Abbildungen der Seite

stinate, it was likewise more equal, than any between the inhabitants of the Old and New Worlds.

The great abilities of Guatimozin, the number of his troops, the peculiar situation of his capital, so far counterbalanced the superiority of the Spaniards in arms, and discipline, that they must have relinquished the enterprize if they had trusted to themselves alone. But Mexico was overturned by the jealousy of neighbours, who dreaded its power, and by the revolt of subjects impatient to throw off the yoke. By their effectual aid Cortes was enabled to accomplish what, without such support, he would hardly have ventured to attempt. Great merit is due to the abilities of Cortes, who under every disadvantage, acquired such an ascendancy over unknown nations, as to render them instruments towards carry. ing his schemes into execution.

The exultation of the Spaniards, on accomplishing this arduous enterprize was at first excessive. But this was quickly damped by the disappointment of those sanguine hopes, which had animated them amidst so many hardships and dangers. Instead of the inexhaustible wealth which they expected from becoming masters of Montezuma's treasures, and the ornaments of so many temples, they could only collect an inconsiderable booty, amidst ruins and desolation. According to the account of Cortes, the whole amount was only 120,000 pesos, a sum far inferior to that which the Spaniards had formerly divided in Mexico. This suin, when divided among the conquerors, was so small, that many of them disdained the pittance that fell to their share.

Guatimozin aware of his impending fate, had ordered what had remained of the riches amassed by his ancestors, to be thrown into the lake. Cortes from an anxious desire to check the grow: ing discontent among his followers, gave way to a deed which stained the glory of all his great actions. Without regarding the former dignity of Guatimozin, or feeling any reverence for those virtues which he had displayed, he subjected the unhappy monarch, together with his chief favourite, to torture, in order to enforce them to a discovery of the royal treasures, which it was supposed they had concealed. Guatimozin bore whatever the refined cruelty of his tormentors could inflict with invincible fortitude.

His fellow sufferer, overcome by the violence of the anguish, turned a dejected inquiring eye towards his master, and seemed to implore his permission to reveal all that he knew. But the high spirited prince, darting on him a look of authority, mingled with scorn, checked his weakness, by asking, "Am I now reposing on a bed of flowers ?” Overawed by the reproach, he persevered in his dutiful silence, and expired. Cortes ashamed of a scene so horrid, rescued the royal victim from the hands of his torturers, and prolonged a life reserved for new indignities, and sufferings.

The provinces now submitted to the conquerors. Small detachments of Spaniards marched through them, without inter

ruption, and penetrated in different quarters, to the great southern ocean, which according to the ideas of Columbus, they imagined would open a short and easy passage to the East Indies.

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

Ferdinand Magellan a Portuguese gentleman of honourable birth, having received ill treatment from his general and sovereign, in a transport of resentment formally renounced his allegiance to an ungrateful master, and fled to the court of Castile, in hopes that his worth would be more justly estimated. He revived Columbus's original and favourite project, of discovering a passage to India by a western course. Cardinal Ximenes listened to it with a most favourable ear. Charles V. on his arrival in his Spanish dominions entered into the measure with no less ardour, and orders were issued for equipping a proper squadron at the public charge, of which the command was given to Magellan, whom the king honoured with the habit of St. Jago, and the title of captaingeneral.

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

After touching at the Canaries, he stood directly south, towards the equinoctial line along the coast of America. 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 situ. ated there.

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

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

nel, 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 laud ; 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 consola. tion. They enjoyed an uninterrupted suceession 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-sünk 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 course, had arrived at that sequestered seat of their valuable com inerce, which they had discovered by sailing in an opposite direction.

There, and in the adjacent isles, they found a people acquainted with the benefit of trade, and pleased with opening an inter course 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 Sebase tian del Cano. 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 twenty-eight 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 commission or authority from the sovereign whom he served with such successful zeal, but was re. garded as an unditiful seditious subject. By the influence of Fon: seca, bishop of Burgos, his conduct, in assuming the government

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

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 proceedings, 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 man. date to divest its conqueror of his power, and treat-him as a. criminal.

But Fonseca had chosen a very improper person to wreak his. vengeance 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 vene ration for the emperor's authority, secretly took measures to de feat 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 length prevailed op that weak man 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 despatched 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 favour of his pretensions, and Charles adopted the sentiments of his subjects with a youthful ardour. He appointed him captain-general and gover. nor of New Spain.

It was not, however, without difficulty that the Mexican em. pire 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 de. fence 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 resounding 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 atro. cious, 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

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

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 af. fected 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 tri. al, ordered the unhappy monarch, together with the caziques of Tezcuco and Tacuba, two persons of the greatest eminence, next to the emperor, to be hanged; and the Mexicans with astonishment beheld this ignominious punishment inflicted upon persons, whom they had been accustomed to look up tó 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 impression 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 licentiate, 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 covo eting.

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 or. naments 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 emperor received him as a person entitled to high respect, for the eminence of his services. The order of St. Jago, the title of Marquis del Valle de Guaxaca, the grant of a vast territory in New Spain, were successively bestowed upon him ; and he was

« ZurückWeiter »