« ПредишнаНапред »
As soon as his health would permit, he repaired to courty where he was received with civility barely decent: he presented petition after petition, demanded the punishment of his oppressors, and the rights and privileges bestowed upon him, by the capitulation of one thousand four hundred and ninety-two. Ferdinand continued to amuse him with fair words and unmeaning promises. Instead of granting his claims, he proposed expedients in order to elude them.
The declining health of Columbus, flattered Ferdinand with the hopes of being soon delivered from an importunate suitor, nor was he deceived in his expectations. Disgusted with the ingratitude of a monarch, whom he had served with such fidelity and success, worn out with fatigues and hardships, and broken with infirmities, which these brought upon him, Columbus ended his life at Valladolid, on the twentieth of May, one thousand five hundred and six, in the fifty-ninth year of his age. He died with that composure of mind, suitable to the inagnanimity which distinguished his character, and with sentiments of piety becoming that supreme respect for religion, which he manifested in every occurrence of his life.
WHILE Columbus was employed in his last voyage, the colory of Hispaniola was gradually acquiring the form of a regular government: the humane solicitude of Isabella to protect the Indians from oppression, and the proclamation by which the Spaniards were prohibited from compelling them to work, retarded, for some time, the progress of improvement. The natives, whó considered exemption from labour as supreme happiness, rejected with scorn every allurement by which they were invited to work. The Spaniards, accustomed to the service of the Indians, quitted the island; many of those who came over with Ovando were seized with distempers peculiar to the climate; and in a _short time, near a thousand of them died. At the same time, the demand of one half of the product of the mines, claimed by the crown, was found to be an exaction so exorbitant, that there was none to be found that would engage to work them upon such terms. Ovando, to save the colony from ruin, relaxed the rigour of the royal edicts, and again distributed the Indians among the Spaniards, compelling them to work, for a stated time, in digging the mines, or in cultivating the ground; to cover this breach of his instructions, he enjoined their masters to pay them a certain sum, as the price of their work. He reduced the royal share of the gold found in the mines to one fisth, and was so fortunate as to persuade the court to approve of these regulations.
The Indians, after enjoying a short respite from servitude, now felt the yoke of bondage to be so galling, that they made several attempts to regain their freedom. This the Spaniards considered as rebellion, and took arms in order to reduce them to obedience: considering them, not as men fighting in defence of their liberty, but as slaves, who had revolted against their masters. Their ca. ziques, when taken, were condemned, like the leaders of a handiiti, to the most cruel and ignomidious punishments; and all their subjects, without regard to rank, were reduced to the same abject slavery. Such was the fate of the cazique of Higuey, a province in the eastern extremity of the island.
This war was occasioned by the perfidy of the Spaniards, in vielating a treaty, began and concluded by them with the natives; and was terminated by hanging up the cazique, who defended his people with a bravery that deserved a better fate.
But his treatment of Anacoana, a female çazique, was still more treacherous and cruel. The province, anciently called Xaragua, which extends from the fertile plain where Leogane is now satu
ated, to the western extremity of the island, was subject to her authority. She, from that partial fondness with which the women of America were attached to the Europeaps, had always courted the friendship of the Spaniards, and done them good offices. But some of the adherents of Roldan, having settled in her country, were so exasperated at her endeavouring to restrain their excesses, that they accused her of a design of throwing off the yoke, and destroying the Spaniards.
Ovando, though he knew that little credit was due to such profligate characters, marched, without further inquiry, towards Xaragua, with three hundred foot, and seventy horsemen. To prevent the Indians from taking alarm at this hostile appearance, he gave out that it was his sole intention to visit Anacoana, to whom his countrymen had been so muchindebted, and to regulate with her the mode of levying the tribute payable to the king of Spain.
Apacoana, in order to receive this illustrious guest with due honour, assembled the principal men in her dominions, to the number of three hundred, and advancing at their head, accompanied by a vast crowd of the lower rank, she welcomed Ovando with songs and dances, and conducted him to the place of her residence. There he was entertained for several days, with all the kindness of simple hospitality, and amused with games and spectacles usual arnong the natives, upon occasions of mirth and festivity.
Amidst the security which this inspired, Ovando was meditat. ing the destruction of his unsuspicious and generous entertainer, and her subjects; and the manner in which he executed his scheme, discovered such meanness and barbarity, as muśt shock every lover of humanity.
Under colour of shewing the Indians an European tournament, he advanced with his troops in battle array. The infantry took possession of all the avenues which led to the village, while the horsemen encompassed the house in which Anacoana and her chiefs were assembled. These movements were beheld with admiration, without any mixture of fear:, until, upon a signal, the Spaniards drew their swords, and rushod upon the Indians, who were defenceless, and astonished at an art of treachery, which exceeded their conception. Anacoana was instantly secured; all her attendants, who were in the house, were seized and bound. Fire was set to the house; and without examination, all those unhappy persons, the most illustrious in their own country, were consumed in the flames. Anacoana was reserved for a more ig. nominious fate. She was carried in chains to St. Domingo; and, after the formality of a trial before Spanish judges, she was con demned upon the evidence of those very men who had betrayed her, to be publicly banged,
The Indians, overawed and humbled by the destruction of their chief and principal men, submitted to the Spanish yoke. Ovando distributed them among his friends on the island. The exactions of their oppressors no longer knew any bounds. But barbarous as their policy was, and fatal to the natives, it produced considerable consequences, by calling forth the exertion of a whole nation, pointing it in one direction.
The working of the mines was carried on with amazing success. During several years, the gold brought into the royal smelting houses in Hispaniola, amounted annually to sixty thousand pesos above one hundred thousand pounds, sterling: an immense sum at that time.
Although Ovando had treated the Indians with cruelty and treachery, he governed the Spaniards with wisdom and justice: he established equal laws, and executed them impartially; he deavoured to turn the attention of the Spaniards to industry, more useful than searching the mines for gold. Some slips of the sugar-cane having been brought from the Canaries, by way of esperiment, were found to thrive with such in«rease in the rich and warm soil of Hispaniola. that the cultivation of them became an object of commerce: and, in a few years, the manufacturing this commodity became the great object of the inhabitants, and most certain source of their wealth.
But, potwithstanding this prosperous appearance of the colony, a calamity impended, which threatened its dissolution. The natives, on whose labour the Spaniards depended, wasted so fast, that the extinction of their whole race appeared to be inevitable. When Columbus discovered Hispaniola, the number of the inhabitants was computed to be at least a million. They were now reduced to sixty thousand in the space
of fifteen zing consumption of the human species, was the effect of several concurring causes. The inactive indolence in which they were used to pass their days, as it was the effect of their debility, contributed io increase it; their food afforded but little nourishment, and taken in such small quantities, as was not sufficient to invigorate a languid frame, and render it equal to the efforts industry required.
The Spaniards, without attending to those peculiarities in the constitution of the Indians, inposed such tasks upon them, that many sunk under the fatigue, and ended their wretched days. Others, in despair, cut short their own existence with a violent hand. Diseases of various kinds completed the desolation of the island. The Spaniards, thus deprived of their slaves, found it impossible to extend their improvements, or even carry on the works which they had already begun.
Ovando, in order to provide an immediate remedy for an evil so alarming, proposed to transport inhabitants of the Lacayo island's
to Hispaniola, under pretence they might be civilized with more facility, and instructed to greater advantage in the christian faith, if they were united to the Spanish colony, and under the immediate inspection of the missionaries settled there.
Ferdinand, deceived by this artifice, or willing to connive at an act of violence which policy represented as necessary, assented to the proposal. Several vessels were fitted out for the Lucayos, the commanders of which informed the natives, with whose language they were now acquainted, that they came from a delightful country, in which their departed ancestors resided, by whom they were sent to invite them to partake of that bliss which they enjoyed. The simple people listened with wonderland credulity; and delighted with the idea of visiting their relations and friends in that happy region, followed the Spaniards with eagerness.
By this artifice, above forty thousand were decoyed into Hispaniola to mingle their groans and tears with its native inhabitants. The ardour with which the Spaniards pursued their operations in the mines, and the success attending their pursuit seemed to have engrossed their whole attention: no enterprize of any moment bad been undertaken since the last voyage of Columbus. But the rapid decrease of the Iudians rendered it impossible to acquire wealth with that facility as formerly; they began to form new schemes of aggrandizement, and the spirit of discovering new oountries revived.
Juan Ponce de Leon, who commanded under Ovando in the eastern district of Hispaniola, passed over to the island of St. John de Puerto Rico, which Columbus had discovered in his second voyage, and penetrated into the interior part of the country. As he found the soil fertile, and expected, from the information of the inhabitants, to discover gold minds in the mountains, Ovando permitted bim to make a settlement. This was easily effected by that officer, who was eminent for his conduct and courage.
In a few years Puerto Rico was subject to the Spanish govern. ment; the natives were reduced to servitude, and treated with the same inconsideráte rigour as those of Hispaniola ; and were soon exterminated.
About this time, Juan Diaz de Solis, in conjunction with Vineent Yanez Pinzon, one of Columbus's original companions, made a voyage to the continent. They held the same course which Columbus had taken, as far as to the island of Guapicos; but, standing from thence to the west, discovered a new and extensive province, afterwards known by the name of Yucatan, and proceeded along the coast of that country:
This led to discoveries of greater importance. Sebastian de Ocampo, by the command of Ovando, sailed round Cuba, and first discovered that this country, which Columbus once supposed to be a part of the continent, was a large island. This was one of the last occurrenees of Ovando's administration.