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COLUMBUS, CHRISTOPHER

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