Page:A Picturesque Tour of the Island of Jamaica.djvu/17

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HISTORICAL SKETCH

OF THE

ISLAND OF JAMAICA.





Jamaica was discovered by Christopher Columbus, in his second expedition to the New World. In his former voyage he had explored the north-eastern part of Cuba, proceeding from thence to Hispaniola; but he had returned to Europe in doubt whether Cuba was an island only, or part of some great continent, of which he had received obscure accounts from the natives. To satisfy himself in this particular, he determined, soon after his arrival a second time at Hispaniola, on another voyage to Cuba, by a south-westerly course; and, in pursuance of this resolution, on the 24th of April 1494, he sailed from the port of Isabella, with one ship and two shallops. On Tuesday the 29th, he anchored in the harbour of St. Nicholas. From thence he crossed over to Cuba, and coasted along the southern side of that island, surrounded by many thousand canoes, filled with Indians, whom curiosity and admiration had brought together. In this navigation, on Saturday the 3d May, he discovered, for the first time, the high lands of Jamaica on the left, and, probably, learnt its name (the name which it still retains) from some of the Indians that followed him. The early Spanish historians wrote the word Xaymaca. It is said to have signified, in the language of the natives, a country abounding in springs. As this was a new discovery, and many of the seamen were willing to believe that it was the place to which they had formerly been directed by the Indians of the Bahama Islands, as the country most abounding in gold, Columbus was easily persuaded to turn his course towards it. He approached it the next day, and after a slight contest with the natives, which ended, however, in a cordial reconciliation, he took possession of the country with the usual formalities. Jamaica remained under the power of Spain until the protectorate of Cromwell, when, after the unsuccessful attack upon St. Domingo, in 1655, the fleet under Admiral Penn, Vice Admiral Goodson, and Rear Admiral Blagge, and the land forces under General Venables, arrived at Port Caguaya (Port Royal) on the 9th of May. Next evening the troops landed at Passage Fort, which was fortified with nine pieces of cannon, and had a garrison of 500 men. Little resistance having been made, about a week after a capitulation was