COLUMBUS, CHRISTOPHER [in Spanish Cristobal Colón] (c. 1446, or perhaps rather 1451,–1506) was the eldest son of Domenico Colombo and Suzanna Fontanarossa, and was born at Genoa either about 1446 or in 1451, the exact date being uncertain. His father was a wool-comber, of some small means, who lived till 1498. According to the life of Columbus by his son Ferdinand (a statement supported by Las Casas), young Christopher was sent to the university of Pavia, where he devoted himself to astronomy, geometry and cosmography. Yet, according to the admiral’s own statement, he became a sailor at fourteen. Evidently this statement, however, cannot mean the abandonment of all other employment, for in 1470, 1472, and 1473 we find him engaged in trade at Genoa, following the family business of weaving, and (in 1473) residing at the neighbouring Savona. In 1474–1475 he appears to have visited Chios, where he may have resided some time, returning to Genoa perhaps early in 1476. Thence he seems to have again set out on a voyage in the summer of 1476, perhaps bound for England; on the 13th of August 1476, the four Genoese vessels he accompanied were attacked off Cape St Vincent by a privateer, one Guillaume de Casenove, surnamed Coullon or Colombo (“Columbus”); two of the four ships escaped, with Christopher, to Lisbon. In December 1476, the latter resumed their voyage to England, probably carrying with them Columbus, who, after a short stay in England, claims to have made a voyage in the northern seas, and even to have visited Iceland about February 1477. This last pretension is gravely disputed, but it is perhaps not to be rejected, and we may also trace the Genoese about this time at Bristol, at Galway, and probably among the islands west and north of Scotland. Soon after this he returned to Portugal, where (probably in 1478) he married a lady of some rank, Felipa Moñiz de Perestrello, daughter of Bartholomew Perestrello, a captain in the service of Prince Henry the Navigator, and one of the early colonists and first governor of Porto Santo. Felipa was also a cousin of the archbishop of Lisbon at this time (1478).
About 1479 Columbus visited Porto Santo, here as in Portugal
probably employing his time in making maps and charts for a
livelihood, while he pored over the logs and papers of his deceased
father-in-law, and talked with old seamen of their voyages, and
of the mystery of the western seas. About this time, too, if
not earlier, he seems to have arrived at the conclusion that much
of the world remained undiscovered, and step by step conceived
that design of reaching Asia by sailing west which was to result
Idea of western passage
to Asia. in the discovery of America. In 1474 he is said to have corresponded with Paolo Toscanelli, the Florentine physician and cosmographer, and to have received from him valuable suggestions, both by map and letter, for such a Western enterprise. (The whole of this incident has been disputed by some recent critics.) He had perhaps already begun his studies in a number of works, especially the Book of Marco Polo and the Imago Mundi of Pierre d’Ailly, by which his cosmographical and geographical conceptions were largely moulded. His views, as finally developed and presented to the courts of Portugal and Spain, were supported by three principal lines of argument, derived from natural reasons, from the theories of geographers, and from the reports and traditions of mariners. He believed the world to be a sphere; he underestimated its size; he overestimated the size of the Asiatic continent. And the farther that continent extended towards the east, the nearer it came towards Spain. Nor were these theories the only supports of his idea. Martin Vicente, a Portuguese pilot, was said to have found, 400 leagues to the westward of Cape St Vincent, and after a westerly gale of many days’ duration, a piece of strange wood, wrought, but not with iron; Pedro Correa, Columbus’s own brother-in-law, was said to have seen another such waif at Porto Santo, with great canes capable of holding four quarts of wine between joint and joint, and to have heard of two men being washed up at Flores “very broad-faced, and differing in aspect from Christians.” West of Europe, now and then, men fancied there hove in sight the mysterious islands of St Brandan, of Brazil, of Antillia or of the Seven Cities. In his northern journey, too, some vague and formless traditions may have reached the explorer’s ear of the voyages of Leif Ericson and Thorfinn Karlsefne, and of the coasts of Markland and Vinland. All were hints and rumours to bid the bold mariner sail towards the setting sun, and this he at length determined to do.
The concurrence of some state or sovereign, however, was necessary for the success of this design. Columbus, on the accession of John II. of Portugal, seems to have entered the service of this country, to have accompanied Diego d’Azambuja to the Gold Coast, and to Quest of
a patron.have taken part in the construction of the famous fort of St George at El Mina (1481–1482). On his return from this expedition, he submitted to King John the scheme he had now matured for reaching Asia by a western route across the ocean. The king was deeply interested in the rival scheme (of an eastern or south-eastern route round Africa to India) which had so long held the field, which had been initiated by the Genoese in 1291, and which had been revived, for Portugal, by Prince Henry the Navigator; but he listened to the Genoese, and referred him to a committee of council for geographical affairs. The council’s report was adverse; but the king, who was yet inclined to favour the theory of Columbus, assented to the suggestion of the bishop of Ceuta that the plan should be carried out in secret and without its author’s knowledge. A caravel was despatched; but it returned after a brief absence, the sailors having lost heart, and refused to venture farther. Upon discovering this treachery, Columbus left Lisbon for Spain (1484), taking with him his son Diego, the only issue of his marriage with Felipa Moñiz, who was by this time dead. He departed secretly;—according to some writers, to give the slip to King John; according to others, to escape his creditors.
Columbus next betook himself to the south of Spain, and while meditating an appeal to the king of France, opened his plans to the count (from 1491, duke) of Medina Celi. The latter gave him great encouragement, entertained him for two years, and even determined to furnish him with three or four caravels, to carry out his great design. Finally, however, being deterred by the consideration that the enterprise was too vast for a subject, he turned his guest from the determination he had come to of making application at the court of France, by writing on his behalf to Queen Isabella; and Columbus repaired to the court at Cordova at her bidding (1486).
It was an ill moment for the navigator’s fortune. Castile and Leon were in the thick of that struggle which resulted in the final conquest of the Granada Moors; and neither Ferdinand nor Isabella had time as yet to give due consideration to Columbus’ proposals. The adventurer was indeed kindly received; he was handed over to the care of Alonso de Quintanilla, whom he speedily converted into an enthusiastic supporter of his theory. He made many other friends, and among them Beatriz Enriquez, the mother of his second son Fernando. But the committee, presided over by the queen’s confessor, Fray Hernando de Talavera, which had been appointed to consider the new project, reported that it was vain and impracticable.
From Cordova Columbus followed the court to Salamanca, having already been introduced by Quintanilla to the notice of the grand cardinal, Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza, “the third king of Spain”; the latter had befriended and supported the Genoese, and apparently arranged the first interview between him and Queen Isabella. At Salamanca prolonged discussions took place upon the questions now raised; the Dominicans of San Esteban entertained Columbus during the conferences (1486–1487). In 1487 Columbus, who had been following the court from place to place (billeted in towns as an officer of the sovereigns, and gratified from time to time with sums of money towards his expenses), was present at the siege of Malaga. In 1488 he was invited by the king of Portugal, his “especial friend,” to return to that country, and was assured of protection against arrest or proceedings of any kind (March 20): he had probably made fresh overtures to King John shortly before; and in the autumn of 1488 we find him in Lisbon, conferring with his brother Bartholomew and laying plans for the future. We have no record of the final negotiations of Columbus with the Portuguese government, but they clearly did not issue in anything definite, for Christopher now returned to Spain (though not till he had witnessed the return of Bartholomew Diaz from the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope and his reception by King John), while Bartholomew proceeded to England with a mission to interest King Henry VII. in the Columbian schemes. If the London enterprise was unsuccessful (as indeed it proved), it was settled that Bartholomew should carry the same invitation to the French court. He did so; and here he remained till summoned to Spain in 1493. Meantime Christopher, unable throughout 1490 to get a hearing at the Spanish court, was in 1491 again referred to a junta, presided over by Cardinal Mendoza; but this junta, to Columbus’ dismay, once more rejected his proposals; the Spanish sovereigns merely promised him that when the Granada war was over, they would reconsider what he had laid before them.
Columbus was now in despair. He at once betook himself to Huelva, a little maritime town in Andalusia, north-west of Cadiz, with the intention of taking ship for France. He halted, however, at the monastery of La Rabida, near Huelva, and still nearer Palos, where he seems to have made lasting friendships on his first arrival in Spain in January 1485, where he especially enlisted the support of Juan Perez, the guardian, who invited him to take up his quarters in the monastery, and introduced him to Garcia Fernandez, a physician and student of geography. Juan Perez had been the queen’s confessor; he now wrote to her in urgent terms, and was summoned to her presence; and money was sent to Columbus to bring him once more to court. He reached Granada in time to witness the surrender of the city (January 2, 1492), and negotiations were resumed. Columbus believed in his mission, and stood out for high terms; he asked for the rank of admiral at once (“Admiral of the Ocean” in all those islands, seas, and continents that he might discover), the vice-royalty of all he should discover, and a tenth of the precious metals discovered within his admiralty. These conditions were rejected, and the negotiations were again interrupted. An interview with Mendoza appears to have followed; but nothing came of it, and before the close of January 1492, Columbus actually set out for France. At length, however, on the entreaty of the Queen’s confidante, the Marquesa de Moya, of Luis de Santangel, receiver of the ecclesiastical revenues of the crown of Aragon, and of other courtiers, Isabella was induced to determine on the expedition. A messenger was sent after Columbus, and overtook him near a bridge called “Pinos,” 6 m. from Granada. He returned to the camp at Santa Fé; and on the 17th of April 1492, the agreement between him and their Catholic majesties was signed and sealed.
As his aims included not only the discovery of Cipangu or Japan, but also the opening up of intercourse with the grand khan of Cathay, he received a royal letter of introduction to the latter. The town of Palos was ordered to find him two ships, and these were soon placed at his disposal. But no crews could be got together, in spite of the indemnity offered to criminals and “broken men” who would serve on the expedition; and had not Juan Perez succeeded in interesting in the cause the Palos “magnates” Martin Alonso Pinzon and Vicente Yañez Pinzon, Columbus’ departure had been long delayed. At last, however, men, ships and stores were ready. The expedition consisted of the “Santa Maria,” a decked ship of 100 tons with a crew of 52 men, commanded by the admiral in person; and of two caravels; the “Pinta” of 50 tons, with 18 men, under Martin Pinzon; and the “Nina,” of 40 tons, with 18 men, under his brother Vicente Yañez, afterwards (1499) the first to cross the line in the American Atlantic.
The adventurers numbered 88-souls; and on Friday, the 3rd of August 1492, at eight in the morning, the little fleet weighed anchor, and stood for the Canary Islands. An abstract of the admiral’s diary made by Las Casas is yet First voyage. extant; and from it many particulars may be gleaned concerning this first voyage. Three days after the ships had set sail the “Pinta” lost her rudder; the admiral was in some alarm, but comforted himself with the reflection that Martin Pinzon was energetic and ready-witted; they had, however, to put in at Teneriffe, to refit the caravel. On the 6th of September they weighed anchor once more with all haste, Columbus having been informed that three Portuguese caravels were on the look-out to intercept him. On the 13th of September the westerly variations of the magnetic needle were for the first time observed; on the 15th a meteor fell into the sea at four or five leagues distance; soon after they arrived at those vast plains of seaweed called the Sargasso Sea; while all the time, writes the admiral, they had most temperate breezes, the sweetness of the mornings being especially delightful, the weather like an Andalusian April, and only the song of the nightingale wanting. On the 17th the men began to murmur; they were frightened by the strange phenomena of the variation of the compass, but the explanation Columbus gave restored their tranquillity. On the 18th they saw many birds, and a great ridge of low-lying cloud; and they expected to see land. On the 20th they saw boobies and other birds, and were sure the land must be near. In this, however, they were disappointed; and thenceforth Columbus, who was keeping all the while a double reckoning, one for the crew and one for himself, had great difficulty in restraining the evil-disposed from the excesses they meditated. On the 25th Martin Alonso Pinzon raised the cry of land, but it proved false, as did the rumour to the same effect on the 7th of October, from the “Niña.” But on the 11th the “Pinta” fished up a cane, a pole, a stick which appeared to have been wrought with iron, and a board, while the “Niña” sighted a branch covered with berries; “and with these signs all of them breathed and were glad.” At ten o’clock on that America discovered. night Columbus himself perceived and pointed out a light ahead, and at two in the morning of Friday, the 12th of October 1492, Rodrigo de Triana, a sailor aboard the “Niña,” announced the appearance of what proved to be the New World. The land sighted was an island, called by the Indians Guanahani, and named by Columbus San Salvador. It is generally identified with Watling Island.
The same morning Columbus landed, richly clad, and bearing the royal banner of Spain. He was accompanied by the brothers Pinzon, bearing banners of the Green Cross (a device of the admiral’s), and by great part of the crew. When they all had “given thanks to God, kneeling upon the shore, and kissed the ground with tears of joy, for the great mercy received,” the admiral named the island, and took solemn possession of it for their Catholic majesties of Castile and Leon. At the same time such of the crews as had shown themselves doubtful and mutinous sought his pardon weeping, and prostrated themselves at his feet.
Into the remaining detail of this voyage, of highest interest as it is, it is impossible to go further. It will be enough to say that it resulted in the discovery of the islands of Santa Maria de la Concepcion (Rum Cay), Fernandina (Long Island), Isabella (Crooked Island), Cuba or Juana (named by Columbus in honour of the young prince of Spain), and Hispaniola, Haiti, or San Domingo. Off the last of these the “Santa Maria” went aground, owing to the carelessness of the steersman. No lives were lost, but the ship had to be unloaded and abandoned; and Columbus, who was anxious to return to Europe with the news of his achievement, resolved to plant a colony on the island, to build a fort out of the material of the stranded hulk, and to leave the crew. The fort was called La Navidad; 44 Europeans were placed in charge. On the 4th of January 1493 Columbus, who had lost sight of Martin Pinzon, set sail alone in the “Niña” for the east; and two days afterwards the “Pinta” joined her sister-ship. A storm, however, separated the vessels, and it was not until the 18th of February that Columbus reached the island of Santa Maria in the Azores. Here he was threatened with capture by the Portuguese governor, who could not for some time be brought to recognize his commission. On the 24th of February, however, he was allowed to proceed, and on the 4th of March the “Niña” dropped anchor off Lisbon. The king of Portugal received the admiral with the highest honours. On the 13th of March the “Niña” put out from the Tagus, and two days afterwards, Friday, the 15th of March, she reached Palos.
The court was at Barcelona; and thither, after despatching a letter announcing his arrival, Columbus proceeded in person. He entered the city in a sort of triumphal procession, was received by their majesties in full court, and, seated in their presence, related the story of his wanderings, exhibiting the “rich and strange” spoils of the new-found lands,—the gold, the cotton, the parrots, the curious arms, the mysterious plants, the unknown birds and beasts, and the Indians he had brought with him for baptism. All his honours and privileges were confirmed to him; the title of Don was conferred on himself and his brothers; he rode at the king’s bridle; he was served and saluted as a grandee of Spain. A new and magnificent scutcheon was also blazoned for him (4th May 1493), whereon the royal castle and lion of Castile and Leon were combined with the five anchors of his own coat of arms. Nor were their Catholic highnesses less busy on their own account than on that of their servant. On the 3rd and 4th of May Alexander VI. granted bulls confirming to the crowns of Castile and Leon all the lands discovered, or to be discovered, west of a line of demarcation drawn 100 leagues west of the Azores, on the same terms as those on which the Portuguese held their colonies along the African coast. A new expedition was got in readiness with all possible despatch, to secure and extend the discoveries already made.
After several delays the fleet weighed anchor on the 24th of September 1493 and steered westwards. It consisted of three great carracks (galleons) and fourteen caravels (light frigates), having on board over 1500 men, besides the Second voyage. animals and materials necessary for colonization. Twelve missionaries accompanied the expedition, under the orders of Bernardo Buil or Boil, a Benedictine; Columbus had been already directed (29th May 1493) to endeavour by all means in his power to Christianize the inhabitants of the islands, to make them presents, and to “honour them much”, while all under him were commanded to treat them “well and lovingly,” under pain of severe punishment. On the 13th of October the ships, which had put in at the Canaries, left Ferro; and on Sunday, the 3rd of November, after a single storm, “by the goodness of God and the wise management of the admiral” an island was sighted to the west, which was named Dominica. Northwards from this the isles of Marigalante and Guadalupe were next discovered and named; while on the north-western course to La Navidad those of Montserrat, Antigua, San Martin, Santa Cruz and the Virgin Islands were sighted, and the island now called Porto Rico was touched at, hurriedly explored, and named San Juan Bautista. On the 22nd of November Columbus came in sight of Hispaniola, and sailing westward to La Navidad, found the fort burned and the colony dispersed. He decided on building a second fort, and coasting on 30 m. east of Monte Cristi, he pitched on a spot where he founded the city of Isabella.
The climate proved unhealthy; the colonists were greedy of gold, impatient of control, proud, ignorant and mutinous; and Columbus, whose inclination drew him westward, was doubtless glad to escape the worry and anxiety of his post, and to avail himself of the instructions of his sovereigns as to further discoveries. On the 2nd of February 1494 he sent home, by Antonio de Torres, that despatch to their Catholic highnesses by which he may be said to have founded the West Indian slave trade. He established the mining camp of San Tomaso in the gold country of Central Hispaniola; and on the 24th of April 1494, having nominated a council of regency under his brother Diego, and appointed Pedro Margarit his captain-general, he again put to sea. After following the southern shore of Cuba for some days, he steered southwards, and discovered (May 14th) the island of Jamaica, which he named Santiago. He then resumed his exploration of the Cuban coast, threaded his way through a labyrinth of islets which he named the Garden of the Queen (Jardin de la Reyna), and, after coasting westwards for many days, became convinced that he had discovered continental land. He therefore caused Perez de Luna, the notary, to draw up a document to this effect (12th of June 1494), which was afterwards taken round and signed (the admiral’s steward witnessing) by the officers, men and boys of his three caravels, the “Niña,” the “Cordera,” and the “San Juan.” He then stood to the south-east, and sighted the island of Evangelista (now Isla de los Pinos), revisited Jamaica, coasted the south of Hispaniola, and on the 24th of September touched at and named the island of La Mona, in the channel between Hispaniola and Porto Rico. Thence he had intended to sail eastwards and complete the survey of the Caribbean Archipelago; but he was exhausted by the terrible tear and wear of mind and body he had undergone (he says himself that on this expedition he was three-and-thirty days almost without sleep), and on the day following his departure from La Mona he fell into a lethargy, that deprived him of sense and memory, and had well-nigh proved fatal to life. At last, on the 29th of September, the little fleet dropped anchor off Isabella, and in his new city the admiral lay sick for five months.
The colony was in a sad plight. Every one was discontented, and many were sick, for the climate was unhealthy and there was nothing to eat. Margarit and Boil had deserted the settlement and fled to Spain, but ere his departure the former, in his capacity of captain-general, had done much to outrage and alienate the Indians. The strongest measures were necessary to undo this mischief, and, backed by his brother Bartholomew, Columbus proceeded to reduce the natives under Spanish sway. Alonso de Ojeda succeeded by a brilliant coup de main in capturing the cacique Caonabo, and the rest submitted. Five ship-loads of Indians were sent off to Seville (24th June 1495) to be sold as slaves; and a tribute was imposed upon their fellows, which must be looked upon as the origin of that system of repartimientos or encomiendas which was afterwards to work such mischief among the conquered. In October 1495 Juan Aguado arrived at Isabella, with a royal commission to report on the state of the colony; here he took up the position of a judge of Columbus’s government; and much recrimination followed. Columbus decided to return home; he appointed his brother Bartholomew adelantado of the island; and on the 10th of March 1496 he quitted Hispaniola in the “Niña.” The vessel, after a protracted and perilous voyage, reached Cadiz on the 11th of June 1496, where the admiral landed, wearing the habit of a Franciscan. He was cordially received by his sovereigns, and a new fleet of eight vessels was put at his disposal. By royal patent, moreover, a tract of land in Hispaniola, of 50 leagues by 20, was offered to him, with the title of duke or marquis (which he declined); for three years he was to receive an eighth of the gross and a tenth of the net profits on each voyage; the right of creating a mayorazgo or perpetual entail of titles and estates was granted him; and his two sons were received into Isabella’s service as pages.
Meanwhile, however, the preparing of the fleet proceeded slowly, and it was not till the 30th of May 1498 that he set sail with his main fleet of six ships—two caravels had already been sent on ahead. From San Lucar he Third voyage. steered for Porto Santo, Madeira, and Gomera, despatching three vessels direct from the Canaries to Hispaniola. He next proceeded to the Cape Verde Islands, which he quitted on the 5th of July. On the 31st of the same month, being greatly in need of water, and fearing that no land lay westwards as he had hoped, Columbus had turned his ship’s head north, when Alonzo Perez of Huelva saw land about 15 leagues to the south-west. It was crowned with three hill-tops, from which circumstance, and in fulfilment of a vow made at starting (to name the first land discovered on this voyage in honour of the Trinity), the admiral named it Trinidad, which name it yet bears. On Wednesday, the 1st of August, he beheld for the first time the mainland of South America, the continent he had sought so long. It seemed to him but an insignificant island, and he called it Isla Santa. Sailing westwards, next day he saw the Gulf of Paria (named by him the Golfo de la Ballena), into which he was borne at immense risk on the ridge of waters formed by the meeting of the sea and the Orinoco estuaries. For several days he coasted the continent, esteeming as islands the various projections he saw, and naming them accordingly, nor was it until he had realized the volume poured out by the Orinoco that he began to perceive the truly continental character of his last discovery. He was now anxious to revisit the colony in Hispaniola; and after sighting Tobago, Grenada, and Margarita, made for San Domingo, the new capital of the settlement, where he arrived on the 31st of August. He found that affairs had not prospered well in his absence. By the vigour and activity of the adelantado, the whole island had been reduced under Spanish sway; but under the leadership of Francisco Roldan the malcontent settlers had risen in revolt, and Columbus had to compromise matters in order to restore peace. Roldan retained his office of chief justice; and such of his followers as chose to remain in the island were gratified with repartimientos of land and labour.
At home, however, court favour had turned against Columbus. For one thing, the ex-colonists were often bitterly hostile to the admiral and his brothers. They were wont to parade their grievances in the very court-yards of the Alhambra, to surround the king when he came forth with complaints and reclamations, to insult the discoverer’s young sons with shouts and jeers. Again, the queen began to criticize severely the shipment of Indians from the new-found lands to Spain. And once more, there was no doubt that the colony itself, whatever the cause, had not prospered so well as might have been desired. Ferdinand’s support of Columbus had never been very hearty, and his inclination to supersede the Genoese now prevailed over the queen’s friendliness. Accordingly, on the 21st of May 1499, Francisco Bobadilla was appointed governor and judge of Hispaniola during royal pleasure, with authority to examine into all complaints. Columbus was ordered to deliver up his charge to Bobadilla, and to accept whatever the latter should deliver him from the sovereigns. Bobadilla left Spain in June 1500, and landed in Hispaniola on the 23rd of August.
Columbus, meanwhile, had restored such tranquillity as was possible in his government. With Roldan’s help he had beaten off an attempt on the island of the adventurer Ojeda, his old lieutenant; the Indians were being collected into villages and Christianized. Gold-mining was profitably pursued; in three years, he calculated, the royal revenues might be raised to an average of 60,000,000 reals. The arrival of Bobadilla, however, speedily changed this state of affairs. On landing, he took possession of the admiral’s house and summoned him and his brothers before him. Accusations of severity, of injustice, of venality even, were poured down on their heads, and Columbus anticipated nothing less than a shameful death. Bobadilla put all three in irons, and shipped them off to Spain.
Alonso Vallejo, captain of the caravel in which the illustrious prisoners sailed, still retained a proper sense of the honour and respect due to Columbus, and would have removed the fetters; but to this Columbus would not consent. He would wear them, he said, until their highnesses, by whose order they had been affixed, should order their removal; and he would keep them afterwards “as relics and as memorials of the reward of his service.” He did so. His son Fernando “saw them always hanging in his cabinet, and he requested that when he died they might be buried with him.” Whether this last wish was complied with is not known.
A heart-broken and indignant letter from Columbus to Doña Juana de Torres, formerly nurse of the infante Don Juan, arrived at court before the despatch of Bobadilla. It was read to the queen, and its tidings were confirmed by communications from Alonso Vallejo and the alcaide of Cadiz. There was a great movement of indignation; the tide of popular and royal feeling turned once more in the admiral’s favour. He received a large sum to defray his expenses; and when he appeared at court, on the 17th of December 1500, he was no longer in irons and disgrace, but richly apparelled and surrounded with friends. He was received with all honour and distinction. The queen is said to have been moved to tears by the narration of his story. Their majesties not only repudiated Bobadilla’s proceedings, but declined to inquire into the charges that he at the same time brought against his prisoners, and promised Columbus compensation for his losses and satisfaction for his wrongs. A new governor, Nicolas de Ovando, was appointed, and left San Lucar on the 13th of February 1502, with a fleet of thirty ships, to supersede Bobadilla. The latter was to be impeached and sent home; the admiral’s property was to be restored; and a fresh start was to be made in the conduct of colonial affairs. Thus ended Columbus’s history as viceroy and governor of the new Indies which he had presented to the country of his adoption.
His hour of rest, however, was not yet come. Ever anxious to serve their Catholic highnesses, “and particularly the queen,” he had determined to find a strait through which he might penetrate westwards into Portuguese Asia. Fourth voyage.After the usual inevitable delays his prayers were granted, and on the 9th of May 1502, with four caravels and 150 men, he weighed anchor from Cadiz, and sailed on his fourth and last great voyage. He first betook himself to the relief of the Portuguese fort of Arzilla, which had been besieged by the Moors, but the siege had been raised before he arrived. He put to sea westwards once more, and on the 15th of June discovered the island of Martinino (probably St Lucia). He had received positive instructions from his sovereigns on no account to touch at Hispaniola; but his largest caravel was greatly in need of repairs, and he had no choice but to abandon her or disobey orders. He preferred the latter alternative, and sent a boat ashore to Ovando, asking for a new ship and for permission to enter the harbour to weather a hurricane which he saw was coming on. But his requests were refused, and he coasted the island, casting anchor under lee of the land. Here he weathered the storm, which drove the other caravels out to sea, and annihilated the homeward-bound fleet, the richest that had till then been sent from Hispaniola. Roldan and Bobadilla perished with others of the admiral’s enemies; and Fernando Columbus, who accompanied his father on this voyage, wrote long afterwards, “I am satisfied it was the hand of God, for had they arrived in Spain they had never been punished as their crimes deserved, but rather been favoured and preferred.”
After recruiting his flotilla at Azua, Columbus put in at Jaquimo and refitted his four vessels; and on the 14th of July 1502 he steered for Jamaica. For several days the ships wandered painfully among the keys and shoals he had named the Garden of the Queen, and only an opportune easterly wind prevented the crews from open mutiny. The first land sighted (July 30th) was the islet of Guanaja, about 40 m. east of the coast of Honduras. Here he got news from an old Indian of a rich and vast country lying to the eastward, which he at once concluded must be the long-sought-for empire of the grand khan. Steering along the coast of Honduras, great hardships were endured, but nothing approaching his ideal was discovered. On the 12th of September Cape Gracias-a-Dios was rounded. The men had become clamorous and insubordinate; not until the 5th of December, however, would he tack about and retrace his course. It now became his intention to plant a colony on the river Veragua, which was afterwards to give his descendants a title of nobility; but he had hardly put about when he was caught in a storm, which lasted eight days, wrenched and strained his crazy, worm-eaten ships severely, and finally, on Epiphany Sunday 1503, blew him into an embouchure which he named Belem or Bethlehem. Gold was very plentiful in this place, and here he determined to found his settlement. By the end of March 1503 a number of huts had been run up, and in these the adelantado (Bartholomew Columbus), with 80 men, was to remain, while Christopher returned to Spain for men and supplies. Quarrels, however, arose with the natives; the cacique was made prisoner, but escaped again; and before Columbus could leave the coast he had to abandon a caravel, to take the settlers on board, and to relinquish the enterprise of colonization. Steering eastwards, he left a second caravel at Puerto Bello; he thence bore northwards for Cuba, where he obtained supplies from the natives. From Cuba he bore up for Jamaica, and there, in the harbour of San Gloria, now St Ann’s Bay, he ran his ships aground in a small inlet still called Don Christopher’s Cove (June 23rd, 1503).
The expedition was received with great kindness by the natives, and here Columbus remained upwards of a year, awaiting the return of his lieutenant Diego Mendez, whom he had despatched to Ovando for assistance. During his critical sojourn here, the admiral suffered much from disease and from the lawlessness of his followers, whose misconduct had alienated the natives, and provoked them to withhold their accustomed supplies, until he dexterously worked upon their superstitions by prognosticating an eclipse. Two vessels having at last arrived for his relief, Columbus left Jamaica on the 28th of June 1504, and, after calling at Hispaniola, set sail for Spain on the 12th of September. After a tempestuous voyage he landed once more at San Lucar on the 7th of November 1504.
As he was too ill to go to court, his son Diego was sent thither in his place, to look after his interests and transact his business. Letter after letter followed the young man from Seville—one by the hands of Amerigo Vespucci. A licence to ride on mule-back was granted him on the 23rd of February 1505; and in the following May he was removed to the court at Segovia, and thence again to Valladolid. On the landing of Philip and Juana at Coruña (25th of April 1506), although “much oppressed with the gout and troubled to see himself put by his rights,” he is known to have sent off the adelantado to pay them his duty and to assure them that he was yet able to do them extraordinary service. The last documentary note of him is contained in a final codicil to the will of 1498, made at Valladolid on the 19th of May 1506. By this the old will is confirmed; the mayorazgo is bequeathed to his son Diego and his heirs male, failing these to Fernando, his second son, and failing these to the heirs male of Bartholomew; only in case of the extinction of the male line, direct or collateral, is it to descend to the females of the family; and those into whose hands it may fall are never to diminish it, but always to increase and ennoble it by all means possible. The head of the house is to sign himself “The Admiral.” A tenth of the annual income is to be set aside yearly for distribution among the poor relations of the house. A chapel is founded and endowed for the saying of masses. Beatriz Enriquez is left to the care of the young admiral. Among other legacies is one of “half a mark of silver to a Jew who used to live at the gate of the Jewry, in Lisbon.” The codicil was written and signed with the admiral’s own hand. Next day (20th of May 1506) he died.
After the funeral ceremonies at Valladolid, Columbus’s remains were transferred to the Carthusian monastery of Santa Maria de las Cuevas, Seville, where the bones of his son Diego, the second admiral, were also laid. Exhumed in 1542, the bodies of both father and son were taken over sea to Hispaniola and interred in the cathedral of San Domingo. In 1795–1796, on the cession of that island to the French, the relics were re-exhumed and transferred to the cathedral of Havana, whence, after the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the loss of Cuba, they were finally removed to Seville cathedral, where they remain. The present heir and representative of Columbus belongs to the Larreategui family, descendants of the discoverer through the female line, and retains the titles of admiral and duke of Veragua.
The interpretation of the seven-lettered cipher, accepting the smaller letters of the second line as the final ones of the words, seems to be Salve Christus, Maria, Yosephus. The name Christopher (Christoferens) appears in the last line.
In person Columbus was tall and shapely. The only authentic portrait of him is that which once belonged to Paulus Jovius, and is still in the possession of the de Orchi family (related to Jovius by female descent) at Como. It shows us a venerable man with clean-shaven face, thin grey hair, high forehead, sad thoughtful eyes. It bears the inscription Columbus Lygur. novi orbis repertor.
Authorities.—Fernando Columbus, Historie del Signor Don Fernando Colombo . . . e vera relatione della vita . . . dell’ Ammiraglio D. Christoforo Colombo (the Spanish original of this, written before 1539, is lost; only the Italian version remains, first published at Venice in 1571; a good edition appeared in London in 1867); Bartolomé de las Casas, Historia de las Indias, written 1527–1561, but first printed at Madrid in 1875, after remaining in manuscript more than three centuries; Andres Bernandez, Historia de los Reyes Catolicos (contemporary with Fernando Columbus’s Historie, but first printed at Granada in 1856; best edition, Seville, 1870); Gonzalo Fernandez Oviedo y Valdes, Historia general de las Indias (Seville, 1535; best edition, Madrid, 1851–1855); Peter Martyr d’Anghiera, Opus Epistolarum, first published in 1530, and De Orbe Novo (Decades), printed in 1511 and 1530; Francisco Lopez de Gomara, Historia general de las Indias (Saragossa, 1552–1553, and Antwerp, 1554); Antonio de Herrera, Historia general de las Indias occidentales (publication first completed in 1615, but best edition perhaps that of 1730, Madrid); Juan Bautista Muñoz, Historia del Nuevo Mundo (Madrid, 1793); Martin Fernandez Navarrete, Coleccion de los Viages y descubrimientos que hicieron por mar los Españoles (Madrid, 1825–1837); Washington Irving, History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (London, 1827–1828); Alex. von Humboldt, Examen critique (Paris, 1836–1839); R. H. Major, Select Letters of Columbus (London, Hakluyt Society, 1847); Fernandez Duro, Colon y Pinzon (Madrid, 1883); Henry Harrisse, Christophe Colomb (Paris, 1884), and Christophe Colomb devant l’histoire (Paris, 1892); Justin Winsor, Christopher Columbus (Cambridge, Mass., 1891); Josè Maria Asensio, Cristoval Colon (Barcelona, 1892); Clements R. Markham, Life of Christopher Columbus (London, 1892); John Fiske, Discovery of America (Boston and New York, 1892); E. J. Payne, History of the New World called America, vol. i. (Oxford, 1892); Paul Gaffarel, Histoire de la découverte de l’Amérique (Paris, 1892); Charles I. Elton, Career of Columbus (London, 1892); Raccolta Colombiana (1892, &c.); Sophus Ruge, Columbus (Berlin, 1902); John Boyd Thatcher, Christopher Columbus (New York, 1903–1904); Henry Vignaud, La Lettre et la carte de Toscanelli (Paris, 1901), and Études critiques sur la vie de Colomb avant ses découvertes (Paris, 1905); Filson Young, Christopher Columbus and the New World of his discovery (London, 1906). (C. R. B.)