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even read the assertion of an old seaman, that Columbus, in his eagerness to compel the Pinzons to turn back to Spain, fired upon their ships, but, they continuing on, he was obliged to follow, and within two days afterwards discovered the island of Hispaniola. It is evident the old sailor, if he really spoke conscientiously, mingled in his cloudy remembrance the disputes in the early part of the voyage, about altering their course to the southwest, and the desertion of Martin Alonzo, subsequent to the discovery of the Lucayos and Cuba, when, after parting company with the Admiral, he made the island of Hispaniola. The witness most to be depended upon as to these points of inquiry, is the physician of Palos, Garcia Fernandez, a man of education, who sailed with Martin Alonzo Pinzon as steward of his ship, and of course was present at all the conversations which passed between the commanders. He testifies that Martin Alonzo urged Columbus to stand more to the southwest, and that the Admiral at length complied, but, finding no land in that direction, they turned again to the west; a statement which completely coincides with the journal of Columbus. He adds that the Admiral continually comforted and animated Martin Alonzo, and all others in his company. (“Siempre Ios consolaba el dicho Almirante esforzandolos al dicho Martin Alonzo e 4 todos los que en su compania iban.”) When the physician was specifically questioned as to the conversations pretended to have passed between the commanders, in which Columbus expressed a desire to turn back to Spain, he referred to the preceding statement, as the only answer he had to make to these interrogatories. The extravagant testimony before mentioned appears never to have had any weight with the fiscal ; and the accurate historian, Muñoz, who extracted all these points of evidence from the papers of the lawsuit, has not deemed them worthy of mention in his work. As these matters however remain on record in the archives of the Indies, and in the archives of the Pinzon family, in both of which I have had a full opportunity of inspecting them, I have thought it advisable to make these few observations on the subject ; lest, in the rage for research, they might hereafter be drawn forth as a new discovery, on the strength of which to impugn the merits of Columbus.
RUMOR OF THE PILOT SAID TO HAVE DIED IN THE HOUSE OF COLUMBUS.
AMoxo the various attempts to injure Columbus by those who were envious of his fame, was one intended to destroy all his merit as an original discoverer. It was said that he had received information of the existence of land in the western parts of the ocean from a tempest-tossed pilot who had been driven there by violent easterly winds, and who, on his return to Europe, had died in the house of Columbus, leaving in his possession the chart and journal of his voyage, by which he was guided to his discovery.
This story was first noticed by Oviedo, a contemporary of Columbus, in his History of the Indies, published in 1535. He mentions it as a rumor circulating among the vulgar, without foundation in truth.
Fernando Lopez de Gomara first brought it forward against Columbus. In his History of the Indies, published in 1552, he repeats the rumor in the vaguest terms, manifestly from Oviedo, but without the contradiction given to it by that author. He says that the name and country of the pilot were unknown, some terming him an Andalusian, sailing between the Canaries and Madeira, others a Biscayan, trading to England and France, and others a Portuguese, voyaging between Lisbon and Mina on the coast of Guinea. He expresses equal uncertainty whether the pilot brought the caravel to Portugal, to Madeira, or to one of the Azores. The only point on which the circulators of the rumor agreed, was that he died in the house of Columbus. Gomara adds that by this event Columbus was led to undertake his voyage to the new countries.*
* Gomara, Hist. Ind., cap. 14.
The other early historians who mention Columbus and his voyages, and were his contemporaries, viz.: Sabellicus, Peter Martyr, Giustiniani, Bernaldes, commonly called the Curate of Los Palacios, Las Casas, Fernando, the son of the Admiral, and the anonymous author of a voyage of Columbus, translated from the Italian into Latin by Madrignano,” are all silent in regard to this report.
Benzoni, whose History of the New World was published in 1565, repeats the story from Gomara, with whom he was contemporary; but decidedly expresses his opinion that Gomara had mingled up much falsehood with some truth, for the purpose of detracting from the fame of Columbus, through jealousy that any one but a Spaniard should enjoy the honor of
the discovery.f Acosta notices the circumstance slightly in his
Matural and J/oral History of the Indies, published in 1591, and takes it evidently from Gomara.f
Mariana, in his History of Spain, published in 1592, also mentions it, but expresses a doubt of its truth, and derives his information manifestly from Gomara.” Herrera, who published his history of the Indies in 1601, takes no notice of the story. In not noticing it he may be considered as rejecting it, for he is distinguished for his minuteness, and was well acquainted with Gomara's history, which he expressly contradicts on a point of considerable interest.f Garcilaso de la Vega, a native of Cusco in Peru, revived the tale with very minute particulars, in his Commentaries of the Incas, published in 1609. He tells it smoothly and circumstantially; fixes the date of the occurrence 1484, “one year more or less”; states the name of the unfortunate pilot, Alonzo Sanchez de Huelva; the destination of his vessel, from the Canaries to the Madeira; and the unknown land to which they were driven, the island of Hispaniola. The pilot, he says, landed, took an altitude, and wrote an account of all he saw, and all that had occurred in the voyage. He then took in wood and water, and set out to seek his way home. He succeeded in returning, but the voyage was long and tempestuous, and twelve died of hunger and fatigue, out of seventeen, the original number of the crew. The five survivors arrived at Tercera, where they were hospitably entertained by Columbus, but all died in his
* Varigatio Christophori Columbi, Madrignano Interprete. It is contained in a collection of voyages called Novus Orbis Regio* u mt, edition of 1555, but was originally published in Italian as written by Montalbodo Francanzano (or Francapano de Montaldo, in a collection of voyages entitled Nuovo Mundo, in Vicenza, in 1507.
+ Girolamo Benzoni, Assist del Nuevo Mundo, lib. i., fo. 12. In Venetia, 1572.
: Padre Joseph de Acosta, Hist, Ind., lib. i., cap. 19.