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hard upon the royal treasury, he sent, likewise, above five hundred Indian prisoners, who, he suggested, might be sold as slaves at Seville.
It is painful to find the brilliant renown of Columbus sullied by so foul a stain. The customs of the times, however, must be pleaded in his apology. The precedent had been given long before, by both Spaniards and Portuguese, in their African discoveries, wherein the traffic in slaves had formed one of the greatest sources of profit. In fact, the practice had been sanctioned by the Church itself, and the most learned theologians had pronounced all barbarous and infidel nations, who shut their ears to the truths of Christianity, fair objects of war and rapine, of captivity and slavery. If Columbus needed any practical illustration of this doctrine, he had it in the conduct of Ferdinand himself, in his late wars with the Moors of Granada, in which he had always been surrounded by a crowd of ghostly advisers, and had professed to do everything for the glory and advancement of the Faith. In this Holy War, as it was termed, it was a common practice to make inroads into the Moorish territories and carry off cavalgadas, not merely of flocks and herds, but of human beings, and those not warriors taken with weapons in their hands, but quiet villagers, laboring peasantry,
and helpless women and children. These were carried to the mart at Seville, or to the other populous towns, and sold into slavery. The capture of Malaga was a memorable instance, where, as a punishment for an obstinate and brave defence, which should have excited admiration rather than revenge, eleven thousand people of both sexes, and of all ranks and ages, many of them highly cultivated and delicately reared, were suddenly torn from their homes, severed from each other, and swept into menial slavery, even though half of their ransoms had been paid. These circumstances are not advanced to vindicate, but to palliate, the conduct of Columbus. He acted but in conformity to the customs of the times, and was sanctioned by the example of the sovereigns under whom he served. Las Casas, the zealous and enthusiastic advocate of the Indians, who suffers no opportunity to escape him of exclaiming in vehement terms against their slavery, speaks with indulgence of Columbus on this head. If those pious and learned men, he observes, whom the sovereigns took for guides and instructors, were so ignorant of the injustice of this practice, it is no wonder that the unlettered Admiral should not be conscious of its impropriety.*
* Las Casas, Hist. Ind., tom. i., cap. 122, MS.
EXPEDITION OF COLUMBUS AGAINST THE INDIANS
OF THE VEGA-BATTLE.
OTWITHSTANDING the defeat of the
Indians by Ojeda, they still retained hostile intentions against the Span
iards. The idea of their cacique being a prisoner, and in chains, enraged the natives of Maguana ; and the general sympathy manifested by other tribes of the island shows how widely that intelligent savage had extended his influence, and how greatly he was admired. He had still active and powerful relatives remaining to attempt his rescue or revenge his fall. One of the brothers, Manicaotex by name, a Carib, bold and warlike as himself, succeeded to the sway over his subjects. His favorite wife also, Anacaona, so famous for her charms, had great influence over her brother Behechio, cacique of the populous province of Xaragua. Through these means a violent
and general hostility to the Spaniards was excited throughout the island, and the formidable league of the caciques, which Caonabo had in vain attempted to accomplish when at large, was produced by his captivity. Guacanagari, the cacique of Marien, alone remained friendly to the Spaniards, giving them timely information of the gathering storm, and offering to take the field with them as a faithful ally.
The protracted illness of Columbus, the scantiness of his military force, and the
wretched state of the colonists in general, reduced by sickness and scarcity to great bodily weakness, had hitherto induced him to try every means of conciliation and strategem to avert and dissolve the confederacy. He had at length recovered his health, and his followers were in some degree refreshed and invigorated by the supplies brought by the ships. At this time he received intelligence, that the allied caciques were actually assembled in great force
in the Vega, within two days' march of Isabella, with an intention of making a general assault upon the settlement, and overwhelming it by numbers. Columbus resolved to take the field at once, and to carry the war into the territories of the enemy,
rather than suffer it to be brought to his own door.
The whole sound and effective force that he could muster, in the present infirm state of the colony, did not exceed two hundred infantry and twenty horse. They were armed with crossbows, swords, lances, and espingardas, or heavy arquebuses, which in those days were used with rests, and sometimes mounted wheels. With these formidable weapons, a handful of European warriors, cased in steel and covered in bucklers, were able to cope with thousands of naked savages. They had aid of another kind, however, consisting of twenty bloodhounds, animals scarcely less terrible to the Indians than