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An informal codicil, executed by Columbus at Valladolid, May 4, 1506, sixteen days before his death, was discovered about 1785, in the Corsini library at Rome. It is termed a military codicil, from being made in a manner which the civil law allows to the soldier who executes such an instrument on the eve of battle, or in expectation of death. It was written on the blank page of a little breviary presented to Columbus by Pope Alexander VII. Columbus leaves the book “to his beloved country, the Republic of Genoa.”
He directs the erection of a hospital in that city for the poor, with provision for its support; and he declares that republic his successor in the Admiralty of the Indies, in the event of his male line becoming extinct.
The authenticity of this paper has been questioned. It has been said, that there was no probability of Columbus having resort to a usage with which he was, most likely, unacquainted. The objections are not cogent. Columbus was accustomed to the peculiarities of a military life, and he repeatedly wrote letters, in critical moments, as a precaution against some fatal occurrence that seemed to impend. The present codicil, from its date, must have been written a few days previous to his death, perhaps at a moment when he imagined himself at extremity. This may account for any difference in the handwriting, especially as he was, at times, so affected by the gout in his hands as to be unable to write except at night. Particular stress has been laid on the signature; but it does not appear that he was uniform in regard to that, and it is a point to which any one who attempted a forgery would be attentive. It does not appear, likewise, that any advantage could have been obtained by forging the paper, or that any such was attempted. In 1502, when Columbus was about to depart on his fourth and last voyage, he wrote to his friend, Doctor Nicolo Oderigo, formerly ambassador from Genoa to Spain, and forwarded to him copies of all his grants and commissions from the Spanish sovereigns, authenticated before the alcaldes of Seville. He, at the same time, wrote to the bank of San Giorgio, at Genoa, assigning a tenth of his revenues to be paid to that city in diminution of the duties on corn, neiw, and other provisions. Why should Columbus feel this strong interest in Genoa, had he been born in any of the other Italian states which have laid claim to him He was under no obligation to Genoa. He had resided there but a brief portion of his early life; and his proposition for discovery, according to some writers, had been scornfully rejected by that republic. There is nothing to warrant so strong an interest in Genoa, but the filial tie which links the heart of a man to his native place, however he may be separated from it by time or distance, and however little he may be indebted to it for favors. Again, had Columbus been born in any of the towns and villages of the Genoese coast which have claimed him for a native, why should he have made these bequests in favor of the city of Genoa, and not of his native town or village. These bequests were evidently dictated by a mingled sentiment of pride and affection, which would be without all object if not directed to his native place. He was at this time elevated above all petty pride on the subject. His renown was so brilliant, that it would have shed a lustre on any hamlet, however obscure; and the strong love of country here manifested, would never have felt satisfied, until he had signalled out the spot, and nestled down in the very cradle of his infancy. These appear to be powerful reasons, drawn from natural feeling, for deciding in favor of Genoa.
DURING the early part of the life of Columbus, there were two other navigators, bearing the same name, of some rank and celebrity, with whom he occasionally sailed ; their names occurring vaguely from time to time, during the obscure part of his career, have caused much perplexity to some of his biographers, who have supposed that they designated the discoverer. Fernando Columbus affirms them to have been family connections,” and his father says, in one of his letters, “I am not the first admiral of our family.” These two were uncle and nephew : the latter being termed by historians Colombo the Younger (by the Spanish historians Colombo el Mozo). They were in the Genoese service, but are mentioned occasionally in old chronicles as French commanders, because Genoa, during a great part of their time, was under the protection, or rather the sovereignty, of France, and her ships and captains, being engaged in the expeditions of that power, were identified with the French marine. Mention is made of the elder Colombo in Zurita's Annals of Arragon, (L. xix., p. 261) in the war between Spain and Portugal, on the subject of the claim of the Princess Juana to the Crown of Castile. In 1476, the King of Portugal determined to go to the Mediterranean coast of France, to incite his ally, Louis XI., to prosecute the war in the province of Guipuzcoa. The King left Toro, says Zurita, on the 13th June, and went by the river to the city of Porto, in order to await the armada of the King of France, the captain
of which was Colon (Colombo), who was to navigate by the Straits of Gibraltar to pass to Marseilles. After some delays Colombo arrived in the latter part of July with the French armada at Bermeo, on the coast of Biscay, where he encountered a violent storm, lost his principal ship, and ran to the coast of Galicia, with an intention of attacking Ribaldo, and lost a great many of his men. Thence he went to Lisbon to receive the King of Portugal, who embarked in the fleet in August, with a number of his noblemen, and took two thousand two hundred foot-soldiers and four hundred and seventy horse, to strengthen the Portuguese garrisons along the Barbary coast. There were in the squadron twelve ships and five caravels. After touching at Ceuta the fleet proceeded to Colibre, where the King disembarked in the middle of September, the weather not permitting them to proceed to Marseilles. (Zurita, L. xix., ch. 51.) This Colombo is evidently the naval commander of whom the following mention is made by Jacques de Chaufepie, in his supplement to Bayle (vol. ii., p. 126 of letter C.). “I do not know what dependence,” says Chaufenie, “is to be placed on a fact reported in the Ducatiana (Part 1, p. 143,) that Columbus was in 1474 captain of several ships for Louis XI., and that as the Spaniards had made at that time an irruption into Roussillon he thought that, for reprisal, and without contravening