struggling with every distress in which the envy and malevolence of the people under his command, or the ingratitude of the court which he served, could involve him. Though the pacification with Roldan broke the union and weekened the force of the mutineers, it did not extirpate the seeds of discord out of the island. Several of the malcontents continued in arms, . refusing to submit to the Admiral. He and his brothers were obliged to take the field alternately, in order to check their incursions, or to punish their crimes. The perpetual occupation and disquiet which this created, prevented him from giving due attention to the dangerous machinations of his enemies in the court of Spain. A good number of such as were most dissatisfied with his administration, had embraced the opportunity of returning to Europe with the ships which he dispatched from St. Domingo. The final disappointment of all their hopes inflamed the rage of these infortunate adventurers against Columbus to the utmoft pitch. Their poverty and distress, by exciting compassion, rendered their accusations credible, and their complaints interesting. They teazed Ferdinand and Ifabella incessantly with memorials, containing the detail of their own grievances, and the articles of their charge against Columbus. Whenever either the king or queen appeared in public, they surrounded them in a tumultuary manner, insisting with importunate clamours for payment

of the arrears due to them, and demanding i vengeance upon the author of their fullerings.

They insulted the Admiral's fons wherever they s met them, reproaching them as the offspring

of the projector, whose fatal curiosity had dicois vered those pernicious regions which drained

Spain of its wealth, and would prove the grave of its people. These avowed endeavours of the malcontents from America to ruin Columbus,

were seconded by the secret, but more dange:rous insinuations of that party among the cour

tiers, which had always thwarted his schemes, and envied his success and credit h),

Their influence on Ferdinand and Isabella.

Ferdinand was disposed to listen, not only with a willing, but wit a partial ear, to these accusations. Notwithstanding the flattering accounts which Columbus had given of the riches of America, the remittances from it had hitherto been so scanty, that they fell far short of defraying the expence of the armaments fitted out. The glory of the discovery, together with the prospect of remote commercial advantages, was all that Spain had yet received in return for the efforts which she had made. But time had already diminished the first sensations of joy which the discovery of a New World occasioned, and fame alone was not an object to satisfy the cold interested mind of Ferdinand. The nature of h) Life of Columbus, c. 85.

[ocr errors]

commerce was then so little understood, that, where immediate gain was not acquired, the hope of distant benefit, or of flow and moderate returns, was totally disregarded. Ferdinand considered Spain, on this account, as having loft by the enterprise of Columbus, and imputed it to his misconduct and incapacity for government, that a country abounding in gold had yielded nothing of value to its conquerors. Even Isabella, who, from the favourable opinion which she entertained of Columbus, had uniformly protected him, was shaken at length by the number and boldness of his accusers, and began to suspect that a disaffection so general must have been occafioned by real grievances, which called for redress. The bishop of Badajos, with his usual animosity againft Columbus, encouraged these suspicions, and confirmed them.

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

As soon as the queen began to give way to the torrent of calamny, a resolution fatal to Columbus was taken.. Francis de Bovadilla, a knight of Calatrava, was appointed to repair to' Hispaniola, with full powers to inquire into the conduct of Columbus, and, if he should find the charge of mal-administration proved, to su-persede him, and assume the government of the island. It was impossible to escape condemnation, when this preposterous commission made it the interest of the judge to pronounce the per

son whom he was sent to try, guilty. Though Columbus had now composed all the diffenfions in the island; though he had brought both Spaniards and Indians to submit peaceably to his government; though he had made such effectual provision for working the mines, and cultivating the country, as would have secured a confiderable revenue to the king, as well as large profits to individuals, Bovadilla, without deigning to attend to the nature or merit of those services, discovered, from the moment that he landed in Hispaniola, a determined purpose of treating him as a criminal. He took poffession of the Admiral's house in St. Domingo, from which its master happened at that time to be abfent, and seized his effects, as if his guilt had been already fully proved; he rendered himself master of the fort and of the king's stores by violence; he required all persons to acknowledge him as supreme governor ; he fet at liberty the prisoners confined by the Admiral, and summoned him to appear before his tribunal, in order to answer for his conduct, tranfmitting to him together with the summons, a copy of the royal mandate, by which Columbus was enjoined to yield implicit obedience to his commands,

Columbus sent in chains to Spain, Columbus, though deeply affected with the ingratitude and injustice of Ferdinand and Ifabella , did not hesitate a moment about his own conduct. He submitted to the will of his sovereigns with a respectful silence, and repaired directly to the court of that violent and partial judge whom they had authorised to try him. Boyadilla, without admitting him into his presence, ordered him instantly to be arrested, to be loaded with chains, and hurried on board a ship. Even under this humiliating reverse of fortune, the firmness of mind which distinguishes the character of Columbus, did not forsake him. Conscious of his own integrity, and folacing himself with reflecting upon the great things which he had atchieved, he endured this insult offered to his character, not only with compo. 1 fure, but with dignity. Nor had he the confolation of sympathy to mitigate his sufferings. Bovadilla had already rendered himself fo extremely popular, by granding various immunities to the colony, by liberal donations of Indians to all who applied for them, and by relaxing the reins of discipline and government, that the Spaniards, who were mostly adventurers, whom their indigence or crimes had impelled to abandon their native country, expressed the most ina decent satisfaction with the disgrace and inprisonment of Columbus. They flattered themselves, that now they should enjoy an uncontrou

led liberty, more suitable to their disposition · and former habits of life. Among persons thus

prepared to censure the proceedings, and to

« ElőzőTovább »