Francisco de Bobadilla was born in Aragon (northeastern Spain) to a noble family.
Francisco fought in the Granada War (1482-1492) for Catholic Monarchs, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile, in their struggle against the Moors.
Christopher Columbus was received as a hero in Spain March 15, 1493 after his First Voyage of Discovery.
Columbus had departed Spain again September 24, 1493 on his Second Voyage.
In February 1495, Columbus disobeyed the Queen and took 1,600 people from the Arawak tribe, who were taken by the Carib as captives and slaves. There was no room for about 400 of the kidnapped on his ships so they were released, leaving 1,200 people forcibly taken from their homeland.
Despite Queen Isabella’s fury, Columbus had set off on his Third Voyage May 30, 1498.
In the roughly two years of Columbus’s Third Voyage, the settlement on Hispaniola had seen some rough times. Supplies and tempers were short and the vast wealth that Columbus had promised settlers while arranging the second voyage had failed to appear. Columbus had been a poor governor during his brief tenure (1494-1496) and the colonists were not happy to see him. The settlers complained bitterly, and Columbus had to hang a few of them in order to stabilize the situation.
Realizing that he needed help governing the unruly and hungry settlers, Columbus sent two ships to Spain in 1499 for assistance. Columbus was asking the Royal Court of Spain to appoint a royal commissioner to help him govern. Accusations of tyranny and incompetence on the part of Columbus had also reached the Court.
On May 21, 1499, the Catholic Monarchs appointed Francisco de Bobadilla as an inquest judge with full powers of a royal commissioner and chief justice to investigate Christopher Columbus at Santo Domingo. The complaints against Christopher Columbus and his administration of Hispaniola, included the enslavement of Native Indians, discontent of colonists, and accusations of betrayal and bitter attacks from his many enemies.
Francisco de Bobadilla sailed in command of two ships with about 500 men and 14 Native Indians. The Natives had been taken to Spain by Columbus on his first voyage and were being returned to their homeland.
Diego refused to acknowledge de Bobadilla’s investigation. Two days later Francisco learned that Columbus had hanged five Spaniards for insubordination, along with accusations about all three Columbus brothers.
Columbus had an economic interest in the enslavement of the Hispaniola natives and for that reason was not eager to baptize them, which had attracted criticism from some churchmen. Francisco also discovered an entry in Christopher Columbus’s own journal from September 1498 that read:
“From here one might send, in the name of the Holy Trinity, as many slaves as could be sold…”
In later years Consuelo Varela, a Spanish historian, wrote:
“Even those who loved him (Christopher Columbus) had to admit the atrocities that had taken place.”
Francisco became so furious that he immediately arrested Diego and took possession of Santo Domingo, appointing himself governor. He issued arrest orders against Christopher and brother Bartholomew Columbus for mistreatment of settlers as well as natives.
When word of this reached Christopher Columbus in September, he turned himself in and was immediately placed in irons. Columbus, along with his brothers, were all cast into the stockade to await return to Spain.
In early October, 1500 Francisco de Bobadilla’s two ships departed for Spain carrying Christopher Columbus and both of his brothers, likewise in chains.
Once they arrived back in Spain, a grieving Christopher Columbus wrote to a friend at court:
“It is now seventeen years since I came to serve these princes with the Enterprise of the Indies. They made me pass eight of them in discussion, and at the end rejected it as a thing of jest. Nevertheless I persisted therein… Over there I have placed under their sovereignty more land than there is in Africa and Europe, and more than 1,700 islands… In seven years I, by the divine will, made that conquest. At a time when I was entitled to expect rewards and retirement, I was incontinently arrested and sent home loaded with chains… The accusation was brought out of malice on the basis of charges made by civilians who had revolted and wished to take possession on the land…. I beg your graces, with the zeal of faithful Christians in whom their Highnesses have confidence, to read all my papers, and to consider how I, who came from so far to serve these princes… now at the end of my days have been despoiled of my honor and my property without cause, wherein is neither justice nor mercy.”
According to an uncatalogued document supposedly discovered very late in history purporting to be a record of Columbus’s trial which contained the alleged testimony of 23 witnesses, Columbus regularly used barbaric acts of torture to govern Hispaniola.
Columbus and his brothers lingered in jail for six weeks before King Ferdinand ordered their release. Not long after, the king and queen summoned the Columbus brothers to the Alhambra palace in Granada.
There the royal couple heard the brothers’ pleas; restored their freedom and wealth; and, after much persuasion, agreed to fund Columbus’s fourth voyage.
But the door was firmly shut on Columbus’s role as governor.
Henceforth, on September 3, 1501, The Spanish Crown decided to replace Francisco de Bobadilla and make Nicolás de Ovando the third Governor and Captain-General of Hispaniola, West Indies.
Thus, on February 13, 1502, they sailed from Spain with a fleet of thirty ships. It was the largest fleet that had ever sailed to the New World.
The thirty ships carried 2,500 colonists. Unlike Columbus’s earlier settlements, this group of colonists was deliberately selected to represent an organized cross-section of Spanish society.
Ovando’s new plan was to develop the West Indies economically and thereby expand Spanish political, religious, and administrative influence in the region.
Along with Columbus and Ovando, also came Francisco Pizarro, who would later explore western South America and conquer the Inca Empire.
Another ship also carried Bartolomé de las Casas later known as the ‘Protector of the Indians’.
In April 1502, Columbus and Ovando arrived at Santo Domingo. They found the natives in a state of revolt.
For failing to have restored order in Santo Domingo, Francisco de Bobadilla was ordered back to Spain.
June 29, ignoring Christopher Columbus’s hurricane warning, Ovando sent Francisco de Bobadilla on their return trip to Spain.
July 1, 1502, 20 vessels of the 31-ship convoy sank in the Mona passage taking some 500 lives, including former governor Francisco de Bobadilla.
Now WE Know