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SPANISH DISCOVERIES AND CONQUESTS.
South Sea.–First Voyage round the World.-Ponce de Leon.-Florida,
Discovery and Attempt to settle.-Vasquez de Ayllon.—Conquest of
In a few years the Spaniards subdued and colonized the CHAP most important islands of the West Indies. The poor timid natives were either murdered or reduced to slavery. 1506. Unheard-of cruelties in a short time wasted, and almost exterminated the entire race.
Not satisfied with the possession of these islands, the Spaniards made further discoveries from time to time around the Gulf of Mexico; they explored the southern part of the peninsula of Yucatan; they planted a colony on the narrow Isthmus of Darien. Until this time, no 1510. settlement had been made on the Western Continent.
When in search of gold, Nunez de Balboa, the governor of this colony, made an exploring tour into the interior, he ascended a high mountain, and from its top his eyes were greeted with the sight of a vast expanse of water extending away to the south, as far as the eye could reach. He called it the South Sea. But seven years later, Magel- 1520. lan, a Portuguese mariner in the service of Spain, passed through the dangerous and stormy Straits which bear his name ; and sailing out into the great field of waters, found it so calm, so free from storms, that he called it the Pacific or peaceful ocean. Magellan died on the voyage, but his ship reached the coast of Asia, and thence returned home
CHAP. to Spain by the Cape of Good Hope, thus realizing the
vision of Columbus, that the world was a globe, and could 1512. be sailed round.
Juan Ponce de Leon, a former governor of Porto Rico, fitted out at his own expense three ships to make a voyage of discovery. He had heard from the natives of Porto Rico that somewhere in the Bahama Islands, was a fountain that would restore to the vigor of youth all those who should drink of its waters or bathe in its stream. This absurd story many of the Spaniards believed, and none more firmly than De Leon. He was an old man, and anxious to renew his youthful pleasures ; with eager hopes he hastened in search of the marvellous fountain.
He did not find it, but in coasting along to the west of the islands, he came in sight of an unknown country. It appeared to bloors with flowers, and to be covered with magnificent forests. As this country was first seen on Easter Sunday, which the Spaniards call Pascua Florida, he named it Florida. With great difficulty he landed to the north of where St. Augustine now stands, and took formal possession of the country in the name of the Spanish sovereign. He sailed to the south along the unknown and dangerous coast, around the extreme point, Cape Florida, and to the south-west among the Tortugas islands. He received for his services the honor of being appointed Gov ernor of Florida by the King of Spain,-rather an expensive honor, being based on the condition that he should colonize the country.
A year or two afterward, he attempted to plant a colony, but found the natives exceedingly hostile. They attacked him and his men with great fury-many were killed, the rest were forced to flee to their ships, and Ponce de Leon himself was mortally wounded. He had been a soldier of Spain ; a companion of Columbus on his second voyage ; had been governor of Porto Rico, where he had oppressed the natives with great cruelty; he had sought
VASQUEZ DE AYLLON.
an exemption from the ills of old age ; had attempted to CHAP. found a colony and gain the immortality of fame. But he returned to Cuba to die, without planting his colony or 1512. drinking of the fountain of youth.
About this time was made the first attempt to obtain Indians from the Continent as slaves to work in the mines and on the plantations of Hispaniola or St. Domingo. The ignominy of this attempt belongs to a company of seven men, the most distinguished of whom was Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon. They went first to the Bahama Islands, from these they passed to the coast of the present State of South Carolina, landing at or near St. Helena Sound.
The natives of this region knew not as yet what they had to fear from Europeans. They were, however, shy at first, but after presents had been distributed among them, they received the strangers kindly. They were invited to visit the ships. Curiosity overcame their timidity, and they went on board in crowds. The treacherous Spaniards immediately set sail for St. Domingo, regardless of the sorrows they inflicted upon the victims of their cruelty and avarice. Thus far their plot was successful ; soon how- 1520. ever a storm arose, and one of the ships went down with all on board ; sickness and death carried off many of the captives on the other vessel. Such outrages upon the natives were common; and instead of being condemned and punished, they were commended. Vasquez went to Spain, boasting of his expedition as if it had been praiseworthy. As a reward, he received from the Spanish monarch a commission to conquer the country.
When he had expended his fortune in preparations, he set sail, and landed upon the coast. Bitter wrongs had been inflicted upon the natives, and their spirit was roused. They attacked him with great vigor, killed nearly all his men, and forced him to give up the enterprise. It is said that grief and disappointment hastened the death of Vasquez.
The Spaniards were more successful elsewhere. The
explorers of the west coast of the Gulf had heard of the 1520. famed empire of Mexico and its golden riches. As evi
dence of the truth of these marvellous stories, they exhibited the costly presents given them by the unsuspecting natives. Under the lead of Fernando Cortez, six hundred and seventeen adventurers invaded the empire ; and though they met with the most determined resistance, in the end Spanish arms and skill prevailed. Defeated at
every point, and disheartened at the death of their em 1521. peror, Montezuma, the Mexicans submitted, and their em1821. pire became a province of Spain. Just three hundred
years from that time, the province threw off the Spanish yoke, and became a republic.
Rumor told also of the splendor and wealth of a great empire lying to the south, known as Peru. Pizarro, another daring adventurer, set out from Panama with only one hundred foot soldiers and sixty-seven horsemen to invade and conquer it. After enduring toil and labors almost unparalleled, he succeeded ; and that empire, con
taining millions of inhabitants, wealthy, and quite civilized, 1531. was reduced to a province. Pizarro founded Lima, which
became his capital. He oppressed the natives with great cruelty, and accumulated unbounded wealth drawn from mines of the precious metals, but after a rule of nine years he fell a victim to a conspiracy.
ENGLISH AND FRENCH DISCOVERIES.
John Cabot discovers the American Continent.—Enterprise of his sou Se
bastian.-Voyages of Verrazzani and Cartier.-Attempts at Settlement.
Whilst these discoveries, conquests, and settlements CHAP. were in progress in the South, a series of discoveries was going on in the North.
1497. John Cabot, a native of Venice, residing, as a merchant, in Bristol, in the West of England, made application to Henry VII., the reigning sovereign, for permission to go cn a voyage of discovery. The king gave to Cabot and his three sons a patent, or commission, granting them certain privileges. This is said to be the most ancient state paper of England relating to America.
As Henry VII. was proverbially prudent in money matters, he would not aid the Cabots by sharing with them the expense of the expedition, but he was careful to bind them to land, on their return, at the port of Bristol, and pay him one-fifth part of the profits of their trade. They were, in the name of the king, to take possession of all the territories they should discover, and to have the exclusive privilege of trading to them.
Bristol, at this time, was the greatest commercial town in the West of England, and had trained up multitudes of hardy seamen. These seamen had become habituated to the storms of the ocean, by battling tempests in the Northern seas around Iceland, in their yearly fishing excursions. It is quite probable they had there heard the