Page images


The active mind of Cortes began already to form is dangerou schemes for attempting this important discovery. He was efort et ignorant that this very scheme had been undertaken and Ltd esem accomplished, during the progress of his victorious arms in Mexico.

Ferdinand Magellan a Portuguese gentleman of honor-telength able birth, having received ill treatment from his general by be inc and sovereign, in a transport of resentment formally re- fading nounced his allegiance to an ungrateful master, and fed to the court of Castile, in hopes that his worth would be Grsalis more justly estimated. He revived Columbus's original and to w and favourite project, of discovering a passage to India by: xships d a western course.. Cardinal Ximenes listened to it with new; a most favourable ear. Charles V. on his arrival in his fize ior Spanish dominions entered into the measure with no H less ardour, and orders were issued for equipping à pro- monthper squadron at the publie charge, of which the commandatis fora was given to Magellan, whom the king honored with the labour habit of St. Jago, and the title of captain-general. : . tiofam

On the tenth of August, 1519, Magellan sailed from the Seville, with five ships, which were deemed at that time turbich of considerable force ; though the largest of them did not have exceed one hundred and twenty tons burden; the crew of interna the whole amounted to two hundred and thirty four men, besiona including some of the most skilful pilots in Spain, and allan several Portuguese sailors, in whom Magellan placed the List most confidence.

After touching at the Canaries, he stood directly south, towards the equinoctial line along the coast of America. to fame He did not reach the river De la Plata till the twelfth of January, 1520. That spacious body of water allured him to enter into it, but after sailing for some days he concluded, from the shallowness of the stream, and its freshness, that the wished for strait was not situated there.

On the thirty first of March he arrived at the port of St. Julian, at about forty eight degrees of south latitude, where to he resolved to winter. In this vncomfortable station he lost one of his squadron, and the Spaniards suffered so much from the inclemency of the climate, that the crews Blo of three of the ships, headed by their officers, rose in open for mutiny, and insisted on relinquishing the visionary project of a desperate adventurer, and returning directly to Spain

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


This dangerous insurrection Magellan wisely suppressed, by an effort of courage, no less prompt than intrepid : and inflicted exemplary punishment on the ringleaders. With the remainder of his followers, overawed but not reconciled to his scheme, he continued his voyage towards the south and at length discovered near the fifty third degree of latitude, the inouth of a strait, into which he entered, notwithstanding the murmurs of the people under his command.

After sailing twenty days in that winding and dangerous channel, to which he gave his own name, and where one of his ships deserted him, the great southern ocean opened to his view; and with tears of joy, he returned thanks to heaven, for having thus far crowned his endeavours with success. He continued to sail in a north west direction three months and twenty days, without discovering land ; in this voyage, the longest that had ever been made in the unbounded ocean, he suffered incredible distress. His stock of provisions was almost exhausted, the water became putrid, the men were reduced to the shortest allowance,

with which it was possible to sustain life ; and the scurvy | began to spread among them. One circumstance alone

afforded consolation. They enjoyed an uninterrupted y succession of fair weather, with such favourable winds, that Magellan bestowed on that ocean the name of Pacific, which it still retains.

They would have soon sunk under their sufferings, had . they not discovered and fell in with a cluster of islands, whose fertility afforded them refreshments in such abundance, that their health was soon re-established. From these isles to which he gave the name of De los Ladrones, he proceeded on his voyage, and soon made a more important discovery of the islands now known by the name of The Philippines ; in one of these he got into an unfortunate quarrel with the natives, who attacked him with a numerous body of troops well armed ; and while he fought at the head of his men with his usual valour, he fell by the hands of those barbarians, together with several of his principal officers. Other officers took the command, and after touching at several other islands in the Indian ocean, they at length landed at Tidore one of the Moluccas, to the astonishment of the Portuguese, who could not comprehend how the Spaniards, by holding a westerly coursė, had ar

rived at that sequestered seat of their valuable commercé, which they had discovered by sailing in an opposite direço · tion. B. is

There, and in the adjacent isles, they found a people acquainted with the benefit of trade, and pleased with opening an intercourse with a new nation. They took in a cargo of valuable spices, with that and other specimens of rich commodities which they had collected from other countries, they loaded the Victory, which of the two ships that remained, was the most fit for a long voyage, and set sail for Spain, under the command of Juan Sebastian del Caro. He followed the course of the Portuguese by the Cape of Good Hope ; and after many sufferings, he arrived at St. Lucar on the seventh of September, 1522, having sailed round the globe in the space of three years and twentyeight days.

. . . . To return to the transactions of New Spain : At the time that Cortes was acquiring such vast territories for his Sovereign, and preparing the way for future conquests, it was his singular fate, not only to be destitute of any com mission or authority from the sovereign whom he served with such successful zeal, but was regarded as an indutiful seditious subject. By the influence of Fonseca, bishop of Burgos, his conduct, in assuming the government of New Spain, was declared to be an irregular usurpation, in contempt of the royal authority ; and Christoval de Tapia was commissioned to supercede Cortes, to seize his person, confiscate his effects, make a strict scrutiny into his procéedings, and transmit the result of his enquiries to the court of the Indies, of which the bishop of Burgos was president. Tapia landed a few weeks after the reduction of Mexico, at Vera Cruz, with the royal mandate to divest its conqueror of his power, and treat him as a criminal.

But Fonseca had chosen a very improper person to wreak his veangeance on Cortes. Tapia had neither the reputation, nor the talents, that suited the high command to which he had been appointed. Cortes, while he publicly expressed the highest veneration for the emperor's authority, secretly took measures to defeat the effect of his commission; and having involved Tapia and his followers in a multiplicity of conferences and negociations, sometimes making use of threats, but more frequently employing bribes and promises, he at lengih prevailed on that weals Than to abandon a province he was unworthy of governing. But Cortes was so sensible of the precarious tenure by which he held his power, that he dispatched deputies to -- Spain with a pompous account of the success of his arms,

with farther specimens of the productions of the country, and with rich presents to the emperor, as the earnest of future contributions from his new conquest ; requesting as a recompense for all his services, the approbation of his proceedings and that he might be entrusted with the government of those territories which his conduct, and the valour of his followers, had added to the crown of Castile.

The account of Cortes's victories filled his countrymen with admiration. The public voice declared loudly in faTour of his pretensions, and Charles adopted the sentiments of his subjects with a youthful ardour. He appointed him captain-general and governor of New Spain.

"It was not, however, without difficulty that the Mexican empire could be entirely reduced into the form of a Spanish colony. Enraged and rendered desperate by oppression, the natives often forgot the superiority of their enemies ; and took up arms in defence of their liberties. In every contest however, the European valour and discipline prevailed. But fatally for the honour of their country, the Spaniards sullied the glory redounding from their repeated victories, by their mode of treating the vanquished.

In almost every province of the Mexican empire the progress of the Spanish arms is marked with blood, and with deeds so atrocious, as disgrace the enterprizing valour that conducted them to success. In the province of Panuco, sixty caziques or chiefs, and four hundred nobles, were burnt at one time. Nor was this shocking barbarity committed in any sudden effect of rage, or by a commander of inferior note ; it was the act of Sandoval, who was entitled to the second rank in the annals of New Spain, executed after a solemn consultation with Cortes ; and, to complete the horror of the scene, the children and relations of the victims were compelled to be spectators of their dying agonies. This dreadful example of severity, was followed by another which affected the Mexicans still more sensibly. On a slight suspicion, confirmed by very imperfect evidence, Guatimozin was charged with attempting to throw off the yoke, and to excite his former subjects to take up arms. Cortes, without the formality of a trial, ordered the unhappy monarch, together with the caziques of Tezcuco and Tacuba, two persons of the greatest emi. nence, next to the emperor, to be hanged ; and the Mexicans with astonishment beheld this ignominious punish: ment inflicted upon persons, whom they had been accus tomed to look up to with a reverence, little inferior to that which they paid to the gods themselves..

When Charles V. advanced Cortes to the government of New Spain, he at the same time appointed commissioners to receive, and administer the royal revenue there. These men were astonished, when arriving in Mexico, at the high authority which Cortes exercised. In their letters they represented Cortes as an ambitious tyrant, who having usurped a jurisdiction superior to law, aimed at independence. These insinuations made such deep imprese sion on the mind of the Spanish ministers, that unmindful of the past services of Cortes, they infused the same suspicions into the mind of Charles, and prevailed on him to order a solemn inquest to be made into his conduct, with powers to the licenciate, Ponce de Leon, entrusted with that commission, to seize his person, if expedient; and send him prisoner to Spain. - :

The sudden death of Ponce de Leon, which happened soon after his arrival in New Spain, prevented the execution of this commission. Cortes beheld the approaching crisis of his fortune, with all the violent emotions natural to a haughty mind, conscious of high desert, and receiving unworthy treatment. His old faithful followers, stung with resentment, advised him to seize that power, which the courtiers were so mean as to accuse him of covering.

Actuated by sentiments of loyalty, he rejected the dangerous advice, and repaired directly to Spain ; choosing rather to commit himself and his cause to the justice of his sovereign, than submit to be tried in a country, where he had the chief command, and by a set of interested and partial judges.

In the year 1528, Cortes appeared in his native country, with the splendour that suited the conqueror of a mighty kingdom. He brought with him a great part of his wealth, many jewels and ornaments of great value, and was attended by some Mexicans of the first rank, as well as by the most considerable 'of his own officers. His arrival in Spain, removed at once every suspicion, The emiperor re.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »