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History of the Conquest of New Spain. Hernando
Cortes has the Command of the Erpedition. Ve-
Spain. Is neglected. Dies.
the armament destined to attempt the conquest of that rich country which he had discovered almost complete. Not only ambition but avarice had urged Velasquez to hasten his preparations ; and having such a prospect of gratifying both, he
had advanced considerable sums out of his private fortune towards defraying the expense of the expedition. He exerted his influence as governor in engaging the most distinguished persons in the colony to undertake the service. A number of soldiers were found eager to embark in any daring enterprise, but it was not so easy to find a person qualified to take the command in an expedition of such great importance. At length, after much deliberation, Hernando Cartes was pitched on for the purpose. He had not hitherto acted in high command, but had displayed such qualities in several scenes of difficulty and danger as raised universal expectation, and turned the eyes of his countrymen towards him, as one capable of performing great things. Neither the rank nor fortune of Cortes was such as to create sentiments of jea. lousy in the breast of Velasquez. He received his commission with gratitude, and immediately erected his standard before his own house. He soon after set sail from St. Jago de Cuba, and proceeded to Trinidad, a small settlement on the same side of the island, where he was joined by a multitude of adventurers, and received a supply of provisions and military stores. From Trinidad he sailed for the Havanna, in order that he might raise more soldiers, and complete the victualling of his fleet. While he was at this place Velasquez formed a plan of taking the command out of the lands of Cortes, of whom he became violently jealous. Cortes, forewarned of his danger, took precautions for his own' safety. He appealed to his troops, whether the honour of their general, and their sanguine hopes of wealth and glory, ought to be sacrificed to the illiberal insinuations and groundless jealousies of Velasquez. With one voice they en
treated that he would not abandon the important station to which he had so good a title, offering, at the same time, to shed in his behalf the last drop of their blood. Cortes was easily induced to comply with what he himself so ardently wished. He swore that he would never desert soldiers who had given him such a signal proof of their attachment, and prornised instantly to conduct them to that rich country, which had been so long the object of their thoughts and wishes. This declaration was received with transports of military applause, accompanied with imprecations against all who should presume to call in question the jurisdiction of their general, or to obstruct the execution of his designs.
With a slender and ill-provided train did Cortes set sail, to make war upon a monarch whose dominions were more extensive than all the kingdoms subject to the Spanish crown. As religious enthusiasm always mingled with the spirit of adventure in the New World, and united with avarice in prompting the Spaniards to all their enterprises, a large cross was displayed in their standards, with this inscription : "Let us follow the cross, for under this sign we shall conquer.” As Cortes had determined to touch at every place which Grijalva had visited, he steered directly towards the island of Cozumel ; there he had the good fortune to redeem Jerome de Aguilar, a Spaniard, who had been eight years a prisoner among the Indians, and who proved hereafter extremely useful as an interpreter. From Cozumel, Cortes proceeded to the river Tabasco; but after repeated endeavours to conciliate the good-will of the inhabitants, he was constrained to have recourse to violence. The forces of the enemy were numerous ; and though they ad
vanced with extraordinary courage, they were routed with great slaughter in several successive actions. The loss which they sustained, and the terror excited by the destructive effect of the firearms, and the dreadful appearance, of the horses, humbled their fierce spirits, and induced them to sue for peace. They acknowledged the king of Castile as their sovereign, and granted Cortes a supply of provisions, with a present of cotton garments, some gold, and twenty female slaves.
Cortes continued his course to the westward, but could discover no proper place for landing until he arrived at St. Juan de Ulua, by the inhabitants of which he was addressed in a most respectful manner, but in a language altogether unknown to Aguilar. Cortes was in the utmost perplexity and distress at an event of which he instantly foresaw the consequences : a fortunate accident, however, extricated him. One of the female slaves whom he had received from the cazique of Tabasco perfectly understood the Mexican language, and explained what had been said in the Yucatan tongue, with which Aguilar was acquainted. This woman, known afterwards by the name of Donna Marina, was born in a Mexican province, and having been sold as a slave in the early part of her life, fell into the hands of the Tabascans, and had resided long enough among them to acquire their language, without losing the use of her own. From her Cortes learned that the two persons whom he had received on board his ship were deputies from Teutile and Pilpatoe, officers entrusted with the government of that province by a great monarch whom they called Montezuma, and that they were sent to inquire what his intentions were in visiting their coast, and VOL. XXIV.
to offer him what assistance he might need, in order to continue his voyage. Cortes, struck with the appearance of those people as well as the tenor of the message, assured them that he approached their country with the most friendly sentiments, and came to propose matters of great importance to the welfare of their prince and his kingdom, which he would unfold more fully in person to the governor and general. Next morning he landed his troops, his horses and artillery. The natives, instead of opposing the entrance of these fatal guests into their country, assisted themi in all their operations with an alacrity.of which they had soon reason to repent. A. D.
When the Mexican ministers entered the
Spanish camp, Cortes réceived them with 1519.
much formal ceremony, assuring them that his business with the monarch was of so high importance, that he could impart it to none but the sovereign himself. This they knew would be extremely disagreeable to Montezuma : in hopes therefore of being able to dissuade the Spaniards from their purpose, they brought a great quantity of cotton cloth, plumes of various colours, and ornaments of gold and silver to a considerable value. The display of these produced a very different effect from what the Mexicans intended. Cortes insisted upon a personal interview with their sovereign, which they endeavoured by every means in their power to prevent. During this interview, some painters in the train of the Mexican chiefs had been diligently employed in delineating, upon white cotton cloths, figures of the ships, horses, artillery, soldiers, and whatever else attracted their eyes as singular. As soon as Cortes knew that these pictures were to be sent to Montezuma, he resolved to render the re