Second Voyage: Flotilla of seventeen vessels—Island of Ferro—Dominica—Marie-Galante—Guadaloupe—The Cannibals—Montserrat—Santa-Maria-la-Rodonda—St. Martin and Santa Cruz—Archipelago of the Eleven Thousand Virgins—The island of St. John Baptist, or Porto Rico—Hispaniola—The first Colonists massacred—Foundation of the town of Isabella—Twelve ships laden with treasure sent to Spain—Fort St. Thomas built in the Province of Cibao—Don Diego, Columbus' brother, named Governor of the Island—Jamaica—The Coast of Cuba—The Remora—Return to Isabella—The Cacique made prisoner—Revolt of the Natives—Famine—Columbus traduced in Spain—Juan Aguado sent as Commissary to Isabella—Gold-mines—Departure of Columbus—His arrival at Cadiz.

The narrative of the adventures of the great Genoese navigator had over-excited the minds of the hearers. Imagination already caught glimpses of golden continents situated beyond the seas. All the passions which are engendered by cupidity were seething in the people's hearts. The admiral, under pressure of public opinion, must set forth again with the most brief delay. He was himself also, eager to return to the theatre of his conquests, and to yet enrich the maps of the day with more new discoveries. He declared himself, therefore, ready to start.

The king and queen placed at his disposal a flotilla composed of three large ships and fourteen caravels. Twelve hundred men were to sail in them. Several Castilian nobles, with firm faith in the lucky star of Columbus, decided to try their fortune with him beyond seas. In the holds of the vessels were horses, cattle, instruments of all kinds for collecting and purifying gold, grain of various kinds; in a word, everything that might be needful in the establishing an important colony. Of the ten natives brought to Europe, five returned to their country, three, who were ill, remained behind in Europe, the other two were dead. Columbus was named captain-general of the squadron, with unlimited powers.

On the 25th of September, 1493, the seventeen ships left Cadiz, with all sails set, amidst the acclamations of an immense crowd of people and on the 1st of October, they cast anchor at the island of Ferro, the most westerly of the Canary group. On sailing again, the fleet was favoured by wind and sea, and after twenty-three days of navigation came in sight of new land. At sunrise on the 3rd of November, being the Sunday in the octave of All Saints, the pilot of the flag-ship, the Marie-Galante, cried out, "Good news, there is land." This land proved to be an island covered with trees; the admiral, thinking it uninhabited, did not stop; but, after passing several scattered islets, he arrived before a second island. The first he named Dominica, the second Marie-Galante, names which they retain to the present day. The next day a still larger island was in sight, and, says the narrative of this voyage given by Peter Martyr, the contemporary of Columbus, "When they were arrived, they saw it was the island of the infamous cannibals, or Caribbees, of whom they had only heard a rumour during the first voyage."

The Spaniards, well armed, landed upon the shore, where they found about thirty circular houses built of wood and covered with palm leaves. In the interior of the huts were suspended hammocks made of cotton. In the centre of the village were placed two trees or posts around which were entwined the dead bodies of two serpents. At the approach of the strangers the natives fled in haste, leaving behind them several prisoners whom they were preparing to devour. The sailors searched the houses, and found both leg and arm bones, heads so newly cut off that the blood was still moist, and other human remains, which left no doubt as to the food consumed by these Caribbees. This island, which, with its principal rivers, the admiral caused to be partially explored, was named Guadaloupe, on account of the resemblance it bore to one of the Spanish provinces. Some Indian women were carried off by the sailors, but, after having been kindly treated on board the admiral's ship, they were sent back to land, Columbus hoping that this conduct towards the females would induce the men of the place to come on board, but in this he was disappointed.

The sailors find some recently-severed heads
The sailors find some recently-severed heads.

On the 8th of November the signal for departure was given, and the whole fleet sailed for Hispaniola, the present San Domingo, and the island upon which Columbus had left thirty-nine of the companions of his first voyage. In turning again towards the north, a large island was discovered, to which the natives who had been kept on board after having been saved from the jaws of the Caribbees, gave the name of Mandanino. They declared that it was inhabited only by women, and as Marco Polo had mentioned an Asiatic country which possessed an exclusively feminine population, Columbus was confirmed in the idea that he was sailing upon the coast of Asia. He felt a great desire to explore this island, but the contrary winds completely prevented his doing so. Thirty miles from thence an island was seen surrounded by high mountains; it received the name of Montserrat; on the next day another, which was called Santa-Maria la Rodonda; and on the day following two more islands, St. Martin and Santa Cruz.

The squadron anchored before Santa Cruz, to take in water. There occurred a scene of grave import, reported by Peter Martyr in such expressive words, that we cannot do better than quote them: "The admiral," he says, "ordered thirty men from his ship to go ashore and explore the island; and these men, being landed on the coast, were aware of four dogs and as many young men and women coming towards them, extending their arms in supplication, and praying for help and deliverance from the cruel people. The cannibals on seeing this fled, as in the island of Guadaloupe, and all retired into the forests. And our people remained two days on the island to visit it.

"During that time, those who had remained with the boat saw a canoe coming towards them from a distance, containing eight men and as many women; to these our people made signs; but they on approaching, began to transpierce ours with their arrows, before they had time to cover themselves with their bucklers, so that one Spaniard was killed by a shaft aimed by a woman, who also transfixed another with a second arrow. These savages had poisoned arrows, the poison being contained in the tip; amongst them was a woman whom all the others obeyed, bowing before her. And this was, as they conjectured, a queen, having a son of cruel appearance, robust, and with the face of a lion, who followed her.

"Ours then, considering that it was better to fight hand to hand, than to wait for greater evils in thus fighting at a distance, advanced their boat by rowing, and by so great violence did they make it move forward, that the stern of the said boat came with such velocity, it caused the enemies' canoe to founder.

"But these Indians, being very good swimmers, without moving themselves either more slowly or more rapidly, did not cease, both men and women, to shoot arrows with all their might, at our people. And they succeeded in reaching, by swimming, a rock covered with the water, upon which they mounted, and still fought manfully. Nevertheless, they were finally taken, and one of them slain, and the son of the queen, pierced in two places; when they were taken to the admiral's ship they showed no less ferociousness and atrocity of mien, than if they had been lions of Libya who felt themselves taken in the net. And such were they that no man could have even looked upon them without his heart trembling with horror, so greatly was their look hideous, terrible, and infernal."

From all this it is clear that the strife between the Indians and the Europeans was beginning to be serious. Columbus sailed again towards the north, going in the midst of islands "pleasant and innumerable," covered with forests overshadowed by mountains of various hues. This collection of islands was called the Archipelago of the Eleven Thousand Virgins. Soon appeared the island of St. John Baptist (now Porto Rico), a place infested by Caribbees, but cultivated with care, and appearing truly superb from its immense woods. Some sailors landed upon the shore, but only found there a dozen uninhabited huts. The admiral put to sea again, and sailed along the southern coast of Porto Rico for about one hundred and fifty miles.

On Friday, the 12th of November, Columbus at last reached the island of Hispaniola. With what emotions must he not have been agitated in revisiting the theatre of his first success, in seeking to behold that fortress in which he had left his companions! What might not have happened in the course of a year to those Europeans left alone in this barbarous land? Soon a great canoe, bringing the brother of the Cacique Guacanagari, came alongside of the Marie-Galante, and the Indian prince springing on board, offered two images of gold to the admiral. Still Columbus sought for his fortress, but, although he had anchored opposite its site, there was no trace whatever to be seen of it. With feelings of the deepest anxiety as to the fate of his companions, he went on shore. What was his dismay, when he found nothing left of the fortress but a few ashes! What could have become of his compatriots? Had their lives been the forfeit of this first attempt at colonization? The admiral ordered the simultaneous discharge of the cannon from all the ships to announce his arrival at Hispaniola. But none of his companions appeared. Columbus, in despair, immediately despatched messengers to the Cacique Guacanagari; who, on their return brought sad news. If Guacanagari might be believed, some other caciques, irritated by the presence of the foreigners in their island, had attacked the unfortunate colonists, and had massacred them to the last man. Guacanagari himself had received a wound in endeavouring to defend them, and to corroborate his story he showed his leg enveloped in a cotton bandage.

Columbus did not believe in this intervention of the cacique, but, resolving to dissimulate, he welcomed Guacanagari kindly when he came on board the next day; the cacique accepted an image of the Virgin, suspending it on his bosom. He appeared astonished at the sight of the horses which they showed him, these animals having been hitherto quite unknown to himself and his companions. When his visit was over, he returned to the shore, regained the region of mountains, and was seen no more.

The admiral then despatched one of his captains with three hundred men under his orders, to scour the country and carry off the cacique. This captain penetrated far into the interior, but found no traces of the cacique, nor of the unfortunate colonists. During this excursion, a great river was discovered, and also a fine sheltered harbour, which was named Port Royal. However, in spite of the bad success of his first attempt, Columbus had resolved to found a new colony upon this island, which appeared to be rich both in gold and silver. The natives constantly spoke of mines situated in the province of Cibao, and in the month of January two gentlemen, Alonzo de Hojeda and Corvalan, set out accompanied by a numerous escort to verify these assertions. They discovered four rivers having auriferous sands, and brought back with them a nugget which weighed nine ounces. The admiral on seeing these riches was confirmed in his idea that Hispaniola was the famous Ophir, spoken of in the Book of Kings. After looking for a site upon which to build a town, he laid the foundation of Isabella in a spot at the mouth of a river which formed a harbour, and at a distance of thirty miles east from Monte Christi. On the Feast of the Epiphany, thirteen priests officiated in the church in presence of an immense crowd of natives.

Columbus was now anxious to send news of the colony to the King and Queen of Spain. Twelve ships laden with gold collected in the island, and with various specimens of the produce of the soil, were prepared to return to Europe under the command of Captain Torrès. This flotilla set sail on the 2nd of February, 1494, and a short time afterwards Columbus sent back one more of the five ships which remained to him, with the Lieutenant Bernard of Pisa, against whom he had cause of complaint.

As soon as order was established in the colony of Isabella, the admiral, leaving his brother behind as governor, set out, accompanied by five hundred men, to visit the mines of Cibao. The country they traversed seemed to be splendidly fertile; vegetables came to perfection in thirteen days; corn sown in February was in full ear in April, and each year yielded two abundant harvests. They crossed successively mountains and valleys, where often the pick-axe had to be used to clear a way over these still virgin lands; at last the Spaniards arrived at Cibao. There the admiral caused a fort to be constructed of wood and stone on a hill near the brink of a large river; it was surrounded with a deep ditch, and Columbus bestowed upon it the name of St. Thomas, in derision of some of his officers who were incredulous upon the subject of the gold-mines. It ill became them to doubt, for from all parts the natives brought nuggets and gold dust, which they were eager to exchange for beads, and above all for the hawks' bells, of which the silvery sound excited them to dance. This country was not only a land of gold, it was also a country rich in spices and aromatic gums, the trees which bore them forming quite large forests. The Spaniards considered the conquest of this wealthy island a cause of unmixed congratulation.

Columbus left fifty-six men to guard the Fort of St. Thomas, under the command of Don Pedro de Margarita, while he returned to Isabella, towards the beginning of April, being much hindered on the road by excessive rain. On his arrival he found the infant colony in great disorder; famine was threatening from the want of flour, which could not be obtained, for there were no mills; both soldiers and workmen were exhausted with fatigue. Columbus sought to oblige the gentlemen to aid them; but these proud Hidalgos, anxious as they were to conquer fortune, would not stoop to pick it up, and refused to perform any manual labour. The priests upholding them in this conduct, Columbus, who was forced to act with vigour, was obliged to place the churches under an interdict. He could not spare time to remain any longer at Isabella, but was in haste to make further discoveries; therefore, having formed a council, composed of three gentlemen and the chief of the missionaries, under the presidency of Don Diego, to govern the colony, he set out on the 24th of April with three vessels, to complete the cycle of his discoveries.

The flotilla sailing towards the south, a new island was soon discovered, which was called by the natives Jamaica. The highest point of the island was a mountain of which the sides sloped gently down. The inhabitants appeared clever, and much given to the mechanical arts, but they were far from pacific in character, and several times opposed the landing of the Spaniards, who, however, repulsed them, and at length the savages were induced to conclude a treaty of alliance with the admiral. From Jamaica Columbus pushed his researches more towards the west. He imagined himself to be arrived at the point where the old geographers placed the golden region of the west, Chersonesus. Strong currents carried him towards Cuba, along whose coast he sailed for a distance of six hundred and sixty-six miles. During this dangerous navigation amongst shallows and narrow passages, he named more than seven hundred islands, discovered a great number of harbours, and often entered into communication with the natives.

Fishermen on the coast of Cuba
Fishermen on the coast of Cuba.

In the month of May, the look-out-men on board the ships descried a large number of grassy islands, fertile and inhabited. Columbus, on approaching the shore, entered a river, of which the water was so warm that the hand could not remain in it, a fact evidently of exaggeration, and one which later researches have not authenticated. The fishermen of this coast employed a certain fish called the Remora or sucking-fish, "which fulfilled for them the same office as the dog does for the hunter. This fish was of an unknown species, having a body like a great eel, and upon the back of his head a very tenacious skin, in fashion like a purse, wherewith to take the fishes. They keep this fish fastened by a cord to the boat, always in the water, for it cannot bear the look of the air. And when they see a fish or a turtle, which there are larger than great bucklers, then they loose the fish by slackening the rope. And when he feels himself at liberty, suddenly, and more rapidly than the flight of an arrow, he (the remora) assails the said fish or turtle, throws over him his skin in the manner of a purse, and holds his prey so firmly, be it fish or turtle, by the part visible beyond the shell, that none can wrest it from him, if he be not drawn to the surface of the water; the cord is therefore pulled up, and gathered in little by little; and no sooner does he see the splendour of the air, than incontinent he lets go of his prey. And the fishermen descend as far as is necessary to take the prey, and they put it on board the boat, and fasten the fish-hunter with as much of rope as is necessary for him to regain his old position and place; then, by means of another rope, they give him for reward a small piece of the flesh of his prey."

The exploration of the coasts continued towards the west. The admiral visited several countries, in which abounded goslings, ducks, herons, and those dumb dogs which the natives eat, as we should kids, and which were probably either almigui or racoons. As the ships advanced, the sandy channels became narrower and narrower, and navigation more and more difficult, but the admiral adhered to his resolution of continuing the exploration of these coasts. One day, he imagined he saw upon a point of land some men dressed in white, whom he took for brothers of the order of Santa Maria de la Merced; he sent some sailors to open communication with them, when it proved to be simply an optical illusion; these so-called monks turning out to be great tropical herons, to whom distance had lent the appearance of human beings.

During the first days of June, Columbus was obliged to stop to repair the ships, of which the keels were much damaged by the shallow water on the coast. On the seventh day of the month he caused a solemn mass to be celebrated on the shore: during the service an old cacique arrived, who, the ceremony being over, offered the admiral some fruits, and then this native sovereign pronounced some words which the interpreters thus translated:—

"It hath been told us after what manner thou hast invested and enveloped with thy power these lands, which were to you unknown, and how thy presence has caused great terror to the people and the inhabitants. But I hold it my duty to exhort and to warn thee that two roads present themselves before the souls, when they are separated from the bodies: the one, filled with shadows and sadness destined for those who are harmful and hurtful to the human species; the other, pleasant and delightful, reserved for those who in their life-time have loved peace and the repose of the people. Therefore, if thou rememberest that thou art mortal, and that the future retribution will be meted out according to the works of the present life, thou wilt take care to do harm to nobody." What philosopher of ancient or modern time could have spoken better or in sounder language! All the human side of Christianity is expressed in these magnificent words, and they came from the mouth of a savage! Columbus and the cacique separated, charmed with one another, and the more astonished of the two was not, perhaps, the old native. The rest of his tribe appeared to live in the practice of the excellent precepts indicated by their chief. Land was common property amongst the natives, as much so as sun, air, and water. The Meum and Tuum, cause of all strife, did not exist amongst them, and they lived content with little. "They enjoy the Golden Age," says the narrative, "they protect not their possessions with ditches and hedges, they leave their gardens open; without laws, without books, without judges, they by nature follow what is right, and hold as bad and unjust whatever sins against, or causes harm to another."

Leaving Cuba, Columbus returned towards Jamaica, and sailed along the whole of the southern coast as far as the eastern extremity of the island. His intention was to attack the islands of the Caribbees, and destroy that mischievous brood. But the admiral was at this time seized with an illness, brought on by watching and fatigue, which obliged him to suspend his projects. He was forced to return to Isabella, where, under the influence of good air and repose, and the care of his brother and his friends, he recovered his health. The colony greatly needed his presence. The governor of St. Thomas had aroused the indignation of the natives by his cruel exactions, and had refused to listen to the remonstrances upon the subject addressed to him by Don Diego, the brother of Columbus; he had returned to Isabella from St. Thomas during the absence of the admiral and he embarked for Spain upon one of the ships which had just brought Don Bartolomeo, the second brother of Columbus, to Hispaniola. When the admiral regained his health he resolved to punish the cacique who had revolted against the governor of St. Thomas, feeling that it would be unwise to allow his authority, in the person of his delegates, to be set at nought. In the first place he sent nine men well armed to take prisoner a bold cacique named Caonabo. The leader Hojeda, with an intrepidity of which we shall have further instances in the future, carried off the cacique from the midst of his own people, and brought him prisoner to Isabella. Columbus afterwards sent Caonabo to Europe, but the ship in which he sailed was wrecked during the voyage, and he was never heard of more.

In the meantime, Antonio de Torrès, sent by the King and Queen of Spain to compliment Columbus in their names, arrived at San Domingo with four vessels. Ferdinand declared himself highly content with the successes of the admiral, and informed him that he was about to establish a monthly service of transport between Spain and Hispaniola.

The carrying off of Caonabo had excited a general revolt amongst the natives, who burned to revenge the chief, so deeply insulted and unjustly carried away. The Cacique Guacanagari, notwithstanding the share he had had in the murder of the first colonists, alone remained faithful to the Spaniards. Columbus, accompanied by his brother Bartolomeo and the cacique, marched against the rebels and soon met with an army of natives, the numbers of which, with manifest exaggeration, he places at 100,000 men. However numerous it may have been, this army was quickly routed by a small detachment, composed of 200 infantry, twenty-five cavalry, and twenty-five dogs. This victory to all appearance re-established the admiral's authority. The Indians were condemned to pay tribute to the Spaniards, those living near the mines were ordered to furnish every three months a small quantity of gold, while the others, more distant, were to contribute twenty-five pounds of cotton. But rebellion had been only curbed, not extinguished. At the voice of a woman, Anacaona, widow of Caonabo, the natives rose a second time; and even succeeded in drawing over the hitherto faithful Guacanagari to their side; the rebels destroyed all the fields of maize, and everything else which had been planted, and then retired into the mountains. The Spaniards, seeing themselves thus reduced to all the horrors of famine, indulged their anger by terrible reprisals against the natives; it is calculated that one-third of the island population perished from hunger, sickness, and the weapons of the companions of Columbus. These unfortunate Indians paid dearly indeed for their intercourse with the conquering Europeans.

The good fortune of Columbus was by this time on the wane. While his authority in Hispaniola was continually more and more compromised, his reputation and his character were the objects of violent attack in Europe. The officers whom he had sent back to the mother country, loudly accused him of injustice and cruelty; they even insinuated that he sought to render himself independent of the king; and against all these attacks, Columbus, being absent, could not defend himself. Ferdinand, influenced by this unworthy discourse, chose a commissioner, whom he ordered to proceed to the West Indies and to examine into the truth of the accusations. This gentleman was named Juan d'Aguado, and the choice of such a man to fulfil such a mission, possessing as he did a mind both prejudiced and partial, was not a happy one. Aguado arrived at Isabella in the month of October, at the time when the admiral was absent on an exploring expedition, and began at once to treat the brother of Columbus with extreme haughtiness, while Diego on his side, relying upon his title of governor-general, refused to submit to the commands of the royal commissioner. Aguado soon considered himself ready to return to Spain, although the examination he had made was a most incomplete one, when a fearful hurricane occurred, which sank the vessels which had brought him over in the harbour. There now remained only two caravels at Hispaniola, but Columbus, who had returned to the colony, acting with a greatness of soul which cannot be too much admired, placed one of these ships at the disposal of the commissioner, with the proviso that he himself would embark in the other, to plead his cause in person before the king.

So matters stood, when the news arriving of the discovery of fresh gold-mines in Hispaniola, caused the admiral to put off his departure. Covetousness was a power strong enough to cut short all discussions; there was no longer any mention of the King of Spain, nor of the inquiry which he had ordered; officers were sent off to the new auriferous ground, finding there nuggets of which some weighed as much as twenty ounces, and a lump of amber of the weight of 300 pounds. Columbus ordered two fortresses to be erected for the protection of the miners, one on the boundary of the province of Cibao, the other upon the banks of the River Hayna. Having taken this precaution, he set out for Europe, full of eagerness to justify himself. The two caravels sailed from the harbour of St. Isabella on the 10th of March, 1496. On board of the admiral's ship were 225 persons and thirty Indians. On the 9th of April he touched at Marie-Galante, and on the 10th at Guadaloupe, to take in water; here there occurred a sharp skirmish with the natives. On the 20th he left this inhospitable island, and for a whole month he had to contend with contrary winds. On the 11th of June land was sighted in Europe, and on the next day the caravels entered the harbour of Cadiz.

This second return of the great navigator was not welcomed, as the first had been, by the acclamations of the populace. To enthusiasm had succeeded coldness and envy; the companions even of the admiral took part against him. Discouraged as they were, with illusions destroyed, and not bringing back that wealth, for the acquisition of which they had encountered so many dangers, and submitted to so much fatigue, they became unjust, and forgot that it was not the fault of Columbus if the mines hitherto worked had been a source of expense rather than of profit.

However, the admiral was received at court with a certain measure of favour, the narrative of his second voyage doing much to reinstate him in public opinion. And who could deny that during that expedition he had discovered the islands of Dominica, Marie-Galante, Guadaloupe, Montserrat, Santa-Maria, Santa Cruz, Porto Rico, Jamaica? Had he not also carried out a new survey of Cuba and San Domingo? Columbus fought bravely against his adversaries, even employing against them the weapon of irony. To those who denied the merit of his discoveries, he proposed the experiment of making an egg remain upright while resting upon one end, and when they could not succeed in doing this, the admiral, breaking the top of the shell, made the egg stand upon the broken part. "You had not thought of that," said he; "but behold! it is done."