8 - Trying it Again
Do you not think Columbus must have
felt very fine as he sailed
out of Cadiz Harbor on his second voyage to the West? It
about a year before, you know, that his feeble fleet of
little ships sailed from Palos port. His hundred sailors
go; his friends were few; everybody else said he was crazy;
success was very doubtful. Now, as he stood on the high
quarter-deck of his big flag-ship, the Maria Galante, he
great man. By appointment of his king and queen he was "Admiral
of the Ocean Seas" and "Viceroy of the Indies." He
to do as he directed; he had supreme command over the seventeen
ships of his fleet, large and small; fifteen hundred men
crowded his decks, while thousands left at home wished
might go with him, too. He had soldiers and sailors, horsemen
footmen; his ships were filled with all the things necessary
trading with the Indians and the great merchants of Cathay,
for building the homes of those who wished to live in the
beyond the sea.
Everything looked so well and everybody was so full of
expectation that the Admiral felt that now his fondest
were coming to pass and that he was a great man indeed.
This was to be a hunt for gold. And so sure of success
Columbus that he promised the king and queen of Spain,
out of the
money he should make on this voyage, to, himself pay for
fitting out of a great army of fifty thousand foot soldiers
four thousand horsemen to drive away the pagan Turks who
captured and held possession of the city of Jerusalem and
sepulcher of Christ. For this had been the chief desire,
years and years, of the Christian people of Europe. To
it many brave knights and warriors had fought and failed.
Columbus was certain he could do it.
So, out into the western ocean sailed the great expedition
Admiral. He sailed first to the Canary Isles, where he
aboard wood and water and many cattle, sheep and swine.
the seventeenth of October, he steered straight out into
broad Atlantic, and on Sunday, the third of November, he
hill-tops of one of the West India Islands that he named
Dominica. You can find it on your map of the West Indies.
For days he sailed on, passing island after island, landing
some and giving them names. Some of them were inhabited,
them were not; some were very large, some were very small.
none of them helped him in any way to find Cathay, so at
steered toward Hayti (or Hispaniola, as he called it) and
little ship-built fortress of La Navidad, where his forty
comrades had been left.
On the twenty-seventh of November, the fleet of the Admiral
anchor off the solitary fort. It was night. No light was
seen on the shore; through the darkness nothing could be
that looked like the walls of the fort. Columbus fired
then he fired another. The echoes were the only answer.
be sound sleepers in our fortress there, said the Admiral.
last, over the water he heard the sound of oars--or was
dip of a paddle? A voice called for the Admiral; but it
was not a
Spanish voice. The interpreter--who was the only one left
those ten stolen Indians carried by Columbus to Spain--came
the Admiral's side; by the light of the ship's lantern
make out the figure of an Indian in his canoe. He brought
presents from his chief. But where are my men at the fort?
the Admiral. And then the whole sad story was told.
The fort of La Navidad was destroyed; the Spaniards were
dead; the first attempt of Spain to start a colony in the
world was a terrible failure. And for it the Spaniards
were to blame.
After Columbus had left them, the forty men in the fort
do as he told them or as they had solemnly promised. They
lazy; they were rough; they treated the Indians badly;
quarreled among themselves; some of them ran off to live
woods. Then sickness came; there were two "sides," each
jealous of the other; the Indians became enemies. A fiery
war-chief from the hills, whose name was Caonabo, led the
against the white men. The fort and village were surprised,
surrounded and destroyed. And the little band of "conquerors"--as
the Spaniards loved to call themselves--was itself conquered
It was a terrible disappointment to Columbus. The men
in whom he
had trusted had proved false. The gold he had told them
together they had not even found. His plans had all gone
But Columbus was not the man to stay defeated. His fort
destroyed, his men were killed, his settlement was a failure.
can't be helped now, he said. I will try again.
This time he would not only build a fort, he would build
He had men and material enough to do this and to do it
he set to work.
But the place where he had built from the wreck of the
Santa Maria his unlucky fort of La Navidad did not suit
was low, damp and unhealthy. He must find a better place.
looking about for some time he finally selected a place
northern side of the island. You can find it if you look
map of Hayti in the West Indies; it is near to Cape Isabella.
He found here a good harbor for ships, a good place on
for a fort, and good land for gardens. Here Columbus laid
new town, and called it after his friend the queen of Spain,
city of Isabella.
He marked out a central spot for his park or square; around
ran a street, and along this street he built large stone
buildings for a storehouse, a church and a house for himself,
governor of the colony. On the side streets were built
for the people who were to live in the new town, while
on a rocky
point with its queer little round tower looking out to
the stone fort to protect the little city. It was the first
settlement made by white men in all the great new world
You must know that there are some very wise and very bright
people who do not agree to this. They say that nearly five
hundred years before Columbus landed, a Norwegian prince
viking, whose name was Leif Ericsson, had built on the
the beautiful Charles River, some twelve miles from Boston,
city which he called Norumbega.
But this has not really been proved. It is almost all
of a wise man who has studied it out for himself, and says
believes there was such a city. But he does not really
know it as
we know of the city of Isabella, and so we must still say
Christopher Columbus really discovered America and built
first fort and the first city on its shores-- although
he was doing all this in Asia, on the shores of China or
When Columbus had his people nearly settled in their new
Isabella, he remembered that the main thing he was sent
to do was
to get together as much gold as possible. His men were
grumbling. They had come over the sea, they said, not to
cellars and build huts, but to find gold --gold that should
them rich and great and happy.
So Columbus set to work gold-hunting. At first things
promise success. The Indians told big stories of gold to
in the mountains of Hayti; the men sent to the mountains
discovered signs of gold, and at once Columbus sent home
tidings to the king and queen of Spain.
Then he and his men hunted everywhere for the glittering
metal. They fished for it in the streams; they dug for
it in the
earth; they drove the Indians to hunt for it also until
redmen learned to hate the very sound of the word gold,
believed that this was all the white men lived for, cared
worked for; holding up a piece of this hated gold the Indians
would say, one to another: "Behold the Christian's
god!" And so
it came about that the poor worried natives, who were not
such hard work, took the easiest way out of it all, and
Spaniards the biggest kind of lies as to where gold might
found--always away off somewhere else--if only the white
would go there to look for it.
On the thirteenth of January, 1494, Columbus sent back
twelve of his seventeen ships. He did not send back in
the king, and queen, the gold he had promised. He sent
letters that promised gold; he sent back as prisoners for
punishment some of the most discontented and quarrelsome
colonists; and, worst of all, he sent to the king and queen
note asking, them to permit him to send to Spain all the
he could catch, to be sold as slaves. He said that by doing
they could make "good Christians" of the Indians,
while the money
that came from selling the natives would buy cattle for
colony and leave some money for the royal money-chests.
It is not pleasant to think this of so great a man as
But it is true, and he is really the man who, started the
slave-trade in America. Of course things were very different
his time from what they are to-day, and people did not
badly of this horrible business. But some good men did,
out boldly against it. What they said was not of much use,
however, and slavery was started in the new world. And
act of Columbus came much sorrow and trouble for the land
found. Even the great war between the northern and southern
sections of our own United States, upon one side or the
which your fathers, or your grandfathers perhaps, fought
and sword, was brought about by this act of the great Admiral
Columbus hundreds of years before.
So the twelve ships sailed back to Spain, and Columbus,
five remaining ships, his soldiers and his colonists, remained
the new city of Isabella to keep up the hunt for gold or
become farmers in the new world.