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MISCONDUCT OF DON PEDRO MARGARITE AND HIS
DEPARTURE FROM THE ISLAND.
T will be recollected that before departing
on his voyage, Columbus had given the command of the army to Don Pedro
Margarite, with orders to make a military tour of the island, awing the natives by a display of military force, but conciliating their good-will by equitable and amicable treatment.
The island was at this time divided into five domains, each governed by a cacique, of absolute and hereditary power, to whom a great number of inferior caciques yield tributary allegiance. The first or most important domain comprised the middle part of the Royal Vega. It was a rich, lovely country, partly cultivated after the imperfect manner of the natives, partly covered with noble forests, studded with Indian towns, and watered by
numerous rivers, many of which, rolling down from the mountains of Caibo on its southern frontier, had gold-dust mingled with their sands. The name of the cacique was Guarionex, whose ancestors had long ruled over the province.
The second, called Marien, was under the sway of Guacanagari, on whose coast Columbus had been wrecked in his first voyage. It was a large and fertile territory, extending along the northern coast from Cape St. Nicholas at the western extremity of the island to the great river Yaqui, afterwards called Monte Christi, and including the northern part of the Royal Vega, since called the plain of St. François, now Cape Haytien.
The third bore the name of Maguana. It extended along the southern coast from the river Ozema to the lakes, and comprised the chief part of the centre of the island lying along the southern face of the mountains of Cibao, the mineral district of Hayti. It was under the dominion of the Carib cacique, Caonabo, the most fierce and puissant of the savage chieftains, and the inveterate enemy of the white men.
The fourth took its name from Xaragua, a large lake, and was the most populous and extensive of all. It comprised the whole
western coast, including the long promontory of Cape Tiburon, and extended for a considerable distance along the southern side of the island. The inhabitants were finely formed, had a noble air, a more agreeable elocution, and more soft and graceful manners than the natives of the other parts of the island. The sovereign was named Behechio; his sister, Anacaona, celebrated throughout the island for her beauty, was the favorite wife of the neighboring Cacique Caonabo.
The fifth domain was Higuey, and occupied the whole eastern part of the island, being bounded on the north by the bay of Samana and part of the river Yunia, and on the west by the Ozema. The inhabitants were the most active and warlike people of the island, having learnt the use of the bow and arrow from the Caribs, who made frequent descents upon their coasts; they were said also to make use of poisoned weapons. Their bravery however was but comparative, and was found eventually of little avail against the terror of European arms.
They were governed by a cacique named Cotubanama. *
Such were the five territorial divisions of the island at the time of its discovery. The amount of its population has never been clearly ascer
* Charlevoix, Hist. St. Domingo, lib. i., p. 69.
tained; some have stated it at a million of souls, though this was considered an exaggeration. It must however have been very numerous, and sufficient, in case of any general hostility, to endanger the safety of a handful of Europeans. Columbus trusted for safety partly to the awe inspired by the weapons and horses of the Spaniards, and the idea of their superhuman nature, but chiefly to the measures he had taken to conciliate the good-will of the Indians by gentle and beneficent treatment.
Margarite set forth on his expedition with the greater part of his forces, leaving Alonso de Ojeda in command of the fortress of St. Thomas. Instead however of commencing by exploring the rough mountains of Cibao, as he had been commanded, he descended into the fertile region of the Vega. Here he lingered among the populous and hospitable Indian villages, forgetful of the object of his command and of the instructions left him by the Admiral. A commander who lapses from duty himself is little calculated to enforce discipline. The sensual indulgences of Margarite were imitated by his followers, and his army soon became little better than a crew of riotous marauders. The Indians for a time supplied them with provisions with their
wonted hospitality, but the scanty stores of those abstemious yet improvident people were soon exhausted by the Spaniards, one of whom, they declared, would consume more in a day than would support an Indian for a month. If provisions were withheld or scantily furnished they were taken with violence; nor was any compensation given to the natives, nor means taken to sooth their irritation. The avidity for gold also led to a thousand acts of injustice and oppression ; but above all the Spaniards outraged the dearest feelings of the natives by their licentious conduct with respect to the women. In fact, instead of guests, they soon assumed the tone of imperious masters; instead of enlightened benefactors, they became sordid and sensual oppressors.
Tidings of these excesses, and of the disgust and impatience they were awakening among the natives, soon reached Don Diego Columbus. With the concurrence of the council he wrote to Margarite reprehending his conduct, and requesting him to proceed on the military tour, according to the commands of the Admiral. The pride of Margarite took fire at this reproof; he considered, or rather pretended to consider himself independent in his command, and above all responsibility to the council for his conduct. Being of an ancient