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sunk under the toils imposed upon them, and the severities by which they were enforced. A capricious tyranny was exercised over them by worthless men, numbers of whom had been transported convicts from the dungeons of Castile. These wretches as
sumed the tone of grand cavaliers, and insisted upon being attended by trains of servants: they took the daughters and female relatives of caciques for their servants or their concubines. In travelling, they obliged the natives to transport them on their shoulders in litters or hammocks, while others held umbrellas of palm leaves over their heads, and cooled them with fans of feathers. Sometimes the backs and shoulders of the unfortunate Indians who bore the litters were raw and bleeding from the task. When these arrogant upstarts arrived at an Indian village, they capriciously seized upon and lavished the provisions of the inhabitants, and obliged the cacique and his subjects to dance for their amusement. They never addressed the natives but in the most degrading terms; and for the least offence, or in a mere freak of ill humour, they would inflict blows and lashes, and even death itself.
The tidings of these abuses, and of the wrongs of the natives, grieved the spirit of Isabella, and induced her to urge the departure of Ovando. He was empowered to assume the command immediately on his arrival, and to send home Bobadilla by the return of the fleet. Hispaniola was to be the metropolis of the colonial government, which was to extend over the islands and Terra Firma. Ovando was to correct the late abuses, to revoke the improper licences granted by Bobadilla, to lighten the burdens imposed upon the Indians, and to promote their religious instruction. He was, at the same time, to
ascertain the injury sustained by Columbus in his late arrest and imprisonment, and the arrears of revenue that were due to him, that he might receive ample redress and compensation. The admiral was to be allowed a resident agent in the island, to attend to his affairs and guard his interests, to which office Columbus immediately appointed Alonzo Sanchez de Carvajal.
Among various decrees on this occasion, we find the first trace of negro slavery in the new world. It was permitted to transport to the colony negro slaves born in Spain, the children and descendants of natives brought from Guinea, where the slave trade had for some time been carried on by the Spaniards and Portuguese. There are signal events in the course of history, which sometimes bear the appearance of temporal judgments. It is a fact worthy of observation, that Hispaniola, the place where this flagrant sin against nature and humanity was first introduced into the new world, has been the first to exhibit an instance of awful retribution.
The fleet appointed to convey Ovando to his government put to sea on the 13th of February, 1502. It was the largest armament that had yet sailed to the new world, consisting of thirty sail, of various sizes, provided with all kinds of supplies for the colony. Twenty-five hundred souls embarked in this fleet, many of them persons of rank, with their families. Ovando was allowed a brilliant retinue, a body guard of horsemen, and the use of silks, brocades, and precious stones, at that time forbidden by the sumptuary laws of Spain. Such was the style in which a favourite of Ferdinand, a native subject of rank, was fitted out to enter upon the government withheld from Columbus.
Proposition of Columbus for a Crusade-His Preparations for a fourth Voyage. [1500-1501.]
COLUMBUS remained in the city of Granada upwards of nine months, awaiting employment, and endeavouring to retrieve his affairs from the confusion into which they had been thrown. During this gloomy period, he called to mind his vow to furnish, within seven years from the time of his discovery of the new world, an army of fifty thousand foot and five thousand horse, for the recovery of the holy sepulchre. The time had elapsed, the vow remained unfulfilled, and the expected treasures that were to pay the army had never been realised. Destitute, therefore, of the means of accomplishing his pious purpose, he considered it his duty to incite the sovereigns to the enterprise; and he felt emboldened to do so, from having originally proposed it as the great object to which the profits of his discoveries should be directed. He set to work, therefore, with his accustomed zeal, to prepare arguments for the purpose. Aided by a Ĉarthusian friar, he collected into a manuscript volume all the passages in the sacred scriptures and in the writings of the fathers, which he conceived to contain mystic portents and prophecies of the discovery
of the new world, the conversion of the gentiles, and the recovery of the holy sepulchre; three great events which he considered as destined to succeed each other, and to be accomplished through his agency. He prepared, at the same time, a long letter to the sovereigns, written with his usual fervour of spirit and simplicity of heart, urging them to set on foot a crusade for the conquest of Jerusalem. It is a singular composition, which lays open the visionary part of his character, and shows the mystic and speculative reading with which he was accustomed to nurture his solemn and soaring imagination*.
It must be recollected that this was a scheme meditated in melancholy and enthusiastic moods, in the courts of the alhambra, among the splendid remains of Moorish grandeur, where, but a few years before, he had beheld the standard of the faith elevated in triumph above the symbols of infidelity. It was in unison with the temper of the times, when the cross and sword frequently went together, and religion was made the pretext for the most desolating wars. Whether Columbus ever presented this book to the sovereigns is uncertain; it is probable that he did. not, as his thoughts suddenly returned, with renewed ardour, to their wonted channels, and he conceived a leading object for another enterprise of discovery.
Vasco de Gama had recently accomplished the long attempted navigation to India by the Cape of Good Hope, and Pedro Alvarez Cabral, following in his track, had returned with his vessels laden
*The manuscript volume, including the letter, still exists in the Columbian library of the cathedral of Seville, and has been inspected with great interest by the writer of this history.
with the precious merchandise of the east. The riches of Calicut were now the theme of every tongue. The discoveries of the savage regions of the new world had as yet brought but little revenue to Spain, but this route to the East Indies was pouring in immediate wealth upon Portugal.
Columbus was roused to emulation, and trusted he could discover a route to those oriental regions more easy and direct than that of Vasco de Gama. According to his own observations, and the reports of other navigators, the coast of Terra Firma stretched far to the westward. The southern coast of Cuba, which he considered a part of the Asiatic continent, stretched onward towards the same point. The currents of the Caribbean sea must pass between these lands. He was persuaded, therefore, that a strait must exist somewhere thereabout, opening into the Indian sea. The situation in which he placed his conjectural strait was somewhere about what is at present called the Isthmus of Darien. Could he but discover such a passage, and thus link the new world he had discovered with the opulent oriental countries of the old, he felt that he should make a magnificent close to his labours.
He unfolded his plan to the sovereigns, and, though it met with some narrow-minded opposition on the part of certain of the royal councillors, it was promptly adopted, and he was empowered to fit out an armament to carry it into effect. He accordingly departed for Seville in the autumn of 1501, to make the necessary preparations; but such were the delays caused by the artifices of Fonseca and his agents, that it was not until the following month of May that he was able to put to sea.