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manifestation of joy and enthusiasm. His misfortunes had allayed the rancour of popular hostility; and no ungenerous revival of past altercations was allowed to aggravate the present distresses of so eminent a man. Even Ovando, while he wounded the feelings of the admiral by various harsh and unjust proceedings, treated him studiously with the show of courtesy and outward respect. As soon as the health of Columbus was sufficiently restored to enable him to bear the hardships of another voyage, he set sail for Spain, where he arrived on the seventh of November, 1504. Here terminated the labours of this great navigator. In his third voyage he had discovered the continent of America, and in his fourth and last expedition he had touched at some of the richest countries of that favoured region, and had received alluring intelligence respecting the wealth of Mexico, which was destined at no distant period to pour its treasures into Spain. Notwithstanding his long services and the ample dignities which he had stipulated for in his contract with the crown, he was now in a state of extreme poverty. His patroness, queen Isabella, was dead, and Ferdinand, habitually slow to hearken to the voice of justice, unless seconded by that of interest, paid but little attention to his claims. In vain Columbus solicited to be restored to his authority as viceroy of the Indies. The king endeavoured to elude by delay the suit with which he was unwilling to comply. These politic evasions hastened, perhaps, the event which they had in view. The bodily infirmities of Columbus were increased by the pangs of disappointment, and he expired at Valladolid on the twentieth of May, 1506. Among other provisions in his will, he enjoined that his eldest son Diego, or whoever might succeed to his dignities and titles, should simply sign himself “the Admiral,” so as to keep always in view the great founder of the family. The high offices, the exercise of which was refused to Columbus, were afterwards confirmed, with a few slight modifications, to his eldest son Diego, who, by marrying a niece of the duke of Alva, was admitted to an alliance with the first nobility of Spain. The partiality with which mankind are naturally disposed to regard a distinguished character has ascribed all the disappointments which troubled the latter days of Columbus to such an unlucky union of malice and selfishness in all with whom he had to deal, as must necessarily excite the mistrust of those who are unwilling to sacrifice their esteem for human nature in order to exalt a favourite hero. The enthusiastic temper of Columbus, though well calculated to achieve an extraordinary enterprise, was very ill adapted to the delicate task of governing an infant colony. His dreams of aggrandisement were of the most extravagant nature. On concluding his capitulation with Ferdinand and Isabella, he made a vow to lead an army of fifty thousand men to the Holy Land within seven years after his conquest of the Indies, and to rescue Jerusalem from the hands of the infidels. Gold was the immediate object of his search in the New World; and it is surprising with what eager credulity he listened to every account which flattered his hopes of acquiring sudden riches. The constitutional ardour of his mind was never cooled by hardship or reverses; and the sanguine confidence by which he, in the first instance, attracted others to his schemes, became a principle of repulsion as soon as their eyes were opened to the reality of their situation. The pertinacity with which he clung to his delusions exposed him to the bitter derision of those whose simplicity he had misled, and whose repinings he treated with the haughty severity of a confirmed visionary. His discontented followers had, probably, good reason to accuse him of inordinate rigour; for enthusiasm too often attempts to eradicate vices by violent means, without awaiting the growth of virtuous habits. When Ferdinand and Isabella withheld from Columbus, the government of Hispaniola, it does not appear that they wished to deprive him of anything but the power which he was unqualified to wield. They even satisfied him, at first, of the expediency of his retiring from a scene, where the hostility to his person was so violent as even to threaten his life. The queen, though her gentle nature was shocked by his scheme to reduce the Caribs to slavery, yet continued, while she lived, to treat the admiral with the favour due to his genius and eminent services. After her death, Columbus still experienced from Ferdinand as many marks of consideration, perhaps, as an enthusiast could expect from a cool and calculating prince.* The body of Columbus, at first interred in the church of Santa Maria in Valladolid, was afterwards removed to Seville. In the year 1536, however, his remains were transported to Hispaniola, and entombed near the grand altar in the cathedral of St. Domingo. Here they remained till the cession of Hispaniola to the French in 1795. On that occasion the Spaniards, unwilling to abandon relics so gloriously associated with the most brilliant period of Spanish history, determined to remove them to the island of Cuba. No solemnity of religion, no pomp of military display, was omitted, that could do honour to the memory of the illustrious dead. The ashes of Columbus were deposited in the cathedral of Havanna ; and this last tribute of attention paid to his fame, after a lapse of three centuries, displayed a grateful and ardent enthusiasm, not inferior to that, perhaps, which greeted him on his return from the discovery of the New World. The posterity of Columbus long enjoyed the wealth and honours which prompted his ambition. His son, Don Diego, in prosecuting his claims, was obliged to maintain a tedious lawsuit with the royal fiscal, the object of which was to ascertain precisely what portions of the New World had been discovered by his father. Don Luis, the son of Don Diego, gave up his pretensions to the viceroyalty of the Indies for the titles of Duke of Veraguas and Marquess of Jamaica: he resigned, at the same time, his claim to a tenth of all revenues in the * Navarrete, tom. i. p. 67.
Indies for a pension of a thousand doubloons of gold. In 1608, the male line being extinct, the titles and estates of the family reverted to Don Nuño Gelves de Portogallo, who was descended from a daughter of Don Diego Columbus. Thus the dignities of ‘the Admiral” passed to a branch of the noble family of Braganza. The dukes of Veraguas were, in 1712, raised to the first rank of Spanish grandees; the perspective of elevation contemplated by Christopher Columbus being thus completed. The present duke of Veraguas, however, his lineal descendant and representative, was stripped of all his property and reduced to extreme distress by the revolutions which deprived Spain of her colonies in the West Indies. That nobleman was in consequence obliged to apply to his government for indemnification. His claim has been recently admitted, and a pension of twentyfour thousand dollars has been assigned him on the revenues of Cuba and Porto Rico. *
Among all the great men who have conferred important benefits on mankind by their enterprise or ingenuity, there is not one who appears at first view to have shot more completely beyond the age in which he lived, or to have acted more independently of surrounding impulses, than Columbus. The enthusiasm which urged him to cross the ocean in search of a new world was all his own. It was also the result of mature and well directed reflection. The justness with which he combined all the various circumstances that evinced the existence of trans-Atlantic countries alone displays the vigour and comprehensiveness of his genius.
Yet the discovery of America was prepared by a long train of events. The improvement of the mariner's compass, the adoption of the astrolabe to measure altitudes at sea, the maritime boldness derived from the discoveries of the Portuguese, independent of the general rapid growth both of political energy and scientific speculation in Europe, had conducted the age in which Columbus lived to that state of maturity, when geo
* Life of Columbus, abridged by yon Irving, 1830, p. 357. C
graphical knowledge could be no longer confined within its ancient limits, but must have necessarily extended itself over the whole surface of the globe. When Cabral, the Portuguese navigator, who conducted a fleet to the East Indies in 1500, stood far out to sea in order to avoid the adverse winds that prevail near the coast of Africa, he fell in with the coast of Brazil; so that all the enthusiasm and veteran hardihood of Columbus anticipated by only twelve years the effect of accident. This reflection, however, does not in the least derogate from the merit of Columbus; for the superiority of a social being must consist in being eminent among his fellows, and not separate from them. As long as the progress of society depends on the growth of knowledge, and not on mere hazard, so long must the speculations of the man of genius be in close connection with the intelligence of the many. It would detract as little from his fame, if we were to suppose, with some of the learned, that America had been already visited in ancient times by Phoenician navigators, and that the obscure hints found in classic writers relative to oceanic regions were derived from their traditions. The doubtful claims of the Phoenicians to proficiency in the arts of navigation have been already examined *; and as to the traditions preserved in Greek and Latin authors, they present to the critical eye much more the general forms of mythology and speculation than the individual features of reality. The belief in the existence of land beyond the ocean was widely diffused in antiquity; nor is it reasonable to ascribe its origin either to the fancy of Plato, or to traditions reaching beyond the date of those physical revolutions which may be supposed to have separated the old world from the new. The spherical figure of the earth, though easily detected on reflection, is by no means obvious to the vulgar eye. The supposition that the earth is an extended plain, though repugnant to reason, leaves unbounded liberty to the imagination, and * See vol. i. chap. ix. of this work.