Chapter V 
MONTEZUMA SWEARS ALLEGIANCE TO SPAIN- ROYAL TREASURES-
THEIR DIVISION- CHRISTIAN WORSHIP IN THE TEOCALLI-
DISCONTENTS OF THE AZTECS
CORTES now felt his authority sufficiently assured to demand
from Montezuma a formal recognition of the supremacy of the Spanish
emperor. The Indian monarch had intimated his willingness to acquiesce
in this, on their very first interview. He did not object,
therefore, to call together his principal caciques for the purpose.
When they were assembled, he made them an address, briefly stating the
object of the meeting. They were all acquainted, he said, with the
ancient tradition, that the great Being, who had once ruled over the
land, had declared, on his departure, that he should return at some
future time and resume his sway. That time had now arrived. The
white men had come from the quarter where the sun rises, beyond the
ocean, to which the good deity had withdrawn. They were sent by
their master to reclaim the obedience of his ancient subjects. For
himself he was ready to acknowledge his authority. "You have been
faithful vassals of mine," continued Montezuma, "during the many years
that I have sat on the throne of my fathers. I now expect that you
will show me this last act of obedience by acknowledging the great
king beyond the waters to be your lord, also, and that you will pay
him tribute in the same manner as you have hitherto done to me." As he
concluded, his voice was stifled by his emotion, and the tears fell
fast down his cheeks.
His nobles, many of whom, coming from a distance, had not kept
pace with the changes which had been going on in the capital, were
filled with astonishment as they listened to his words, and beheld the
voluntary abasement of their master, whom they had hitherto reverenced
as the omnipotent lord of Anahuac. They were the more affected,
therefore, by the sight of his distress. His will, they told him,
had always been their law. It should be now; and, if he thought the
sovereign of the strangers was the ancient lord of their country, they
were willing to acknowledge him as such still. The oaths of allegiance
were then administered with all due solemnity, attested by the
Spaniards present, and a full record of the proceedings was drawn up
by the royal notary, to be sent to Spain. There was something deeply
touching in the ceremony by which an independent and absolute monarch,
in obedience less to the dictates of fear than of conscience, thus
relinquished his hereditary rights in favour of an unknown and
mysterious power. It even moved those hard men who were thus
unscrupulously availing themselves of the confiding ignorance of the
natives; and, though "it was in the regular way of their own
business," says an old chronicler, "there was not a Spaniard who could
look on the spectacle with a dry eye!"
The rumour of these strange proceedings was soon circulated
through the capital and the country. Men read in them the finger of
Providence. The ancient tradition of Quetzalcoatl was familiar to all;
and where it had slept scarcely noticed in the memory, it was now
revived with many exaggerated circumstances. It was said to be part of
the tradition, that the royal line of the Aztecs was to end with
Montezuma; and his name, the literal signification of which is "sad"
or "angry lord," was construed into an omen of his evil destiny.
Having thus secured this great feudatory to the crown of
Castile, Cortes suggested that it would be well for the Aztec chiefs
to send his sovereign such a gratuity as would conciliate his good
will by convincing him of the loyalty of his new vassals. Montezuma
consented that his collectors should visit the principal cities and
provinces, attended by a number of Spaniards, to receive the customary
tributes, in the name of the Castilian sovereign. In a few weeks
most of them returned, bringing back large quantities of gold and
silver plate, rich stuffs, and the various commodities in which the
taxes were usually paid.
To this store Montezuma added, on his own account, the treasure of
Axayacatl, previously noticed, some part of which had been already
given to the Spaniards. It was the fruit of long and careful
hoarding,- of extortion, it may be,- by a prince who little dreamed of
its final destination. When brought into the quarters, the gold
alone was sufficient to make three great heaps. It consisted partly of
native grains; part had been melted into bars; but the greatest
portion was in utensils, and various kinds of ornaments and curious
toys, together with imitations of birds, insects, or flowers, executed
with uncommon truth and delicacy. There were also quantities of
collars, bracelets, wands, fans, and other trinkets, in which the gold
and feather-work were richly powdered with pearls and precious stones.
Many of the articles were even more admirable for the workmanship than
for the value of the materials; such, indeed,- if we may take the
report of Cortes to one who would himself have soon an opportunity
to judge of its veracity, and whom it would not be safe to trifle
with,- as no monarch in Europe could boast in his dominions!
Magnificent as it was, Montezuma expressed his regret that the
treasure was no larger. But he had diminished it, he said, by his
former gifts to the white men. "Take it," he added, "Malinche, and let
it be recorded in your annals, that Montezuma sent his present to your
The Spaniards gazed with greedy eyes on the display of riches, now
their own, which far exceeded an hitherto seen in the New World, and
fell nothing short of the El Dorado which their glowing imaginations
had depicted. It may be that they felt somewhat rebuked by the
contrast which their own avarice presented to the princely munificence
of the barbarian chief. At least, they seemed to testify their sense
of his superiority by the respectful homage which they rendered him,
as they poured forth the fulness of their gratitude. They were not
so scrupulous, however, as to manifest any delicacy in appropriating
to themselves the donative, a small part of which was to find its
way into the royal coffers. They clamoured loudly for an immediate
division of the spoil, which the general would have postponed till the
tributes from the remote provinces had been gathered in. The
goldsmiths of Azcapotzalco were sent for to take in pieces the
larger and coarser ornaments, leaving untouched those of more delicate
workmanship. Three days were consumed in this labour, when the heaps
of gold were cast into ingots, and stamped with the royal arms.
Some difficulty occurred in the division of the treasure, from the
want of weights, which, strange as it appears, considering their
advancement in the arts, were, as already observed, unknown to the
Aztecs. The deficiency was soon supplied by the Spaniards, however,
with scales and weights of their own manufacture, probably not the
most exact. With the aid of these they ascertained the value of the
royal fifth to be thirty-two thousand and four hundred pesos de oro.
Diaz swells it to nearly four times that amount. But their desire of
securing the emperor's favour makes it improbable that the Spaniards
should have defrauded the exchequer of any part of its due; while,
as Cortes was responsible for the sum admitted in his letter, he would
be still less likely to overstate it. His estimate may be received
as the true one.
The whole amounted, therefore, to one hundred and sixty-two
thousand pesos de oro, independently of the fine ornaments and
jewellery, the value of which Cortes computes at five hundred thousand
ducats more. There were, besides, five hundred marks of silver,
chiefly in plate, drinking cups, and other articles of luxury. The
inconsiderable quantity of the silver, as compared with the gold,
forms a singular contrast to the relative proportions of the two
metals since the occupation of the country by the Europeans. The whole
amount of the treasure, reduced to our own currency, and making
allowance for the change in the value of gold since the beginning of
the sixteenth century, was about six million three hundred thousand
dollars, or one million four hundred and seventeen thousand pounds
sterling; a sum large enough to show the incorrectness of the
popular notion that little or no wealth was found in Mexico. It was,
indeed, small in comparison with that obtained by the conquerors in
Peru. But few European monarchs of that day could boast a larger
treasure in their coffers. Many of them, indeed, could boast little or
nothing in their coffers. Maximilian of Germany, and the more
prudent Ferdinand of Spain, left scarcely enough to defray their
The division of the spoil was a work of some difficulty. A
perfectly equal division of it among the Conquerors would have given
them more than three thousand pounds sterling a-piece; a magnificent
booty! But one fifth was to be deducted for the crown. An equal
portion was reserved for the general, pursuant to the tenor of his
commission. A large sum was then allowed to indemnify him and the
governor of Cuba for the charges of the expedition and the loss of the
fleet, The garrison of Vera Cruz was also to be provided for. Ample
compensation was made to the principal cavaliers. The cavalry,
arquebusiers, and crossbowmen, each received double pay. So that
when the turn of the common soldiers came, there remained not more
than a hundred pesos de oro for each; a sum so insignificant, in
comparison with their expectations, that several refused to accept it.
Loud murmurs now rose among the men. "Was it for this," they said,
"that we left our homes and families, perilled our lives, submitted to
fatigue and famine, and all for so contemptible a pittance! Better
to have stayed in Cuba, and contented ourselves with the gains of a
safe and easy traffic. When we gave up our share of the gold at Vera
Cruz, it was on the assurance that we should be amply requited in
Mexico. We have indeed, found the riches we expected; but no sooner
seen, than they are snatched from us by the very men who pledged us
their faith!" The malcontents even went so far as to accuse their
leaders of appropriating to themselves several of the richest
ornaments, before the partition had been made; an accusation that
receives some countenance from a dispute which arose between Mexia,
the treasurer for the crown, and Velasquez de Leon, a relation of
the governor, and a favourite of Cortes. The treasurer accused this
cavalier of purloining certain pieces of plate before they were
submitted to the royal stamp. From words the parties came to blows.
They were good swordsmen; several wounds were given on both sides, and
the affair might have ended fatally, but for the interference of
Cortes, who placed both under arrest.
He then used all his authority and insinuating eloquence to calm
the passions of his men. It was a delicate crisis. He was sorry, he
said, to see them so unmindful of the duty of loyal soldiers, and
cavaliers of the Cross, as to brawl like common banditti over their
booty. The division, he assured them, had been made on perfectly
fair and equitable principles. As to his own share, it was no more
than was warranted by his commission. Yet, if they thought it too
much, he was willing to forego his just claims, and divide with the
poorest soldier. Gold, however welcome, was not the chief object of
his ambition. If it were theirs, they should still reflect, that the
present treasure was little in comparison with what awaited them
hereafter; for had they not the whole country and its mines at their
disposal? It was only necessary that they should not give an opening
to the enemy, by their discord, to circumvent and to crush them.
With these honeyed words, of which he had good store for all fitting
occasions, says an old soldier, for whose benefit, in part, they
were intended, he succeeded in calming the storm for the present;
while in private he took more effectual means, by presents judiciously
administered, to mitigate the discontents of the importunate and
refractory. And, although there were a few of more tenacious temper,
who treasured this in their memories against a future day, the
troops soon returned to their usual subordination. This was one of
those critical conjunctures which taxed all the address and personal
authority of Cortes. He never shrunk from them, but on such
occasions was true to himself. At Vera Cruz, he had persuaded his
followers to give up what was but the earnest of future gains. Here he
persuaded them to relinquish these gains themselves. It was
snatching the prey from the very jaws of the lion. Why did he not turn
and rend him?
To many of the soldiers, indeed, it mattered little whether
their share of the booty were more or less. Gaming is a deep-rooted
passion in the Spaniard, and the sudden acquisition of riches
furnished both the means and the motive for its indulgence. Cards were
easily made out of old parchment drumheads, and in a few days most
of the prize-money, obtained with so much toil and suffering, had
changed hands, and many of the improvident soldiers closed the
campaign as poor as they had commenced it. Others, it is true, more
prudent, followed the example of their officers, who, with the aid
of the royal jewellers, converted their gold into chains, services
of plate, and other portable articles of ornament or use.
Cortes seemed now to have accomplished the great objects of the
expedition. The Indian monarch had declared himself the feudatory of
the Spanish. His authority, his revenues, were at the disposal of
the general. The conquest of Mexico seemed to be achieved, and that
without a blow. But it was far from being achieved. One important step
yet remained to be taken, towards which the Spaniards had hitherto
made little progress,- the conversion of the natives. With all the
exertions of Father Olmedo, backed by the polemic talents of the
general, neither Montezuma nor his subjects showed any disposition
to abjure the faith of their fathers. The bloody exercises of their
religion, on the contrary, were celebrated with all the usual
circumstance and pomp of sacrifice before the eyes of the Spaniards.
Unable further to endure these abominations, Cortes, attended by
several of his cavaliers, waited on Montezuma. He told the emperor
that the Christians could no longer consent to have the services of
their religion shut up within the narrow walls of the garrison. They
wished to spread its light far abroad, and to open to the people a
full participation in the blessings of Christianity. For this
purpose they requested that the great teocalli should be delivered up,
as a fit place where their worship might be conducted in the
presence of the whole city.
Montezuma listened to the proposal with visible consternation.
Amidst all his troubles he had leaned for support on his own faith,
and, indeed, it was in obedience to it that he had shown such
deference to the Spaniards as the mysterious messenger predicted by
the oracles. "Why," said he, "Malinche, why will you urge matters to
an extremity, that must surely bring down the vengeance of our gods,
and stir up an insurrection among my people, who will never endure
this profanation of their temples?"
Cortes, seeing how greatly he was moved, made a sign to his
officers to withdraw. When left alone with the interpreters, he told
the emperor that he would use his influence to moderate the zeal of
his followers, and persuade them to be contented with one of the
sanctuaries of the teocalli. If that were not granted, they should
be obliged to take it by force, and to roll down the images of his
false deities in the face of the city. "We fear not for our lives," he
added, "for, though our numbers are few, the arm of the true God is
over us." Montezuma, much agitated, told him that he would confer with
The result of the conference was favourable to the Spaniards,
who were allowed to occupy one of the sanctuaries as a Place of
worship. The tidings spread great joy throughout the camp. They
might now go forth in open day and publish their religion to the
assembled capital. No time was lost in availing themselves of the
permission. The sanctuary was cleansed of its disgusting impurities An
altar was raised, surmounted by a crucifix and the image of the
Virgin. Instead of the gold and jewels which blazed on the
neighbouring pagan shrine, its walls were decorated with fresh
garlands of flowers; and an old soldier was stationed to watch over
the chapel, and guard it from intrusion.
When these arrangements were completed, the whole army moved in
solemn procession up the winding ascent of the pyramid. Entering the
sanctuary, and clustering round its portals, they listened
reverently to the service of the mass, as it was performed by the
fathers Olmedo and Diaz. And as the beautiful Te Deum rose towards
heaven, Cortes and his soldiers, kneeling on the ground, with tears
streaming from their eyes, poured forth their gratitude to the
Almighty for this glorious triumph of the Cross.
It was a striking spectacle,- that of these rude warriors
lifting up their orisons on the summit of this mountain temple, in the
very capital of heathendom, on the spot especially dedicated to its
unhallowed mysteries. Side by side, the Spaniard and the Aztec knelt
down in prayer; and the Christian hymn mingled its sweet tones of love
and mercy with the wild chant raised by the Indian priest in honour of
the war-god of Anahuac! It was an unnatural union, and could not
A nation will endure any outrage sooner than that on its religion.
This is an outrage both on its principles and its prejudices; on the
ideas instilled into it from childhood, which have strengthened with
its growth, until they become a part of its nature,- which have to
do with its highest interests here, and with the dread hereafter.
Any violence to the religious sentiment touches all alike, the old and
the young, the rich and the poor, the noble and the plebeian. Above
all, it touches the priests, whose personal consideration rests on
that of their religion; and who, in a semi-civilised state of society,
usually hold an unbounded authority. Thus it was with the Brahmins
of India, the Magi of Persia, the Roman Catholic clergy in the Dark
Ages, the priests of ancient Egypt and Mexico.
The people had borne with patience all the injuries and affronts
hitherto put on them by the Spaniards. They had seen their sovereign
dragged as a captive from his own palace; his ministers butchered
before his eyes; his treasures seized and appropriated; himself in a
manner deposed from his royal supremacy. All this they had seen
without a struggle to prevent it. But the profanation of their temples
touched a deeper feeling, of which the priesthood were not slow to
The first intimation of this change of feeling was gathered from
Montezuma himself. Instead of his usual cheerfulness, he appeared
grave and abstracted, and instead of seeking, as he was wont, the
society of the Spaniards, seemed rather to shun it. It was noticed,
too, that conferences were more frequent between him and the nobles,
and especially the priests. His little page, Orteguilla, who had now
picked up a tolerable acquaintance with the Aztec, contrary to
Montezuma's usual practice, was not allowed to attend him at these
meetings. These circumstances could not fail to awaken most
uncomfortable apprehensions in the Spaniards.
Not many days elapsed, however, before Cortes received an
invitation, or rather a summons, from the emperor, to attend him in
his apartment. The general went with some feelings of anxiety and
distrust, taking with him Olid, captain of the guard, and two or three
other trusty cavaliers. Montezuma received them with cold civility,
and, turning to the general, told him that all his predictions had
come to pass. The gods of his country had been offended by the
violation of their temples. They had threatened the priests that
they would forsake the city, if the sacrilegious strangers were not
driven from it, or rather sacrificed on the altars, in expiation of
their crimes. The monarch assured the Christians, it was from regard
to their safety that he communicated this; and, "if you have any
regard for it yourselves," he concluded, "you will leave the country
without delay. I have only to raise my finger, and every Aztec in
the land will rise in arms against you." There was no reason to
doubt his sincerity; for Montezuma, whatever evils had been brought on
him by the white men, held them in reverence as a race more highly
gifted than his own, while for several, as we have seen, he had
conceived an attachment, flowing, no doubt, from their personal
attentions and deferences to himself.
Cortes was too much master of his feelings to show how far he
was startled by this intelligence. He replied with admirable coolness,
that he should regret much to leave the capital so precipitately, when
he had no vessels to take him from the country. If it were not for
this, there could be no obstacle to his leaving it at once. He
should also regret another step to which he should be driven, if he
quitted it under these circumstances,- that of taking the emperor
along with him.
Montezuma was evidently troubled by this last suggestion. He
inquired how long it would take to build the vessels, and finally
consented to send a sufficient number of workmen to the coast, to
act under the orders of the Spaniards; meanwhile, he would use his
authority to restrain the impatience of the people, under the
assurance that the white men would leave the land, when the means
for it were provided. He kept his word. A large body of Aztec artisans
left the capital with the most experienced Castilian ship-builders,
and, descending to Vera Cruz, began at once to fell the timber and
build a sufficient number of ships to transport the Spaniards back
to their own country. The work went forward with apparent alacrity.
But those who had the direction of it, it is said, received private
instructions from the general to interpose as many delays as possible,
in hopes of receiving in the meantime such reinforcements from
Europe as would enable him to maintain his ground.
The whole aspect of things was now changed in the Castilian
quarters. Instead of the security and repose in which the troops had
of late indulged, they felt a gloomy apprehension of danger, not the
less oppressive to the spirits, that it was scarcely visible to the
eye;- like the faint speck just descried above the horizon by the
voyager in the tropics, to the common gaze seeming only a summer
cloud, but which to the experienced mariner bodes the coming of the
hurricane. Every precaution that prudence could devise was taken to
meet it. The soldier, as he threw himself on his mats for repose, kept
on his armour. He ate, drank, slept, with his weapons by his side. His
horse stood ready caparisoned, day and night, with the bridle
hanging at the saddle-bow. The guns were carefully planted, so as to
command the great avenues. The sentinels were doubled, and every
man, of whatever rank, took his turn in mounting guard. The garrison
was in a state of siege. Such was the uncomfortable position of the
army when, in the beginning of May, 1520, six months after their
arrival in the capital, tidings came from the coast, which gave
greater alarm to Cortes, than even the menaced insurrection of the
1. "Y mucho os ruego, pues á todos os es notorio todo esto, que assí como hasta aquí á mí me habeis tenido, y obedecido per Señor vuestro, de aquí adelante tengais, y obedescais á este Gran Rey, pues él es vuestro natural Señor, y en su lugar tengais á este su Capitan: y todos los Tributos, y Servicios, que fasta aquí á mí me haciades, los haced, y dad á él, porque yo assimismo tengo de contribuir, y servir con todo lo que me mandaré." Rel. Seg. de Cortís, ap. Lorenzana, p. 97.
2. "Lo qual todo les dijo llorando, con las mayores lágrimas, y suspiros, que un hombre podia manifestar; é assimismo todos aquellos Señores, que le estaban oiendo, lloraban tanto, que en gran rato no le pudiéron responder." Ibid., loc. cit.
3. Solís regards this ceremony as supplying what was before defective in the title of the Spaniards to the country. The remarks are curious, even from a professed casuist. "Y siendo una como insinuacion misteriosa del título que se debió despues al derecho de las armas, sobre justa provocacion, como lo verémos en su lugar: circunstancia particular, que concurrió en la conquista de Méjico para mayor justificacion de aquel dominio, sobre las demas consideraciones generales que no solo hiciéron lícita la guerra en otras partes, sino legítima y razonable siempre que se puso en términos de medio necesario para la introduccion del Evangelio." Conquista, lib. 4, cap. 3.
4. Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 101.--Solís, Conquista, loc. cit.--Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 9, cap. 4.--Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 87.
Oviedo considers the grief of Montezuma as sufficient proof that his homage, far from being voluntary, was extorted by necessity. The historian appears to have seen the drift of events more clearly than some of the actors in them. "Y en la verdad si como Cortés lo dice, ó escrivió, pasó en efecto, mui gran cosa me parece la conciencia y liberalidad de Montezuma en esta su restitucion é obediencia al Rey de Castilla, por la simple ó cautelosa informacion de Cortés, que le podia hacer para ello; Mas aquellas lágrimas con que dice, que Montezuma hizo su oracion, é amonestamiento, despojándose de su señorio, é las de aquellos con que les respondiéron aceptando lo que les mandaba, y exortaba, y á mi parecer su llanto queria decir, ó enseñar otra cosa de lo que é1, y ellos dixéron; porque las obediencias que se suelen dar á los Príncipes con riza, é con camaras; é diversidad de Música, é leticia, enseñales de placer, se suele hacer; é no con lucto ni lágrimas, é sollozos, ni estando preso quien obedece; porque como dice Marco Varron: Lo que por fuerza se da no es servicio sino robo." Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 9.
5. Gomara, Crónica, cap. 92.--Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. II. p. 256.
6. "Pareceria que ellos comenzaban á servir, y Vuestra Alteza tendria mas concepto de las voluntades, que á su servicio mostraban." Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 98.
7. Peter Martyr, distrusting some extravagance in this statement of Cortés, found it fully confirmed by the testimony of others. "Referunt non credenda. Credenda tamen, quando vir talis ad Cæsarem et nostri collegii Indici senatores audeat exscribere. Addes insuper se multa prætermittere, ne tanta recensendo sit molestus. Idem affirmant qui ad nos inde regrediuntur." De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 3.
8. "Las quales, demas de su valor, eran tales, y tan maravillosas, que consideradas por su novedad, y estrañeza, no tenian precio, ni es de creer, que alguno de todos los Príncipes del Mundo de quien se tiene noticia, las pudiesse tener tales, y de tal calidad." Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 99.--See, also, Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 9,--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 104.
9. "Dezilde en vuestros anales y cartas: Esto os embia vuestro buen vassallo Monteçuma." Bernal Diaz, ubi supra.
10. "Fluctibus auri
Expleri calor ille nequit."
CLAUDIAN, In Ruf., LIB. 1.
11. "Y quado aquello le oyó Cortés, y todos nosotros, estuvímos espantados de la gran bondad, y liberalidad del gran Monteçuma, y con mucho acato le quitámos todos las gorras de armas, y le dixímos, que se lo teniamos en merced, y con palabras de mucho amor," &c. Bernal Diaz, ubi supra.
12. Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 99.
This estimate of the royal fifth is confirmed (with the exception of the four hundred ounces) by the affidavits of a number of witnesses cited on behalf of Cortés, to show the amount of the treasure. Among these witnesses we find some of the most respectable names in the army, as Olid, Ordaz, Avila, the priests Olmedo and Diaz,--the last, it may be added, not too friendly to the general. The instrument, which is without date, is in the collection of Vargas Ponçe. Probanza fecha á pedimento de Juan de Lexalde, MS.
13. "Eran tres montones de oro, y pesado huvo en ellos sobre seiscientos mil peso, como adelante diré, sin la plata, é otras muchas riquezas." Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 104.
14. The quantity of silver taken from the American mines has exceeded that of gold in the ratio of forty-six to one. (Humboldt, Essai Politique, tom. III. p. 401.) The value of the latter metal, says Clemencin, which, on the discovery of the New World, was only eleven times greater than that of the former, has now come to be sixteen times. (Memorias de la Real Acad. de Hist., tom. VI. Ilust. 20.) This does not vary materially from Smith's estimate made after the middle of the last century. (Wealth of Nations, book 1, chap. 11.) The difference would have been much more considerable, but for the greater demand for silver for objects of ornament and use.
15. Dr. Robertson, preferring the authority, it seems, of Diaz, speaks of the value of the treasure as 600,000 pesos. (History of America, vol. II. pp. 296, 298.) The value of the peso is an ounce of silver, or dollar, which, making allowance for the depreciation of silver, represented, in the time of Cortés, nearly four times its value at the present day. But that of the peso de oro was nearly three times that sum, or eleven dollars, sixty-seven cents. (See Ante, Book II. chap. 6, note 18.) Robertson makes his own estimate, so much reduced below that of his original, an argument for doubting the existence, in any great quantity, of either gold or silver in the country. In accounting for the scarcity of the former metal in this argument, he falls into an error in stating that gold was not one of the standards by which the value of other commodities in Mexico was estimated. Comp. Ante, p. 84.
16. Many of them, indeed, could boast little or nothing in their coffers. Maximilian of Germany, and the more prudent Ferdinand of Spain, left scarcely enough to defray their funeral expenses. Even as late as the beginning of the next century, we find Henry IV of France embracing his minister Sully, with rapture, when he informed him, that, by dint of great economy, he had 36,000,000 livres, about 1,500,000 pounds sterling, in his treasury. See Mémoires du Duc de Sully, tom. III. liv. 27.
17. "Por ser tan poco, muchos soldados huuo que no lo quisiéron recebir." Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 105.
18. "Palabras muy melifluas; ..... razones mui bien dichas, que las sabia bien proponer." Ibid, ubi supra.
19. Ibid., cap. 105, 106.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 93.--Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 8, cap. 5.
20. "Ex jureconsulto Cortesius theologus effectus," says Martyr, in his pithy manner. De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 4.
21. According to Ixtlilxochitl, Montezuma got as far on the road to conversion, as the Credo and the Ave Maria, both of which he could repeat; but his baptism was postponed, and he died before receiving it. That he ever consented to receive it is highly improbable. I quote the historian's words, in which he further notices the general's unsuccessful labors among the Indians. "Cortés comenzó á dar órden de la conversion de los Naturales, diciéndoles, que pues eran vasallos del Rey de España que se tornasen Cristianos coma él lo era, y así se comenzáron á Bautizar algunos aunque fuéron muy pocos, y Motecuhzoma aunque pidió el Bautismo, y sabia algunas de las oraciones como eran el Ave María, y el Credo, se dilató por la Pasqua siguiente, que era la de Resurreccion, y fué tan desdichado que nunca alcanzó tanto bien y los Nuestros con la dilacion y aprieto en que se viéron, se descuidáron, de que pesó á todos mucho muriese sin Bautismo." Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 87.
22. "O Malinche, y como nos quereis echar á perder á toda esta ciudad, porque estarán mui enojados nuestros Dioses contra nosotros, y aun vuestras vidas no sé en que pararán." Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 107.
23. This transaction is told with more discrepancy than usual by the different writers. Cortés assures the Emperor that he occupied the temple, and turned out the false gods by force, in spite of the menaces of the Mexicans. (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 106.) The improbability of this Quixotic feat startles Oviedo, who nevertheless reports it. (Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 10.) It looks, indeed, very much as if the general was somewhat too eager to set off his militant zeal to advantage in the eyes of his master. The statements of Diaz, and of other chroniclers, conformably to that in the text, seem far the most probable. Comp. Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, ubi supra.--Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 8, cap. 6.--Argensola, Anales, lib. 1, cap. 88.
24. "Para mí yo tengo por marabilla, é grande, la mucha paciencia de Montezuma, y de los Indios principales, que assí viéron tratar sus Templos, é Ídolos: Mas su disimulacion adelante se mostró ser otra cosa viendo, que vna Gente Extrangera, é de tan poco número, les prendió su Señor é porque formas los hacia tributarios, é se castigaban é quemaban los principales, é se aniquilaban y disipaban sus templos, é hasta en aquellos y sus antecesores estaban. Recia cosa me parece soportarla con tanta quietud; pero adelante, como lo dirá la Historia, mostró el tiempo lo que en el pecho estaba oculto en todos los Indios generalmente." Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 10.
25. According to Herrera, it was the Devil himself who communicated this to Montezuma, and he reports the substance of the dialogue between the parties. (Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 9, cap. 6.) Indeed, the apparition of Satan in his own bodily presence, on this occasion, is stoutly maintained by most historians of the time. Oviedo, a man of enlarged ideas on most subjects, speaks with a little more qualification on this. "Porque la Misa y Evangelio, que predicaban y decian los christianos, le [al Diablo] daban gran tormento; y débese pensar, si verdad es, que esas gentes tienen tanta conversacion y comunicacion con nuestro adversario, como se tiene por cierto en estas Indias, que no le podia á nuestro enemigo placer con los misterios y sacramentos de la sagrada religion christiana." Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.
26. "É Cortés proveió de maestros é personas que entendiesen en la labor de los Navíos, é dixo despues á los Españoles desta manera: Señores y hermanos, este Señor Montezuma quiere que nos vamos de la tierra, y conviene que se hagan Navíos. Id con estos Indios é córtese la madera; é entretanto Dios nos proveherá de gente é socorro; por tanto, poned tal dilacion que parezca que haceis algo y se haga con ella lo que nos conviene; é siempre me escrivid éavisad que tales estáis en la Montaña, é que no sientan los Indios nuestra disimulacion. É así se puso por obra." (Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.) So, also, Gomara, (Crónica, cap. 95.) Diaz denies any such secret orders, alleging that Martin Lopez, the principal builder, assured him they made all the expedition possible in getting three ships on the stocks. Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 108.
27. "I may say without vaunting," observes our stout-hearted old chronicler, Bernal Diaz, "that I was so accustomed to this way of life, that since the conquest of the country I have never been able to lie down undressed, or in a bed; yet I sleep as sound as if I were on the softest down. Even when I make the rounds of my encomienda, I never take a bed with me; unless, indeed, I go in the company of other cavaliers, who might impute this to parsimony. But even then I throw myself on it with my clothes on. Another thing I must add, that I cannot sleep long in the night without getting up to look at the heavens and the stars, and stay a while in the open air, and this without a bonnet or covering of any sort on my head. And, thanks to God, I have received no harm from it. I mention these things, that the world may understand of what stuff we, the true Conquerors, were made, and how well drilled we were to arms and watching." Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 108.