The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

He was bountiful, hospitable, affectionate, and kind-hearted; competent to rule a gentle and unwarlike people in the happier days of the island, but unfitted, through the softness of his nature, for the stern turmoil which followed the arrival of the white men.


CHAPTER VIII.
INTRJGUES AGAINST COLUMBUS IN THE COURT OF SPAIN—AGUADO
SENT TO INVESTIGATE THE AFFAIRS OF HISPANIOLA.

[1495.]

While Columbus was endeavoring to remedy the evils produced by the misconduct of Margarite, that recreant commander and his political coadjutor, Friar Boyle, were busily undermining his reputation in the court of Castile. They accused him of deceiving the sovereigns and the public by extravagant descriptions of the countries he had discovered; they pronounced the island of Hispaniola a source of expense rather than profit, and they drew a dismal picture of the sufferings of the colony, occasioned, as they said, by the oppressions of Columbus and his brothers. They charged, them with tasking the community with excessive labor during a time of general sickness and debility; with stopping the rations of individuals on the most trifling pretext, to the great detriment of their health; with wantonly inflicting severe corporal punishments on the common people, and with heaping indignities on Spanish gentlemen of rank. They said nothing, however, of the exigencies which had called for unusual labor; nor of the idleness and profligacy which required coercion and chastisement; nor of the seditious cabals of the Spanish cavaliers, who had been treated with indulgence rather than severity. In addition to these complaints, they represented the state of confusion of the island, in consequence of the absence of the admiral, and the uncertainty which prevailed concerning his fate, intimating the probability of his having perished in his fool-hardy attempts to explore unknown seas and discover unprofitable lands.

These prejudiced and exaggerated representations derived much weight from the official situations of Margarite and

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