Christopher Columbus and the New World HTML version

The Last Days
Columbus, for whom rest and quiet were the first essentials, remained in Seville from
November 1504 to May 1505, when he joined the Court at Segovia and afterwards at
Salamanca and Valladolid, where he remained till his death in May 1506. During this last
period, when all other activities were practically impossible to him, he fell into a state of
letter-writing—for the most part long, wearisome complainings and explainings in which
he poured out a copious flood of tears and self-pity for the loss of his gold.
It has generally been claimed that Columbus was in bitter penury and want of money, but
a close examination of the letters and other documents relating to this time show that in
his last days he was not poor in any true sense of the word. He was probably a hundred
times richer than any of his ancestors had ever been; he had, money to give and money to
spend; the banks honoured his drafts; his credit was apparently indisputable. But
compared with the fabulous wealth to which he would by this time have been entitled if
his original agreement with the Crown of Spain had been faithfully carried out he was no
doubt poor. There is no evidence that he lacked any comfort or alleviation that money
could buy; indeed he never had any great craving for the things that money can buy—
only for money itself. There must have been many rich people in Spain who would gladly
have entertained him in luxury and dignity; but he was not the kind of man to set much
store by such things except in so far as they were a decoration and advertisement of his
position as a great man. He had set himself to the single task of securing what he called
his rights; and in these days of sunset he seems to have been illumined by some glimmer
of the early glory of his first inspiration. He wanted the payment of his dues now, not so
much for his own enrichment, but as a sign to the world that his great position as Admiral
and Viceroy was recognised, so that his dignities and estates might be established and
consolidated in a form which he would be able to transmit to his remote posterity.
Since he wrote so copiously and so constantly in these last days, the best picture of his
mood and condition is afforded in his letters to his son Diego; letters which, in spite of
their infinitely wearisome recapitulation and querulous complaint, should be carefully
read by those who wish to keep in touch with the Admiral to the end.
Letter written by CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS to DON DIEGO, his Son, November
21, 1504.
"VERY DEAR SON,—I received your letter by the courier. You did well in remaining
yonder to remedy our affairs somewhat and to employ yourself now in our business. Ever
since I came to Castile, the Lord Bishop of Palencia has shown me favour and has desired
that I should be honoured. Now he must be entreated that it may please him to occupy
himself in remedying my many grievances and in ordering that the agreement and letters
of concession which their Highnesses gave me be fulfilled, and that I be indemnified for
so many damages. And he may be certain that if their Highnesses do this, their estate and