« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
trary as these exactions were to the maxims which Cołumbus had hitherto inculcated, yet the intrigues carried on at the court of Spain at this juncture, with the manifest design to undermine his power, and discredit his.operations, constrained him to depart from his own system of administration.
Several unfavourable accounts of his conduct, as well as of the countries, discovered by him, had been trans. mitted to Spain. Margarita and father. Boyle were at court, and in order to gratify their resentment, watched with malevolent attention for opportunities to spread insinuations to his disadvantage. Several others about the court viewed his growing reputation with envious eyes. Fonseca, the archdeacon of Seville, who was entrusted with the chief direction of Indian affairs, for some reasons not made public, listened with partiality to every invec. tive.
It was not easy for an unfriended stranger, unpractised in courtly arts, to counteract the machinations of such powerful enemies. There remained but one method to support his credit, and silence his enemies, he must prcduce such a quantity of gold, as would justify his reports, with respect to the richness of the country; the necessity of obtaining it, forced him not only to impose this heavy tax upon the Indians, but to exact payment of it with extreme rigour ; and furnished him with a plausible excuse for departing from that mildness and humanity, with which he had uniformly treated that unhappy people.
This imposition appeared the most intolerable of all evils ; accustomed to pass their days in a careless manner, this restraint upon their liberty was so grievous, that they had resource to an expedient to deliver themselves from a yoke, imposed upon them by a handful of strangers ; to whom they were under no obligations.
Their impatience and despair prompted them to fall upon an expedient, which to them appeared an infallible method to rid them of their troublesome neighbours. They agreed to suspend all agricultural operations, and from the voracious appetites of the Spaniards, concluded the execution of it very practicable.
They pulled up the Maniac roots that were planted, and planted no Maize ; and retired to the most inaccessible parts of the woods, leaving the uncultivated plains to their enemies.
This desperate resolution produced some of the effects intended ; the Spaniards were reduced to great want ; but they received some seasonable supplies from Europe, and found so many resources in their own ingenuity and iudustry, that they suffered no great loss of men.
The Indians were the greatest sufferers by this ill-cor. certed policy. Shut up among barren mountains, without any food but the wild productions of the earth, distressed by famine, contagious diseases were the consequence : and in the course of a few months, more than a third part of the inhabitantş perished.
Columbus now began to have serious thoughts of returning to Spaip. His enemies at court had gained considerable influence : they represented his prudent care 15 preserve discipline and subordination, as excess of rigour ; the pupishments he inflicted upon the mutinous and disordedly, were imputed to 'cruelty ; and he was represented! as inconsiderately ambitious; these accusations obtained such credit in a jelous court, that a commissioner was appointed to repair to Hispaniola, to inspect into the ccaduct of Columbus..
By the influence of his enemies, Aguado a groom of the bed chamber, was made choice of
this occasion ; a man whose capacity was by no means fit for the station. Puffed up with such sudden and unexpected elevation, Aguado displayed all that frivolous self-importance an: insolence, natural to little minds, in the exercise of his office. He listened with eagerness to every accusation against Columbus, and encouraged, not only the evil ciis. posed among the Spaniards, but also the Indians, by whic'ı partial conduct he fomented jealousies and dissentions in the colony, without establishing any regulations for the public good : and while he wished to load the administration of the admiral with disgrace, placed an indelible stain upon his own.
Columbus sensibly felt how humiliating his situation must be, if he remained under the controul of such a partial inspector. He therefore took the resolution of returr.ing to Spain, in order to give a full account of his transactions, with respect to the points in dispute between him and his adversaries, before Ferdinand and Isabella. Ho committed the administration of his affairs during his ab sence to his brother Don Bartholomew, with the title
Adelantado, or lieutenant governor ; and Francis Roldan, chief justice, with very extensive powers.
In returning to Europe, Columbus held a different course to what he had taken in his former voyage. He steered almost due east from Hispaniola in the parallel of twenty-two degrees of latitude : as he was unacquainted with the more expeditious method of stretching to the north, whereby he would have fallen in with the south west winds. By which mistake he was exposed to very great fatigue and danger ; and had to struggle with the trade winds which blow without variation from the east, between the tropics. He nevertheless persisted in this course
his usual patience and firmness, but made so little way, that he was three months before he came within sight of land. Provisions at last began to fail : they were reduced to the allowance of six ounces of bread a day for each pers son : the admiral faring no better than the neanese sailor.
In this extreme distress he retained that humanity which distinguished his character; and refused to comply with the pressing solicitations of his crew to feed upon the Indian prisoners, whom they were carrying over ; others insisted that they should be thrown overboard, in order to lessen the consumption of provisions. He objected to their destruction, alledging that they were human beings, reduced to the same calamities with themselves and intitled to share an equal fate. These arguments backed by his authority, dissipated those wild ideas suggested by despair: soon after, they came in sight of Spain, and all their troubles and fears vanished.
Columbus, conscious of his own integrity, appeared at court with that determined confidence, which those who have performed great actions, will always assume. Ferdinand and Isabella ashamed of lending too favourable an ear to frivolous and ill founded accusations, received him with such distinguished marks of respect, as overwhelmed his enemies with shame. Their calumny and censures were not heard at that juncture.
The gold, the pearls, the cotton and other rich commodities which Columbus produced, seemed fully to refute the stories the malecontents had propagated with respect to the poverty of the .country. By reducing the Indians to obedience and imposing a regular tax upon them, he had secured to Spain a large accession of new subjects, and a revenue that promised much. By the mines which he had found out and examined, a source of wealth waq still more copiously opened.
Columbus represented these only as preludes to future and much larger acquisitions, and as an earnest of more important discoveries. The attentive consideration of all these circumstances made such an impression upon Ferdinand and Isabella that they resolved to supply the colo. ny with every thing necessary to render it a permanent establishment, and to furnish Columbus with such a fleet, that he might proceed to make such discoveries as he meditated.
A plan was now formed of a regular colony, that might serve as a model for all future establishments. Every particular was considered with attention, and arranged with scrupulous accuracy. The exact number of adventurers who should be permitted to embark was fixed : these were to be of different ranks and professions; and the proportion of each was established, according to their usefulness and benefit to the colony. A proper number of women were chosen to accompany these new settlers.
As a want of provision had occasioned great distress in the colony, a number of husbandmen were to be carried over. As they had formed and entertained the most sanguine hopes with respect to the riches contained in the mines, a number of artists were engaged who were skilful in refining the precious metals; who were to receive pay from the government for a number of years..
Thus far the regulations were well adoped to the end in view; but as it was foreseen that few would engage to embark to settle in a country that had proved so fatal to many of their countrymen, Columbus proposed to employ such convicts and malefactors who were convicted of crimes, which, though capital, were of a less atrocious nature ; and that instead of sending them to the gallies, they should be condemned to labour in the mines which were to be opened. This advice was inconsiderately adopted; the prisons were drained to collect members for the intended colony, and the judges were instructed to recruit it by their future sentences. But they were not aware that such corrupt inembers would poison the body politic, and be productive of violent and unbappy effects.
This the Spaniards fatally experienced, and other European powers imitated their practice, from which pernicious consequences have followed, and can be imputed to no other cause.
Columbus easily obtained the royal approbation to every measure and regulation he proposed: but his endeavours to carry them into execution, were long retarded, and must have tired out any man of less patience than himself. Those delays were occasioned, partly by that tedious procrastination, so natural to the Spaniards ; partly by the exhausted state of the treasury, which at that time was drained by the celebration of the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella's only son with Margaret of Austria ; and that of Joanna, their daughter, with Philip of Austria : but the chief source of all these delays, must principally be imputed to the malice of his enemies.
These, astonished at the reception Columbus had met with, and overawed by his presence, gave way for some time, to a tide of favour too strong for them to oppose. Their enmity however, was too strong to remain long in. active; but by the assistance of Fonseca, minister for Indian affairs, who was now promoted to be bishop of Badajos, they threw in so many obstacles, that the preparations were retarded one whole year, before he could procure two ships to send over a part of the supplies intended for the colony ; and near two years were spent before the small squadron was ready, of which he was to take the com-mand. This squadron consisted of six ships of no great burden, and indifferently provided for a long voyage.
He now meditated a different course from what he had before undertaken : still possessed with those erroneous ideas, which at first induced him to consider the country he had discovered, as a part of the continent of India : he expected to find those fertile regions, to the south-west of the countries he had discovered. He therefore proposed, as the most certain for finding out these, to stand directly for the Cape de Verd islands, until he came under the equinoctial line, and then to stretch to the west before a. favourable wind which blows invariably between the tro. pics.
Full of this idea he set sail for his third voyage, on the thirtieth of May, 1498, and touched at the Canaries, and Cape de Verd islands; from Ferro he dispatched three of ais ships with a supply of provisions for the colony of: