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ing inflamed by a mutinous spirit, which had, at sundry times, made its appearance, instigated by the partizans of Velasquez. With universal consent the ships were drawn ashore; and, after stripping them of their rigging and iron-work, they were broke in pieces. Thus, from a magnanimous effort, five hundred men voluntarily consented to be shut up in a hostile country, inhabited by powerful and unknown inhabitants; left without any other resource than their own valour and perseverance.
Cortes began his march from Zempoalla, on the sixteenth of August, 1519, with five hundred men, fifteen horses, and six field pieces. The rest of the troops, consisting of those who from age and infirmity, were unfit for actual service, he left as a garrison at Villa Rica, under the command of Escalante, an officer of merit, and warmly attached to his interest. The cazique of Zempoalla supplied him with provisions, and with two hundred of those Indians, called Tamemes, whose office it was to carry burdens, and perform all servile labour. These were a great relief to the Spanish soldiers, as they not only eased them of their baggage, but also dragged along the artillery by main force. The cazique offered a considerable body of his troops, but Cortes was satisfied with four hundred, taking care to chuse such persons of note, as might prove hostages for the fidelity of their master.
No material occurrence happened, until they arrived on the confines of Tlascala. The inhabitants of that province were a warlike people, and although they were implacable enemies of Montezuma, and had maintained an obstinate and successful contest against him, were not inclined to admit these formidable strangers into their territory. Cortes had hoped that their enmity to the Mexicans, and the example of their ancient allies, the Zempoallans, might induce them to give him a friendly reception.
In order to dispose them to this, four Zempoallans, of great eminence, were sent as ambassadors, to request in Cortes' name, and in that of their cazique, that they would permit the Spaniards to pass through their country, on their way to Mexico. But, instead of a favourable answer, which was expected, the Tlascalans seized the ambassadors, and without any regard to their public character, made preparations for sacrificing them to their gods. At the same time, they assembled their troops, in order to oppose those unknown invaders, if they should attempt to make their passage good, by the force of arms. Unaccustomed to any intercourse with foreigners, they were apt to consider every stranger as an enemy; and, upon the least suspicion of hostility were easily excited to arms. They concluded from Cortes' proposal of visiting Montezuma, in his capital, notwithstanding all his professions to the contrary, that he courted the friendship of that monarch, whom they hated and feared. The Spaniards, from the smallness of their number, were objects of contempt; not having any idea of the superiority which they derived from their arms, and discipline.
Cortes after waiting some days, in vain, the return of the am bassadors, advanced into the territory of the Tlascalans. As the resolutions of a people who delight in war, are executed with no less promptitude than they are formed, he found troops ready in the field to oppose him. They attacked him with great intrepidity; and in the first encounter wounded some of the Spaniards, and killed two horses; a loss, in their situation, of great moment, because it was irreparable. From this specimen of the courage of his new enemies, Cortes saw the necessity of proceeding with caution. His army marched in close order; he chose his stations where he halted with attention, and fortified his camp with great care.
During fourteen days he was exposed to almost uninterrupted assaults; the Tlascalans advancing with numerous armies, and renewing the attack in various forms, with that valour and perseverance, to which the Spaniards had seen nothing parallel in the New World. But the account of battles must appear uninteresting when there is no equality of danger; and when the nar rative closes with an account of thousands slain on one side, and that not a single person falls on the other.
The Spanish historians relate these combats with great pomp, and intermix incredible events; but they cease to command attention, when there was so great a disproportion between the parties. There were some circumstances, however, that merit notice, as they display the character of the natives, and of their conquerors. Though the Tlascalans brought into the field such vast armies as appeared sufficient to have overwhelmed the Spaniards, yet they were never able to make any impression upon their small battalion. This is easily explained: though inured to war, like all the other inhabitants of the New World, they were unacquainted with military order and discipline, and lost the advantage which they might have gained from their num bers, and the impetuosity of their attack, by their constant solici tude to carry off their dead and wounded: this was a point of honour with them, founded on a sentiment of tenderness natural to the human mind, strengthened by an anxiety to preserve the bodies of their countrymen from being devoured by their enemies.
Attention to this pious office occupied them during the heat of combat, broke their union, and lessened the force of the impres sion which they might have made by a joint effort. The imperfection of their offensive weapons rendered their valour of little avail. After three battles and many skirmishes and assaults, not one Spaniard was slain. Arrows and spears headed with flint, or the bones of fishes, and wooden swords, though destructive weapons among naked Indians, were easily turned aside by the Spanish bucklers, and could hardly penetrate the quilted jackets worn by the soldiers
Though the Tlascalans attacked the Spaniards with fury, yet they seemed to be actuated by a barbarous generosity. They
gave the Spaniards notice of their hostile intentions; and as they knew they wanted provisions, and imagined, like other Americans, that they had left their own country because it did not afford them subsistence; they sent to their camp a large supply of poultry and maize, desiring them to eat plentifully, because they Scorned to attack an enemy enfeebled by hunger; as it would also be an affront to their gods to offer them famished victims, as well as disagreeable to themselves to feed upon such emaciated prey.
After the first onset, finding they could not put this threat into execution, and that notwithstanding the utmost efforts of their valour, that not one Spaniard was slain: they began to alter their opinion, and concluded they were a superior order of beings, against whom all human power could not prevail. In this extremity they consulted their priests, who, after many sacrifices and incantations, delivered this answer. "That as these strangers "were the offspring of the sun, they were invincible only when "cherished by his beams; but that at night when his warming "influence was withdrawn, they became like other men, and were "easily subdued." Opinions less plausible, have gained credit with more enlightened nations.
In consequence of this, the Tlascalans acted in contradiction to one of their established maxims in war, and ventured to attack the enemy in the night, in hopes of destroying them, when weak and off their guard. But Cortes had more discernment than to be surprised or deceived by the rude stratagems of an Indian army. The centinels at the out-posts, observing an uncommon movement in the Indian army, gave the alarm. In a moment the troops were under arms, and sallying out, dispersed them with great slaughter, without allowing them to approach the camp.
Convinced by sad experience their priests had deceived them, and satisfied that it was in vain to attempt to deceive, or vanquish such powerful enemies, their fierceness began to abate, and they were seriously inclined to peace. They were, however, at a loss in what manner they should address the strangers; what idea to form of their character, and whether to consider them as beings of a gentle or malevolent nature. There were circumstances in their conduct that seemed to favour each opinion. The Spaniards had constantly dismissed their prisoners with presents of European toys.
This appeared extraordinary to men who were used to carry on an exterminating war, and who sacrificed and devoured without mercy, their captives taken in battle. On the other hand, Cortes had cut off the hands of fifty of the natives who came to the camp with provisions, and whom he took to be spies. This contrariety of conduct occasioned that doubt and uncertainty which appeared in their address: "If," said they, "you are di"vinities of a cruel and savage nature, we present to you five "slaves, that you may drink their blood, and eat their flesh. If you are mild deities, accept an offering of incense and variegatVOL. I.
"ed plumes. If you are men, here is bread and fruit to nourish "you." The peace was soon concluded; the Tlascalans yielded themselves as vassals to the crown of Castile, and engaged to assist Cortes in all his future operations. He took the republic under his protection, and promised to protect their persons and property from injury and violence.
The profound veneration of the Tlascalans, encouraged Cortes to insist upon their abandoning their own superstitions, and that they should embrace the catholic faith. They were willing to acknowledge the truth and excellence of what he taught, but contended that their gods were divinities no less deserving of adoration, than the gods of the Spaniards: and earnestly requested him not to urge them any further upon a subject, with which they could not in any manner yield a compliance.
Cortes enraged at their obstinacy, was preparing to urge by force, what he could not accomplish by persuasion; and was going to overturn their altars, and throw down their idols, if father Bartholomew de Olmedo, chaplain to the expedition, had not checked his inconsiderate impetuosity. He represented the imprudence of such an attempt; and that religion was not to be propagated by the sword, nor infidels to be converted by violence; that other weapons were to be employed in their ministry, that patient instruction must enlighten the understanding, and pious example captivate the heart, before men could be brought to embrace the great truths of the christian religion. That a monk in the sixteenth century, when the idea of toleration was unknown, and when the rights of conscience were little understood, should be among the first advocates against persecution, and appear in behalf of religious liberty, is really astonishing, and the mind is soothed with unexpected pleasure, to find such humane and liberal sentiments avowed in those dark ages of superstition.
The remonstrances of Olmedo had their proper weight with Cortes; he left the Tlascalans to the undisturbed exercise of their own rites, requiring only that they should desist from their horrid practice of offering human victims in sacrifice.
Cortes as soon as the troops were fit for service, resolved to continue his march towards Mexico, notwithstanding the earnest dissuasives of the Tlascalans, who represented Montezuma as a faithless and cruel prince, who waited for an opportunity to destroy him.
Accompanied by six thousand Tlascalans, they, on the thir teenth of October, 1519, directed their course toward Cholula; Montezuma, who had at length consented to admit the Spaniards into his presence, informed Cortes that he had given orders for his friendly reception there. Cholula was a considerable town, and though only five leagues distant from Tlascala, was formerly an independent state: but had lately been subjected to the Mex. ican empire.
This was considered by all the natives as a holy place, the sanctuary of their gods, to which devotees resorted from every
province, and a greater number of human victims were offered in its temple, than in that of Mexico.
It was strongly suspected that Montezuma, either from super. stitious hope, that the gods would there revenge the insults with which the Spaniards every where treated them, or that he might have a greater certainty of success, as being under the protection of his gods. The event shewed these suspicions were not ill founded.
Cortes, who had been warned by the Tlascalans to keep a watchful eye upon the Cholulans, though received into the town with much seeming respect and cordiality, soon observed several circumstances in their conduct, which excited suspicion. Two of the Tlascalens, who were encamped at some distance from the town, and who were not admitted by their ancient enemies within their precincts, found means to enter in disguise and informed Cortes that they observed the children of the principal citizens retiring in great haste every night, and that six children had been sacrificed in the chief temple; a rite that indicated the execution of some warlike enterprize was near at hand. At the same time, Marina the interpreter, received information from an Indian woman of distinction, whose confidence she had gained, that the destruction of her friends was concerted; that a body of Mexican troops lay concealed near the town; that some of the streets were barricadoed, and in others pits and deep trenches were dug, and slightly covered over, into which the horse might fall, that stones and missile weapons were collected on the tops of the temples, with which to overwhelm the infantry; that the fatal hour was now at hand, and their ruin unavoidable.
Cortes alarmed at this concurring evidence, secretly arrested three of the chief priests; from these he extorted a confession that confirmed the intelligence he had received. He therefore instantly resolved to prevent his enemies effecting their designs; and to inflict such an exemplary vengeance, as would strike Montezuma and his subjects with terror.
The Spaniards and Zempoallans were drawn up in a large square, which had been allotted them for quarters, near the centre of the town: the Tlascalans had orders to advance; the magistrates and chief citizens were sent for under various pretexts, seized and confined. On a signal given, the troops rushed out, and fell upon the multitude who were destitute of leaders, and so much astonished that the weapons fell from their hands, while they stood motionless, incapable of defence. As the Spaniards pressed them in front, the Tlascalans attacked them in the rear. The streets were filled with bloodshed and death. The temples, which afforded a retreat to the priests, and some of the leading natives, were set on fire, and they perished in the flames. This scene of horror continued two days; at length the carnage ceased, after the slaughter of six thousand Cholulans, without the loss of a single Spaniard.
Cortes then released the magistrates, reproaching them bitter