The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

Thus honored by the sovereigns, courted by the great, idolized by the people, Columbus, for a time, drank the honeyed draught of popularity, before enmity and detraction had time to drug it with bitterness. His discovery burst with such sudden splendor upon the world as to dazzle envy itself, and to call forth the general acclamations of mankind. Well would it be for the honor of human nature, could history, like romance, close with the consummation of the hero's wishes; we should then leave Columbus in the full fruition of great and wellmorited prosperity. But his history is destined to furnish another proof, if proof be wanting, of the inconstancy of public favor, even when won by distinguished services. No greatness was ever acquired by more incontestable, unalloyed, and exalted benefits rendered to mankind, yet none ever drew on its possessor more unremitting jealousy and defamation; or involved him in more unmerited distress and difficulty. Thus it is with illustrious merit: its very effulgence draws forth the rancorous passions of low and grovelling minds, which too often have a temporary influence in obscuring it to the world; as the sun emerging with full splendor into the heavens, calls up, by the very fervor of its rays, the rank and noxious vapors, which, for a time, becloud its glory.


CHAPTER VIII.
PAPAL BULL OF PARTITION—PREPARATIONS FOR A SECOND
VOYAGE OF COLUMBUS.

[ 1493.]

In the midst of their rejoicings the Spanish sovereigns lost no time in taking every measure necessary to secure their new acquisitions. Although it was supposed that the countries just discovered were part of the territories of the Grand Khan, and of other Oriental princes considerably advanced in civilization, yet there does not appear to have been the least doubt of the right of their Catholic majesties to take possession of them. During the Crusades a doctrine had been established among Christian princes extremely favorable to their ambitious designs. According to this, they had the right to invade, ravage,

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