Abbildungen der Seite

country. By reducing the Indians to obedience, and imposing a regular tax upon them, he had secured to Spain a large accession of new subjects, and the establishment of a revenue that promised to be considerable. By the mines which he had found out and examined, a source of wealth still more copious was opened. Great and unexpected as those advantages were, Columbus represented them only as preludes to future acquisitions, and as the earnest of more important discoveries, which he ftill meditated, and to which those he had already made would conduct him with ease and certainty.

The attentive consideration of all these circumstances made fuch im. pression, not only upon Isabella, who was flattered with the idea of being the patroness of all Columbus's enterprises, but even upon Ferdinand, who having originally expressed his disapprobation of his schemes, was still apt to doubt of their success, that they resolved to supply the colony in Hispaniola with every thing which could render it a permanent establishment, and to furnish Columbus with such a fleet, that he might proceed to search for those new countries, of whose existence he feemed to be confident. The measures most proper for accomplishing both these designs were concerted with Columbus. Discovery had been the sole object of the first voyage to the New World; and though, in the fecond, settlement had been proposed, the precautions taken for that purpose had either been insufficient, or were rendered ineffectual by ahe mutinous fpirit of the Spaniards, and the unforeseen calamities arising from various causes. Now a plan was to be formed of a regular colony, that might serve as a model to all future eflablishments. Every particular was considered with attention, and the whole arranged with a fcrupulous accuracy. The precise number of adventurers who should be permitted to embark was fixed. They were to be of different ranks and professions ; and the proportion of each was established, according to their ufefulness and the wants of the colony. A suitable number of women was to be chosen to accompany these new settlers. As it was the first object to raise provisions in a country where scarcity of food had been the occasion of so much distress, a considerable body of husbandmen was to be carried over, As the Spaniards had then no conception of deriving any benefit from these productions of the New World which have fince yielded such large returns of wealth to Europe, but had formed magnificent ideas, and entertained fanguine hopes with respect to the riches contained in the mines which had been discovered, a band of workmen, fkilled in the various arts employed in digging and refining the precious metals, was provided. All these emigrants were to receive pay and subfiftence for some years, at the public expence.

Thus far the regulations were prudent, and well adapted to the end in view. But as it was foreseen that few would engage voluntarily to settle in a country, whose noxious climate had been fatal to so many of their countrymen, Columbus propofed to transport to Hifpaniola fucha malefactors as had been convicted of crimes, which, though capital, were of a less atrocious nature; and that for the future a certain proportion of the offenders usually sent to the gallies, hould be condemned to labour in the mines which were to be opened. This advice, given without due reflection, was as inconsiderately adopted. The prisons of Spain were drained, in order to collect members for the intended colony; and the judges empowered to try criminals, were instructed to recruit it by their future sentences. It is not, however, with such materials, that the foundations of a society, destined to be permanent, fhould be laid. Induitry, fobriety, patience, and mutual confidenee are indispensably requisite in an infant settlement, where purity of morals must contribuie more towards establishing order, than the operation or authority of laws. But when such a mixture of what is corrupt is admitted into the original conftitution of the political body, the vices of those unfound and incurable members will probably infect the whole, and must certainly be productive of violent and unhappy effects. This the Spaniards fatally experienced ; and the other European nations having successively imitated the practice of Spain in this particular, pernicious consequences have followed in their settlements, which can be imputed to no other cause.

Though Columbus obtained, with great facility and dispatch, the royal approbation of every measure and regulation that he proposed, his endeavours to carry

them into execution were so long retarded, as must have tired out the patier.ce of any man, less accustomed to encounter and to surmount difficulties. Those delays were occasioned partly by that tedious formality and spirit of procrastination, with which the Spaniards conduct business; and partly by the exhausted state of the treasury, which was drained by the expence of celebrating the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella's only fon with Margaret of Austria, and that of Joanna, their second daughter, with Philip archduke of Austria; but must be chiefly imputed to the malicious arts of Columbus's enemics. Astonished at the reception which he met with upon his return, and overawed by his presence, they gave way, for some time, to a tide of favour tco strong for them to oppose. Their enmity, however, was too inveterate to remain long inactive. They resumed their operations, and by the assistance of Fonseca, the minister for Indian affairs, who was now promoted to the bishopric of Bajados, they threw in so many ob


stacles to protract the preparations for Columbus's expedition, that a year clapsed before he could procure two ships to carry over a part of the supplies destined for the colony, and almost two years were spent before the small squadron was equipped of which he himself was to take the command.

This squadron consisted of six ships only, of no great burden, and but indifferently provided for a long or dangerous navigation. This voyage which he now meditated was in a course different from any he had undertaken. As he was fully persuaded that the fertile regions of India lay to the south-west of those countries which he had discovered, he proposed, as the most certain method of finding out these, to stand di-. rectly south from the Canary or Cape de Verd islands, until he came under the equinoctial line, and then to stretch to the west before the favourable wind for such a course, which blows invariably between the tropics. With this idea he set sail, on May the thirtieth, one thousand four hundred and ninety-eight, and touched first at the Canary, and then at the Cape de Verd ilands, on July the fourth. From the former he dispatched three of his ships with a supply of provisions for the colony in Hispaniola : with the other three, he continued his voyage towards the south. No remarkable occurrence happened till July the nineteenth, when they arrived within five degrees of the line. There they were becalmed, and at the same time the heat became so excessive, that many of their wine casks burst, the liquor in others foured, and their provisions corrupted. The Spaniards, who had never ventured fo far to the south, were afraid that the ships would take fire, and began to apprehend the reality of what the ancients had taught concerning the destructive qualities of that torrid region of the globe. They were relieved, in some measure, from their fears by a seasonable fall of rain. This, however, though so heavy and unintermitting that the men could hardly keep the deck, did not greatly mitigate the intenseness of the heat. The admiral, who with his usual vigilance had in person directed every operation, from the beginning of the voyage, was fo much exhaufted by fatigue and want of sleep, that it brought on a violent fit of the gout, accompanied with a fever. All these circumstances constrained him to yield to the importunities of his crew, and to alter his course to the north-west, in order to reach some of the Caribbee islands, where he might refit, and be supplied with provisions.

On the first of August, the man stationed in the round top surprised them with the joyful cry of land. They stood towards it, and discovered a considerable island, which the admiral called Trinidad, a name it still retains. It lies on the coaft of Guiana, near the mouth of the


Orinoco. This, though a river only of the third or fourth magnitude
in the New World, far surpasses any of the streams in our hemisphere.
It rolls towards the ocean such a vast body of water, and rushes into it
with such impetuous force, that when it meets the tide, which on that
coast rises to an uncommon height, their collision occafions a swell and
agitation of the waves no less surprising than formidable. In this con-
fict, the irresistible torrent of the river so far prevails, that it freshens
the ocean many leagues with its flood. Columbus, before he could
perceive the danger, was entangled among those adverse currents and
tempestuous waves, and it was with the utmost difficulty that he escaped
through a narrow strait, which appeared so tremendous, that he called
it La Boca del Drago. As foon as the consternation which this occa-
fioned, permitted him to reflect upon the nature of an appearance fo ex-
traordinary, he discerned in it a source of comfort and hope. He juftly
concluded, that such a vast body of water as this river contained, could
not be fupplied by any island, but must flow through a country of im-
mense extent, and of consequence that he was now arrived at that con-
tinent which it had long been the object of his wishes to discover. Full
of this idea, he stood to the weit along the coat of those provinces
which are now known by the names of Paria and Cumana. He landed
in several places, and had some intercourse with the people, who re-
sembled those of Hispaniola in their appearance and manner of life.
They wore, as ornaments, small plates of gold, and pearls of consider-
able value, which they willingly exchanged for European toys. They
seemed to possess a better understanding, and greater courage, than the
inhabitants of the islands. The country produced four-footed animals
of several kinds, as well as a great variety of fowls and fruits. The ad-,
miral was so much delighted with its beauty and fertility, that with the
warm enthusialn of a discoverer, he imagined it to be the paradise de-
fcribed in Scripture, which the Almighty chofe for the residence of
man, while he retained innocence that rendered him worthy of such a
habitation. Thus Columbus had the glory not only of discovering to
mankind the existence of a New World, but made confiderable progress
towards a perfect knowledge of it; and was the first man who conducted
the Spaniards to that vast continent which has been the chief seat of
their empire, and the source of their treasures in this quarter of the
globe. The shattered condition of his ships, scarcity of provisions, his
own infirmities, together with the impatience of his crew, prevented
him from pursuing his discoveries any farther, and made it necessary to
bear away for Hispaniola. In his way thither he discovered the islands
of Cubagua and Margarita, which afterwards became remarkable for


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

their pearl-fishery. When he arrived at Hispaniola, on the thirtieth of Auguft, he was wasted to an extreme degree with fatigue and sickness; but found the affairs of the colony in such a situation, as afforded him no prospect of enjoying that repose of which he stood so much in need.

Many revolutions had, happened in that country during his absence. His brother the adelantado, in consequence of the advice which the admiral gave before his departure, had removed the colony from Isabella to a more commodious station, on the opposite side of the island, and laid the foundation of St. Domingo, which was long the most considerable European town in the New World, and the seat of the supreme courts in the Spanish dominions there. As soon as the Spaniards were established in this new settlement, the adelantado, that they might neither languish in inactivity, nor have leisure to forin new cabals, marched into those parts of the island which his brother had not yet visited or reduced to obedience. As the people were unable to resist, they submitted every where to the tribute which he imposed. But they foon found the burden to be so intolerable, that, overawed as they were by the superior power of their oppreffors, they took arms against them. Those insurrections, however, were not formidable. · A conflict with timid and naked Indians was neither dangerous nor of doubtful issue.

But while the adelantado was employed against them in the field, a mutiny, of an aspect far more alarming, broke out among the Spaniards. The ringleader of it was Francis Roldan, whom Columbus had placed in a station which required him to be the guardian of order and tranquility in the colony. A turbulent and inconsiderate ambition precipitated him into this desperate measure, so unbecoming his rank. The arguments which he employed to seduce his countrymen were frivolous and ill-founded. He accused Columbus and his two brothers of arrogance and severity; he pretended that they aimed at eftablishing an independent dominion in the country; he taxed them with an intention of cutting off part of the Spaniards by hunger and fatigue, that they might more easily reduce the remainder to subjection; he represented it as unworthy of Castilians, to remain the tame and passive flaves, of three Geonese adventurers. As men have always a propensity to impute the hardships of which they feel the pressure, to the misconduct of their rulers; as every nation views with a jealous eye the power and exaltation of foreigners, Roldan's insinuations made a deep ima preffion on his countrymen. His character and rank added weight to them. A confiderable number of the Spaniards made choice of. him as their leader, and taking arms against the adelantado and his brother, fsized the king's magazine of provisions, and endeavoured to surprise


« ZurückWeiter »