Spanish Voyages of Discovery

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

origin, far different from the soft and gentle inhabitants of the islands. They wielded great swords of palm-wood, defended themselves with osier targets, and dipped their arrows in the subtle poison. The women, as well as the men, mingled in battle, being expert in drawing the bow and throwing a species of lance called the azagay. The warning was well timed, for the Indians of these parts had been irritated by the misconduct of previous adventurers, and flew to arms on the first appearance of the ships.

Juan de la Cosa now feared for the safety of the enterprise in which he had person, fortune, and official dignity at stake. He earnestly advised Ojeda to abandon this dangerous neighbourhood, and to commence a settlement in the gulf of Uraba, where the people were less ferocious, and did not use poisoned weapons. Ojeda was too proud of spirit to alter his plans through fear of a naked foe. It is thought, too, that he had no objection to a skirmish, being desirous of a pretext to make slaves to be sent to Hispaniola in discharge of the debts he had left unpaid.* He landed, therefore, with a considerable part of his force, and a number of friars, who had been sent out to convert the Indians. His faithful lieutenant, being unable to keep him out of danger, stood by to second him.

Ojeda advanced towards the savages, and ordered the friars to read aloud a certain formula which had recently been digested by profound jurists and divines in Spain. It began in stately form. "I, Alonzo do Ojeda, servant of the most high and mighty sovereigns of Castile and Leon, conquerors of barbarous nations, their messenger and captain, do notify unto you, and make you know, in the best way I can, that God our Lord, one and eternal, created the heaven and the earth, and one man and one woman, from whom you and we, and all the people of the earth proceeded, and are descendants, as well as those who shall come hereafter." The formula then went on to declare the fundamental principles of the Catholic Faith: the supreme powor given to St. Peter over the world and all the human race, and exercised by his representative the pope; the donation made by a late pope of all this part of the world and all its inhabitants, to the Catholic sovereigns of Castile; and the ready obedience which had already been paid by many of its lands and islands and people to the agents and represent atives of those sovereigns. It called upon those savages pres

____________________
*
Las Casas. Hist. Ind. 1. ii. c. 57, MS

-49-

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