« AnteriorContinuar »
to make their escape by crossing an arm of the sea. Guacanahari, whom all their exactions had not alienated from the Spaniards, took arms in their behalf, and, in endeavouring to protect them, had received a wound, by which he was still confined.
Though this account was far from removing the fufpicions which the Spaniards entertained with respect to the fidelity of Guacanahari, CoTumbus perceived so clearly that this was not a proper juncture for inquiring into his conduct with scrupulous accuracy, that he rejected the advice of several of his officers, who urged him to seize the person of that prince, and to revenge the death of their countrymen by attacking his subjects. He represented to them the necessity of securing the friendship of some potentate of the country, in order to facilitate the settlement which they intended, and the danger of driving the natives to unite in some desperate attempt. against them, by such an illtimed and unavailing exercise of rigour. Instead of wasting his time in punishing past wrongs, he took precaution for preventing any future injury. With this view, he made choice of a situation more healthy and commodious than that of Navidad. He traced out the plan of a town in a large plain near a spacious bay, and obliging every person to put his hand to a work on which their common safety depended, the houses and ramparts were soon so far advanced by their united labour, as to afford them fhelter and security. This rising city, the first that the Europeans founded in the New World, he named Isabella, in honour of his patroness the queen of Caftile.
In carrying on this necessary work, Columbus had not only to sustain all the hardships, and to encounter all the difficulties, to which infant colonies are exposed when they settle in an uncultivated country, but he had to contend with what was more insuperable, the laziness, the impatience, and mutinous disposition of his followers. By the enervating influence of a hot climate, the natural inactivity of the Spaniards seemed to increase. Many of them were gentlemen, unaccustomed to the fatigue of bodily labour, and all had engaged in the enterprise with the sanguine hopes excited by the splendid and exaggerated descriptions of their countrymen who returned from the first voyage, or by the mistaken opinion of Columbus, that the country which he had discovered was either the Cipango of Marco Polo, or the Ophir, from which Solomon imported those precious commodities which suddenly diffused fuch extraordinary riches through his kingdom. But when, instead of that golden harvest which they had expected to reap without toil or pains, the Spaniards faw their prospect of wealth was remote as well as uncertain, and that it could not be attained but by the low and per
fevering efforts of industry, the disappointment of those chimerical hapes occasioned such dejection of mind as bordered on despair, and led to general discontent. In vain did Columbus endeavour to revive their spirits by pointing out the fertility of the soil, and exhibiting the specimens of gold daily brought in from different parts of the island. They had not patience to wait for the gradual returns which the former might yield, and the latter they despised as scanty and inconfiderable. The spirit of disaffection spread, and a conspiracy was formed, which might have been fatal to Columbus and the colony, Happily he difcovered it, and seizing the ring-leaders, punished some of them, fent others prisoners into Spain whither he dispatched twelve of the ships which had served as transports, with an earnest request for a reinforcement of men and a large supply of provisions.
Meanwhile, in order to banish that idleness which, by allowing his people leisure to brood over their disappointment, nourished the spirit of discontent, Columbus planned several expeditions into the interior part of the country, He sent a detachment, under the command of Alonso de Ojeda, a vigilant and enterprising officer, to visit the district of Cibao, which was said to yield the greatest quantity of gold, and followed him in person with the main body of his troops. In this expedition, March 12, 1494, he displayed all the pomp of military magnificence that he could exhibit, in order to strike the imagination of the natives. He marched with colours flying, with martial music, and with a fmall body of cavalry that paraded sometimes in the front and fometimes in the rear. As those were the first horses which appeared in the New World, they were objects of terror no less than of admiration to the Indians, who having no tame animals themselves, were unacquainted with that vast accession of power, which man hath acquired by subjecting them to his dominion. They supposed them to be rational creatures. They imagined that the horse and the rider forined one animal, with whose speed they were astonished, and whose impetuosity and strength they considered as irresiftible. But while Columbus endeavoured to inspire the natives with a dread of his power, he did not neglect the arts of gaining their love and confidence. He adhered scru. pulously to the principles of integrity and justice in all his transactions with them, and treated them, on every occafion, not only with humanity, but with indulgence. The district of Cibao answered the description given of it by the natives. It was mountainous and uncultivated, but in every river, and brook, gold was gathered either in duft or in grains, some of which were of considerable size. The Indians had pever opened ary mines in search of gold. To penetrate into the G 2
bowels of the earth, and to refine the rude ore, were operations toe complicated and laborious for their talents and ir.dustry, and they had no such high value for gold as to put their ingenuity and invention upon the stretch in order to obtain it. The small quantity of that precious metal which they possessed, was either picked up in the beds of the rivers, or washed from the mountains by the heavy rains that fali within the tropics. But, from those indications, the Spaniards could no longer doubt that the country contained rich treasures in its bowels, of which they hoped soon to be masters. In order to secure the command of this valuable province, Columbus erected a small fort, to which he gave the name of St. Thomas, by way of ridicule upon some of his incredulous followers, who would not believe that the country produced gold, until they saw it with their own eyes, and touched it with their hands.
The account of those promising appearances of wealth in the country of Cibao came very seasonably to comfort the desponding colony, which was effected with distresses of various kinds. The stock of provisions which had been brought from Europe was mostly consumed; what remained was so much corrupted by the heat and moisture of the climate, as to be almost unfit for use; the natives cultivated so small a portion of ground, and with so little skill, that it hardly yielded what was sufficient for their own subsistence ; the Spaniards at Ilabella had hitherto neither time nor leisure to clear the soil, so as to reap any considerable fruits of their own industry. On all these accounts, they became afraid of perishing with hunger, and were reduced already to a scanty allow
At the same time, the diseases predominant in the torrid zone, and which rage chiefly in those uncultivated countries, where the hand of industry has not opened the woods, drained the marches, and confined the rivers within a certain channel, began to spread among them. Alarmed at the violence and unusual fymptoms of those maladies, they exclaimed against Columbus and his companions in the former voyage, who, by their splendid but deceitful descriptions of Hispaniola, had allured them to quit Spain for a barbarous uncultivated land, where they must e'ther be cut off by famine, or die of unknown distempers. Several of the officers and persons of note, instead of checking, joined in those feditious complaints. Father Boyl, the apoftolical vicar, was one of the moft turbulent and outrageous. It required all the authority and address of Columbus to re-establish subordination and tranquillity in the colony. Threats and promises were alternately employed for this pura pose; but nothing contributed more to foothe the malcontents than the prospect of finding, in the mines of Cibao, such a rich store of treafure
as would be a recompence for all their sufferings, and efface the memory of former disappointments.
When, by his unwearied endeavours, concord and order were so far restored, that he could venture to leave the island, Colombus resolved to pursue his discoveries, that he might be able to ascertain whether those new countries with which he had opened a communication were connected with any region of the earth already known, or whether they were to be considered as a separate portion of the globe hitherto unvisited. He appointed his brother Don Diego, with the assistance of a council of officers, to govern the island in his absence; and gave the command of a body of soldiers to Don Pedro Margarita, with which he was to visit the different parts of the island, and endeavour to establish the authority of the Spaniards among the inhabitants. Having left them very particular instructions with respect to their conduct, he weighed anchor on the twenty-fourth of April, with one thip and two small barks under his command. During a tedious voyage of full five months, he had a trial of almost all the numerous hardships to which persons of his profession are exposed, without making any discovery of importance, except the island of Jamaica. As he ranged along the southern coast of Cuba, he was entangled in a labyrinth formed by an incredible number of small islands, to which he gave
the name of the Queen's Garden. In this unknown course, among rocks and shelves, he was retarded by contrary winds, affaulted with furious storms, and alarmed with the terrible thunder and lightning which is often almost incessant between the tropics. At length his provisions fell short; his crew, exhausted with fatigue, as well as hunger, murmured and threatened, and were ready to proceed to the most desperate extremities against him. Beset with danger in such various forms, he was obliged to keep continual watch, to observe every occurrence, with his own eyes, to issue every order, and to superintend the execution of it. On no occafion, was the extent of his fkill and experience as a navigator so much tried. To these the squadron owed its safety. But this unremitted fatigue of body, and intense application of mind, overpowering his constitution, though naturally vigorous and robuft, brought on a feverish disorder, which terminated in a lethargy, that deprived him of sense and memory and had almost proved fatal to his life.
But, on his 'return Sept. 27, to Hispaniola, the sudden emotion of joy which he felt upon meeting with his brother Bartholomew at Isabella, occasioned such a flow of spirits as contributed greatly to his recovery. It was now thirteen years since the two brothers, whom milarity of talents united in close friendship, had separated from each
other, and during that long period there had been no intercourse between them. Bartholomew, after finishing his negociation in the court of England, had set out for Spain by the way of France. At Paris he received an account of the extraordinary discoveries which his brother had made in his first voyage, and that he was then preparing to embark on a second expedition. Though this naturally induced him to pursue his journey with the utmost dispatch, the admiral had failed for Hifpaniola before he reached Spain. Ferdinand and Isabella received him with the respect due to the nearest kinsman of a person whose merit and services rendered him so conspicuous; and as they knew what confolation his presence would afford to his brother, they persuaded him to take the command of three ships, which they had appointed to carry provifions to the colony of Isabella.
He could not have arrived at any juncture when Columbus stood more in need of a friend capable of assisting him with his counfels, or of dividing with him the cares and burden of government. For although the provisions now brought from Europe, afforded a temporary relief to the Spaniards from the calamities of famine, the supply was not in such quantity as to support them long, and the island did not hitherto yield what was sufficient for their sustenance. They were threatened with another danger, still more formidable than the return of scarcity, and which demanded more immediate attention. No sooner did Columbus leave the island on his voyage of discovery, than the foldiers under Margarita, as if they had been set free from discipline and subordina, țion, scorned all festraint. Instead of conforming to the prudent instructions of Columbus, they dispersed in ftraggling parties over the island, lived at discretion upon the natives, wasted their provisions, seized their women, and treated that inoffensive race with all the infolence of mili. tary oppression.
As long as the Indians had any prospect that their sufferings might corne to a period by the voluntary departure of the invaders, they submitted in silence, and dissembled their forrow; but they now perceived that the yoke would be as permament as it was intolerable. The Spaniards had built a town, and surrounded it with ramparts.
They had erected forts in different places. They had enclosed and fown several fields. It was apparent that they came not to visit the country, but ta fettle in it. Though the number of these strangers was inconsiderable, the state of cultivation among this rude people was fo imperfect, and in such exact proportion to their own consumption, that it was with difficulty they could afford subsistence to their new guests. Their own mode of life was so indolent and inactive, the warmth of the climate so enervating, the constitution of their bodies naturally so feeble, and so unac3