« ForrigeFortsett »
pedition. The public favour, of which he was now the object, rendered every exertion easy. A fleet of seventeen vessels, three being ships of burden, the remainder caravels, was quickly fitted out; and about fifteen hundred persons, many of whom were volunteers, eager to gather in the new world the first harvest of glory and of gold, embarked full of hope and animation.
On the twenty-fifth of September, as the sun rose, the fleet hoisted sail, and stood out of the bay of Cadiz. This appears to have been one of the happiest moments in the life of Columbus. When he first descried the land of Guanahani, the sensations of delight, the sentiments of gratitude, and conscious pride of having earned by his courage, sagacity and perseverance, rank, fortune, and an immortal name, must have filled his bosom with sensations the most powerful and exalting of which human nature is susceptible ; but the ocean still gaped between him and the immortality for which he sighed ; his glorious task was but imperfectly achieved until he had returned and communicated his discoveries to the world. But now he found himself at the head of a considerable fleet; his merits had been duly appreciated; he was cheered by the applauses of Europe, and the flattering kindness of his sovereigns ; he was confirmed in the possession of those titles on which he seems to have laid so much stress; and what perhaps must have gratified him still more, he no longer prosecuted a · career opposed to the current of vulgar opinion ; the public enthusiasm was now enlisted in his cause, and flattered, with new-born ardour, the darling speculation of his life. Yet the motives which impelled so many to embark under the guidance of Columbus were of a nature essentially different from the enthusiasm which fired his own breast. The principle of dissociation soon developed itself, and harassed with unceasing vexations the remainder of the life of that great man.
The admiral on this occasion steered for the Cape Verd islands, intending to pursue a course to the south of that held in his former voyage. On the thirteenth
of October the island of Ferro disappeared from view; favourable breezes wafted the fleet gently towards the west, and on the second of November an island was descried, to which the name of Dominica was given, from the circumstance of its being discovered on a Sunday. Columbus had now an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the Caribs, that fierce nation, of which the unwarlike inhabitants of Hispaniola had given him such terrific accounts. While the fleet passed along the Antilles or Windward Islands, the Spaniards had many rencounters with the natives, in which they experienced their hardihood and obstinate courage. The women fought as desperately as the men, and when driven from their canoes into the water, still maintained the combat as they clove their way through the boisterous element. At Guadaloupe the Spaniards saw, for the first time, that delicious fruit the anana or pine apple; they also beheld with horror human limbs roasting at the fire, or hanging up as provision for future festivals. This appalling spectacle, however, did not abate their courage so as to prevent them from taking captive some of the warlike Caribs, whom they carried with them to Hispaniola, where they arrived on the twenty-second of November.
On approaching that part of the coast where the fort of Navidad had been established, the Spaniards on board the fleet watched anxiously for the welcoming signals of their countrymen who had remained upon the island. But the dreary silence that reigned along the shore boded something disastrous, and filled them with apprehensions. No canoes were seen paddling round the ships: the natives, so kind and attentive to the Spaniards in their former visit, now kept aloof; but the cause of this mysterious coolness was easily conjectured, when the fort of Navidad was found reduced to ashes, and circumstances traced which left no doubt that the garrison had been destroyed in warfare with the Indians.
The melancholy fate of the first settlers in Hispaniola threw a gloomy damp over the spirits of the newly
arrived adventurers, and a provident mind might have seen in their destruction a portentous indication of future calamities. As soon as some intercourse could be established with the natives, it was ascertained that the admiral had hardly disappeared from the coast, when the garrison of the fort threw off all subordination, and abandoned themselves to the most insolent licentiousness in their treatment of the natives. This simple people therefore soon ceased to regard them with awe and reverence as a superior order of beings; and from the heedless excesses of which the Spaniards were guilty, it was found as easy as it was necessary to destroy them. The misconduct of the colonists themselves was the most instructive part of the tragical story. In order to avoid scenes so likely to make sinister impressions, Columbus resolved to choose another situation for his new settles ment; and selected for this purpose a plain bordering on a good haven, at no great distance from the mountain of Cibao, which was reported to contain numerous gold mines. Here he founded the city of Isabella, so called from his royal mistress. The public buildings, such as the church and magazine of the new city, were of stone; the rest were hastily constructed of reeds, plaster, and whatever materials could be most easily procured.
After having explored in several directions the interior of the country, chiefly with a view to discover the mines of gold and other precious metals, and having taken such measures as seemed best fitted to ensure the valuable friendship of the Indians, and to infuse a spirit of order and aotivity in the infant colony, Columbus prepared to set out on his voyage of discovery towards the west. With this view he appointed to hold the reins of government during his absence a council or junto, of which his brother Don Diego was the chief. Matters being thus arranged, he set sail on the twenty-fourth of April, 1494, in three small vessels. His object was to examine the coast of Cuba, from the point where his researches had terminated on his first voyage, and to proceed westward as far as possible
along that land which he firmly believed to be a part of the continent of Asia.
In five days the admiral reached the eastern extremity of Cuba, at present known by the name of Cape Maysi, whence he directed his course along the southern shore. Wherever the ships stopped, the natives came off in their canoes, bearing fruits and other provisions to their wondrous visitors, whom they beheld with astonishment and delight. When questioned respecting gold, they signified by gestures, that it was found in abundance in a great country to the south. This gave a new direction to the route of Columbus : on the 3d of May he stood towards the south, and in a short time the blue summits of Jamaica rose into view. On approaching this fine island, the Spaniards were filled with admiration at its luxuriant shores, its picturesque diversity of outline, and its waving groves of pimento. Its inhabitants appeared to be more warlike and ingenious than those of Cuba or Hispaniola. Their canoes displayed much art in their construction, and were elegantly carved: some of them, hollowed out of a single tree, measured above ninety feet in length.
The hopes of finding gold here, however, were disappointed ; and Columbus, with the gratification of having added another noble island to the list of those already discovered by him, returned to his former course along the coast of Cuba. Here, as he pursued his voyage to the West, he fell in with a cluster of small islands, some bare and rocky, while others were clothed with waving trees, and all the richness of tropical vegetation. The birds, too, and the fishes, as well as the trees and flowers, shone with all that brilliancy of hue which nature delights so much to display in tropical climates. The heated imagination of Columbus eagerly embraced the belief that he had at length reached that archipelago of India of which Mandeville and Marco Polo had given such glowing descriptions. The natives also informed him, that towards the west there was a great country called Mangon, in which the people wore clothing.
This he supposed to be the Mangi of the Venetian traveller. He persevered, accordingly, in steering westward, hoping that he might succeed in circumnavigating the globe, and return to Europe by the lately discovered passage round Africa : but the difficult navigation which he had pursued along an intricate coast had exhausted the spirits of his crews; the ships were also in a crazy and disabled state, so that it was absolutely impossible, for the present, to prosecute the voyage any further.
Columbus, however, would not relinquish his favourite project of western discovery, until every individual on board of his fleet signed a paper, expressing the positive belief that Cuba was a continent, and a part of India. Fernan Perez de Lima, the secretary of the expedition, attended by four witnesses, went from ship to ship to receive the names of those who assented to the admiral's opinion, and to convince those who still remained in doubt. This singular document is still in existence.* Had the voyage been continued two or three days longer, the western extremity of the island would have been reached, and the truth revealed. On the voyage homeward the fleet again made Jamaica, and steered along the southern shores of that island. It then stood over for the southern coast of Hispaniola, where it had to struggle with adverse winds and a succession of violent tempests. At length the weather moderated, and Columbus stood out to sea with the intention of running eastward, so as to complete his survey of the Caribbee islands. But the unusual hardships which he had lately endured completely overpowered his naturally strong constitution. When the moment of repose arrived, his spirits flagged, and he sunk beneath the accumulated weight of toil, broken rest, and anxiety of mind. He lay in a deep lethargy, which led his crew to believe that his dissolution was not far off, and in this state of insensibility he was brought back to the harbour of Isabella.
* Muñoz. Hist. del Nuevo Mundo, p. 217. Navarrete. Colleccion de los Viages, &c. tom. ii. p. 143.