You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war. — Winston Churchill

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

Columbus Ill-Treated

About one year after leaving the colony at Haiti, Columbus came back, to find the place deserted. One of the Indians who had gone to Spain with him knew enough Spanish by this time to act as interpreter. Through him, Columbus learned that some of the colonists had fallen ill and died. The rest, disobeying his orders, had been cruel and unkind to the natives, and so anxious to get rich that the Indians, in self-defense, had fallen upon and killed them.

The site of the first colony having proved so unlucky, Columbus established the next on another spot, and called it Isabella, in honor of the queen. Here the Spaniards began to trade with the natives for gold, and Columbus sent this metal to Spain, asking that provisions should be sent out in exchange, because the Spaniards did not like the natives' food, and had not yet found time to grow crops for their own use.

Besides the gold, Columbus sent back a whole cargo of men, women, and children, to be sold as slaves. This was cruel and wicked; but Columbus believed, as most men did then, that it was far better for the Indians to be slaves among Christians than free among heathens.

The colonists had expected to grow rich very fast, and to find all the gold they wanted. They were therefore sorely disappointed at getting so little, and before long became discontented and hard to manage. While they were trading with the natives, Columbus sailed away, still seeking for India, which he felt sure must be quite near there.

He went along the coast of Cuba, and then southward to Jamaica, finding several other small islands. But after cruising about for some time, he came back to Isabella, where he found the colonists ill and unhappy. They had not only quarreled among themselves, but had ill-treated the natives, robbing them of their wives and daughters, as well as taking their food.

The Indians, who had once been so happy and indolent, were now weary and sad. Besides, they had learned to hate the Spaniards, and were plotting to murder them. Learning this, Columbus had to treat them as foes, to protect the Spaniards. The natives next refused to sell any more food to their enemies, and if a provision ship had not come from Spain, Columbus and his colony would surely have died of hunger. As there was very little gold to send back this time, Columbus shipped all his prisoners of war, and thus five hundred natives were forwarded to the Spanish slave market.

During the next two years Columbus had much trouble with the Indians, who, finding it almost impossible to collect the amount of gold he exacted as tribute, often revolted. He also had a hard time managing the colonists. Homesick and discouraged, they accused him of deceiving them by false tales of the riches they could get, and of ruling so badly that their lives were in danger.

These complaints were sent to Spain, and the royal couple, hearing so much against Columbus, sent a nobleman to Haiti to find out if their viceroy was really acting unjustly. Some people say that this nobleman did not even try to find out the truth, and Columbus found it necessary to go back to Spain with him and explain matters to the king and queen, leaving Bartholomew Columbus in charge of the colony.

The second arrival of Columbus at court was very different from the first. Instead of greeting him with cheers and festivities, people now looked coldly upon him and avoided him as much as they could. It was only three years since he had discovered a road across the Atlantic; but as he had not yet brought back huge cargoes of spices and silks from India, people openly despised him.

Although this reception cut Columbus to the heart, it made him all the more anxious to reach India, the goal of all his hopes. He therefore prepared a third expedition; but this time he had so much trouble in getting funds and ships that it was not till May, 1498, that he could again set sail, with a fleet of six vessels.

Instead of taking his usual course, Columbus steered directly westward from the Cape Verde Islands, and reached Trinidad in the middle of the summer. After visiting that island, he explored the gulf behind it, and came to the mouth of the Orinoco River. From the great volume of water, he concluded that this river must flow through an extensive continent, and thought it must surely be one of the four great streams from the Garden of Eden!

Although Columbus now felt certain he had finally reached the mainland of Asia, he could find none of the rich cities he sought, and sadly went back to Haiti. There things had been going on worse than ever, for the Spaniards had mutinied, as well as the natives.

Columbus now forwarded the most disobedient of the colonists to Spain. But when they got there, they complained so much about him that the king and queen again sent out a nobleman to see what was amiss. The Spanish officer no sooner reached Haiti than he took the command away from Columbus, who was put in irons and sent back to Spain to be tried there.


Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell