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Christopher Columbus and the New World

Ups And Downs
While Columbus was toiling under the tropical sun to make good his promises to the
Crown, Margarite and Buil, having safely come home to Spain from across the seas, were
busy setting forth their view of the value of his discoveries. It was a view entirely
different from any that Ferdinand and Isabella had heard before, and coming as it did
from two men of position and importance who had actually been in Espanola, and were
loyal and religious subjects of the Crown, it could not fail to receive, if not immediate
and complete credence, at any rate grave attention. Hitherto the Sovereigns had only
heard one side of the matter; an occasional jealous voice may have been raised from the
neighbourhood of the Pinzons or some one else not entirely satisfied with his own
position in the affair; but such small cries of dissent had naturally had little chance
against the dignified eloquence of the Admiral.
Now, however, the matter was different. People who were at least the equals of
Columbus in intelligence, and his superiors by birth and education, had seen with their
own eyes the things of which he had spoken, and their account differed widely from his.
They represented things in Espanola as being in a very bad way indeed, which was true
enough; drew a dismal picture of an overcrowded colony ravaged with disease and
suffering from lack of provisions; and held forth at length upon the very doubtful quality
of the gold with which the New World was supposed to abound. More than this, they
brought grave charges against Columbus himself, representing him as unfit to govern a
colony, given to favouritism, and, worst of all, guilty of having deliberately
misrepresented for his own ends the resources of the colony. This as we know was not
true. It was not for his own ends, or for any ends at all within the comprehension of men
like Margarite and Buil, that poor Christopher had spoken so glowingly out of a heart full
of faith in what he had seen and done. Purposes, dim perhaps, but far greater and loftier
than any of which these two mean souls had understanding, animated him alike in his
discoveries and in his account of them; although that does not alter the unpleasant fact
that at the stage matters had now reached it seemed as though there might have been
serious misrepresentation.
Ferdinand and Isabella, thus confronted with a rather difficult situation, acted with great
wisdom and good sense. How much or how little they believed we do not know, but it
was obviously their duty, having heard such an account from responsible officers, to
investigate matters for themselves without assuming either that the report was true or
untrue. They immediately had four caravels furnished with supplies, and decided to
appoint an agent to accompany the expedition, investigate the affairs of the colony, and
make a report to them. If the Admiral was still absent when their agent reached the
colony he was to be entrusted with the distribution of the supplies which were being sent
out; for Columbus's long absence from Espanola had given rise to some fears for his
safety.
 
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