The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol. 8 - The Later Renaissance: From Gutenberg To The Reformation
by Editor-in-Chief: Rossiter Johnson
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Then they decided on going out again, and they took in water and wood of the dry trees, which it seems the river brings down when it comes from the mountain. On that account the captain-major wished himself in person to discover the river up to its head, to see whence could come those trees which they found there dry, but the masters said this would be a labor without profit, and that they ought to go out of the river and make for the country which they wished to seek, and they would find it. This seemed good to the captain-major, and they came out of the river, with much labor, as the wind was contrary and entered the mouth of the river. The strong current of the river, which went out to sea, alone assisted them, and with it they went outside without sails, only towing with the boats which guided them.

When the ships returned to sea they ran along the coast with great precaution, and a good lookout not to run upon any shoals, and they entered other great rivers and bays; and they explored everywhere and searched without ever being able to meet with people, nor boats in the seas, for all the country was uninhabited; and in entering and leaving the rivers they endured much fatigue, and were much vexed at not being able to learn in what country they were. With these detentions and delays they wasted much time, and spent all the summer of that country, so they had to run along the coast because winds were favorable for going ahead, for they were westerly. And because they found everything desolate, without people by land or sea, they agreed unanimously not to enter any more rivers, but to run ahead, and thus they did; for by day they ran under full sail, drawing so near to the land as possible to see if they could make out any village or beach, which as yet they had not seen; and by night they stood away to sea and ran under shortened sail. Navigating in this manner, the wind began to moderate, and fell calm altogether, which happened in November, when they had to struggle with another wind, with which they stood out to sea, fearing some contrary storm might arise; then, taking in all sail, they lay waiting for the springing up of another wind, so they went increasing their distance from the land till they lost sight of it; for the wind increased continually, and the sea rose greatly, for then the winter of that country was setting in.

The masters, seeing that the weather was freshening, took counsel as to returning to land and putting into some river until meeting with a change of weather. This they did, and, putting about to the land, the wind increased so much that they were afraid of not finding a river in which to shelter, and of being lost. On which account they again stood out to sea, and made ready the ships to meet the storm which they saw rising every moment, so that the water should not come in, with ropes made fast to the masts, and with the shrouds passed over the yards so that the masts should remain more secure; and they took away all the pannels from the tops, and the sails, so as not to hold the wind; the small sails and the lower sails all struck, and with the foresails only they prepared to weather the storm.

Seeing the weather in this state, the pilot and master told the captain-major that they had great fear on account of the weather because it was becoming a tempest, and the ships were weak, and that they thought they ought to put in to land and run along the coast and return to seek the great river into which they had first entered, because the wind was blowing that way, and they could enter it for all that there was a storm. But when the captain-major heard of turning backward he answered them that they should not speak such words, because, as he was going out of the bar at Lisbon, he had promised to God in his heart not to turn back a single span's breadth of the way which he had made; that on that account they should not speak in that wise, as he would throw into the sea whomsoever spoke such things. At which the crew, in despair, abandoned themselves to the chances of the sea, which was broken up with the increase of the tempest and rising of the gale, which many times chopped round, and blew from all parts, and at times fell; so that the ships were in great peril from their great laboring in the waves, which ran very high. Then the storm would again break with such fury that the seas rose toward the sky, and fell back in heavy showers which flooded the ships. The storm raging thus violently, the danger was doubled; for suddenly the wind died out, so that the ships lay dead between the waves, lurching so heavily that they took in water on both sides; and the men made themselves fast not to fall from one side to the other; and everything in the ships was breaking up, so that all cried to God for mercy.

Before long the sea came in with more violence, which increased their misfortune, with the great difficulty of working the pumps; for they were taking in much water, which entered both above and below; so they had no repose for either soul or body, and the crews began to sicken and die of their great hardships. At this the pilot and masters and all the people poured out cries and lamentations to the captains, urgently requiring them to put back and seek an escape from death, which they were certain of meeting with by their own will if they did not put about. To which the captains gave no other reply than that they would do no such thing unless the captain-major did it. The captain-major, seeing the clamors of his crew, answered them with brave words, saying that he had already told them that backward he would not go, even though he saw a hundred deaths before his eyes; thus he had vowed to God; and let them look to it that it was not reasonable that they should lose all the labors which they had gone through up to this time; that the Lord, who had delivered them until now, would have mercy upon them; they should remember that they had already doubled the Cape of Storms and were in the region which they had come to seek, to discover India, on accomplishing which, and returning to Portugal, they would gain such great honor and recompenses from the King of Portugal for their children; and they should put their trust in God, who is merciful, and who, from one hour to another, would come with his mercy and give them fair weather, and that they should not talk like people who distrusted the mercy of God. But, although the captain-major always spoke to them these and other words of great encouragement, they did not cease from their loud clamor and protestations that he would give an account to God of their deaths of which he would be the cause, and of the leaving desolate their wives and children; all this accompanied by weeping and cries, and calls to God for mercy.

While they went on this way with their souls in their mouths, the sea began to go down a little, and the wind also, so that the ships could approach to speak one another, and all clamored with loud cries that they should put about to seek some place where they could refit the ships, as they could not keep them afloat with the pumps. The crews of the other ships spoke with more audacity, saying that the captain-major was but one man, and they were many; and they feared death, while the captains did not fear it, nor took any account of losing their lives. The captain-major chose that the two other ships should know his design, and he said and swore by the life of the King his sovereign that from the spot where he then was he had not to turn back one span's breadth, even though the ships were laden with gold, unless he got information of that which they had come to seek, and that even if he had near there a very good port he would not go ashore, lest some of them should retire to a certain death on shore, allowing themselves to remain there, rather than go on with the ships trusting to the mercy of God, in which they had such small reliance that they made such exclamations from the weakness of their hearts, as if they were not Portuguese; on which account he would undeceive them all, for to Portugal they would not return unless they brought word to the King of that which he had so strongly commended to them, and that he took the same account of death as did any one of them.

While they were at this point a sudden wind arose, with so great a concussion of thunder and darkness, and a stronger blast than they had yet experienced, and the sea rose so much that the ships could not see one another, except when they were upheaved by the seas, when they seemed to be among the clouds. They hung out lights so as not to part company, for the anxiety and fear which the captain-major felt was the losing one of the ships from his company, so that the seamen would put back to Portugal by force, as, indeed, they had very much such a desire in their hearts.

But the captains took very great care of this, because Vasco da Gama, before going out to Lisbon, when conversing alone with the Jew Zacuto in the monastery, had received from him much information as to what he should do during his voyage, and especially recommendations of great watchfulness never to let the ships part company, because if they separated it would be the certain destruction of all of them.

Vasco da Gama took great care of this, personally, and by means of his servants and relations in whom he trusted; and this they attended to with much greater solicitude after they heard the sailors say that they were many, and the captains only a few single men, and in fact they had in their minds such an intention of rising up against the captains, and by force putting back to Portugal, and they thought that, if it became necessary to arrest them for this and bring them before the King, he would have mercy upon them, and, should they not find mercy, they preferred rather to die there where their wives and children and fathers were, and in their native country, and not in the sea to be eat by the fishes. With such thoughts they all spoke to one another secretly, determining to carry it out, and trusting that the King would not hang them all for the good reasons which they would give him; or else to secure their lives they would go to Castile until they were pardoned. This was the greatest insolence they were guilty of; and so they decided upon executing their plan. In taking this decision they did not perceive the danger of death, into which they were going more than ever.

In the ship of Nicolas Coelho there was a sailor who had a brother who lived with Nicolas Coelho, and was foster-brother of a son of his; and the sailor brother told this boy of what they had all determined to do. This boy, being very discreet, said to his brother that they should all preserve great secrecy, so as not to be found out, for it was a case of treason, and he warned his brother not to tell anyone that he had mentioned such a thing to him. The boy, on account of the affection which he had for his master Nicolas Coelho, discovered the matter to him in secret, and he at once gave the boy a serious warning to be very discreet in this matter, that they should not perceive that he had told him anything of the kind. With the firm determination which Nicolas Coelho at once formed to die sooner than allow himself to be seized upon, he became very vigilant both by day and night, and warned the boy to try to learn with much dissimulation all that they wanted to do and by what means. The boy told him that they would not do it unless they could first concert with the other ships, so that they all should mutiny; at that Nicolas Coelho remained more at ease, but was always very much on his guard for himself.

As the storm did not abate, but rather seemed to increase, and as the cries and clamor of the people were very great, beseeching him to put back, Nicolas Coelho dissembled with them, saying: "Brothers, let us strive to save ourselves from this storm, for I promise you that as soon as I can get speech with the captain-major I will require him to put back, and you will see how I will require it of him." With this they remained satisfied. Some days having passed thus with heavy storms, the Lord was pleased to assuage the tempest a little and the sea grew calm, so that the ships could speak one another; and Nicolas Coelho, coming up to speak, shouted to the captain-major that "it would be well to put about, since every moment they had death before their eyes, and so many men who went in their company were so piteously begging with tears and cries to put back the ships. And if we do not choose to do so, it would be well if the men should kill or arrest us, and then they would put back or go where it was convenient to save their lives; which we also ought to do. If we do not do it, let each one look out for himself, for thus I do for my part, and for my conscience' sake, for I would not have to give an account of it to the Lord."

Paulo da Gama, who also had come up within speaking distance, heard all this. When they had heard these words of Nicolas Coelho, who, on ending his speech, at once begun to move away, the captain-major answered him that he would hold a consultation with the pilot and his crew, and that, whatever he determined to do, he would make a signal to him of his resolution. During this time they lay hove to in the smooth water, because the wind never changed from its former point. Vasco da Gama, as he was very quick-witted, at once understood what Nicolas Coelho's words meant, and called together all the crew, and said to them that he was not so valiant as not to have the fear of death like themselves, neither was he so cruel as not to feel grieved at heart at seeing their tears and lamentations, but that he did not wish to have to give account to God for their lives, and for that reason he begged them to labor for their safety, because if the bad weather came again he had determined to put back, but, to disculpate himself with the King, it was incumbent upon him to draw up a document of the reasons for putting back, with their signatures.

At this they all raised their hands to heaven, saying that its mercy was already descending upon them, since it was softening the heart of the captain-major and inclining him to put back, and they said they all would sign the great service which he would render to God and to the King by putting back. Then the captain-major said that there was no need of the signatures of all, but only of those who best understood the business of the sea. Then the pilot and master named them, and they were three seamen. Upon this the captain-major retired to his cabin, and told his servants to stand at the door of the cabin, and put inside the clerks to draw up the document, and ordered the three seamen to enter; and, dissembling, he made inquiries as to returning to port, and all was written down and they signed it. He then ordered them to go down below to another cabin which he had beneath his own for a store-cabin, and he ordered the clerk to go down also with them, and he summoned the master and pilot and ordered them below also, telling them to go and sign, as the clerk was there.

Then he called up the seamen, one by one, and ordered them to be put in irons by his servants in his cabin, and heavy irons for the master and pilot. All being well ironed and bound, the captain-major turned them out, and called all the men, ordering the master and pilot at once to give up to him all the articles which they had belonging to the art of navigation, or, if not, that he would at once execute them. Being greatly afraid they gave everything up to him. Then Vasco da Gama, holding the instruments all in his hand, flung them into the sea and said: "See here, men, that you have neither master nor pilot, nor anyone to show you the way from henceforward, because these men whom I have arrested will return to Portugal below the deck, if they do not die before that [for he was aware that they had agreed among one another to rise up and return by force to Portugal, and on that account had cast everything into the sea]; and I do not require master nor pilot, nor any man who knows the art of navigation, because God alone is the master and pilot who has to guide and deliver us by his mercy if we deserve it, and, if not, let his will be done. To him you must commend yourselves and beg mercy. Henceforward let no one speak to me of putting back, for know from me for a certainty that, if I do not find information of what I have come to seek, to Portugal I do not return."

Seeing and hearing these things, the crew became much more terrified, and with much greater fear of death, which they held as certain, not having either pilot or master, nor anyone who knew how to navigate a ship. Then the prisoners and all the crew on their knees begged him for mercy, with loud cries; the prisoners saying that they, being ignorant men and of faint heart, had come to an understanding to put the ship about and return to the King and offer themselves for death, if he chose to give it them, and they would have taken him a prisoner, that the King might see that he was not to blame for putting back; but this was not to have been done, except with the will of all the people of the other ships; but since God had discovered this to him before they had carried it out, let him show them clemency; for well they saw that they deserved death from him, which was more than the chains which they bore. All the crew frequently called out to him for clemency, and not to put the prisoners below the decks, where they would soon die. Then the captain-major, showing that he only did it at their entreaty, and not for any need which he had of them, ordered them to remain in their cabins in the forecastle, still in irons, and forbade their giving any directions for the navigation of the ship, except only for the trimming of the sails and the work of the ship.

Vasco da Gama then ran alongside of the other ships and spoke them, saying that he had put his pilot and master in irons, in which he would bring them back to the kingdom, if God pleased that they should return there; and, that they should not imagine that he had any need of their knowledge, he had flung into the sea all the implements of their art of navigation, because he placed his hopes in God alone, who would direct them and deliver them from the perils among which they were going, and on that account, since he had now made his men secure, let them secure themselves as they pleased; and without waiting for an answer he sheered off.

Nicolas Coelho felt great joy in his heart on hearing from the captain-major that he had got his pilot and master thus secured from rising against him, since he had put them in irons; and without much dissimulation he spoke to master and pilot and seamen, saying that he was much grieved at the captain-major's way of treating his ship's officers, whom he stood so much in need of in the labors they were undergoing, but what he had done was because of his being of so strong and thorough a temperament, as they all knew, and he had not chosen to wait for them to make entreaty for the liberty of the prisoners, but that whenever the ships again spoke one another he would do this. This all the crew begged him to do, with loud cries of mercy, since they would follow the flag-ship wherever it went. This Nicolas Coelho promised them, so they remained contented.

Paulo da Gama had other conversations with the officers of his ship, with much urbanity, for he was a man of gentle disposition; he also promised them that he would entreat his brother on behalf of the prisoners, and bade all pray God for the saving of their lives, and that all would end well; so that all remained consoled.

While these things were happening the wind did not shift its direction, but, the sea being smoother, the ships were more easy, though they let in so much water that they never left off pumping. The captain-major saw this and that the ships had an absolute need of repairs; and also because they had no more water to drink, because, with the tossing about in the storm, many barrels had broken and given way; under such great pressure, he stood in to land under sail, for the weather was moderate and was beginning to be favorable; all were praying to God for mercy, and that he would grant them a haven of safety. Which God was pleased to do in his mercy, for presently he showed them land, at which it seemed that all were resuscitated from the death which they looked upon as certain if the ships were not repaired. After that the wind came free, and they sailed along the land for several days without finding where to put in; this was now in January of the year 1498. Thus they ran close to the land, with a careful lookout, for they did not dare to leave the land, from the great peril in which the ships were from the great leakage.

Proceeding in this way, one day they found themselves at dawn in the mouth of a large river, into which the captain-major entered, for he always went first; and all entered, and found within a large bay sheltered from all winds, in which they anchored, and all exclaimed three times, "The mercy of the Lord God!" for which reason they gave this river the name of the River of Mercy. Here they soon caught much good fish, with which the sick improved, as it was fresh food, and the water of the river was very good.

Now, at this time, in all the ships there were not more than a hundred fifty men, for all the rest had died. Soon after arriving at this place the captain-major went to see his brother and Nicolas Coelho, and they conversed, relating their hardships; and Nicolas Coelho related the treason which his men were preparing, to take him prisoner and return to Portugal, and they did not do it from the fear they had that the captain-major would follow after them, and if he caught them would have hanged them all; and they only waited for all to agree to mutiny; and he had sought those feigned words which he had spoken, and it had pleased God that Vasco da Gama had understood them, so that by his imprisoning his officers at once all had remained secure. So all gave praise to the Lord for having delivered them from such great perils.

Then they settled about refitting the ships, for they had all that was necessary for doing it. Although they had a beach and tides for laying the ships aground, for greater security it was ordered that they should be heeled over while afloat, and thus it was arranged for by all of them. While they were on the quarter deck, Paulo da Gama entreated his brother to set the prisoners at liberty, which he did, setting free the sailors, and the master and pilot, with the condition that, if God should bring them back to Lisbon, when he went before the King he would present them to him in the same manner in chains, not to do them any harm, but only that his difficulties might be credited, and that for this he would give him greater favors; at which all the crews felt much satisfaction. Afterward they spoke with all the officers, and arranged for careening the ships, and went to look at them.

They found there was no repairing the ship of Nicolas Coelho, as it had many of the ribs and knees broken. For that reason they at once decided to break it up; and then they cut out its masts, and much timber and planks of the upper works, which, with the yards and spars of the other ships, they lashed together and fastened, and made a great frame, which they put under the side of the ship to raise it more out of the water; for this purpose they then discharged from the captain-major's ship into that of his brother, which was brought alongside, all that they could of the stores and goods; and everything heavy below decks they put on one side of the ship, which caused it to heel over very much, and with the timber under the side, and the tackle fitted to the main-mast, they canted the ship over on one side so much that they laid her keel bare; and on the outer side they put planks, upon which all the crew got to work at the ship, some cleaning the planks from the growth of sea-weed, others extracting the calking, which was quite rotten, from the seams; and the calkers put in fresh oakum and then pitched it over, for they had a stove in a boat where they boiled the pitch.

The captains were occupied with their own work day and night, and gave much food and drink to the crews, so that they used such despatch that in one day and one night, by morning they had finished one side of the ship, very well executed, though with great labor in drawing out the water from the ship, which leaked very much lying thus on one side. When she was upright they turned her over on the other side, and did the same work, much better performed because the ship did not leak so much; and when it was completed and the ship upright, it was so sound and water-tight that for two days there was no water in the pump.

Then they loaded it again with its stores, and transshipped to it the stores of the other ship, upon which they executed the before-mentioned calking and repairs, so that it became like new. They then fitted them inside with several knees and ribs and inner planking, and all that was requisite, with great perfection, and collected the yards, spars, and all that they had need of belonging to the ship Sao Miguel; and the captain-major took Nicolas Coelho on board of his ship, entertaining him well. They then took away from the ship much wood for their use and beached the ship, and took away its rudder and undid it, and stowed away its wood and iron-works, in case of its being wanted for the other ships, because they had all been built of the same pattern and size, as a precaution that all might be able to take advantage of any part of them. Then they burned the ship in order to recover the nails, which were in great quantity, and a great advantage for other necessities which they met with later.

After they had thus repaired the ships, the captain-major sent Nicolas Coelho with twenty men in a boat to go and discover the river; and he, after ascending it for two leagues, found woods and verdure, and farther on he found some canoes which were fishing, and the men in them were dark, but not very black; they were naked, having only their middles covered with leaves of trees and grass. These men, when they saw the boat, came to it and entered it in a brutish manner, and were in a state of amazement. No one knew how to speak to them, and they did not understand the signs which were made to them. So Nicolas Coelho made them go back to their canoes, and returned to the ships, but of the canoes one followed after the boat, and the others returned to take the news to their villages. These men who came with the boat, at once, without any fear, entered the ship and sat down to rest, as if they were old acquaintance; no one knew how to speak to them. Then they gave them biscuit and cakes and slices of bread with marmalade; this they did not understand until they saw our people eat, then they ate it, and, as they liked the taste, they ate in a great hurry, and would not share with one another. While this was going on they saw many canoes coming, and larger ones, with many of those people also naked, with tangled hair like Kaffirs, without any other arms than some sticks like half lances, hardened in the fire, with sharp points greased over.

The captain-major, seeing the other canoes coming, ordered the first come to go to their canoe, which they did unwillingly, and went out and remained to speak with those that were arriving, and went their way. The others arrived, and all wanted to come on board; as they were more than a hundred, the captain-major would not allow them, only ten or twelve, who brought some birds which were something like hens, and some yellow fruit of the size of walnuts, a very well-tasted thing to eat, which our men would not touch, and they, seeing that, ate them for our people to see, who, on tasting them, were much pleased with them; they killed one of the birds, and found it very tender and savory to eat, and all its bones were like those of a fowl. The captain-major ordered biscuit and wine to be given them, which they would not touch till they saw our people drink. He also ordered a looking-glass to be given them; and when they saw it they were much amazed, and looked at one another, and again looked at the mirror, and laughed loudly and made jokes, and spoke to the others who were in the canoe.

They went away with the looking-glass, highly delighted, and left six birds and much of the fruit, and all went away; and in the afternoon they came again, but bringing a quantity of those birds, at which our men rejoiced very much, and filled hencoops with them, because they gave them and were satisfied with anything that was given them, especially white stuffs; so that the seamen cut their shirts in pieces, with which they bought so many of these birds that they killed and dried them in the sun, and they kept very well. Here it was observed that in this river there were no flies, for they never saw any all the time they were there, which was twenty days; and they went away because the crew began to fall ill. It seems that it was from that fruit, which was very delicious to eat; and the principal ailment was that their gums swelled and rotted, so that their teeth fell out, and there was such a foul smell from the mouth that no one could endure it. The captain-major provided a remedy for this, for he ordered that each one should wash his mouth with his own water each time he passed it, by doing which in a few days they obtained health.

The captain-major made a hole with pickaxes in a stone slab at the entrance of this river, and set up a marble pillar, of which he had brought many for that purpose, which had two escutcheons, one of the arms of Portugal, and another, on the other side, of the sphere, and letters engraved in the stone which said, "Of the Lordship of Portugal, Kingdom of Christians." The captain-major, seeing how much the seamen and masters and pilots worked, especially his own, notwithstanding the imprisonment which he had inflicted upon them, when he was about to quit this River of Mercy, made them all come to his ship, where he addressed them all, beseeching them not to suffer weakness to enter their hearts, which would induce them to wish to commit another such error by harboring thoughts of treason, which is so hideous before God, and always brings a bad end to those who engage in it; he said that he well saw that faint-heartedness was the cause of what had passed, and that he forgave all. And that since the Lord had been pleased to deliver them from so many dangers as they had passed up to that time, by his great mercy, therefore they should put their trust in him, who would conduct them in such manner as to obtain the result which they were going in search of; by which they would gain such great honors and favors as the King would grant them on their return to Portugal; and he would present them to the King, and would relate their great labors and services, and that they ought to bear in remembrance these great advantages, which would be such a cause of rejoicing for all of them. They, with tears of joy, all answered, "Amen, amen, may the Lord so will it of his great mercy." And they weighed anchors and went out of the river with a land-breeze.

Sailing with a fair wind, they got sight of land, which the pilots foretold before they saw it; this was a great mountain which is on the coast of India, in the kingdom of Cananor, which the people of the country in their language call the mountain Delielly, and they call it of the rat, and they call it Mount Dely, because in this mountain there were so many rats that they never could make a village there. As it was the custom to give the fees of good news to the pilots when they see the land, they gave to each of the pilots a robe of red cloth and ten testoons; and they went on approaching the land until they saw the beach, and they ran along it and passed within sight of a large town of thatched houses inside a bay, which the pilots said was named Cananor, where many skiffs were going about fishing, and several came near to see the ships and were much surprised and went ashore to relate that these ships had so much rigging and so many sails and white men; which having been told to the King he sent some men of his own to see, but the ships had already gone far, and they did not go.

In this country of India they are much addicted to soothsayers and diviners, especially on this coast of India, which is named the country of Malabar, and they call these diviners canayates. According to what was known later, there had been in this country of Cananor a diviner so diabolical, in whom they believed so much, that they wrote down all that he said, and preserved it like prophecies which would come to pass. They held a legend from him in which it was said that the whole of India would be taken and ruled over by a very distant king, who had white people, who would do great harm to those who were not their friends; and this was to happen a long time later, and he left signs of when it would be. In consequence of the great disturbance caused by the sight of these ships, the King was very desirous of knowing what they were, and he spoke to his diviners, asking them to tell him what ships were those and whence they came. The diviners conversed with their devils, and told him that the ships belonged to a great king and came from very far; and according to what they found written, these were the people who were to seize India by war and peace, as they had already told him many times, because the period which had been written down was concluded. The King, much moved, asked them whether his kingdom would receive much injury. They replied that our people would do no harm except to those who did it to them.

Upon this the King became very thoughtful, and talked of this frequently with his people, who very much contradicted what the diviners said, and they told him not to believe them, for in this they never hit upon the truth, because at the time that our ships arrived more than four hundred years had elapsed since in one year more than eight hundred sail of large and small ships had come to India from the ports of Malacca and China and the Lequeos, with people of many nations, and all laden with merchandise of great value, which they brought for sale; and they had come to Calicut, and had run along the coast and had gone to Cambay; and they were so numerous that they had filled the country, and had settled as dwellers in all the towns of the sea-coast, where they were received and welcomed like merchants, which they were. When those people arrived thus on the coast of Malabar everybody considered that they were the people whom their prophecies mentioned as those who would take India, and they had inquired of the diviners, who, looking at their records, told them not to be afraid, since the time when India was to be taken had not yet arrived.

Thus it was; for those people had gone over all India, trading and selling their merchandise during many years, in which many of them married and established their abodes and became naturalized in the country, and mixed up with the inhabitants of the country. Many others returned to their own country, and as no more ever arrived, they went on diminishing in number, until they came to an end; but a numerous progeny remained from them, and because they were people of large property, and numerous in the towns where they resided, they had a quarter set apart, like as in Portugal and Castile in other times there used to be Jewries and Moorish quarters set apart; and they built houses for their idols, sumptuous edifices, which are to be seen at this day; and in the space of a hundred years there did not remain one. All this they had got thus recorded in their legends, and since at that time so many people did not take India, how was it to be taken now by people who came from such a distance, and who would not come in sufficient numbers to be able to conquer it? and they mocked at what the soothsayers said. But the King, who put great trust in them, and whose heart divined what was going to come to pass, spoke to a soothsayer in whom he placed great belief, and told him to look and see upon what grounds he made his assertions; because, if it was as he had been saying, he would labor to establish peace with the Portuguese in such a manner as to make his kingdom secure forever, and in this he would spend part of his treasure. The soothsayer answered: "Sire, I am telling you the truth, that these men will not bring so many people with them to seize upon countries and realms, but those who come, in whatever number they may be, will be able to prevail more with their ships than all as many as go upon the sea, on which account they must be masters of the sea, in which case of necessity the people of the land must obey them; and when they shall have become powerful at sea, what will happen to your kingdom if you have not secured peace with them? I tell you the truth, and you will see it with your eyes; and now follow what counsel you please."

The King answered, "My heart tells me that you are speaking the truth, and I will do that which is incumbent upon me." The diviner said to him, "If before five years you do not see that I have told you the truth, order my head to be cut off." Upon which the King remained quite convinced, and determined in his heart to establish with the Portuguese all the peace and friendship that was possible. And because soon after news arrived that our people were at the city of Calicut, which is twelve leagues from Cananor, the King sent men to Calicut who always came to tell him of what happened there to our men.

The ships continued running along the coast close to land, for the coast was clear, without banks against which to take precautions; and the pilots gave orders to cast anchor in a place which made a sort of bay, because there commenced the city of Calicut. This town is named Capocate, and on anchoring there a multitude of people flocked to the beach, all dark and naked, only covered with cloths half way down the thigh, with which they concealed their nakedness. All were much amazed at seeing what they had never before seen. When news was taken to the King he also came to look at the ships, for all the wonder was at seeing so many ropes and so many sails, and because the ships arrived when the sun was almost set; and at night they lowered out the boats, and Vasco da Gama went at once for his brother and Nicolas Coelho, and they remained together conversing upon the method of dealing with this King, since here was the principal end which they had come to seek; it seemed to him that it would be best to comport himself as an ambassador, and to make him his present, always saying that they had been separated from another fleet which they came to seek for there, and that the captain-major had come and brought him letters from the King.

This they agreed upon together, and that Vasco da Gama should go on shore with that message sent by the captain-major, who carried the standard at the peak; they also talked of the manner in which these things were to be spoken of. When all was well decided upon, Nicolas Coelho returned to the ship, and Vasco da Gama remained with his brother talking with the Moor Taibo (the broker), who told him not to go on shore without hostages; that such was the custom of men who newly arrived at the country; and the Moor said that this King of Calicut was the greatest king of all the coast of India, and on that account was very vain, and he was very rich from the great trade he had in this city.

[Footnote 1: Translated from the Portuguese by Henry E. J. Stanley.]

[Footnote 2: Herodotus tells us that Phoenicians rounded this cape as early as B.C. 605.]


A.D. 1498


On September 25, 1493, Columbus sailed from Palos and began his second voyage of discovery. He had seventeen vessels and about fifteen hundred men. In November he discovered Dominica in the West Indies. Arriving at La Navidad, Espanola (Haiti), he found that the colony which he had left there on returning from his first visit had been killed by the Indians. At a point farther east he founded Isabella, the first European town in the New World.

In April, 1594, he, sailed westward and along the south shore of Cuba, which he mistook for a peninsula of Asia. He next discovered Jamaica, and in September returned to Isabella. The Indians rose in rebellion against the Spaniards, who had ill-used them, and Columbus quelled the insurrection, in a battle on the Vega Real, April 25, 1495. He had before planned for the enslavement of hostile Indians, an act from which his reputation has somewhat suffered.

Owing to hardship and discontent, some of the colonists carried complaints to Spain. Bishop Fonseca, who had charge of colonial affairs, upheld the complainants, and in 1495 Juan Aguado was sent as royal commissioner to Espanola. Aguado prepared a report, fearing the effects of which, Columbus returned to Spain at the same time (1496) with him. A brother of Columbus was left in charge of the government at Espanola. The Spanish sovereigns, Ferdinand and Isabella, dismissed the charges against Columbus, and on May 30, 1498, he sailed from San Lucar on his third voyage to the New World.

The great navigator was no longer the powerful, enduring man of six years before. Exposure, months of sleepless watching, anxiety, and tropical fevers had at length done their work. The bright intellect, the vivid imagination, the great heart, the generous nature, would be the same until death, but the constitution was shattered. The admiral now suffered from ophthalmia, gout, and a complication of diseases. The last six years of his life were destined to be a time of much and cruel suffering, aggravated by ingratitude, perfidy, and injustice.

In fitting out the third expedition every petty annoyance and obstruction that the malice of Bishop Fonseca could invent was used to thwart and delay the admiral. Each subordinate official knew that insolence to the object of the Bishop's envy and dislike, and neglect of his wishes, were the surest ways to the favor of his chief. One creature of Fonseca, named Jimeno de Briviesca, carried his insolence beyond the bounds of the endurance even of the dignified and long-suffering admiral, who very properly took him by the scruff of the neck on one occasion and kicked him off the poop of the flag-ship. The delays of Fonseca and his agents caused incalculable injury to the public service, as will presently appear.

The sovereigns had ordered that six million maravedis—about ten thousand dollars—should be granted for the equipment of the expedition, and that eight vessels should be provided. The contractor for provisions was Jonato Berardi, a Florentine merchant settled at Seville; and, owing to his death, the contracting work fell upon his assistant Amerigo Vespucci, who was very actively employed on this service from April, 1497, to May, 1498. In 1492 Vespucci came to Spain as a partner of an Italian trader at Cadiz named Donato Nicolini, and he afterward became the chief clerk or agent of Berardi. It was thus that Columbus first became acquainted with Amerigo Vespucci, when the admiral had reached the ripe age of forty-five. As for his provisions, a good deal of the meat turned bad on the voyage, and the contract was not very satisfactorily carried out. It is strange that this beef and biscuit contractor should have given his name to the New World, but perhaps not more strange than that a bacon contractor should be the patron saint of England and of Genoa.

The admiral was most anxious to despatch supplies and re-enforcements to his brother, and he succeeded in sending off two caravels in advance, under the command of Hernandez Coronel, who had been appointed chief magistrate of Espafiola. The other vessels consisted of two naos, or ships of a hundred tons, and four caravels. After months of harassing and unnecessary delay, they dropped down the Guadalquiver from Seville and the admiral sailed. He touched at Porto Santo and Madeira, and reached Gomera on May 19th. Columbus had become aware, through information collected from the natives of the islands, that there was extensive land, probably a continent, to the southward. He had also received a letter from a skilled and learned jeweller named Jaime Ferrer, dated August 5, 1495, in which it was laid down that the most valuable things came from very hot countries, where the natives are black or tawny. These and other considerations led him to determine to cross the Atlantic on a lower parallel than he had ever done before; and he invoked the Holy Trinity for protection, intending to name the first land that was sighted in their honor. But he was impressed with the importance of sending help to the colony without delay.

He therefore detached one ship and two caravels from Gomera to make the voyage direct. The ship was commanded by Alonzo Sanchez de Carbajal of Baeza. One caravel was intrusted to Pedro de Arana, brother of Beatriz Enriquez and brother-in-law of the admiral. The other had for her captain a Genoese cousin, Juan Antonio Colombo. It will be remembered that Antonio, the brother of Domenico Colombo and uncle of the admiral, lived at the little coast village of Quinto, near Genoa, and had three sons—Juan Antonio, Mateo, and Amighetto. When these cousins heard of the greatness and renown of Christopher, they thought at least one of them might get some benefit from his prosperity. So the younger ones gave all the little money they could scrape together to enable the eldest to go to Spain. His illustrious kinsman welcomed him with affection, and as he was a sailor he received charge of a caravel, in which trust he proved himself, as Las Casas tells us, to be careful, efficient, and fit for command. The three vessels sailed from Gomera direct for Espanola on June 21st. Columbus continued his voyage of discovery with one vessel and two caravels. Pero Alonzo Nino, the pilot of the Nina in the first voyage, was with him. Herman Perez Matteos was another pilot, and there were a few other old shipmates in the squadron. The admiral touched at Buena Vista, one of the Cape de Verd Islands, remaining at anchor for a few days, and on July 5th he sailed away into the unknown ocean, for many days on a south-west course. His intention was to go south as far as the latitude of Sierra Leone, 8 deg. 30' N., and then to steer west until he reached land.

After ten days the vessels were in regions of calms, and the people began to suffer from the intense heat. The sun melted the tar of the rigging, and the seams of the decks began to open. For days and days the scorching heat continued, but at length there were some refreshing showers, and light breezes sprang up from the west. But their progress was very slow, and their stock of water nearly exhausted. So the admiral ordered the course to be altered to northwest, in hopes of reaching Dominica. It was July 31st, the people were parched with thirst, and yet no land had been seen. In the afternoon of that day the admiral's servant, Alonzo Perez of Huelva, went to the masthead, and reported land in the shape of three separate peaks. Columbus had declared his intention of naming the first land sighted after the Holy Trinity, and the coincidence of its appearing in the form of three peaks made a deep impression on his mind. The island of Trinidad retains its name to this day. The admiral gave heartfelt thanks to God, and all the crews chanted the Salve Regina and other hymns of prayer and praise. Meanwhile the little squadron glided through the water, approaching the newly discovered land, and Columbus named the most eastern point "Cabo de la Galera," by reason of a great rock off it, which at a distance looked like a galley under sail. All along the coast the trees were seen to come down to the sea, the most lovely sight that eyes could rest on; and at last, on August 1st, an anchorage was found, and they were able to fill up with water from delicious streams and fountains. The main continent of South America was seen to the south, appearing like a long island, and it received the name of "Isla Santa." The point near the watering-place was called "Punta de la Playa."

The western end of the island was named "Punta del Arenal," and here an extraordinary phenomenon presented itself. A violent current was rushing out through a channel or strait not more than two leagues wide, causing great perturbation of the sea, with such an uproar of rushing water that the crews were filled with alarm for the safety of the vessels. The admiral named the channel "La Boca de la Sierpe." He piloted his little squadron safely through it and reached the Gulf of Paria, named by him "Golfo de la Ballena." The land to the westward, forming the mainland of Paria, received the name of "Isla de Gracia." Standing across to the western side of the Gulf, the admiral was delighted with the beauty of the country and with the view of distant mountains. Near a point named "Aguja" the country was so fruitful and charming that he called it "Jardines," and here he saw many Indians, among them women wearing bracelets of pearls, and when they were asked whence the pearls were obtained they pointed to the westward. As many pearls as could be bartered from the natives were collected for transmission to the sovereigns, for here was a new source of wealth, another precious commodity from the New World.

Columbus was astonished at the vast mass of fresh water that was pouring into the Gulf of Paria. He correctly divined the cause, and made the deduction that a river with such a volume of water must come from a great distance. His prescient mind showed him the mighty river Orinoco, the wide savannas, and the lofty range of the Andes; but the trammels of the erroneous measurements of astronomers bound them to Asia, and prevented him from picturing them to himself in the New World he had really discovered. That the land must be continuous appeared to be proved, not only from the deductions of science, but also from the Word of God. For he believed it to be established from the revealed Word (II Esdras vi. 42) that the ocean only covered one-seventh of the globe, and that the other six-sevenths was dry land. Moreover, his splendid intellect was united with a powerful imagination. When he had grasped the facts with masterly intuition, his fancy often raised upon them some strange theory, derived partly from his extensive reading, partly from his own teeming brain. Thinking that a long and rapid course was insufficient to account for the volume of water and the violence of the currents, he conceived the idea that the earth, though round, was not a perfect sphere, and that it rose in one part of the equinoctial line so as to be somewhat of a pear shape. Thus he accounted for the exceptional volume of water by the motion of rivers flowing down from the end of the pear. One step farther in the realms of fancy, and he indulged in a dream that this centre and apex of the earth's surface, with its mighty rivers, could be no other than the terrestrial paradise. Writing as one thought coursed after another in his teeming fancy, we find these passing whims of a vivid imagination embodied in the journal intended for the information of the sovereigns.

But time was passing on, and it was important that he should convey the provisions with which his vessels were loaded to his infant colony. He had seen that another narrow channel led from the northern side of the gulf, and had named it "Boca del Dragon." On August 12th he had piloted his vessels to the Punta de Paria, and prepared to pass through the channel. At that critical moment it fell calm, while the two currents flowed violently toward the opening, where they met and formed a broken, confused sea. But the admiral made use of the currents, and by the exercise of consummate seamanship took his three vessels clear of the danger and out into the open sea. The islands of Tobago and Granada were sighted, receiving the names of "Asuncion" and "Concepcion." Then the rocks and islets to the westward came in view, named the "Testigos" and "Guardias," and the island "Margarita." The latter name shows that the admiral had obtained the correct information from the natives of Paria respecting the locality of the pearl-fishery.

The admiral now crowded all sail to reach Espanola, intending to make a landfall at the mouth of the river Azuma, where he knew that his brother, the Adelantado (Governor), had founded the new city, and named it Santo Domingo, in memory of their old father, Domenico Colombo. But the current carried him far to the westward, and on August 19th he sighted the coast fifty leagues to leeward of the new capital. On hearing of his arrival on the coast, Bartolome got on board a caravel and joined him; but it was not until the 31st that the two brothers entered San Domingo together, the admiral for the first time. Young Diego, the third and youngest brother, welcomed them on their arrival. The admiral had been absent for two years and a half, during which time the Adelantado had conducted the government of the colony with remarkable vigor and ability. Yet, owing to the mutinous conduct of the worst of the settlers, there was a very disastrous report to make.

When the Adelantado assumed the command on the departure of the admiral for Spain in March, 1496, his first step, in compliance with the instructions he had received, was to proceed to the valley on the south side of the island, in which the gold mine of Hayna was situated, and to build a fort, which he named "San Cristoval." He next, having received supplies and reenforcements, together with letters from the admiral, by the caravels under Nino, took steps for the foundation of the new capital. Still following his brother's instructions, he selected a site at the mouth of the river Azuma, where there were good anchorage in the bay and a fertile valley along the banks of the river. On a bank commanding the harbor a fortress was erected, and named "Santo Domingo," while the city was subsequently built on the east bank of the river. It became the capital of the colony. Before long Isabella, on the north coast, was entirely abandoned. Trees soon grew upon the streets and through the roofs of the houses. It presented a scene of wild desolation, and ghosts were believed to wander in crowds through the abandoned city. Ruins of the house of Columbus, of the church, and the fort can still be traced out by those who penetrate into the dense jungle which now covers that part of the coast.

The next proceeding of the indefatigable Adelantado was the settlement of the beautiful province of Xaragua, forming the southwestern portion of the island. It was ruled over by a chief named Behechio, with whom dwelt the famous Anacaona, his sister, widow of Caonabo, but, unlike that fierce Carib, a constant friend of the Spaniards. Behechio met the Adelantado in battle array on the banks of the river Neyva, the eastern boundary of his dominions. But as soon as they were informed that the errand of the Spanish Governor was a peaceful one, both Behechio and Anacaona, who was a princess of great ability and of a most amiable disposition, received him with cordial hospitality. When, after a time, he opened the subject of tribute to them, they showed opposition. But Bartolome proved himself to be a masterly diplomatist, and in the end Behechio not only consented to impose a tribute, the details of which were amicably arranged, but undertook to collect and deliver it periodically to the Spanish authorities. These Indians were quite ready to submit to beings who appeared to be superior in power and intelligence to themselves. If the sovereigns of Spain had trusted Columbus and his brothers fully and completely, had established trading-stations and imposed a moderate tribute, and had absolutely prohibited the overrunning of the country by penniless and worthless adventurers, they would have had a rich and prosperous colony. The discontent and rebellion of the natives were solely caused by the misconduct of the Spaniards.

An insurrection broke out in the Vega Real, headed by the chief Guarionex, who, after suffering innumerable wrongs from the Spaniards, was at last driven to desperation by an outrage on his wife. He assembled a number of dependent caciques, but the news was promptly communicated to the garrison of Fort Concepcion and forwarded to Santo Domingo. The Adelantado stamped out the rebellion with his accustomed vigor. He came by forced marches to Concepcion, and thence, without stopping, to the camp of the natives, who were completely taken by surprise. Guarionex and the other caciques were captured, and their followers dispersed. Always generous after victory, Bartolome Columbus released Guarionex at the prayer of his people, a measure which was alike magnanimous and politic. But it was impossible to rule over the natives satisfactorily unless the Spanish settlers could be forced to submit to the laws, and the Adelantado was not powerful enough to keep the bad characters in subjection. The loyal and decent men of the colony were in a small minority. The consequence was that the unfortunate Guarionex was again goaded into insurrection. On the approach of the Adelantado he fled into the mountains of Ciguey, on the northeast coast, and took refuge with a dependent cacique named Mayobanex, whose residence was near Cape Cabron, the western extreme of the Samana peninsula. A difficult and arduous mountain campaign followed, which Bartolome conducted with remarkable military skill. It ended in the capture and imprisonment of both the chiefs.

Behechio now announced that he had collected the required tribute, consisting of a very large quantity of cotton, and that it was ready for delivery. The Adelantado therefore proceeded to Xaragua, and not only found this great store of cotton, but received an offer from the generous chief to supply him with as much cassava-bread as he needed for the use of the colony. This was a most acceptable present, for the lazy, ill-conditioned settlers had neglected to cultivate their fields, and a famine was imminent. The Adelantado ordered a caravel to be sent round to Xaragua to be freighted with cotton and bread, and returned himself to Isabella after taking a cordial farewell of his native friends. He had shown extraordinary talent in his government of the native population, and his rule had been a complete success. Always moderate in victory, he had suppressed the insurrections without bloodshed, and had conciliated the people by his moderation. He had made long and difficult marches, had subdued opposition by his readiness of resource and energy, and had administered the native affairs with humanity and excellent judgment.

Unfortunately his power was insufficient to cope successfully with the insubordinate Spaniards. The ringleader of the mutineers was Francisco Roldan, a man whom Columbus had raised from the dust. He had been a servant; and the admiral, noting his ability, had intrusted him with some judicial functions. When he sailed for Spain he appointed Roldan chief justice of the colony. This ungrateful miscreant fostered discontent and mutiny by every art of persuasion and calumny at his command, and soon had a large band of worthless and idle ruffians ready to follow his lead. His first plan was to murder the Adelantado and seize the government, but he lacked the courage or the opportunity to put it into execution. His next step was to march into the Vega Real with seventy armed mutineers, and attempt to surprise Fort Concepcion. The garrison was commanded by a loyal soldier named Miguel Ballester, who closed the gates and defied the rebels, sending to the Adelantado for help. Bartolome at once hastened to his assistance, and on his arrival at Fort Concepcion he sent a messenger to Roldan, remonstrating with him, and urging him to return to his duty. But Roldan found his force increasing by the adhesion of all the discontented men in the colony, and his insolence increased with his power. All would probably have been lost but for the opportune arrival of Pedro Hernandez Coronel in February, 1498, who had been despatched from San Lucar by the admiral in the end of the previous year with reenforcements. He also brought out the confirmation of Bartolome's rank as Adelantado.

The Adelantado was thus enabled to leave Fort Concepcion and establish his head-quarters at Santo Domingo. He sent Coronel as an envoy to Roldan, to endeavor to persuade him to return to his duty; but the mutineer feared to submit, believing that he had gone too far for forgiveness. He marched into the province of Xaragua, where he allowed his dissolute followers to abandon themselves to every kind of excess. The three caravels which had been despatched from Gomera by the admiral unfortunately made a bad landfall, and appeared off Xaragua. Roldan concealed the fact that he was a leader of mutineers, and, receiving the captains in his official capacity, induced them to supply him with stores and provisions, while his followers busily endeavored to seduce the crews, and succeeded to some extent. When Roldan's true character was discovered, the caravels put to sea with the loyal part of their crews, while Alonzo Sanchez de Carbajal, a loyal and thoroughly honest man, who was zealous for the good of the colony, remained behind to endeavor to persuade Roldan to submit to the admiral's authority. He only succeeded in obtaining from him a promise to enter into negotiations with a view to the termination of the deplorable state of affairs he had created, and with this Carbajal proceeded to Santo Domingo.

Such was the state of affairs when Columbus arrived at the new seat of his government. His brother had ruled with ability and vigor during his absence, had administered native affairs very successfully, but his power had been insufficient to subdue the band of Spanish miscreants who were still in open mutiny. The admiral was filled with grief and disappointment at the turn affairs had taken. A thoroughly loyal man himself, with no thought or desire but for the good of the colony, he was thwarted by treacherous miscreants, who cared for nothing but the accumulation of riches for themselves, and a life of indulgence and licentious ease. After long consideration he resolved upon a policy of conciliation. The unsettled state of affairs was bringing ruin on the island, and the restoration of peace was an absolute necessity. The magnanimous Genoese was incapable of personal resentment. The men themselves were, indeed, beneath his contempt; but he felt bound to treat with them, and even to make great concessions, if necessary, for the good of the public service. The welfare of the colony was his sole object, and he did not hesitate to sacrifice every personal feeling to his sense of duty. It is with some impatience that one finds the grand schemes of discovery and colonization interrupted by such contemptible means, and the course of the narrative checked by the necessity for recording, however briefly, the paltry dissensions of vile miscreants such as Roldan and his crew.

The mutineers were most unwilling to make any agreement. They were leading the sort of lawless and licentious life that exactly suited them, and were disinclined to submit to any authority. The interests of their leaders, however, were not quite the same, and the acceptance of advantageous terms would suit them. Carbajal was employed by the admiral to conduct the negotiations, while the veteran Ballester returned to Spain in November, 1498, with the news of the rebellion, and a request from the admiral that a learned and impartial judge might be sent out to decide all disputes.

It was finally agreed that Roldan should return to his duty, still retaining the office of chief justice; that all past offences should be condoned, and that he and his followers should receive grants of land, with the services of the Indians. The admiral consented to these terms most unwillingly, and under the conviction that this was the only way to avoid the greater evil of civil dissension. He resolved, however, that any future outbreak must be firmly and vigorously suppressed by force. Although Roldan had now resumed his position as a legitimate official ready to maintain order, it could hardly be expected that his fatal example would not be followed by other unprincipled men of the same stamp when the opportunity offered.

Trouble arose owing to the conduct of a young Castilian named Hernando de Guevara. Roldan was established in Xaragua, when the youthful gallant arrived at the house of his cousin, Adrian de Mujica, one of the ringleaders in Roldan's mutiny, and fell in love with Higueymota, the daughter of Anacaona. Guevara, for some misconduct, had been ordered by the admiral to leave the island, but instead of obeying he had made his way to Xaragua, and caused trouble by this love passage, for he had a rival in Roldan himself, who ordered him to desist from the pursuit of the daughter of Anacaona, and to return to Santo Domingo. Guevara refused to obey, but he was promptly arrested and sent as a prisoner to the capital. When his cousin Mujica, who was then in the Vega Real, received the news, he raised a mutiny, offering rewards to the soldiers if they would follow him in an attempt to rescue Guevara. The admiral, though suffering from illness, showed remarkable energy on this occasion. Marching very rapidly at the head of eighteen chosen men, he surprised the mutineers, captured the ringleader, and carried him off to the fort of Concepcion. Some severity had now become incumbent upon the authorities, and Mujica was condemned to death. The admiral regretted the necessity, but in no other way could a motive be supplied to deter others from keeping the country in a constant state of lawless disorder. Guevara, Riqueline, and other disorderly characters were imprisoned in the fort at Santo Domingo, and by August, 1500, peace was quite established throughout the island.

Thus had Columbus restored tranquillity to the colony. By prudent and conciliatory negotiations, during which he had exercised the most wonderful self-abnegation and patience, he had succeeded in averting the serious danger caused by the formidable revolt of Roldan. But as the habit of disorder was threatening to become chronic, he wisely took another way with the sedition of Mujica, maintaining order by a resort to prompt and vigorous action, and making a salutary example which was calculated to be deterrent in its effects.

With the restoration of peace, trade revived and prosperity began to return. The receivers of grants of land found that they had a stake in the country, and sought to derive profit from their crops. Similar activity appeared at the mines, and the building at Santo Domingo progressed rapidly. The admiral began to hope that the first troubles incident to an infant colony were over, and that the time had arrived for Spain to feel the advantages of his great achievement. He now looked forward to further and more important discoveries followed by colonization on the main continent.

Yet at this very time a blow was about to come from a quarter whence it was least to be expected, which was destined to shatter all the hopes of this long-suffering man, and dissipate all his bright visions of the future[1].

[Footnote:1 On the arrival (August 24, 1500) of Francisco de Boabdilla as royal commissioner, he deposed Columbus and his brothers and sent them in chains to Spain. Although they were immediately released, Columbus was not reinstated in his dignities. His fourth and final voyage (1502-1504) came far short of his anticipations].


A.D. 1499


The powerful family of the Hapsburgs, still rulers of the Tyrol, or eastern portion of the Alps, long claimed authority over the western part as well. The severity of their rule led to an organized resistance on the part of the mountaineers, and the natural strength of the country secured to its defenders victory after victory. The battles of Morgarten (1315) and of Sempach (1386) were each accepted as final by their own generation; but the house of Hapsburg never formally relinquished its ancient rights, and its heads grew in power. From being dukes of Austria they advanced to be hereditary emperors of all Germany, and at length in 1499 the powerful Emperor Maximilian determined to enforce his double authority as duke and emperor. His projects were encouraged by the discord rife among the little states or cantons which composed the Swiss league.

The following account of the war that ensued is from the pen of a well-known Swiss historian, and is perhaps colored by rather more enthusiasm and racial pride than historic accuracy. Yet the struggle was final. Never after did German or Austrian dispute the independence of the Swiss. The unfortunate consequences brought by success upon the natives are not only true, but profoundly worthy of note.

Fortunately danger and trouble soon appeared from abroad. This united all the cantons anew, and was therefore salutary.

Maximilian I of Austria was Emperor of Germany. He had received from France the country of Lower Burgundy, and, to hold it more securely, incorporated it with the German empire as a single circle. He wished to make Switzerland, also, such a German imperial circle. The Confederates refused, preferring to remain by themselves as they had been until then. In Swabia, the existing states had formed a league among themselves for the suppression of small wars and feuds. This pleased the politic Emperor; by becoming an associate, he placed himself at the head of the league, which he was able to direct for the aggrandizement of his house of Austria. He desired that the Confederates, also, should enter the Swabian League. The Swiss again refused, preferring to remain by themselves as before.

The Emperor was irritated at this, and at Innspruck he said to the deputies of the Confederates: "You are refractory members of the empire; some day I shall have to pay you a visit, sword in hand." The deputies answered and said: "We humbly beseech your imperial majesty to dispense with such a visit, for our Swiss are rude men, and do not even respect crowns."

The boldness of the Confederates wounded the Swabian League no less. Many provocations and quarrels took place, here and there, between the people on the borders, so that the city of Constance, for her own security, joined the Swabian League. For, one day, a band of valiant men of Thurgau, incited by the bailiff from Uri, had tried to surprise the city, in order to punish her for her bravadoes against the Swiss.

Neither were the Austrians good neighbors to the Grisons. The Tyrol and Engadine were constantly discussing and disputing about markets, privileges, and tolls. Once, indeed, in 1476, the Tyrolese had marched armed into the valley of Engadine, but were driven back into their own country, through the narrow Pass of Finstermunz, with bloody heads. Now there was a fresh cause of quarrel. In the division of the Toggenburger inheritance, the rights of Toggenburg in the Ten Jurisdictions had fallen to the counts of Matsch, Sax, and Montfort, and afterward, 1478-1489, by purchase, to the ducal house of Austria. Hence much trouble arose.

As the Grisons had equal cause with the Confederates to fear the power and purposes of Emperor Maximilian, the Gray League, 1497, and that of God's House, 1498, made a friendly and defensive alliance with Zurich, Lucerne, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Zug, and Glarus. The Ten Jurisdictions dared not join them for fear of Austria.

Then the Emperor restrained his anger no longer. And, though already burdened with a heavy war in the Netherlands, he sent fresh troops into the Tyrol, and the forces of the Swabian League advanced and hemmed in Switzerland from the Grison Pass, near Luziensteig, between the Rhetian mountains and Germany, along the Lake of Constance and the Rhine, as far as Basel.

Then Switzerland and Rhetia were in great danger. But the Grisons rose courageously to defend their freedom, as did all the Confederates. The Sargansers, also, and the Appenzellers hastened to the Schollenberg; the banners of Valais, Basel, and Schaffhausen soon floated in view of the enemy. No man stayed at home.

It was in February, 1499, that the strife began. Then eight thousand imperialists entered the Grison territory of Munsterthal and Engadine; Louis of Brandis, the Emperor's general, with several thousand men, surprised and held the Pass of Luziensteig, and, by the treachery of four burghers, the little city of Maienfeld. But the Grisons retook the Luziensteig, and eight hundred Swabians here found their death; the rest fled to Balzers. Then the Confederates passed the Rhine near Azmoos, and, with the Grisons, obtained a great victory near Treisen. The Swabian nobility, with ten thousand soldiers, were posted near St. John's, at Hochst and Hard, between Bregenz and Fussach. Eight thousand Confederates killed nearly half of the enemy's army, ascended as far as the forests of Bregenz, and imposed contributions on the country. Ten thousand other Confederates passed victoriously over the Hegau, and in eight days burned twenty villages, hamlets, and castles. Skirmish followed quickly upon skirmish, battle upon battle.

The enemy, indeed, issuing from Constance, succeeded in surprising the Confederate garrison of Ermatingen while asleep, and in murdering in their beds sixty-three defenceless men. But they bloodily expiated this in the wood of Schwaderlochs, whence eighteen thousand of them, vanquished by two thousand Confederates, fled in such haste that the city gates of Constance were too narrow for the fugitives, and the number of their dead exceeded that of the Swiss opposed to them. A body of Confederates on the upper Rhine penetrated into Wallgau, where the enemy were intrenched near Frastenz, and, fourteen thousand strong, feared not the valor of the Swiss. But when Henry Wolleb, the hero of Uri, had passed the Langengasterberg with two thousand brave men, and burned the strong intrenchment, his heroic death was the signal of victory to the Confederates. They rushed under the thunder of artillery into the ranks of Austria and dealt their fearful blows. Three thousand dead bodies covered the battle-field of Frastenz. Such Austrians as were left alive fled in terror through woods and waters. Then each Swiss fought as though victory depended on his single arm; for Switzerland and Swiss glory, each flew joyously to meet danger and death, and counted not the number of the enemy. And wherever a Swiss banner floated, there was more than one like John Wala of Glarus, who, near Gams in Rheinthal, measured himself singly with thirty horsemen.

The Grisons, also, fought with no less glory. Witness the Malserhaide in Tyrol, where fifteen thousand men, under Austrian banners, behind strong intrenchments, were attacked by only eight thousand Grisons. The ramparts were turned, the intrenchments stormed. Benedict Fontana was first on the enemy's wall. He had cleared the way. With his left hand holding the wide wound from which his entrails protruded, he fought with his right and cried: "Forward, now, fellow-leaguers! let not my fall stop you! It is but one man the less! To-day you must save your free fatherland and your free leagues. If you are conquered, you leave your children in everlasting slavery." So said Fontana and died. The Malserhaide was full of Austrian dead. Nearly five thousand fell. The Grisons had only two hundred killed and seven hundred wounded.

When Emperor Maximilian, in the Netherlands, heard of so many battles lost, he came and reproached his generals, and said to the princes of the German empire: "Send to me auxiliaries against the Swiss, so bold as to have attacked the empire. For these rude peasants, in whom there is neither virtue nor noble blood nor magnanimity, but who are full of coarseness, pride, perfidy, and hatred of the German nation, have drawn into their party many hitherto faithful subjects of the empire."

But the princes of the empire delayed to send auxiliaries, and the Emperor then learned, with increasing horror, that his army sent over the Engadine mountains to suppress the Grison League had been destroyed in midsummer by avalanches, famine, and the masses of rock which the Grisons threw down from the mountains; then that on the woody height of Bruderholz, not far from Basel, one thousand Swiss had vanquished more than four thousand of their enemies; that, shortly after, in the same region near Dornach, six thousand Confederates had obtained a brilliant victory over fifteen thousand Austrians, killing three thousand men, with their general, Henry of Furstenberg. Then the Emperor reflected that within eight months the Swiss had been eight times victorious in eight battles. And he decided to end a war in which more than twenty thousand men had already fallen, and nearly two thousand villages, hamlets, castles, and cities been destroyed.

Peace was negotiated and concluded on September 22, 1499, in the city of Basel. The Emperor acknowledged the ancient rights and the conquests of the Confederates, and granted to them, moreover, the ordinary jurisdiction over Thurgau, which, with the criminal jurisdiction and other sovereign rights, had, until then, belonged to the city of Constance. Thenceforward the emperors thought no more of dissolving the Confederacy, or of incorporating it with the German empire. In the fields of Frastenz, of Malserhaide, and Dornach were laid the first foundation-stones of Swiss independence of foreign power.

The confederated cantons thankfully acknowledged what Basel and Schaffhausen had constantly done in these heroic days for the whole Confederacy, and that warlike Appenzell had never been backward at the call of glory and liberty. Therefore Basel, June 9, 1501, and flourishing Schaffhausen, August 9, 1501, were received into the perpetual Swiss bond, and finally, 1513, Appenzell, already united in perpetual alliance with most of the cantons, was acknowledged as coequal with all the Confederates.

Thus, in the two hundred fifth year after the deed of William Tell, the Confederacy of the Thirteen Cantons was completed. But Valais and Grisons were considered as cantons allied to the Confederacy, as were St. Gallen, Muhlhausen, Rothweil in Swabia, and other cities—all free places, subject to no prince—united with the Swiss by a defensive alliance.

At that period, the thirteen cantons of the Swiss Confederacy were not yet, as now, equal in virtue of the bond, nor bound together directly by one and the same covenant. They were properly united only with the three cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden, as with a common centre, but among themselves by special treaties. Each canton was attentive to its own interests and glory, seldom to those of the others or to the welfare of the whole Confederacy. Fear of the ambition and power of neighboring lords and princes had drawn them together more and more. So long as this fear lasted, their union was strong.

As the governments were independent of each other so far as their covenants allowed, and of foreign princes also, they called themselves free Swiss. But within the country districts there was little freedom for the people. Only in the shepherd cantons—Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden, also Zug, Glarus, and Appenzell—did the country people possess equal rights, and, in the city cantons, only the burghers of the cities; and often, even among these latter, only a few rich or ancient families. The rest of the people, dependent on the cities, having been either purchased or conquered, were subjects, often indeed serfs, and enjoyed only the limited rights which they had formerly possessed under the counts and princes. Even the shepherd cantons held subjects, whom they, like princes, governed by their bailiffs. And the Confederate cantons and cities would by no means allow their subjects to purchase their freedom, as the old counts and lords had formerly permitted the Confederates themselves to do.

But the people cared little for liberty; made rude and savage by continued wars, they loved only quarrels and combats, revels and debauchery, when there was no war in their own country. The young men, greedy of booty, followed foreign drums and fought the battles of princes for hire. There were no good schools in the villages, and the clergy cared little for this. Indeed, the morals of the clergy were often no less depraved than those of the citizens and country people; even in the convents great disorders frequently prevailed with great wealth. Many of the priests were very ignorant; many drank, gambled, and blasphemed; many led shameless lives.

In the chief cities of the cantons, debauchery and dissipation were rife. There was much division between citizens and councillors; envy and distrust between the different professions. The lords, when once seated in the great and small councils—legislative and executive—cared more for themselves and their families than for the welfare of the citizens; they endeavored to advance their sons and relatives, and to procure lucrative offices for them. In all the cantons there were certainly some great, patriotic souls who preferred the interests of their country to their own, but no one listened to them.

As Switzerland had now no foreign wars to fear, and the neighboring kings and princes were pleased to have in their armies Swiss, for whose life and death they cared much less than for the life and death of their own subjects, the principal families of the city and country cantons took advantage of these circumstances to open fountains of wealth for themselves. The desire of the kings to enlist valiant Swiss favored the avidity of the council lords, as did the wish of the young men to get booty. In spite of the positive prohibition of the magistrates, thousands of young men often enlisted in foreign service, where most of them perished miserably, because no one cared for them. Therefore the governments judged it best to make treaties with the kings for the raising of Swiss regiments, commanded by national officers, subject to their own laws and regularly paid, so that each government could take care of its subjects when abroad. "Confederates! you require a vent for your energies," had Rudolf Reding of Schwyz already said, when, years before, he saw the free life of the young men after the Burgundian war.

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