Chapter VI 
FATE OF CORTES' EMISSARIES- PROCEEDINGS IN THE CASTILIAN COURT-
PREPARATIONS OF VELASQUEZ- NARVAEZ LANDS IN MEXICO-
POLITIC CONDUCT OF CORTES- HE LEAVES THE CAPITAL
BEFORE explaining the nature of the tidings alluded to in the
preceding chapter, it will be necessary to cast a glance over some
of the transactions of an earlier period. The vessel, which, as the
reader may remember, bore the envoys Puertocarrero and Montejo with
the despatches from Vera Cruz, after touching, contrary to orders,
at the northern coast of Cuba, and spreading the news of the late
discoveries, held on its way uninterrupted towards Spain, and early in
October, 1519, reached the little port of San Lucar. Great was the
sensation caused by her arrival and the tidings which she brought; a
sensation scarcely inferior to that created by the original
discovery of Columbus. For now, for the first time, all the
magnificent anticipations formed of the New World seemed destined to
Unfortunately, there was a person in Seville, at this time,
named Benito Martin, chaplain of Velasquez, the governor of Cuba. No
sooner did this man learn the arrival of the envoys, and the
particulars of their story, than he lodged a complaint with the Casa
de Contratacion,- the Royal India House,- charging those on board
the vessel with mutiny and rebellion against the authorities of
Cuba, as well as with treason to the crown. In consequence of his
representations, the ship was taken possession of by the public
officers, and those on board were prohibited from moving their own
effects, or anything else from her. The envoys were not even allowed
the funds necessary for the expenses of the voyage, nor a considerable
sum remitted by Cortes to his father, Don Martin. In this
embarrassment they had no alternative but to present themselves, as
speedily as possible, before the emperor, deliver the letters with
which they had been charged by the colony, and seek redress for
their own grievances. They first sought out Martin Cortes, residing at
Medellin, and with him made the best of their way to court.
Charles the Fifth was then on his first visit to Spain after his
accession. It was not a long one; long enough, however, to disgust his
subjects, and, in a great degree, to alienate their affections. He had
lately received intelligence of his election to the imperial crown
of Germany. From that hour, his eyes were turned to that quarter.
His stay in the Peninsula was prolonged only that he might raise
supplies for appearing with splendour on the great theatre of
Europe. Every act showed too plainly that the diadem of his
ancestors was held lightly in comparison with the imperial bauble in
which neither his countrymen nor his own posterity could have the
slightest interest. The interest was wholly personal.
Contrary to established usage, he had summoned the Castilian
cortes to meet at Compostella, a remote town in the north, which
presented no other advantage than that of being near his place of
embarkation. On his way thither he stopped some time at Tordesillas,
the residence of his unhappy mother, Joanna "The Mad." It was here
that the envoys from Vera Cruz presented themselves before him, in
March, 1520. At nearly the same time, the treasures brought over by
them reached the court, where they excited unbounded admiration.
Hitherto, the returns from the New World had been chiefly in vegetable
products, which, if the surest, are also the. slowest, sources of
wealth. Of gold they had as yet seen but little, and that in its
natural state, or wrought into the rudest trinkets. The courtiers
gazed with astonishment on the large masses of the precious metal, and
the delicate manufacture of the various articles, especially of the
richly-tinted feather-work. And, as they listened to the accounts,
written and oral, of the great Aztec empire, they felt assured that
the Castilian ships had, at length, reached the golden Indies, which
hitherto had seemed to recede before them.
In this favourable mood there is little doubt the monarch would
have granted the petition of the envoys, and confirmed the irregular
proceedings of the Conquerors, but for the opposition of a person
who held the highest office in the Indian department. This was Juan
Rodriguez de Fonseca, formerly dean of Seville, now bishop of
Burgos. He was a man of noble family, and had been intrusted with
the direction of the colonial concerns, on the discovery of the New
World. On the establishment of the Royal Council of the Indies by
Ferdinand the Catholic, he had been made its president, and had
occupied that post ever since. His long continuance in a position of
great importance and difficulty is evidence of capacity for
business. It was no uncommon thing in that age to find ecclesiastics
in high civil, and even military employments. Fonseca appears to
have been an active, efficient person, better suited to a secular than
to a religious vocation. He had, indeed, little that was religious
in his temper; quick to take offence, and slow to forgive. His
resentments seem to have been nourished and perpetuated like a part of
his own nature. Unfortunately his peculiar position enabled him to
display them towards some of the most illustrious men of his time.
From pique at some real or fancied slight from Columbus, he had
constantly thwarted the plans of the great navigator. He had shown the
same unfriendly feeling towards the admiral's son, Diego, the heir
of his honours; and he now, and from this time forward, showed a
similar spirit towards the Conqueror of Mexico. The immediate cause of
this was his own personal relations with Velasquez, to whom a near
relative was betrothed.
Through this prelate's representations, Charles, instead of a
favourable answer to the envoys, postponed his decision till he should
arrive at Coruna, the place of embarkation. But here he was much
pressed by the troubles which his impolitic conduct had raised, as
well as by preparations for his voyage. The transaction of the
colonial business, which, long postponed, had greatly accumulated on
his hands, was reserved for the last week in Spain. But the affairs of
the "young admiral" consumed so large a portion of this, that he had
no time to give to those of Cortes; except, indeed, to instruct the
board at Seville to remit to the envoys so much of their funds as
was required to defray the charges of the voyage. On the 16th of
May, 1520, the impatient monarch bade adieu to his distracted kingdom,
without one attempt to settle the dispute between his belligerent
vassals in the New World, and without an effort to promote the
magnificent enterprise which was to secure to him the possession of an
empire. What a contrast to the policy of his illustrious predecessors,
Ferdinand and Isabella!
The governor of Cuba, meanwhile, without waiting for support
from home, took measures for redress into his own hands. We have seen,
in a preceding chapter, how deeply he was moved by the reports of
the proceedings of Cortes and of the treasures which his vessel was
bearing to Spain. Rage, mortification, disappointed avarice,
distracted his mind. He could not forgive himself for trusting the
affair to such hands. On the very week in which Cortes had parted from
him to take charge of the fleet, a capitulation had been signed by
Charles the Fifth, conferring on Velasquez the title of adelantado,
with great augmentation of his original powers. The governor resolved,
without loss of time, to send such a force to the Aztec coast, as
should enable him to assert his new authority to its full extent,
and to take vengeance on his rebellious officer. He began his
preparations as early as October. At first, he proposed to assume
the command in person. But his unwieldy size, which disqualified him
for the fatigues incident to such an expedition, or, according to
his own account, tenderness for his Indian subjects, then wasted by an
epidemic, induced him to devolve the command on another.
The person whom he selected was a Castilian hidalgo, named Panfilo
de Narvaez. He had assisted Velasquez in the reduction of Cuba,
where his conduct cannot be wholly vindicated from the charge of
inhumanity, which too often attaches to the early Spanish adventurers.
From that time he continued to hold important posts under the
government, and was a decided favourite with Velasquez. He was a man
of some military capacity, though negligent and lax in his discipline.
He possessed undoubted courage, but it was mingled with an
arrogance, or rather overweening confidence in his own powers, which
made him deaf to the suggestions of others more sagacious than
himself. He was altogether deficient in that prudence and
calculating foresight demanded in a leader who was to cope with an
antagonist like Cortes.
The governor and his lieutenant were unwearied in their efforts to
assemble an army. They visited every considerable town in the
island, fitting out vessels, laying in stores and ammunition, and
encouraging volunteers to enlist by liberal promises. But the most
effectual bounty was the assurance of the rich treasures that
awaited them in the golden regions of Mexico. So confident were they
in this expectation, that all classes and ages vied with one another
in eagerness to embark in the expedition, until it seemed as if the
whole white population would desert the island, and leave it to its
The report of these proceedings soon spread through the islands,
and drew the attention of the Royal Audience of St. Domingo. This body
was intrusted, at that time, not only with the highest judicial
authority in the colonies, but with a civil jurisdiction, which, as
"the Admiral" complained, encroached on his own rights. The tribunal
saw with alarm the proposed expedition of Velasquez, which, whatever
might be its issue in regard to the parties, could not fail to
compromise the interests of the crown. They chose accordingly one of
their number, the licentiate Ayllon, a man of prudence and resolution,
and despatched him to Cuba, with instructions to interpose his
authority, and stay, if possible, the proceedings of Velasquez.
On his arrival, he found the governor in the western part of the
island, busily occupied in getting the fleet ready for sea. The
licentiate explained to him the purport of his mission, and the
views entertained of the proposed enterprise by the Royal Audience.
The conquest of a powerful country like Mexico required the whole
force of the Spaniards, and, if one half were employed against the
other, nothing but ruin could come of it. It was the governor's
duty, as a good subject, to forego all private animosities, and to
sustain those now engaged in the great work by sending them the
necessary supplies. He might, indeed, proclaim his own powers, and
demand obedience to them. But, if this were refused, he should leave
the determination of his dispute to the authorised tribunals, and
employ his resources in prosecuting discovery in another direction,
instead of hazarding all by hostilities with his rival.
This admonition, however sensible and salutary, was not at all
to the taste of the governor. He professed, indeed, to have no
intention of coming to hostilities with Cortes. He designed only to
assert his lawful jurisdiction over territories discovered under his
own auspices. At the same time he denied the right of Ayllon or of the
Royal Audience to interfere in the matter. Narvaez was still more
refractory; and, as the fleet was now ready, proclaimed his
intention to sail in a few hours. In this state of things, the
licentiate, baffled in his first purpose of staying the expedition,
determined to accompany it in person, that he might prevent, if
possible, by his presence, an open rupture between the parties.
The squadron consisted of eighteen vessels, large and small. It
carried nine hundred men, eighty of whom were cavalry, eighty more
arquebusiers, one hundred and fifty crossbowmen, with a number of
heavy guns, and a large supply of ammunition and military stores.
There were, besides, a thousand Indians, natives of the island, who
went probably in a menial capacity. So gallant an armada- with one
exception, the great fleet under Ovando, 1501, in which Cortes had
intended to embark for the New World,- never before rode in the Indian
seas. None to compare with it had ever been fitted out in the
Leaving Cuba early in March, 1520, Narvaez held nearly the same
course as Cortes, and running down what was then called the "Island of
Yucatan," after a heavy tempest, in which some of his smaller
vessels foundered, anchored, April 23, off San Juan de Ulua. It was
the place where Cortes also had first landed; the sandy waste
covered by the present city of Vera Cruz.
Here the commander met with a Spaniard, one of those sent by the
general from Mexico, to ascertain the resources of the country,
especially its mineral products. This man came on board the fleet, and
from him the Spaniards gathered the particulars of all that had
occurred since the departure of the envoys from Vera Cruz,- the
march into the interior, the bloody battles with the Tlascalans, the
occupation of Mexico, the rich treasures found in it, and the
seizure of the monarch, by means of which, concluded the soldier,
"Cortes rules over the land like its own sovereign, so that a Spaniard
may travel unarmed from one end of the country to the other, without
insult or injury." His audience listened to this marvellous report
with speechless amazement, and the loyal indignation of Narvaez
waxed stronger and stronger, as he learned the value of the prize
which had been snatched from his employer.
He now openly proclaimed his intention to march against Cortes,
and punish him for his rebellion. He made this vaunt so loudly, that
the natives who had flocked in numbers to the camp, which was soon
formed on shore, clearly comprehended that the new comers were not
friends, but enemies, of the preceding. Narvaez determined, also,-
though in opposition to the counsel of the Spaniard, who quoted the
example of Cortes,- to establish a settlement on this unpromising
spot: and he made the necessary arrangements to organise a
municipality. He was informed by the soldier of the existence of the
neighbouring colony at Villa Rica, commanded by Sandoval, and
consisting of a few invalids, who, he was assured, would surrender
on the first summons. Instead of marching against the place,
however, he determined to send a peaceful embassy to display his
powers, and demand the submission of the garrison.
These successive steps gave serious displeasure to Ayllon, who saw
they must lead to inevitable collision with Cortes. But it was in vain
he remonstrated, and threatened to lay the proceedings of Narvaez
before the government. The latter, chafed by his continued
opposition and sour rebuke, determined to rid himself of a companion
who acted as a spy on his movements. He caused him to be seized and
sent back to Cuba. The licentiate had the address to persuade the
captain of the vessel to change her destination for St. Domingo;
and, when he arrived there, a formal report of his proceedings,
exhibiting in strong colours the disloyal conduct of the governor
and his lieutenant, was prepared and despatched by the Royal
Audience to Spain.
Sandoval, meanwhile, had not been inattentive to the movements
of Narvaez. From the time of his first appearance on the coast, that
vigilant officer, distrusting the object of the armament, had kept his
eye on him. No sooner was he apprised of the landing of the Spaniards,
than the commander of Villa Rica sent off his few disabled soldiers to
a place of safety in the neighbourhood. He then put his works in the
best posture of defence that he could, and prepared to maintain the
place to the last extremity. His men promised to stand by him, and,
the more effectually to fortify the resolution of any who might
falter, he ordered a gallows to be set up in a conspicuous part of the
town! The constancy of his men was not put to the trial.
The only invaders of the place were a priest, a notary, and four
other Spaniards, selected for the mission already noticed, by Narvaez.
The ecclesiastic's name was Guevara. On coming before Sandoval, he
made him a formal address, in which he pompously enumerated the
services and claims of Velasquez, taxed Cortes and his adherents
with rebellion, and demanded of Sandoval to tender his submission as a
loyal subject to the newly constituted authority of Narvaez.
The commander of La Villa Rica was so much incensed at this
unceremonious mention of his companions in arms, that he assured the
reverend envoy, that nothing but respect for his cloth saved him
from the chastisement he merited. Guevara now waxed wroth in his turn,
and called on the notary to read the proclamation. But Sandoval
interposed, promising that functionary, that, if he attempted to do
so, without first producing a warrant of his authority from the crown,
he should be soundly flogged. Guevara lost all command of himself at
this, and stamping on the ground repeated his orders in a more
peremptory tone than before. Sandoval was not a man of many words;
he simply remarked, that the instrument should be read to the
general himself in Mexico. At the same time, he ordered his men to
procure a number of sturdy tamanes, or Indian porters, on whose
backs the unfortunate priest and his companions were bound like so
many bales of goods. They were then placed under a guard of twenty
Spaniards, and the whole caravan took its march for the capital. Day
and night they travelled, stopping only to obtain fresh relays of
carriers; and as they passed through populous towns, forests and
cultivated fields, vanishing as soon as seen, the Spaniards,
bewildered by the strangeness of the scene, as well as of their
novel mode of conveyance, hardly knew whether they were awake or in
a dream. In this way, at the end of the fourth day, they reached the
Tezcucan lake in view of the Aztec capital.
Its inhabitants had already been made acquainted with the fresh
arrival of white men on the coast. Indeed, directly on their
landing, intelligence had been communicated to Montezuma, who is
said does not seem probable) to have concealed it some days from
Cortes. At length, inviting him to an interview, he told him there was
no longer any obstacle to his leaving the country, as a fleet was
ready for him. To the inquiries of the astonished general, Montezuma
replied by pointing to a hieroglyphical map sent him from the coast,
on which the ships, the Spaniards themselves, and their whole
equipment, were minutely delineated. Cortes, suppressing all
emotions but those of pleasure, exclaimed, "Blessed be the Redeemer
for his mercies!" On returning to his quarters, the tidings were
received by the troops with loud shouts, the firing of cannon, and
other demonstrations of joy. They hailed the new comers as a
reinforcement from Spain. Not so their commander. From the first, he
suspected them to be sent by his enemy, the governor of Cuba. He
communicated his suspicions to his officers, through whom they
gradually found their way among the men. The tide of joy was instantly
checked. Alarming apprehensions succeeded, as they dwelt on the
probability of this suggestion, and on the strength of the invaders.
Yet their constancy did not desert them; and they pledged themselves
to remain true to their cause, and, come what might, to stand by their
leader. It was one of those occasions, that proved the entire
influence which Cortes held over these wild adventurers. All doubts
were soon dispelled by the arrival of the prisoners from Villa Rica.
One of the convoy, leaving the party in the suburbs, entered the
city, and delivered a letter to the general from Sandoval, acquainting
him with all the particulars. Cortes instantly sent to the
prisoners, ordered them to be released, and furnished them with horses
to make their entrance into the capital,- a more creditable conveyance
than the backs of tamanes. On their arrival, he received them with
marked courtesy, apologised for the rude conduct of his officers,
and seemed desirous by the most assiduous attentions to soothe the
irritation of their minds. He showed his good will still further by
lavishing presents on Guevara and his associates, until he gradually
wrought such a change in their dispositions, that, from enemies, he
converted them into friends, and drew forth many important particulars
respecting not merely the designs of their leader, but the feelings of
his army. The soldiers, in general, they said, far from desiring a
rupture with those of Cortes, would willingly co-operate with them,
were it not for their commander. They had no feelings of resentment to
gratify. Their object was gold. The personal influence of Narvaez
was not great, and his arrogance and penurious temper had already gone
far to alienate from him the affections of his followers. These
hints were not lost on the general.
He addressed a letter to his rival in the most conciliatory terms.
He besought him not to proclaim their animosity to the world, and,
by kindling a spirit of insubordination in the natives, unsettle all
that had been so far secured. A violent collision must be
prejudicial even to the victor, and might be fatal to both. It was
only in union that they could look for success. He was ready to
greet Narvaez as a brother in arms, to share with him the fruits of
conquest, and, if he could produce a royal commission, to submit to
his authority. Cortes well knew he had no such commission to show.
Soon after the departure of Guevara and his comrades, the
general determined to send a special envoy of his own. The person
selected for this delicate office was Father Olmedo, who, through
the campaign, had shown a practical good sense, and a talent for
affairs, not always to be found in persons of his spiritual calling.
He was intrusted with another epistle to Narvaez, of similar import
with the preceding. Cortes wrote, also, to the licentiate Ayllon, with
whose departure he was not acquainted, and to Andres de Duero,
former secretary of Velasquez, and his own friend, who had come over
in the present fleet. Olmedo was instructed to converse with these
persons in private, as well as with the principal officers and
soldiers, and, as far as possible, to infuse into them a spirit of
accommodation. To give greater weight to his arguments, he was
furnished with a liberal supply of gold.
During this time, Narvaez had abandoned his original design of
planting a colony on the sea-coast, and had crossed the country to
Cempoalla, where he had taken up his quarters. He was here when
Guevara returned, and presented the letter of Cortes.
Narvaez glanced over it with a look of contempt, which was changed
into one of stern displeasure, as his envoy enlarged on the
resources and formidable character of his rival, counselling him, by
all means, to accept his proffers of amity. A different effect was
produced on the troops, who listened with greedy ears to the
accounts given of Cortes, his frank and liberal manners, which they
involuntarily contrasted with those of their own commander, the wealth
in his camp, where the humblest private could stake his ingot and
chain of gold at play, where all revelled in plenty, and the life of
the soldier seemed to be one long holiday. Guevara had been admitted
only to the sunny side of the picture.
The impression made by these accounts was confirmed by the
presence of Olmedo. The ecclesiastic delivered his missives, in like
manner, to Narvaez, who ran through their contents with feelings of
anger which found vent in the most opprobrious invectives against
his rival; while one of his captains, named Salvatierra, openly avowed
his intention to cut off the rebel's ears, and broil them for his
breakfast! Such impotent sallies did not alarm the stout-hearted
friar, who soon entered into communication with many of the officers
and soldiers, whom he found better inclined to an accommodation. His
insinuating eloquence, backed by his liberal largesses, gradually
opened a way into their hearts, and a party was formed under the
very eye of their chief, better affected to his rival's interests than
to his own. The intrigue could not be conducted so secretly as
wholly to elude the suspicions of Narvaez, who would have arrested
Olmedo and placed him under confinement, but for the interposition
of Duero. He put a stop to his further machinations by sending him
back again to his master. But the poison was left to do its work.
Narvaez made the same vaunt as at his landing, of his design to
march against Cortes and apprehend him as a traitor. The Cempoallans
learned with astonishment that their new guests, though the
countrymen, were enemies of their former. Narvaez also proclaimd his
intention to release Montezuma from captivity, and restore him to
his throne. It is said he received a rich present from the Aztec
emperor, who entered into a correspondence with him. That Montezuma
should have treated him with his usual munificence, supposing him to
be the friend of Cortes, is very probable. But that he should have
entered into a secret communication, hostile to the general's
interests, is too repugnant to the whole tenor of his conduct, to be
These proceedings did not escape the watchful eye of Sandoval.
He gathered the particulars partly from deserters, who fled to Villa
Rica, and partly from his own agents, who in the disguise of natives
mingled in the enemy's camp. He sent a full account of them to Cortes,
acquainted him with the growing defection of the Indians, and urged
him to take speedy measures for the defence of Villa Rica, if he would
not see it fall into the enemy's hands. The general felt that it was
time to act.
Yet the selection of the course to be pursued was embarrassing
in the extreme. If he remained in Mexico and awaited there the
attack of his rival, it would give the latter time to gather round him
the whole forces of the empire, including those of the capital itself,
all willing, no doubt, to serve under the banners of a chief who
proposed the liberation of their master. The odds were too great to be
If he marched against Narvaez, he must either abandon the city and
the emperor, the fruit of all his toils and triumphs, or, by leaving a
garrison to hold them in awe, must cripple his strength, already far
too weak to cope with that of his adversary. Yet on this latter course
he decided. He trusted less, perhaps, to an open encounter of arms,
than to the influence of his personal address and previous
intrigues, to bring about an amicable arrangement. But he prepared
himself for either result.
In the preceding chapter, it was mentioned that Velasquez de
Leon was sent with a hundred and fifty men to plant a colony on one of
the great rivers emptying into the Mexican Gulf. Cortes, on learning
the arrival of Narvaez, had despatched a messenger to his officer to
acquaint him with the fact, and to arrest his further progress. But
Velasquez had already received notice of it from Narvaez himself, who,
in a letter written soon after his landing, had adjured him in the
name of his kinsman, the governor of Cuba, to quit the banners of
Cortes, and come over to him. That officer, however, had long since
buried the feelings of resentment which he had once nourished
against his general, to whom he was now devotedly attached, and who
had honoured him throughout the campaign with particular regard.
Cortes had early seen the importance of securing this cavalier to
his interests. Without waiting for orders, Velasquez abandoned his
expedition, and commenced a countermarch on the capital, when he
received the general's commands to wait him in Cholula.
Cortes had also sent to the distant province of Chinantla,
situated far to the south-east of Cholula, for a reinforcement of
two thousand natives. They were a bold race, hostile to the
Mexicans, and had offered their services to him since his residence in
the metropolis. They used a long spear in battle, longer, indeed, than
that borne by the Spanish or German infantry. Cortes ordered three
hundred of their double-headed lances to be made for him, and to be
tipped with copper instead of itztli. With this formidable weapon he
proposed to foil the cavalry of his enemy.
The command of the garrison, in his absence, he instrusted to
Pedro de Alvarado,- the Tonatiuh of the Mexicans,- a man possessed
of many commanding qualities, of an intrepid, though somewhat arrogant
spirit, and his warm personal friend. He inculcated on him
moderation and forbearance. He was to keep a close watch on
Montezuma, for on the possession of the royal person rested all
their authority in the land. He was to show him the deference alike
due to his high station, and demanded by policy. He was to pay uniform
respect to the usages and the prejudices of the people; remembering
that though his small force would be large enough to overawe them in
times of quiet, yet, should they be once roused, it would be swept
away like chaff before the whirlwind.
From Montezuma he exacted a promise to maintain the same
friendly relations with his lieutenant which he had preserved
towards himself. This, said Cortes, would be most grateful to his
own master, the Spanish sovereign. Should the Aztec prince do
otherwise, and lend himself to any hostile movement, he must be
convinced that he would fall the first victim of it.
The emperor assured him of his continued good will. He was much
perplexed, however, by the recent events. Were the at his court, or
those just landed, the true representatives of their sovereign?
Cortes, who had hitherto maintained a reserve on the subject, now told
him that the latter were indeed his countrymen, but traitors to his
master. As such it was his painful duty to march against them, and,
when he had chastised their rebellion, he should return, before his
departure from the land, in triumph to the capital. Montezuma
offered to support him with five thousand Aztec warriors; but the
general declined it, not choosing to encumber himself with a body of
doubtful, perhaps disaffected, auxiliaries.
He left in garrison, under Alvarado, one hundred and forty men,
two-thirds of his whole force. With these remained all the
artillery, the greater part of the little body of horse, and most of
the arquebusiers. He took with him only seventy soldiers, but they
were men of the most mettle in the army and his staunch adherents.
They were lightly armed, and encumbered with as little baggage as
possible. Everything depended on celerity of movement.
Montezuma, in his royal litter, borne on the shoulders of his
nobles, and escorted by the whole Spanish infantry, accompanied the
general to the causeway. There, embracing him in the most cordial
manner, they parted, with all the external marks of mutual regard.- It
was about the middle of May, 1520, more than six months since the
entrance of the Spaniards into Mexico. During this time they had
lorded it over the land with absolute sway. They were now leaving
the city in hostile array, not against an Indian foe, but their own
countrymen. It was the beginning of a long career of calamity,-
chequered, indeed, by occasional triumphs,- which was yet to be run
before the Conquest could be completed.
1. In the collection of MSS., made by Don Vargas Ponçe, former President of the Academy of History, is a Memorial of this same Benito Martin to the Emperor, setting forth the services of Velasquez, and the ingratitude and revolt of Cortés and his followers. The paper is without date; written after the arrival of the envoys, probably at the close of 1519 or the beginning of the following year.
2. Sandoval, indeed, gives a singular reason,--that of being near the coast, so as to enable Chiévres, and the other Flemish blood-suckers, to escape suddenly, if need were, with their ill-gotten treasures, from the country. Hist. de Cárlos Quinto, tom. I. p. 203, ed. Pamplona, 1634.
3. See the letter of Peter Martyr to his noble friend and pupil, the Marquis de Mondejar, written two months after the arrival of the vessel from Vera Cruz. Opus Epist., ep. 650.
4. Zuñiga, Anales Eclesiçsticos y Seculares de Sevilla, (Madrid, 1677,) fol. 414.--Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 5, cap. 14; lib. 9, cap. 17, et alibi.
5 Velasquez, it appears, had sent home an account of the doings of Cortés and of the vessel which touched with the treasures at Cuba, as early as October, 1519. Carta de Velasquez al Lic. Figueroa, MS., Nov. 17, 1519.
6. "Con gran música," says Sandoval, bitterly, "de todos los ministriles y clarines, recogiendo las áncoras, diéron vela al viento con gran regozijo, dexando á la triste España cargada de duelos, y desventuras." Hist. de Cárlos Quinto, tom. I. p. 219.
7. The instrument was dated at Barcelona, Nov. 13, 1518. Cortés left St. Jago the 18th of the same month. Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 3, cap. 11.
8. Gomara (Crónica, cap. 96) and Robertson (History of America, vol. II. pp. 304, 466) consider that the new dignity of adelantado stimulated the governor to this enterprise. By a letter of his own writing in the Muñoz collection, it appears he had begun operations some months previous to his receiving notice of his appointment. Carta de Velasquez al señor de Xêvres, Isla Fernandina, MS., Octubre 12, 1519.
9. Carta de Velasquez al Lic. Figueroa, MS., Nov. 17, 1519.
10. The person of Narvaez is thus whimsically described by Diaz. "He was tall, stout limbed, with a large head and red beard, an agreeable presence, a voice deep and sonorous, as if it rose from a cavern. He was a good horseman and valiant." Hist. de la Conquista cap. 205.
11. The danger of such a result is particularly urged in a memorandum of the licentiate Ayllon. Carta al Emperador, Guaniguanico, Marzo 4, 1520, MS.
12. Processo y Pesquiza hecha pot la Real Audiencia de la Española, Santo Domingo, Diciembre 24, 1519, MS.
13. Parecer del Lic. Ayllon al adelantado Diego Velasquez, Isla Fernandina, 1520, MS.
14 Relacion del Lic. Ayllon, Santo Domingo, 30 de Agosto, 1520, MS.--Processo y Pesquiza por la R. Audiencia, MS.
According to Diaz, the ordnance amounted to twenty cannon. Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 109.
15 The great fleet under Ovando, 1501, in which Cortés had intended to embark for the New World. Herrera, Hist. General, dec. l, lib. 4, cap. 11.
16 "De allí seguímos el viage por toda la costa de la Isla de Yucatan." Relacion del Lic. Ayllon, MS.
17. "La cual tierra sabe é ha visto este testigo, que el dicho Hernando Cortés tiene pacífica, é le sirven é obedecen todos los Indios; é que cree este testigo que lo hacen por cabsa que el dicho Hernando Cortés tiene preso á un Cacique que dicen Montesuma, que es Señor de lo mas de la tierra, á lo que este testigo alcanza, al cual los Indios obedecen, é facen lo que les manda, é los Cristianos andan por toda esta tierra seguros, é un solo Cristiano la ha atravesado toda sin temor." Processo y Pesquiza por la R. Audiencia, MS.
18. Relacion del Lic. Ayllon, MS.--Demanda de Zavallos en nombre de Narvaez, MS.
19. This report is to be found among the MSS. of Vargas Ponçe, in the archives of the Royal Academy of History. It embraces a hundred and ten folio pages, and is entitled, "El Processo y Pesquiza hecha por la Real Audiencia de la Española é tierra nuevamente descubierta. Para el Consejo de su Majestad."
20. "É iban espantados de que veian tatas ciudades y pueblos grandes, que les traian de comer, y vnos los dexavan, y otros los to mavan, y andar por su camino. Dize que iban pensando si era encantamiento, ó sueño." Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. III.--Demanda de Zavallos, MS.
21. "Ya auia tres dias que lo sabia el Monteçuma, y Cortés no sabia cosa ninguna." Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 110.
22. Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 117-120.
23. "Our commander said so many kind things to them," says Diaz, "and anointed their fingers so plentifully with gold, that, though they came like roaring lions, they went home perfectly tame"! Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 111.
24. Ibid., cap. 112.
25. Ibid., cap. 111.
Oviedo says that Montezuma called a council of his nobles, in which it was decided to let the troops of Narvaez into the capital, and then to crush them at one blow, with those of Cortés! (Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.) Considering the awe in which the latter alone were held by the Mexicans, a more improbable tale could not be devised. But nothing is too improbable for history,--though, according to Boileau's maxim, it may be for fiction.
26. In the Mexican edition of the letters of Cortés, it is called five hundred men. (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 122.) But this was more than his whole Spanish force. In Ramusio's version of the same letter, printed as early as 1565, the number is stated as in the text. (Navigationi et Viaggi, fol. 244.) In an instrument without date, containing the affidavits of certain witnesses as to the management of the royal fifth by Cortés, it is said, there were one hundred and fifty soldiers left in the capital under Alvarado. (Probanza fecha en la nueva España del mar océano á pedimento de Juan Ochoa de Lexalde, en nombre de Hernando Cortés, MS.) The account in the Mexican edition is unquestionably an error.
27. Carta de Villa de Vera Cruz á el Emperador, MS. This letter without date was probably written in 1520.--See, also, for the preceding pages, Probanza fecha á pedimento de Juan Ochoa, MS.,--Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 9, cap. 1, 21; lib. 10, cap. 1,--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 119, 120,--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 112-115,-Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.