Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

. As the course of the Vittoria round the earth was from east to west, or in the same direction as the diurnal motion of the sun, that luminary had of course made, with respect to that vessel, one revolution less than it had performed in relation to any fixed point on the surface of the globe. When Sebastian del Cano, therefore, arrived at San Lucar, he was surprised to find that he had lost a day in his calculation; reckoning as the fifth what in every calendar of Europe was the sixth of September. This circumstance, which admits of so easy an explanation, perplexed not a little the learned of the day, and gave rise to many a groundless theory. - -

CHAP. V.

HERNANDO CORTEZ.

EDUCATION OF CORTEz. — ARRIVES AT CUB.A. - APPOINTED TO COMMAND THE EXPEDITION AGAINST NEW SPAIN. - THROWS OFF THE AUTHORITY OF VELASquEz. — BurLDS VERA CRUz. – COMMENCES HIS MARCH. - DEFEATS THE TLASCALANs. – MASSACRE AT CHOLULA. — THE STANIARDS ENTER THE CITY OF MEXICO. - DANGER OF THEIR SITUATION. - cort Ez ARRESTS MONTEZUMA. – DEFEATs NARVAEz. — REvolT of THE MEXICANs. – DEATH of MonTEzum A. — BATTLE of otu MBA, AND TRIUMPH OF THE SPANIARDS. — MEXICO SURRENDERS. – ALWARADO MARCHES TO GUATEMALA. - ExPEDITION OF DE OLID. - CORTEZ CONDUCTS AN ARMY FROM MEXICO To HonDURAS. - CONVENTION OF BADAJOS. - LOYASA SENT WITH A FLEET TO THE MOLUCCAS. — HIS FATE. - VOYAGE OF THE PATACA. – CORTEZ SENDS SAAVEDRA TO ASSIST LOYASA. – sur-PRISE OF THE PORTUGUESE. – SAAVEDRA DISCOVERS NEW GUIn EA AND OTHER ISLANDS. – HIS FATE. - CORTEZ BECOMES An OBJECT of PoliticAL JEALOUSY. REVISITs SPAIN, HOW RECEIVED. - RETURNS To M.Exico WITH DIMINISHED POWER. — Discovers CALIFORNIA. — consums Es HIS FORTUNE IN FRUITLESS ExPEDITIONS. RETURNS TO SPAIN. - HIS AFRICAN CAMPAIGN. – NEGLECTED BY THE COURT. - HIS DEATH,

Gazar revolutions in the history of mankind are apt to call forth the energies of individuals in an extraordi

nary degree, and to furnish a splendid scene of remarkable characters. The discovery of America, the most important event perhaps in the annals of history, fully justifies this observation. The Spaniards in the New World were led to conquest by a train of heroes, who, in the vastness of their designs and daring courage, perfectly corresponded with the grandeur of the theatre in which they moved. Among the most conspicuous of these was Hernando Cortez. This celebrated man was born in 1485, at Medelin in Estremadura, of a noble but not wealthy family. Being intended for the bar, he received a good education; but, as he grew up, the extreme ardour of his temper disqualified him for the studies of scholastic life, and determined him to embrace the profession of arms. The wars in Italy at that time offered an inviting field to the aspirants after military renown, and Cortez was prevented by sickness alone from trying his fortune in that quarter. He was reserved for more singular achievements than could be expected from the well-balanced struggles of European warfare. In 1504 he departed for Hispaniola, where he was well received by the governor Ovando, who was also his relation. Illness prevented his accompanying Hojeda in that expedition to Uraba, in which Balboa, Pizarro, and others, who afterwards figured so eminently in the transactions of the New World, followed in the train of that unfortunate leader. In 1511 Cortez attended Diego Velasquez in his expedition to Cuba, and won the esteem of that officer by his application to business. The impetuosity of his youth had subsided into a habit of persevering activity, and the frankness of his demeanour easily gained the confidence of those with whom he was engaged. When Grijalva returned from the discovery of New Spain, Velasquez immediately fitted out an expedition for the conquest of that country; but being of a weak and suspicious temper, he was unwilling to entrust so important a commission to one who deemed himself entitled to it, and who had already risen to distinction. Embarrassed in his choice of a commander by the opposite suggestions of jealousy and prudence, he at length selected Hernando Cortez, who embarked accordingly on the 18th of November 1518, with ten ships, containing six or seven hundred men, eighteen horses, and a few pieces of artillery. He had no sooner left the shore, than Velasquez repented of the step he had taken, in placing so much power in the hands of one whose talents he feared, and whose secret intentions he mistrusted. But it was now too late to correct the error: Cortez, secure in the attachment of his soldiers, easily defeated the attempts of the governor to recall him, and pursued his voyage without further molestation. In the month of March 1519, the Spaniards disembarked on the coast of Mexico. The Indians surveyed their strange visitors with fear and wonder: the size of the ships, the thunder of the artillery, and above all, the strength and swiftness of the horses, filled them with amazement, and led them to regard the Spaniards with a superstitious awe, of which the latter were not slow to take advantage. Cortez soon learned that the country in which he had arrived formed part of the dominions of Montezuma, whose extensive empire stretched from sea to sea, and embraced the territories of thirty powerful caciques. The Spaniard insisted on being conducted to the presence of the Indian prince. But the prudence or boding apprehensions of the Mexicans were opposed to such a step: every argument was enforced, every art employed, that was thought likely to divert Cortez from his design. Rich presents were sent to him from the court, consisting of finely wrought utensils of gold and silver, cotton stuffs, and . pictures formed of feathers; and as they offered a tempting evidence of the wealth and civilisation of the country, the effect produced by them on the deliberations of the Spaniards was directly the contrary of that which was intended. The heroic Cortez, undaunted by the accounts which he received of the power and character of Montezuma, who ruled with despotic sway a rich and po

pulous empire, now consolidated by a political existence of a hundred and thirty years, and who was able to lead into the field an army of two hundred thousand men, resolved to meet all dangers rather than relinquish so glorious a prize, and to attempt at once a conquest worthy of his daring ambition. He began his preparations by building the town of Vera Cruz : he then burned all his ships, in order that his followers might have no alternative but conquest or destruction; and engaged in his interest some of the Indian caciques who were dissatisfied with the violent and arbitrary temper of Montezuma. These measures being taken, he commenced his march into the interior, with a little army of five hundred men, six cannons, and fifteen horses. The inhabitants of Tlascala alone offered him any resistance. These fierce republicans, who had successfully defied all the efforts of the Mexicans to subdue them, were now completely defeated in three successive battles by a handful of Spaniards, who did not even purchase their victories over greatly superior numbers by any loss on their side. The brave Tlascalans were obliged to sue for peace, and from enemies cheerfully consented to become the allies of those whose irresistible valour they had experienced. Thus strengthened by a union with the people, whose ancient hostility to the Mexicans was a pledge of their fidelity to him, Cortez continued his march to the capital of Montezuma. That prince, afraid to oppose the Spaniards openly, sent forward to acquaint them that they should be received in his dominions as friends, At Cholula, accordingly, they met with a gracious reception ; but the suspicions of Cortez were awakened

by the warnings of his Tlascalan friends: he seized the Mexican priests, and drew from them the confession,

that preparations were making in secret to exterminate him and all his followers. The Spaniards, enraged at this scheme of treachery, took ample vengeance on the guilty city: six thousand Cholulans perished in the slaughter that ensued; and the Indians were no less

confounded by the discernment than by the strength and arms of their strange invaders. To the Spaniards, who were hardly less astonished at their own success than the simple people over whom they triumphed, the view of the rich and boundless plain of Mexico, with its spacious lake, surrounded by populous towns, and the great capital itself, rising on an island near the shore, seemed to realise some vision of romance or dream of the imagination. At every step they found new cause to admire the riches of the country, and their own audacity. Montezuma received them with studious pomp, and with every manifestation of friendship. The people viewed them as supernatural beings, and paid to Cortez, whom they believed to be the child of the sun, the most submissive reverence. The first care of Cortez was to fortify himself in the palace assigned for his residence. His sole study was to contrive the means by which he might make himself master of this opulent empire. An event, however, had occurred which threatened to disconcert his ambitious plans. A Mexican general, acting by the secret commands of Montezuma, had attacked the feeble garrison left at Vera Cruz; and, although finally repulsed, had killed some of the Spaniards, and taken one prisoner. This unfortunate captive was put to death, and his head sent round to all the chief cities of the empire, in order to convince the people that their invaders, however formidable, were yet not immortal. The superstitious dread with which the Spaniards had inspired the natives, and which was the foundation of their power, was thus threatened with subversion. The spell once broken, by which they maintained their ascendant, they must soon sink, notwithstanding all the advantages of arms and discipline, beneath the overwhelming numbers of their enraged enemies. - Cortez, whose eyes were fully open to the dangers of his situation, and whose spirit was as bold as it was vigilant, resolved to prevent all the dangers of his temerity by an act still more daring than any which he

« ForrigeFortsett »