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Events in the Island of Hispaniola—Insurrections of the Natives-Expedition of Ojeda against Caonabo. [1494.]
A JOYFUL and heartfelt surprise awaited Columbus on his arrival, in finding, at his bedside, his brother Bartholomew, the companion of his youth, his zealous coadjutor, and, in a manner, his second self, from whom he had been separated for several years. It will be recollected, that about the time of the admiral's departure for Portugal, he commissioned Bartholomew to repair to England, and offer his project of discovery to Henry VII. Various circumstances occurred to delay this application. There is reason to believe that, in the interim, he accompanied Bartholomew Diaz in that celebrated voyage, in the course of which the Cape of Good Hope was discovered. On his way to England, also, Bartholomew Columbus was captured by a corsair, and reduced to extreme poverty. It is but justice to the memory of Henry VII. to say, that when, after a lapse of several years, the proposition was eventually made to him, it met with a more prompt attention than it had received from any other sovereign. An agreement was actually made with Bartholomew for the prosecution of the enterprise, and the latter departed for Spain in search of his brother. On
reaching Paris, he received intelligence that the discovery was already made, and that his brother was actually at the Spanish court, enjoying his triumph, and preparing to sail on a second expedition. He hastened to rejoin him, and was furnished by the French monarch, Charles VIII., with a hundred crowns to defray the expenses of the journey. He reached Seville just as his brother had sailed; but being an accomplished navigator, the sovereigns gave him the command of three ships, freighted with supplies for the colony, and sent him to aid his brother in his enterprises. He again arrived too late, reaching the settlement of Isabella just after the departure of the admiral for the coast of Cuba.
The sight of this brother was an inexpressible relief to Columbus, disabled as he was by sickness, overwhelmed with cares, and surrounded by strangers. His chief dependence had hitherto been upon his brother, Don Diego; but the latter was of a mild and peaceable disposition, with an inclination for a clerical life, and was but little fitted to manage the affairs of a factious colony. Bartholomew was of a different and more efficient character. He was prompt, active, decided, and of a fearless spirit ; whatever he determined he carried into instant execution, without regard to difficulty or danger. His person corresponded to his mind; it was tall, muscular, vigorous, and commanding. He had an air of great authority, but somewhat stern, wanting that sweetness and benignity which tempered the authoritative demeanour of the admiral. Indeed, there was a certain asperity in his temper, and a dryness and abruptness in his manners, which made him many enemies; yet, notwithstanding these ex
ternal defects, he was of a generous disposition, free from arrogance or malevolence, and as placable as he was brave.
He was a thorough seaman, both in theory and practice, having been formed, in a great measure, under the eye of the admiral, to whom he was but little inferior in science. He was acquainted with Latin, but does not appear to have been highly educated; his knowledge, like that of his brother, being chiefly derived from a long course of varied experience and attentive observation, aided by the studies of maturer years. Equally vigorous and penetrating in intellect with the admiral, but less enthusiastic in spirit and soaring in imagination, and with less simplicity of heart, he surpassed him in the adroit management of business, was more attentive to pecuniary interests, and had more of that worldly wisdom which is so important in the ordinary concerns of life. His genius might never have excited him to the sublime speculation which led to the discovery of a world, but his practical sagacity was calculated to turn that discovery to more advantage.
Anxious to relieve himself from the pressure of public business, during his present malady, Columbus immediately invested his brother with the title and authority of Adelantado, an office equivalent to that of lieutenant-governor. He felt the importance of his assistance in the present critical state of the colony; for, during the few months that he had been absent, the whole island had become a scene of violence and discord. A brief retrospect is here necessary to explain the cause of this confusion.
Pedro Margarite, to whom Columbus, on his
departure, had given orders to make a military tour of the island, set forth on his expedition with the greater part of the forces, leaving Alonzo de Ojeda in command of Fort St. Thomas. Instead, however, of proceeding on his tour, Margarite lingered among the populous and hospitable villages of the vega, where he and his soldiery, by their licentious and oppressive conduct, soon roused the indignation and hatred of the natives. Tidings of their excesses reached Don Diego Columbus, who, with the concurrence of the council, wrote to Margarite, reprehending his conduct, and ordering him to depart on his tour. Margarite replied in a haughty and arrogant tone, pretending to consider himself independent in his command, and above all responsibility to Don Diego, or his council. He was supported in his tone of defiance by a kind of aristocratical party composed of the idle cavaliers of the colony, who had been deeply wounded in the pundonor, the proud punctilio so jealously guarded by a Spaniard, and affected to look down with contempt upon the newly coined nobility of Don Diego, and to consider Columbus and his brothers mere mercenary and upstart foreigners. In addition to these partisans, Margarite had a powerful ally in his fellow-countryman, Friar Boyle, the apostolical vicar for the new world; an intriguing man, who had conceived a violent hostility against the admiral, and had become disgusted with his mission to the wilderness. A cabal was soon formed of most of those who were disaffected to the admiral, and discontented with their abode in the colony. Margarite and Friar Boyle acted as if possessed of paramount authority; and, without consulting Don Diego or the council, took
possession of certain ships in the harbour, and set sail for Spain, with their adherents. They were both favourites of the king, and deemed it would be an easy matter to justify their abandonment of their military and religious commands, by a pretended zeal for the public good, and a desire to represent to the sovereigns the disastrous state of the colony, and the tyranny and oppression of Columbus and his brothers. Thus the first general and apostle of the new world set the flagrant example of unauthorized abandonment of their posts.
The departure of Margarite left the army without a head; the soldiers now roved about in bands, or singly, according to their caprice, indulging in all kinds of excesses. The natives, indignant at having their hospitality thus requited, refused any longer to furnish them with food; the Spaniards, therefore, seized upon provisions wherever they could be found, committing, at the same time, many acts of wanton violence. At length the Indians were roused to resentment, and, from confiding and hospitable hosts, were converted into vindictive enemies. They slew the Spaniards wherever they could surprise them singly or in small parties; and Guatiguana, cacique of a large town on the Grand River, put to death ten soldiers who were quartered in his town, set fire to a house in which forty sick Spaniards were lodged, and even held a small fortress called Magdalena, recently built in the vega, in a state of siege, insomuch, that the commander had to shut himself up within his walls, until relief should arrive from the settlement.
The most formidable enemy of the Spaniards was Caonabo, the Carib cacique of the mountains. He