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government he was seeking to serve, and creating suspicions by his very services, he knew not where to look for faithful advice, efficient aid, or candid judgment. He was alarmed, too, by symptoms of seditions among his own people, who talked of following the example of the rebels, and seizing upon the province of Higuey. Thus critically situated, he signed a humiliating capitulation with the rebels, trusting he should afterwards be able to convince the sovereigns it had been compulsory, and forced from him by the perils that threatened himself and the colony.
When Roldan resumed his office of alcalde mayor, he displayed all the arrogance to be expected from one who had intruded himself into power by profligate means. Columbus had a difficult and painful task in bearing with the insolence of this man, and of the shameless rabble that returned, under his auspices, to San Domingo. In compliance with the terms of agreement, he assigned them liberal portions of land, and numerous Indian slaves, taken in the wars, and contrived to distribute them in various places, some in Bonao, others in different parts of the vega. He made an arrangement, also, by which the caciques in their vicinity, instead of paying tribute, should furnish parties of their subjects, at stated times, to assist in the cultivation of their lands; a kind of feudal service, which was the origin of the repartimientos, or distributions of free Indians among the colonists, afterwards generally adopted and shamefully abused throughout the Spanish colonies, and which greatly contributed to exterminate the natives from the island of Hispaniola.
Having obtained such ample provisions for his
followers, Roldan was not more modest in making demands for himself. Besides certain lands in the vicinity of Isabella, which he claimed, as having belonged to him before his rebellion, he received a royal farm, called La Esperanza, in the vega, and extensive tracts in Xaragua, with live stock and repartimientos of Indians.
One of the first measures of Roldan as alcalde mayor was to appoint Pedro Reguelme, one of his most active confederates, alcalde of Bonao, an appointment which gave great displeasure to Columbus, being an assumption of power not vested in the office of Roldan. The admiral received private information also that Reguelme, under pretext of erecting a farm-house, was building a strong editice on a hill, capable of being converted into a fortress ; this, it was whispered, was done in concert with Roldan, by way of securing a strong hold in case of need. The admiral immediately sent peremptory orders for Reguelme to desist from proceeding with the construction of the edifice.
Columbus had proposed to return to Spain, having experienced the inefficiency of letters in explaining the affairs of the island; but the feverish state of the colony obliged him to give up the intention. The two caravals were despatched in October, taking such of the colonists as chose to return, and among them several of the partisans of Roldan, some of whom took Indian slaves with them, and others carried away the daughters of caciques, whom they had beguiled from their homes and families.
Columbus wrote by this opportunity to the sovereigns, giving it as his opinion that the agreement he had made with the rebels was by no means obli
gatory on the crown, having been, in a manner, extorted by violence. He repeated his request that a learned man might be sent out as judge, and desired, moreover, that discreet persons might be appointed to form a council, and others for certain fiscal employments; entreating, however, that their powers might be so limited and defined as not to interfere with his dignities and privileges. Finding age and infirmity creeping upon him, he began to think of his son Diego as an active coadjutor, being destined to succeed to his offices. He was still a page at court, but grown to man's estate, and capable of entering into the important concerns of life; he begged, therefore, that he might be sent out to assist him.
Visit of Ojeda to the West End of the Island. Conspiracy of Moxica. [1499.]
ABOUT this time reports were brought to Columbus that four ships had anchored at the western part of the island, a little below Jacquemel, apparently with the design of cutting dye woods and carrying off the natives for slaves. They were commanded by Alonzo de Ojeda, the same hot-headed and boldhearted cavalier who had distinguished himself by the capture of Caonabo. Knowing the daring and adventurous spirit of this man, the admiral was disturbed at his visiting the island in this clandestine manner. To call him to account, however, required a man of spirit and address. No one seemed fitter for the purpose than Roldan. He was as daring as Ojeda, and of a more crafty character. An expedition of this kind would occupy the attention of himself and his partisans, and divert them from any schemes of mischief.
Roldan gladly undertook the enterprise. He had nothing further to gain by sedition, and was anxious to secure his ill gotten possessions by public services, which should atone for past offences. Departing from St. Domingo, with two caravals, he arrived, on the 26th of September, within two leagues of
the harbour where the vessels of Ojeda were anchored. Here, landing with five-and-twenty resolute men, he intercepted Ojeda, who was on an excursion several leagues from his ships, and demanded his motives for landing on that remote and lonely part of the island, without first reporting his arrival to the admiral. Ojeda replied, that he had been on a voyage of discovery, and had put in there in distress, to repair his ships and obtain provisions. On further inquiry it appeared, that Ojeda had happened to be in Spain at the time that the letters arrived from Columbus, giving an account of his discovery of the coast of Paria, accompanied by specimens of the pearls to be found there. Ojeda was a favourite with Bishop Fonseca, and obtained a sight of the letter, and the charts and maps of the route of Columbus. He immediately conceived the idea of an expedition to those parts, in which he was encouraged by Fonseca, who furnished him with copies of the papers and charts, and granted him a letter of licence, signed by himself, but not by the sovereigns. Ojeda fitted out four ships at Seville, assisted by many eager and wealthy speculators; and in this squadron sailed Amerigo Vespucci, a Florentine merchant, well acquainted with geography and navigation, who eventually gave his name to the whole of the new world. The expedition sailed in May, 1499. The adventurers arrived on the southern continent, and ranged along it, from two hundred leagues east of the Oronoco to the Gulf of Paria. Guided by the charts of Columbus, they passed through this gulf, and through the Boca del Drago, and kept along westward to Cape de la Vela, visiting the island of Mar