The Life of Christopher Columbus from his own Letters and Journals
by Edward Everett Hale
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Isabella, alas, died on the twenty-sixth day of November, only a short time after his arrival. Ferdinand, at the least, was cold and hard toward him, and Ferdinand was now engaged in many affairs other than those of discovery. He was satisfied that Columbus did not know how to bring gold home from the colonies, and the promises of the last voyage, that they should strike the East, had not been fulfilled.

Isabella had testified her kindly memory of Columbus, even while he was in exile at Jamaica, by making him one of the body-guard of her oldest son, an honorary appointment which carried with it a handsome annual salary. After the return to Spain of Diego Mendez, the loyal friend who had cared for his interests so well in San Domingo, she had raised him to noble rank.

It is clear, therefore, that among her last thoughts came in the wish to do justice to him whom she had served so well. She had well done her duty which had been given her to do. She had never forgotten the new world to which it was her good fortune to send the discoverer, and in her death that discoverer lost his best friend.

On his arrival in Seville, where one might say he had a right to rest himself and do nothing else, Columbus engaged at once in efforts to see that the seamen who had accompanied him in this last adventure should be properly paid. Many of these men had been disloyal to him and unfaithful to their sovereign, but Columbus, with his own magnanimity, represented eagerly at court that they had endured great peril, that they brought great news, and that the king ought to repay them all that they had earned.

He says, in a letter to his son written at this period, "I have not a roof over my head in Castile. I have no place to eat nor to sleep excepting a tavern, and there I am often too poor to pay my scot." This passage has been quoted as if he were living as a beggar at this time, and the world has been asked to believe that a man who had a tenth of the revenue of the Indies due to him in some fashion, was actually living from hand to mouth from day to day. But this is a mere absurdity of exaggeration.

Undoubtedly, he was frequently pressed for ready money. He says to his son, in another letter, "I only live by borrowing." Still he had good credit with the Genoese bankers established in Andalusia. In writing to his son he begs him to economize, but at the same time he acknowledges the receipt of bills of exchange and considerable sums of money.

In the month of December, there is a single transaction in Hispaniola which amounts to five thousand dollars of our money. We must not, therefore, take literally his statement that he was too poor to pay for a night's lodging. On the other hand, it is observed in the correspondence that, on the fifteenth of April, 1505, the king ordered that everything which belonged to Columbus on account of his ten per cent should be carried to the royal treasury as a security for certain debts contracted by the Admiral.

The king had also given an order to the royal agent in Hispaniola that everything which he owned there should be sold. All these details have been carefully brought together by Mr. Harrisse, who says truly that we cannot understand the last order.

When at last the official proceedings relating to the affairs in Jamaica arrived in Europe, Columbus made an effort to go to court. A litter was provided for him, and all the preparations for his journey made. But he was obliged once more by his weakness to give up this plan, and he could only write letters pressing his claim. Of such letters the misfortune is, that the longer they are, and the more of the detail they give, the less likely are they to be read. Columbus could only write at night; in the daytime he could not use his hands.

He took care to show Ferdinand that his interests had not been properly attended to in the islands. He said that Ovando had been careless as to the king's service, and he was not unwilling to let it be understood that his own administration had been based on a more intelligent policy than that of either of the men who followed him.

But he was now an old man. He was unable to go to court in person. He had not succeeded in that which he had sailed for—a strait opening to the Southern Sea. He had discovered new gold mines on the continent, but he had brought home but little treasure. His answers from the court seemed to him formal and unsatisfactory. At court, the stories of the Porras brothers were told on the one side, while Diego Mendez and Carvajal represented Columbus.

In this period of the fading life of Columbus, we have eleven letters addressed by him to his son. These show that he was in Seville as late as February, 1505. From the authority of Las Casas, we know that he left that part of Spain to go to Segovia in the next May, and from that place he followed the court to Salamanca and Valladolid, although he was so weak and ill.

He was received, as he had always been, with professions of kindness; but nothing followed important enough to show that there was anything genuine in this cordiality. After a few days Columbus begged that some action might be taken to indemnify him for his losses, and to confirm the promises which had been made to him before. The king replied that he was willing to refer all points which had been discussed between them to an arbitration. Columbus assented, and proposed the Archbishop Diego de Deza as an arbiter.

The reader must remember that it was he who had assisted Columbus in early days when the inquiry was made at Salamanca. The king assented to the arbitration, but proposed that it should include questions which Columbus would not consider as doubtful. One of these was his restoration to his office of viceroy.

Now on the subject of his dignities Columbus was tenacious. He regarded everything else as unimportant in comparison. He would not admit that there was any question that he was the viceroy of the Indies, and all this discussion ended in the postponement of all consideration of his claims till, after his death, it was too late for them to be considered.

All the documents, when read with the interest which we take in his character and fortunes, are indeed pathetic; but they did not seem so to the king, if indeed they ever met his eye.

In despair of obtaining justice for himself, Columbus asked that his son Diego might be sent to Hispaniola in his place. The king would promise nothing, but seems to have attempted to make Columbus exchange the privileges which he enjoyed by the royal promise for a seignory in a little town in the kingdom of Leon, which is named not improperly "The Counts' Carrion."

It is interesting to see that one of the persons whom he employed, in pressing his claim at the court and in the management of his affairs, was Vespucci, the Florentine merchant, who in early life had been known as Alberigo, but had now taken the name of Americo.

The king was still engaged in the affairs of the islands. He appointed bishops to take charge of the churches in the colonies, but Columbus was not so much as consulted as to the persons who should be sent. When Philip arrived from Flanders, with his wife Juana, who was the heir of Isabella's fortunes and crown, Columbus wished to pay his court to them, but was too weak to do so in person.

There is a manly letter, written with dignity and pathos, in which he presses his claims upon them. He commissioned his brother, the Adelantado, to take this letter, and with it he went to wait upon the young couple. They received him most cordially, and gave flattering hopes that they would attend favorably to the suit. But this was too late for Columbus himself. Immediately after he had sent his brother away, his illness increased in violence.

The time for petitions and for answers to petitions had come to an end. His health failed steadily, and in the month of May he knew that he was approaching his death. The king and the court had gone to Villafranca de Valcacar.

On the nineteenth of May Columbus executed his will, which had been prepared at Segovia a year before. In this will he directs his son and his successors, acting as administrators, always to maintain "in the city of Genoa, some person of our line, who shall have a house and a wife in that place, who shall receive a sufficient income to live honorably, as being one of our relatives, having foot and root in the said city, as a native; since he will be able to receive from this city aid in favor of the things of his service; because from that city I came forth and in that city I was born." This clause became the subject of much litigation as the century went on.

Another clause which was much contested was his direction to his son Diego to take care of Beatriz Enriquez, the mother of Fernando. Diego is instructed to provide for her an honorable subsistence "as being a person to whom I have great obligation. What I do in this matter is to relieve my conscience, for this weighs much upon my mind. The reason of this cannot be written here."

The history of the litigation which followed upon this will and upon other documents which bear upon the fortunes of Columbus is curious, but scarcely interesting. The present representative of Columbus is Don Cristobal Colon de la Cerda, Duke of Veragua and of La Vega, a grandee of Spain of the first class, Marquis of Jamaica, Admiral and Seneschal Major of the Indies, who lives at Madrid.

Two days after the authentication of the will he died, on the twenty first of May, 1506, which was the day of Ascension. His last words were those of his Saviour, expressed in the language of the Latin Testament, "In manus tuas, Pater, commendo spiritum meum,"—"Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." The absence of the court from Valladolid took with it, perhaps, the historians and annalists. For this or for some other reason, there is no mention whatever of Columbus's funeral in any of the documents of the time.

The body was laid in the convent of San Francisco at Valladolid. Such at least is the supposition of Navarrete, who has collected the original documents relating to Columbus. He supposes that the funeral services were conducted in the church of the parish of Santa Maria de la Antigua. From the church of Saint Francis, not many months after, the body was removed to Seville. A new chapel had lately been built there, called Santa Maria de las Cuevas. In this chapel was the body of Columbus entombed. In a curious discussion of the subject, which has occupied much more space than it is worth, it is supposed that this was in the year 1513, but Mr. Harrisse has proved that this date is not accurate.

For at least twenty-eight years, the body was permitted to remain under the vaults of this chapel. Then a petition was sent to Charles V, for leave to carry the coffin and the body to San Domingo, that it might be buried in the larger chapel of the cathedral of that city. To this the emperor consented, in a decree signed June 2, 1537. It is not known how soon the removal to San Domingo was really made, but it took place before many years.

Mr. Harrisse quotes from a manuscript authority to show, that when William Penn besieged the city of San Domingo in 1655, all the bodies buried under the cathedral were withdrawn from view, lest the heretics should profane them, and that "the old Admiral's" body was treated like the rest.

Mr. Harrisse calls to mind the fact that the earthquake of the nineteenth of May, 1673, demolished the cathedral in part, and the tombs which it contained. He says, "the ruin of the colony, the climate, weather, and carelessness all contributed to the loss from sight and the forgetfulness of the bones of Columbus, mingled with the dust of his descendants"; and Mr. Harrisse does not believe that any vestige of them was ever found afterwards, in San Domingo or anywhere else. This remark, from the person who has given such large attention to the subject, is interesting. For it is generally stated and believed that the bones were afterwards removed to Havana in the island of Cuba. The opinion of Mr. Harrisse, as it has been quoted, is entitled to very great respect and authority.

A very curious question has arisen in later times as to the actual place where the remains now are. On this question there is great discussion among historians, and many reports, official and unofficial, have been published with regard to it.

In the year 1867, the proposal was made to the Holy Father at Rome, that Columbus should receive the honors known in the Roman Catholic Church as the honors of beatification. In 1877, De Lorgues, the enthusiastic biographer of Columbus, represents that the inquiry had gone so far that these honors had been determined on. One who reads his book would be led to suppose that Columbus had already been recognized as on the way to be made a saint of the Church. But, in truth, though some such inquiry was set on foot, he never received the formal honors of beatification.


We have one account by a contemporary of the appearance of Columbus.(*) We are told that he was a "robust man, quite tall, of florid complexion, with a long face."

(*) In the first Decade of Peter Martyr.

In the next generation, Oviedo says Columbus was "of good aspect, and above the middle stature. His limbs were strong, his eyes quick, and all the parts of his body well proportioned. His hair was decidedly reddish, and the complexion of his face quite florid and marked with spots of red."

Bishop Las Casas knew the admiral personally, and describes him in these terms: "He was above the middle stature, his face was long and striking, his nose was aquiline, his eyes clear blue, his complexion light, tending towards a distinct florid expression, his beard and hair blonde in his youth, but they were blanched at an early age by care."

Las Casas says in another place, "he was rude in bearing, and careless as to his language. He was, however, gracious when he chose to be, but he was angry when he was annoyed."

Mr. Harrisse, who has collected these particulars from the different writers, says that this physical type may be frequently met now in the city and neighborhood of Genoa. He adds, "as for the portraits, whether painted, engraved, or in sculpture, which appear in collections, in private places, or as prints, there is not one which is authentic. They are all purely imaginary."

For the purpose of the illustration of this volume, we have used that which is best known, and for many reasons most interesting. It is preserved in the city of Florence, but neither the name of the artist nor the date of the picture is known. It is generally spoken of as the "Florentine portrait." The engraving follows an excellent copy, made by the order of Thomas Jefferson, and now in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society. We are indebted to the government of this society for permission to use it.(*)

(*) The whole subject of the portraits of Columbus is carefully discussed in a learned paper presented to the Wisconsin Historical Society by Dr. James Davie Butler, and published in the Collections of that Society, Vol. IX, pp. 79-96.

A picture ascribed to Titian, and engraved and circulated by the geographer, Jomard, resembles closely the portraits of Philip III. The costume is one which Columbus never wore.

In his youth Columbus was affiliated with a religious brotherhood, that of Saint Catherine, in Genoa. In after times, on many occasions when it would have been supposed that he would be richly clothed, he appeared in a grave dress which recalled the recollections of the frock of the religious order of Saint Francis. According to Diego Columbus, he died, "dressed in the frock of this order, to which he had always been attached."


The reader who has carefully followed the fortunes of the great discoverer understands from the history the character of the man. He would not have succeeded in his long suit at the court of Ferdinand and Isabella, had he not been a person of single purpose and iron will.

From the moment when he was in command of the first expedition, that expedition went prosperously to its great success, in precisely the way which he had foreseen and determined. True, he did not discover Asia, as he had hoped, but this was because America was in the way. He showed in that voyage all the attributes of a great discoverer; he deserved the honors which were paid to him on his return.

As has been said, however, this does not mean that he was a great organizer of cities, or that he was the right person to put in charge of a newly founded colony. It has happened more than once in the history of nations that a great general, who can conquer armies and can obtain peace, has not succeeded in establishing a colony or in governing a city.

On the other hand, it is fair to say that Columbus never had a chance to show what he would have been in the direction of his colonies had they been really left in his charge. This is true, that his heart was always on discovery; all the time that he spent in the wretched detail of the arrangement of a new-built town was time which really seemed to him wasted.

The great problem was always before him, how he should connect his discoveries with the knowledge which Europe had before of the coast of Asia. Always it seemed to him that the dominions of the Great Khan were within his reach. Always he was eager for that happy moment when he should find himself in personal communication with that great monarch, who had been so long the monarch of the East—who, as he thought, would prove to be the monarch of the West.

Columbus died with the idea that he had come close to Asia. Even a generation after his death, the companions of Cortes gave to the peninsula of California that name because it was the name given in romance to the farthest island of the eastern Indies.

Columbus met with many reverses, and died, one might almost say, a broken-hearted man. But history has been just to him, and has placed him in the foremost rank of the men who have set the world forward. And, outside of the technical study of history, those who like to trace the laws on which human progress advances have been proud and glad to see that here is a noble example of the triumph of faith.

The life of Columbus is an illustration constantly brought forward of the success which God gives to those who, having conceived of a great idea, bravely determine to carry it through.

His singleness of purpose, his unselfishness, his determination to succeed, have been cited for four centuries, and will be cited for centuries more, among the noblest illustrations which history has given, of success wrought out by the courage of one man.


(The following passages, from Admiral Fox's report, give his reasons for believing that Samana, or Atwood's Key, is the island where Columbus first touched land. The interest which attaches to this subject at the moment of the centennial, when many voyages will be made by persons following Columbus, induces me to copy Admiral Fox's reasonings in detail. I believe his conclusion to be correct.)

This method of applying Columbus's words in detail to refute each of the alleged tracks, and the study that I gave to the subject in the winter of 1878-79 in the Bahamas, which has been familiar cruising ground to me, has resulted in the selection of Samana or Atwood's Key for the first landing place.

It is a little island 8.8 miles east and west; 1.6 extreme breadth, and averaging 1.2 north and south. It has 8.6 square miles. The east end is in latitude 23 degrees 5' N.; longitude 73 degrees 37' west of Greenwich. The reef on which it lies is 15 by 2 1/2 miles.

On the southeast this reef stretches half a mile from the land, on the east four miles, on the west two, along the north shore one-quarter to one-half mile, and on the southwest scarcely one-quarter. Turk is smaller than Samana, and Cat very much larger.

The selection of two so unlike in size show that dimension has not been considered essential in choosing an island for the first landfall.(*)

(*) I am indebted to T. J. McLain, Esq., United States consul at Nassau, for the following information given to him by the captains of this port, who visit Samana or Atwood's Key. The sub-sketch on this chart is substantially correct: Good water is only obtained by sinking wells. The two keys to the east are covered with guano; white boobies hold the larger one, and black boobies the other; neither intermingles.

The island is now uninhabited, but arrow heads and stone hatchets are sometimes found; and in places there are piles of stones supposed to have been made by the aborigines. Most of the growth is scrubby, with a few scattered trees.

The Nassau vessels enter an opening through the reef on the south side of the island and find a very comfortable little harbor with from two to two and a half fathoms of water. From here they send their boats on shore to "strip" guano, and cut satin, dye woods and bark.

When Columbus discovered Guanahani, the journal called it a "little island." After landing he speaks of it as "bien grande," "very large," which some translate, tolerably, or pretty large. November 20, 1492 (Navarette, first edition, p. 61), the journal refers to Isabella, a larger island than Guanahani, as "little island," and the fifth of January following (p. 125) San Salvador is again called "little island."

The Bahamas have an area of about 37,000 square miles, six per cent of which may be land, enumerated as 36 islands, 687 keys, and 2,414 rocks. The submarine bank upon which these rest underlies Florida also. But this peninsula is wave-formed upon living corals, whose growth and gradual stretch toward the south has been made known by Agassiz.

I had an unsuccessful search for a similar story of the Bahamas, to learn whether there were any probable changes within so recent a period as four hundred years.

The common mind can see that all the rock there is coral, none of which is in position. The surface, the caves, the chinks, and the numerous pot-holes are compact limestone, often quite crystalline, while beneath it is oolitic, either friable or hard enough to be used for buildings. The hills are sand-blown, not upheaved. On a majority of the maps of the sixteenth century there were islands on Mouchoir, and on Silver Banks, where now are rocks "awash;" and the Dutch and the Severn Shoals, which lay to the east, have disappeared.

It is difficult to resist the impression that the shoal banks, and the reefs of the Bahamas, were formerly covered with land; and that for a geological age waste has been going on, and, perhaps, subsidence. The coral polyp seems to be doing only desultory work, and that mostly on the northeast or Atlantic side of the islands; everywhere else it has abandoned the field to the erosive action of the waves.

Columbus said that Guanahani had abundance of water and a very large lagoon in the middle of it. He used the word laguna—lagoon, not lago—lake. His arrival in the Bahamas was at the height of the rainy season. Governor Rawson's Report on the Bahamas, 1864, page 92, Appendix 4, gives the annual rainfall at Nassau for ten years, 1855—'64, as sixty-four inches. From May 1, to November 1 is the wet season, during which 44.7 inches fall; the other six months 19.3 only. The most is in October, 8.5 inches.

Andros, the largest island, 1,600 square miles, is the only one that has a stream of water. The subdivision of the land into so many islands and keys, the absence of mountains, the showery characteristic of the rainfall, the porosity of the rock, and the great heat reflected from the white coral, are the chief causes for the want of running water. During the rainy season the "abundance of water" collects in the low places, making ponds and lagoons, that afterward are soaked up by the rock and evaporated by the sun.

Turk and Watling have lagoons of a more permanent condition, because they are maintained from the ocean by permeation. The lagoon which Columbus found at Guanahani had certainly undrinkable water, or he would have gotten some for his vessels, instead of putting it off until he reached the third island.

There is nothing in the journal to indicate that the lagoon at Guanahani was aught but the flooding of the low grounds by excessive rains; and even if it was one communicating with the ocean, its absence now may be referred to the effect of those agencies which are working incessantly to reshape the soft structure of the Bahamas.

Samana has a range of hills on the southwest side about one hundred feet high, and on the northeast another, lower. Between them, and also along the north shore, the land is low, and during the season of rains there is a row of ponds parallel to the shore. On the south side a conspicuous white bluff looks to the southward and eastward.

The two keys, lying respectively half a mile and three miles east of the island, and possibly the outer breaker, which is four miles, all might have been connected with each other, and with the island, four hundred years ago. In that event the most convenient place for Columbus to anchor in the strong northeast trade-wind, was where I have put an anchor on the sub-sketch of Samana.

(In a subsequent passage Admiral Fox says:—)

There is a common belief that the first landing place is settled by one or another of the authors cited here. Nevertheless, I trust to have shown, paragraph by paragraph, wherein their several tracks are contrary to the journal, inconsistent with the true cartography of the neighborhood, and to the discredit, measurably, both of Columbus and of Las Casas. The obscurity and the carelessness which appear in part of the diary through the Bahamas offer no obstacle to this demonstration, provided that they do not extend to the "log," or nautical part.

Columbus went to sea when he was fourteen years of age, and served there almost continuously for twenty-three years. The strain of a sea-faring life, from so tender an age, is not conducive to literary exactness. Still, for the very reason of this sea experience, the "log" should be correct.

This is composed of the courses steered, distances sailed over, bearings of islands from one another, trend of shores, etc. The recording of these is the daily business of seamen, and here the entries were by Columbus himself, chiefly to enable him, on his return to Spain, to construct that nautical map, which is promised in the prologue of the first voyage.

In crossing the Atlantic the Admiral understated to the crew each day's run, so that they should not know how far they had gone into an unknown ocean. Las Casas was aware of this counterfeit "log," but his abridgment is from that one which Columbus kept for his own use.

If the complicated courses and distances in this were originally wrong, or if the copy of them is false, it is obvious that they cannot be "plotted" upon a correct chart. Conversely, if they ARE made to conform to a succession of islands among which he is known to have sailed, it is evident that this is a genuine transcript of the authentic "log" of Columbus, and, reciprocally, that we have the true track, the beginning of which is the eventful landfall of October 12, 1492.

The student or critical reader, and the seaman, will have to determine whether the writer has established this conformity. The public, probably, desires to have the question settled, but it will hardly take any interest in a discussion that has no practical bearing, and which, for its elucidation, leans so much upon the jargon or the sea.

It is not flattering to the English or Spanish speaking peoples that the four hundredth anniversary of this great event draws nigh, and is likely to catch us still floundering, touching the first landing place.


First. There is no objection to Samana in respect to size, position or shape. That it is a little island, lying east and west, is in its favor. The erosion at the east end, by which islets have been formed, recalls the assertion of Columbus that there it could be cut off in two days and made into an island.

The Nassau vessels still find a snug anchorage here during the northeast trades. These blew half a gale of wind at the time of the landfall; yet Navarette, Varnhagen, and Captain Becher anchored the squadron on the windward sides of the coral reefs of their respective islands, a "lee shore."

The absence of permanent lagoons at Samana I have tried to explain.

Second. The course from Samana to Crooked is to the southwest, which is the direction that the Admiral said he should steer "tomorrow evening." The distance given by him corresponds with the chart.

Third. The second island, Santa Maria, is described as having two sides which made a right angle, and the length of each is given. This points directly to Crooked and Acklin. Both form one island, so fitted to the words of the journal as cannot be done with any other land of the Bahamas.

Fourth. The course and distance from Crooked to Long Island is that which the Admiral gives from Santa Maria to Fernandina.

Fifth. Long Island, the third, is accurately described. The trend of the shores, "north-northwest and south-southeast;" the "marvelous port" and the "coast which runs east (and) west," can nowhere be found except at the southeast part of Long Island.

Sixth. The journal is obscure in regard to the fourth island. The best way to find it is to "plot" the courses FORWARD from the third island and the courses and distances BACKWARD from the fifth. These lead to Fortune for the fourth.

Seventh. The Ragged Islands are the fifth. These he named las islas de Arena—Sand Islands.

They lie west-southwest from the fourth, and this is the course the Admiral adhered to. He did not "log" all the run made between these islands; in consequence the "log" falls short of the true distance, as it ought to. These "seven or eight islands, all extending from north to south," and having shoal water "six leagues to the south" of them, are seen on the chart at a glance.

Eighth. The course and distance from these to Port Padre, in Cuba, is reasonable. The westerly current, the depth of water at the entrance of Padre, and the general description, are free of difficulties. The true distance is greater than the "logged," because Columbus again omits part of his run. It would be awkward if the true distances from the fourth to the fifth islands, and from the latter to Padre, had fallen short of the "log," since it would make the unexplainable situation which occurs in Irving's course and distance from Mucaras Reef to Boca de Caravela.

From end to end of the Samana track there are but three discrepancies. At the third island, two leagues ought to be two miles. At the fourth island twelve leagues ought to be twelve miles. The bearing between the third and fourth islands is not quite as the chart has it, nor does it agree with the courses he steered. These three are fairly explained, and I think that no others can be mustered to disturb the concord between this track and the journal.

Rev. Mr. Cronan, in his recent voyage, discovered a cave at Watling's island, where were many skeletons of the natives. It is thought that a study of the bones in these skeletons will give some new ethnological information as to the race which Columbus found, which is now, thanks to Spanish cruelty, entirely extinct.


The letter to the Lady Juana, which gives Columbus's own statement of the indignities put upon him in San Domingo, is written in his most crabbed Spanish. He never wrote the Spanish language accurately, and the letter, as printed from his own manuscript, is even curious in its infelicities. It is so striking an illustration of the character of the man that we print here an abstract of it, with some passages translated directly from his own language.

Columbus writes, towards the end of the year 1500, to the former nurse of Don Juan, an account of the treatment he has received. "If my complaint of the world is new, its method of abuse is very old," he says. "God has made me a messenger of the new heaven and the new earth which is spoken of in the Apocalypse by the mouth of St. John, after having been spoken of by Isaiah, and he showed me the place where it was." Everybody was incredulous, but the queen alone gave the spirit of intelligence and zeal to the undertaking. Then the people talked of obstacles and expense. Columbus says "seven years passed in talk, and nine in executing some noted acts which are worthy of remembrance," but he returned reviled by all.

"If I had stolen the Indies and had given them to the Moors I could not have had greater enmity shown to me in Spain." Columbus would have liked then to give up the business if he could have come before the queen. However he persisted, and he says he "undertook a new voyage to the new heaven and the new earth which before had been hidden, and if it is not appreciated in Spain as much as the other countries of India it is not surprising, because it is all owing to my industry." He "had believed that the voyage to Paria would reconcile all because of the pearls and gold in the islands of Espanola." He says, "I caused those of our people whom I had left there to come together and fish for pearls, and arranged that I should return and take from them what had been collected, as I understood, in measure a fanega (about a bushel). If I have not written this to their Highnesses it is because I wished also to have as much of gold. But that fled before me, as all other things; I would not have lost them and with them my honor, if I could have busied myself with my own affairs.

"When I went to San Domingo I found almost half of the colony uprising, and they made war upon me as a Moor, and the Indians on the other side were no less cruel.

"Hojida came and he tried to make order, and he said that their Highnesses had sent him with promises of gifts and grants and money. He made up a large company, for in all Espanola there were few men who were not vagabonds, and no one lived there who had wife or children." Hojida retired with threats.

"Then Vincente Ganez came with four ships. There were outbreaks and suspicions but no damage." He reported that six other ships under a brother of the Alcalde would arrive, and also the death of the queen, but these were rumors without foundation.

"Adrian (Mogica) attempted to go away as before, but our Lord did not permit him to carry out his bad plan." Here Columbus regrets that he was obliged to use force or ill-treat Adrian, but says he would have done the same had his brother wished to kill him or wrest from him the government which the king and queen had given him to guard.

"For six months I was ready to leave to take to their Highnesses the good news of the gold and to stop governing a dissolute people who feared neither king nor queen, full of meanness and malice. I would have been able to pay all the people with six hundred thousand maravedis and for that there were more than four millions of tithes without counting the third part of the gold."

Columbus says that he begged before his departure that they would send some one at his expense to take command, and yet again a subject with letters, for he says bitterly that he has such a singular reputation that if he "were building churches and hospitals they would say they were cells for stolen goods."

Then Bobadilla came to Santo Domingo while Columbus was at La Vega and the Adelantado at Jaragua. "The second day of his arrival he declared himself governor, created magistrates, made offices, published grants for gold and tithes, and everything else for a term of twenty years." He said he had come to pay the people, and declared he would send Columbus home in irons. Columbus was away. Letters with favors were sent to others, but none to him. Columbus resorted to methods to gain time so that their Highnesses could understand the state of things. But he was constantly maligned and persecuted by those who were jealous of him. He says:

"I think that you will remember that when the tempest threw me into the port of Lisbon, after having lost my sails, I was accused of having the intention to give India to that country. Afterwards their Highnesses knew to the contrary. Although I know but little, I cannot conceive that any one would suppose me so stupid as not to know that though India might belong to me, yet I could not keep it without the help of a prince."

Columbus complains that he has been judged as a governor who has been sent to a peaceful, well-regulated province. He says, "I ought to be judged as a captain sent from Spain to the Indies to conquer a warlike people, whose custom and religion are all opposed to ours, where the people live in the mountains without regular houses for themselves, and where, by the will of God, I have placed under the rule of the king and queen another world, and by which Spain, which calls itself poor, is today the richest empire. I ought to be judged as a captain who for many years bears arms incessantly.

"I know well that the errors that I have committed have not been with bad intentions, and I think that their Highnesses will believe what I say; but I know and see that they use pity for those who work against them."

"If, nevertheless, their Highnesses order that another shall judge me, which I hope will not be, and this ought to be on an examination made in India, I humbly beg of them to send there two conscientious and respectable people, at my expense, which may know easily that one finds five marcs of gold in four hours. However that may be, it is very necessary that they should go there."


It would have been so natural to give the name of Columbus to the new world which he gave to Castile and Leon, that much wonder has been expressed that America was not called Columbia, and many efforts have been made to give to the continent this name. The District of Columbia was so named at a time when American writers of poetry, were determined that "Columbia" should be the name of the continent. The ship Columbia, from which the great river of the West takes that name, had received this name under the same circumstances about the same time. The city of Columbia, which is the capital of South Carolina, was named with the same wish to do justice to the great navigator.

Side by side with the discussion as to the name, and sometimes making a part of it, is the question whether Columbus himself was really the first discoverer of the mainland. The reader has seen that he first saw the mainland of South America in the beginning of August, 1498. It was on the fifth, sixth or seventh day, according to Mr. Harrisse's accurate study of the letters. Was this the first discovery by a European of the mainland?

It is known that Ojeda, with whom the reader is familiar, also saw this coast. With him, as passenger on his vessel, was Alberico Vespucci, and at one time it was supposed that Vespucci had made some claim to be the discoverer of the continent, on account of this voyage. But in truth Ojeda himself says that before he sailed he had seen the map of the Gulf of Paria which Columbus had sent home to the sovereigns after he made that discovery. It also seems to be proved that Alberico Vespucci, as he was then called, never made for himself any claim to the great discovery.

Another question, of a certain interest to people proud of English maritime science, is the question whether the Cabots did not see the mainland before Columbus. It is admitted on all hands that they did not make their first voyage till they knew of Columbus's first discoveries; but it is supposed that in the first or second voyage of the Cabots, they saw the mainland of North America. The dates of the Cabots' voyages are unfortunately badly entangled. One of them is as early as 1494, but this is generally rejected. It is more probable that the king's letters patent, authorizing John Cabot and his three sons to go, with five vessels, under the English flag, for the discovery of islands and countries yet unknown, was dated the fifth of March, 1496. Whether, however, they sailed in that year or in the next year is a question. The first record of a discovery is in the account-book of the privy purse of Henry VII, in the words, "August 10th, 1497. To him who discovered the new island, ten pounds." This is clearly not a claim on which the discovery of the mainland can be based.

A manuscript known as the Cotton Manuscript says that John Cabot had sailed, but had not returned, at the moment when the manuscript was written. This period was "the thirteenth year of Henry VII." The thirteenth year of Henry began on the twenty-second of August, 1497, and ended in 1498. On the third of February, 1498, Henry VII granted permission to Cabot to take six English ships "to the lands and islands recently found by the said Cabot, in the name of the king and by his orders." Strictly speaking, this would mean that the mainland had then been discovered; but it is impossible to establish the claim of England on these terms.

What is, however, more to the point, is a letter from Pasqualigo, a Venetian merchant, who says, writing to Venice, on the twenty-third of August, 1497, that Cabot had discovered the mainland at seven hundred leagues to the west, and had sailed along it for a coast of three hundred leagues. He says the voyage was three months in length. It was made, then, between May and August, 1497. The evidence of this letter seems to show that the mainland of North America was really first discovered by Cabot. The discussion, however, does not in the least detract from the merit due to Columbus for the great discovery. Whether he saw an island or whether he saw the mainland, was a mere matter of what has been called landfall by the seamen. It is admitted on all hands that he was the leader in all these enterprises, and that it was on his success in the first voyage that all such enterprises followed.


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