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742
COLUMBUS, CHRISTOPHER

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