A MEMORABLE REIGN
 THE reign of Ferdinand and Isabella has been called the most celebrated, and the year 1492 the
most eventful, in Spanish history. Not the fall of Granada alone made that year notable;
not the culmination of a long series of wars, extending through centuries, and conducing
to the final triumph of Christian arms, made the year 1492 memorable—for the youth
of this age scarcely need be told that it was, in a sense, the birth year of America!
A sad and preoccupied witness of the Christian triumph at Granada, one who saw the
tumultuous entrance into the Alhambra of the Spanish army, the unfurling of the Castilian
banner on the tower of la Vela, the departure of the broken-hearted Moors—one
Christopher Columbus was attendant through it all. Possessed with his grand idea of
 reaching the Indies by sailing directly westward—a thing hitherto unheard of, at
least unattempted—after his rebuffs at the court of Portugal he had come to Spain as
early as the year 1482, and was sent by the Duke of Medina Celi to Isabella at Cordova. He
followed her court to Salamanca in 1486, there had audience with the queen, and the next
year appeared before the famous Council in the Dominican convent. Nothing came of that
except discouragement; but he returned to Cordova the same year, whence he was summoned by
Isabella to the military camp at Malaga. We have no continuous itinerary of his travels,
but in 1489 he was with the army before the walls of Baza, where he probably saw and
conversed with two holy men who had come from Jerusalem to enlist the aid of Spain against
the infidels in the Orient.
For eight long years he was a hanger-on at court, ever fed on promises; put off with half
denials, and again reassured with the prospect of assistance when the Moors should have
been subjugated. At last, in 1491, weary and heartsick, Columbus resolved to depart from
Spain, and on his way to the coast stopped at the convent of La Rabida, near the port of
Palos, where his distinguished appearance attracted the attention of the prior. This was
the turning of the tide in
 his fortunes, for the prior had formerly been confessor to the queen, and, impressed with
the scheme of his visitor, offered to intercede in his favour. He did so, and, as the
result, Columbus was again ordered to wait upon the queen, and with money for the journey
from the royal exchequer, set, out for Santa Fé, where he arrived in time to witness, as
we have noticed, the surrender of Granada. But that was no propitious time for the king or
queen to engage in new adventures, with the royal treasury drained by the terrible drafts
upon it for the Moorish wars, and again Columbus was disappointed, and a second time bade
farewell to the court and set out for the coast. He had, however, proceeded but a few
miles on his journey when the queen's courier overtook him with the pledge of her
assistance, and so he returned to Granada. The point at which he was halted by the courier
was at the Bridge of Pines, still spanning the stream as of yore, and the last decisive
interview is said to have been in a corridor of the Alhambra, known as the Hall of
Here, finally, amid the tumults attendant upon the occupation of Granada, on the 17th of
April, 1492, the "capitulation" was signed, by the terms of which the queen was to provide
the funds for the voyage, and Columbus
 was to go forth to explore the territory and conquer the inhabitants of the unknown
Some. historians have asserted, and some have denied, that the queen pledged her jewels
for the necessary funds; but certainly she is entitled to all the glory of that adventure,
since the prudent Ferdinand looked coldly upon the schemes of the Genoese sailor, and if
his advice had been followed he would have been promptly dismissed. It required a lofty
faith, a serene confidence in Providence, to embark in such an enterprise, when she may
have been already sated with the glory of conquest; and once having pledged her
assistance, Isabella never wavered in her pecuniary and moral support. Ten days after the
"capitulation" Columbus was at Palos with the royal command for sailors and caravels to be
furnished by that port, and by the 1st of August the little expedition dropped down the
Rio Tinto and made its final preparations for the long voyage across the Atlantic.
All students of our history know the glorious sequel to this voyage begun under such
discouragements: of the discovery of land in the Bahamas in October following; of the
meetings with strange copper-coloured people whom Columbus called "Indians"; of the
triumphant return of two out of the three
 caravels that set forth, and the magnificent reception of Columbus by his sovereigns at
their royal court in Barcelona. But with his departure from the Spanish coast Columbus
temporarily sails out of our ken, and we must return to trace the course of events after
the fall of Granada.
Happy should we be to chronicle such events as the preceding, only; to record acts of
clemency and magnanimity toward the conquered peoples now absolutely dependent upon
Isabella and Ferdinand for their fortunes and their lives. But almost contemporaneously
with their arrival at the summit of their power, the Castilian sovereigns committed at
least one act which the whole world has regarded with aversion even to the present day.
Intent upon the union of the diverse peoples of their extensive kingdom under one
religious faith, and perhaps with an eye to the material advantages which might also
accrue, they issued an edict of expulsion against the most thrifty and law-abiding
inhabitants of Spain, the Jews. These people had long been resident here, had accumulated
vast properties, and under the Moors had been exempt from the persecution to which they
were subject by the Goths in ancient times and by many of their successors.
Learning that this terrible edict was in
 contemplation, the wealthier of the Jews offered an immense ransom to be allowed to remain
in the enjoyment of their religion and possessions. But while this offer was under
advisement by the sovereigns, and when they seemed to incline to mercy, it is said that
the Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada, injected the venom of his depraved nature into the
discussion with disastrous effect. Bursting into the royal presence, he exclaimed with
fury, as he held aloft a crucifix:
"Judas Iscariot sold his master for thirty pieces of silver. Your Highnesses will sell him
for thirty thousand. Here he is, take him and barter him away! Saying this, he dashed the
crucifix upon the table and darted from the room.
Sad to relate, bigotry triumphed. The mercenary and bloodthirsty schemes of Torquemada
were carried out to the full, and more than two hundred thousand stricken Jews were
expelled the country, losing homes, wealth, all they possessed, which eventually reverted
to the crown through the dastardly work of the Inquisition. This act of the crown, by
which Spain lost some of its best subjects, was signed on the 30th of March, 1492; and
thus the sovereigns, while at the same time outstretching one hand to grasp a new
continent which was to yield them vast
 treasures yet with the other strangled domestic thrift and trade, and undermined the
foundations of the kingdom they had sacrificed so much to consolidate and perpetuate.
The Jews had brought commerce and manufactures, they were skilled agriculturists, some of
them learned for their time; the Moors had brought into Spain, or had developed there, a
glorious architecture, schools, and colleges, renowned throughout Europe, arts, and even
sciences, and had reclaimed from the desert vast areas of waste lands; they had built
beautiful cities and towns, castles and palaces, which are the admiration of all who see
them today; yet both Jews and Moors were driven from Spain as though they were its deadly
enemies. Those who drove them forth were not capable of creating a tithe of what the Moors
and Jews had done; to their credit is not one work of art, not one beautiful structure of
renown; but they were through force of circumstance and skill at arms the conquerors, and
the lives of these vastly superior peoples were at their mercy.
Had they but treated them with leniency, had they encouraged them in their peculiar
industries and pursuits, Spain would probably have become the grandest nation in Europe,
instead of merely rising to temporary
great-  ness and ultimately sinking to insignificant proportions. As with the Jews, so the
Castilian sovereigns dealt with the Moors. Though they had stipulated on oath that they
should be protected in the observances of their own religion, yet not long after, urged
thereto by the inquisitors of the Holy Office, they broke their sacred pledges and turned
them over to their enemies. Many professed to become converted, to escape persecution, but
others were driven to rebellion, fled to the mountains and waged a bloody war until
overcome by force.
Says a learned historian of that time, when the Inquisition claimed its innocent victims
by hundreds and thousands: "Now a scene of persecution and cruelty began which far exceeds
in atrocity anything which history has related. Every tie of nature and society was
broken, every duty and every relation violated, and torture forced from all alike false
accusations, betrayal of friends, confession of impossible crimes; while the actors in
these horrible tragedies were shielded by impenetrable secrecy from the revenge of their
victims and the detestation of society."
Were it not for such acts as these, and had Isabella and Ferdinand inclined to mercy
rather than listened to the advice of bigoted counsellors, their reign might have earned
 distinction of being, what many have claimed for it, the greatest that Spain ever knew.
They built wisely in many things, they advanced Spain from obscurity to become a power
among nations; they earned the love and regard of their Christian subjects by works
promoting their welfare; but at the same time they vitiated the good deeds by their
barbarous treatment of "heretics."
It is no matter of wonder that an attempt was made on Ferdinand's life, in Catalonia, soon
after the capture of Granada, and that even Isabella was not safe from covert attack.
Still, they were a well-matched pair, and, from a worldly and contemporary point of view,
were all-sufficient to Spain in her time of greatest need. Isabella was calm and lucid in
her counsels, inclined to benevolence and mercy where religious questions were not
involved, and, as one writer has expressed it, followed after Ferdinand's armies to garner
the wheat which he had cut on the fields of war. Ferdinand was crafty, a diplomat whose
match all Europe could not then produce. This is shown in his conduct of the Neapolitan
wars, when, he outwitted the King of France, and eventually gathered the rewards to
himself, adding the title of King of Naples to his other distinctions. "Foreign affairs
were conducted by the king
 in behalf of Aragon, just as colonial affairs were for the benefit of Castile."
They did not lack for learned and astute counsellors, such as Cardinal Mendoza,
Torquemada, and Ximenes. The last named, born before his sovereigns, yet outlived them
both, and to the end was a faithful, even though bigoted, servant and courtier. Chosen as
the queen's confessor in 1492, he was later appointed Archbishop of Toledo, and after
Isabella's death became a cardinal, throughout his career remaining loyal to the throne.
Another faithful servant of the Crown was Gonsalvo de Cordova, who fought magnificently
against the Moors, and then was sent to carry on the wars in Naples, where Spanish arms
were so triumphant that he earned the title of the "Great Captain," and covered
Ferdinand's reign with glory.
After the death of Isabella, which occurred on November 26, 1504, Ferdinand's diplomacy
continued him in power as regent and sovereign, except for a brief term; and it was to him
that Columbus vainly appealed for justice when, weak and broken from his four
transatlantic voyages, he came back to endure poverty and neglect.