoluments as
admiral, viceroy, and governor, amount to more than twenty-five per cent.;
I say, that I require of him to employ all this revenue, as well as his
person and all the means in his power, in well and faithfully serving and
supporting their highnesses, or their successors, even to the loss of life
and property; since it was their highnesses, next to God, who first gave
me the means of getting and achieving this property, although, it is true,
I came over to these realms to invite them to the enterprise, and that a
long time elapsed before any provision was made for carrying it into
execution; which, however, is not surprising, as this was an undertaking
of which all the world was ignorant, and no one had any faith in it;
wherefore I am by so much the more indebted to them, as well as because
they have since also much favored and promoted me.

Item: I also require of Diego, or whomsoever may be in possession of the
estate, that in the case of any schism taking place in the church of God,
or that any person of whatever class or condition should attempt to
despoil it of its property and honors, they hasten to offer at the feet of
his holiness, that is, if they are not heretics (which God forbid!), their
persons, power, and wealth, for the purpose of suppressing such schism,
and preventing any spoliation of the honor and property of the church.

Item: I command the said Diego, or whoever may possess the said estate, to
labor and strive for the honor, welfare, and aggrandizement of the city of
Genoa, and to make use of all his power and means in defending and
enhancing the good and credit of that republic, in all things not contrary
to the service of the church of God, or the high dignity of our king and
queen, our lords, and their successors.

Item: The said Diego, or whoever may possess or succeed to the estate, out
of the fourth part of the whole revenue, from which, as aforesaid, is to
be taken the tenth, when Don Bartholomew or his heirs shall have saved the
two millions, or part of them, and when the time shall come of making a
distribution among our relations, shall apply and invest the said tenth in
providing marriages for such daughters of our lineage as may require it,
and in doing all the good in their power.

Item: When a suitable time shall arrive, he shall order a church to be
built in the island of Hispaniola, and in the most convenient spot, to be
called Santa Maria de la Concepcion; to which is to be annexed an
hospital, upon the best possible plan, like those of Italy and Castile,
and a chapel erected to say mass in for the good of my soul, and those of
my ancestors and successors, with great devotion, since no doubt it will
please the Lord to give us a sufficient revenue for this and the
aforementioned purposes.

Item: I also order Diego my son, or whomsoever may inherit after him, to
spare no pains in having and maintaining in the island of Hispaniola, four
good professors of theology, to the end and aim of their studying and
laboring to convert to our holy faith the inhabitants of the Indies; and
in proportion as, by God's will, the revenue of the estate shall increase,
in the same degree shall the number of teachers and devout increase, who
are to strive to make Christians of the natives; in attaining which no
expense should be thought too great. And in commemoration of all that I
hereby ordain, and of the foregoing, a monument of marble shall be erected
in the said church of la Concepcion, in the most conspicuous place, to
serve as a record of what I here enjoin on the said Diego, as well as to
other persons who may look upon it; which marble shall contain an
inscription to the same effect.

Item: I also require of Diego my son, and whomsover may succeed him in the
estate, that every time, and as often as he confesses, he first show this
obligation, or a copy of it, to the confessor, praying him to read it
through, that he may be enabled to inquire respecting its fulfillment;
from which will redound great good and happiness to his soul.

S. A. S.
X. M. Y.


Signature of Columbus.

As every thing respecting Columbus is full of interest, his signature has
been a matter of some discussion. It partook of the pedantic and bigoted
character of the age, and perhaps of the peculiar character of the man,
who, considering himself mysteriously elected and set apart from among men
for certain great purposes, adopted a correspondent formality and
solemnity in all his concerns. His signature was as follows:

S. A. S.
X. M. Y.

The first half of the signature, XPO, (for CHRISTO,) is in Greek letters;
the second, FERENS, is in Latin. Such was the usage of those days; and
even at present both Greek and Roman letters are used in signatures and
inscriptions in Spain.

The ciphers or initials above the signature are supposed to represent a
pious ejaculation. To read them one must begin with the lower letters, and
connect them with those above. Signor Gio. Batista Spotorno conjectures
them to mean either Xristus (Christus) Sancta Maria Yosephus, or, Salve
me, Xristus, Maria, Yosephus. The Korth American Review, for April, 1827,
suggests the substitution of Jesus for Josephus, but the suggestion of
Spotorno is most probably correct, as a common Spanish ejaculation is
"Jesus Maria y Jose."

It was an ancient usage in Spain, and it has not entirely gone by, to
accompany the signature with some words of religious purport. One object
of this practice was to show the writer to be a Christian. This was of
some importance in a country in which Jews and Mahometans were proscribed
and persecuted.

Don Fernando, son to Columbus, says that his father, when he took his pen
in hand, usually commenced by writing "Jesus cum Maria sit nobis in via;"
and the book which the admiral prepared and sent to the sovereigns,
containing the prophecies which he considered as referring to his
discoveries, and to the rescue of the holy sepulchre, begins with the same
words. This practice is akin to that of placing the initials of pious
words above his signature, and gives great probability to the mode in
which they have been deciphered.


A Visit to Palos.

[The following narrative was actually commenced, by the author of this
work, as a letter to a friend, but unexpectedly swelled to its present
size. He has been induced to insert it here from the idea, that many will
feel the same curiosity to know something of the present state of Falos
and its inhabitants that led him to make the journey.]

Seville, 1828.

Since I last wrote to you, I have made what I may term an American
pilgrimage, to visit the little port of Palos in Andalusia, where Columbus
fitted out his ships, and whence he sailed for the discovery of the New
World. Need I tell you how deeply interesting and gratifying it has been
to me? I had long meditated this excursion, as a kind of pious, and, if I
may so say, filial duty of an American, and my intention was quickened
when I learnt that many of the edifices, mentioned in the History of
Columbus, still remained in nearly the same state in which they existed at
the time of his sojourn at Palos, and that the descendants of the intrepid
Pinzons, who aided him with ships and money, and sailed with him in the
great voyage of discovery, still flourished in the neighborhood.

The very evening before my departure from Seville on the excursion, I
heard that there was a young gentleman of the Pinzon family studying law
in the city. I got introduced to him, and found him of most prepossessing
appearance and manners. He gave me a letter of introduction to his father,
Don Juan Fernandez Pinzon, resident of Moguer, and the present head of the

As it was in the middle of August, and the weather intensely hot, I hired
a calesa for the journey. This is a two-wheeled carriage, resembling a
cabriolet, but of the most primitive and rude construction; the harness is
profusely ornamented with brass, and the horse's hend decorated with tufts
and tassels and dangling bobs of scarlet and yellow worsted. I had for
calasero, a tall, long-legged Andalusian, in short jacket, little
round-crowned hat, breeches decorated with buttons from the hip to the
knees, and a pair of russet leather bottinas or spatterdashes. He was an
active fellow, though uncommonly taciturn for an Andalusian, and strode
along beside his horse, rousing him occasionally to greater speed by a
loud malediction or a hearty thwack of his cudgel.

In this style, I set off late in the day to avoid the noontide heat, and,
after ascending the lofty range of hills which borders the great valley of
the Guadalquiver, and having a rough ride among their heights, I descended
about twilight into one of those vast, silent, melancholy plains, frequent
in Spain, where I beheld no other signs of life than a roaming flock of
bustards, and a distant herd of cattle, guarded by a solitary herdsman,
who, with a long pike planted in the earth, stood motionless in the midst
of the dreary landscape, resembling an Arab of the desert. The night had
somewhat advanced when we stopped to repose for a few hours at a solitary
venta or inn, if it might so be called, being nothing more than a vast
low-roofed stable, divided into several compartments for the reception of
the troops of mules and arrieros (or carriers) who carry on the internal
trade of Spain. Accommodation for the traveler there was none--not even
for a traveler so easily accommodated as myself. The landlord had no food
to give me, and as to a bed, he had none but a horse-cloth, on which his
only child, a boy of eight years old, lay naked on the earthen floor.
Indeed the heat of the weather and the fumes from the stables made the
interior of the hovel insupportable; so I was fain to bivouac, on my
cloak, on the pavement, at the door of the venta, where, on waking, after
two or three hours of sound sleep, I found a contrabandista (or smuggler)
snoring beside me, with his blunderbuss on his arm.

I resumed my journey before break of day, and had made several leagues by
ten o'clock, when we stopped to breakfast, and to pass the sultry hours of
mid-day in a large village; whence we departed about four o'clock, and
after passing through the same kind of solitary country, arrived just
after sunset at Moguer. This little city (for at present it is a city) is
situated about a league from Palos, of which place it has gradually
absorbed all the respectable inhabitants, and, among the number, the whole
family of the Pinzons.

So remote is this little place from the stir and bustle of travel, and so
destitute of the show and vainglory of this world, that my calesa, as it
rattled and jingled along the narrow and ill-paved streets, caused a great
sensation; the children shouted and scampered along by its side, admiring
its splendid trappings of brass and worsted, and gazing with reverence at
the important stranger who came in so gorgeous an equipage.

I drove up to the principal posada, the landlord of which was at the door.
He was one of the very civilest men in the world, and disposed to do every
thing in his power to make me comfortable; there was only one difficulty,
he had neither bed nor bed-room in his house. In fact it was a mere venta
for muleteers, who are accustomed to sleep on the ground, with their
mule-cloths for beds and pack-saddles for pillows. It was a hard case, but
there was no better posada in the place. Few people travel for pleasure or
curiosity in these out-of-the-way parts of Spain, and those of any note
are generally received into private houses. I had traveled sufficiently in
Spain to find out that a bed, after all, is not an article of
indispensable necessity, and was about to bespeak some quiet corner where
I might spread my cloak, when fortunately the landlord's wife came forth.
She could not have a more obliging disposition than her husband, but then
--God bless the women!--they always know how to carry their good wishes
into effect. In a little while a small room, about ten feet square, which
had formed a thoroughfare between the stables and a kind of shop or
bar-room, was cleared of a variety of lumber, and I was assured that a
bed should be put up there for me. From the consultations I saw my
hostess holding with some of her neighbor gossips, I fancied the bed was
to be a kind of piecemeal contribution among them for the credit of the

As soon as I could change my dress, I commenced the historical researches
which were the object of my journey, and inquired for the abode of Don
Juan Fernandez Pinzon. My obliging landlord himself volunteered to conduct
me thither, and I set off full of animation at the thoughts of meeting
with the lineal representative of one of the coadjutors of Columbus.

A short walk brought us to the house, which was most respectable in its
appearance, indicating easy, if not affluent, circumstances. The door, as
is customary in Spanish villages during summer, stood wide open. We
entered with the usual salutation or rather summons, "Ave Maria!" A trim
Andalusian handmaid answered to the call, and, on our inquiring for the
master of the house, led the way across a little patio or court, in the
centre of the edifice, cooled by a fountain surrounded by shrubs and
flowers, to a back court or terrace, likewise set out with flowers, where
Don Juan Fernandez was seated with his family, enjoying the serene evening
in the open air. I was much pleased with his appearance. He was a
venerable old gentleman, tall, and somewhat thin, with fair complexion and
gray hair. He received me with great urbanity, and on reading the letter
from his son, appeared struck with surprise to find I had come quite to
Moguer, merely to visit the scene of the embarkation of Columbus; and
still more so on my telling him, that one of my leading objects of
curiosity was his own family connection; for it would seem that the worthy
cavalier had troubled his head but little about the enterprises of his

I now took my seat in the domestic circle, and soon felt myself quite at
home, for there is generally a frankness in the hospitality of Spaniards,
that soon puts a stranger at his ease beneath their roof. The wife of Don
Juan Fernandez was extremely amiable and affable, possessing much of that
natural aptness for which the Spanish women are remarkable. In the course
of conversation with them I learnt, that Don Juan Fernandez, who is
seventy-two years of age, is the eldest of five brothers, all of whom are
married, have numerous offspring, and live in Moguer and its vicinity, in
nearly the same condition and rank of life as at the time of the
discovery. This agreed with what I had previously heard, respecting the
families of the discoverers. Of Columbus no lineal and direct descendant
exists; his was an exotic stock which never took deep and lasting root in
the country; but the race of the Pinzons continues to thrive and multiply
in its native soil.

While I was yet conversing, a gentleman entered, who was introduced to me
as Don Luis Fernandez Pinzon, the youngest of the brothers. He appeared
between fifty and sixty years of age, somewhat robust, with fair
complexion, gray hair, and a frank and manly deportment. He is the only
one of the present generation that has followed the ancient profession of
the family; having served with great applause as an officer of the royal
navy, from which he retired, on his marriage, about twenty-two years
since. He is the one, also, who takes the greatest interest and pride in
the historical honors of his house, carefully preserving all the legends
and documents of the achievements and distinctions of his family, a
manuscript volume of which he lent to me for my inspection.

Don Juan now expressed a wish that, during my residence in Moguer, I would
make his house my home. I endeavored to excuse myself, alleging, that the
good people at the posada had been at such extraordinary trouble in
preparing quarters for me, that I did not like to disappoint them. The
worthy old gentleman undertook to arrange all this, and, while supper was
preparing, we walked together to the posada. I found that my obliging host
and hostess had indeed exerted themselves to an uncommon degree. An old
rickety table had been spread out in a corner of the little room as a
bedstead, on top of which was propped up a grand _cama de luxo_, or
state bed, which appeared to be the admiration of the house. I could not,
for the soul of me, appear to undervalue what the poor people had prepared
with such hearty good-will, and considered such a triumph of art and
luxury; so I again entreated Don Juan to dispense with my sleeping at his
house, promising most faithfully to make my meals there whilst I should
stay at Moguer, and as the old gentleman understood my motives for
declining his invitation, and felt a good-humored sympathy in them, we
readily arranged the matter. I returned therefore with Don Juan to his
house and supped with his family. During the repast a plan was agreed upon
for my visit to Palos, and to the convent La Kabida, in which Don Juan
volunteered to accompany me and be my guide, and the following day was
allotted to the expedition. We were to breakfast at a hacienda, or
country-seat, which he possessed in the vicinity of Palos, in the midst of
his vineyards, and were to dine there on our return from the convent.
These arrangements being made, we parted for the night; I returned to the
posada highly gratified with my visit, and slept soundly in the
extraordinary bed which, I may almost say, had been invented for my

On the following morning, bright and early, Don Juan Fernandez and myself
set off in the caleea for Palos. I felt apprehensive at first that the
kind-hearted old gentleman, in his anxiety to oblige, had left his bed at
too early an hour, and was exposing himself to fatigues unsuited to his
age. He laughed at the idea, and assured me that he was an early riser,
and accustomed to all kinds of exercise on horse and foot, being a keen
sportsman, and frequently passing days together among the mountains on
shooting expeditions, taking with him servants, horses, and provisions,
and living in a tent. He appeared, in fact, to be of an active habit, and
to possess a youthful vivacity of spirit. His cheerful disposition
rendered our morning drive extremely agreeable; his urbanity was shown to
every one whom we met on the road; even the common peasant was saluted by
him with the appellation of _caballero_, a mark of respect ever
gratifying to the poor but proud Spaniard, when yielded by a superior.

As the tide was out, we drove along the flat grounds bordering the Tinto.
The river was on our right, while on our left was a range of hills,
jutting out into promontories, one beyond the other, and covered with
vineyards and fig trees. The weather was serene, the air soft and balmy,
and the landscape of that gentle kind calculated to put one in a quiet and
happy humor. We passed close by the skirts of Palos, and drove to the
hacienda, which is situated some little distance from the village, between
it and the river. The house is a low stone building well whitewashed, and
of great length; one end being fitted up as a summer residence, with
saloons, bed-rooms, and a domestic chapel; and the other as a bodega or
magazine for the reception of the wine produced on the estate.

The house stands on a hill, amidst vineyards, which are supposed to cover
a part of the site of the ancient town of Palos, now shrunk to a miserable
village. Beyond these vineyards, on the crest of a distant hill, are seen
the white walls of the convent of La Babida rising above a dark wood of
pine trees.

Below the hacienda flows the river Tinto, on which Columbus embarked. It
is divided by a low tongue of land, or rather the sand-bar of Saltes, from
the river Odiel, with which it soon mingles its waters, and flows on to
the ocean. Beside this sand-bar, where the channel of the river runs deep,
the squadron of Columbus was anchored, and thence he made sail on the
morning of his departure.

The soft breeze that was blowing scarcely ruffled the surface of this
beautiful river; two or three picturesque barks, called mystics, with long
latine sails, were gliding down it. A little aid of the imagination might
suffice to picture them as the light caravels of Columbus, sallying forth
on their eventful expedition, while the distant bells of the town of
Hnelva, which were ringing melodiously, might be supposed as cheering the
voyagers with a farewell peal.

I cannot express to you what were my feelings on treading the shore which
had once been animated with the bustle of departure, and whose sands had
been printed by the last footstep of Columbus. The solemn and sublime
nature of the event that had followed, together with the fate and fortunes
of those concerned in it, filled the mind with vague yet melancholy ideas.
It was like viewing the silent and empty stage of some great drama when
all the actors had departed. The very aspect of the landscape, so
tranquilly beautiful, had an effect upon me; and as I paced the deserted
shores by the side of a descendant of one of the discoverers, I felt my
heart swelling witfi emotions and my eyes filling with tears.

What surprised me was, to find no semblance of a sea-port; there was
neither wharf nor landing-place--nothing but a naked river bank, with the
hulk of a ferry-boat, which I was told carried passengers to Huelva, lying
high and dry on the sands, deserted by the tide. Palos, though it has
doubtless dwindled away from its former size, can never have been
important as to extent and population. If it possessed warehouses on the
beach, they have disappeared. It is at present a mere village of the
poorest kind, and lies nearly a quarter of a mile from the river, in a
hollow among hills. It contains a few hundred inhabitants, who subsist
principally by laboring in the fields and vineyards. Its race of merchants
and mariners is extinct. There are no vessels belonging to the place, nor
any show of traffic, excepting at the season of fruit and wine, when a few
mystics and other light barks anchor in the river to collect the produce
of the neighborhood. The people are totally ignorant, and it is probable
that the greater part of them scarce know even the name of America. Such
is the place whence sallied forth the enterprise for the discovery of the
western world!

We were now summoned to breakfast in a little saloon of the hacienda. The
table was covered with natural luxuries produced upon the spot--fine
purple and muscatel grapes from the adjacent vineyard, delicious melons
from the garden, and generous wines made on the estate. The repast was
heightened by the genial manners of my hospitable host, who appeared to
possess the most enviable cheerfulness of spirit and simplicity of heart.

After breakfast we set off in the calesa to visit the convent of La
Rabida, about half a league distant The road, for a part of the way, lay
through the vineyards, and was deep and sandy. The calasero had been at
his wit's end to conceive what motive a stranger like myself, apparently
traveling for mere amusement, could have in coming so far to see so
miserable a place as Palos, which he set down as one of the very poorest
places in the whole world; but this additional toil and struggle through
deep sand to visit the old convent of La Rabida completed his confusion--
"Hombre!" exclaimed he, "es una ruina! no hay mas que dos frailes!"--
"Zounds! why it's a ruin! there are only two friars there!" Don Juan
laughed, and told him that I had come all the way from Seville precisely
to see that old ruin and those two friars. The calasero made the
Spaniard's last reply when he is perplexed--he shrugged his shoulders and
crossed himself. After ascending a hill and passing through the skirts of
a straggling pine wood, we arrived in front of the convent. It stands in a
bleak and solitary situation, on the brow of a rocky height or promontory,
overlooking to the west a wide range of sea and land, bounded by the
frontier mountains of Portugal, about eight leagues distant. The convent
is shut out from a view of the vineyard of Palos by the gloomy forest of
pines already mentioned, which cover the promontory to the east, and
darken the whole landscape in that direction.

There is nothing remarkable in the architecture of the convent; part of it
is Gothic, but the edifice, having been frequently repaired, and being
whitewashed, according to a universal custom in Andalusia, inherited from
the Moors, has not that venerable aspect which might be expected from its

We alighted at the gate where Columbus, when a poor pedestrian, a stranger
in the land, asked bread and water for his child! As long as the convent
stands, this must be a spot calculated to awaken the most thrilling
interest. The gate remains apparently in nearly the same state as at the
time of his visit, but there is no longer a porter at hand to administer
to the wants of the wayfarer. The door stood wide open, and admitted us
into a small court-yard. Thence we passed through a Gothic portal into the
chapel, without seeing a human being. We then traversed two interior
cloisters, equally vacant and silent, and bearing a look of neglect and
dilapidation. From an open window we had a peep at what had once been a
garden, but that had also gone to ruin; the walls were broken and thrown
down; a few shrubs, and a scattered fig tree or two, were all the traces
of cultivation that remained. We passed through the long dormitories, but
the cells were shut up and abandoned; we saw no living thing except a
solitary cat stealing across a distant corridor, which fled in a panic at
the unusual sight of strangers. At length, after patrolling nearly the
whole of the empty building to the echo of our own footsteps, we came to
where the door of a cell, being partly open, gave us the sight of a monk
within, seated at a table writing. He rose, and received us with much
civility, and conducted us to the superior, who was reading in an adjacent
cell. They were both rather young men, and, together with a novitiate and
a lay-brother, who officiated as cook, formed the whole community of the

Don Juan Fernandez communicated to them the object of my visit, and my
desire also to inspect the archives of the convent, to find if there was
any record of the sojourn of Columbus. They informed us that the archives
had been entirely destroyed by the French. The younger monk, however, who
had perused them, had a vague recollection of various particulars
concerning the transactions of Columbus at Palos, his visit to the
convent, and the sailing of his expedition. From all that he cited,
however, it appeared to me that all the information on the subject
contained in the archives had been extracted from Herrera and other
well-known authors. The monk was talkative and eloquent, and soon diverged
from the subject of Columbus, to one which he considered of infinitely
greater importance--the miraculous image of the Virgin possessed by their
convent, and known by the name of "Our Lady of La Rabida." He gave us a
history of the wonderful way in which the image had been found buried in
the earth, where it had lain hidden for ages, since the time of the
conquest of Spain by the Moors; the disputes between the convent and
different places in the neighborhood for the possession of it; the
marvelous protection it extended to the adjacent country, especially in
preventing all madness, either in man or dog, for this malady was
anciently so prevalent in this place as to gain it the appellation of La
Rabia, by which it was originally called; a name which, thanks to the
beneficent influence of the Virgin, it no longer merited nor retained.
Such are the legends and relics with which every convent in Spain is
enriched, which are zealously cried up by the monks, and devoutly
credited by the populace.

Twice a year, on the festival of our Lady of La Rabida and on that of the
patron saint of the order, the solitude and silence of the convent are
interrupted by the intrusion of a swarming multitude, composed of the
inhabitants of Moguer, of Huelva, and the neighboring plains and
mountains. The open esplanade in front of the edifice resembles a fair,
the adjacent forest teems with the motley throng, and the image of our
Lady of La Rabida is borne forth in triumphant procession.

While the friar was thus dilating upon the merits and renown of the image,
I amused myself with those day-dreams, or conjurings of the imagination,
to which I am a little given. As the internal arrangements of convents are
apt to be the same from age to age, I pictured to myself this chamber as
the same inhabited by the guardian, Juan Perez de Marchena, at the time of
the visit of Columbus. Why might not the old and ponderous table before me
be the very one on which he displayed his conjectural maps, and expounded
his theory of a western route to India? It required but another stretch of
the imagination to assemble the little conclave around the table; Juan
Perez the friar, Garci Fernandez the physician, and Martin Alonzo Pinzon
the bold navigator, all listening with rapt attention to Columbus, or to
the tale of some old seaman of Palos, about islands seen in the western
parts of the ocean.

The friars, as far as their poor means and scanty knowledge extended, were
disposed to do every thing to promote the object of my visit. They showed
us all parts of the convent, which, however, has little to boast of,
excepting the historical associations connected with it. The library was
reduced to a few volumes, chiefly on ecclesiastical subjects, piled
promiscuously in the corner of a vaulted chamber, and covered with dust.
The chamber itself was curious, being the most ancient part of the
edifice, and supposed to have formed part of a temple in the time of the

We ascended to the roof of the convent to enjoy the extensive prospect it
commands. Immediately below the promontory on which it is situated, runs a
narrow but tolerably deep river, called the Domingo Rubio, which empties
itself into the Tinto. It is the opinion of Don Luis Fernandez Pinzon,
that the ships of Columbus were careened and fitted out in this river, as
it affords better shelter than the Tinto, and its shores are not so
shallow. A lonely bark of a fisherman was lying in this stream, and not
far off, on a sandy point, were the ruins of an ancient watchtower. From
the roof of the convent, all the windings of the Odiel and the Tinto were
to be seen, and their junction into the main stream, by which Columbus
sallied forth to sea. In fact the convent serves as a landmark, being,
from its lofty and solitary situation, visible for a considerable distance
to vessels coming on the coast. On the opposite side I looked down upon
the lonely road, through the wood of pine trees, by which the zealous
guardian of the convent, Fray Juan Perez, departed at midnight on his
mule, when he sought the camp of Ferdinand and Isabella in the Vega of
Granada, to plead the project of Columbus before the queen.

Having finished our inspection of the convent, we prepared to depart, and
were accompanied to the outward portal by the two friars. Our calasero
brought his rattling and rickety vehicle for us to mount; at sight of
which one of the monks exclaimed, with a smile, "Santa Maria! only to
think! A calesa before the gate of the convent of La Rabida!" And, indeed,
so solitary and remote is this ancient edifice, and so simple is the mode
of living of the people in this by-corner of Spain, that the appearance of
even a sorry calesa might well cause astonishment. It is only singular
that in such a by-corner the scheme of Columbus should have found
intelligent listeners and coadjutors, after it had been discarded, almost
with scoffing and contempt, from learned universities and splendid courts.

On our way back to the hacienda, we met Don Rafael, a younger son of Don


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