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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 deyout 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 tlie most brilliant periods of the Spanish monarchy. The union of the kingdoms of Arragon and Castile, by the marriage of Ferdinaid 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 narrower 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 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 for. tunes of a monarch, whose policy had such an effect upon the history of Columbus, and the destinies of the new world. Success attended all his 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. excommunicated its sovereigns, Juan and Catalina, and gave their throne to the first occu. pant. 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 bis consort Isabella. He had three objects at heart from the commencement of his reign, wbich 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 himn 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 subtle 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 vanquished 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 wat 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 bad 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 Aower to flower, 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 various 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, which have a brilliancy equal to rubies, sapphires, or diamonds."
VOL. III.-NO. 5.
“From his continual remarks on the beauty of the scenery, and from the pleasure which he evidently derived from rural sounds and objects, he appears to have been extremely open to those delicious influences, exercised over some spirits, by the graces and wonders of nature. He gives utterance to these feelings with characteristic enthusiasm, and, at the same time, with the artlessness and simplicity of diction of a child. When speaking of some lovely scene among the groves, or along the flowery shores of these favoured islands, he says, one could live there for ever.' Cuba broke upon him like an elysium. It is the most beautiful island that eyes ever beheld, full of excellent ports and profound rivers.' The climate was more temperate here than in the other islands; the nights being neither hot nor cold, while the birds and grasshoppers sang all night long. Indeed there is a beauty in a tropical night, in the depth of the dark blue sky, the lambent purity of the stars, and the resplendent clearness of the moon, that spreads over the rich landscape, and the balmy groves, a charm more touching than the splendour of the day.
“In the sweet smell of the woods, and the odour of the flowers, which loaded every breeze, Columbus fancied he perceived the fragrance of oriental spices; and along the shores, he found shells of the kind of oyster which produces pearls.
“From the grass growing to the very edge of the water, be inferred the peacefulness of the ocean which bathes these islands, never lashing the shore with angry surges.
« Ever since his arrival among these Antilles, he had experienced nothing but soft and gentle weather, and he concluded that a perpetual serenity reigned over these happy seas. He was little suspicious of the occasional bursts of fury to which they are liable. Charlevoix, speaking from actual observation, remarks,
the sea of those islands is commonly more tranquil than ours; but like certain people who are difficult to be moved, and whose transports of passion are as violent as they are rare, so when this sea becomes irritated, it is terrible. It breaks all bounds, overflows the country, sweeps away all things that oppose it, and leaves frightful ravages behind, to mark the extent of its inundations. It is after these tempests, known by the name of hurricanes, that the shores are found covered with marine shells, which greatly surpass, in lustre and beauty, those of the European seas.'
"It is a singular fact, however, that the hurricanes, which almost annually devastate the Bahamas, and other islands in the immediate vicinity of Cuba, have been seldom known to extend their influence to this favoured land. It would seem as if the very elements were charmed into gentleness as they approach it.”
The people, too, of the islands first discovered, were mild and gentle, simple and virtuous in their habits, differing as well from their southern neighbours, the cannibal and ferocious Caribs, and the more generous, yet equally savage Indians of the northern Continent, as from the luxurious and sensual natives of the South Sea Islands.
The splendour of the climate, and the beauty of the natural scenery, still remain; but the soil has been stained by the vices of the avaricious Spaniard, and the retributive cruelty of the buccaneer; and is still cursed by the existence of an imported slave population, incapable of itself, for ages, of rising to the dignity of self-government, and paralysing the energies, and degrading the moral character of its masters. In Haiti the misery has been still more complete, the measure of human wo and suffering more full. No anticipations of such results, clouded the triumph of Columbus ; and in addition to the worldly honour he anticipated, he felt the internal satisfaction of considering himself an instrument, in the hands of Providence, for great and glorious ends. This high and devout imagination was strengthened by various collateral circumstances. He not only proposed the plan of the voyage, but, after stimulating his crew to watchfulness, by the promise of high reward, was the first to discover the promised land. When, on four several occasions, lots were cast for the performance of religious duties and pilgrimages, in case of escape from threatening
dangers, the lot fell three times on Columbus himself, while that for the fourth would have diverted him from the prosecution of his second voyage. These sentiments are strongly expressed in the letter to the sovereigns, describing his feelings, when, in the prospect of immediate shipwreck while on his return, he committed a narrative of his voyage, in a cask, to the ocean. “I should have supported this evil
tune with less grief, had my person alone been in jeopardy, since I am debtor for my life to the Supreme Creator, and have at other times been within a step of death. But it was a cause of infinite sorrow and trouble to think, that, after having been illuminated from on high, with faith and certainty to undertake this enterprise ; after having victoriously achieved it, and when on the point of convincing my opponents, and securing to your highnesses great glory and vast increase of dominion, it should please the Divine Majesty to defeat all by my death."
The glowing anticipations of Columbus were not realized. The remainder of his life, instead of being devoted to the accomplishment of his lofty views, was spent in toil, and worn out in vexation. In the prevalent spirit of the age, he sought converts by the sword and by violence, instead of the more certain methods of persuasion. Under his own government, the oppression of the miserable natives was commenced, and although the labour imposed upon them was by no means severe, it furnished the excuse and the example for their subsequent cruel treatment. The distant and perilous nature of his enterprise, called to his banner, not the sober, the sedate, and the well-principled, but those of broken fortune, turbulent tempers, and licentious habits. To rule these under the most advantageous circumstances, would have been difficult; but, at a distance from the seat of supreme government, it required an energy and decision, an exertion of the most severe military discipline, foreign to the naturally benevolent temper of Columbus. Even in his own presence, tumults and rebellions occurred; but under the government of his deputies, they were frequent and indomitable. When, by his return, the dissensions were apparently composed, they left the seeds of discontent and enmity, which, sown in Spain, raised for him a plentiful crop of trouble. The administrators of the royal revenues, were, from the beginning, hostile ; and carefully nur