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had as yet committed, and to decide the fate of Mexico before the people had learned generally to suspect his weakness. He proceeded, accompanied by his officers, to the palace of Montezuma, and when persuasions proved fruitless, prevailed on that unhappy prince, by threats and menaces, to accompany him to the quarters
of the Spaniards. When once master of the monarch's .
person, he in reality possessed all the authority of government. The Mexican general, who had attacked the Spaniards, was delivered up to his vengeance, and cruelly sentenced to be burned alive. The Spanish conqueror was aware what a tendency scenes of blood have to fortify the impressions of superstition; and his policy condemned to the most signal punishment those who had thrown a doubt on the inviolability of the Spaniards. Montezuma was loaded, for a time, with chains, and compelled to acknowledge himself the vassal of the emperor Charles W. To this forced submission he was obliged to add a present of six hundred thousand marks of pure gold, besides a great quantity of jewels. But the oppressed prince, while thus stripping himself of his power, could not be induced to change his religion, notwithstanding all the pious exhortations of the formidable Cortez. The Spaniards, however, put a stop to the abominable rites of human sacrifice ; and for the piles of human skulls which decorated the temples, substituted the images of the saints and of the holy Virgin. The triumph of Cortez now seemed secure, when he learned, on a sudden, that a Spanish army had disembarked under the command of Narvaez, sent by Velasquez for the purpose of stripping him of his authority. He encountered this new difficulty with his usual promptitude and boldness. Leaving two hundred men in Mexico, under the orders of his lieutenant, he led the remainder of his forces with the greatest possible expedition against Narvaez. The contest was soon decided. Narvaez was taken prisoner, and his troops gladly consented to serve under the banners of the con
queror. Cortez had no sooner returned to the capital than new troubles broke out : the Mexicans rose in arms against him with increased hostility. Montezuma, now a passive instrument in the hands of his enemies, was wounded by his enraged subjects while endeavouring to harangue them; and this new evidence of his degraded state struck so forcibly on his spirit, that he refused all nourishment, and expired in a few days. The Spaniards were now pressed with such vigour, that they saw no hope of safety but in retreat. They commenced their march in the dead of night, hoping that they might cross the causeys conducting from the city to the shores of the lake, before the enemy should be apprised of their movement. The Mexicans, however, were on the watch: and they poured on their oppressors with such irresistible fury, that notwithstanding the valour with which the Spaniards defended themselves, they lost all their horses and artillery, and some of their bravest troops. Cortez endeavoured to animate his dejected soldiers by his exhortations and example, as they marched through deep swamps, harassed by parties of the enemy, who hung upon their rear, and who shouted to them, “Go on, robbers! till you arrive at the place where just punishment awaits you.” This menacing intimation was not understood by them till, on ascending the heights which look down on the great plain of Otumba, they saw an immense army drawn out, and ready to receive them. At this spectacle, the hearts of the Spaniards were ready to faint within them; but the heroic spirit of Cortez always appeared to greatest advantage in the most desperate conjunctures. Without allowing his soldiers time to contemplate the fearful array of the enemy, but reminding them that they must choose between death and victory, he gave the signal of battle; rushed, with a chosen band, into the thickest of the fight; and, having seized the sacred standard of the Mexicans, gained, with little loss, a most decisive victory. This remarkable battle, in which a handful of Spaniards defeated the whole forces of the Mexican empire, was fought on the 7th of July 1520. On the following day Cortez reached Tlascala, the inhabitants of which continued faithful to him in all his reverses.
The followers of Cortez, who had been unable to maintain their ground in Mexico, supposed that no course was now left them to adopt but to abandon a struggle, to which their numbers and provision were inadequate. But Cortez himself was obstinately bent on effecting the subjugation of the Mexican empire. He employed agents to procure him ammunition, and to collect recruits among the adventurers of the Spanish colonies. The fame of his exploits, and of the rich spoils won at Otumba, brought not a few to join his standard. About six months after his disastrous retreat from the Mexican capital, he commenced his second
- march towards it, with an army of about five hundred
Spaniards, and nine field-pieces, besides a strong body of Tlascalan auxiliaries. Guatimozin, the new emperor, defended his city with obstinate courage, and, for some months, baffled all the efforts of Cortez, who, by the construction of a few brigantines, had rendered himself completely master of the lake. But the Spanish artillery at length prevailed. Guatimozin, endeavouring to escape in a canoe, with his wife and children, was taken prisoner; and the fate of the Mexican empire was finally decided by the surrender of the capital, on the 13th of August 1521.
At the conclusion of this siege, Cortez saw no fewer than two hundred thousand Indians ranged under his standard; such extraordinary success had attended his policy and resolution. The account of his victories, which he had despatched to Europe, secured him the approbation of the court of Spain, and excused the irregularity of his conduct. Charles V., overlooking the claims of Velasquez, appointed Cortez governor and captain-general of Mexico. The grateful monarch, at the same time, bestowed on the conqueror the valley of Guaxaca, with the title of marquess, and ample reveAs soon as Cortez found his authority confirmed by the royal sanction, he applied himself with fresh ardour to consolidate his dominion, by the establishment of police, by building towns, and encouraging the arts of peace. The struggle with the Mexicans was no sooner decided, than several expeditions were despatched by him, in order to obtain a more perfect knowledgeof the country. Alvarado and Sandoval, two of his most enterprising officers, marched over the countries bordering on the South Sea, receiving the submission of the inhabitants, and extorting from them gold, the sole motive of all the toils encountered by the conquerors of the New World. Alvarado carried his victorious arms as far southward as Guatemala, where he built the city of St. Jago. In this expedition he travelled four hundred leagues, through countries previously unknown, passing over hills of sulphur, and through rivers so hot that the soldiers could hardly endure to wade through them.*
About the same time Cortez was informed, that the provinces of Higueras and Honduras contained rich mines. Some sailors reported that the native fishermen of these countries fastened to their nets weights made of gold alloyed with copper: they alleged, also, that a strait or passage into the Pacific Ocean would probably be found in that direction. Thus it appears that the surveys made by the Spanish navigators along these shores were not of so accurate a nature, or of such general notoriety, as to do away with the popular belief in the existence of a strait. Cortez determined, accordingly, to send an expedition by sea to Honduras; and having fitted out a considerable armament, placed it under the command of Cristoval de Oli. This officer, on his arrival in Honduras, founded the colony of El Triumpho de la Cruz; but, from personal hostility to Cortez, he soon threw off obedience to his authority. The troops under his command were, at the same time, disappointed to find that the quantity of gold which could be wrung from the natives was far below their sanguine anticipation. Every attempt to levy tribute was met with fierce resistance. Some of the Indian tribes with whom they had to contend wore good armour of quilted cotton capable of warding off the blows of a Spanish javelin. Their ferocity in battle was increased by the presence of women covered all over with a mixture of paint and cotton wool, who were supposed to possess supernatural powers, and who promised them certain victory. Cortez now determined to lead an army in person against the rebellious general. He had sent the former expedition to Honduras by sea, in order to avoid the tediousness and labour of the march by land; but on this occasion he resolved to brave all the difficulties of a journey through such an immense extent of wild and unexplored country. When he arrived at Tabasco, the cacique of that province gave him a map of cotton cloth, whereon was painted all the towns, rivers, and mountains of the country, as far as Nicaragua. All the resources of his fertile genius were required to surmount the difficulties of his undertaking. With his Indian map, and the mariner's compass, he guided his army through woods so entangled, gloomy, and monotonous, that the soldiers, imagining themselves inextricably lost, began to sink under despair. The trees were so thick as to exclude completely the rays of the sun ; and, if any eminence occasionally occurred, from which a wider survey could be made, nothing was to be seen but an endless continuation of the same impervious forest. At length the perseverance and the skill of Cortez triumphed over all the obstacles of nature, and he reached the sea-coast of Honduras, after a most extraordinary march of nearly a thousand miles. De Oli was put to death, and the Spaniards established in the country cheerfully submitted to the conqueror of Mexico. About this time a convention was held near Badajos, for the purpose of deciding on the pretensions of Spain and Portugal to the possession of the Spice Islands. Charts were produced by both parties, in which those
* Bernal Diaz.