The Northmen, Columbus and Cabot, 985-1503
Author: Various
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Let us return to the voyage of the Admiral, whom we left started from the neighborhood of the island of Margarita, and he went that day, Wednesday, 63 leagues from sun to sun, as they say. The next day, Thursday, August 16, he navigated to the north-west, quarter of the north,[363-1] 26 leagues, with the sea calm, "thanks be to God," as he always said. He tells here a wonderful thing, that when he left the Canaries for this Espanola, having gone 300 leagues to the west, then the needles declined to the north-west[363-2] one quarter, and the North Star did not rise but 5 degrees, and now in this voyage it has not declined to the north-west[363-2] until last night, when it declined more than a quarter and a half, and some needles declined a half wind which are two quarters;[363-3] and this happened suddenly last night. And he says each night he was marvelling at such a change in the heavens, and of the temperature there, so near the equinoctial line, which he experienced in all this voyage, after having found land; especially the sun being in Leo, where, as has been told, in the mornings a loose gown was worn, and where the people of that place—Gracia—were actually whiter than the people who have been seen in the Indies. He also found in the place where he now came, that the North Star was in 14 degrees when the Guardians[363-4] had passed from the head after two hours and a half. Here he again exhorted the Sovereigns to esteem this affair highly, since he had shown them that there was in this land gold, and he had seen in it minerals without number, which will have to be extracted with intelligence, industry and labor, since even the iron, as much as there is, cannot be taken out without these sacrifices; and he has taken them a nugget of 20 ounces and many others, and where this is, it must be believed there is plenty, and he took their Highnesses a lump of copper originally of six arrobas,[364-1] lapis-lazuli, gum-lac, amber, cotton, pepper, cinnamon, a great quantity of Brazil-wood, aromatic gum,[364-2] white and yellow sandalwood, flax, aloes, ginger, incense, myrobolans of all kinds, very fine pearls and pearls of a reddish color, which Marco Polo says are worth more than the white ones,[364-3] and that may well be so in some parts just as it is the case with the shells that are gathered in Canaria and are sold for so great a price in the Mine of Portugal. "There are infinite kinds of spices which have been seen of which I do not care to speak for fear of prolixity." All these are his words.

As to what he says of cinnamon, and aloes and ginger, incense, myrobolans, sandal woods, I never saw them in this island, at least I did not recognize them; what he says of flax must mean cabuya[364-4] which are leaves like the cavila from which thread is made and cloth or linen can be made from it, but it is more like hemp cloth than linen. There are two sorts of it, cabuya and nequen; cabuya is coarse and rough and nequen is soft and delicate. Both are words of this island Espanola. Storax gum I never smelled except in the island of Cuba, but I did not see it, and this is certain that in Cuba there must be trees of it, or of a gum that smells like it, because we never smelled it except in the fires that the Indians make of wood that they burn in their houses. It is a most perfect perfume, certainly. I never knew of incense being found in these islands.

Returning to the journey, Friday, August 17, he went 37 leagues, the sea being smooth, "to God our Lord," he says, "may infinite thanks be given." He says that not finding islands now, assures him that that land from whence he came is a vast mainland, or where the Earthly Paradise is, "because all say that it is at the end of the east, and this is the Earthly Paradise,"[365-1] says he.

Saturday, between day and night, he went 39 leagues.

Sunday, August 19, he went in the day and the night 33 leagues, and reached land; and this was a very small island which he called Madama Beata, and which is now commonly so called. This is a small island of a matter of a league and a half close by this island of Espanola, and distant from this port of Sancto Domingo about 50 leagues and distant 15 leagues from the port of Yaquino, which is more to the west. There is next to it another smaller one which has a small but somewhat high mountain, which from a distance looks like a sail, and he named it Alto Velo.[365-2] He believed that the Beata was a small island which he called Sancta Catherina when he came by this southern coast, from the discovery of the island of Cuba, and distant from this port of Sancto Domingo 25 leagues, and is next to this island. It weighed upon him to have fallen off in his course so much, and he says it should not be counted strange, since during the nights he was from caution beating about to windward, for fear of running against some islands or shoals; there was therefore reason for this error, and thus in not following a straight course, the currents, which are very strong here, and which flow down towards the mainland and the west, must have carried the ships, without realizing it, so low. They run so violently there toward La Beata that it has happened that a ship has been eight months in those waters without being able to reach this port and that much of delay in coming from there here, has happened many times.

Therefore he anchored now between the Beata and this island, between which there are two leagues of sea, Monday, August 20. He then sent the boats to land to call Indians, as there were villages there, in order to write of his arrival to the Adelantado; having come at midday, he despatched them. Twice there came to the ship six Indians, and one of them carried a crossbow with its cord, and nut and rack,[366-1] which caused him no small surprise, and he said, "May it please God that no one is dead." And because from Sancto Domingo the three ships must have been seen to pass downward, and concluding that it certainly was the Admiral as he was expecting him each day, the Adelantado started then in a caravel and overtook the Admiral here. They both were very much pleased to see each other. The Admiral having asked him about the condition of the country, the Adelantado recounted to him how Francisco Roldan had arisen with 80 men, with all the rest of the occurrences which had passed in this island, since he left it. What he felt on hearing such news, there is small need to recite.

He left there, Wednesday, August 22, and finally with some difficulty because of the many currents and the north-east breezes which are continuous and contrary there he arrived at this port of Sancto Domingo, Friday, the last day of August of the said year 1498, having set out from Isabela for Castile, Thursday the tenth day of March, 1496, so that he delayed in returning to this island two years and a half less nine days.


[319-1] I.e., the first Admiral of the Ocean and the Indies where Las Casas was when he was writing.

[319-2] This clause is probably an explanatory remark by Las Casas. It is misleading. The war in Naples growing out of the invasion of Italy by Charles VIII. of France, in which Ferdinand had taken an active part against the French, had been brought to a close so far as concerned France and Spain by a truce in March, 1497. The treaty of peace was signed August 5, 1498.

[320-1] Funchal.

[320-2] This positive assertion that Columbus had lived in Funchal, Madeira, has been overlooked by Vignaud and Harrisse. Vignaud, Etudes Critiques sur la Vie de Colomb avant ses Decouvertes (Paris, 1905), p. 443, note 9, rejects as unauthenticated the tradition that Columbus lived in Madeira, without adequate grounds it seems to me. Diego Columbus told Las Casas in 1519 that he was born in the neighboring island of Puerto Santo and that his father had lived there. Las Casas, Historia de las Indias, I. 54. This passage is not noted by Vignaud.

[320-3] One of the Canary Islands.

[321-1] The Adelantado was Bartholomew Columbus. The title Adelantado was given in Spain to the military and political governors of border provinces. In this use it was transplanted to America in the earlier days. Cf. Moses, The Establishment of Spanish Rule in America, pp. 68-69.

[321-2] Beatrix Enriquez.

[321-3] This Juan Antonio Columbo seems to have been a first cousin of the admiral. Cf. Markham, Christopher Columbus, pp. 2 and 187. It is to be noted that he retained in Spain his family name and did not follow the discoverer in changing his name to Colon. On this change of name, see above, p. 77, note 2.

[321-4] I.e., west by south.

[321-5] Porto Rico.

[321-6] Founded in the summer of 1496 by Bartholomew Columbus in accordance with the directions of the Admiral to establish a new settlement on the south side of the island. Las Casas, II. 136.

[322-1] "This Espanola," so frequently repeated, is one of the indications that Las Casas was writing in Espanola.

[322-2] Canibales, here used still as a tribal name equivalent to Caribbees.

[322-3] The correct form of this name is Gargades. Columbus's knowledge of them was derived indirectly from Pliny's Natural History, book VI., XXXVII., through Cardinal d'Ailly's Imago Mundi. Cf. Columbus's marginal note to ch. XXXXI. of that work: "De situ Gorgodum insule nunc de Capite Viride vel Antonii dicitur." Raccolta Colombiana, parte I., vol. II., p. 395. According to Pliny's location of them they were probably the Canaries. Pliny's knowledge of the location of the Hesperides is naturally vague, but his text would support their identification with the Cape Verde Islands.

[323-1] In this Columbus was mistaken, although he had no means of knowing it in 1498. Vasco da Gama had sailed in that sea the preceding summer. Cf. Bourne, Spain in America, p. 72.

[323-2] Ferro.

[323-3] August 16, 1494, the sovereigns included in the letter despatched to Columbus by Torres the essential articles of the Treaty of Tordesillas, signed June 7, 1494, and asked him if he could not co-operate in locating the Demarcation Line. Navarrete, Coleccion de Viages, II. 155; Harrisse, Diplomatic History of America, pp. 80-81.

[323-4] Columbus's illness began in September, 1494, and it was five months before he was fully recovered. Ferdinand Columbus, Historie, ed. 1867, p. 177. The death of Prince John took place October 4, 1497. No actual scientific conference to locate the line took place till that at Badajoz in 1524. See Bourne, Essays in Historical Criticism, pp. 205-211.

[324-1] Mayordomo.

[324-2] Escribano de la hacienda. In 1497 Rodrigo Affonso, a member of the king's council, was granted the northern of the two captaincies into which Sao Thiago was divided and also the wild cattle on the island of Boavista (Buenavista in Spanish). D'Avezac, Ils de l'Afrique (Paris, 1848), p. 218. The word mayordomo, translated "steward," here stands for the high Portuguese title of honor Mordomo mor da Casa Real, a title in its origin similar to the majores domus or mayors of the palace of the early French kings. Escribano de la hacienda del Rey means rather the king's treasurer.

[324-3] This account of Boavista and its lepers is not noticed in the histories of the Cape Verde Islands so far as I know.

[324-4] From Pliny's time through the Middle Ages the name Ethiopia embraced all tropical Africa. He calls the Atlantic in the tropics the "Ethiopian Sea." Pliny's Natural History, book VI., chs. XXXV. and XXXVI.

[325-1] A remark by Las Casas, of which many are interspersed with the material from Columbus's Journal of this voyage.

[326-1] The Tordesillas line was 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands alone.

[326-2] This reason for the desire of King John of Portugal to have the Demarcation Line moved further west has escaped all the writers on the subject. If Columbus reported the king's ideas correctly, we may have here a clew to one of the reasons why Cabral went so far to the southwest in 1500 that he discovered Brazil when on his voyage to India, and perhaps also one of the reasons why Vasco da Gama struck off so boldly into the South Atlantic. Cf. Bourne, Spain in America, pp. 72, 74.

[327-1] Sierra Leone.

[328-1] As one faces north.

[329-1] On Hanno's voyage see Encyclopaedia Britannica under his name. There was no Greek historian Amianus; the name should be Arrianus, who wrote the history of Alexander the Great's expedition to India and a history of India. The reference is to the latter work, ch. XLIII., sects. 11, 12.

Ludovico Celio: Ludovico Ricchieri, born about 1450. He was for a time a professor in the Academy at Milan. He took the Latin name Rhodiginus from his birthplace Rovigo, and sometimes his name appears in full as Ludovicus Coelius Richerius Rhodiginus. His Antiquarum Lectionum Libri XVI. was published at Venice in 1516, at Paris in 1517, and in an extended form at Basel, 1542. It is a collection of passages from the classical authors relating to all branches of knowledge, with a critical commentary.

[329-2] The Guards, "the two brightest stars in Ursa Minor." (Tolhausen.)

[329-3] Grajos. The meaning given in the dictionaries for grajo is "daw."

[329-4] This word, as a name of a fish, is Portuguese. It means "blunted."

[329-5] See Pliny, Natural History, book IV., ch. XXXVI. The Cassiterides are commonly identified with the Scilly Islands.

[329-6] The fifth clime or climate is a term in Ptolemy's geographical system. The fifth climate was a strip 255 Roman miles in width lying between 41 deg. and 45 deg. north latitude. Cf. Raccolta Columbiana,[TN-7] Parte I., Tomo 2, p. 293. The latitude of the Azores is about 37 deg.-40 deg..

[330-1] The names are alcatraz and rabihorcado. See above, note to Journal of First Voyage, p. 98, note 1, and p. 103, note 1.

[330-2] Huelva, near Palos.

[331-1] Trinidad.

[331-2] Salve Regina, one of the great hymns to the Virgin in the Catholic service. "The antiphon said after Lauds and Compline from Trinity Sunday to Advent." Addis and Arnold, Catholic Dictionary.

[331-3] I.e., that his will was not to serve the sovereigns but to advance himself.

[332-1] Cape of the Galley. To-day, Cape Galeota.

[332-2] The last of the canonical hours of prayer, after sunset or early evening.

[334-1] Sandy Point.

[334-2] Of the whale.

[334-3] One of the native names of the Orinoco, here referring to one of the northern branch mouths. A detailed map of the region is given Winsor's Columbus, p. 353.

[336-1] "A sort of veil, or head attire used by the Moorish women, made of thin silk, striped of several colors, and shagged at the ends, which hangs down on the back." John Stevens, A New Dictionary, Spanish and English, etc. (London. 1726.)

[337-1] The exploration of the west coast of Africa, the only equatorial regions then known to Europeans, had led to the conclusion that black was the natural color of the inhabitants of the tropics.

[337-2] The Navidad referred to by Las Casas was near the Gulf of Paria. (Thacher.)

[337-3] Poner a monte carracas. Poner a monte is not given in the Spanish dictionaries, and is apparently a sea phrase identical with the Portuguese "por um navio a monte," to beach or ground a vessel. The translator went entirely astray in this passage. See Thacher's Columbus, II. 388. The figure here given and the use of word pasos, normally, a land measure of length, instead of braza, "fathom," would seem to indicate that the 65 paces refers to the extent of shore laid bare, and not to the height of the tide. The corresponding passage in the Historie reads: "so that it seemed a rapid river both day and night and at all hours, notwithstanding the fact that the water rose and fell along the shore (per la spiaggia) more than sixty paces between the waves (alle marette) as it is wont to do in San Lucar di Barrameda where the waters [of the river] are high since although the water rises and falls it never ceases to run toward the sea," Historie (London ed.), p. 229. In this passage maree, "tides," should be read instead of marette.

[338-1] Accepting the emendation of de Lollis which substitutes fructas for fuentes, "springs."

[339-1] I.e., north by east.

[339-2] Loma.

[340-1] Las Casas here quotes Columbus's letter to Ferdinand and Isabella on this voyage. See Major, Select Letters of Columbus, p. 123.

[340-2] Serpent's mouth. The name is still retained.

[340-3] Lapa means barnacle; caracol, periwinkle; and delfin, dolphin.

[340-4] Dragon's mouth. The name is still retained.

[340-5] I.e., along the south shore of the peninsula of Paria in the Gulf of Paria.

[341-1] The grammatical form of this sentence follows the original, which is irregular.

[341-2] See p. 311, note 2.

[341-3] Galos paules (Cat-Pauls). A species of African monkey was so called in Spain. The name occurs in Marco Polo. On its history and meaning, see Yule's Marco Polo, II. 372.

[342-1] Im Thurn, Among the Indians of Guiana, p. 193, says, "Indians after babyhood are never seen perfectly naked."

[343-1] Flechas con hierba muy a punto, literally, arrows with grass very sharp. Gaffarel, Histoire de la Decouverte de l'Amerique, II. 196, interprets this to mean arrows feathered with grass; but hierba used in connection with arrows usually means poison. Cf. Oviedo, lib. IX., title of cap. XII., "Del arbol o mancanillo con cuya fructa los indios caribes flecheros hacen la hierba con que tiran e pelean."

[343-2] Hureyos is Tureyos in the printed edition of Las Casas, an obvious correction of the manuscript reading. On turey, see above, p. 310.

[343-3] See above, p. 336, note 1.

[344-1] Needle. Alcatrazes, to-day. (Navarrete.)

[344-2] Gardens.

[344-3] Ojas de oro. The translator took ojas (hojas) for ojos and rendered it "eyes of gold." See Thacher, Columbus, II. 393.

[345-1] I.e., in Espanola.

[346-1] Irregularly shaped pearls, seed pearls.

[346-2] "Keep your eyes open."

[347-1] Isabela in the printed text.

[348-1] The north wind.

[348-2] Pliny, Natural History, book IX., ch. LIV.

[348-3] The name is still used. It is the Rhicopharia mangle. See the description of it in Thompson's Alcedo's Geographical and Historical Dictionary of America and the West Indies, Appendix.

[349-1] Las Casas here inserts a long disquisition on pearls which is omitted. It covers pp. 246-252 of the printed edition, Vol. II.

[350-1] I.e., the western end of the Gulf of Paria.

[350-2] These mouths of the Orinoco supplied the fresh water, but they can hardly be the streams referred to by the sailors who explored the western end of the Gulf of Paria. Las Casas had no good map of this region.

[352-1] Columbus elaborated this point in his letter to Ferdinand and Isabella. Major, Select Letters of Columbus, p. 113. Columbus's estimate of the sacrifice of lives in the exploration of the west coast of Africa must be considered a most gross exaggeration. The contemporary narratives of those explorations give no such impression.

[352-2] Cf. Columbus's letter to the sovereigns, "Your Highnesses have here another world." Major, Select Letters of Columbus, p. 148, and the letter to the nurse of Prince John, p. 381, post. "I have placed under the dominion of the King and Queen our sovereigns another world." These passages clearly show that Columbus during and after this voyage realized that he accomplished something quite different from merely reaching Asia by a western route. He had found a hitherto unknown portion of the world, unknown to the ancients or to Marco Polo, but not for that reason necessarily physically detached from the known Asia. For a fuller discussion of the meaning of the phrase "another world," "New World," and of Columbus's ideas of what he had done, see Bourne, Spain in America, pp. 94-98, and the facsimile of the Bartholomew Columbus map, opposite p. 96.

[352-3] A noteworthy prediction. In fact the discovery of the New World has effected a most momentous change in the relative strength and range of Christianity among the world-religions. During the Middle Ages Christianity lost more ground territorially than it gained. Since the discovery of America its gain has been steady.

[352-4] Such in fact their Highnesses' grandson, Charles I. (V. as Emperor), was during his long reign, and such during a part of his reign if not the whole, was their great-grandson Philip II. See Oviedo's reflections upon Columbus's career. Bourne, Spain in America, p. 82.

[353-1] Las Casas here comments at some length on these remarks of Columbus and the great significance of his discoveries. The passage omitted takes up pp. 255 (line six from bottom) to 258.

[353-2] Las Casas explains leste, which would seem to have been either peculiar to sailors or at least not in common usage then for "east."

[353-3] Probably gatos in the sense of gatos paules, monkeys, noted above, p. 341, as very plentiful.

[353-4] Port of the Cabins.

[353-5] The Catholicon was one of the earliest Latin lexicons of modern times and the first to be printed. It was compiled by Johannes de Janua (Giovanni Balbi of Genoa) toward the end of the thirteenth century and first printed at Mainz in 1460, and very frequently later.

[354-1] The third of the canonical hours of prayer, about nine o'clock in the morning.

[355-1] El agua les es medicina, i.e., a means of curing the ill.

[355-2] Abajo. Las Casas views the mainland as extending up from the sea. Columbus was going west along the north shore of the peninsula of Paria.

[355-3] I.e., to go west along the north shore of this supposed island until looking south he was to the right of it and abreast of the Gulf of Pearls.

[355-4] Three of the greatest known rivers, each of which drained a vast range of territory. This narrative reveals the gradual dawning upon Columbus of the fact that he had discovered a hitherto unknown continental mass. In his letter to the sovereigns his conviction is settled and his efforts to adjust it with previous knowledge and the geographical traditions of the ages are most interesting. See Major, Select Letters of Columbus, pp. 134 et seqq. "Ptolemy," he says, on p. 136, "and the others who have written upon the globe had no information respecting this part of the world, for it was most unknown."

[356-1] The Witnesses.

[358-1] The reference is to II. Esdras, VI. 42, in the Apocrypha of the English Bible. The Apocryphal books of I. and II. Esdras were known as III. and IV. Esdras in the Middle Ages, and the canonical books in the Vulgate called I. and II. Esdras are called Ezra and Nehemiah in the English Bible. II. Esdras is an apocalyptic work and dates from the close of the first century A.D. The passage to which Columbus referred reads as follows: "Upon the third day thou didst command that the waters should be gathered in the seventh part of the earth; six parts hast thou dried up, and kept them, to the intent that of these some being planted of God and tilled might serve thee."

[358-2] The reference is wrong, as Las Casas points out two or three pages further on (II. 266); it should be to the treatise De Bono Mortis, cap. 10

[359-1] Francis de Mayrones was an eminent Scotist philosopher. He died in 1327. Columbus here quotes from his Theologicae Veritates (Venice, 1493). See Raccolta Colombiana, Parte I., tomo II., p. 377. Las Casas (II. 266) was unable to verify the citation from St. Augustine.

[359-2] The passage omitted, Las Casas, II. 265-307, consists first, pp. 265-267, of his comments on these words of Columbus, and second, pp. 268-274, of a criticism of Vespucci's claim to have made a voyage in 1497 to this region of Paria, and of his narratives and the naming of America from him. This criticism is translated with Las Casas's other trenchant criticisms of Vespucci's work and claims by Sir Clements R. Markham in his Letters of Amerigo Vespucci (London, 1894), pp. 68 et seq.[TN-8] These passages are very interesting as perhaps the earliest piece of detailed critical work relating to the discoveries, and they still constitute the cornerstone of the case against Vespucci. The third portion of the omitted passage, pp. 275-306, is a long essay on the location of the earthly paradise which Columbus placed in this new mainland he had just discovered. Cf. Columbus's letter on the Third Voyage. Major, Select Letters of Columbus, pp. 140-146.

[360-1] On the Roldan revolt, see Irving, Christopher Columbus, II. 199 et seqq.

[360-2] April 10, 1495, the sovereigns authorized independent exploring expeditions. Columbus protested that such expeditions infringed upon his rights, and so, June 2, 1497, the sovereigns modified their ordinance and prohibited any infringements. Apparently Las Casas is in error in saying the permission had not been recalled in 1498, but the independent voyages of Hojeda and Pinzon, who first explored the northern coast of South America (Paria) in 1499-1500, may have led him to conclude that the authorization had not been recalled.

[361-1] See Journal of First Voyage, December 25.

[362-1] The passage omitted, II. 309-313, of the printed edition, gives an account of the voyage and arrival of the vessels which came to Espanola directly from the Canaries.

[363-1] Northwest by north.

[363-2] Northeast in the printed text.

[363-3] The circle of the horizon, represented by the compass card, was conceived of as divided into eight winds and each wind into halves and quarters, the quarters corresponding to the modern points of the compass, which are thirty-two in number. The declination observed was two points of the compass, or 22 deg. 30'.

[363-4] See above, p. 329, note 2.

[364-1] An arroba was twenty-five pounds.

[364-2] Estoraque, officinal storax, a gum used for incense.

[364-3] Cf. Marco Polo, bk. III., ch. II.

[364-4] Pita, the fibre of the American agave.

[365-1] Cf. the letter on the Third Voyage, Major, Select Letters of Columbus, p. 140, for Columbus's reasoning and beliefs about the Earthly Paradise or Garden of Eden; for Las Casas's discussion of the question, see Historia de las Indias, II. 275-306.

[365-2] High sail.

[366-1] The rack was used to bend the crossbow.



This letter was addressed by Columbus to Dona Juana de Torres, who had been a nurse of the lately deceased royal prince John, the son of Ferdinand and Isabella, and who was the sister of Antonio de Torres, who had accompanied Columbus on his second voyage and was subsequently a commander in other voyages to the New World. It was probably written on shipboard when Columbus was sent back to Spain in irons in the autumn of the year 1500. It is at once a cry of distress and an impassioned self-defence, and is one of the most important of the Admiral's writings for the student of his career and character.

In the letter to Santangel the discoverer announces his success in his long projected undertaking; in the letter to the nurse he is at the lowest point in the startling reverse of fortune that befell him because of the troubles in Santo Domingo, and in the letter on the fourth voyage he appears as one struggling against the most adverse circumstances to vindicate his career, and to demonstrate the value of what he had previously accomplished, and to crown those achievements by actually attaining the coast of Asia. Columbus regarded his defence as set forth in this letter as of such importance that he included it in the four codices or collections of documents and papers prepared in duplicate before his last voyage to authenticate his titles and honors and to secure their inheritance by his son. The text of the letter from which the present translation was made is that of the Paris Codex of the Book of Privileges, as it is called. This is regarded by Harrisse as the best. The translation is by George F. Barwick of the British Museum, and was originally published in Christopher Columbus, Facsimile of his Own Book of Privileges, 1502, edited by B.F. Stevens (London, 1903). The letter remained unpublished until it was printed in Spotorno's Codice Diplomatico in 1822. In 1825 it appeared again in Navarrete's Viages, in a slightly varying text. It was first published in English in the translation of the Codice Diplomatico issued in London in 1823 under the title of Memorials of Columbus, etc.




Most virtuous Lady:—

Though my complaint of the world is new, its habit of ill-using is very ancient. I have had a thousand struggles with it, and have thus far withstood them all, but now neither arms nor counsels avail me, and it cruelly keeps me under water. Hope in the Creator of all men sustains me; His help was always very ready; on another occasion, and not long ago, when I was still more overwhelmed, he raised me with his right arm, saying, O man of little faith, arise, it is I; be not afraid.[371-1]

I came with so much cordial affection to serve these Princes, and have served them with such service, as has never been heard of or seen.

Of the new heaven and earth which our Lord made, when Saint John was writing the Apocalypse,[371-2] after what was spoken by the mouth of Isaiah,[371-3] he made me the messenger, and showed me where it lay. In all men there was disbelief, but to the Queen my Lady He gave the spirit of understanding, and great courage, and made her heiress of all, as a dear and much loved daughter. I went to take possession of all this in her royal name. They sought to make amends to her for the ignorance they had all shown by passing over their little knowledge, and talking of obstacles and expenses. Her Highness, on the other hand, approved of it, and supported it as far as she was able.

Seven years passed in discussion, and nine in execution.[372-1] During this time very remarkable and noteworthy things occurred whereof no idea at all had been formed. I have arrived at, and am in such a condition that there is no person so vile but thinks he may insult me; he shall be reckoned in the world as valor itself who is courageous enough not to consent to it.

If I were to steal the Indies or the land which lies towards them,[372-2] of which I am now speaking, from the altar of Saint Peter, and give them to the Moors, they could not show greater enmity towards me in Spain. Who would believe such a thing where there was always so much magnanimity?

I should have much desired to free myself from this affair had it been honorable towards my Queen to do so. The support of Our Lord and of Her Highness made me persevere; and to alleviate in some measure the sorrows which death had caused her,[372-3] I undertook a fresh voyage to the new heaven and earth which up to that time had remained hidden; and if it is not held there in esteem like the other voyages to the Indies, that is no wonder because it came to be looked upon as my work.

The Holy Spirit inflamed Saint Peter and twelve others with him, and they all fought here below, and their toils and hardships were many, but last of all they gained the victory.

This voyage to Paria[373-1] I thought would somewhat appease them on account of the pearls, and of the discovery of gold in Espanola. I ordered the pearls to be collected and fished for by people with whom an arrangement was made that I should return for them, and, as I understood, they were to be measured by the bushel.[373-2] If I did not write about this to their Highnesses, it was because I wished to have first of all done the same thing with the gold. The result to me in this has been the same as in many other things; I should not have lost them nor my honor, if I had sought my own advantage, and had allowed Espanola to be ruined, or if my privileges and contracts had been observed. And I say just the same about the gold which I had then collected, and [for] which with such great afflictions and toils I have, by divine power, almost perfected [the arrangements].

When I went from Paria I found almost half the people of Espanola in revolt,[373-3] and they have waged war against me until now, as against a Moor; and the Indians on the other side grievously [harassed me]. At this time Hojeda arrived[373-4] and tried to put the finishing stroke: he said that their Highnesses had sent him with promises of gifts, franchises and pay; he gathered together a great band, for in the whole of Espanola there are very few save vagabonds, and not one with wife and children. This Hojeda gave me great trouble; he was obliged to depart, and left word that he would soon return with more ships and people, and that he had left the royal person of the Queen our Lady at the point of death. Then Vincent Yanez[373-5] arrived with four caravels; there was disturbance and mistrust, but no mischief; the Indians talked of many others at the Canibales [Caribbee Islands] and in Paria; and afterwards spread the news of six other caravels, which were brought by a brother of the Alcalde,[374-1] but it was with malicious intent. This occurred at the very last, when the hope that their Highnesses would ever send any ships to the Indies was almost abandoned, nor did we expect them; and it was commonly reported that her Highness was dead.

A certain Adrian about this time endeavored to rise in rebellion again, as he had done previously, but Our Lord did not permit his evil purpose to succeed. I had purposed in myself never to touch a hair of anybody's head, but I lament to say that with this man, owing to his ingratitude, it was not possible to keep that resolve as I had intended; I should not have done less to my brother, if he had sought to kill me, and steal the dominion which my King and Queen had given me in trust.[374-2] This Adrian, as it appears, had sent Don Ferdinand[374-3] to Xaragua to collect some of his followers, and there a dispute arose with the Alcalde from which a deadly contest ensued, but he [Adrian] did not effect his purpose. The Alcalde seized him and a part of his band, and the fact was that he would have executed them if I had not prevented it; they were kept prisoners awaiting a caravel in which they might depart. The news of Hojeda which I told them, made them lose the hope that he would now come again.

For six months I had been prepared to return to their Highnesses with the good news of the gold, and to escape from governing a dissolute people, who fear neither God, nor their King and Queen, being full of vices and wickedness. I could have paid the people in full with six hundred thousand,[374-4] and for this purpose I had four millions of tenths and somewhat more, besides the third of the gold. Before my departure I many times begged their Highnesses to send there, at my expense, some one to take charge of the administration of justice; and after finding the Alcalde in arms I renewed my supplications to have either some troops or at least some servant of theirs with letters patent; for my reputation is such that even if I build churches and hospitals, they will always be called dens of thieves. They did indeed make provision at last, but it was the very contrary of what the matter demanded: may it be successful, since it was according to their good pleasure.

I was there for two years without being able to gain a decree of favor for myself or for those who went there, yet this man[375-1] brought a coffer full; whether they will all redound to their [Highnesses'] service, God knows. Indeed, to begin with, there are exemptions for twenty years, which is a man's lifetime; and gold is collected to such an extent that there was one person who became worth five marks[375-2] in four hours; whereof I will speak more fully later on.

If it would please their Highnesses to remove the grounds of a common saying of those who know my labors, that the calumny of the people has done me more harm than much service and the maintenance of their [Highnesses'] property and dominion has done me good, it would be a charity, and I should be re-established in my honor, and it would be talked about all over the world; for the undertaking is of such a nature that it must daily become more famous and in higher esteem.

When the commander Bobadilla came to Santo Domingo,[375-3] I was at La Vega, and the Adelantado[375-4] at Xaragua, where that Adrian had made a stand, but then all was quiet, and the land rich and all men at peace. On the second day after his arrival he created himself Governor, and appointed officers and made executions, and proclaimed immunities of gold and tenths and in general of everything else for twenty years, which is a man's lifetime, and that he came to pay everybody in full up to that day, even though they had not rendered service; and he publicly notified that, as for me, he had charge to send me in irons, and my brothers likewise, as he has done, and that I should nevermore return thither, nor any other of my family; alleging a thousand disgraceful and discourteous things about me. All this took place on the second day after his arrival, as I have said, and while I was absent at a distance, without my knowing either of him or of his arrival.

Some letters of their Highnesses signed in blank, of which he brought a number, he filled up and sent to the Alcalde and to his company, with favors and commendations; to me he never sent either letter or messenger, nor has he done so to this day. Imagine what any one holding my office would think when one who endeavored to rob their Highnesses, and who has done so much evil and mischief, is honored and favored, while he who maintained it at such risks is degraded.

When I heard this, I thought that this affair would be like that of Hojeda or one of the others, but I restrained myself when I learnt for certain from the friars that their Highnesses had sent him. I wrote to him that his arrival was welcome, and that I was prepared to go to the Court and had sold all I possessed by auction; and that with respect to the immunities he should not be hasty, for both that matter and the government I would hand over to him immediately as smooth as my palm. And I wrote to the same effect to the friars, but neither he nor they gave me any answer. On the contrary, he put himself in a warlike attitude, and compelled all who went there to take an oath to him as Governor; and they told me that it was for twenty years.

Directly I knew of those immunities, I thought that I would repair such a great error and that he would be pleased, for he gave them without the need or occasion necessary in so vast a matter; and he gave to vagabond people what would have been excessive for a man who had brought wife and children. So I announced by word and letters that he could not use his patents because mine were those in force; and I showed them the immunities which Juan Aguado[377-1] brought. All this was done by me in order to gain time, so that their Highnesses might be informed of the condition of the country, and that they might have an opportunity of issuing fresh commands as to what would best promote their service in that respect.

It is useless to publish such immunities in the Indies; to the settlers who have taken up residence it is a pure gain, for the best lands are given to them, and at a low valuation they will be worth two hundred thousand at the end of the four years when the period of residence is ended, without their digging a spadeful in them. I would not speak thus if the settlers were married, but there are not six among them all who are not on the lookout to gather what they can and depart speedily. It would be a good thing if people should go from Castile, and also if it were known who and what they are, and if the country could be settled with honest people.

I had agreed with those settlers that they should pay the third of the gold, and the tenths, and this at their own request; and they received it as a great favor from their Highnesses. I reproved them when I heard that they ceased to do this, and hoped that the Commander would do likewise, but he did the contrary. He incensed them against me by saying that I wanted to deprive them of what their Highnesses had given them; and he endeavored to set them at variance with me, and did so; and he induced them to write to their Highnesses that they should never again send me back to the government, and I likewise make the same supplication to them for myself and for my whole family, as long as there are not different inhabitants. And he together with them ordered inquisitions concerning me for wickednesses the like whereof were never known in hell. Our Lord, who rescued Daniel and the three children,[378-1] is present with the same wisdom and power as he had then, and with the same means, if it should please him and be in accordance with his will.

I should know how to remedy all this, and the rest of what has been said and has taken place since I have been in the Indies, if my disposition would allow me to seek my own advantage, and if it seemed honorable to me to do so, but the maintenance of justice and the extension of the dominion of Her Highness has hitherto kept me down. Now that so much gold is found, a dispute arises as to which brings more profit, whether to go about robbing or to go to the mines. A hundred castellanos[378-2] are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general, and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand, and for all ages a good price must be paid.

I assert that the violence of the calumny of turbulent persons has injured me more than my services have profited me; which is a bad example for the present and for the future. I take my oath that a number of men have gone to the Indies who did not deserve water in the sight of God and of the world; and now they are returning thither, and leave is granted them.[378-3]

I assert that when I declared that the Commander[378-4] could not grant immunities, I did what he desired, although I told him that it was to cause delay until their Highnesses should receive information from the country, and should command anew what might be for their service. He excited their enmity against me, and he seems, from what took place and from his behavior, to have come as my enemy and as a very vehement one; or else the report is true that he has spent much to obtain this employment. I do not know more about it than what I hear. I never heard of an inquisitor gathering rebels together and accepting them, and others devoid of credit and unworthy of it, as witnesses against their governor.

If their Highnesses were to make a general inquisition there, I assure you that they would look upon it as a great wonder that the island does not founder.

I think your Ladyship will remember that when, after losing my sails, I was driven into Lisbon by a tempest, I was falsely accused of having gone there to the King in order to give him the Indies. Their Highnesses afterwards learned the contrary, and that it was entirely malicious. Although I may know but little, I do not think anyone considers me so stupid as not to know that even if the Indies were mine I could not uphold myself without the help of some prince. If this be so, where could I find better support and security than in the King and Queen our Lords, who have raised me from nothing to such great honor, and are the most exalted princes of the world on sea and on land, and who consider that I have rendered them service, and preserve to me my privileges and rewards; and if anyone infringes them, their Highnesses increase them still more, as was seen in the case of Juan Aguado; and they order great honor to be conferred upon me, and, as I have already said, their Highnesses have received service from me, and keep my sons in their household;[379-1] all which could by no means happen with another prince, for where there is no affection, everything else fails.

I have now spoken thus in reply to a malicious slander, but against my will, as it is a thing which should not recur to memory even in dreams; for the Commander Bobadilla maliciously seeks in this way to set his own conduct and actions in a brighter light; but I shall easily show him that his small knowledge and great cowardice, together with his inordinate cupidity, have caused him to fail therein.

I have already said that I wrote to him and to the friars, and immediately set out, as I told him, almost alone, because all the people were with the Adelantado, and likewise in order to prevent suspicion on his part. When he heard this, he seized Don Diego[380-1] and sent him on board a caravel loaded with irons, and did the same to me upon my arrival, and afterwards to the Adelantado when he came; nor did I speak to him any more, nor to this day has he allowed anyone to speak to me; and I take my oath that I cannot understand why I am made a prisoner. He made it his first business to seize the gold, which he did without measuring or weighing it, and in my absence; he said that he wanted it to pay the people, and according to what I hear he assigned the chief part to himself and sent fresh exchangers for the exchanges. Of this gold I had put aside certain specimens, very big lumps, like the eggs of geese, hens, and pullets, and of many other shapes, which some persons had collected in a short space of time, in order that their Highnesses might be gladdened, and might comprehend the business upon seeing a quantity of large stones full of gold. This collection was the first to be given away, with malicious intent, so that their Highnesses should not hold the matter in any account until he has feathered his nest, which he is in great haste to do. Gold which is for melting diminishes at the fire; some chains which would weigh about twenty marks have never been seen again. I have been more distressed about this matter of the gold than even about the pearls, because I have not brought it to Her Highness.

The Commander at once set to work upon anything which he thought would injure me. I have already said that with six hundred thousand I could pay everyone without defrauding anybody, and that I had more than four millions of tenths and constabulary [dues], without touching the gold. He made some free gifts which are ridiculous, though I believe that he began by assigning the chief part to himself. Their Highnesses will find it out when they order an account to be obtained from him, especially if I should be present thereat. He does nothing but reiterate that a large sum is owing, and it is what I have said, and even less. I have been much distressed that there should be sent concerning me an inquisitor who is aware that if the inquisition which he returns is very grave he will remain in possession of the government.

Would that it had pleased our Lord that their Highnesses had sent him or some one else two years ago, for I know that I should now be free from scandal and infamy, and that my honor would not be taken from me, nor should I lose it. God is just, and will make known the why and the wherefore.

They judge me over there as they would a governor who had gone to Sicily, or to a city or town placed under regular government, and where the laws can be observed in their entirety without fear of ruining everything; and I am greatly injured thereby. I ought to be judged as a captain who went from Spain to the Indies to conquer a numerous and warlike people, whose customs and religion are very contrary to ours; who live in rocks and mountains, without fixed settlements, and not like ourselves; and where, by the divine will, I have placed under the dominion of the King and Queen, our sovereigns, another world,[381-1] through which Spain, which was reckoned a poor country, has become the richest. I ought to be judged as a captain who for such a long time up to this day has borne arms without laying them aside for an hour, and by gentlemen adventurers and by customs and not by letters,[381-2] unless they were Greeks or Romans, or others of modern times of whom there are so many and such noble examples in Spain;[381-3] or otherwise I receive great injury, because in the Indies there is neither town nor settlement.

The gate to the gold and pearls is now open, and plenty of everything—precious stones, spices, and a thousand other things—may be surely expected, and never could a worse misfortune befall me; for by the name of our Lord the first voyage would yield them just as much as would the traffic of Arabia Felix as far as Mecca, as I wrote to their Highnesses by Antonio de Torres in my reply respecting the repartition of the sea and land with the Portuguese; and afterwards it would equal that of Calicut, as I told them and put in writing at the monastery of Mejorada.

The news of the gold that I said I would give is, that on the day of the Nativity, while I was much tormented, being harassed by wicked Christians and by Indians, and when I was on the point of giving up everything and, if possible, escaping from life, our Lord miraculously comforted me and said, "Fear not violence, I will provide for all things; the seven years of the term of the gold have not elapsed, and in that and in everything else I will afford thee a remedy." On that day I learned that there were eighty leagues of land with mines at every point thereof. The opinion now is that it is all one. Some have collected a hundred and twenty castellanos in one day, and others ninety, and even the number of two hundred and fifty has been reached. From fifty to seventy, and in many more cases from fifteen to fifty, is considered a good day's work, and many carry it on. The usual quantity is from six to twelve, and any one obtaining less than this is not satisfied. It seems too that these mines are like others, and do not yield equally every day. The mines are new, and so are the workers: it is the opinion of everybody that even if all Castile were to go there, every individual, however inexpert he might be, would not obtain less than one or two castellanos daily, and now it is only commencing. It is true that they keep Indians, but the business is in the hands of the Christians. Behold what discernment Bobadilla had, when he gave up everything for nothing, and four millions of tenths, without any reason or even being requested, and without first notifying it to their Highnesses. And this is not the only loss.

I know that my errors have not been committed with the intention of doing evil, and I believe that their Highnesses regard the matter just as I state it; and I know and see that they deal mercifully even with those who maliciously act to their disservice. I believe and consider it very certain that their clemency will be both greater and more abundant towards me, for I fell therein through ignorance and the force of circumstances, as they will know fully hereafter; and I indeed am their creature, and they will look upon my services, and will acknowledge day by day that they are much profited. They will place everything in the balance, even as Holy Scripture tells us good and evil will be at the day of judgment. If, however, they command that another person do judge me, which I cannot believe, and that it be by inquisition in the Indies, I very humbly beseech them to send thither two conscientious and honorable persons at my expense, who I believe will easily, now that gold is discovered, find five marks in four hours. In either case it is needful for them to provide for this matter.

The Commander on his arrival at Santo Domingo took up his abode in my house, and just as he found it so he appropriated everything to himself. Well and good; perhaps he was in want of it. A pirate never acted thus towards a merchant. About my papers I have a greater grievance, for he has so completely deprived me of them that I have never been able to obtain a single one from him; and those that would have been most useful in my exculpation are precisely those which he has kept most concealed. Behold the just and honest inquisitor! Whatever he may have done, they tell me that there has been an end to justice, except in an arbitrary form. God our Lord is present with his strength and wisdom, as of old, and always punishes in the end, especially ingratitude and injuries.


[371-1] An echo of the words of Jesus to Peter when he began to sink, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" Matthew, XIV. 31.

[371-2] Revelation, XXI. 1. "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away."

[371-3] "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth." Isaiah, LXV. 17.

[372-1] 1485-1491 inc. and 1492-1500 inc.

[372-2] Sy yo robara las Yndias o tierra que jaz fase ellas, etc. In the translation jaz fase is taken to stand for yace hacia. This supposition makes sense and is probably correct. The reading of the other text is "que san face ellas." Navarrete says that neither one is intelligible.

[372-3] The death of Prince John, October 4, 1497.

[373-1] The name given to that part of the mainland of South America which Columbus discovered on his third voyage.

[373-2] I.e. so great was their abundance.

[373-3] On this revolt, see Bourne, Spain in America, p. 49 et seqq., and in greater detail, Irving, Columbus, ed. 1868, II. 109 et seqq.

[373-4] Hojeda sailed in May 1499. Las Casa's account of his voyage is translated by Markham in his Letters of Amerigo Vespucci, Hakluyt Society (London, 1894), p. 78 et seqq. See also Irving, Columbus, III. 23-42[TN-9] He was accompanied on this voyage by Amerigo Vespucci.

[373-5] Vicente Yanez Pinzon set sail from Palos, November 18, 1499. For his voyage, see Irving, Columbus, III. 49-58.

[374-1] The Alcalde was Roldan, the leader of the revolt. He was alcalde mayor of the city of Isabela and of the whole island, i.e., the chief justice. Las Casas, Historia de las Indias, II. 124.

[374-2] On the career in Espanola of Adrian de Muxica and his execution, see Irving, Columbus, II. 283 et seqq.

[374-3] Ferdinand de Guevara. See Irving, Columbus, II. 283 et seqq.

[374-4] I.e., maravedis, equivalent to about $4000.

[375-1] Bobadilla, the successor of Columbus as governor, who sent him back in chains.

[375-2] A mark was eight ounces or two-thirds of a Troy pound. Here it is probably the silver mark as a measure of value, which was about $3.25. If the word is used as a measure of weight of gold, it would be about $150.

[375-3] Bobadilla arrived at Santo Domingo August 23, 1500.

[375-4] Bartholomew Columbus.

[377-1] Juan Aguado arrived from Spain in October, 1495. Las Casas, Historia de las Indias, II. 109 et seqq., gives a full account of his mission. See also Irving, Columbus, ed. 1868, II. 77 et seqq.

[378-1] Cf. Daniel, chs. III. and VI.

[378-2] The castellano was one-sixth of an ounce, or in value about $3.

[378-3] See Bourne, Spain in America, p. 50, for Columbus's bitter characterization of the Spaniards in Espanola in 1498, and p. 46 for the royal authorization in June, 1497, to transport criminals to the island. The terrible consequences of this policy led the Spanish government later to adopt the strictest regulations controlling emigration to the New World. Cf. Spain in America, ch. XVI.

[378-4] Bobadilla was a knight commander of the military order of Calatrava.

[379-1] Diego Columbus had been appointed a page to Prince John in 1492. Navarrete, Viages, II. 17. At this time, 1500, both Diego and Ferdinand were pages in the Queen's household. Historie, ed. 1867, p. 276.

[380-1] The younger brother of the Admiral.

[381-1] Un otro mundo. See note, p. 352 above.

[381-2] Caballeros de conquistas y del uso, y no de letras. This should be: "Knights of Conquests and by profession and not of letters." I.e., by nobles that have actually been conquerors and had conquered territory awarded to them and who are knights by practice or profession and not gentlemen of letters.

[381-3] What this means is not altogether clear. Apparently Columbus means that men of letters or lawyers in Greece and Rome, great conquering nations, would know what standards to apply in his case, and that there were some such men of breadth in Spain.



The letter on Columbus's last voyage when he explored the coast of Central America and of the Isthmus of Panama was written when he was shipwrecked on the island of Jamaica, 1503. It is his last important writing and one of great significance in understanding his geographical conceptions.

The Spanish text of this letter is not older than the sixteenth century and perhaps not older than the seventeenth. The Spanish text was first published by Navarrete in his Coleccion de los Viages y Descubrimientos, 1825. An Italian translation, however, was published in 1505 and is commonly known as the Lettera Rarissima. Mr. John Boyd Thacher has reproduced this early Italian translation in facsimile in his Christopher Columbus, accompanied by a translation into English. Cesare de Lollis prepared a critical edition of the Spanish text for the Raccolta Colombiana, which was carefully collated with and in some instances corrected by this contemporary translation. Most of his changes in punctuation and textual emendations have been adopted in the present edition, and attention is called to them in the notes.

The translation is that of R.H. Major as published in the revised edition of his Select Letters of Columbus. It has been carefully revised by the present editor, and some important changes have been made. As hitherto published in English a good many passages in this letter have been so confused and obscure and some so absolutely unintelligible, that the late Justin Winsor characterized this last of the important writings of Columbus as "a sorrowful index of his wandering reason."[388-1] Almost every one of these passages has yielded up the secret of its meaning either through a more exact translation or in the light of the textual emendations suggested by de Lollis or proposed by the present editor. Among such revisions and textual emendations attention may be called to those discussed on pp. 392, 396, 397. As here published this letter of Columbus is as coherent and intelligible as his other writings.

The editor wishes here to acknowledge his obligations to Professor Henry R. Lang of Yale University, whom he has consulted in regard to perplexing passages or possible emendations, and from whom he has received valuable assistance.

The other important accounts of this voyage, or of the part of it covered by this letter, are the brief report by Diego de Porras, of which a translation is given in Thacher's Columbus, and those by Ferdinand Columbus in the Historie and Peter Martyr in his De Rebus Oceanicis. On this voyage Las Casas's source was the account of Ferdinand Columbus. Lollis presents some striking evidence to show that the accounts of Ferdinand Columbus and Peter Martyr were based upon the same original, a lost narrative of the Admiral. It will be remembered, however, that Ferdinand accompanied his father on this voyage, and although only a boy of thirteen his narrative contains several passages of vivid personal recollection. The editor has carefully compared Ferdinand's narrative with the account in this letter and noted the important differences.



[388-1] Christopher Columbus, p 459; cf. also the passages quoted on p. 460.


A Letter written by Don Christobal Colon, Viceroy and Admiral of the Indies, to the most Christian and mighty King and Queen of Spain, our Sovereigns, in which are described the events of his voyage, and the countries, provinces, cities, rivers and other marvellous matters therein discovered, as well as the places where gold and other substances of great richness and value are to be found

Most Serene, and very high and mighty Princes, the King and Queen our Sovereigns:—

My passage from Cadiz to the Canary occupied four days, and thence to the Indies sixteen days. From which I wrote, that my intention was to expedite my voyage as much as possible while I had good vessels, good crews and stores, and that Jamaica was the place to which I was bound. I wrote this in Dominica:[389-1]—

Up to the period of my reaching these shores I experienced most excellent weather, but the night of my arrival came on with a dreadful tempest, and the same bad weather has continued ever since. On reaching the island of Espanola[389-2] I despatched a packet of letters, by which I begged as a favor that a ship should be supplied me at my own cost in lieu of one of those that I had brought with me, which had become unseaworthy, and could no longer carry sail. The letters were taken, and your Highnesses will know if a reply has been given to them. For my part I was forbidden to go on shore;[390-1] the hearts of my people failed them lest I should take them further, and they said that if any danger were to befall them, they should receive no succor, but, on the contrary, in all probability have some great affront offered them. Moreover every man had it in his power to tell me that the new Governor would have the superintendence of the countries that I might acquire.[390-2]

The tempest was terrible throughout the night, all the ships were separated, and each one driven to the last extremity, without hope of anything but death; each of them also looked upon the loss of the rest as a matter of certainty. What man was ever born, not even excepting Job, who would not have been ready to die of despair at finding himself as I then was, in anxious fear for my own safety, and that of my son, my brother[390-3] and my friends, and yet refused permission either to land or to put into harbor on the shores which by God's mercy I had gained for Spain sweating blood?

But to return to the ships: although the tempest had so completely separated them from me as to leave me single, yet the Lord restored them to me in His own good time. The ship which we had the greatest fear for, had put out to sea to escape [being blown] toward the island. The Gallega[390-4] lost her boat and a great part of her provisions, which latter loss indeed all the ships suffered. The vessel in which I was, though dreadfully buffeted, was saved by our Lord's mercy from any injury whatever; my brother went in the ship that was unsound, and he under God was the cause of its being saved. With this tempest I struggled on till I reached Jamaica, and there the sea became calm, but there was a strong current which carried me as far as the Queen's Garden[391-1] without seeing land. Hence as opportunity afforded I pushed on for the mainland, in spite of the wind and a fearful contrary current, against which I contended for sixty days, and after all only made seventy leagues. All this time I was unable to get into harbor, nor was there any cessation of the tempest, which was one continuation of rain, thunder and lightning; indeed it seemed as if it were the end of the world. I at length reached the Cape of Gracias a Dios, and after that the Lord granted me fair wind and tide; this was on the twelfth of September.[391-2] Eighty-eight days did this fearful tempest continue, during which I was at sea, and saw neither sun nor stars; my ships lay exposed, with sails torn, and anchors, rigging, cables, boats and a great quantity of provisions lost; my people were very weak and humbled in spirit, many of them promising to lead a religious life, and all making vows and promising to perform pilgrimages, while some of them would frequently go to their messmates to make confession.[392-1] Other tempests have been experienced, but never of so long a duration or so fearful as this: many whom we looked upon as brave men, on several occasions showed considerable trepidation; but the distress of my son who was with me grieved me to the soul, and the more when I considered his tender age, for he was but thirteen years old, and he enduring so much toil for so long a time. Our Lord, however, gave him strength even to enable him to encourage the rest, and he worked as if he had been eighty years at sea, and all this was a consolation to me. I myself had fallen sick, and was many times at the point of death, but from a little cabin that I had caused to be constructed on deck, I directed our course. My brother was in the ship that was in the worst condition and the most exposed to danger; and my grief on this account was the greater that I brought him with me against his will.

Such is my fate, that the twenty years of service[393-1] through which I have passed with so much toil and danger, have profited me nothing, and at this very 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 most times lack wherewith to pay the bill. Another anxiety wrung my very heartstrings, which was the thought of my son Diego, whom I had left an orphan in Spain, and dispossessed of my honor and property, although I had looked upon it as a certainty, that your Majesties, as just and grateful Princes, would restore it to him in all respects with increase.[393-2]

I reached the land of Cariay,[393-3] where I stopped to repair my vessels and take in provisions, as well as to afford relaxation to the men, who had become very weak. I myself (who, as I said before, had been several times at the point of death) gained information respecting the gold mines of which I was in search, in the province of Ciamba;[393-4] and two Indians conducted me to Carambaru,[393-5] where the people (who go naked) wear golden mirrors round their necks, which they will neither sell, give, nor part with for any consideration. They named to me many places on the sea-coast where there were both gold and mines. The last that they mentioned was Veragua,[394-1] which was five-and-twenty leagues distant from the place where we then were. I started with the intention of visiting all of them, but when I had reached the middle of my journey I learned that there were other mines at so short a distance that they might be reached in two days. I determined on sending to see them. It was on the eve of St. Simon and St. Jude,[394-2] which was the day fixed for our departure; but that night there arose so violent a storm, that we were forced to go wherever it drove us, and the Indian who was to conduct us to the mines was with us all the time. As I had found every thing true that had been told me in the different places which I had visited, I felt satisfied it would be the same with respect to Ciguare,[394-3] which according to their account, is nine days journey across the country westward: they tell me there is a great quantity of gold there, and that the inhabitants wear coral ornaments on their heads, and very large coral bracelets and anklets, with which article also they adorn and inlay their seats, boxes, and tables. They also said that the women there wore necklaces hanging down to their shoulders. All the people agree in the report I now repeat, and their account is so favorable that I should be content with the tithe of the advantages that their description holds out. They are all likewise acquainted with the pepper-plant;[395-1] according to the account of these people, the inhabitants of Ciguare are accustomed to hold fairs and markets for carrying on their commerce, and they showed me also the mode and form in which they transact their various exchanges; others assert that their ships carry cannon, and that the men go clothed and use bows and arrows, swords and cuirasses, and that on shore they have horses which they use in battle, and that they wear rich clothes and have good things.[395-2] They also say that the sea surrounds Ciguare, and that at ten days' journey from thence is the river Ganges; these lands appear to hold the same relation to Veragua, as Tortosa to Fontarabia, or Pisa to Venice.[395-3] When I left Carambaru and reached the places in its neighborhood, which I have mentioned above as being spoken of by the Indians, I found the customs of the people correspond with the accounts that had been given of them, except as regarded the golden mirrors: any man who had one of them would willingly part with it for three hawks'-bells,[395-4] although they were equivalent in weight to ten or fifteen ducats. These people resemble the natives of Espanola in all their habits. They have various modes of collecting the gold, none of which will bear comparison with the plans adopted by the Christians.

All that I have here stated is from hearsay. This, however, I know, that in the year ninety-four I sailed twenty-four degrees to the westward in nine hours,[396-1] and there can be no mistake upon the subject, because there was an eclipse; the sun was in Libra and the moon in Aries.[396-2] What I had learned by the mouth of these people I already knew in detail from books. Ptolemy thought that he had satisfactorily corrected[396-3] Marinus, and yet this latter appears to have come very near to the truth. Ptolemy placed Catigara[396-4] at a distance of twelve lines to the west of his meridian, which he fixes at two degrees and a third beyond Cape St. Vincent, in Portugal. Marinus comprised the earth and its limits in fifteen lines.[396-5] Marinus on Ethiopia gives a description covering more than twenty-four degrees beyond the equinoctial line, and now that the Portuguese have sailed there they find it correct.[397-1] Ptolemy says also that the most southern land is the first boundary, and that it does not go lower down than fifteen degrees and a third.[397-2] The world is but small; out of seven divisions of it the dry part occupies six, and the seventh is entirely covered by water.[398-1] Experience has shown it, and I have written it with quotations from the Holy Scripture, in other letters, where I have treated of the situation of the terrestrial paradise, as approved by the Holy Church;[398-2] and I say that the world is not so large as vulgar opinion makes it, and that one degree of the equinoctial line measures fifty-six miles and two-thirds; and this may be proved to a nicety.[398-3]

But I leave this subject, which it is not my intention now to treat upon, but simply to give a narrative of my laborious and painful voyage, although of all my voyages it is the most honorable and advantageous. I have said that on the eve of St. Simon and St. Jude I ran before the wind wherever it took me, without power to resist it; at length I found shelter for ten days from the roughness of the sea and the tempest overhead, and resolved not to attempt to go back to the mines, which I regarded as already in our possession.[398-4] When I started in pursuance of my voyage it was under a heavy rain, and reaching the harbor of Bastimentos I put in, though much against my will.[399-1] The storm and a rapid current kept me in for fourteen days, when I again set sail, but not with favorable weather. After I had made fifteen leagues with great exertions, the wind and the current drove me back[399-2] again with great fury, but in again making for the port which I had quitted, I found on the way another port, which I named Retrete, where I put in for shelter with as much risk as regret, the ships being in sad condition, and my crews and myself exceedingly fatigued.[399-3] I remained there fifteen days, kept in by stress of weather, and when I fancied my troubles were at an end, I found them only begun. It was then that I changed my resolution with respect to proceeding to the mines, and proposed doing something in the interim, until the weather should prove more favorable for my voyage.[399-4] I had already made four leagues when the storm recommenced, and wearied me to such a degree that I absolutely knew not what to do; my wound reopened, and for nine days my life was despaired of; never was the sea seen so high, so terrific, and so covered with foam; not only did the wind oppose our proceeding onward, but it also rendered it highly dangerous to run in for any headland, and kept me in that sea which seemed to me as a sea of blood, seething like a cauldron on a mighty fire. Never did the sky look more fearful; during one day and one night it burned like a furnace, and every instant I looked to see if my masts and my sails were not destroyed; these flashes came with such alarming fury that we all thought the ships must have been consumed. All this time the waters from heaven never ceased, not to say that it rained, for it was like a repetition of the deluge. The men were at this time so crushed in spirit that they longed for death as a deliverance from so many martyrdoms. Twice already had the ships suffered loss in boats, anchors, and rigging, and were now lying bare without sails.

When it pleased our Lord, I returned to Puerto Gordo,[400-1] where I recruited my condition as well as I could. I then once more turned towards Veragua; for my voyage, although I was [ready] for it, the wind and current were still contrary.[400-2] I arrived at nearly the same spot as before, and there again the wind and currents still opposed my progress; and once again I was compelled to put into port, not daring to await the opposition of Saturn[400-3] with Mars so tossed on an exposed coast; for it almost always brings on a tempest or severe weather. This was on Christmas-day, about the hour of mass.

Thus, after all these fatigues, I had once more to return to the spot from whence I started; and when the new year had set in, I returned again to my task: but although I had fine weather for my voyage, the ships were no longer in a sailing condition, and my people were either dying or very sick. On the day of the Epiphany,[400-4] I reached Veragua in a state of exhaustion; there, by our Lord's goodness, I found a river and a safe harbor, although at the entrance there were only ten spans of water. I succeeded in making an entry, but with great difficulty; and on the following day the storm recommenced, and had I been still on the outside at that time, I should have been unable to enter on account of the reef. It rained without ceasing until the fourteenth of February, so that I could find no opportunity of penetrating into the interior, nor of recruiting my condition in any respect whatever; and on the twenty-fourth of January, when I considered myself in perfect safety, the river suddenly rose with great violence to a considerable height, breaking my cables and the breastfasts,[401-1] and nearly carrying away my ships altogether, which certainly appeared to me to be in greater danger than ever. Our Lord, however, brought a remedy as He has always done. I do not know if any one else ever suffered greater trials.

On the sixth of February, while it was still raining, I sent seventy men on shore to go into the interior, and at five leagues' distance they found several mines. The Indians who went with them conducted them to a very lofty mountain, and thence showing them the country all around, as far as the eye could reach, told them there was gold in every part, and that, towards the west, the mines extended twenty days' journey; they also recounted the names of the towns and villages where there was more or less of it. I afterwards learned that the Quibian,[402-1] who had lent these Indians, had ordered them to show the distant mines, and which belonged to an enemy of his; but that in his own territory one man might, if he would, collect in ten days as much as a child could carry.[402-2] I bring with me some Indians, his servants, who are witnesses of this fact. The boats went up to the spot where the dwellings of these people are situated; and, after four hours, my brother returned with the guides, all of them bringing back gold which they had collected at that place. The gold must be abundant, and of good quality, for none of these men had ever seen mines before; very many of them had never seen pure gold, and most of them were seamen and lads. Having building materials in abundance, I established a settlement, and made many presents to the Quibian, which is the name they gave to the lord of the country. I plainly saw that harmony would not last long, for the natives are of a very rough disposition, and the Spaniards very encroaching; and, moreover, I had taken possession of land belonging to the Quibian. When he saw what we did, and found the traffic increasing, he resolved upon burning the houses, and putting us all to death; but his project did not succeed, for we took him prisoner, together with his wives, his children, and his servants. His captivity, it is true, lasted but a short time, for he eluded the custody of a trustworthy man, into whose charge he had been given, with a guard of men; and his sons escaped from a ship, in which they had been placed under the special charge of the master.

In the month of January the mouth of the river was entirely closed up,[403-1] and in April the vessels were so eaten by the shipworm,[403-2] that they could scarcely be kept above water. At this time the river forced a channel for itself, by which I managed, with great difficulty, to extricate three of them after I had unloaded them. The boats were then sent back into the river for water and salt, but the sea became so high and furious, that it afforded them no chance of exit; upon which the Indians collected themselves together in great numbers, and made an attack upon the boats, and at length massacred the men.[403-3] My brother, and all the rest of our people, were in a ship which remained inside; I was alone, outside, upon that dangerous coast, suffering from a severe fever and worn with fatigue. All hope of escape was gone. I toiled up to the highest part of the ship, and, with a voice of fear crying, and very urgently, I called upon your Highnesses' war-captains in every direction for help, but there was no reply. At length, groaning with exhaustion, I fell asleep, and heard a compassionate voice address me thus: "O fool, and slow to believe and to serve thy God, the God of all! what did He do more for Moses, or for David his servant, than He has done for thee? From thine infancy He has kept thee under His constant and watchful care. When He saw thee arrived at an age which suited His designs respecting thee, He brought wonderful renown to thy name throughout all the land. He gave thee for thine own the Indies, which form so rich a portion of the world, and thou hast divided them as it pleased thee, for He gave thee power to do so. He gave thee also the keys of those barriers of the ocean sea which were closed with such mighty chains;[404-1] and thou wast obeyed through many lands, and gained an honorable fame throughout Christendom. What did he more for the people of Israel, when he brought them out of Egypt?[404-2] or for David, whom from a shepherd He made to be king in Judea? Turn to Him, and acknowledge thine error—His mercy is infinite. Thine old age shall not prevent thee from accomplishing any great undertaking. He holds under His sway many very great possessions. Abraham had exceeded a hundred years of age when he begat Isaac; nor was Sarah young. Thou criest out for uncertain help: answer, who has afflicted thee so much and so often, God or the world? The privileges promised by God, He never fails in bestowing; nor does He ever declare, after a service has been rendered Him, that such was not agreeable with His intention, or that He had regarded the matter in another light; nor does he inflict suffering, in order to give effect to the manifestation of His power. His word goes according to the letter; and He performs all his promises with interest. This is [his] custom. Thus I have told thee what thy Creator has done for thee, and what He does for all men. Just now He gave me a specimen of the reward of so many toils and dangers incurred by thee in the service of others."[404-2]

I heard all this, as it were, in a trance; but I had no answer to give in definite words, and could but weep for my errors. He who spoke to me, whoever it was, concluded by saying,—"Fear not, but trust; all these tribulations are recorded on marble, and not without cause." I arose as soon as I could; and at the end of nine days there came fine weather, but not sufficiently so to allow of drawing the vessels out of the river. I collected the men who were on land, and, in fact, all of them that I could, because there were not enough to admit of one party remaining on shore while another stayed on board to work the vessels. I myself should have remained with my men to defend the settlement, had your Highnesses known of it; but the fear that ships might never reach the spot where we were, as well as the thought, that when provision is to be made for bringing help, everything will be provided,[405-1] made me decide upon leaving. I departed, in the name of the Holy Trinity, on Easter night,[405-2] with the ships rotten, worm-eaten and full of holes. One of them I left at Belen, with a supply of necessaries; I did the same at Belpuerto. I then had only two left, and they in the same state as the others. I was without boats or provisions, and in this condition I had to cross seven thousand miles of sea; or, as an alternative, to die on the passage with my son, my brother, and so many of my people. Let those who are accustomed to finding fault and censuring ask, while they sit in security at home, "Why did you not do so and so under such circumstances?" I wish they now had this voyage to make. I verily believe that another journey of another kind awaits them, or our faith is nothing.

On the thirteenth of May I reached the province of Mago [Mango],[405-3] which borders on Cathay, and thence I started for the island of Espanola. I sailed two days with a good wind, after which it became contrary. The route that I followed called forth all my care to avoid the numerous islands, that I might not be stranded on the shoals that lie in their neighborhood. The sea was very tempestuous, and I was driven backward under bare poles. I anchored at an island, where I lost, at one stroke, three anchors; and, at midnight, when the weather was such that the world appeared to be coming to an end, the cables of the other ship broke, and it came down upon my vessel with such force that it was a wonder we were not dashed to pieces; the single anchor that remained to me was, next to the Lord, our only preservation. After six days, when the weather became calm, I resumed my journey, having already lost all my tackle; my ships were pierced by borers more than a honey-comb and the crew entirely paralyzed with fear and in despair. I reached the island a little beyond the point at which I first arrived at it, and there I turned in to recover myself after the storm;[406-1] but I afterwards put into a much safer port in the same island. After eight days I put to sea again, and reached Jamaica by the end of June;[406-2] but always beating against contrary winds, and with the ships in the worst possible condition. With three pumps, and the use of pots and kettles, we could scarcely clear the water that came into the ship, there being no remedy but this for the mischief done by the ship-worm. I steered in such a manner as to come as near as possible to Espanola, from which we were twenty-eight leagues distant, but I afterwards wished I had not done so, for the other ship which was half under water was obliged to run in for a port. I determined on keeping the sea in spite of the weather, and my vessel was on the very point of sinking when our Lord miraculously brought us upon land. Who will believe what I now write? I assert that in this letter I have not related one hundredth part of the wonderful events that occurred in this voyage; those who were with the Admiral can bear witness to it. If your Highnesses would be graciously pleased to send to my help a ship of above sixty-four tons, with two hundred quintals of biscuits and other provisions, there would then be sufficient to carry me and my crew from Espanola to Spain. I have already said that there are not twenty-eight leagues between Jamaica and Espanola; and I should not have gone there, even if the ships had been in a fit condition for so doing, because your Highnesses ordered me not to land there. God knows if this command has proved of any service. I send this letter by means of and by the hands of Indians; it will be a miracle if it reaches its destination.

This is the account I have to give of my voyage. The men who accompanied me were a hundred and fifty in number, among whom were many calculated for pilots and good sailors, but none of them can explain whither I went nor whence I came;[407-1] the reason is very simple: I started from a point above the port of Brazil[407-2] in Espanola. The storm prevented me from following my intended route, for I was obliged to go wherever the wind drove me; at the same time I fell very sick, and there was no one who had navigated in these parts before. However, after some days, the wind and sea became tranquil, and the storm was succeeded by a calm, but accompanied with rapid currents. I put into harbor at an island called Isla de las Pozas, and then steered for mainland;[408-1] but it is impossible to give a correct account of all our movements, because I was carried away by the current so many days without seeing land. I ascertained, however, by the compass and by observation, that I moved parallel with the coast of the mainland. No one could tell under what part of the heavens we were, and when I set out from there to come to the island of Espanola, the pilots thought we had come to the island of St. John, whereas it was the land of Mango, four hundred leagues to the westward of where they said.[408-2] Let them answer and say if they know where Veragua is situated. I assert that they can give no other account than that they went to lands, where there was an abundance of gold, and this they can certify surely enough; but they do not know the way to return thither for such a purpose; they would be obliged to go on a voyage of discovery as much as if they had never been there before.

There is a mode of reckoning derived from astronomy which is sure and safe, and a sufficient guide to any one who understands it. This resembles a prophetic vision.[408-3] The Indies ships[408-4] do not sail except with the wind abaft, but this is not because they are badly built or clumsy, but because the strong currents in those parts, together with the wind, render it impossible to sail with the bowline,[408-5] for in one day they would lose as much way as they might have made in seven; for the same reason I could make no use of caravels, even though they were Portuguese lateens.[409-1] This is the cause that they do not sail unless with a regular breeze, and they will sometimes stay in harbor waiting for this seven or eight months at a time; nor is this anything wonderful, for the same very often occurs in Spain.

The nation of which Pope Pius II. describes the situation and characteristics has now been found,[409-2] excepting the horses with the saddles and poitrels and bridles of gold; but this is not to be wondered at, for the lands on the sea-coast are only inhabited by fishermen, and moreover I made no stay there, because I was in haste to proceed on my voyage. In Cariay[409-3] and the neighboring country there are great enchanters of a very fearful character. They would have given the world to prevent my remaining there an hour. When I arrived they sent me immediately two girls very showily dressed; the eldest could not be more than eleven years of age and the other seven, and both exhibited so much immodesty, that more could not be expected from public women; they carried concealed about them a magic powder; when they came I gave them some articles to dress themselves out with, and directly sent them back to the shore.[409-4] I saw here, built on a mountain, a sepulchre as large as a house, and elaborately sculptured; the body lay uncovered and embalmed in it. They also spoke to me of other very excellent works of art.[410-1] There are many species of animals both small and large, and very different from those of our country. I had a present of two pigs, and an Irish dog was afraid to face them. A cross-bowman had wounded an animal like a monkey,[410-2] except that it was larger, and had a face like a man's; the arrow had pierced it from the neck to the tail, and since it was fierce he was obliged to cut off an arm and a leg; the pig bristled up on seeing it and tried to get away. I, when I saw this, ordered the begare[410-3] as it is called to be thrown to the pig where he was, and though the animal was nearly dead, and the arrow had passed quite through his body, yet he threw his tail round the snout of the boar, and then holding him firmly, seized him by the nape of the neck with his remaining hand, as if he were engaged with an enemy. This action was so novel and so extraordinary, that I have thought it worth while to describe it here. There is a great variety of animals here, but they all die of barra.[410-4] I saw some very large fowls (the feathers of which resemble wool),[410-5] lions, stags, fallow-deer and birds.

When we were so harassed with our troubles at sea, some of our men imagined that we were under the influence of sorcery, and even to this day entertain the same notion. Some of the people whom I discovered eat men, as was evidenced by the brutality of their countenances. They say that there are great mines of copper in the country, of which they make hatchets[411-1] and other elaborate articles both cast and soldered; they also make of it forges, with all the apparatus of the goldsmith, and crucibles. The inhabitants go clothed; and in that province I saw some large sheets of cotton very elaborately and cleverly worked, and others very delicately painted in colors.[411-2] They tell me that more inland towards Cathay they have them interwoven with gold. For want of an interpreter we were able to learn but very little respecting these countries, or what they contain. Although the country is very thickly peopled, yet each nation has a very different language; indeed so much so, that they can no more understand each other than we understand the Arabs. I think, however, that this applies to the barbarians on the sea-coast, and not to the people who live more inland. When I discovered the Indies, I said that they composed the richest lordship in the world; I spoke of gold and pearls and precious stones, of spices and the traffic that might be carried on in them; and because all these things were not forthcoming at once I was abused. This punishment causes me to refrain from relating anything but what the natives tell me. One thing I can venture upon stating, because there are so many witnesses of it, viz., that in this land of Veragua I saw more signs of gold in the first two days than I saw in Espanola during fours years,[TN-10] and that there is not a more fertile or better cultivated country in all the world, nor one whose inhabitants are more timid; added to which there is a good harbor, a beautiful river, and the whole place is capable of being easily put into a state of defence. All this tends to the security of the Christians and the permanency of their sovereignty, while it affords the hope of great increase and honor to the Christian religion; moreover the road hither will be as short as that to Espanola, because there is a certainty of a fair wind for the passage. Your Highnesses are as much lords of this country as of Xerez or Toledo; your ships if they should go there, go to your own house. From there they will take gold; in other lands to have what there is in them, they will have to take it by force or retire empty-handed, and on the land they will have to trust their persons in the hands of a savage.[412-1]

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