The True Story of Christopher Columbus
How The Admiral Came And Went Again
I suppose you think Bobadilla was a very cruel man. He was. But in his time people were
apt to be cruel to one another whenever they had the power in their own hands. The days
in which Columbus lived were not like these in which we are living. You can never be
too thankful for that, boys and girls. Bobadilla had been told to go over the water and set
the Columbus matters straight. He had been brought up to believe that to set matters
straight you must be harsh and cruel; and so he did as he was used to seeing other people
in power do. Even Queen Isabella did not hesitate to do some dreadful things to certain
people she did not like when she got them in her power. Cruelty was common in those
days. It was what we call the "spirit of the age." So you must not blame Bobadilla too
much, although we will all agree that it was very hard on Columbus.
So Columbus, as I have told you, sailed back to Spain. But when the officer who had
charge of him and whose name was Villijo, had got out to sea and out of Bobadilla's
sight, he wanted to take the chains off. For he loved Columbus and it made him feel very
sad to see the old Admiral treated like a convict or a murderer. Let me have these cruel
chains struck off, Your Excellency, he said. No, no, Villijo, Columbus replied. Let these
fetters remain upon me. My king and queen ordered me to submit and Bobadilla has put
me in chains. I will wear these irons until my king and queen shall order them removed,
and I shall keep them always as relics and memorials of my services.
It always makes us sad to see any one in great trouble. To hear of a great man who has
fallen low or of a rich man who has become poor, always makes us say: Is not that too
bad? Columbus had many enemies in Spain. The nobles of the court, the men who had
lost money in voyages to the Indies, the people whose fathers and sons and brothers had
sailed away never to return, could not say anything bad enough about "this upstart
Italian," as they called Columbus.
But to the most of the people Columbus was still the great Admiral. He was the man who
had stuck to his one idea until he had made a friend of the queen; who had sailed away
into the West and proved the Sea of Darkness and the Jumping-off place to be only fairy
tales after all; who had found Cathay and the Indies for Spain. He was still a great man to
So when on a certain October day, in the year 1500, it was spread abroad that a ship had
just come into the harbor of Cadiz, bringing home the great Admiral, Christopher
Columbus, a prisoner and in chains, folks began to talk at once. Why, who has done this?
they cried. Is this the way to treat the man who found Cathay for Spain, the man whom
the king and the queen delighted to honor, the man who made a procession for us with all
sorts of birds and animals and pagan Indians? It cannot be. Why, we all remember how
he sailed into Palos Harbor eight years ago and was received like a prince with banners
and proclamations and salutes. And now to bring him home in chains! It is a shame; it is
cruel; it is wicked. And when people began to talk in this way, the very ones who had
said the worst things against him began to change their tone.