Page images
PDF
EPUB

erty and honors, in the vast and valuable dominions which he

1540. had rendered subject to the crown of Castile.

* Fernando de Alarcon, the commander of the naval forces sent by Mendoza for the conquest of Cibola, sailed from the harbor of Santiago, on the west coast of Mexico, with two ships of war, and May ? advanced northward along that coast to the extremity of the Californian gulf, where he found the entrance of a large and rapid river. Having embarked, with a portion of his crew, in boats, Aug. 26. upon this river, to which he gave the name of Nuestra Señora de Buena Guia, (Our Lady of Safe, Conduct,) he ascended one of its branches, (probably that now called the Colorado,) to the distance of eighty leagues from its mouth. Throughout this whole distance he found the stream broad and rapid, and the country on either side rich and thickly peopled, though occupied only by savages. In reply to the inquiries made by him respecting Coro nado's party, and the rich territories of which they wer in search, he received a number of confused stories of kingdoms abounding in gold and precious stones, and inhabited by civilized nations ; of rivers filled with crocodiles; of droves of buffaloes; of enchanters, and other wonderful or remarkable objects. At the extremity of his course up the river, he received what he considered definite information respecting Cibola, and was even assured that he might reach that country by a march of ten days into the interior. He, however, suspected some treachery on the part of those who gave such assurances; and fearing lest he should be cut off in case he proceeded farther onwards, he descended the river to his ships, and returned to Mexico before the end of the year. His report to the Viceroy displays great self-conceit, and violent animosity against Cortes and Ulloa. Mendoza was, however, so little satisfied with his conduct, that he was, immediately after his return, dismissed from the service.

The land forces sent under Coronado exhibited much greater perseverance in their search for the rich kingdoms believed to be situated in the northwestern part of America. According to the letter of their general,t who appears to have been a person of sober and resolute character, this body of soldiers and priests, after leaving Culiacan, followed the route described by the two friars, April de and found the forests and deserts mentioned in their narrative. Having toiled through these dreary regions, however, they had ample cause to distrust the other statements of the reverend discoverers. They indeed reached a country called Cibola, situa- August. ted nearly in the position assigned by the missionaries to their golden land; but they there saw before them only a half-cultivated territory, thinly inhabited by a people not absolutely barbarous, but yet entirely destitute of that wealth and refinement which had been attributed to them in the reports made to the Viceroy. The magnificent cities were small Indian villages, the

* Letter of Alarcon to the Viceroy, in Ramusio, vol. iii, page 303; and in Hakluyt, vol. iii, page 505. + Ramusio, vol. iii, page 300; Hakluyt, vol. iii, page 447.

1510. largest not containing more than two hundred houses; and the

immense quantities of precious metals and stones dwindled down into “a few turquoises, and some little gold and silver, supposed to be good.In fine, as Coronado says in his despatch written from Cibola, the reverend father provincial had told the truth in nothing which he said respecting kingdoms, provinces, and cities, in this region ; for we have found all quite the contrary.

The Spaniards, although they were thus disappointed in their hopes of plunder, yet did not like to return empty-handed to Mexico, and petitioned their leader to allow them to settle in Cibola, which was a pleasant and agreeable country. To this request, however, Coronado would not assent; and he could only be prevailed on to continue the march northward for some time longer, in search of other rich countries, which were said by the people of Cibola to lie in that direction. Of the remainder of their journey after quitting Cibola, we have a very imperfect account. It appears that they rambled for two years through the region between the Pacific and the great dividing chain of mountains, deriving their subsistence chiefly from the flesh of the buffaloes,

which were there found in large numbers. The northern limit 1541. of their wanderings was a country called by them Quivira, near

the ocean, and under the 40th degree of latitude, inhabited by a kind and intelligent people, from whom the Spaniards learned that the coasts were occasionally visited by ships laden with rich

goods and adorned with gilded images.* With information of 1542. this nature the adventurers returned to Mexico in 1542, to the

great disappointment of Mendoza, who doubtless expected more real results from the labor and expense bestowed by him on the equipment and pay of the body.

Before the return of Coronado's party from the northwestyf the Viceroy had prepared another naval armament, which was to proceed in that direction, from one of the ports on the Pacific, under the command of Pedro de Alvarado, one of the most celebrated heroes of the conquest. But, just as it was about to depart, a rebellion broke out among the Indians of the province of Jalisco; and the forces which had been assembled for the expedition on the ocean were all required to re-establish the Spanish authority in the dis. turbed territories. In the course of the campaign which ensued, Alvarado was killed by a kick from his horse; and the difficulties in Jalisco continuing, Mendoza could not carry into effect his views with regard to the countries north west of Mexico until the following year.

The disturbances in Mexico having beenf at length quieted, two of the vessels which had been prepared for the expedition to the North Pacific were placed under the command of Juan Ro

driguez de Cabrillo, a Portuguese navigator of considerable repJune 27. utation at that day. These vessels sailed together from the port

1541.

1542.

* In this account there is nothing improbable. Japanese vessels have been found upon the north west coasis of America twice since 1814.

Herrera, decade 7, book 2, chapter 11. Herrera, decade 7, book 5, chapter 3.

1542.

of Navidad, in Jalisco; and, after a short passage, reached the hárbor of Santa Cruz, whence they proceeded around Cape San Lu- July 2. cas, in order to explore the west coast of California, which had been discovered two years before by Francisco de Ulloa. Without attempting to trace minutely the progress of Cabrillo along this coast, or to enumerate the various bays, capes, and islands visited by him, scarcely any of which can now be identified, suffice it to say that, by the middle of November, he had advanced Nov. 15. as far north as the 40th degree of latitude; having been, like Ulloa, incessantly opposed by violent northwesterly winds. From this height the Spaniards were driven back to a harbor, which they had before entered and named Port Possession, supposed to be in the small island of San Bernardo, near the main land under the 34th parallel. Here Cabrillo sunk under the fatigues to which he 1543,

Jan. 3. had been subjected, and died, leaving the command of the ships to the pilot, Bartolomé Ferrer, or Ferrelo.

The new commander, being no less enterprising than his predecessor, resolved, if possible, to attain some of the objects of the expedition before returning to Mexico. He accordingly sailed from Port Possession; and, after having been several times driven back, at length, on the 1st of March, he found himself, by obser- March 1. vation, in the 44th degree of latitude. Here the crews of both vessels were suffering from cold, fatigue, and want of proper nourishment; in consequence of which, it was resolved that the attempt to proceed farther northward should be abandoned. Agreeably to this resolution, the navigators directed their course towards the south, and arrived in safety at Navidad on the 14th of April, 1543.

It is not easy, from the accounts which we possess, to ascertain precisely what was the most northern point on the American coast seen by the Spaniards in this expedition. Navarrete, * after examining the journals and other papers relating to the voyage, which are still preserved in the Archives of the Indies, pronounces that the 43d parallel of latitude is to be considered as the northern limit of the discoveries made by Cabrillo and Ferrelo. The same writer has also remarked, that the latitudes assigned in those documents to all the places visited by the ships, which can now be identified, are about a degree and a half too high. Conformably with this observation, it would appear that a promontory, named by Ferrelo the Cape of Risks, (Cabo de Fortunas,) in commemoration of the perils encountered in its vicinity, may be that situated in the latitude of 40 degrees 20 minutes, which afterwards received the name of Cape Mendocino.

While the expeditions thus made under the authority of the 1538 Viceroy Mendoza were in progress, Hernando de Soto and his

1543. band of adventurers were performing their celebrated marchf through the region north of the Mexican Gulf, which was then known by the general name of Florida. Without attempting to

to

* Introduction to the Journal of the Sutil and Mexicana, page 34.

+There are several accounts of this expedition; among whieh, the best known are those by Garcilasso de la Vega, and by an anonymous Portuguese.

1538

to 1543,

delineate the course of their wanderings, suffice it to say that they traversed, in various directions, the vast territories now composing the southern and southwestern States of the American Union, and then descended the Mississippi from a point near the mouth of the Ohio to the Gulf, over which they made their way in boats to Panuco. From the accounts of the few who survived the fatigues and perils of this enterprise, added to those of Alvaro Nuñez and Vasquez de Coronado respecting the countries which they had severally visited, it was considered absolutely certain that neither wealthy nations nor navigable passages between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans were to be found north of Mexico, unless beyond the 40th degree of latitude. Having arrived at this conclusion, the Spaniards desisted from their efforts to explore the northwest division of America, and did not renew them until nearly fifty years afterwards. In the mean time, circumstances had occurred which served to show that the discovery of any means of facilitating the entrance of ships from Europe into the Pacific would be deleterious to the interests of Spain in the New World.

Before the middle of the sixteenth century, the Portuguese had established their dominion over a large portion of the coasts and islands of the East Indies, between which and Europe they were carrying on an extensive and valuable trade by way of the Cape of Good Hope. The Spaniards, in the mean time, viewing with feelings of jealousy and vexation this advancement of the power and wealth of their rivals, had endeavored likewise to obtain a footing in southern Asia, for which purpose naval armaments had been despatched thither from Spain, through the straits of Magellan, and also from the ports of Mexico on the Pacific. These

expeditions had, however, proved unsuccessful. The squadron 1542. sent from Mexico in 1542, under Admiral Villalobos, crossed the

Pacific in safety, and reached the group of islands, since called the Philippines, of which possession was taken for the King of Spain. The forces of Villalobos were, however, soon dispersed,

and none of his vessels returned to Mexico. 1564. In 1564 the Spaniards made another effort to establish them

selves in the East Indies, the issue of which was more fortunate. The Philippine islands were in that year entirely subjugated by Miguel de Legaspi, who had been sent for the purpose with a squadron from the port of Navidad, on the west coast of Mexico; moreover, a discovery was effected during this expedition, which proved highly important, and without which, indeed, the other results would have been of little value. Until that period, no one had ever crossed the Pacific from Asia to America; all who had attempted to make such a voyage having endeavored to sail directly westward, through the part of the ocean lying between the tropics, where the winds blow constantly from eastern points. Three of Legaspi's ships, however, by taking a northeastern course from the Philippines, entered a region of variable winds, and were thus enabled to reach the vicinity of the Californian coast, about the 40th parallel of latitude, from which the prevailing northwesters soon carried them to Mexico.

1564

to 1579.

The Spaniards thus gained-what they had so long desired a position in the East Indies; and all doubts as to the practicability of communication with those countries, by means of the Pacific, were completely dissipated. Various other obstacles to the navigation of that ocean being in like manner removed about the same period, the commercial intercourse between the Spanish provinces in America and in Asia rapidly increased. Large ships sailed regularly from Acapulco, laden with precious metals and European merchandise, for Manilla and Macao, from which places they brought back the silks and spices of the Indies, either for consumption in Mexico, or for transportation to Spain; while an extensive trade in articles no less valuable was carried on be. tween Panama and the ports of Chili and Peru. The voyages made for these purposes were in general long, but comparatively safe; and as the Pacific was for some years free from all intrusion on the part of other nations, little care or cost was bestowed upon the defence of the vessels, or of the towns on the coast.

The ships proceeding from Acapulco to Manilla were carried, by the invariable easterly or trade winds, directly across the ocean, to their port; in returning, they frequently made the land on the northwest coast of America, the most prominent points of which thus became, in the course of time, tolerably well known. The accounts of two or three of these return voyages have been preserved; but the information obtained from them is of little use, in consequence of their want of exactness. In Hakluyt's Collection may be found a letter, * addressed in 1584 to the Viceroy of Mexico, by Francisco Gali, or Gualle, containing a description of his passages from Acapulco to Macao, and thence back to Acapulco; on which letter great stress is laid by Navarrete and other writers, as showing the extent of Spanish discoveries in the North Pacific during the sixteenth century. Gali there relates that he left Macao on the 24th of July, 1584, and, proceeding by the usual northern route, reached the American coast, in sight of which he sailed for a long distance before arriving at Acapulco. Where he first saw the land of America, the letter does not precisely state. After describing his course from the vicinity of Japan, east and east-by-north, he says: “Being by the same course, upon the coast of New Spain, under seven-and-thirty degrees and a half, we passed a very high and fair land, with many trees, wholly without snow, &c. From thence, we ran southeast, southeast-by-south, and southeast-by-east, as we found the wind, to the point called el Cabo de San Lucas, which is the beginning of the land of California on the northwest side, lying under two and twenty degrees, being five hundred leagues distant from Cape Mendocino." No mention is made of any land seen north of 371 degrees; Navarrete, and after him Humboldt, however, insist that Gali reached the vicinity of the American continent, under the parallel of fifty-seven and a half degrees; and that the first land

1584.

* Vol. iii, page 526, of the reprint. The letter is “translated out of Spanish into Dutch, verbatim, by John Huyghen Van Linschoten," and from Dutch inio English.

« PreviousContinue »