Chapter II 
HERNANDO CORTES- HIS EARLY LIFE- VISITS THE NEW WORLD-
HIS RESIDENCE IN CUBA- DIFFICULTIES WITH VELASQUEZ-
ARMADA INTRUSTED TO CORTES
HERNANDO CORTES was born at Medellin, a town in the south-east
corner of Estremadura, in 1485. He came of an ancient and
respectable family; and historians have gratified the national
vanity by tracing it up to the Lombard kings, whose descendants
crossed the Pyrenees, and established themselves in Aragon under the
Gothic monarchy. This royal genealogy was not found out till Cortes
had acquired a name which would confer distinction on any descent,
however noble. His father, Martin Cortes de Monroy, was a captain of
infantry, in moderate circumstances, but a man of unblemished
honour; and both he and his wife, Dona Catalina Pizarro Altamirano,
appear to have been much regarded for their excellent qualities.
In his infancy Cortes is said to have had a feeble constitution,
which strengthened as he grew older. At fourteen, he was sent to
Salamanca, as his father, who conceived great hopes from his quick and
showy parts, proposed to educate him for the law, a profession which
held out better inducements to the young aspirant than any other.
The son, however, did not conform to these views. He showed little
fondness for books, and after loitering away two years at college,
returned home, to the great chagrin of his parents. Yet his time had
not been wholly misspent, since he had laid up a little store of
Latin, and learned to write good prose, and even verses "of some
estimation, considering"- as an old writer quaintly remarks- "Cortes
as the author." He now passed his days in the idle, unprofitable
manner of one who, too wilful to be guided by others, proposes no
object to himself. His buoyant spirits were continually breaking out
in troublesome frolics and capricious humours, quite at variance
with the orderly habits of his father's. household. He showed a
particular inclination for the military profession, or rather for
the life of adventure to which in those days it was sure to lead.
And when, at the age of seventeen, he proposed to enrol himself
under the banners of the Great Captain, his parents, probably thinking
a life of hardship and hazard abroad preferable to one of idleness
at home, made no objection.
The youthful cavalier, however, hesitated whether to seek his
fortunes under that victorious chief, or in the New World, where
gold as well as glory was to be won, and where the very dangers had
a mystery and romance in them inexpressibly fascinating to a
youthful fancy. It was in this direction, accordingly, that the hot
spirits of that day found a vent, especially from that part of the
country where Cortes lived, the neighbourhood of Seville and Cadiz,
the focus of nautical enterprise. He decided on this latter course,
and an opportunity offered in the splendid armament fitted out under
Don Nicolas de Ovando, successor to Columbus. An unlucky accident
defeated the purpose of Cortes.
As he was scaling a high wall, one night, which gave him access to
the apartment of a lady with whom he was engaged in an intrigue, the
stones gave way, and he was thrown down with much violence and
buried under the ruins. A severe contusion, though attended with no
other serious consequences, confined him to his bed till after the
departure of the fleet.
Two years longer he remained at home, profiting little, as it
would seem, from the lesson he had received. At length he availed
himself of another opportunity presented by the departure of a small
squadron of vessels bound to the Indian islands. He was nineteen years
of age when he bade adieu to his native shores in 1504,- the same year
in which Spain lost the best and greatest in her long line of princes,
Isabella the Catholic.
Immediately on landing, Cortes repaired to the house of the
governor, to whom he had been personally known in Spain. Ovando was
absent on an expedition into the interior, but the young man was
kindly received by the secretary, who assured him there would be no
doubt of his obtaining a liberal grant of land to settle on. "But I
came to get gold," replied Cortes, "not to till the soil like a
On the governor's return, Cortes consented to give up his roving
thoughts, at least for a time, as the other laboured to convince him
that he would be more likely to realise his wishes from the slow,
indeed, but sure, returns of husbandry, where the soil and the
labourers were a free gift to the planter, than by taking his chance
in the lottery of adventure, in which there were so many blanks to a
prize. He accordingly received a grant of land, with a repartimiento
of Indians, and was appointed notary of the town or settlement of
Agua. His graver pursuits, however, did not prevent his indulgence
of the amorous propensities which belong to the sunny clime where he
was born; and this frequently involved him in affairs of honour,
from which, though an expert swordsman, he carried away sears that
accompanied him to his grave. He occasionally, moreover, found the
means of breaking up the monotony of his way of life by engaging in
the military expeditions which, under the command of Ovando's
lieutenant, Diego Velasquez, were employed to suppress the
insurrections of the natives. In this school the young adventurer
first studied the wild tactics of Indian warfare; he became familiar
with toil and danger, and with those deeds of cruelty which have too
often, alas! stained the bright scutcheons of the Castilian chivalry
in the New World. He was only prevented by illness- a most fortunate
one, on this occasion,- from embarking in Nicuessa's expedition, which
furnished a tale of woe, not often matched in the annals of Spanish
discovery. Providence reserved him for higher ends.
At length, in 1511, when Velasquez undertook the conquest of Cuba,
Cortes willingly abandoned his quiet life for the stirring scenes
there opened, and took part in the expedition. He displayed throughout
the invasion an activity and courage that won him the approbation of
the commander; while his free and cordial manners, his good humour,
and lively sallies of wit made him the favourite of the soldiers.
"He gave little evidence," says a contemporary, "of the great
qualities which he afterwards showed." It is probable these
qualities were not known to himself; while to a common observer his
careless manners and jocund repartees might well seem incompatible
with anything serious or profound; as the real depth of the current is
not suspected under the light play and sunny sparkling of the surface.
After the reduction of the island, Cortes seems to have been
held in great favour by Velasquez, now appointed its governor.
According to Las Casas, he was made one of his secretaries. He still
retained the same fondness for gallantry, for which his handsome
person afforded obvious advantages, but which had more than once
brought him into trouble in earlier life. Among the families who had
taken up their residence in Cuba was one of the name of Xuarez, from
Granada in Old Spain. It consisted of a brother, and four sisters
remarkable for their beauty. With one of them, named Catalina, the
susceptible heart of the young soldier became enamoured. How far the
intimacy was carried is not quite certain. But it appears he gave
his promise to marry her,- a promise which, when the time came, and
reason, it may be, had got the better of passion, he showed no
alacrity in keeping. He resisted, indeed, all remonstrances to this
effect from the lady's family, backed by the governor, and somewhat
sharpened, no doubt, in the latter by the particular interest he
took in one of the fair sisters, who is said not to have repaid it
Whether the rebuke of Velasquez, or some other cause of disgust,
rankled in the breast of Cortes, he now became cold toward his patron,
and connected himself with a disaffected party tolerably numerous in
the island. They were in the habit of meeting at his house and
brooding over their causes of discontent, chiefly founded, it would
appear, on what they conceived an ill requital of their services in
the distribution of lands and offices. It may well be imagined, that
it could have been no easy task for the ruler of one of these
colonies, however discreet and well intentioned, to satisfy the
indefinite cravings of speculators and adventurers, who swarmed,
like so many famished harpies, in the track of discovery in the New
The malcontents determined to lay their grievances before the
higher authorities in Hispaniola, from whom Velasquez had received his
commission. The voyage was one of some hazard, as it was to be made in
an open boat, across an arm of the sea, eighteen leagues wide; and
they fixed on Cortes, with whose fearless spirit they were well
acquainted, as the fittest man to undertake it. The conspiracy got
wind, and came to the governor's ears before the departure of the
envoy, whom he instantly caused to be seized, loaded with fetters, and
placed in strict confinement. It is even said, he would have hung him,
but for the interposition of his friends.
Cortes did not long remain in durance. He contrived to throw
back one of the bolts of his fetters; and, after extricating his
limbs, succeeded in forcing open a window with the irons so as to
admit of his escape. He was lodged on the second floor of the
building, and was able to let himself down to the pavement without
injury, and unobserved. He then made the best of his way to a
neighbouring church, where he claimed the privilege of sanctuary.
Velasquez, though incensed at his escape, was afraid to violate
the sanctity of the place by employing force. But he stationed a guard
in the neighbourhood, with orders to seize the fugitive, if he
should forget himself so far as to leave the sanctuary. In a few
days this happened. As Cortes was carelessly standing without the
walls in front of the building, an alguacil suddenly sprung on him
from behind and pinioned his arms, while others rushed in and
secured him. This man, whose name was Juan Escudero, was afterwards
hung by Cortes for some offence in New Spain.
The unlucky prisoner was again put in irons, and carried on
board a vessel to sail the next morning for Hispaniola, there to
undergo his trial. Fortune favoured him once more. He succeeded
after much difficulty and no little pain, in passing his feet
through the rings which shackled them. He then came cautiously on
deck, and, covered by the darkness of the night, stole quietly down
the side of the ship into a boat that lay floating below. He pushed
off from the vessel with as little noise as possible. As he drew
near the shore, the stream became rapid and turbulent. He hesitated to
trust his boat to it; and, as he was an excellent swimmer, prepared to
breast it himself, and boldly plunged into the water. The current
was strong, but the arm of a man struggling for life was stronger; and
after buffeting the waves till he was nearly exhausted, he succeeded
in gaining a landing; when he sought refuge in the same sanctuary
which had protected him before. The facility with which Cortes a
second time effected his escape, may lead one to doubt the fidelity of
his guards; who perhaps looked on him as the victim of persecution,
and felt the influence of those popular manners which seem to have
gained him friends in every society into which he was thrown.
For some reason not explained,- perhaps from policy,- he now
relinquished his objections to the marriage with Catalina Xuarez. He
thus secured the good offices of her family. Soon afterwards the
governor himself relented, and became reconciled to his unfortunate
enemy. A strange story is told in connection with this event. It is
said, his proud spirit refused to accept the proffers of
reconciliation made him by Velasquez; and that one evening, leaving
the sanctuary, he presented himself unexpectedly before the latter
in his own quarters, when on a military excursion at some distance
from the capital. The governor, startled by the sudden apparition of
his enemy completely armed before him, with some dismay inquired the
meaning of it. Cortes answered by insisting on a full explanation of
his previous conduct. After some hot discussion the interview
terminated amicably; the parties embraced, and, when a messenger
arrived to announce the escape of Cortes, he found him in the
apartments of his Excellency, where, having retired to rest, both were
actually sleeping in the same bed! The anecdote is repeated without
distrust by more than one biographer of Cortes. It is not very
probable, however, that a haughty irascible man like Velasquez
should have given such uncommon proofs of condescension and
familiarity to one, so far beneath him in station, with whom he had
been so recently in deadly feud; nor, on the other hand, that Cortes
should have had the silly temerity to brave the lion in his den, where
a single nod would have sent him to the gibbet,- and that too with
as little compunction or fear of consequences as would have attended
the execution of an Indian slave.
The reconciliation with the governor, however brought about, was
permanent. Cortes, though not re-established in the office of
secretary, received a liberal repartimiento of Indians, and an ample
territory in the neighbourhood of St. Jago, of which he was soon after
made alcalde. He now lived almost wholly on his estate, devoting
himself to agriculture, with more zeal than formerly. He stocked his
plantation with different kinds of cattle, some of which were first
introduced by him into Cuba. He wrought, also, the gold mines which
fell to his share, and which in this island promised better returns
than those in Hispaniola. By this course of industry he found
himself in a few years master of some two or three thousand
castellanos, a large sum for one in his situation. "God, who alone
knows at what cost of Indian lives it was obtained," exclaims Las
Casas, "will take account of it!" His days glided smoothly away in
these tranquil pursuits, and in the society of his beautiful wife,
who, however ineligible as a connection, from the inferiority of her
condition, appears to have fulfilled all the relations of a faithful
and affectionate partner. Indeed, he was often heard to say at this
time, as the good bishop above quoted remarks, "that he lived as
happily with her as if she had been the daughter of a duchess."
Fortune gave him the means in after life of verifying the truth of his
Such was the state of things, when Alvarado returned with the
tidings of Grijalva's discoveries, and the rich fruits of his
traffic with the natives. The news spread like wildfire throughout the
island; for all saw in it the promise of more important results than
any hitherto obtained. The governor, as already noticed, resolved to
follow up the track of discovery with a more considerable armament;
and he looked around for a proper person to share the expense of it,
and to take the command.
Several hidalgos presented themselves, whom, from want of proper
qualifications, or from his distrust of their assuming an independence
of their employer, he one after another rejected. There were two
persons in St. Jago in whom he placed great confidence,- Amador de
Lares, the contador, or royal treasurer, and his own secretary, Andres
de Duero. Cortes was also in close intimacy with both these persons;
and he availed himself of it to prevail on them to recommend him as
a suitable person to be intrusted with the expedition. It is said,
he reinforced the proposal by promising a liberal share of the
proceeds of it. However this may be, the parties urged his selection
by the governor with all the eloquence of which they were capable.
That officer had had ample experience of the capacity and courage of
the candidate. He knew, too, that he had acquired a fortune which
would enable him to co-operate materially in fitting out the armament.
His popularity in the island would speedily attract followers to his
standard. All past animosities had long since been buried in oblivion,
and the confidence he was now to repose in him would insure his
fidelity and gratitude. He lent a willing ear, therefore, to the
recommendation of his counsellors, and, sending for Cortes,
announced his purpose of making him captaingeneral of the armada.
Cortes had now attained the object of his wishes,- the object
for which his soul had panted, ever since he had set foot in the New
World. He was no longer to be condemned to a life of mercenary
drudgery; nor to be cooped up within the precincts of a petty
island; but he was to be placed on a new and independent theatre of
action, and a boundless perspective was opened to his view, which
might satisfy not merely the wildest cravings of avarice, but, to a
bold aspiring spirit like his, the far more important cravings of
ambition. He fully appreciated the importance of the late discoveries,
and read in them the existence of the great empire in the far West,
dark hints of which had floated from time to time in the islands,
and of which more certain glimpses had been caught by those who had
reached the continent. This was the country intimated to the "Great
Admiral" in his visit to Honduras in 1502, and which he might have
reached, had he held on a northern course, instead of striking to
the south in quest of an imaginary strait. As it was, "he had but
opened the gate," to use his own bitter expression, "for others to
enter." The time had at length come when they were to enter it; and
the young adventurer, whose magic lance was to dissolve the spell
which had so long hung over these mysterious regions, now stood
ready to assume the enterprise.
From this hour the deportment of Cortes seemed to undergo a
change. His thoughts, instead of evaporating in empty levities or idle
flashes of merriment, were wholly concentrated on the great object
to which he was devoted. His elastic spirits were shown in cheering
and stimulating the companions of his toilsome duties, and he was
roused to a generous enthusiasm, of which even those who knew him best
had not conceived him capable. He applied at once all the money in his
possession to fitting out the armament. He raised more by the mortgage
of his estates, and by giving his obligations to some wealthy
merchants of the place, who relied for their reimbursement on the
success of the expedition; and, when his own credit was exhausted,
he availed himself of that of his friends.
The funds thus acquired he expended in the purchase of vessels,
provisions, and military stores, while he invited recruits by offers
of assistance to such as were too poor to provide for themselves,
and by the additional promise of a liberal share of the anticipated
All was now bustle and excitement in the little town of St.
Jago. Some were busy in refitting the vessels and getting them ready
for the voyage; some in providing naval stores; others in converting
their own estates into money in order to equip themselves; every one
seemed anxious to contribute in some way or other to the success of
the expedition. Six ships, some of them of a large size, had already
been procured; and three hundred recruits enrolled themselves in the
course of a few days, eager to seek their fortunes under the banner of
this daring and popular chieftain.
How far the governor contributed towards the expenses of the
outfit is not very clear. If the friends of Cortes are to be believed,
nearly the whole burden fell on him; since, while he supplied the
squadron without remuneration, the governor sold many of his own
stores at an exorbitant profit. Yet it does not seem probable that
Velasquez, with such ample means at his command, should have thrown on
his deputy the burden of the expedition; nor that the latter, had he
done so, could have been in a condition to meet these expenses,
amounting, as we are told, to more than twenty thousand gold ducats.
Still it cannot be denied that an ambitious man like Cortes, who was
to reap all the glory of the enterprise, would very naturally be
less solicitous to count the gains of it, than his employer, who,
inactive at home, and having no laurels to win, must look on the
pecuniary profits as his only recompense. The question gave rise, some
years later, to a furious litigation between the parties, with which
it is not necessary at present to embarrass the reader.
It is due to Velasquez to state that the instructions delivered by
him for the conduct of the expedition cannot be charged with a
narrow or mercenary spirit. The first object of the voyage was to find
Grijalva, after which the two commanders were to proceed in company
together. Reports had been brought back by Cordova, on his return from
the first visit to Yucatan, that six Christians were said to be
lingering in captivity in the interior of the country. It was supposed
they might belong to the party of the unfortunate Nicuessa, and orders
were given to find them out, if possible, and restore them to liberty.
But the great object of the expedition was barter with the natives. In
pursuing this, special care was to be taken that they should receive
no wrong, but be treated with kindness and humanity. Cortes was to
bear in mind, above all things, that the object which the Spanish
monarch had most at heart was the conversion of the Indians. He was to
impress on them the grandeur and goodness of his royal master, to
invite them "to give in their allegiance to him, and to manifest it by
regaling him with such comfortable presents of gold, pearls, and
precious stones as, by showing their own good will, would secure his
favour and protection." He was to make an accurate survey of the
coast, sounding its bays and inlets for the benefit of future
navigators. He was to acquaint himself with the natural products of
the country, with the character of its different races, their
institutions and progress in civilisation; and he was to send home
minute accounts of all these, together with such articles as he should
obtain in his intercourse with them. Finally, he was to take the
most careful care to omit nothing that might redound to the service of
God or his sovereign.
Such was the general tenor of the instructions given to Cortes,
and they must be admitted to provide for the interests of science
and humanity, as wen as for those which had reference only to a
commercial speculation. It may seem strange, considering the
discontent shown by Velasquez with his former captain, Grijalva, for
not colonising, that no directions should have been given to that
effect here. But he bad not yet received from Spain the warrant for
investing his agents with such powers; and that which had been
obtained from the Hieronymite fathers in Hispaniola conceded only
the right to traffic with the natives. The commission at the same time
recognised the authority of Cortes as Captain General.
1. Gomara, Crónica, cap. 1.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 203. I find no more precise notice of the date of his birth; except, indeed, by Pizarro y Orellana, who tells us "that Cortés came into the world the same day that that infernal beast, the false heretic Luther, entered it,--by way of compensation, no doubt, since the labors of the one to pull down the true faith were counterbalanced by those of the other to maintain and extend it"! (Varones Ilustres del Nuevo Mundo, (Madrid, 1639,) p. 66.) But this statement of the good cavalier, which places the birth of our hero in 1483, looks rather more like a zeal for "the true faith," than for historic.
2. Argensola, in particular, has bestowed great pains on the prosapia of the house of Cortés; which he traces up, nothing doubting, to Narnes Cortés, king of Lombardy and Tuscany. Anales de Aragon, (Zaragoza, 1630,) pp. 621-625.--Also, Caro de Torres, Historia de las Órdenes Militares, (Madrid, 1629,) fol. 103.
3. De Rebus Gestis, MS.
Las Casas, who knew the father, bears stronger testimony to his poverty than to his noble birth. "Un escudero," he says of him, "que yo concí harto pobre y humilde, aunque Christiano, viejo y dizen que hidalgo." Hist. de las Indias, MS., lib. 3, cap. 27.
4. Argensola, Anales, p. 220.
Las Casas and Bernal Diaz both state that he was Bachelor of Laws at Salamanca. (Hist. de las Indias, MS., ubi supra.--Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 203.) The degree was given probably in later life, when the University might feel a pride in claiming him among her sons.
5. De Rebus Gestis, MS.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 1.
6. De Rebus Gestis, MS.--Gomara, Ibid.
Argensola states the cause of his detention concisely enough; "Suspendió el viaje, por enamora, do y por quartanario." Anales, p. 621.
7. Some thought it was the Holy Ghost in the form of this dove; "Sanctum esse Spiritum, qui, in illius alitis specie, ut mœstos et afflictos solaretur, venire erat dignatus"; (De Rebus Gestis, MS.;) a conjecture which seems very reasonable to Pizarro y Orellana, since the expedition was to "redound so much to the spread of the Catholic faith, and the Castilian monarchy!" Varones Ilustres, p. 70.
8. Gomara, Crónica, cap. 2.
9. Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 203.
10. De Rebus Gestis, MS.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 3, 4.--Las Casas, Hist. de las Indias, MS., lib. 3, cap. 27.
11. Hist. de las Indias, MS., loc. cit.
"Res omnes arduas difficilesque per Cortesium, quem in dies magis magisque amplectebatur, Velasquius agit. Ex eo ducis favore et gratiâ magnâ Cortesio invidia est orta." De Rebus, Gestis, MS.
12. Solís has found a patent of nobility for this lady also,--"doncella noble y recatada." (Historia de la Conquista de Méjico, (Paris, 1838,) lib. 1, cap. 9.) Las Casas treats her with less ceremony. "Una hermana de un Juan Xuarez, gente pobre." Hist. de las Indias, MS., lib. 3, cap. 17.
13. Gomara, Crónica, cap. 4.--Las Casas, Hist. de las Indias, MS., ubi supra.--De Rebus Gestis, MS.--Memorial de Benito Martinez, capellan de D. Velasquez, contra H. Cortés, MS.
14. Las Casas, Hist. de las Indias, MS., ubi supra.
15. Las Casas, Hist. de las Indias, MS., loc. cit.--Memorial de Martinez, MS.
16. Gomara, Crónica, cap. 4.
Herrera tells a silly story of his being unable to swim, and throwing himself on a plank, which, after being carried out to sea, was washed ashore with him at flood tide. Hist. General, dec. 1, lib. 9, cap. 8.
17. Gomara, Crónica, cap. 4.
"Cœnat cubatque Cortesius cum Velasquio eodem in lecto. Qui postero die fugæ Cortesii nuntius venerat, Velasquium et Cortesium juxta accubantes intuitus, miratur." De Reb Gestis, MS.
18. Las Casas, who remembered Cortés at this time "so poor and lowly that he would have gladly received any favor from the least of Velasquez' attendants," treats the story of the bravado, with contempt. "Por lo qual si él [Velasquez] sintiera de Cortés una puncta de alfiler de cerviguillo ó presuncion, ó lo ahorcara ó á lo menos lo echara de la tierra y lo sumiera en ella sin que alzara cabeza en su vida." Hist. de las Indias, MS., lib. 3, cap. 27.
19. "Pecuariam primus quoque habuit, in insulamque induxit, omni pecorum genere ex Hispania petito." De Rebus Gestis, MS.
20. "Los que por sacarle el oro muriéron Dios abrá tenido mejor cuenta que yo." Hist. de las Indias, MS., lib. 3, cap. 27. The text is a free translation.
21. "Estando conmigo, me lo dixo que estava tan contento con ella como si fuera hija de una Duquessa." Hist. de las Indias, MS., ubi supra.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 4.
22. The treasurer used to boast he had passed some two and twenty years in the wars of Italy. He was a shrewd personage, and Las Casas, thinking that country a slippery school for morals, warned the governor, he says, more than once "to beware of the twenty-two years in Italy." Hist. de las Indias, MS., lib. 3, cap. 113.
23. "Si él no fuera por Capitan, que no fuera la tercera parte de la gente que con él fué." Declaracion de Puertocarrero, MS. (Coruña, 30 de Abril, 1520.)
24. Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 19.--De Rebus Gestis, MS.--Gomara, Crónica, cap 7.--Las Casas, Hist. General de las Indias, MS., lib. 3, cap. 113.
25. Declaracion de Puertocarrero, MS.--Carta de Vera Cruz, MS.--Probanza en la Villa Segura, MS. (4 de Oct., 1520.)
26. The letter from the Municipality of Vera Cruz, after stating that Velasquez bore only one third of the original expense, adds, "Y sepan Vras. Magestades que la mayor parte de la dicha tercia parte que el dicho Diego Velasquez gastó en hacer la dicha armada fué, emplear sus dineros en vinos y en ropas, y en otras cosas de poco valor para nos lo vender acá en mucha mas cantidad de lo que á él le costó, por manera que podemos decir que entre nosotros los Españoles vasallos de Vras. Reales Altezas ha hecho Diego Velasquez su rescate y granosea de sus dineros cobrandolos muy bien." (Carta de Vera Cruz, MS.) Puertocarrero and Montejo, also, in their depositions taken in Spain, both speak of Cortés' having furnished two thirds of the cost of the flotilla. (Declaracion de Puertocarrero, MS.--Declaracion de Montejo, MS. (29 de Abril, 1520.).) The letter from Vera Cruz, however, was prepared under the eye of Cortés; and the two last were his confidential officers.
27. The instrument is often referred to by writers who never saw it, as the Agreement between Cortés and Velasquez. It is, in fact, only the instructions given by this latter to his officer, who was no party to it.
28. Declaracion de Puertocarrero, MS.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 7.
Velasquez soon after obtained from the crown authority to colonize the new countries, with the title of adelantado over them. The instrument was dated at Barcelona, Nov. 13th, 1518. (Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 3, cap. 8.) Empty privileges! Las Casas gives a caustic etymology of the title of adelantado, so often granted to the Spanish discoverers. "Adelantados porque se adelantaran en hazer males y daños tan gravisimos á gentes pacificas." Hist. de las Indias, MS., lib. 3, cap. 117.