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From the accounts of this expedition which have been preserved, it is not easy to determine precisely how far north the American coast was discovered. The most northern point of land mentioned in those accounts is the Cape of Perils, which, though there placed under the 41st parallel, was probably the same soon after called Cape Mendocino, in the latitude of 40 degrees 20 minutes. Other authors, however, whose opinions are entitled to respect, pronounce the 43d parallel to be the northern limit of the discoveries made by the Spaniards in 1543.*
Whilst these expeditions to the north-western parts of America were in progress, Hernando de Soto, and his band of Spanish adventurers, were performing their celebrated march, in quest of mines and plunder, through the regions extending north of the Gulf of Mexico, which were then known by the general name of Florida. Without attempting here to trace the line of their wanderings, suffice it to say, that they traversed, in various directions, the vast territories now composing the Southern and South-Western States of the American Federal Union, and descended the Mississippi in boats, from the vicinity of the mouth of the Arkansas to the Mexican Gulf, on which they continued their voyage, along the coast, to Panuco. From the accounts of the few who survived the toils and perils of that memorable enterprise, taken together with those collected by Cabeza-Vaca and Vazquez de Coronado, concerning the territories which they had respectively visited, it was considered certain that neither wealthy nations, nor navigable passages of communication between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, were to be found north of Mexico, unless beyond the 40th parallel of latitude.
The Spaniards, having arrived at these conclusions, for some time desisted from attempting to explore the north-western section of the continent; and circumstances, meanwhile, occurred, which impressed their government with the belief that the discovery of any passage facilitating the entrance of European vessels into the Pacific, would be deleterious to the power and interests of Spain in the New World.
• Introduction to the Journal of Galiano and Valdes, p. 35. See, also, Burney's History of Voyages in the Pacific, vol. i. p. 220.
1543 TO 1606.
The Spaniards conquer the Philippine Islands, and establish a direct Trade across the
Pacific, between Asia and America - Measures of the Spanish Government to prevent other European Nations from settling or trading in America — These Measures resisted by the English, the French, and the Dutch — Free Traders and Freebooters infest the West Indies — First Voyages of the English in the Pacific Voyages of Drake and Cavendish - Endeavors of the English to discover a NorthWest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific — False Reports of the Discovery of such Passages — Supposed Voyages of Urdaneta, Maldonado, and Fonté — Voyage of Juan de Fuca – Expeditions of Sebastian Vizcaino - Supposed Discovery of a great River in North-West America.
Whilst the Spaniards were thus extending their dominion in the New World, the Portuguese were daily acquiring advantages in India, with which they carried on a profitable trade, by means of their ships sailing around the Cape of Good Hope. The Spaniards, viewing this increase of the power of their rivals with jealousy and hatred, made many endeavors, likewise, to form establishments in Asia ; but all their expeditions for that purpose before the middle of the sixteenth century, terminated disastrously. The armaments sent from Spain to India under Loyasa, in 1525, and from Mexico, under Saavedra, in the ensuing year, were entirely ineffective. In 1542, Ruy Lopez de Villalobos crossed the Pacific with a large squadron from Mexico, and took possession of the Philippine Islands for his sovereign; but his forces were soon after dispersed, and none of his vessels returned either to Europe or to America.
In 1564, the Spaniards made another attempt to gain a footing in the East Indies, which was successful. The Philippine Islands were in that year subjugated by Miguel de Legazpi, who had been despatched from Mexico with a small squadron for the purpose; and a discovery was also made in the course of this expedition, without which the conquest would have been of no value. Before that period, no European had ever crossed the Pacific from Asia to America; all who had endeavored to make such a voyage having confined themselves to the part of the ocean between the tropics where the winds blow constantly from eastern points. Three of Legazpi’s vessels, however, under the direction of Andres de Urdaneta, a friar, who had in early life accompanied Magellan in his expedition, and had subsequently acquired great reputation as a navigator, by taking a northward course from the Philippine Islands, entered a region of variable winds, near the 40th parallel of latitude, and were thus enabled to reach the coast of California, along which the prevailing north-westers carried them speedily to Mexico.
The Spaniards thus gained, what they had so long coveted, a position in the East Indies; and the practicability of communicating, by way of the Pacific, between Asia and America, was placed beyond a doubt. At the same time, also, Juan Fernandes discovered the mode of navigating between places on the west coast of South America, by standing out obliquely to a distance from the continent; and other improvements of a similar kind having been moreover introduced, the Spanish commerce on the Pacific soon became important. Large ships, called galleons, sailed annually from Acapulco to Manilla, in the Philippine Islands, and to Macao, in China, laden with precious metals and European merchandise, in return for which they brought back silks, spices, and porcelain, for consumption in America, or for transportation over the Atlantic to Europe ; while an extensive trade in articles equally valuable was carried on between Panama and the various ports of Peru and Chili. These voyages on the Pacific were usually long, but comparatively safe, at least so far as regards exemption from injury by winds and waves, though the crews of the vessels often suffered dreadfully from scurvy occasioned by filth and want of good water and provisions ; * and, as that ocean remained for some years undisturbed by the presence of enemies of Spain, little care or cost was bestowed upon the defence, either of the vessels or of the towns on the coasts.
The galleons, proceeding from Mexico to India, were wafted, by the invariable easterly or trade winds, directly across the ocean, in about three months ; in the return voyage, they often occupied more than double that time, and they always made the west coast of California, the principal points on which thus became tolerably well known before the end of the sixteenth century. Accounts of
For accounts of the miseries of a voyage from Manilla to Acapulco, in 1697, see Gemelli Carreri's narrative, in the fourth volume of Churchill's collection of voyages, which, if not true, is very like truth.
some of these voyages have been preserved, but they are of little value at present, from their want of precision. One of them is a letter from Francisco Gali, addressed to the viceroy of Mexico, describing his passage from Macao to Acapulco, in 1584, in the course of which he sailed along the west coast of America, from the latitude of thirty-seven and a half degrees southward to Mexico.* It has, however, been maintained, on the evidence of papers found in the archives of the Indies, that Gali arrived on that coast in the latitude of fifty-seven and a half degrees, and is therefore to be considered as the discoverer of the whole shore between that parallel and the forty-third: but this assertion is supported by no evidence sufficient to overthrow the express statement of the navigator in his letter, the genuineness of which is not denied; and Gali, moreover, there declares that the land first seen by him was “very high and fair, and wholly without snow," which could not have been the case with regard to the north-west coast of America, under the parallel of fifty-seven and a half degrees, in the middle of October. In 1595, Sebastian Cermenon, in the ship San Augustin, on his way from Manilla to Acapulco, examined the same coasts, by order of the viceroy of Mexico, in search of some harbor in which the galleons might take refuge, and make repairs, or obtain water; but nothing has been preserved respecting his voyage, except that his ship was lost near the Bay of San Francisco, south of Cape Mendocino.
The Spanish government was, in the mean time, engaged in devising, and applying to its dominions in the New World, those measures of restriction and exclusion, which were pursued so rigidly, and with so little variation, during the whole period of its supremacy in the American continent. The great object of this system was simply to secure to the monarch and people of Spain the entire enjoyment of all the advantages which were supposed to be derivable from those dominions, consistently with the perpetual maintenance of absolute authority over them; and, for this object, it
* In Hakluyt, vol. iii. p. 526, the letter from Gali to the viceroy is given at length, as “translated out of the original Spanish into Dutch, by John Huyghen Van Linschoten, and out of Dụtch into English.” In Linschoten, as in Hakluyt, thirtyseven and a half degrees is given as the northernmost part of the coast seen by Gali.
+ See the note in the Introduction to the Journal of Galiano and Valdes, at page 46, in which two letters from the viceroy of Mexico to the king of Spain, relative to the voyage of Gali, are mentioned; but the account there given differs in nothing, except as to the latitude, from that in the letter published by Linschoten and Hakluyt. Humboldt adopts the opinion of the author of the Introduction, without, however, adding any information or reasoning on the subject.
was deemed expedient not only to exclude the subjects of other European states from the territories claimed by Spain, - that is, from the whole of the New World except Brazil, - but also to prevent the rapid development of the resources of the Spanish provinces themselves.* In these views the Spaniards have not been singular; but no other power, in modern times, has employed measures so extreme in fulfilling them. Thus no Spaniard could emigrate to America, no new settlement could be formed there, and no new country or sea could be explored, without the express permission of the sovereign; and, when expeditions for discovery were made, the results were often concealed, or tardily and imperfectly promulgated. No article could be cultivated or manufactured for commerce in America, which could be imported from Spain; and no intercourse could be carried on between the different great divisions of those possessions, or between either of them and the mother country, except in vessels belonging to or specially licensed by the government, or otherwise under its immediate supervision. With the rest of the world, the Spanish Americans could have no correspondence; and all foreigners were prohibited, under pain of death, from touching the territories claimed by Spain, and even from navigating the seas in their vicinity. “Whoever," says Hakluyt, at the end of the sixteenth century, “is conversant with the Portugal and Spanish writers, shall find that they account all other nations for pirates,
* The Spanish dominions in America, together with the Canary and the Philippine Islands, formed one empire, called the Indies, of which the king of Spain was, ez officio, the sovereign. The territories were divided into great sections, or kingdoms, each entirely independent of the others, except in certain prescribed contingencies, the general direction of the whole being committed to the Supreme Council of the Indies, a special ministry, residing in the palace of the king, in whose name all its orders were issued. The larger kingdoms of the Indies were under the immediate government of viceroys, representing the authority and person of the sovereign; the others were governed by captains-general, or by presidents, whose powers were more limited. All these high officers were, however, kept in check by the courts called Audiencias, resembling the Supreme Council in their organization and attributes, one or two of which were established in each kingdom. The commerce of those countries was under the superintendence of a board, called the House of Contracts of the Indies, sitting at Seville, to and from which port all expeditions, from and to America, were, for a long time, obliged to pass.
The laws and regulations of the Supreme Council were, from time to time, revised; and those which were to remain in force were published in a collection entitled the Recopilacion de Leyes de Indias, (Compilation of Laws of the Indies,) containing the rules for the conduct of all the officers of the government. The provisions of this celebrated code are, in general, remarkable for their justice and humanity; the enforcement of them, being, however, left to those who had no direct interest in the prosperity and advancement of the country, was most shamefully neglected.