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History Of The Conquest Of Peru by William Hickling Prescott

Part 11 out of 11

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filled to overflowing, had been exhausted by the recent troubles in
Germany. Charles instantly wrote to the president, requiring his
presence at court, that he might learn from his own lips the particulars of
his expedition. Gasca, accordingly, attended by a numerous retinue of
nobles and cavaliers,--for who does not pay homage to him whom the
king delighteth to honor?--embarked at Barcelona, and, after a favorable
voyage, joined the Court in Flanders.

He was received by his royal master, who fully appreciated his services,
in a manner most grateful to his feelings; and not long afterward he was
raised to the bishopric of Palencia,--a mode of acknowledgment best
suited to his character and deserts. Here he remained till 1561, when he
was promoted to the vacant see of Siguenza. The rest of his days he
passed peacefully in the discharge of his episcopal functions; honored by
his sovereign, and enjoying the admiration and respect of his

In his retirement, he was still consulted by the government in matters of
importance relating to the Indies. The disturbances of that unhappy land
were renewed, though on a much smaller scale than before, soon after
the president's departure. They were chiefly caused by discontent with
the repartimientos, and with the constancy of the Audience in enforcing
the benevolent restrictions as to the personal services of the natives. But
these troubles subsided, after a very few years, under the wise rule of the
Mendozas,--two successive viceroys of that illustrious house which has
given so many of its sons to the service of Spain. Under their rule, the
mild yet determined policy was pursued, of which Gasca had set the
example. The ancient distractions of the country were permanently
healed. With peace, prosperity returned within the borders of Peru; and
the consciousness of the beneficent results of his labors may have shed a
ray of satisfaction, as it did of glory, over the evening of the president's

That life was brought to a close in November, 1567, at an age, probably,
not far from the one fixed by the sacred writer as the term of human
existence.38 He died at Valladolid, and was buried in the church of
Santa Maria Magdalena, in that city, which he had built and liberally
endowed. His monument, surmounted by the sculptured effigy of a
priest in his sacerdotal robes, is still to be seen there, attracting the
admiration of the traveller by the beauty of its execution. The banners
taken from Gonzalo Pizarro on the field of Xaquixaguana were
suspended over his tomb, as the trophies of his memorable mission to
Peru.39 The banners have long since mouldered into dust, with the
remains of him who slept beneath them; but the memory of his good
deeds will endure for ever.40

Gasca was plain in person, and his countenance was far from comely, He
was awkward and ill-proportioned; for his limbs were too long for his
body,--so that when he rode, he appeared to be much shorter than he
really was.41 His dress was humble, his manners simple, and there was
nothing imposing in his presence. But, on a nearer intercourse, there was
a charm in his discourse that effaced every unfavorable impression
produced by his exterior, and won the hearts of his hearers.

The president's character may be thought to have been sufficiently
portrayed in the history already given of his life. It presented a
combination of qualities which generally serve to neutralize each other,
but which were mixed in such proportions in him as to give it additional
strength. He was gentle, yet resolute; by nature intrepid, yet preferring to
rely on the softer arts of policy. He was frugal in his personal
expenditure, and economical in the public; yet caring nothing for riches
on his own account, and never stinting his bounty when the public good
required it. He was benevolent and placable, yet could deal sternly with
the impenitent offender; lowly in his deportment, yet with a full measure
of that self-respect which springs from conscious rectitude of purpose;
modest and unpretending, yet not shrinking from the most difficult
enterprises; deferring greatly to others, yet, in the last resort, relying
mainly on himself; moving with deliberation,--patiently waiting his time;
but, when that came, bold, prompt, and decisive.

Gasca, was not a man of genius, in the vulgar sense of that term. At
least, no one of his intellectual powers seems to have received an
extraordinary development, beyond what is found in others. He was not
a great writer, nor a great orator, nor a great general. He did not affect to
be either. He committed the care of his military matters to military men;
of ecclesiastical to the clergy; and his civil and judicial concerns he
reposed on the members of the Audience. He was not one of those little
great men who aspire to do every thing themselves, under the conviction
that nothing can be done so well by others. But the president was a keen
judge of character. Whatever might be the office, he selected the best
man for it. He did more. He assured himself of the fidelity of his agents,
presided at their deliberations; dictated a general line of policy, and thus
infused a spirit of unity into their plans, which made all move in concert
to the accomplishment of one grand result.

A distinguishing feature of his mind was his common sense,--the best
substitute for genius in a ruler who has the destinies of his fellow-men at
his disposal, and more indispensable than genius itself. In Gasca, the
different qualities were blended in such harmony, that there was no room
for excess. They seemed to regulate each other. While his sympathy
with mankind taught him the nature of their wants, his reason suggested
to what extent these were capable of relief, as well as the best mode of
effecting it. He did not waste his strength on illusory schemes of
benevolence, like Las Casas, on the one hand; nor did he countenance
the selfish policy of the colonists, on the other. He aimed at the
practicable,--the greatest good practicable.

In accomplishing his objects, he disclaimed force equally with fraud. He
trusted for success to his power over the convictions of his hearers; and
the source of this power was the confidence he inspired in his own
integrity. Amidst all the calumnies of faction, no imputation was ever
cast on the integrity of Gasca.42 No wonder that a virtue so rare should
be of high price in Peru.

There are some men whose characters have been so wonderfully adapted
to the peculiar crisis in which they appeared, that they seem to have been
specially designed for it by Providence. Such was Washington, in our
own country, and Gasca in Peru. We can conceive of individuals with
higher qualities, at least with higher intellectual qualities, than belonged
to either of these great men. But it was the wonderful conformity of their
characters to the exigencies of their situation, the perfect adaptation of
the means to the end, that constituted the secret of their success; that
enabled Gasca so gloriously to crush revolution, and Washington still
more gloriously to achieve it.

Gasca's conduct on his first coming to the colonies affords the best
illustration of his character. Had he come backed by a military array, or
even clothed in the paraphernalia of authority, every heart and hand
would have been closed against him. But the humble ecclesiastic excited
no apprehension; and his enemies were already disarmed, before he had
begun his approaches. Had Gasca, impatient of Hinojosa's tardiness,
listened to the suggestions of those who advised his seizure, he would
have brought his cause into jeopardy by this early display of violence
But he wisely chose to win over his enemy by operating on his

In like manner, he waited his time for making his entry into Peru. He
suffered his communications to do their work in the minds of the people,
and was careful not to thrust in the sickle before the harvest was ripe.

In this way, wherever he went, every thing was prepared for his coming;
and when he set foot in Peru, the country was already his own.

After the dark and turbulent spirits with which we have been hitherto
occupied, it is refreshing to dwell on a character like that of Gasca. In
the long procession which has passed in review before us, we have seen
only the mail-clad cavalier, brandishing his bloody lance, and mounted
on his war-horse, riding over the helpless natives, or battling with his
own friends and brothers; fierce, arrogant, and cruel, urged on by the lust
of gold, or the scarce more honorable love of a bastard glory. Mingled
with these qualities, indeed, we have seen sparkles of the chivalrous and
romantic temper which belongs to the heroic age of Spain. But, with
some honorable exceptions, it was the scum of her chivalry that resorted
to Peru, and took service under the banner of the Pizarros. At the close
of this long array of iron warriors, we behold the poor and humble
missionary coming into the land on an errand of mercy, and everywhere
proclaiming the glad tidings of peace. No warlike trumpet heralds his
approach, nor is his course to be tracked by the groans of the wounded
and the dying. The means he employs are in perfect harmony with his
end. His weapons are argument and mild persuasion. It is the reason he
would conquer, not the body. He wins his way by conviction, not by
violence. It is a moral victory to which he aspires, more potent, and
happily more permanent, than that of the blood-stained conqueror. As he
thus calmly, and imperceptibly, as it were, comes to his great results, he
may remind us of the slow, insensible manner in which Nature works out
her great changes in the material world, that are to endure when the
ravages of the hurricane are passed away and forgotten.

With the mission of Gasca terminates the history of the Conquest of
Peru. The Conquest, indeed, strictly terminates with the suppression of
the Peruvian revolt, when the strength, if not the spirit, of the Inca race
was crushed for ever. The reader, however, might feel a natural curiosity
to follow to its close the fate of the remarkable family who achieved the
Conquest. Nor would the story of the invasion itself be complete without
some account of the civil wars which grew out of it; which serve,
moreover, as a moral commentary on preceding events, by showing that
the indulgence of fierce, unbridled passions is sure to recoil, sooner or
later, even in this life, on the heads of the guilty.

It is true, indeed, that the troubles of the country were renewed on the
departure of Gasca. The waters had been too fearfully agitated to be
stilled, at once, into a calm; but they gradually subsided, under the
temperate rule of his successors, who wisely profited by his policy and
example. Thus the influence of the good president remained after he was
withdrawn from the scene of his labors; and Peru, hitherto so distracted,
continued to enjoy as large a share of repose as any portion of the
colonial empire of Spain. With the benevolent mission of Gasca, then,
the historian of the Conquest may be permitted to terminate his labors, -
with feelings not unlike those of the traveller who, having long journeyed
among the dreary forests and dangerous defiles of the mountains, at
length emerges on some pleasant landscape smiling in tranquillity and

Augustin de Zarate--a highly respectable authority, frequently cited in
the later portion of this work--was Contador de Mercedes, Comptroller
of Accounts, for Castile. This office he filled for fifteen years; after
which he was sent by the government to Peru to examine into the state of
the colonial finances, which had been greatly deranged by the recent
troubles, and to bring them, if possible, into order.

Zarate went out accordingly in the train of the viceroy Blasco Nunez,
and found himself, through the passions of his imprudent leader,
entangled, soon after his arrival, in the inextricable meshes of civil
discord. In the struggle which ensued, he remained with the Royal
Audience; and we find him in Lima, on the approach of Gonzalo Pizarro
to that capital, when Zarate was deputed by the judges to wait on the
insurgent chief, and require him to disband his troops and withdraw to
his own estates. The historian executed the mission, for which he seems
to have had little relish, and which certainly was not without danger.
From this period, we rarely hear of him in the troubled scenes that
ensued. He probably took no further part in affairs than was absolutely
forced on him by circumstances; but the unfavorable bearing of his
remarks on Gonzalo Pizarro intimates, that, however he may have been
discontented with the conduct of the viceroy, he did not countenance, for
a moment, the criminal ambition of his rival. The times were certainly
unpropitious to the execution of the financial reforms for which Zarate
had come to Peru. But he showed so much real devotion to the interests
of the Crown, that the emperor, on his return, signified his satisfaction by
making him Superintendent of the Finances in Flanders.

Soon after his arrival in Peru, he seems to have conceived the idea of
making his countrymen at home acquainted with the stirring events
passing in the colony, which, moreover, afforded some striking passages
for the study of the historian. Although he collected notes and diaries, as
he tells us, for this purpose, he did not dare to avail himself of them till
his return to Castile. "For to have begun the history in Peru," he says,
"would have alone been enough to put my life in jeopardy; since a
certain commander, named Francisco de Carbajal, threatened to take
vengeance on any one who should be so rash as to attempt the relation of
his exploits, ---far less deserving, as they were, to be placed on record,
than to be consigned to eternal oblivion." In this same commander, the
reader will readily recognize the veteran lieutenant of Gonzalo Pizarro.

On his return home, Zarate set about the compilation of his work. His
first purpose was to confine it to the events that followed the arrival of
Blasco Nunez; but he soon found, that, to make these intelligible, he
must trace the stream of history higher up towards its sources. He
accordingly enlarged his plan, and, beginning with the discovery of Peru,
gave an entire view of the conquest and subsequent occupation of the
country, bringing the narrative down to the close of Gasca's mission. For
the earlier portion of the story, he relied on the accounts of persons who
took a leading part in the events. He disposes more summarily of this
portion than of that in which he himself was both a spectator and an
actor; where his testimony, considering the advantages his position gave
him for information, is of the highest value.

Alcedo in his Biblioteca Americana, MS., speaks of Zarate's work as
"containing much that is good, but as not entitled to the praise of
exactness." He wrote under the influence of party heat, which
necessarily operates to warp the fairest mind somewhat from its natural
bent. For this we must make allowance, in perusing accounts of
conflicting parties. But there is no intention, apparently, to turn the truth
aside in support of his own cause; and his access to the best sources of
knowledge often supplies us with particulars not within the reach of
other chroniclers. His narrative is seasoned, moreover, with sensible
reflections and passing comments, that open gleams of light into the dark
passages of that eventful period. Yet the style of the author can make
but moderate pretensions to the praise of elegance or exactness; while
the sentences run into that tedious, interminable length which belongs to
the garrulous compositions of the regular thoroughbred chronicler of the
olden time.

The personalities, necessarily incident, more or less, to such a work, led
its author to shrink from publication, at least during his life. By the
jealous spirit of the Castilian cavalier, "censure," he says, "however
light, is regarded with indignation, and even praise is rarely dealt out in a
measure satisfactory to the subject of it." And he expresses his
conviction that those do wisely, who allow their accounts of their own
times to repose in the quiet security of manuscript, till the generation that
is to be affected by them has passed away. His own manuscript,
however, was submitted to the emperor; and it received such
commendation from this royal authority, that Zarate, plucking up a more
courageous spirit, consented to give it to the press. It accordingly
appeared at Antwerp, in 1555, in octavo; and a second edition was
printed, in folio, at Seville, in 1577. It has since been incorporated in
Barcia's valuable collection; and, whatever indignation or displeasure it
may have excited among contemporaries, who smarted under the author's
censure, or felt themselves defrauded of their legitimate guerdon,
Zarate's work has taken a permanent rank among the most respectable
authorities for a history of the time.

The name of Zarate naturally suggests that of Fernandez, for both were
laborers in the same field of history. Diego Fernandez de Palencia, or
Palentino, as he is usually called, from the place of his birth, came over
to Peru, and served as a private in the royal army raised to quell the
insurrections that broke out after Gasca's return to Castile. Amidst his
military occupations, he found leisure to collect materials for a history of
the period, to which he was further urged by the viceroy, Mendoza,
Marques de Canete, who bestowed on him, as he tells us, the post of
Chronicler of Peru. This mark of confidence in his literary capacity
intimates higher attainments in Fernandez than might be inferred from
the humble station that he occupied. With the fruits of his researches the
soldier-chronicler returned to Spain, and, after a time, completed his
narrative of the insurrection of Giron.

The manuscript was seen by the President of the Council of the Indies,
and he was so much pleased with its execution, that he urged the author
to write the account, in like manner, of Gonzalo Pizarro's rebellion, and
of the administration of Gasca. The historian was further stimulated, as
he mentions in his dedication to Philip the Second, by the promise of a
guerdon from that monarch, on the completion of his labors; a very
proper, as well as politic, promise, but which inevitably suggests the idea
of an influence not altogether favorable to severe historic impartiality.
Nor will such an inference be found altogether at variance with truth; for
while the narrative of Fernandez studiously exhibits the royal cause in
the most favorable aspect to the reader, it does scanty justice to the
claims of the opposite party. It would not be meet, indeed, that an
apology for rebellion should be found in the pages of a royal pensioner;
but there are always mitigating circumstances, which, however we may
condemn the guilt, may serve to lessen our indignation towards the
guilty. These circumstances are not to be found in the pages of
Fernandez. It is unfortunate for the historian of such events, that it is so
difficult to find one disposed to do even justice to the claims of the
unsuccessful rebel. Yet the Inca Garcilasso has not shrunk from this, in
the case of Gonzalo Pizarro; and even Gomara, though living under the
shadow, or rather in the sunshine, of the Court, has occasionally ventured
a generous protest in his behalf.

The countenance thus afforded to Fernandez from the highest quarter
opened to him the best fountains of intelligence,--at least, on the
government side of the quarrel. Besides personal communication with
the royalist leaders, he had access to their correspondence, diaries, and
official documents. He industriously profiled by his opportunities; and
his narrative, taking up the story of the rebellion from its birth, continues
it to its final extinction, and the end of Gasca's administration. Thus the
First Part of his work, as it was now called, was brought down to the
commencement of the Second, and the whole presented a complete
picture of the distractions of the nation, till a new order of things was
introduced, and tranquillity was permanently established throughout the

The diction is sufficiently plain, not aspiring to rhetorical beauties
beyond the reach of its author, and out of keeping with the simple
character of a chronicle, The sentences are arranged with more art than
in most of the unwieldy compositions of the time; and, while there is no
attempt at erudition or philosophic speculation, the current of events
flows on in an orderly manner, tolerably prolix, it is true, but leaving a
clear and intelligible impression on the mind of the reader. No history of
that period compares with it in the copiousness of its details; and it has
accordingly been resorted to by later compilers, as an inexhaustible
reservoir for the supply of their own pages; a circumstance that may be
thought of itself to bear no slight testimony to the general fidelity, as well
as fulness, of the narrative.--The Chronicle of Fernandez, thus arranged
in two parts, under the general title of Historia del Peru, was given to the
world in the author's lifetime, at Seville, in 1571 in one volume, folio,
being the edition used in the preparation of this work.

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