« PreviousContinue »
bulk of whose people were carried off as slaves to Hispaniola, and the rest having fled from their burning houses to the hills the sanguine Las Casas still attempted to found his colony. It need not be said that it failed; the Protector of the Indians retired to a monastery, and the work of Indian misery went on unrestrained. To their oppression, a new and more lasting one had been added; from their destruction, indeed, had now sprung that sorest curse of both blacks and whites-that foulest stain on the Christian name-the Slave Trade. Charles V. of Spain, with that perfect freedom to do as they pleased with all heathen nations which the Papal church had given to Spain and Portugal, had granted a patent to one of his Flemish favourites, for the importation of negroes into America. This patent he had sold to the Genoese, and these worthy merchants were now busily employed in that traffic in men which is so congenial to Christian maxims, that it has from that time been the favourite pursuit of the Christian nations; has been defended by all the arguments of the most civilized assemblies in the world, and by the authority of Holy Writ, and is going on at this hour with undiminished horrors.
It has been charged on Las Casas, that with singular inconsistency he himself suggested this diabolical trade; but of that, and of this trade, we shall say more anon. We will now conclude this chapter with the brief announcement, that Diego Columbus had now conquered Cuba, by the agency of Diego Velasquez, one of his father's captains, and thus added another grand field for the consumption of natives, and the importation of slaves. We are informed that the Cubaans were so unwarlike that no difficulty was
found in overrunning this fine island, except from a chief called Hatuey, who had fled from Hispaniola, and knew enough of the Spaniards not to desire their further acquaintance. His obstinacy furnishes this characteristic anecdote on the authority of Las Casas. "He stood upon the defensive at their first landing, and endeavoured to drive them back to their ships. His feeble troops, however, were soon broken and dispersed; and he himself being taken prison, Velasquez, according to the barbarous maxim of the Spaniards, considered him as a slave who had taken arms against his master, and condemned him to the flames."
When Hatuey was fastened to the stake, a Franciscan friar, labouring to convert him, promised him immediate admission into the joys of heaven, if he could embrace the Christian faith. "Are there any Spaniards," says he, after some pause, "in that region of bliss which you describe ?" "Yes," replied the monk, "but such only as are worthy and good." "The best of them," returned the indignant Cazique, "have neither worth nor goodness! I will not go to a place where I may meet with that accursed race!"*
The torch was clapped to the pile-Hatuey perished-and the Spaniards added Cuba to the crown without the loss of a man on their own part.
* Las Casas, in his zeal for the Indians, has been charged with exaggerating the numbers destroyed, but no one has attempted to deny the following fact asserted by him: "I once beheld four or five principal Indians roasted alive at a slow fire; and as the miserable victims poured forth dreadful screams, which disturbed the commanding officer in his afternoon slumbers-he sent word that they should be strangled; but the officer on guard (I KNOW HIS NAME—I KNOW HIS RELATIVES IN SEVILLE) would not suffer it; but causing their mouths to be gagged, that their cries might not be heard, he stirred up the fire with his own hands, and roasted them deliberately till they all expired. I SAW IT MYSELF!!!"
THE SPANIARDS IN JAMAICA AND OTHER WEST INDIAN
THE story of one West India Island, is the story of all. Whether Spaniards, French, or English took possession, the slaughter and oppression of the natives followed. I shall, therefore, quit these fair islands for the present, with a mere passing glance at a few characteristic facts.
Herrera says that Jamaica was settled prosperously, because Juan de Esquival having brought the natives to submission without any effusion of blood, they laboured in planting cotton, and raising other commodities, which yielded great profit. But Esquival in a very few years died in his office, and was buried in Sevilla Nueva, a town which he had built and destined for the seat of government. There is a dark tradition connected with the destruction of this town, which would make us infer that the mildness of Esquival's government was not imitated by his successors. The Spanish planters assert that the place was destroyed by a vast army of ants, but the popular tradition still triumphs over this tradition of the planters. It maintains, that the injured and oppressed natives rose in their
despair and cut off every one of their tyrants, and laid the place in such utter and awful ruin that it never was rebuilt, but avoided as a spot of horror. The city must have been planned with great magnificence, and laid out in great extent, for Sloane, who visited it in 1688, could discover the traces or remains of a fort, a splendid cathedral and monastery, the one inhabited by Peter Martyr, who was abbot and chief missionary of the island. He found a pavement at two miles distance from the church, an indication of the extent of the place, and also many materials for grand arches and noble buildings that had never been erected. The ruins of this city were now overgrown with wood, and turned black with age. Sloane saw timber trees growing within the walls of the cathedral upwards of sixty feet in height; and General Venables in his dispatches to Cromwell, preserved in Thurlow's State Papers, vol. iii, speaks of Seville as a town that had existed in times past.
Both ancient tradition, and recent discoveries, says Bryan Edwards, in his History of the West Indies, give too much room to believe that the work of destruction proceeded not less rapidly in this island, after Esquival's death, than in Hispaniola; for to this day caves are frequently discovered in the mountains, wherein the ground is covered almost entirely with human bones; the miserable remains, without all doubt, of some of the unfortunate aborigines, who, immured in those recesses, were probably reduced to the sad alternative of perishing with hunger or bleeding under the swords of their merciless invaders. That these are the skeletons of Indians is sufficiently attested by the skulls, which are preternaturally com
pressed. "When, therefore," says Edwards, "we are told of the fate of the Spanish inhabitants of Seville, it is impossible to feel any other emotion than an indignant wish that the story were better authenticated, and that heaven, in mercy, had permitted the poor Indians in the same moment to have extirpated their oppressors altogether! But unhappily this faint glimmering of returning light to the wretched natives, was soon lost in everlasting darkness, since it pleased the Almighty, for reasons inscrutable to finite wisdom, to permit the total destruction of this devoted people; who, to the number of 60,000, on the most moderate estimate, were at length wholly cut off and exterminated by the Spaniards-not a single descendant of either sex being alive when the English took the island in 1655, nor I believe for a century before."
The French historian, Du Tertre, informs us that his countrymen made a lawful purchase of the island of Grenada from the natives for some glass beads, knives and hatchets, and a couple of bottles of brandy for the chief himself. The nature of the bargain may be pretty well understood by the introduction of the brandy for the chief, and by the general massacre which followed, when Du Tertre himself informs us that Du Parquet, the very general who made this bargain, gave orders for extirpating the natives altogether, which was done with circumstances of the most savage barbarity, even to the women and children. The same historian assures us that St. Christopher's, the principal of the Caribbee Isles, was won by the joint exertions of Thomas Warner, an Englishman, and D'Esnambuc, the captain of a French privateer, who both seem to have entered with hearty