« AnteriorContinuar »
heeded that of the Admiral. By the beginning of June there was an absolute famine on board of the ships. In the extremity of their sufferings, while death stared them in the face, it was proposed by some of the Spaniards, as a desperate alternative, that they should kill and eat their Indian prisoners; others suggested that they should throw them into the sea, as so many expensive and useless mouths. Nothing but the absolute authority of Columbus prevented this last counsel from being adopted. He represented that the Indians were their fellow-beings, some of them Christians like themselves, and all entitled to similar treatment. He exhorted them to a little patience, assuring them that they would soon make land, for that, according to his reckoning, they were not far from Cape St. Vincent. At this all scoffed, for they believed themselves yet far from their desired haven; some affirming that they were in the English Channel, others that they were approaching Galicia ; when Columbus, therefore, confident in his opinion, ordered that sail should be taken in at night, lest they should come upon the land in the dark, there was a general murmur; the men exclaiming that it was better to be cast on shore, than to starve at sea. The next morning, however, to their great joy, they came in sight of the very land which Columbus had predicted. From this time, he was regarded by the seamen as deeply versed in the mysteries of the ocean, and almost oracular in matters of navigation.*
On the 11th of June the vessels anchored in the bay of Cadiz, after a very weary voyage of about three months. In the course of this voyage, the unfortunate Caonabo expired. It is by the mere casual mention of contemporary writers, that we have any notice of this circumstance, which appears to have been passed over as a matter of little moment. He maintained his haughty nature to the last, for his death is principally ascribed to the morbid melancholy of a proud but broken spirit. † He was an extraor:linary character in savage life. From being a simple Carib, he had risen, by his enterprise and courage, to be the most powerful cacique, and the dominant spirit of the populous island of Hayti. He was the only chieftain that appeared to have had sagacity
* Hist. del Almirante, cap. 63.
† Cura de los Palacios, cap. 131. Peter Martyr, decad. i., lib. iv. Some have affirmed that Caonabo perished in one of the caravels which foundered in the harbor of Isabella during the hurricane, but the united testimony of the Curate of Los Palacios, Peter Martyr, and Fernando Columbus, proves that he sailed with the Admiral on his return voyage.
sufficient to foresee the fatal effects of Spanish ascendancy, or military talent to combine any resistance to its inroads. Had his warriors been of his own intrepid nature, the war which he raised would have been formidable in the extreme. His fate furnishes, on a narrow scale, a lesson to human greatness. When the Spaniards first arrived on the coast of Hayti, their imaginations were inflamed with rumors of a magnificent prince in the interior, the lord of the Golden House, the sovereign of the mines of Cibao, who reigned in splendid state among the mountains; but a short time had elapsed, and this fancied potentate of the East, stripped of every allusion, was a naked and dejected prisoner on the deck of one of their caravels, with none, but one of his own wild native heroines, to sympathize in his misfortunes. All his importance vanished with his freedom ; scarce any mention is made of him during his captivity, and with innate qualities of a high and heroic nature, he perished with the obscurity of one of the vulgar.
DECLINE OF THE POPULARITY OF COLUMBUS IN SPAIN-HIS RECEPTION BY THE SOVEREIGNS AT
BURGOS—HE PROPOSES A THIRD VOYAGE.
NVY and malice had been too successful
in undermining the popularity of Columbus. It is impossible to keep up a
state of excitement for any length of time, even by miracles. The world at first is prompt and lavish in its admiration, but soon grows cool, distrusts its late enthusiasm, and fancies it has been defrauded of what it bestowed with such prodigality. It is then that the caviller who has been silenced by the general applause, puts in his insidious suggestion, detracts from the merit of the declining favorite, and succeeds in rendering him an object of doubt and censure, if not of absolute aversion. In three short years the public had become familiar with the stupendous wonder of a newly discovered world, and was now open to
every insinuation derogatory to the fame of the discoverer and the importance of his enterprises.
The circumstances which attended the present arrival of Columbus were little calculated to diminish the growing prejudices of the populacė. When the motley crowd of mariners and adventurers who had embarked with such sanguine expectations landed from the vessels in the port of Cadiz, instead of a joyous crew bounding on shore flushed with success, and laden with the spoils of the golden Indies, a feeble train of wretched men crawled forth, emaciated by the diseases of the colony and the hardships of the voyage, who carried in their yellow countenances, says an old writer, a mockery of that gold which had been the object of their search, and who had nothing to relate of the New World, but tales of sickness, poverty, and disappointment.
Columbus endeavored as much as possible to counteract these unfavorable appearances, and to revive the languishing enthusiasm of the public. He dwelt upon the importance of his recent discoveries along the coast of Cuba, where, as he supposed, he had arrived nearly to the Aurea Chersonesus of the ancients, bordering on some of the richest provinces of Asia. Above all he boasted of his discovery of the