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Christopher Columbus and the New World

Great Expectations
July, August, and September in the year 1493 were busy months for Columbus, who had
to superintend the buying or building and fitting of ships, the choice and collection of
stores, and the selection of his company. There were fourteen caravels, some of them of
low tonnage and light draught, and suitable for the navigation of rivers; and three large
carracks, or ships of three to four hundred tons. The number of volunteers asked for was a
thousand, but at least two thousand applied for permission to go with the expedition, and
ultimately some fourteen or fifteen hundred did actually go, one hundred stowaways
being included in the number. Unfortunately these adventurers were of a class compared
with whom even the cut-throats and gaol-birds of the humble little expedition that had
sailed the year before from Palos were useful and efficient. The universal impression
about the new lands in the West was that they were places where fortunes could be
picked up like dirt, and where the very shores were strewn with gold and precious stones;
and every idle scamp in Spain who had a taste for adventure and a desire to get a great
deal of money without working for it was anxious to visit the new territory. The result
was that instead of artisans, farmers, craftsmen, and colonists, Columbus took with him a
company at least half of which consisted of exceedingly well-bred young gentlemen who
had no intention of doing any work, but who looked forward to a free and lawless holiday
and an early return crowned with wealth and fortune. Although the expedition was
primarily for the establishment of a colony, no Spanish women accompanied it; and this
was but one of a succession of mistakes and stupidities.
The Admiral, however, was not to be so lonely a person as he had been on his first
voyage; friends of his own choice and of a rank that made intimacy possible even with
the Captain-General were to accompany him. There was James his brother; there was
Friar Bernardo Buil, a Benedictine monk chosen by the Pope to be his apostolic vicar in
the New World; there was Alonso de Ojeda, a handsome young aristocrat, cousin to the
Inquisitor of Spain, who was distinguished for his dash and strength and pluck; an ideal
adventurer, the idol of his fellows, and one of whose daring any number of credible and
incredible tales were told. There was Pedro Margarite, a well-born Aragonese, who was
destined afterwards to cause much trouble; there was Juan Ponce de Leon, the discoverer
of Florida; there was Juan de La Cosa, Columbus's faithful pilot on the Santa Maria on
his first voyage; there was Pedro de Las Casas, whose son, at this time a student in
Seville, was afterwards to become the historian of the New World and the champion of
decency and humanity there. There was also Doctor Chanca, a Court physician who
accompanied the expedition not only in his professional capacity but also because his
knowledge of botany would enable him to make, a valuable report on the vegetables and
fruits of the New World; there was Antonio de Marchena, one of Columbus's oldest
friends, who went as astronomer to the expedition. And there was one Coma, who would
have remained unknown to this day but that he wrote an exceedingly elegant letter to his