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History Of The Conquest Of Peru by William Hickling Prescott

Part 8 out of 11

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marvellous that he should have escaped shippwreck in the perilous and
unknown navigation of that river. Many times his vessel was nearly
dashed to pieces on its rocks and in its furious rapids;10 and he was in
still greater peril from the warlike tribes on its borders, who fell on his
little troop whenever he attempted to land, and followed in his wake for
miles in their canoes. He at length emerged from the great river; and,
once upon the sea, Orellana made for the isle of Cubagua; thence passing
over to Spain, he repaired to court, and told the circumstances of his
voyage,--of the nations of Amazons whom he had found on the banks of
the river, the El Dorado which report assured him existed in the
neighborhood, and other marvels,--the exaggeration rather than the
coinage of a credulous fancy. His audience listened with willing ears to
the tales of the traveller; and in an age of wonders, when the mysteries of
the East and West were hourly coming to light, they might be excused
for not discerning the true line between romance and reality.11

He found no difficulty in obtaining a commission to conquer and
colonize the realms he had discovered. He soon saw himself at the head
of five hundred followers, prepared to share the perils and the profits of
his expedition. But neither he, nor his country, was destined to realize
these profits. He died on his outward passage, and the lands washed by
the Amazon fell within the territories of Portugal. The unfortunate
navigator did not even enjoy the undivided honor of giving his name to
the waters he had discovered. He enjoyed only the barren glory of the
discovery, surely not balanced by the iniquitous circumstances which
attended it.12

One of Orellana's party maintained a stout opposition to his proceedings,
as repugnant both to humanity and honor. This was Sanchez de Vargas;
and the cruel commander was revenged on him by abandoning him to his
fate in the desolate region where he was now found by his

The Spaniards listened with horror to the recital of Vargas, and their
blood almost froze in their veins as they saw themselves thus deserted in
the heart of this remote wilderness, and deprived of their only means of
escape from it. They made an effort to prosecute their journey along the
banks, but, after some toilsome days, strength and spirits failed, and they
gave up in despair!

Then it was that the qualities of Gonzalo Pizarro, as a fit leader in the
hour of despondency and danger, shone out conspicuous. To advance
farther was hopeless. To stay where they were, without food or raiment,
without defence from the fierce animals of the forest and the fiercer
natives, was impossible. One only course remained; it was to return to
Quito. But this brought with it the recollection of the past, of sufferings
which they could too well estimate,---hardly to be endured even in
imagination. They were now at least four hundred leagues from Quito,
and more than a year had elapsed since they had set out on their painful
pilgrimage. How could they encounter these perils again! 14

Yet there was no alternative. Gonzalo endeavored to reassure his
followers by dwelling on the invincible constancy they had hitherto
displayed; adjuring them to show themselves still worthy of the name of
Castilians. He reminded them of the glory they would for ever acquire
by their heroic achievement, when they should reach their own country.
He would lead them back, he said, by another route, and it could not be
but that they should meet somewhere with those abundant regions of
which they had so often heard. It was something, at least, that every step
would take them nearer home; and as, at all events, it was clearly the
only course now left, they should prepare to meet it like men. The spirit
would sustain the body; and difficulties encountered in the right spirit
were half vanquished already!

The soldiers listened eagerly to his words of promise and
encouragement. The confidence of their leader gave life to the
desponding. They felt the force of his reasoning, and, as they lent a
willing ear to his assurances, the pride of the old Castilian honor revived
in their bosoms, and every one caught somewhat of the generous
enthusiasm of their commander. He was, in truth, entitled to their
devotion. From the first hour of the expedition, he had freely borne his
part in its privations. Far from claiming the advantage of his position, he
had taken his lot with the poorest soldier; ministering to the wants of the
sick, cheering up the spirits of the desponding, sharing his stinted
allowance with his famished followers, bearing his full part in the toil
and burden of the march, ever showing himself their faithful comrade, no
less than their captain. He found the benefit of this conduct in a trying
hour like the present.

I will spare the reader the recapitulation of the sufferings endured by the
Spaniards on their retrograde march to Quito. They took a more
northerly route than that by which they had approached the Amazon;
and, if it was attended with fewer difficulties, they experienced yet
greater distresses from their greater inability to overcome them. Their
only nourishment was such scanty fare as they could pick up in the
forest, or happily meet with in some forsaken Indian settlement, or wring
by violence from the natives. Some sickened and sank down by the way,
for there was none to help them. Intense misery had made them selfish;
and many a poor wretch was abandoned to his fate, to die alone in the
wilderness, or, more probably, to be devoured, while living, by the wild
animals which roamed over it.

At length, in June, 1542, after somewhat more than a year consumed in
their homeward march, the way-worn company came on the elevated
plains in the neighborhood of Quito. But how different their aspect from
that which they had exhibited on issuing from the gates of the same
capital, two years and a half before, with high romantic hope and in all
the pride of military array! Their horses gone, their arms broken and
rusted, the skins of wild animals instead of clothes hanging loosely about
their limbs, their long and matted locks streaming wildly down their
shoulders, their faces burned and blackened by the tropical sun, their
bodies wasted by famine and sorely disfigured by scars,--it seemed as if
the charnel-house had given up its dead, as, with uncertain step, they
glided slowly onwards like a troop of dismal spectres! More than half of
the four thousand Indians who had accompanied the expedition had
perished, and of the Spaniards only eighty, and many of these
irretrievably broken in constitution, returned to Quito.15

The few Christian inhabitants of the place, with their wives and children,
came out to welcome their countrymen. They ministered to them all the
relief and refreshment in their power; and, as they listened to the sad
recital of their sufferings, they mingled their tears with those of the
wanderers. The whole company then entered the capital, where their
first act--to their credit be it mentioned--was to go in a body to the
church, and offer up thanksgivings to the Almighty for their miraculous
preservation through their long and perilous pilgrimage.16 Such was the
end of the expedition to the Amazon; an expedition which, for its
dangers and hardships, the length of their duration, and the constancy
with which they were endured, stands, perhaps, unmatched in the annals
of American discovery.

Book 4

Chapter 5

The Almagro Faction--Their Desperate Condition-
Conspiracy Against Francisco Pizarro--Assassination Of Pizarro-
Acts Of The Conspirators--Pizarro's Character


When Gonzalo Pizarro reached Quito, he received tidings of an event
which showed that his expedition to the Amazon had been even more
fatal to his interests than he had imagined. A revolution had taken place
during his absence, which had changed the whole condition of things in

In a preceding chapter we have seen, that, when Hernando Pizarro
returned to Spain, his brother the marquess repaired to Lima, where he
continued to occupy himself with building up his infant capital, and
watching over the general interests of the country. While thus employed,
he gave little heed to a danger that hourly beset his path, and this, too, in
despite of repeated warnings from more circumspect friends.

After the execution of Almagro, his followers, to the number of several
hundred, remained scattered through the country; but, however scattered,
still united by a common sentiment of indignation against the Pizarros,
the murderers, as they regarded them, of their leader. The governor was
less the object of these feelings than his brother Hernando, as having
been less instrumental in the perpetration of the deed. Under these
circumstances, it was clearly Pizarro's policy to do one of two things; to
treat the opposite faction either as friends, or as open enemies. He might
conciliate the most factious by acts of kindness, efface the remembrance
of past injury, if he could, by present benefits; in short, prove to them
that his quarrel had been with their leader, not with themselves, and that
it was plainly for their interest to come again under his banner. This
would have been the most politic, as well as the most magnanimous
course; and, by augmenting the number of his adherents, would have
greatly strengthened his power in the land. But, unhappily, he had not
the magnanimity to pursue it. It was not in the nature of a Pizarro to
forgive an injury, or the man whom he had injured. As he would not,
therefore, try to conciliate Almagro's adherents, it was clearly the
governor's policy to regard them as enemies, not the less so for being in
disguise,--and to take such measures as should disqualify them for doing
mischief. He should have followed the counsel of his more prudent
brother Hernando, and distributed them in different quarters, taking care
that no great number should assemble at any one point, or, above all, in
the neighborhood of his own residence.

But the governor despised the broken followers of Almagro too heartily
to stoop to precautionary measures. He suffered the son of his rival to
remain in Lima, where his quarters soon became the resort of the
disaffected cavaliers. The young man was well known to most of
Almagro's soldiers, having been trained along with them in the camp
under his father's eye, and, now that his parent was removed, they
naturally transferred their allegiance to the son who survived him.

That the young Almagro, however, might be less able to maintain this
retinue of unprofitable followers, he was deprived by Pizarro of a great
part of his Indians and lands, while he was excluded from the
government of New Toledo, which had been settled on him by his
father's testament.1 Stripped of all means of support, without office or
employment of any kind, the men of Chili, for so Almagro's adherents
continued to be called, were reduced to the utmost distress. So poor
were they, as is the story of the time, that twelve cavaliers, who lodged in
the same house, could muster only one cloak among them all; and, with
the usual feeling of pride that belongs to the poor hidalgo, unwilling to
expose their poverty, they wore this cloak by turns, those who had no
right to it remaining at home.2 Whether true or not, the anecdote well
illustrates the extremity to which Almagro's faction was reduced. And
this distress was rendered yet more galling by the effrontery of their
enemies, who, enriched by their forfeitures, displayed before their eyes
all the insolent bravery of equipage and apparel that could annoy their

Men thus goaded by insult and injury were too dangerous to be lightly
regarded. But, although Pizarro received various intimations intended to
put him on his guard, he gave no heed to them. "Poor devils!" he would
exclaim, speaking with contemptuous pity of the men of Chili; "they
have had bad luck enough. We will not trouble them further."3 And so
little did he consider them, that he went freely about, as usual, riding
without attendants to all parts of the town and to its immediate

News now reached the colony of the appointment of a judge by the
Crown to take cognizance of the affairs of Peru. Pizarro, although
alarmed by the intelligence, sent orders to have him well entertained on
his landing, and suitable accommodations prepared for him on the route.
The spirits of Almagro's followers were greatly raised by the tidings.
They confidently looked to this high functionary for the redress of their
wrongs; and two of their body, clad in suits of mourning, were chosen to
go to the north, where the judge was expected to land, and to lay their
grievances before him.

But months elapsed, and no tidings came of his arrival, till, at length, a
vessel, coming into port, announced that most of the squadron had
foundered in the heavy storms on the coast, and that the commissioner
had probably perished with them. This was disheartening intelligence to
the men of Chili, whose "miseries," to use the words of their young
leader, "had become too grievous to be borne."5 Symptoms of
disaffection had already begun openly to manifest themselves. The
haughty cavaliers did not always doff their bonnets, on meeting the
governor in the street; and on one occasion, three ropes were found
suspended from the public gallows, with labels attached to them, bearing
the names of Pizarro, Velasquez the judge, and Picado the governor's
secretary.6 This last functionary was peculiarly odious to Almagro and
his followers. As his master knew neither how to read nor write, all his
communications passed through Picado's hands; and, as the latter was of
a hard and arrogant nature, greatly elated by the consequence which his
position gave him, he exercised a mischievous influence on the
governor's measures. Almagro's poverty-stricken followers were the
objects of his open ridicule, and he revenged the insult now offered him
by riding before their young leader's residence, displaying a tawdry
magnificence in his dress, sparkling with gold and silver, and with the
inscription, "For the Men of Chili," set in his bonnet. It was a foolish
taunt; but the poor cavaliers who were the object of it, made morbidly
sensitive by their sufferings, had not the philosophy to despise it.7

At length, disheartened by the long protracted coming of Vaca de Castro,
and still more by the recent reports of his loss, Almagro's faction,
despairing of redress from a legitimate authority, determined to take it
into their own hands. They came to the desperate resolution of
assassinating Pizarro. The day named for this was Sunday, the twenty-
sixth of June, 1541- The conspirators, eighteen or twenty in number,
were to assemble in Almagro's house, which stood in the great square
next to the cathedral, and, when the governor was returning from mass,
they were to issue forth and fall on him in the street. A white flag,
unfurled at the same time from an upper window in the house, was to be
the signal for the rest of their comrades to move to the support of those
immediately engaged in the execution of the deed.8

These arrangements could hardly have been concealed from Almagro,
since his own quarters were to be the place of rendezvous. Yet there is
no good evidence of his having taken part in the conspiracy.9 He was,
indeed, too young to make it probable that he took a leading part in it.
He is represented by contemporary writers to have given promise of
many good qualities, though, unhappily, he was not placed in a situation
favorable for their development. He was the son of an Indian woman of
Panama; but from early years had followed the troubled fortunes of his
father, to whom he bore much resemblance in his free and generous
nature, as well as in the violence of his passions. His youth and
inexperience disqualified him from taking the lead in the perplexing
circumstances in which he was placed, and made him little more than a
puppet in the hands of others.10

The most conspicuous of his advisers was Juan de Herrada, or Rada, as
his name is more usually spelt,--a cavalier of respectable family, but
who, having early enlisted as a common soldier, had gradually risen to
the highest posts in the army by his military talents. At this time he was
well advanced in years; but the fires of youth were not quenched in his
bosom, and he burned with desire to avenge the wrongs done to his
ancient commander. The attachment which he had ever felt for the elder
Almagro he seems to have transferred in full measure to his son; and it
was apparently with reference to him, even more than to himself, that he
devised this audacious plot, and prepared to take the lead in the
execution of it.

There was one, however, in the band of conspirators who felt some
compunctions of conscience at the part he was acting, and who relieved
his bosom by revealing the whole plot to his confessor. The latter lost no
time in reporting it to Picado, by whom in turn it was communicated to
Pizarro. But, strange to say, it made little more impression on the
governor's mind than the vague warnings he had so frequently received.
"It is a device of the priest," said he; "he wants a mitre." 11 Yet he
repeated the story to the judge Velasquez, who, instead of ordering the
conspirators to be seized, and the proper steps taken for learning the
truth of the accusation, seemed to be possessed with the same infatuation
as Pizarro; and he bade the governor be under no apprehension, "for no
harm should come to him, while the rod of justice," not a metaphorical
badge of authority in Castile, "was in his hands." 12 Still, to obviate
every possibility of danger, it was deemed prudent for Pizarro to abstain
from going to mass on Sunday, and to remain at home on pretence of

On the day appointed, Rada and his companions met in Almagro's house,
and waited with anxiety for the hour when the governor should issue
from the church. But great was their consternation, when they learned
that he was not there, but was detained at home, as currently reported, by
illness. Little doubting that their design was discovered, they felt their
own ruin to be the inevitable consequence, and that, too, without
enjoying the melancholy consolation of having struck the blow for which
they had incurred it. Greatly perplexed, some were for disbanding, in the
hope that Pizarro might, after all, be ignorant of their design. But most
were for carrying it into execution at once, by assaulting him in his own
house. The question was summarily decided by one of the party, who
felt that in this latter course lay their only chance of safety. Throwing
open the doors, he rushed out, calling on his comrades "to follow him, or
he would proclaim the purpose for which they had met." There was no
longer hesitation, and the cavaliers issued forth, with Rada at their head,
shouting, as they went, "Long live the king! Death to the tyrant!" 13

It was the hour of dinner, which, in this primitive age of the Spanish
colonies, was at noon. Yet numbers, roused by the cries of the
assailants, came out into the square to inquire the cause. "They are
going to kill the marquess," some said very coolly; others replied, "It is
Picado." No one stirred in their defence. The power of Pizarro was not
seated in the hearts of his people.

As the conspirators traversed the plaza, one of the party made a circuit to
avoid a little pool of water that lay in their path. "What!" exclaimed
Rada, "afraid of wetting your feet, when you are to wade up to your
knees in blood!" And he ordered the man to give up the enterprise and
go home to his quarters. The anecdote is characteristic.14

The governor's palace stood on the opposite side of the square. It was
approached by two courtyards. The entrance to the outer one was
protected by a massive gate, capable of being made good against a
hundred men or more. But it was left open, and the assailants, hurrying
through to the inner court, still shouting their fearful battle-cry, were met
by two domestics loitering in the yard. One of these they struck down.
The other, flying in all haste towards the house, called out, "Help, help!
the men of Chili are all coming to murder the marquess!"

Pizarro at this time was at dinner, or, more probably, had just dined. He
was surrounded by a party of friends, who had dropped in, it seems, after
mass, to inquire after the state of his health, some of whom had remained
to partake of his repast. Among these was Don Martinez do Alcantara,
Pizarro's half-brother by the mother's side, the judge Velasquez, the
bishop elect of Quito, and several of the principal cavaliers in the place,
to the number of fifteen or twenty. Some of them, alarmed by the uproar
in the court-yard, left the saloon, and, running down to the first landing
on the stairway, inquired into the cause of the disturbance. No sooner
were they informed of it by the cries of the servant, than they retreated
with precipitation into the house; and, as they had no mind to abide the
storm unarmed, or at best imperfectly armed, as most of them were, they
made their way to a corridor that overlooked the gardens, into which
they easily let themselves down without injury. Velasquez, the judge,
the better to have the use of his hands in the descent, held his rod of
office in his mouth, thus taking care, says a caustic old chronicler, not to
falsify his assurance, that "no harm should come to Pizarro while the rod
of justice was in his hands"! 15

Meanwhile, the marquess, learning the nature of the tumult, called out to
Francisco de Chaves, an officer high in his confidence, and who was in
the outer apartment opening on the staircase, to secure the door, while he
and his brother Alcantara buckled on their armour. Had this order,
coolly given, been as coolly obeyed, it would have saved them all, since
the entrance could easily have been maintained against a much larger
force, till the report of the cavaliers who had fled had brought support to
Pizarro. But unfortunately, Chaves, disobeying his commander, half
opened the door, and attempted to enter into a parley with the
conspirators. The latter had now reached the head of the stairs, and cut
short the debate by running Chaves through the body, and tumbling his
corpse down into the area below. For a moment they were kept at bay by
the attendants of the slaughtered cavalier, but these, too, were quickly
despatched; and Rada and his companions, entering the apartment,
hurried across it, shouting out, "Where is the marquess? Death to the

Martinez de Alcantara, who in the adjoining room was assisting his
brother to buckle on his mail, no sooner saw that the entrance to the
antechamber had been gained, than he sprang to the doorway of the
apartment, and, assisted by two young men, pages of Pizarro, and by one
or two cavaliers in attendance, endeavored to resist the approach of the
assailants. A desperate struggle now ensued. Blows were given on both
sides, some of which proved fatal, and two of the conspirators were
slain, while Alcantara and his brave companions were repeatedly

At length, Pizarro, unable, in the hurry of the moment, to adjust the
fastenings of his cuirass, threw it away, and, enveloping one arm in his
cloak, with the other seized his sword, and sprang to his brother's
assistance. It was too late; for Alcantara was already staggering under
the loss of blood, and soon fell to the ground. Pizarro threw himself on
his invaders, like a lion roused in his lair, and dealt his blows with as
much rapidity and force, as if age had no power to stiffen his limbs.
"What ho!" he cried, "traitors! have you come to kill me in my own
house?" The conspirators drew back for a moment, as two of their body
fell under Pizarro's sword; but they quickly rallied, and, from their
superior numbers, fought at great advantage by relieving one another in
the assault. Still the passage was narrow, and the struggle lasted for
some minutes, till both of Pizarro's pages were stretched by his side,
when Rada, impatient of the delay, called out, "Why are we so long
about it? Down with the tyrant!" and taking one of his companions,
Narvaez, in his arms, he thrust him against the marquess. Pizarro,
instantly grappling with his opponent, ran him through with his sword.
But at that moment he received a wound in the throat, and reeling, he
sank on the floor, while the swords of Rada and several of the
conspirators were plunged into his body. "Jesu!" exclaimed the dying
man, and, tracing a cross with his finger on the bloody floor, he bent
down his head to kiss it, when a stroke, more friendly than the rest, put
an end to his existence.16

The conspirators, having accomplished their bloody deed, rushed into
the street, and, brandishing their dripping weapons, shouted out, "The
tyrant is dead! The laws are restored! Long live our master the emperor,
and his governor, Almagro!" The men of Chili, roused by the cheering
cry, now flocked in from every side to join the banner of Rada, who soon
found himself at the head of nearly three hundred followers, all armed
and prepared to support his authority. A guard was placed over the
houses of the principal partisans of the late governor, and their persons
were taken into custody. Pizarro's house, and that of his secretary
Picado, were delivered up to pillage and a large booty in gold and silver
was found in the former. Picado himself took refuge in the dwelling of
Riquelme, the treasurer; but his hiding-place was detected, --betrayed,
according to some accounts, by the looks, though not the words, of the
treasurer himself,--and he was dragged forth and committed to a secure
prison.17 The whole city was thrown into consternation, as armed
bodies hurried to and fro on their several errands, and all who were not
in the faction of Almagro trembled test they should be involved in the
proscription of their enemies. So great was the disorder, that the
Brothers of Mercy, turning out in a body, paraded the streets in solemn
procession, with the host elevated in the air, in hopes by the presence of
the sacred symbol to calm the passions of the multitude.

But no other violence was offered by Rada and his followers than to
apprehend a few suspected persons, and to seize upon horses and arms
wherever they were to be found. The municipality was then summoned
to recognize the authority of Almagro; the refractory were ejected
without ceremony from their offices, and others of the Chili faction were
substituted. The claims of the new aspirant were fully recognized; and
young Almagro, parading the streets on horseback, and escorted by a
well-armed body of cavaliers, was proclaimed by sound of trumpet
governor and captain-general of Peru.

Meanwhile, the mangled bodies of Pizarro and his faithful adherents
were left weltering in their blood. Some were for dragging forth the
governor's corpse to the market-place, and fixing his head upon a gibbet.
But Almagro was secretly prevailed on to grant the entreaties of Pizarro's
friends, and allow his interment. This was stealthily and hastily
performed, in the fear of momentary interruption. A faithful attendant
and his wife, with a few black domestics, wrapped the body in a cotton
cloth and removed it to the cathedral. A grave was hastily dug in an
obscure corner, the services were hurried through, and, in secrecy, and in
darkness dispelled only by the feeble glimmering of a few tapers
furnished by these humble menials, the remains of Pizarro, rolled in their
bloody shroud, were consigned to their kindred dust. Such was the
miserable end of the Conqueror of Peru,--of the man who but a few
hours before had lorded it over the land with as absolute a sway as was
possessed by its hereditary Incas. Cut off in the broad light of day, in the
heart of his own capital, in the very midst of those who had been his
companions in arms and shared with him his triumphs and his spoils, he
perished like a wretched outcast. "There was none, even," in the
expressive language of the chronicler, "to say, God forgive him!" 18

A few years later, when tranquillity was restored to the country, Pizarro's
remains were placed in a sumptuous coffin and deposited under a
monument in a conspicuous part of the cathedral. And in 1607, when
time had thrown its friendly mantle over the past, and the memory of his
errors and his crimes was merged in the consideration of the great
services he had rendered to the Crown by the extension of her colonial
empire, his bones were removed to the new cathedral, and allowed to
repose side by side with those of Mendoza, the wise and good viceroy of

Pizarro was, probably, not far from sixty-five years of age at the time of
his death; though this, it must be added, is but loose conjecture, since
there exists no authentic record of the date of his birth.20 He was never
married; but by an Indian princess of the Inca blood, daughter of
Atahuallpa and granddaughter of the great Huayna Capac, he had two
children, a son and a daughter. Both survived him; but the son did not
live to manhood. Their mother, after Pizarro's death, wedded a Spanish
cavalier, named Ampuero, and removed with him to Spain. Her
daughter Francisca accompanied her, and was there subsequently
married to her uncle Hernando Pizarro, then a prisoner in the Mota del
Medina. Neither the title nor estates of the Marquess Francisco
descended to his illegitimate offspring. But in the third generation, in the
reign of Philip the Fourth, the title was revived in favor of Don Juan
Hernando Pizarro, who, out of gratitude for the services of his ancestor,
was created Marquess of the Conquest, Marques de la Conquista, with a
liberal pension from government. His descendants, bearing the same
title of nobility, are still to be found, it is said, at Truxillo, in the ancient
province of Estremadura, the original birthplace of the Pizarros.21

Pizarro's person has been already described. He was tall in stature, well-
proportioned, and with a countenance not unpleasing. Bred in camps,
with nothing of the polish of a court, he had a soldier-like bearing, and
the air of one accustomed to command. But though not polished, there
was no embarrassment or rusticity in his address, which, where it served
his purpose, could be plausible and even insinuating. The proof of it is
the favorable impression made by him, on presenting himself, after his
second expedition--stranger as he was to all its forms and usages--at the
punctilious court of Castile.

Unlike many of his countrymen, he had no passion for ostentatious dress,
which he regarded as an incumbrance. The costume which he most
affected on public occasions was a black cloak, with a white hat, and
shoes of the same color; the last, it is said, being in imitation of the Great
Captain, whose character he had early learned to admire in Italy, but to
which his own, certainly, bore very faint resemblance.22

He was temperate in eating, drank sparingly, and usually rose an hour
before dawn. He was punctual in attendance to business, and shrunk
from no toil. He had, indeed, great powers of patient endurance. Like
most of his nation, he was fond of play, and cared little for the quality of
those with whom he played; though, when his antagonist could not afford
to lose, he would allow himself, it is said, to be the loser; a mode of
conferring an obligation much commended by a Castilian writer, for its

Though avaricious, it was in order to spend and not to hoard. His ample
treasures, more ample than those, probably, that ever before fell to the
lot of an adventurer,24 were mostly dissipated in his enterprises, his
architectural works, and schemes of public improvement, which, in a
country where gold and silver might be said to have lost their value from
their abundance, absorbed an incredible amount of money. While he
regarded the whole country, in a manner, as his own, and distributed it
freely among his captains, it is certain that the princely grant of a
territory with twenty thousand vassals, made to him by the Crown, was
never carried into effect; nor did his heirs ever reap the benefit of it.25

To a man possessed of the active energies of Pizarro, sloth was the
greatest evil. The excitement of play was in a manner necessary to a
spirit accustomed to the habitual stimulants of war and adventure. His
uneducated mind had no relish for more refined, intellectual recreation.
The deserted foundling had neither been taught to read nor write. This
has been disputed by some, but it is attested by unexceptionable
authorities.26 Montesinos says, indeed, that Pizarro, on his first voyage,
tried to learn to read; but the impatience of his temper prevented it, and
he contented himself with learning to sign his name.27 But Montesinos
was not a contemporary historian. Pedro Pizarro, his companion in
arms, expressly tells us he could neither read nor write;28 and Zarate,
another contemporary, well acquainted with the Conquerors, confirms
this statement, and adds, that Pizarro could not so much as sign his
name.29 This was done by his secretary--Picado, in his latter years-
while the governor merely made the customary rubrica or flourish at the
sides of his name. This is the case with the instruments I have examined,
in which his signature, written probably by his secretary, or his title of
Marques, in later life substituted for his name, is garnished with a
flourish at the ends, executed in as bungling a manner as if done by the
hand of a ploughman. Yet we must not estimate this deficiency as we
should in this period of general illumination,--general, at least, in our
own fortunate country. Reading and writing, so universal now, in the
beginning of the sixteenth century might be regarded in the light of
accomplishments; and all who have occasion to consult the autograph
memorials of that time will find the execution of them, even by persons
of the highest rank, too often such as would do little credit to a
schoolboy of the present day.

Though bold in action and not easily turned from his purpose, Pizarro
was slow in arriving at a decision. This gave him an appearance of
irresolution foreign to his character.30 Perhaps the consciousness of this
led him to adopt the custom of saying "No," at first, to applicants for
favor; and afterwards, at leisure, to revise his judgment, and grant what
seemed to him expedient. He took the opposite course from his comrade
Almagro, who, it was observed, generally said "Yes," but too often failed
to keep his promise. This was characteristic of the careless and easy
nature of the latter, governed by impulse rather than principle.31

It is hardly necessary to speak of the courage of a man pledged to such a
career as that of Pizarro. Courage, indeed, was a cheap quality among
the Spanish adventurers, for danger was their element. But he possessed
something higher than mere animal courage, in that constancy of purpose
which was rooted too deeply in his nature to be shaken by the wildest
storms of fortune. It was this inflexible constancy which formed the key
to his character, and constituted the secret of his success. A remarkable
evidence of it was given in his first expedition, among the mangroves
and dreary marshes of Choco. He saw his followers pining around him
under the blighting malaria, wasting before an invisible enemy, and
unable to strike a stroke in their own defence. Yet his spirit did not
yield, nor did he falter in his enterprise.

There is something oppressive to the imagination in this war against
nature. In the struggle of man against man, the spirits are raised by a
contest conducted on equal terms; but in a war with the elements, we
feel, that, however bravely we may contend, we can have no power to
control. Nor are we cheered on by the prospect of glory in such a
contest; for, in the capricious estimate of human glory, the silent
endurance of privations, however painful, is little, in comparison with the
ostentatious trophies of victory. The laurel of the hero---alas for
humanity that it should be so!--grows best on the battle-field.

This inflexible spirit of Pizarro was shown still more strongly, when, in
the little island of Gallo, he drew the line on the sand, which was to
separate him and his handful of followers from their country and from
civilized man. He trusted that his own constancy would give strength to
the feeble, and rally brave hearts around him for the prosecution of his
enterprise. He looked with confidence to the future, and he did not
miscalculate. This was heroic, and wanted only a nobler motive for its
object to constitute the true moral sublime.

Yet the same feature in his character was displayed in a manner scarcely
less remarkable, when, landing on the coast, and ascertaining the real
strength and civilization of the Incas, he persisted in marching into the
interior at the head of a force of less than two hundred men. In this he
undoubtedly proposed to himself the example of Cortes, so contagious to
the adventurous spirits of that day, and especially to Pizarro, engaged, as
he was, in a similar enterprise. Yet the hazard assumed by Pizarro was
far greater than that of the Conqueror of Mexico, whose force was nearly
three times as large, while the terrors of the Inca name--however justified
by the result--were as widely spread as those of the Aztecs.

It was doubtless in imitation of the same captivating model, that Pizarro
planned the seizure of Atahuallpa. But the situations of the two Spanish
captains were as dissimilar as the manner in which their acts of violence
were conducted. The wanton massacre of the Peruvians resembled that
perpetrated by Alvarado in Mexico, and might have been attended with
consequences as disastrous, if the Peruvian character had been as fierce
as that of the Aztecs.32 But the blow which roused the latter to madness
broke the tamer spirits of the Peruvians. It was a bold stroke, which left
so much to chance, that it scarcely merits the name of policy.

When Pizarro landed in the country, he found it distracted by a contest
for the crown. It would seem to have been for his interest to play off one
party against the other, throwing his own weight into the scale that suited
him. Instead of this, he resorted to an act of audacious violence which
crushed them both at a blow. His subsequent career afforded no scope
for the profound policy displayed by Cortes, when he gathered
conflicting nations under his banner, and directed them against a
common foe. Still less did he have the opportunity of displaying the
tactics and admirable strategy of his rival. Cortes conducted his military
operations on the scientific principles of a great captain at the head of a
powerful host. Pizarro appears only as an adventurer, a fortunate knight-
errant. By one bold stroke, he broke the spell which had so long held the
land under the dominion of the Incas. The spell was broken, and the airy
fabric of their empire, built on the superstition of ages, vanished at a
touch. This was good fortune, rather than the result of policy.

Pizarro was eminently perfidious, Yet nothing is more opposed to sound
policy. One act of perfidy fully established becomes the ruin of its
author. The man who relinquishes confidence in his good faith gives up
the best basis for future operations. Who will knowingly build on a
quicksand? By his perfidious treatment of Almagro, Pizarro alienated the
minds of the Spaniards. By his perfidious treatment of Atahuallpa, and
subsequently of the Inca Manco, he disgusted the Peruvians. The name
of Pizarro became a by-word for perfidy. Almagro took his revenge in a
civil war; Manco in an insurrection which nearly cost Pizarro his
dominion. The civil war terminated in a conspiracy which cost him his
life. Such were the fruits of his policy. Pizarro may be regarded as a
cunning man; but not, as he has been often eulogized by his countrymen,
as a politic one.

When Pizarro obtained possession of Cuzco, he found a country well
advanced in the arts of civilization; institutions under which the people
lived in tranquillity and personal safety; the mountains and the uplands
whitened with flocks; the valleys teeming with the fruits of a scientific
husbandry; the granaries and warehouses filled to overflowing; the whole
land rejoicing in its abundance; and the character of the nation, softened
under the influence of the mildest and most innocent form of
superstition, well prepared for the reception of a higher and a Christian
civilization. But, far from introducing this, Pizarro delivered up the
conquered races to his brutal soldiery; the sacred cloisters were
abandoned to their lust; the towns and villages were given up to pillage;
the wretched natives were parcelled out like slaves, to toil for their
conquerors in the mines; the flocks were scattered, and wantonly
destroyed, the granaries were dissipated; the beautiful contrivances for
the more perfect culture of the soil were suffered to fall into decay; the
paradise was converted into a desert. Instead of profiting by the ancient
forms of civilization, Pizarro preferred to efface every vestige of them
from the land, and on their ruin to erect the institutions of his own
country. Yet these institutions did little for the poor Indian, held in iron
bondage. It was little to him that the shores of the Pacific were studded
with rising communities and cities, the marts of a flourishing commerce.
He had no share in the goodly heritage. He was an alien in the land of
his fathers.

The religion of the Peruvian, which directed him to the worship of that
glorious luminary which is the best representative of the might and
beneficence of the Creator, is perhaps the purest form of superstition that
has existed among men. Yet it was much, that, under the new order of
things, and through the benevolent zeal of the missionaries, some
glimmerings of a nobler faith were permitted to dawn on his darkened
soul. Pizarro, himself, cannot be charged with manifesting any
overweening solicitude for the propagation of the Faith. He was no
bigot, like Cortes. Bigotry is the perversion of the religious principle;
but the principle itself was wanting in Pizarro. The conversion of the
heathen was a predominant motive with Cortes in his expedition. It was
not a vain boast. He would have sacrificed his life for it at any time; and
more than once, by his indiscreet seal, he actually did place his life and
the success of his enterprise in jeopardy. It was his great purpose to
purify the land from the brutish abominations of the Aztecs, by
substituting the religion of Jesus. This gave to his expedition the
character of a crusade. It furnished the best apology for the Conquest,
and does more than all other considerations towards enlisting our
sympathies on the side of the conquerors.

But Pizarro's ruling motives, so far as they can be scanned by human
judgment, were avarice and ambition. The good missionaries, indeed,
followed in his train to scatter the seeds of spiritual truth, and the
Spanish government, as usual, directed its beneficent legislation to the
conversion of the natives. But the moving power with Pizarro and his
followers was the lust of gold. This was the real stimulus to their toil,
the price of perfidy, the true guerdon of their victories. This gave a base
and mercenary character to their enterprise; and when we contrast the
ferocious cupidity of the conquerors with the mild and inoffensive
manners of the conquered, our sympathies, the sympathies even of the
Spaniard, are necessarily thrown into the scale of the Indian.33

But as no picture is without its lights, we must not, in justice to Pizarro,
dwell exclusively on the darker features of his portrait. There was no
one of her sons to whom Spain was under larger obligations for extent of
empire; for his hand won for her the richest of the Indian jewels that
once sparkled in her imperial diadem. When we contemplate the perils
he braved, the sufferings he patiently endured, the incredible obstacles
he overcame, the magnificent results he effected with his single arm, as it
were, unaided by the government,--though neither a good, nor a great
man in the highest sense of that term, it is impossible not to regard him
as a very extraordinary one.

Nor can we fairly omit to notice, in extenuation of his errors, the
circumstances of his early life; for, like Almagro, he was the son of sin
and sorrow, early cast upon the world to seek his fortunes as he might.
In his young and tender age he was to take the impression of those into
whose society he was thrown. And when was it the lot of the needy
outcast to fall into that of the wise and the virtuous? His lot was cast
among the licentious inmates of a camp, the school of rapine, whose only
law was the sword, and who looked on the wretched Indian and his
heritage as their rightful spoil.

Who does not shudder at the thought of what his own fate might have
been, trained in such a school? The amount of crime does not necessarily
show the criminality of the agent. History, indeed, is concerned with the
former, that it may be recorded as a warning to mankind; but it is He
alone who knoweth the heart, the strength of the temptations and the
means of resisting it, that can determine the measure of the guilt.

Book 4

Chapter 6

Movements Of The Conspirators--Advance Of Vaca De Castro--
Proceedings Of Almagro--Progress Of The Governor-
The Forces Approach Each Other--Bloody Plains Of Chupas-
Conduct Of Vaca De Castro


The first step of the conspirators, after securing possession of the capital,
was to send to the different cities, proclaiming the revolution which had
taken place, and demanding the recognition of the young Almagro as
governor of Peru. Where the summons was accompanied by a military
force, as at Truxillo and Arequipa, it was obeyed without much cavil.
But in other cities a colder assent was given, and in some the requisition
was treated with contempt. In Cuzco, the place of most importance next
to Lima, a considerable number of the Almagro faction secured the
ascendency of their party; and such of the magistracy as resisted were
ejected from their offices to make room for others of a more
accommodating temper. But the loyal inhabitants of the city, dissatisfied
with this proceeding, privately sent to one of Pizarro's captains, named
Alvarez de Holguin, who lay with a considerable force in the
neighborhood; and that officer, entering the place, soon dispossessed the
new dignitaries of their honors, and restored the ancient capital to its

The conspirators experienced a still more determined opposition from
Alonso de Alvarado, one of the principal captains of Pizarro,-defeated,
as the reader will remember, by the elder Almagro at the bridge of
Abancay,--and now lying in the north with a corps of about two hundred
men, as good troops as any in the land. That officer, on receiving tidings
of his general's assassination, instantly wrote to the Licentiate Vaca de
Castro, advising him of the state of affairs in Peru, and urging him to
quicken his march towards the south.1

This functionary had been sent out by the Spanish Crown, as noticed in a
preceding chapter, to cooperate with Pizarro in restoring tranquillity to
the country, with authority to assume the government himself, in case of
that commander's death. After a long and tempestuous voyage, he had
landed, in the spring of 1541, at the port of Buena Ventura, and,
disgusted with the dangers of the sea, preferred to continue his
wearisome journey by land. But so enfeebled was he by the hardships he
had undergone, that it was full three months before he reached Popayan
where he received the astounding tidings of the death of Pizarro. This
was the contingency which had been provided for, with such judicious
forecast, in his instructions. Yet he was sorely perplexed by the
difficulties of his situation. He was a stranger in the land, with a very
imperfect knowledge of the country, without an armed force to support
him, without even the military science which might be supposed
necessary to avail himself of it. He knew nothing of the degree of
Almagro's influence, or of the extent to which the insurrection had
spread,--nothing, in short, of the dispositions of the people among whom
he was cast.

In such an emergency, a feebler spirit might have listened to the counsels
of those who advised to return to Panama, and stay there until he had
mustered a sufficient force to enable him to take the field against the
insurgents with advantage. But the courageous heart of Vaca de Castro
shrunk from a step which would proclaim his incompetency to the task
assigned him. He had confidence in his own resources, and in the virtue
of the commission under which he acted. He relied, too, on the habitual
loyalty of the Spaniards; and, after mature deliberation, he determined to
go forward, and trust to events for accomplishing the objects of his

He was confirmed in this purpose by the advices he now received from
Alvarado; and without longer delay, he continued his march towards
Quito. Here he was well received by Gonzalo Pizarro's lieutenant, who
had charge of the place during his commander's absence on his
expedition to the Amazon. The licentiate was also joined by Benalcazar,
the conqueror of Quito, who brought a small reinforcement, and offered
personally to assist him in the prosecution of his enterprise. He now
displayed the royal commission, empowering him, on Pizarro's death, to
assume the government. That contingency had arrived, and Vaca de
Castro declared his purpose to exercise the authority conferred on him.
At the same time, he sent emissaries to the principal cities, requiring
their obedience to him as the lawful representative of the Crown, --taking
care to employ discreet persons on the mission, whose character would
have weight with the citizens. He then continued his march slowly
towards the south.2

He was willing by his deliberate movements to give time for his
summons to take effect, and for the fermentation caused by the late
extraordinary events to subside. He reckoned confidently on the loyalty
which made the Spaniard unwilling, unless in cases of the last extremity,
to come into collision with the royal authority; and, however much this
popular sentiment might be disturbed by temporary gusts of passion, he
trusted to the habitual current of their feelings for giving the people a
right direction. In this he did not miscalculate; for so deeprooted was the
principle of loyalty in the ancient Spaniard, that ages of oppression and
misrule could alone have induced him to shake off his allegiance. Sad it
is, but not strange, that the length of time passed under a bad government
has not qualified him for devising a good one.

While these events were passing in the north, Almagro's faction at Lima
was daily receiving new accessions of strength. For, in addition to those
who, from the first, had been avowedly of his father's party, there were
many others who, from some cause or other, had conceived a disgust for
Pizarro, and who now willingly enlisted under the banner of the chief
that had overthrown him.

The first step of the young general, or rather of Rada, who directed his
movements, was to secure the necessary supplies for the troops, most of
whom, having long been in indigent circumstances, were wholly
unprepared for service. Funds to a considerable amount were raised, by
seizing on the moneys of the Crown in the hands of the treasurer.
Pizarro's secretary, Picado, was also drawn from his prison, and
interrogated as to the place where his master's treasures were deposited.
But, although put to the torture, he would not---or, as is probable, could
not --give information on the subject; and the conspirators, who had a
long arrear of injuries to settle with him, closed their proceedings by
publicly beheading him in the great square of Lima.3

Valverde, Bishop of Cuzco, as he himself assures us, vainly interposed in
his behalf. It is singular, that, the last time this fanatical prelate appears
on the stage, it should be in the benevolent character of a supplicant for
mercy.4 Soon afterwards, he was permitted, with the judge, Velasquez,
and some other adherents of Pizarro, to embark from the port of Lima.
We have a letter from him, dated at Tumbez, in November, 1541; almost
immediately after which he fell into the hands of the Indians, and with
his companions was massacred at Puna. A violent death not
unfrequently closed the stormy career of the American adventurer.
Valverde was a Dominican friar, and, like Father Olmedo in the suite of
Cortes, had been by his commander's side throughout the whole of his
expedition. But he did not always, like the good Olmedo, use his
influence to stay the uplifted hand of the warrior. At least, this was not
the mild aspect in which he presented himself at the terrible massacre of
Caxamalca. Yet some contemporary accounts represent him, after he
had been installed in his episcopal office, as unwearied in his labors to
convert the natives, and to ameliorate their condition; and his own
correspondence with the government, after that period, shows great
solicitude for these praiseworthy objects. Trained in the severest school
of monastic discipline, which too often closes the heart against the
common charities of life, he could not, like the benevolent Las Casas,
rise so far above its fanatical tenets as to regard the heathen as his
brother, while in the state of infidelity; and, in the true spirit of that
school, he doubtless conceived that the sanctity of the end justified the
means, however revolting in themselves. Yet the same man, who thus
freely shed the blood of the poor native to secure the triumph of his faith,
would doubtless have as freely poured out his own in its defence. The
character was no uncommon one in the sixteenth century.5

Almagro's followers, having supplied themselves with funds, made as
little scruple to appropriate to their own use such horses and arms, of
every description, as they could find in the city. And this they did with
the less reluctance, as the inhabitants for the most part testified no good-
will to their cause. While thus employed, Almagro received intelligence
that Holguin had left Cuzco with a force of near three hundred men, with
which he was preparing to effect a junction with Alvarado in the north.
It was important to Almagro's success that he should defeat this junction.
If to procrastinate was the policy of Vaca de Castro, it was clearly that of
Almagro to quicken operations, and to bring matters to as speedy an
issue as possible; to march at once against Holguin, whom he might
expect easily to overcome with his superior numbers; then to follow up
the stroke by the still easier defeat of Alvarado, when the new governor
would be, in a manner, at his mercy. It would be easy to beat these
several bodies in detail, which, once united, would present formidable
odds. Almagro and his party had already arrayed themselves against the
government by a proceeding too atrocious, and which struck too directly
at the royal authority, for its perpetrators to flatter themselves with the
hopes of pardon. Their only chance was boldly to follow up the blow,
and, by success, to place them, selves in so formidable an attitude as to
excite the apprehensions of government. The dread of its too potent
vassal might extort terms that would never be conceded to his prayers.

But Almagro and his followers shrunk from this open collision with the
Crown. They had taken up rebellion because it lay in their path, not
because they had wished it. They had meant only to avenge their
personal wrongs on Pizarro, and not to defy the royal authority. When,
therefore, some of the more resolute, who followed things fearlessly to
their consequences, proposed to march at once against Vaca de Castro,
and, by striking at the head, settle the contest by a blow, it was almost
universally rejected; and it was not till after long debate that it was
finally determined to move against Holguin, and cut off his
communication with Alonso de Alvarado.

Scarcely had Almagro commenced his march on Xauxa, where he
proposed to give battle to his enemy, than he met with a severe
misfortune in the death of Juan de Rada. He was a man somewhat
advanced in years; and the late exciting scenes, in which he had taken the
principal part, had been too much for a frame greatly shattered by a life
of extraordinary hardship. He was thrown into a fever, of which he soon
after died. By his death, Almagro sustained an inestimable loss; for,
besides his devoted attachment to his young leader, he was, by his large
experience, and his cautious though courageous character, better
qualified than any other cavalier in the army to conduct him safely
through the stormy sea on which he had led him to embark.

Among the cavaliers of highest consideration after Rada's death, the two
most aspiring were Christoval de Sotelo, and Garcia de Alvarado; both
possessed of considerable military talent, but the latter marked by a bold,
presumptuous manner, which might remind one of his illustrious
namesake, who achieved much higher renown under the banner of
Cortes. Unhappily, a jealousy grew up between these two officers; that
jealousy, so common among the Spaniards, that it may seem a national
characteristic; an impatience of equality, founded on a false principle of
honor, which has ever been the fruitful source of faction among them,
whether under a monarchy or a republic.

This was peculiarly unfortunate for Almagro, whose inexperience led
him to lean for support on others, and who, in the present distracted state
of his council, knew scarcely where to turn for it. In the delay
occasioned by these dissensions, his little army did not reach the valley
of Xauxa till after the enemy had passed it. Almagro followed close,
leaving behind his baggage and artillery that he might move the lighter.
But the golden opportunity was lost. The rivers, swollen by autumnal
rains, impeded his pursuit; and, though his light troops came up with a
few stragglers of the rear-guard, Holguin succeeded in conducting his
forces through the dangerous passes of the mountains, and in effecting a
junction with Alonso de Alvarado, near the northern seaport of Huaura.

Disappointed in his object, Almagro prepared to march on Cuzco,-the
capital, as he regarded it, of his own jurisdiction,--to get possession of
that city, and there make preparations to meet his adversary in the field.
Sotelo was sent forward with a small corps in advance. He experienced
no opposition from the now defenceless citizens; the government of the
place was again restored to the hands of the men of Chili, and their
young leader soon appeared at the head of his battalions, and established
his winter-quarters in the Inca capital.

Here, the jealousy of the rival captains broke out into an open feud. It
was ended by the death of Sotelo, treacherously assassinated in his own
apartment by Garcia de Alvarado. Almagro, greatly outraged by this
atrocity, was the more indignant, as he felt himself too weak to punish
the offender. He smothered his resentment for the present, affecting to
treat the dangerous officer with more distinguished favor. But Alvarado
was not the dupe of this specious behaviour. He felt that he had forfeited
the confidence of his commander. In revenge, he laid a plot to betray
him; and Almagro, driven to the necessity of self-defence, imitated the
example of his officer, by entering his house with a party of armed men,
who, laying violent hands on the insurgent, slew him on the spot.6

This irregular proceeding was followed by the best consequences. The
seditious schemes of Alvarado perished with him. The seeds of
insubordination were eradicated, and from that moment Almagro
experienced only implicit obedience and the most loyal support from his
followers. From that hour, too, his own character seemed to be changed;
he relied far less on others than on himself, and developed resources not
to have been anticipated in one of his years; for he had hardly reached
the age of twenty-two.7 From this time he displayed an energy and
forecast, which proved him, in despite of his youth, not unequal to the
trying emergencies of the situation in which it was his unhappy lot to be

He instantly set about providing for the wants of his men, and strained
every nerve to get them in good fighting order for the approaching
campaign. He replenished his treasury with a large amount of silver
which he drew from the mines of La Plata. Saltpetre, obtained in
abundance in the neighborhood of Cuzco, furnished the material for
gunpowder. He caused cannon, some of large dimensions, to be cast
under the superintendence of Pedro de Candia, the Greek, who, it may be
remembered, had first come into the country with Pizarro, and who, with
a number of his countrymen,--Levantines, as they were called,-was well
acquainted with this manufacture. Under their care, fire-arms were
made, together with cuirasses and helmets, in which silver was mingled
with copper,8 and of so excellent a quality, that they might vie, says an
old soldier of the time, with those from the workshops of Milan.9
Almagro received a seasonable supply, moreover, from a source scarcely
to have been expected. This was from Manco, the wandering Inca, who
detesting the memory of Pizarro, transferred to the young Almagro the
same friendly feelings which he had formerly borne to his father;
heightened, it may be, by the consideration that Indian blood flowed in
the veins of the young commander. From this quarter Almagro obtained
a liberal supply of swords, spears, shields, and arms and armour of every
description, chiefly taken by the Inca at the memorable siege of Cuzco.
He also received the gratifying assurance, that the latter would support
him with a detachment of native troops when he opened the campaign.

Before making a final appeal to arms, however, Almagro resolved to try
the effect of negotiation with the new governor. In the spring, or early in
the summer, of 1542, he sent an embassy to the latter, then at Lima, in
which he deprecated the necessity of taking arms against an officer of the
Crown. His only desire, he said, was to vindicate his own rights; to
secure the possession of New Toledo, the province bequeathed to him by
his father, and from which he had been most unjustly excluded by
Pizarro. He did not dispute the governor's authority over New Castile, as
the country was designated which had been assigned to the marquess;
and he concluded by proposing that each party should remain within his
respective territory until the determination of the Court of Castile could
be made known to them. To this application, couched in respectful
terms, Almagro received no answer.

Frustrated in his hopes of a peaceful accommodation, the young captain
now saw that nothing was left but the arbitrament of arms. Assembling
his troops, preparatory to his departure from the capital, he made them a
brief address. He protested that the step which he and his brave
companions were about to take was not an act of rebellion against the
Crown. It was forced on them by the conduct of the governor himself.
The commission of that officer gave him no authority over the territory
of New Toledo, settled on Almagro's father, and by his father bequeathed
to him. If Vaca de Castro, by exceeding the limits of his authority, drove
him to hostilities, the blood spill in the quarrel would lie on the head of
that commander, not on his. "In the assassination of Pizarro," he
continued, "we took that justice into our own hands which elsewhere was
denied us. It is the same now, in our contest with the royal governor.
We are as true-hearted and loyal subjects of the Crown as he is." And he
concluded by invoking his soldiers to stand by him heart and hand in the
approaching contest, in which they were all equally interested with

The appeal was not made to an insensible audience. There were few
among them who did not feel that their fortunes were indissolubly
connected with those of their commander; and while they had little to
expect from the austere character of the governor, they were warmly
attached to the person of their young chief, who, with all the popular
qualities of his father, excited additional sympathy from the
circumstances of his age and his forlorn condition. Laying their hands
on the cross, placed on an altar raised for the purpose, the officers and
soldiers severally swore to brave every peril with Almagro, and remain
true to him to the last.

In point of numbers, his forces had not greatly strengthened since his
departure from Lima. He mustered but little more than five hundred in
all; but among them were his father's veterans, well seasoned by many an
Indian campaign. He had about two hundred horse, many of them clad
in complete mail, a circumstance not too common in these wars, where a
stuffed doublet of cotton was often the only panoply of the warrior. His
infantry, formed of pikemen and arquebusiers, was excellently armed.
But his strength lay in his heavy ordnance, consisting of sixteen pieces,
eight large and eight smaller guns, or falconets, as they were called,
forming, says one who saw it, a beautiful park of artillery, that would
have made a brave show on the citadel of Burgos.10 The little army, in
short, though not imposing from its numbers, was under as good
discipline, and as well appointed, as any that ever fought on the fields of
Peru; much better than any which Almagro's own father or Pizarro ever
led into the field and won their conquests with. Putting himself at the
head of his gallant company, the chieftain sallied forth from the walls of
Cuzco about midsummer, in 1542, and directed his march towards the
coast in expectation of meeting the enemy.11

While the events detailed in the preceding pages were passing, Vaca de
Castro, whom we left at Quito in the preceding year, was advancing
slowly towards the south. His first act, after leaving that city, showed his
resolution to enter into no compromise with the assassins of Pizarro.
Benalcazar, the distinguished officer whom I have mentioned as having
early given in his adherence to him, had protected one of the principal
conspirators, his personal friend, who had come into his power, and had
facilitated his escape. The governor, indignant at the proceeding, would
listen to no explanation, but ordered the offending officer to return to his
own district of Popayan. It was a bold step, in the precarious state of his
own fortunes.

As the governor pursued his march, he was well received by the people
on the way; and when he entered the cities of San Miguel and of
Truxillo, he was welcomed with loyal enthusiasm by the inhabitants, who
readily acknowledged his authority, though they showed little alacrity to
take their chance with him in the coming struggle.

After lingering a long time in each of these places, he resumed his march
and reached the camp of Alonso de Alvarado at Huaura, early in 1542.
Holguin had established his quarters at some little distance from his
rival; for a jealousy had sprung up, as usual, between these two captains,
who both aspired to the supreme command of Captain General of the
army. The office of governor, conferred on Vaca de Castro, might seem
to include that of commander-in-chief of the forces. But De Castro was
a scholar, bred to the law;. and, whatever authority he might arrogate to
himself in civil matters, the two captains imagined that the military
department he would resign into the hands of others. They little knew
the character of the man.

Though possessed of no more military science than belonged to every
cavalier in that martial age, the governor knew that to avow his
ignorance, and to resign the management of affairs into the hands of
others, would greatly impair his authority, if not bring him into contempt
with the turbulent spirits among whom he was now thrown. He had both
sagacity and spirit, and trusted to be able to supply his own deficiencies
by the experience of others. His position placed the services of the
ablest men m the country at his disposal, and with the aid of their
counsels he felt quite competent to decide on his plan of operations, and
to enforce the execution of it. He knew, moreover, that the only way to
allay the jealousy of the two parties in the present crisis was to assume
himself the office which was the cause of their dissension.

Still he approached his ambitious officers with great caution; and the
representations, which he made through some judicious persons who had
the most intimate access to them, were so successful, that both were in a
short time prevailed on to relinquish their pretensions in his favor.
Holguin, the more unreasonable of the two, then waited on him in his
rival's quarters, where the governor had the further satisfaction to
reconcile him to Alonso de Alvarado. It required some address, as their
jealousy of each other had proceeded to such lengths that a challenge had
passed between them.

Harmony being thus restored, the licentiate passed over to Holguin's
camp, where he was greeted with salvoes of artillery, and loud
acclamations of "Viva el Rey" from the loyal soldiery. Ascending a
platform covered with velvet, he made an animated harangue to the
troops; his commission was read aloud by the secretary; and the little
army tendered their obedience to him as the representative of the Crown.

Vaca de Castro's next step was to send off the greater part of his force, in
the direction of Xauxa, while, at the head of a small corps, he directed
his march towards Lima. Here he was received with lively
demonstrations of joy by the citizens, who were generally attached to the
cause of Pizarro, the founder and constant patron of their capital.
Indeed, the citizens had lost no time after Almagro's departure in
expelling his creatures from the municipality, and reasserting their
allegiance. With these favorable dispositions towards himself, the
governor found no difficulty in obtaining a considerable loan of money
from the wealthier inhabitants, But he was less successful, at first, in his
application for horses and arms, since the harvest had been too faithfully
gleaned, already, by the men of Chili. As, however, he prolonged his
stay some time in the capital, he obtained important supplies, before he
left it, both of arms and ammunition, while he added to his force by a
considerable body of recruits.12

As he was thus employed, he received tidings that the enemy had left
Cuzco, and was on his march towards the coast. Quitting Los Reyes,
therefore, with his trusty followers, Vaca de Castro marched at once to
Xauxa, the appointed place of rendezvous. Here he mustered his forces,
and found that they amounted to about seven hundred men. The cavalry,
in which lay his strength, was superior in numbers to that of his
antagonist, but neither so well mounted or armed. It included many
cavaliers of birth, and well-tried soldiers, besides a number who, having
great interests at stake, as possessed of large estates in the country, had
left them at the call of government, to enlist under its banners.13 His
infantry, besides pikes, was indifferently well supplied with firearms; but
he had nothing to show in the way of artillery except three or four ill-
mounted falconets. Yet, notwithstanding these deficiencies, the royal
army, if so insignificant a force can deserve that name, was so far
superior in numbers to that of his rival, that the one might be thought, on
the whole, to be no unequal match for the other.14

The reader, familiar with the large masses employed in European
warfare, may smile at the paltry forces of the Spaniards. But in the New
World, where a countless host of natives went for little, five hundred
well-trained Europeans were regarded as a formidable body. No army,
up to the period before us, had ever risen to a thousand. Yet it is not
numbers, as I have already been led to remark, that give importance to a
conflict; but the consequences that depend on it,--the magnitude of the
stake, and the skill and courage of the players. The more limited the
means, even, the greater may be the science shown in the use of them;
until, forgetting the poverty of the materials, we fix our attention on the
conduct of the actors, and the greatness of the results.

While at Xauxa, Vaca de Castro received an embassy from Gonzalo
Pizarro, returned from his expedition from the "Land of Cinnamon," in
which that chief made an offer of his services in the approaching contest.
The governor's answer showed that he was not wholly averse to an
accommodation with Almagro, provided it could be effected without
compromising the royal authority. He was willing, perhaps, to avoid the
final trial by battle, when he considered, that, from the equality of the
contending forces, the issue must be extremely doubtful. He knew that
the presence of Pizarro in the camp, the detested enemy of the
Almagrians, would excite distrust in their bosoms that would probably
baffle every effort at accommodation. Nor is it likely that the governor
cared to have so restless a spirit introduced into his own councils. He
accordingly sent to Gonzalo, thanking him for the promptness of his
support, but courteously declined it, while he advised him to remain in
his province, and repose after the fatigues of his wearisome expedition.
At the same time, he assured him that he would not fail to call for his
services when occasion required it.--The haughty cavalier was greatly
disgusted by the repulse.15

The governor now received such an account of Almagro's movements.
as led him to suppose that he was preparing to occupy Gaumanga, a
fortified place of considerable strength, about thirty leagues from
Xauxa.16 Anxious to secure this post, he broke up his encampment, and
by forced marches, conducted in so irregular a manner as must have
placed him in great danger if his enemy had been near to profit by it, he
succeeded in anticipating Almagro, and threw himself into the place
while his antagonist was at Bilcas, some ten leagues distant.

At Guamanga, Vaca de Castro received another embassy from Almagro,
of similar import with the former. The young chief again deprecated the
existence of hostilities between brethren of the same family, and
proposed an accommodation of the quarrel on the same basis as before.
To these proposals the governor now condescended to reply. It might be
thought, from his answer, that he felt some compassion for the youth and
inexperience of Almagro, and that he was willing to distinguish between
him and the principal conspirators, provided he could detach him from
their interests. But it is more probable that he intended only to amuse his
enemy by a show of negotiation, while he gained time for tampering with
the fidelity of his troops.

He insisted that Almagro should deliver up to him all those immediately
implicated in the death of Pizarro, and should then disband his forces.
On these conditions the government would pass over his treasonable
practices, and he should be reinstated in the royal favor. Together with
this mission, Vaca de Castro, it is reported, sent a Spaniard, disguised as
an Indian, who was instructed to communicate with certain officers in
Almagro's camp, and prevail on them, if possible, to abandon his cause
and return to their allegiance. Unfortunately, the disguise of the
emissary was detected. He was seized, put to the torture, and, having
confessed the whole of the transaction, was hanged as a spy.

Almagro laid the proceeding before his captains. The terms proffered by
the governor were such as no man with a particle of honor in his nature
could entertain for a moment; and Almagro's indignation, as well as that
of his companions, was heightened by the duplicity of their enemy, who
could practise such insidious arts, while ostensibly engaged in a fair and
open negotiation. Fearful, perhaps, lest the tempting offers of their
antagonist might yet prevail over the constancy of some of the weaker
spirits among them, they demanded that all negotiation should be broken
off, and that they should be led at once against the enemy.17

The governor, meanwhile, finding the broken country around Guamanga
unfavorable for his cavalry, on which he mainly relied, drew off his
forces to the neighboring lowlands, known as the Plains of Chupas. It
was the tempestuous season of the year, and for several days the storm
raged wildly among the hills, and, sweeping along their sides into the
valley, poured down rain, sleet, and snow on the miserable bivouacs of
the soldiers, till they were drenched to the skin and nearly stiffened by
the cold.18 At length, on the sixteenth of September, 1542, the scouts
brought in tidings that Almagro's troops were advancing, with the
intention, apparently, of occupying the highlands around Chupas. The
war of the elements had at last subsided, and was succeeded by one of
those brilliant days which are found only in the tropics. The royal camp
was early in motion, as Vaca de Castro, desirous to secure the heights
that commanded the valley, detached a body of arquebusiers on that
service, supported by a corps of cavalry, which he soon followed with
the rest of the forces. On reaching the eminence, news was brought that
the enemy had come to a halt, and established himself in a strong
position at less than a league's distance.

It was now late in the afternoon, and the sun was not more than two
hours above the horizon. The governor hesitated to begin the action
when they must so soon be overtaken by night. But Alonso de Alvarado
assured him that "now was the time; for the spirits of his men were hot
for fight, and it was better to take the benefit of it than to damp their
ardor by delay." The governor acquiesced, exclaiming at the same time, -
-"O for the might of Joshua, to stay the sun in his course!" 19 He then
drew up his little army in order of battle, and made his dispositions for
the attack.

In the centre he placed his infantry, consisting of arquebusiers and
pikemen, constituting the battle, as it was called. On the flanks, he
established his cavalry, placing the right wing, together with the royal
standard, under charge of Alonso de Alvarado, and the left under
Holguin, supported by a gallant body of cavaliers. His artillery, too
insignificant to be of much account, was also in the centre. He proposed
himself to lead the van, and to break the first lance with the enemy; but
from this chivalrous display he was dissuaded by his officers, who
reminded him that too much depended on his life to have it thus
wantonly exposed. The governor contented himself, therefore, with
heading a body of reserve, consisting of forty horse, to act on any quarter
as occasion might require. This corps, comprising the flower of his
chivalry, was chiefly drawn from Alvarado's troop, greatly to the
discontent of that captain. The governor himself rode a coal-black
charger, and wore a rich surcoat of brocade over his mail, through which
the habit and emblems of the knightly order of St. James, conferred on
him just before his departure from Castile, were conspicuous.20 It was a
point of honor with the chivalry of the period to court danger by
displaying their rank in the splendor of their military attire and the
caparisons of their horses.

Before commencing the assault, Vaca de Castro addressed a few remarks
to his soldiers, in order to remove any hesitation that some might yet
feel, who recollected the displeasure shown by the emperor to the victors
as well as the vanquished after the battle of Salinas. He told them that
their enemies were rebels. They were in arms against him. the
representative of the Crown, and it was his duty to quell this rebellion
and punish the authors of it. He then caused the law to be read aloud,
proclaiming the doom of traitors. By this law, Almagro and his
followers had forfeited their lives and property, and the governor
promised to distribute the latter among such of his men as showed the
best claim to it by their conduct in the battle. This last politic promise
vanquished the scruples of the most fastidious; and, having completed
his dispositions in the most judicious and soldier-like manner, Vaca de
Castro gave the order to advance.21

As the forces turned a spur of the hills, which had hitherto screened them
from their enemies, they came in sight of the latter, formed along the
crest of a gentle eminence, with their snow-white banners, the
distinguishing color of the Almagrians, floating above their heads, and
their bright arms flinging back the broad rays of the evening sun.
Almagro's disposition of his troops was not unlike that of his adversary.
In the centre was his excellent artillery, covered by his arquebusiers and
spearmen; while his cavalry rode on the flanks. The troops on the left he
proposed to lead in person. He had chosen his position with judgment,
as the character of the ground gave full play to his guns, which opened
an effective fire on the assailants as they drew near. Shaken by the storm
of shot, Vaca de Castro saw the difficulty of advancing in open view of
the hostile battery. He took the counsel, therefore, of Francisco de
Carbajal, who undertook to lead the forces by a circuitous, but safer,
route. This is the first occasion on which the name of this veteran
appears in these American wars, where it was afterwards to acquire a
melancholy notoriety. He had come to the country after the campaigns
of forty years in Europe, where he had studied the art of war under the
Great Captain, Gonsalvo de Cordova. Though now far advanced in age,
he possessed all the courage and indomitable energy of youth, and well
exemplified the lessons he had studied under his great commander.

Taking advantage of a winding route that sloped round the declivity of
the hills, he conducted the troops in such a manner, that, until they
approached quite near the enemy, they were protected by the intervening
ground. While thus advancing, they were assailed on the left flank by
the Indian battalions under Paullo, the Inca Manco's brother; but a corps
of musketeers, directing a scattering fire among them, soon rid the
Spaniards of this annoyance. When, at length, the royal troops, rising
above the hill, again came into view of Almagro's lines, the artillery
opened on them with fatal effect. It was but for a moment, however, as,
from some unaccountable cause, the guns were pointed as such an angle,
that, although presenting an obvious mark, by far the greater part of the
shot passed over their heads. Whether this was the result of treachery, or
merely of awkwardness, is uncertain. The artillery was under charge of
the engineer, Pedro de Candia. This man, who, it" may be remembered,
was one of the thirteen that so gallantly stood by Pizarro in the island of
Gallo, had fought side by side with his leader through the whole of the
Conquest. He had lately, however, conceived some disgust with him,
and had taken part with the faction of Almagro. The death of his old
commander, he may perhaps have thought, had settled all their
differences, and he was now willing to return to his former allegiance.
At least, it is said, that, at this very time, he was in correspondence with
Vaca de Castro. Almagro himself seems to have had no doubt of his
treachery. For, after remonstrating in vain with him on his present
conduct, he ran him through the body, and the unfortunate cavalier fell
lifeless on the field. Then, throwing himself on one of the guns,
Almagro gave it a new direction, and that so successfully, that, when it
was discharged, it struck down several of the cavalry.22

The firing now took better effect, and by one volley a whole file of the
royal infantry was swept off, and though others quickly stepped in to fill
up the ranks, the men, impatient of their sufferings, loudly called on the
troopers, who had halted for a moment, to quicken their advance.23
This delay had been caused by Carbajal's desire to bring his own guns to
bear on the opposite columns. But the design was quickly abandoned;
the clumsy ordnance was left on the field, and orders were given to the
cavalry to charge; the trumpets sounded, and, crying their war-cries, the
bold cavaliers struck their spurs into their steeds, and rode at full speed
against the enemy.

Well had it been for Almagro, if he had remained firm on the post which
gave him such advantage. But from a false point of honor, he thought it
derogatory to a brave knight passively to await the assault, and, ordering
his own men to charge, the hostile squadrons, rapidly advancing against
each other, met midway on the plain. The shock was terrible. Horse and
rider reeled under the force of it. The spears flew into shivers;24 and the
cavaliers, drawing their swords, or wielding their maces and battle-axes,-
-though some of the royal troopers were armed only with a common
axe,--dealt their blows with all the fury of civil hate. It was a fearful
struggle, not merely of man against man, but, to use the words of an
eyewitness, of brother against brother, and friend against friend.25 No
quarter was asked; for the wrench that had been strong enough to tear
asunder the dearest ties of kindred left no hold for humanity. The
excellent arms of the Almagrians counterbalanced the odds of numbers;
but the royal partisans gained some advantage by striking at the horses
instead of the mailed bodies of their antagonists.

The infantry, meanwhile, on both sides, kept up a sharp cross-fire from
their arquebuses, which did execution on the ranks of the cavaliers, as
well as on one another. But Almagro's battery of heavy guns, now well
directed, mowed down the advancing columns of foot. The latter,
staggering, began to fall back from the terrible fire, when Francisco de
Carbajal, throwing himself before them, cried out, "Shame on you, my
men! Do you give way now? I am twice as good a mark for the enemy
as any of you!" He was a very large man; and, throwing off his steel
helmet and cuirass, that he might have no advantage over his followers,
he remained lightly attired in his cotton doublet, when, swinging his
partisan over his head, he sprang boldly forward through blinding
volumes of smoke and a tempest of musket-balls, and, supported by the
bravest of his troops, overpowered the gunners, and made himself master
of their pieces.

The shades of night had now, for some time been coming thicker and
thicker over the field. But still the deadly struggle went on in the
darkness, as the red and white badges intimated the respective parties,
and their war-cries rose above the din,--"Vaca de Castro y el Rey,"--
"Almagro y el Rey,"--while both invoked the aid of their military apostle
St. James. Holguin, who commanded the royalists on the left, pierced
through by two musket-balls, had been slain early in the action. He had
made himself conspicuous by a rich sobre-vest of white velvet over his
armour. Still a gallant band of cavaliers maintained the fight so valiantly
on that quarter, that the Almagrians found it difficult to keep their

It fared differently on the right, where Alonso de Alvarado commanded.
He was there encountered by Almagro in person, who fought worthy of
his name. By repeated charges on his opponent, he endeavored to bear
down his squadrons, so much worse mounted and worse armed than his
own. Alvarado resisted with undiminished courage; but his numbers had
been thinned, as we have seen, before the battle, to supply the governor's
reserve, and, fairly overpowered by the superior strength of his
adversary, who had already won two of the royal banners, he was slowly
giving ground. "Take, but kill not!" shouted the generous young chief,
who felt himself sure of victory.27

But at this crisis, Vaca de Castro, who, with his reserve, had occupied a
rising ground that commanded the field of action, was fully aware that
the time had now come for him to take part in the struggle. He had long
strained his eyes through the gloom to watch the movements of the
combatants, and received constant tidings how the fight was going. He
no longer hesitated, but, calling on his men to follow, led off boldly into
the thickest of the melee to the support of his stout-hearted officer. The
arrival of a new corps on the field, all fresh for action, gave another turn
to the tide.28 Alvarado's men took heart and rallied. Almagro's, though
driven back by the fury of the assault, quickly returned against their
assailants. Thirteen of Vaca de Castro's cavaliers fell dead from their
saddles. But it was the last effort of the Almagrians. Their strength,
though not their spirit, failed them. They gave way in all directions, and,
mingling together in the darkness, horse, foot, and artillery, they
trampled one another down, as they made the best of their way from the
press of their pursuers. Almagro used every effort to stay them. He
performed miracles of valor, says one who witnessed them; but he was
borne along by the tide, and, though he seemed to court death, by the
freedom with which he exposed his person to danger, yet he escaped
without a wound.

Others there were of his company, and among them a young cavalier
named Geronimo de Alvarado, who obstinately refused to quit the field;
and shouting out,--"We slew Pizarro! we killed the tyrant!" they threw
themselves on the lances of their conquerors, preferring death on the
battle-field to the ignominious doom of the gibbet.29

It was nine o'clock when the battle ceased, though the firing was heard at
intervals over the field at a much later hour, as some straggling party of
fugitives were overtaken by their pursuers. Yet many succeeded in
escaping in the obscurity of night, while some, it is said, contrived to
elude pursuit in a more singular way; tearing off the badges from the
corpses of their enemies, they assumed them for themselves, and,
mingling in the ranks as followers of Vaca de Castro, joined in the

That commander, at length, fearing some untoward accident, and that the
fugitives, should they rally again under cover of the darkness, might
inflict some loss on their pursuers, caused his trumpets to sound, and
recalled his scattered forces under their banners. All night they remained
under arms on the field, which, so lately the scene of noisy strife, was
now hushed in silence, broken only by the groans of the wounded and the
dying. The natives, who had hung, during the fight, like a dark cloud,
round the skirts of the mountains, contemplating with gloomy
satisfaction the destruction of their enemies, now availed themselves of
the obscurity to descend, like a pack of famished wolves, upon the
plains, where they stripped the bodies of the slain, and even of the living,
but disabled wretches, who had in vain dragged themselves into the
bushes for concealment. The following morning, Vaca de Castro gave
orders that the wounded--those who had not perished in the cold damps
of the night--should be committed to the care of the surgeons, while the
priests were occupied with administering confession and absolution to
the dying. Four large graves or pits were dug, in which the bodies of the
slain--the conquerors and the conquered--were heaped indiscriminately
together. But the remains of Alvarez de Holguin and several other
cavaliers of distinction were transported to Guamanga, where they were
buried with the solemnities suited to their rank; and the tattered banners
won from their vanquished countrymen waved over their monuments, the
melancholy trophies of their victory.

The number of killed is variously reported,--from three hundred to five
hundred on both sides.30 The mortality was greatest among the
conquerors, who suffered more from the cannon of the enemy before the
action, than the latter suffered in the rout that followed it. The number of
wounded was still greater; and full half of the survivors of Almagro's
party were made prisoners. Many, indeed, escaped from the field to the
neighboring town of Guamanga, where they took refuge in the churches
and monasteries. But their asylum was not respected, and they were
dragged forth and thrown into prison. Their brave young commander
fled with a few followers only to Cuzco, where he was instantly arrested
by the magistrates whom he had himself placed over the city.31

At Guamanga, Vaca de Castro appointed a commission, with the
Licentiate de la Gama at its head, for the trial of the prisoners; and
justice was not satisfied, till forty had been condemned to death, and
thirty others--some of them with the loss of one or more of their
members-sent into banishment.32 Such severe reprisals have been too
common with the Spaniards in their civil feuds. Strange that they should
so blindly plunge into these, with this dreadful doom for the vanquished!

From the scene of this bloody tragedy, the governor proceeded to Cuzco,
which he entered at the head of his victorious battalions, with all the
pomp and military display of a conqueror. He maintained a
corresponding state in his way of living, at the expense of a sneer from
some, who sarcastically contrasted this ostentatious profusion with the
economical reforms he subsequently introduced into the finances.33 But
Vaca de Castro was sensible of the effect of this outward show on the
people generally, and disdained no means of giving authority to his
office. His first act was to determine the fate of his prisoner, Almagro.
A council of war was held. Some were for sparing the unfortunate chief,
in consideration of his youth, and the strong cause of provocation he had
received. But the majority were of opinion that such mercy could not be
extended to the leader of the rebels, and that his death was indispensable
to the permanent tranquillity of the country.
When led to execution in the great square of Cuzco,--the same spot
where his father had suffered but a few years before,---Almagro
exhibited the most perfect composure, though, as the herald proclaimed
aloud the doom of the traitor, he indignantly denied that he was one. He
made no appeal for mercy to his judges, but simply requested that his
bones might be laid by the side of his father's. He objected to having his
eyes bandaged, as was customary on such occasions, and, after
confession, he devoutly embraced the cross, and submitted his neck to
the stroke of the executioner. His remains, agreeably to his request, were
transported to the monastery of La Merced, where they were deposited
side by side with those of his unfortunate parent.34

There have been few names, indeed, in the page of history, more
unfortunate than that of Almagro. Yet the fate of the son excites a
deeper sympathy than that of the father; and this, not merely on account
of his youth, and the peculiar circumstances of his situation. He
possessed many of the good qualities of the elder Almagro, with a frank
and manly nature, in which the bearing of the soldier was somewhat
softened by the refinement of a better education than is to be found in the
license of a camp. His career, though short, gave promise of
considerable talent, which required only a fair field for its development.
But he was the child of misfortune, and his morning of life was overcast
by clouds and tempests. If his character, naturally benignant, sometimes
showed the fiery sparkles of the vindictive Indian temper, some apology
may be found, not merely in his blood, but in the circumstances of his
situation. He was more sinned against than sinning; and, if conspiracy
could ever find a justification, it must be in a case like his, where, borne
down by injuries heaped on his parent and himself, he could obtain no
redress from the only quarter whence he had a right to look for it. With
him, the name of Almagro became extinct, and the faction of Chili, so
long the terror of the land, passed away for ever.

While these events were occurring in Cuzco, the governor learned that
Gonzalo Pizarro had arrived at Lima, where he showed himself greatly
discontented with the state of things in Peru. He loudly complained that
the government of the country, after his brother's death, had not been
placed in his hands; and, as reported by some, he was now meditating
schemes for getting possession of it. Vaca de Castro well knew that
there would be no lack of evil counsellors to urge Gonzalo to this
desperate step; and, anxious to extinguish the spark of insurrection
before it had been fanned by these turbulent spirits into a flame, he
detached a strong body to Lima to secure that capital. At the same time
he commanded the presence of Gonzalo Pizarro in Cuzco.

That chief did not think it prudent to disregard the summons; and shortly
after entered the Inca capital, at the head of a well-armed body of
cavaliers. He was at once admitted into the governor's presence, when
the latter dismissed his guard, remarking that he had nothing to fear from
a brave and loyal knight like Pizarro. He then questioned him as to his
late adventures in Canelas, and showed great sympathy for his
extraordinary sufferings. He took care not to alarm his jealousy by any
allusion to his ambitious schemes, and concluded by recommending him,
now that the tranquillity of the country was reestablished, to retire and
seek the repose he so much needed, on his valuable estates at Charcas.
Gonzalo Pizarro, finding no ground opened for a quarrel with the coot
and politic governor, and probably feeling that he was, at least not now,
in sufficient strength to warrant it, thought it prudent to take the advice,
and withdrew to La Plata, where he busied himself in working those rich
mines of silver that soon put him in condition for more momentous
enterprise than any he had yet attempted.35

Thus rid of his formidable competitor, Vaca de Castro occupied himself
with measures for the settlement of the country. He began with his army,
a part of which he had disbanded. But many cavaliers still remained,
pressing their demands for a suitable recompense for their services.
These they were not disposed to undervalue, and the governor was happy
to rid himself of their importunities by employing them on distant
expeditions, among which was the exploration of the country watered by
the great Rio de la Plata. The boiling spirits of the highmettled cavaliers,
without some such vent, would soon have thrown the whole country
again into a state of fermentation.

His next concern was to provide laws for the better government of the
colony. He gave especial care to the state of the Indian population; and
established schools for teaching them Christianity. By various
provisions, be endeavored to secure them from the exactions of their
conquerors, and he encouraged the poor natives to transfer their own
residence to the communities of the white men. He commanded the
caciques to provide supplies for the tambos, or houses for the
accommodation of travellers, which lay in their neighborhood, by which
regulation he took away from the Spaniards a plausible apology for
rapine, and greatly promoted facility of intercourse. He was watchful
over the finances, much dilapidated in the late troubles, and in several
instances retrenched what he deemed excessive repartimientos among the
Conquerors. This last act exposed him to much odium from the objects
of it. But his measures were so just and impartial, that he was supported
by public opinion.36

Indeed, Vaca de Castro's conduct, from the hour of his arrival in the
country, had been such as to command respect, and prove him competent
to the difficult post for which he had been selected. Without funds,
without troops, he had found the country, on his landing, in a state of
anarchy; yet, by courage and address, he had gradually acquired
sufficient strength to quell the insurrection. Though no soldier, he had
shown undaunted spirit and presence of mind in the hour of action, and
made his military preparations with a forecast and discretion that excited
the admiration of the most experienced veteran.

If he may be thought to have abused the advantages of victory by cruelty
towards the conquered, it must be allowed that he was not influenced by
any motives of a personal nature. He was a lawyer, bred in high notions
of royal prerogative. Rebellion he looked upon as an unpardonable
crime; and, if his austere nature was unrelenting in the exaction of
justice, he lived in an iron age, when justice was rarely tempered by

In his subsequent regulations for the settlement of the country, he
showed equal impartiality and wisdom. The colonists were deeply
sensible of the benefits of his administration, and afforded the best
commentary on his services by petitioning the Court of Castile to
continue him in the government of Peru.37 Unfortunately, such was not
the policy of the Crown.

Book 4

Chapter 7

Abuses By The Conquerors--Code For The Colonies-
Great Excitement In Peru--Blasco Nunez The Viceroy-
His Severe Policy--Opposed By Gonzalo Pizarro


Before continuing the narrative of events in Peru, we must turn to the
mother-country, where important changes were in progress in respect to
the administration of the colonies.

Since his accession to the Crown, Charles the Fifth had been chiefly
engrossed by the politics of Europe, where a theatre was opened more
stimulating to his ambition than could be found in a struggle with the
barbarian princes of the New World. In this quarter, therefore, an
empire almost unheeded, as it were, had been suffered to grow up, until
it had expanded into dimensions greater than those of his European
dominions and destined soon to become far more opulent. A scheme of
government had, it is true, been devised, and laws enacted from time to
time for the regulation of the colonies. But these laws were often
accommodated less to the interests of the colonies themselves, than to
those of the parent country; and, when contrived in a better spirit, they
were but imperfectly executed; for the voice of authority, however loudly
proclaimed at home, too often died away in feeble echoes before it had
crossed the waters.

This state of things, and, indeed, the manner in which the Spanish
territories in the New World had been originally acquired, were most
unfortunate both for the conquered races and their masters. Had the
provinces gained by the Spaniards been the fruit of peaceful acquisition,
--of barter and negotiation,--or had their conquest been achieved under
the immediate direction of government, the interests of the natives would
have been more carefully protected. From the superior civilization of the
Indians in the Spanish American colonies, they still continued after the
Conquest to remain on the ground, and to mingle in the same
communities, with the white men; in this forming an obvious contrast to
the condition of our own aborigines, who, shrinking from the contact of
civilization, have withdrawn, as the latter has advanced, deeper and
deeper into the heart of the wilderness. But the South American Indian
was qualified by his previous institutions for a more refined legislation
than could be adapted to the wild hunters of the forest; and, had the
sovereign been there in person to superintend his conquests, he could
never have suffered so large a portion of his vassals to be wantonly
sacrificed to the cupidity and cruelty of the handful of adventurers who
subdued them.

But, as it was, the affair of reducing the country was committed to the
hands of irresponsible individuals, soldiers of fortune, desperate
adventurers, who entered on conquest as a game, which they were to play
in the most unscrupulous manner, with little care but to win it. Receiving
small encouragement from the government, they were indebted to their
own valor for success; and the right of conquest, they conceived,
extinguished every existing right in the unfortunate natives. The lands,
the persons, of the conquered races were parcelled out and appropriated
by the victors as the legitimate spoils of victory; and outrages were
perpetrated every day, at the contemplation of which humanity shudders.

These outrages, though nowhere perpetrated on so terrific a scale as in
the islands, where, in a few years, they had nearly annihilated the native
population, were yet of sufficient magnitude in Peru to call down the
vengeance of Heaven on the heads of their authors; and the Indian might
feel that this vengeance was not long delayed, when he beheld his
oppressors, wrangling over their miserable spoil, and turning their
swords against each other. Peru, as already mentioned, was subdued by
adventurers, for the most part, of a lower and more ferocious stamp than
those who followed the banner of Cortes. The character of the followers
partook, in some measure, of that of the leaders in their respective
enterprises. It was a sad fatality for the Incas; for the reckless soldiers of
Pizarro were better suited to contend with the fierce Aztec than with the
more refined and effeminate Peruvian. Intoxicated by the unaccustomed
possession of power, and without the least notion of the responsibilities
which attached to their situation as masters of the land, they too often
abandoned themselves to the indulgence of every whim which cruelty or
caprice could dictate. Not unfrequently, says an unsuspicious witness, I
have seen the Spaniards, long after the Conquest, amuse themselves by
hunting down the natives with bloodhounds for mere sport, or in order to
train their dogs to the game! 1 The most unbounded scope was given to
licentiousness. The young maiden was torn without remorse from the
arms of her family to gratify the passion of her brutal conqueror.2 The
sacred houses of the Virgins of the Sun were broken open and violated,
and the cavalier swelled his harem with a troop of Indian girls making it
seem that the Crescent would have been a much more fitting symbol for
his banner than the immaculate Cross.3

But the dominant passion of the Spaniard was the lust of gold. For this
he shrunk from no toil himself, and was merciless in his exactions of
labor from his Indian slave. Unfortunately, Peru abounded in mines
which too well repaid this labor; and human life was the item of least
account in the estimate of the Conquerors. Under his Incas, the Peruvian
was never suffered to be idle; but the task imposed on him was always
proportioned to his strength. He had his seasons of rest and refreshment,
and was well protected against the inclemency of the weather. Every
care was shown for his personal safety. But the Spaniards, while they
taxed the strength of the native to the utmost, deprived him of the means
of repairing it, when exhausted. They suffered the provident
arrangements of the Incas to fall into decay. The granaries were
emptied; the flocks were wasted in riotous living. They were slaughtered
to gratify a mere epicurean whim, and many a llama was destroyed solely
for the sake of the brains----a dainty morsel, much coveted by the
Spaniards.4 So reckless was the spirit of destruction after the Conquest,
says Ondegardo. the wise governor of Cuzco, that in four years more of
these animals perished than in four hundred, in the times of the Incas.5
The flocks, once so numerous over the broad table-lands, were now
thinned to a scanty number, that sought shelter in the fastnesses of the
Andes. The poor Indian, without food, without the warm fleece which
furnished him a defence against the cold, now wandered half-starved and
naked over the plateau. Even those who had aided the Spaniards in the
conquest fared no better; and many an Inca noble roamed a mendicant
over the lands where he once held rule, and if driven, perchance, by his
necessities, to purloin something from the superfluity of his conquerors,
he expiated it by a miserable death.6

It is true, there were good men, missionaries, faithful to their calling,
who wrought hard in the spiritual conversion of the native, and who,
touched by his misfortunes, would gladly have interposed their arm to
shield him from his oppressors.7 But too often the ecclesiastic became
infected by the general spirit of licentiousness; and the religious
fraternities, who led a life of easy indulgence on the lands cultivated by
their Indian slaves, were apt to think less of the salvation of their souls
than of profiting by the labor of their bodies.8

Yet still there were not wanting good and wise men in the colonies, who,
from time to time, raised the voice of remonstrance against these abuses,
and who carried their complaints to the foot of the throne. To the credit
of the government, it must also be confessed, that it was solicitous to
obtain such information as it could, both from its own officers, and from
commissioners deputed expressly for the purpose, whose voluminous
communications throw a flood of light on the internal condition of the
country, and furnish the best materials for the historian.9 But it was
found much easier to get this information than to profit by it.

In 1541, Charles the Fifth, who had been much occupied by the affairs of
Germany, revisited his ancestral dominions, where his attention was
imperatively called to the state of the colonies. Several memorials in
relation to it were laid before him; but no one pressed the matter so
strongly on the royal conscience as Las Casas, afterwards Bishop of
Chiapa. This good ecclesiastic, whose long life had been devoted to
those benevolent labors which gained him the honorable title of
Protector of the Indians, had just completed his celebrated treatise on the
Destruction of the Indies, the most remarkable record, probably, to be
found, of human wickedness, but which, unfortunately, loses much of its
effect from the credulity of the writer, and his obvious tendency to

In 1542, Las Casas placed his manuscript in the hands of his royal aster.
That same year, a council was called at Valladolid, composed chiefly of
jurists and theologians, to devise a system of laws for the regulation of
the American colonies.

Las Casas appeared before this body, and made an elaborate argument,
of which a part only has been given to the public. He there assumes, as a
fundamental proposition, that the Indians were by the law of nature free;
that, as vassals of the Crown, they had a right to its protection, and
should be declared free from that time, without exception and for ever.10
He sustains this proposition by a great variety of arguments,
comprehending the substance of most that has been since urged in the
same cause by the friends of humanity. He touches on the ground of
expediency, showing, that, without the interference of government, the
Indian race must be gradually exterminated by the systematic oppression
of the Spaniards. In conclusion, he maintains, that, if the Indians, as it
was pretended, would not labor unless compelled, the white man would
still find it for his interest to cultivate the soil; and that if he should not
be able to do so, that circumstance would give him no right over the
Indian, since God does not allow evil that good may come of it.11--This
lofty morality, it will be remembered, was from the lips of a Dominican,
in the sixteenth century, one of the order that rounded the Inquisition,
and in the very country where the fiery tribunal was then in most active

The arguments of Las Casas encountered all the opposition naturally to
be expected from indifference, selfishness, and bigotry. They were also
resisted by some persons of just and benevolent views in his audience,
who, while they admitted the general correctness of his reasoning, and
felt deep sympathy for the wrongs of the natives, yet doubted whether his
scheme of reform was not fraught with greater evils than those it was
intended to correct. For Las Casas was the uncompromising friend of
freedom. He intrenched himself strongly on the ground of natural right;
and, like some of the reformers of our own day, disdained to calculate
the consequences of carrying out the principle to its full and unqualified
extent. His earnest eloquence, instinct with the generous love of
humanity, and fortified by a host of facts, which it was not easy to assail,
prevailed over his auditors. The result of their deliberations was a code
of ordinances, which, however, far from being limited to the wants of the
natives, had particular reference to the European population, and the
distractions of the country. It was of general application to all the
American colonies. It will be necessary here only to point out some of
the provisions having immediate reference to Peru.

The Indians were declared true and loyal vassals of the Crown, and their
freedom as such was fully recognized. Yet, to maintain inviolate the
guaranty of the government to the Conquerors, it was decided, that those
lawfully possessed of slaves might still retain them; but, at the death of
the present proprietors, they were to revert to the Crown.

It was provided, however, that slaves, in any event, should be forfeited
by all those who had shown themselves unworthy to hold them by
neglect or ill-usage; by all public functionaries, or such as had held
offices under the government; by ecclesiastics and religious
corporations; and lastly,--a sweeping clause,--by all who had taken a
criminal part in the feuds of Almagro and Pizarro.

It was further ordered, that the Indians should be moderately taxed; that
they should not be compelled to labor where they did not choose, and
that where, from particular circumstances, this was made necessary, they
should receive a fair compensation. It was also decreed, that, as the
repartimientos of land were often excessive, they should in such cases be
reduced; and that, where proprietors had been guilty of a notorious abuse
of their slaves, their estates should be forfeited altogether.

As Peru had always shown a spirit of insubordination, which required a
more vigorous interposition of authority than was necessary in the other
colonies, it was resolved to send a viceroy to that country, who should
display a state, and be armed with powers, that might make him a more
fitting representative of the sovereign. He was to be accompanied by a
Royal Audience, consisting of four judges, with extensive powers of
jurisdiction, both criminal and civil, who, besides a court of justice,
should constitute a sort of council to advise with and aid the viceroy.
The Audience of Panama was to be dissolved, and the new tribunal,
with the vice-king's court, was to be established at Los Reyes, or Lima,
as it now began to be called,---henceforth the metropolis of the Spanish
empire on the Pacific.13

Such were some of the principal features of this remarkable code, which,
touching on the most delicate relations of society, broke up the very
foundations of property, and, by a stroke of the pen, as it were, converted
a nation of slaves into freemen. It would have required, we may
suppose, but little forecast to divine, that in the remote regions of
America, and especially in Peru, where the colonists had been hitherto
accustomed to unbounded license, a reform, so salutary in essential
points, could be enforced thus summarily only at the price of a
revolution. Yet the ordinances received the sanction of the emperor that
same year, and in November, 1543, were published at Madrid.14

No sooner was their import known than it was conveyed by numerous
letters to the colonists, from their friends in Spain. The tidings flew like
wildfire over the land, from Mexico to Chili. Men were astounded at the
prospect of the ruin that awaited them. In Peru, particularly, there was
scarcely one that could hope to escape the operation of the law. Few
there were who had not taken part, at some time or other, in the civil
feuds of Almagro and Pizarro; and still fewer of those that remained that
would not be entangled in some one or other of the insidious clauses that
seemed spread out, like a web, to ensnare them.

The whole country was thrown into commotion. Men assembled
tumultuously in the squares and public places, and, as the regulations
were made known they were received with universal groans and hisses.
"Is this the fruit," they cried, "of all our toil? Is it for this that we have
poured out our blood like water? Now that we are broken down by
hardships and sufferings, to be left at the end of our campaigns as poor
as at the beginning! Is this the way government rewards our services in
winning for it an empire? The government has done little to aid us in
making the conquest, and for what we have we may thank our own good
swords; and with these same swords," they continued, warming into
menace, "we know how to defend it." Then, stripping up his sleeve, the
war-worn veteran bared his arm, or, exposing his naked bosom, pointed
to his scars, as the best title to his estates.15

The governor, Vaca de Castro, watched the storm thus gathering from all
quarters, with the deepest concern. He was himself in the very heart of
disaffection; for Cuzco, tenanted by a mixed and lawless population was
so far removed into the depths of the mountains, that it had much less
intercourse with the parent country, and was consequently much less
under her influence, than the great towns on the coast. The people now
invoked the governor to protect them against the tyranny of the Court;
but he endeavored to calm the agitation by representing, that by these
violent measures they would only defeat their own object. He counselled
them to name deputies to lay their petition before the Crown, stating the
impracticability of the present scheme of reform, and praying for the
repeal of it; and he conjured them to wait patiently for the arrival of the
viceroy, who might be prevailed on to suspend the ordinances till further
advices could be received from Castile.

But it was not easy to still the tempest; and the people now eagerly
looked for some one whose interests and sympathies might lie with
theirs, and whose position in the community might afford them
protection. The person to whom they naturally turned in this crisis was
Gonzalo Pizarro, the last in the land of that family who had led the
armies of the Conquest,--a cavalier whose gallantry and popular manners
had made him always a favorite with the people. He was now beset with
applications to interpose in their behalf with the government, and shield
them from the oppressive ordinances.

But Gonzalo Pizarro was at Charcas, busily occupied in exploring the
rich veins of Potosi, whose silver fountains, just brought into light, were
soon to pour such streams of wealth over Europe. Though gratified with
this appeal to his protection, the cautious cavalier was more intent on
providing for the means of enterprise than on plunging prematurely into
it; and, while he secretly encouraged the malecontents, he did not
commit himself by taking part in any revolutionary movement. At the
same period, he received letters from Vaca de Castro,--whose vigilant
eye watched all the aspects of the time,---cautioning Gonzalo and his
friends not to be seduced, by any wild schemes of reform, from their
allegiance. And, to check still further these disorderly movements, he
ordered his alcaldes to arrest every man guilty of seditious language, and
bring him at once to punishment. By this firm yet temperate conduct the
minds of the populace were overawed, and there was a temporary lull in
the troubled waters, while all looked anxiously for the coming of the

The person selected for this critical post was a knight of Avila, named
Blasco Nunez Vela. He was a cavalier of ancient family, handsome in
person, though now somewhat advanced in years, and reputed brave and
devout. He had filled some offices of responsibility to the satisfaction of
Charles the Fifth, by whom he was now appointed to this post in Peru.
The selection did no credit to the monarch's discernment.

It may seem strange that this important place should not have been
bestowed on Vaca de Castro, already on the spot, and who had shown
himself so well qualified to fill it. But ever since that officer's mission to
Peru, there had been a series of assassinations, insurrections, and civil
wars, that menaced the wretched colony with ruin; and, though his wise
administration had now brought things into order, the communication
with the Indies was so tardy, that the results of his policy were not yet
fully disclosed. As it was designed, moreover, to make important
innovations in the government, it was thought better to send some one
who would have no personal prejudices to encounter, from the part he
had already taken, and who, coming directly from the Court, and clothed
with extraordinary powers, might present himself with greater authority
than could one who had become familiar to the people in an inferior
capacity. The monarch, however, wrote a letter with his own hand to,
Vaca de Castro in which he thanked that officer for his past services, and
directed him, after aiding the new viceroy with the fruits of his large
experience, to return to Castile, and take his seat in the Royal Council.
Letters of a similar complimentary kind were sent to the loyal colonists
who had stood by the governor in the late troubles of the country.
Freighted with these testimonials, and with the ill-starred ordinances,
Blasco Nunez embarked at San Lucar, on the 3d of November, 1543. He
was attended by the four judges of the Audience, and by a numerous
retinue, that he might appear in the state befitting his distinguished

About the middle of the following January, 1544, the viceroy, after a
favorable passage, landed at Nombre de Dios. He found there a vessel
laden with silver from the Peruvian mines, ready to sail for Spain. His
first act was to lay an embargo on it for the government, as containing
the proceeds of slave labor. After this extraordinary measure, taken in
opposition to the advice of the Audience, he crossed the Isthmus to
Panama. Here he gave sure token of his future policy, by causing more
than three hundred Indians, who had been brought by their owners from
Peru, to be liberated and sent back to their own country. This
highhanded measure created the greatest sensation in the city, and was
strongly resisted by the judges of the Audience. They besought him not
to begin thus precipitately to execute his commission, but to wait till his
arrival in the colony, when he should have taken time to acquaint himself
somewhat with the country, and with the temper of the people. But
Blasco Nunez coldly replied, that "he had come, not to tamper with the
laws, nor to discuss their merits, but to execute them,--and execute them
he would, to the letter, whatever might be the consequence."18 This
answer, and the peremptory tone in which it was delivered, promptly
adjourned the debate; for the judges saw that debate was useless with one
who seemed to consider all remonstrance as an attempt to turn him from
his duty, and whose ideas of duty precluded all discretionary exercise of
authority, even where the public good demanded it.

Leaving the Audience, as one of its body was ill, at Panama, the viceroy
proceeded on his way, and, coasting down the shores of the Pacific, on
the fourth of March he disembarked at Tumbez. He was well received
by the loyal inhabitants; his authority was publicly proclaimed, and the
people were overawed by the display of a magnificence and state such as
had not till then been seen in Peru. He took an early occasion to intimate
his future line of policy by liberating a number of Indian slaves on the
application of their caciques. He then proceeded by land towards the
south, and showed his determination to conform in his own person to the
strict letter of the ordinances, by causing his baggage to be carried by
mules, where it was practicable; and where absolutely necessary to make
use of Indians, he paid them fairly for their services.19

The whole country was thrown into consternation by reports of the
proceedings of the viceroy, and of his conversations, most unguarded,
which were eagerly circulated, and, no doubt, often exaggerated.
Meetings were again called in the cities. Discussions were held on the
expediency of resisting his further progress, and a deputation of citizens
from Cuzco, who were then in Lima, strongly urged the people to close
the gates of that capital against him. But Vaca de Castro had also left
Cuzco for the latter city, on the earliest intimation of the viceroy's
approach, and, with some difficulty, he prevailed on the inhabitants not
to swerve from their loyalty, but to receive their new ruler with suitable
honors, and trust to his calmer judgment for postponing the execution of
the law till the case could be laid before the throne.

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