« FöregåendeFortsätt »
course; but, unfortunately, they either perished at sea, or were driven to parts from whence they never returned. When the great discoverer of the West Indies first revealed his designs, he was regarded as a madman, or ridiculed as a fool; but when he had actually accomplished what he proposed, envy and malice, with their thousand tongues, were eager to lessen his reputation, and rob him of that fame which was so eminently his due. Thus, the volume before us commences with an ambiguous account of a certain pilot (who he was, or where he came from, being wholly unknown) who, having been driven out of his destined course by a terrible storm, found shelter on the shores of the new world. This man, on his return, résided in the same house with Columbus; the exertions, anxieties, and fatigues, he had undergone, reduced him to the brink of the grave; but, previous to his death, he communicated the important discovery to that intrepid navigator. We shall not attempt to refute these falsehoods; for, in the present day, the claims of the justly celebrated Columbus, as the first who ever returned from the western world, are universally allowed. Strong and general must have been the interest excited by his departure, for even his enemies could not have refrained from admiring the steady perseverance and heroic fortitude of the daring seaman, who, despising danger, difficulty, or distress, boldly turned from the shores of his home to wrestle with the tempest, and to brave the billows, in search of unknown lands. What were his own feelings on the occasion we can but faintly enter into, nor the delight, the joy, which must have almost overpowered his mind, when, according to his predictions, land first appeared to the toil-worn, fainting, cheerless mariners. Nor was it a bleak and inhospitable coast; but, from our own experience, it must have appeared to them a terrestrial paradise. The beautiful clearness of the sky, the brilliancy of the two celestial hemispheres glowing with light, and the constant verdure of the earth, must have filled them with astonishment and admiration; nor is it surprising, that, on their return to Spain, the narrative of such a voyage should be highly exaggerated; yet, on the whole, the celebrated Peter Martyr may be considered as having given a faithful' relation, derived from living sources--the discoverers themselves.
We have already, in a previous number, briefly sketched the first voyage to the finding of that devoted island, Hispaniola, where the largest vessel ran upon a sunken rock and bilged ; the crew, however, were brought off without injury.
“ Here, coming first a-land, they saw certain men of the Island, who, perceiving an unknown nation coming towards them, flocked together, and ran all into the thičk woods, as it had been hares coursed with greyhounds. Our men pursuing them, took only one woman,
whom they brought to the ships; where, filling her with meat and wine, and appareling her, they let her depart to her company. Shortly after, a great multitude of them came running to the shore, to behold this new nation, whom they thought to have descended from Heaven.”
The natives swam off to the ships, taking gold with them, which they exchanged for mere trifles, among the seamen. This latter circumstance is very remarkable, for it is evident, that the Indians placed no value upon this precious metal themselves, and why they should have conveyed it to the Spaniards, instead of provisions, appears inexplicable. Columbus, seeing the rich treasures which were poured into his lap, affirmed that he had found the island of Ophir, whither Solomon's ships sailed for gold !
“ At the even tide, about the falling of the sun, when our men went to prayer, and kneeled on their knees, after the manner of the Christians, they did the like also. And after what manner soever they saw them pray to the cross, they followed them in all points as well as they could. They shewed much humanity towards our men, and helped them with their lighters, or small boats, (which they call canoes,) to unlade their broken ship, and that with such celerity and cheerfulness, that no friend for friend, no kinsman for kinsman, in such case, moved with pity, could do more.”
6. The wild and mischievous people called Canibals, or Caribes, which were accustomed to eat men's flesh, (and called, of the old writers, Anthropophagi,) molest them exceedingly, invading their country, taking them captive, killing and eating them. Such children as they take, they geld, to make them fat, as we do cock chickens, and young hogs, and eat them when chey are well fed; of such as they eat, they first eat the entrails and extreme parts, as hands, feet, arms, neck, and head. For other most fleshy parts, they powder for store, as we do pestles of pork, and gammons of bacon; yet do they abstain from eating of women, and count it vile.”
What effect this information had upon the nerves of the Spaniards we are not told; but it appears, in their second voyage, that they became convinced of the truth, for, landing on one of the Caribbee isles,
“Our men found in their houses all kinds of earthen vessels, not much unlike unto ours. They found also, in their kitchens, men's flesh, duck's flesh, and goose flesh, all in one pot, and other on the spits, ready to be laid to the fire. Entering into their inner lodgings, they found faggots of the bones of men's arms and legs, which they reserve to make heads for their arrows, because they lack iron, the other bones they cast away, when they have eaten the flesh. They found, likewise, the head of a young man, fastened to a post, and yet bleeding, also about thirty children, captives, which were reserved to be eaten, but our men took them away to use them for interpreters.”
Many different opinions have been formed with respect to the first inhabitants of the West India islands ; it appears, however, most reasonable to suppose that the mild and peaceable natives, found by Columbus in Hispaniola and the adjacent islands, were the original founders, and that the more warlike and destructive Caribes, (or Caribbees, as it is now spelt,). emigrating from the southern continent, and finding that delightful spot of never-ceasing verdure, attacked the other Indians, and carried them away as slaves. The contrast between the two people is very striking and remarkable. The first (the Caribbees) were bold, daring, and undaunted, preferred death to the loss of liberty, and looked upon martial enterprise as the principal concern of life. They viewed all the rest of mankind as their lawful prey, yet, among themselves, were friendly, affectionate, and faithful. The latter (the Indians) were, generally, found to be submissive, kind, and patient-submissive to their subjugators-kind to their enemies, and patient under the cruel hands
of their remorseless oppressors. But very few descendants of either party now exist, and these are so mingled as to afford only a faint representation of the habits and manners of their forefathers.
In his first voyage, Columbus had left several of the crew, at Hispaniola, but, on his return, not one remained alive; they had been murdered by the natives, for their rapacity and cruelty. The first settlement of the Spaniards was at Hispaniola, but the admiral visited other large islands, Jamaica, Cuba, &c., and expressed himself delighted with their beauty, but in Jamaica, they discovered no gold to induce them to remain there. The natives, finding the Spaniards about to continue their residence among them, and smarting under the yoke which was imposed upon them, took up arms, but European science overcame the superiority of numbers, and, finally, prevailed. The brother of Columbus, who was left as governor, exacted tribute from the different kings, of whatever their territory afforded. In one excursion they fell in with a powerful chief, whose palace was situated to the west of the island, and the description of the entertainment the Spaniards received, is curious and remarkable. - When the king had espied our men, laying apart
weapons, and giving signs of peace, he spake gently to them, (uncertain whether it were of humanity or fear,) and demanded of them what they would have. The lieutenant answered, that he should pay
tribute to the admiral, bis brother, in the name of the Christian king of Spain. To whom he said, how can you require that of me, whereas never a region under my dominion bringeth forth gold? For he had heard, that there was a strange nation entered into the island which made great search for gold; but, he supposed, they desired some other thing. The lieutenant answered again, God forbid that we should enjoin any man to pay such tribute as he might not easily forbear, or such as were not engendered or growing in the region, but we understand that your regions bring forth great plenty of Gossampine cotton, and hemp, with such other, whereof we desire you to give us part."
This modest request was cheerfully complied with ; indeed, the Spaniards appear to have been well skilled in the art of taxation. The lieutenant was induced to visit the palace at Xaragua.
“Before they entered into the palace, a great multitude of the king's servants and subjects resorted to the court, honourably (after their manner) to receive their king, Beuchius Anacauchoa, with the strangers, which he brought with him, to see the magnificence of his court. But now shall you hear how they were entertained; among other triumphs and sights, two are especially to be noted : first, there met them a company of thirty women, being all the king's wives and concubines, bearing, in their hands, branches of date trees, singing and dancing; they were all naked, saving that their privy parts were covered with breeches of Gossampine cotton; but the virgins, having their hair hanging down about their shoulders, tied about the foreheads with a fillet, were utterly naked. They affirm that their faces, breasts, paps, hands, and other parts of their bodies, were exceedingly smooth, and well proportioned, but somewhat inclining to a lovely brown. They supposed that they had seen those most beautiful Dryades, or the native nymphs, or fairies of the mountains, whereof the antiques spake so much. The branches of date trees, which they bore in their right hands when they danced, they delivered to the lieutenant, with lowly curtesy, and smiling countenance. Thus, entering into the king's house, they found a delicate supper prepared for them, after their manner. When they were refreshed with meat, the night drawing on, they were brought by the king's officers, every man to his lodging, according to his degree, in certain of their houses about the palace, where they rested them in hanging beds, after the manner of the country."
They were likewise entertained with the representation of a battle, in which four of the natives were killed, and many wounded. After receiving the most kind and hospitable treatment, the lieutenant returned to his fort. In the mean time, one of the Spaniards, who had been a considerable favourite with Columbus, and, latterly, advanced by him, headed a strong party, and committed the grossest outrages on the unoffending natives, which compelled them, at last, to seek refuge in the mountains,
and, at every opportunity, to retaliate upon their persecutors. Columbus had returned to Spain, but, fearful that his growing colony would need assistance, he despatched two vessels, laden with provisions, for the use of the settlers, and, shortly afterward, followed them himself, with six more, purposing, however, first, to sail in a southerly direction. These provision vessels, unfortunately for the lieutenant, touched at a part of the island in possession of the mutineers, who immediately seized upon their cargoes, and seduced the men from their obedience. The poor Indians, who, at first, conceived their visitors to be a people descended from heaven, were soon undeceived, for no demons could be more sanguinary in their quarrels among themselves or more delight in the torture of their enemies; and they now retired from them, expecting that so cruel a nation must, before long, destroy one another. Columbus, meanwhile, was prosecuting his discoveries to the southward, near to the equinoctial line, and first noticed the equatorial current setting to the west, which is described as an “outragious fal of water, running with such a violence from the east to the west, that it was nothing inferior to a mighty stream falling from high mountains."
He landed on the continent, near the entrance of the Oronoco, and another treasure presented itself, in the abundance of pearls, collected by the natives, “having, for the most part, chains about their necks, garlands on their heads, and bracelets on their arms, of pearl of India, and that so commonly, that our women, in plays and triumphs, have not greater plenty of stones, of glasses and crystals in their garlands, crowns, girdles, and such other tirements.” They likewise obtained intelligence where these pearls could be procured in such plenty, that they were held in no estimation by the natives. This pearl fishery, in a few years afterward, became a source of vast emolument to the Spaniards.
• They entertained our men genteelly, and came flocking to them by heaps, as it had been to behold some strange monsters. First, there came to meet our men, two men of gravity, whom the multitude followed. One of these was well in age, and the other but young. They think it was the father, with his son which should succeed him. When the one had saluted and embraced the other, they brought our men into a certain round house, near unto the which was a great
Hither were brought many chairs and stools, made of a certain black wood, and very cunningly wrought. After that our men and their princes were set, their waiting men came in laden, some with sundry delicate dishes, and some with wine. But their meat was only fruits, and those of divers kinds, and utterly unknown to Their wine was both white and red, not made of grapes,
but of the liquor of divers fruits, and very pleasant in drinking. After this banquet, made in the old man's house, the young man brought them to his tabernacle, or mansion place, where was a great company, both of men and women, but they stood dissevered the one from the other. They are white, even as our men are, saving such as are much conversant in the sun. They are also very genteel, and full of humanity towards strangers. There was few, or none, that had