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Columbus, though deeply affected with the ingratitude and ia. justice of Ferdinand and Isabella, submitted with a respectful silence to the will of his sovereigns, and repaired directly to the court of that violent and partial judge. Bovadilla, without ad. mitting him to his presence, ordered him instantly to be arrested, loaded with chains, and hurried on board a ship. Under this humiliating reverse of fortune, that firmness of mind which had hithertu supported him, did not forsake him. Conscious of his own integrity, and solacing himself with the great things he had achieved, he endured this insult, not only with that composure, but dignity that surprised and over-awed his enimies.
Bovadilla, to excuse his own condurt and to load Columbus with infamy, encouraged all persons, however infamous, to lodge informations, though false and inconsistent, against him; out of these Bovadilla collected materials to support an accusation, which he transmitied to Spain, at the same time that he ordered Columbus and his two brothers to be carried thither in fetters. And added the cruel insult of confining the brothers in different ships, exeluding them from that friendly intercourse, which might have soothed them under such aceumulated distress.
But al hough the Spaniards in Hispaniola approved of the arbitrary and cruel proceedings of Bovadilla, there was one man who still remenbered how much his countrymen were indebted to Columbus; and was touched with pity for the man who had performed such great actions. This was Alonzo de Valejo, the captain of the vessel on board of which the admirał was confined. As soon as he was clear of the island, he approached his prisoner with great respect, and offered to relen-e him from the fetters with which he was so urjustly loaded. “No," replied Columbus, with a noble indignation, " I were these irons in consequence of sian order from my sovereigos; they shall find me as obrdient to so this, as to their other injunctions. By their command I am “ brought into this situation, and their command alone, shall set " me at liberty."
The voyage to Spain was fortunately very short. As soon as Ferdinand and Isabella were informed that Columbus was brought home a prisoner, in chains, they felt the necessity of disavowing all such inhuan proceedings. They saw, that all Europe would - be filled with indignation at such ungenerous conduct towards a man, to whom they were so much indebted, and who had performed actions worthy of the highest recompense. Ashamed of their own conduct, and eager to make some reparation for this injury, as well as to efface the stain upon there own characters, they instanıly issued orders to set Columbus al liberty ; invited bim to court; and remitted money to enable him to appear there in a manner suitable to his rank.
When he came into the royal presence, the various passions which agitated his mind, for a time suppressed the power of utterance. He at length recovered himself, and justified his conduet by producing the fullest proof of his innocence and integrity, and exposed the evil designs of his enemies: who, not contented with having ruined his fortune, aimed a deadly blow at bis honour and fame. He was treated by Ferdinand with decent civility : by Isabella with tenderness and respect. They concurred in expressing their sorrow for the treatment he had so unjustly received, disavowed their knowledge of it, and promised him protection and future favour.
Bovadilla was instantly degraded, that all suspicion might be removed from themselves, as authors of such disgraceful and violent proceedings: yet they refused to restore to Columbus those privileges before granted him as viceroy; and which he so justy merited. Though willing to appear the avengers of Columbus's wrongs; a mean illiberal jealousy still subsisted. To a man who had discovered and put them in possession of a country, that was the source of envy to all Europe, they were afraid to trust: they retained him at court, under various pretexts; and appointed Nicholas de Ovando, a koight of the military order of Alcantara, governor of Hispaniola. This ungenerous conduct exasperated Columbus to such a degree, that he could no longer eonceal the sentiments which it excited. Wherever be went, he carried about with him the fetters with which he had been loaded. He had them hung up in his chamber, and he gave orders that when he died, they should be buried with him.
Notwithstanding this ungenerous treatment of Columbus, the spirit of discovery continued active and vigorous. Roderigo de Bastidas and John de la Cosa, fitted out two ships in company; the latter having served under Columbus in two of his voyages, was deemed the most skilful pilot in Spain. They steered dia rectly for the continent, and arrived on the coast of Paria, and continuing from thence west, discovered the coast of the province now called Terra Firma, from Cape de Vala, to the gulf of Darien.
Not long after Ojeda, with Amerigo Vespucci, set out on a second voyage, and held the same course with the former, and touched at the same places.
The voyage of Bastidas was prosperous and lucrative: that ef Ojeda, unfortunate. But both tended to increase the ardour of discovery; for, in proportion as the Spaniards became acquainted with the extent of the American continent, their ideas of its opulence and fertility increased.
Before these adventurers returned, a fleet was equipped at the public expense, for carrying over Ovando, the new governor, to Hispaniola. His presence was very necessary, that a period might be put to the imprudent administration of Bovadilla, which
threatened the destruction of the colony; who, conscious of the infustice and violence of his proceedings against Columbus, made it his sole study to gain the favour of his countrymen, 'by gratifying their passions, and accommodating himself to their prejudi
With this intent he established regulations in every respect the reverse of those which Columbus had deemed essential to the welfare of the settlement. Instead of that severe discipline, which was necessary to habituate the dissolute and corrupt members of society, and restrain them within proper bounds, he suffered them to enjoy such uncontrolled liberty, as led to the most extravagant excesses. So far from protecting the Indians, he gave a legal sanction to the oppression of that unhappy people. lle divided them into distinct classes, and distributed them amongst his adherents; reducing them to a state of complete servitude.
The rapacity and impatience of the Spaniards after gold, was such, that in their pursuit of it, they neglected all other means of acquiring wealth. The Indians were driven in crowds to the mountains and compelled to work in the mines, by masters who imposed their tasks witbout mercy or discretion. Labour, so disproportioned to their strength and former habits of life, wasted that feeble race of men, with such rapid consumption, as must soon have exterminated the ancient inhabitants of the island.
The necessity of providing a remedy for these evils, hastened Ovando's departure. He commanded the most respectable armament hitherto fitted out for the new world. It consisted of thirty-two ships, having on board two thousand five hundred persons, with an intention of settling the country.
Upon the arrival of the new governor, Bovadilla resigned his charge, and was commanded to return instantly to Spain, to answer for his conduct. Roldan, and the other ringleaders of the mutineers, who had been so active in opposing Columbus, were ordered to leave the island at ihe same time. The natives were declared free subjects of Spain, by public proclamation : of whom no service was required, without paying them the full price of their labour. Various regulations were made tending to suppress the licentiousness of the Spaniards, which had been so fatal to the colony.
To limit the exorbitant gain which private persons were supposed to make by working the mines, an order was published, directing all the gold to be brought to a public smelting house: and one half of it was declared to be the property of the crown.
While these steps were taking for the security and tranquility of the colony, Columbus was engaged in the fruitless and unpleasant employment of soliciting an ungrateful court to fulfil its agreements : and demanded, according to the original capita ulation in the year 1492, to be reinstated in his office of viceroy over the countries which he had discovered; but he solicited in vain. The greatness of his discoveries and the prospect of their increasing value, made the jealous Ferdinand consider the concessions in the capitulation as extravagant and impolitic; he inspired Isabella with the same sentiments: and under various pretexts, equally frivolous and unjust, they eluded all the requisitions of Columbus to perform that, which a solemn treaty bound them to accomplish.
After attending the court of Spain near two years, as a humble suppliant, at length he was convinced that he laboured in vain. But even this ungenerous return did not discourage him from pursuing the great object which first called forth his inventive genius, and excited him to attempt discovery. To open a new passage to the East Indies was his original and favourite scheme. This continued to engross his thoughts; he conceived an opinion that beyond the continent of America, there was a sea which extended to the East Indies, and hoped to find some Strait or narrow neck of land, by which a communication might be opened ; and from the part of the ocean already known, by a very fortunate conjecture, he supposed this Strait or isthmus to be situated near the gulf of Darien.
Filled with this idea, though now far advanced in age, worn out with fatigue, and broken with infirmities, he offered cheerfully to undertake a voyage which would ascertain this important point, and perfect the grand scheme which from the begianing, he proposed to accomplish.
Ferdinand and Isabella willingly came into the proposal: they were glad of some honourable employment that would remove from court a man, with whose demands they were determined not to comply, and whose services it was indecent to neglect. Though unwilling to reward Columbus, they were sensible of his merits, they were convinced of his skill and conduct, and had reason to confide in his success.
To these considerations there was a still more powerful influence. About this time (1502), the Portuguese fleet under Cabral, arrived from the Indies; and by the richness of its cargo, gave the people of Europe a more perfect idea, than they had hitherto been able to form, of the opulence of the east. The Portuguese had been more successful in their discoveries than the Spaniards. They opened a communication with countries where industry, arts, and elegance, flourished, and where commerce had been long established, and earried to a greater extent than in any region of the earth.
Their voyages thither yielded immediate and vast profit, in commodities that were extremely precious and in great request. Lisbon became the seat of commerce and of wealth; while Spair: had only the expectation of remote benefit, and future gair, from the western world.
Columbus's offer to conduct them to the East by a route which he expected would be much shorter and less dangerous, was very acceptable to the Spaniards. Even Ferdinand was roused by such a prospect, and warmly approved of the undertaking.
Notwithstanding the importance of the object of this fourth voyage to the nation, Columbus could procure only four small barks; the largest of which did not exceed seventy tons burden: accustomed to brave danger, he did not hesitate to accept the command of this pitiful squadron. His brother Bartholomew, and his second son Ferdinand, the historian of his actons, accompanied him.
He sailed from Cadiz on the ninth of May, 1502, and touched as usual at the Canary islands; from thence it was his intention to have directed his course for the continent; but his larg. est vessel was so heavy a sailor, and unfit for the expedition, that he was obliged to bear away for Hispaniola, that he might, if possible, exchange her for some ship of the fleet that had carried over Ovando.
When he arrived off St. Domingo, he found eighteen of these ships ready loaded, and on the eve of their departure for Spain. Columbus immediately acquainted the governor with the destination of his voyage, and the accident which had obliged him to alter his route. He requested to enter the harbour, not only that he might have permission to negociate the exchange of his ship, but that he might take shelter, during a violent hurricane which he discerned was approaching : on that account he also advised the governor to put off the departure of the fleet bound for Spain. But Ovando refused his request and despised his counsel. Under circumstances in wbich humanity would have af. forded refuge to a stranger, Columbus was denied admittance into a country of which he had discovered the existence, and had acquired possession. He was regarded as a visionary prophet, arrogating to himself the power to predict beyond the reach of human foresight.
The fleet set sail June 29th, 1502, for Spain: and the ensu. ing night the hurricane came on, with dreadful impetuosity and violence. Columbus alone, aware of the danger, took precau. tions against it; and saved his little squadron. The fleet bound to Spain met with the fate which the rashness and obstinacy of its commanders merited. Of eighteen ships, two or three only escaped. In this general wreck perished Bovadilla and Roldan, and the greater part of those who had been the most active in persecuting Columbus and oppressing the Indians; together with all the wealth which they had acquired by injustice and cruelty. It exceeded in value two hundred thousand Pesos; an im