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«« 'The letter of Columbus to the Spanish monarchs, announcing his discovery, bad produced the greatest sensation at court. The event it communicated, was considered the most extraordinary of their prosperous reign ; and following so close upon the conquest of Granada, was pronounced a signal mark of divine favour, for that triumph achieved in the cause of the true faith. The sovereigns themselves were for a time dazzled and bewildered by this sudden and easy ac. quisition of a new empire, of indefinite extent, and apparently boundless wealth ; and their first idea was to secure it beyond the reach of question or competition. Shortly after his arrival in Seville, Columbus received a letter from them, expressing their great delight, and requesting him to repair immediately to court, to concert plans for a second and more extensive expedition. As the summer was already advancing, the time favourable for a voyage, they desired him to make any arrangements at Seville, or elsewhere, that might hasten the expedition, and to inform them by the return of the courier, what was necessary to be done on their part. This letter was addressed to him by the title of Don Christopher Columbus, our admiral of the Ocean sea, and viceroy and governor of the islands discovered in the Indias ;' at the same time he was promised still further rewards. Columbus lost no time in complying with the commands of the sove. reigns. He sent a memorandum of the ships, men and munitions that would be requisite; and having made such dispositions at Seville as circumstances permitted, set out on his journey for Barcelona, taking with him the six Indians, and the various curiosities and productions which he had brought from the new world.

“The fame of his discovery had resounded throughout the nation, and as his route lay through several of the finest and most populous provinces of Spain, his journey appeared like the progress of a sovereign. Wherever he passed, the surrounding country poured forth its inhabitants, who lined the road and thronged the villages. In the large towns, the streets, windows, and balconies, were filled with eager spectators, who rent the air with acclamations. His journey was continually impeded by the multitude pressing to gain a sight of him, and of the Indians, who were regarded with as much adın:ration, as if they had been natives of another planet. It was impossible to satisfy the craving curiosity which assailed himself and his attendants, at every stage, with innumerable ques. tions ; popular rumour, as usual, bad exaggerated the truth, and had filled the newly found country with all kinds of wonders.

" It was about the middle of April that Columbus arrived at Barcelona, where every preparation had been made to give him a solemn and magnificent reception. The beauty and serenity of the weather in that genial season, and favoured climate, contributed to give splendour to this memorable ceremony. As he drew near the place, many of the more youthful courtiers, and hidalgós of gallant bearing, together with a vast concourse of the populace, came forth to meet and welcome him. His entrance into this noble city has been compared to one of those triumphs which the Romans were accustomed to decree to con. querors. First were paraded the Indians, painted according to their savage fashion, and decorated with tropical feathers, and with their national ornaments of gold; after these were borne various kinds of live parrots, together with stuff. ed birds and animals of unknown species, and rare plants supposed to be of precious qualities : while great care was taken to make a conspicuous display of Indian coronets, bracelets, and other decorations of gold, which might give an idea of the wealth of the newly discovered regions. After these followed Columbus, on horseback, surrounded by a brilliant cavalcade of Spanish chivalry. The streets were almost impassable from the countless multitude; the windows and balconies were crowded with the fair ; the very roofs were covered with specta. tors. It seemed as if the public eye could not be sated with gazing on these trophies of an unknown world; or on the remarkable man by whom it had been discovered. There was a sublimity in this event, that mingled a solemn feeling with the public joy. It was looked upon as a vast and signal dispensation of providence in reward for the piety of the monarchs; and the majestic and venerable appearance of the discoverer, so different from the youth and buoyancy that are generally expected from roving enterprise, seemed in harmony with the grandeur and dignity of his achievement.

“To receive him with suitable pomp and distinction, the sovereigns had or. dered their throne to be placed in public, under a rich canopy of brocade of gold, in a vast and splendid saloon. Here the king and queen awaited his arrival, seat. ed in state, with the prince Juan beside them; and attended by the dignitaries of their court, and the principal nobility of Castile, Valentia, Catalonia, and Ar. ragon; all impatient to behold the man who had conferred so incalculable a benefit upon the nation. At length Columbus entered the hall, surrounded by a brilliant crowd of cavaliers, among whom, says Las Casas, he was conspicuous for his stately and commanding person, which, with his countenance rendered venerable by his gray hairs, gave him the august appearance of a senator of Rome. A modest smile lighted up his features, showing that he enjoyed the state and glory in which he came ; and certainly nothing could be more deeply moving to a mind inflamed by noble ambition, and conscious of having greatly deserved, than these testimonials of the admiration and gratitude of a nation, or rather of a world. As Columbus approached, the sovereigns rose, as if receive ing a person of the highest rank. Bending his knees, he requested to kiss their hands; but there was some hesitation on the part of their majesties to permit this act of vassalage. Raising him in the most gracious manner, they ordered him to seat bimself in their presence; a rare honour in this proud and puncti. lious court.

“At the request of their majesties, Columbus now gave an account of the most striking events of his voyage, and a description of the islands which he had discovered. He displayed the specimens he had brought of unknown birds and other animals; of rare plants of medicinal and aromatic virtue ; of native gold in dust, in crude masses, or laboured into barbaric ornaments; and above all, the natives of these countries, who were objects of intense and inexhaustible in terest; since there is nothing to man so curious as the varieties of his own spe. cies. All these he pronounced mere harbingers of greater discoveries he had yet to make; which would add realms of incalculable wealth to the dominions of their majesties, and whole nations of proselytes to the true faith.

“ The words of Columbus were listened to with profound emotion by the sovereigns. When he had finished, they sunk on their knees, and, raising their clasped bands to heaven, their eyes filled with tears of joy and gratitude, they poured forth thanks and praises to God for so great a providence. All present tollowed their example; a deep and solemn enthusiasm pervaded that splendid assembly, and prevented all common acclamations of triumph: the anthem of te deum laudamus, chanted by the choir of the royal chapel, with the melodious responses of the minstrels, rose up from the midst in a full body of sacred har. mony, bearing up, as it were, the feelings and thoughts of the auditors to heaven, * so that,' says the venerable Las Casas, it seemed as if in that hour they communicated with celestial delights.' Such was the solemn and pious manner in which the brilliant court of Spain celebrated this sublime event; offering up a grateful tribute of melody and praise, and giving glory to God for the discovery of another world.

• When Columbus retired from the royal presence, he was attended to his residence by all the court, and followed by the shouting populace. For many days he was the object of universal curiosity, and wherever he appeared he was surrounded by an admiring multitude.

“ While the mind of Columbus was thus teeming with glorious anticipations, his pious scheme for the deliverance of the holy sepulchre was not forgotten. It has been shown that he suggested it to the Spanish sovereigns at the time of first making his propositions, holding it forth as the great object to be effected by the profits of his discoveries. Flushed with the idea of the vast wealth that was now to accrue to himself, he made a vow to furnish an army, within seven years, consisting of five thousand horse, and fifty thousand foot, for the rescue of the holy sepulchre, and a similar force within the five following years. This vow was recorded in one of his letters to the sovereigns, to which he refers, but which is no longer extant; nor is it certain whether it was made at the end of his first voyage, or at a subsequent date, when the magnitude and wealthy result of his discoveries became more fully manifest. He often alludes to it vaguely in

his writings, and he refers to it expressly in a letter to Pope Alexander VI., written in 1502, in which he accounts also for its non-fulfilment. It is essential to a full comprehension of the character and motives of Columbus, that this wild and visionary project should be borne in recollection. It will be found to have entwined itself in his mind with his enterprise of discovery, and that a holy crusade was to be the consummation of those divine purposes for which he consi. dered himself selected by heaven as an agent. It shows how much his mind was elevated above selfish and mercenary views. How it was filled with those devout and heroic schemes, which in the time of the crusades had inflamed the thoughts, and directed the enterprises, of the bravest warriors and most illustrious princes.”

The whole civilized world was filled with wonder and delight. Yet no one was aware of the real importance of the discovery. The original opinion of Columbus, that Cuba was the extremity of the Asiatic continent, and that the adjacent islands were in the Indian Sea, was adopted. From this error, it happens, that the aboriginal inhabitants of the whole of the new continent, are still called Indians; the islands first discovered by Columbus, the West Indies. The name Antilla, as old as the time of Aristotle, is also retained in the denomination of the same islands, in different languages of Europe, “the Antilles.

As the monarchs, by whom the project of the great discoverer was ultimately adopted, with so much advantage and honour, are so conspicuous and important in this history, we shall yield to the temptation of quoting the portraits of them, drawn by Mr. Irving, in a manner equal to their own dignity:

“ The time when Columbus first sought his fortunes in Spain, was at one of the most brilliant periods of the Spanish monarchy. The union of the kingdoms of Arragon and Castile, by the marriage of Ferdinatıd and Isabella, had consolidated the Christian power in the peninsula, and put an end to those internal feuds, which had so long distracted the country, and ensured the domination of the Mussulmans. The whole force of united Spain was now exerted in the chivalrous enterprise of the Moorish conquest. The Moors, who had once spread over the whole country like an inundation, were now dammed up within the mountain boundaries of the kingdom of Granada. The victorious armies of Ferdinand and Isabella were continually advancing, and pressing this fierce people within nar. rower limits. Under these sovereigns, the various petty kingdoms of Spain began to feel and act as one nation, and to rise to eminence in arts as well as arms. Ferdinand and Isabella, it has been remarked, lived together, not like man and wife whose estates are common under the orders of the husband; but like two monarchs, strictly allied. They had separate claims to sovereignty, in virtue of their respective kingdoms; they had separate councils, and were often distant from each other in different parts of their empire, each exercising the royal authority; yet they were so happily united by common views, common interests, and a great deference for each other, that this double administration never prevented a unity of purpose and of action. All acts of sovereignty were executed in both their names; all public writings were subscribed with both their signatures; their likenesses were stamped together on the public coin; and the royal seal displayed the united arms of Castile and Arragon.

“Ferdinand was of the middle stature, well proportioned, and hardy and act. ve from athletic exercise. His carriage was free, erect, and majestic. He had a clear serene forehead, which appeared more lofty from his head being partly bald. His eyebrows were large and parted, and like his hair, of a bright chestnut, His eyes were clear and animated, his complexion was somewhat ruddy, and


Irving's Life of Columbus.


scorched by the toils of war. His mouth moderate well formed and gracious in its expression; his teeth white, though small and irregular. His voice sharp ; his speech quick and fluent. His genius was clear and comprehensive, his judgment grave and certain. He was simple in dress and diet, equable in his temper, devout in his religion, and so indefatigable in business, that it was said he seemed to repose himself by working: He was a great observer and judge of men, and unparalleled in the science of the cabinet. Such is the picture given of him by the Spanish historians of his time. It has been added, however, that he had more of bigotry than religion ; that his ambition was craving rather than magnanimous; that he made war less like a paladin than a prince, less for glory than for mere dominion ; and that his policy was cold, selfish, and artful. He was called the wise and prudent in Spain, in Italy the pious, in France and England the ambitious and perfidious.

“While giving his picture, it may not be deemed impertinent to sketch the fortunes of a monarch, whose policy had such an effect upon the history of Columbus, and the destinies of the new world. Success attended all bis measures. Though a younger son, he had ascended the throne of Arragon by inheritance; Castile he obtained by marriage; Granada and Naples by conquest ; and he seiz. ed upon Navarre as appertaining to any body, when Pope Julius II. excommuni. cated its sovereigns, Juan and Catalina, and gave their throne to the first occupant. He sent his forces into Africa, and subjugated, or reduced to vassalage, Tunis, and Tripoli, and Algiers, and most of the Barbary powers. A new world was also given to him, without cost, by the discoveries of Columbus ; for the ex. pense of the enterprise was borne exclusively by his consort Isabella. He had three objects at heart from the commencement of his reign, which he pursued with bigoted and persecuting zeal; the conquest of the Moors, the expulsion of the Jews, and the establishment of the Inquisition in his dominions. He accom plished them all, and was rewarded by Pope Innocent VIII. with the appellation of Most Catholic Majesty, a title which his successors have tenaciously retained.

“Cotemporary writers have been enthusiastic in their descriptions of Isabella, but time has sanctioned their eulogies; she is one of the purest and most beautiful characters on the pages of history. She was well formed, of the middle size, with great dignity and gracefulness of deportment, and a mingled gravity and sweetness of demeanour. Her complexion was fair; her hair auburn, inclining to red; her eyes were of a clear blue, with a benign expression; and there was a singular modesty in her countenance, gracing as it did a wonderful firmness of purpose, and earnestness of spirit. Though strongly attached to her husband, and studious of his fame, yet she always maintained her distinct rights as an allied prince. She exceeded him in beauty, in personal dignity, in acuteness of genius, and in grandeur of soul. Combining the active and resolute qualities of man, with the softer charities of woman, she mingled in the warlike councils of her husband; engaged personally in his enterprises; and in some instances surpassed him in the firmness and intrepidity of her measures; while, being inspired with a truer idea of glory, she infused a more lofty and generous temperinto his subtlc and calculating policy.

“It is in the civil history of their reign, however, that the character of Isabella shines most illustrious. Her fostering and maternal care was continually directed to reform the laws, and heal the ills engendered by a long course of internal wars. She loved her people, and while diligently seeking their good, she mitigated as much as possible the harsh measures of her husband, directed to the same end, but inflarned by a mistaken zeal. Thus, though almost bigoted in her piety, and perhaps too much under the influence of ghostly advisers, still she was hostile to every measure calculated to advance religion at the expense of humanity. She strenuously opposed the expulsion of the Jews, and the establishment of the Inquisition, though, unfortunately for Spain, her repugnance was slowly vanquishied by her confessors. She was always an advocate for clemency to the Moors, although she was the soul of the war against Granada. She considered that war essential to protect the Christian faith, and to relieve her subjects from fierce and formidable enemies. While all her public thoughts and acts were princely and august, her private habits were simple, frugal, and unostentatious. In the intervals

of state business, she assembled round her the ablest men in literature and science, and directed herself by their councils, in promoting letters and arts. Through her patronage, Salamanca rose to that height which it assumed among the learned institutions of the age. She promoted the distribution of honours and rewards for the promulgation of knowledge, she fostered the art of printing, recently invented, and encouraged the establishment of presses in every part of the kingdom: books were admitted free of all duty, and more, we are told, were printed in Spain, at that early period of the art, than in the present literary age.

“It is wonderful, how much the destinies of countries depend at times upon the virtues of individuals, and how it is given to great spirits, by combining, exciting, and directing the latent powers of a nation, to stamp it, as it were, with their own greatness. Such beings realize the idea of guardian angels, appointed by heaven to watch over the destinies of empires. Such had been prince Henry for the kingdom of Portugal, and such was now for Spain the illustrious Isabella."

We can imagine no glory more complete, no delight more exquisite, than that which attended the success of Columbus. To his pure and ardent mind, no thought presented itself but that of promoting the temporal welfare of the inhabitants of the newfound world, by the arts of civilized life; their eternal happiness, by the religion of Christ. The black list of crimes, the cruelty, oppression, and suffering, by which the race of these unfortunate beings was to be finally extinguished, were hidden from his view.

The climate, the soil, and the productions of these favoured islands, appeared to his glowing vision as almost worthy of Paradise :

“There is a wonderful splendour, variety, and luxuriance, in the vegetation of these quick and ardent climates. The verdure of the groves, and the colours of the flowers and blossoms, derive a vividness to the eye, from the transparent purity of the air, and the deep serenity of the azure heavens. The forests, too, are full of life, swarming with birds of brilliant plumage. Painted varieties of parrots and woodpeckers, create a glitter amidst the verdure of the grove, and humming birds rove from flower to tower, resembling, as has well been said, animated particles of a rainbow. The scarlet flamingos, too, seen sometimes through an opening of a forest in a distant savannah, have the appearance of soldiers drawn up in battalion, with an advanced scout on the alert, to give notice of approaching danger. Nor is the least beautiful part of animated nature, the vari. ous tribes of insects that people every plant, displaying brilliant coats of mail, which sparkle to the eye like precious gems. *

“Such is the splendour of animal and vegetable creation in these tropical regions, where an ardent sun imparts, in a manner, his own lustre to every object, and quickens nature into exuberant fecundity. The birds, in general, are not remarkable for their notes; for, it has been observed, that, in the feathered race, sweetness of song rarely accompanies brilliancy of plumage. Columbus remarks, however, that there were various kinds which sang sweetly among the trees, and he frequently deceived himself, in fancying that he heard the voice of the nightingale, a bird unknown in these countries. He was, in fact, in a mood to see every thing through a fond and favouring medium. His heart was full even to overflowing, for he was enjoying the fulfilment of his hopes, and the hard-earned, but glorious reward, of his toils and perils. Every thing around him was beheld with the enamoured and exulting eye of a discoverer, where triumph mingles with admiration; and it is difficult to conceive the rapturous state of his feelings, while thus exploring the charms of a virgin world, won by his enterprise and valour.

« The ladies of Havana, on gala occasions, wear in their hair numbers of those insects, wbich have a brilliancy equal to rubies, sapphires, or diamonds.”' VOL. III. —NO. 5.


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