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lent proceedings: yet they refused to restore to Columbus those privileges before granted him as viceroy ; and which he so justly merited. Though willing to appear the avengers of Columbus's wrongs; a mean, illiberal jealousy still subsisted. To a man who had discovered and put them in possession of a country, that was the source of envy to all Europe, they were afraid to trust; they retained him at court, under various pretexts; and appointed Nicholas de Ovando, a knight of the military order of Alcantara, governor of Hispaniola. This ungenerous conduct exasperated Columbus to such a degree, that he could no longer conceal the sentiments which it excited. Wherever he went, he carried about with him the fetters with which he had been loaded. He had them hung up in his chamber, and he gave orders that when he died, they should be buried with him.
Notwithstanding this ungenerous treatment of Columbus, the spirit of discovery continued active and vigorous. Roderigo de Bastidas, and John de la Cosa, fitted out two ships in company; the latter having served under Columbus in two of his voyages, was deemed the most skilful pilot in Spain. They steered directly for the continent, and arrived on the coast of Paria, and continuing from thence west, discovered the coast of the province, now called Terra Firma, from Cape de Vela, to the gulf of Darien.
Not long after Ojeda, with Amerigo Vespucci, set out on a second voyage, and held the same course with the former, and touched at the same places.
The voyage of Bastidas was prosperous, and lucrative: that of Ojeda, unfortunate. But both tended to increase the ardour of discovery; for, in proportion as the Spaniards became ac quainted with the extent of the American continent, their ideas of its opulence and fertility, increased.
Before these adventurers returned, a fleet was equipped at the public expense, for carrying over Ovando, the new governor, to Hispaniola. His presence was very necessary, that a period might be put to the imprudent administration of Bovadilla, which threatened the destruction of the colony; who, conscious of the injustice and violence of his proceedings against Columbus, made it his sole study to gain the favour of his countrymen, by grati fying their passions, and accommodating himself to their prejudices.
With this intent, he established regulations in every respect the reverse of those which Columbus had deemed essential to the welfare of the settlement. Instead of that severe discipline, which was necessary to habituate the dissolute, and corrupt members of society, and restrain them within proper bounds, he suffered them to enjoy such uncontrolled liberty, as led to the most extravagant excesses. So far from protecting the Indians, he gave a legal sanction to the oppression of that unhappy people, He divided them into distinct classes, and distributed them amongst his adherents; reducing them to a state of complete servitude.
The rapacity and impatience of the Spaniards after gold, was such, that in their pursuit of it, they neglected all other means of acquiring wealth. The Indians were driven in crowds to the mountains, and compelled to work in the mines, by masters who imposed their tasks without mercy or discretion. Labour so disproportioned to their strength, and former habits of life, wasted that feeble race of men, with such rapid consumption, as must soon have exterminated the ancient inhabitants of the island.
The necessity of providing a remedy for these evils, hastened Ovando's departure. He commanded the most respectable armament hitherto fitted out for the new world. It consisted of thirty-two ships, having on board two thousand five hundred persons, with an intention of settling the country.
Upon the arrival of the new governor, Bovadilla resigned his charge, and was commanded to return instantly to Spain, to answer for his conduct. Roldan and the other ringleaders of the mutineers, who had been so active in opposing Columbus, were ordered to leave the island at the same time. The natives were declared free subjects of Spain, by public proclamation: of whom no service was required, without paying them the full price of their labour. Various regulations were made tending to suppress the licentiousness of the Spaniards, which had been so fatal to the colony.
To limit the exorbitant gain which private persons were supposed to make by working the mines, an order was published, directing all the gold to be brought to a public smelting house; and one half of it was declared to be the property of the
While these steps were taking for the security and tranquillity of the colony; Columbus was engaged in the fruitless and unpleasant employment of soliciting an ungrateful court to fulfil its agreements: and demanded, according to the original capitulation in the year 1492, to be reinstated in his office of viceroy over the countries which he had discovered; but he solicited in vain. The greatness of his discoveries, and the prospect of their increasing value, made the jealous Ferdinand consider the concessions in the capitulation as extravagant and impolitic; he inspired Isabella with the same sentiments: and under various pretexts, equally frivolous and unjust, they eluded all the requisitions of Columbus to perform that, which a solemn treaty bound them to accomplish.
After attending the court of Spain near two years, as an humble suppliant, at length he was convinced that he laboured in vain. But even this ungenerous return did not discourage him from pursuing the great object which first called forth his inventive genius, and excited him to attempt discovery. To open a new passage to the East Indies was his original and favourite scheme. This continued to engross his thoughts; he conceived an opinion that, beyond the continent of America, there was a sea which extended to the East Indies, and hoped to find some Strait or E
narrow neck of land, by which a communication might be opened; and from the part of the ocean already known, by a very fortunate conjecture, he supposed this Strait or isthmus to be situated near the gulf of Darien.
Filled with this idea, though now far advanced in age, worn out with fatigue, and broken with infirmities, he offered cheerfully to undertake a voyage which would ascertain this important point, and perfect the grand scheme which from the beginning, he proposed to accomplish.
Ferdinand and Isabella willingly came into the proposal: they were glad of some honourable employment that would remove from court a man, with whose demands they were determined not to comply, and whose services it was indecent to neglect. Though unwilling to reward Columbus, they were sensible of his merits, they were convinced of his skill and conduct, and had reason to confide in his success.
To these considerations there was a still more powerful influ ence. About this time (1502), the Portuguese fleet under Cabral, arrived from the Indies; and by the richness of its cargo, gave the people of Europe a more perfect idea, than they had hitherto been able to form, of the opulence of the east. The Portuguese had been more successful in their discoveries than the Spaniards. They had opened a communication with countries where industry, arts, and elegance, flourished, and where commerce had been long established, and carried to a greater extent than in any region of the earth.
Their voyages thither yielded immediate and vast profit, in commodities that were extremely precious, and in great request. Lisbon became the seat of commerce and of wealth; while Spain had only the expectation of remote benefit, and future gain, from the western world.
Columbus's offer to conduct them to the East by a route which he expected would be much shorter, and less dangerous, was very acceptable to the Spaniards. Even Ferdinand was roused by such a prospect, and warmly approved of the undertaking.
Notwithstanding the importance of the object of this fourth voyage to the nation, Columbus could procure only four small barks; the largest of which did not exceed seventy tons burden: accustomed to brave danger, he did not hesitate to accept the command of this pitiful squadron. His brother Bartholomew, and his second son Ferdinand, the historian of his actions, accompanied him.
He sailed from Cadiz on the ninth of May, 1502, and touched as usual at the Canary islands; from thence it was his intention to have directed his course for the continent: but his largest vessel was so heavy a sailer, and unfit for the expedition, that he was obliged to bear away for Hispaniola, that he might, if possible, exchange her for some ship of the fleet that had carried over Ovando.
When he arrived off St. Domingo, he found eighteen of these
ships ready loaded, and on the eve of their departure for Spain. Columbus immediately acquainted the governor with the destination of his voyage, and the accident which had obliged him to alter his route. He requested to enter the harbour, not only that he might have permission to negociate the exchange of his ship, but that he might take shelter, during a violent hurricane which he discerned was approaching on that account he also advised the governor to put off the departure of the fleet bound for Spain. But Ovando refused his request and despised his counsel. Under circumstances in which humanity would have afforded refuge to a stranger, Columbus was denied admittance into a country of which he had discovered the existence, and had acquired possession. He was regarded as a visionary prophet, arrogating to himself the power to predict beyond the reach of human foresight.
The fleet set sail June 29th, 1502, for Spain: and the ensuing night the hurricane came on, with dreadful impetuosity and violence. Columbus alone, aware of the danger, took precautions against it; and saved his little squadron. The fleet bound to Spain met with the fate which the rashness and obstinacy of its commanders merited. Of eighteen ships, two or three only escaped. In this general wreck perished Bovadilla, and Roldan, and the greater part of those who had been the most active in persecuting Columbus, and oppressing the Indians; together with all the wealth which they had acquired by injustice and cruelty. It exceeded in value two hundred thousand Pesos; an immense sum at that period, and would have been sufficient to screen them from punishment, and secure them a gracious reception at the Spanish court.
One of the ships that escaped had on board all the effects of Columbus, which had been recovered from the wreck of his fortune. Historians, universally attribute this event to an immediate interposition of divine Providence, in order to avenge the wrongs of an injured man, as well as to punish the oppressors of an innocent people. The ignorant and superstitious formed an opinion, which the vulgar are apt to entertain with respect to persons acting in a sphere far above their comprehensions; they believed Columbus to possess supernatural powers, and that he had conjured up this dreadful storm by magical art, and incantations, in order to be revenged on his enemies.
The inhospitable reception which Columbus met with at Hispaniola hastened his departure for the continent. He set sail July 14th, 1502, and after a tedious and dangerous voyage, he discovered Guanara, an island not far from Honduras. There he had an interview with some of the inhabitants, who arrived in a large canoe. They appeared more civilized, and had acquired more knowledge in the arts than any he had hitherto conversed with.
In return to the eager enquiries of the Spaniards concerning the places where they got the gold, of which their ornaments
were made; they directed them to countries situated to the west, which they described as abounding in that precious metal, in such profusion as to be made use of in common domestic materials.
Instead of steering in search of a country so inviting, which would have conducted them along the coast of Yucatan, to the rich empire of Mexico, Columbus was so intent upon his favourite scheme of discovering that inlet to the Indian ocean, that he bore away to the east towards the gulf of Darien.
In this navigation he discovered all the coast of the continent, from cape Gracios a Dios, to a harbour which for its beauty and security, he named Puerto Bello. He searched in vain for the imaginary strait or inlet, through which he expected to make his way into an unknown sea; and though he went on shore several times, and advanced into the country, he did not penetrate so far as to cross the narrow isthmus which separates the gulf of Mexico from the great southern ocean.
He was, however, so delighted with the country, and conceived such an idea of its wealth, from the specimens of gold produced by the natives, that he resolved to leave a small colony upon the river Belem, in the province of Veragua, under the command of his brother, and to return himself to Spain, in order to procure what was requisite to render it a permanent establishment. But the ungovernable spirit of the people under his command, deprived Columbus of the glory of planting the first colony on the
continent of America.
Their insolence and rapaciousness provoked the natives to take arms, and as they were a more hardy and warlike race of men than the inhabitants of the islands, they cut off a part of the Spaniards, and obliged the rest to abandon à station they were no longer able to maintain.
This was not the only misfortune that befel Columbus; it was followed by a succession of disasters. Furious hurricanes, with violent storms of thunder and lightning, threatened his leaky ves sels with destruction; while his disconsolate crew, exhausted with fatigue, and destitute of provisions, were unwilling, or unable, to execute his commands. One of his ships was lost; he was obliged to abandon another totally unfit for service; and with the two which remained, he quitted that part of the continent which in his anguish he named the coast of vexation, and bore away for Hispaniola.
New distresses awaited him in this voyage: he was driven back by a violent tempest from the coast of Cuba; his ships fell foul of each other, and were so much shattered by the shock, that with the utmost difficulty they reached Jamaica; where he was obliged to run them aground to prevent them from sinking. The measure of his calamities seemed now to be full. He was cast on shore upon an island at a considerable distance from the only settlement of the Spaniards, in America. His ships were disabled beyond the possibility of repair. To convey an account of his si