Story of Columbus - G. M. Imlach

The Death of Columbus

Columbus was too ill to proceed farther than the city of Seville. There he remained while his brother, Bartholomew, and his son went on with his letters to the Court.

In these letters he spoke of Ovando's barbarity both to himself and to the natives of Hayti, and begged that he might be recalled. He asked, too, that his own claims to the government of the New World should be admitted, and that the crew which had served him for more than two years might receive their pay.

Queen Isabella had been much displeased by the story of Ovando's cruelty; she entreated the King to summon him to Spain at once. But unfortunately she died almost immediately after the Admiral's return, and thus his only powerful friend was lost to him. Ferdinand did nothing for his old servant, sick, aged, and poor as he was.

Columbus said in one letter: "I receive nothing of the revenue due to me; I live by borrowing. Little have I profited by twenty years of service with such toils and perils, since at present I do not own a roof in Spain. If I desire to eat or sleep, I have no resort but an inn, and for the most times I have not wherewithal to pay my bill."

In December he attempted the journey to Court. Ferdinand did not refuse to see him, but he grudged Columbus his offices of Viceroy and Admiral, for he was furious that so much power should have passed from the King's into the servant's hands, and he basely tried to bribe him into giving up his dignities. When the old man shook his head, and declared that the King should keep his promises and grant him what was due to him, Ferdinand made many fair speeches, promising that his demands should be looked into. He had, however, made up his mind to retain Ovando as governor, for large supplies of gold were now coming in from Hayti, and he needed wealth.

Time passed by, and Columbus began to see that he could expect nothing from the King. "It appears," he said, "that His Majesty does not think fit to fulfil that which he, with the Queen, who is now in glory, promised me by word and seal. For me to contend to the contrary would be to fight with the wind." He had won more glory for Spain than any of her own sons. He had crossed the wide Atlantic Ocean without a guide or chart. He had discovered the West Indies, the coast of South America at Paria, and nearly the whole eastern coast of Central America, and he had opened up the whole continent for other adventurers. He had ruled Hayti wisely and well, caring for the well-being of the natives and making the Spanish name honoured among them. Even in old age he had not rested, but had set out to discover new paths and lands. And in return for all this he was to die in poverty, deserted by all but a few faithful friends, not sure that any of his honours and lands would pass to his sons. For this he did what he could. In his will he declared that Diego Columbus should succeed him as Admiral of the seas and Viceroy of the Indies, and he made his friends promise to support his son's claim.

Shortly before his death he heard that the Spanish princess was returning from abroad with her husband. He was delighted by this news, believing that the daughter of Queen Isabella would be gracious to him. But he grew weaker, until he could not travel from his lodging at Valladolid to meet her, and on the 10th of May 1506 Christopher Columbus died.

His sons buried him at Seville. Diego inherited his father's title of Viceroy, and governed Hayti for eighteen years, but his children were forced to give up most of their rights. Fernando became a learned historian and wrote the life of his father.

Both sons bore on their arms the proud motto—

"A Castilla y a Leon

Nuevo Mundo dio Colon."

Columbus gave to Spain a New World.