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Jamaica, the southern shores of Hispaniola, and several of the Carribean Isles were visited. In the third, although his principal object was the government and improvement of the infant settlements in Hispaniola, he discovered Trinidad, the adjacent coasts of South America, and some of the contiguous islands; and in his fourth and last voyage, the shores of Honduras, Mosquito, Veragua and Porto Bello.
The misfortunes of his declining years are familiar to our readers. It is generally known, that during his third voyage, whilst occupied in almost ineffectual efforts to maintain order in Hispaniola, he was superseded in his command, and by Bobadilla, who was appointed to succeed him, imprisoned and sent to Spain in chains; and that in his fourth voyage, when stranded on Jamaica, he was suffered by Ovando, the successor of Bobadilla, to remain twelve months on that island without the smallest assistance, left apparently to perish either by famine or the hostility of the natives.
How deeply Columbus felt this neglect, all who have studied his character must be aware. In one of his letters from Jamaica he thus expresses himself :
Until now," says he, " I have wept for others; have pity upon me heaven, and weep for me earth! In my temporal concerns, without a farthing to give in offering; in spiritual concerns, cast away here in the Indies; isolated in my misery, infirm, expecting each day will be my last; surrounded by cruel savages, separated from the holy sacraments of the church, so that my soul will be lost, if separated here from my body! Weep for me whoever has charity, truth and justice. I came not on this voyage to gain honour or estate ; for all hope of the kind is dead with me. I came to serve your majesties with a sound intention and an honest zeal, and I speak no falsehood. If it should please God to deliver me from hence, I humbly supplicate your majesties to permit me to repair to Rome, and perform other pilgrimages." Vol. iii.
These incidents disclose the declining favour of Columbus at the Court of Spain. Indeed, the remnant of a shattered constitution was consumed in efforts to reclaim the prerogatives which had been more than once solemnly granted to him, and be died amidst his efforts to obtain justice for the most flagrant violation of his rights.
There were many circumstances which led to these disgraceful occurrences, for, on the reputation of Ferdinand of Spain, the treatment of Columbus must reflect indelible disgrace. In the first place, the sanguine and enthusiastic temperament of Columbus himself, was, amidst his actually great discoveries, always exposing him to severe disappointments. His ardent
imagination had been exalted by the pictures of oriental magnificence, which Mandeville and Marco Polo had so brightly drawn. The fairy land where the shores were strewed with pearl, the rocks glittered with gems, the palaces were roofed with gold, and the air itself filled with fragrance, was forever rising in his waking and even in his nightly visions. Neither was this delusion singular, nor was it confined to his own age or nation. Even from the earliest records of history, while travellers and fabulists spoke in rapturous strains of the "spicy shores of Araby the blest," tradition always turned to the remoter east, to " Seres and to Ind," as to countries abounding in aromatics still more fragrant, in gems, yet inore costly, where every thing which nature had formed most rich, most rare, most exquisite, was produced with a liberal and boundless profusion. Commerce brought a few of the most precious of the productions of India to Europe, and as is usual with things unknown or dimly seen, fancy had room to magnify and exaggerate every gift and blessing in that really rich and productive climate. When Columbus bent his course to the west, it was with a lively hope that he should reach, by a direct and shorter navigation, these scenes of wonder and enchantment. Each point that he arrived at in his voyages, seemed only to be some covering reef or island, or some projecting promontory of the eastern coast of India. The uncultivated soil, the naked inhabitants, the barbarous languages-nothing could dispel the illusion. He, in truth, never knew the nature nor the magnitude of his discoveries. In every new shore that he approached, his sanguine anticipations were renewed, and he seemed constantly on the verge of those fortunate climes, where every enjoyment and every blessing were spontaneously prepared for man. Every vague or, perhaps, ill construed report of the natives, which appeared to point to this still retiring paradise, was received with eagerness, and transmitted to Europe with all the bright and vivid colouring of an enthusiastic imagination. In these expeditions, gold and pearl were actually obtained in abundance sufficient to nourish the cupidity of avarice, and adventurers of all descriptions and all classes of society, hastened, as fast as permission could be obtained from the Government of Spain, to visit and possess this land of promise. But when this purpose had been accomplished, when men, for the most part, young and delicate, brought up in luxury and accustomed to indulgence, reached this newly discovered world, they found that the soil, though fertile almost beyond imagination, required to be cultivated before it could yield them wealth, that gold, though mingled in the rocks, must be extracted and
separated from the ore by their own labours; tbat they must become
pack-horses to transport their own burthens, and daily labourers even to procure their daily bread; when they found themselves compelled to join also in the works necessary to give them shelter from the elements and protection from their enemies, and this in a tropical climate, not friendly to the European constitution, need we wonder that many perished in their inconsiderate enterprise, and that many returned to Spain, only to give vent to feelings of mortification and disappointment, well disposed to consider and reproach Columbus as the author of their unexpected sufferings. A few who were desperate and hardy enough to reinain, soon found means to shift their heavier burthens on the shoulders of a more unfortunate race.
The Government of Spain itself, as anxious for wealth as the needy adventurers who followed the footsteps of Columbus, soon began to complain that its expenses were not reimbursed, and made this a plea for diminishing the equipment of each successive expedition, and treating coldly him, to whom they could not deny their many obligations.
Another circumstance extremely unpropitious to Columbus, and which mingled great bitterness in almost every occurrence of his subsequent life, was the difference in the views and objects of his followers and himself. Columbus was sincere and pious, a lover of order and of justice, and his feelings were lofty and benevolent; he stood, besides, in this hemisphere, as a discoverer, and he was naturally much interested in preserving his discoveries in good order, and in rendering them as valuable as possible to the crown of Spain, whether considered as an element of power or of wealth. Besides, he had a direct personal interest in their prosperity. By his engagements with the crown of Spain, he was to receive a large proportion of the treasures and revenue derived from the countries he should discover. He was, therefore, on every ground, opposed to the rapacious and destructive systems pursued generally by his followers, and he restrained, as long as power was given him, their disorders and
The adventurers, on the other hand, came over with extravagant expectations of immediate wealth, they looked to no future advantage, no distant recompense; they wished to exact from every thing within their reach, whatsoever it could yield. They despoiled the native inhabitants, compelled them to labour in their service, injured them by indulging in the most unbridled licentiousness, provoked them, as long as any remnant of power or spirit remained, to perpetual insurrections, and then punished them with the most savage inhumanity. Every effort made by Columbus to restrain their lawless violence, was considered by these wretches as the wanton exercise of high
handed and arbitrary authority. They murmured, they mutinied, they threw off all subordination, and sent to Spain constant complaints of the harshness and unbending severity of the admiral. In Spain, many of these men were connected with noble or influential families, for even the proudest names had been anxious to enlist some of their connexions in this new career of fortune, and their representations were soon borne to the throne, where Columbus, a foreigner and a stranger, had nothing to support him but his character and his services. We cannot then be surprised, if the jealous mind of Ferdinand was made to suspect that the authority which the admiral was disposed to exercise in his new government, was designed either to prepare for the establishment of an independent sovereignty, or to enable him to transfer these rich dominions to some other power, if his high claims should, by the Spanish court, be disallowed or disputed. Hence arose distrust and a constant disposition to control the plans of Columbus, and to lessen his authority.
But a far stronger motive with the Court of Spain for its neglect, its suspicions, its persecutions even of Columbus, was derived from the very magnitude of his discoveries. It has already been noticed, that in his negotiations with the Spanish Government, his claims had been lofty, his views magnificent. In the language of Mr. Irving, “neither poverty, neglect, ridicule nor contumely could shake his perseverance, nor make him descend to terms which he considered beneath the dignity of his enterprise." "In all his negotiations, he forgot his present obscurity, he forgot his present indigence; his ardent imagination realised the magnitude of his contemplated discoveries, and he felt himself negotiating about empire."
It was accordingly stipulated in the arrangements made with the Spanish Government, that Columbus should have for himself during life, and his heirs and successors forever, the office of admiral in all the lands he should discover, with similar honours and prerogatives to those enjoyed by the high admiral of Castile in his district: that he should be viceroy and governorgeneral over all the said lands and continents, with a conditional power of appointing to all separate governments; that he should be entitled to one tenth of all pearls, precious stones, gold, silver, spices and merchandize found or gained within his admiralty; that he or his lieutenant should be sole judge in all disputes arising out of the traffic between those countries and Spain, and at all after times, might contribute one eighth part of the expense in fitting out vessels to make discoveries, and receive one eighth part of the profit.
On the return of Columbus from what may be regarded as his triumphant voyage, these stipulations were not only confirmed, but in the moment of awakened admiration and gratitude, new favours were added to the original conditions. No rewards were considered too magnificent for services so extraordinary. But when these first impressions began to subside, when in truth every successive voyage to the western hemisphere was enlarging the authority which had been thus lavishly granted, and increasing beyond all estimates the domain over which this extensive authority was to be exercised, even the rulers. of Spain became dissatisfied with the extent of their own concessions, alarmed at the mighty jurisdiction created by their own grants. Every discovery aggrandized this power, and every means, therefore, direct and indirect, were soon employed to reduce this exorbitant jurisdiction.
It seems to have been understood in a short time, if not openly atowed, that the authority granted to Columbus, should only extend over the territories he himself should personally dis
He was thus excluded from all those provinces, which, although disclosed by the inevitable results of his own enterprise, were not actually visited by himself. The necessary consequence of this decision was, that while obstructions were thrown in the way of his discoveries, every encouragement was granted to private adventurers. These cost the crown nothing, and claimed from it no peculiar privilege, even if eminently successful. It also followed from this unfriendly bias, that every complaint from those within the legal jurisdiction of the admiral, was favourably received; that measures were adopted obviously to circumscribe his authority, offices created that trenched on his privileges; commissioners appointed, who were authorised to investigate his conduct. By one of these, he was, as we have stated, sent home as a criminal in chains, and although released and acquitted without an inquiry or a trial, though sent again with a scanty equipment on his fourth voyage, as if to relieve his oppressors froin his complaints, he was never permitted to resume his command; he was even in that voyage, denied access into the very ports where he ought to have been in the exercise of almost sovereign authority; and he finally expired, following the Court of Spain from province to province, soliciting an investigation into his imputed offences, or an acknowledgement of his unquestionable prerogatives.
This grant of power to Columbus, made when it was perhaps considered altogether insignificant, confirmed in the moment of unexpected and rapturous triumph, became the source of perpetual disquietude in every subsequent period of his life,