Of the shore of Pearls, of Paria, and of the Island of the Trinity.
FRom the shore of Paria, to the Bay of V•necuela, which takes up above two hundred miles in length, the Spaniards com∣mitted most wonderful depopulations; for they gave themselves wholly to their wont∣ed Robberies, enslaving also infinite num∣bers of men, on purpose to sell them for money, against all the faith and pledges which they had given them for their secu∣rity (for those were things which they ne∣ver observed) though they were entertained by these innocent creatures with all civi∣lity, and softered in their houses like their parents, or children, serving them in all things to the utmost of their power, and making them masters of all that was in their possession. It can hardly be said or ex∣pressed, with how many injuries and unjust actions they used to afflict the poor Indians in these Countreys from 1510. untill this present year. Two or three of their most hainous crimes I will rehearse, whereby the reader may judge of the wickedness of those which remain untold.
Into the Island of the Trinity being larger Page 78 and more fertile then Sicily, and stored with Inhabitants, according to their quality, more ingenuous & vertuous then any other Nation of the Indians, a certain Robber went in the year 1510. accompanyed with fifty or sixty other fellow theeves, who pre∣sently proclaim'd an edict that all the In∣dians should come into the Island to live with him. The Indians received them as their natural Countreymen, both Princes and subjects yeelding obedience to them with much chearfulnesse, bringing provi∣sion to them every day as much as would have sufficed to have served a far greater number; for this is the custome of the In∣habitants of this new world, to afford all necessaries to the Spaniards in great abun∣dance. A little while after the Spaniards built a great house for the Indians to dwel in, for they would not that all of them should have more then one house, where they might all dwell together, that they might with more convenience execute that which they had in their resolutions; which they did accordingly: for when they had thatched it over, and raised it to the height of two men, they shut up abundance of them in the said house upon pretence to hasten the work; but in truth, that those within might not be seen by those with∣out; then a part of them compass'd the Page 79 house with their weapons that none might enter in or go forth; after that others of them went in, and unsheathing their swords, they threatned death to the naked Indians if they stir'd, and then bound them. And if any of them went about to flye, they were in the place immediately cut in pieces; some few that escaped, part wounded, and part whole, joyning themselves with those who stood without, being about two hun∣dred in number, with bowes and arrowes retreated to another house, who being all at one end stoutly defending the entry of the house, the Spaniards set fire to the other end, and so they all there perished by fire. Hence they departed with their prisoners, all they could lay hold on, be∣ing about a hundred and eighty, to the Island of St. Iohn where the sold half, and from thence also to the Island of Hispaniola, where they fold the rest. Now when I taxed the Captain for his wickednesse, af∣ter he came to the Island of St. Iohn? He gave me this answer, Pray sir be patient, for I was commanded by those that sent me, that those that I could not take by fair means, I should seize by force: yet the said Captain had related to me for cer∣tain, that in the Island of the Trinity he found them both fathers and mothers to him, which he spoke to his greater con∣fusion Page 80 and the aggravation of his crime. Infinite of other things they did, taking captive these poor people against all faith given. Let these actions be well considered, and whether the Indians so taken may be justly enslaved or no. Once the Fryers of the Order of St. Dominick consulted about sending some of their Order to this Island, to spread the light of the Gospel among the Indians, for the salvation of their souls; Whereupon they sent a Licentiate, famous for his sanctity with a lay man, to accom∣pany him, to visit the Countrey, converse with the Inhabitants, and to seek out fit places for the the building of Monasteries. The religious persons being arriv'd were re∣ceived as Angels from heaven, ear being giv'n to their words with all attention, alacrity and affection, that they were able at that time, for they were ignorant of our lan∣guage; it happened afterwards when the religious persons were gone, that there came a band of Souldiers, who accor∣ding to their wonted customes of fraud and impiety, carried away captive the Prince of the Province, who (either because that name was given him by the Religi∣ous persons, or by the other Spaniards) was call'd Alfonsus; for they delight to be cal∣led by the names of the Christians, and therefore before they are informed of any Page 81 thing else they desire to be baptized. By these souldiers was Alfonsus craftily seduced a shipboard under pretence that they would give him a Banquet; with their Prince there went seventeen other persons, for they had a confidence that the Fryers would keep the Spaniards from doing them any injury, For otherwise the said King would not have trusted them so far; but they were no sooner on shipboard, but the Spaniards hoysed up their sailes for Hispaniola, where they sold all the Indians for slaves; Now all the Region being troubled for the losse of their King and Queen, flockt to the Reli∣gious persons, and had like to have slain them; who perceiving the injustice of the Spaniards were very much troubled; and I do beleeve, that they had rather have lost their lives, then that the Indians should have suffered such an injury to the hinderance of their salvation; but the Indians were satis∣fied with the promises of the religious per∣sons, who told them, that as soon as any ships came to the Island, they would take the first opportunity to go to Hispaniola and endevour to get their King and Queen set at liberty. Providence sent a ship thither to confirm the condemnation of those that go∣vern'd, by which these religious persons sent to the religious persons of Hispaniola, but got no redress, for the Spaniards there Page 82 were receivers of the prey. When the religi∣ous persons, who had promised to the Indians that their King should return within four moneths, saw that he did not come in eight moneths, they prepared themselves for death, and to give up their lives to Christ to whom they had offer'd them be∣fore their departure out of Hispaniola; and so the innocent Indians reveng'd themselves upon the innocent Friers. For the Indians, believed that the religious persons were guilty of the said treachery, partly because that their promises concerning the return of their King in four moneths had prov'd so vain, partly because the Indians make no distinction between the religious persons and the theeving Spaniards. It hapned also that at another time, through the great ty∣ranny and oppression of the evil Christians, that the Indians slew two religious persons of the order of St. Dominic, of which I was a very real witnesse, as being one of those who escaped the same fate by a great mira∣cle, which I had resolved not to have men∣tioned, lest the horror of the fact should de∣ter others. Wherefore to avoid prolixity, I shall say no more concerning these things, leaving them to be revealed at the day of judgement, when God shall pour his ven∣geance down upon these robbers and de∣stroyers of mankinde. In these Provinces in Page 83 the Bay of Coderat, there was a City, the Lord of which was called Higueroto, a name com∣mon either to the persons, or to the officers of the place. He was a person so milde and gentle, and all his subjects endued with such vertue using the Spaniards that arriv'd there with that civility, that they thought nothing too much for them, bestowing all things needfull either for sustenance or de∣light that their Countrey afforded. This Lord had saved many from death, who had escaped out of other Provinces, from the murthers and slaughters of the Spaniards, be∣ing a kind of a sanctuary for the sick and half famished persons that came into his Countrey, and when they were recovered sent them back again to the Island of pearls where the Spaniards liv'd, though he had an opportunity to have slain them, there be∣ing none to regard or misse them; in brief, the Spaniards had all the houses of the inha∣bitants in common, and all the subjects of Higueroto they called their own subjects; but a perfidious Spaniard took councel how he might destroy this Region which seem'd it self so safe and secure; presently therefore he sayl'd thither, and invited a great number of men to come a shipboard, who giving cre∣dit to the Spaniards, came willingly to them; but they were no sooner entred the ship, but the Spaniards hoysed sayl for the Island Page 84 of St. Iohn where they sold them all. At the same time I arriv'd at this Island, where I saw this tyrant, and was told the relation of what he had done. He wholly destroyed the City it self, which the other Spaniards who were wont to harrace all the sea coast, were notwithstanding much trou∣bled at, abominating actions so hainous committed against them who had been so courteous and liberal to them, and where they had been entertain'd as in their own houses.
I will not recite the infinite wickednesses which have been committed by them, and are daily committed among them.
These Spaniards departed from the sea coast to the Islands of Hispaniola and St. Iohn, carrying with them above two milli∣ons of men to the said Islands, which they afterwards destroyed through hard labour and continual bad usage; those that be∣fore liv'd in this Island, being not reckned into their number, who were an infinite and unspeakable number, and it is a most sad thing to consider, and that which would move the most cruel hearts, to see all this fertile shore lie desert and depopulated. This is also a known thing, that they ne∣ver do transport Indians from these places, but in their voyage they do pay the third •art of them as a tribute to the waves, be∣sides Page 85 those that are murthered in their own houses. The cause of all these things are their own wicked purposes; that is to say, by the sale of the Indians to heap up trea∣sure, yet furnishing the ships not with half provisions for the sustenance of those that they transport, because they would not be at too much charges; and sometimes there are hardly provisions enough to suf∣fice the Spaniards themselves, so that the Indians ready to die for hunger and thirst, are immediately thrown into the sea. And it was related to me for certain, that a ship going from Hispaniola to the Island of Lu∣cayos, sayl'd thither without any compasse, only by the Carkasses that floated up and down the sea. Afterwards when they are landed, where they are carried to be sold, there is no man that would not be mov'd with compassion, to see both old and young, men and women, naked and hungry, drop and faint as they goe along. Afterwards they divide them like sheep, separating sons from fathers, wives from their husbands; and then making up a company of ten or twenty, those that set out the ships, and fitted them with necessaries, present∣ly cast lots for their shares. And when the lot fell upon a company that had an old or a sick man, he to whom the lot fell, was wont to break forth into these ex∣pressions, Page 86Cursed be this old fellow, why do you give him me? to bury him? why do you give me this sick man? to be his keeper? And thus let us consider, in what estimation the Indians are among the Spaniards, and how the pre∣cept of Charity on which the Law and the Prophets depends is observed among them.
There is nothing more detestable or more cruel, then the tyranny which the Spani∣ards use toward the Indians for the getting of pearl. Surely the infernall torments cannot much exceed the anguish that they indure, by reason of that way of cruelty; for they put them under water some four or five ells deep, where they are forced with∣out any liberty of respiration, to gather up the shels wherein the Pearls are; some∣times they come up again with nets full of shels to take breath, but if they stay any while to rest themselves, immediately comes a hangman row'd in a little boat, who as soon as he hath well beaten them, drags them again to their labour. Their food is nothing but fish, and the very same that contains the Pearl, with a small por∣tion of that bread which that Countrey affords; in the first whereof there is little nourishment; and as for the latter, it is made with great difficulty, besides that they have not enough of that neither for suste∣nance; they lye upon the ground in fet∣ters, Page 87 lest they should run away; and many times they are drown'd in this labour, and are never seen again till they swim upon the top of the waves: oftentimes they al∣so are devoured by certain sea monsters, that are frequent in those seas. Consider whe∣ther this hard usage of the poor creatures be consistent with the precepts which God commands concerning charity to our neighbour, by those that cast them so un∣deservedly into the dangers of a cruel death, causing them to perish without any remorse or pity, or allowing them the benefit of the Sacraments, or the knowledge of Re∣ligion; it being impossible for them to live any time under the water; and this death is so much the more painful, by reason that by the coarctation of the brest, while the lungs strive to do their office, the vi∣tall parts are so afflicted that they dye vomiting the bloud out of their mouthes. Their hair also, which is by nature black, is hereby chang'd and made of the same co∣lour with that of the sea Wolves; their bodies are also so besprinkled with the froth of the sea, that they appear rather like monsters then men. By this intole∣rable labour, or rather diabolical exercise, they have consumed all the Lucayans, for their particular gain; out of every Indians labour gaining above fifty or a hundred Page 88 Crowns. They sold them also against all justice; only because Lucayans were most skil∣full swimmers. There perished also many of the Inhabitants of other Provinces in this place.