Christopher Columbus and His Monument Columbia
Author: Various
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse











History places in prominence Columbus and America. They are the brightest jewels in her crown. Columbus is a permanent orb in the progress of civilization. From the highest rung of the ladder of fame, he has stepped to the skies. America "still hangs blossoming in the garden of time, while her penetrating perfume floats all round the world, and intoxicates all other nations with the hope of liberty." If possible, these tributes would add somewhat to the luster of fame which already encircles the Nation and the Man. Many voices here speak for themselves.

Six hundred authors and more have written of Columbus or his great discovery. An endless task therefore would it be to attempt to enumerate, much less set out, the thousands who have incidentally, and even encomiastically, referred to him. Equally impossible would it be to hope to include a tithe of their utterances within the limits of any single volume, even were it of colossal proportions. This volume of tributes essays then to be but a concordance of some of the most choice and interesting extracts, and, artistically illustrated with statues, scenes, and inscriptions, is issued at an appropriate time and place. The compiler desires in this preface to acknowledge his sincere obligations and indebtedness to the many authors and publishers who so courteously and uniformly extended their consents to use copyright matter, and to express an equal sense of gratitude to his friend, Stuart C. Wade, for his valuable assistance in selecting, arranging, and indexing much of the matter herein contained.

In one of the galleries of Florence there is a remarkable bust of Brutus, left unfinished by the great sculptor Michael Angelo. Some writer explained the incomplete condition by indicating that the artist abandoned his labor in despair, "overcome by the grandeur of the subject." With similar feeling, this little book is submitted to the admirers of Columbus and Columbia, wherever they may be found.

J. M. D.




Preface, 5

Table of Contents, 7

List of Illustrations, 9

Life of Columbus, 11-40

Selected letters of Columbus, 41-57

Tributes to Columbus, 61-323

Tributes to Columbia, 327-384

Index of Authors—Columbus, 385-388

Index of Authors—Columbia, 389-390

Index of Head Lines, 391-396

Index of Statuary and Inscriptions, 397


The Columbus Statue, Genoa, Frontispiece

Columbus at Salamanca, 17

The De Bry Portrait, 24

The Embarkation at Palos, 32

Columbus in Chains, 49

Fac-simile of Columbus' letter to the Bank of St. George, Genoa, 52

Columbus Statue, on Barcelona Monument, 64

Columbus Monument, Barcelona, 81

The Paseo Colon, Barcelona, 96

Columbus Statue, City of Colon, 113

Zearing's Head of Columbus, 120

Park's Statue of Columbus, Chicago, 128

House of Columbus, Genoa, 145

The Antonio Moro Portrait, 160

Toscanelli's Map, 177

Samartin's Statue of Columbus, Madrid, 192

Sunol's Statue of Columbus, Madrid, 209

Map of Herrera (Columbus' Historian), 224

Modern Map of the Bahamas, 241

Map of Columbus' Pilot, 256

Columbus Monument, Mexico, 273

Columbus Monument, New York City, 288

Bas-relief, New York Monument, 296

Bas-relief, New York Monument, 305

Columbus Statue, Havana, 312

Columbus Statue, Philadelphia, 320

Part of Columbus Statue, New York City, 328

The Convent of Santa Maria de la Rabida, 337

The Santa Maria Caravel, 352

The Columbus Fleet, 360

Vanderlyn's Picture of the Landing of Columbus, 369

Columbus Statue, St. Louis, Mo., 384

Columbus and His Monument Columbia.


Christopher Columbus, the eldest son of Dominico Colombo and Suzanna Fontanarossa, was born at Genoa in 1435 or 1436, the exact date being uncertain. As to his birthplace there can be no legitimate doubt; he says himself of Genoa, in his will, "Della sali y en ella naci" (from there I came, and there was I born), though authorities, authors, and even poets differ. Some, like Tennyson, having

Stay'd the wheels at Cogoletto And drank, and loyally drank, to him.

His father was a wool-comber, of some small means, who was living two years after the discovery of the West Indies, and who removed his business from Genoa to Savona in 1469. Christopher, the eldest son, was sent to the University of Pavia, where he devoted himself to the mathematical and natural sciences, and where he probably received instruction in nautical astronomy from Antonio da Terzago and Stefano di Faenza. On his removal from the university it appears that he worked for some months at his father's trade; but on reaching his fifteenth year he made his choice of life, and became a sailor.

Of his apprenticeship, and the first years of his career, no records exist. The whole of his earlier life, indeed, is dubious and conjectural, founded as it is on the half-dozen dark and evasive chapters devoted by Hernando, his son and biographer, to the first half-century of his father's times. It seems certain, however, that these unknown years were stormy, laborious, and eventful; "wherever ship has sailed," he writes, "there have I journeyed." He is known, among other places, to have visited England, "Ultima Thule" (Iceland), the Guinea Coast, and the Greek Isles; and he appears to have been some time in the service of Rene of Provence, for whom he is recorded to have intercepted and seized a Venetian galley with great bravery and audacity. According to his son, too, he sailed with Colombo el Mozo, a bold sea captain and privateer; and a sea fight under this commander was the means of bringing him ashore in Portugal. Meanwhile, however, he was preparing himself for greater achievements by reading and meditating on the works of Ptolemy and Marinus, of Nearchus and Pliny, the Cosmographia of Cardinal Aliaco, the travels of Marco Polo and Mandeville. He mastered all the sciences essential to his calling, learned to draw charts and construct spheres, and thus fitted himself to become a consummate practical seaman and navigator.

In 1470 he arrived at Lisbon, after being wrecked in a sea fight that began off Cape St. Vincent, and escaping to land on a plank. In Portugal he married Felipa Moniz de Perestrello, daughter of Bartollomeu Perestrello, a captain in the service of Prince Henry, called the Navigator, one of the early colonists and the first governor of Porto Santo, an island off Madeira. Columbus visited the island, and employed his time in making maps and charts for a livelihood, while he pored over the logs and papers of his deceased father-in-law, and talked with old seamen of their voyages and of the mystery of the Western seas. About this time, too, he seems to have arrived at the conclusion that much of the world remained undiscovered, and step by step to have conceived that design of reaching Asia by sailing west which was to result in the discovery of America. In 1474 we find him expounding his views to Paolo Toscanelli, the Florentine physician and cosmographer, and receiving the heartiest encouragement.

These views he supported with three different arguments, derived from natural reasons, from the theories of geographers, and from the reports and traditions of mariners. "He believed the world to be a sphere," says Helps; "he underestimated its size; he overestimated the size of the Asiatic continent. The farther that continent extended to the east, the nearer it came round toward Spain." And he had but to turn from the marvelous propositions of Mandeville and Aliaco to become the recipient of confidences more marvelous still. The air was full of rumors, and the weird imaginings of many generations of mediaeval navigators had taken shape and substance, and appeared bodily to men's eyes. Martin Vicente, a Portuguese pilot, had found, 450 leagues to the westward of Cape St. Vincent, and after a westerly gale of many days' duration, a piece of strange wood, sculptured very artistically, but not with iron. Pedro Correa, his own brother-in-law, had seen another such waif near the Island of Madeira, while the King of Portugal had information of great canes, capable of holding four quarts of wine between joint and joint, which Herrera declares the King received, preserved, and showed to Columbus. From the colonists on the Azores Columbus heard of two men being washed up at Flores, "very broad-faced, and differing in aspect from Christians." The transport of all these objects being attributed to the west winds and not to the gulf stream, the existence of which was then totally unsuspected. West of the Azores now and then there hove in sight the mysterious Islands of St. Brandan; and 200 leagues west of the Canaries lay somewhere the lost Island of the Seven Cities, that two valiant Genoese had vainly endeavored to discover, and in search of which, yearly, the merchants of Bristol sent expeditions, even before Columbus sailed. In his northern journey, too, some vague and formless traditions may have reached his ear of the voyages of Biorn and Lief, and of the pleasant coasts of Helleland, Markland, and Vinland that lay toward the setting sun. All were hints and rumors to bid the bold mariner sail westward, and this he at length determined to do. There is also some vague and unreliable tradition as to a Portuguese pilot discovering the Indies previous to Columbus, and on his deathbed revealing the secret to the Genoese explorer. It is at the best but a fanciful tale.

The concurrence of some state or sovereign, however, was necessary for the success of this design. The Senate of Genoa had the honor to receive the first offer, and the responsibility of refusing it. Rejected by his native city, the projector turned next to John II. of Portugal. This King had already an open field for discovery and enterprise along the African coast; but he listened to the Genoese, and referred him to the Committee of Council for Geographical Affairs. The council's report was altogether adverse; but the King, who was yet inclined to favor the theory of Columbus, assented to the suggestion of the Bishop of Ceuta that the plan should be carried out in secret, and without Columbus' knowledge, by means of a caravel or light frigate. The caravel was dispatched, but it returned after a brief absence, the sailors having lost heart, and having refused to venture farther. Upon discovering this dishonorable transaction, Columbus felt so outraged and indignant that he sent off his brother Bartholomew to England with letters for Henry VII., to whom he had communicated his ideas. He himself left Lisbon many other friends, and here met with Beatrix Enriquez, the mother of his second son, Hernando, who was born August 15, 1488.

A certain class of writers pretend that Beatrix Enriquez was the lawful wife of Columbus.[1] If so, when he died she would of right have been Vice-Queen Dowager of the Indies. Is it likely that $56 would have been the pension settled upon a lady of such rank? Senor Castelar, than whom there is no greater living authority, scouts the idea of a legal marriage; and, indeed, it is only a few irresponsible and peculiarly aggressive Catholic writers who have the hardihood to advance this more than improbable theory. Mr. Henry Harrisse, a most painstaking critic, thinks that Felipa Moniz died in 1488. She was buried in the Monastery do Carmo, at Lisbon, and some trace of her may hereafter be found in the archives of the Provedor or Registrar of Wills, at Lisbon, when these papers are arranged, as she must have bequeathed a sum to the poor, under the customs then prevailing.

From Cordova, Columbus followed the court to Salamanca, where he was introduced to the notice of the grand cardinal, Pedro Gonzales de Mendoza, "the third King of Spain." The cardinal, while approving the project, thought that it savored strongly of heterodoxy; but an interview with the projector brought him over, and through his influence Columbus at last got audience of the King. The matter was finally referred, however, to Fernando de Talavera, who, in 1487, summoned a junta of astronomers and cosmographers to confer with Columbus, and examine his design and the arguments by which he supported it. The Dominicans of San Esteban in Salamanca entertained Columbus during the conference. The jurors, who were most of them ecclesiastics, were by no means unprejudiced, nor were they disposed to abandon their pretensions to for Spain (1484), taking with him his son Diego, the only issue of his marriage with Felipa Moniz. He departed secretly, according to some writers to give the slip to King John, according to others to escape his creditors. In one of his letters Columbus says: "When I came from such a great distance to serve these princes, I abandoned a wife and children, whom, for this cause, I never saw again." The first traces of Columbus at the court of Spain are on May 5, 1487, when an entry in some accounts reads: "Given to-day 3,000 maravedis (about $18) to Cristobal Colomo, a stranger." Three years after (March 20, 1488), a letter was sent by the King to "Christopher Colon, our especial friend," inviting him to return, and assuring him against arrest and proceedings of any kind; but it was then too late.

Columbus next betook himself to the south of Spain, and seems to have proposed his plan first to the Duke of Medina Sidonia (who was at first attracted by it, but finally threw it up as visionary and impracticable), and next to the Duke of Medina Celi. The latter gave him great encouragement, entertained him for two years, and even determined to furnish him with the three or four caravels. Finally, however, being deterred by the consideration that the enterprise was too vast for a subject, he turned his guest from the determination he had come to, of making instant application to the court of France, by writing on his behalf to Queen Isabella; and Columbus repaired to the court at Cordova at her bidding.

It was an ill moment for the navigator's fortune. Castille and Leon were in the thick of that struggle which resulted in the final defeat of the Moors; and neither Ferdinand nor Isabella had time to listen. The adventurer was indeed kindly received; he was handed over to the care of Alonzo de Quintanilla, whom he speedily converted into an enthusiastic supporter of his theory. He made knowledge without a struggle. Columbus argued his point, but was overwhelmed with Biblical texts, with quotations from the great divines, with theological objections, and in a short time the junta was adjourned. Senor Rodriguez Pinilla, the learned Salamantine writer, holds that the first refusal of Columbus' project was made in the official council at Cordova. In 1489, Columbus, who had been following the court from place to place (billeted in towns as an officer of the King and gratified from time to time with sums of money toward his expenses), was present at the siege of Malaga. In 1490 the junta decided that his project was vain and impracticable, and that it did not become their Highnesses to have anything to do with it; and this was confirmed, with some reservation, by their Highnesses themselves, at Seville.

Columbus was now in despair. So reduced in circumstances was he that (according to the eminent Spanish statesman and orator, Emilio Castelar) he was jocularly and universally termed "the stranger with the threadbare coat." He at once betook himself to Huelva, where his brother-in-law resided, with the intention of taking ship to France. He halted, however, at Palos, a little maritime town in Andalusia. At the Monastery of Santa Maria de la Rabida[2] he knocked and asked for bread and water for his boy Diego, and presently got into conversation with Fray Juan Perez de Marchena, the prior, who invited him to take up his quarters in the monastery, and introduced him to Garci Fernandez, a physician and an ardent student of geography. To these good men did Columbus propound his theory and explain his plan. Juan Perez had been the Queen's confessor; he wrote to her and was summoned to her presence, and money was sent to Columbus to bring him once more to court. He reached Granada in time to witness the surrender of the city by the Moors, and negotiations were resumed. Columbus believed in his mission, and stood out for high terms; he asked the rank of admiral at once, the vice-royalty of all he should discover, and a tenth of all the gain, by conquest or by trade. These conditions were rejected, and the negotiations were again interrupted. An interview with Mendoza appears to have followed, but nothing came of it, and in January, 1492, Columbus actually set out for France. At length, however, on the entreaty of Luis de Santangel, receiver of the ecclesiastical revenues of the crown of Aragon, Isabella was induced to determine on the expedition. A messenger was sent after Columbus, and overtook him at the Bridge of Pinos, about two leagues from Granada. He returned to the camp at Santa Fe, and on April 17, 1492, the agreement between him and their Catholic Majesties was signed and sealed. This agreement being familiarly known in Spanish history as "The Capitulations of Santa Fe."

His aims were nothing less than the discovery of the marvelous province of Cipango and the conversion to Christianity of the Grand Khan, to whom he received a royal and curious blank letter of introduction. The town of Palos was, by forced levy, as a punishment for former rebellion, ordered to find him three caravels, and these were soon placed at his disposal. But no crews could be got together, Columbus even offering to throw open the jails and take all criminals and broken men who would serve on the expedition; and had not Juan Perez succeeded in interesting Martin Alonzo Pinzon and Vicente Yanez Pinzon in the cause, Columbus' departure had been long delayed. At last, however, men, ships, and stores were ready. The expedition consisted of the Gallega, rechristened the Santa Maria, a decked ship, with a crew of fifty men, commanded by the Admiral in person; and of two caravels—the Pinta, with thirty men, under Martin Pinzon, and the Nina, with twenty-four men, under his brother, Vicente Yanez Pinzon, afterward (1499) the first to cross the line in the American Atlantic. The adventurers numbered 120 souls, and on Friday, August 3, 1492, at 8 in the morning, the little fleet weighed anchor and stood out for the Canary Islands, sailing as it were "into a world unknown—the corner-stone of a nation."

Deeply significant was one incident of their first few days' sail. Emilio Castelar tells us that these barks, laden with bright promises for the future, were sighted by other ships, laden with the hatreds and rancors of the past, for it chanced that one of the last vessels transporting into exile the Jews, expelled from Spain by the religious intolerance of which the recently created and odious Tribunal of the Faith was the embodiment, passed by the little fleet bound in search of another world, where creation should be newborn, a haven be afforded to the quickening principle of human liberty, and a temple be reared to the God of enfranchised and redeemed consciences.

An abstract of the Admiral's diary made by the Bishop Las Casas is yet extant; and from it many particulars may be gleaned concerning this first voyage. Three days after the ships had set sail the Pinta lost her rudder. The Admiral was in some alarm, but comforted himself with the reflection that Martin Pinzon was energetic and ready-witted; they had, however, to put in (August 9th) at Teneriffe to refit the caravel. On September 6th they weighed anchor once more with all haste, Columbus having been informed that three Portuguese caravels were on the lookout for him. On September 13th the variations of the magnetic needle were for the first time observed;[3] and on the 15th a wonderful meteor fell into the sea at four or five leagues distance. On the 16th they arrived at those vast plains of seaweed called the Sargasso Sea; and thenceforward, writes the Admiral, they had most temperate breezes, the sweetness of the mornings being most delightful, the weather like an Andalusian April, and only the song of the nightingale wanting. On the 17th the men began to murmur. They were frightened by the strange phenomena of the variations of the compass, but the explanation Columbus gave restored their tranquillity. On the 18th they saw many birds and a great ridge of low-lying cloud, and they expected to see land. On the 20th they saw two pelicans, and they were sure the land must be near. In this, however, they were disappointed, and the men began to be afraid and discontented; and thenceforth Columbus, who was keeping all the while a double reckoning—one for the crew and one for himself—had great difficulty in restraining the men from the excesses which they meditated. On the 25th Alonzo Pinzon raised the cry of land, but it proved a false alarm; as did the rumor to the same effect on October 7th, when the Nina hoisted a flag and fired a gun. On the 11th the Pinta fished up a cane, a log of wood, a stick wrought with iron, and a board, and the Nina sighted a branch of hawthorne laden with ripe luscious berries, "and with these signs all of them breathed and were glad." At 8 o'clock on that night, Columbus perceived and pointed out a light ahead,[4] Pedro Gutierrez also seeing it; and at 2 in the morning of Friday, October 12, 1492, Rodrigo de Triana, a sailor aboard the Nina, a native of Seville, announced the appearance of what proved to be the New World.[5] The land sighted was an island called by the Indians Guanahani, and named by Columbus San Salvador.[6]

The same morning Columbus landed, richly clad, and bearing the royal banner of Spain. He was accompanied by the brothers Pinzon, bearing banners of the Green Cross, a device of his own, and by great part of the crew. When they had all "given thanks to God, kneeling down upon the shore, and kissed the ground with tears of joy, for the great mercy received," the Admiral named the island, and took solemn possession of it for their Catholic Majesties of Castille and Leon. At the same time such of the crews as had shown themselves doubtful and mutinous sought his pardon weeping, and prostrated themselves at his feet. Had Columbus kept the course he laid on leaving Ferrol, says Castelar, his landfall would have been in the Florida of to-day, that is, upon the main continent; but, owing to the deflection suggested by the Pinzons, and tardily accepted by him, it was his hap to strike an island, very fair to look upon, but small and insignificant when compared with the vast island-world in whose waters he was already sailing.

Into the details of this voyage, of highest interest as it is, it is impossible to go further. The letter of Columbus, hereinafter printed, gives further and most interesting details. It will be enough to say here that it resulted in the discovery of the islands of Santa Maria del Concepcion, Exuma, Isabella, Juana or Cuba, Bohio, the Cuban Archipelago (named by its finder the Jardin del Rey), the island of Santa Catalina, and that of Espanola, now called Haiti or San Domingo. Off the last of these the Santa Maria went aground, owing to the carelessness of the steersman. No lives were lost, but the ship had to be unloaded and abandoned; and Columbus, who was anxious to return to Europe with the news of his achievement, resolved to plant a colony on the island, to build a fort out of the material of the stranded hulk, and to leave the crew. The fort was called La Navidad; forty-three Europeans were placed in charge, including the Governor Diego de Arana; two lieutenants, Pedro Gutierrez and Rodrigo de Escobedo; an Irishman named William Ires (? Harris), a native of Galway; an Englishman whose name is given as Tallarte de Lajes,[7] and the remainder being Spaniards.

On January 16, 1493, Columbus, who had lost sight of Martin Pinzon, set sail alone in the Nina for the east; and four days afterward the Pinta joined her sister ship off Monte Christo. A storm, however, separated the vessels, during which (according to Las Casas) Columbus, fearing the vessel would founder, cast his duplicate log-book, which was written on parchment and inclosed in a cake of wax, inside a barrel, into the sea. The log contained a promise of a thousand ducats to the finder on delivering it to the King of Spain. Then a long battle with the trade winds caused great delay, and it was not until February 18th that Columbus reached the Island of Santa Maria in the Azores. Here he was threatened with capture by the Portuguese governor, who could not for some time be brought to recognize his commission. On February 24th, however, he was allowed to proceed, and on March 4th the Nina dropped anchor off Lisbon. The King of Portugal received the Admiral with the highest honors; and on March 13th the Nina put out from the Tagus, and two days afterward, Friday, March 15th, dropped anchor off Palos.

The court was at Barcelona, and thither, after dispatching a letter[8] announcing his arrival, Columbus proceeded in person. He entered the city in a sort of triumphal procession, and was received by their Majesties in full court, and, seated in their presence, related the story of his wanderings, exhibiting the "rich and strange" spoils of the new-found lands—the gold, the cotton, the parrots, the curious arms, the mysterious plants, the unknown birds and beasts, and the nine Indians he had brought with him for baptism. All his honors and privileges were confirmed to him; the title of Don was conferred on himself and his brothers; he rode at the King's bridle; he was served and saluted as a grandee of Spain. And, greatest honor of all, a new and magnificent escutcheon was blazoned for him (May 4, 1493), whereon the royal castle and lion of Castille and Leon were combined with the four anchors of his own old coat of arms. Nor were their Catholic Highnesses less busy on their own account than on that of their servant. On May 3d and 4th, Alexander VI. granted bulls confirming to the crowns of Castille and Leon all the lands discovered,[9] or to be discovered, beyond a certain line of demarcation, on the same terms as those on which the Portuguese held their colonies along the African coast. A new expedition was got in readiness with all possible dispatch to secure and extend the discoveries already made.

After several delays the fleet weighed anchor on September 25th and steered westward. It consisted of three great carracks (galleons) and fourteen caravels (light frigates), having on board about 1,500 men, besides the animals and materials necessary for colonization. Twelve missionaries accompanied the expedition, under the orders of Bernardo Boyle, a Benedictine friar; and Columbus had been directed (May 29, 1493) to endeavor by all means in his power to christianize the inhabitants of the islands, to make them presents, and to "honor them much," while all under him were commanded to treat them "well and lovingly," under pain of severe punishment. On October 13th the ships, which had put in at the Canaries, left Ferrol, and so early as Sunday, November 3d, after a single storm, "by the goodness of God and the wise management of the Admiral," land was sighted to the west, which was named Dominica. Northward from this new-found island the isles of Maria Galante and Guadaloupe were discovered and named; and on the northwestern course to La Navidad, those of Montserrat, Antigua, San Martin, and Santa Cruz were sighted, and the island now called Puerto Rico was touched at, hurriedly explored, and named San Juan. On November 22d Columbus came in sight of Espanola, and, sailing eastward to La Navidad, found the fort burned and the colony dispersed. He decided on building a second fort, and, coasting on forty miles east of Cape Haytien, he pitched on a spot, where he founded the city and settlement of Isabella.

It is remarkable that the first notice of india rubber on record is given by Herrera, who, in the second voyage of Columbus, observed that the natives of Haiti "played a game with balls made of the gum of a tree."

The character in which Columbus had appeared had till now been that of the greatest of mariners; but from this point forward his claims to supremacy are embarrassed and complicated with the long series of failures, vexations, miseries, insults, that have rendered his career as a planter of colonies and as a ruler of men most pitiful and remarkable.

The climate of Navidad proved unhealthy; the colonists were greedy of gold, impatient of control, and as proud, ignorant, and mutinous as Spaniards could be; and Columbus, whose inclinations drew him westward, was doubtless glad to escape the worry and anxiety of his post, and to avail himself of the instructions of his sovereigns as to further discoveries. In January, 1494, he sent home, by Antonio de Torres, that dispatch to their Catholic Highnesses by which he may be said to have founded the West Indian slave trade. He founded the mining camp of San Tomaso in the gold country; and on April 24, 1494, having nominated a council of regency under his brother Diego, and appointed Pedro de Margarite his captain-general, he put again to sea. After following the southern shore of Cuba for some days, he steered southward, and discovered the Island of Jamaica, which he named Santiago. He then resumed his exploration of the Cuban coast, threading his way through a labyrinth of islets supposed to be the Morant Keys, which he named the Garden of the Queen, and after coasting westward for many days he became convinced that he had discovered the mainland, and called Perez de Luna, the notary, to draw up a document attesting his discovery (June 12, 1494), which was afterward taken round and signed, in presence of four witnesses, by the masters, mariners, and seamen of his three caravels, the Nina, the Cadera, and the San Juan. He then stood to the southeast and sighted the Island of Evangelista; and after many days of difficulties and anxieties he touched at and named the Island La Mona. Thence he had intended to sail eastward and complete the survey of the Carribbean Archipelago. But he was exhausted by the terrible wear and tear of mind and body he had undergone (he says himself that on this expedition he was three-and-thirty days almost without any sleep), and on the day following his departure from La Mona he fell into a lethargy that deprived him of sense and memory, and had well nigh proved fatal to life. At last, on September 29th, the little fleet dropped anchor off Isabella, and in his new city the great Admiral lay sick for five months.

The colony was in a sad plight. Everyone was discontented, and many were sick, for the climate was unhealthy and there was nothing to eat. Margarite and Boyle had quitted Espanola for Spain; but ere his departure the former, in his capacity as captain-general, had done much to outrage and alienate the Indians. The strongest measures were necessary to undo this mischief; and, backed by his brother Bartholomew, a bold and skillful mariner, and a soldier of courage and resource, who had been with Diaz in his voyage around the Cape of Good Hope, Columbus proceeded to reduce the natives under Spanish sway.[10] Alonzo de Ojeda succeeded, by a brilliant coup de main, in capturing the Cacique Caonabo, and the rest submitted. Five ship-loads of Indians were sent off to Seville (June 24, 1495) to be sold as slaves; and a tribute was imposed upon their fellows, which must be looked upon as the origin of that system of repartimientos or encomiendas which was afterward to work such cruel mischief among the conquered. But the tide of court favor seemed to have turned against Columbus. In October, 1495, Juan Aguada arrived at Isabella, with an open commission from their Catholic Majesties, to inquire into the circumstances of his rule; and much interest and recrimination followed. Columbus found that there was no time to be lost in returning home; he appointed his brother Bartholomew "adelantado" of the island, and on March 10, 1496, he quitted Espanola in the Nina. The vessel, after a protracted and perilous voyage, reached Cadiz on June 11, 1496. The Admiral landed in great dejection, wearing the costume of a Franciscan. Reassured, however, by the reception of his sovereigns, he asked at once for eight ships more, two to be sent to the colony with supplies and six to be put under his orders for new discoveries. The request was not immediately granted, as the Spanish exchequer was not then well supplied. But principally owing to the interest of the Queen, an agreement was come to similar to that of 1492, which was now confirmed. By this royal patent, moreover, a tract of land in Espanola, of fifty leagues by twenty, was made over to him. He was offered a dukedom or a marquisate at his pleasure; for three years he was to receive an eighth of the gross and a tenth of the net profits on each voyage, the right of creating a mayorazgo or perpetual entail of titles and estates was granted him, and on June 24th his two sons were received into Isabella's service as pages. Meanwhile, however, the preparing of the fleet proceeded slowly, and it was not till May 30, 1498, that he and his six ships set sail.

From San Lucar he steered for Gomera, in the Canaries, and thence dispatched three of his ships to San Domingo. He next proceeded to the Cape Verde Islands, which he quitted on July 4th. On the 31st of the same month, being greatly in need of water, and fearing that no land lay westward as they had hoped, Columbus had turned his ship's head north, when Alonzo Perez, a mariner of Huelva, saw land about fifteen leagues to the southwest. It was crowned with three hilltops, and so, when the sailors had sung the Salve Regina, the Admiral named it Trinidad, which name it yet bears. On Wednesday, August 1st, he beheld for the first time, in the mainland of South America, the continent he had sought so long. It seemed to him but an insignificant island, and he called it Zeta. Sailing westward, next day he saw the Gulf of Paria, which was named by him the Golfo de la Belena, and was borne into it—an immense risk—on the ridge of breakers formed by the meeting with the sea of the great rivers that empty themselves, all swollen with rain, into the ocean. For many days he coasted the continent, esteeming as islands the several projections he saw and naming them accordingly; nor was it until he had looked on and considered the immense volume of fresh water poured out through the embouchure of the river now called the Orinoco, that he concluded that the so-called archipelago must be in very deed a great continent.

Unfortunately at this time he was suffering intolerably from gout and ophthalmia; his ships were crazy; and he was anxious to inspect the infant colony whence he had been absent so long. And so, after touching at and naming the Island of Margarita, he bore away to the northeast, and on August 30th the fleet dropped anchor off Isabella.

He found that affairs had not prospered well in his absence. By the vigor and activity of the adelantado, the whole island had been reduced under Spanish sway, but at the expense of the colonists. Under the leadership of a certain Roldan, a bold and unprincipled adventurer, they had risen in revolt, and Columbus had to compromise matters in order to restore peace. Roldan retained his office; such of his followers as chose to remain in the island were gratified with repartimientos of land and labor; and some fifteen, choosing to return to Spain, were enriched with a number of slaves, and sent home in two ships, which sailed in the early part of October, 1499.

Five ship-loads of Indians had been deported to Spain some little time before. On arrival of these living cargoes at Seville, the Queen, the stanch and steady friend of Columbus, was moved with compassion and indignation. No one, she declared, had authorized him to dispose of her vassals in any such manner; and proclamations at Seville, Granada, and other chief places ordered (June 20, 1499) the instant liberation and return of all the last gang of Indians. In addition to this, the ex-colonists had become incensed against Columbus and his brothers. They were wont to parade their grievances in the very court-yards of the Alhambra; to surround the King, when he came forth, with complaints and reclamations; to insult the discoverer's young sons with shouts and jeers. There was no doubt that the colony itself, whatever the cause, had not prospered so well as might have been desired. Historians do not hesitate to aver that Columbus' over-colored and unreliable statements as to the amount of gold to be found there were the chief causes of discontent.

And, on the whole, it is not surprising that Ferdinand, whose support to Columbus had never been very hearty, should about this time have determined to suspend him. Accordingly, on March 21, 1499, Francisco de Bobadilla was ordered to "ascertain what persons had raised themselves against justice in the Island of Espanola, and to proceed against them according to law." On May 21st the government of the island was conferred on him, and he was accredited with an order that all arms and fortresses should be handed over to him; and on May 26th he received a letter, for delivery to Columbus, stating that the bearer would "speak certain things to him" on the part of their Highnesses, and praying him to "give faith and credence, and to act accordingly." Bobadilla left Spain in July, 1500, and landed in Espanola in October.

Columbus, meanwhile, had restored such tranquillity as was possible in his government. With Roldan's help he had beaten off an attempt on the island by the adventurer Ojeda, his old lieutenant; the Indians were being collected into villages and christianized. Gold mining was actively and profitably pursued; in three years, he calculated, the royal revenues might be raised to an average of 60,000,000 reals. The arrival of Bobadilla, however, on August 23, 1500, speedily changed this state of affairs into a greater and more pitiable confusion than the island had ever before witnessed. On landing, he took possession of the Admiral's house, and summoned him and his brothers before him. Accusations of severity, of injustice, of venality even, were poured down on their heads, and Columbus anticipated nothing less than a shameful death. Bobadilla put all three in irons, and shipped them off to Spain.

Andreas Martin, captain of the caravel in which the illustrious prisoners sailed, still retained a proper sense of the honor and respect due to Columbus, and would have removed the fetters; but to this Columbus would not consent. He would wear them until their Highnesses, by whose order they had been affixed, should order their removal; and he would keep them afterward "as relics and memorials of the reward of his services." He did so. His son Hernando "saw them always hanging in his cabinet, and he requested that when he died they might be buried with him." Whether this last wish was complied with is not known.

A heart-broken and indignant letter from Columbus to Dona Juana de la Torres, the governess of the infant Don Juan, arrived at court before the dispatch of Bobadilla. It was read to the Queen, and its tidings were confirmed by communications from Alonso de Villejo and the alcaide of Cadiz. There was a great movement of indignation; the tide of popular and royal feeling turned once more in the Admiral's favor. He received a large sum to defray his expenses; and when he appeared at court, on December 17th, he was no longer in irons and disgrace, but richly appareled and surrounded with friends. He was received with all honor and distinction. The Queen is said to have been moved to tears by the narration of his story. Their Majesties not only repudiated Bobadilla's proceedings, but declined to inquire into the charges that he at the same time brought against his prisoners, and promised Columbus compensation for his losses and satisfaction for his wrongs. A new governor, Nicolas de Ovando, was appointed in Bobadilla's room, and left San Lucar on February 18, 1502, with a fleet of thirty ships. The latter was to be impeached and sent home. The Admiral's property was to be restored and a fresh start was to be made in the conduct of colonial affairs. Thus ended Columbus' history as viceroy and governor of the new Indies, which he had presented to the country of his adoption.

His hour of rest, however, was not yet come. Ever anxious to serve their Catholic Highnesses, "and particularly the Queen," he had determined to find a strait through which he might penetrate westward into Portuguese Asia. After the usual inevitable delays his prayers were granted, and on May 9, 1502, with four caravels and 150 men, he weighed anchor from Cadiz and sailed on his fourth and last great voyage. He first betook himself to the relief of the Portuguese fort of Arzilla, which had been besieged by the Moors, but the siege had been raised voluntarily before he arrived. He put to sea westward once more, and on June 13th discovered the Island of Martinique. He had received positive instructions from his sovereigns on no account to touch at Espanola, but his largest caravel was greatly in need of repairs, and he had no choice but to abandon her or disobey orders. He preferred the latter alternative, and sent a boat ashore to Ovando, asking for a new ship and for permission to enter the harbor to weather a hurricane which he saw was coming on. But his requests were refused, and he coasted the island, casting anchor under lee of the land. Here he weathered the storm, which drove the other caravels out to sea and annihilated the homeward-bound fleet, the richest till then that had been sent from Espanola. Roldan and Bobadilla perished with others of the Admiral's enemies; and Hernando Colon, who accompanied his father on this voyage, wrote, long years afterward, "I am satisfied it was the hand of God, for had they arrived in Spain they had never been punished as their crimes deserved, but rather been favored and preferred."

After recruiting his flotilla at Azua, Columbus put in at Jaquimo and refitted his four vessels, and on July 14, 1502, he steered for Jamaica. For nine weeks the ships wandered painfully among the keys and shoals he had named the Garden of the Queen, and only an opportune easterly wind prevented the crews from open mutiny. The first land sighted was the Islet of Guanaja, about forty miles to the east of the coast of Honduras. Here he got news from an old Indian of a rich and vast country lying to the eastward, which he at once concluded must be the long-sought-for empire of the Grand Khan. Steering along the coast of Honduras great hardships were endured, but nothing approaching his ideal was discovered. On September 13th Cape Gracias-a-Dios was sighted. The men had become clamorous and insubordinate; not until December 5th, however, would he tack about and retrace his course. It now became his intention to plant a colony on the River Veragua, which was afterward to give his descendants a title of nobility; but he had hardly put about when he was caught in a storm which lasted eight days, wrenched and strained his crazy, worm-eaten ships severely, and finally, on the Epiphany, blew him into an embouchure, which he named Bethlehem. Gold was very plentiful in this place, and here he determined to found his settlement. By the end of March, 1503, a number of huts had been run up, and in these the adelantado, with eighty men, was to remain, while Columbus returned to Spain for men and supplies. Quarrels, however, arose with the natives, the adelantado made an attempt to seize on the person of the cacique and failed, and before Columbus could leave the coast he had to abandon a caravel to take the settlers on board, and to relinquish the enterprise. Steering eastward he left a second caravel at Porto Bello, and on May 31st he bore northward for Cuba, where he obtained supplies from the natives. From Cuba he bore up for Jamaica, and there, in the harbor of Santa Gloria, now St. Anne's Bay, he ran his ships aground in a small inlet called Don Christopher's Cove.

The expedition was received with the greatest kindness by the natives, and here Columbus remained upward of a year awaiting the return of his lieutenant Diego Mendez, whom he had dispatched to Ovando for assistance. During his critical sojourn here the Admiral suffered much from disease and from the lawlessness of his followers, whose misconduct had alienated the natives, and provoked them to withhold their accustomed supplies, until he dexterously worked upon their superstitions by prognosticating an eclipse. Two vessels having at last arrived for their relief from Mendez and Ovando, Columbus set sail for Spain, after a tempestuous voyage landing once more at Seville on September 7, 1504.

As he was too ill to go to court, his son Diego was sent thither in his place, to look after his interests and transact his business. Letter after letter followed the young man from Seville, one by the hands of Amerigo Vespucci. A license to ride on mule-back was granted him on February 23, 1505;[11] and in the following May he was removed to the court at Segovia, and thence again to Valladolid. On the landing of Philip and Juan at Coruna (April 25, 1506), although "much oppressed with the gout and troubled to see himself put by his rights," he is known to have sent the adelantado to pay them his duty and to assure them that he was yet able to do them extraordinary service. The last documentary note of him is contained in a codicil to the will of 1498, made at Valladolid on May 19, 1506; the principal portion is said, however, to have been signed at Segovia on August 25, 1506. By this the old will is confirmed; the mayorazgo is bequeathed to his son Diego and his heirs male; failing these to Hernando, his second son, and failing these to the heirs male of Bartholomew. Only in the event of the extinction of the male line, direct or collateral, is it to descend to the females of the family; and those into whose hands it may fall are never to diminish it, but always to increase and ennoble it by all means possible. The head of the house is to sign himself "The Admiral." A tenth of the annual income is to be set aside yearly for distribution among the poor relations of the house. A chapel is founded and endowed for the saying of masses. Beatrix Enriquez is left to the care of the young Admiral in most grateful terms. Among other legacies is one of "half a mark of silver to a Jew who used to live at the gate of the Jewry in Lisbon." The codicil was written and signed with the Admiral's own hand. Next day (May 20, 1506) he died.

The body of Columbus was buried in the parish church of Santa Maria de la Antigua in Valladolid. It was transferred in 1513 to the Cartuja de las Cuevas, near Seville, where on the monument was inscribed that laconic but pregnant tribute:

A Castilla y a Leon, Nuevo mundo dio Colon.

(To Castille and Leon, Columbus gave a new world.)

Here the bones of Diego, the second Admiral, were also laid. Exhumed in 1536, the bodies of both father and son were taken over sea to Espanola (San Domingo), and interred in the cathedral. In 1795-96, on the cession of that island to the French, the august relics were re-exhumed, and were transferred with great state and solemnity to the cathedral of Havana, where, it is claimed, they yet remain. The male issue of the Admiral became extinct with the third generation, and the estates and titles passed by marriage to a scion of the house of Braganca.

"In person, Columbus was tall and shapely, long-faced and aquiline, white-eyed and auburn-haired, and beautifully complexioned. At thirty his hair was quite gray. He was temperate in eating and drinking and in dress, and so strict in religious matters, that for fasting and saying all the divine office he might be thought possessed in some religious order." His piety, as his son has noted, was earnest and unwavering; it entered into and colored alike his action and his speech; he tries his pen in a Latin distich of prayer; his signature is a mystical pietistic device.[12] He was pre-eminently fitted for the task he created for himself. Through deceit and opprobrium and disdain he pushed on toward the consummation of his desire; and when the hour for action came, the man was not found wanting.

Within the last seven years research and discovery have thrown some doubt upon two very important particulars regarding Columbus. One of these is the identity of the island which was his first discovery in the New World; the other, the final resting-place of his remains.

There is no doubt whatever that Columbus died in Valladolid, and that his remains were interred in the church of the Carthusian Monastery at Seville, nor that, some time between the years 1537 and 1540, in accordance with a request made in his will, they were removed to the Island of Espanola (Santo Domingo). In 1795, when Spain ceded to France her portion of the island, Spanish officials obtained permission to remove to the cathedral at Havana the ashes of the discoverer of America. There seems to be a question whether the remains which were then removed were those of Columbus or his son Don Diego.

In 1877, during the progress of certain work in the cathedral at Santo Domingo, a crypt was disclosed on one side of the altar, and within it was found a metallic coffin which contained human remains. The coffin bore the following inscription: "The Admiral Don Luis Colon, Duke of Veragua, Marquis of Jamaica," referring, undoubtedly, to the grandson of Columbus. The archbishop Senor Roque Cocchia then took up the search, and upon the other side of the altar were found two crypts, one empty, from which had been taken the remains sent to Havana, and the other containing a metallic case. The case bore the inscription: "D. de la A Per Ate," which was interpreted to mean: "Descubridor de la America, Primer Almirante" (Discoverer of America, the First Admiral). The box was then opened, and on the inside of the cover were the words: "Illtre y Esdo Varon, Dn Cristoval Colon"—Illustrissime y Esclarecido Varon Don Cristoval Colon (Illustrious and renowned man, Don Christopher Columbus). On the two ends and on the front were the letters, "C.C.A."—Cristoval Colon, Almirante (Christopher Columbus, Admiral). The box contained bones and bone-dust, a small bit of the skull, a leaden ball, and a silver plate two inches long. On one side of the plate was inscribed:

Ua. pte. de los rtos del pmr. alte D. Cristoval Colon Desr.

(Urna perteneciente de los restos del Primer Almirante Don Cristoval Colon, Descubridor—Urn containing the remains of the First Admiral Don Christopher Columbus, Discoverer.)

On the other side was: "U. Cristoval Colon" (The coffin of Christopher Columbus).

These discoveries have been certified to by the archbishop Roque Cocchia, and by others, including Don Emiliana Tejera, a well-known citizen. The Royal Academy of History at Madrid, however, challenged the foregoing statements and declared that the remains of Columbus were elsewhere than at Havana. Tejera and the archbishop have since published replies affirming the accuracy of their discovery.[13]

Regarding the identity of the island first seen by Columbus, Capt. G. V. Fox, in a paper published by the U. S. Coast Survey in 1882, discusses and reviews the evidence, and draws a different conclusion and inference from that heretofore commonly accepted. His paper is based upon the original journals and log-book of Columbus, which were published in 1790 by Don M. F. Navarrete, from a manuscript of Bishop Las Casas, the contemporary and friend of Columbus, found in the archives of the Duke del Infanta. In this the exact words of the Admiral's diary are reproduced by Las Casas, extending from the 11th to the 29th of October, the landing being on the 12th. From the description the diary gives, and from a projection of a voyage of Columbus before and after landing, Capt. Fox concludes that the island discovered was neither Grand Turk's, Mariguana, Watling's, nor Cat Island (Guanahani), but Samana, lat. 23 deg. 05 min., N.; long. 75 deg. 35 min., W.

If we accept the carefully drawn deductions of Capt. Fox there is reason to believe that the island discovered was Samana.


[Footnote 1: Markham, in his "Life of Columbus," advances the ingenious suggestion of a marriage invalidated by the pre-contract of Beatrix to one Enriquez. No authority is adduced for this theory.]

[Footnote 2: The monastery has been restored and preserved as a national memorial since 1846.]

[Footnote 3: The invention of the mariner's compass is claimed by the Chinese for the Emperor Hong-ti, a grandson of Noah, about 2634 B. C. A compass was brought from China to Queen Elizabeth A. D. 1260 by P. Venutus. By some the invention is ascribed to Marcus Paulus, a Venetian, A. D. 1260. The discovery of the compass was long attributed to Flavio Gioja, a Neapolitan sailor, A. D. 1302, who in reality made improvements on then existing patterns and brought them to the form now used. The variation of the needle was known to the Chinese, being mentioned in the works of the Chinese philosopher Keon-tsoung-chy, who flourished about A. D. 1111. The dip of the needle was discovered A. D. 1576 by Robert Norman of London. Time was measured on voyages by the hour-glass. Compare Shakespere:

Or four and twenty times the pilot's glass Hath told the thievish minutes how they pass.


[Footnote 4: Capt. Parker, in Goldthwaithe's Geographical Monthly, argues ably that the myth that a light was seen by Columbus at 8 P. M. of the night of the discovery should be dropped simply as rubbish; it is incredible. More than one hundred men in the three vessels were anxiously looking for signs of land, and two "think" they see a light. To say that Columbus felt sure that he saw a light is to pronounce him an imbecile. For if ahead, he would have stopped; if abeam, stood for it. His log does not say where or in what direction the light was—an important omission—and Columbus ran forty sea miles after he saw this mythical light.

We may safely decide that Watling Island, named after a buccaneer or pirate of the seventeenth century, is best supported by investigation as the landfall of Columbus.

Cronau, who visited Watling Island in 1890, supposes that Columbus' ships, after making the land, continued on their course, under the reduced sail, at the rate of four or five miles an hour; and at daylight found themselves off the northwest end of the island. Mr. Cronau evidently is not a seafaring man or he would know that no navigator off an unknown island at night would stand on, even at the rate of one mile an hour, ignorant of what shoal or reefs might lie off the end of the island.]

[Footnote 5: The following from Las Casas' epitome of the log is all the information we have concerning the "sighting" of the New World:

"THURSDAY, October 11, 1492.—Navego al Ouesudueste, turvieron mucho mar mas que en todo el viage habian tenido. Despues del sol puesto navego a su primer Camino al Oueste; andarian doce millas cada hora. A las dos horas despues de media noche parecio la tierra, de la cual estarian dos leguas. Amainaron todas las velas y quedaron con el treo que es la vela grande sin bonetas, y pusierouse a la corda temporizando hasta el dia viernes que llegaron a una isleta de los Lucayos que se llamaba en lengua de indios Guanahani."

That is: "They steered west-southwest and experienced a much heavier sea than they had had before in the whole voyage. After sunset they resumed their former course west, and sailed twelve miles an hour. At 2 o'clock in the morning the land appeared (was sighted), two leagues off. They lowered all the sails and remained under the storm sail, which is the main sail without bonnets, and hove to, waiting for daylight; and Friday [found they had] arrived at a small island of the Lucayos which the Indians called Guanahani."

It will be observed that these are the words of Las Casas, and they were evidently written some years after the event.]

[Footnote 6: Helps refers to the island as "one of the Bahamas." It has been variously identified with Turks Island, by Navarette (1825); with Cat Island, by Irving (1828) and Humboldt (1836); with Mayaguara, by Varnhagen (1864); and finally, with greatest show of probability, with Watling Island, by Munoz (1798), supported by Becher (1856), Peschel (1857), and Major (1871).]

[Footnote 7: See page 217, post.]

[Footnote 8: The greatest blot on the character of Columbus is contained in this and a succeeding letter. Under the shallow pretense of benefiting the souls of idolators, he suggested to the Spanish rulers the advisability of shipping the natives to Spain as slaves. He appeals to their cupidity by picturing the revenue to be derived therefrom, and stands convicted in the light of history as the prime author of that blood-drenched rule which exterminated millions of simple aborigines in the West Indian Archipelago.]

[Footnote 9: The countries which he had discovered were considered as a part of India. In consequence of this notion the name of Indies is given to them by Ferdinand and Isabella in a ratification of their former agreement, which was granted to Columbus after his return.—Robertson's "History of America."]

[Footnote 10: The will of Diego Mendez, one of Columbus' most trusted followers, states that the Governor of Xaragua in seven months burned and hanged eighty-four chiefs, including the Queen of San Domingo.]

[Footnote 11: Owing to the difficulty in securing animals for the cavalry in Spain (about A. D. 1505), an edict had been published by the King forbidding the use of mules in traveling, except by royal permission.

While Columbus was in Seville he wished to make a journey to the court, then sitting at Granada, to plead his own cause. Cardinal Mendoza placed his litter at the disposal of the Admiral, but he preferred a mule, and wrote to Diego, asking him to petition the King for the privilege of using one. The request was granted in the following curious document:

Decree granting to Don Cristoval Colon permission to ride on a mule, saddled and bridled, through any part of these Kingdoms.

THE KING: As I am informed that you, Cristoval Colon, the Admiral, are in poor bodily health, owing to certain diseases which you had or have, and that you can not ride on horse-back without injury to your health; therefore, conceding this to your advanced age, I, by these presents, grant you leave to ride on a mule, saddled and bridled, through whatever parts of these kingdoms or realms you wish and choose, notwithstanding the law which I issued thereto; and I command the subjects of all parts of these kingdoms and realms not to offer you any impediment or allow any to be offered to you, under penalty of ten thousand maravedi in behalf of the treasury, of whoever does the contrary.

Given in the City of Toro, February 23, 1505.]

[Footnote 12:

.s. .s. s .s. X M Y XPO FERENS.

COLUMBUS' CIPHER.—The interpretation of the seven-lettered cipher, accepting the smaller letters of the second line as the final ones of the words, seems to be Servate-me, Xristus, Maria, Yosephus. The name Christopher appears in the last line.]

[Footnote 13: See Washington Irving, Life and Voyages of Columbus, London, 1831; Humboldt, Examen Critique de l'Histoire de la Geographie du Nouveau Continent, Paris, 1836; Sportorno, Codice Diplomatico Colombo-Americano, Genoa, 1823; Hernan Colon, Vita dell' Ammiraglio, 1571; (English translation in vol. xi of Churchill's Voyages and Travels, third edition, London, 1744; Spanish, 1745); Prescott, History of Ferdinand and Isabella, London, 1870; Major, Select Letters of Columbus, Hakluyt Society, London, 1847, and "On the Landfall of Columbus," in Journal of Royal Geographical Society for 1871; Sir Arthur Helps, Life of Columbus, London, 1868; Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages y Descubrimientos desde Fines del Siglo XV., Madrid, 1825; Ticknor, History of Spanish Literature, London, 1863.

See also Pietro Martire d'Anghiera, Opus Epistolarum, 1530, and De Rebus Oceanicis et de Orbe Novo, 1511; Gomora, in Historiadores Primitivos de Indias, vol. xxii of Rivadaneyra's collection; Oveido y Valdes, Cronica de las Indias, Salamanca, 1547; Ramusio, Raccolta delle Navigatione et viaggi iii, Venetia, 1575; Herrera de Tordesillas, Historia de las Indias Occidentales, 1601; Antonio Leon Pinelo, Epitome de la Biblioteca Oriental y Occidental, Madrid, 1623; Munoz, Historia del Nuevo Mundo, Madrid, 1793; Cancellieri, Notizia di Christoforo Colombo, 1809; Bossi, Vita di Christoforo Colombo, 1819; Charlevoix, Histoire de San Domingo; Lamartine, Christoph Colomb, Paris, 1862 (Spanish translation, 1865); Crompton, Life of Columbus, London, 1859; Voyages and Discoveries of Columbus, sixth edition, London, 1857; H. R. St. John, Life of Columbus, London, 1850.]

Selected Letters of Columbus

Translation of the letter of Christopher Columbus offering his services to King Ferdinand of Spain:

Most Serene Prince: I have been engaged in navigating from my youth. I have voyaged on the seas for nearly forty years. I have visited all known quarters of the world and have conversed with a great number of learned men—with ecclesiastics, with seculars, with Latins, with Greeks, with Moors, and with persons of all sorts of religions. I have acquired some knowledge of navigation, of astronomy, and of geometry. I am sufficiently expert in designing the chart of the earth to place the cities, the rivers, and the mountains where they are situated. I have applied myself to the study of works on cosmography, on history, and on philosophy. I feel myself at present strongly urged to undertake the discovery of the Indies; and I come to your Highness to supplicate you to favor my enterprise. I doubt not that those who hear it will turn it into ridicule; but if your Highness will give me the means of executing it, whatever the obstacles may be I hope to be able to make it succeed.[14]

Translation of a letter written by Christopher Columbus from the court of Queen Isabella at Barcelona to Padre Juan Perez de Marchena, a Franciscan monk, Prior of the Convent of Santa Maria de la Rabida, Huelva, Spain (Date, 1492):

Our Lord God has heard the prayers of His servants. The wise and virtuous Isabel, touched by the grace of Heaven, has kindly listened to this poor man's words. All has turned out well. I have read to them our plan, it has been accepted, and I have been called to the court to state the proper means for carrying out the designs of Providence. My courage swims in a sea of consolation, and my spirit rises in praise to God. Come as soon as you can; the Queen looks for you, and I much more than she. I commend myself to the prayers of my dear sons and you.

The grace of God be with you, and may our Lady of Rabida bless you.


Translation of a letter sent by Columbus to Luis de Santangel, Chancellor of the Exchequer of Aragon, respecting the islands found in the Indies; inclosing another for their Highnesses (Ferdinand and Isabella).

R. H. Major, F. S. A., Keeper of the Department of Maps and Charts in the British Museum and Honorary Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society of England, states that the peculiar value of the following letter, descriptive of the first important voyage of Columbus, is that the events described are from the pen of him to whom the events occurred. In it we have laid before us, as it were from Columbus' own mouth, a clear statement of his opinions and conjectures on what were to him great cosmical riddles—riddles which have since been solved mainly through the light which his illustrious deeds have shed upon the field of our observation:

Sir: Believing that you will take pleasure in hearing of the great success which our Lord has granted me in my voyage, I write you this letter, whereby you will learn how in thirty-three[15] days' time I reached the Indies with the fleet which the most illustrious King and Queen, our Sovereigns, gave to me, where I found very many islands thickly peopled, of all which I took possession, without resistance, for their Highnesses, by proclamation made and with the royal standard unfurled. To the first island that I found I gave the name of San Salvador,[16] in remembrance of His High Majesty, who hath marvelously brought all these things to pass; the Indians call it Guanahani. To the second island I gave the name of Santa Maria de Conception; the third I called Fernandina; the fourth, Isabella; the fifth, Juana; and so to each one I gave a new name.

When I reached Juana, I followed its coast to the westward, and found it so large that I thought it must be the mainland,—the province of Cathay; and as I found neither towns nor villages on the sea-coast, but only a few hamlets, with the inhabitants of which I could not hold conversation because they all immediately fled, I kept on the same route, thinking that I could not fail to light upon some large cities and towns.

At length, after proceeding of many leagues and finding that nothing new presented itself, and that the coast was leading me northward (which I wished to avoid, because winter had already set in, and it was my intention to move southward; and because, moreover, the winds were contrary), I resolved not to wait for a change in the weather, but returned to a certain harbor which I had remarked, and from which I sent two men ashore to ascertain whether there was any king or large cities in that part. They journeyed for three days and found countless small hamlets with numberless inhabitants, but with nothing like order; they therefore returned. In the meantime I had learned from some other Indians whom I had seized that this land was certainly an island; accordingly, I followed the coast eastward for a distance of 107 leagues, where it ended in a cape. From this cape I saw another island to the eastward, at a distance of eighteen leagues from the former, to which I gave the name of "La Espanola." Thither I went, and followed its northern coast to the eastward (just as I had done with the coast of Juana) 178 full leagues due east. This island like all the others is extraordinarily large, and this one extremely so. In it are many seaports, with which none that I know in Christendom can bear comparison, so good and capacious that it is wonder to see. The lands are high, and there are many very lofty mountains with which the island of Cetefrey can not be compared. They are all most beautiful, of a thousand different shapes, accessible, and covered with trees of a thousand kinds, of such great height that they seemed to reach the skies. I am told that the trees never lose their foliage, and I can well understand it, for I observed that they were as green and luxuriant as in Spain in the month of May. Some were in bloom, others bearing fruit, and others otherwise, according to their nature. The nightingale was singing as well as other birds of a thousand different kinds; and that in November, the month in which I myself was roaming amongst them. There are palm trees of six or eight kinds, wonderful in their beautiful variety; but this is the case with all the other trees and fruits and grasses; trees, plants, or fruits filled us with admiration. It contains extraordinary pine groves and very extensive plains. There is also honey, a great variety of birds, and many different kinds of fruits. In the interior there are many mines of metals and a population innumerable. Espanola is a wonder. Its mountains and plains, and meadows and fields, are so beautiful and rich for planting and sowing, and rearing cattle of all kinds, and for building towns and villages. The harbors on the coast, and the number and size and wholesomeness of the rivers, most of them bearing gold, surpass anything that would be believed by one who had not seen them. There is a great difference between the trees, fruits, and plants of this island and those of Juana. In this island there are many spices and extensive mines of gold and other metals. The inhabitants of this and of all the other islands I have found or gained intelligence of, both men and women, go as naked as they were born, with the exception that some of the women cover one part only with a single leaf of grass or with a piece of cotton made for that purpose. They have neither iron nor steel nor arms, nor are they competent to use them; not that they are not well-formed and of handsome stature, but because they are timid to a surprising degree. Their only arms are reeds, cut in the seeding time,[17] to which they fasten small sharpened sticks, and even these they dare not use; for on several occasions it has happened that I have sent ashore two or three men to some village to hold a parley, and the people have come out in countless numbers, but as soon as they saw our men approach, would flee with such precipitation that a father would not even stop to protect his son; and this not because any harm had been done to any of them, for from the first, wherever I went and got speech with them, I gave them of all that I had, such as cloth and many other things, without receiving anything in return; but they are, as I have described, incurably timid. It is true that when they are reassured and thrown off this fear they are guileless, and so liberal of all they have that no one would believe it who had not seen it. They never refuse anything that they possess when it is asked of them; on the contrary, they offer it themselves, and they exhibit so much loving kindness that they would even give their hearts; and, whether it be something of value or of little worth that is offered to them, they are satisfied. I forbade that worthless things, such as pieces of broken porringers and broken glass, and ends of straps, should be given to them; although, when they succeeded in obtaining them, they thought they possessed the finest jewel in the world. It was ascertained that a sailor received for a leather strap a piece of gold weighing two castellanos[18] and a half, and others received for other objects, of far less value, much more. For new blancas[19] they would give all they had, whether it was two or three castellanos in gold or one or two arrobas[20] of spun cotton. They took even bits of the broken hoops of the wine barrels, and gave, like fools, all that they possessed in exchange, insomuch that I thought it was wrong and forbade it. I gave away a thousand good and pretty articles which I had brought with me in order to win their affection; and that they might be led to become Christians, and be well inclined to love and serve their Highnesses and the whole Spanish nation, and that they might aid us by giving us things of which we stand in need, but which they possess in abundance. They are not acquainted with any kind of worship, and are not idolaters; but believe that all power and, indeed, all good things are in heaven; and they are firmly convinced that I, with my vessels and crews, came from heaven, and with this belief received me at every place at which I touched, after they had overcome their apprehension. And this does not spring from ignorance, for they are very intelligent, and navigate all these seas, and relate everything to us, so that it is astonishing what a good account they are able to give of everything; but they have never seen men with clothes on, nor vessels like ours. On my reaching the Indies, I took by force, in the first island that I discovered, some of these natives, that they might learn our language and give me information in regard to what existed in these parts; and it so happened that they soon understood us and we them, either by words or signs, and they have been very serviceable to us. They are still with me, and, from repeated conversations that I have had with them, I find that they still believe that I come from heaven. And they were the first to say this wherever I went, and the others ran from house to house and to the neighboring villages, crying with a loud voice: "Come, come, and see the people from heaven!" And thus they all, men as well as women, after their minds were at rest about us, came, both large and small, and brought us something to eat and drink, which they gave us with extraordinary kindness. They have in all these islands very many canoes like our rowboats; some larger, some smaller, but most of them larger than a barge of eighteen seats. They are not so wide, because they are made of one single piece of timber; but a barge could not keep up with them in rowing, because they go with incredible speed, and with these canoes they navigate among these islands, which are innumerable, and carry on their traffic. I have seen in some of these canoes seventy and eighty men, each with his oar. In all these islands I did not notice much difference in the appearance of the inhabitants, nor in their manners, nor language, except that they all understood each other, which is very singular, and leads me to hope that their Highnesses will take means for their conversion to our holy faith, toward which they are very well disposed. I have already said how I had gone 107 leagues in following the seacoast of Juana in a straight line from west to east; and from that survey I can state that the island is larger than England and Scotland together, because beyond these 107 leagues there lie to the west two provinces which I have not yet visited, one of which is called Avan, where the people are born with a tail. These two provinces can not be less than from fifty to sixty leagues, from what can be learned from the Indians that I have with me, and who are acquainted with all these islands. The other, Espanola, has a greater circumference than all Spain, from Catalonia by the seacoast to Fuenterabia in Biscay, since on one of its four sides I made 188 great leagues in a straight line from west to east. This is something to covet, and, when found, not to be lost sight of. Although I have taken possession of all these islands in the name of their Highnesses, and they are all more abundant in wealth than I am able to express; and although I hold them all for their Highnesses, so that they can dispose of them quite as absolutely as they can of the kingdoms of Castille, yet there was one large town in Espanola of which especially I took possession, situated in a locality well adapted for the working of the gold mines, and for all kinds of commerce, either with the mainland on this side or with that beyond, which is the land of the Great Khan, with which there will be vast commerce and great profit. To that city I gave the name of Villa de Navidad, and fortified it with a fortress, which by this time will be quite completed, and I have left in it a sufficient number of men with arms,[21] artillery, and provisions for more than a year, a barge, and a sailing master skillful in the arts necessary for building others. I have also established the greatest friendship with the King of that country, so much so that he took pride in calling me his brother, and treating me as such. Even should these people change their intentions toward us and become hostile, they do not know what arms are, but, as I have said, go naked, and are the most timid people in the world; so that the men I have left could, alone, destroy the whole country, and this island has no danger for them, if they only know how to conduct themselves. In all those islands it seems to me that the men are content with one wife, except their chief or king, to whom they give twenty. The women seem to me to work more than the men. I have not been able to learn whether they have any property of their own. It seems to me that what one possessed belonged to all, especially in the matter of eatables. I have not found in those islands any monsters, as many imagined; but, on the contrary, the whole race is well formed, nor are they black as in Guinea, but their hair is flowing, for they do not dwell in that part where the force of the sun's rays is too powerful. It is true that the sun has very great power there, for the country is distant only twenty-six degrees from the equinoctial line. In the islands where there are high mountains, the cold this winter was very great, but they endure it, not only from being habituated to it, but by eating meat with a variety of excessively hot spices. As to savages, I did not even hear of any, except at an island which lies the second in one's way coming to the Indies.[22] It is inhabited by a race which is regarded throughout these islands as extremely ferocious, and eaters of human flesh. These possess many canoes, in which they visit all the Indian islands, and rob and plunder whatever they can. They are no worse formed than the rest, except that they are in the habit of wearing their hair long, like women, and use bows and arrows made of reeds, with a small stick at the end, for want of iron, which they do not possess. They are ferocious amongst these exceedingly timid people; but I think no more of them than of the rest. These are they which have intercourse with the women of Matenino,[23] the first island one comes to on the way from Spain to the Indies, and in which there are no men. These women employ themselves in no labor suitable to their sex, but use bows and arrows made of reeds like those above described, and arm and cover themselves with plates of copper, of which metal they have a great quantity.

They assure me that there is another island larger than Espanola in which the inhabitants have no hair. It is extremely rich in gold; and I bring with me Indians taken from these different islands, who will testify to all these things. Finally, and speaking only of what has taken place in this voyage, which has been so hasty, their Highnesses may see that I shall give them all the gold they require, if they will give me but a very little assistance; spices also, and cotton, as much as their Highnesses shall command to be shipped; and mastic—hitherto found only in Greece, in the Island of Chios, and which the Signoria[24] sells at its own price—as much as their Highnesses shall command to be shipped; lign aloes, as much as their Highnesses shall command to be shipped; slaves, as many of these idolaters as their Highnesses shall command to be shipped. I think I have also found rhubarb and cinnamon, and I shall find a thousand other valuable things by means of the men that I have left behind me, for I tarried at no point so long as the wind allowed me to proceed, except in the town of Navidad, where I took the necessary precautions for the security and settlement of the men I had left there. Much more I would have done if my vessels had been in as good a condition as by rights they ought to have been. This is much, and praised be the eternal God, our Lord, who gives to all those who walk in his ways victory over things which seem impossible; of which this is signally one, for, although others have spoken or written concerning these countries, it was all mere conjecture, as no one could say that he had seen them—it amounting only to this, that those who heard listened the more, and regarded the matter rather as a fable than anything else. But our Redeemer has granted this victory to our illustrious King and Queen and their kingdoms, which have acquired great fame by an event of such high importance, in which all Christendom ought to rejoice, and which it ought to celebrate with great festivals and the offering of solemn thanks to the Holy Trinity with many solemn prayers, both for the great exaltation which may accrue to them in turning so many nations to our holy faith, and also for the temporal benefits which will bring great refreshment and gain, not only to Spain, but to all Christians. This, thus briefly, in accordance with the events.

Done on board the caravel, off the Canary Islands, on the fifteenth of February, fourteen hundred and ninety-three.

_At your orders,


After this letter was written, as I was in the Sea of Castille, there arose a southwest wind, which compelled me to lighten my vessels, and run this day into this port of Lisbon, an event which I consider the most marvelous thing in the world, and whence I resolved to write to their Highnesses. In all the Indies I have always found the weather like that in the month of May. I reached them in thirty-three days, and returned in twenty-eight, with the exception that these storms detained me fourteen days knocking about in this sea. All seamen say that they have never seen such a severe winter nor so many vessels lost.

Done on the fourteenth day of March.

The prayer of Columbus on landing at Guanahani on the morning of Friday, October 12, 1492:

Lord! Eternal and Almighty God! who by Thy sacred word hast created the heavens, the earth, and the seas, may Thy name be blessed and glorified everywhere. May Thy Majesty be exalted, who hast deigned to permit that by Thy humble servant Thy sacred name should be made known and preached in this other part of the world.[25]


Columbus in bequeathing a large portion of his income to the Bank of St. George in Genoa, upon trust, to reduce the tax upon provisions, only did what Dario de Vivaldi had accomplished in 1471 and 1480, as we read on the pedestal of his statue, erected in the hall of the bank. This example was followed by Antonio Doria, Francesco Lomellini, Eliano Spinola, Ansaldo Grimaldo, and others, as the inscriptions on their statues testify. A fac-simile letter of Columbus, announcing the bequest, is shown on the opposite page.

The letter in English is as follows:

High noble Lords: Although the body walks about here, the heart is constantly over there. Our Lord has conferred on me the greatest favor ever granted to any one since David. The results of my undertaking already appear, and would shine greatly, were they not concealed by the blindness of the government. I am going again to the Indies under the auspices of the Holy Trinity, soon to return, and since I am mortal I leave it with my son Diego that you receive every year, forever, one-tenth of the entire revenue, such as it may be, for the purpose of reducing the tax upon corn, wine, and other provisions.[26] If that tenth amounts to something, collect it. If not, take at least the will for the deed. I beg of you to entertain regard for the son I have recommended to you. Mr. Nicolo de Oderigo knows more about my own affairs than I do myself, and I have sent him the transcripts of my privileges and letters for safe keeping. I should be glad if you could see them. My lords, the King and Queen, endeavor to honor me more than ever. May the Holy Trinity preserve your noble persons and increase the most magnificent House (of St. George). Done in Sevilla on the second day of April, 1502.

The Chief Admiral of the Ocean, Vice-Roy and Governor-General of the islands and continent of Asia, and the Indies of my lords, the King and Queen, their Captain-General of the sea, and of their Council.


"S. A. S."

"X. M. Y."

"Xpo. FERENS."_[27]


The reply of Columbus to Andreas Martin, captain of the caravel conveying him a prisoner to Spain, upon an offer to remove his fetters:

Since the King has commanded that I should obey his Governor, he shall find me as obedient in this as I have been to all his other orders; nothing but his command shall release me. If twelve years' hardship and fatigue; if continual dangers and frequent famine; if the ocean first opened, and five times passed and repassed, to add a new world, abounding with wealth, to the Spanish monarchy; and if an infirm and premature old age, brought on by these services, deserve these chains as a reward, it is very fit I should wear them to Spain, and keep them by me as memorials to the end of my life.

From a letter to the King and Queen:

This country (the Bahamas) excels all others as far as the day surpasses the night in splendor; the natives love their neighbors as themselves; their conversation is the sweetest imaginable, and their faces are always smiling. So gentle and so affectionate are they that I swear to your Highness there is no better people in the world.

From the same:

The fish rival the birds in tropical brilliancy of color, the scales of some of them glancing back the rays of light like precious stones, as they sported about the ships and flashed gleams of gold and silver through the clear water.

Speech of a West Indian chief to Columbus, on his arrival in Cuba:

Whether you are divinities or mortal men, we know not. You have come into these countries with a force, against which, were we inclined to resist, it would be folly. We are all therefore at your mercy; but if you are men, subject to mortality like ourselves, you can not be unapprised that after this life there is another, wherein a very different portion is allotted to good and bad men. If therefore you expect to die, and believe, with us, that every one is to be rewarded in a future state according to his conduct in the present, you will do no hurt to those who do none to you.


From the "Life of Columbus," by his son Hernando:

I say, that whilst the Admiral sailed with the aforesaid "Columbus the Younger," which was a long time, it fell out that, understanding the before-mentioned four great Venetian galleys were coming from Flanders, they went out to seek, and found them beyond Lisbon, about Cape St. Vincent, which is in Portugal, where, falling to blows, they fought furiously and grappled, beating one another from vessel to vessel with the utmost rage, making use not only of their weapons but artificial fireworks; so that after they had fought from morning until evening, and abundance were killed on both sides, the Admiral's ship took fire, as did a great Venetian galley, which, being fast grappled together with iron hooks and chains used to this purpose by seafaring men, could neither of them be relieved because of the confusion there was among them and the fright of the fire, which in a short time was so increased that there was no other remedy but for all that could to leap into the water, so to die sooner, rather than bear the torture of the fire.

But the Admiral being an excellent swimmer, and seeing himself two leagues or a little farther from land, laying hold of an oar, which good fortune offered him, and, sometimes resting upon it, sometimes swimming, it pleased God, who had preserved him for greater ends, to give him strength to get to shore, but so tired and spent with the water that he had much ado to recover himself. And because it was not far from Lisbon, where he knew there were many Genoeses, his countrymen, he went away thither as fast as he could, where, being known by them, he was so courteously received and entertained that he set up house and married a wife in that city. And forasmuch as he behaved himself honorably, and was a man of comely presence, and did nothing but what was just, it happened that a lady whose name was Dona Felipa Moniz, of a good family, and pensioner in the Monastery of All Saints, whither the Admiral used to go to mass, was so taken with him that she became his wife.


From a letter of Christopher Columbus to Ferdinand and Isabella:

Such is my fate that twenty years of service, through which I passed with so much toil and danger, have profited me nothing; and at this day I do not possess a roof in Spain that I can call my own. If I wish to eat or sleep, I have nowhere to go but to the inn or tavern, and I seldom have wherewith to pay the bill. I have not a hair upon me that is not gray; my body is infirm; and all that was left me, as well as to my brothers, has been taken away and sold, even to the frock that I wore, to my great dishonor. I implore your Highnesses to forgive my complaints. I am indeed in as ruined a condition as I have related. Hitherto I have wept over others; may Heaven now have mercy upon me, and may the earth weep for me.


From Columbus' own account of his discovery:

Such is my plan; if it be dangerous to execute, I am no mere theorist who would leave to another the prospect of perishing in carrying it out, but am ready to sacrifice my life as an example to the world in doing so. If I do not reach the shores of Asia by sea, it will be because the Atlantic has other boundaries in the west, and these boundaries I will discover.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse