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for the sale a letter was written by the sovereigns to Bishop Fonseca, suspending that order until they could inquire into the cause for which the Indians had been made prisoners, and consult learned and pious theologians whether their sale would be justifiable in the eyes of God. *
Much difference of opinion took place among divines on this important question ; the Queen eventually decided it according to the dictates of her own pure conscience and charitable heart. She ordered that the Indians should be sent back to their native country, and enjoined that the islanders should be conciliated by the gentlest means, instead of being treated with severity. Unfortunately her orders came too late to Hispaniola to have the desired effect. The scenes of warfare and violence produced by the bad passions of the colonists and the vengeance of the natives were not to be forgotten, and mutual distrust and rankling animosity had grown up between them, which no after exertions could eradicate.
* Letter of the sovereigns to Fonseca. Navarrete, Coleccion de los Viages, i., 11, doc. 92.
ARRIVAL OF AGUADO AT ISABELLA-HIS ARROGANT
CONDUCT-TEMPEST IN THE HARBOR.
UAN AGUADO set sail from Spain tow
ards the end of August, with four cara-
kinds. Don Diego Columbus returned in this squadron to Hispaniola, and arrived at Isabella in the month of October while the Admiral was absent occupied in re-establishing the tranquillity of the interior. Aguado, as has already been shown, was under obligations to Columbus, who had distinguished him from among his companions and had recommended him to the favor of the sovereigns. He was however one of those weak men whose heads are turned by the least elevation. Puffed up by a little temporary power he lost sight, not merely of the respect and gratitude due to Columbus, but of the nature
and extent of his own commission. Instead of acting as an agent empioyed to collect information he assumed a tone of authority, as though the reins of government had been transferred into his hands. He interfered in public affairs ; ordered various persons to be arrested ; called to account the officers employed by the Admiral; and paid no respect to Don Bartholomew Columbus, who remained in command during the absence of his brother. The Adelantado, astonished at this presumption, demanded a sight of the commission under which he acted; but Aguado treated him with great haughtiness, replying that he would show it only to the Admiral. On second thoughts, however, lest there should be doubts in the public mind of his right to interfere in the affairs of the colony, he ordered his letter of credence from the sovereigns to be pompously proclaimed by sound of trumpet. It was brief but comprehensive, to the following purport: “Cavaliers, Esquires, and other persons, who by our orders are in the Indies, we send to you Juan Aguado, our groom of the chambers, who will speak to you on our part. We command you to give him faith and credit."
The report now circulated that the downfall of Columbus and his family was at hand, and
that an auditor had arrived empowered to hear and redress the grievances of the public. This rumor originated with Aguado himself, who threw out menaces of rigid investigations and signal punishments. It was a time of jubilee for offenders. Every culprit started up into an accuser; every one who by negligence or crime had incurred the wholesome penalties of the laws was loud in his clamors against the oppression of Columbus. There were ills enough in the colony, some incident to its situation, others produced by the misdeeds of the colonists, but all were ascribed to the mal-administration of the Admiral. He was made responsible alike for the evils produced by others and for his own stern remedies. All the old complaints were reiterated against him and his brothers, and the usual and illiberal cause given for their oppressions, that they were foreigners who sought merely their own interests and aggrandizement at the expense of the sufferings and the indignities of Spaniards.
Destitute of discrimination to perceive what was true and what false in these complaints, and anxious only to condemn, Aguado saw in everything conclusive testimony of the culpability of Columbus. He intimated, and perhaps thought, that the Admiral was keeping at a distance from Isabella through fear of
encountering his investigations. In the fulness of his presumption he even set out with a body of horse to go in quest of him. A vain and weak man in power is prone to employ satellites of his own description. The arrogant and boasting followers of Aguado, wherever they went spread rumors among the natives of the might and importance of their chief, and of the punishment he intended to inflict upon Columbus. In a little while the report circulated through the island that a new Admiral had arrived to administer the government, and that the former one was to be put to death.
The news of the arrival and of the insolent conduct of Aguado reached Columbus in the interior of the island ; he immediately hastened to Isabella to give him a meeting. Aguado, hearing of his approach, also returned there. As every one knew the lofty spirit of Columbus, his high sense of his services, and his jealous maintenance of his official dignity, a violent explosion was anticipated at the impending interview. Aguado also expected something of the kind, but, secure in his royal letter of credence, he looked forward with the ignorant audacity of a little mind to the result. The sequel showed how difficult it is for petty spirits to anticipate the