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habitants of the New World. Nothing could soften tħeir ferocity. Though the Spaniards practised every art to soothe them, and gain their confidence, they refused to hold any intercourse, or exchange any friendly office; they considered them as enemies come to deprive them of their liberty, and independence.
Though the Spaniards received two considerable reinforcements, the greater part of those engaged in this unhappy enterprize, perished in less than a year. A few who survived, settled a feeble colony, at Santa Maria el Antigua, on the gulf of Darien, under the command of Vasco Nugnez de Balboa, who, in the most desperate extremities, displayed such courage and conduct, as gained him the confidence of his countrymen, and marked him out for a leader, in more splendid and successful undertakings. Nor was he the only adventurer, who will appear with lustre in more important scenes.
Francis Pizarro, who was one of Ojeda's companions, afterwards performed many extraordinary actions. Ferdinand Cortes, whose name became still more famous, had engaged early in this enterprize, whích roused all the active youth of Hispaniola to arms; but the good fortune which attended him in his subsequent adventures, interposed to save him from the disasters, to which his companions were exposed. He was taken ill at St. Domingo, before the departure of the fleet, and there detained.
The unfortunate issue of this expedition in 1511, did not deter the Spaniards, from engaging in new schemes of a similar nature. Don Diego Columbus proposed to conquer the island of Cuba, and to establish a colony there. Many persons of distinction in Hispaniola, entered with alacrity into the measure.
The command of the troops sent on this expedition, was given to Diego Velasquez, one of his father's companions in his second voyage, whose ample fortune, long residence in Hispaniola, and reputation for probity and prudence, qualified him for conducting an expedition of importance. Three hundred men were deemed sufficient for the conquest of an island, seven hundred miles in length, and filled with inhabitants. But as they were the same unwarlike people as those of Hispaniola, the undertaking was not very hazardous.
The only obstruction the Spaniards met with, was from Hatuey, a cazique who had fled from Hispaniola, and taken
possession of the eastern extremity of Cuba. He stood upon the defensive when they first landed, and endeavour. ed to drive them back to their ships. His feeble troops, were soon broken and dispersed ; and he himself made prisoner. He was soon condemned to the flames. While he was fastened to the stake, a Franciscan friar labouring to convert him, promised him the immediate joys of heaven if he would embrace the christian faith ; " are there any “ Spaniards,” said he after some pause “in that region of “ bliss which you describe ?" Yes, replied the monk, but only such as are worthy and good. “The best of them," replied the indignant cazique "have neither worth nor "goodness: I will not go to a place where I shall sec one “ of that accursed race. With this dreadful example, the natives were so intimidated, that they submitted to their invaders, and Velasquez, without the loss of one man, annexed this large and fertile island to the Spanish monarchy.
Juan Ponce de Leon about the year 1512, discovered Florida ; he attempted to land in different places, but was repulsed with such vigour by the natives, as convinced him that an encrease of force was necessary, to make a settlement with safety. But the primary object which induced him to undertake this voyage, was a tradition that prevailed among the natives of Puerto Rico, that in the island of Bimini, there was a fountain of such wonderful virtue, as to renew youth, and recall the strength and vigour of every person who bathed in it. That a tale so incredible should gain belief, among simple uninstructed Indians is not surprizing; but that it should make an impression on enlightened people, appears in the present age, altogether incredible. The fact however is certain, and Robertson in his history of America, says, the most authentic Spanish historians mention this extravagant attempt of their credulous countrymen.
Soon after the expedition to Florida a discovery of much greater consequence was made in another part of America. Balboa having been raised to the government of Santa Maria in Darien, made frequent inroads into the adjacent country. In one of these excursions, the Spaniards contended with such eagerness about the division of some gold, that they were upon the point of proceeding to violence. A young cazique, astonished at the high value they set upon a thing of which lie did not discern the use,
tumbled the gold out of the balance with indignation ; and turning to the Spaniards, “Why do you quarrel (said he) about such a trifle ? if you are so fond of gold as to abandon your own country, and to disturb the tranquillity of other nations for its sake, I will conduct you to a region where this metal is in such abundance, that the most common utensils are made of it.” Transported with what they heard, Balboa and the rest enquired eagerly where this country lay, and how they might arrive at it. He informed them, that at the distance of six suns, (that is of six days' journey) they should discover another ocean, near to which this wealthy kingdom was situated ; but he told them if they intended to attack that powerful state, they must have forces far superior in number to those with which they now appeared.
Balboa had now before him objects equal to his boundless ambition, and the ardour of his genius : but previous arrangements and preparations were requisite to ensure success. It was his primary object to secure the friendship of the neighbouring caziques; he sent some of his officers to Hispaniola with a large quantity of gold. By a proper distribution of this, they secured the favour of the governor, and allured volunteers into the service. A considerable reinforcement from that island joined him, and with these he attempted a discovery,
The isthmus of Darien is not above sixty miles in breadth; this neck of land strengthened by a chain of lofty mountains, stretching through its whole extent, binds together the continents of North and South America, and forms a sufficient barrier to resist the inpulse of two opposite oceans. The mountains are covered with forests almost inaccessible. The low lands are marshy and frequently overflowed, so that the inhabitants find it necessary, in many places, to build their houses on trees, to avoid the damps from the soil, and the odious reptiles which breed in the putrid waters.
To march across this unexplored country with Indian guides, of whose fidelity they were doubtful, was the boldest enterprize undertaken by the Spaniards, since the first discovery of the New World. But the intrepidity and prudent conduct of Balboa surmounted every obstacle. With only one hundred and ninety men, and some of those fierce dogs, which were no less formidable to their
naked enemies, and one thousand Indians, he set out on this expedition, in the year 1513.
No souner did he begin to advance, than he was retarded by many obstacles, which he had reason to apprehend, from the nature of the country, and the hostility of its inhabitants. Some of the caziques fled at his approach, with all their people to the mountains. Others collected their subjects in order to oppose his progress.
When they had penetrated a considerable distance into the mountains, a powerful cazique appeared in a narrow pass, with a numerous body of troops to oppose them. The Spaniards, who had surmounted so many obstacles, despised the opposition of such feeble enemies. They attacked them with such impetuosity, that the Indians gave way at the first onset, and many of them were slain ; after which the Spaniards continued their march. Though their guide had told them it was but six days' journey across the isthmus, yet they had now been twenty-five days in forcing their way through the woods. Many of them were ready to sink under the fatigue they had undergone, and all began to be impatient to reach the period of their sufferings : at length the Indians assured them, that from the top of the next mountain they could discover the ocean which was the object of their wishes.
When they had, with infinite toil, ascended the greater part of that steep ascent, Balboa commanded his men to halt, and he alone advanced to the summit, that he might be the first to behold a spectacle which he had so long been in quest of. As soon as he beheld the South Sea stretching in endless prospect below him, he fell on his knees, and lifting up his eyes to Heaven, returned thanks to God, who had conducted him to a discovery so beneficial to his country, and so honourable to himself. His followers observing his transports, rushed forward and joined to his wonder, exultation and gratitude.
They descended with alacrity to the shore, and Balboa advancing up to his middle in ihe waves, with his buckler and sword, took possession of that Ocean, in the name of the king his master, and vowed to defend it against all his enemies.
That part of the great Pacific or Southern ocean which Balboa first discovered, still retains the name of the gulf of St. Michael, which he gave it; and is situated to the east of Panama. VOL. I.
From several of the petty princes, who governed in districts adjacent to that gulf, Balboa extorted provisions and gold, by force of arms. Others supplied him voluntarily. To these acceptable presents some of the caziques added some valuable pearls ; and he learned from them that pearl oysters abounded in the ocean he had discovered. The people on the coast of the South Sea, concurred in informing him that there was a mighty and wealthy kingdom situated eastwardly, the inhabitants of which made use of tame animals to carry their burdens. They drew upon the sand the figure of the Lamas or sheep which the Peruvians had taught to perform such services as they described.
Balboa led his followers back by a different route, that he might acquire a better knowledge of the isthmus, This route he found no less dangerous and difficult, than that which he had already taken. But being now elated with success, they surmounted every difficulty, and returned to Santa Maria in safety.
In this expedition none of Balboa's officers distinguished themselves more than Francisco Pizarro in opening a communication with those countries in which he afterwards acted such an illustrious part. The first care of Balboa was to send information to Spain of the discovery he had made, and to demand a reinforcement of a thousand men to attempt the conquest of that opulent country, of which he had been informed by the Indian natives.
The first account of the discovery of the New World did not excite greater sensations of joy than that of a passage being at last discovered to the great Southern ocean, through which a passage to the East Indies, by a course to westward of the line of clemarkation drawn by the Pope, seemed almost certain. Ferdinand now expected to come in for a share of the vast wealth that Aowed into Portugal; his eagerness to obtain it made him willing to make greater efforts than Balboa required. But his jealous disposition, and the fatal antipathy of Fonseca, now bishop of Burgos, to every man of merit, who distinguished himself in the New World were conspicuous.
Notwithstanding the merit and recent services of Balboa, Ferdinand was so ungenerous as to overlook these, and appointed Pedrarias Davilla governor of Darien. He gave him the command of fifteen large vessels and twelve hun. dred soldiers ; these were fitted out with a liberality at