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accelerated his death, and sent him broken-hearted to the grave.
The claims of the father were tardily, and but partially conceded to the son; and, finally, under many modifications, or rather by a compulsory compromise, other honours were, as equivalents, granted to his posterity.
If we could suppose the spirit of Columbus to look down on human events with earthly feelings, it might be a proud gratification to him, to perceive the honors, if not the high rewards, heaped upon his family, and to behold his offspring, the descendants of a Genoese mariner, connected by marriage, with branches of the royal families, both of Spain and Portugal.
Still more to view the destinies of those realms he first made known to civilized man, to mark the increasing improvements, prosperity and power of their rising empires, and the promise they hold out to mankind of light, liberty and happiness.
We should, perhaps, have mentioned that the mortifications which thickened around the declining years of Columbus, were heightened and multiplied by the loss of her who had been his first patron and constant friend. . Isabella, of Castile, sunk into the grave, overwhelmed by domestic affliction. Three children, in the prime of life, perished before her eyes, and a fourth, her only surviving offspring, an idiot, either through idiosyncracy, or from the ill treatment of an unworthy husband, seemed by living, rather to aggravate than alleviate her misfortunes. How little could it have been foreseen, that the child of this unfortunate daughter, was destined to confer a new lustre not only on the crown of Spain, but on the imperial diadem of Austria, to be ranked among the most distinguished rulers of mankind, and to be celebrated equally for his good fortune, his valour and his wisdom? How little could it have been foreseen, that the brilliant reign of the Emperor Charles V. was to have been made more splendid, perhaps, to have been indebted for much of its great success, to the treasures which this Genoese adventurer had secured to the Spanish monarchy.
In speaking of the inhabitants of the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola, Mr. Irving has followed very closely the narratives of the old Spanish historians. These races have perished, their language has become extinct, no memorial remains of their existence, except the accounts of them which have been handed down to us by their conquerors; and it is now difficult to judge of the fidelity of these representations. When describing these hospitable and much abused people, and the islands on which they dwelt, not only Columbus, but succeeding writers, have VOL. II.-NO. 3.
coloured every scene and every occurrence with the tints of their own poetic imaginations, have broken forth in their accounts of the climate and of the country, in the most rapturous expressions, and in delineating the natives, have presented us with the most picturesque descriptions of rural life, in all its loveliness and all its primæval simplicity.
In this there has been much exaggeration. The mildness of the climate and the beauty of the scenery are still celebrated, but nature has not showered upon those regions unmingled blessings. Heat and moisture inflict on man, at least on European man, their usual concomitants of debility and disease. This was not perceived by Columbus on his first voyage, but as soon as settlements were commenced, the dangers of the climate became obvious; and of every band of adventurers, numbers perished prematurely under its inhospitable influence.
The numbers of the natives were undoubtedly overrated by the Spanish historians. Their state of society did not admit of a crowded population, neither could their means of subsistence have supported one. They had no domestic animals to contribute to their support, and the wild ones were small and not abundant. Indeed, to have depended on the chase for food, would at once have indicated a sparse population and much uninhabited soil. They possessed many fine native fruits, but none that could supply a numerous people with constant and sufficient food. The plantain, which Humboldt represents as the all-sufficient luxury of the indolent indigenes of Mexico, was unknown to their ancestors. Like the sugar-cane, the coffee plant, and many other of the present productions of tropical America, it was a gift from the eastern hemisphere. Their esculent vegetables, maize and manioc, and the sweet potatoe (not the solanum now so extensively cultivated in the north of Europe and America, as intimated by Mr. Irving) required more extensive fields and more labour than were seen among these people, to maintain a dense population. Islands divided into many principalities, engaged in frequent hostilities, and subject to incursions from fierce tribes; scattered villages of twenty, forty or fifty huts, give us no idea of tribes that could collect easily 100,000 warriors in arms. (Vol. ii. p. 90.) In their habits and manners, we can discover scarcely any features of the North-American savage, and we should suppose the whole picture not only overcharged, but greatly distorted, were it not that when the same writers describe the natives of the Carribean Islands, or of the coast of Veragua, the jealous, dauntless and vindictive spirit of the continental tribes distinctly appear. We wish Mr. Irving could have found documents calculated to illus
trate accurately this topic. We know not that any vestige of their language has been preserved. Their very names, like those of the ancient Persians, in the pages of Herodotus, or of the Gauls, in the commentaries of Cæsar, have come down to us disguised, and accommodated to a foreign language.
Of this country and these people, as depicted by Mr. Irving from the glowing descriptions of the old historians, we shall present to our readers a few sketches.
“The ascent of this rugged defile presented formidable difficulties to the little army, encumbered as it was with various implements and munitions. There was nothing but an Indian foot-path, winding among rocks and precipices, or through brakes and thickets, entangled by the rich vegetation of a tropical forest. A number of high-spirited young cavaliers volunteered to open a route for the anny. The youthful chivalry of Spain were accustomed to this kind of service in the Moorish wars; where it was often necessary, on a sudden, to open roads for the march of troops, and the conveyance of artillery across the mountains of Granada. Throwing themselves in the advance, with labourers and pioneers, whom they stimulated by their example, as well as by promises of liberal reward, they soon constructed the first road formed in the new world; and which was called El Puerto de los Hidalgos, or the Pass of the Gentlemen, in honour of the gallant cavaliers who effected it.*
“ On the following tay, the army toiled up this steep defile, and arrived to where the gorge of the mountain opened into the interior. Here a land of promise suddenly burst upon their view. It was the same glorious prospect which had delighted Ojeda and his companions. Below lay a vast and delicious plain, painted and
enamelled, as it were, with all the rich variety of tropical vegetation. The magnificent forests presented that mingled beauty and
majesty of vegetable forms, known only to these generous climates. Palms of prodigious height, and wide spreading mahogany trees, towered out of a chaos of variegated foliage. Á universal freshness and verdure was maintained by numerous streams, which wandered gleaming through the deep bosom of the woodland; while various villages and hamlets, peeping from among the trees, and the smoke of others rising out of the midst of the forests, gave signs of a numerous population. The luxuriant landscape extended as far as the eye could reach, until it appeared to melt away and mingle with the horizon. The Spaniards gazed with rapture upon this soft voluptuous country, which seemed to realize their ideas of a terrestrial paradise ; and Columbus, struck with its vast extent, gave it the name of the Vega Real, or Royal Plain.t Vol. i.
366-367. “ In the soft regions of the Vega, the circling seasons brought each its store of fruits; and while some were gathered in full maturity, others were ripening on the boughs; and buds and blossoms gave promise of still future abundance. What need was there of garnering up, and anxiuously providing for coming days, to men who lived in a perpetual
* Hist. del Almirante, c. 50.
+ Las Casas, Hist. Ind. lib. c. 90, MS.
harvest ? What need too, of toilfully spinning, or labouring at the loom where a genial temperature prevailed throughout the year, and neither nature nor custom prescribed the necessity of clothing?
“The hospitality which characterizes men in such a simple and easy mode of existence, was evinced towards Columbus and his followers, during their sojourn in the Vega. Wherever they went, it was a continual scene of festivity and rejoicing. The natives hastened from all parts, bearing them presents, and laying the treasures of their groves and streams and mountains at the feet of beings whom they still considered as descended from the skies, to bring blessings to their island
“Having accomplished the purposes of his residence in the Vega, Columbus, at the end of a few days, took leave of its hospitable inhabitants, and resumed his march for the harbour, returning with his little army through the lofty and rugged gorge of the mountains, called the Pass of the Hidalgos. As we accompany him in imagination over the rocky height, from whence the Vega first broke upon the eye of the Europeans, we cannot help pausing, to cast back a look of mingled pity and admiration over this beautiful but devoted region. The dream of natural liberty, of ignorant content, and loitering idleness, was as yet unbroken, but the fiat had gone forth ; the white man had penetrated into the land; avarice and pride and ambition, and pining care and sordid labour were soon to follow, and the indolent paradise of the Indian to disappear forever.” Vol. i. pp. 386–387.
“ The Spaniards had heard many accounts of the soft and delightful region of Xaragua, in one part of which, some of the Indian traditions placed their elysian fields. They had heard much, also, of the beauty and urbanity of the inhabitants; the mode of their reception was calculated to confirm their favourable prepossessions. As they approached the place, thirty females of the cacique's household, came forth to meet them, singing their areytos or traditionary ballads, and dancing, and waving palm branches. The married females wore aprons of embroidered cotton, reaching half way to the knee; the young women were entirely naked, with merely a fillet round the forehead, their hair falling on their shoulders. They were beautifully proportioned, their skin smooth and delicate, and their complexion of a clear and agreeable brown. According to old Peter Martyr, the Spaniards, when they beheld them issuing forth from their green woods, almost imagined they beheld the fabled dryades or native nymphs and fairies of the fountains, sung by the ancient poets. When they came before Don Bartholomew, they knelt, and gracefully presented him the green branches."* Vol. ii. pp. 196–197.
“The early Spanish writers, whose imaginations were heated by the accounts of the voyagers, and who could not form an idea of the simplicity of savage life, especially in these parts, which were supposed to border upon Asia, often speak in terms of oriental magnificence of the entertainments of the natives; the palaces of the caciques, and the lords and ladies of their courts; as if they were describing the abodes of Asiatic potentates. The accounts given of Xaragua, howeve have
* Peter Martyr, Decade 1, lib. y.
a different character, and give a picture of savage life, in its perfection of indolent ease and untasked enjoyment. The troubles which distracted the other parts of devoted Hayti, had not yet reached the inhabitants of this pleasant region. Living among beautiful and fruitful groves, on the borders of a sea which appeared forever tranquil and unvexed by storms; having few wants, and those readily supplied, they appeared emancipated from the common lot of labour, and to pass their liv in one uninterrupted holyday. When the Spaniards regarded the fertility and sweetness of this country, the gentleness of its people, and the beauty of its women, they pronounced it a perfect paradise." Vol. ii.
This paradise was soon profaned by the evil passions and uncontrollable rapacity of the Spaniards—and when speaking in another place of the subjugation of the native tribes, our author remarks
“In this way was the yoke of servitude fixed upon the island, and its thraldom effectually ensured. Deep despair now fell upon the natives when they found a perpetual task inflicted upon them, enforced at stated and frequently recurring periods. Weak and indolent by nature, unused to labour of any kind, and brought up in the untasked idleness of their soft climate and their fruitful groves, death itself seemed preferable to a life of toil and anxiety. They saw no end to this harassing evil, which had so suddenly fallen upon them, no escape from its all pervading influence, no prospect of return to that roving independence and ample leisure, so dear to the wild ii habitant of the forest. The pleasant life of the island was at an end; the dream in the shade by day, the slumber during the sultry noontide heat by the fountain or the stream, or under the spreading palm tree; and the song, the dance and the game, in the mellow evening, when suminoned to their simple amusements by the rude Indian drum. They were now obliged to grope day by day, with bending body and anxious eye, along the borders of their rivers, sifting the sands for the grains of gold which every day grew more scanty; or to labour in their fields, beneath the fervour of a tropical sun, to raise food for their task-masters, or to produce the vegetable tribute imposed
They sunk to sleep weary and exhausted at night, with the certainty that the next day was but to be a repetition of the same toil and suffering. Or if they occasionally indulged in their national dances, the ballads to which they kept time, were of a melancholy and plaintive character. They spoke of the times that were past, before the white men had introduced sorrow and slavery and weary labour among them; and they rehearsed pretended prophecies, handed down from their ancestors, foretelling the invasion of the Spaniards; that strangers should come into their island clothed in apparel, with swords capable of cleaving a man asunder at a blow, under whose yoke their posterity should be subdued. These ballads or areytos they sung with mournful tunes and doleful voices, bewailing the loss of their Liberty, and their painful servitude.” Vol. iii. pp. 96-98.