Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

from Cape Vela to Cape Gracias à Dios was bestowed on Nicuessa, a wealthy gentleman of Hispaniola, whose readiness to catch at the baits held out for needy adventurers was gladly indulged by the Spanish government. Hojeda saw, with indignation; this unexpected rival share with him a dominion, the moiety of which was still far beyond his grasp. In his train were some destined to rank amongst the most distinguished characters of a brilliant age. The veteran mariner Juan de la Cosa was his pilot; Balboa and Francisco Pizarro, whose names will occur again in the course of the following pages, followed his fortunes; Hernando Cortez also was to have joined the expedition, but was detained in Hispaniola by unexpected illness. On reaching the shores of Carthagena, Hojeda, in conformity with the royal instructions, began by exhorting the Indians to embrace the doctrines of Christianity, to deal kindly towards the Spaniards, and to acknowledge the authority of the king of Castile. The simple inhabitants, not comprehending the drift of these novel propositions, replied to them by a fierce attack on the strangers, whom they probably regarded as dangerous intruders. Though terrified at first by the dreadful sound and fatal effects of fire-arms, they returned to the onset with a courage unusual among the natives of the New World. The Spaniards, notwithstanding the superiority of their arms and the advantages of discipline, were unable to resist the poisoned arrows and overpowering numbers of the Indians. They all fell, about seventy in number, among whom was the pilot, Juan de la Cosa. Hojeda alone saved himself by the rapidity of his flight. When those who had remained on board, and who were still in ignorance of what had befallen their companions, sent a boat on shore after some hours, to learn their proceedings, they found their commander concealed in the mangroves at the water's edge, faint and exhausted with hunger and fatigue. Warned by his recent disaster, Hojeda avoided collision with the warlike inhabitants of these regions, and at length succeeded in building a fort, which he named after St. Sebastian; the protection of that saint being supposed capable of guaranteeing the settlers from the effects of poisoned arrows. But famine and disease soon began to be felt in the infant colony: the sufferings of his people became so severe that Hojeda was obliged to depart for Hispaniola to endeavour to procure provisions. On his arrival there, he learned that succours had been already despatched to St. Sebastian: his hopes suddenly revived at this intelligence; and in spite of all his hardships and reverses, his buoyant spirits once more revelled in brilliant dreams of future wealth, power, and domir nion. But he now bore the stigma of misfortune:— the mistrustful coldness which he experienced on every side preyed upon his feelings; and he died soon after of a broken heart, and so poor, that all his property was found insufficient to defray the expenses of his funeral. Hojeda is said to have written a history of his life, a life of unceasing action and romantic adventure; but these interesting memoirs, along with those of Yanez Pinzon, and other early travellers, have been condemned, by the cautious and illiberal jealousy of the Spanish government, to moulder forgotten in the national archives.

The fate of Nicuessa was no less wretched than that of his unhappy rival in ambition. He left Hispaniola with four large ships and one caravel; but had hardly lost sight of land, when a violent tempest dispersed his fleet. Shipwrecked on a strange shore, he found his way with incredible toils to Veragua, which had been appointed the general rendezvous of his squadron: here his followers were cut off rapidly by want, disease, and the hostility of the Indians; whichever way he turned, by land or sea, fresh calamities awaited him. At Darien, where he hoped to find refuge among his countrymen, Balboa at first refused to admit him. He was, however, permitted to land, and soon after driven again to sea in a small vessel, with only seventeen followers; but was never heard of afterwards. While embarking to return to Hispaniola, he was reproached by Balboa with having

sacrificed so much human life to his ambition; — a re-
proach not undeserved, perhaps, but which came with a
bad grace from one who led the vanguard of Spanish
adventurers.
The most important result of these expeditions was
the establishment of a small colony in Darien, which
was placed under the command of Nunez de Balboa.
This enterprising officer made numerous incursions on
the territories of the neighbouring caciques, in the
course of which he received intelligence from the Indians
of a great sea a few days’ journey to the south. This
he justly concluded to be the ocean which Columbus
had so long sought in vain. Inflamed with the idea of
effecting a discovery which that great man had been
unable to accomplish, and eager to reap the first harvest
of victory in countries said to abound with gold, he
boldly determined to march across the isthmus, and wit-
ness with his own eyes the truth of what he heard. But
in the execution of his design he had to contend with
every difficulty which could be opposed to him by the
hand of nature or the hostility of the natives: he had
to lead his troops, worn out with fatigue and the diseases
of a noxious climate, through deep marshes rendered
nearly impassable by perpetual rains, over mountains
covered with trackless forests, and through defiles from
which the Indians, in secure ambuscade, showered down
poisoned arrows. But no sufferings could damp the
courage of the Spaniards in that enterprising age ;
Balboa surmounted every impediment. As he approach-
ed the object of his research, he ran before his com-
panions to the summit of a mountain, from which he
surveyed, with transports of delight, the boundless ocean
which rolled beneath; then hurrying to the shore, he
plunged into the waves, and claimed the sovereignty of
the Southern Ocean for the crown of Castile. This
event took place in September 1513. The inhabitants
of the coast on which he had arrived gave him to under-
stand that the land towards the south was without end;
that it was possessed by powerful nations who had

[ocr errors]

abundance of gold, and who employed beasts of burden. These allusions to the civilisation and riches of Peru, Balboa supposed to apply to those Indies which it was the grand object of European ambition to approach; and the rude sketches of the Peruvian lama, drawn by the Indians on the sand, as they resembled the figure of the camel, served to confirm him in his error. Delighted with the importance of his discovery, he immediately despatched messengers to Spain, to give an account of his proceedings, and to solicit an appointment corresponding to his services. But the Spanish court was more liberal in exciting enterprise than in rewarding merit, and preferred new adventurers to old servants. The government of Darien was bestowed on Pedrarias Davila, who, regarding Balboa with the hatred which conscious weakness always bears towards superior worth, meditated unceasingly the destruction of his rival. He at length found an occasion to satisfy his vengeance; and the heroic Balboa was publicly executed in Darien, in 1517, affording another instance of the unhappy fate which attended the first conquerors of America.

CHAP. IV.

SPANISH DISCOVERIES, AND FIRST CIRCUMNAVIGATION OF THE EARTH.

DIEGO Columbus TAKES THE CHIEF COMMAND IN THE COLONIES. INCREASED ENERGY. – PONCE DE LEON SEEKS THE FOUNTAIN of YouTH. – DISCOVERS FLORIDA. —OBSERVES THE EASTWARD cur RENTS. - ExPEDITIONS OF GARAY. -CORDOBA VISITS YUCAT.A.N. – GRIJALWA DISCOVERS NEW SPAIN. — AILLON REACHES THE COAST or cAROLINA. - ATTEMPT's To MAKE A SETTLEMENT. —HIS MELANCHOLY FAILURE. – FERNANDO MAGELLAN. - RESPECTIVE RIGHTS OF SPAIN AND PORTUGAL. - MAGELLAN ENGAGEs To conduct A FLEET westward To THE MoLUccAs. - WINTERS on THE COAST OF PATAGONIA. - MUTINY IN THE FLEET. — His stERN conDUCT. — THE NATIVES DEscRIBED. — THE GUANACO. MAGELLAN ENTERS THE PACIFIC OCEAN. — ARRIVEs AT THE PHILIPPINE is Les. - converts THE KING or zEBU, AND ENGAGES IN war FARE FOR HIs sake. — Is sI.A.I.N. By the is LAN Iders. - or REACHiertous conduct of TEile KING OF ZEBU. — THE TWO REMAINING SHIPS REACH THE MoLUCCAS. – FATE or THE TRINIDAD. - THE WITTORIA comispi, ETES THE CIRCU MNAVIGATION or the EARTH, - Loss or A. DAY IN HER RECKONING,

DURING these transactions on the southern continent, the spirit of discovery was actively at work in other quarters. Diego Columbus, the son of the celebrated admiral, had arrived, in 1509, at Hispaniola, invested with all those powers and prerogatives which had been so unjustly withheld from his father. He was followed to the New World by a large train of noble and wealthy persons, whose presence gave new animation and vigour to the colonies. Settlements were made in Cuba and other islands, and expeditions to examine the neighbouring seas proceeded advantageously from different points at once. In 1512, Juan Ponce de Leon, governor of Porto Rico, fitted out three ships to go in search of Bayuca, an island, in which was a fountain, as the Indians related, possessing the virtue of restoring all who bathed in it to youth. Tales such as this were readily believed

« ForrigeFortsett »