On the four voyages of Columbus to the New World which he gave to Castille and to Leon he saw all the larger islands of the Caribbean and coasted along a not inconsiderable part of its shores. Could he have revisited the scene of his discoveries periodically in the three centuries following he would, it is safe to say, have been in many ways greatly disappointed. Instead of the oriental civilizations with their great riches which he had sought to reach he would have found that there were only the primitive Indian tribes such as he had himself encountered. Great riches, though not those of the Orient, he would have learned had been discovered and had been made a source of income to the Spanish crown and its representatives. This wealth had come to light, indeed, soon after he himself had passed away, but it was not in the regions he had explored but still farther on, in Mexico and in Peru.
The regions he had traversed remained for a long period a backwash, valuable not so much in themselves as because they lay on the way to the more easily exploitable, more thickly inhabited regions in which the precious metals were to be had.
The islands he discovered and the lands bordering upon the seas he sailed he might have thought were a doubtful blessing to the Spanish crown. They had to be defended and their scattered character made the task one increasingly difficult as other countries gained in power and reached a position in which they could dispute the national monopoly. It would have seemed to him, indeed, as if these islands and the then unproductive mainland areas were at times vantage-points from which the enemies of his most Christian majesty could operate against Spanish interests rather than bulwarks by which they might be defended.
At the end of three hundred years he would still have found the commerce through the Caribbean which Spain most prized to be transit trade carried up the west coast to the isthmus and from the far east and Mexico down to Vera Cruz and thence by fleets to Spain. Valuable it was, but not of great volume and not supporting frequent sailings to the home country.
He would have been disturbed by the fact that other countries had already begun to get a foothold in the territories claimed by Spain, and would have heard perhaps the rumblings of discontent which were soon to grow into revolutions and break down the great colonial system which his discoveries had made possible.