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COLUMBUS AND AMERIGO VESPUCCI.
FOURTH VOYAGE OF COLUMBUS OCCURRENCES AT HISPA
NIOLA. — FATE OF BOBADILLA, - COLUMBUS REACHES HONDURAS, - RECEIVES ACCOUNTS RESPECTING MEXICO. EXAMINES THE COAST OF VERAGUA.-SUFFERINGS OF THE EXPE: DITION. SHIPWRECK ON THE COAST OF JAMAICA. — BOLD VOYAGE TO HISPANIOLA IN A CANOE. DISTRESS OF COLUMBUS.
INHUMAN CONDUCT OF OVANDO. THE ADMIRAL AT LENGTH RELIEVED. — RETURNS TO SPAIN. — HIS DEATH. — HONOURS PAID TO HIS ASHES. - MERIT OF HIS DISCOVERY, EXPRESSIONS OF THE CLASSIC WRITERS SUPPOSED TO RELATE TO AMERICA. CLAIMS OF THE DIEPPOIS TO THE DISCOVERY OF THE NEW WORLD, OF THE BASQUES AND BRETONS. — ALONZO DE HOJEDA FOLLOWS IN THE TRACK OF THE ADMIRAL. AMERIGO VESPUCCI FALSELY CLAIMS THE HONOUR OF HAVING DISCOVERED THE CONTINENT. - TESTIMONY OF THE PILOTS. CAUSES WHICH ENABLED HIM TO IMPOSE HIS NAME ON THE NEW WORLD.
While the ambition of Columbus was in this manner thwarted, and his rightful authority superseded, in the very countries which he had discovered, his spirit did not languish in inactivity, nor did he relinquish his former purpose of penetrating by the west to those rich countries of India described by Marco Polo and other travellers. He begged to be placed again at the head of an expedition ; and events had recently occurred which added weight to his entreaties. About a year before his return from Hispaniola, Vasco de Gama had arrived at Lisbon, after accomplishing the voyage to India by the Cape of Good Hope, and had brought back such an account of those rich and populous countries as inflamed the desire of every European state to open an intercourse with them. The reputation of Columbus as a learned and sagacious cosmographer was now established beyond dispute, and he offered to conduct a fleet to the Indies by a shorter route than that followed by De Gama. He had graced the coast of Caraccas a long way to the west ; he
had also surveyed the southern shores of Cuba, which he supposed to be the continent, in the same direction ; he therefore concluded that the ocean extended between those limits, and that the strait leading into those Indian seas which had been visited by the Portuguese lay somewhere in the direction of Darien. This conjecture, although erroneous, exhibits abundant proof of a penetrating spirit.
The expedition which Columbus commanded in his fourth voyage of discovery consisted of only four small caravels, the largest of them not exceeding seventy tons burden. With this weak armament he intended to penetrate the mysteries of the Western Ocean, and to complete the circumnavigation of the globe. He set sail from Cadiz on the 9th of May, 1502, and reached Martinique, one of the Windward Islands, on the 15th of June. He was advised, in a kind letter from the king and queen, not to touch at Hispaniola, where his presence might revive the commotions which had grown to so alarming a pitch under his admir.istration. But, as one of his vessels was a heavy sailer, he was desirous to substitute another in its stead by exchange or purchase, and with that view steered for St. Domingo, hoping that the exigency of the case would excuse his neglect of the royal intimation. The wish of the sovereigns, however, was already known in the island, and Columbus was not permitted to enter the harbour. His experience enabled him to foresee the approach of a violent tempest; and as a large fleet was at the time about to set sail for Spain, he warned Ovando of the danger, and advised him to delay its departure. But his counsel was received with mistrust, as the officious suggestion of a secret enemy, and was accordingly disregarded. The fleet, however, had hardly put to sea when a furious hurricane came on, by which the greater part of it was destroyed. The ship in which Bobadilla and his ill-acquired treasures were embarked was among those that sunk: the only vessel that completely withstood the gale, and was able to continue her voyage to
Spain, was a small caravel containing the property which Columbus had left on the island. This circumstance was ascribed, by the friends of the admiral, to a direct interposition of Providence in his favour, while his enemies accused him of employing magic arts to awaken the fury of the elements. As his skill in providing against danger was equal to his foresight, he had taken such measures as enabled his own small squadron to withstand the violence of the storm in which his enemies perished.
As soon as the weather permitted, Columbus stood out to sea, to prosecute his voyage of discovery. The currents carried him to Cuba, whence he steered southwest till he reached the island of Guanaga, on the coast of Honduras. Here he found among the inhabitants proofs of a higher degree of civilisation than had been as yet observed among the natives of the New World. They had utensils of copper, and wore cotton garments curiously worked and dyed with a variety of colours. Among the animals of this coast, he was particularly struck with the pecary or American pig, and the monkeys with prehensile tails; which are also peculiar to the new continent. A cacique gave him three pigs of so
terrible an appearance, he says, “ that they would , frighten an Irish dog.”* One of these animals being
thrown to a wounded monkey, the latter seized the snout of the pecary with its tail in such a manner as to bind its jaws firmly together, and then clawed unmercifully its helpless adversary. “This appeared to me so strange," says Columbus, in his letter to the king and queen, « that I thought it fit to write it down for the information of your majesties.” The natives gave him to understand that to the west there lay a country remarkable for its arts, riches, and population. This he supposed to be Cathay, and it appeared to him not at all surprising that the sea-coast of so great an empire should be inhabited by poor fishermen, for such he deemed the savages. Neglecting these indications, which would have led him
* He alludes to the Irish greyhound; a species now extinct.
to the discovery of Mexico, Columbus persevered in search of that strait which he supposed to be situated in a more southern latitude. He continued his course, accordingly, along the whole extent of coast from Truxillo, in Honduras, to the Gulf of Darien, not terminating his examination till he arrived at a point which had been already reached by the successful navigator Bastidas, from the East. In this coasting voyage Columbus suffered much from adverse winds, conflicting currents, and the hostilities of the natives. An attempt to make a settlement on the coast of Veragua was defeated by the desperate courage of the latter. Several of the Spaniards lost their lives; and it required all the energy and strength of the adelantado to rescue the remainder from destruction. Anxiety and fatigue preyed so much on the constitution of the admiral, that he was scarcely able to appear on deck. The ships of his small squadron stood so much in need of repair that it was with difficulty they were navigated or even kept afloat. But this was not all: as they approached the coast of Cuba a violent storm arose; the shattered vessels were no longer in a state to bear the tossing of a tempestuous sea; their foundering was inevitable; and the only means of preventing their being swallowed up in the ocean was to run them aground on the shore of Jamaica. This was fortunately done: the wrecks were immediately visited by the canoes of the natives, who hospitably supplied the Spaniards with provisions. The adelantado took measures to maintain order among the murmuring crews, while the admiral lay completely broken by the united afflictions of bodily pain and mental suffering.
In a short time the Indians grew weary of supplying the wants of the strangers, whom they perceived to be now established as permanent guests among them. Provisions began to fall short, and the dread of famine inflamed the mutinous spirit already prevailing among the crews, part of whom threw off all obedience to the admiral, and roved through the island committing the
most wanton violence on the simple and inoffensive inhabitants. The destruction of the Spaniards by want, the enmity of the natives, and their own dissensions, seemed to be at no great distance. In this lamentable state of affairs, Diego Mendez and Fiesco a Genoese, undertook to cross over to Hispaniola in a canoe purchased from the Indians, and to acquaint the governor with the distressed situation of Columbus and his companions. The hardy enterprize succeeded, and the courageous mariners reached Hispaniola after a voyage of four days. But Ovando attended more to the suggestions of jealousy and hatred than to the calls of humanity, and purposely delayed equipping a vessel for the relief of Columbus. He sent, however, a small vessel with a letter of compliment to the admiral, and for the purpose, perhaps, of observing his condition. The appearance of a friendly sail approaching raised the liveliest emotions of joy among the shipwrecked mariners; but what was their dejection and despair when they saw it standing out again to sea, without offering them the least relief! Columbus dissembled his mortification at this wanton insult : he dexterously gave such a colouring to the circumstance as kept alive the hopes of his companions ; and by foretelling an eclipse of the moon, he opportunely turned to account the ignorance and superstition of the natives, and procured from them an abundant supply of provisions.
In the mean time the sufferings of so great a man excited a general sympathy among the colonists at St. Domingo; and the conduct of the governor in delaying to rescue him from his perilous situation was loudly and severely censured. The unprincipled and politic Ovando, though he cared little for the life of Columbus, was careful to preserve his own popularity. A vessel was therefore despatched to carry off the admiral and his faithful companions, after they had languished in the wrecks a whole year of painful anxiety. Columbus was received at St. Domingo with every