« ZurückWeiter »
only to defend the inhabitants from future incursions, but to avenge their part wrongs.
The credulous prince closed eagerly with the proposal, and thought himself already safe under the patronage of beings sprung from Heaven, and superior in power to mortal men. The ground was marked out for a small fort, which Columbus called Navidad, because he had landed there on Christmas day. A deep ditch was drawn around it. The ramparts were fortified with pallisades, and the great guns, saved out of the admiral's ship, were planted upon them. In ten days the work was finished; that simple race of men labouring with inconsiderate assiduity in erecting this first monument of their own servitude. During this time Columbus, by his caresses and liberality, laboured to increase the high opinion which the natives entertained of the Spaniards. But while he endeavoured to inspire them with confidence in their disposition to do good, he wished likewise to give them fome striking idea of their power to punish and destroy such as were the objects of their indignation. With this view, in presence of a vast assembly, he drew up his men in order of battle, and made an oftentatious but innocent display of the sharpness of the Spanish swords, of the force of their spears, and the operation of their cross-bows. These rude people, strangers to the use of iron, and unacquainted with any hostile weapons, but arrows of reeds pointed with the bones of fishes, wooden swords, and javelins hardened in the fire, wondered and trembled. Before this surprise or fear had time to abate, he ordered the great guns to be fired. The sudden explosion struck them with such terror, that they fell flat to the ground, covering their faces with their hands; and when they beheld the astonishing effect of the bullets among the trees, towards which the cannon had been pointed, they concluded that it was impossible to resist men, who had the command of such destructive instruments, and who came armed with thun. der and lightning against their enemies.
After giving such impresions both of the beneficence and power of the Spaniards, as might have rendered it easy to preserve an ascendant over the minds of the natives, Columbus appointed thirty-eight of his people to remain in the island. He entrusted the command of these to Diego de Arada, a gentleman of Cordova, investing him with the same powers which he himself had received from Ferdinand and Isabella; and fur. nished him with every thing requisite for the subsistence or defence of this infant colony. He strictly enjoined them to maintain concord among themselves, to yield an unreserved obedience to their commander, to avoid giving offence to the natives by any violence or exaction, to culo tivate the friendship of Guacanahari, but not to put themselves in his
power by fraggling in small parties, or marching too far from the fort. He promised to revisit them soon, with such a reinforcement of strength as might enable them to take full poffeflion of the country, and to reap all the fruits of their discoveries. In the mean time, he engaged to mention their names to the king and queen, and to place their merit and services in the most advantageous light.
Having thus taken every precaution for the security of the Colony, he left Navidad on the fourth of January, one thousand four hundred and ninety-three, and steering towards the east, discovered, and gave names to moft of the harbours on the northern coast of the island. On the sixth, he descried the Pinta, and soon came up with her, after a sepa. ration of more than fix weeks. Pinzon endeavoured to justify his con. duct, by pretending that he had been driven from his course by stress of weather, and prevented from returning by contrary winds. The admi. ral, though he still suspected his perfidious intentions, and knew well what he urged in his own defence to be frivolous as well as false, was so fenfible that this was not a proper time for venturing upon any high Arain of authority, and felt such fatisfaction in this junction with his confort, which delivered him from many disquieting apprehensions, that lame as Pinzon's apology was, he admitted of it without difficulty, and restored him to favour. During his absence from the admiral, Pinzon had visited several harbours in the island, had acquired some gold by trafficking with the natives, but had made no discovery of any importance.
From the condition of his ships, as well as the temper of his men, Co. lumbus now found it necessary to haften his return to Europe. The for, mer, having suffered much during a voyage of such an unusual length, were extremely leaky. The latter expressed the utmost impatience to revisit their native country, from which they had been so long absent, and where they had things fo wonderful and un-heard of to relate. Ace cordingly, on the fixteenth of January, he directed his course towards the north-east, and foon loft fight of land. He had on board some of the natives, whom he had taken from the different islands which he dis. covered ; and besides the gold, which was the chief object of research, he had collected specimens of all the productions which were likely to become subjects of commerce in the several countries, as well as many unknown birds, and other natural curiosities, which might attract the attention of the learned, or excite the wonder of the people. The voyage was prosperous to the fourteenth of February, and he had advanced near five hundred leagues across the Atlantic Ocean, when the wind befan to rise, and continued to blow with increasing rage, which termi
nated in a furious hurricane. Every expedient that the naval kill and experience of Columbus could devise was employed, in order to save the ships. But it was impossible to withstand the violence of the storm, and as they were still far from any land, destruction seemed inevitable. The sailors had recourse to prayers to Almighty God, to the invocation of saints, to vows and charms, to every thing that religion dictates, or superstition suggests, to the affrighted mind of man. No prospect of deliverance appearing, they abandoned themselves to despair, and expected every moment to be swallowed up in the waves. Besides the passions which naturally agitate and alarm the human mind in such awful situations, when certain death, in one of his most terrible forms, is before it, Columbus had to endure feelings of distress peculiar to himself. He dreaded that all knowledge of the amazing discoveries which he had made was now to perish; mankind were to be deprived of every benefit that might have been derived from the happy success of his schemes, and his own name would descend to pofterity as that of a rash deluded adventurer, instead of being transmitted with the honour due to the author and conductor of the most noble enterprise that had ever been undertaken. These reflections extinguished all lense of his own personal danger.
Less affected with the loss of life, than solicitous to preserve the memory of what he had attempted and achieved, he retired to his cab bin, and wrote, upon parchment, a short account of the
voyage which he had made, of the course which he had taken, of the situation and riches of the countries which he had discovered, and of the colony that he had left there. Having wrapt up this in an oiled cloth, which he inclofed in a cake of wax, he put it into a cask carefully stopped up, and threw it into the sea, in hopes that some fortunate accident might preserve a de: pofit of so much importance to the world *.
Every monument of such a man as Columbus is valuable. A letter which he wrote to Ferdinand and Ifabella, describing what passed on this occasion, exhibits a most striking picture of his intrepidity; his humanity, his prudences his public fpirit, and courtly address. 66 I would have been less concerned for this misfortune, had I alone been ia danger, both because my life is a' debt that I owe to the Supreme Creator, and because I have at other times been exposed to the most imminent hazard. But what gave me in. finite grief and vexation was, that after it had pleased our Lord to give me faith to un. dertake this enterprize, in which I had now been so successful, that my opponents would have been convinced, and the glory of your highnesses, and the extent of your territory increased by me; it should please the Divine Majesty to stop all by my death. All this would have been more tolerable, had it not been attended with the lofs of those men whora I had carried with me, upon promise of the greatest prosperity, who feeing themselves In such distress, cursed not only their coming along with me, but that fear and awe of
At length Providence interposed, to save a life reserved for other fervices. The wind abated, the sea became calm, and on the evening of the fifteenth, Columbus and his companions discovered land; and though uncertain what it was, they made towards it. They soon knew it to be St. Mary, one of the Azores or western isles, subject to the crown of Portugal. There, after a violent contest with the governor, in which Columbus displayed no lefs fpirit than prudence, ke obtained a supply of fresh provisions, and whatever else he needed. One circumstance, how. ever, greatly disquieted him. The Pinta, of which he had loft light on the first day of the hurricane, did not appear; he dreaded for some time that she had foundered at sea, and that all her crew had perished : afterwards, his former fufpicions recurred, and he became apprehensive that Pinzon had born away for Spain, that he might reach it before him, and, by giving the first account of his difcoveries, might obtain fome share of his fame.
In order to prevent this, he left the Azores on the twenty-fourth of February, as soon as the weather would permit. At no great distance from the coaft of Spain, when near the end of his voyage, and seem
me, which prevented them from returning as they had often resolved to have done. But besides all this, my sorrow was greatly increased, by recollecting that I had left my two fons at school at Cordova, destitute of friends, in a foreign country, when it could not in all probability be known that I had done such services as might induce your highnesses to remember them. And though I comforted myself with the faith that our Lord would Bot permit thạt, which tended so much to the glory of his church, and which I had brought about with so much trouble, to remain imperfe&, yet I considered, that on account of my fins, it was his will to deprive me of that glory, which I might have attained in this world. While in this confused state, I thought on the good fortune which accompanies your highnesses, and imagined, that although I should perish, and the vessel be lost, it was possible that you might fomebow come to the knowledge of my voyage, and the success with which it was attended. For that reason I wrote upon parchment with the brevity which the situation required, that I had discovered the lands which I promised, in how many days I had done it, and what course I had followed. I mentioned the goodness of the country, the character of the inhabitants, and that your highgesles subjects were left in poffeffìon of all that I had discovered. Having sealed this wri. ting, I addressed it to your highnesses, and promised a thousand ducats to any person who should deliver it sealed, so that if any foreigners found it, the promised reward might prevail on them not to give the information to another. I then caused a great cask to be
to me, and wrapping up the parchment in an oiled cloth, and afterwards in a cake of wax, I put it into the cask, and having stopt it well, I cast it into the sea. Al the men believed that it was some act of devotion. Imagining that this might never chance to be taken up, as the ships approached nearer to Spain, I made another packet like the first, and placed it at the top of the poop, so that if the hip sunk, the cask remaining above water might be committed to the guidance of fortune.". F 2
ingly beyond the reach of any disaster, another storm arofe, little in. ferior to the former in violence; and after driving before it during two days and two. nights, he was forced to take shelter in the river Tagus, Upon application to the king of Portugal, on the fourth of March, one thousand four hundred and ninety-three, he was allowed to come up to Lisbon; and, notwithstanding the envy which it was natural for the Portuguese to feel, when they beheld another nation entering upon that province of discovery which they had hitherto deemed peculiarly their own, and in its first essay, not only rivalling but eclipsing their fame, Columbus was received with all the marks of diftinction due to a man who had performed things so extraordinary and unexpected. The king admitted him into his presence, treated him with the highest respect, and listened to the account which he gave of his voyage with admiration mingled with regret. While Columbus, on his part, enjoyed the fatiffaction of describing the importance of his discoveries, and of being now able to prove the solidity of his schemes to those very persons, who with an ignorance disgraceful to themselves, and fatal to their country, had lately rejected them as the projects of a visionary or designing adven, turer,
Columbus was so impatient to return to Spain, that he remained only five days in Lisbon. On the fifteenth of March he arrived in the port of Palos, seven months and eleven days from the time when he set out thence upon his voyage. As soon as his ship was discovered approaching the port, all the inhabitants of Palos ran eagerly to the shore, in order to, welcome their relations and fellow-citizens, and to hear tidings of their voyage. When the prosperous issue of it was known, when they beheld the strange people, the unknown animals, and singular productions brought from the countries which had been discovered, the effusion of joy was general and unbounded. The bells were rung, the cannon fired; Columbus was received at landing with royal honours, and all the people, in folemn procession, accompanied him and his crew to the church, where they returned thanks to Heaven, which had fo wonderfully conducted and crowned with fuccels, a voyage of greater length and of more importance, than had been attempted in any former age. On the evening of the same day, he had the satisfaction of seeing the Pinta, which the violence of the tempest had driven far to the north enter the harbour,
The first care of Columbus was to inform the king and queen, who were then at Barcelona, of his arrival and success. Ferdinand and Isabella, no less astonished than delighted with this unexpected event, de