10 - From Paradise to Prison
If you know a boy or a girl whose mind
is set on any one thing,
you will find that they are always talking about that thing.
not this so? They have what people call a "hobby" (which
kind of a horse, you know), and they are apt, as we say,
their hobby to death."
If this is true of certain boys and girls, it is even
of men and women. They get to be what we call people of
and whatever they see or whatever they do always turns
It was so with Columbus. All his life his one idea had
finding of Asia--the Indies, or Cathay, as he called it--by
sailing to the west. He did sail to the west. He did find
And, because of this, as we have seen, all his voyaging
his exploring were done in the firm belief that he was
discovering new parts of the eastern coast of Asia. The
he had found a new world never entered his head.
So, when he looked toward the west, as he sailed around
island of Trinidad and saw the distant shore, he said it
new part of Asia. He was as certain of this as he had before
certain that Cuba was a part of the Asiatic mainland.
But when he sailed into the mouth of the great Orinoco
was puzzled. For the water was no longer salt; it grew
and fresher as he sailed on. And it rushed out so furiously
through the two straits at the northern and southern ends
Trinidad (which because of the terrible rush of their currents
called the Lion's Mouth and the Dragon's Mouth) that he
first unable to explain it all.
Then he had a curious idea. Columbus was a great reader
Bible; some of the Bible scholars of his day said that
of Eden was in a far Eastern land where a mighty river
through it from the hills of Paradise; as Columbus saw
beautiful land he had reached, and saw the great river
down its waters to the sea, he fitted all that he saw to
Bible stories he knew so well, and felt sure that he had
discovered the entrance to the Garden of Eden.
He would gladly have sailed across the broad bay and up
river to explore this heavenly land; but he was ill with
was nearly blind from his sore eyes, his ships were shaky
leaky, and he felt that he ought to hurry away to the city
Isabella where his brothers, Bartholomew and Diego, were
charge of affairs and were, he knew, anxiously waiting
for him to
So at last he turned away from the lovely land that he
must be Paradise and steered toward Hayti. On the nineteenth
August he arrived off the coast of Hayti. He sent a messenger
with news of his arrival, and soon greeted his brother
Bartholomew, who, when he heard of the Admiral's arrival,
at once to meet him.
Bartholomew Columbus had a sad story to tell his brother
Christopher. Things had been going badly in Hayti, and
Admiral grew sicker and sicker as he listened to what Bartholomew
had to tell.
You have heard it said that there are black sheep in every
There were black sheep in this colony of Columbus. There
lazy men and discontented men and jealous men, and they
great trouble, both in the city of Isabella and in the
which Bartholomew bad built in another part of the island
called Santo Domingo.
Such men are sure to make mischief, and these men in Hayti
made a lot of it. Columbus had staid so long in Spain that
men began to say that they knew he was certainly in trouble
disgrace there, that the king and queen were angry with
that his offices of viceroy and admiral were to be taken
from him. If this were so, they were going to look out
themselves, they said. They would no longer obey the commands
the Admiral's brothers, Bartholomew and Diego, whom he
So they rose in rebellion, and made things so uncomfortable
the two brothers that the colony was soon full of strife
The leader of this revolt was one of the chief men in
His name was Roldan. When Columbus and Bartholomew sailed
the harbor of Santo Domingo, on the thirtieth of August,
found that Roldan and his followers had set up a camp for
themselves in another part of the island, and given out
were determined never to have anything more to do with
This rebellion weakened the colony dreadfully. Things
desperate; so desperate indeed that Columbus, after thinking
all over, thought that the only way to do was to seem to
to Roldan and patch up some sort of an agreement by which
could all live together in peace. But all the same, he
will complain to the king and have this rebel Roldan punished.
So the Admiral wrote Roldan a letter in which he offered
forgive and forget all that he had done if he would come
help make the colony strong and united again. Roldan agreed
this, if he could have the same position he held before,
Columbus would see that his followers had all the land
wanted. Columbus agreed to this and also gave the rebels
permission to use the poor natives as slaves on their lands.
the trouble seemed to be over for a while, and Columbus
of his ships to Spain with letters to the king and queen.
these letters he accused Roldan of rebellion and tried
why it was that things were going so badly in Hayti.
But when these ships arrived in Spain the tidings they
and the other letters sent by them only made matters worse.
People in Spain had heard so many queer things from across
sea that they were beginning to lose faith in Columbus.
who had lost health and money in the unlucky second voyage
Admiral were now lazy loafers about the docks, or they
the court and told how Columbus had made beggars of them,
they hooted after and insulted the two sons of Columbus
pages in the queen's train. They called the boys the sons
Admiral of Mosquitoland."
Then came the ships with news of Roldan's rebellion, but
little or no gold. And people said this was a fine viceroy
couldn't keep order among his own men because, no doubt,
too busy hiding away for his own use the gold and pearls
knew he must have found in the river of Paradise he said
Then came five shiploads of Indian slaves, sent to Spain
Columbus, and along with them came the story that Columbus
forgiven Roldan for his rebellion and given him lands and
King Ferdinand had never really liked Columbus and had
been sorry that he had given him so much power and so large
share in the profits. The queen, too, began to think that
Columbus was a good sailor, he was a very poor governor.
she heard of the shiploads of slaves he had sent, and found
that among the poor creatures were the daughters of some
chiefs, or caciques, of the Indians, she was very angry,
asked how "her viceroy" dared to use "her
vassals" so without
letting her know about it. "Things were indeed beginning
bad for Columbus. The king and queen had promised that
members of the Admiral's family should be sent to govern
island; they had promised that no one but himself should
right to trade in the new lands. But now they began to
go back on
their promises. If Columbus cannot find us gold and spices,
said, other men can. So they gave permission to other captains
explore and trade in the western lands. And as the complaints
against the Admiral kept coming they began to talk of sending
over some one else to govern the islands.
More letters came from Columbus asking the king and queen
him keep up his slave-trade, and to send out some one to
act as a
judge of his quarrel with Roldan. Then the king and queen
that something must be done at once. The queen ordered
of the slaves Columbus had sent over, and the king told
his officers named Bobadilla to go over to Hayti and set
straight. And he sent a letter by him commanding Columbus
with him, to give up all the forts and arms in the colony
obey Bobadilla in all things.
Bobadilla sailed at once. But before he got across the
matters, as we know, had been straightened out by the Admiral;
and when Bobadilla reached Hayti he found everything quiet
Columbus had made friends with Roldan (or made believe
had), and had got things into good running order again.
This was not what Bobadilla had reckoned upon. He had
find things in such a bad way that he would have to take
into his own hand at once, and become a greater man than
Admiral. If everything was all right he would have his
for nothing and everybody would laugh at him. So he determined
go ahead, even though there was no necessity for his taking
charge of affairs. He had been sent to do certain things,
did them at once. Without asking Columbus for his advice
assistance, he took possession of the forts and told every
that he was governor now. He said that he had come to set
straight, and he listened to the complaints of all the
sheep of the colony--and how they did crowd around him
the worst things they could think of against the Admiral
once been so anxious to follow.
Bobadilla listened to all their stories. He proceeded
to use the
power the king and queen had given him to punish and disgrace
Columbus--which was not what they meant him to do. He moved
the palace of the Admiral; he ordered the Admiral and his
brothers to come to him, and when they came expecting to
things over, Bobadilla ordered that they be seized as prisoners
and traitors, that they be chained hand and foot and put
Columbus's saddest day had come. The man who had found
world for his king and queen, who had worked so hard in
service and who had meant to do right, although he had
mistakes, was thrust into prison as if he were a thief
murderer. The Admiral of the Ocean Seas, the Viceroy of
Indies, the grand man whom all Spain had honored and all
world had envied, was held as a prisoner in the land he
found, and all his powers were taken by a stranger. He
he was disappointed, he was defeated in all his plans.
And now he
was in chains. His third voyage had ended the worst of
had sailed away to find Cathay; he had, so he believed,
Garden of Eden and the river of Paradise. And here, as
an end to
it all, he was arrested by order of the king and queen
tried to serve, his power and position were taken from
him by an
insolent and unpitying messenger from Spain; he was thrown
prison and after a few days he was hurried with his brothers
board a ship and sent to Spain for trial and punishment.
would it all turn out? Was it not a sad and sorry ending
bright dreams of success?