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Christopher Columbus and the New World

The Consent Of Spain
Once more; in the last days of the year 1491, Columbus rode into the brilliant camp
which he had quitted a few weeks before with so heavy a heart. Things were changed
now. Instead of being a suitor, making a nuisance of himself, and forcing his affairs on
the attention of unwilling officials, he was now an invited and honoured guest; much
more than that, he was in the position of one who believed that he had a great service to
render to the Crown, and who was at last to be permitted to render it.
Even now, at the eleventh hour, there was one more brief interruption. On the 1st of
January 1492 the last of the Moorish kings sent in his surrender to King Ferdinand, whom
he invited to come and take possession of the city of Granada; and on the next day the
Spanish army marched into that city, where, in front of the Alhambra, King Ferdinand
received the keys of the castle and the homage of the Moorish king. The wars of eight
centuries were at an end, and the Christian banner of Spain floated at last over the whole
land. Victory and success were in the air, and the humble Genoese adventurer was to
have his share in them. Negotiations of a practical nature were now begun; old friends—
Talavera, Luis de Santangel, and the Grand Cardinal himself—were all brought into
consultation with the result that matters soon got to the documentary stage. Here,
however, there was a slight hitch. It was not simply a matter of granting two, or three
ships. The Genoese was making a bargain, and asking an impossible price. Even the great
grandees and Court officials, accustomed to the glitter and dignity of titles, rubbed their
eyes with astonishment, when they saw what Columbus was demanding. He who had
been suing for privileges was now making conditions. And what conditions! He must be
created Admiral of all the Ocean Seas and of the new lands, with equal privileges and
prerogatives as those appertaining to the High Admiral of Castile, the supreme naval
officer of Spain. Not content with sea dignities, he was also to be Viceroy and Governor-
General in all islands or mainlands that he might acquire; he wanted a tenth part of the
profits resulting from his discoveries, in perpetuity; and he must have the permanent right
of contributing an eighth part of the cost of the equipment and have an additional eighth
part of the profits; and all his heirs and descendants for ever were to have the same
privileges. These conditions were on such a scale as no sovereign could readily approve.
Columbus's lack of pedigree, and the fact also that he was a foreigner, made them seem
the more preposterous; for although he might receive kindness and even friendship from
some of the grand Spaniards with whom he associated, that friendship and kindness were
given condescendingly and with a smile. He was delightful when he was merely
proposing as a mariner to confer additional grandeur and glory on the Crown; but when it
came to demanding titles and privileges which would make him rank with the highest
grandees in, the land, the matter took on quite a different colour. It was nonsense; it could
not be allowed; and many were the friendly hints that Columbus doubtless received at
this time to relinquish his wild demands and not to overreach himself.