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towards them that true friendship which shines brightest in the dark days of adversity. He might have played a nobler part, in making a stand with his brother caciques to drive these intruders from his native soil ; but he appears to have been fascinated by his admiration of the strangers and his personal attachment to Columbus. He was bountiful, hospitable, affectionate, and kind-hearted ; competent to rule a gentle and unwarlike people in the happier days of the island, but unfitted, through the softness of his nature, for the stern turmoil which followed the arrival of the white men.
[1495.] HILE Columbus was endeavoring to
remedy the evils produced by the misconduct of Margarite, that rec
reant commander and his political coadjutor, Friar Boyle, were busy undermining his reputation in the court of Castile. They accused him of deceiving the sovereigns and the public by extravagant descriptions of the countries he had discovered; they pronounced the island of Hispaniola a source of expense rather than profit, and they drew a dismal picture of the sufferings of the colony, occasioned, as they said, by the oppressions of Columbus and his brothers. They charged them with tasking the community with excessive labor during a time of general sickness and debility; with stopping the rations of individuals on the
most trilling pretext, to the great detriment of their health ; with wantonly inflicting severe corporal punishments on the common people, and with heaping indignities on Spanish gentlemen of rank. They said nothing however of the exigencies which had called for unusual labor, nor of the idleness and profligacy which required coercion and chastisement, nor of the seditious cabals of the Spanish cavaliers, who had been treated with indulgence rather than severity. In addition to these complaints they represented the state of confusion of the island, in consequence of the absence of the Admiral and the uncertainty which prevailed concerning his fate, intimating the probability of his having perished in his foolhardy attempts to explore unknown seas and discover unprofitable lands.
These prejudiced and exaggerated representations derived much weight from the official situations of Margarite and Friar Boyle. They were supported by the testimony of many discontented and factious idlers, who had returned with them to Spain. Some of these persons had connections of rank, who were ready to resent with Spanish haughtiness what they considered the arrogant assumptions of an ignoble foreigner. Thus the popularity of Columbus received a vital blow, and immedi
ately began to decline. The confidence of the sovereigns also was impaired, and precautions were adopted which savor strongly of the cautious and suspicious policy of Ferdinand.
It was determined to send somie person of trust and confidence who should take upon himself the government of the island in case of the continued absence of the Admiral, and who even in the event of his return, should inquire into the alleged evils and abuses, and remedy such as should appear really in existence. The person proposed for this difficult office was Diego Carillo, a commander of a military order ; but as he was not immediately prepared to sail with the fleet of caravels about to depart with supplies the sovereigns wrote to Fonseca, the superintendent of Indian affairs, to send some trusty person with the vessels to take charge of the provisions with which they were freighted. These he was to distribute among the colonists under the supervision of the Admiral, or in case of his absence in presence of those in authority. He was also to collect information concerning the manner in which the island had been governed, the conduct of persons in office, the causes and authors of existing grievances, and the measures by which they were to be remedied. Having collected such information he was to return and
make report to the sovereigns; but in case he should find the Admiral at the island everything was to remain subject to his control.
There was another measure adopted by the sovereigns about this time, which likewise shows the declining favor of Columbus. On the roth of April, 1495, a proclamation was issued, giving general permission to nativeborn subjects to settle in the island of Hispaniola, and to go on private voyages of discovery and traffic to the New World.
This was granted, subject to certain conditions.
All vessels were to sail exclusively from the port of Cadiz, and under the inspection of officers appointed by the Crown. Those who embarked for Hispaniola without pay, and at their own expense, were to have lands assigned to them and to be provisioned for one year, with a right to retain such lands and all houses they might erect upon them. Of all gold which they might collect they were to retain one third for themselves and pay two thirds to the Crown. Of all other articles of merchandise, the produce of the island, they were to pay merely one tenth to the Crown. Their purchases were to be made in the presence of officers appointed by the sovereigns, and the royal duties paid into the hands of the King's receiver.