« ZurückWeiter »
countrymen, and with a bold hand seizing that power which the courtiers meanly accused him of coveting, as some of his desperate followers advised, he repaired directly to Castile, and committed himself and his cause to the justice and generosity of his sovereign. Here he was received in the most respectful manner, and the order of St. Jago, the title of marquis del Valle de Guaxaca, and the grant of a vast territory in New Spain, were successively bestowed upon him; and as his manners were correct and elegant, the emperor admitted him to the same familiar intercouse with himself that was enjoyed by noblemen of the first rank. Cortes, however, though dignified by new titles, returned to Mexico in 1530, with diminished authority. The military department, with powers to attempt new discoveries, was left in his hands; but the supreme direction of civil affairs was placed in a board called The Audience of New Spain; and at a subsequent period, a nobleman of high rank was sent thither as viceroy, to take the government into his own hands. The division of power in New Spain, became the source of perpetual dissension, which embittered the life of Cortes, and thwarted all his schemes. Nevertheless, he projected new discoveries, and formed various schemes for that purpose. Having entrusted the execution of some of his plans to others, who were unsuccessful, he determined, in 1536, to undertake in person the conduct of an armament, with which, after enduring incredible hardships, and encountering various dangers, he discovered the large peninsula of California, and surveyed the greatest part of the gulf which separates it from New Spain. Dissatisfied and disgusted, on a variety of accounts, he once more sought redress in his native country. Accordingly he returned thither in 1540; but his reception was very different from that which gratitude, and even decency, ought to have secured for him. As no farther services could be expected from him in his declining years, he was treated sometimes with neglect, sometimes with insolence. After several years his grievances received no redress, and his claims were ineffectually urged, although from time to time he renewed his application to ministers and judges, an occupation the most irksome and mortifying to a man of high spirit, who had moved in a sphere where he was more accustomed to command than to solicit, till at length, broken down by age, and the vexation of disappointment, he ended his days on the 2d of December, 1547, in the 62d year of his age. Envied by his contemporaries, and ill requited by the court which he served, he has been admired and celebrated by succeeding ages. Which has formed the most just estimate of his character, an impartial consideration of his actions must determine.
CONQUEST OF PERU:
FROM the time that Nugnez de Balboa discovered the great Southern Ocean, and received the first obscure hints concerning the opulent countries with which it might open a communication, the wishes and schemes of every enterprizing person in the colonies of Darien and Panama were turned towards the wealth of those unknown regions. Accordingly, several armaments were fitted out in order to explore and take possession of the countries to the east of Panama, but under the conduct of leaders whose talents and resources were unequal to the attempt. As the excursions of those adventures did not extend beyond the limits of the province to which the Spaniards have given the name of Tierra Firmè, a mountainous region covered with woods, thinly inhabited, and extremely unhealthy, they returned with dismal accounts concerning the distresses to which they had been exposed, and the unpromising aspect of the places which they had visited. But there were three persons settled in Panama on whom the circumstances which deterred others made so little impression, that at the very moment when all considered Balboa's expectations of discovering a rich country, by steering towards the east, as chimerical, they resolved to attempt the execution of his scheme. The names of those extraordinary men were Francisco Pizarro, Diego de Almagro, and Hernando Luque. Pizarro was the natural son of a gentleman of an honourable family by a very low woman, and, according to the cruel fate which often attends the offspring of unlawful love, had been so totally neglected in his youth by the author of his birth, that he seems to have destined him never to rise beyond the condition of his mother. In consequence of this ungenerous idea, he set him, when bordering on manhood, to keep hogs. But the aspiring mind of young Pizarro disdaining that ignoble occupation, he abruptly abandoned his charge, enlisted as a soldier, and, after serving some years in Italy, embarked for America, which, by opening such a boundless range to active talents, allured every adventurer whose fortune was not equal to his ambitious thoughts. Almagro had as little cause to boast of his descent as Pizarro. The one was a bastard, the other a foundling. Bred, like his companion, in the camp, he yielded not to him in any of the soldiery qualities of intrepid valour, indefatigable activity, or insurmountable constancy in enduring the hardships inseparable from military service in the New World. Hernando de Luque was an ecclesiastic, who acted both as priest and schoolmaster at Panama, and, by means which the contemporary writers have not described, had amassed riches that inspired him with thoughts of rising to greater eminence. Such were the men destined to overturn one of the most extensive empires on the face of the earth. Their confederacy for this purpose was authorized by Pedrarias, the governor of Panama. Each engaged to employ his whole fortune in the adventure. Pizarro, the least wealthy of the three, as he could not throw so large a sum as his associates into the common stock, engaged to take the department of greatest fatigue and danger, and to command in person the armament which was to go first upon discovery. Almagro offered to conduct the supplies of provisions and reinforcements of troops, of which Pizarro might stand in need. Luque was to remain at Panama to negociate with the governor, and superintend whatever was carrying on for the general interest. -**
The attempt was begun with a force more suited to the humble condition of the three associates, than to the greatness of the enterprize in which they were engaged. Pizarro set sail from Panama on the 14th of November, 1524, with a single vessel, of small burden, and 112 men. After beating about for 70 days, with much danger and incessant fatigue, Pizarro's progress towards the south-east was not greater than what a skilful navigator will now make in as many hours. He touched at several places on the coast of Tierra Firmè, but found every where the same uninviting country which former adventurers had described; the low grounds converted into swamps by an overflowing of rivers; the higher, covered with impervious woods; few inhabitants, and those fierce and hostile. Famine, fatigue, frequent rencounters with the natives, and above all, the distempers of a moist, sultry climate, combined in wasting his slender band of followers. The undaunted resolution of their leader continued, however, for some time, to sustain their spirits, although no sign had yet appeared of discovering those golden regions to which he had promised to conduct them. At length he was obliged to abandon that inhospitable coast, and retire to Chuchama, opposite to the pearl islands, where he hoped to receive a supply of provisions and troops from Panama.
But Almagro having sailed from that port with 70 men, stood directly towards that part of the continent where he hoped to meet with his associate. Not finding him there, he landed his soldiers, who, in searching for their companions, underwent the same distresses, and were exposed to the same danger, which had driven them out of the country. Repulsed at length by the Indians in a sharp conflict, in which their leader lost one of his eyes by the wound of an arrow, they likewise were compelled to reimbark. Chance led them to the place of Pizarro's retreat, where they found some consolation in recounting to each other their adventures, and comparing their sufferings.
In 1526 Almagro repaired to Panama, in hopes of recruiting their shattered troops. But what he and Pizarro had suf"fered, gave his countrymen such an unfavourable idea of the Vol. I. P