atrocious capital crimes. "The prisoners of Spain," says Robertson "were drained to collect members for the intended colony." a We are not left to imagine the fate of the helpless wretches chands. Irving tells us:
They (the Indians) were separated the distance of several days" journey from their wives and children, and doomed to intolerable labor of all kinds, extorted by the cruel infliction of the lash. * * * "When the Spaniards who superintended the mines were at their repasts, 'says Las Casas, "the famished Indians scrambled like dogs for any bone thrown to them. * * * If they fled from this incessant toil and barbarous coercion and took refuge in the mountains, they were hunted like wild beasts, scourged in the most inhuman manner, and laden with chains to prevent a second escape." b
Las Casas" terrible history is full of horrors of which he himself was eyewitness. "I have found," says he, "many dead in the road, others gasping under the trees, and others, again, i he pays of death faintly crying, "Hunger! hunger!" c
'So intolerable" says Washington Irving," were the toils and suffering inflicted upon this weak and unoffending race that they sank under them, dissolving, as it were, from the face of the earth." d
There is no exaggeration in this statement, incredible if it seem. Robertson confirms it, giving some general statistics on the subject.
He tells us:
The original inhabitants, on whose labor the Spaniards in Hispaniola depended for their prosperity and even their existence of the whole rase seemed to be inevitable. When Columbus discovered Hispaniola the number of its inhabitants was computed to be at least 1,000,000. They were reduced to 60,000 in fifteen years. e
This was in 1507. Scarcely half a generation had elapsed since Europeans had found these people weak and ignorant indeed, but simple, cheerful, and happy; and in that brief period so atrocious had been the cruelty of their treatment that 94 out of every 100 of these victims sank and perisht the picture in all its blackness in not yet filled up. The deaths had increased with such frightful that the common operations of life were arrested thereby. The dead laborers had to be replaced by fresh n it was that, as the culmination of enormities that have left an indelible stain on the Spanish name, an expedient was resorted to, in the conception of which, to inhuman barbarity, the treachery and blasphemy were superadded.
This infamous expedient is ascribed to Ovando. At all events, under his governorship, in 1508, the king (Ferdinand) "was advised," says Herrera, "that the Lucayo Islands, f being full of people, it would be convenient to carry them over to Hispaniola that they might be instructed in the Christian religion and civilized". Ferdinand, perhaps deceived by theirs artifice, more probably willing to connive at an act of violence which policy represented as necessary, gave his assent
a Robertson, Vol. 1. pp. 194, 193; Herrera, December 1. Lib. 3, C. 2.
b Irving's Columbus, Vol. 2, p. 427.
c Las Cassas" Hist. Ind., Lib. 2. Cap. 14; MS. quoted by Irwing.
d Irving Columbus, Vl. 2, p. 428.
e Robertson's America, Vol. 1, p. 262. It is from Herrera, the most correct and intelligent of the Spanish historians of that period, that Robertson's calculation is taken. There seems no reason to discredit it, incredible if it seem. Other historians estimate the original inhabitants much higher. Benzoin puts the number at 2,000,000.
f Now the Bahama Islands.