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extensive, rich in mines, productive in soil, and delightful în climate, but uncultivated, and thinly peopled by savages, who could neither by gentle nor by violent means be induced to labor regularly for others or for themselves; and, although the want of a working population was in part supplied by the introduction of negro slaves from Africa, there was little prospect that Spain would ever be much benefited by these distant colonies. While Magellan's ships were on their western route to India, however, the wealthy and powerful empire of Mexico, which had been discovered in 1518 by a party of Spaniards from Cuba, was conquered by Hernando Cortés; and Spain immediately became the richest nation of Europe. The reports of the brilliant results of this conquest drew to the West Indies crowds of adventurers, all eager to acquire wealth and renown by similar means; who, uniting in bands, under daring and experienced captains, ranged through both the western continents, seeking mines of precious metals to work, or rich nations to plunder. In this manner Peru was subjugated by Pizarro and his followers before 1535; the other expeditions were fruitless, as respects the principal objects in view, while, in the course of them, many distant shores and interior regions were explored, which would otherwise, perhaps, not have been visited for centuries. The acts of these demon heroes are recorded with minuteness in the stirring pages of the chronicles of their day; and curious narratives of several of their expeditions, written by persons engaged in them, have been preserved by the assiduity of Spanish, Italian, English, and Dutch collectors of historical tracts.
The desire to discover new passages of communication for vessels between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, was also a strong motive for the expeditions of the Spaniards along the coasts of the New World ; and no one pursued this search with more zeal and perseverance than Hernando Cortés. Scarcely had he established the authority of his sovereign in Mexico, than he commenced the exploration of the adjoining seas and countries, with that object, as well as with the hope of finding other rich nations to subdue ; and in such enterprises he spent a great portion of his time and resources, during his residence in America. In prosecution of his plans, chiefly, the long and in most places narrow territory, connecting Mexico with the southern continent, was carefully examined, until it had been ascertained that the two seas were separated by land throughout the whole extent. He, at the same
PLANS OF CORTES FOR FURTHER CONQUESTS.
time, employed vessels in surveying the coasts of the Mexican Gulf, and those of the Atlantic, farther north; and he built others on the Pacific side, for similar purposes, two of which he sent, as early as 1526, to the East Indies, in aid of the armaments despatched thither from Spain, under Loyasa.*
The first expedition made by the Spaniards along the Pacific coasts, westward from Mexico, was conducted by Pedro Nuñez Maldonado, one of the officers of Cortés, who sailed from the mouth of the River of Zacatula in July, 1528, and passed nearly six months in surveying the shores between that point and the mouth of the River of Santiago, about a hundred leagues farther northwest. The territory of which this coast formed the southern border was then called Xalisco; it was entirely unknown to the Europeans, and was inhabited by fierce tribes of savages, who had never been subdued by the Mexicans. Maldonado brought back flattering accounts of its fertility, and of the abundance of precious metals in its interior, which did not fail to excite the attention of his employer, as well as of others among their countrymen.
Cortés was at that time in Spain, whither he had gone in 1528, chiefly with the object of obtaining some more definite recognition of his powers and rights in the New World than had been hitherto granted. He was received at Madrid with the most signal honors by his sovereign, the celebrated emperor Charles V.; and, on his return to Mexico, he carried with him patents, confirming him as captain-general of that country, then called New Spain, and creating him a grandee of Castile, with the title of Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca ; to which was attached the possession of vast tracts of country in America, including the port of Tehuantepec, on the Pacific. He also procured from the emperor a capitulation, or charter, empowering him to discover and conquer any islands in the
The accounts of the early Spanish expeditions of discovery on the North Pacific side of America, contained in the present chapter, are derived from — the published letters of Cortés, and a number of letters and reports from him and other Spanish commanders, hitherto unpublished, copies of which, made from the originals in Madrid, were kindly placed at the disposition of the writer by W. H. Prescott, of Boston, the accomplished author of the Histories of Ferdinand and Isabella, and of the Conquest of Mexico — the Historia General de las Indias, by Herrera - the Cronica de Nueva España, by Gomara - the Historia de la Conquista de Mexico, by Bernal Dias — the Raccolte de Viaggi, by Ramusio — the Collection of Voyages and Discoveries, by Hakluyt — the History of Voyages in the Pacific, by Burney and the Introduction to the Journal of the Voyage made, in 1792, by Captains Galiano and Valdes, in the Spanish schooners Sutil and Mexicana, published at Madrid, by order of the government, in 1802, to which references will also be frequently made in the succeeding chapters.
Pacific, or other countries west of Mexico, not within the limits assigned to any other Spanish governor; of which countries he and his heirs forever were to enjoy the government, and one twelfth of all the precious metals, pearls, and other advantages therefrom accruing, on condition of their treating the natives with kindness, and endeavoring to convert them to the Christian faith. The politic Charles did not, however, intrust such extensive powers to one so capable and ambitious as Cortés, without at the same time providing certain checks, by means of which the conqueror of Mexico might be effectually prevented from using his faculties for any other ends than enlarging the dominions of the crown of Castile. The expenses of all his expeditions were to be borne by himself; and he could do little, if any thing, without the assent of the Audiencia, or Royal Court and Board of Administration, established at Mexico, the members of which were chosen from among his most bitter enemies.
The only governor in the New World with whose claims Cortés might have been supposed to interfere, by expeditions westward from Mexico, was Nuño de Guzman, the president of the Audiencia, who had obtained from the emperor the government of Panuco, the country on the Gulf of Mexico surrounding the spot now occupied by the town of Tampico, and also that of Xalisco, of which he had received accounts from Maldonado and other adventurers. This person, one of the same stamp with Pizarro and Davila, had been assiduously engaged in undermining the authority and influence of Cortés; and no sooner did he learn that his rival was returning to Mexico as captain-general, than he assembled all the troops under his command in the capital, and marched for Xalisco, where he remained many years, subduing the country, and exterminating its aboriginal inhabitants.
Cortés thus, on his arrival in Mexico in July, 1530, found himself deprived of the means not only of making expeditions of discovery, but also of maintaining his authority in the kingdom; and he was obliged to wait two years before he could send a single vessel out on the Pacific. At length, by the middle of the year 1532, he had two ships ready for sea, which he determined to despatch on an exploratory voyage, along the western coast, whilst the others were in progress of construction at Tehuantepec.
At that period, the whole eastern coast of the American continent had been explored, but imperfectly by European navigators; though no part of the interior, north of Mexico and the countries in its 1532.]
UNCERTAINTY OF ACCOUNTS OF OLD VOYAGES.
immediate vicinity, was known. The northernmost points occupied by the Spaniards were, - on the Atlantic side, Panuco, within a few miles of the Mexican Gulf, and, on the Pacific side, Culiacan, which was founded by Nuño de Guzman, in 1530, at the entrance of the Gulf of California. Beyond Culiacan, towards the north and the west, the lands and the seas were entirely unexplored; and between that place and the civilized portion of Mexico, extended a wide space of uncultivated country, including Xalisco, which was called, by the Spaniards, New Galicia. The ports occupied by the Spaniards on the Pacific side of Mexico, were Tehuantepec, the most eastern, at which Cortés had his arsenals and ship-yards; Acapulco, the principal place of trade, and tle nearest to the capital; and Zacatula, and Aguatlan, on the confines of Xalisco, beyond which the coasts were little known.
Before entering upon the history of the Spanish discoveries on the North Pacific side of America, it should be observed, that the accounts of these and other expeditions by sea, made at that period, which have descended to us, are very obscure and inexact, especially as regards geographical positions ; so that it is generally difficult, and often impossible, to identify places by means of the descriptions given in them. This arises partly from the circumstance, that the accounts were nearly all written by priests, clerks, or other persons unacquainted with naval matters, who paid little attention to latitudes, longitudes, courses, and bearings, and were unable to record them properly; and partly from the imperfection of the instruments then employed to determine the altitudes and relative distances of the heavenly bodies, which, even on land, and under the most favorable conditions of the atmosphere, gave results far from accurate, and were entirely useless in a vessel on a rough sea, or in cloudy weather. This uncertainty as to the positions of places necessarily leads to confusion respecting their names; and we accordingly find, in the account of each of these voyages along the same portion of the coast, a nomenclature of capes, bays, and islands, almost entirely different from that contained in the narratives of all the other voyages.
The expedition of discovery, made, by order of Cortés, to the coasts north-west of Mexico, in 1532, was conducted by his kinsman, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, who sailed from Tehuantepec in July of that year, with two vessels, one commanded by himself, the other by Juan de Mazuela. In the instructions drawn up by Cortés, of which a copy has been preserved, Mendoza was directed to sail within sight of the coast, and, at all convenient places, to land, and
communicate with the natives, whom he was to conciliate by every means in his power. Should he find a country which seemed to be rich, or inhabited by civilized persons, he was immediately to return, or to send back one of his vessels, with the news.* Hurtado de Mendoza accordingly proceeded slowly along the shore of the continent, as far north-west as the 27th degree of latitude, where, finding his crew mutinous, he sent back one of his vessels, with the greater part of his men, and continued the voyage, with a smal. crew, in the other. The vessel sent back reached Culiacan River in great distress, and was there deserted by nearly all her men. Her commander then endeavored, with the remainder of his crew, to carry her to Acapulco: but she was stranded at the mouth of the River of Vanderas, near the point now called Cape Corrientes, and all on board, with the exception of three, were put to death by the natives of the country, after which the vessel was seized and plundered by Nuño de Guzman. As to the vessel in which Mendoza continued his voyage, a vague account was received, that she had been thrown on the coast far north, and that all her crew had perished.
Cortés did not receive the news of the loss of the vessel which had been sent back by Hurtado de Mendoza until the middle of the following year; and he then immediately despatched two ships from Tehuantepec, in search of the other vessel, under the command, respectively, of Hernando Grijalva and Diego Becerra. These ships left the port together, on the 30th of September, 1533, but were soon after separated. Grijalva, going far out, discovered a group of islands situated about fifty leagues from the coast, named by him Islands of St. Thomas, (the same now called the Revillagigedo Islands, where he remained until the following spring, and then returned to Acapulco, without having seen any new part of the continent. Becerra, with the other ship, took his course north-westward along the shore of Xalisco, near which his crew mutinied, and he was murdered by the pilot, Fortuño Ximenes. The mutineers, under the command of the pilot, then steered directly west from the main-land, and soon reached a coast not before known, on which they landed, after anchoring their ship in a small bay, near the 230 degree of latitude. There, more than twenty of their number, including Ximenes, were
* Herrera, Decade v. book vii. — Manuscript letters and memorials from Cortés to the emperor, in 1539 and 1540; and from Nuño de Guzman, in 1535 and 1540.