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and were ready to sink even in port. He ordered them, therefore, to be run aground, within a bow-shot of the shore, and fastened together, side by side. They soon filled with water to the decks. Thatched cabins were then erected at the prow and stern for the accommodation of the crews, and the wreck was placed in the best possible state of defence. Thus castled in the sea, Columbus trusted to be able to repel any sudden attack of the natives, and at the same time to keep his men from roving about the neighbourhood and indulging in their usual excesses. No one was allowed to go on shore without especial license, and the utmost precaution was taken to prevent any offence from being given to the Indians. Any exasperation of them might be fatal to the Spaniards in their present forlorn situation. A firebrand thrown into their wooden fortress might wrap it in flames, and leave them defenceless amidst hostile thousands.
· The envy,' says Mr Irving, which had once sickened at the glory and prosperity of Columbus, could scarcely have devised for him a more forlorn heritage in the world he had discovered; the tenant of a wreck on a savage coast, in an untraversed ocean, at the mercy of barbarous hordes, who, in a moment, from precarious friends, might be transformed into ferocious enemies; afflicted, too, by excruciating maladies which confined him to his bed, and by the pains and infirmities which bardship and anxiety had heaped upon his advancing age. But Columbus had not yet exhausted his cup of bitterness. He had yet to experience an evil worse than storm, or shipwreck, or bodily anguish, or the violence of savage hordes, in the perfidy of those in whom he confided.'
The account of his sufferings during the twelve long months he was allowed to remain in this miserable condition, is full of the deepest interest, and the strangest variety of adventure. But we can now only refer to it. Two of his brave and devoted adherents undertook to cross to Hispaniola in a slender Indian canoe, and after incredible miseries, at length accomplished this desperate undertaking—but from the cold-hearted indecision, or paltry jealousy, of the new governor Ovando, it was not till the late period we have mentioned, that a vessel was at length despatched to the relief of the illustrious sufferer.
But he was not the only, or even the most memorable sufferer. From the time he was superseded in command, the misery and oppression of the natives of Hispaniola had increased beyond all proportion or belief. By the miserable policy of the new governor, their services were allotted to the Spanish settlers, who compelled them to work by the cruel infliction of the scourge; and, withholding from them the nourishment necessary for health, exacted a degree of labour which could not have been sustained by the most vigorous men.
• If they fled from this incessant toil and barbarous coercion, and took refuge in the mountains, they were hunted out like wild beasts, scourged in the most inhuman manner, and laden with chains to prevent a second escape. Many perished long before their term of labour had expired. Those who survived their term of six or eight months, were permitted to return to their homes, until the next term commenced. But their homes were often forty, sixty, and eighty leagues distant. They had nothing to sustain them through the journey but a few roots or agi peppers, or a little cassava-bread. Worn down by long toil and cruel hardships, which their feeble constitutions were incapable of sustaining, many had not strength to perform the journey, but sunk down and died by the way; some by the side of a brook, others under the shade of a tree, where they had crawled for shelter from the sun. “ I have found many dead in the road," says Las Casas, “ others gasping under the trees, and others in the pangs of death, faintly crying, Hunger ! hunger !” Those who reached their homes most commonly found them desolate. During the eight months that they had been absent, their wives and children had either perished or wandered away; the fields on which they depended for food were overrun with weeds, and nothing was left them but to lie down, exhausted and despairing, and die at the threshold of their habitations.
It is impossible to pursue any farther the picture drawn by the venerable Las Casas, not of what he had heard, but of what he had seen -nature and humanity revolt at the details. Suffice it to say that, so intolerable were the toils and sufferings inflicted upon this weak and unoffending race, that they sunk under them, dissolving as it were from the face of the earth. Many killed themselves in despair, and even mothers overcame the powerful instinct of nature, and destroyed the infants at their breasts, to spare them a life of wretchedness. Twelve years had not elapsed since the discovery of the island, and several hundred thousands of its native inhabitants had perished, miserable victims to the grasping avarice of the white men.'
These pictures are sufficiently shocking; but they do not exhaust the horrors that cover the brief history of this ill-fated people. The province or district of Xaragua, which was ruled over by a princess, called Anacaona, celebrated in all the contemporary accounts for the grace and dignity of her manners, and her confiding attachment to the strangers, had hitherto enjoyed a happy exemption from the troubles which distracted the other parts of the island, and when visited about ten years before by the brother of Columbus, had impressed all the Spaniards with the idea of an earthly paradise : both from the fertility and sweetness of the country, the gentleness of its people, and the beauty and grace of the women. Upon some rumours that the neighbouring caciques were assembling for hostile purposes, Ovando now marched into this devoted region with a well-appointed force of near 400 men. Be was hospitably and joyfully received by the princess; and affected to encourage and join in the festivity which his presence had excited. He was even himself engaged
recredit them ided by the me, and co
in a sportful game with his officers, when the signal for massacre was given—and the place was instantly covered with blood ! Eighty of the caciques were burnt over slow fires ! and thousands of the unarmed and unresisting people butchered, without regard to sex or age. Humanity, Mr Irving very justly observes, ' turns with horror from such atrocities, and would fain • discredit them: But they are circumstantially and still more • minutely recorded by the venerable Las Casas—who was resi• dent in the island at the time, and conversant with the principal • actors in the tragedy.
Still worse enormities signalized the final subjugation of the province of Higuey- the last scene of any attempt to resist the tyrannical power of the invaders. It would be idle to detail here the progress of that savage and most unequal warfare : But it is right that the butcheries perpetrated by the victors should not be forgotten that men may see to what incredible excesses civilized beings may be tempted by the possession of absolute and unquestioned power—and may learn, from indisputable memorials, how far the abuse of delegated and provincial authority may be actually carried. If it be true, as Homer has alleged, that the day which makes a man a slave, takes away half his worth-it seems to be still more infallibly and fatally true, that the master generally suffers a yet larger privation.
• Sometimes,' says Mr Irving, they would hunt down a straggling Indian, and compel him, by torments, to betray the hiding-place of his companions, binding him and driving him before them as a guide. Wherever they discovered one of these places of refuge, filled with the aged and the infirm, with feeble women and helpless children, they massacred them without mercy. They wished to inspire terror throughout the land, and to frighten the whole tribe into submission. They cut off the hands of those whom they took roving at large, and sent them, as they said, to deliver them as letters to their friends, demanding their surrender. Numberless were those, says Las Casas, whose hands were amputated in this manner, and many of them sunk down and died by the way, through anguish and loss of blood.
· The conquerors delighted in exercising strange and ingenious cruelties. They mingled horrible levity with their bloodthirstiness. They erected gibbets long and low, so that the feet of the sufferers might reach the ground, and their death be lingering. They hanged thirteen together, in reverence, says the indignant Las Casas, of our blessed Saviour and the twelve apostles! While their victims were suspended, and still living, they hacked them with their swords, to prove the strength of their arms and the edge of their weapons. They wrapped them in dry straw, and setting fire to it, terminated their existence by the fiercest agony.
· These are horrible details; yet a veil is drawn over others still more detestable. They are related by the venerable Las Casas, who
was an eye-witness of the scenes he describes. He was young at the time, but records them in his advanced years. “ All these things," says he,and others revolting to human nature, my own eyes bebeld ! and now I almost fear to repeat them, scarce believing myself, or whether I have not dreamt them."
"These details would have been withheld from the present work as disgraceful to human nature, and from an unwillingness to advance any thing that might convey a stigma upon a brave and generous nation. But it would be a departure from historical veracity, having the documents before my eyes, to pass silently over transactions so atrocious, and vouched for by witnesses beyond all suspicion of falsehood. Such occurrences show the extremity to which human cruelty may extend, when stimulated by avidity of gain, by a thirst of vengeance, or even by a perverted zeal in the holy cause of religion.'
Such was the ruthless system which had been pursued, during the absence of the admiral, by the commander Ovando, this man of boasted prudence and moderation, who was sent to reform the abuses of the island, and, above all, to redress the wrongs of the natives. The system of Columbus may have borne hard upon the Indians, born and brought up in untasked freedom, but it was never cruel nor sanguinary. He inflicted no wanton massacres nor vindictive punishments; his desire was to cherish and civilize the Indians, and to render them useful subjects, not to oppress, and persecute, and destroy them. When he beheld the desolation that had swept them from the land during his suspension from authority, he could not restrain the strong expression of his feelings. In a letter written to the king after his return to Spain, he thus expresses himself on the subject. “ The Indians of Hispaniola were and are the riches of the island; for it is they who cultivate and make the bread and the provisions for the Christians, who dig the gold from the mines, and perform all the offi. ces and labours both of men and beasts. I am informed that, since I left this island, (that is, in less than three years,) six parts out of seven of the natives are dead, all through ill treatment and inhumanity; some by the sword, others by blows and cruel usage, others through hunger. The greater part have perished in the mountains and glens, whither they had fled, from not being able to support the labour imposed upon them."
The story now draws to a close. Columbus returned to Spain, broken down with age and affliction and after two years spent in unavailing solicitations at the court of the cold blooded and ungrateful Ferdinand, (his generous patroness, Isabella, having died immediately on his return,) terminated with characteristic magnanimity a life of singular energy, splendour, and endurance. Independent of his actual achievements, he was undoubtedly a great and remarkable man; and Mr Irving has summed up his general character in a very eloquent and judicious way.
His ambition,' he observes, ' was lofty and noble. He was full of high thoughts, and anxious to distinguish himself by great achievements.
It has been said that a mercenary feeling mingled with his views, and that his stipulations with the Spanish court were selfish and avaricious. The charge is inconsiderate and unjust. He aimed at dignity and wealth in the same lofty spirit in which he sought renown; and the gains that promised to arise from his discoveries, he intended to appropriate in the same princely and pious spirit in which they were demanded. He contemplated works and achievements of benevolence and religion : vast contributions for the relief of the poor of his native city; the foundation of churches, where masses should be said for the souls of the departed; and armies for the recovery of the holy sepulchre in Palestine.
. In his testament, he enjoined on his son Diego, and whoever af. ter him should inherit his estates, whatever dignities and titles might afterwards be granted by the king, always to sign himself simply " the admiral,” by way of perpetuating in the family its real source of greatness.' .He was devoutly pious; religion mingled with the whole course of his thoughts and actions, and shines forth in all his most private and unstudied writings. Whenever he made any great discovery, he celebrated it by solemn thanks to God. The voice of prayer and melody of praise rose from his ships when he first beheld the New World, and his first action on landing was to prostrate himself upon the earth and return thanksgivings. Every evening, the Salve Regina, and other vesper hymns, were chanted by his crew, and masses were performed in the beautiful groves that bordered the wild shores of this heathen land. The religion thus deeply seated in the soul, diffused a sober dignity and a benign composure over his whole demeanour. His language was pure and guarded, free from all imprecations, oaths, and other irreverent expressions. But his piety was darkened by the bigotry of the age. He evidently concurred in the opinion that all the nations who did not acknowledge the Christian faith were destitute of natural rights ; that the sternest measures might be used for their conversion, and the severest punishment inflicted upon their obstinacy in unbelief. In this spirit of bigotry he considered himself justified in making captives of the Indians, and transporting them to Spain to have them taught the doctrines of Christianity, and in selling them for slaves if they pretended to resist his invasions. He was countenanced in these views, no doubt, by the general opinion of the age. But it is not the intention of the author to justify Columbus on a point where it is inexcusable to err. Let it remain a blot on his illustrious name,—and let others derive a lesson from it.
Hewas a man, too, undoubtedly, as all truly great men have been, of an imaginative and sensitive temperament--something, as Mr Irving has well remarked, even of a visionary—but a visionary of a high and lofty order, controlling his ardent imagination by a powerful judgment and great practical sagacity, and deriving not only a noble delight but signal accessions of knowledge from this vigour and activity of his fancy.