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A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Vol. III. by Robert Kerr

Part 8 out of 10

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afraid of our cannon. Our force consisted on this occasion of four bodies
of fifty-seven men, each under its proper commander, and we had a long and
severe engagement with the natives hand to hand. After many of them were
slain, they at length took to flight, and we pursued them to one of their
villages, where we took twenty-five prisoners, and burned the village; and
we killed and wounded a great many more on our return towards the ships.
On our side one only was slain in this fight, and twenty-two wounded, all
of whom, by the blessing of God, recovered from their wounds. It was now
determined to return into Spain: wherefore the seven men who had
accompanied us from the continent, of whom five were wounded in the battle,
embarked in a canoe which we seized at this place, and returned to their
own country, very joyful for the vengeance we had taken of their cruel
enemies, and full of admiration at our war-like prowess. On this occasion
we gave them seven of our prisoners, three men and four women. Proceeding
from this place in our voyage to Spain, we arrived at Cadiz on the 15th
October 1498, carrying with us 222 prisoners whom we had taken during the
voyage, all of whom we sold. These are all the circumstances worthy of
notice which occurred during our first voyage.

[1] It is highly probable that the date is here falsified by error, or
rather purposely to give a pretext for having discovered the continent
of the New World before Columbus; for we are assured by Harris, II. 37,
that the real date of this voyage was 1499. Alonzo Hojeda and Americus
Vespucius were furnished by Fonseca, bishop of Burgos, with charts and
projects of discovery made by Columbus, whose honour and interest the
bishop was eager to destroy by this surreptitious invasion of his
rights as admiral and viceroy of the West Indies.--E.

[2] In the original, having the wind between south and south-west. It is
often impossible to ascertain, as here, from the equivocal language of
the original, whether the author intends to express the course of the
voyage or the direction of the wind. The course of the voyage from
Cadiz to the Cananaries, whither Americus was now bound, certainly was
towards the direction expressed in the text, and to this course the
wind indicated is adverse.

[3] In the original, _per Ponentem, sumpta una Lebeccio quarta_. _Ponente_
is the West in Italian, and _Lebeccio_ the south-west; but it is
difficult to express in English nautical language the precise meaning
of the original, which is literally translated in the text.--E.

[4] The latitude and longitude of the text would indicate the eastern
coast of Yucutan, near the bay of Honduras; but from other
circumstances, it is probable the coast now visited by Americus was
that of Paria or the Spanish main, between the latitudes of 10 deg. and
12 deg. N. and perhaps twenty-five degrees less to the west than
expressed in the text. But the geographical notices in this work of
Americus are scanty and uncertain.--E.

[5] Praeterquam regiuncula illa anterior, quam verecundiore vocabulo
pectusculum imum vocamus.

[6] The author appears to mean here that they were entirely destitute of
religious belief.--E.

[7] The expression of the author seems here ambiguous. He probably means
towns or collections of huts as containing such large numbers; and it
is hard to say whether he meant to say that these eight populous
_habitations_ had 10,000 each, or altogether.--E.

[8] The expression of the original _serpens_, here translated serpent, had
been better expressed, perhaps, by the fabulous term _dragon_.
The animal in question was probably the _lacerto iguana_, or it may
have been a young alligator.--E.

[9] This is a most singularly mistaken account of the situation of the
coast of Paria, now Cumana or the Spanish main; which, beginning on
the east at the island of Trinidad, about lat. 10 deg. N. joins Carthagena
in the west about the same latitude, and never reaches above 12 deg. N.
Were it not that the author immediately afterwards distinctly names
the coast of Paria, the latitude of the text would lead us to suppose
that he had been exploring the northern coast of Cuba.--E.

[10] Even supposing Americus to have coasted along the whole northern
shore of South America, from Trinidad to Costa-rica, the distance does
not exceed twenty-three degrees of longitude, and the coast of Paria
or Cumana is scarce 15 degrees. The number of leagues, therefore, in
the text is greatly exaggerated, unless we suppose them only to have
been Italian miles.--E.

[11] The relation of this voyage is so exceedingly vague that we have no
means of determining any of the places which were touched at. From the
resemblance of the name in the text to Haiti, or Aiti, this island may
possibly have been Hispaniola.--E.

[12] The author affects classical names for modern fire-arms, naming what
we have translated hand-guns _balistae colubrinae_. Cannon are
sometimes called _tormenta bellica_, and at other times _machina
saxivoma_--E.

SECTION II.

_The Second Voyage of Americas Vespucius_.

We set sail from Cadiz on our second voyage on the 11th of May 1499,
taking our course past the Cape Verds and Canaries for the island of
_Ignis_, where we took in a supply of wood and water: Whence continuing
our voyage with a south-west wind for nineteen days, we reached a certain
undiscovered land, which we believed to be the continent, over against
that which we had explored in our former voyage, and which is situated in
the torrid zone upon the southern side of the equator, and in 5 deg. of south
latitude[1], being 500 leagues from the before-mentioned islands, to the
south-west. In this country we found the days and nights to be equal on
the 27th of June, when the sun was in the tropic of cancer[2]. We found
this country inundated and pervaded by large rivers, having a very verdant
appearance, with large tall trees, but with no appearance of any
inhabitants. Having anchored our ships, we went to land with some of our
boats, but after a long search we found the whole land so covered with
water that we could not land anywhere, though we saw abundant indications
of a numerous population, after which we returned to the ships. Hoisting
our anchors, we sailed along shore with the wind at S.S.E. for above forty
leagues, frequently endeavouring to penetrate into the land, but in vain,
as the flux of the sea was so rapid from the S.E. to the N.W. that it was
impossible for the vessels to stem the current. In consideration of this
circumstance, we resolved to steer a course to the N.W. in the course of
which we came to a harbour, where we found a beautiful island, and an
excellent creek at the entrance. While sailing with the intention of
entering this harbour, we saw an immense number of people on this island,
which was about four leagues from shore. Having hoisted out our boats on
purpose to land on the island, we perceived a canoe with several natives
coming from seawards, which we endeavoured to surround with our boats,
that we might make them prisoners. After a long chase, finding that we
gained upon them, the whole of the natives in the canoe, to the number of
about twenty, jumped into the sea about two leagues from shore, and
endeavoured to escape by swimming, which they all did except two whom we
secured. In the canoe which they had deserted, we found four young men of
another nation whom they had made prisoners, and whose members had been
quite recently cut off, at which strange circumstance we were greatly
astonished. On taking these unfortunate captives to our ships, they made
us understand by signs that they had been taken away from their own
country to be eaten, as the nation by whom they had been made captives
were savage cannibals. After this, taking the captured canoe along with us,
we brought our ships to anchor within half a league of the shore, where we
observed great numbers of the natives wandering about. We then went on
shore, taking the two prisoners belonging to the canoe along with us; but
immediately on landing, all the natives fled into the woods. Seeing this,
we set free one of our prisoners, to whom we gave several trinkets, as
bells and small mirrors, in token of friendship, assuring him that he and
his countrymen need not be afraid of us, as we were desirous of entering
into friendship with them. This man soon brought back about four hundred
of the natives from the woods, accompanied by many of their women, all of
whom came to us unarmed, and an entire friendship was established between
us to all appearance, on which we set free the other prisoner, and
restored the captured canoe. This vessel, which was hollowed from a single
piece of wood, measured twenty-six paces long, and two yards broad, and
was very artificially constructed. As soon as they had secured their canoe
in another part of the river beyond our reach, the whole of the natives
suddenly deserted us, and never could be brought to renew their
intercourse.

Being disappointed in our expectation of any friendly connection with
these people, among whom we only saw a small quantity of gold, which they
wore as ornaments in their ears, we sailed about eighty leagues further
along the coast, when we discovered a safe harbour, into which we brought
our ships, and found the country exceedingly populous. We soon established
a friendly intercourse with these people, and even accompanied them to
several of their villages, where we found ourselves in perfect security,
and received the kindest treatment imaginable, and procured from them
about five hundred pearls for one bell and a small quantity of gold. The
natives of this country make a kind of wine, which they express from
fruits and seeds, resembling beer, both red and white. The best is made
from a species of apple[3]. Of these and many other excellent fruits of
fine flavour, we eat abundantly, and found them extremely wholesome. The
inhabitants of this place were more peaceably disposed, more civilized in
their manners and dispositions, and more abundantly supplied with all
kinds of necessaries and household-stuff than any we had seen hitherto. We
remained seventeen days in this harbour with much satisfaction, vast
numbers of the natives coming daily to visit us, admiring our appearance,
the whiteness of our complexions, the fashion of our clothes and arms, and
the magnitude of our ships. From these people we were informed of another
nation more to the west, by whom they were very much annoyed, and who
possessed great quantities of pearls; both because they had these in their
own country, and were accustomed to carry them off from those other tribes
against whom they went to war. They likewise informed us in what manner
the pearls originated, and how they were fished for; all of which we
afterwards found to be true.

Leaving this harbour, we continued our voyage along the coast, all of
which was numerously inhabited by different nations. Having entered a
certain harbour for the purpose of repairing one of our vessels, we there
found a great number of inhabitants, with whom we were unable to establish
any intercourse, either by force or good-will. When we endeavoured at any
time to land from our boats, they fiercely opposed us; and finding all
their resistance ineffectual, they fled into the woods, and could not be
prevailed on to enter into any intercourse with us. For which reason we
departed from their inhospitable shore.

Continuing our voyage, we came to a certain island about fifteen leagues
from the coast, which we agreed to visit, that we might see if it were
inhabited; and we accordingly found it possessed by a race of exceedingly
savage people, who were notwithstanding extremely simple and very
courteous. In manners and appearance they are little better that brutes,
and all of them have their mouths constantly filled with a certain green
herb, which they are continually chewing like ruminating cattle, so that
they can hardly speak to be understood[4]. Each individual among them
carries two small gourd shells hung from the neck, one of which contains
the herb which they chew, and the other is filled with a particular kind
of white meal resembling powdered gypsum, which, with a small stick chewed
and moistened, they draw out from this gourd, and sprinkle therewith the
chewed herb, which they again replace in their mouths. Although we
wondered much at this strange custom, we could not for a long while
discover its reason and object. But, as we walked about their country,
trusting to their friendly attentions, and endeavoured to learn from them
where we could procure fresh water, they explained to us by signs that
none was to be had in these parts, and they offered us the herb and powder
which they are in use to chew as a substitute. After accompanying them a
whole day, without food or drink, we learnt that all the water which they
used was gathered during the night, by collecting dew from certain plants
having leaves resembling asses ears, which are filled every night by the
dews of heaven. This nation is likewise destitute of any vegetable food,
and live entirely on fish, which they procure abundantly from the sea.
They even presented us with several turtles, and many other excellent
fish. The women of this nation do not use the herb which is chewed by the
men, but each of them carries a gourd shell filled with water to serve
them for drink.

This nation has no villages, nor even any huts or cabins, their only
shelter consisting in certain prodigiously large leaves, under which they
are protected from the scorching heat of the sun. When employed in fishing,
each individual carries one of these enormous leaves, which he sticks into
the ground directly between him and the sun, and is thus enabled to
conceal himself entirely under its shade; and although this is not a
sufficient protection against rain, it is wonderful how little rain falls
in this country. This island has many animals of various kinds, all of
which have only very dirty water for drinking.

Finding no prospect of advantage at this island, we went from it to
another in hope of procuring a supply of water. At our first landing, we
believed this other island to be uninhabited, as we saw no people on its
coast at our arrival; but on walking along the beach, we noticed the
prints of human feet of such uncommon magnitude, that if the rest of the
body were of similar proportions, the natives must be of astonishing size.
We at length noticed a path which led into the country, which nine of us
determined to pursue, that we might explore the island, as we imagined it
was of small size, and could not consequently have many inhabitants.
Having advanced near a league, we observed five cabins in a valley which
we believed to be inhabited; and going into these, we found five women,
two of whom were old, and three of them young, all of whom were of most
unusual stature, so that we were much amazed. On their side, likewise,
they were so much astonished at our appearance, that they were even unable
to run away from us. The old women spoke kindly to us in their language,
and all of them accompanying us into one of their huts, presented us with
plenty of their victuals. All of these women were taller than the tallest
men of our country, being as tall even as _Francisco de Albicio_[5], but
better proportioned than any of us. After consulting together, we agreed
among ourselves to carry off the young women by force, that we might shew
them in Spain as objects of wonder; but, while conversing together on this
project, about thirty-six of their men began to enter the cabin. These men
were much taller than the women, and of such handsome proportions that it
was a pleasure to behold them. They were armed with bows, arrows, spears,
and large clubs, and inspired us with such dread that we anxiously wished
ourselves safe back at the ships. On entering, they began to talk among
themselves, and we suspected that they were deliberating upon making us
prisoners, on which account we consulted together how we should act for
own safety. Some of our party proposed to attack them in the hut, while
others thought it would be safer to do so in the open ground, and the rest
were against proceeding to extremities till we were quite certain of the
intentions of the natives. We accordingly stole out of the cabin, and
resumed the path which led towards the shore. The men followed us at the
distance of a stones-throw, always speaking among themselves, and
apparently as much afraid of us as we were of them,; for when we stopped
they did the same, and only continued to advance as we retreated, always
keeping at a respectful distance. When at length we reached the boats, and
had pushed off from the shore, they all leapt into the sea, and shot a
number of their arrows against us, of which we were not now in much fear.
We fired two shots among them, more for the purpose of intimidation than
of killing them; and scared by the report, they all fled away into the
woods, and we saw no more of them. All of these people went naked, as has
been said of the other natives whom we had seen; and on account of the
prodigious size of these men, we named this place the island of Giants.

Proceeding on our voyage at no great distance from this last place, we had
frequent encounters with the natives, as they were unwilling to allow of
any thing being taken from their country. On this account, and because our
stock of provisions had become scanty, as we had been near a year at sea,
we resolved on returning to Spain. Since our departure from the Cape Verde
islands, we had been always in the torrid zone, and had twice crossed the
equator, insomuch that the remaining provisions in our ships were much
injured by the heat of the climate. In prosecuting our determination of
returning home, it pleased God to conduct us to a place for repairing our
vessels, where we found a people who received us with much kindness, and
from whom we procured a great number of oriental pearls. During
forty-seven days which we spent among this tribe, we purchased an hundred
and nineteen fine pearls, at an expence not exceeding forty ducats; as we
gave them in return bells, mirrors, and beads of glass and amber of very
little value. For one bell we could obtain as many pearls as we pleased to
take. We also learned where and how they procured their pearls, and they
even gave us many of the oysters in which they are found, several of which
we likewise bought, in some of which we found an hundred and thirty pearls,
but in others considerably fewer. Unless when perfectly ripe, and quite
detached from the shells in which they grow, they are very imperfect, for
they wither and come to nothing, as I have frequently experienced; but
when ripe, they separate from among the flesh, except that they then
merely stick to it, and these, are always the best.

After a stay of forty-seven days at this place in great friendship with
the natives, we took our departure, and went to the island of _Antilia_[6],
which was discovered a few years ago by Christopher Columbus, where we
remained two months and two days repairing our vessels and procuring
necessaries for the voyage home. During our stay there we suffered many
insults from the Christian inhabitants, the particulars of which are here
omitted to avoid prolixity. Leaving that island on the 22d of July, we
arrived at the port of Cadiz on the eighth of September[7], after a voyage
of six weeks, where we were honourably received; having thus, by the
blessing of God, finished our second voyage.

[1] This latitude of 5 deg. S. would lead to Cape St Roquo on the coast of
Brazil; but the indications given by Americus during his several
voyages are exceedingly vague and uncertain.--E.

[2] The sun on the 27th of June has just passed to the south side of the
equator, and is in the tropic of cancer on the 23d of March.--E.

[3] Called in the text myrrh-apples, _Poma myrrhae_, perhaps meant to
imply mirabolans.--E.

[4] This appears to refer to chewing tobacco, and gives a strong picture
of that custom carried to excess.--E.

[5] This person was probably a noted giant, or remarkably tall man, then
well known in the south of Europe: Or it may refer to a colossal image
of St Francis.--E.

[6] The island of Hispaniola is certainly here meant, to which Americus
has chosen to give the fabulous or hypothetical name of Antilia,
formerly mentioned; perhaps with the concealed intention of
depreciating the grand discovery of Columbus, by insinuating that the
Antilles were known long before his voyage.--E.

[7] Though not mentioned in the text, this date must have been of the year
1500; or at least intended to be so understood by Americus--E.

SECTION III.

_The Third Voyage of Americus Vespucius_.

While I was at Seville recovering from the fatigues of my late voyages,
and intending again to visit the _Land of Pearls_, it happened that
Emanuel king of Portugal chose, for what reason I know not, to send me a
letter by a messenger, earnestly desiring my immediate presence at Lisbon,
where he engaged to do much for my advantage. I signified by the messenger
that I was entirely disposed to comply with the commands of his majesty,
but was then ill, and should certainly evince my obedience if I recovered.
The king of Portugal afterwards sent Julian Bartholomew Jocundus from
Lisbon, with orders to use his endeavours to bring me with him to the
royal presence; and as all my acquaintances urged me against attempting
another voyage on account of my bad health, I was obliged to comply, and
immediately departed from Spain, where I had been very honourably
entertained, the king even having conceived a good opinion of me, and so
great was the urgency that I set out without taking leave of my host. On
presenting myself to Emanuel, I was graciously received, and strongly
urged to go along with three of his ships which had been fitted out for
discovering new countries; and as the requests of kings are equivalent to
commands, I consented to his desire.

I accordingly departed from Lisbon with the three ships belonging to his
majesty on the 10th of May 1501. We steered, in the first place, for the
Canaries, after which we proceeded for the western coast of Africa, where
during three days stay we took a prodigious number of certain fishes which
are called _Phargi_. From thence we went to that part of Ethiopia which is
called _Besilica_[1], which is situated in the torrid zone and first
climate, in 14 deg. of north latitude. We here remained for eleven days,
taking in wood and water to enable us to continue our voyage through the
southern Atlantic. Leaving this port with a S.E. wind, we arrived in about
sixty-seven days at a certain island which is 700 leagues to the S.E. of
the before-mentioned port. During this voyage, we suffered prodigiously,
owing to the tempestuous weather which we encountered, especially near the
equator. At that place it was winter in the month of June, the days and
nights were of equal length, and our shadows were always towards the south.
At length it pleased the Almighty to conduct us to a new country on the
17th of August, where we came to anchor about a league and a half from the
shore, to which we went in our boats to see whether it were inhabited. We
accordingly found that it was full of inhabitants, who were worse than
beasts; though at our first landing we could not see any of the natives,
we yet saw by numerous traces on the shore that the country was very
populous. We took possession of this land for the king of Castile[2],
finding it in all appearance fertile and pleasant. This place is five
degrees beyond the equator to the south. After the ceremony of taking
possession, we returned to our ships; and as we required a supply of wood
and water, we went on shore next day for that purpose. While employed on
that service, we saw some natives on the top of a hill at some distance,
who could not be prevailed on to come towards us. They were all naked, and
of a similar colour and appearance with those we had seen in the former
voyages. As we had not been able to have any intercourse with the natives,
we left some bells, looking-glasses, and other trifles for them on the
ground, when we returned to our ships in the evening. When they saw us at
some distance from the shore, they came down from the hill to where we had
been, and shewed many tokens of surprise at the things we had left.

As we had only provided ourselves with water at this first trip, we
proposed going on shore next day, when we saw numbers of the natives
making several fires and smokes along the shore, as if inviting us to land.
Yet when we actually landed, though great numbers of people collected at
some distance, they could not be induced to join us, yet made signals for
us to go farther into the land along with them. On this account, two of
our men who were prepared for exposing themselves to such dangers[3], on
purpose to learn what kind of people these were, and whether they
possessed any spices or rich commodities, asked permission from the
commander of our ships to go with the natives, and took a number of
trinkets along with them for the purpose of barter. They accordingly set
off, engaging to return to the shore at the end of five days, and we
returned to the ships. Eight days elapsed without seeing any thing of our
men, during all which time many of the natives came down every day to the
beach, but would never enter into any intercourse with us. On the eighth
day we went again on shore, where we found that the natives were
accompanied by great numbers of their women; but as soon as we advanced
towards them the men withdrew, yet sent many of their women to meet us,
who seemed exceedingly shy and much afraid. On this account we sent
forwards a stout active young man, thinking that the women would be less
afraid of one than of many, and we returned to our boats. The women all
flocked about the young man, touching and examining him with eager
curiosity, while another woman came down the mountain, having a large
spear in her hand, with which she pierced the youth, who fell dead
immediately. The women then dragged his dead body by the feet to the
mountain; and the men came down to the shore armed with bows and arrows,
and began to shoot at us to our great alarm, as our boats dragged on the
sand, the water being very shallow, so that we were unable to get quickly
out of their way. For some time we had not presence of mind to take to our
arms, but at length we shot off four pieces against them; and although
none of the natives were hit, they were so astonished at the reports, that
they all fled to the mountain, where they joined the women who had killed
our young man. We could now see them cut his body in pieces, which they
held up to our view, after which they roasted these at a large fire, and
eat them. By signs, likewise, they made us understand that they had killed
and eaten our two men who went among them eight days before. We were sore
grieved at the savage brutality of these people, insomuch that forty of us
resolved to go on shore and attack them in revenge of their ferocious
cruelty; but our commander would on no account permit us, and we were
forced to depart unrevenged and much dissatisfied.

Leaving this savage country, with the wind at E.S.E. we saw no people for
a long time that would allow of any intercourse with them. We at length
doubled a head-land, which we named Cape St Vincent, which is 150 leagues
from the place where our men were slain towards the east, this new land
stretching out in a S.W. direction. This cape is eight degrees beyond the
equinoctial line towards the south [4]. Continuing our voyage beyond this
cape, we sailed along the coast of a country hitherto unvisited, and one
day saw a vast number of people who seemed greatly to admire both
ourselves and the size of our vessels. Having brought our vessels to
anchor in a safe place, we landed among these natives, whom we found of
much milder dispositions than those we were last among, yet it cost us
much trouble and patience to make them familiar with us, but we at length
succeeded in making them our friends, and remained five days among them,
trafficking for such articles as their country produced: Among these were
sugar-canes, green reeds, great quantities of unripe figs, some of which
we likewise found ripe on the tops of the trees. We agreed to take away
two of the natives from hence, that we might learn their language, and
three of them accompanied us to Portugal of their own accord.

Leaving this harbour with the wind at S.W. we proceeded along the land,
keeping it always in sight, and keeping up frequent intercourse with the
inhabitants, until we at length went beyond the tropic of Capricorn, so
far south that the south pole became elevated thirty-two degrees above the
horizon[5]. We had already lost sight of the Ursa Minor; the Ursa Major
appeared very low, almost touching the northern horizon; and we had now to
guide our course by the new stars of another hemisphere, which are more
numerous, larger, and brighter than those of our pole. On this account, I
delineated the figures of many of these new constellations, especially of
the largest, and took their declinations on the tracks which they describe
around the south pole, together with the measurement of the diameters and
semidiameters of their tracks, as shall be found in the history of my four
voyages which I am preparing for publication. In this long course,
beginning from Cape St Augustine[6], we had run 700 leagues along the
coast; 100 of these towards the west, and 600 towards the S.W.[7]. Were I
to attempt enumerating every thing we saw in this long and arduous
navigation, my letter would exceed all bounds. We found few things of any
value, except great numbers of _cassia_ trees, and many others which
produce certain nuts, to describe which and many other curious things
would occasion great prolixity. We spent ten months in this voyage, but
finding no precious minerals, we agreed to bend our course to a different
quarter. Accordingly orders were issued to lay in a stock of wood and
water for six months, as our pilots concluded that our vessels were able
to continue so much longer at sea.

Having provided ourselves for continuing the voyage, we departed with a
south-east wind, and on the 13th of February, when the sun had already
begun to approach the equinoctial on its way to our northern hemisphere,
we had gone so far that the south pole was elevated fifty-two degrees
above the horizon, so that we had now lost sight not only of the Less but
of the Great Bear; and by the 3d of April we had got 500 leagues from the
place of our last departure[8]. On that day, 3d April, so fierce a tempest
arose at S.W. that we had to take in all our sails and scud under bare
poles, the sea running mountains high, and all our people in great fear.
The nights now were very long, as on the 7th April, when the sun is near
the sign of Aries, we found them to last fifteen hours, the winter now
beginning. While driving amid this tempest, we descried land on the 2d of
April[9] at about twenty leagues distance. We found this land altogether
barren, without harbours, and destitute of inhabitants, in my opinion
because the intense cold would render it almost impossible for any one to
live there[10].

We had undergone such fatigue and danger from this storm, that all now
agreed to return towards Portugal; yet on the following day we were
assailed by a fresh tempest of such violence that every one expected to be
overwhelmed by its fury. In this extremity, our sailors made many vows of
pilgrimages for their safety, and performed many ceremonies according to
the customs of sea-faring men. We were driven by this terrible storm for
five days without a single rag of sail in which time we proceeded 250
leagues on the ocean, approaching towards the equator, the temperature of
the sea and air always improving, till at length, by the cessation of the
storm, it pleased God to relieve us from our danger. In this course our
direction was towards the N.N.E. because we wished to attain the coast of
Africa, from which we were 1300 leagues distant across the Atlantic; and
by the blessing of the Almighty, we arrived on the 10th of May at that
province which is named _Sierra Leone_, where we remained fifteen days for
refreshments, and to rest ourselves from the fatigues of our long and
perilous voyage. From thence we steered for the Azores, distant 750
leagues from Sierra Leone, and arrived there near the end of July, where
likewise we stopped fifteen days for refreshments. We sailed hence for our
port of Lisbon, whence we were now 300 leagues distant to the west, and
arrived there by the aid of the Almighty in 1502[11], with two only of our
ships, having been forced to burn the other at Sierra Leone, as it was
incapable of being navigated any farther. During this third voyage we
were absent about sixteen months, eleven of which we had sailed without
sight of the north Star or of the Greater and Lesser Bears, during which
time we directed our course by the other stars of the southern pole.

[1] Assuredly Brasil is here meant, yet the latitude is absurdly
erroneous.--E.

[2] This must necessarily be an error, as he now sailed in the service of
the king of Portugal.--E.

[3] Perhaps malefactors, who have been formerly mentioned in the early
Portuguese voyages to India, as employed in such hazardous
commissions.--E.

[4] Could we trust to the position in the text, lat. 8 deg. S. this voyage
must have been upon the coast of Brazil, and the cape named St Vincent
by Americus ought to be that now called St Augustine: Indeed in a
subsequent passage of this same voyage he gives this cape that
name.--E.

[5] Lat. 32 deg. S. as in the text, would bring this voyage of Americus all
down the coast of Brazil almost to the mouth of the _Rio Grande_, or
of St Pedro, now the boundary between Portuguese America and the
Spanish viceroyalty of Buenos Ayres.--E.

[6] Obviously the same cape which was called St Vincent only a little way
before, and which now receives its true name.--E.

[7] The difference of latitude between Cape St Augustine and the Rio
Grande, is 24 degrees, or 480 leagues, and their difference of
longitude 17 degrees or 340 leagues.--E.

[8] The circumstances in the text would indicate that Americus had now run
down the eastern coast of South America, almost to the entrance of the
Straits of Magellan.--E.

[9] The tempest has been already stated as beginning on the 3d of April,
whence we must presume the present date in the text to be a
typographical error, perhaps for the _twenty_-second.--E.

[10] From the high latitude of 52 deg. S. in which they were at the
commencement of the storm, and the direction of the wind from the S.W.
it seems highly probable that this barren land was what is now called
the Falkland Islands.--E.

[11] Though not mentioned in the text, we may conclude, from the time
occupied in this voyage, as indicated a little farther on, that
Americus returned to Lisbon in August 1502, the voyage having
commenced in May 1501, and lasted sixteen months.--E.

SECTION IV.

_The Fourth Voyage of Americus Vespucius_.

It now remains for me to inform your majesty of what things I saw during
my fourth voyage. But, both because I have already satiated your majesty
by long narration, and because this last voyage had an unlucky end, owing
to a great misfortune which befel us in a certain bay of the Atlantic
ocean, I shall be brief in my present account. We sailed from Lisbon with
six ships under the command of an admiral, being bound for a certain
island _towards the horizon_[1], named _Melcha_[2], famous for its riches
and as a station for vessels of all kinds trading between the Gangetic and
Indian seas[3], as Cadiz is the great intermediate harbour for the ships
of all nations sailing between the west of Europe and the Levant. To this
port of Melcha the course is by the famous emporium of Calicut, from which
Melcha is farther to the east and south[4].

Departing from Lisbon on the 10th of May 1508, we sailed to the Cape Verd
islands, where we remained twelve days taking in various accessaries for
the voyage, when we set sail with a S.E. wind, the admiral, contrary to
all our opinions, merely that he might presumptuously shew himself to be
commander over us and our six ships, insisting upon going to Sierra Leone,
in southern Ethiopia, which was altogether unnecessary. On arriving in
sight of that place a dreadful storm arose in a direction opposite to our
course, so that during four days, we were not only unable to attain our
destined object, but were forced to retrace our former course. By this
wind at S.S.W.[4] we were driven 300 leagues into the ocean, insomuch that
we got almost three degrees beyond the line, when to our no small joy we
came in sight of land distant twelve leagues[6]. This was a very high
island in the middle of the ocean, rather exceeding two leagues long and
about one league broad, in which no human being had ever been, yet was it
to us most unfortunate, as on it our commander lost his vessel by his own
folly and bad management. This happened on the night of St Lawrence, or
10th of August, when his ship struck upon a rock, and soon after sunk with
every thing on board, the crew only being saved. This ship was of 300 tons
burthen, and in it we lost the main power of all our hopes. While all were
plying about the sinking vessel, and using our endeavours to save her, I
was ordered by the admiral to go in a boat to the island, to see if any
good harbour could be found for the reception of our ships. He would not
allow me, however, to use my own ship[7] on this service, which was manned
by nine of my sailors, because it was required for aiding his own ship, so
that I had to go in another boat with only four or five men, the admiral
engaging to restore my own when I had found a harbour. I made the best of
my way to the island, from which we were now only four leagues, and soon
found an excellent harbour which could have contained our whole fleet. I
remained here eight days, anxiously looking for the arrival of the admiral
and our squadron, whose non-appearance gave me great uneasiness, and so
greatly dismayed the people who were with me that they were reduced almost
to despair. While in this forlorn condition, we espied on the eighth day a
sail on the horizon, and went off immediately in our boat to meet them,
hopeful that they would take us to a better port. On getting up with this
vessel, we were informed that the admirals ship, which we had left in
great danger, had gone to the bottom. This melancholy intelligence gave us
vast uneasiness, as we were 1000 leagues from Lisbon. But putting our
trust in Providence, we returned with the ship to the before-mentioned
island, on purpose to take in wood and water for the voyage.

This island was wild and uninhabited, but had many pleasant rills of
excellent water, with great abundance of trees, and prodigious numbers
both of land and water-fowl, which were so tame, from being unaccustomed
to man, that they allowed themselves to be caught by hand, so that we
caught as many as filled one of our boats. The only quadrupeds were large
rats, and lizards having forked tails, besides which there were several
serpents. Having taken in such refreshments as the island afforded, we set
sail on a S.S.W. course, the king having ordered us to follow the same
direction we had pursued in our preceding voyage. We at length reached a
port, to which we gave the name of the Bay of all Saints[8], which we
reached in seventeen days sail, being favoured with a fair wind, although
300 leagues distance from the before-mentioned island[9]. Although we
waited here two months and four days, we were not joined by any of the
ships belonging to our squadron. It was therefore agreed upon between the
master and me to proceed farther along this coast, which we did
accordingly for 260 leagues to a certain harbour, where we determined upon
erecting a fort, in which we left twenty-four of our men who had been
saved out of the admirals ship[10]. We remained five months at this
harbour, occupied in building the fort, and in loading our ships with
Brazil-wood; our stay being protracted by the small number of our hands
and the magnitude of our labour, so that we only made slow progress.

Having finished our labours, we determined on returning to Portugal, for
which we required a wind that would allow us to hold a N.N.E. course. We
left twenty-four of our men in the fort, with twelve cannon, abundance of
other weapons, and provisions for six months, having entered into a treaty
of friendship with the natives. Of these I omit any particular notice,
although we saw vast numbers of them, and had much and frequent
intercourse with them during our long stay; having penetrated about forty
leagues into the interior of the country, accompanied by thirty of the
natives. In that expedition I saw many things worthy of notice, which I do
not here insert, but which will be found in my book describing my four
voyages. The situation of this fort and harbour is in latitude 18 deg. S. and
35 deg. W. longitude from Lisbon. Leaving this place we steered our course
N.N.E. for Lisbon, at which place we arrived in seventy-seven days after
many toils and dangers, on the 28th June 1504. We were there received very
honourably, even beyond our expectations, the whole city believing we had
perished on the ocean, as indeed all the rest of our companions did,
through the presumptuous folly of our commander. I now remain in Lisbon,
unknowing what may be the intentions of his majesty respecting me, though
I am now desirous of resting myself after my great labours.

[1] Such is the expression in the original, the _eastern_ horizon being so
named apparently by way of eminence.--E.

[2] As written by an Italian, Melcha has the sound of Melka, and the place
here indicated is obviously the city of Malacca in the Malayan
peninsula, long a famous emporium for the trade of eastern India and
China.--E.

[3] The Bay of Bengal and sea of China.--E.

[4] In the original these positions are thus unaccountably misrepresented,
as literally translated: "Melcha is more to the _west_, and Calicut
more to the _south_; being situated 33 deg. from the Antarctic pole."--E.

It would appear from some circumstances in the sequel, that this fleet
was directed to visit Brazil on its way to India; and that the
ultimate object of the voyage was frustrated through its early
misfortunes.--E.

[5] _Per suduestium, qui ventus est inter meridiem et lebeccium:_ Between
the S. and S.W. or S.S.W.--E.

[6] Perhaps the island of St Matthew, which is nearly in the latitude
indicated in the text, and about the distance mentioned from Sierra
Leone; yet it is difficult to conceive how they could get there with a
storm at S.S.W. as the course is S.S.E. from Sierra Leone.--E.

[7] Such is the literal meaning of the original, yet I suspect Americus
here means his largest boat.--E.

[8] In the original, _Omnium Sanctorum Abbatium_, but which must assuredly
be Bahia dos todos los Santos, in lat 13 deg. S. on the coast of
Brazil.--E.

[9] The distance between the island of St Matthew, and the Bay of All
Saints, is not less than 600 leagues, or thirty degrees; yet that
distance might certainly be run in seventeen days with a fair wind.--E.

[10] The number of leagues mentioned in the text would lead us to the Bay
of Santos on the coast of Brazil, in latitude twenty-four degrees S.
but in the text this first attempt to colonize Brazil is said to have
been in latitude eighteen degrees S. near which the harbour now named
Abrolhos is situated.--E.

* * * * *

CHAPTER IV.

SUMMARY OF THE DISCOVERIES AND SETTLEMENTS OF THE SPANIARDS IN THE WEST
INDIES, FROM THE DEATH OF COLUMBUS, TO THE EXPEDITION OF HERNANDO CORTES
AGAINST MEXICO[1].

INTRODUCTION[2].

The surprizing success of the Spaniards, in reducing so many fine islands,
and such extensive, rich, and fruitful countries under their dominion in
so short a time, has occasioned many authors to conceive that they must
have conducted their affairs with extraordinary prudence, and with that
steadiness of character for which their nation has always been remarkable.
But only a little reflection on the history of these events, will shew
that they acted with less judgment and good conduct than could have been
expected from a nation so renowned for wisdom. In truth, the whole of
these vast acquisitions were derived from the valour and exertions of
individuals; for few nations can boast of abler politicians or braver and
more expert captains, than the three great men to whom Spain is indebted
for its mighty empire in America. The first or these was the admiral
Columbus, who discovered the islands, and paved the way by his discoveries
for those who found out and subdued the two great continental empires of
America. The next was Cortes, and the third Pizarro, both men of
incredible valour and ability, and worthy therefore of immortal fame. Let
us compare the expedition of Nearchus with that of Columbus; and consider
with how great a fleet and what a number of men and able commanders, the
Grecian admiral accomplished so small a discovery, sailing always in sight
of land, and only from the mouth of the Indus to the head of the Persian
Gulf: Yet how great a figure does his expedition make in the works of the
greatest authors of antiquity, and what mighty rewards were bestowed upon
him for his services. Columbus, with only three vessels, smaller than any
of those of Nearchus, and with scarcely any encouragement or assistance
from those who accompanied him, made the surprising voyage from Spain to
the West Indies, a region before utterly unknown, and paved the way for
wider and more useful conquests than accrued to Alexander by his Indian
expedition. Let us compare the force with which Alexander attacked the
Indians, yet failed to subdue them, with the handfuls of men commanded by
Cortes and Pizarro; and we shall find the latter much greater conquerors
beyond all question, as will be more clearly seen in the accounts of their
respective expeditions. These are only adduced for the present, as proofs
that it was not to the wisdom of the Spanish government, but to the
personal abilities of those individuals who were accidentally employed in
its service, that these events were owing.

We have seen how ungratefully the court of Spain treated the first and
great discoverer of the New World, and how far it was from enabling him to
exert his great capacity in its service. After his disgrace and death, the
management of the affairs of the West Indies fell almost entirely into the
hands of Fonseca, bishop of Burgos, who of all the statesmen belonging to
the court of Spain was least fit to have been entrusted with affairs of
such importance, and who accordingly misconducted them in a most
surprising manner. Listening on the one hand to the proposals of every
needy adventurer, and slighting all those men on the other hand who were
most likely to have pushed the new discoveries to advantage, by the
knowledge they had acquired of the West Indies, by their wise conduct in
the settlement of the new colonies, and the power they possessed for
prosecuting farther discoveries and establishing new colonies; we
accordingly find that not one of all the bishop's instruments succeeded in
their projects, but uniformly reduced themselves to beggary, by rashly
engaging in enterprises beyond their means and abilities; while all the
successful undertakings were accomplished by persons employed by the
governors of colonies, and consequently the Spanish administration at home
had no right to take any credit to themselves for the successful issue of
any of the expeditions.

The only favourites of Bishop Fonseca who made any figure in the world,
were two bad men, well furnished with impudence, but very indifferently
provided with talents or abilities. The first of these, Americus Vespucius,
was made chief pilot of Spain by the interest of his patron, and had all
the journals of discoveries communicated to him, from which he constructed
very elegant maps, in which he exerted his fancy to supply any defects in
the information he had received; so that he exhibited things in very
graceful proportions, and the only thing wanting in his draughts being a
strict regard to truth. They answered his purpose, however, admirably; as,
besides securing him an honourable office with a competent salary, they
enabled him to impose his name on the New World, even before he had
visited any part of its shores. The other unworthy favourite of the bishop
was Bernard de Santa Clara, whom he appointed treasurer of Hispaniola
under the government of Obando, another of the bishop's worthy favourites.
The treasurer was but an indifferent steward for the king, but he acquired
a great fortune for himself, of which he was so proud, that he caused four
great salt-sellers to be placed every day on his table full of gold dust.
When this piece of vanity became known in Spain, a commission was granted
to examine into his accounts, by which it was discovered that he had
cheated the crown, or was at least indebted to it, to the amount of 80,000
pesos, which is near L.25,000 of our money. The governor Obando was
sensible that the sale of every thing belonging to this man would hardly
suffice to discharge his debt to the crown; but fell upon the following
expedient to save the bishop's credit and his own, and to serve the
treasurer. Professing a strict regard to justice, he ordered the effects
of the treasurer to be sold by auction, and encouraged the people to bid
considerably more than they were worth, warranting all the lots to be good
bargains. On purpose to acquire the favour and protection of the governor,
the colonists bid so much upon each other, that the whole effects sold for
96,000 pesos; so that the crown was paid, and the treasurer had a very
pretty fortune with which to begin the world a-new. Such were the arts and
intrigues of those men by whom the admiral Columbus was oppressed, and
such the dirty contrivances by which they supported each other. Yet these
things were done under the administration of King Ferdinand, who was
esteemed one of the wisest monarchs of his time; and matters were even
worse conducted under the emperor Charles V. though certainly the greatest
prince in every respect that ever sat on the throne of Spain.

The inference I would draw from all this is, that at all events, and under
all administrations, discoveries ought ever to be attempted and encouraged,
because they carry in themselves such incitements for their completion,
that they hardly ever fail to prove beneficial at the end, whatever
mistakes or mismanagements may occur at their commencement. Some ascribe
this to chance, and others, with more sense and decency, to Providence.
However this may be, great occasions are certain to bring forth great
spirits, if they do not produce them; and when once the way is laid open,
and a few instances have shewn that things are practicable that had been
thought impossible for ages, mighty things are performed. Emulation is a
noble principle, and one of the most valuable secrets in government is to
excite this; for every thing that finds favour from the great, or that
meets with popular encouragement, is almost always carried to a great
degree of perfection. When a spirit is once raised, even the most
disastrous reverses are not able to extinguish it. Thus the numbers of
Spaniards who perished in the first attempts to colonize the continent, by
shipwreck, famine, and disease; and the unfortunate catastrophes of Hojeda,
Nicuessa, and Cordova, had no effect to deter others from embarking in
similar enterprises. As all agreed that gold and pearls were to be
acquired in these parts; the thirst of gain in some, and the desire of
glory in others, soon overcame the terrors of such unfortunate examples,
and many attribute the miscarriage of those attempts to the imprudence or
misconduct of the commanders; and as slanders always find an easy belief,
so the imputations on the dead served to encourage the living, and men
were easily led to believe that their own superior abilities or their
better fortune would carry them through, where former adventurers had
failed.

There were several other concurring circumstances which gave life and
vigour to these enterprises, which we shall briefly enumerate under three
principal heads. In the first place, the marriage of Don Diego Columbus
with Donna Maria de Toledo, induced many young gentlemen and ladies of
good families to go over to Hispaniola, which proved of infinite
importance to the new colony; as the strong tincture of heroism or romance
in the Spanish character, was the fittest that could be conceived for
promoting such exploits. Secondly, The establishment of a sovereign
tribunal at St Domingo, the members of which had large salaries, induced
some considerable persons of more advanced age and experience to go there,
in whose train a number of young people of quality went over in search of
profitable or honourable employments. By the continual struggle for power
between this new tribunal and the young admiral, a jealousy and
competition was excited between the dependents of both parties; which,
whatever trouble and perplexity it might occasion to their superiors, had
very favourable effects on the colony in the main, and greatly promoted
its advancement and success. In the third place, The great dislike which
prevailed in Spain against Charles V. especially at his first coming to
the crown, on account of his partiality for his countrymen the Flemings,
induced the Spanish gentry to prefer advancing their fortunes in the West
Indies, to which none but Spaniards were permitted to go, rather than in
the service of the court, which they believed not willing to discern their
merits, or to reward them as they thought they deserved.--_Harris_.

[1] Harris, II. 49.

[2] Harris, II. 62. This introduction is transposed from Harris, who
places it at the end instead of the beginning of his summary.--E.

SECTION I.

_Improvements made in the colony of Hispaniola by Nicholas de Obando, and
the great value of Gold produced in that Island during his Government_.

It is natural to begin this chapter with some account of the progress of
the Spaniards in Hispaniola after the settlement of a regular government,
by which the value of the discovery became apparent; as owing to the great
wealth derived from this colony at the first, the Spaniards were excited
to continue their discoveries. This source of wealth has been long dried
up, and we now hear nothing whatever of the gold of Hispaniola; which
yielded more in proportion at its first discovery than even Peru has done
since. The early prosperity of Hispaniola was in a great measure owing to
the care and judicious industry of Nicolas Obando, who, in the first place,
employed a skilful pilot to sail round the whole inland, and describe its
coast and harbors, and afterwards took much pains to examine and survey
all the provinces of the island. A mine of excellent copper was
discovered in his time near the town of _Puerto Real_, but after a great
deal of money had been expended on the adventure, its produce was found
inadequate to the expence. The 300 Spaniards who inhabited the island at
the first coming of Obando, lived in a very disorderly manner, and had
taken to themselves the most beautiful native women of the island, and of
the highest families, whom they kept as mistresses, though the parents of
these women considered them as married. This lewdness gave great offence
to the Franciscan friars, who made representations to the governor to
remedy the evil. Obando accordingly issued an order, by which the
Spaniards were enjoined either to put away their Indian mistresses or to
marry them. Many of the Spaniards were men of quality, and thought this a
hardship; yet rather than lose the dominion they had acquired over the
Indians through these female connections, they consented to marry them.
The lawyers on the island alleged that this conveyed a legal right of
dominion over the Indians; but Obando, lest the Spaniards should become
proud as hereditary lords, took away the Indian vassals from them as soon
as they were married, and made them grants of equal numbers in other parts
of the island, that he might retain them under submission, as holding the
Indians only by gift. This was considered as depriving these would-be
lords of their just rights, but had the best consequences, by
consolidating and securing the authority of government.

When Nicholas de Obando went to take possession of the government of
Hispaniola in 1500, he carried along with him Roderick de Alcacar,
goldsmith to their Catholic majesties, as marker of the gold, who was to
receive a fee of one per cent. then thought a very indifferent allowance.
After the distribution of the Indians among the colonists, so much gold
was gathered that it was melted four times every year; twice at the town
of _Buena Ventura_ on the river Hayna, eight leagues from St Domingo,
where the gold brought from the old and new mines was cast into ingots;
and twice a-year at the city of _de la Vega_, or the _Conception_, to
which the gold from _Cibao_ and the neighbouring districts was brought for
the same purpose. At each melting in Buena Ventura, the produce was from
11,000 to 12,000 pesos; and at La Vega between 125,000 and 130,000 pesos,
sometimes 140,000. Hence all the gold of the island amounted to 460,000
pesos yearly, equal to L.150,000 Sterling; which yielded 4,600 pesos, or
L.150 yearly to Alcacar, which was then thought a very considerable
revenue, insomuch that the grant was revoked by their Catholic majesties.
It seldom happened that the adventurers at the mines were gainers,
notwithstanding the vast quantities of gold procured, as they always lived
luxuriously and upon credit; so that their whole share of the gold was
often seized at melting times for their debts, and very frequently there
was not enough to satisfy their creditors.

SECTION II.

_Settlement of the Island of Porto Rico, under the command of Juan Ponce
de Leon_.

A war which took place in a province of Hispaniola, called _Higuey_, added
greatly to the power of the Spaniards, as Obando appointed Juan Ponce de
Leon to keep the Indians of that quarter under subjection. This man was
possessed of good sense and great courage, but was of an imperious and
cruel disposition, and soon formed projects of extending his authority
beyond the narrow bounds which had been assigned him. Learning from the
Indians of his province, that the island of _St Juan de Puerto Rico_,
called _Borriquen_ by the natives, was very rich in gold, he was anxious
to inquire into this circumstance personally. For this purpose, he
communicated the intelligence he had received to Obando, whose leave he
asked to go over to that island, to trade with the natives, to inquire
into the circumstance of its being rich in gold, and to endeavour to make
a settlement. Hitherto nothing more was known of that island than that it
appeared very beautiful and abundantly peopled to those who sailed along
its coasts. Having received authority from Obando, Juan Ponce went over to
Porto Rico in a small caravel, with a small number of Spaniards, and some
Indians who had been there. He landed in the territories of a cacique
named _Aguey Bana_, the most powerful chief of the island, by whom, and
the mother and father-in-law of the chief, he was received and entertained
in the most friendly manner. The cacique even exchanged names with him, by
a ceremony which they call _guaticos_, or sworn-brothers. Ponce named the
mother of the cacique, Agnes, and the father-in-law Francis; and though
they refused to be baptized, they retained these names. These people were
exceedingly good-natured, and the cacique was always counselled by his
mother and father-in-law to keep on friendly terms with the Spaniards.
Ponce very soon applied himself to make inquiries as to the gold mines,
which the natives of Hispaniola alleged to be in this island, and the
cacique conducted him all over the island, shewing him the rivers where
gold was found. Two of these were very rich, one called Manatuabon and the
other Cebuco, from which a great deal of treasure was afterwards drawn.
Ponce procured some samples of the gold, which he carried to Obando in
Hispaniola, leaving some Spaniards in the island, who were well
entertained by the cacique, till others came over to settle in the island.
The greatest part of the island of Porto Rico consists of high mountains,
some of which are clothed with fine grass, like those of Hispaniola. There
are few plains, but many pleasant vales with rivers running through them,
and all very fertile. The western point of the island is only 12 or 15
leagues from the eastern cape of Hispaniola, so that the one may be seen
from the other in clear weather from the high land of either cape. There
are some harbours, but none of them good, except that called Porto Rico,
where the city of that name is situated, which is likewise an episcopal
see. This island is at least forty leagues long by fifty in breadth, and
measures 120 leagues in circumference. The south coast is in latitude 17 deg.,
and the north coast in 18 deg., both N. It formerly produced much gold, though
not quite so pure as that of Hispaniola, yet not much inferior.

SECTION III.

_Don James Columbus is appointed to the Government of the Spanish
Dominions in the West Indies_.

We have already had occasion to notice the mean and scandalous behaviour
of King Ferdinand to Columbus, in depriving him and his family of their
just rights, for services of such high importance, that hardly any rewards
could be a sufficient recompense. After the death of the discoverer of
America, his eldest son and heir, James Columbus, succeeded to his
father's pretensions, along with which he inherited the dislike of King
Ferdinand, and the hatred of Bishop Fonseca. He long endeavoured by
petitions and personal applications at court to obtain his rights, but
could never procure any satisfaction, being always put off with fair words
and empty promises. Being at length wearied with ineffectual applications
for redress, he petitioned the king to allow his demands to be decided
upon by the courts of law; and as that could hardly be denied with any
decency, it was granted. This suit, as may well be supposed, was tedious
and troublesome; yet at length he obtained a clear decision in his favour,
and was re-established by the judges in all those rights which had been
granted to his father; in which he assuredly obtained nothing more than a
judicial recognition of a clear right which ought never to have been
disputed. To strengthen his interest at court, he married _Donna Maria_,
daughter to _Don Ferdinand de Toledo_, brother to the duke of _Alva_, and
cousin to the king; thus allying himself with one of the most illustrious
families in Spain. By the interest of his wifes relations, he at last
obtained the government of Hispaniola, in which he superseded Obando, the
great enemy of his father; but he had only the title of governor, not of
viceroy, which was his just and undoubted right. Don James Columbus went
out to his government of Hispaniola in 1508, two years after the decease
of his father, accompanied by his brother Don Ferdinand, and his uncles
Bartholomew and James, with many young Spanish noblemen. His lady was
likewise attended by several young ladies of good families; so that by
these noble attendants, the lustre of the new colony was restored and
augmented. His power in the government was no way greater than that which
had been confided to his predecessor, and was soon afterwards considerably
circumscribed by the establishment of a new court at St Domingo, under the
title of the _Royal Audience_, to which appeals were allowed from all parts
of the Spanish dominions in the New World.

While Ponce de Leon was occupied in the discovery of Porto Rico, Don James
Columbus came out to assume the government of Hispaniola in the room of
Obando, bringing with him from Spain a governor for the island of Porto
Rico. But Ponce de Leon, who had made the first settlement on that island,
disputed this new appointment; on which the young admiral set them both
aside, and appointed one Michael Cerron to the government, with Michael
Diaz as his lieutenant. De Leon, however, procured a new commission from
Spain, through the interest of his friend Obando with which he went over
to Porto Rico, and soon found pretext for a quarrel with Cerron and Diaz,
both of whom he sent prisoners to Spain. He now proceeded to make a
conquest of the island, which he found more difficult than he expected,
and had much ado to force the Indians to submit. This he at length
effected, reducing the natives to slavery, and employing them in the mines
till they were quite worn out, since which gold has likewise failed, which
many Spanish writers have considered as a judgment of God for that
barbarous proceeding, more especially as the same has happened in other
parts of their dominions.

SECTION IV.

_Settlement of a Pearl-Fishery at the Island of Cubagua_.

The court of Spain was at this time very solicitous to turn the
settlements already made in the New World to advantage, and was therefore
easily led into various projects which were formed for promoting the royal
revenue from that quarter. Among other projects, was one which recommended
the colonization of the island of Cabagua, or of Pearls, near Margarita,
on purpose to superintend the pearl-fishery there, and the young admiral
was ordered to carry that into execution. The Spanish inhabitants of
Hispaniola derived great advantage from this establishment, in which they
found the natives of the Lucayo or Bahama islands exceedingly useful, as
they were amazingly expert swimmers and divers, insomuch that slaves of
that nation became very dear, some selling for 150 ducats each. But the
Spaniards both defrauded the crown of the fifth part of the pearls, and
abused and destroyed the Lucayans, so that the fishery fell much off. The
island of Cubagua, which is rather more than 300 leagues from Hispaniola,
nearly in latitude 10 deg. N. is about three leagues in circumference,
entirely flat, and without water, having a dry barren soil impregnated
with saltpetre, and only producing a few guiacum trees and shrubs. The
soil does not even grow grass, and there are no birds to be seen, except
those kinds which frequent the sea. It has no land animals, except a few
rabbits. The few natives which inhabited it, fed on the pearl oysters, and
had to bring their water in canoes from the continent of Cumana, seven
leagues distant, giving seed pearls in payment to those who brought it
over. They had their wood from the isle of Margarita, which almost
surrounds Cubagua from east to north-west, at the distance of a league. To
the south is Cape _Araya_ on the continent, near which there are extensive
_salines_ or salt ponds. Cubagua has a good harbour on the northern shore,
which is sheltered by the opposite island of Margarita. There was at first
such abundance of pearl oysters, that at one time the royal fifth amounted
to 15,000 ducats yearly. The oysters are brought up from the bottom by
divers, who stay under water as long as they can hold in their breath,
pulling the shells from the places to which they stick. Besides this place
there are pearls for above 400 leagues along this coast, all the way from
Cape _de La Vela_ to the gulf of Paria; for Admiral Christopher Columbus,
besides Cubagua, which he named the Island of Pearls, found them all along
the coast of Paria and Cumana, at _Maracapana_, _Puerto Flechado_, and
_Curiana_, which last is near _Venezuela_.

SECTION V.

_Alonzo de Hojeda and Diego de Nicuessa are commissioned to make
Discoveries and Settlements in the New World, with an account of the
adventures and misfortunes of Hojeda_.

Among the adventurers who petitioned the court of Spain for licenses to
make discoveries, was Alonzo de Hojeda, a brave man, but very poor, who
had spent all he had hitherto gained; but John de la Cosa, who had been
his pilot and had saved money, offered to assist him with his life and
fortune. They got the promise of a grant of all that had been discovered
on the continent; but one Diego Nicuessa interposed, and being a richer
man, with better interest, he stopped their grant and procured half of it
to himself. Hojeda and Cosa got a grant of all the country from Cape _De
la Vela_ to the gulf of _Uraba_, now called the Gulf of Darien, the
country appropriated to them being called _New Andalusia_; while Nicuessa
received the grant of all the country from the before-mentioned gulf to
Cape _Garcias a Dios_, under the name of _Castilla del Oro_, or Golden
Castile. In neither of these grants was any notice taken of the admiral,
to whom, of right, all these countries belonged, as having being
discovered by his father. Nicuessa got likewise a grant of the island of
Jamaica; but the admiral being in the West Indies secured that to himself.
Hojeda fitted out a ship and a brigantine, and Nicuessa two brigantines,
with which vessels they sailed together to St Domingo, where they
quarrelled about their respective rights, and their disputes were adjusted
with much difficulty. These were at length settled, and they both
proceeded for their respective governments, or rather to settle the
colonies of which these were to be composed; but the disputes had occupied
so much time that it was towards the end of 1510 before either of them
left Hispaniola.

Hojeda, accompanied by Francis Pizarro, departed from the island Beata,
standing to the southward, and arrived in a few days at Carthagena, which
is called Caramari by the Indians. The natives of that place were then in
great confusion, and ready to oppose the Spaniards, because of the
injuries which had been done them by Christopher Guerra and others, who
had carried away many of the natives for slaves not long before. The
natives of this coast were of large stature, the men wearing their hair
down to their ears, while the women wore theirs long, and both sexes were
very expert in the use of bows and arrows. Hojeda and Cosa had some
religious men along with them, their Catholic majesties being very
desirous to have the Indians converted to Christianity; and having some
natives of Hispaniola along with them as interpreters, they tried by their
means to persuade the Indians to peace, leaving off their cruelty,
idolatry, and other vicious practices; but they were much incensed against
the Spaniards, on account of the villanous conduct of Guerra, and would by
no means listen to any peace or intercourse. Having used all possible
methods to allure them to peace and submission, pursuant to his
instructions, he had also orders to declare war and make slaves of them,
in case of their proving obstinate. He had at first endeavoured to procure
gold from these natives in exchange for Spanish toys; but as they were
fierce and refractory, Cosa recommended that they should establish their
colony at the bay of _Uraba_, where the natives were more gentle, after
which they could return to Carthagena better provided to overcome the
resistance of the natives. Hojeda, having been engaged in many quarrels
and encounters, both in Spain and Hispaniola, in all of which he had come
off without hurt, was always too resolute and fool hardy, and would not
listen to the salutary advice of his companion. He therefore immediately
fell upon the natives who were preparing to attack him, killed many,
seized others, and made booty of some gold in their habitations. After
this, taking some of his prisoners as guides, he marched to an Indian town,
four leagues up the country, to which the natives had fled from the
skirmish at the shore, and where he found them on their guard in greater
numbers, armed with targets, swords of an extraordinary hard wood, sharp
poisoned arrows, and a kind of javelins or darts. Shouting their usual war
cry, St Jago, the Spaniards fell furiously upon them, killing or taking
all they met, and forcing the rest to fly into the woods. Eight of the
natives who were not so expeditious as their fellows, took shelter in a
thatched hut, whence they defended themselves for some time, and killed
one of the Spaniards. Hojeda was so much incensed at this, that he ordered
the house to be set on fire, in which all these Indians perished miserably.
Hojeda took sixty prisoners at this town, whom he sent to the ships, and
followed after the Indians who had fled. Coming to a town called _Yarcabo_,
he found it deserted by the Indians, who had withdrawn to the woods and
mountains with their wives, children, and effects, on which the Spaniards
became careless, and dispersed themselves about the country, as if they
had no enemies to fear. Observing the careless security of the Spaniards,
the Indians fell upon them by surprise while they were dispersed in small
parties, and killed and wounded many of them with their poisoned arrows.
Hojeda, with a small party he had drawn together, maintained the fight a
long while, often kneeling that he might the more effectually shelter
himself under his target; but when he saw most of his men slain, he rushed
through the thickest of the enemy, and running with amazing speed into the
woods, he directed his course, as well as he could judge, towards the sea
where his ships lay. John de la Cosa got into a house which had no thatch,
where he defended himself at the door till all the men who were with him
were slain, and himself so sore wounded with poisoned arrows that he could
no longer stand. Looking about him in this extremity, he noticed one man
who still fought with great valour, whom he advised to go immediately to
Hojeda and inform him of what had happened. Hojeda and this man were all
that escaped of the party, seventy Spaniards being slaughtered in this
rash and ill-conducted enterprize.

In this unfortunate predicament, it happened luckily for the survivors
that Nicuessa appeared with his ships. Being informed of what had happened
to his rival, through his own rashness, he sent for him, and said that in
such a case they ought to forget their disputes, remembering only that
they were gentlemen and Spaniards. He offered at the same time to land
with his men, to assist Hojeda in revenging the death of Cosa and the rest.
Nicuessa accordingly landed with 400 men, which was more than sufficient
to defeat the Indians, whose town was taken and burnt. By this victory the
Spaniards acquired a vast number of slaves, and got so much booty that
each shared seven thousand pieces of gold. Nicuessa and Hojeda now agreed
to separate, that each might pursue the plan of discovery and settlement
which was directed by their respective commissions.

Understanding that Nicuessa intended to steer for Veragua, Hojeda made all
sail for the river of Darien; but having lost his old pilot, on whose
experience he chiefly depended, he missed the river, and resolved to
establish a settlement on the eastern promontory of the gulf of Uraba,
which he did accordingly, calling his new town St Sebastian; because that
saint is said to have been martyred by the arrows of the infidels, and was
therefore thought a fit patron to defend him against the poisoned arrows
of the Indians. He had scarcely fixed in this place when he found all the
inhabitants of the country to be a race of barbarous savages, from whom he
could only expect all the injury they could possibly do him and his colony.
In this situation, he dispatched one of his ships under Enciso to
Hispaniola, with orders to bring him as large a reinforcement of men as
possible, and immediately set to work in constructing entrenchments to
secure his remaining people against the natives. Provisions growing scarce,
so that his people could not subsist, be found himself soon obliged to
make excursions into the country in order to obtain a supply; but he was
unsuccessful in this measure, and had the misfortune to lose many of his
men by the arrows of the Indians, which were poisoned with the juice of a
stinking tree which grows by the sea side. By these disasters, his new
colony was speedily reduced to a very wretched situation; starved if they
remained within their works, and sure to meet death if they ventured out
into the country. While in this state of absolute despair, they were
surprised one day by seeing a ship entering the port. This was commanded
by Bernard de Talavera, no better than a pirate, who, flying from justice,
had taken shelter in this place, to him unknown. Hojeda was in too great
extremity to be nice in his inquiries into the character of Talavera, but
readily bought his cargo, and treated him so well in other respects, that
Talavera entered into his service. However serviceable this relief, it was
but of short continuance, as all their provisions were soon consumed, and
the savages were even more troublesome than before, if possible. As no
succours appeared from Hispaniola, they were reduced to vast straits, and
Hojeda at length determined upon going to St Domingo in order to procure
supplies. Leaving Francis Pizarro to command the colony in his absence, he
embarked in the vessel belonging to Talavera, but the voyage was
unfortunate from its very commencement. Hojeda not only used too much
severity to the crew, but behaved haughtily to Talavera, who laid him in
irons; but a storm soon arose, and the crew knowing him to be an
experienced seaman, set him at liberty, and it was chiefly through his
skill that they were enabled to save their lives, by running the ship
ashore on the coast of Cuba. Although it was only a short distance from
thence to Hispaniola, Talavera durst not go there, and prevailed on Hojeda
to venture a voyage of an hundred leagues in a canoe to Jamaica, which
they performed in safety. Hojeda had some pretensions by his commission to
the island of Jamiaca, and on hearing formerly that the admiral Don James
Columbus had sent Don Juan de Esquibel to that island, he had threatened
to cut off his head if ever he fell into his hands. He was now, however,
under the necessity of applying to Esquibel for assistance, and was used
by him with kindness. After a short stay in Jamaica, he went over to
Hispaniola, where he learnt that Enciso had sailed to St Sebastian; and
his own credit was now so low that he was hardly able to purchase food,
and died shortly afterwards of want, though he deserved a better fate,
being one of the bravest men that ever sailed from Spain to the West
Indies. Talavera remained so long in Jamaica, that the admiral heard of
his being there, and had him apprehended, tried, and executed for piracy.

SECTION VI.

_The History of Fasco Nugnez de Balboa, and the establishment by his means
of the Colony of Darien_.

In the meantime Pizarro quitted St Sebastian with a small remnant of the
unfortunate colony, and escaped with much difficulty to Carthagena, where,
by good fortune for him, Enciso had just arrived with two ships and a
considerable reinforcement. He took Pizarro on board, and they returned to
St Sebastian, where they had the misfortune to run their ships aground,
and after getting on shore with much difficulty, they found the place
reduced to ashes by the savages. They restored it as well as they could,
and got on shore all the provisions and stores from their stranded vessels,
but were soon afterwards reduced to the utmost extremity of distress by
war and famine. Hunger frequently forced them out into the country to
endeavour to procure provisions, and the savages as often drove them back
with the loss of some of their number, which they could very ill spare,
having only been 180 men at the first They were relieved from their
present distressed situation, by the dexterity and presence of mind of a
very extraordinary person who happened to be among them. Vasquez Nugnez de
Balboa, the person now alluded to, was a gentleman of good family, great
parts, liberal education, of a fine person, and in the flower of his age,
being then about thirty-five. He had formerly sailed on discovery along
with _Bastidas_, and had afterwards obtained a good settlement in
Hispaniola; but had committed some excesses in that island, for which he
was in danger of being put to death. In this extremity, he procured
himself to be conveyed into the ship commanded by Enciso, concealed in a
bread cask, in which he remained for some days, and at last ventured to
make his appearance, when the ship was 100 leagues from Hispaniola. Enciso
had been strictly enjoined not to carry any offenders from the island, and
now threatened to set Balboa ashore on the first desert island; but the
principal people on board interceded for him with the captain, who at last
relented and granted him protection. This did not efface from his memory
the threats of Enciso, as will be seen hereafter. Observing the state of
despair to which the company was now reduced, Balboa undertook to
encourage them, by asserting that their situation was not so helpless as
they imagined. He told them that he had been upon this coast formerly with
Bastidas, when they sailed to the bottom of the gulf, where they found a
fine large town, in a fruitful soil and salubrious climate, inhabited
indeed by warlike Indians, but who did not use poisoned arrows. He
exhorted them, therefore, to bestir themselves in getting off their
stranded vessels, and to sail to that place. They approved of this advice,
and sailed to the river named Darien by the Indians, where they found
every thing to correspond with the description given by Balboa. On
learning the arrival of the Spaniards, the natives secured their wives and
children, and waited on a little hill under their cacique, named Cemano,
for the attack of the Spaniards. After having performed their devotions,
the Spaniards fell resolutely on the Indians, whom they soon routed; and
then went to the town, which they found full of provisions to their wish.
Next day, they marched up the country among the neighbouring mountains,
where they found many empty houses, all the inhabitants having fled; but
they found the houses well replenished with household goods of various
kinds, such as earthen vessels, cotton garments like short petticoats for
women, a great deal of cotton, both spun and unspun, plates of gold which
the natives wear on their breasts, and many other things, amounting in
all to the value of 10,000 pieces of fine gold. Enciso was greatly
rejoiced at this unexpected good fortune, and immediately sent for the
rest of the men, who had been left on the other side of the bay, because
the brigantines could not carry the whole at once. Balboa gained much
reputation by the success of this enterprize, and was henceforwards held
in high esteem by the people.

The whole party agreed to establish a colony at this place, which they
named _Santa Maria el Antiqua del Darien_, the first part of the name
being that of a church in Seville, and Darien being the Indian name of the
river. Balboa being now in great credit with the colonists, and brooding
revenge for the former threats of Enciso, secretly plotted to deprive him
of the command, alleging that they were now beyond the limits of Hojedas
government, who had no authority in this place. While this was in
agitation, Enciso thought proper to prohibit all the colonists from
trading with the Indians for gold, under pain of death; but they,
believing that he did this entirely for his own advantage, unanimously
threw off all subjection to his authority, alleging that his command was
void for the reasons already mentioned, and others. They then proceeded to
choose alcaldes and regidores, being the titles of the chief magistrates
in the towns of Old Spain, and Balboa and Zamadio were elected alcaldes,
and Yaldibia regidore. The people, however, were dissatisfied with this
mode of governing, repenting that they had deposed Enciso, and the whole
colony divided into parties. One party alleged that it was not proper to
be without a commander in chief, and that Enciso ought to be restored till
another governor was appointed by the king: A second party said that they
ought to submit to Nicuessa, because the place they were in was within his
grant. The third party, being the friends of Balboa, wished to continue
the present frame of government; but if the majority were for a single
commander, they insisted that Balboa ought to have the command.

In the midst of these disputes, Roderic Enriquez de Colmenares arrived
with two ships, having on board provisions, military stores, and seventy
men. This captain had met with a great storm at sea, and had put into the
port of Santa Maria, which the Indians call Gayra, 50 or 60 leagues from
Carthagena. On the boats going on shore for water, the cacique came
forwards with twenty of his people, dressed in a kind of cotton cloaks,
though the natives of that part of the coast usually go naked. He advised
them not to take water from the place where they were, saying that it was
not good, and offered to shew them another river of better water. But on
coming to it, they could not get their boats to the place, owing to a
heavy surf, and returned to the first place. While filling their casks,
about seventy armed Indians rushed suddenly upon them, and before the
Spaniards could stand to their defence, forty-five of them were wounded by
poisoned arrows. The wounded men swam off to the ships, as the Indians had
staved their long-boat, and all of them died save one. Seven of the
Spaniards saved themselves in a large hollow tree, intending to swim off
at night; but those on board supposing them all killed, sailed away much
dejected, for Uraba, to inquire after Nicuessa. Finding no person on the
east side of the bay, where they thought to have found either their own
men or those belonging to Hojeda, Colmenares suspected they were all dead,
or had gone to some other place; but he thought fit to fire off some
cannon, that they might hear him if still in the neighbourhood; besides
which he made fires at night, and smokes by day on some of the adjacent
high rocks. The people at Santa Maria el Antiqua del Darien heard his guns,
which resounded through the whole bay to the westwards, and making signals
in return, he came to them about the middle of November 1510. Colmenares
distributed his provisions among the colonists of Darien, by which he
gained the good will of most of those who had opposed the calling of
Nicuessa to the command, whom they now agreed to send for that he might
assume the government.

SECTION VII.

_The Adventures, Misfortunes, and Death of Don Diego de Nicuessa, the
founder of the Colony of Nombre de Dios_.

After parting from Hojeda, whom he had so generously assisted, Nicuessa
met a few days afterwards with as great misfortunes at sea as Hojeda had
encountered by land; for he was tossed by a dreadful tempest from without,
and betrayed within by _Lopez de Olano_, who, perceiving the squadron
separated by the storm, took one of the largest ships into the river
_Chagre_, and left his patron to shift for himself. After some unlucky
adventures, Olano arrived at Veragna, which was their place of rendezvous,
where he endeavoured to persuade the people to abandon their original
design as impracticable, and to sail for Hispaniola to make the most of
what they had left, alleging that Nicuessa had certainly perished with all
his men. While meditating upon this project, a boat came into the port
with four men, who reported that Nicuessa had been stranded on an unknown
coast, and after marching a great way by land with incredible fatigue, was
now not far off, but that he and his followers were in a very miserable
condition. On hearing this melancholy account, Olano relented, and
immediately sent back the boat with provisions and refreshments, which
came very opportunely to save Nicuessa and his men from starving, which
they certainly must have done without this seasonable relief. Yet this did
not in the least soften his resentment against Olano for deserting him,
whom he would have hanged, if he had not been afraid of irritating the men,
and instead of that he put him in irons, threatening to send him to Spain
in that condition. The authority, however, did not remain long in his
hands; for, endeavouring to establish a settlement on the _Bethlehem_
river, he was so straitened for provisions, that he was obliged to leave a
part of his men there, and to sail with the rest to Porto Bello; but, not
being allowed by the Indians to land there, he was obliged to proceed four
or five leagues farther to the port which Columbus named _Bastimentos_.
Immediately on entering he exclaimed, _Paremos aqui en el nombre de Dios_,
Let us stay here in the name of God. He immediately landed and began to
erect a fortress, which was named _Nombre de Dios_, from the above
mentioned expression. He had not been long here till he found himself as
much straitened for provisions as at Bethlehem, on which account he sent
one of his ships to St Domingo to request assistance from the governor.
Scarcely was this vessel out of the port, before that with Colmenares
arrived from the river Darien, with the invitation to take the command of
the Spanish colony at that place. Colmenares and his men were so
astonished to see the miserable condition of Nicuessa and seventy of his
people, who were all that remained with him at Nombre de Dios, that they
shed tears. They were lean, ragged, and barefooted, and excited pity by
the recital of the intolerable distresses they had undergone, and the
numbers of their companions who had already died.

Colmenares did all he could to comfort Nicuessa, telling him that the
people of Darien wished him to come and assume the government of that
colony, which was situated in a fine country abounding in provisions, and
which did not want gold. Nicuessa began to recover his spirits, by the
seasonable supply of provisions, and the comfortable intelligence brought
by Colmenares, and gave thanks to God for this merciful relief. But he
soon forfeited the reputation for prudence which he had formerly enjoyed
among the colonists of Hispaniola; as, forgetting the miserable condition
from which he was so recently relieved, and not considering that the
people of Darien had submitted to his authority of their own free will, he
foolishly declared in public that he would take all their gold from them
on his arrival, and would even punish them for encroaching on his province.
This news soon spread abroad, and heaven had the imprudence to send a
caravel before him to Darien, having a desire to examine some islands
which lay in the way thither. That same night, Olano, who still remained a
prisoner, conversed with some of the people who came from Darien, to
incense them against Nicuessa; and when Nicuessa was embarking, he said to
some of those who were in his confidence, "Nicuessa fancies he will be as
well received by Hojedas men, as by us after his shipwreck at Veragua, but
he will probably find a considerable difference." James Albetes and the
bachelor Corral were in the caravel which went before, and gave notice to
the colonists at Darien of the threats which Nicuessa had made, of taking
away their gold and punishing them; saying that his misfortunes had
rendered him peevish and cruel, abusing all who were under his authority.
From the little islands which he had stopped to explore, Nicuessa sent one
Juan de Cayzedo to acquaint the colony at Darien of his approach; and this
man being privately his enemy, still farther exasperated the people
against him, so that they came to a resolution not to admit him into the
colony. This resolution was principally forwarded by Balboa, who secretly
advised all the principal people to exclude him, yet declared in public
that he was for receiving Nicuessa, and even got the public notary to give
him a certificate to that effect[1].

After spending eight days among these islands, where he took a few Indians
for slaves, Nicuessa made sail for Darien. On coming to the landing-place,
he found many of the Spaniards on the shore waiting his arrival; when, to
his great surprise, one of them required him in the name of all the rest,
to return to his own government of Nombre de Dios. Nicuessa landed next
day, when the people of Darien endeavoured to seize him, but he was
extraordinarily swift of foot, and none of them could overtake him. Balboa
prevented the colonists from proceeding to any farther extremities,
fearing they might have put Nicuessa to death, and even persuaded them to
listen to Nicuessa, who entreated them, since they would not receive him
as their governor, that they would admit him among them as a companion;
which they peremptorily refusing, he even requested them to keep him as a
prisoner, for he would rather die than go back to starve at Nombre de Dios.
In spite of every thing he could urge, they forced him to embark in an old
rotten bark, with about seventeen of his men, ordering them to return to
Nombre de Dios, on pain of being sunk if they remained at Darien. Nicuessa
and his people accordingly set sail, but were never seen more, and no one
knew what became of them. There was a story current in the West Indies,
that when the Spaniards came afterwards to settle the island of Cuba, they
found inscribed on the bark of a large tree, "Here the unfortunate
Nicuessa finished his life and miseries."

[1] We learn from the history of the conquest of Mexico, by Bernal Diaz
del Castillo, one of the conquerors, that the government of the
province of Tierra Firma, in which Darien and Nombre de Dios were
situated, was afterwards granted by the court of Spain to Pedro Arias
de Avila, in 1514, who gave his daughter in marriage to Vasco Nugnez
de Balboa; yet caused him afterwards to be beheaded; on suspicion that
he intended to revolt.--E.

SECTION VIII.

_The Conquest and Settlement of the Island of Cuba by Diego Velasquez_.

The admiral Don James Columbus was much blamed for not endeavouring to
give succour to these adventurers, although the grants which they had
received of separate governments were in direct contradiction to his just
rights. His enemies made use of this to his prejudice at the court of
Spain, which was always jealous of him, and listened therefore with much
complacency to every complaint that was proffered against him. He on the
other hand, was very sensible of the disposition of the court, and used
every means he could think of to secure his rights in these countries,
pursuant to the agreement which had been made with his father. In this
view, having learnt that the court was desirous of discovering and
colonizing the great island of Cuba, although there were no accounts of
any rich mines in that country, he resolved to be beforehand with the
court, and sent a body of men there at the beginning of the year 1511,
under a confidential person; that having a lieutenant there of his own,
the court might have no pretence for granting it away to new undertakers,
as they had done that part of the continent which was discovered by his
father, and even the island of Jamaica, which last, however, he had
recovered. For this purpose, he made choice of James Velasquez, who was
the wealthiest and best beloved of all the Spanish inhabitants of
Hispaniola, and was besides a man of experience, and of a mild and affable
temper, who knew well how to maintain his authority. As soon as it was
known in Hispaniola that Velasquez was going to establish a settlement in
Cuba, abundance of people resolved to bear him company, some of them from
attachment to his person, and others because they were involved in debt.
All these rendezvoused at the town of _Salvatierra de la Zavana_, at the
western extremity of Hispaniola, whence they proposed to embark for Cuba.

Before proceeding with the transactions of Velasquez, it may be proper to
give some description of the island of Cuba, from the Spanish writers.
Cuba is within the tropic of Cancer, from 20 deg. to 21 deg. of N. latitude. It is
230 leagues in length, from Cape _St Antonio_ to Cape _Mayci_. Its breadth
between Cape _Cruze_ and port _Manati_ is forty-five leagues, whence it
narrows to about twelve leagues between _Matamano_ and the _Havanna_. Most
of the island is flat, and full of woods and forests; but from the eastern
point of Mayci, there are exceedingly high mountains for thirty leagues.
Beyond these to the westwards, and in the middle of the island, there are
many hills, but not very high. Many fine rivers run down the sides of
these hills, both to the north and south, which are full of fish,
especially skates and olaves, which ascend the streams a great way from
the sea. On the south of Cuba there are a prodigious number of small
islands, which were named the _Queens Garden_, by the admiral Don
Christopher Columbus. There are other small islands on the north side,
though not so numerous, which Velasquez named the _Kings Garden_. About
the middle of the south side, a considerable river, named _Cauto_ by the
natives, runs into the sea, containing vast numbers of alligators, the
banks of which river are very agreeable. The island is wonderfully well
wooded, insomuch that people may travel almost 230 leagues, or from one
end of the island to the other, always under their shelter. Among these
are sweet-scented red cedars of such astonishing size, that the natives
used to make canoes of one stick hollowed out, large enough to contain
fifty or sixty persons, and such were once very common in Cuba. There are
such numbers of storax trees, that if any one goes up to a height in the
morning, the vapours arising from the earth smell strongly of storax,
coming from the fires made by the natives in the evening, which are now
drawn up from the earth by the rising sun. Another kind of tree produces a
fruit called _xaquas_, which being laid by four or five days, though
gathered unripe, become full of a liquor like honey, and richer than the
finest pears. There are great quantities of wild vines, which climb very
high on the trees; these bear grapes, from which wine has been made, which
is somewhat sharp. Such is their universal abundance all over the island,
that the Spaniards used to say there was a vineyard in Cuba 230 leagues in
length. Some of the trunks of these vines are as thick as a mans body. The
whole island is very pleasant, more temperate and healthy than Hispaniola,
and has safer harbours for ships, made by nature, than any that have been
constructed by art in other countries. On the southern coast is that of
_St Jago_, which is in form of a cross, and _Xaquas_, which is hardly to
be matched in all the world. Its entry is not above a cross-bow shot in
breadth, and the interior part is 10 leagues in circumference, having
three little islands to which ships may be fastened by means of stakes,
where they are safe from every wind that blows, being everywhere shut in
by high mountains as in a house. In this harbour the Indians had pens in
which they shut up the fish. On the north side there are likewise good
harbours, the best of which was formerly called _Carenas_, but now Havanna,
which is so large and safe that few can be compared to it. Twenty leagues
east is the harbour of Matanaos, which is not quite safe. About the middle
of the island there is another good port, called _del Principe_; and
almost at the end is the port of _Baraca_, where good ebony is cut. All
along this coast there are good anchorages, though none so large and
commodious as those already mentioned.

Cuba produces great numbers of birds, as pigeons, turtle-doves, partridges
like those of Spain but smaller, and cranes. There are none of these two
latter on the other islands, but there are cranes on the continent. There
is another bird, not found on the continent, as large as cranes, which are
white when young, but grow red at their full growth, which are called
_flamences_ or _flamingos_. These would have been much valued in New Spain,
for the curious feather-works which are made by the natives. These
flamingos are found in vast flocks of 500 to 1000 together. They seldom
fly, but stand much in the water. When the Indians kept any of these birds
about their houses, they had to put salt into the water they gave them to
drink. There are infinite numbers of parrots, which are very good eating
when young, about the month of May. They have few land animals, except a
kind of rabbits like those of Hispaniola; but to make amends for this want,
they have vast quantities of fish both in the sea and the rivers: among
these the chiefest is tortoises or turtles, in vast abundance, excellent
of their kind, and very wholesome, which cure the leprosy and the itch, in
such as are content to make them their constant food. It produces maize or
Indian corn in great abundance; and every thing considered, it may be
pronounced the finest and best provided country in that part of the world.
The natives of Cuba were of the same nation with those of the Lucayos
islands, a good sort of people, and very well tempered. They were governed
by caciques, having towns of 200 or 300 houses, in each of which several
families resided, as in Hispaniola.

They had no religion, having no temples, idols, or sacrifices; but they
had a kind of conjuring priests or jugglers, like those in Hispaniola, who
pretended to have communication with the devil, and to obtain answers from
him to their questions. To obtain this favour, they fasted three or four
months, using only the juice of herbs; and when reduced to extreme
weakness, they were worthy of inspiration, and to be informed whether the
seasons of the year would be favourable or otherwise; what children were
to be born, and whether those born were to live, and such like questions.
These conjurors, who were called _behiques_, were the oracles of the
natives, whom they led into many superstitions and absurdities; pretending
to cure the sick by blowing on them, and other mummeries, muttering some
unintelligible words between their teeth. The natives of Cuba acknowledged
that the heavens and earth, and all things contained in these, had been
created. They are even said to have had traditions concerning the flood,
and the destruction of the world by water, occasioned by three persons who
came three several ways. The old men reported, that a sage who knew the
approaching deluge, built a great ship, into which he went with his family,
and many animals. That he sent out a crow, which remained a long while out,
feeding on the dead bodies, and afterwards returned with a green branch.
They added many other particulars respecting the deluge, even to two of
Noah's sons covering him when drunk, while the third scoffed him; adding
that the Indians were descended from the latter, and therefore had no
clothes, whereas the Spaniards descended from the other sons, and had
therefore clothes and horses. As they lived in towns under the authority
of caciques, it is probable that the will of these chiefs served as law.

Some time before the expedition of Velasquez to Cuba, a cacique of the
province of _Guatiba_, in Hispaniola, named _Hatuey_, to escape from the
tyranny of the Spaniards, went over to the eastern end of Cuba with as
many of his people as he could induce to accompany him; the distance
between the two islands being only eighteen leagues. He settled with his
followers in the nearest district of Cuba, called _Mayci_, reducing the
inhabitants of that place to subjection, but not to slavery. In fact
slavery does not appear to have been practised in any part of the West
Indies, no difference being made even by the caciques between their people
and their children; except in New Spain and other provinces of the
continent, where they used to sacrifice prisoners of war to their idols.
This cacique Hatuey, always had spies in Hispaniola, to inform him what
was going on there, as he feared the Spaniards would pass over into Cuba.
Having information of the admiral's design, and the intended expedition of
Velasquez, he assembled all the warriors of his tribe, and putting them in
mind of the many sufferings they had endured under the Spaniards, he
informed them of their new intentions. Then taking some gold from a basket
of palm leaves, he addressed them as follows: "The Spaniards have done all
these things which I have told you of for the sake of this, which is the
god whom they serve, and their only object in coming over to this island
is in search of this their lord. Let us therefore make a festival, and
dance to this lord of the Spaniards, that when they come hither, he may
order them not to do us any harm." They accordingly all began to dance and
sing, and continued till they were quite tired, as it is their custom to
dance from nightfall till daybreak, as long as they can stand. Their
dances, as in Hispaniola, are to the music of their songs; and though
50,000 men and women may have assembled at one time, no one differed in
the motions of their hands, feet, and bodies from all the rest. But the
natives of Hispaniola sung much more agreeably than those of Cuba. After
the subjects of Hatuey were quite spent with singing and dancing around
the little basket of gold, the cacique desired them not to keep the lord
of the Christians in any place whatsoever; for even if they were to
conceal him in their bowels, the Christians would rip them up to fetch him
out; wherefore he advised them to cast him into the river, where the
Christians might not be able to find him; and this they did.

James Velasquez set out from Salvatierra de la Zavana in November 1511,
and landed at a harbour called _Palina_, in the territories of Hatuey, who
stood on his defence, taking advantage of the woods, where the Spaniards
could not use their horses. During two months, the Indians hid themselves
in the thickest parts of the forests, where the Spaniards hunted them out,
carrying all they took to Velasquez, who distributed them among his men as
servants, not as slaves. Hatuey withdrew into the most inaccessible places
of the mountains, where he was at length taken after inexpressible toil,
and brought to Velasquez, who caused him to be burnt. After this example
of severity, the whole province of Mayci submitted, no one daring any
longer to resist. When it was known in Jamaica that Velasquez had gone
with the command to Cuba, many of those who were with Esquibel asked leave
to go and serve under him. Among these was Panfilo de Narvaez, a gentleman
of a graceful person, well behaved, but rather imprudent. He carried with
him a company of thirty cross-bows, and was well received by Velasquez,
who gave him the chief command under himself. When the Indians of the
province of Mayci were reduced under subjection, Velasquez distributed
them among the Spaniards as had formerly been done in Hispaniola by Obando,
taking the inhabitants of five Indian towns to himself. He likewise
founded a town at a harbour on the north side of the island, called
_Barracoa_ by the natives, which was the first Spanish colony in this
island. From this place Velasquez sent Narvaez with thirty men to reduce
the province of Bayamo, about 50 leagues from Barracoa, a fine open
country, very fertile and agreeable. Of this company, Narvaez alone was
mounted, all the rest marching on foot. The natives of the country came
out submissively to meet Narvaez, bringing him provisions, as they had no
gold, and were very much astonished at the sight of the mare on which
Narvaez rode. The Spaniards took up their residence in a town belonging to
the Indians, who, seeing the small number of their invaders, resolved to
rid themselves of them by surprise. Narvaez was by no means sufficiently
watchful, yet had his mare along with him in the house where he lay, and a
guard posted during the night. Near seven thousand Indians had assembled
from all parts of the province, armed with bows and arrows, who had
resolved to fall upon Narvaez and the Spaniards after midnight, though it
was unusual for them to fight during the night. They gave the assault in
two places at once, and found the centinels asleep on their posts; but
being more eager to plunder the Spaniards than to kill them, as they had
always anxiously wished for clothing ever since they saw the Christians,
they did not observe the time previously concerted, but began their
several attacks at different times, and one of the parties, which was the
most forward, even entered the town shouting. Narvaez awoke in great
consternation, and the Spaniards, who were astonished at the noise, knew
not well what to do in their fright. At length, the Indians whom Narvaez
had brought with him from Jamaica, lighted some fire-brands, by which the
Spaniards were enabled to see their danger; and Narvaez, though wounded by
a stone, found means to come at his mare, which he mounted, and rallied
his Spaniards to their defence. At that time part of the horse furniture
used by the Spaniards was hung with bells; and on hearing the sound of
these, and seeing Narvaez coming towards them at a round trot, with his
sword drawn, they lost heart, and not only abandoned the enterprize, but
fled out of the country, some of them to the distance of 50 leagues,
leaving none but their old and decrepid people behind. After this
Velasquez sent a reinforcement to Narvaez, who became absolute master of
the country.

SECTION IX.

_The Strange Expedition of Juan Ponce de Leon to Discover the Fountain of
Youth, in which he Discovered Florida and the Bahama Channel_.

We have already seen that Juan Ponce de Leon had been restored to the
government of Porto Rico by the interest of his friend Obando, and had
sent his predecessors, Cerron and Diaz, prisoners into Spain. This
circumstance, which he thought a bold stroke in politics, turned much
against himself; for these men presented a petition against him to the
court of Spain, and being strongly supported by the interest of the
admiral, they were sent back to resume their former employments. By this
reverse, De Leon was reduced to a private condition; but he had made good
use of his time, and had acquired a large fortune, which induced him to
attempt recovering his power and credit by means of discoveries. He
accordingly sailed from the port of St German on the 1st of March 1512,
with two stout ships which he had fitted out at his own expence; and
steering through among the Lucayos islands, he discovered land on the 2d
April, in lat. 30 deg. 8' N. till then unknown to the Spaniards. Elated by
this good fortune, he ran along the coast in search of some good harbour,
and anchored at night near the shore in eight fathoms water. Believing
this land to be an island, and because it appeared beautiful, being all
level, with many pleasant groves, he named it the island of _Florida_,
also because discovered at Easter, which the Spaniards call _Pascha de
Flores_. De Leon went on shore at this place to take formal possession of
the country. He sailed thence on the 8th of April, and came to a place on
the 20th, where some Indians were seen on the shore. He here anchored and
went ashore, when the Indians endeavoured to get possession of the boat,
with the oars and arms. This was not at first resented, till one of the
natives knocked down a sailor with a blow on the head, on which the
Spaniards were obliged to fight in their own defence, and had two men
wounded by arrows or darts pointed with sharp bones. The Indians were
repulsed with some difficulty, and received little damage; and at night De
Leon got his men on board and sailed to the mouth of a river, where he
took in wood and water. They were here ineffectually opposed by sixty
natives, one of whom was made prisoner to give them some information of
the country, and to learn Spanish. They called this river _Rio de la Cruz_,
as they left in this place a stone cross with an inscription. On the 8th
of May they doubled Cape Florida, which was named _Cabo de las Corrientes_,
or the Cape of Currents, because they found the currents here stronger
than the winds; and they came to an anchor near a town called _Abacoa_.
All this coast, from Cape _Arracaifes_ to Cape _Corrientes,_ or Cape
Florida, lies north and south, one point east, and is all quite free of
shoals and rocks, with six fathoms water. They found Cape Florida to be in
lat. 18 deg. 15' N. Sailing on to the southward, till in lat. 27 deg., they met
with two islands, one of which, about a league in circuit, they named
Santa Monta[1].

On the 15th of May, they proceeded 10 leagues along a line of small
islands, as far as two white ones, and called the whole group _los
Martyres_, or the Martyrs, because the high rocks at a distance had the
appearance of men upon crosses. This name has been since considered as
prophetic, on account of the great numbers of seamen who have been lost on
these rocks. They held on their course, sometimes north, and sometimes
north-east, and on the 24th were as far to the southwards as some small
islands lying out to sea, yet never perceived that they were going along
the continent. Finding a convenient place for wood and water, they
remained here to the 3d of June, careening one of their ships called the
St Christopher. Here the Indians came out in canoes to see the Christians,
as the Spaniards declined going on shore, though often invited by signs.
One day, being about to weigh an anchor, only to remove it to fresh ground,
the Indians supposing the Christians were going away, came off in their
canoes and laid hold of the cable, meaning to draw the ship away; on which
some men were sent in the long-boat to drive them away, and following the
Indians to the shore, took four women, and destroyed two old canoes. At
times while here, they bartered with the Indians for some skins, and a
small quantity of indifferent gold. On the 4th of June, while waiting for
a wind to go in search of a cacique named Carlos, who was said to have
gold, by some Indians on board, a canoe came off having an Indian on board
who understood Spanish, and was supposed to be a native of Hispaniola, or
some of the islands inhabited by Christians. This man desired them to wait,
as the cacique would send gold to barter. They accordingly waited, and
soon saw twenty canoes coming towards them, some of which were made fast
two and two together. A part of these went to the anchors, and others to
the ships, and began to fight. As those at the anchors were unable to
weigh them, they attempted to cut the cables; but a long-boat was sent out
against them, which obliged them to fly, taking four men and killing
several others. De Leon sent two of his prisoners to the cacique, saying
that although he had killed a Spaniard, he was willing to treat of peace
and friendship. Next day the boats went to sound the harbour, and some of
the men landed. Some Indians brought a message from the cacique, saying
that he would come next day on purpose to trade: But this was merely a
feint to gain time, that they might collect their power; as at eleven
o'clock, eighty canoes full of armed men attacked the nearest ship, and
fought till night without doing the Spaniards any harm, all their arrows
falling short, as they durst not come near, for fear of the cross-bows and
artillery. At night the Indians retired. Having remained here nine days,
they began to think of returning to Hispaniola and Porto Rico, and
discovered some islands by the way, of which they received intelligence
from the Indian prisoners they had on board. They sailed among islands
till the 21st, when they arrived at some small islands which they called
_las Tortugas_, or the Tortoises, as they took 170 of these creatures in a
very short time in one of these islands, and might have had many more if
they would. On the 28th, seeing land, they came to an anchor to overhaul
their sails and tackle, but could not tell whereabout they were. Most of
them thought it was the island of Cuba, because they found canoes and dogs,
with some knives and other tools of iron. On the 25th of July they were
among a parcel of low islands, still ignorant of their situation, till De
Leon sent to examine an island which he believed to be Bahama, in which he
was confirmed by an old woman who was found alone in another island. They
were likewise confirmed in this circumstance by James Miruelo, a pilot,
who happened to be there with a boat from Hispaniola. Having ranged
backwards and forewards to the 23d of September, and refitted their ships,
Juan Ponce de Leon sent one of his ships, commanded by Juan Perez de
Ortubia, with Antonio de Alaminos as pilot, with orders to examine the
island of Bimini, in which the Indians reported there was a spring which
made old people young again. Twenty days afterwards, Juan Ponce returned
to Porto Rico, and not long afterwards the ship returned there which he
had sent to Bimini, but without discovering the famous spring. Ortubia
reported that the island was large, and pleasantly diversified with hills,
plains, and meadows, having many rivers and delightful groves[2].

Besides his main design of making discoveries, which all Spaniards then
aspired to, Ponce was eager to find out the spring of Bimini, and a
certain river in Florida, both of which were affirmed by the Indians of
Cuba to have the property of turning old people young by bathing in their
waters. Some time before the arrival of the Spaniards, many Indians were
so thoroughly convinced of the reality of such a river, that they went
over to Florida, where they built a town, and their descendants still
continue there. This report prevailed so universally among the caciques in
these parts, that there was not a brook in all Florida, nay scarcely a
lake or puddle, that they had not bathed in; and some still ignorantly
persist in believing that this virtue resides in the river now called
_Jordan_, at Cape _Santa Helena_, forgetting that the Spaniards first gave
it this name in 1520, when they discovered the country of _Chicora_.

Though this voyage of Ponce de Leon turned out to no account to him, it
gave him encouragement to go to court to seek a reward for the countries
he had discovered, which he believed to be all islands, and not the
continent, as it afterwards turned out. Yet his voyage was beneficial, on
account of the route soon afterwards found out, by which the ships returned
to Spain through the Bahama channel, which was first accomplished by the
pilot Antonio de Alaminos, formerly mentioned. For the better
understanding this voyage of Juan Ponce, it must be understood that there
are three different groups in the archipelago of the Lucayos. The first is
composed of the _Bahama_ islands, giving name to the channel where the
currents are most impetuous. The second is called _los Organos_; and the
third _los Martyres_, which are next the shore of _los Tortugas_ to the
westwards; which last being all sand, cannot be seen at any distance,
wherefore many ships have perished on them, and all along the coasts of
the Bahama channel and the Tortugas islands. Havanna in the island of Cuba
is to the southwards, and Florida to the northward, and between these are
all the before mentioned islands, of Organos, Bahamas, Martyres, and
Tortugas. Between Havanna and los Martyres, there is a channel with a
violent current, twenty leagues over at the narrowest; and it is fourteen
leagues from los Martyres to Florida. Between certain islands to the
eastwards, and the widest part of this passage to the westwards, is forty
leagues, with many shoals and deep channels; but there is no way in this
direction for ships or brigantines, only for canoes. The passage from the
Havanna, for Spain is along the Bahama channel, between the Havanna the
Martyres, the Lucayos, and Cape Canaveral; and the giving occasion to this
discovery was the great merit of Ponce de Leon, for which he was well
rewarded in Spain.

[1] The account of this voyage is often contradictory, and almost always
unintelligible. In this instance, De Leon is made, with a southern
course, to increase his latitude almost nine degrees to the north.--E.

[2] This account of the island of Bimini is perfectly ridiculous, as its
whole extent does not exceed twenty miles in length, and not exceeding
one mile broad; it is one of the smallest of the Bahama or Lucayo
islands, and the largest of them cannot possibly contain any stream of
water beyond the size of a brook.--E.

SECTION X.

_The Martyrdom of two Dominican Friars on the coast of Venezuela, through
the Avarice of the Spaniards_.

There happened about this time a very singular and melancholy event, which
I find recorded in many Spanish historians, which shews to what a height
corruption had grown in so short a time among the Spanish settlements in
the West Indies. Reports had reached Spain of the harsh and cruel manner
in which the natives were treated by the Spaniards, being distributed
among the proprietors of land as if they had been cattle. This moved some
religious men of the Dominican order to go over to the new world, to try
what progress they could make in converting the Indians by spiritual means
only. Three of these fathers landed in the island of Porto Rico, where one
of them fell sick and was unable to proceed. The other two procured a
vessel to carry them over to the main, where they were landed at no great
distance from the Indian town which Hojeda and Vespucius had seen in their
first voyage, standing in the water, and which therefore they had named
_Venezuela_ or little Venice. The fathers found the natives at this place
very docile and tractable, and were in a fair way of making them converts
to the Christian religion; when unluckily a Spanish pirate, whose only
employment was to steal Indians to sell them as slaves to the colonists,
anchored on the coast. The poor natives, confident of being well treated
by Christians, went freely on board along with their cacique, and the
pirate immediately weighed anchor, and made all sail for Hispaniola,
carrying them all away into slavery. This naturally raised a great ferment
among the remaining natives, who were on the point of sacrificing the two
Dominicans to their resentment, when another Spanish ship arrived in the
harbour, commanded by a man of honour. He pacified the Indians for the
present as well as he possibly could, and receiving letters from the
Dominicans with a true statement of the transaction, he promised to send
back their cacique and the rest of their countrymen in four months. As he
really intended to perform his promise, he immediately made application to
the supreme tribunal at St Domingo, called the royal audience, setting
forth the particulars of the case, and the imminent danger to which the
two fathers were exposed, unless these Indians were sent back in due time.
But it so happened that these very people had been purchased as slaves by
some of the members of the royal audience, and these members of the
supreme tribunal were not so much in love with justice as to release them.
The consequence of this was, that at the end of the four months, the
Indians murdered the two Dominicans, Francisco de Cordova and Juan Garcias,
in revenge for the loss of their prince and relations.

SECTION XI.

_Discoveries on the Continent of America by command of Velasquez, under
the conduct of Francis Hernandez de Cordova_.

After James de Velasquez had reduced the greatest part of the island of
Cuba, and had settled colonies of Spaniards in many districts of the
island, he became desirous of shaking off the authority of the Admiral
James Columbus, by whom he was appointed to the command, and setting up
for himself. By this time the admiral had been recalled into Spain, and
opposed this project of Velasquez to the utmost of his power; but his
credit was now so low; that he could not fully succeed; as, though
Velasquez was still ordered to give an account to Columbus of the exercise
of his authority, the admiral was not allowed to recal him from the
government of Cuba, unless with the concurrence of the crown. This so far
answered the purpose of Velasquez, that he resolved to fit out ships for
discovery. This project was no sooner made known, than numbers of rich
Spanish planters embraced the proposal, and offered to contribute large
sums for carrying it into execution. Among those who distinguished
themselves on this occasion, was Francis Hernandez de Cordova, a rich and
brave man who had Indians of his own, and offered to go as captain on this
expedition. Having received a commission from Velasquez, he fitted out two
ships and a brigantine, with all necessary stores, and listed 110
soldiers[1]. He sailed from St Domingo, in Cuba, to the Havanna, and left
Havanna on the 8th of February 1517. On the 12th, they doubled cape _St.
Antonio_, holding their course to the westwards, as Antony de Alaminos,
their pilot, said that the first admiral always inclined in that way,
having sailed with him when a boy. They encountered a great storm which
lasted two days, during which they expected to have perished. After being
twenty-one days at sea, laying to always at night, they got sight of land,
and could perceive a large town about two leagues from the coast. As they
drew nigh the shore, two canoes full of men came off to the ships, from
which thirty Indians went on board Cordova's ship, having jackets without
sleeves, and pieces of cloth wrapped about them instead of breeches. The

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