Page images

diabolical, sacred in his eyes. We see him in this transaction, notwithstanding the superiority of his character to that of his followers, establishing himself as the apostle and founder of that system of destruction and enslavement of the Americans, which the Spaniards followed up to so horrible an extent. We see him here as the first to attack them, in their own rightful possessions, with arms-the first to pursue them with those ferocious dogs, which became so infamously celebrated in the Spanish outrages on the Americans, that some of them, as the dog Berezillo, received the full pay of soldiers; the first to exact gold from the natives; and to reduce them to slavery. Thus, from the first moment of modern discovery, and by the first discoverer himself, commenced that apostleship of misery which has been so zealously exercised towards the natives of all newly discovered countries up to this hour!

The immediate consequences of these acts of Columbus were these: the natives were driven to despair by the labours and exactions imposed upon them. They had never till then known what labour, or the curse of avarice was; and they formed a scheme to drive out their oppressors by famine. They destroyed the crops in the fields, and fled into the mountains. But there, without food themselves, they soon perished, and that so rápidly and miserably, that in a few months one-third of the inhabitants of the whole island had disappeared! Fresh succours arrived from Spain, and soon after, as if to realize to the afflicted natives all the horrors of the infernal regions, Spain, and at the suggestions of Columbus too, emptied all her gaols, and vomited all her malefactors on their devoted

shores! A piece of policy so much admired in Europe, that it has been imitated by all other colonizing nations, and by none so much as by England! The consequences of this abominable system soon became conspicuous in the distractions, contentions, and disorders of the colony; and in order to soothe and appease these, Columbus resorted to fresh injuries on the natives, dividing their lands amongst his mutinous followers, and giving away the inhabitants—the real possessors-along with them as slaves! Thus he was the originator of those REPARTIMENTOS, or distribution of the Indians that became the source of such universal calamities to them, and of the extinction of more than fifty millions of their race.

Though Providence permitted these things, it did not leave them unavenged. If ever there was a history of the divine retribution written in characters of light, it is that of Spain and the Spaniards in America. On Spain itself the wrath of God seemed to fall with a blasting and enduring curse. From being one of the most powerful and distinguished nations of Europe, it began from the moment that the gold of America, gathered amidst the tears and groans, and dyed with the blood of the miserable and perishing natives, flowed in a full stream into it, to shrink and dwindle, till at once poor and proud, indolent and superstitious, it has fallen a prey to distractions that make it the most melancholy spectacle in Europe. On one occasion Columbus witnessed a circumstance so singular that it struck not only him but every one to whom the knowledge of it came. After he himself had been disgraced and sent home in chains, being then on another voyage of discovery, and refused

entrance into the port of St. Domingo by the governor-he saw the approach of a tempest, and warned the governor of it, as the royal fleet was on the point of setting sail for Spain. His warning was disregarded; the fleet set sail, having on board Bovadillo, the ex-governor, Roldan, and other officers, men who had been not only the fiercest enemies of Columbus, but the most rapacious plunderers and oppressors of the natives. The tempest came; and these men, with sixteen vessels laden with an immense amount of guilty wealth, were all swallowed up in the ocean— leaving only two ships afloat, one of which contained the property of Columbus!

But the fortunes of Columbus were no less disastrous. Much, and perhaps deservedly as he has been pitied for the treatment which he received from an ungrateful nation, it has always struck me that, from the period that he departed from the noble integrity of his character; butchered the naked Indians on their own soil, instead of resenting and redressing their injuries; from the hour that he set the fatal example of hunting them with dogs, of exacting painful labours and taxes, that he had no right to impose,—from the moment that he annihilated their ancient peace and liberty, the hand of God's prosperity went from him. His whole life was one continued scene of disasters, vexations, and mortifications. Swarms of lawless and rebellious spirits, as if to punish him for letting loose on this fair continent the pestilent brood of the Spanish prisons, ceased not to harass and oppose him. Maligned by these enemies, and sent to Europe in chains; there seeking restoration in vain, he set out on fresh discoveries. But, wherever he went misfor

tune pursued him. Denied entrance into the very countries he had discovered; defeated by the natives that his men unrighteously attacked; shipwrecked in Jamaica, before it possessed a single European colony, he was there left for above twelve months, suffering incredible hardships, and amongst his mutinous Spaniards that threatened his life on the one hand, and Indians weary of their presence on the other. Having seen his authority usurped in the new world, he returned to the old,-there the death of Isabella, the only soul that retained a human feeling, extinguished all hope of redress of his wrongs; and after a weary waiting for justice on Ferdinand, he died, worn out with grief and disappointment. He had denied justice to the inhabitants of the world he had found, and justice was denied him; he had condemned them to slavery, and he was sent home in chains; he had given over the Indians to that thraldom of despair which broke the hearts of millions, and he himself died broken-hearted.



Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening for the prey; to shed blood, and to destroy souls, and to get dishonest gain. Ezekiel xxii. 27.

BUT whether Columbus or others were in power, the miseries of the Indians went on. Bovadillo, the governor who superseded Columbus, and loaded him with irons, only bestowed allotments of Indians with a more liberal hand, to ingratiate himself with the fierce adventurers who filled the island. Raging with the quenchless thirst of gold, these wretches drove the poor Indians in crowds to the mountains, and compelled them to labour so mercilessly in the mines, that they melted away as rapidly as snow in the sun. It is true that the atrocities thus committed reaching the ears of Isabella, instructions were from time to time sent out, declaring the Indians free subjects, and enjoining mercy towards them; but like all instructions of the sort sent so far from home, they were resisted and set aside. The Indians, ever and anon, stung with despair, rose against their oppressors, but it was only to perish by the sword instead of the mine-they were

« PreviousContinue »