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Title: Narrative and Critical History of America, Vol. 2 (of 8)

Editor: Justin Winsor

Release date: January 9, 2016 [eBook #50883]

Language: English



E-text prepared by Giovanni Fini, Dianna Adair, Bryan Ness,
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
from page images generously made available by
Internet Archive/American Libraries


Note: Images of the original pages are available through Internet Archive. See






Explorations and Settlements
In America

Fifteenth to the Seventeenth








The Riverside Press, Cambridge


Copyright, 1886,

All rights reserved.



[The Spanish arms on the title are copied from the titlepage of Herrera.]

Documentary Sources of Early Spanish-American History. The Editor i
Columbus and his Discoveries. The Editor 1
Illustrations: Columbus’ Armor, 4; Parting of Columbus with Ferdinand and Isabella, 6; Early Vessels, 7; Building a Ship, 8; Course of Columbus on his First Voyage, 9; Ship of Columbus’ Time, 10; Native House in Hispaniola, 11; Curing the Sick, 11; The Triumph of Columbus, 12; Columbus at Hispaniola, 13; Handwriting of Columbus, 14; Arms of Columbus, 15; Fruit-trees of Hispaniola, 16; Indian Club, 16; Indian Canoe, 17, 17; Columbus at Isla Margarita, 18; Early Americans, 19; House in which Columbus died, 23.
Critical Essay 24
Illustrations: Ptolemy, 26, 27; Albertus Magnus, 29; Marco Polo, 30; Columbus’ Annotations on the Imago Mundi, 31; on Æneas Sylvius, 32; the Atlantic of the Ancients, 37; Prince Henry the Navigator, 39; his Autograph, 39; Sketch-map of Portuguese Discoveries in Africa, 40; Portuguese Map of the Old World (1490), 41; Vasco da Gama and his Autograph, 42; Line of Demarcation (Map of 1527), 43; Pope Alexander VI., 44.
Notes 46
A, First Voyage, 46; B, Landfall, 52; C, Effect of the Discovery in Europe, 56; D, Second Voyage, 57; E, Third Voyage, 58; F, Fourth Voyage, 59; G, Lives and Notices of Columbus, 62; H, Portraits of Columbus, 69; I, Burial and Remains of Columbus, 78; J, Birth of Columbus, and Accounts of his Family, 83.
[vi] Illustrations: Fac-simile of first page of Columbus’ Letter, No. III., 49; Cut on reverse of Title of Nos. V. and VI., 50; Title of No. VI., 51; The Landing of Columbus, 52; Cut in German Translation of the First Letter, 53; Text of the German Translation, 54; the Bahama Group (map), 55; Sign-manuals of Ferdinand and Isabella, 56; Sebastian Brant, 59; Map of Columbus’ Four Voyages, 60, 61; Fac-simile of page in the Glustiniani Psalter, 63; Ferdinand Columbus’ Register of Books, 65; Autograph of Humboldt, 68; Paulus Jovius, 70. Portraits of Columbus,—after Giovio, 71; the Yanez Portrait, 72; after Capriolo, 73; the Florence picture, 74; the De Bry Picture, 75; the Jomard Likeness, 76; the Havana Medallion, 77; Picture at Madrid, 78; after Montanus, 79; Coffer and Bones found in Santo Domingo, 80; Inscriptions on and in the Coffer, 81, 82; Portrait and Sign-manual of Ferdinand of Spain, 85; Bartholomew Columbus, 86.
Postscript 88
Illustrations: Early Compass, 94; Astrolabe of Regiomontanus, 96; Later Astrolabe, 97; Jackstaff, 99; Backstaff, 100; Pirckeymerus, 102; Toscanelli’s Map, 103; Martin Behaim, 104; Extract from Behaim’s Globe, 105; Part of La Cosa’s Map, 106; of the Cantino Map, 108; Peter Martyr Map (1511), 110; Ptolemy Map (1513), 111; Admiral’s Map (1513), 112; Reisch’s Map (1515), 114; Ruysch’s Map (1508), 115; Stobnicza’s Map (1512), 116; Schöner, 117; Schöner’s Globe (1515), 118; (1520), 119; Tross Gores (1514-1519), 120; Münster’s Map (1532), 121; Sylvanus’ Map (1511), 122; Lenox Globe, 123; Da Vinci Sketch of Globe, 124, 125, 126; Carta Marina of Frisius (1525), 127; Coppo’s Map (1528), 127.
Amerigo Vespucci. Sydney Howard Gay 129
Illustrations: Fac-simile of a Letter of Vespucci, 130; Autograph of Amerrigo Vespuche, 138; Portraits of Vespucci, 139, 140, 141.
Illustrations: Title of the Jehan Lambert edition of the Mundus Novus, 157; first page of Vorsterman’s Mundus Novus, 158; Title of De Ora Antarctica, 159; title of Von der neu gefunden Region, 160; Fac-simile of its first page, 161; Ptolemy’s World, 165; Title of the Cosmographiæ Introductio, 167; Fac-simile of its reference to the name of America, 168; the Lenox Globe (American parts), 170; Title of the 1509 edition of the Cosmographiæ Introductio, 171; title of the Globus Mundi, 172; Map of Laurentius Frisius in the Ptolemy of 1522, 175; American part of the Mercator Map of 1541, 177; Portrait of Apianus, 179.
Illustrations: Pomponius Mela’s World, 180; Vadianus, 181; Part of Apianus’ Map (1520), 183; Apianus, 185.
The Companions of Columbus. Edward Channing 187
Illustrations: Map of Hispaniola, 188; Castilia del Oro, 190; Cartagena, 192; Balbóa, 195; Havana, 202.
Critical Essay 204
Illustration: Juan de Grijalva, 216.
Illustrations: Map of the Pacific (1518), 217; of the Gulf of Mexico (1520), 218; by Lorenz Friess (1522), 218; by Maiollo (1527), 219; by Nuño Garcia de Toreno (1527), 220; by Ribero (1529), 221; The so-called Lenox Woodcut (1534), 223; Early French Map, 224; Gulf of Mexico (1536), 225; by Rotz (1542), 226; by Cabot (1544), 227; in Ramusio (1556), 228; by Homem (1558), 229; by Martines (1578), 229; of Cuba, by Wytfliet (1597), 230.
Ancient Florida. John G. Shea 231
Illustrations: Ponce de Leon, 235; Hernando de Soto, 252; Autograph of De Soto, 253; of Mendoza, 254; Map of Florida (1565), 264; Site of Fort Caroline, 265; View of St. Augustine, 266; Spanish Vessels, 267; Building of Fort Caroline, 268; Fort Caroline completed, 269; Map of Florida (1591), 274; Wytfliet’s Map (1597), 281.
Critical Essay 283
Illustrations: Map of Ayllon’s Explorations, 285; Autograph of Narvaez, 286; of Cabeza de Vaca, 287; of Charles V., 289; of Biedma, 290; Map of the Mississippi (sixteenth century), 292; Delisle’s Map, with the Route of De Soto, 294, 295.
Las Casas, and the Relations of the Spaniards to the Indians. George E. Ellis 299
Critical Essay 331
Illustrations: Las Casas, 332; his Autograph, 333; Titlepages of his Tracts, 334, 336, 338; Fac-simile of his Handwriting, 339.
Editorial Note 343
Illustrations: Autograph of Motolinia, 343; Title of Oviedo’s Natural Hystoria (1526), 344; Arms of Oviedo, 345; his Autograph, 346; Head of Benzoni, 347.
Cortés and his Companions. The Editor 349
Illustrations: Velasquez, 350; Cannon of Cortés’ time, 352; Helps’s Map of Cortés’ Voyage, 353; Cortés and his Arms, 354; Gabriel Lasso de la Vega, 355; Cortés, 357; Map of the March of Cortés, 358; Cortés, 360; Montezuma, 361, 363; Map of Mexico before the Conquest, 364; Pedro de Alvarado, 366; his Autograph, 367; Helps’s Map of the Mexican Valley, 369; Tree of Triste Noche, 370; Charles V., 371, 373; his Autograph, 372; Wilson’s Map of the Mexican Valley, 374; Jourdanet’s Map of the Valley, colored, 375; Mexico under the Conquerors, 377; Mexico according to Ramusio, 379; Cortés in Jovius, 381; his Autograph, 381; Map of Guatemala and Honduras, 384; Autograph of Sandoval, 387; his Portrait, 388; Cortés after Herrera, 389; his Armor, 390; Autograph of Fuenleal, 391; Map of Mexico after Herrera, 392; Acapulco, 394; Full-length Portrait of Cortés, 395; Likeness on a Medal, 396.
Critical Essay 397
Illustration: Autograph of Icazbalceta, 397.
Notes 402
Illustrations: Cortés before Charles V., 403; Cortés’ Map of the Gulf of Mexico, 404; Title of the Latin edition of his Letters (1524), 405; Reverse of its Title, 406; Portrait of Clement VII., 407; Autograph of Gayangos, 408; Lorenzana’s Map of Spain, 408; Title of De insulis nuper inventis, 409; Title of Gomara’s Historia (1553), 413; Autograph of Bernal Diaz, 414; of Sahagun, 416; Portrait of Solis, 423; Portrait of William H. Prescott, 426.
Illustrations: Map from the Sloane Manuscripts (1530), 432; from Ruscelli (1544), 432; Nancy Globe, 433; from Ziegler’s Schondia (1532), 434; Carta Marina (1548), 435; Vopellio’s Map (1556), 436; Titlepage of Girava’s Cosmographia, 437; Furlani’s Map (1560), 438; Map of the Pacific (1513), 440; Cortés’ Map of the California Peninsula, 442; Castillo’s Map of the California Gulf (1541), 444; Map by Homem (1540), 446; by Cabot (1544), 447; by Freire (1546), 448; in Ptolemy (1548), 449; by Martines (155-?), 450; by Zaltieri (1566), 451; by Mercator (1569), 452; by Porcacchi (1572), 453; by Furlani (1574), 454; from Molineaux’ Globe (1592), 455; a Spanish Galleon, 456; Map of the Gulf of California by Wytfliet (1597), 458; of America by Wytfliet (1597), 459; of Terre de Iesso, 464; of the California Coast by Dudley (1646), 465; Diagram of Mercator’s Projection, 470.
Early Explorations of New Mexico. Henry W. Haynes 473
Illustrations: Autograph of Coronado, 481; Map of his Explorations, 485; Early Drawings of the Buffalo, 488, 489.
Critical Essay[ix] 498
Editorial Note 503
Pizarro, and the Conquest and Settlement of Peru and Chili. Clements R. Markham 505
Illustrations: Indian Rafts, 508; Sketch-maps of the Conquest of Peru, 509, 519; picture of Embarkation, 512; Ruge’s Map of Pizarro’s Discoveries, 513; Native Huts in Trees, 514; Atahualpa, 515, 516; Almagro, 518; Plan of Ynca Fortress near Cusco, 521; Building of a Town, 522; Gabriel de Rojas, 523; Sketch-map of the Conquest of Chili, 524; Pedro de Valdivia, 529, 530; Pastene, 531; Pizarro, 532, 533; Vaca de Castro, 535; Pedro de la Gasca, 539, 540; Alonzo de Alvarado, 544; Conception Bay, 548; Garcia Hurtado de Mendoza, 550; Peruvians worshipping the Sun, 551; Cusco, 554; Temple of Cusco, 555; Wytfliet’s Map of Peru, 558; of Chili, 559; Sotomayor, 562; Title of the 1535 Xeres, 565.
Critical Essay 563
Illustration: Title of the 1535 Xeres, 565.
Editorial Notes 573
Illustration: Prescott’s Library, 577.
Illustrations: Gonzalo Ximenes de Quesada, 580; Sketch-map, 581; Castellanos, 583; Map of the Mouths of the Orinoco, 586; De Laet’s Map of Parime Lacus, 588.
Magellan’s Discovery. Edward E. Hale 591
Illustrations: Autograph of Magellan, 592; Portraits of Magellan, 593, 594, 595; Indian Beds, 597; South American Cannibals, 598; Giant’s Skeleton at Porto Desire, 602; Quoniambec, 603; Pigafetta’s Map of Magellan’s Straits, 605; Chart of the Pacific, showing Magellan’s Track, 610; Pigafetta’s Map of the Ladrones, 611.
Critical Essay 613






THE earliest of the historians to use, to any extent, documentary proofs, was Herrera, in his Historia general, first published in 1601.[1] As the official historiographer of the Indies, he had the best of opportunities for access to the great wealth of documents which the Spanish archivists had preserved; but he never distinctly quotes them, or says where they are to be found.[2] It is through him that we are aware of some important manuscripts not now known to exist.[3]

The formation of the collections at Simancas, near Valladolid, dates back to an order of Charles the Fifth, Feb. 19, 1543. New accommodations were added from time to time, as documents were removed thither from the bureaus of the Crown Secretaries, and from those of the Councils of Seville and of the Indies. It was reorganized by Philip II., in 1567, on a larger basis, as a depository for historical research, when masses of manuscripts from other parts of Spain were transported thither;[4] but the comparatively small extent of the Simancas Collection does not indicate that the order was very extensively observed; though it must be remembered that Napoleon made havoc among these papers, and that in 1814 it was but a remnant which was rearranged.[5]


Dr. Robertson was the earliest of the English writers to make even scant use of the original manuscript sources of information; and such documents as he got from Spain were obtained through the solicitation and address of Lord Grantham, the English ambassador. Everything, however, was grudgingly given, after being first directly refused. It is well known that the Spanish Government considered even what he did obtain and make use of as unfit to be brought to the attention of their own public, and the authorities interposed to prevent the translation of Robertson’s history into Spanish.

In his preface Dr. Robertson speaks of the peculiar solicitude with which the Spanish archives were concealed from strangers in his time; and he tells how, to Spanish subjects even, those of Simancas were opened only upon a royal order. Papers notwithstanding such order, he says, could be copied only by payment of fees too exorbitant to favor research.[6] By order of Fernando VI., in the last century, a collection of selected copies of the most important documents in the various depositories of archives was made; and this was placed in the Biblioteca Nacional at Madrid.

In 1778 Charles III. ordered that the documents of the Indies in the Spanish offices and depositories should be brought together in one place. The movement did not receive form till 1785, when a commission was appointed; and not till 1788, did Simancas, and the other collections drawn upon, give up their treasures to be transported to Seville, where they were placed in the building provided for them.[7]

Muñoz, who was born in 1745, was commissioned in 1779 by the King with authority[8] to search archives, public and family, and to write and publish a Historia[iii] del nuevo mundo. Of this work only a single volume,[9] bringing the story down to 1500, was completed, and it was issued in 1793. Muñoz gave in its preface a critical review of the sources of his subject. In the prosecution of his labor he formed a collection of documents, which after his death was scattered; but parts of it were, in 1827, in the possession of Don Antonio de Uguina,[10] and later of Ternaux. The Spanish Government exerted itself to reassemble the fragments of this collection, which is now, in great part, in the Academy of History at Madrid,[11] where it has been increased by other manuscripts from the archives at Seville. Other portions are lodged, however, in ministerial offices, and the most interesting are noted by Harrisse in his Christophe Colomb.[12] A paper by Mr. J. Carson Brevoort on Muñoz and his manuscripts is in the American Bibliopolist (vol. viii. p. 21), February, 1876.[13] An English translation of Muñoz’s single volume appeared in 1797, with notes, mostly translated from the German version by Sprengel, published in 1795. Rich had a manuscript copy made of all that Muñoz wrote of his second volume (never printed), and this copy is noted in the Brinley Catalogue, no. 47.[14]


“In the days of Muñoz,” says Harrisse in his Notes on Columbus, p. 1, “the great repositories for original documents concerning Columbus and the early history of Spanish America were the Escurial, Simancas, the Convent of Monserrate, the colleges of St. Bartholomew and Cuenca at Salamanca, and St. Gregory at Valladolid, the Cathedral of Valencia, the Church of Sacro-Monte in Granada, the convents of St. Francis at Tolosa, St. Dominick at Malaga, St. Acacio, St. Joseph, and St. Isidro del Campo at Seville. There may be many valuable records still concealed in those churches and convents.”

The originals of the letters-patent, and other evidences of privileges granted by the Spanish monarchs to Columbus, were preserved by him, and now constitute a part of the collection of the Duke of Veraguas, in Madrid. In 1502 Columbus caused several attested copies of them and of a few other documents to be made, raising the number of papers from thirty-six to forty-four. His care in causing these copies to be distributed among different custodians evinces the high importance which he held them to have, as testimonials to his fame and his prominence in the world’s history.[iv] One wishes he could have had a like solicitude for the exactness of his own statements. Before setting out on his fourth voyage, he intrusted one of these copies to Francesco di Rivarolo, for delivery to Nicoló Odérigo, the ambassador of Genoa, in Madrid. From Cadiz shortly afterwards he sent a second copy to the same Odérigo. In 1670 both of these copies were given, by a descendant of Odérigo, to the Republic of Genoa. They subsequently disappeared from the archives of the State, and Harrisse[15] has recently found one of them in the archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Paris. The other was bought in 1816 by the Sardinian Government, at a sale of the effects of Count Michael-Angelo Cambiasi. After a copy had been made and deposited in the archives at Turin, this second copy was deposited in a marble custodia, surmounted by a bust of Columbus, and placed in the palace of the Doges in Genoa.[16] These documents, with two of the letters addressed (March 21, 1502, and Dec. 27, 1504)[17] to Odérigo, were published in Genoa in 1823 in the Codice diplomatico Colombo-Americano, edited with a biographical introduction by Giovanni Battista Spotorno.[18] A third letter (April 2, 1502), addressed to the governors of the Bank of St. George, was not printed by Spotorno, but was given in English in 1851 in the Memorials of Columbus by Robert Dodge, published by the Maryland Historical Society.[19]

The State Archives of Genoa were transferred from the Ducal Palace, in 1817, to the Palazzetto, where they now are; and Harrisse’s account[20] of them tells us what they do not contain respecting Columbus, rather than what they do. We also learn from him something of the “Archives du Notariat Génois,” and of the collections formed by the Senator Federico Federici (d. 1647), by Gian Battista Richeri (circa 1724), and by others; but they seem to have afforded Harrisse little more than stray notices of early members of the Colombo family.

Washington Irving refers to the “self-sustained zeal of one of the last veterans of Spanish literature, who is almost alone, yet indefatigable, in his labors in a country where at present literary exertion meets with but little excitement or reward.” Such is his introduction of Martin Fernandez de Navarrete,[21] who was born in 1765,[v] and as a young man gave some active and meritorious service in the Spanish navy. In 1789 he was forced by ill-health to abandon the sea. He then accepted a commission from Charles IV. to examine all the depositories of documents in the kingdom, and arrange the material to be found in illustration of the history of the Spanish navy.[22] This work he continued, with interruptions, till 1825, when he began at Madrid the publication of his Coleccion de los viages y descubrimientos que hicieron por mar los Españoles desde fines del siglo XV.,[23] which reached an extent of five volumes, and was completed in 1837. It put in convenient printed form more than five hundred documents of great value, between the dates of 1393 and 1540. A sixth and seventh volume were left unfinished at his death, which occurred in 1844, at the age of seventy-eight.[24] His son afterward gathered some of his minor writings, including biographies of early navigators,[25] and printed (1848) them as a Coleccion de opúsculos; and in 1851 another of his works, Biblioteca maritima Española, was printed at Madrid in two volumes.[26]

The first two volumes of his collection (of which volumes there was a second edition in 1858) bore the distinctive title, Relaciones, cartas y otros documentos, concernientes á los cuatro viages que hizo el Almirante D. Cristóbal Colon para el descubrimiento de las Indias occidentales, and Documentos diplomáticos. Three years later (1828) a French version of these two volumes appeared at Paris, which Navarrete himself revised, and which is further enriched with notes by Humboldt, Jomard, Walckenaer, and others.[27] This French edition is entitled: Relation des quatres voyages entrepris par Ch. Colomb pour la découverte du Nouveau Monde de 1492 à 1504, traduite par Chalumeau de Vernéuil? et de la Roquette. It is in three volumes, and is worth about twenty francs. An Italian version, Narrazione dei quattro viaggi, etc., was made by F. Giuntini, and appeared in two volumes at Prato in 1840-1841.[28]

Navarrete’s literary labors did not prevent much conspicuous service on his part, both at sea and on land; and in 1823, not long before he published his great Collection, he became the head of the Spanish hydrographic bureau.[29] After his death the Spanish Academy printed (1846) his historical treatise on the Art of Navigation and kindred subjects (Disertacion sobre la historia de la náutica[30]), which was an enlargement of an earlier essay published in 1802.


While Navarrete’s great work was in progress at Madrid, Mr. Alexander H. Everett, the American Minister at that Court, urged upon Washington Irving, then at Bordeaux, the translation into English of the new material which Navarrete was preparing, together with his Commentary. Upon this incentive Irving went to Madrid and inspected the work, which was soon published. His sense of the popular demand easily convinced him that a continuous narrative, based upon Navarrete’s material,—but leaving himself free to use all other helps,—would afford him better opportunities to display his own graceful literary skill, and more readily to engage the favor of the general reader. Irving’s judgment was well founded; and Navarrete never quite forgave him for making a name more popularly associated with that of the great discoverer than his own.[31] Navarrete afforded Irving at this time much personal help and encouragement. Obadiah Rich, the American Consul at Valencia, under whose roof Irving lived, furnished him, however, his chief resource in a curious and extensive library. To the Royal Library, and to that of the Jesuit College of San Isidro, Irving also occasionally resorted. The Duke of Veraguas took pleasure in laying before him his own family archives.[32] The result was the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus; and in the Preface, dated at Madrid in 1827,[33] Irving made full acknowledgment of the services which had been rendered to him. This work was followed, not long after, by the Voyages and Discoveries of the Companions of Columbus; and ever since, in English and other languages, the two books have kept constant company.[34]

Irving proved an amiable hero-worshipper, and Columbus was pictured with few questionable traits. The writer’s literary canons did not call for the scrutiny which destroys a world’s exemplar. “One of the most salutary purposes of history,” he says, “is to furnish examples of what human genius and laudable enterprise may accomplish,”—and such brilliant examples must be rescued from the “pernicious erudition” of the investigator. Irving’s method at least had the effect to conciliate the upholders of the saintly character of the discoverer; and the modern school of the De Lorgues, who have been urging the canonization of Columbus, find Irving’s ideas of him higher and juster than those of Navarrete.

Henri Ternaux-Compans printed his Voyages, relations, et mémoires originaux pour servir à l’histoire de la dècouverte de l’Amérique, between 1837 and 1841.[35][vii] This collection included rare books and about seventy-five original documents, which it is suspected may have been obtained during the French occupation of Spain. Ternaux published his Archives des voyages, in two volumes, at Paris in 1840;[36] a minor part of it pertains to American affairs. Another volume, published at the same time, is often found with it,—Recueil de documents et mémoires originaux sur l’histoire des possessions Espagnoles dans l’Amérique, whose contents, it is said, were derived from the Muñoz Collection.

The Academy of History at Madrid began in 1842 a series of documentary illustrations which, though devoted to the history of Spain in general (Coleccion de documentos inéditos para la historia de España), contains much matter of the first importance in respect to the history of her colonies.[37] Navarrete was one of the original editors, but lived only to see five volumes published. Salvá, Baranda, and others have continued the publication since, which now amounts to eighty volumes, of which vols. 62, 63, and 64 are the famous history of Las Casas, then for the first time put in print.

In 1864 a new series was begun at Madrid,—Coleccion de documentos inéditos relativos al descubrimiento, conquista y colonizacion de las posesiones Españolas en América y Oceania, sacados, en su mayor parte, del Real Archivo de Indias. Nearly forty volumes have thus far been published, under the editing of Joaquin F. Pacheco, Francisco de Cárdenas, and Luis Torres de Mendoza at the start, but with changes later in the editorial staff.[38]

Mr. E. G. Squier edited at New York in 1860 a work called Collection of Rare and Original Documents and Relations concerning the Discovery and Conquest of America, chiefly from the Spanish Archives, in the original, with Translations, Notes, Maps, and Sketches. There was a small edition only,—one hundred copies on small paper, and ten on large paper.[39] This was but one of a large collection of manuscripts relative to Central America and Mexico which Mr. Squier had collected, partly during his term as chargé d’affaires in 1849. Out of these he intended a series of publications, which never went beyond this first number. The collection “consists,” says Bancroft,[40] “of extracts and copies of letters and reports of audiencias, governors, bishops, and various governmental officials, taken from the Spanish archives at Madrid and from the library of the Spanish Royal Academy of History, mostly under the direction of the indefatigable collector, Mr. Buckingham Smith.”

Early Spanish manuscripts on America in the British Museum are noted in its Index to Manuscripts, 1854-1875, p. 31; and Gayangos’ Catalogue of Spanish Manuscripts in the British Museum, vol. ii., has a section on America.[41]


Regarding the chances of further developments in depositories of manuscripts, Harrisse, in his Notes on Columbus,[42] says: “For the present the historian will find enough to gather from the Archivo General de Indias in the Lonja at Seville, which contains as many as forty-seven thousand huge packages, brought, within the last fifty years, from all parts of Spain. But the richest mine as yet unexplored we suppose to be the archives of the monastic orders in Italy; as all the expeditions to the New World were accompanied by Franciscan, Dominican, Benedictine, and other monks, who maintained an active correspondence with the heads of their respective congregations. The private archives of the Dukes of Veraguas, Medina-Sidonia, and Del Infantado, at Madrid, are very rich. There is scarce anything relating to that early period left in Simancas; but the original documents in the Torre do Tombo at Lisbon are all intact”[43]

Among the latest contributions to the documentary history of the Spanish colonization is a large folio, Cartas de Indias, publicalas por primera vez el ministerio de fomento, issued in Madrid in 1877 under the auspices of the Spanish Government. It contains one hundred and eight letters,[44] covering the period 1496 to 1586, the earliest date being a supposed one for a letter of Columbus which is without date.[ix] The late Mr. George Dexter,[45] who has printed[46] a translation of this letter (together with one of another letter, Feb. 6, 1502, and one of Vespucius, Dec. 9, 1508), gives his reasons for thinking the date should be between March 15 and Sept. 25, 1493.[47]

At Madrid and Paris was published, in 1883, a single octavo volume,—Costa-Rica, Nicaragua y Panamá en el siglo XVI., su historia y sus limítes segun los documentos del Archivo de Indias de Sevilla, del de Simancas, etc., recogidos y publicados con notas y aclaraciones históricas y geográficas, por D. Manuel M. de Peralta.

The more special and restricted documentary sources are examined in the successive chapters of the present volume.







The Editor.

BEYOND his birth, of poor and respectable parents, we know nothing positively about the earliest years of Columbus. His father was probably a wool-comber. The boy had the ordinary schooling of his time, and a touch of university life during a few months passed at Pavia; then at fourteen he chose to become a sailor. A seaman’s career in those days implied adventures more or less of a piratical kind. There are intimations, however, that in the intervals of this exciting life he followed the more humanizing occupation of selling books in Genoa, and perhaps got some employment in the making of charts, for he had a deft hand at design. We know his brother Bartholomew was earning his living in this way when Columbus joined him in Lisbon in 1470. Previous to this there seems to be some degree of certainty in connecting him with voyages made by a celebrated admiral of his time bearing the same family name, Colombo; he is also said to have joined the naval expedition of John of Anjou against Naples in 1459.[48] Again, he may have been the companion of another notorious corsair, a nephew of the one already mentioned, as is sometimes maintained; but this sea-rover’s proper name seems to have been more likely Caseneuve, though he was sometimes called Coulon or Colon.[49]


Columbus spent the years 1470-1484 in Portugal. It was a time when the air was filled with tales of discovery. The captains of Prince Henry of Portugal had been gradually pushing their ships down the African coast and in some of these voyages Columbus was a participant. To one of his navigators Prince Henry had given the governorship of the Island of Porto Santo, of the Madeira group. To the daughter of this man, Perestrello,[50] Columbus was married; and with his widow Columbus lived, and derived what advantage he could from the papers and charts of the old navigator. There was a tie between his own and his wife’s family in the fact that Perestrello was an Italian, and seems to have been of good family, but to have left little or no inheritance for his daughter beyond some property in Porto Santo, which Columbus went to enjoy. On this island Columbus’ son Diego was born in 1474.

It was in this same year (1474) that he had some correspondence with the Italian savant, Toscanelli, regarding the discovery of land westward. A belief in such discovery was a natural corollary of the object which Prince Henry had had in view,—by circumnavigating Africa to find a way to the countries of which Marco Polo had given golden accounts. It was to substitute for the tedious indirection of the African route a direct western passage,—a belief in the practicability of which was drawn from a confidence in the sphericity of the earth. Meanwhile, gathering what hope he could by reading the ancients, by conferring with wise men, and by questioning mariners returned from voyages which had borne them more or less westerly on the great ocean, Columbus suffered the thought to germinate as it would in his mind for several years. Even on the voyages which he made hither and thither for gain,—once far north, to Iceland even, or perhaps only to the Faröe Islands, as is inferred,—and in active participation in various warlike and marauding expeditions, like the attack on the Venetian galleys near Cape St. Vincent in 1485,[51] he constantly came in contact with those who could give him hints affecting his theory. Through all these years, however, we know not certainly what were the vicissitudes which fell to his lot.[52]

It seems possible, if not probable, that Columbus went to Genoa and Venice, and in the first instance presented his scheme of western exploration to the authorities of those cities.[53] He may, on the other hand; have tried earlier to get the approval of the King of Portugal. In this case the visit to Italy may have occurred in the year following his departure from Portugal, which is nearly a blank in the record of his life. De Lorgues[3] believes in the anterior Italian visit, when both Genoa and Venice rejected his plans; and then makes him live with his father at Savone, gaining a living by constructing charts, and by selling maps and books in Genoa.

It would appear that in 1484 Columbus had urged his views upon the Portuguese King, but with no further success than to induce the sovereign to despatch, on other pretences, a vessel to undertake the passage westerly in secrecy. Its return without accomplishing any discovery opened the eyes of Columbus to the deceit which that monarch would have put upon him, and he departed from the Portuguese dominions in not a little disgust.[54]

The death of his wife had severed another tie with Portugal; and taking with him his boy Diego, Columbus left, to go we scarcely know whither, so obscure is the record of his life for the next year. Muñoz claims for this period that he went to Italy. Sharon Turner has conjectured that he went to England; but there seems no ground to believe that he had any relations with the English Court except by deputy, for his brother Bartholomew was despatched to lay his schemes before Henry VII.[55] Whatever may have been the result of this application, no answer seems to have reached Columbus until he was committed to the service of Spain.

It was in 1485 or 1486—for authorities differ[56]—that a proposal was laid by Columbus before Ferdinand and Isabella; but the steps were slow by which he made even this progress. We know how, in the popular story, he presented himself at the Franciscan Convent of Santa María de la Rábida, asking for bread for himself and his boy. This convent stood on a steep promontory about half a league from Palos, and was then in charge of the Father Superior Juan Perez de Marchena.[57] The appearance of the stranger first, and his talk next, interested the Prior; and it was under his advice and support after a while—when Martin Alonzo Pinzon, of the neighboring town of Palos, had espoused the new theory—that Columbus was passed on to Cordova, with such claims to recognition as the Prior of Rabidá could bestow upon him.

It was perhaps while success did not seem likely here, in the midst of the preparations for a campaign against the Moorish kings, that his brother Bartholomew made his trip to England.[58] It was also in November, 1486, it[4] would seem, that Columbus formed his connection with Beatrix Enriquez, while he was waiting in Cordova for the attention of the monarch to be disengaged from this Moorish campaign.


This follows a cut in Ruge’s Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, p. 245. The armor is in the Collection in the Royal Palace at Madrid.

Among those at this time attached to the Court of Ferdinand and Isabella was Alexander Geraldinus, then about thirty years old. He was a traveller, a man of letters, and a mathematician; and it was afterward the boast of his kinsman, who edited his Itinerarium ad regiones sub æquinoctiali plaga constitutas[59] (Rome, 1631), that Geraldinus, in one way and another, aided Columbus in pressing his views upon their Majesties. It was through Geraldinus’ influence, or through that of others who had become impressed with his views, that Columbus finally got the ear of Pedro Gonzales de Mendoza, Archbishop of Toledo. The way was now surer. The King heeded the Archbishop’s advice, and a council of learned men was convened, by royal orders, at Salamanca, to judge Columbus and his theories. Here he was met by all that prejudice, content, and ignorance (as now understood, but wisdom then) could bring to bear, in the shape of Scriptural contradictions of his views, and the pseudo-scientific distrust of what were thought mere visionary aims. He met all to his own satisfaction, but not quite so successfully to the comprehension of his judges. He told them that he should find Asia that way; and that if he did not, there must be other lands westerly quite as desirable to discover. No conclusion had been reached when, in the spring of 1487, the Court departed from Cordova, and Columbus found himself left behind without encouragement, save in the support of a few whom he had convinced,—notably Diego de Deza, a friar destined to some ecclesiastical distinction as Archbishop of Seville.


During the next five years Columbus experienced every vexation attendant upon delay, varied by participancy in the wars which the Court urged against the Moors, and in which he sought to propitiate the royal powers by doing them good service in the field. At last, in 1491, wearied with excuses of pre-occupation and the ridicule of the King’s advisers, Columbus turned his back on the Court and left Seville,[60] to try his fortune with some of the Grandees. He still urged in vain, and sought again the Convent of Rabida. Here he made a renewed impression upon Marchena; so that finally, through the Prior’s interposition with Isabella, Columbus was summoned to Court. He arrived in time to witness the surrender of Granada, and to find the monarchs more at liberty to listen to his words. There seemed now a likelihood of reaching an end of his tribulations; when his demand of recognition as viceroy, and his claim to share one tenth of all income from the territories to be discovered, frightened as well as disgusted those appointed to negotiate with him, and all came once more to an end. Columbus mounted his mule and started for France. Two finance ministers of the Crown, Santangel for Arragon and Quintanilla for Castile, had been sufficiently impressed by the new theory to look with regret on what they thought might be a lost opportunity. Isabella was won; and a messenger was despatched to overtake Columbus.

The fugitive returned; and on April 17, 1492, at Santa Fé, an agreement was signed by Ferdinand and Isabella which gave Columbus the office of high-admiral and viceroy in parts to be discovered, and an income of one eighth of the profits, in consideration of his assuming one eighth of the costs. Castile bore the rest of the expense; but Arragon advanced the money,[61] and the Pinzons subscribed the eighth part for Columbus.

The happy man now solemnly vowed to use what profits should accrue in accomplishing the rescue of the Holy Sepulchre from the Moslems. Palos, owing some duty to the Crown, was ordered to furnish two armed caravels, and Columbus was empowered to fit out a third. On the 30th of April the letters-patent confirming his dignities were issued. His son Diego was made a page of the royal household. On May 12 he left the Court and hastened towards Palos. Here, upon showing his orders for the vessels, he found the town rebellious, with all the passion of a people who felt that some of their number were being simply doomed to destruction beyond that Sea of Darkness whose bounds they knew not. Affairs were in this unsatisfactory condition when the brothers Pinzon threw themselves and their own vessels into the cause; while a[6] third vessel, the “Pinta,” was impressed,—much to the alarm of its owners and crew.


Fac-simile of the engraving in Herrera. It originally appeared in De Bry, part iv.



This representation of the vessels of the early Spanish navigators is a fac-simile of a cut in Medina’s Arte de navegar, Valladolid, 1545, which was re-engraved in the Venice edition of 1555. Cf. Carter-Brown Catalogue, vol. i. nos. 137, 204; Ruge, Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, pp. 240, 241; Jurien de la Gravière’s Les marins du XVe et du XVIe siècle, vol. i. pp. 38, 151. In the variety of changes in methods of measurement it is not easy to find the equivalent in tonnage of the present day for the ships of Columbus’s time. Those constituting his little fleet seem to have been light and swift vessels of the class called caravels. One had a deck amidships, with high forecastle and poop, and two were without this deck, though high, and covered at the ends. Captain G. V. Fox has given what he supposes were the dimensions of the larger one,—a heavier craft and duller sailer than the others. He calculates for a hundred tons,—makes her sixty-three feet over all, fifty-one feet keel, twenty feet beam, and ten and a half feet draft of water. She carried the kind of gun termed lombards, and a crew of fifty men. U. S. Coast Survey Report, 1880, app. 18; Becher’s Landfall of Columbus; A. Jal’s Archéologie navale (Paris, 1840); Irving’s Columbus, app. xv.; H. H. Bancroft, Central America, i. 187; Das Ausland, 1867, p. 1. There are other views of the ships of Columbus’ time in the cuts in some of the early editions of his Letters on the discovery. See notes following this chapter.


And so, out of the harbor of Palos,[62] on the 3d of August, 1492, Columbus sailed with his three little vessels. The “Santa Maria,” which carried his flag, was the only one of the three which had a deck, while the other two, the “Niña” and the “Pinta,” were open caravels. The two Pinzons commanded these smaller ships,—Martin Alonzo the “Pinta”, and Vicente the “Niña.”


This follows a fac-simile, given in Ruge, Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen p. 240, of a cut in Bernhardus de Breydenbach’s Peregrinationes, Mainz, 1486.

The voyage was uneventful, except that the expectancy of all quickened the eye, which sometimes saw over-much, and poised the mind, which was alert with hope and fear. It has been pointed out how a westerly course from Palos would have discouraged Columbus with head and variable winds. Running down to the Canaries (for Toscanelli put those islands in the latitude of Cipango), a westerly course thence would bring him within the continuous easterly trade-winds, whose favoring influence would inspirit his men,—as, indeed, was the case. Columbus, however, was very glad on the 22d of September to experience a west wind, just to convince his crew it was possible to have, now and then, the direction of it favorable to their return. He had proceeded, as he thought, some two hundred miles farther than the longitude in which he had conjectured Cipango to be, when the urging of Martin Alonzo Pinzon, and the flight of birds indicating land to be nearer in the southwest, induced him to change his course in that direction.[63]



This follows a map given in Das Ausland, 1867, p. 4, in a paper on Columbus’ Journal, “Das Schiffsbuch des Entdeckers von Amerika.” The routes of Columbus’ four voyages are marked on the map accompanying the Studi biografici e bibliografici published by the Società Geografica Italiana in 1882. Cf. also the map in Charton’s Voyageurs, iii. 155, reproduced on a later page.

About midnight between the 11th and 12th of October, Columbus on the lookout thought he saw a light moving in the darkness. He called a companion, and the two in counsel agreed that it was so.[64] At about two o’clock, the moon then shining, a mariner on the “Pinta” discerned unmistakably a low sandy shore. In the morning a landing was made, and, with prayer[65] and ceremony,[10] possession was taken of the new-found island in the name of the Spanish sovereigns.


This follows a fac-simile, given in Ruge, Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, p. 241, of a cut in Bernhardus de Breydenbach’s Peregrinationes, Mainz, 1486.

On the third day (October 14) Columbus lifted anchor, and for ten days sailed among the minor islands of the archipelago; but struck the Cuban coast on the 28th.[66] Here the “Pinta,” without orders from the Admiral, went off to seek some gold-field, of which Martin Alonzo Pinzon, its commander, fancied he had got some intimation from the natives. Pinzon returned bootless; but Columbus was painfully conscious of the mutinous spirit of his lieutenant.[67] The little fleet next found Hayti (Hispaniæ insula,[68] as he called it), and on its northern side the Admiral’s ship was wrecked. Out of her timbers Columbus built a fort on the shore, called it “La Navidad,” and put into it a garrison under Diego de Arana.[69]



Fac-simile of a cut in Oviedo, edition of 1547, fol. lix. There is another engraving in Charton’s Voyageurs, iii. 124. Cf. also Ramusio, Nav. et Viaggi, iii.

With the rest of his company and in his two smaller vessels, on the 4th of January, 1493, Columbus started on his return to Spain. He ran northerly to the latitude of his destination, and then steered due east. He experienced severe weather, but reached the Azores safely; and then, passing on, entered the Tagus and had an interview with the Portuguese King. Leaving Lisbon on the 13th, he reached Palos on the 15th of March, after an absence of over seven months.


This is Benzoni’s sketch of the way in which the natives cure and tend their sick at Hispaniola. Edition of 1572, p. 56.

He was received by the people of the little seaport with acclamations and wonder; and, despatching a messenger to the Spanish Court at Barcelona, he proceeded to Seville to await the commands of the monarchs. He was soon bidden to hasten to them; and with the triumph of more than a conqueror, and preceded by the bedizened Indians whom he had brought with him, he entered the city and stood in the presence of the sovereigns. He was commanded to sit before them, and to tell the story of his discovery. This he did with conscious pride; and not forgetting the past,[12] he publicly renewed his previous vow to wrest the Holy Sepulchre from the Infidel.


This is a reduction of a fac-simile by Pilinski, given in Margry’s Les Navigations Françaises, p. 360,—an earlier reproduction having been given by M. Jal in La France maritime. It is also figured in Charton’s Voyageurs, iii. 139. The original sketch, by Columbus himself, was sent by him from Seville in 1502, and is preserved in the city hall at Genoa. M. Jal gives a description of it in his De Paris à Naples, 1836, i. 257. The figure sitting beside Columbus is Providence; Envy and Ignorance are hinted at as monsters following in his wake; while Constancy, Tolerance, the Christian Religion, Victory, and Hope attend him. Above all is the floating figure of Fame blowing two trumpets, one marked “Genoa,” the other “Fama Columbi.” Harrisse (Notes on Columbus, p. 165) says that good judges assign this picture to Columbus’s own hand, though none of the drawings ascribed to him are authentic beyond doubt; while it is very true that he had the reputation of being a good draughtsman. Feuillet de Conches (Revue contemporaine, xxiv. 509) disbelieves in its authenticity. The usual signature of Columbus is in the lower left-hand corner of the above sketch, the initial letters in which have never been satisfactorily interpreted; but perhaps as reasonable a guess as any would make them stand for “Servus supplex Altissimi Salvatoris—Christus, Maria, YosephChristo ferens.” Others read, “Servidor sus Altezas sacras, Christo, Maria, Ysabel [or Yoseph].” The “Christo ferens” is sometimes replaced by “El Almirante.” The essay on the autograph in the Cartas de Indias is translated in the Magazine of American History, Jan., 1883, p. 55. Cf. Irving, app. xxxv. Ruge, Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, p. 317; Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings, xvi. 322, etc.

The expectation which had sustained Columbus in his voyage, and which he thought his discoveries had confirmed, was that he had reached[13] the western parts of India or Asia; and the new islands were accordingly everywhere spoken of as the West Indies, or the New World.


Fac-simile of engraving in Herrera, who follows DeBry.


Last page of an autograph letter preserved in the Colombina Library at Seville, following a photograph in Harrisse’s Notes on Columbus, p. 218.

The ruling Pope, Alexander VI., was a native Valencian; and to him an appeal was now made for a Bull, confirming to Spain and Portugal respective[14] fields for discovery. This was issued May 4, 1493, fixing a line, on the thither side of which Spain was to be master; and on the hither side, Portugal. This was traced at a meridian one hundred leagues west of the Azores and Cape de Verde Islands, which were assumed to be in the same longitude practically. The thought of future complications from the running of this line to the antipodes does not seem to have alarmed either Pope or sovereigns; but troubles on the Atlantic side were soon to arise, to be promptly compounded by a convention at Tordesillas, which agreed (June 4, ratified June 7, 1494) to move the meridian line to a point three[15] hundred and seventy leagues west of the Cape de Verde Islands,—still without dream of the destined disputes respecting divisions on the other side of the globe.[70]


As given in Oviedo’s Coronica, 1547, fol. x., from the Harvard College copy. There is no wholly satisfactory statement regarding the origin of these arms, or the Admiral’s right to bear them. It is the quartering of the royal lion and castle, for Arragon and Castile, with gold islands in azure waves. Five anchors and the motto,

A [or POR] Castilla y a [or POR] Leon Nuevo Mundo dio [or HALLO] Colon,”

were later given or assumed. The crest varies in the Oviedo (i. cap. vii.) of 1535.

Thus everything favored Columbus in the preparations for a second voyage, which was to conduct a colony to the newly discovered lands. Twelve hundred souls were embarked on seventeen vessels, and among them persons of consideration and name in subsequent history,—Diego,[16] the Admiral’s brother, Bernal Diaz del Castillo, Ojeda, and La Cosa, with the Pope’s own vicar, a Benedictine named Buil, or Boil.


This is Benzoni’s sketch, edition of 1572, p. 60.

Columbus and the destined colonists sailed from Cadiz on the 25th of September. The ships sighted an island on the 3d of November, and continuing their course among the Caribbee Islands, they finally reached La Navidad, and found it a waste. It was necessary, however, to make a beginning somewhere; and a little to the east of the ruined fort they landed their supplies and began the laying out of a city, which they called Isabella.[71] Expeditions were sent inland to find gold. The explorers reported success. Twelve of the ships were sent home with Indians who had been seized; and these ships were further laden with products of the soil which had been gathered. Columbus himself went with four hundred men to begin work at the interior mines; but the natives, upon whom he had counted for labor, had begun to fear enslavement for this purpose, and kept aloof. So mining did not flourish. Disease, too, was working evil. Columbus himself had been prostrated; but he was able to conduct three caravels westward, when he discovered Jamaica. On this expedition he made up his mind that Cuba was a part of the Asiatic main, and somewhat unadvisedly forced his men to sign a paper declaring their own belief to the same purport.[72]


As given in Oviedo, edition of 1547, fol. lxi.

Returning to his colony, the Admiral found that all was not going well. He had not himself inspired confidence as a governor, and his fame as an explorer was fast being eclipsed by his misfortunes as a ruler. Some of his colonists, accompanied by the papal vicar, had seized ships and set sail[17] for home. The natives, emboldened by the cruelties practised upon them, were laying siege to his fortified posts. As an offset, however, his brother Bartholomew had arrived from Spain with three store-ships; and later came Antonio de Torres with four other ships, which in due time were sent back to carry some samples of gold and a cargo of natives to be sold as slaves. The vessels had brought tidings of the charges preferred at Court against the Admiral, and his brother Diego was sent back with the ships to answer these charges in the Admiral’s behalf. Unfortunately Diego was not a man of strong character, and his advocacy was not of the best.


As depicted in Oviedo, edition of 1547, fol. lxi. There is another engraving in Charton’s Voyageurs, iii. 106, called “Pirogue Indienne.”


Benzoni gives this drawing of the canoes of the coast of the Gulf of Paria and thereabout. Edition of 1572, p. 5.

In March (1495) Columbus conducted an expedition into the interior to subdue and hold tributary the native population. It was cruelly done, as the world looks upon such transactions to-day.

Meanwhile in Spain reiteration of charges was beginning to shake the confidence of his sovereigns; and Juan Aguado, a friend of Columbus, was sent to investigate. He reached[18] Isabella in October,—Diego, the Admiral’s brother, accompanying him. Aguado did not find affairs reassuring; and when he returned to Spain with his report in March (1496), Columbus thought it best to go too, and to make his excuses or explanations in person. They reached Cadiz in June, just as Niño was sailing with three caravels to the new colony.


Fac-simile of engraving in Herrera.


Ferdinand and Isabella received him kindly, gave him new honors, and promised him other outfits. Enthusiasm, however, had died out, and delays took place. The reports of the returning ships did not correspond with the pictures of Marco Polo, and the new-found world was thought to be a very poor India after all. Most people were of this mind; though Columbus was not disheartened, and the public treasury was readily opened for a third voyage.


This is the earliest representation which we have of the natives of the New World, showing such as were found by the Portuguese on the north coast of South America. It has been supposed that it was issued in Augsburg somewhere between 1497 and 1504, for it is not dated. The only copy ever known to bibliographers is not now to be traced. Stevens, Recoll. of James Lenox, p. 174. It measures 13½ × 8½ inches, with a German title and inscription, to be translated as follows:—

“This figure represents to us the people and island which have been discovered by the Christian King of Portugal, or his subjects. The people are thus naked, handsome, brown, well-shaped in body; their heads, necks, arms, private parts, feet of men and women, are a little covered with feathers. The men also have many precious stones on their faces and breasts. No one else has anything, but all things are in common. And the men have as wives those who please them, be they mothers, sisters, or friends; therein make they no distinction. They also fight with each other; they also eat each other, even those who are slain, and hang the flesh of them in the smoke. They become a hundred and fifty years of age, and have no government.”

The present engraving follows the fac-simile given in Stevens’s American Bibliographer, pp. 7, 8. Cf. Sabin, vol. i. no. 1,031; vol. v. no. 20,257; Harrisse, Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 20.

Coronel sailed early in 1498 with two ships, and Columbus followed with six, embarking at San Lucar on the 30th of May. He now discovered[20] Trinidad (July 31), which he named either from its three peaks, or from the Holy Trinity; struck the northern coast of South America,[73] and skirted what was later known as the Pearl coast, going as far as the Island of Margarita. He wondered at the roaring fresh waters which the Orinoco pours into the Gulf of Pearls, as he called it, and he half believed that its exuberant tide came from the terrestrial paradise.[74] He touched the southern coast of Hayti on the 30th of August. Here already his colonists had established a fortified post, and founded the town of Santo Domingo. His brother Bartholomew had ruled energetically during the Admiral’s absence, but he had not prevented a revolt, which was headed by Roldan. Columbus on his arrival found the insurgents still defiant, but was able after a while to reconcile them, and he even succeeded in attaching Roldan warmly to his interests.

Columbus’ absence from Spain, however, left his good name without sponsors; and to satisfy detractors, a new commissioner was sent over with enlarged powers, even with authority to supersede Columbus in general command, if necessary. This emissary was Francisco de Bobadilla, who arrived at Santo Domingo with two caravels on the 23d of August, 1500, finding Diego in command, his brother the Admiral being absent. An issue was at once made. Diego refused to accede to the commissioner’s orders till Columbus returned to judge the case himself; so Bobadilla assumed charge of the Crown property violently, took possession of the Admiral’s house, and when Columbus returned, he with his brother was arrested and put in irons. In this condition the prisoners were placed on shipboard, and sailed for Spain. The captain of the ship offered to remove the manacles; but Columbus would not permit it, being determined to land in Spain bound as he was; and so he did. The effect of his degradation was to his advantage; sovereigns and people were shocked at the sight; and Ferdinand and Isabella hastened to make amends by receiving him with renewed favor. It was soon apparent that everything reasonable would be granted him by the monarchs, and that he could have all he might wish, short of receiving a new lease of power in the islands, which the sovereigns were determined to see pacified at least before Columbus should again assume government of them. The Admiral had not forgotten his vow to wrest the Holy Sepulchre from the Infidel; but the monarchs did not accede to his wish to undertake it. Disappointed in this, he proposed a new voyage; and getting the royal countenance for this scheme, he was supplied with four vessels of from fifty to seventy tons each,—the “Capitana,” the “Santiago de Palos,” the “Gallego,” and the “Vizcaino.” He[21] sailed from Cadiz May 9, 1502, accompanied by his brother Bartholomew and his son Fernando. The vessels reached San Domingo June 29.

Bobadilla, whose rule of a year and a half had been an unhappy one, had given place to Nicholás de Ovando; and the fleet which brought the new governor,—with Maldonado, Las Casas, and others,—now lay in the harbor waiting to receive Bobadilla for the return voyage. Columbus had been instructed to avoid Hispaniola; but now that one of his vessels leaked, and he needed to make repairs, he sent a boat ashore, asking permission to enter the harbor. He was refused, though a storm was impending. He sheltered his vessels as best he could, and rode out the gale. The fleet which had on board Bobadilla and Roldan, with their ill-gotten gains, was wrecked, and these enemies of Columbus were drowned. The Admiral found a small harbor where he could make his repairs; and then, July 14, sailed westward to find, as he supposed, the richer portions of India in exchange for the barbarous outlying districts which others had appropriated to themselves. He went on through calm and storm, giving names to islands,—which later explorers re-named, and spread thereby confusion on the early maps. He began to find more intelligence in the natives of these islands than those of Cuba had betrayed, and got intimations of lands still farther west, where copper and gold were in abundance. An old Indian made them a rough map of the main shore. Columbus took him on board, and proceeding onward a landing was made on the coast of Honduras August 14. Three days later the explorers landed again fifteen leagues farther east, and took possession of the country for Spain. Still east they went; and, in gratitude for safety after a long storm, they named a cape which they rounded Gracias á Dios,—a name still preserved at the point where the coast of Honduras begins to trend southward. Columbus was now lying ill on his bed, placed on deck, and was half the time in revery. Still the vessels coasted south. They lost a boat’s crew in getting water at one place; and tarrying near the mouth of the Rio San Juan, they thought they got from the signs of the natives intelligence of a rich and populous country over the mountains inland, where the men wore clothes and bore weapons of steel, and the women were decked with corals and pearls. These stories were reassuring; but the exorcising incantations of the natives were quite otherwise for the superstitious among the Spaniards.

They were now on the shores of Costa Rica, where the coast trends southeast; and both the rich foliage and the gold plate on the necks of the savages enchanted the explorers. They went on towards the source of this wealth, as they fancied. The natives began to show some signs of repulsion; but a few hawk’s-bells beguiled them, and gold plates were received in exchange for the trinkets. The vessels were now within the southernmost loop of the shore, and a bit of stone wall seemed to the Spaniards a token of civilization. The natives called a town hereabouts Veragua,—whence, years after, the descendants of Columbus borrowed the[22] ducal title of his line. In this region Columbus dallied, not suspecting how thin the strip of country was which separated him from the great ocean whose farther waves washed his desired India. Then, still pursuing the coast, which now turned to the northeast, he reached Porto Bello, as we call it, where he found houses and orchards. Tracking the Gulf side of the Panama isthmus, he encountered storms that forced him into harbors, which continued to disclose the richness of the country.[75]

It became now apparent that they had reached the farthest spot of Bastidas’ exploring, who had, in 1501, sailed westward along the northern coast of South America. Amid something like mutinous cries from the sailors, Columbus was fain to turn back to the neighborhood of Veragua, where the gold was; but on arriving there, the seas, lately so fair, were tumultuous, and the Spaniards were obliged to repeat the gospel of Saint John to keep a water-spout, which they saw, from coming their way,—so Fernando says in his Life of the Admiral. They finally made a harbor at the mouth of the River Belen, and began to traffic with the natives, who proved very cautious and evasive when inquiries were made respecting gold-mines. Bartholomew explored the neighboring Veragua River in armed boats, and met the chief of the region, with retainers, in a fleet of canoes. Gold and trinkets were exchanged, as usual, both here and later on the Admiral’s deck. Again Bartholomew led another expedition, and getting the direction—a purposely false one, as it proved—from the chief in his own village, he went to a mountain, near the abode of an enemy of the chief, and found gold,—scant, however, in quantity compared with that of the crafty chief’s own fields. The inducements were sufficient, however, as Columbus thought, to found a colony; but before he got ready to leave it, he suspected the neighboring chief was planning offensive operations. An expedition was accordingly sent to seize the chief, and he was captured in his own village; and so suddenly that his own people could not protect him. The craft of the savage, however, stood him in good stead; and while one of the Spaniards was conveying him down the river in a boat, he jumped overboard and disappeared, only to reappear, a few days later, in leading an attack on the Spanish camp. In this the Indians were repulsed; but it was the beginning of a kind of lurking warfare that disheartened the Spaniards. Meanwhile Columbus, with the ship, was outside the harbor’s bar buffeting the gales. The rest of the prisoners who had been taken with the chief were confined in his forecastle. By concerted action some of them got out and jumped overboard, while those not so fortunate killed themselves. As soon as the storm was over, Columbus withdrew the colonists and sailed away. He abandoned one worm-eaten caravel at Porto Bello, and, reaching Jamaica, beached two others.

A year of disappointment, grief, and want followed. Columbus clung to his wrecked vessels. His crew alternately mutinied at his side, and roved[23] about the island. Ovando, at Hispaniola, heard of his straits, but only tardily and scantily relieved him. The discontented were finally humbled; and some ships, despatched by the Admiral’s agent in Santo Domingo, at last reached him, and brought him and his companions to that place, where Ovando received him with ostentatious kindness, lodging him in his house till Columbus departed for Spain, Sept. 12, 1504.

On the 7th of November the Admiral reached the harbor of San Lucar. Weakness and disease later kept him in bed in Seville, and to his letters of appeal the King paid little attention. He finally recovered sufficiently to go to the Court at Segovia, in May, 1505; but Ferdinand—Isabella had died Nov. 26, 1504—gave him scant courtesy. With a fatalistic iteration, which had been his error in life, Columbus insisted still on the rights which a better skill in governing might have saved for him; and Ferdinand, with a dread of continued maladministration, as constantly evaded the issue. While still hope was deferred, the infirmities of age and a life of hardships brought Columbus to his end; and on Ascension Day, the 20th of May, 1506, he died, with his son Diego and a few devoted friends by his bedside.


This follows an engraving in Ruge, Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, p. 313, taken from a photograph. The house is in Valladolid.

The character of Columbus is not difficult to discern. If his mental and moral equipoise had been as true, and his judgment as clear, as his spirit was lofty and impressive, he could have controlled the actions of men as readily as he subjected their imaginations to his will, and more than one brilliant opportunity for a record befitting a ruler of men would not have been lost. The world always admires constancy and zeal; but when it is fed, not by well-rounded performance, but by self-satisfaction and self-interest, and tarnished by deceit, we lament where we would approve. Columbus’ imagination was eager, and unfortunately ungovernable. It led him to a great discovery, which he was not seeking for; and he was far enough right to make his error more emphatic. He is certainly not alone among the great men of the world’s regard who have some of the attributes of the small and mean.



It would appear, from documents printed by Navarrete, that in 1470 Columbus was brooding on the idea of land to the west. It is not at all probable that he would himself have been able to trace from germ to flower the conception which finally possessed his mind.[76] The age was ripened for it; and the finding of Brazil in 1500 by Cabral showed how by an accident the theory might have become a practical result at any time after the sailors of Europe had dared to take long ocean voyages. Columbus grew to imagine that he had been independent of the influences of his time; and in a manuscript in his own hand, preserved in the Colombina Library at Seville, he shows the weak, almost irresponsible, side of his mind, and flouts at the grounds of reasonable progress which many others besides himself had been making to a belief in the feasibility of a western passage. In this unfortunate writing he declares that under inspiration he simply accomplished the prophecy of Isaiah.[77] This assertion has not prevented saner and later writers[78] from surveying the evidences of the growth of the belief in the mind, not of Columbus only, but of others whom he may have impressed, and by whom he may have been influenced. The new intuition was but the result of intellectual reciprocity. It needed a daring exponent, and found one.

The geographical ideas which bear on this question depend, of course, upon the sphericity of the earth.[79] This was entertained by the leading cosmographical thinkers of that age,—who were far however from being in accord in respect to the size of the globe. Going back to antiquity, Aristotle and Strabo had both taught in their respective times the spherical theory; but they too were widely divergent upon the question of size,—Aristotle’s ball being but mean in comparison with that of Strabo, who was not far wrong when he contended that the world then known was something more than one third of the actual circumference of the whole, or one hundred and twenty-nine degrees, as he put it; while Marinus, the Tyrian, of the opposing school, and the most eminent geographer before Ptolemy, held that the extent of the then known world spanned as much as two hundred and twenty-five degrees, or about one hundred degrees too much.[80] Columbus’ calculations were all on the side of this insufficient size.[81] He wrote to Queen Isabella in 1503 that “the earth is smaller than people suppose.” He thought but one seventh of it was water. In sailing a direct western course his expectation was to reach Cipango after having gone[25] about three thousand miles. This would actually have brought him within a hundred miles or so of Cape Henlopen, or the neighboring coast; while if no land had intervened he would have gone nine thousand eight hundred miles to reach Japan, the modern Cipango.[82] Thus Columbus’ earth was something like two thirds of the actual magnitude.[83] It can readily be understood how the lesser distance was helpful in inducing a crew to accompany Columbus, and in strengthening his own determination.

Whatever the size of the earth, there was far less palpable reason to determine it than to settle the question of its sphericity. The phenomena which convince the ordinary mind to-day, weighed with Columbus as they had weighed in earlier ages. These were the hulling down of ships at sea, and the curved shadow of the earth on the moon in an eclipse. The law of gravity was not yet proclaimed, indeed; but it had been observed that the men on two ships, however far apart, stood perpendicular to their decks at rest.

Columbus was also certainly aware of some of the views and allusions to be found in the ancient writers, indicating a belief in lands lying beyond the Pillars of Hercules.[84] He enumerates some of them in the letter which he wrote about his third voyage, and which is printed in Navarrete. The Colombina Library contains two interesting memorials of his[26] connection with this belief. One is a treatise in his own hand, giving his correspondence with Father Gorricio, who gathered the ancient views and prophecies;[85] and the other is a copy of Gaietanus’ edition of Seneca’s tragedies, published indeed after Columbus’ death, in which the passage of the Medea, known to have been much in Columbus’ mind, is scored with the marginal comment of Ferdinand, his son, “Hæc prophetia expleta ē per patrē meus cristoforū colō almirātē anno 1492.”[86] Columbus, further, could not have been unaware of the opposing theories of Ptolemy and Pomponius Mela as to the course in which the further extension of the known world should be pursued. Ptolemy held to the east and west theory, and Mela to the northern and southern view.


Fac-simile of a cut in Icones sive imagines vivæ literis cl. virorum ... cum elogiis variis per Nicolaum Reusnerum. Basiliæ, CIƆ IƆ XIC, Sig. A. 4.

The Angelo Latin translation of Ptolemy’s Greek Geographia had served to disseminate the Alexandrian geographer’s views through almost the whole of the fifteenth century,[27] for that version had been first made in 1409. In 1475 it had been printed, and it had helped strengthen the arguments of those who favored a belief in the position of India as lying over against Spain. Several other editions were yet to be printed in the new typographical centres of Europe, all exerting more or less influence in support of the new views advocated by Columbus.[87] Five of these editions of Ptolemy appeared during the interval[28] from 1475 to 1492. Of Pomponius Mela, advocating the views of which the Portuguese were at this time proving the truth, the earliest printed edition had appeared in 1471. Mela’s treatise, De situ orbis, had been produced in the first century, while Ptolemy had made his views known in the second; and the age of Vasco da Gama, Columbus, and Magellan were to prove the complemental relations of their respective theories.


Fac-simile of cut in Icones sive imagines virorum literis illustrium ... ex secunda recognitione Nicolai Reusneri. Argentorati, CIƆ IƆ XC, p. 1. The first edition appeared in 1587. Brunet, vol. iv., col. 1255, calls the editions of 1590 and Frankfort, 1620, inferior.


Fac-simile of cut in Reusner’s Icones, Strasburg, 1590, p. 4. There is another cut in Paulus Jovius’s Elogia virorum litteris illustrium, Basle, 1575, p. 7 (copy in Harvard College Library).


This follows an engraving in Ruge’s Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, p. 53. The original is at Rome. There is a copy of an old print in Jules Verne’s Découverte de la Terre.

It has been said that Macrobius, a Roman of the fifth century, in a commentary on the Dream of Scipio, had maintained a division of the globe into four continents, of which two were then unknown. In the twelfth century this idea had been revived by Guillaume de Conches (who died about 1150) in his Philosophia Minor, lib. iv. cap. 3. It was again later further promulgated in the writings of Bede and Honoré d’Autun, and in the Microcosmos of Geoffroy de Saint-Victor,—a manuscript of the thirteenth century still preserved.[88] It is not known that this theory was familiar to Columbus. The chief directors of his thoughts among anterior writers appear to have been, directly or indirectly, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, and Vincenzius of Beauvais;[89] and first among them, for importance, we must place the Opus Majus Of Roger Bacon, completed in 1267. It was from Bacon that Petrus de Aliaco, Or Pierre d’Ailly (b. 1340; d. 1416 or 1425), in his Ymago mundi, borrowed the passage which, in this French imitator’s language, so impressed Columbus.[90]



On a copy of Pierre d’Ailly’s Imago mundi, preserved in the Colombina Library at Seville, following a photograph in Harrisse’s Notes on Columbus, p. 84.

An important element in the problem was the statements of Marco Polo regarding a large island, which he called Cipango, and which he represented as lying in the ocean off the eastern coast of Asia. This carried the eastern verge of the Asiatic world farther than the ancients had known; and, on the spherical theory, brought land nearer westward from[30] Europe than could earlier have been supposed. It is a question, however, if Columbus had any knowledge of the Latin or Italian manuscripts of Marco Polo,—the only form in which anybody could have studied his narrative before the printing of it at Nuremberg in 1477, in German, a language which Columbus is not likely to have known. Humboldt has pointed out that neither Columbus nor his son Ferdinand mentions Marco Polo; still we know that he had read his book. Columbus further knew, it would seem, what Æneas Sylvius had written on Asia. Toscanelli had also imparted to him what he knew. A second German edition of Marco Polo appeared at Augsburg in 1481. In 1485, with the Itinerarius of Mandeville,[91] published at Zwolle, the account—“De regionibus orientalibus”—of Marco Polo first appeared in Latin, translated from the original French, in which it had been dictated. It was probably in this form that Columbus first saw it.[92] There was a separate Latin edition in 1490.[93]

The most definite confirmation and encouragement which Columbus received in his views would seem to have come from Toscanelli, in 1474. This eminent Italian astronomer, who was now about seventy-eight years old, and was to die, in 1482, before Columbus and Da Gama had consummated their discoveries, had reached a conclusion in his own mind that only about fifty-two degrees of longitude separated Europe westerly from Asia, making the earth much smaller even than Columbus’ inadequate views had fashioned it; for Columbus had[31] satisfied himself that one hundred and twenty degrees of the entire three hundred and sixty was only as yet unknown.[94] With such views of the inferiority of the earth, Toscanelli had addressed a letter to Martinez, a prebendary of Lisbon, accompanied by a map professedly based on information derived from the book of Marco Polo.[95] When Toscanelli received a letter of inquiry from Columbus, he replied by sending a copy of this letter and the map. As the testimony to a western passage from a man of Toscanelli’s eminence, it was of marked importance in the conversion of others to similar views.[96]

It has always been a question how far the practical evidence of chance phenomena, and the absolute knowledge, derived from other explorers, bearing upon the views advocated by Columbus, may have instigated or confirmed him in his belief. There is just enough plausibility in some of the stories which are cited to make them fall easily into the pleas of detraction to which Columbus has been subjected.



On a copy of the Historia rerum ubique gestarum of Æneas Sylvius, preserved in the Colombina Library at Seville, following a photograph in Harrisse’s Notes on Columbus, appendix.


A story was repeated by Oviedo in 1535 as an idle rumor, adopted by Gomara in 1552 without comment, and given considerable currency in 1609 by Garcilasso de la Vega, of a Spanish pilot,—Sanches, as the name is sometimes given,—who had sailed from Madeira, and had been driven west and had seen land (Hispaniola, it is inferred), and who being shipwrecked had been harbored by Columbus in his house. Under this roof the pilot is said to have died in 1484, leaving his host the possessor of his secret. La Vega claimed to have received the tale from his father, who had been at the Court of Spain in the time of Ferdinand and Isabella. Oviedo repeated it, but incredulously;[97] and it was later told by Gomara, Acosta, Eden, and others. Robertson,[98] Irving,[99] and most later writers find enough in the indecision and variety of its shapes to discard it altogether. Peter Martyr, Bernaldez, and Herrera make no mention of it. It is singular, however, that Ferdinand de Galardi, in dedicating his Traité politique des abassadeurs, published at Cologne in 1666, to a descendant of Columbus, the Duke of Veraguas, mentions the story as an indisputable fact;[100] and it has not escaped the notice of querulous writers even of our day.[101]

Others have thought that Columbus, in his voyage to Thule or Iceland,[102] in February, 1477, could have derived knowledge of the Sagas of the westerly voyages of Eric the Red and his countrymen.[103] It seems to be true that commercial relations were maintained between Iceland and Greenland for some years later than 1400; but if Columbus knew of them, he probably shared the belief of the geographers of his time that Greenland was a peninsula of Scandinavia.[104]

The extremely probable and almost necessary pre-Columbian knowledge of the northeastern parts of America follows from the venturesome spirit of the mariners to those seas for fish and traffic, and from the easy transitions from coast to coast by which they would have been lured to meet the more southerly climes. The chances from such natural causes are quite as strong an argument in favor of the early Northmen venturings as the somewhat questionable representations of the Sagas.[105] There is the same ground for representing, and similar lack of evidence in believing, the alleged voyage of Joāo Vas Costa Cortereal to the Newfoundland banks in 1463-1464. Barrow finds authority for it in Cordeyro, who gives, however, no date in his Historia Insulana das Ilhas a Portugal, Lisbon, 1717; but Biddle, in his Cabot, fails to be satisfied with Barrow’s uncertain references, as enforced in his Chronological History of Voyages into the Arctic Regions, London, 1818.[106]


Another of these alleged northern voyagers was a Polish navigator, John Szkolny,—a name which we get in various Latinized or other forms, as Scolve, Skolnus, Scolvus, Sciolvus, Kolno, etc.,—who is said to have been on the Labrador coast in 1476, while in the service of Denmark. It is so stated by Wytfliet,[107] Pontanus,[108] and Horn.[109] De Costa cites what is known as the Rouen globe, preserved in Paris, and supposed to belong to about 1540, as showing a legend of Skolnus reaching the northwest coast of Greenland in 1476.[110] Hakluyt quotes Gemma Frisius and Girava. Gomara, in 1553, and Herrera, in 1601, barely refer to it.[111]

There is also a claim for a Dieppe navigator, Cousin, who, bound for Africa, is said to have been driven west, and reached South America in 1488-1489. The story is told by Desmarquets in his Mémoires chronologiques pour servir à l’histoire de Dieppe, i. 92, published at Paris, 1785. Major, giving the story an examination, fully discredits it.[112]

There remains the claim for Martin Behaim, the Nuremberg cosmographer and navigator, which rests upon a passage in the Latin text of the so-called Nuremberg Chronicle[113] which states that Cam and Behaim, having passed south of the equator, turned west[35] and (by implication) found land. The passage is not in the German edition of the same year, and on reference to the manuscript of the book (still preserved in Nuremberg) the passage is found to be an interpolation written in a different hand.[114] It seems likely to have been a perversion or misinterpretation of the voyage of Diego Cam down the African coast in 1489, in which he was accompanied by Behaim. That Behaim himself did not put the claim forward, at least in 1492, seems to be clear from the globe, which he made in that year, and which shows no indication of the alleged voyage. The allegation has had, however, some advocates; but the weight of authority is decidedly averse, and the claim can hardly be said to have significant support to-day.[115]

It is unquestionable that the success of the Portuguese in discovering the Atlantic islands and in pushing down the African coast, sustained Columbus in his hope of western discovery, if it had not instigated it.[116] The chance wafting of huge canes, unusual trunks of trees, and even sculptured wood and bodies of strange men, upon the shores of the outlying islands of the Azores and Madeira, were magnified as evidences in his mind.[117] When at a later day he found a tinned iron vessel in the hands of the natives of Guadeloupe,[36] he felt that there had been European vessels driven along the equatorial current to the western world, which had never returned to report on their voyages.

Of the adventurous voyages of which record was known there were enough to inspire him; and of all the mysteries of the Sea of Darkness,[118] which stretched away illimitably to the west, there were stories more than enough. Sight of strange islands had been often reported; and the maps still existing had shown a belief in those of San Brandan[119] and Antillia,[120] and of the Seven Cities founded in the ocean waste by as many Spanish bishops, who had been driven to sea by the Moors.[121]

The Fortunate Islands[122] (Canaries) of the ancients—discovered, it is claimed, by the Carthaginians[123]—had been practically lost to Europe for thirteen hundred years, when, in the beginning of the fifteenth century (1402), Juan de Béthencourt led his colony to settle them.[124] They had not indeed been altogether forgotten, for Marino Sanuto in 1306 had delineated them on a map given by Camden, though this cartographer omitted them on later charts. Traders and pirates had also visited them since 1341, but such acquaintance had hardly caused them to be generally known.[125]



This is part of a map of the ancient world given in Lelewel’s Die Entdeckung der Carthager und Griechen auf dem Atlantischen Ocean, Berlin, 1831.


The Canaries, however, as well as the Azores, appear in the well-known portolano of 1351,[126] which is preserved in the Biblioteca Mediceo-Laurenziana in Florence. A chart of the Brothers Pizigani, dated in 1367, gives islands which are also identified with the Canaries, Azores, and Madeira;[127] and the Canaries also appear on the well-known Catalan mappemonde of 1375.[128] These Atlantic islands are again shown in a portolano of a period not much later than 1400, which is among the Egerton manuscripts in the British Museum, and is ascribed to Juan da Napoli;[129] and in 1436 they are conspicuous on the detailed sea-chart of Andrea Bianco. This portolano has also two islands on the extreme western verge of the sheet,—“Antillia” and “De la man Satanaxio,” which some have claimed as indicating a knowledge of the two Americas.[130] It was a map brought in 1428 from Venice by Dom Pedro,—which, like the 1351 map, showed the Azores,—that induced Prince Henry in 1431 to despatch the expedition which rediscovered those islands; and they appear on the Catalan map, which Santarem (pl. 54) describes as “Carte de Gabriell de Valsequa, faite à Mallorcha en 1439.” It was in 1466 that the group was colonized, as Behaim’s globe shows.[131]

The Madeira group was first discovered by an Englishman,—Machin, or Macham,—in the reign of Edward III. (1327-1378). The narrative, put into shape for Prince Henry of Portugal by Francisco Alcaforado, one of his esquires, was known to Irving in a French translation published in 1671, which Irving epitomizes.[132] The story, somewhat changed, is given by Galvano, and was copied by Hakluyt;[133] but, on account of some strangeness and incongruities, it has not been always accepted, though Major says the main recital is confirmed by a document quoted from a German collection of voyages, 1507, by Dr. Schmeller, in the Memoirs of the Academy of Science at Munich, 1847, and which, secured for Major by Kunstmann, is examined by him in his Prince Henry.[134] The group was rediscovered by the Portuguese in 1418-1420.[135] Prince Henry had given the command of Porto Santo to Perestrello; and this captain, in 1419, observing from his island a cloud in the horizon, found, as he sailed to it, the island now called Madeira. It will be remembered that it was the daughter of Perestrello whom Columbus at a later day married.[136]


It was not till 1460[137] that the Cape De Verde Islands were found, lying as they do well outside of the route of Prince Henry’s vessels, which were now following down the African coast, and had been pursuing explorations in this direction since 1415.

There have been claims advanced by Margry in his Les navigations Françaises et la révolution maritime du XIVe au XVIe siècle, d’après les documents inédits tirés de France, d’Angleterre, d’Espagne, et d’Italie, pp. 13-70, Paris, 1867, and embraced in his first section on “Les marins de Normandie aux côtes de Guinée avant les Portugais,” in which he cites an old document, said to be in London, setting forth the voyage of a vessel from Dieppe to the coast of Africa in 1364. Estancelin had already, in 1832, in his Navigateurs Normands en Afrique, declared there were French establishments on the coast of Guinea in the fourteenth century,—a view D’Avezac says he would gladly accept if he could. Major, however, failed to find, by any direction which Margry could give him, the alleged London document, and has thrown—to say the least—discredit on the story of that document as presented by Margry.[138]


This follows a portrait in a contemporary manuscript chronicle, now in the National Library at Paris, which Major, who gives a colored fac-simile of it, calls the only authentic likeness, probably taken in 1449-1450, and representing him in mourning for the death of his brother Dom Pedro, who died in 1449. There is another engraving of it in Jules Verne’s La Découverte de la Terre, p. 112.

Major calls the portrait in Gustave de Veer’s Life of Prince Henry, published at Dantzig, in 1864, a fancy one. The annexed autograph of the Prince is the equivalent of Iffante Dom Anrique.

Prince Henry, who was born March 4, 1394, died Nov 15, 1463. He was the third son of John I. of Portugal; his mother was a daughter of John of Gaunt, of England.

The African explorations of the Portuguese are less visionary, and, as D’Avezac says, the Portuguese were the first to persevere and open the African route to India.[139]

The peninsular character of Africa—upon which success in this exploration depended—was contrary to the views of Aristotle, Hipparchus, and Ptolemy, which held to an[40] enclosed Indian Ocean, formed by the meeting of Africa and Asia at the south.[140] The stories respecting the circumnavigation of Africa by the ancients are lacking in substantial proof; and it seems probable that Cape Non or Cape Bojador was the limit of their southern expeditions.[141] Still, this peninsular character was a deduction from imagined necessity rather than a conviction from fact. It found place on the earliest maps of the revival of geographical study in the Middle Ages. It is so represented in the map of Marino Sanuto in 1306, and in the Lorentian portolano of 1351. Major[142] doubts if the Catalan map of 1375 shows anything more than conjectural knowledge for the coasts beyond Bojador.

Of Prince Henry—the moving spirit in the African enterprise of the fifteenth century—we have the most satisfactory account in the Life of Prince Henry of Portugal, surnamed the Navigator, and its Results ... from Authentic Contemporary Documents, by Richard Henry Major, London, 1868,[143]—a work which, after the elimination of the controversial arguments, and after otherwise fitting it for the general reader, was reissued in 1877 as The Discoveries of Prince Henry the Navigator. These works are the guide for the brief sketch of these African discoveries now to be made, and which can be readily followed on the accompanying sketch-map.[144]


Cf. Heinrich Wuttke’s “Zur Geschichte der Erdkunde in der letzten hälfte des Mittelalters: Die Karten der Seefahrenden Völker süd Europas bis zum ersten Druck der Erdbeschreibung des Ptolemäus,” in the Jahrbuch des Vereins für Erdkunde in Dresden, 1870; J. Codine’s “Découverte de la côte d’Afrique par les Portugais pendant les années, 1484-1488,” in the Bulletin de la Société de Géographie de Paris, 1876; Vivien de Saint-Martin’s Histoire de la géographie et des découvertes géographiques, depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’à nos jours, p. 298, Paris, 1873; Ruge’s Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, p. 81; Clarke’s Progress of Maritime Discovery, p. 140; and G. T. Raynal’s Histoire philosophique et politique des établissemens et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes, Geneva, 1780; Paris, 1820. Paulitschke’s Afrika-literatur in der Zeit von 1500 bis 1750, Vienna, 1882, notes the earliest accounts.

Prince Henry had been with his father at the capture of Ceuta, opposite Gibraltar, in 1415, when the Portuguese got their first foothold in Africa. In 1418 he established a school of nautical observation at Sagres,[145] the southwestern promontory of his father’s kingdom, and placed the geographer, Jayme,[146] of Majorca, in charge of it. The Prince at once sent out his first expedition down the Barbary coast; but his vessel, being driven out of its course, discovered the Island of Porto Santo. Expedition after expedition reached, in successive years, the vicinity of Cape Bojador; but an inexpressible dread of the uncertainty beyond deferred the passage of it till 1434. Cape Blanco was reached in 1445; Cape Verde shortly after; and the River Gambia in 1447.


Cadamosto and his Venetians pushed still farther, and saw the Southern Cross for the first time.[147] Between 1460 and 1464 they went beyond Cape Mesurado. Prince Henry dying in 1463, King Alfonso, in 1469, farmed out the African commerce, and required five hundred miles to be added yearly to the limit of discovery southward. Not long after, Diego Cam reached the Congo coast, Behaim accompanying him. In 1487, after seventy years of gradual progress down six thousand miles of coast, southward from Cape Non, the Portuguese under Diaz reached the Stormy Cape,—later to be called the Cape of Good Hope. He but just rounded it in May, and in December he was in Portugal with the news. Bartholomew, the brother of Columbus, had made the voyage with him.[148] The rounding of the Cape was hardly a surprise; for the belief in it was firmly established long before. In 1457-1459, in the map of Fra Mauro, which had been constructed at Venice for Alonzo V., and in which Bianco assisted, the terminal cape had been fitly drawn.[149]



This map follows a copy in the Kohl Collection (no. 23), after the original, attached to a manuscript theological treatise in the British Museum. An inscription at the break in the African coast says that to this point the Portuguese had pushed their discoveries in 1489; and as it shows no indication of the voyages of Columbus and Da Gama, Kohl places it about 1490. It may be considered as representing the views current before these events, Asia following the Ptolemean drafts. The language of the map being partly Italian and partly Portuguese, Kohl conjectures that it was made by an Italian living in Lisbon; and he points out the close correspondence of the names on the western coast of Africa to the latest Portuguese discoveries, and that its contour is better than anything preceding.

HO COMDE ALMIRANTE (Da Gama’s Autograph).


This follows the engravings in Ruge’s Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, p. 111, and in Stanley’s Da Gama, published by the Hakluyt Society. The original belongs to the Count de Lavradio. Another portrait, with a view of Calicut, is given in Lafitau’s Découvertes des Portugais, Paris, 1734, iii. 66.

Such had been the progress of the Portuguese marine, in exemplification of the southerly quest called for by the theory of Pomponius Mela, when Columbus made his westerly voyage in 1492 and reached, as he supposed, the same coast which the Portuguese were seeking to touch by the opposite direction.[150] In this erroneous geographical belief Columbus remained as long as he lived,—a view in which Vespucius and the earlier navigators equally shared;[151] though some, like Peter Martyr,[152] accepted the belief cautiously. We shall show in another place how slowly the error was eradicated from the cartography of even the latter part of the sixteenth century.

During the interval when Columbus was in Spain, between his second and third voyages, Vasco da Gama sailed from Lisbon, July 8, 1497, to complete the project which had so long animated the endeavors of the rival kingdom. He doubled the Cape of Good Hope in Nov. 1497, and anchored at Calicut, May 20, 1498,—a few days before Columbus left San Lucar on his third voyage. In the following August, Da Gama started on his return; and after a year’s voyage he reached Lisbon in August, 1498.


THE LINE OF DEMARCATION (Spanish claim, 1527).

This is the outline of the anonymous map of 1527, sometimes ascribed to Ferdinand Columbus, but held by Harrisse to be the work of Nuña Garcia de Toreno. It was an official map of the Spanish Hydrographical Office, and gives the Spanish view of the meridian on which the line of demarcation ran. It follows a copy in the Kohl Collection, no. 38. The line is similarly drawn on the Ribero map of 1529. The Portuguese view is shown in the Cantino map of 1502, and in what is known as the Portuguese chart of 1514-1520.


The Portuguese had now accomplished their end. The éclat with which it would have been received had not Columbus opened, as was supposed, a shorter route, was wanting; and Da Gama, following in the path marked for him, would have failed of much of his fame but for the auspicious applause which Camoens created for him in the Lusiad.[153]


This follows the cut in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, xxvii. 500, representing a bust in the Berlin Museum.


Da Gama at Calicut and Columbus at Cuba gave the line of demarcation of Alexander VI. a significance that was not felt to be impending, five years earlier, on the 3d and 4th of May, 1493, when the Papal Bull was issued.[154] This had fixed the field of Spanish and Portuguese exploration respectively west and east of a line one hundred leagues[155] west of the Azores, following a meridian at a point where Columbus had supposed the magnetic needle[156] pointed to the north star.[157] The Portuguese thought that political grounds were of more consideration than physical, and were not satisfied with the magnet governing the limitation of their search. They desired a little more sea-room on the Atlantic side, and were not displeased to think that a meridian considerably farther west might give them a share of the new Indies south and north of the Spanish discoveries; so they entered their protest against the partition of the Bull, and the two Powers held a convention at Tordesillas, which resulted, in June, 1494, in the line being moved two hundred and seventy leagues westerly.[158] No one but vaguely suspected the complication yet to arise about this same meridian, now selected, when the voyage of Magellan should bring Spaniard and Portuguese face to face at the Antipodes. This aspect of the controversy will claim attention elsewhere.[159] From this date the absolute position of the line as theoretically determined, was a constant source of dispute, and the occasion of repeated negotiations.[160]



A. First Voyage.—As regards the first voyage of Columbus there has come down to us a number of accounts, resolvable into two distinct narratives, as originally proceeding from the hand of Columbus himself,—his Journal, which is in part descriptive and in part log, according to the modern understanding of this last term; and his Letters announcing the success and results of his search. The fortunes and bibliographical history of both these sources need to be told:

Journal.—Columbus himself refers to this in his letter to Pope Alexander VI. (1503) as being kept in the style of Cæsar’s Commentaries; and Irving speaks of it as being penned “from day to day with guileless simplicity.” In its original form it has not been found; but we know that Las Casas used it in his Historia, and that Ferdinand Columbus must have had it before him while writing what passes for his Life of his father. An abridgment of the Journal in the hand of Las Casas, was discovered by Navarrete, who printed it in the first volume of his Coleccion in 1825; it is given in a French version in the Paris edition of the same (vol. ii.), and in Italian in Torre’s Scritti di Colombo, 1864. Las Casas says of his abstract, that he follows the very words of the Admiral for a while after recording the landfall; and these parts are translated by Mr. Thomas, of the State Department at Washington, in G. A. Fox’s paper on “The Landfall” in the Report of the Coast Survey for 1880. The whole of the Las Casas text, however, was translated into English, at the instigation of George Ticknor, by Samuel Kettell, and published in Boston as A Personal Narrative of the First Voyage in 1827;[161] and it has been given in part, in English, in Becher’s Landfall of Columbus. The original is thought to have served Herrera in his Historia General.[162]

Letters.—We know that on the 12th of February, 1493, about a week before reaching the Azores on his return voyage, and while his ship was laboring in a gale, Columbus prepared an account of his discovery, and incasing the parchment in wax, put it in a barrel, which he threw overboard. That is the last heard of it. He prepared another account, perhaps duplicate, and protecting it in a similar way, placed it on his poop, to be washed off in case his vessel foundered. We know nothing further of this account, unless it be the same, substantially, with the letters which he wrote just before making a harbor at the Azores. One of these letters, at least, is dated off the Canaries; and it is possible that it was written earlier on the voyage, and post-dated, in expectation of his making the Canaries; and when he found himself by stress of weather at the Azores, he neglected to change the place. The original of neither of these letters is known.

One of them was dated Feb. 15, 1493, with a postscript dated March 4 (or 14, copies vary, and the original is of course not to be reached; 4 would seem to be correct), and is written in Spanish, and addressed to the “Escribano de Racion,” Luis de Santangel, who, as Treasurer of Aragon, had advanced money for the voyage. Columbus calls this a second letter; by which he may mean that the one cast overboard was the first, or that another, addressed to Sanchez (later to be mentioned), preceded it. There was at Simancas, in 1818, an early manuscript copy of this letter, which Navarrete printed in his Coleccion, and Kettell translated into English in his book (p. 253) already referred to.[163]

In 1852 the Baron Pietro Custodi left his collection of books to the Biblioteca Ambrosiana at Milan; and among them was found a printed edition of this Santangel letter, never before known, and still remaining unique. It is of small quarto, four leaves, in semi-gothic type, bearing the date of 1493,[164] and was, as Harrisse and Lenox think, printed in Spain,—Major suggests Barcelona, but Gayangos thinks Lisbon. It was first reprinted at Milan in 1863, with a fac-simile, and edited by Cesare Correnti, in a volume, containing other letters of Columbus, entitled, Lettere autografe edite ed inedite di Cristoforo Colombo.[165] From this reprint Harrisse copied it, and gave an English translation in his Notes on Columbus, p. 89, drawing attention to the error of Correnti in making it appear on his titlepage that the letter was addressed to “Saxis,”[166] and testifying that, by collation, he[47] had found but slight variation from the Navarrete text. Mr. R. H. Major also prints the Ambrosian text in his Select Letters of Columbus, with an English version appended, and judges the Cosco version could not have been made from it. Other English translations may be found in Becher’s Landfall of Columbus, p. 291, and in French’s Historical Collections of Louisiana and Florida, 2d series, ii. 145.

In 1866 a fac-simile edition (150 copies) of the Ambrosian copy was issued at Milan, edited by Gerolamo d’Adda, under the title of Lettera in lingua Spagnuola diretta da Cristoforo Colombo a Luis de Santangel.[167] Mr. James Lenox, of New York, had already described it, with a fac-simile of the beginning and end, in the Historical Magazine (vol. viii. p. 289, September, 1864, April, 1865); and this paper was issued separately (100 copies) as a supplement to the Lenox edition of Scyllacius. Harrisse[168] indicates that there was once a version of this Santangel letter in the Catalan tongue, preserved in the Colombina Library at Seville.

A few years ago Bergenroth found at Simancas a letter of Columbus, dated at the Canaries, Feb. 15, 1493, with a postscript at Lisbon, March 14, addressed to a friend, giving still another early text, but adding nothing material to our previous knowledge. A full abstract is given in the Calendar of State Papers relating to England and Spain, p. 43.

A third Spanish text of a manuscript of the sixteenth century, said to have been found in the Colegio Mayor de Cuenca, was made known by Varnhagen, the Minister of Brazil to Portugal, who printed it at Valencia in 1858 as Primera epistola del Almirante Don Christóbal Colon, including an account “de una nueva copia de original manuscrito.” The editor assumed the name of Volafan, and printed one hundred copies, of which sixty were destroyed in Brazil.[169] This letter is addressed to Gabriel Sanchez, and dated “sobre la isla de Sa. Maria, 18 de Febrero;” and is without the postscript of the letters of Feb. 15. It is almost a verbatim repetition of the Simancas text. A reprint of the Cosco text makes a part of the volume; and it is the opinion of Varnhagen and Harrisse that the Volafan text is the original from which Cosco translated, as mentioned later.

Perhaps still another Spanish text is preserved and incorporated, as Muñoz believed, by the Cura de los Palacios, Andrés Bernaldez, in his Historia de los reyes católicos (chap. cxviii). This book covers the period 1488-1513; has thirteen chapters on Columbus, who had been the guest of Bernaldez after his return from his second voyage, in 1496, and by whom Columbus is called “mercador de libros de estampa.” The manuscript of Bernaldez’s book long remained unprinted in the Royal Library at Madrid. Irving used a manuscript copy which belonged to Obadiah Rich.[170] Prescott’s copy of the manuscript is in Harvard College Library.[171] Humboldt[172] used it in manuscript. It was at last printed at Granada in 1856, in two volumes, under the editing of Miguel Lafuente y Alcántara.[173] It remains, of course, possible that Bernaldez may have incorporated a printed Spanish text, instead of the original or any early manuscript, though Columbus is known to have placed papers in his hands.

The text longest known to modern students is the poor Latin rendering of Cosco, already referred to. While but one edition of the original Spanish text appeared presumably in Spain (and none of Vespucius and Magellan), this Latin text, or translations of it, appeared in various editions and forms in Italy, France, and Germany, which Harrisse remarks[174] as indicating the greater popular impression which[48] the discovery of America made beyond Spain than within the kingdom; and the monthly delivery of letters from Germany to Portugal and the Atlantic islands, at this time, placed these parts of Europe in prompter connection than we are apt to imagine.[175] News of the discovery was, it would seem, borne to Italy by the two Genoese ambassadors, Marchesi and Grimaldi, who are known to have left Spain a few days after the return of Columbus.[176] The Spanish text of this letter, addressed by Columbus to Gabriel or Raphael Sanchez, or Sanxis, as the name of the Crown treasurer is variously given, would seem to have fallen into the hands of one Aliander de Cosco, who turned it into Latin, completing his work on the 29th of April. Harrisse points out the error of Navarrete and Varnhagen in placing this completion on the 25th, and supposes the version was made in Spain. Tidings of the discovery must have reached Rome before this version could have got there; for the first Papal Bull concerning the event is dated May 3. Whatever the case, the first publication, in print, of the news was made in Rome in this Cosco version, and four editions of it were printed in that city in 1493. There is much disagreement among bibliographers as to the order of issue of the early editions. Their peculiarities, and the preference of several bibliographers as to such order, is indicated in the following enumeration, the student being referred for full titles to the authorities which are cited:—

I. Epistola Christofori Colom [1493]. Small quarto, four leaves (one blank), gothic, 33 lines to a page. Addressed to Sanchis. Cosco is called Leander. Ferdinand and Isabella both named in the title. The printer is thought to be Plannck, from similarity of type to work known to be his.

Major calls this the editio princeps, and gives elaborate reasons for his opinion (Select Letters of Columbus, p. cxvi). J. R. Bartlett, in the Carter-Brown Catalogue, vol. i. no. 5, also puts it first; so does Ternaux. Varnhagen calls it the second edition. It is put the third in order by Brunet (vol. ii. col. 164) and Lenox (Scyllacius, p. xliv), and fourth by Harrisse (Notes on Columbus, p. 121; Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 4).

There are copies in the Lenox, Carter-Brown, and Huth (Catalogue, i. 336) libraries; in the Grenville (Bibl. Gren., p. 158) and King’s Collections in the British Museum; in the Royal Library at Munich; in the Collection of the Duc d’Aumale at Twickenham; and in the Commercial Library at Hamburg.[177] The copy cited by Harrisse was sold in the Court Collection (no. 72) at Paris in 1884.

II. Epistola Christofori Colom, impressit Rome, Eucharius Argenteus [Silber], anno dñi MCCCCXCIII. Small quarto, three printed leaves, gothic type, 40 lines to the page. Addressed to Sanches. Cosco is called Leander. Ferdinand and Isabella both named.

Major, who makes this the second edition, says that its deviations from No. I. are all on the side of ignorance. Varnhagen calls it the editio princeps. Bartlett (Carter-Brown Catalogue, no. 6) puts it second. Lenox (Scyllacius, p. xlv) calls it the fourth edition. It is no. 3 of Harrisse (Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 3; Notes on Columbus, p. 121). Graesse errs in saying the words “Indie supra Gangem” are omitted in the title.

There are copies in the Lenox, Carter-Brown, Huth (Catalogue, i. 336), and Grenville (Bibl. Gren., p. 158) Libraries. It has been recently priced at 5,000 francs. Cf. Murphy Catalogue, 629.

III. Epistola Christofori Colom. Small quarto, four leaves, 34 lines, gothic type. Addressed to Sanxis. Cosco is called Aliander. Ferdinand only named.

This is Major’s third edition. It is the editio princeps of Harrisse, who presumes it to be printed by Stephanus Plannck at Rome (Notes on Columbus, p. 117; Bibl. Amer. Vet., vol. i.); and he enters upon a close examination to establish its priority. It is Lenox’s second edition (Scyllacius, p. xliii). Bartlett places it third.

There are copies in the Barlow (formerly the Aspinwall copy) Library in New York; in the General Collection and Grenville Library of the British Museum; and in the Royal Library at Munich. In 1875 Mr. S. L. M. Barlow printed (50 copies) a fac-simile of his copy, with a Preface, in which he joins in considering this the first edition with Harrisse, who (Notes on Columbus, p. 101) gives a careful reprint of it.

IV. De insulis inventis, etc. Small octavo, ten leaves, 26 and 27 lines, gothic type. The leaf before the title has the Spanish arms on the recto. There are eight woodcuts, one of which is a repetition. Addressed to Sanxis. Cosco is called Aliender. Ferdinand only named. The words “Indie supra Gangem” are omitted in the title.

This is Major’s fourth edition. Lenox makes it the editio princeps (as does Brunet), and gives fac-similes of the woodcuts in his Scyllacius, p. xxxvi. Bossi supposed the cuts to have been a part of the original manuscript, and designed by Columbus.[178] Harrisse calls it the second in order, and thinks Johannes Besicken may have been the printer (Bibl. Amer. Vet., 2), though it is usually ascribed to Plannck, of Rome. It bears the arms of Granada; but there was no press at that time in that city, so far as known, though Brunet seems to imply it was printed there.

The only perfect copy known is one formerly the Libri copy, now in the Lenox Library, which has ten leaves. The Grenville copy (Bibl. Gren., p. 158), and the one which Bossi saw in the Brera at Milan, now lost, had only nine leaves.

Hain (Repertorium, no. 5,491) describes a copy which seems to lack the first and tenth leaves; and it was probably[49] this copy (Royal Library, Munich) which was followed by Pilinski in his Paris fac-simile (20 copies in 1858), which does not reproduce these leaves, though it is stated by some that the defective British Museum copy was his guide. Bartlett seems in error in calling this fac-simile a copy of the Libri-Lenox copy.[179]


V. Epistola de insulis de novo repertis, etc. Small quarto, four leaves, gothic, 39 lines; woodcut on verso of first leaf. Printed by Guy Marchand in Paris, about 1494. Addressed to Sanxis. Cosco is called Aliander. Ferdinand only named.

This is Lenox’s (Scyllacius, p. xlv.), Major’s, and Harrisse’s fifth (Notes on Columbus, p. 122; Bibl. Amer. Vet., p. 5) edition.

The Ternaux copy, now in the Carter-Brown Library, was for some time supposed to be the only copy known; but Harrisse says the text reprinted by Rosny in Paris, in 1865, as from a copy in the National Library at Paris, corresponds to this. This reprint (125 copies) is entitled, Lettre de Christophe Colomb sur la découverte du nouveau monde. Publiée d’après la rarissime version Latine conservée à la Bibliothèque Impériale. Traduite en Français, commentée [etc.] par Lucien de Rosny. Paris:[50] J. Gay, 1865, 44 pages octavo. This edition was published under the auspices of the “Comité d’Archéologie Américaine.”[180]


VI. Epistola de insulis noviter repertis, etc. Small quarto, four leaves, gothic, 39 lines; woodcut on verso of first leaf. Guiot Marchant, of Paris, printer. Addressed to Sanxis. Cosco is called Aliander. Ferdinand only named.

This is Major’s sixth edition; Harrisse (Notes on Columbus, p. 122; Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 6) and Lenox (Scyllacius, p. xlvii) also place it sixth. There are fac-similes of the engraved title in Harrisse, Lenox, and Stevens’s American Bibliographer, p. 66.

There are copies in the Carter-Brown, Bodleian (Douce), and University of Göttingen libraries; one is also shown in the Murphy Catalogue, no. 630.

John Harris, Sen., made a fac-simile edition of five copies, one of which is in the British Museum.

VII. Epistola Cristophori Colom, etc. Small quarto, four leaves, gothic, 38 lines. Addressed to Sanxis. Th. Martens is thought to be the printer.

This edition has only recently been made known. Cf. Brunet, Supplément, col. 276. The only copy known is in the Bibliothèque Royale at Brussels.

The text of all these editions scarcely varies, except in the use of contracted letters. Lenox’s collation was reprinted, without the cuts, in the Historical Magazine, February, 1861. Other bibliographical accounts will be found in Graesse, Trésor; Bibliotheca Grenvilliana, i. 158; Sabin, Dictionary, iv. 274; and by J. H. Hessels in the Bibliophile Belge, vol. vi. The cuts are also in part reproduced in some editions of Irving’s Life of Columbus, and in the Vita, by Bossi.[181]

In 1494 this Cosco-Sanchez text was appended to a drama on the capture of Granada, which was printed at Basle, beginning In laudem Serenissimi Ferdinandi, and ascribed to Carolus Veradus. The “De insulis nuper inventis” is found at the thirtieth leaf (Bibl.[51] Amer. Vet., no. 15; Lenox’s Scyllacius, p. xlviii; Major, no. 7; Carter-Brown Catalogue, no. 13). There are copies in the Carter-Brown, Harvard College, and Lenox libraries.[182]

By October, in the year of the first appearance (1493) of the Cosco-Sanchez text, it had been turned into ottava rima by Guiliano Dati, a popular poet, to be sung about the streets, as is supposed; and two editions of this verse are now known. The earliest is in quarto, black letter, two columns, and was printed in Florence, and called Questa e la Hystoria ... extracte duna Epistola Christofano Colombo. It was in four leaves, of coarse type and paper; but the second and third leaves are lacking in the unique copy, now in the British Museum, which was procured in 1858 from the Costabile sale in Paris.[183]


The other edition, dated one day later (Oct. 26, 1493), printed also at Florence, and called La Lettera dell’isole, etc., is in Roman type, quarto, four leaves, two columns, with a woodcut title representing Ferdinand on the European, and Columbus on the New World shore of the ocean.[184] The copy in the British Museum was bought for 1,700 francs at the Libri sale in Paris; and the only other copy known is in the Trivulgio Library at Milan.

In 1497 a German translation, or adaptation, from Cosco’s Latin was printed by Bartlomesz Küsker at Strasburg, with the title Eyn schön kübsch lesen von etlichen inszlen die do in kurtzen zyten funden synd durch dē künig von hispania, und sagt vō groszen wunderlichen dingen die in dē selbē inszlen synd. It is a black-letter quarto of seven leaves, with one blank, the woodcut of the title being repeated on the verso of the seventh leaf.[185] There are copies in the Lenox (Libri copy) and Carter-Brown libraries; in the Grenville and Huth collections; and in the library at Munich.

The text of the Cosco-Sanchez letter, usually quoted by the early writers, is contained in the Bellum Christianorum Principum of Robertus Monarchus, printed at Basle in 1533.[186]



B. Landfall.—It is a matter of controversy what was Guanahani, the first land seen by Columbus. The main, or rather the only, source for the decision of this question is the Journal of Columbus; and it is to be regretted that Las Casas did not leave unabridged the parts preceding the landfall, as he did those immediately following, down to October 29. Not a word outside of this Journal is helpful. The testimony of the early maps is rather misleading than reassuring, so conjectural was their geography.



It will be remembered that land was first seen two hours after midnight; and computations made for Fox show that the moon was near the third quarter, partly behind the observer, and would clearly illuminate the white sand of the shore, two leagues distant. From Columbus’s course there were in his way, as constituting the Bahama group,—taking the enumeration of to-day, and remembering that the sea may have made some changes,—36 islands, 687 cays, and 2,414 rocks. By the log, as included in the Journal, and reducing his distance sailed by dead reckoning—which then depended on observation by the eye alone, and there were also currents to misguide Columbus, running from nine to thirty miles a day, according to the force of the wind—to a course west, 2° 49′ south, Fox has shown that the discoverer had come 3,458 nautical miles. Applying this to the several islands claimed as the landfall, and knowing modern computed distances, we get the following table:—

Islands. Course. Miles. An
To Grand Turk
W. 8°– 1′ S.
W. 6° 37′ S.
W. 4° 38′ S.
W. 4° 20′ S.
W. 5° 37′ S.

Columbus speaks of the island as being “small,” and again as “pretty large” (bien grande). He calls it very level, with abundance of water, and a very large lagune in the middle; and it was in the last month of the rainy season, when the low parts of the islands are usually flooded.

Some of the features of the several islands already named will now be mentioned, together with a statement of the authorities in favor of each as the landfall.

San Salvador, or Cat.—This island is forty-three miles long by about three broad, with an area of about one hundred and sixty square miles, rising to a height of four hundred feet, the loftiest land in the group, and with no interior water. It is usual in the maps of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to identify this island with the Guanahani of Columbus. It is so considered by Catesby in his Natural History of Carolina (1731); by Knox in his Collection of Voyages (1767); by De la Roquette in the French version of Navarrete, vol. ii. (1828); and by Baron de Montlezun in the Nouvelles annales des voyages, vols. x. and xii. (1828-1829). Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, of the United States Navy, worked out the problem for Irving; and this island is fixed upon in the latter’s Life of Columbus, app. xvi., editions of 1828 and 1848. Becher claims that the modern charts used by Irving were imperfect; and he calls “not worthy to be called a chart” the La Cosa map, which so much influenced Humboldt in following Irving, in his Examen critique (1837), iii. 181, 186-222.



Watling’s.—This is thirteen miles long by about six broad, containing sixty square miles, with a height of one hundred and forty feet, and having about one third its area of interior water. It was first suggested by Muñoz in 1793. Captain Becher, of the Royal Navy, elaborated the arguments in favor of this island in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, xxvi. 189, and Proceedings, i. 94, and in his Landfall of Columbus on his First Voyage to America, London, 1856. Peschel took the same ground in his Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen (1858). R. H. Major’s later opinion is in support of the same views, as shown by him in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (1871), xvi. 193, and Proceedings, xv. 210. Cf. New Quarterly Review, October, 1856.

Lieut. J. B. Murdock, U. S. N., in a paper on “The Cruise of Columbus in the Bahamas, 1492,” published in the Proceedings (April, 1884, p. 449) of the United States Naval Institute vol. x, furnishes a new translation of the passages in Columbus’ Journal bearing on the subject, and made by Professor Montaldo of the Naval Academy, and repeats the map of the modern survey of the Bahamas as given by Fox. Lieutenant Murdock follows and criticises the various theories afresh, and traces Columbus’ track backward from Cuba, till he makes the landfall to have been at Watling’s Island. He points out also various indications of the Journal which cannot be made to agree with any supposable landfall.



This map is sketched from the chart, made from the most recent surveys, in the United States Coast-Survey and given in Fox’s monograph, with the several routes marked down on it. Other cartographical illustrations of the subject will be found in Moreno’s maps, made for Navarrete’s Coleccion in 1825 (also in the French version); in Becher’s paper in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, xxvi. 189, and in his Landfall of Columbus; in Varnhagen’s Das wahre Guanahani; in Major’s paper in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, 1871, and in his second edition of the Select Letters, where he gives a modern map, with Herrera’s map (1601) and a section of La Cosa’s; in G. B. Torre’s Scritti di Colombo, p. 214; and in the section, “Wo liegt Guanahani?” of Ruge’s Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, p. 248, giving all routes, except that offered by Fox. See further on the subject R. Pietschmann’s “Beiträge zur Guanahani-Frage,” in the Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Geographie (1880), i. 7, 65, with map; and A. Breusing’s “Geschichte der Kartographie,” in Ibid., ii. 193.

Grand Turk.—Its size is five and one half by one and a quarter miles, with an area of seven square miles; its highest part seventy feet; and one third of its surface is interior water. Navarrete first advanced arguments in its favor in 1825, and Kettell adopted his views in the Boston edition of the Personal Narrative of Columbus. George Gibbs argued for it in the[56] New York Historical Society’s Proceedings (1846), p. 137, and in the Historical Magazine (June, 1858), ii. 161. Major adopted such views in the first edition (1847) of his Select Letters of Columbus.

Mariguana.—It measures twenty-three and one half miles long by an average of four wide; contains ninety-six square miles; rises one hundred and one feet, and has no interior water. F. A. de Varnhagen published at St. Jago de Chile, in 1864, a treatise advocating this island as La verdadera Guanahani, which was reissued at Vienna, in 1869, as Das wahre Guanahani des Columbus.[187]

Samana, or Attwood’s Cay.—This is nine miles long by one and a half wide, covering eight and a half square miles, with the highest ridge of one hundred feet. It is now uninhabited; but arrow-heads and other signs of aboriginal occupation are found there. The Samana of the early maps was the group now known as Crooked Island. The present Samana has been recently selected for the landfall by Gustavus V. Fox, in the United States Coast Survey Report, 1880, app. xviii.,—“An attempt to solve the problem of the first landing-place of Columbus in the New World.” He epitomized this paper in the Magazine of American History (April, 1883), p. 240.


C. Effect of the Discovery in Europe.—During the interval between the return of Columbus from his first voyage and his again treading the soil of Spain on his return from the second, 1494, we naturally look for the effect of this astounding revelation upon the intelligence of Europe. To the Portuguese, who had rejected his pleas, there may have been some chagrin. Faria y Sousa, in his Europa Portuguesa, intimates that Columbus’ purpose in putting in at the Tagus was to deepen the regret of the Portuguese at their rejection of his views; and other of their writers affirm his overbearing manner and conscious pride of success. The interview which he had with John II. is described in the Lyuro das obras de Garcia de Resende.[188] Of his reception by the Spanish monarchs at Barcelona,[189] we perhaps, in the stories of the historians, discern more embellishments than Oviedo, who was present, would have thought the ceremony called for. George Sumner (in 1844) naturally thought so signal an event would find some record in the “Anals consulars” of that city, which were formed to make note of[57] the commonest daily events; but he could find in them no indication of the advent of the discoverer of new lands.[190] It is of far more importance for us that provision was soon made for future records in the establishment of what became finally the “Casa de la Contratacion de las Indias,” at this time put in charge of Juan de Fonseca, who controlled its affairs throughout the reign of Ferdinand.[191] We have seen how apparently an eager public curiosity prompted more frequent impressions of Columbus’ letter in other lands than in Spain itself; but there was a bustling reporter at the Spanish Court fond of letter-writing, having correspondents in distant parts, and to him we owe it, probably, that the news spread to some notable people. This was Peter Martyr d’Anghiera. He dated at Barcelona, on the ides of May, a letter mentioning the event, which he sent to Joseph Borromeo; and he repeated the story in later epistles, written in September, to Ascanio Sforza, Tendilla, and Talavera.[192] There is every reason to suppose that Martyr derived his information directly from Columbus himself. He was now probably about thirty-seven years old, and he had some years before acquired such a reputation for learning and eloquence that he had been invited from Italy (he was a native of the Duchy of Milan) to the Spanish Court. His letters, as they have come down to us, begin about five years before this,[193] and it is said that just at this time (1493) he began the composition of his Decades. Las Casas has borne testimony to the value of the Decades for a knowledge of Columbus, calling them the most worthy of credit of all the early writings, since Martyr got, as he says, his accounts directly from the Admiral, with whom he often talked. Similar testimony is given to their credibleness by Carbajal, Gomez, Vergara, and other contemporaries.[194] Beginning with Muñoz, there has been a tendency of late years to discredit Martyr, arising from the confusion and even negligence sometimes discernible in what he says. Navarrete was inclined to this derogatory estimate. Hallam[195] goes so far as to think him open to grave suspicion of negligent and palpable imposture, antedating his letters to appear prophetic. On the other hand, Prescott[196] contends for his veracity, and trusts his intimate familiarity with the scenes he describes. Helps interprets the disorder of his writings as a merit, because it is a reflection of his unconnected thoughts and feelings on the very day on which he recorded any transactions.[197]

What is thought to be the earliest mention in print of the new discoveries occurs in a book published at Seville in 1493.—Los tratados del Doctor Alonso Ortiz. The reference is brief, and is on the reverse of the 43d folio.[198] Not far from the same time the Bishop of Carthagena, Bernardin de Carvajal, then the Spanish ambassador to the Pope, delivered an oration in Rome, June 19, 1493, in which he made reference to the late discovery of unknown lands towards the Indies.[199] These references are all scant; and, so far as we know from the records preserved to us, the great event of the age made as yet no impression on the public mind demanding any considerable recognition.

D. Second Voyage (Sept. 25, 1493, to June 11, 1496).—First among the authorities is the narrative of Dr. Chanca, the physician of the Expedition. The oldest record of it is a manuscript of the middle of the sixteenth century, in the Real Academia de la Historia at Madrid.[58] From this Navarrete printed it for the first time,[200] under the title of “Segundo Viage de Cristobal Colon,” in his Coleccion, i. 198.

Not so directly cognizant of events, but getting his information at second hand from Guglielmo Coma,—a noble personage in Spain,—was Nicolas Scyllacius, of Pavia, who translated Coma’s letters into Latin, and published his narrative, De insulis meridiani atque indici maris nuper inventis, dedicating it to Ludovico Sforza, at Pavia (Brunet thinks Pisa), in 1594 or 1595. Of this little quarto there are three copies known. One is in the Lenox Library; and from this copy Mr. Lenox, in 1859, reprinted it sumptuously (one hundred and two copies[201]), with a translation by the Rev. John Mulligan. In Mr. Lenox’s Introduction it is said that his copy had originally belonged to M. Olivieri, of Parma, and then to the Marquis Rocca Saporiti, before it came into Mr. Lenox’s hands, and that the only other copy known was an inferior one in the library of the Marquis Trivulzio at Milan. This last copy is probably one of the two copies which Harrisse reports as being in the palace library at Madrid and in the Thottiana (Royal Library) at Copenhagen, respectively.[202] Scyllacius adds a few details, current at that time, which were not in Coma’s letters, and seems to have interpreted the account of his correspondent as implying that Columbus had reached the Indies by the Portuguese route round the Cape of Good Hope. Ronchini has conjectured that this blunder may have caused the cancelling of a large part of the edition, which renders the little book so scarce; but Lenox neatly replies that “almost all the contemporaneous accounts are equally rare.”

Another second-hand account—derived, however, most probably from the Admiral himself—is that given by Peter Martyr in his first Decade, published in 1511, and more at length in 1516.[203]

Accompanying Columbus on this voyage was Bernardus Buell, or Boil, a monk of St. Benoit, in Austria, who was sent by Pope Alexander VI as vicar-general of the new lands, to take charge of the measures for educating and converting the Indians.[204] It will be remembered he afterward became a caballer against the Admiral. What he did there, and a little of what Columbus did, one Franciscus Honorius Philoponus sought to tell in a very curious book, Nova typis transacta navigatio novi orbis Indiæ occidentalis,[205] which was not printed till 1621. It is dedicated to Casparus Plautius, and it is suspected that he is really the author of the book, while he assumed another name, more easily to laud himself. Harrisse describes the book as having “few details of an early date, mixed with much second-hand information of a perfectly worthless character.”

So far as we know, the only contemporary references in a printed book to the new discoveries during the progress of the second voyage, or in the interval previous to the undertaking of the third voyage, in the spring of 1498, are these: The Das Narrenschiff (Ship of Fools) of Sebastian Brant, a satire on the follies of society, published at Basle in 1494,[206] and reprinted in Latin in 1497, 1498, and in French in 1497, 1498, and 1499,[207] has a brief mention of the land previously unknown, until Ferdinand discovered innumerable people in the great Spanish ocean. Zacharias Lilio, in his De origine et laudibus scientiarum, Florence, 1496,[208] has two allusions. In 1497 Fedia Inghirami, keeper of the Vatican Archives, delivered a funeral oration on Prince John, son of Ferdinand and Isabella, and made a reference to the New World. The little book was probably printed in Rome. There is also a reference in the Cosmographia of Antonius Nebrissensis, printed in 1498.[209]



Fac-simile of cut in Reusner’s Icones, Strasburg, 1590.

E. Third Voyage (May 30, 1498, to Nov. 20, 1500).—Our knowledge of this voyage is derived at first hand from two letters of Columbus himself, both of which are printed by Navarrete, and by Major, with a translation. The first is addressed to the sovereigns, and follows a copy in Las Casas’s hand, in the Archives of the Duque del Infantado. The other is addressed to the nurse of Prince John, and follows a copy in the Muñoz Collection in the Real Academia at Madrid, collated with a copy in the Columbus Collection at Genoa, printed by Spotorno.[210]



A reproduction of the map in Charton’s Voyageurs, iii. 179.



A reproduction of the map in Charton’s Voyageurs, iii. 178.


F. Fourth Voyage (May 9, 1502, to Nov. 7, 1504).—While at Jamaica Columbus wrote to Ferdinand and Isabella a wild, despondent letter,[211] suggestive of alienation of mind. It brings the story of the voyage down only to July 7, 1503, leaving four months unrecorded. Pinelo says it was printed in the Spanish, as he wrote it; but no such print is known.[212] Navarrete found in the King’s private library, at Madrid, a manuscript transcript of it, written, apparently, about the middle of the sixteenth century; and this he printed in his Coleccion.[213] It was translated into Italian by Costanzo Bayuera, of Brescia, and published at Venice, in 1505, as Copia de la lettera per Colombo mandata.[214] Cavaliere Morelli, the librarian of St. Mark’s, reprinted it, with comments, at Bassano, in 1810, as Lettera rarissima di Cristoforo Colombo.[215] Navarrete prints two other accounts of this voyage,—one by Diego Porras;[216] the other by Diego Mendez, given in his last will, preserved in the Archives of the Duke of Veraguas.[217]

While Columbus was absent on this voyage, as already mentioned, Bergomas had recorded the Admiral’s first discoveries.[218]

G. Lives and Notices of Columbus.—Ferdinand Columbus—if we accept as his the Italian publication of 1571—tells us that the fatiguing career of his father, and his infirmities, prevented the Admiral from writing his own life. For ten years after his death there were various references to the new discoveries, but not a single attempt to commemorate, by even a brief sketch, the life of the discoverer. Such were the mentions in the Commentariorum urbanorum libri of Maffei,[219] published in 1506, and again in 1511; in Walter Ludd’s Speculi orbis, etc.;[220] in F. Petrarca’s Chronica;[221] and in the Oratio[222] of Marco Dandolo (Naples),—all in 1507. In the same year the narrative in the Paesi novamente retrovati (1507) established an account which was repeated in later editions, and was followed in the Novus orbis of 1532. The next year (1508) we find a reference in the Oratio[223] of Fernando Tellez at Rome; in the Supplementi de le chroniche vulgare, novamente dal frate Jacobo Phillipo al anno 1503 vulgarizz. per Francesco C. Fiorentino (Venice);[224] in Johannes Stamler’s Dyalogus;[225] in the Ptolemy published at Rome with Ruysch’s map; and in the Collectanea[226] of Baptista Fulgosus, published at Milan.

In 1509 there is reference to the discoveries in the Opera nova of the General of the Carmelites, Battista Mantuanus.[227] Somewhere, from 1510 to 1519, the New Interlude[228] presented Vespucius to the English public, rather than Columbus, as the discoverer of America, as had already been done by Waldseemüller at St. Dié.



Fac-simile of a portion of the page of Giustiniani Psalter, which shows the beginning of the marginal note on Columbus.


In 1511 Peter Martyr, in his first Decade, and Sylvanus, in his annotations of Ptolemy, drew attention to the New World; as did also Johannes Sobrarius in his Panegyricum carmen de gestis heroicis divi Ferdinandi Catholici.[229] The Stobnicza (Cracow) Appendix to Ptolemy presented a new map of the Indies in 1512; and the Chronicon of Eusebius, of the same date, recorded the appearance of some of the wild men of the West in Rouen, brought over by a Dieppe vessel. Some copies, at least, of Antonio de Lebrija’s edition of Prudentii opera, printed at Lucca, 1512, afford another instance of an early mention of the New World.[230] Again, in 1513, a new edition of Ptolemy gave the world what is thought to have been a map by Columbus himself; and in the same year there was a Supplementum supplementi of Jacobo Philippo, of Bergomas.[231] In 1514 the De natura locorum (Vienna), of Albertus Magnus, points again to Vespucius instead of Columbus;[232] but Cataneo, in a poem on Genoa,[233] does not forget her son, Columbus.

These, as books have preserved them for us, are about all the contemporary references to the life of the great discoverer for the first ten years after his death.[234] In 1516, where we might least expect it, we find the earliest small gathering of the facts of his life. In the year of Columbus’ death, Agostino Giustiniani had begun the compilation of a polyglot psalter, which was in this year (1516) ready for publication, and, with a dedication to Leo X., appeared in Genoa. The editor annotated the text, and, in a marginal note to verse four of the nineteenth Psalm, we find the earliest sketch of Columbus’ life. Stevens[235] says of the note: “There are in it several points which we do not find elsewhere recorded, especially respecting the second voyage, and the survey of the south side of Cuba, as far as Evangelista, in May, 1494. Almost all other accounts of the second voyage, except that of Bernaldez, end before this Cuba excursion began.”

Giustiniani, who was born in 1470, died in 1536, and his Annali di Genoa[236] was shortly afterward published (1537), in which, on folio ccxlix, he gave another account of Columbus, which, being published by his executors with his revision, repeated some errors or opinions of the earlier Psalter account. These were not pleasing to Ferdinand Columbus,[237] the son of the Admiral,—particularly the statement that Columbus was born of low parentage,—“vilibus ortus parentibus.” Stevens points out how Ferdinand accuses Giustiniani of telling fourteen lies about the discoverer; “but on hunting them out, they all appear to be of trifling consequence, amounting to little more than that Columbus sprang from humble parents, and that he and his father were poor, earning a livelihood by honest toil.”[238]

To correct what, either from pride or from other reasons, he considered the falsities of the Psalter, Ferdinand was now prompted to compose a Life of his father,—or at least such was, until recently, the universal opinion of his authorship of the book. As to Ferdinand’s own relations to that father there is some doubt, or pretence of doubt, particularly on the part of those who have found the general belief in, and pretty conclusive evidence concerning, the illegitimacy of Ferdinand an obstacle in establishing the highly moral character which a saint, like Columbus, should have.[239]


Ferdinand Columbus, or Fernando Colon, was born three or four years before his father sailed on his first voyage.[240] His father’s favor at Court opened the way, and in attendance upon Prince Juan and Queen Isabella he gained a good education. When Columbus went on his fourth voyage, in 1502, the boy, then thirteen years of age, accompanied his father. It is said that he made two other voyages to the New World; but Harrisse could only find proof of one. His later years were passed as a courtier, in attendance upon Charles V. on his travels, and in literary pursuits, by which he acquired a name for learning. He had the papers of his father,[241] and he is best known by the Life of Columbus which passes under his name. If it was written in Spanish, it is not known in its original form, and has not been traced since Luis Colon, the Duque de Veraguas, son of Diego, took the manuscript to Genoa about 1568. There is some uncertainty about its later history; but it appeared in 1571 at Venice in an Italian version made by Alfonzo de Ulloa, and was entitled Historie del S. D. Fernando Colombo; nelle quali s’ ha particolare & vera relatione della vita, & de’ fatti dell’Ammiraglio D. Christoforo Colombo, suo padre. It is thought that this translation was made from an inaccurate copy of the manuscript, and moreover badly made. It begins the story of the Admiral’s life with his fifty-sixth year, or thereabout; and it has been surmised that an account of his earlier years—if, indeed, the original draft contained it—was omitted, so as not to obscure, by poverty and humble station, the beginnings of a luminous career.[242] Ferdinand died at Seville, July 12, 1539,[243] and bequeathed, conditionally, his library to the Cathedral. The collection then contained about twenty thousand volumes, in print and manuscript; and it is still preserved there, though, according to Harrisse, much neglected since 1709, and reduced to about four thousand volumes. It is known as the Biblioteca Colombina.[244] Spotorno says that this Luis Colon, a person of debauched character, brought this manuscript in the Spanish language to Genoa, and left it in the hands of Baliano de Fornari, from whom it passed to another patrician, Giovanni Baptista Marini, who procured Ulloa to make the Italian version in which it was first published.[245]


Somewhat of a controversial interest has been created of late years by the critiques of Henry Harrisse on Ferdinand Columbus and his Life of his father, questioning the usually accepted statements in Spotorno’s introduction of the Codice of 1823. Harrisse undertakes to show that the manuscript was never in Don Luis’ hands, and that Ferdinand could not have written it. He counts it as strange that if such a manuscript existed in Spain not a single writer in print previous to 1571 refers to it. “About ten years ago,” says Henry Stevens,[246] “a society of Andalusian bibliographers was formed at Seville. Their first publication was a fierce Hispano-French attack on the authenticity of the Life of Columbus by his second son, Ferdinand, written by Henri Harrisse in French, and translated by one of the Seville bibliófilos, and adopted and published by the Society. The book [by Columbus’ son] is boldly pronounced a forgery and a fraud on Ferdinand Columbus. Some fifteen reasons are given in proof of these charges, all of which, after abundant research and study, are pronounced frivolous, false, and groundless.” Such is Mr. Stevens’s view, colored or not by the antipathy which on more than one occasion has been shown to be reciprocal in the references of Stevens and Harrisse, one to the other, in sundry publications.[247] The views of Harrisse were also expressed in the supplemental volume of his Bibliotheca Americana Vetustissima, published as Additions in 1872. In this he says, regarding the Life of Columbus: “It was not originally written by the son of the bold navigator; and many of the circumstances it relates have to be challenged, and weighed with the utmost care and impartiality.”

The authenticity of the book was ably sustained by D’Avezac before the French Academy in a paper which was printed in 1873 as Le livre de Ferdinand Colomb: Revue critique des allégations proposées contre son authenticité. Harrisse replied in 1875 in a pamphlet of fifty-eight pages, entitled L’histoire de C. Colomb attribuée à son fils Fernand: Examen critique du mémoire lu par M. d’Avezac à l’Académie, 8, 13, 22 Août, 1873. There were other disputants on the question.[248]

The catalogue of the Colombina Library as made by Ferdinand shows that it contained originally a manuscript Life of the Admiral written about 1525 by Ferdinand Perez de Oliva, who presumably had the aid of Ferdinand Columbus himself; but no trace of this Life now exists,[249] unless, as Harrisse ventures to conjecture, it may[67] have been in some sort the basis of what now passes for the work of Ferdinand.

For a long time after the Historie of 1571 there was no considerable account of Columbus printed. Editions of Ptolemy, Peter Martyr, Oviedo, Grynæus, and other general books, made reference to his discoveries; but the next earliest distinct sketch appears to be that in the Elogia virorum illustrium of Jovius, printed in 1551 at Florence, and the Italian version made by Domenichi, printed in 1554.[250] Ramusio’s third volume, in 1556, gave the story greater currency than before; but such a book as Cunningham’s Cosmographical Glasse, in its chapter on America, utterly ignores Columbus in 1559.[251] We get what may probably be called the hearsay reports of Columbus’ exploits in the Mondo nuovo of Benzoni, first printed at Venice in 1565. There was a brief memorial in the Clarorum Ligurum elogia of Ubertus Folieta, published at Rome in 1573.[252] In 1581 his voyages were commemorated in an historical poem, Laurentii Gambaræ Brixiani de navigatione Christophori Columbi, published at Rome.[253] Boissard, of the De Bry coterie at Frankfort in 1597, included Columbus in his Icones virorum illustrium;[254] and Buonfiglio Costanzo, in 1604, commemorated him in the Historia Siciliana, published at Venice.[255]

Meanwhile the story of Columbus’ voyages was told at last with all the authority of official sanction in the Historia general of Herrera. This historian, or rather annalist, was born in 1549, and died in 1625;[256] and the appointment of historiographer given him by Philip II. was continued by the third and fourth monarchs of that name. There has been little disagreement as to his helpfulness to his successors. All critics place him easily first among the earlier writers; and Muñoz, Robertson, Irving, Prescott, Ticknor, and many others have united in praise of his research, candor, and justness, while they found his literary skill compromised in a measure by his chronological method. Irving found that Herrera depended so much on Las Casas that it was best in many cases to go to that earlier writer in preference;[257] and Muñoz thinks only Herrera’s judicial quality preserved for him a distinct character throughout the agglutinizing process by which he constructed his book. His latest critic, Hubert H. Bancroft,[258] calls his style “bald and accurately prolix, his method slavishly chronological,” with evidence everywhere in his book of “inexperience and incompetent assistance,” resulting in “notes badly extracted, discrepancies, and inconsistencies.” The bibliography of Herrera is well done in Sabin.[259]

Herrera had already published (1591) a monograph on the history of Portugal and the conquest (1582-1583) of the Azores, when he produced at Madrid his great work, Historia general de los hechos de los Castellanos, in eight decades, four of which, in two volumes, were published in 1601, and the others in 1615.[260] It has fourteen maps; and there should be bound with it, though often found separate, a ninth part, called Description de las Indias occidentales.[261] Of the composite work, embracing the nine parts, the best edition is usually held to be one edited by Gonzales Barcia, and supplied by him with an index, which was printed in Madrid during 1727, 1728,[68] 1729, and 1730, so that copies are found with all those dates, though it is commonly cited as of 1730.[262]

The principal chronicles of Spanish affairs in the seventeenth century contributed more or less to Columbus’ fame;[263] and he is commemorated in the Dutch compilation of Van den Bos, Leven en Daden der Zeehelden, published at Amsterdam in 1676, and in a German translation in 1681.[264]

There were a hundred years yet to pass before Robertson’s History of America gave Columbus a prominence in the work of a historian of established fame; but this Scotch historian was forced to write without any knowledge of Columbus’ own narratives.

In 1781 the earliest of the special Italian commemorations appeared at Parma, in J. Durazzo’s Elogi storici on Columbus and Doria.[265] Chevalier de Langeac in 1782 added to his poem, Colomb dans les fers à Ferdinand et Isabelle, a memoir of Columbus.[266]

The earliest commemoration in the United States was in 1792, on the three hundredth anniversary of the discovery, celebrated by the Massachusetts Historical Society, when Dr. Jeremy Belknap delivered an historical discourse,[267] included later with large additions in his well-known American Biography. The unfinished history of Muñoz harbingered, in 1793, the revival in Europe of the study of his career. Finally, the series of modern Lives of Columbus began in 1818 with the publication at Milan of Luigi Bossi’s Vita di Cristoforo Colombo, scritta e corredata di nuove osservazioni.[268] In 1823 the introduction by Spotorno to the Codice, and in 1825 the Coleccion of Navarrete, brought much new material to light; and the first to make use of it were Irving, in his Life of Columbus, 1828,[269] and Humboldt, in his Examen critique de l’histoire de la géographie du nouveau continent, published originally, in 1834, in a single volume; and again in five volumes, between 1836 and 1839.[270] “No one,” says Ticknor,[271] “has comprehended the character of Columbus as Humboldt has,—its generosity, its enthusiasm, its far-reaching visions,[69] which seemed watchful beforehand for the great scientific discovery of the sixteenth century.” Prescott was warned by the popularity of Irving’s narrative not to attempt to rival him; and his treatment of Columbus’ career was confined to such a survey as would merely complete the picture of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella.[272]

In 1844 there came the first intimation of a new style of biography,—a protest against Columbus’ story being longer told by his natural enemies, as all who failed to recognize his pre-eminently saintly character were considered to be. There was a purpose in it to make the most possible of all his pious ejaculations, and of his intention, expressed in his letter to the Pope in 1502, to rescue the Holy City from the infidel, with his prospective army of ten thousand horse and a hundred thousand foot. The chief spokesman of this purpose has been Roselly de Lorgues. He first shadowed forth his purpose in his La croix dans les deux mondes in 1844. It was not till 1864 that he produced the full flower of his spirit in his Christophe Colomb, Histoire de sa vie et de ses voyages d’après des documents authentiques tirés d’Espagne et d’Italie.[273] This was followed, in 1874, by his L’ambassadeur de Dieu et le Pape Pie IX. All this, however, and much else by the abetters of the scheme of the canonization of Columbus which was urged on the Church, failed of its purpose; and the movement was suspended, for a while at least, because of an ultimate adverse determination.[274]

Of the other later lives of Columbus it remains to mention only the most considerable, or those of significant tendency.

The late Sir Arthur Helps wrote his Spanish Conquest of America with the aim of developing the results—political, ethnological, and economic—of the conquest, rather than the day-by-day progress of events, and with a primary regard to the rise of slavery. His Life of Columbus is simply certain chapters of this larger work excerpted and fitted in order.[275] Mr. Aaron Goodrich, in A History of the so-called Christopher Columbus, New York, 1874, makes a labored and somewhat inconsiderate effort, characterized by a certain peevish air, to prove Columbus the mere borrower of others’ glories.[276]

In French, mention may be made of the Baron de Bonnefoux’s Vie de Christophe Colomb, Paris, 1853,[277] and the Marquis de Belloy’s Christophe Colomb et la découverte du Nouveau Monde, Paris, 1864.[278]

In German, under the impulse given by Humboldt, some fruitful labors have been given to Columbus and the early history of American discovery; but it is only necessary to mention the names of Forster,[279] Peschel,[280] and Ruge.[281]

H. Portraits of Columbus.—Of Columbus there is no likeness whose claim to consideration is indisputable. We have descriptions of his person from two who knew him,—Oviedo and his own son Ferdinand; we have other[70] accounts from two who certainly knew his contemporaries,—Gomara and Benzoni; and in addition we possess the description given by Herrera, who had the best sources of information. From these we learn that his face was long, neither full nor thin; his cheek-bones rather high; his nose aquiline; his eyes light gray; his complexion fair, and high colored. His hair, which was of light color before thirty, became gray after that age. In the Paesi novamente retrovati of 1507 he is described as having a ruddy, elongated visage, and as possessing a lofty and noble stature.[282]


Fac-simile of cut in Reusner’s Icones, Basle, 1589. There is another cut in Pauli Jovii elogia virorum bellica virtute illustrium, Basle, 1575 (copy in Harvard College Library).

These are the test with which to challenge the very numerous so-called likenesses of Columbus; and it must be confessed not a single one, when you take into consideration the accessories and costume, warrants us in believing beyond dispute that we can bring before us the figure of the discoverer as he lived. Such is the opinion of Feuillet de Conches, who has produced the best critical essay on the subject yet written.[283]


COLUMBUS (after Giovio).

Fac-simile of the woodcut in Paolo Giovio’s Elogia virorum bellica virtute illustrium (Basle, 1596), p. 124. There are copies in the Boston Athenæum and Boston Public Library. It is also copied in Charton’s Voyageurs, iii. 81, from whom Hazard (Santo Domingo, New York, 1873, p. 7) takes it. The 1575 edition is in Harvard College Library, and the same portrait is on p. 191. This cut is also re-engraved in Jules Verne’s La découverte de la terre, p. 113.

A vignette on the map of La Cosa, dated 1500, represents Saint Christopher bearing on his shoulders the infant Christ across a stream. This has been considered symbolical of the purpose of Columbus in his discoveries; and upholders of the movement to procure his canonization, like De Lorgues, have claimed that La Cosa represented the features of Columbus in the face of Saint Christopher. It has also been claimed that Herrera must have been of the same opinion, since the likeness given by that historian can be imagined to be an enlargement of the head on the map. This theory is hardly accepted, however, by the critics.[284]


(National Library, Madrid).

This picture was prominently brought before the Congress of Américanistes which assembled at Madrid in 1881, and not, it seems, without exciting suspicion of a contrived piece of flattery for the Duke of Veraguas, then presiding over this same congress. Cf. Cortambert, Nouvelle histoire des voyages, p. 40.

Discarding the La Cosa vignette, the earliest claimant now known is an engraving published in the Elogia virorum illustrium (1575)[285] of Paolo Giovio (Paulus Jovius, in the Latin form). This woodcut is thought to have been copied from a picture which Jovius had placed in the gallery of notable people which he had formed in his villa at Lake Como. That collection is now scattered, and the Columbus picture cannot be traced; but that there was a portrait of the discoverer there, we know from the edition of Vasari’s Lives of the Painters printed by Giunti at Florence (1568), wherein is a list of the pictures, which includes likenesses of Vespucius, Cortes, and Magellan, besides that of “Colombo Genovese.” This indicates a single picture; but it is held by some that Jovius must have possessed two pictures, since this woodcut gives Columbus the garb of a Franciscan, while the painting in the gallery at Florence, supposed also to follow a picture belonging to Jovius, gives him a mantle. A claim has been made that the original Jovius portrait is still in existence in what is known as the Yanez picture, now in the National Library in Madrid, which was purchased of Yanez in Granada in 1763. It had originally a close-fitting tunic and mantle, which was later painted over so as to show a robe and fur collar. This external painting has been removed; and the likeness bears a certain resemblance to the woodcut and to the Florence likeness. The Yanez canvas is certainly the oldest in Spain; and the present Duque de Veraguas considers it the most authentic of all the portraits.[286] The annexed cut of it is taken from an engraving in Ruge’s Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen (p. 235). It bears the inscription shown in the cut.[287]

The woodcut (1575) already mentioned passes as the prototype of another engraving by Aliprando Capriolo, in the Ritratti di cento capitani illustri, published at Rome in 1596.[288]


The most interesting of all pictures bearing a supposed relation to the scattered collection at Lake Como is in the gallery at Florence, which is sometimes said to have been painted by Cristofano dell’Altissimo, and before the year 1568. A copy of it was made for Thomas Jefferson in 1784, which was at Monticello in 1814; and, having been sent to Boston to be disposed of, became the property of Israel Thorndike, and was by him given to the Massachusetts Historical Society, in whose gallery it now is; and from a photograph of it the cut (p. 74) has been engraved.[289] It is perhaps the most commonly accepted likeness in these later years.[290]

COLUMBUS (after Capriolo).

This is a reproduction of the cut in Charton’s Voyageurs, iii. 85. It is also copied in Carderera, and in the Magasin pittoresque, troisième année, p. 316.

After the woodcut of 1575, the next oldest engraved likeness of Columbus is the one usually called the De Bry portrait. It shows a head with a three-cornered cap, and possesses a Dutch physiognomy,—its short, broad face not corresponding with the descriptions which we find in Oviedo and the others. De Bry says that the original painting was stolen from a saloon in the Council for the Indies in Spain, and, being taken to the Netherlands, fell into his hands. He claims that it was painted from life by order of Ferdinand, the King. De Bry first used the plate in Part V. of his Grands Voyages, both in the Latin and German editions, published in 1595, where it is marked as engraved by Jean de Bry. It shows what seem to be two warts on the cheek, which do not appear in later prints.[291] Feuillet de Conches describes a painting in the Versailles gallery like the De Bry, which has been engraved by Mercuri;[292] but it does not appear that it is claimed as the original from which De Bry worked.[293]


COLUMBUS (the Jefferson copy of the Florence picture).

Jomard, in the Bulletin de la Société de Géographie (3d series), iii. 370, printed his “Monument à Christophe Colomb: son portrait,”[294] in explanation and advocacy of a Titianesque canvas[75] which he had found at Vicenza, inscribed “Christophorus Columbus.”


He claimed that the features corresponded to the written descriptions of Columbus by his contemporaries[76] and accounted for the Flemish ruff, pointed beard, gold chain, and other anachronous accessories, by supposing that these had been added by a later hand. These adornments, however, prevented Jomard’s views gaining any countenance, though he seems to have been confident in his opinion. Irving at the time records his scepticism when Jomard sent him a lithograph of it. Carderera and Feuillet de Conches both reject it.


This is a reproduction of the cut in Charton’s Voyageurs, iii. 87.

A similar out-of-date ruff and mustache characterize the likeness at Madrid associated with the Duke of Berwick-Alba, in which the finery of a throne makes part of the picture. The owner had a private plate engraved from it by Rafael Esteve, a copy of which, given by the engraver to Obadiah Rich, who seems to have had faith in it, is now in the Lenox Library.[295]

A picture belonging to the Duke of Veraguas is open to similar objections,—with its beard and armor and ruff; but Muñoz adopted it for his official history, the plate being drawn by Mariano Maella.[296]

A picture of a bedizened cavalier, ascribed to Parmigiano (who was three years old when Columbus died), is preserved in the Museo Borbonico at Naples, and is, unfortunately, associated in this country with Columbus, from having been adopted by Prescott for his Ferdinand and Isabella,[297] and from having been copied for the American Antiquarian Society.[298] It was long since rejected by all competent critics.

A picture in the Senate chamber (or lately there) at Albany was given to the State of New York in 1784 by Mrs. Maria Farmer, a granddaughter of Governor Jacob Leisler, and was said to have been for many years in that lady’s family.[299] There are many other scattered alleged likenesses of Columbus, which from the data at hand it has not been easy to link with any of those already mentioned.[300]



Reproduced from a cut in Charton’s Voyageurs, iii. 188.

The best known, probably, of the sculptured effigies of Columbus is the bust of Peschiera, which was placed in 1821 at Genoa on the receptacle of the Columbus manuscripts.[301] The[78] artist discarded all painted portraits of Columbus, and followed the descriptions of those who had known the discoverer.[302]


This is copied from one given in Ruge’s Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, p. 234, which follows a photograph of the painting in the Ministry of Marine at Madrid.

The most imposing of all the memorials is the monument at Genoa erected in 1862 after a design by Freccia, and finished by Michel Canzio.[303]

I. Burial and Remains of Columbus.—There is no mention of the death of Columbus in the Records of Valladolid. Peter Martyr, then writing his letters from that place, makes no reference to such an event. It is said that the earliest contemporary notice of his death is in an official document, twenty-seven days later, where it is affirmed that “the said Admiral is dead.”[304] The story which Irving has written of the successive burials of Columbus needs to be rewritten; and positive evidence is wanting to show that his remains were placed first, as is alleged, in a vault of the Franciscans at Valladolid. The further story, as told by Irving, of Ferdinand’s ordering the removal of his remains to Seville seven years later, and the erection of a monument, is not confirmed by any known evidence.[305] From the tenor of Diego’s will in March, 1509, it would seem that the body of Columbus had already been carried to Seville, and that later, the coffins of his son Diego and of his brother Bartholomew were laid in Seville beside him, in the[79] cuevas, or vaults of the Carthusians. Meanwhile the Cathedral in Santo Domingo was begun,—not to be completed till 1540; and in this island it had been the Admiral’s wish to be buried.

COLUMBUS (from Montanus).

His family were desirous of carrying out that wish; but it seemed to require three royal orders to make good the project, and overcome objections or delays. These orders were dated June 2, 1537, Aug. 22, 1539, and Nov. 5, 1540.[306] It has been conjectured from the language of[80] Ferdinand Columbus’ will, in 1539, that the remains were still in the cuevas; and it is supposed that they were carried to Santo Domingo in 1541,—though, if so, there is no record of their resting-place from 1536,—when they are said, in the Convent’s Records,[307] to have been delivered up for transportation. The earliest positive mention of their being in the Cathedral at Santo Domingo is in 1549;[308] and it is not till the next century that we find a positive statement that the remains of Diego were also removed.[309] Not till 1655 does any record say that the precise spot in the Cathedral containing the remains was known, and not till 1676 do we learn what that precise spot was,—“on the right of the altar.” In 1683 we first learn of “a leaden case in the sanctuary, at the side of the platform of the high altar, with the remains of his brother Don Luis on the other side, according to the tradition of the aged in this island.”[310] The book from which this is extracted[311] was published in Madrid, and erred in calling Luis a brother instead of grandson, whose father, Diego, lying beside the Admiral, seems at the time to have been forgotten.[312]


This follows an engraving given in John G. Shea’s “Where are the Remains of Columbus?” in Magazine of American History, January, 1883, and separately. There are other engravings in Tejera, pp. 28, 29, and after a photograph in the Informe de la Real Academia, p. 197. The case is 16⅝ x 8½ x 8⅛ inches.

Just a century later, in 1783, Moreau de Saint-Méry, prefacing his Description topographique of Santo Domingo,[313] sought more explicit information, and learned that, shortly before his inquiry, the floor of the chancel had been raised so as to conceal the top of the vault, which was “a case of stone” (containing the leaden coffin), on the “Gospel side of the sanctuary.” This case had been discovered during the repairs, and, though “without inscription, was known from uninterrupted and invariable tradition to contain the remains of Columbus;” and the Dean of the Chapter, in certifying to this effect, speaks of the “leaden urn as a little damaged, and containing several human bones;” while he had also, some years earlier, found on “the Epistle side” of the altar a similar stone case, which, according to tradition, contained the bones of the Admiral’s brother.[314]

A few years later the treaty of Basle, July 22, 1795, gave to France the half of Santo Domingo still remaining to Spain; and at the cost of the Duke of Veraguas, and with the concurrence of the Chapter of the Cathedral, the Spanish General, Gabriel de Aristazabal, somewhat[81] hurriedly opened a vault on the left of the altar, and, with due ceremony and notarial record,[315] took from it fragments of a leaden case and some human bones, which were unattested by any inscription found with them. The relics were placed in a gilt leaden case, and borne with military honors to Havana.[316] It is now claimed that these remains were of Diego, the son, and that the vault then opened is still empty in the Cathedral, while the genuine remains of Columbus were left undisturbed.

In 1877, in making some changes about the chancel, on the right of the altar, the workmen opened a vault, and found a leaden case containing human bones, with an inscription showing them to be those of Luis, the grandson. This led to a search on the opposite, or “Gospel, side” of the chancel, where they found an empty vault, supposed to be the one from which the remains were taken to Havana. Between this and the side wall of the building, and separated from the empty vault by a six-inch wall, was found another cavity, and in it a leaden case. There seem to have been suitable precautions taken to avoid occasion for imputations of deceit, and with witnesses the case was examined.[317] In it were found some bones and dust, a leaden bullet,[318] two iron screws, which fitted the holes in a small silver plate found beneath the mould in the bottom of the case.[319] This casket bore on the outside, on the front, and two ends—one letter on each surface—the letters C. C. A. On the top was an inscription here reduced:—

This inscription is supposed to mean “Discoverer of America, first Admiral.” Opening the case, which in this situation presented the appearance shown in the cut on page 80, the under surface of the lid was found to bear the following legend:—

This legend is translated, “Illustrious and renowned man, Christopher Columbus.”[320] A fac-simile of the inscription found on the small silver plate is given on page 82, the larger of which is understood to mean “A part of the remains of the first Admiral, Don Christopher Columbus, discoverer.”[321] The discovery was made[82] known by the Bishop, Roque Cocchia, in a pastoral letter,[322] and the news spread rapidly.[323] The Spanish King named Señor Antonio Lopez Prieto, of Havana, to go to Santo Domingo, and, with the Spanish consul, to investigate. Prieto had already printed a tract, which went through two editions, Los restos de Colon: exámen histórico-critico, Havana, 1877.

In March, 1878, he addressed his Official Report to the Captain-general of Cuba, which was printed in two editions during the same year, as Informe sobre los restos de Colon. It was an attack upon the authenticity of the remains at Santo Domingo. Later in the same year, Oct. 14, 1878, Señor Manuel Colmeiro presented, in behalf of the Royal Academy of History of Madrid, a report to the King, which was printed at Madrid in 1879 as Los restos de Colon: informe de la Real Academia de la Historia, etc. It reinforced the views of Prieto’s Report; charged Roque Cocchia with abetting a fraud; pointed to the A (America) of the outside inscription as a name for the New World which Spaniards at that time never used;[324] and claimed that the remains discovered in 1877 were those of Christopher Columbus, the grandson of the Admiral, and that the inscriptions had been tampered with, or were at least much later than the date of reinterment in the Cathedral.[325] Besides Bishop Roque Cocchia, the principal upholder of the Santo Domingo theory has been Emiliano Tejera, who published his[83] Los restos de Colon en Santo Domingo in 1878, and his Los dos restos de Cristóbal Colon in 1879, both in Santo Domingo. Henry Harrisse, under the auspices of the “Sociedad de Bibliófilos Andaluces,” printed his Los restos de Don Cristóval Colon at Seville in 1878, and his Les sépultures de Christophe Colomb: revue critique du premier rapport officiel publié sur ce sujet, the next year (1879) at Paris.[326] From Italy we have Luigi Tommaso Belgrano’s Sulla recente scoperta delle ossa di Colombo (Genoa, 1878). One of the best and most recent summaries of the subject is by John G. Shea in the Magazine of American History, January, 1883; also printed separately, and translated into Spanish. Richard Cortambert (Nouvelle histoire des voyages, p. 39) considers the Santo Domingo theory overcome by the evidence.

J. Date and Place of Birth of Columbus, and Accounts of his Family.—The year and place of Columbus’ birth, and the station into which he was born, are questions of dispute. Harrisse[327] epitomizes the authorities upon the year of his nativity. Oscar Peschel reviews the opposing arguments in a paper printed in Ausland in 1866.[328] The whole subject was examined at greater length and with great care by D’Avezac before the Geographical Society of Paris in 1872.[329] The question is one of deductions from statements not very definite, nor wholly in accord. The extremes of the limits in dispute are about twenty years; but within this interval, assertions like those of Ramusio[330] (1430) and Charlevoix[331] (1441) may be thrown out as susceptible of no argument.[332]

In favor of the earliest date—which, with variations arising from the estimates upon fractions of years, may be placed either in 1435, 1436, or 1437—are Navarrete, Humboldt, Ferdinand Höfer,[333] Émile Deschanel,[334] Lamartine,[335] Irving, Bonnefoux, Roselly de Lorgues, l’Abbé Cadoret, Jurien de la Gravière,[336] Napione,[337] Cancellieri, and Cantù.[338] This view is founded upon the statement of one who had known Columbus, Andres Bernaldez, in his Reyes católicos, that Columbus was about seventy years old at his death, in 1506.

The other extreme—similarly varied from the fractions between 1455 and 1456—is taken by Oscar Peschel,[339] who deduces it from a letter of Columbus dated July 7, 1503, in which he says that he was twenty-eight when he entered the service of Spain in 1484; and Peschel argues that this is corroborated by adding the fourteen years of his boyhood, before going to sea, to the twenty-three years of sea-life which Columbus says he had had previous to his voyage of discovery, and dating back from 1492, when he made this voyage.

A middle date—placed, according to fractional calculations, variously from 1445 to 1447—is held by Cladera,[340] Bossi, Muñoz, Casoni,[341] Salinerio,[342] Robertson, Spotorno, Major, Sanguinetti, and Canale. The argument for this view, as presented by Major, is this: It was in 1484, and not in 1492, that this continuous sea-service, referred to by Columbus, ended; accordingly, the thirty-seven years already mentioned should be deducted from 1484, which would point to 1447 as the year of his birth,—a statement confirmed also, as is thought, by the assertion which Columbus makes, in 1501, that it was forty years since he began, at fourteen, his sea-life. Similar reasons avail with D’Avezac, whose calculations, however, point rather to the year 1446.[343]

A similar uncertainty has been made to appear regarding the place of Columbus’ birth. Outside of Genoa and dependencies, while discarding such claims as those of England,[344][84] Corsica,[345] and Milan,[346] there are more defensible presentations in behalf of Placentia (Piacenza), where there was an ancestral estate of the Admiral, whose rental had been enjoyed by him and by his father;[347] and still more urgent demands for recognition on the part of Cuccaro in Montferrat, Piedmont, the lord of whose castle was a Dominico Colombo,—pretty well proved, however, not to have been the Dominico who was father of the Admiral. It seems certain that the paternal Dominico did own land in Cuccaro, near his kinspeople, and lived there as late as 1443.[348]

In consequence of these claims, the Academy of Sciences in Genoa named a commission, in 1812, to investigate them; and their report,[349] favoring the traditional belief in Genoa as the true spot of Columbus’ birth, is given in digest in Bossi.[350] The claim of Genoa seems to be generally accepted to-day, as it was in the Admiral’s time by Peter Martyr, Las Casas, Bernaldez, Giustiniani, Geraldini, Gallo, Senaraya, and Foglietto.[351] Columbus himself twice, in his will (1498), says he was born in Genoa; and in the codicil (1506) he refers to his “beloved country, the Republic of Genoa.” Ferdinand calls his father “a Genoese.”[352] Of modern writers Spotorno, in the Introduction to the Codice diplomatico Colombo-Americano (1823), and earlier, in his Della origine e della patria di Colombo (1819), has elaborated the claim, with proofs and arguments which have been accepted by Irving, Bossi, Sanguinetti, Roselly, De Lorgues, and most other biographers and writers.

There still remains the possibility of Genoa, as referred to by Columbus and his contemporaries, signifying the region dependent on it, rather than the town itself; and with this latitude recognized, there are fourteen towns, or hamlets as Harrisse names them,[353] which present their claims.[354]

Ferdinand Columbus resented Giustiniani’s statement that the Admiral was of humble origin, and sought to connect his father’s descent with the Colombos of an ancient line and fame; but his disdainful recognition of such a descent is, after all, not conducive to a belief in Ferdinand’s own conviction of the connection.



This follows an ancient medallion as engraved in Buckingham Smith’s Coleccion. Cf. also the sign-manual on p. 56.

There seems little doubt that his father[355] was a wool-weaver or draper, and owned small landed properties, at one time or another, in or not far from Genoa;[356] and, as Harrisse infers,[86] it was in one of the houses on the Bisagno road, as you go from Genoa, that Columbus was perhaps born.[357]


This is a fac-simile of an engraving in Herrera (Barcia’s edition). There is a vignette likeness on the title of vol i., edition of 1601. Navarrete’s Memoir of Bartholomew Columbus is in the Coleccion de documentos inéditos, vol. xvi.

The pedigree (p. 87) shows the alleged descent of Columbus, as a table in Spotorno’s Della origine e della patria di Colombo, 1819, connects it with other lines, whose heirs at a later day were aroused to claim the Admiral’s honors; and as the usual accounts of his immediate descendants record the transmission of his rights. After Columbus’ death, his son Diego demanded the restitution of the offices and privileges[358] which had been suspended during the Admiral’s later years.




He got no satisfaction but the privilege of contending at law with the fiscal minister of the Crown, and of giving occasion for all the latent slander about the Admiral to make itself heard. The tribunal was the Council of the Indies; the suit was begun in 1508, and lasted till 1527. The documents connected with the case are in the Archives of the Indies. The chief defence of the Crown was that the original convention was against law and public policy, and that Columbus, after all, did not discover Terra firma, and for such discovery alone honors of this kind should be the reward. Diego won the Council’s vote; but Ferdinand, the King, hesitated to confirm their decision. Meanwhile Diego had married a niece of the Duke of Alva, the King’s favorite, and got in this way a royal grant of something like vice-royal authority in the Indies, to which he went (1509) with his bride, prepared for the proper state and display. His uncles, Bartholomew and Diego, as well as Ferdinand Columbus, accompanied him. The King soon began to encroach on Diego’s domain, creating new provinces out of it.[359] It does not belong to this place to trace the vexatious factions which, through Fonseca’s urging, or otherwise created, Diego was forced to endure, till he returned to Spain, in 1515, to answer his accusers. When he asked of the King a share of the profits of the Darien coast, his royal master endeavored to show that Diego’s father had never been on that coast. After Ferdinand’s death (Jan. 23, 1516), his successor, Charles V., acknowledged the injustice of the charges against Diego, and made some amends by giving him a viceroy’s functions in all places discovered by his father. He was subjected, however, to the surveillance of a supervisor to report on his conduct, upon going to his government in 1520.[360] In three years he was again recalled for examination, and in 1526 he died. Don Luis, who succeeded to his father Diego, after some years exchanged, in 1556, his rights of vice-royalty in the Indies for ten thousand gold doubloons and the title of Duque de Veraguas (with subordinate titles), and a grandeeship of the first rank;[361] the latter, however, was not confirmed till 1712.

His nephew Diego succeeded to the rights, silencing those of the daughter of Don Luis by marrying her. They had no issue; and on his death, in 1578, various claimants brought suit for the succession (as shown in the table), which was finally given, in 1608, to the grandson of Isabella, the granddaughter of Columbus. This suit led to the accumulation of a large amount of documentary evidence, which was printed.[362] The vexations did not end here, the Duke of Berwick still contesting; but a decision in 1790 confirmed the title in the present line. The revolt of the Spanish colonies threatened to deprive the Duke of Veraguas of his income; but the Spanish Government made it good by charging it upon the revenues of Cuba and Porto Rico, the source of the present Duke’s support.[363]


After the foregoing chapter had been completed, there came to hand the first volume of Christophe Colomb, son origine, sa vie, ses voyages, sa famille, et ses descendants, d’après des documents inédits tirés des Archives de Gênes, de Savone, de Séville, et de Madrid, études d’histoire critique par Henry Harrisse, Paris, 1884.

The book is essentially a reversal of many long-established views regarding the career of Columbus. The new biographer, as has been[89] shown, is not bound by any respect for the Life of the Admiral which for three hundred years has been associated with the name of Ferdinand Columbus. The grounds of his discredit of that book are again asserted; and he considers the story as given in Las Casas as much more likely to represent the prototype both of the Historia general of this last writer and of the Historie of 1571, than the mongrel production which he imagines this Italian text of Ulloa to be, and which he accounts utterly unworthy of credit by reason of the sensational perversions and additions with which it is alloyed by some irresponsible editor. This revolutionary spirit makes the critic acute, and sustains him in laborious search; but it is one which seems sometimes to imperil his judgment. He does not at times hesitate to involve Las Casas himself in the same condemnation for the use which, if we understand him, Las Casas may be supposed, equally with the author or editor of the Historie, to have made of their common prototype. That any received incident in Columbus’ career is only traceable to the Historie is sufficient, with our critic, to assign it to the category of fiction.

This new Life adds to our knowledge from many sources; and such points as have been omitted or slightly developed in the preceding chapter, or are at variance with the accepted views upon which that chapter has been based, it may be well briefly to mention.

The frontispiece is a blazon of the arms of Columbus, “du cartulaire original dressé sous ses yeux à Seville en 1502,” following a manuscript in the Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Paris. The field of the quarter with the castle is red; that of the lion is silver; that of the anchors is blue; the main and islands are gold, the water blue. It may be remarked that the disposition of these islands seems to have no relation to the knowledge then existing of the Columbian Archipelago. Below is a blue bend on a gold field, with red above (see the cut, ante, p. 15).

In writing in his Introduction of the sources of the history of Columbus, Harrisse says that we possess sixty-four memoirs, letters, or extracts written by Columbus, of which twenty-three are preserved in his own autograph. Of these sixty-four, only the Libro de las profecias has not been printed entire, if we except a Memorial que presentó Cristóbal Colon á los Reyes Catolicos sobre las cosas necesarias para abastecer las Indias which is to be printed for the first time by Harrisse, in the appendix of his second volume. Las Casas’ transcript of Columbus’ Journal is now, he tells us, in the collection of the Duque d’Osuna at Madrid. The copy of Dr. Chanca’s relation of the second voyage, used by Navarrete, and now in the Academy of History at Madrid, belonged to a collection formed by Antonio de Aspa. The personal papers of Columbus, confided by him to his friend Gaspar Gorricio, were preserved for over a century in an iron case in the custody of monks of Las Cuevas; but they were, on the 15th of May, 1609, surrendered to Nuño Gelves, of Portugal, who had been adjudged the lawful successor of the Admiral. Such as have escaped destruction now constitute the collection of the present Duque de Veraguas; and of them Navarrete has printed seventy-eight documents. Of the papers concerning Columbus at Genoa, Harrisse finds only one anterior to his famous voyage, and that is a paper of the Father Dominico Colombo, dated July 21, 1489, of whom such facts as are known are given, including references to him in 1463 and 1468 in the records of the Bank of St. George in Genoa. Of the two letters of 1502 which Columbus addressed to the Bank, only one now exists, as far as Harrisse could learn, and that is in the Hôtel de Ville. Particularly in regard to the family of Columbus, he has made effective use of the notarial and similar records of places where Columbus and his family have lived. But use of depositions for establishing dates and relationship imposes great obligation of care in the identification of the persons named; and this with a family as numerous as the Colombos seem to have been, and given so much to the repeating of Christian names, is more than usually difficult. In discussing the evidence of the place and date of Columbus’ birth (p. 137), as well as tracing his family line (pp. 160 and 166), the conclusion reached by Harrisse fixes the humble origin of the future discoverer; since he finds Columbus’ kith and kin of the station of weavers,—an occupation determining their social standing as well in Genoa as in other places at that time. The table which is given on a previous page (ante, p. 87) shows the lines of supposable connection, as illustrating the long contest for the possession of the Admiral’s honors. His father’s father, it would seem, was a Giovanni Colombo (pp. 167-216), and he the son of a certain Luca Colombo. Giovanni lived in turn at Terrarossa and Quinto. Domenico, the Admiral’s father, married Susanna Fontanarossa, and removed to Genoa between 1448 and 1551, living there afterward, except for the interval 1471-1484, when he is found at Savona. He died in Genoa not far from 1498. We are told (p. 29) how little the Archives of Savona yield respecting the family. Using his new notarial evidence mainly, the critic fixes the birth of Columbus about 1445 (pp. 223-241); and enforces a view expressed by him before, that Genoa as the place of Columbus’ birth must be taken in the broader sense of including the dependencies of the city, in one of which he thinks Columbus was born (p. 221) in that humble station which Gallo, in his[90] “De navigatione Columbi,” now known to us as Printed in Muratori (xxiii. 301), was the first to assert. Giustiniani, in his Psalter-note, and Senarega, in his “De rebus Genuensibus” (Muratori, xxiv. 354) seem mainly to have followed Gallo on this point. There is failure (p. 81) to find confirmation of some of the details of the family as given by Casoni in his Annali della republica di Genova (1708, and again 1799). In relation to the lines of his descendants, there are described (pp. 49-60) nineteen different memorials, bearing date between 1590 and 1792—and there may be others—which grew out of the litigations in which the descent of the Admiral’s titles was involved.

The usual story, told in the Historie, of Columbus’ sojourn at the University of Pavia is discredited, chiefly on the ground that Columbus himself says that from a tender age he followed the sea (but Columbus’ statements are often inexact), and from the fact that in cosmography Genoa had more to teach him than Pavia. Columbus is also kept longer in Italy than the received opinion has allowed, which has sent him to Portugal about 1470; while we are now told—if his identity is unassailable—that he was in Savona as late as 1473 (pp. 253-254).

Documentary Portuguese evidence of Columbus’ connection with Portugal is scant. The Archivo da Torre do Tombo at Lisbon, which Santarem searched in vain for any reference to Vespucius, seem to be equally barren of information respecting Columbus, and they only afford a few items regarding the family of the Perestrellos (p. 44).

The principal contemporary Portuguese chronicle making any reference to Columbus is Ruy de Pina’s Chronica del Rei Dom João II., which is contained in the Colleccão de livros ineditos de historia Portugueza, published at Lisbon in 1792 (ii. 177), from which Garcia de Resende seems to have borrowed what appears in his Choronica, published at Lisbon in 1596; and this latter account is simply paraphrased in the Decada primeira do Asia (Lisbon, 1752) of João de Barros, who, born in 1496, was too late to have personal knowledge of earlier time of the discoveries. Vasconcellos’ Vida y acciones del Rey D. Juan al segundo (Madrid, 1639) adds nothing.

The statement of the Historie again thrown out, doubt at least is raised respecting the marriage of Columbus with Philippa, daughter of Bartholomeu Perestrello; and if the critic cannot disprove such union, he seems to think that as good, if not better, evidence exists for declaring the wife of Columbus to have been the daughter of Vasco Gil Moniz, of an old family, while it was Vasco Gill’s sister Isabel who married the Perestrello in question. The marriage of Columbus took place, it is claimed there is reason to believe, not in Madeira, as Gomara and others have maintained, but in Lisbon, and not before 1474. Further, discarding the Historie, there is no evidence that Columbus ever lived at Porto Santo or Madeira, or that his wife was dead when he left Portugal for Spain in 1484. If this is established, we lose the story of the tie which bound him to Portugal being severed by the death of his companion; and the tale of his poring over the charts of the dead father of his wife at Porto Santo is relegated to the region of fable.

We have known that the correspondence of Toscanelli with the monk Martinez took place in 1474, and the further communication of the Italian savant with Columbus himself has always been supposed to have occurred soon after; but reasons are now given for pushing it forward to 1482.

The evidences of the offers which Columbus made, or caused to be made, to England, France, and Portugal,—to the latter certainly, and to the two others probably,—before he betook himself to Spain, are also reviewed. As to the embassy to Genoa, there is no trace of it in the Genoese Archives and no earlier mention of it than Ramusio’s; and no Genoese authority repeats it earlier than Casoni in his Annali di Genova, in 1708. This is now discredited altogether. No earlier writer than Marin, in his Storia del commercio de’ Veneziani (vol. vii. published 1800), claims that Columbus gave Venice the opportunity of embarking its fortunes with his; and the document which Pesaro claimed to have seen has never been found.

There is difficulty in fixing with precision the time of Columbus’ leaving Portugal, if we reject the statements of the Historie, which places it in the last months of 1484. Other evidence is here presented that in the summer of that year he was in Lisbon; and no indisputable evidence exists, in the critic’s judgment, of his being in Spain till May, 1487, when a largess was granted to him. Columbus’ own words would imply in one place that he had taken service with the Spanish monarchs in 1485, or just before that date; and in another place that he had been in Spain as early as January, 1484, or even before,—a time when now it is claimed he is to be found in Lisbon.

The pathetic story of the visit to Rábida places that event at a period shortly after his arriving in Spain; and the Historie tells also of a second visit at a later day. It is now contended that the two visits were in reality one, which occurred in 1491. The principal argument to upset the Historie is the fact that Juan Rodriguez Cabezudo, in the lawsuit of 1513, testified that it was “about twenty-two years” since he had lent a mule to the Franciscan who accompanied Columbus away from Rábida!


With the same incredulity the critic spirits away (p. 358) the junto of Salamanca. He can find no earlier mention of it than that of Antonio de Remesal in his Historia de la Provincia de S. Vincente de Chyapa, published in Madrid in 1619; and accordingly asks why Las Casas, from whom Remesal borrows so much, did not know something of this junto? He counts for much that Oviedo does not mention it; and the Archives of the University at Salamanca throw no light. The common story he believes to have grown out of conferences which probably took place while the Court was at Salamanca in the winter of 1486-1487, and which were conducted by Talavera; while a later one was held at Santa Fé late in 1491, at which Cardinal Mendoza was conspicuous.

Since Alexander Geraldinus, writing in 1522, from his own acquaintance with Columbus, had made the friar Juan Perez, of Rábida, and Antonio de Marchena, who was Columbus’ steadfast friend, one and the same person, it has been the custom of historians to allow that Geraldinus was right. It is now said he was in error; but the critic confesses he cannot explain how Gomara, abridging from Oviedo, changes the name of Juan Perez used by the latter to Perez de Marchena, and this before Geraldinus was printed. Columbus speaks of a second monk who had befriended him; and it has been the custom to identify this one with Diego de Deza, who, at the time when Columbus is supposed to have stood in need of his support, had already become a bishop, and was not likely, the critic thinks, to have been called a monk by Columbus. The two friendly monks in this view were the two distinct persons Juan Perez and Antonio de Marchena (p. 372).

The interposition of Cardinal Mendoza, by which Columbus secured the royal ear, has usually been placed in 1486. Oviedo seems to have been the source of subsequent writers on the point; but Oviedo does not fix the date, and the critic now undertakes to show (p. 380) that it was rather in the closing months of 1491.

Las Casas charges Talavera with opposing the projects of Columbus: we have here (p. 383) the contrary assertion; and the testimony of Peter Martyr seems to sustain this view. So again the new biographer measurably defends, on other contemporary evidence, Fonseca (p. 386) as not deserving the castigations of modern writers; and all this objurgation is considered to have been conveniently derived from the luckless Historie of 1571.

The close student of Columbus is not unaware of the unsteady character of much of the discoverer’s own testimony on various points. His imagination was his powerful faculty; and it was as wild at times as it was powerful, and nothing could stand in the way of it. No one has emphasized the doleful story of his trials and repressions more than himself, making the whole world, except two monks, bent on producing his ignominy; and yet his biographer can pick (p. 388) from the Admiral’s own admissions enough to show that during all this time he had much encouragement from high quarters. The critic is not slow to take advantage of this weakness of Columbus’ character, and more than once makes him the strongest witness against himself.

It is now denied that the money advanced by Santangel was from the treasury of Aragon. On the contrary, the critic contends that the venture was from Santangel’s private resources; and he dismisses peremptorily the evidence of the document which Argensola, in his Anales de Aragon (Saragossa, 1630), says was preserved in the archives of the treasury of Aragon. He says a friend who searched at Barcelona in 1871, among the “Archivo general de la Corona de Aragon,” could not find it.

Las Casas had first told—guardedly, to be sure—the story of the Pinzons’ contributing the money which enabled Columbus to assume an eighth part of the expense of the first voyage; but it is now claimed that the assistance of that family was confined to exerting its influence to get Columbus a crew. It is judged that the evidence is conclusive that the Pinzons did not take pecuniary risk in the voyage of 1492, because only their advances of this sort for the voyage of 1499 are mentioned in the royal grant respecting their arms. But such evidence is certainly inconclusive; and without the evidence of Las Casas it must remain uncertain whence Columbus got the five hundred thousand maravedis which he contributed to the cost of that momentous voyage.

The world has long glorified the story in the Historie of 1571 about the part which the crown jewels, and the like, played in the efforts of Isabella to assist in the furnishing of Columbus’ vessels. Peter Martyr, Bernaldez, and others who took frequent occasion to sound the praises of her majesty, say nothing of it; and, as is now contended, for the good reason that there was no truth in the story, the jewels having long before been pledged in the prosecution of the war with the Moors.

It is inferred (p. 417) from Las Casas that his abridgment of Columbus’ Journal was made from a copy, and not from the original (Navarrete, i. 134); and Harrisse says that from two copies of this abridgment, preserved in the collection of the Duque d’Osuna at Madrid, Varnhagen printed his text of it which is contained in his Verdadera Guanahani. This last text varies in some places from that in Navarrete, and Harrisse says he has collated it with the[92] Osuna copies without discovering any error. He thinks, however, that the Historie of 1571, as well as Las Casas’ account, is based upon the complete text; and his discrediting of the Historie does not prevent him in this case saying that from it, as well as from Las Casas, a few touches of genuineness, not of importance to be sure, can be added to the narrative of the abridgment. He also points out that we should discriminate as to the reflections which Las Casas intersperses; but he seems to have no apprehension of such insertions in the Historie in this particular case.

The Ambrosian text of the first letter is once more reprinted (p. 419), accompanied by a French translation. In some appended notes the critic collates it with the Cosco version in different shapes, and with that of Simancas. He also suggests that this text was printed at Barcelona toward the end of March, 1493, and infers that it may have been in this form that the Genoese ambassadors took the news to Italy when they left Spain about the middle of the following month.

The closing chapter of this first volume is on the question of the landfall. The biographer discredits attempts to settle the question by nautical reasoning based on the log of Columbus, averring that the inevitable inaccuracies of such records in Columbus’ time is proved by the widely different conclusions of such experienced men as Navarrete, Becher, and Fox. He relies rather on Columbus’ description and on that in Las Casas. The name which the latter says was borne in his day by the island of the landfall was “Triango;” but the critic fails to find this name on any earlier map than that first made known in the Cartas de Indias in 1877. To this map he finds it impossible to assign an earlier date than 1541, since it discloses some reminders of the expedition of Coronado. He instances other maps in which the name in some form appears attached to an island of the Bahamas,—as in the Cabot mappemonde of 1544 (Triangula), the so-called Vallard map (Triango), that of Gutierrez in 1550 (Trriango), that of Alonso de Santa Cruz in his Islario of 1560 (Triangulo). Unfortunately on some of the maps Guanahani appears as well as the name which Las Casas gives. Harrisse’s solution of this conjunction of names is suggested by the fact that in the Weimar map of 1527 (see sketch, ante, p. 43) an islet “Triango” lies just east of Guanahani, and corresponds in size and position to the “Triangula” of Cabot and the “Triangulo” of Santa Cruz. Guanahani he finds to correspond to Acklin Island, the larger of the Crooked Island group (see map, ante, p. 55); while the Plana Cays, shown east of it, would stand for “Triango.” Columbus, with that confusion which characterizes his writings, speaks in one place of his first land being an “isleta,” and in another place he calls it an “isla grande.” This gives the critic ground for supposing that Columbus saw first the islet, the “Triango” of Las Casas, or the modern “Plana Cays,” and that then he disembarked on the “isla grande,” which was Acklin Island. So it may be that Columbus’ own confused statement has misled subsequent writers. If this theory is not accepted, Fox, in selecting Samana, has, in the critic’s opinion, come nearer the truth than any other.






THE enumeration of the cartographical sources respecting the discoveries of the earlier voyagers began with the list, “Catalogus auctorum tabularum geographicarum, quotquot ad nostram cognitionem hactenus pervenere; quibus addidimus, ubi locorum, quando et a quibus excusi sunt,” which Ortelius in 1570 added to his Theatrum orbis terrarum, many of whose titles belong to works not now known. Of maps now existing the best-known enumerations are those in the Jean et Sébastian Cabot of Harrisse; the Mapoteca Colombiana of Uricoechea; the Cartografia Mexicana of Orozco y Berra, published by the Mexican Geographical Society; and Gustavo Uzielli’s Elenco descritto degli Atlanti, planisferi e carte nautiche, originally published in 1875, but made the second volume, edited by Pietro Amat, of the new edition of the Studi biografici e bibliografici della Società Geografica Italiana, Rome, 1882, under the specific title of Mappamondi, carte nautiche, portolani ed altri monumenti cartografici specialmente Italiani dei secoli XIII-XVII.[364]

The Editor has printed in the Harvard University Bulletin a bibliography Of Ptolemy’s geography, and a calendar, with additions and annotations, of the Kohl collection of early maps, belonging to the Department of State at Washington, both of which contributions called for enumerations of printed and manuscript maps of the early period, and included their reproductions of later years.

The development of cartography is also necessarily made a part of histories of geography like those of Santarem, Lelewel, St.-Martin, and Peschel; but their use of maps hardly made chronological lists of them a necessary part of their works. Santarem has pointed out how scantily modern writers have treated of the cartography of the Middle Ages previous to the era of Spanish discovery; and he enumerates such maps as had been described before the appearance of his work, as well as publications of the earlier ones after the Spanish discovery.[365]


To what extent Columbus had studied the older maps from the time when they began to receive a certain definiteness in the fourteenth century, is not wholly clear, nor how much he knew of the charts of Marino Sanuto, of Pizignani, and of the now famous Catalan map of that period; but it is doubtless true that the maps of Bianco (1436) and Mauro (1460) were well known to him.[366] “Though these early maps and charts of the fifteenth century,” says Hallam,[367] “are to us but a chaos of error and confusion, it was on them that the patient eye of Columbus had rested through long hours of meditation, while strenuous hope and unsubdued doubt were struggling in his soul.”


This follows the engraving in Pigafetta’s Voyage and in the work of Jurien de la Gravière. The main points were designated by the usual names of the winds, Levante, east; Sirocco, southeast, etc.

A principal factor in the development of map-making, as of navigation, had been the magnet. It had been brought from China to the eastern coast of Africa as early as the fourth century, and through the Arabs[368] and Crusaders it had been introduced into the Mediterranean, and was used by the Catalans and Basques in the twelfth century, a hundred years or more before Marco Polo brought to Europe his wonderful stories.[369] In that century even it had become so familiar a sight that poets used it in their metaphors. The variation of its needle was not indeed unknown long before Columbus, but its observation in mid-ocean in his day gave it a new significance. The Chinese had studied the phenomenon, and their observations upon it had followed shortly upon the introduction of the compass itself to Western knowledge; and as early as 1436 the variation of the needle was indicated on maps in connection with places of observation.[370]


The earliest placing of a magnetic pole seems due to the voyage of Nicholas of Lynn, whose narrative was presented to Edward III. of England. This account is no longer known,[371] though the title of it, Inventio fortunata, is preserved, with its alleged date of 1355. Cnoyen, whose treatise is not extant, is thought to have got his views about the regions of the north and about the magnetic pole from Nicholas of Lynn,[372] while he was in Norway in 1364; and it is from Cnoyen that Mercator says he got his notion of the four circumpolar islands which so long figured in maps of the Mercator and Finæus school. In the Ruysch map (1508) we have the same four polar islands, with the magnetic pole placed within an insular mountain north of Greenland. Ruysch also depended on the Inventio fortunata. Later, by Martin Cortes in 1545, and by Sanuto in 1588, the pole was placed farther south.[373]

Ptolemy, in the second century, accepting the generally received opinion that the world as known was much longer east and west than north and south, adopted with this theory the terms which naturally grew out of this belief, latitude and longitude, and first instituted them, it is thought, in systematic geography.[374]

Pierre d’Ailly, in his map of 1410,[375] in marking his climatic lines, had indicated the beginnings, under a revival of geographical inquiry, of a systematic notation of latitude. Several of the early Ptolemies[376] had followed, by scaling in one way and another the distance from the equator; while in the editions of 1508 and 1511 an example had been set of marking longitude. The old Arabian cartographers had used both latitude and longitude; but though there were some earlier indications of the adoption of such lines among the European map-makers, it is generally accorded that the scales of such measurements, as we understand them, came in, for both latitude and longitude, with the map which Reisch in 1503 annexed to his Margarita philosophica.[377]

Ptolemy had fixed his first meridian at the Fortunate Islands (Canaries), and in the new era the Spaniards, with the sanction of the Pope, had adopted the same point; though the Portuguese, as if in recognition of their own enterprise, had placed it at Madeira,—as is shown in the globes of Behaim and Schöner, and in the map of Ruysch. The difference was not great; the Ptolemean example prevailed, however, in the end.[378]


In respect to latitude there was not in the rude instruments of the early navigators, and under favorable conditions, the means of closely approximate accuracy. In the study which the Rev. E. F. Slafter[379] has made on the average extent of the error which we find in the records of even a later century, it appears that while a range of sixty geographical miles will probably cover such errors in all cases, when observations were made with ordinary care the average deviation will probably be found to be at least fifteen miles. The fractions of degrees were scarcely ever of much value in the computation, and the minute gradation of the instruments in use were subject to great uncertainty of record in tremulous hands. It was not the custom, moreover, to make any allowance for the dip of the horizon, for refraction or for the parallax; and when, except at the time of the equinox, dependence had to be placed upon tables of the sun’s declination, the published ephemerides, made for a series of years, were the subjects of accumulated error.[380]


This cut follows the engravings in Ruge’s Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, p. 106, and in Ghillany’s Ritter Behaim, p. 40. Cf. Von Murr, Memorabilia bibliothecarum Norimbergensium, i. 9.

With these impediments to accurate results, it is not surprising that even errors of considerable extent crept into the records of latitude, and long remained unchallenged.[381] Ptolemy, in A. D. 150, had placed Constantinople two degrees out of the way; and it remained so on maps for fourteen hundred years. In Columbus’ time Cuba was put seven or eight degrees too far north; and under this false impression the cartography of the Antilles began.

The historic instrument for the taking of latitude was the astrolabe, which is known to have been in use by the Majorcan and Catalanian sailors in the latter part of the thirteenth century; and it is described by Raymond Lullius in his Arte de navegar of that time.[382] Behaim, the contemporary of Columbus, one of the explorers of the African coast, and a[97] pupil of Regiomontanus, had somewhat changed the old form of the astrolabe in adapting it for use on shipboard. This was in 1484 at Lisbon, and Behaim’s improvement was doubtless what Columbus used. Of the form in use before Behaim we have that (said to have belonged to Regiomontanus) in the cut on page 96; and in the following cut the remodelled shape which it took after Behaim.


This cut follows an engraving (Mag. of Amer. Hist., iii. 178) after a photograph of one used by Champlain, which bears the Paris maker’s date of 1603. There is another cut of it in Weise’s Discoveries of America, p. 68. Having been lost by Champlain in Canada in 1613, it was ploughed up in 1867 (see Vol. IV. p. 124; also Canadian Monthly, xviii. 589). The small size of the circle used in the sea-instrument to make it conveniently serviceable, necessarily operated to make the ninety degrees of its quarter circle too small for accuracy in fractions. On land much larger circles were sometimes used; one was erected in London in 1594 of six feet radius. The early books on navigation and voyages frequently gave engravings of the astrolabe; as, for instance, in Pigafetta’s voyage (Magellan), and in the Lichte der Zee-Vaert (Amsterdam, 1623), translated as The Light of Navigation (Amsterdam, 1625). The treatise on navigation which became the most popular with the successors of Columbus was the work of Pedro de Medina (born about 1493), called the Arte de navegar, published in 1545 (reprinted in 1552 and 1561), of which there were versions in French (1554, and Lyons, 1569, with maps showing names on the coast of America for the first time), Italian (1555 with 1554, at end; Court Catalogue, no. 235), German (1576), and English (1591). (Harrisse, Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 266.) Its principal rival was that of Martin Cortes, Breve compendio de la sphera y de la arte de navegar, published in 1551. In Columbus’ time there was no book of the sort, unless that of Raymond Lullius (1294) be considered such; and not till Enciso’s Suma de geografia was printed, in 1519, had the new spirit instigated the making of these helpful and explanatory books. The Suma de geografia is usually considered the first book printed in Spanish relating to America. Enciso, who had been practising law in Santo Domingo, was with Ojeda’s expedition to the mainland in 1509, and seems to have derived much from his varied experience; and he first noticed at a later day the different levels of the tides on the two sides of the isthmus. The book is rare; Rich in 1832 (no. 4) held it at £10 10s. (Cf. Harrisse, Notes on Columbus, 171; Bibl. Amer. Vet., nos. 97, 153, 272,—there were later editions in 1530 and 1546,—Sabin, vol. vi. no. 22,551, etc.; H. H. Bancroft, Central America, i. 329, 339; Carter-Brown, vol. i. no. 58, with a fac-simile of the title: Cat. Hist. do Brazil, Bibl. Nac. do Rio de Janeiro, no. 2.) Antonio Pigafetta in 1530 produced his Trattato di navigazione; but Medina and Cortes were the true beginners of the literature of seamanship. (Cf. Brevoort’s Verrazano, p. 116, and the list of such publications given in the Davis Voyages, p. 342, published by the Hakluyt Society, and the English list noted in Vol. III. p. 206, of the present History.) There is an examination of the state of navigation in Columbus’ time in Margry’s Navigations Françaises, p. 402, and in M. F. Navarrete’s Sobre la historia de la náutica y de las ciencias matemáticas, Madrid, 1846,—a work now become rare.

The rudder, in place of two paddles, one on each quarter, had come into use before this time; but the reefing of sails seems not yet to have been practised. (Cf. De Gama’s Voyages, published by the Hakluyt Society, p. 242.) Columbus’ record of the speed of his ship seems to have been the result of observation by the unaided eye. The log was not yet known; the Romans had fixed a wheel to the sides of their galleys, each revolution of which threw a pebble into a tally-pot. The earliest description which we have in the new era of any device of the kind is in connection with Magellan’s voyage; for Pigafetta in his Journal (January, 1521), mentions the use of a chain at the hinder part of the ship to measure its speed. (Humboldt, Cosmos, Eng. tr., ii. 631; v. 56.) The log as we understand it is described in 1573 in Bourne’s Regiment of the Sea, nothing indicating the use of it being found in the earlier manuals of Medina, Cortes, and Gemma Frisius. Humfrey Cole is said to have invented it. Three years later than this earliest mention, Eden, in 1576, in his translation of Taisnier’s Navigatione, alludes to an artifice “not yet divulgate, which, placed in the pompe of a shyp, whyther the water hath recourse, and moved by the motion of the shypp, with wheels and weyghts, doth exactly shewe what space the shyp hath gone” (Carter-Brown Catalogue, i. no. 310),—a reminiscence of the Roman side-wheels, and a reminder of the modern patent-log. Cf. article on “Navigation” in Encyclopedia Britannica, ninth ed. vol. xvii.


An instrument which could more readily adapt itself to the swaying of the observer’s body in a sea-way, soon displaced in good measure the astrolabe on shipboard. This was the cross-staff, or jackstaff, which in several modified forms for a long time served mariners as a convenient help in ascertaining the altitude of the celestial bodies. Precisely when it was first introduced is not certain; but the earliest description of it which has been found is that of Werner in 1514. Davis, the Arctic navigator, made an improvement on it; and his invention was called a backstaff.

While the observations of the early navigators in respect to latitude were usually accompanied by errors, which were of no considerable extent, their determinations of longitude, when attempted at all, were almost always wide of the truth,[383]—so far, indeed, that their observations helped them but little then to steer their courses, and are of small assistance now to us in following their tracks. It happened that while Columbus was at Hispaniola on his second voyage, in September, 1494, there was an eclipse of the[99] moon.[384] Columbus observed it; and his calculations placed himself five hours and a half from Seville,—an error of eighteen degrees, or an hour and a quarter too much. The error was due doubtless as much to the rudeness of his instruments as to the errors of the lunar tables then in use.[385]


The removal of the Line of Demarcation from the supposed meridian of non-variation of the needle did not prevent the phenomena of terrestrial magnetism becoming of vast importance in the dispute between the Crowns of Spain and Portugal. It characterizes the difference between the imaginative and somewhat fantastic quality of Columbus’ mind and the cooler, more practical, and better administrative apprehension of Sebastian Cabot, that while each observed the phenomenon of the variation of the needle, and each imagined it a clew to some system of determining longitude, to Columbus it was associated with wild notions of a too-ample revolution of the North Star about the true pole.[386] It was not disconnected in his mind from a fancy which gave the earth the shape of a pear; so that when he perceived on his voyage a clearing of the atmosphere, he imagined he was ascending the stem-end of the pear; where he would find the terrestrial paradise.[387] To Cabot the phenomenon had only its practical significance; and he seems to have pondered on a solution of the problem during the rest of[100] his life, if, as Humboldt supposes, the intimations of his death-bed in respect to some as yet unregistered way of discovering longitude refer to his observations on the magnetic declination.[388]

The idea of a constantly increasing declination east and west from a point of non-variation, which both Columbus and Cabot had discovered, and which increase could be reduced to a formula, was indeed partly true; except, as is now well known, the line of non-variation, instead of being a meridian, and fixed, is a curve of constantly changing proportions.[389]


The earliest variation-chart was made in 1530 by Alonzo de Santa Cruz;[390] and schemes of ascertaining longitude were at once based on the observations of these curves, as they had before been made dependent upon the supposed gradation of the change from meridian to meridian, irrespective of latitude.[391] Fifty years later (1585), Juan Jayme made a voyage with Gali from the Philippine Islands to Acapulco to test a “declinatorum” of his own invention.[392] But this was a hundred years (1698-1702) before Halley’s Expedition was sent,—the first which any government fitted out to observe the forces of terrestrial magnetism;[393] and though there had been suspicions of it much earlier, it was not till 1722 that Graham got unmistakable data to prove the hourly variation of the needle.[394]


The earliest map which is distinctively associated with the views which were developing in Columbus’ mind was the one which Toscanelli sent to him in 1474. It is said to have been preserved in Madrid in 1527;[395] and fifty-three years after Columbus’ death, when Las Casas was writing his history, it was in his possession.[396] We know that this Italian geographer had reduced the circumference of the globe to nearly three quarters of its actual size, having placed China about six thousand five hundred miles west of Lisbon, and eleven thousand five hundred miles east. Japan, lying off the China coast, was put somewhere from one hundred degrees to one hundred and ten degrees west of Lisbon; and we have record that Martin Pinzon some years later (1491) saw a map in Rome which put Cipango (Japan) even nearer the European side.[397]



Fac-simile of a cut in Reusner’s Icones, Strasburg, 1590, p. 42. This well-known cosmographical student was one of the collaborators of the series of the printed Ptolemies, beginning with that of 1525. There is a well-known print of Pirckeymerus by Albert Dürer, 1524, which is reproduced in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, xix. 114. Cf. Friedrich Campe’s Zum Andenken Wilibald Pirkheimers, Mitglieds des Raths zu Nürnberg (Nürnberg, 58 pp., with portrait), and Wilibald Pirkheimer’s Aufenthalt zu Neunhof, von ihm selbst geschildert; nebst Beiträgen zu dem Leben und dem Nachlasse seiner Schwestern und Töchter, von Moritz Maximilian Meyer (Nürnberg, 1828).

A similar view is supposed to have been presented in the map which Bartholomew Columbus took to England in 1488;[398] but we have no trace of the chart itself.[399]



This is a restoration of the map as given in Das Ausland, 1867, p. 5. The language of the original was doubtless Latin. Another restoration is given in St. Martin’s Atlas, pl. ix.


It has always been supposed that in the well-known globe of Martin Behaim we get in the main an expression of the views held by Toscanelli, Columbus, and other of Behaim’s contemporaries, who espoused the notion of India lying over against Europe.


This cut follows the engravings in Ghillany’s Behaim, and in Ruge’s Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, p. 105.

Eratosthenes, accepting the spherical theory, had advanced the identical notion which nearly seventeen hundred years later impelled Columbus to his voyage. He held the known world to span one third of the circuit of the globe, as Strabo did at a later day, leaving an unknown two thirds of sea; and “if it were not that the vast extent of the Atlantic Sea rendered it impossible, one might even sail from the coast of Spain to that of India along the same parallel.”[400]

Behaim had spent much of his life in Lisbon and the Azores, and was a friend of Columbus. He had visited Nuremberg, probably on some family matters arising out of the death of his mother in 1487. While in this his native town, he gratified some of his townspeople by embodying in a globe the geographical views which prevailed in the maritime countries; and the globe was finished before Columbus had yet accomplished his voyage. The next year (1493) Behaim returned to Portugal; and after having been sent to the Low Countries on a diplomatic mission, he was captured by English cruisers and carried to England. Escaping finally, and reaching the Continent, he passes from our view in 1494, and is scarcely heard of again.



This globe is made of papier-maché, covered with gypsum, and over this a parchment surface received the drawing; it is twenty inches in diameter. It having fallen into decay, the Behaim family in Nuremberg caused it to be repaired in 1825. In 1847 a copy was made of it for the Dépôt Géographique (National Library) at Paris; the original is now in the city hall at Nuremberg. The earliest known engraving of it is in J. G. Doppelmayr’s Historische Nachricht von den nürnbergischen Mathematikern und Künstlern (1730), which preserved some names that have since become illegible (Stevens, Historical Collection, vol. i. no. 1,396). Other representations are given in Jomard’s Monuments de la géographie; Ghillany’s Martin Behaim (1853) and his Erdglobus des Behaim und der des Schöner (1842); C. G. von Murr’s Diplomatische Geschichte des Ritters Behaim (1778, and later editions and translations); Cladera’s Investigaciones (1794); Amoretti’s translation of Pigafetta’s Voyage de Magellan (Paris, 1801); Lelewel’s Moyen-âge (pl. 40; also see vol. ii. p. 131, and Epilogue, p. 184); Saint-Martin’s Atlas; Santarem’s Atlas, pl. 61; the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, vol. xviii.; Kohl’s Discovery of Maine; Irving’s Columbus (some editions); Gay’s Popular History of the United States, i. 103; Barnes’ Popular History of the United States; Harpers’ Monthly, vol. xlii.; H. H. Bancroft’s Central America, i. 93. Ruge, in his Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, p. 230, reproduces the colored fac-simile in Ghillany, and shows additionally upon it the outline of America in its proper place. The sketch in the text follows this representation. Cf. papers on Behaim and his globe (besides those accompanying the engravings above indicated) in the Journal of the American Geographical Society (1872), iv. 432, by the Rev. Mytton Maury; in the publications of the Maryland Historical Society by Robert Dodge and John G. Morris; in the Jahresbericht des Vereins für Erdkunde (Dresden, 1866), p. 59. Peschel, in his Zeitalter der Entdeckungen (1858), p. 90, and in the new edition edited by Ruge, has a lower opinion of Behaim than is usually taken.

Of Columbus’ maps it is probable that nothing has come down to us from his own hand.[401] Humboldt would fain believe that the group of islands studding a gulf which appears on a coat-of-arms granted Columbus in May, 1493, has some interest as the earliest of all cartographical records of the New World; but the early drawings of the[106] arms are by no means constant in the kind of grouping which is given to these islands.[402] Queen Isabella, writing to the Admiral, Sept. 5, 1493, asks to see the marine chart which he had made; and Columbus sent such a map with a letter.[403] We have various other references to copies of this or similar charts of Columbus. Ojeda used such a one in following Columbus’ route,[404] as he testified in the famous suit against the heirs of Columbus. Bernardo de Ibarra, in the same cause, said that he had seen the Admiral’s chart, and that he had heard of copies of it being used by Ojeda, and by some others.[405] It is known that about 1498 Columbus gave one of his charts to the Pope, and one to René of Lorraine. Angelo Trivigiano, secretary of the Venetian Ambassador to Spain, in a letter dated Aug. 21, 1501, addressed to Dominico Malipiero, speaks of a map of the new discoveries which Columbus had.[406]

LA COSA, 1500.

Three or four maps at least have come down to us which are supposed to represent in some way one or several of these drafts by Columbus. The first of these is the celebrated map of the pilot Juan de la Cosa,[407] dated in 1500, of which some account, with a heliotype fac-simile[107] of the American part of the map, is given in another place.[408] After the death (April 27, 1852) of Walckenaer (who had bought it at a moderate cost of an ignorant dealer in second-hand articles), it was sold at public auction in Paris in the spring of 1853, when Jomard failed to secure it for the Imperial Library in Paris, and it went to Spain, where, in the naval museum at Madrid, it now is.

Of the next earliest of the American maps the story has recently been told with great fulness by Harrisse in his Les Cortereal, accompanied by a large colored fac-simile of the map itself, executed by Pilinski. The map was not unknown before,[409] and Harrisse had earlier described it in his Cabots.[410]

We know that Gaspar Cortereal[411] had already before 1500 made some explorations, during which he had discovered a mainland and some islands, but at what precise date it is impossible to determine;[412] nor can we decide upon the course he had taken, but it seems likely it was a westerly one. We know also that in this same year (1500) he made his historic voyage to the Newfoundland region,[413] coasting the neighboring shores, probably, in September and October. Then followed a second expedition from January to October of the next year (1501),—the one of which we have the account in the Paesi novamente retrovati, as furnished by Pasqualigo.[414] There was at this time in Lisbon one Alberto Cantino, a correspondent—with precisely what quality we know not—of Hercule d’Este, Duke of Ferrara; and to this noble personage Cantino, on the 19th of October, addressed a letter embodying what he had seen and learned of the newly returned companions of Gaspar Cortereal.[415]

The Report of Cantino instigated the Duke to ask his correspondent to procure for him a map of these explorations. Cantino procured one to be made; and inscribing it, “Carta da navigar per le Isole novamte tr.... in le parte de l’India: dono Alberto Cantino Al S. Duca Hercole,” he took it to Italy, and delivered it by another hand to the Duke at Ferrara. Here in the family archives it was preserved till 1592, when the reigning Duke retired to Modena, his library following him. In 1868, in accordance with an agreement between the Italian Government and the Archduke Francis of Austria, the cartographical monuments of the ducal collection were transferred to the Biblioteca Estense, where this precious map now is. The map was accompanied when it left Cantino’s hands by a note[108] addressed to the Duke and dated at Rome, Nov. 19, 1502,[416] which fortunately for us fixes very nearly the period of the construction of the map. A much reduced sketch is annexed.


This is sketched from Harrisse’s fac-simile, which is of the size of the original map. The dotted line is the Line of Demarcation,—“Este he omarco dantre castella y Portuguall,”—which has been calculated by Harrisse to be at 62° 30´ west of Paris.

For the northern coast of South America La Cosa and Cantino’s draughtsmen seem to have had different authorities. La Cosa attaches forty-five names to that coast: Cantino only twenty-nine; and only three of them are common to the two.[417] Harrisse argues from the failure of the La Cosa map to give certain intelligence of the Atlantic[109] coast of the United States (here represented in the north and south trend of shore, north of Cuba), that there was existing in October, 1500, at least in Spanish circles, no knowledge of it,[418] but that explorations must have taken place before the summer of 1502 which afforded the knowledge embodied in this Cantino map. This coast was not visited, so far as is positively known, by any Spanish expedition previous to 1502. Besides the eight Spanish voyages of this period (not counting the problematical one of Vespucius) of which we have documentary proof, there were doubtless others of which we have intimations; but we know nothing of their discoveries, except so far as those before 1500 may be embodied in La Cosa’s chart.[419] The researches of Harrisse have failed to discover in Portugal any positive trace of voyages made from that kingdom in 1501, or thereabout, records of which have been left in the Cantino map. Humboldt had intimated that in Lisbon at that time there was a knowledge of the connection of the Antilles with the northern discoveries of Cortereal by an intervening coast; but Harrisse doubts if Humboldt’s authority—which seems to have been a letter of Pasqualigo sent to Venice, dated Oct. 18, 1501, found in the Diarii of Marino Sanuto, a manuscript preserved in Vienna—means anything more than a conjectural belief in such connection. Harrisse’s conclusion is that between the close of 1500 and the summer of 1502, some navigators, of whose names and nation we are ignorant, but who were probably Spanish, explored the coast of the present United States from Pensacola to the Hudson. This Atlantic coast of Cantino terminates at about 59° north latitude, running nearly north and south from the Cape of Florida to that elevation. Away to the east in mid-ocean, and placed so far easterly as doubtless to appear on the Portuguese side of the Line of Demarcation, and covering from about fifty to fifty-nine degrees of latitude, is a large island which stands for the discoveries of Cortereal, “Terra del Rey du Portuguall;” and northeast of this is the point of Greenland apparently, with Iceland very nearly in its proper place.[420] This Cantino map, now positively fixed in 1502, establishes the earliest instance of a kind of delineation of North America which prevailed for some time. Students of this early cartography have long supposed this geographical idea to date from about this time, and have traced back the origin of what is known as “The Admiral’s Map”[421] to data accumulated in the earliest years of the sixteenth century. Indeed Lelewel,[422] thirty years ago, made up what he called a Portuguese chart of 1501-1504, by combining in one draft the maps of the 1513 Ptolemy, with a hint or two from the Sylvanus map of 1511, acting on the belief that the Portuguese were the real first pursuers, or at least recorders, of explorations of the Floridian peninsula and of the coast northerly.[423]



The 1511 map, here given in fac-simile after another fac-simile in the Carter-Brown Catalogue, has been several times reproduced,—in Stevens’s Notes, pl. 4; J. H. Lefroy’s Memorials of the Bermudas, London, 1877; H. A. Schumacher’s Petrus Martyr, New York, 1879; and erroneously in H. H. Bancroft’s Central America, i. 127. Cf. also Harrisse, Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 66; Additions, p. viii and no. 41; Notes on Columbus, p. 9; and his Les Cortereal, p. 113. Copies of the book are in the Carter-Brown, Lenox, Daly, and Barlow libraries. A copy (no. 1605*) was sold in the Murphy sale. Quaritch has priced a perfect copy at £100. The map gives the earliest knowledge which we have of the Bermudas. Cf. the “Descripcion de la isla Bermuda” (1538), in Buckingham Smith’s Coleccion, p. 92.



The European prolongation of Gronland resembles that of a Portuguese map of 1490. Another reduced fac-simile is given in Ruge’s Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen (1881.) These 1513 maps were reprinted in the Strasburg, 1520, edition of Ptolemy (copies in the Carter-Brown Library and in the Murphy Catalogue, no. 2,053), and were re-engraved on a reduced scale, but with more elaboration and with a few changes, for the Ptolemies of 1522 and 1525; and they were again the basis of those in Servetus’ Ptolemy of 1535.



Kohl remarks that the names on the South American coast (north part) are carried no farther than Ojeda went in 1499, and no farther south than Vespucius went in 1503; while the connection made of the two Americas was probably conjectural. Other fac-similes of the map are given in Varnhagen’s Premier voyage de Vespucci, in Weise’s Discoveries of America, p. 124; and in Stevens’s Historical and Geographical Notes, pl. 2. Cf. Santarem (Childe’s tr.), 153. Wieser, in his Magalhâes-Strasse (Innsbruck, 1881), p. 15, mentions a manuscript note-book of Schöner, the globe-maker, preserved in the Hof-bibliothek at Vienna, which has a sketch resembling this 1513 map. Harrisse (Les Cortereal, pp. 122, 126) has pointed out the correspondence of its names to the Cantino map, though the Waldseemüller map has a few names which are not on the Cantino. Again, Harrisse (Les Cortereal, p. 128) argues from the fact that the relations of Duke René with Portugal were cordial, while they were not so with Spain, and from the resemblance of René’s map in the Ptolemy of 1513 to that of Cantino, that the missing map upon which Waldseemüller is said to have worked to produce, with René’s help, the so-called “Admiral’s map,” was the original likewise of that of Cantino.

The earliest Spanish map after that of La Cosa which has come down to us is the one which is commonly known as Peter Martyr’s map. It is a woodcut measuring 11 × 7½ inches, and is usually thought to have first appeared in the Legatio Babylonica, or Martyr’s first decade, at Seville, 1511; but Harrisse is inclined to believe that the map did not originally belong to Martyr’s book, because three copies of it in the original vellum[113] which he has examined do not have the map. Quaritch[424] says that copies vary, that the leaf containing the map is an insertion, and that it is sometimes on different folios. Thus of two issues, one is called a second, because two leaves seem to have been reprinted to correct errors, and two new leaves are inserted, and a new title is printed. It is held by some that the map properly belongs to this issue. Brevoort[425] thinks that the publication of the map was distasteful to the Spanish Government (since the King this same year forbade maps being given to foreigners); and he argues that the scarcity of the book may indicate that attempts were made to suppress it.[426]

The maker of the 1513 map as we have it was Waldseemüller, or Hylacomylus, of St. Dié, in the Vosges Mountains; and Lelewel[427] gives reasons for believing that the plate had been engraved, and that copies were on sale as early as 1507. It had been engraved at the expense of Duke René II. of Lorraine, from information furnished by him to perfect some anterior chart; but the plate does not seem to have been used in any book before it appeared in this 1513 edition of Ptolemy.[428] It bears along the coast this legend: “Hec terra adjacentibus insulis inventa est per Columbū ianuensem ex mandato Regis Castelle;” and in the Address to the Reader in the Supplement appears the following sentence, in which the connection of Columbus with the map is thought to be indicated: “Charta antē marina quam Hydrographiam vocant per Admiralem [? Columbus] quondam serenissi. Portugalie [? Hispaniæ] regis Ferdinandi ceteros denique lustratores verissimis pagratiōibus lustrata, ministerio Renati, dum vixit, nunc pie mortui, Ducis illustris. Lotharingie liberalius prelographationi tradita est.”[429]

This “Admiral’s map” seems to have been closely followed in the map which Gregor Reisch annexed to his popular encyclopædia,[430] the Margarita philosophica, in 1515; though there is some difference in the coast-names, and the river mouths and deltas on the coast west of Cuba are left out.



There is another fac-simile in Stevens’s Historical and Geographical Notes, pl. 4. An edition of Reisch appeared at Freiburg in 1503 (Murphy, no. 3,089); but in 1504 there were two editions, with a mappemonde which had no other reference to America than in the legend: “Hic non terra sed mare est in quo miræ magnitudinis insulæ sed Ptolemæo fuerunt incognitæ.” Some copies are dated 1505. (Murphy, no. 3,090.) A copy dated 1508, Basle, “cum additionibus novis” (Quaritch, no. 12,363; Baer’s Incunabeln, 1884, no. 64, at 36 marks; and Murphy, no. 2,112*) had the same map. The 1515 edition had the map above given. (Harrisse, Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 82; Additions, no. 45, noting a copy in the Imperial Library at Vienna. Kohl copies in his Washington Collection from one in the library at Munich.) The Basle edition of 1517 has a still different woodcut map. (Beckford, Catalogue, vol. iii. no. 1,256; Murphy, no. 2,112**.) Not till 1535 did an edition have any reference to America in the text. (Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 208.) The latest edition is that of 1583, Basle, with a mappamonde showing America. (Leclerc, no. 2,926.) Cf. further in D’Avezac’s Waltzemüller, p. 94; Kunstmann’s Entdeckung Amerikas, p. 130; Stevens’s Notes, p. 52; Kohl, Die beiden ältesten General-Karten von America, p. 33.


RUYSCH, 1508.[431]

Stevens and others have contended that this represents Columbus’ Ganges; but Varnhagen makes it stand for the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi,—a supposition more nearly like Reisch’s interpretation, as will be seen by his distinct separation of the new lands from Asia. Reisch is, however, uncertain of their western limits, which are cut off by the scale, as shown in the map; while on the other side of the same scale Cipango is set down in close proximity to it.



It is held that this map shows the earliest attempt to represent on a plane a sphere truncated at the poles. Wieser (Magalhaês-Strasse, p. 11) speaks of a manuscript copy of Stobnicza’s western hemisphere, made by Glareanus, which is bound with a copy of Waldseemüller’s Cosmographiæ introductio, preserved in the University Library at Munich. Cf. Vol. III. p. 14, with references there, and Winsor’s Bibliography of Ptolemy sub anno 1512; Harrisse, Notes on Columbus, p. 178, and Bibl. Amer. Vet., nos. 69 and 95, and Additions, no. 47. The only copies of the Stobnicza Introductio in this country lack the maps. One in the Carter-Brown Library has it in fac-simile, and the other was sold in the Murphy sale, no. 2,075.



Fac-simile of a cut in Reusner’s Icones (Strasburg, 1590), p. 127. Cf. on Schöner’s geographical labors, Doppelmayr’s Historische Nachricht von den nürnbergischen Mathematikern und Künstlern (1730); Will und Nopitsch’s Nürnbergisches Gelehrten-Lexicon (1757); Ghillany’s Erdglobus des Behaim und der des Schöner; and Varnhagen’s Schöner e Apianus (Vienna, 1872).

It has been supposed that it was a map of this type which Bartholomew Columbus, when he visited Rome in 1505, gave to a canon of St. John Lateran, together with one of the printed accounts of his brother’s voyage; and this canon gave the map to Alessandro Strozzi, “suo amico e compilatore della raccolta,” as is stated in a marginal note in a copy of the Mundus novus in the Magliabecchian library.[432]

Columbus is said to have had a vision before his fourth voyage, during which he saw and depicted on a map a strait between the regions north and south of the Antillian Sea. De Lorgues, with a convenient alternative for his saintly hero, says that the mistake was only in making the strait of water, when it should have been of land!


SCHÖNER, 1515.

According to Wieser (Magalhâes-Strasse, p. 19) this globe, which exists in copies at Weimar (of which Wieser gives the above sketch from Jomard’s fac-simile of the one at Frankfort, but with some particulars added from that at Weimar) and at Frankfort (which is figured in Jomard), was made to accompany Schöner’s Luculentissima quædam terræ totius descriptio, printed in 1515. Cf. Harrisse, Notes on Columbus, p. 179, and Bibl. Amer. Vet., nos. 80, 81; Murphy, no. 2,233. Copies of Schöner’s Luculentissima, etc., are in the Harvard College, Carter-Brown, and Lenox libraries.

In 1523 Schöner printed another tract, De nuper sub Castiliæ, ac Portugaliæ regibus serenissimis repertis insulis ac regionibus, descriptive of his globe, which is extremely rare. Wieser reports copies in the great libraries of Vienna and London only. Varnhagen reprinted it from the Vienna copy, at St. Petersburg in 1872 (forty copies only), under the designation, Réimpression fidèle d’une lettre de Jean Schöner, à propos de son globe, écrite en 1523. The Latin is given in Wieser’s Magalhâes-Strasse, p. 118. Johann Schoner or Schöner (for the spelling varies) was born in 1477, and died in 1547. The testimony of this globe to an early knowledge of the straits afterward made known by Magellan is examined on a later page. The notions which long prevailed respecting a large Antarctic continent are traced in Wieser’s Magalhâes-Strasse, p. 59, and in Santarem, Histoire de la cartographie, ii. 277.

Cf. on the copy at Frankfort,—Vol. III. p. 215, of the present History; Kohl’s General-Karten von Amerika, p. 33, and his Discovery of Maine, p. 159; Encyclopædia Britannica, x. 681; Von Richthofen’s China, p. 641; Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, xviii. 45. On the copy at Weimar, see Humboldt, Examen critique, and his Introduction to Ghillany’s Ritter Behaim.


SCHÖNER, 1520.

This globe, which has been distinctively known as Schöner’s globe, is preserved at Nuremberg. There are representations of it in Santarem, Lelewel, Wieser, Ghillany’s Behaim, Kohl’s Geschichte der Entdeckungsreisen zur Magellan’s-Strasse (Berlin, 1877), p. 8; H. H. Bancroft’s Central America, i. 137; and in Harper’s Magazine, February, 1871, and December, 1882, p. 731. The earliest engraving appeared in the Jahresbericht der technischen Anstalten in Nürnberg für 1842, accompanied by a paper by Dr. Ghillany; and the same writer reproduced it in his Erdglobus des Behaim und der des Schöner (1842). The globe is signed: “Perfecit eum Bambergæ 1520, Joh. Schönerus.” Cf. Von Murr, Memorabilia bibliothecarum Noribergensium (1786), i. 5; Humboldt, Examen critique, ii. 28; Winsor’s Bibliography of Ptolemy sub anno 1522; and Vol. III. p. 214, of the present History.


We have a suspicion of this strait in another map which has been held to have had some connection with the drafts of Columbus, and that is the Ruysch map, which appeared in the Roman Ptolemy of 1508,[433] the earliest published map, unless the St. Dié map takes precedence, to show any part of the new discoveries.

THE TROSS GORES, 1514-1519.

Twelve gores of a globe found in a copy of the Cosmographiæ introductio, published at Lugduni, 1514 (?), and engraved in a catalogue of Tross, the Paris bookseller, in 1881 (nos. xiv. 4,924). The book is now owned by Mr. C. H. Kalbfleisch, of New York. Harrisse (Cabots, p. 182) says the map was engraved in 1514, and ascribes it to Louis Boulenger. (Cf. Vol. III. p. 214, of the present History.) There are two copies of this edition of the Cosmographiæ introductio in the British Museum; and D’Avezac (Waltzemüller, p. 123) says the date of it cannot be earlier than 1517. Harrisse says he erred in dating it 1510 in the Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 63. Cf. Winsor’s Bibliography of Ptolemy sub anno 1522.

It seems from its resemblance to[121] the La Cosa chart to have been kept much nearer the Columbian draft than the geographer of St. Dié, with his Portuguese helps, was contented to leave it in his map. In La Cosa the vignette of St. Christopher had concealed the mystery of a westerly passage;[434] Ruysch assumes it, or at least gives no intimation of his belief in the inclosure of the Antillian Sea. Harrisse[435] has pointed out how an entirely different coast-nomenclature in the two maps points to different originals of the two map-makers. The text of this 1508 edition upon “Terra Nova” and “Santa Cruz” is by Marcus Beneventanus. There are reasons to believe that the map may have been issued separately, as well as in the book; and the copies of the map in the Barlow Collection and in Harvard College Library are perhaps of this separate issue.[436]

MÜNSTER, 1532.

The distinctive features both of the La Cosa and the Ruysch drafts, of the Cantino map and of the Waldseemüller or St. Dié map of 1513, were preserved, with more or less modifications in many of the early maps. The Stobnicza map—published in an Introductio to Ptolemy at Cracow in 1512—is in effect the St. Dié map, with a western ocean in place of the edge of the plate as given in the 1513 Ptolemy, and is more like the draft of Reisch’s map published three years later.

There are other drawings of this map in Stevens’s Notes; in Nordenskiöld’s Bröderna Zenos (Stockholm, 1883); etc.


The Schöner globe of 1515, often cited as the Frankfort globe; the Schöner globe of 1520; the so-called Tross gores of 1514-1519; the map of Petrus Apianus[437]—or Bienewitz, as he was called in his vernacular—which appeared in the Polyhistoria of Solinus, edited by the Italian monk Camers, and also in 1522 in the De orbis situ of Pomponius Mela, published by Vadianus,—all preserve the same characteristics with the St. Dié map, excepting that they show the western passage referred to in Columbus’ dream, and so far unite some of the inferences from the map of Ruysch. There was a curious survival of this Cantino type, particularly as regards North America for many years yet to come, as seen in the map which Münster added to the Basle edition of the Novus orbis in 1532 and 1537, and in the drawing which Jomard gives[438] as from “une cassette de la Collection Trivulci, dite Cassettina all’Agemina.” This last drawing is a cordiform mappemonde, very like another which accompanied Honter’s Rudimenta cosmographica in 1542, and which was repeated in various editions to as late a period as 1590. Thus it happened that for nearly a century geographical views which the earliest navigators evolved, continued in popular books to convey the most inadequate notion of the contour of the new continent.[439]


The map is given in its original projection in Lelewel, pl. xlv., and on a greatly reduced scale in Daly’s Early Cartography, p. 32. There are copies of this 1511 Ptolemy in the Lenox, Carter-Brown, Astor, Brevoort, Barlow, and Kalbfleisch collections. Cf. Murphy Catalogue, no. 2,051, for a copy now in the American Geographical Society’s Library, and references in Winsor’s Bibliography of Ptolemy sub anno 1511.


In the same year with the publication of the Peter Martyr map of 1511, an edition of Ptolemy, published at Venice and edited by Bernardus Sylvanus, contained a mappemonde on a cordiform projection,—which is said to be the first instance of the use of this method in drafting maps. What is shown of the new discoveries is brought in a distorted shape on the extreme western verge of the map; and to make the contour more intelligible, it is reduced in the sketch annexed to an ordinary plane projection. It is the earliest engraved map to give any trace of the Cortereal discoveries[440] and to indicate the Square, or St. Lawrence, Gulf. It gives a curious Latinized form to the name of the navigator himself in “Regalis Domus” (Cortereal), and restores Greenland, or Engronelant, to a peninsular connection with northwestern Europe as it had appeared in the Ptolemy of 1482.


It will be seen that, with the exception of the vague limits of the “Regalis Domus,” there was no sign of the continental line of North America in this map of Sylvanus.[124] Much the same views were possessed by the maker of the undated Lenox globe, which probably is of nearly the same date, and of which a further account is given elsewhere.[441]

(original draft reduced).

Another draft of a globe, likewise held to be of about the same date, shows a similar configuration, except that a squarish island stands in it for Florida and adjacent parts of the main. This is a manuscript drawing on two sheets preserved among the Queen’s collections at Windsor; and since Mr. R. H. Major made it known by a communication, with accompanying fac-similes, in the Archæologia,[442] it has been held to be the work of Leonardo da Vinci, though this has been recently questioned.[443]


(original draft reduced).

Another sketch of this hemisphere is given in Harper’s Monthly, December, 1882, p. 733.

If deprived of the associations of that august name, the map loses much of its attraction; but it still remains an interesting memorial of geographical conjecture. It is without date, and can only be fixed in the chain of cartographical ideas by its internal evidence. This has led Major to place it between 1512 and 1514, and Wieser to fix it at 1515-1516.[444] A somewhat unsatisfactory map, since it shows nothing north of “Ysabella” and “Spagnollo,” is that inscribed Orbis typus universalis juxta hydrographorum traditionem exactissime depicta, 1522, L. F., which is the work of Laurentius Frisius, and appeared in the Ptolemy of 1522.[445]


DA VINCI (newly projected).

This follows the projection as given by Wieser in his Magalhaês-Strasse, who dates it 1515-1516.

A new element appears in a map which is one of the charts belonging to the Yslegung der Mer-Carthen oder Cartha Marina, said also to be the work of Frisius, which was[127] issued in 1525, in exposition of his theories of sea-charts.[446]


COPPO, 1528.

This is drawn from a sketch given by Kohl in his manuscript, “On the Connection of the New and Old World on the Pacific Side,” preserved in the American Antiquarian Society’s Library. There is another copy in his Washington Collection.

The map is explained by the following key: 1. Asia. 2. India. 3. Ganges. 4. Java major. 5. Cimpangi [Japan]. 6. Isola verde [Greenland?]. 7. Cuba. 8. Iamaiqua. 9. Spagnola. 10. Monde nuova [South America].

The map is of interest as the sole instance in which North America is called a part of Africa, on the supposition that[128] a continental connection by the south enclosed the “sea toward the sunset.” The insular Yucatan will be observed in the annexed sketch, and what seems to be a misshapen Cuba. The land at the east seems intended for Baccalaos, judging from the latitude and the indication of fir-trees upon it. This map is one of twelve engraved sheets constituting the above-named work, which was published by Johannes Grieninger in 1530. Friess, or Frisius, who was a German mathematician, and had, as we have seen, taken part in the 1522 Ptolemy, says that he drew his information in these maps from original sources; but he does not name these sources, and Dr. Kohl thinks the maps indicate the work of Waldseemüller.

Among the last of the school of geographers who supposed North America to be an archipelago, was Pierro Coppo, who published at Venice in 1528 what has become a very rare Portolano delli lochi maritimi ed isole der mar.[447]





AMERIGO VESPUCCI,[448] the third son of Nastugio Vespucci, a notary of Florence, and his wife Lisabetta Mini, was born on the 9th of March, 1451. The family had the respectability of wealth, acquired in trade, for one member of it in the preceding century was rich enough to endow a public hospital. Over the portal of the house, so dedicated to charity by this pious Vespucci nearly three quarters of a century before Amerigo was born, there was, says Humboldt, engraved in 1719, more than three hundred years after the founding of the hospital, an inscription declaring that here Amerigo had lived in his youth. As the monks, however, who wrote the inscription also asserted in it that he was the discoverer of America, it is quite possible that they may have been as credulous in the one case as in the other, and have accepted for fact that which was only tradition. But whether Amerigo’s father, Nastugio, lived or did not live in the hospital which his father or grandfather founded, he evidently maintained the respectability of the family. Three of his sons he sent to be educated at the University of Pisa. Thenceforth they are no more heard of, except that one of them, Jerome, afterward went to Palestine, where he remained nine years, met with many losses, and endured much suffering,—all of which he related in a letter to his younger brother Amerigo. But the memory even of this Jerome—that he should have ever gone anywhere, or had any adventures worth the telling—is only preserved from oblivion because he had this brother who became the famous navigator, and whose name by a chance was given to half the globe.


A LETTER OF VESPUCIUS TO HIS FATHER (after a fac-simile given by Varnhagen).

[Harrisse (Bibl. Amer. Vet., Additions, p. xxii) says that this letter was found by Bandini in the Strozzi Library, and that it is now in the collection of M. Feuillet de Conches in Paris. “This and two or three signatures added to receipts, which were brought to light by Navarrete, constitute,” said Harrisse in 1872, “the only autographs of Vespucius known.” Since then another fac-simile of a letter by Vespucius has been published in the Cartas de Indias, being a letter of Dec. 9, 1508, about goods which ought to be carried to the Antilles. Cf. Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc., xvi. 318, and Magazine of American History, iii. 193, where it is translated, and accompanied by a fac-simile of a part of it. The signature is given on another page of the present chapter.—Ed.]


Amerigo was not sent to the university. Such early education as he received came from a learned uncle, Giorgi Antonio Vespucci, a Dominican friar, who must have been a man of some influence in Florence, as it is claimed for him that he was the friend and colleague of the more famous monk Savonarola. The nephew acknowledged later in life that he was not among the most diligent of his uncle’s pupils; and the admission was as true as it was ingenuous, if one may judge by a letter in Latin written, when he was twenty-five years old, to his father. He excuses himself to that spectabili et egregio viro—as he addresses his father—for recent negligence in writing, as he hesitates to commit himself in Latin without the revision of his uncle, and he happens to be absent. Probably it was poverty of expression in that tongue, and not want of thought, which makes the letter seem the work of a boy of fifteen rather than of a young man of five and twenty. A mercantile career in preference to that of a student was, at any rate, his own choice; and in due time, though at what age precisely does not appear, a place was found for him in the great commercial house of the Princes Medici in Florence.

In Florence he remained, apparently in the service of the Medici, till 1490; for in that year he complains that his mother prevented him from going to Spain. But the delay was not long, as in January, 1492, he writes from Cadiz, where he was then engaged in trade with an associate, one Donato Nicolini,—perhaps as agents of the Medici, whose interests in Spain were large. Four years later, the name of Vespucci appears for the first time in the Spanish archives, when he was within two months of being forty-six years of age. Meanwhile he had engaged in the service of Juonato Berardi, a Florentine merchant established at Seville, who had fitted out the second expedition of Columbus in 1493.[449]

It has been conjectured that Vespucci became known at that time to Columbus,—which is not improbable if the former was so early as 1493 in the service of Berardi. But the suggestion that he went with Columbus either on his first or second expedition cannot be true, at any rate as to the second.[450] For in 1495 Berardi made a contract with the Spanish Government[132] to furnish a fleet of ships for an expedition westward which he did not live to complete. Its fulfilment was intrusted to Vespucci; and it appears in the public accounts that a sum of money was paid to him from the Treasury of the State in January, 1496. Columbus was then absent on his second voyage, begun in September, 1493, from which he did not return till June, 1496.

In the interval between the spring of 1495 and the summer of 1497 any adventurer was permitted by Spain, regardless of the agreement made with Columbus, to go upon voyages of commerce or discovery to that New India to which his genius and courage had led the way. “Now,” wrote Columbus, “there is not a man, down to the very tailors, who does not beg to be allowed to become a discoverer.” The greed of the King; the envy of the navigators who before 1492 had laughed at the theories of Columbus; the hatred of powerful Churchmen, more bitter now than ever, because those theories which they had denounced as heresy had proved to be true,—all these influences were against him, and had combined to rob the unhappy Admiral, even before he had returned from his second voyage, of the honor and the riches which he thought would rightfully become his own. Ships now could go and come in safety over that wide waste of waters which even children could remember had been looked upon as a “Sea of Darkness,” rolling westward into never-ending space, whence there was no return to the voyager mad enough to trust to its treacherous currents. It was no longer guarded by perpetual Night, by monsters hideous and terrible, and by a constant wind that blew ever toward the west. But ships came safely back, bringing, not much, but enough of gold and pearls to seem an earnest of the promise of the marvellous wealth of India that must soon be so easily and so quickly reached; with the curious trappings of a picturesque barbarism; the soft skins and gorgeous feathers of unknown beasts and birds; the woods of a new beauty in grain and vein and colors; the aromatic herbs of subtle virtue that would stir the blood beneath the ribs of Death; and with all these precious things the captive men and women, of curious complexion and unknown speech, whose people were given as a prey to the stranger by God and the Pope. Every rough sailor of these returning ships was greeted as a hero when to the gaping, wide-eyed crowd he told of his adventures in that land of perpetual summer, where the untilled virgin soil brought forth its fruits, and the harvest never failed; where life was without care or toil, sickness or poverty; where he who would might gather wealth as he would idly pick up pebbles on a beach. These were the sober realities of the times; and there were few so poor in spirit or so lacking in imagination as not to desire to share in the possession of these new Indies. It was not long, indeed, before a reaction came; when disappointed adventurers[133] returned in poverty, and sat in rags at the gates of the palace to beg relief of the King. And when the sons of Columbus, who were pages in the Court of the Queen, passed by, “they shouted to the very heavens, saying: ‘Look at the sons of the Admiral of Mosquitoland!—of that man who has discovered the lands of deceit and disappointment,—a place of sepulchre and wretchedness to Spanish hidalgos!’”[451]

From his second voyage Columbus returned in the summer of 1496; and meeting his enemies with the courage and energy which never failed him, he induced the King and Queen to revoke, in June of the next year, the decree of two years before. Meanwhile he made preparations for his third voyage, on which he sailed from San Lucar on the 30th of May, 1498. Two months later he came in sight of the island he named Trinidad; and entering the Gulf of Paria, into which empties the Orinoco by several mouths, he sailed along the coast of the mainland. He had reached the continent, not of Asia, as he supposed, but of the western hemisphere. None of the four voyages of the great discoverer is so illustrative of his peculiar faith, his religious fervor, and the strength of his imagination as this third voyage; and none, in that respect, is so interesting. The report of it which he sent home in a letter, with a map, to the King and Queen has a direct relation to the supposed first voyage of Amerigo Vespucci.

As he approached the coast, Columbus wrote,[452] he heard “in the dead of night an awful roaring;” and he saw “the sea rolling from west to east like a mountain as high as the ship, and approaching little by little; on the top of this rolling sea came a mighty wave roaring with a frightful noise.” When he entered the Gulf, and saw how it was filled by the flow of the great river, he believed that he had witnessed far out at sea the mighty struggle at the meeting of the fresh with the salt water. The river, he was persuaded, must be rushing down from the summit of the earth, where the Lord had planted the earthly Paradise, in the midst whereof was a fountain whence flowed the four great rivers of the world,—the Ganges, the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the Nile. He did not quite agree with those earlier philosophers who believed that the earth was a perfect sphere; but rather that it was like “the form of a pear, which is very round except where the stalk grows, at which part it is most prominent; or like a round ball, upon one part of which is a prominence like a woman’s nipple, this protrusion being the highest and nearest the sky, situated under the equinoctial line, and at the eastern extremity of this sea.” “I call that the eastern extremity,” he adds, “where the land and the islands end.”

Now had come to him at last in the observations and experience of this voyage the confirmation of his faith. That “eastern extremity of the sea[134] where the lands and the islands end” he had reached, he thought, at the islands of Trinidad, of Margarita, and of Cubagua, and at the coast of the Gulf of Paria, into which poured this great river rushing down from the pinnacle of the globe. For he had observed, as he sailed westward from a certain line in the ocean, that “the ships went on rising smoothly towards the sky.” Some of the older astronomers, he said, believed that the Arctic pole was “the highest point of the world, and nearest to the heavens;” and others that this was true of the Antarctic. Though all were wrong as to the exact locality of that elevation, it was plain that they held a common faith that somewhere there was a point of exaltation, if only it could be found, where the earth approached the sky more nearly than anywhere else. But it had not occurred to any of them that possibly the blessed spot which the first rays of the sun lit up in crimson and in gold on the morning of creation, because it was the topmost height of the globe, and because it was in the east, might be under the equinoctial line; and it had not occurred to them, because this eastern extremity of the world, which it had pleased God he should now discover, had hitherto been unknown to civilized man.

Every observation and incident of this voyage gave to Columbus proof of the correctness of his theory. The farther south he had gone along the African coast, the blacker and more barbarous he had found the people, the more intense the heat, and the more arid the soil. For many days they had sailed under an atmosphere so heated and oppressive that he doubted if his ships would not fall to pieces and their crews perish, if they did not speedily escape into some more temperate region. He had remarked in former voyages that at a hundred leagues west of the Azores there was a north-and-south line, to cross which was to find an immediate and grateful change in the skies above, in the waters beneath, and in the reviving temperature of the air. The course of the ships was altered directly westward, that this line might be reached, and the perils escaped which surrounded him and his people. It was when the line was crossed that he observed how his ships were gently ascending toward the skies. Not only were the expected changes experienced, but the North Star was seen at a new altitude; the needle of the compass varied a point, and the farther they sailed the more it turned to the northwest. However the wind blew, the sea was always smooth; and when the Island of Trinidad and the shores of the continent were reached, they entered a climate of exceeding mildness, where the fields and the foliage were “remarkably fresh and green, and as beautiful as the gardens of Valencia in April.” The people who crowded to the shore “in countless numbers” to gaze at these strange visitors were “very graceful in form, tall, and elegant in their movements, wearing their hair very long and smooth.” They were, moreover, of a whiter skin than any the Admiral had heretofore seen “in any of the Indies,” and were “shrewd, intelligent, and courageous.”


The more he saw and the more he reflected, the more convinced he was that this country was “the most elevated in the world, and the nearest to the sky.” Where else could this majestic river, that rushed eagerly to this mighty struggle with the sea, come from, but from that loftiest peak of the globe, in the midst whereof was the inexhaustible fountain of the four great rivers of the earth? The faith or the fanaticism—whichever one may please to call it—of the devout cosmographer was never for an instant shadowed by a doubt. The human learning of all time had taught him that the shorter way to India must be across that western ocean which, he was persuaded, covered only one third of the globe and separated the western coast of Europe from the eastern coast of Asia. When it was taken for granted that his first voyage had proved this geographical theory to be the true one, then he could only understand that as in each successive voyage he had gone farther, so he was only getting nearer and nearer to the heart of the empire of the Great Khan.

But to the aid of human knowledge came a higher faith; he was divinely led. In writing of this third voyage to Dona Juana de la Torres, a lady of the Court and a companion to the Queen, he said: “God made me the messenger of the new heaven and the new earth of which he spoke in the Apocalypse by Saint John, after having spoken of it by the mouth of Isaiah; and he showed me the spot where to find it.”[453]. The end of the world he believed was at hand; by which he meant, perhaps, only the world of heathenism and unbelief. In his letter to the sovereigns he said that “it was clearly predicted concerning these lands by the mouth of the prophet Isaiah in many places in Scripture, that from Spain the holy name of God was to be spread abroad.” Amazing and even fantastic as his conclusions were when they came from the religious side of his nature, they were to him irrefragable, because they were so severely logical. He was the chosen instrument of the divine purpose, because it was to him that the way had been made straight and plain to the glorious East, where God had planted in the beginning the earthly Paradise, in which he had placed man, where man had first sinned, and where ere long was to break the promised dawn of the new heaven and the new earth.

The northern continent of the New World was discovered by the Cabots a year before the southern mainland was reached by Columbus. Possibly this northern voyage may have suggested to the geographers of England[136] a new theory, as yet, so far as we know, not thought of in Spain and Portugal,—that a hemisphere was to be circumnavigated, and a passage found among thousands of leagues of islands, or else through some great continent hitherto unknown,—except to a few forgotten Northmen of five hundred years earlier,—before India could be reached by sailing westward. In speaking of this voyage long afterward, Sebastian Cabot said: “I began to saile toward the northwest, not thinking to find any other land than that of Cathay, and from thence turne toward India; but after certaine dayes I found that the land ranne towards the North, which was to mee a great displeasure.”[454] This may have been the afterthought of his old age, when the belief that the new Indies were the outlying boundaries of the old was generally discarded. He had forgotten, as the same narrative shows,—unless the year be a misprint,—the exact date of that voyage, saying that it “was, as farre as I remember, in the yeare 1496, in the beginning of Summer.” This was a year too soon. But if the statement be accepted as literally true that he was disappointed in finding, not Cathay and India, as he had hoped, but another land, then not only the honor of the discovery of the western continent belongs to his father and to him,—or rather to the father alone, for the son was still a boy,—but the further distinction of knowing what they had discovered; while Columbus never awoke from the delusion that he had touched the confines of India.

A discussion of the several interesting questions relating to the voyages of the Cabots belongs to another chapter;[455] but assuming here that the voyage of the “Mathew” from Bristol, England, in the summer of 1497, is beyond controversy, the precedence of the Cabots over Columbus in the discovery of the continent may be taken for granted. There is other ample evidence besides his curious letters to show that the latter was on the coast of South America in the summer of 1498, just thirteen months and one week after the Cabots made the terra primum visa, whether on the coast of Nova Scotia, Labrador, or possibly Newfoundland.[456] Not that this detracts in any degree, however slight, from the great name of Columbus as the discoverer of the New World. Of him Sebastian Cabot was mindful to say, in conversation with the Pope’s envoy in Spain,—just quoted from in the preceding paragraph,—that “when newes were brought that Don Christopher Colonus, Genoese, had discovered the coasts of India, whereof was great talke in all the Court of King Henry the 7, who then raigned, insomuch that all men with great admiration affirmed it to be a thing more divine than humane to saile by the West into the Easte, where spices growe, by a map that was never knowen before,—by this fame and report there increased in my heart a great flame of desire to attempt some notable[137] thing.” However notable the thing might be, it could be only secondary to that achievement of Columbus which Cabot looked upon as “more divine than human;” but whether in the first sight of the mainland which all hoped to find beyond the islands already visited, Vespucci did not take precedence both of the Cabots and of Columbus, has been a disputed question for nearly four hundred years; and it will probably never be considered as satisfactorily settled, should it continue in dispute for four hundred years longer.

The question is, whether Vespucci made four voyages to that half of the world which was ever after to bear his name,[457] and whether those voyages were really made at the time it is said they were. The most essential point, however, is that of the date of the first voyage: for if that which is asserted to be the true date be correct, the first discoverer of the western continent was neither the Cabots nor Columbus, but Vespucci; and his name was properly enough bestowed upon it. “In the year 1497,” says an ancient and authentic Bristol manuscript,[458] “the 24th June, on St. John’s day, was Newfoundland found by Bristol men [the Cabots] in a ship called the ‘Mathew.’” On his third voyage, in 1498, Columbus says: “We saw land [Trinidad] at noon of Tuesday the 31st of July.” In a letter, written no doubt by Vespucci, he says: “We sailed from the port of Cadiz on the 10th of May, 1497;”[459] and after leaving the Canaries, where the four ships of the expedition remained a few days to take in their final supplies of wood, water, and provisions, they came, he continues, “at the end of twenty-seven days, upon a coast which we thought to be that of a continent.” Of these dates the first two mentioned are unquestionably authentic. If that last given were equally so, there would be an end of all controversy upon the subject; for it would prove that Vespucci’s discovery of the continent preceded that of the Cabots, though only by a week or two, while it must have been earlier than that of Columbus by about fourteen months.

It should first of all be noted that the sole authority for a voyage made by Vespucci in 1497 is Vespucci himself. All contemporary history, other than his own letter, is absolutely silent in regard to such a voyage, whether it be history in printed books, or in the archives of those kingdoms of Europe where the precious documents touching the earlier expeditions to the New World were deposited. Santarem, in his Researches, goes even farther than this; for he declares that even the name of Vespucci is not to be found in the Royal Archives of Portugal, covering the period from 1495 to 1503, and including more than a hundred thousand documents relating to voyages of discovery; that he is not mentioned in the Diplomatic[138] Records of Portugal, which treat of the relations of that kingdom with Spain and Italy, when one of the duties of ambassadors was to keep their Governments advised of all new discoveries; and that among the many valuable manuscripts belonging to the Royal Library at Paris, he, M. Santarem, sought in vain for any allusion to Vespucci. But these assertions have little influence over those who do not agree with Santarem that Vespucci was an impostor. The evidence is overwhelming that he belonged to some of the expeditions sent out at that period to the southwest; and if he was so obscure as not to be recognized in any contemporary notices of those voyages, then it could be maintained with some plausibility that he might have made an earlier voyage about which nothing was known. And this would seem the more probable when it was remembered that the time (1497) of this alleged expedition was within that interval when “the very tailors,” as Columbus said, might go, without let or hindrance, in search of riches and renown in the new-found world.


[This is the conclusion of a letter of Vespucius, printed and given in fac-simile in the Cartas de Indias.—Ed.]

Nevertheless, the fact of the obscurity of Vespucci at that period is not without great weight, though Santarem fails in his attempt to prove too much by it. Columbus believed when, on his second voyage, he coasted the southern shore of Cuba, that he had touched the continent of Asia. The extension of that continent he supposed, from indications given by the natives, and accepted by him as confirming a foregone conclusion, would be found farther south; and for that reason he took that course on his third voyage. “The land where the spices grow” was now the aim of all Spanish energy and enterprise; and it is not likely that this theory of the Admiral was not well understood among the merchants and navigators who took an intelligent as well as an intense interest in all that he had done and in all that he said.



Is it probable, then, that nobody should know of the sailing of four ships from Cadiz for farther and more important discoveries in the direction pointed out by Columbus? Or, if their departure was secret, can there be a rational doubt that the return, with intelligence so important[140] and generally interesting, would have been talked about in all the ports of Spain, and the man who brought it have become instantly famous?


[A sketch of an old engraving as given in the Allgem. geog. Ephemeriden (Weimar, 1807), vol. xxiii. There are other engravings of it in Jules Verne’s Découverte de la terre, and elsewhere.—Ed.]

But as no account of the voyage appeared till years afterward, and then in a letter from Vespucci himself; and as, meanwhile, for most of those years the absence of his name from contemporary records shows that no celebrity whatever was attached to it,—the logical conclusion is, not only that the voyage was unknown, but that it was unknown because it was never made. Moreover, if it was ever made it could not have been unknown, if we may trust Vespucci’s own statement. For in his letter—not written till 1504, and not published in full till 1507—he said that this expedition was sent out by order of King Ferdinand; that he, Vespucci, went upon it by royal command; and that after his return he made a report of it to the King. The expedition, therefore, was clearly not one of those which, in the interval between the summers of 1495 and 1497, so often referred to, escaped all public record; and as there cannot be found any recognition of such an enterprise at that date either in contemporaneous history or State documents, what other conclusion can be accepted as rational and without prejudice, than that no such voyage so commanded was made at that time?



[A fac-simile of the engraving in Montanus, copied in Ogilby, p. 60.—Ed.]

There seems to be no escape from this evidence, though it is so purely negative and circumstantial. But Humboldt, relying upon the researches of the Spanish historian Muñoz, and upon those gathered by Navarrete in his Coleccion de los viages y descubrimientos, presents the proof of an alibi[142] for Vespucci. As has been already said on a previous page, the fact is unquestioned that Vespucci, who had been a resident of Spain for some time, became in 1495 a member of the commercial house of Juanoto Berardi, at Seville, and that in January of the next year, as the public accounts show, he was paid a sum of money relative to a contract with Government which Berardi did not live to complete. The presumption is that he would not soon absent himself from his post of duty, where new and onerous responsibilities had been imposed upon him by the recent death of the senior partner of the house with which he was connected. But at any rate he is found there in the spring of 1497, Muñoz having ascertained that fact from the official records of expenses incurred in fitting out the ships for western expeditions, still preserved at Seville. Those records show that from the middle of April, 1497, to the end of May, 1498, Vespucci was busily engaged at Seville and San Lucar in the equipment of the fleet with which Columbus sailed on his third voyage. The alibi, therefore, is complete. Vespucci could not have been absent from Spain from May, 1497, to October, 1498,—the period of his alleged first voyage.

All this seems incontrovertible, and should be accepted as conclusive till fresh researches among the archives of that age shall show, if that be possible, that those hitherto made have been either misunderstood or are incomplete. Assuming the negative to be proved, then, as to the alleged date of Vespucci’s first voyage, the positive evidence, on the other hand, is ample and unquestioned, that Columbus sailed from San Lucar on his third voyage on the 30th of May, 1498, and two months later reached the western continent about the Gulf of Paria.

Was Vespucci then a charlatan? Was he guilty of acts so base as a falsification of dates, and narratives of pretended voyages, that he might secure for himself the fame that belonged to another,—that other, moreover, being his friend? There are reasons for believing this to be quite true of him; and other reasons for not believing it at all. There is not, to begin with, a scrap of original manuscript of his bearing on this point known to exist; it is not even positively known in what tongue his letters were written; and anything, therefore, like absolute proof as to what he said he did or did not do, is clearly impossible. The case has to be tried upon circumstantial evidence and as one of moral probabilities; and the verdict must needs differ according to the varying intelligence and disposition of different juries.

He made, or he claimed to have made,—assuming the letters attributed to him to be his,—four voyages, of each of which he wrote a narrative. According to the dates given in these letters, he twice sailed from Spain by order of Ferdinand,—in May, 1497, and in May, 1499; and twice from Portugal, in the service of King Emanuel,—in May, 1501, and in May, 1503. He was absent, as we learn from the same letters, about seventeen months on the first voyage, about sixteen each on the second and third, and on the fourth eleven months. If he went to sea, then, for the first time in May,[143] 1497, and the last voyage ended, as the narrative says, in June, 1504, the whole period of his seafaring life was eighty-four months, of which sixty were passed at sea, and twenty-four, at reasonable intervals, on shore. As the dates of departure and of return are carefully given, obviously the period from May, 1497, to June, 1504, must be allowed for the four expeditions. But here we come upon an insurmountable obstacle. If to the first voyage of 1497 the wrong date was given,—if, that is, the actual first voyage was that of 1499, which Vespucci calls his second,—then he could not have gone upon four expeditions. From May, 1499, to June, 1504, is a period of sixty months; and as the aggregate length he gives to the assumed four voyages is sixty months, they could not have been made in that time, as that would have compelled him to be at sea the whole five years, with no interval of return to Spain or Portugal to refit,—which is manifestly absurd.

The solution of the difficulty relied upon by Humboldt and others seems, therefore, insufficient; it is not explained by assuming that the date 1497 in the narrative of the first voyage was the careless blunder of the translator, copyist, or printer of Vespucci’s original letter. It is not an error if there were four voyages; for as the date of the last one is undisputed, the date of 1497 for the first one must remain to give time enough for the whole. But that there were four voyages does not depend solely upon the date given to the first one. That there were four—“quatuor navigationes”—is asserted repeatedly by Vespucci in the different letters. In the relation of the first one, wherein is given this troublesome date which has so vexed the souls of scholars, he says at some length that as he had seen on these “twice two” voyages so many strange things, differing so much from the manners and customs of his own country, he had written a little book, not yet published, to be called “Four Expeditions, or Four Voyages,” in which he had related, to the best of his ability, about all he had seen.[461] If, then, the date 1497 is to be explained away as the result of carelessness or accident,—even admitting that such an explanation would explain,—what is to be done with this passage? It cannot, like a single numeral—a 7 for a 9—be attributed to chance; and it becomes necessary, therefore, to regard it as an interpolation contrived to sustain a clumsy falsification of date.

It has also been conjectured that two of the letters have been misapprehended; that Vespucci meant one as only a continuation of the other in a description of a single voyage, or if intended as two letters, they were meant to describe the same voyage. The early editors, it has been suggested, supposing that each letter described a separate voyage, forged or[144] changed the dates in accordance with that supposition. If there were no other objection to this theory, it is untenable if what has just been said be true. The duration of each voyage, the aggregate length of the whole, and the distinct and careful assertion that there were four of them, require that there should be one prior to that which Vespucci calls his second.

All this leads, according to our present knowledge of the facts, inevitably to this conclusion,—whether Vespucci himself wrote, or others wrote for him, these letters, their very consistency of dates and of circumstantial assertion show them to have been deliberately composed to establish a falsehood. For the researches of Muñoz and of Navarrete, as is said above, prove that Vespucci could not have sailed from Spain on his first voyage on the 10th or 20th of May, 1497; for from the middle of April of that year to the end of May, 1498, he was busily employed at Seville and San Lucar in fitting out the fleet for the third expedition of Columbus.

There is other evidence, negative indeed, but hardly less conclusive, that this assumed voyage of 1497 was never made. In 1512 Don Diego Columbus brought an action against the Crown of Spain to recover, as the heir of his father, Christopher Columbus, the government and a portion of the revenues of certain provinces on the continent of America. The defence was that those countries were not discovered by Columbus, and the claim, therefore, was not valid. It is not to be supposed that the Crown was negligent in the search for testimony to sustain its own cause, for nearly a hundred witnesses were examined. But no evidence was offered to prove that Vespucci—whose nephew was present at the trial—visited in 1497 the Terra Firma which the plaintiff maintained his father discovered in 1498. On the other hand, Alonzo de Ojeda, an eminent navigator, declared that he was sent on an expedition in 1499 to the coast of Paria next after it was discovered by the Admiral (Columbus); and that “in this voyage which this said witness made, he took with him Juan de la Cosa and Morigo Vespuche [Amerigo Vespucci] and other pilots.”[462] When asked how he knew that Columbus had made the discovery at the time named, his reply was that he knew it because the Bishop Fonseca had supplied him with that map which the Admiral had sent home in his letter to the King and Queen. The act of the Bishop was a dishonorable one, and intended as an injury to Columbus; and to this purpose Ojeda further lent himself by stopping at Hispaniola on the return from his voyage, and by exciting there a revolt against the authority of the Admiral in that island. Perhaps the bitter animosity of those years had been buried in the grave of the great navigator, together with the chains which had hung always in his chamber as a memento of the royal ingratitude; but even in that case it is not likely that Ojeda would have lost such an opportunity to justify, in some degree,[145] his own conduct by declaring, if he knew it to be so, that Columbus was not the first discoverer of the continent. It is of course possible, but it is certainly not probable, that he should not have heard from Vespucci that this was his second visit to the Gulf of Paria, if that were the fact, and that his first visit was a year before that of Columbus, whose chart Ojeda was using to direct his course through seas with which Vespucci was familiar. This reasonable reflection is dwelt upon by Humboldt, Irving, and others; and it comes with peculiar force to the careful reader of the letters of Vespucci, for he was never in the least inclined to hide his light under a bushel.

The originals of the letters, as has already been said, are not, so far as is known, in existence; it is even uncertain whether they were written in Latin, Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese. Nor has the book which Vespucci said he had prepared—“The Four Voyages”—ever been found; but Humboldt believed that the collected narrative first published at St.-Dié in 1507, in the Cosmographiæ introductio of Hylacomylus, was made up of extracts from that book. This St.-Dié edition was in Latin, translated, the editor says, from the French.[463] There is in the British Museum a rare work of four pages, published also in 1507, the author of which was Walter Lud. This Lud was the secretary of the Duke of Lorraine, a canon of the St.-Dié Cathedral, and the founder of the school or college, where he had set up a printing-press on which was printed the Cosmographiæ introductio. From this little book it is learned that the Vespucci letters were sent from Portugal to the Duke of Lorraine in French, and that they were translated into Latin by another canon of the St.-Dié Cathedral, one Jean Basin de Sandacourt, at the request of Lud.[464]

Vespucci’s last two voyages were made, so his letters assert, in the service of the King of Portugal. The narrative of the first of these—the third of the four voyages—appeared at different times, at several places, and were addressed to more than one person, prior to the publication of the St.-Dié edition of all the letters addressed to René II., the Duke of Lorraine. This fact has added to the confusion and doubt; for each of these copies sent to different persons was a translation, presumably from some common original. One copy of them was addressed to Pietro Soderini, Gonfaloniere of Florence, whom Vespucci claimed as an old friend and school-fellow under the instruction of his uncle, Giorgi Antonio Vespucci; another was sent to Lorenzo di Pier Francesco de’ Medici,—Vespucci’s early employer,—both appearing prior to that addressed in the collected edition of St.-Dié addressed to the Duke of Lorraine. Of the earlier editions there was one published, according to Humboldt, in Latin, in 1504, at Augsburg[146] and also at Paris; another in German, in 1505, at Strasburg, and in 1506 at Leipsic; and still another in Italian at Vicenza, in the collection called Paesi novamente, simultaneously with the St.-Dié edition of 1507. These in later years were followed by a number of other editions. While they agree as to general statement, they differ in many particulars, and especially in regard to dates. These, however, are often mere typographical blunders or errors of copyists, not unusual at that era, and always fruitful of controversy. But upon one point, it is to be observed, there is no difference among them; the voyage of 1501—the first from Portugal—is always the third of the four voyages of Vespucci. This disposes, as Humboldt points out, of the charge that Vespucci waited till after the death of Columbus, in 1506, before he ventured to assert publicly that he had made two voyages by order of the King of Spain prior to entering the service of the King of Portugal.

To induce him to leave Spain and come to Portugal, Vespucci says, in the letter addressed to Pietro Soderini, that the King sent to him one Giuliano Bartholomeo del Giocondo, then a resident of Lisbon. Jocundus (the latinized pseudonym of Giocondo) is named as the translator of the Augsburg edition of 1504, addressed to Lorenzo de’ Medici. This Jocundus, Humboldt thinks, was Giuliano Giocondo. But Major, in his Henry the Navigator, says that the translation was made, not by Giuliano Giocondo, but by his kinsman Giovanni Giocondo, of Verona. His authority for this statement is apparently Walter Lud’s Speculum. Varnhagen thinks it possible that the work may have been done by one Mathias Ringman,—of whom more presently. Varnhagen says also, in another place, that the translator of the Italian version—published in the Paesi novamente at Vicenza in 1507—unwittingly betrayed that he lied (son mensonge) when he said that he followed a Spanish copy; for while he failed to comprehend the use of the word Jocundus, he showed that it was before him in the Latin copy, as he rendered Jocundus interpres—Jocundus the translator—as el iocondo interprete, the agreeable translator. This is only one example of the confusion in which the subject is involved.

It was due, however, to the Cosmographiæ introductio of St.-Dié, in which the letters appeared as a sort of appendix, that the name of America, from Amerigo, was given to the western hemisphere. But how it happened that the Quatuor navigationes should have been first published in that little town in the Vosges mountains; and what the relation was between Vespucci and René II., the Duke of Lorraine,—are among the perplexing questions in regard to the letters that have been discussed at great length. Major finds in the fact, or assumed fact, that Fra Giovanno Giocondo was the translator of the narrative of the third voyage, the first published, in 1504, an important link in the chain of evidence by which he explains the St.-Dié puzzle. This Giocondo was about that time at Paris as the architect of the bridge of Notre Dame. A young student, Mathias Ringman, from Alsace, was also there at that period; and Major supposes he may have[147] become acquainted with Giocondo, who inspired him with great admiration for Vespucci. It is certain, at any rate, that Ringman, whose literary pseudonym was Philesius Vogesina,—that is, Philesius of the Vosges,—on his return to his native province edited the Strasburg edition (1505) of Giocondo’s translation, appending to it some verses written by himself in praise of Vespucci and his achievements.

In the rare book already referred to, the Speculum of Walter Lud, it is said of this Strasburg edition that “the booksellers carry about a certain epigram of our Philesius in a little book of Vespucci’s translated from Italian into Latin by Giocondo, of Verona, the architect of Venice.” Doubtless Ringman is here spoken of as “our Philesius,” because he had become identified with Lud’s college, where he was the professor of Latin. It seems almost certain, therefore, that the interest at St.-Dié in Vespucci’s voyages was inspired by Ringman, whether his enthusiasm was first aroused by his friendship with Giocondo at Paris, or whether, as Varnhagen supposes, it was the result of a visit or two to Italy. The latter question is not of much moment, except as a speculation; and certainly it is not a straining of probabilities to doubt if Ringman would have taken for his Strasburg edition of 1505 the Giocondo translation, as Lud says he did, if he had himself translated, as Varnhagen supposes, the Augsburg edition of 1504.

Lud also asserts in the Speculum that the French copy of the Quatuor navigationes which was used at St.-Dié came from Portugal. Major supposes that Ringman’s enthusiasm may have led to correspondence with Vespucci, who was in Portugal till 1505, and that he caused his letters to be put into French and sent to Ringman at his request. The narrative of the third voyage in its several editions must have already given some renown to Vespucci. Here were other narratives of other voyages by the same navigator. The clever and enterprising young professors, eager for the dissemination of knowledge, and not unmindful, possibly, of the credit of their college, brought out the letters as a part of the Cosmographiæ introductio by Hylacomylus—Martin Waldzeemüller—the teacher of geography, and the proof-reader to their new press. Their prince, René II., was known as a patron of learning; and it is more likely that they should have prefixed his name to the letters than that Vespucci should have done so. Their zeal undoubtedly was greater than their knowledge; for had they known more of the discoveries of the previous fifteen years they would have hesitated to give to the new continent the name of one who would be thereby raised thenceforth from comparative, though honorable, obscurity to dishonorable distinction. That Vespucci himself, however, was responsible for this there is no positive evidence; and were it not for the difficulty of explaining his constant insistence of the completion of four voyages, it might be possible to find some plausible explanation of the confusion of the St.-Dié book.

In that book are these words: “And the fourth part of the world having been discovered by Americus, it may be called Amerige; that is, the land of[148] Americus or America.”[465] And again: “Now truly, as these regions are more widely explored, and another fourth part is discovered, by Americus Vesputius, as may be learned from the following letters, I see no reason why it should not be justly called Amerigen,—that is, the land of Americus, or America, from Americus, its discoverer, a man of acute intellect; inasmuch as both Europe and Asia have chosen their names from the feminine form.”[466]

It was discovered, less than half a century ago, through the diligent researches of Humboldt, that this professor of geography at St.-Dié, Hylacomylus, was thus the inventor, so to speak, of this word America. That it came at last to be received as the designation of the western continent was due, perhaps, very much to the absence of any suggestion of any other distinctive name that seemed appropriate and was generally acceptable. Rare as the little work, the Cosmographiæ introductio, now is, it was probably well known at the time of the publication of its several editions; as the central position of St.-Dié—between France, Germany, and Italy—gave to the book, as Humboldt thought, a wide circulation, impressing the word America upon the learned world. The name, however, came very slowly into use, appearing only occasionally in some book, till in 1522 it gained a more permanent place on a mappemonde in the Geographia of Ptolemy. From that time it appeared frequently upon other maps, and by the middle of the century became generally recognized outside of Spain, at least, as the established continental name. But the effect of its suggestion was more immediate upon the fame of Vespucci. While the learned understood that the great captain of that time was Christopher Columbus, the name of Amerigo was often united with his as deserving of at least the second place, and sometimes even of the first. The celebrity which Hylacomylus bestowed upon him was accepted for performance by those who were ignorant of the exact truth; and those who knew better did not give themselves the trouble to correct the error.

In each of Vespucci’s voyages he probably held a subordinate position. His place may sometimes have been that of a pilot,[467] or as the commander of a single ship, or attached to the fleet, as Herrera[468] says he was in Ojeda’s expedition (1499), “as merchant, being skilful in cosmography and navigation.” Vespucci himself does not in so many words assert that he[149] was in command of the expeditions upon which he sailed, while he occasionally alludes, though usually in terms of contempt, to those whose authority was above his own. Once he speaks of Columbus, and then almost parenthetically, as the discoverer merely of the Island of Hispaniola; but of other of his achievements, or of those of other eminent navigators, he has nothing to say. In reply to such criticisms of his letters it has been urged on his behalf that they were written for intimate friends, as familiar narratives of personal experiences, and not meant to be, in any broad sense, historical. But the deception was as absolute as if it had been deliberately contrived; and, whether intentional or not, was never by act or word corrected, though Vespucci lived for five years after the appearance of the letters from the St.-Dié press.

But whatever can be or may be said in extenuation of Vespucci, or however strong the reasons for supposing that for whatever was reprehensible in the matter he was innocent and the St.-Dié professors alone responsible, there nevertheless remains the one thing unexplained and inexplicable,—his own repeated assertion that he made four voyages. Humboldt supposes that the narrative of the first, so called, of these four voyages, beginning in May, 1497, was made up of that on which Vespucci certainly sailed with Ojeda, starting in May, 1499. The points of resemblance are so many and so striking as to seem not only conclusive, but to preclude any other theory. If this be true, then it follows that the narrative of the voyage of 1497 was simply a forgery, whosoever was responsible for it; and if a forgery, then Vespucci was not the discoverer of the western continent, and an historical renown was given to his name to which he was not entitled.

The second of the assumed four voyages Humboldt supposes to be the first voyage of Vincente Yañez Pinzon,—hesitating, however, between that and the voyage of Diego de Lepe: the former sailing with four ships in December, 1499, and returning in September, 1500; the latter with two ships, in January, 1500, and returning in June. Vespucci says that he had two ships; that he sailed in May, 1499, and returned in June or September of the next year. It is of the first voyage of 1497 that he says he had four ships. As on that assumed voyage there are many incidents identical with those related of Ojeda’s voyage of 1499, so here there are strong points of resemblance between Vespucci’s supposed second voyage and that of Pinzon. In both cases, however, there are irreconcilable differences, which Humboldt does not attempt to disguise; while at the same time they indicate either dishonesty on the part of Vespucci in his letters, or that those letters were tampered with by others, either ignorantly or with dishonest intent, to which Vespucci afterward tacitly assented.

It would be hypercritical to insist upon a strict adherence to the dates of the several voyages, and then to decide that the voyages were impossible because the dates are irreconcilable. The figures are sometimes obviously mere blunders; as, for example, the assertion in the St.-Dié edition that the second voyage was begun in May, 1489, when it had been already said that[150] the first voyage was made in 1497. But there are statements of facts, nevertheless, which it is necessary to reconcile with dates; and when this is impossible, a doubt of truthfulness is so far justifiable. Thus in the relation of the second voyage Vespucci asserts, or is made to assert, that on the 23d of August, 1499, he saw while at sea a conjunction of Mars and the Moon. That phenomenon did occur at that time, as Humboldt learned from the Ephemeris; and if it was observed by Vespucci at sea, that could not have been upon a voyage with Pinzon, who did not sail till (December, 1499) four months after the conjunction of the planets. But here, moreover, arises another difficulty: Vespucci’s second voyage, in which he observed this conjunction, could not have been made with Ojeda, and must have been made with Pinzon, if on other points the narrative be accepted; for it was upon that voyage that Vespucci says he sailed several degrees south of the equinoctial line to the mouth of the Amazon,—which Pinzon did do, and Ojeda did not. These and other similar discrepancies have led naturally to the suspicion that the incidents of more than one expedition were used, with more or less discrimination, but with little regard to chronology, for the composition of a plausible narrative of two voyages made in the service of Spain. One blunder, detected by Navarrete in this so-called second voyage, it is quite incredible that Vespucci could have committed; for according to the course pursued and the distance sailed, his ships would have been navigated over nearly three hundred leagues of dry land into the interior of the continent. No critical temerity is required to see in such a blunder the carelessness of a copyist or a compositor.

It was of the first voyage from Lisbon—the third of the Quatuor navigationes—that, as has been already said, a narrative was first published in a letter addressed to Lorenzo de’ Medici. This was illustrated with diagrams of some of the constellations of the southern hemisphere; and the repute it gave to the writer led the way to his subsequent fame. What Vespucci’s position was in the expedition is not known; but that it was still a subordinate one is evident from his own words, as he speaks of a commander, though only to find fault with him, and without giving his name. The object of the expedition was to discover the western passage to the Spice Islands of the East (Melcha, Melacca, Malaccha, according to the varying texts of different editions of the letter); and though the passage was not found, the voyage was, like Cabot’s, one of the boldest and most important of the age. But it is also, of all Vespucci’s voyages, real or assumed, that which has been most disputed. Navarrete, however, after a careful examination of all the evidence that touches the question, comes to the conclusion that such an expedition, on which Vespucci may have gone in some subordinate position, was really sent out in 1501 by the King of Portugal; and Humboldt concurs in this opinion.

The Terra de Vera Cruz, or Brazil, as it was afterward named, was visited successively for the first time, from January to April, 1500, by Pinzon, De Lepe, De Mendoza, and Cabral. But the expedition to which Vespucci was[151] attached explored the coast from the fifth parallel of southern latitude, three degrees north of Cape St. Augustin,—first discovered and so named by Pinzon,—as far south, perhaps, as about the thirty-eighth parallel of latitude. They had sailed along the coast for about seven hundred leagues; and so beautiful was the country, so luxuriant its vegetation, so salubrious its climate, where men did not die till they were a hundred and fifty years old, that Vespucci was persuaded—as Columbus, only three years before, had said of the region drained by the Orinoco—that the earthly Paradise was not far off. Gold, the natives said, was abundant in the interior; but as the visitors found none, it was determined at last to continue the voyage in another direction, leaving behind them this coast, of what seemed to Vespucci a continent, along which they had sailed from the middle of August to the middle of February. Starting now on the 15th of February from the mainland, they steered southeast, till they reached, on the 3d of April, the fifty-second degree of latitude. They had sailed through stormy seas, driven by violent gales, running away from daylight into nights of fifteen hours in length, and encountering a severity of cold unknown in Southern Europe, and quite beyond their power of endurance. A new land at length was seen; but it only needed a few hours of observation of its dangerous, rocky, and ice-bound coast to satisfy them that it was a barren, uninhabited, and uninhabitable region. This, Varnhagen suggests most reasonably, was the Island of Georgia, rediscovered by Captain Cook nearly three centuries afterward.

The return to Lisbon was in September, 1502. By order of the King, Vespucci sailed again in May, 1503, from Lisbon on a second voyage,—the fourth of his Quatuor navigationes. The object, as before, was to find a western passage to the Moluccas; for it was the trade of India, not new discoveries in the western continent, upon which the mind of the King was bent. There were six ships in this new expedition; and it is generally agreed that as Gonzalo Coelho sailed from Lisbon in May, 1503, by order of Emanuel, in command of six ships, Vespucci probably held a subordinate position in that fleet. He does not name Coelho, but he refers to a superior officer as an obstinate and presumptuous man, who by his bad management wrecked the flagship. Vespucci may have been put in command of two of the ships by the King; with two, at any rate, he became separated, in the course of the voyage, from his commodore, and with them returned to Lisbon in June of the next year. The rest of the fleet Vespucci reported as lost through the pride and folly of the commander; and it was thus, he said, that God punished arrogance. But Vespucci either misunderstood the divine will or misjudged his commander, for the other ships soon after returned in safety.

The southernmost point reached by him on this voyage was the eighteenth degree of southern latitude. At this point, somewhere about Cape Frio, he built a fort, and left in it the crew of one of the two vessels which had been shipwrecked. The precise spot of this settlement is uncertain; but as it was planted by Vespucci, and as it was the first colony of Europeans[152] in that part of the New World, there was an evident and just propriety in bestowing the derivative—America—of his name upon the country, which at first was known as “The Land of the True Cross,” and afterward as “Brazil.” The name of Brazil was retained when the wider application—America—was given to the whole continent.

Soon after his return from this, the last of the Navigationes of which he himself, so far as is known, gave any account, he went back, in 1505, to Spain. It is conjectured that he made other voyages; but whether he did or did not, no absolute evidence has ever been found.[469] We know almost nothing of him up to that time except what is told by himself. When he ceased writing of his own exploits, then also the exploits ceased so far as can be learned from contemporary authors, who hitherto also had been silent about him. In 1508 (March 22) Ferdinand of Spain appointed him pilot-major of the kingdom,[470]—an office of dignity and importance, which probably he retained till he died (Feb. 22, 1512). His fame was largely posthumous; but a hemisphere is his monument. If not among the greatest of the world’s great men, he is among the happiest of those on whom good fortune has bestowed renown.

During recent years (1892-3) John Fiske, in his Discovery of America, vol. ii., has reinforced the argument of Varnhagen in favor of the disputed (1497) voyage of Vespucius; Henry Harrisse, in his Discovery of North America, rejects his own earlier arguments in its favor; Clements R. Markham, in Christopher Columbus, totally discredits the theory, and Justin Winsor, in his Christopher Columbus, has considered the proposition not proven.







WHILE Vespucius never once clearly affirms that he discovered the main, such an inference may be drawn from what he says. Peter Martyr gives no date at all for the voyage of Pinzon and Solis to the Honduras coast, which was later claimed by Oviedo and Gomara to have preceded that of Columbus to the main. Navarrete has pointed out the varied inconsistencies of the Vespucius narrative,[471] as well as the changes of the dates of the setting out and the return, as given in the various editions.[472] All of them give a period of twenty-nine months for a voyage which Vespucius says only took eighteen,—a difficulty Canovai and others have tried to get over by changing the date of return to 1498; and some such change was necessary to enable Vespucius to be in Spain to start again with Ojeda in May, 1499. Humboldt further instances a great variety of obvious typographical errors in the publications of that day,—as, for instance, where Oviedo says Columbus made his first voyage in 1491.[473] But, as shown in the preceding narrative, an allowance for errors of the press is not sufficient. In regard to the proof of an alibi which Humboldt brought forward from documents said to have been collected by Muñoz from the archives of the Casa de la Contratacion, it is unfortunate that Muñoz himself did not complete that part of his work which was to pertain to Vespucius, and that the documents as he collated them have not been published. In the absence of such textual demonstration, the inference which Humboldt drew from Navarrete’s representations of those documents has been denied by Varnhagen; and H. H. Bancroft in his Central America (i. 99, 102, 106) does not deem the proof complete.[474]

Vespucius’ own story for what he calls his second voyage (1499) is that he sailed from Cadiz shortly after the middle of May, 1499. The subsequent dates of his being on the coast are conflicting; but it would appear that he reached Spain on his return in June or September, 1500. We have, of course, his narrative of this voyage in the collective letter to Soderini;[475] but there is also an independent narrative, published by Bandini (p. 64) in 1745, said to have been written July 18, 1500, and printed from a manuscript preserved in the Riccardiana at Florence.[476] The testimony of Ojeda that Vespucius was his companion in the voyage of 1499-1500 seems to need the qualification that he was with him for a part, and not for the whole, of the voyage; and it has been advanced that Vespucius left Ojeda at Hispaniola, and, returning to Spain, sailed again with Pinzon in December, 1499,—thus attempting to account for the combination of events which seem to connect Vespucius with the voyages of both these navigators.


It is noteworthy that Oviedo, who sought to interpret Peter Martyr as showing that Solis and Pinzon had preceded Columbus to the main, makes no mention of Vespucius. There is no mention of him in what Beneventano furnished to the Ptolemy of 1508. Castanheda does not allude to him, nor does Barreiros in his De Ophira regione (Coimbra, 1560), nor Galvano in his Descobrimientos, nor Pedro Magalhaes de Gandavo in his account of Santa Cruz (1576).[477]

But it was not all forgetfulness as time went on. The currency to his fame which had been given by the De orbe antarctica, by the Paesi novamente, by the Cosmographiæ introductio, as well as by the Mundus novus and the publications which reflected these, was helped on in 1510 by the Roman archæologist Francesco Albertini in his Opusculum de mirabilibus Urbis Romæ, who finds Florence, and not Genoa, to have sent forth the discoverer of the New World.[478]

Two years later (1512) an edition of Pomponius Mela which Cocleus edited, probably at Nuremberg, contained, in a marginal note to a passage on the “Zona incognita,” the following words: “Verus Americus Vesputius iam nostro seculo | novū illū mundū invenissefert Portugalie Castilieq. regū navibus,” etc. Pighius in 1520 had spoken of the magnitude of the region discovered by Vespucius, which had gained it the appellation of a new world.[479] The references in Glareanus, Apian, Phrysius, and Münster show familiarity with his fame by the leading cosmographical writers of the time. Natale Conti, in his Universæ historiæ sui temporis libri XXX (1545-1581), brought him within the range of his memory.[480] In 1590 Myritius, in his Opusculum geographicum, the last dying flicker, as it was, of a belief in the Asian connection of the New World,[481] repeats the oft-told story,—“De Brasilia, terrâ ignis, de meridionali parte Africæ ab Alberico Vesputio inventa.”

In the next century the story is still kept up by the Florentine, Francesco Bocchi, in his Libri duo elogiorum (1607),[482] and by another Florentine, Raffael Gualterotti, in a poem, L’ America (1611),[483]—not to name many others.[484]

But all this fame was not unclouded, and it failed of reflection in some quarters at least. The contemporary Portuguese pilots and cosmographers give no record of Vespucius’ eminence as a nautical geometrician. The Portuguese annalist Damião de Goes makes no mention of him. Neither Peter Martyr nor Benzoni allows him to have preceded Columbus. Sebastian Cabot, as early as 1515, questioned if any faith could be placed in the voyage of 1497 “which Americus says he made.” It is well known that Las Casas more than intimated the chance of his being an impostor; nor do we deduce from the way that his countrymen, Guicciardini[485] and Segni, speak of him, that their faith in the prior claim in his behalf was stable.

An important contestant appeared in Herrera in 1601,[486] who openly charged Vespucius with falsifying his dates and changing the date of 1499 to 1497; Herrera probably followed Las Casas’ manuscripts which he had.[487] The allegation fell in with the prevalent indignation that somebody, rather than a blind fortune, had deprived Columbus of the naming of the New World; and Herrera helped this belief by stating positively that the voyage of Pinzon and Solis, which had been depended upon to antedate Columbus, had taken place as late as 1506.

In the last century Angelo Maria Bandini attempted to stay this tide of reproach in the Vita e lettere di Amerigo Vespucci, gentiluomo fiorentino, which was printed at Florence in 1745.[488] It was too manifestly an unbounded panegyric to enlist the sympathy of scholars. More attention[155] was aroused[489] by an address, with equal adulation, which Stanislao Canovai delivered to the Academy at Cortona in 1788, and which was printed at once as Elogio di Amerigo Vespucci, and various times afterward, with more or less change, till it appeared to revive anew the antagonism of scholars, in 1817.[490] Muñoz had promised to disclose the impostures of Vespucius, but his uncompleted task fell to Santarem, who found a sympathizer in Navarrete; and Santarem’s labored depreciation of Vespucius first appeared in Navarrete’s Coleccion,[491] where Canovai’s arguments are examined at length, with studied refutations of some points hardly worth the labor. This paper was later expanded, as explained in another place.

He claims that one hundred thousand documents in the Royal Archives of Portugal, and the register of maps which belonged to King Emmanuel, make no mention of Vespucius,[492] and that there is no register of the letters-patent which Vespucius claimed to have received. Nor is there any mention in several hundred other contemporary manuscripts preserved in the great library at Paris, and in other collections, which Santarem says he has examined.[493]

An admirer of Vespucius, and the most prominent advocate of a belief in the disputed voyage of 1497, is Francisco Adolpho de Varnhagen, the Baron de Porto Seguro. As early as 1839, in notes to his Diario of Lopez de Souza, he began a long series of publications in order to counteract the depreciation of Vespucius by Ayres de Cazal, Navarrete, and Santarem. In 1854, in his Historia geral do Brazil, he had combated Humboldt’s opinion that it was Pinzon with whom Vespucius had sailed on his second voyage, and had contended for Ojeda. Varnhagen not only accepts the statements of the St.-Dié publications regarding that voyage, but undertakes to track the explorer’s course. In his Amerigo Vespucci, son caractère, etc., he gives a map marking the various voyages of the Florentine.[494] For the voyage of 1497 he makes him strike a little south of west from the Canaries; but leaving his course a blank from the mid-Atlantic, he resumes it at Cape Gracias a Dios on the point of Honduras,[495] and follows it by the coast thence to the Chesapeake, when he passes by Bermuda,[496] and reaches Seville. In this he departs from all previous theories of the landfall, which had placed the contact on the coast of Paria. He takes a view of the Ruysch map[497] of 1508 different from that of any other commentator, in holding the smaller land terminated with a scroll to be not Cuba, but a part of the main westerly, visited by Vespucius in this 1497 voyage; and recently Harrisse, in his Cortereal,[498] argues that the descriptions of Vespucius in this disputed voyage[156] correspond more nearly with the Cantino map[499] than with any other. Harrisse also asks if Waldseemüller did not have such a map as Cantino’s before him; and if the map of Vespucius, which Peter Martyr says Fonseca had, may not have been the same?

Varnhagen, as might be expected in such an advocate, turns every undated incident in Vespucius’ favor if he can. He believes that the white-bearded men who the natives said preceded the Spaniards were Vespucius and his companions. A letter of Vianello, dated Dec. 28, 1506, which Humboldt quotes as mentioning an early voyage in which La Cosa took part, but hesitates to assign to any particular year, Varnhagen eagerly makes applicable to the voyage of 1497.[500] The records of the Casa de la Contratacion which seem to be an impediment to a belief in the voyage, he makes to have reference, not to the ships of Columbus, but to those of Vespucius’ own command. Varnhagen’s efforts to elucidate the career of Vespucius have been eager, if not in all respects conclusive.[501]

We get upon much firmer ground when we come to the consideration of the voyage of 1501,—the first for Portugal, and the third of Vespucius’ so-called four voyages. It seems clear that this voyage was ordered by the Portuguese Government to follow up the chance discovery of the Brazil coast by Cabral in 1500, of which that navigator had sent word back by a messenger vessel. When the new exploring fleet sailed is a matter of uncertainty, for the accounts differ,—the Dutch edition of the account putting it as early as May 1, 1501, while one account places it as late as June 10.[502] When the fleet reached the Cape de Verde Islands, it found there Cabral’s vessels on the return voyage; and what Vespucius here learned from Cabral he embodied in a letter, dated June 4, 1501, which is printed by Baldelli in his Il Milione di Marco Polo, from a manuscript preserved in the Riccardiana Collection.[503] Some time in August—for the exact day is in dispute—he struck the coast of South America, and coursed southward,—returning to Lisbon Sept. 7, 1502.[504]

Vespucius now wrote an account of it, addressed to Lorenzo Piero Francesco de Medici,[505] in which he proposed a designation of the new regions, “novum mundum appellare licet.” Such is the Latin phraseology, for the original Italian text is lost.[506] Within the next two years numerous[157] issues of Giocondo’s Latin text were printed, only two of which are dated,—one at Augsburg in 1504, the other at Strasburg in 1505; and, with a few exceptions, they all, by their published title, gave currency to the designation of Mundus novus.

The earliest of these editions is usually thought to be one Alberic’ vespucci’ laurētio petri francisci de medicis Salutem plurimā dicit, of which a fac-simile of the title is annexed, and which bears the imprint of Jehan Lambert.[507] It is a small plaquette of six leaves; and there are copies in the Lenox and Carter-Brown collections. D’Avezac, and Harrisse, in his later opinion (Additions, p. 19), agree in supposing this the first edition. The dated (1504) Augsburg edition, Mundus novus, is called “extraordinarily rare” by Grenville, who had a copy, now in the British Museum. On the reverse of the fourth and last leaf we read: “Magister Johānes otmar: vindelice impressit Auguste Anno millesimo quingentesimo quarto.” There are copies in the Lenox and Carter-Brown libraries.[508] An edition, Mundus novus, whose four unnumbered leaves, forty lines to the full page, correspond wholly with this last issue, except that for the dated colophon the words Laus Deo are substituted, was put at first by Harrisse[509] at the head of the list, with this title. There is a copy in the Lenox Library, which has another issue, Mundus novus, also in black-letter, forty-two lines to the page;[510] still another, Mundus novus, forty lines to the page;[511] and another, with the words Mundus novus in Roman, of eight leaves, thirty lines to the page.[512] At this point in his enumeration Harrisse placed originally the Jehan Lambert issue (mentioned[158] above), and after it a Mundus novus printed in Paris by Denys Roce, of which only a fragment (five leaves) exists, sold in the Libri sale in London, 1865, and now in the British Museum.[513] Another Paris edition, Mundus novus, printed by Gilles de Gourmont, eight leaves, thirty-one lines to the page, is, according to Harrisse,[514] known only in a copy in the Lenox Library; but D’Avezac refers to a copy in the National Library in Paris.[515]


Harrisse, no. 29. Cf. Navarrete, Opúsculos i. 99.

Another Mundus novus is supposed by Harrisse to have been printed somewhere in the lower Rhineland, and to bear the mark of Wm. Vorsterman, of Antwerp, on the last leaf, merely to give it currency in the Netherlands. It has four leaves, and forty-four lines to the full page. There are copies in the Lenox and Harvard College libraries.[516] The Serapeum for January, 1861, describes a Mundus novus as preserved in the Mercantile Library at Hamburg,—a plaquette of four leaves, with[159] forty-five lines to the page,—which seems to differ from all others.[517] Later, in his Additions (1872), Harrisse described other issues of the Novus mundus which do not seem to be identical with those mentioned in his Bibliotheca Americana Vetustissima. One of these—Mūdus novus, printed in a very small gothic letter, four leaves—he found in the Biblioteca Cosatenense at Rome.[518] The other has for the leading title, Epistola Albericii: de novo mundo,—a plaquette of four leaves, forty-eight lines to the page, with map and woodcut.[519]

This letter of Vespucius was again issued at Strasburg in 1505, with the title Be [De] ora antarctica, as shown in the annexed fac-simile; and joined with this text, in the little six-leaved tract, was a letter of Philesius to Bruno, and some Latin verses by Philesius; and in this form we have it probably for the last time in that language.[520] This Philesius we shall encounter again later.

It was this Latin rendering by Giocondo, the architect, as Harrisse thinks,[521] upon which the Italian text of the Paesi novamente was founded. Varnhagen in his Amerigo Vespucci, son caractère (p. 13), prints side by side this Italian and the Latin text, marking different readings in the latter. In this same year (1505) the first German edition was issued at Nuremberg, though it is undated: Von der new gefundē Region die wol ein welt genennt mag werden durch den cristenlichen Künig von Portugall wunnderbarlich erfunden.[522] The colophon shows that this German version was made from a copy of the Latin text[160] brought from Paris in May, 1505: Ausz latein ist dist missiue in Teütsch gezogē ausz dem exemplar das von Parisz kam ym maien monet nach Christi geburt, Funfftzenhundert vnnd Fünffjar. Gedruckt yn Nüremburg durch Wolffgang Hueber. The full page of this edition has thirty-seven lines.


This follows the fac-simile given in Ruge’s Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, p. 333, of an edition in the Royal Library at Dresden.

Another edition, issued the same year (1505), shows a slight change in the title, Von der neü gefunden Region so wol ein welt genempt mag werden, durch den Christēlichen künig, von Portigal wunderbarlich erfunden. This is followed by the same cut of the King, and has a similar colophon. Its full page contains thirty-three lines.[523]

Still another edition of the same year and publisher shows thirty-five lines to the page, and above the same cut the title reads: Von der neu[161] gefunden Region die wol ein welt genent mag werden durch den Cristenlichen künig von portigal wunderbarlich erfunden.


This follows the fac-simile given in Ruge’s Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, p. 334, of the reverse of title of a copy preserved in the Royal Library at Dresden.

This is the copy described in the Carter-Brown Catalogue (vol. i. no. 26), and seems to correspond to the copy in the Dresden Library, of which fac-similes of the title and its reverse are given herewith.[524]

Harrisse[525] cites a copy in the British Museum (Grenville), which has thirty-five lines to the page, with the title: Vonderneüw gefunden Region, etc. It is without date and place; but Harrisse sets it under 1505, as he does another issue, Von der Neüwen gefundē Region, of which he found a copy in the Royal Library at Munich,[526] and still another, Von den Nawen Insulen unnd Landen, printed at Leipsic.[527]

In 1506 there were two editions,—one published at Strasburg,[528] Von den Nüwe Insulē und landen (eight leaves); and the other at Leipsic, Von den newen Insulen und Landen (six leaves).[529]


In 1508 there was, according to Brunet,[530] a Strasburg edition, Von den Neüwen Insulen und Landen. There was also a Dutch edition, Van der nieuwer werelt, etc., printed at Antwerp by Jan van Doesborgh, which was first made known by Muller, of Amsterdam, through his Books on America (1872, no. 24). It is a little quarto tract of eight leaves, without date, printed in gothic type, thirty and thirty-one lines to the page, with various woodcuts. It came from an “insignificant library,”—that of the architect Bosschaert,[531]—sold in 1871 in Antwerp, and was bound up with three other tracts of the first ten years of the sixteenth century. It cost Muller 830 florins, and subsequently passed into the Carter-Brown Library, and still remains unique. Muller had placed it between 1506 and 1509; but Mr. Bartlett, in the Carter-Brown Catalogue (vol. i. no. 38), assigns it to 1508. Muller had also given a fac-simile of the first page; but only the cut on that page is reproduced in the Carter-Brown Catalogue (i. 46), as well as a cut showing a group of four Indians, which is on the reverse of the last leaf. Mr. Carter-Brown printed a fac-simile edition (twenty-five copies) in 1874 for private distribution.[532]

That portion of the Latin letter which Vespucius addressed to Soderini on his four voyages differs from the text connected with Giocondo’s name, and will be found in the various versions of the Paesi novamente and in Grynæus, as well as in Ramusio (i. 128), Bandini (p. 100), and Canovai in Italian, and in English in Kerr’s Voyages (vol. iii., 1812, p. 342) and in Lester (p. 223). There are also German versions in Voss, Allerälteste Nachricht von den neuen Welt (Berlin, 1722), and in Spanish in Navarrete’s Coleccion (iii. 190).

There is another text, the “Relazione,” published by Francesco Bartolozzi in 1789,[533] after it had long remained in manuscript; it also is addressed to the same Lorenzo.[534] If the original account as written by Vespucius himself was in Portuguese and addressed to King Manoel, it is lost.[535]

Of the Vespucius-Coelho voyage we have only the account which is given in connection with the other three, in which Vespucius gives May 10 as the date of sailing; but Coelho is known to have started June 10, with six ships. Varnhagen has identified the harbor, where he left the shipwrecked crew, with Port Frio.[536] Returning, they reached Lisbon June 18 (or 28), and on the 4th of the following September Vespucius dated his account.[537]

If we draw a line from Nancy to Strasburg as the longer side of a triangle, its apex to the south will fall among the Vosges, where in a secluded valley lies the town of St.-Dié. What we see there to-day of man’s work is scarcely a century and a half old; for the place was burned in 1756, and shortly after rebuilt. In the early part of the sixteenth century St.-Dié was in the dominion of Duke René of Lorraine. It had its cathedral and a seminary of learning (under the patronage of the Duke), and a printing-press had been set up there. The reigning prince, as an enlightened friend of erudition, had drawn to his college a number of learned men; and Pico de Mirandola, in addressing a letter to the editor of the Ptolemy of 1513, expressed surprise that so scholarly a body of men existed in so obscure a place. Who were these scholars?

The chief agent of the Duke in the matter seems to have been his secretary, Walter Lud or Ludd, or Gualterus Ludovicus, as his name was latinized. The preceding narrative has indicated his position in this learned community,[538] and has cited the little tractate of four leaves by him, the importance of which was first discovered, about twenty years ago, by Henry Stevens,[539][163] and of which the only copies at present known are in the British Museum and the Imperial Library at Vienna.[540] From this tiny Speculum, as we shall see, we learn some important particulars. Just over the line of Lorraine, and within the limits of Alsace, there was born and had lived a certain Mathias Ringmann or Ringman. In these early years of the century (1504) he was a student in Paris among the pupils of a certain Dr. John Faber,—to be in other ways, as we shall see, connected with the development of the little story now in progress. In Paris at the same time, and engaged in building the Notre Dame bridge, was the Veronese architect Fra Giovanni Giocondo. Major thinks there is great reason for believing that the young Alsatian student formed the acquaintance of the Italian architect, and was thus brought to entertain that enthusiasm for Vespucius which Giocondo, as a countryman of the navigator, seems to have imparted to his young friend. At least the little that is known positively seems to indicate this transmission of admiration.

We must next revert to what Vespucius himself was doing to afford material for this increase of his fame. On his return from his last voyage he had prepared an account at full length of his experiences in the New World, “that coming generations might remember him.” No such ample document, however, is now known. There was at this time (1504) living in Florence a man of fifty-four, Piero Soderini, who two years before, had been made perpetual Gonfaloniere of the city. He had been a schoolmate of Vespucius; and to him, dating from Lisbon, Sept. 4, 1504, the navigator addressed an account of what he called his four voyages, abstracted as is supposed from the larger narrative. The original text of this abstract is also missing, unless we believe, with Varnhagen, that the text which he gives in his Amerigo Vespucci, son caractère, etc. (p. 34), printed at Lima in 1865, is such, which he supposes to have been published at Florence in 1505-1506, since a printed copy of an Italian text, undated, had been bought by him in Havana (1863) in the same covers with another tract of 1506.[541] Other commentators have not placed this Italian tract so early. It has not usually been placed before 1510.[542] Dr. Court put it before 1512. Harrisse gave it the date of 1516 because he had found it bound with another tract of that date; but in his Additions, p. xxv, he acknowledges the reasons inconclusive. Major contends that there is no reason to believe that any known Italian text antedates the Latin, yet to be mentioned. This Italian text is called Lettera di Amerigo Vespucci delle isole nuovamente trovate in quattro suoi viaggi ... Data in Lisbona a di 4 di Septembre, 1504. It is a small quarto of sixteen leaves.[543]

Varnhagen does not question that the early Italian print is the better text, differing as it does from Bassin’s Latin; and he follows it by preference in all his arguments. He complains that Bandini and Canovai reprinted it with many errors.

Ramusio in his first volume had reprinted that part of it which covers the third and fourth voyage; and it had also been given in French in the collection of Jean Temporal at Lyons in 1556, known otherwise as Jean Leon’s (Leo Africanus) Historiale description de l’Afrique, with a preface by Ramusio.[544]

It is Major’s belief that the original text of the abstract intended for Soderini was written in a sort of composite Spanish-Italian dialect, such as an Italian long in the service of[164] the Iberian nations might acquire,[545] and that a copy of it coming into the possession of Vespucius’ countryman, Giocondo, in Paris, it was by that architect translated into French, and at Ringmann’s suggestion addressed to René and intrusted to Ringmann to convey to the Duke, of whom the Alsatian felt proud, as an enlightened sovereign whose dominions were within easy reach of his own home. Major also suggests that the preliminary parts of the narrative, referring to the school-day acquaintance of Vespucius with the person whom he addressed, while it was true of Soderini,[546] was not so of René; but, being retained, has given rise to confusion.[547] Lud tells us only that the letters were sent from Portugal to René in French, and Waldseemüller says that they were translated from the Italian to the French, but without telling us whence they came.

We know, at all events, that Ringmann returned to the Vosges country, and was invited to become professor of Latin in the new college, where he taught thereafter, and that he had become known, as was the fashion, under the Latin name of Philesius, whose verses have already been referred to. The narrative of Vespucius, whether Ringmann brought it from Paris, or however it came, was not turned from the French into Latin by him,[548] but, as Lud informs us, by another canon of the Cathedral, Jean Bassin de Sandacourt, or Johannes Basinus Sandacurius, as he appears in Lud’s Latin.

Just before this, in 1504, there had joined the college, as teacher of geography, another young man who had classicized his name, and was known as Hylacomylus. It was left, as has been mentioned, for Humboldt (Examen critique, iv. 99) to identify him as Martin Waltzemüller,—who however preferred to write it Waldseemüller.

It was a project among this St.-Dié coterie to edit Ptolemy,[549] and illustrate his cosmographical views, just as another coterie at Vienna were engaged then and later in studying the complemental theories of Pomponius Mela. Waldseemüller, as the teacher of geography, naturally assumed control of this undertaking; and the Duke himself so far encouraged the scheme as to order the engraving of a map to accompany the exposition of the new discoveries,—the same which is now known as the Admiral’s map.[550]

In pursuance of these studies Waldseemüller had prepared a little cosmographical treatise, and this it was now determined to print at the College Press at St.-Dié. Nothing could better accompany it than the Latin translation of the Four Voyages of Vespucius and some verses by Philesius; for Ringmann, as we have seen, was a verse-maker, and had a local fame as a Latin poet. Accordingly, unless Varnhagen’s theory is true, which most critics are not inclined to accept, these letters of Vespucius first got into print, not in their original Italian, but in a little Latin quarto of Waldseemüller, printed in this obscure nook of the Vosges. Under the title of Cosmographiæ introductio, this appeared twice, if not oftener, in 1507.[551]

To establish the sequence of the editions of the Cosmographiæ introductio in 1507[552] is a bibliographical task of some difficulty, and experts are at variance. D’Avezac (Waltzemüller, p. 112) makes four editions in 1507, and establishes a test for distinguishing them by taking the first line of the title, together with the date of the colophon; those of May corresponding to the 25th of April, and those of September to the 29th of August:—

1. Cosmographiæ introdu—vij kl’ Maij.
2. Cosmographiæ introductio—vij kl’ Maij.
3. Cosmographiæ—iiij kl’ Septembris.
4. Cosmographiæ introdu—iiij kl’ Septembris.


(Reduced after map in Bunbury’s Ancient Geography, London, 1879, vol. ii.)


The late Henry C. Murphy[553] maintained that nos. 1 and 4 in this enumeration are simply made up from nos. 2 and 3 (the original May and September editions), to which a new title,—the same in each case,—with the substitution of other leaves for the originals of leaves 1, 2, 5, and 6,—also the same in each case,—was given. Harrisse, however, dissents, and thinks D’Avezac’s no. 1 a genuine first edition. The only copy of it known[554] was picked up on a Paris quay for a franc by the geographer Eyriès, which was sold at his death, in 1846, for 160 francs, and again at the Nicholas Yéméniz sale (Lyons, no. 2,676), in 1867, for 2,000 francs. It is now in the Lenox Library.[555]

Of the second of D’Avezac’s types there are several copies known. Harrisse[556] names the copies in the Lenox, Murphy,[557] and Carter-Brown[558] collections. There is a record of other copies in the National Library at Rio Janeiro,[559] in the Royal Library at Berlin,[560] in the Huth Collection[561] in London, and in the Mazarine Library in Paris,—a copy which D’Avezac[562] calls “irréprochable.” Tross held a copy in 1872 for 1,500 francs. Waldseemüller’s name does not appear in these early May issues, which are little quartos of fifty-two leaves, twenty-seven lines to the full page, with an inscription of twelve lines, in Roman type, on the back of the folding sheet of a skeleton globe.[563]

On the 29th of August (iiij kl’ Septembris) it was reissued, still without Waldseemüller’s name, of the same size, and fifty-two leaves; but the folding sheet bears on the reverse an inscription in fifteen lines. The ordinary title is D’Avezac’s no. 3. Harrisse[564] mentions the Lenox and Carter-Brown[565] copies; but there are others in Harvard College Library (formerly the Cooke copy, no. 625, besides an imperfect copy which belonged to Charles Sumner), in Charles Deane’s Collection, and in the Barlow Library. The Murphy Library had a copy (no. 680) in its catalogue, and the house of John Wiley’s Sons advertised a copy in New York in 1883 for $350.

There are records of copies in Europe,—in the Imperial Library at Vienna, in the National Library at Paris, and in the Huth Collection (Catalogue, i. 356) in London. D’Avezac (Waltzemüller, pp. 54, 55) describes a copy which belonged to Yéméniz, of Lyons. Brockhaus advertised one in 1861 (Trömel, no. 1). Another was sold in Paris for 2,000 francs in 1867. There was another in the Sobolewski sale (no. 3,769), and one in the Court Catalogue (no. 92). Leclerc, 1878 (no. 599), has advertised one for 500 francs, Harrassowitz, 1881, (no. 309) one for 1,000 marks, and Rosenthal, of Munich, in 1884 (no. 30) held one at 3,000 marks. One is also shown in the Catalogue of the Reserved and Most Valuable Portion of the Libri Collection (no. 15).

The latter portion of the book, embracing the Quattuor Americi Vesputii navigationes, seems to have been issued also separately, and is still occasionally found.[566]

What seems to have been a composite edition, corresponding to D’Avezac’s fourth, made up, as Harrisse thinks (Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 47), of the introductory part of D’Avezac’s first and the voyages of his third edition, is also found, though very rarely. There is a copy in the Lenox Library of this description, and another, described by Harrisse, in the Mazarine Library in Paris.[567]

It was in this precious little quarto of 1507, whose complicated issues we have endeavored to trace, that, in the introductory portion, Waldseemüller, anonymously to the world, but doubtless with the privity of his fellow-collegians, proposed in two passages, already quoted, but here presented in fac-simile, to stand sponsor for the new-named western world; and with what result we shall see.



This is the third edition of D’Avezac’s enumeration.

It was a strange sensation to name a new continent, or even a hitherto unknown part of an old one. There was again the same uncertainty of continental lines as when Europe had been named[568] by the ancients, for there was now only the vaguest notion of what there was to be named. Columbus had already died in the belief that he had only touched the eastern limits of Asia. There is no good reason to believe that Vespucius himself was of a different mind.[569] So insignificant a gain to Europe had men come to believe these new islands, compared with the regions of wealth and spices with which Vasco da Gama and Cabral had opened trade by the African route, that the advocate and deluded finder of the western route had died obscurely, with scarcely a record being made of his departure. A few islands and their savage inhabitants[168] had scarcely answered the expectation of those who had pictured from Marco Polo the golden glories of Cathay.


That part of the page (sig. C) of the September edition (1507) which has the reference to America and Vespucius.


That part of the page of the 1507 (September) edition in which the name of America is proposed for the New World.

To Columbus himself the new-found regions were only “insulæ Indiæ super Gangem,”—India east of the Ganges; and the “Indies[169]” which he supposed he had found, and for whose native races the Asiatic name was borrowed and continues to abide, remained the Spanish designation of their possessions therein, though distinguished in time by the expletive West Indies.[570] It never occurred to the discoverers themselves to give a new name to regions which they sometimes designated generically as Mundus Novus or Alter Orbis; but it is doubtful as Humboldt says, if they intended by such designation any further description than that the parts discovered were newly found, just as Strabo, Mela, Cadamosto and others had used similar designations.[571] It was at a much later day, and when the continental character of the New World was long established, that some Spaniard suggested Colonia, or Columbiana; and another, anxious to commemorate the sovereigns of Castile and Leon, futilely coined the cumbrous designation of Fer-Isabelica.[572] When Columbus and others had followed a long stretch of the northern coast of South America without finding a break, and when the volume of water pouring through the mouths of the Orinoco betokened to his mind a vast interior, it began to be suspected that the main coast of Asia had been found; and the designation of Tierra firme was naturally attached to the whole region, of which Paria and the Pearl coast were distinguishable parts. This designation of Firm Land was gradually localized as explorations extended, and covered what later was known as Castilla del Oro; and began to comprehend in the time of Purchas,[573] for instance, all that extent of coast from Paria to Costa Rica.[574]

When Cabral in 1500 sighted the shores of Brazil, he gave the name of Terra Sanctæ Crucis to the new-found region,—the land of the Holy Cross; and this name continued for some time to mark as much as was then known of what we now call South America, and we find it in such early delineations as the Lenox globe and the map of Sylvanus in 1511.[575] It will be remembered that in 1502, after what is called his third voyage, Vespucius had simply named the same region Mundus Novus.

Thus in 1507 there was no general concurrence in the designations which had been bestowed on these new islands and coasts; and the only unbroken line which had then been discovered was that stretching from Honduras well down the eastern coast of South America, if Vespucius’ statement of having gone to the thirty-second degree of southern latitude was to be believed. After the exploration of this coast,—thanks to the skill of Vespucius in sounding his own exploits and giving them an attractive setting out,[576] aided, probably, by that fortuitous dispensation of fortune which sometimes awards fame where it is hardly deserved,—it had come to pass that the name of Vespucius had, in common report, become better associated than that of Columbus with the magnitude of the new discoveries. It was not so strange then as it appears now that the Florentine, rather than the Genoese, was selected for such continental commemoration. All this happened to some degree irrespective of the question of priority in touching Tierra Firme, as turning upon the truth or falsity of the date 1497 assigned to the first of the voyages of Vespucius.

The proposing of a name was easy; the acceptance of it was not so certain. The little tract had appeared without any responsible voucher. The press-mark of St.-Dié was not a powerful stamp. The community was obscure, and it had been invested with what influence it possessed by the association of Duke René with it.

This did not last long. The Duke died in 1508, and his death put a stop to the projected edition of Ptolemy and broke up the little press; so that next year (1509), when Waldseemüller planned a new edition of the Cosmographiæ introductio, it was necessary to commit it to Grüninger in Strasburg to print. In this edition Waldseemüller first signed his own name to the preface. Copies of this issue are somewhat less rare than those of 1507. It is a little tract of thirty-two leaves, some copies having fourteen, others fifteen, lines on the back of the folding sheet.[577] The Lenox Library has examples of each.



A section of the drawing given by Dr. De Costa in his monograph on the globe, showing the American parts reduced to a plane projection, and presenting the name of Terra Sanctæ Crucis. There is another sketch on p. 123.

There are other copies in the Carter-Brown (Catalogue, vol. i. no. 40), Barlow, and Harvard College libraries. Another is in the Force Collection, Library of Congress, and one was sold in the Murphy sale (no. 681). The copy which belonged to Ferdinand Columbus is still preserved in Seville; but its annotations do not signify that the statements in it respecting Vespucius’ discoveries attracted his attention.[578] It was this edition which Navarrete used when he made a Spanish version for[171] his Coleccion (iii. 183) D’Avezac used a copy in the Mazarine Library; and other copies are noted in the Huth (i. 356) and Sunderland (Catalogue, vol. v. no. 12,920) collections. The account of the voyages in this edition was also printed separately in German as Diss buchlin saget wie die zwē ... herrē, etc.[579]

While the Strasburg press was emitting this 1509 edition it was also printing the sheets of another little tract, the anonymous Globus mundi,[580] of which a fac-simile of the title is annexed, in which it will be perceived the bit of the New World shown is called “Newe welt,” and not America, though “America lately discovered” is the designation given in the text. The credit of the discovery is given unreservedly to Vespucius, and Columbus is not mentioned.[581]

The breaking up of the press was a serious blow to the little community at St.-Dié. Ringmann, in the full faith of completing the edition of Ptolemy which they had in view, had brought from Italy a Greek manuscript of the old geographer; but the poet was soon to follow his patron, for, having retired to Schlestadt, his native town, he died there in 1511 at the early age of twenty-nine. The Ptolemy project, however, did not fail. Its production was transferred to Strasburg; and there, in 1513, it appeared, including the series of maps associated ever since with the name of Hylacomylus, and showing evidences in the text of the use which had been made of Ringmann’s Greek manuscript.


We look to this book in vain for any attempt to follow up the conferring of the name of Vespucius on the New World. The two maps which it contains, showing the recent discoveries, are given in fac-simile on pages 111 and 112. In one the large region which stands for South America has no designation; in the other there is supposed to be some relation to Columbus’ own map, while it bears a legend which gives to Columbus unequivocally the credit of the discovery of the New World. It has been contended of late that the earliest cartographical application of the name is on two globes preserved in the collection of the Freiherr von Hauslab, in Vienna, one of which (printed) Varnhagen in his paper on Apianus and Schöner puts under 1509, and the other (manuscript) under 1513. Weiser in his Magalhâes-Strasse (p. 27)[172] doubts these dates.[582] The application of the new name, America, we also find not far from this time, say between 1512 and 1515, in a manuscript mappemonde (see p. 125) which Major, when he described it in the Archæologia (xl. p. 1), unhesitatingly ascribed to Leonardo da Vinci, thinking that he could trace certain relations between Da Vinci and Vespucius. This map bears distinctly the name America on the South American continent. Its connection with Da Vinci is now denied.


Not far from the same time a certain undated edition of the Cosmographiæ introductio appeared at Lyons, though no place is given. Of this[173] edition there are two copies in the British Museum, and others in the Lenox and Barlow collections; but they all lack a map,[583] which is found in a copy first brought to public attention by the bookseller Tross, of Paris, in 1881,[584] and which is now owned by Mr. C. H. Kalbfleisch, of New York. Its date is uncertain. Harrisse (Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 63) placed it first in 1510, but later (Cabots, p. 182) he dated it about 1514, as Tross had already done. D’Avezac (Waltzemüller, p. 123) thinks it could not have been earlier than 1517.[585]

The chief interest of this map to us is the fact that it bears the words “America noviter reperta” on what stands for South America; and there is fair ground for supposing that it antedates all other printed maps yet known which bear this name.

At not far from the same time, fixed in this instance certainly in 1515, we find America on the earliest known globe of Schöner.[586] Probably printed to accompany this globe, is a rare little tract, issued the same year (1515) at Nuremberg, under the title of Luculentissima quædā terræ totius descriptio. In this Schöner speaks of a “fourth part of the globe, named after its discoverer, Americus Vespucius, a man of sagacious mind, who found it in 1497,” adopting the controverted date.[587]

Meanwhile the fame of Vespucius was prospering with the Vienna coterie. One of them, Georg Tanstetter, sometimes called Collimitius, was editing the De natura locorum librum of Albertus Magnus; and apparently after the book was printed he made with type a marginal note, to cite the profession of Vespucius that he had reached to fifty degrees south, as showing that there was habitable land so far towards the Southern Pole.[588]

Joachim Watt, or Vadianus, as he was called in his editorial Latin, had in 1515 adopted the new name of America, and repeated it in 1518, when he reproduced his letter in his edition of Pomponius Mela, as explained on another page.[589] Apian had been employed to make the mappemonde for it, which was to show the new discoveries. The map seems not to have been finished in time; but when it appeared, two years later (1520), in the new edition of Solinus, by Camers, though it bore the name of America on the southern main, it still preserved the legend in connection therewith which awarded the discovery to Columbus.[590] Watt now quarrelled with Camers, for they had worked jointly, and their two books are usually found in one cover, with Apian’s map between them. Returning to St. Gall, Vadianus practised there as a physician, and reissued his Mela at Basle in 1522, dedicating it to that Dr. Faber who had been the teacher of Ringmann in Paris eighteen years before.[591]

In 1522 Lorenz Friess, or Laurentius Phrysius, another of Duke René’s coterie, a correspondent of Vespucius, published a new edition of Ptolemy at the Grüninger press in Strasburg, in which the fame of Columbus and Vespucius is kept up in the usual equalizing way. The preface, by Thomas Ancuparius, sounds the praises of the Florentine, ascribing to him the discovery “of what we to-day call America;” the Admiral’s map, Tabula Terre Nove,[592] which Waldseemüller had published in the 1513 edition, is once more reproduced, with other of the maps of that edition, re-engraved on a reduced[174] scale. The usual legend, crediting the discovery to Columbus, is shown in a section of the map, which is given in another place.[593] Phrysius acknowledges that the maps are essentially Waldseemüller’s, though they have some changes and additions; but he adds a new mappemonde of his own, putting the name America on the great southern main,—the first time of its appearing in any map of the Ptolemy series. A fac-simile is annexed.

There is thus far absolutely no proof that any one disputed the essential facts of the discovery by Columbus of the outlying islands of Asia, as the belief went, or denied him the credit of giving a new world to the crowns of Aragon and Castile, whether that were Asia or not. The maps which have come down to us, so far as they record anything, invariably give Columbus the credit. The detractors and panegyrists of Vespucius have asserted in turn that he was privy to the doings at St.-Dié and Strasburg, and that he was not; but proof is lacking for either proposition. No one can dispute, however, that he was dead before his name was applied to the new discoveries on any published map.

If indeed the date of 1497, as given by the St.-Dié publication, was correct, there might have been ground for adjudging his explorations of the mainland to have antedated those of Columbus; but the conclusion is irresistible that either the Spanish authorities did not know that such a claim had been made, or they deemed the date an error of the press; since to rely upon the claim would have helped them in their conflict with the heirs of Columbus, which began the year following the publication of that claim, or in 1508 and continued to vex all concerned till 1527; and during all that time Vespucius, as has been mentioned, is not named in the records of the proceedings. It is equally hard to believe that Ferdinand Columbus would have passed by a claim derogating from the fame of his father, if it had come to him as a positive assertion. That he knew of the St.-Dié tract we have direct evidence in his possession of a copy of it. That it did not trouble him we know also with as much confidence as negative testimony can impart; for we have no knowledge of his noticing it, but instead the positive assertion of a contemporary that he did not notice it.

The claim for Vespucius, however, was soon to be set up. In 1527 Las Casas began, if we may believe Quintana, the writing of his Historia.[594] It is not easy, however, to fix precisely the year when he tells us that the belief had become current of Vespucius being really the first to set his foot on the main. “Amerigo,” he tells us further,[595] “is said to have placed the name of America on maps,[596] thus sinfully failing toward the Admiral. If he purposely gave currency to this belief in his first setting foot on the main, it was a great wickedness; and if it was not done intentionally, it looks like it.” Las Casas still makes allowances, and fails of positive accusation, when again he speaks of “the injustice of Amerigo, or the injustice perhaps those who printed the Quattuor navigationes appear to have committed toward the Admiral;” and once more when he says that “foreign writers call the country America: it ought to be called Columba.” But he grows more positive as he goes on, when he wonders how Ferdinand Columbus, who had, as he says, Vespucius’ account, could have found nothing in it of deceit and injustice to object to.

Who were these “foreign writers?” Stobnicza, of Cracow, in the Introductio in Claudii Ptholomei cosmographiā, which he published in 1512, said: “Et ne soli Ptolomeo laborassem, curavi etiam notas facere quasdam partes terre ipsi ptolomeo alijsque vetustioribus ignotas que Amerii vespucij aliorumque lustratione ad nostram noticiam puenere.” Upon the reverse of folio v., in the chapter “De meridianis,” occurs: “Similiter in occasu ultra africam & europam magna pars terre quam ab Americo eius reptore Americam vocant vulgo autem novus mundus dicitur.” Upon the reverse of folio vii. in the chapter “De partibus terre” is this: “Non solū aūt pdicte tres ptes nunc sunt lacius lustrate, verum & alia quata pars ab Americo vesputio sagacis ingenii viro inventa est, quam ab ipso Americo eius inventore Ameriḡem si a americi terram sive americā appellari volunt cuius latitudo est sub tota torrida zona,” etc. These expressions were repeated in the second edition in 1519.




Apian in 1524 had accepted the name in his Cosmographicus liber, as he had in an uncertain way, in 1522, in two editions, one printed at Ratisbon, the other without place, of the tract, Declaratio et usus typi cosmographici, illustrative of his map.[597]

Glareanus in 1529 spoke of the land to the west “quam Americam vocant,” though he couples the names of Columbus and Vespucius in speaking of its discovery. Apian and Gemma Phrysius in their Cosmographia of the same year recognize the new name;[598] and Phrysius again in his De principiis astronomiæ, first published at Antwerp in 1530, gave a chapter (no. xxx.) to “America,” and repeated it in later editions.[599] Münster in the Novus orbis of 1532 finds that the extended coast of South America “takes the name of America from Americus, who discovered it.”[600] We find the name again in the Epitome trium terræ partium of Vadianus, published at Tiguri in 1534,[601] and in Honter’s Rudimentorum cosmographiæ libri, published at Basle in the same year. When the Spanish sea-manual, Medina’s Arte de navegar, was published in Italian at Venice in 1544, it had a chart with America on it; and the De sphæra of Cornelius Valerius (Antwerp, 1561) says this fourth part of the world took its name from Americus.

Thus it was manifest that popular belief, outside of Spain, at least,[602] was, as Las Casas affirms, working at last into false channels. Of course the time would come when Vespucius, wrongfully or rightfully, would be charged with promoting this belief. He was already dead, and could not repel the insinuation. In 1533 this charge came for the first time in print, so far as we now know, and from one who had taken his part in spreading the error. It has already been mentioned how Schöner, in his globe of 1515, and in the little book which explained that globe, had accepted the name from the coterie of the Vosges. He still used the name in 1520 in another globe.[603] Now in 1533, in his Opusculum geographicum ex diversorum libris ac cartis summa cura & diligentia collectum, accomodatum ad recenter elaboratum ab eodem globum decriptionis terrenæ. Ioachimi Camerarii. Ex urbe Norica, ... Anno XXXIII,[604] he unreservedly charged Vespucius with fixing his own name upon that region of India Superior which he believed to be an island.[605]

In 1535, in a new edition of Ptolemy, Servetus repeated the map of the New World from the editions of 1522 and 1525 which helped to give further currency to the name of America; but he checks his readers in his text by saying that those are misled who call the continent America, since Vespucius never touched it till long after Columbus had.[606] This cautious statement did not save Servetus from the disdainful comment of Gomara (1551), who accuses that editor of Ptolemy of attempting to blacken the name of the Florentine.

It was but an easy process for a euphonious name, once accepted for a large part of the new discoveries, gradually to be extended until it covered them all. The discovery of the South Sea by Balboa in 1513 rendered it certain that there was a country of unmistakably continental extent lying south of the field of Columbus’ observations, which, though it might prove to be connected with Asia by the Isthmus of Panama, was still worthy of an independent designation.[607] We have seen how the Land of the Holy Cross, Paria, and all other names gave way in recognition of the one man who had best satisfied Europe that this region had a continental extent. If it be admitted even that Vespucius was in any way privy to the bestowal of his name upon it, there was at first no purpose to enlarge the application of such name beyond this well-recognized coast.



This is the configuration of Mercator’s gores (for a globe) reduced to Mercator’s subsequently-devised projection.


That the name went beyond that coast came of one of those shaping tendencies which are without control. “It was,” as Humboldt says,[608] “accident, and not fraud and dissensions, which deprived the continent of America of the name of Columbus.” It was in 1541, and by Mercator in his printed gores for a globe, that in a cartographical record we first find the name America extended to cover the entire continent; for he places the letters AME at Baccalaos, and completed the name with RICA at the La Plata.[609] Thus the injustice was made perpetual; and there seems no greater instance of the instability of truth in the world’s history. Such monstrous perversion could but incite an indignation which needed a victim,—and it found him in Vespucius. The intimation of Schöner was magnified in time by everybody, and the unfortunate date of 1497, as well as the altogether doubtful aspect of his Quattuor navigationes, helped on the accusation. Vespucius stood in every cyclopædia and history as the personification of baseness and arrogance;[610] and his treacherous return for the kindness which Columbus did him in February, 1505, when he gave him a letter of recommendation to his son Diego,[611] at a time when the Florentine stood in need of such assistance, was often made to point a moral. The most emphatic of these accusers, working up his case with every subsidiary help, has been the Viscount Santarem. He will not admit the possibility of Vespucius’ ignorance of the movement at St.-Dié. “We are led to the conclusion,” he says, in summing up, “that the name given to the new continent after the death of Columbus was the result of a preconceived plan against his memory, either designedly and with malice aforethought, or by the secret influence of an extensive patronage of foreign merchants residing at Seville and elsewhere, dependent on Vespucius as naval contractor.”[612]

It was not till Humboldt approached the subject in the fourth and fifth volumes of his Examen critique de l’histoire et de la géographie du nouveau monde that the great injustice to Vespucius on account of the greater injustice to Columbus began to be apparent. No one but Santarem, since Humboldt’s time, has attempted to rehabilitate the old arguments. Those who are cautious had said before that he might pardonably have given his name to the long coast-line which he had tracked, but that he was not responsible for its ultimate expansion.[613] But Humboldt’s opinion at once prevailed, and he reviewed and confirmed them in his Cosmos.[614] Humboldt’s views are convincingly and elaborately enforced; but the busy reader may like to know they are well epitomized by Wiesener in a paper, “Améric Vespuce et Christophe Colomb: la véritable origine du nom d’Amérique,” which was published in the Revue des questions historiques (1866), i. 225-252, and translated into English in the Catholic World (1867), v. 611.

The best English authority on this question is Mr. R. H. Major, who has examined it with both thoroughness and condensation of statement in his paper on the Da Vinci map in the Archæologia, vol. xl., in his Prince Henry the Navigator (pp. 367-380),[615] and in his Discoveries of Prince Henry, chap. xiv. Harrisse in his Bibl. Amer. Vet., pp. 65, 94, enumerates the contestants on the question; and Varnhagen, who is never unjust to Columbus, traces in a summary way the progress in the acceptance of the name of America in his Nouvelles recherches sur les derniers voyages du navigateur Florentin. In German, Oscar Peschel in his Geschichte des[179] Zeitalters der Entdeckungen (book ii. chap. 13) has examined the matter with a scholar’s instincts. The subject was followed by M. Schoetter in a paper read at the Congrès des Américanistes at Luxemburg in 1877; but it is not apparent from the abstract of the paper in the Proceedings of that session (p. 357) that any new light was thrown upon the matter.

Professor Jules Marcou would drive the subject beyond the bounds of any personal associations by establishing the origin of the name in the native designation (Americ, Amerrique, Amerique) of a range of mountains in Central America;[616] and Mr. T. H. Lambert, in the Bulletin of the American Geographical Society (no. 1 of 1883), asks us to find the origin in the name given by the Peruvians to their country,—neither of which theories has received or is likely to receive any considerable acceptance.[617]

APIANUS (from Reusner’s Icones, 1590, p. 175).







Reduced after map in Bunbury’s Ancient Geography (London, 1879), ii. 368.

OF Pomponius Mela we know little beyond the fact that he was born in Spain, not far from Gibraltar, and that he wrote, as seems probable, his popular geographical treatise in the year 43 A.D.[618] The editio princeps of this treatise was printed in 1471 at Milan, it is supposed, by Antonius Zarotus, under the title Cosmographia. It was a small quarto of fifty-nine[181] leaves. Two copies have been sold lately. The Sunderland copy (no. 10,117) brought £11 5s., and has since been held by Quaritch at £15 15s. Another copy was no. 897 in part iii. of the Beckford Catalogue. In 1478 there was an edition, De situ orbis, at Venice (Sunderland, no. 10,118); and in 1482 another edition, Cosmographia geographica, was also published at Venice (Leclerc, no. 456; Murphy, no. 2,003; D’Avezac, Géographes Grecs et Latins, p. 13). It was called Cosmographia in the edition of 1498 (Bibl. Amer. Vet., Additions, no. 8; Huth, iv. 1166); De orbis situ in that of Venice, 1502; De totius orbis descriptione in the Paris edition of 1507, edited by Geofroy Tory (A. J. Bernard’s Geofroy Tory, premier imprimeur royal, Paris, 1865, p. 81; Carter-Brown, i. 32; Muller, 1872, no. 2,318; 1877, no. 2,062).


Fac-simile of a cut in Reusner’s Icones (Strasburg, 1590), p. 162.

In 1512 the text of Mela came under new influences. Henry Stevens (Bibliotheca geographica, p. 210) and others have pointed out how a circle of geographical students at this time were making Vienna a centre of interest by their interpretation of the views of Mela and[182] of Solinus, a writer of the third century, whose Polyhistor is a description of the world known to the ancients. Within this knot of cosmographers, John Camers undertook the editing of Mela; and his edition, De situ orbis, was printed by Jean Singrein at Vienna in 1512, though it bears neither place nor date (Stevens, Bibliotheca geographica, no. 1,825; D’Avezac, Géographes Grecs et Latins, p. 14; Leclerc, no. 457; Sunderland, no. 10,119). Another Mela of the same year (1512) is known to have been printed by Weissenburger, presumably at Nuremberg, and edited by Johannes Cocleius as Cosmographia Pomponii Mele: authoris nitidissimi tribus libris digesta: ... compendio Johannis Coclei Norici adaucta quo geographie principia generaliter comprehēduntur (Weigel, 1877, no. 227; there is a copy in Charles Deane’s library). In 1517 Mela made a part of the collection of Antonie Francino at Florence, which was reissued in 1519 and 1526 (D’Avezac, p. 16; Sunderland, nos. 10,121, 10,122).

Meanwhile another student, Joachim Watt, a native of St. Gall, in Switzerland, now about thirty years old, who had been a student of Camers, and who is better known by the latinized form of his name, Vadianus, had, in November, 1514, addressed a letter to Rudolfus Agricola, in which he adopted the suggestion first made by Waldseemüller that the forename of Vespucius should be applied to that part of the New World which we now call Brazil. This letter was printed at Vienna (1515) in a little tract,—Habes, Lector, hoc libello, Rudolphi Agricolæ Junioris Rheti ad Jochimum Vadianum epistolam,—now become very rare. It contains also the letter of Agricola, Sept. 1, 1514, which drew out the response of Vadianus dated October 16,—Agricola on his part referring to the work on Mela which was then occupying Vadianus (a copy owned by Stevens, Bibliotheca geographica, no. 2,799, passed into the Huth Library, Catalogue, v. 1506. Harrassowitz has since priced a copy, Catalogue, List 61, no. 57, at 280 marks).

The De situ orbis of Mela, as edited by Vadianus, came out finally in 1518, and contained one of the two letters,—that of Vadianus himself; and it is in this reproduction that writers have usually referred to its text (Harrisse, Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 92; Murphy, no. 2,004; Leclerc, no. 458; Sunderland, no. 10,120; Graesse, v. 401; Carter-Brown, i. 55). Camers also issued at the same time an edition uniform with the Aldine imprint of Solinus; and this and the Mela are often found bound together. Two years later (1520) copies of the two usually have bound up between them the famous cordiform map of Apian (Petrus Apianus, in the Latin form; Dienewitz, in his vernacular). This for a long time was considered the earliest engraved map to show the name of America, which appeared, as the annexed fac-simile shows, on the representation of South America. There may be some question if the map equally belongs to the Mela and to the Solinus, for the two in this edition are usually bound together; yet in a few copies of this double book, as in the Cranmer copy in the British Museum, and in the Huth copy (Catalogue, iv. 1372), there is a map for each book. There are copies of the Solinus in the Carter-Brown, Lenox, Harvard College, Boston Public, and American Antiquarian Society libraries (cf. Harrisse, Notes on Columbus, p. 175; Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 108; Murphy, no. 2,338; Trübner, 1876, £15 15s.; Weigel, 1877, 240 marks; Calvary, 1883, 250 marks; Leclerc, 1881, no. 2,686, 500 francs; Ellis & White, 1877, £25). The inscription on the map reads: “Tipus orbis universalis juxta Ptolomei cosmographi traditionem et Americi Vespucii aliosque lustrationes a Petro Apiano Leysnico elucbrat. An. Do. M.D.XX.” Harrisse (Bibl. Amer. Vet., Additions, no. 68) cites from Varnhagen’s Postface aux trois livraisons sur Vespucci, a little tract of eight leaves, which is said to be an exposition of the map to accompany it, called Declaratio et usus typi cosmographici, Ratisbon, 1522. The map was again used in the first complete edition of Peter Martyr’s Decades, when the date was changed to “M.D.XXX” (Carter-Brown, i. 94; Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 154; Kunstmann, Entdeckung Amerikas, p. 134; Kohl, Die beiden ältesten General-Karten von Amerika, p. 33; Uricoechea, Mapoteca Colombiana, no. 4). Vadianus meanwhile had quarrelled with Camers, and had returned to St. Gall, and now re-edited his Mela, and published it at Basle in 1522 (Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 112; Murphy, no. 2,004**; Carter-Brown, i. 590; Leclerc, no. 459).

In 1524 Apianus published the first edition of his cosmographical studies,—a book that for near a century, under various revisions, maintained a high reputation. The Cosmographicus liber was published at Landshut in 1524,—a thin quarto with two diagrams showing the New World, in one of which the designation is “Ameri” for an island; in the other, “America.” Bibliographers differ as to collation, some giving fifty-two, and others sixty leaves; and there are evidently different editions of the same year. The book is usually priced at £5 or £6. Cf. Harrisse, Notes on Columbus, p. 174; Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 127, and Additions, p. 87; Carter-Brown, i. 78; Huth, i. 39; Murphy, no. 93; Sabin, no. 1,738. There is an account of Apianus (born 1495; died 1551 or 1552) in Clement’s Bibliographie curieuse (Göttingen, 1750-1760). It is in chapter iv. of part ii. of the Cosmographicus liber that America is mentioned; but there is no intimation of Columbus having discovered it. Where “Isabella aut[183] Cuba” is spoken of, is an early instance of conferring the latter name on that island, after La Cosa’s use of it.


There are fac-similes of the entire map in the Carter-Brown Catalogue, i. 69, and in Santarem’s Atlas; and on a much reduced scale in Daly’s Early Cartography. Cf. Varnhagen’s Jo. Schöner e P. Apianus: Influencia de um e outro e de varios de seus contemporaneos na adopçăo do nome America; primeiros globos e primeiros mappas-mundi com este nome; globo de Waltzeemüller, e plaquette acerca do de Schöner, Vienna, 1872, privately printed, 61 pp., 100 copies (Murphy Catalogue, no. 2,231; Quaritch prices it at about £1). A recent account of the history of the Vienna presses, Wiens Buchdruckergeschichte (1883), by Anton Mayer, refers to the edition of Solinus of 1520 (vol. i. pp. 38, 41), and to the editions of Pomponius Mela, edited by Vadianus, giving a fac-simile of the title (p. 39) in one case.

Santarem gives twenty-five editions of Ptolemy between 1511 and 1584 which do not bear the name of America, and three (1522, 1541, and 1552) which have it. Cf. Bulletin de la Société de Géographie de Paris (1837), vol. viii.

In 1529 a pupil of Apianus, Gemma Frisius, annotated his master’s work, when it was published at Antwerp, while an abridgment, Cosmographiæ[184] introductio, was printed the same year (1529) at Ingoldstadt (Sabin, no. 1,739; Court, no. 21; Bibl. Amer. Vet., nos. 148, 149, and Additions, no. 88. There is a copy of the abridgment in Harvard College Library).

The third edition of Mela, cum commentariis Vadiani appeared at Paris in 1530, but without maps (cf. Carter-Brown, i. 97; Muller, 1877, no. 2,063; Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 157); and again in 1532. (Sunderland, no. 10,124; Harrassowitz, list 61, no. 60).

It is not necessary to follow, other than synoptically, the various subsequent editions of these three representative books, with brief indications of the changes that they assumed to comport with the now rapidly advancing knowledge of the New World.

1533. Apianus, full or abridged, in Latin, at Venice, at Freiburg, at Antwerp, at Ingoldstadt, at Paris (Carter-Brown, i. 591; Bibl. Amer. Vet., nos. 179, 202, and Additions, no. 100; Sabin, nos. 1,742, 1,757. Some copies have 1532 in the colophon). Apianus printed this year at Ingoldstadt various tracts in Latin and German on the instruments used in observations for latitude and longitude (Stevens, Bibliotheca geographica, no. 173, etc). Vadianus, in his Epitome trium terræ partium, published at Tiguri, described America as a part of Asia (Weigel, 1877, no. 1,574). He dated his preface at St. Gall, “VII. Kallen. August, M. D. XXXIII.”

1534. Apianus in Latin at Venice (Bibl. Amer. Vet., Additions, no. 106). The Epitome of Vadianus in folio, published at Tiguri, with a map, “Typus cosmographicus universalis, Tiguri, anno M. D. XXXIIII,” which resembles somewhat that of Finæus, representing the New World as an island approaching the shape of South America. The Carter-Brown copy has no map (cf. Huth, v. 1508; Leclerc, no. 586, 130 francs; Carter-Brown, i. 112; Weigel, 1877, no. 1,576; Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 189). An edition in octavo, without date, is held to be of the same year. It is usually said to have no map; but Quaritch (no. 12,475) has advertised a copy for £4,—“the only copy he had ever seen containing the map.” The Huth Catalogue, v. 1508, shows a copy with twelve woodcut maps of two leaves each, and four single leaves of maps and globes. The part pertaining to America in this edition is pages 544-564, “Insulæ Oceani præcipuæ,” which is considered to belong to the Asiatic continent (cf. Stevens, 1870, no. 2,179; Muller, 1872, no. 1,551; 1877, no. 3,293; Weigel, 1877, no. 1,575).

1535. Apianus, in Latin, at Venice (Sabin, no. 1,743; Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 202). Vadianus, in Latin, at Antwerp. (Bibl. Amer. Vet., 209; Huth, v. 1508; Court, no. 360).

1536. An edition of Mela, De situ orbis, without place and date, was printed at Basle, in small octavo, with the corrections of Olive and Barbaro. Cf. D’Avezac, Géographes Grecs et Latins, p. 20; Sunderland, no. 10,123; Weigel (1877), p. 99.

1537. The first Dutch edition of Apianus, De cosmographie rā Pe Apianus, Antwerp, with woodcut of globe on the title. The first of two small maps shows America. It contains a description of Peru. Cf. Carter-Brown, i. 121; Muller (1875), no. 2,314.

1538. Mela and Solinus, printed by Henri Petri at Basle with large and small maps, one representing the New World to the east of Asia as “Terra incognita.” Cf. Harrassowitz (1882), no. 91, p. 2, 60 marks; D’Avezac, p. 21.

1539. An edition of Mela, De orbis situ, at Paris (Sunderland, no. 10,124). Apianus’s Cosmographia per Gemmam Phrysium restituta, in small quarto, was published at Antwerp by A. Berckman. A globe on the titlepage shows the Old World. It has no other map (Carter-Brown, i. 124; Sabin, no. 1,744; Bibl. Amer. Vet., nos. 229, 230).

1540. An edition of Mela, issued at Paris, has the Orontius Finæus map of 1531, with the type of the Dedication changed. The Harvard College copy and one given in Harrassowitz’ Catalogue (81), no. 55, show no map. Cf. Leclerc, no. 460, 200 francs; Harrisse, Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 230, Additions, nos. 126, 127, 460; Court, no. 283; Rosenthal (1884), no. 51, at 150 marks. An edition of Apianus in Latin at Antwerp, without map; but Lelewel (Moyen-âge, pl. 46) gives a map purporting to follow one in this edition of Apianus. Cf. Carter-Brown, i. 125; Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 230; Sabin, no. 1,745.

1541. Editions of Apianus in Latin at Venice and at Nuremberg. Cf. Bibl. Amer. Vet., nos. 235, 236; Sabin, nos. 1,746, 1,747.

1543. Mela and Solinus at Basle (D’Avezac, p. 21).



This follows a fac-simile of an old cut given in the Carter-Brown Catalogue, i. 294.

1544. An edition of Apianus in French at Antwerp, with a map, which was used in various later editions. Cf. Sabin, no. 1,752; Carter-Brown, i. 592; Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 253.

1545. Apianus, in Latin, at Antwerp, with the same map as in the 1544 French edition. Cf. Carter-Brown, i. 135; Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 262; Muller (1875), no. 2,365 (1877), no. 158; Sabin, no. 1,748.


1548. Apianus in Spanish, Cosmographia augmentada por Gemma Frisio, at Antwerp, with the same folding map. Cf. Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 283; Sabin, no. 1,753; Carter-Brown, i. 147; Dufosse, no. 10,201, 45 francs; Quaritch (1878), no. 104, £6 6s.; Cat. hist. Brazil, Bibl. Nac. do Rio de Janeiro, no. 3. Apianus in Italian at Antwerp, Libro de la cosmographia de Pedro Apiano, with the same map. The Epitome of Vadianus, published at Tiguri, with double maps engraved on wood, contains one, dated 1546, showing America, which is reproduced in Santarem’s Atlas. Cf. Carter-Brown, i. 151; Bibl. Amer. Vet., nos. 170, 464, Additions, no. 104.

1550. Apianus in Latin at Antwerp, with map at folio 30, with additions by Frisius; and folios 30-48, on America (cf. Carter-Brown, i. 154; Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 298; Murphy, no. 94; Sabin, no. 1,749; Muller, 1875, no. 2,366). Some bibliographers report Latin editions of this year at Amsterdam and Basle.

1551. Editions of Apianus at Paris, in Latin and French, with a folding map and two smaller ones,—a reprint of the Antwerp edition of 1550. The language of the maps is French in both editions (Court, no. 20). Clement (Bibliothèque curieuse, i. 404) gives 1553 as the date of the colophon. An edition of Mela and Solinus (D’Avezac, p. 21).

1553. Editions of Apianus in Latin at Antwerp and Paris, and in Dutch at Antwerp, with mappemonde and two small maps. Cf. Carter-Brown, i. 174, 594. Some copies have 1551 in the colophon, as does that belonging to Jules Marcou, of Cambridge. There is a copy of the Paris edition in the Boston Public Library, no. 2,285, 58.

1554. An abridged edition of Apianus, Cosmographiæ introductio, Venice. A copy in Harvard College Library.

1556. An edition of Mela, at Paris (Sunderland, no. 10,125).

1557. An edition of Mela, as edited by Vadianus, at Basle (D’Avezac, p. 21).

1561. A Dutch edition of Apianus, at Antwerp, without map. Cf. Carter-Brown, i. 597; Sabin, no. 1,754.

1564. An octavo edition of Vadianus’ Mela (D’Avezac, p. 21). A Latin edition of Apianus at Antwerp, with mappemonde.

1574. Latin editions of Apianus at Antwerp and Cologne, with a folding mappemonde (Carter-Brown, i. 296, 297; Sabin, no. 1,750).

1575. Spanish and Italian texts of Apianus published at Antwerp, with mappemonde, and descriptions of the New World taken from Gomara and Girava. Cf. Carter-Brown, i. 302; Sabin, no. 1,756; Clement, Bibliothèque curieuse, i. 405.

1576. Mela, as edited by Vadianus (D’Avezac, p. 21). With the Polyhistor of Solinus, published at Basle. The Harvard College copy has no map of America. Cf. Graesse, v. 402.

1577. Henri Estienne’s collection in quarto, containing Mela (D’Avezac, p. 24).

1581. Apianus in French, at Antwerp, with a folding mappemonde (p. 72). The part on America is pp. 155-187 (Murphy, no. 95).

1582. An edition of Mela edited by A. Schottus, published at Antwerp, with map by Ortelius (Sunderland, no. 10,126).

1584. The Cosmographia of Apianus and Frisius, called by Clement (Bibliothèque curieuse, i. 404) the best edition, published at Antwerp by Bellero, in two issues, a change in the title distinguishing them. It has the same map with the 1564 and 1574 editions, and the section on “Insulæ Americæ” begins on p. 157. Cf. Carter-Brown, i. 354, no map mentioned; Sabin, no. 1,751.

1585. An edition of Mela in English, translated by Arthur Golding, published at London as The Worke of Pomponius Mela, the Cosmographer, concerning the Situation of the World. The preface is dated Feb. 6, 1584, in which Golding promises versions of Solinus and Thevet. There is a copy in the Library of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

1592. A Dutch edition of Apianus, published at Antwerp (Sabin, no. 1,755).

1595. An edition of Mela, as edited by Vadianus, published at Basle (D’Avezac, p. 21).

1598. A Dutch edition of Apianus, published at Amsterdam, with folding map. Cf. Carter-Brown, i. 521; Muller (1877), no. 164.

1605. Mathias Bonhomme published an edition of Mela and Solinus (D’Avezac, p. 21).

1609. A Dutch edition of Apianus, printed at Antwerp, with mappemonde (Carter-Brown, ii. 76; Sabin, no. 1,755). Bonhomme’s edition of Mela and Solinus, reissued (D’Avezac, p. 21).

1615, etc. Numerous editions of Mela appeared subsequently: 1615 (Vadianus), Basle, 1619, 1625, 1626, 1635; at Madrid, 1642, 1644, in Spanish; Leyden, 1646, in Latin; and under different editors, 1658, 1685, and 1700, and often later.





Instructor in History in Harvard College.

IN 1498 the news of the discovery of Paria and the pearl fisheries reached Spain; and during the next year a number of expeditions was fitted out at private expense for trade and exploration. The first to set sail was commanded by Alonso de Ojeda, the quondam captor of Caonabo, who, with Juan de la Cosa—a mariner scarcely inferior in his own estimation to the Admiral himself—and with Morigo Vespuche, as Ojeda calls him, left the Bay of Cadiz toward the end of May, 1499. Ojeda, provided with a copy of the track-chart sent home by Columbus, easily found his way to the coast of South America, a few degrees north of the equator. Thence he coasted northward by the mouth of the Rio Dulce (Essequibo) into the Gulf of Paria, which he left by the Boca del Drago. He then passed to the Isla Margarita and the northern shores of Tierra Firme, along which he sailed until he came to a deep gulf into which opened a large lagoon. The gulf he called the Golfo de Venecia (Venezuela), from the fancied resemblance of a village on its shores to the Queen of the Adriatic; while to the lagoon, now known as the Lake of Maracáibo, he gave the name of S. Bartoloméo. From this gulf he sailed westward by the land of Coquibacoa to the Cabo de la Vela, whence he took his departure for home, where, after many adventures, he arrived in the summer of the following year.

Close in his track sailed Cristóbal Guerra and Pedro Alonso Niño, who arrived off the coast of Paria a few days after Ojeda had left it. Still following him, they traded along the coast as far west as Caucheto, and tarried at the neighboring islands, especially Margarita, until their little vessel of fifty tons was well loaded; when they sailed for Spain, where they arrived in April, 1500, “so laden with pearls that they were in maner with every mariner as common as chaffe.”

About four months before Guerra’s return, Vicente Yañez Pinzon, the former captain of the “Niña,” sailed from Palos with four vessels; and, pursuing a southerly course, was the first of Europeans to cross the equator[188] on the American side of the Atlantic. He sighted the coast of the New World in eight degrees south latitude, near a cape to which he gave the name of Santa Maria de la Consolacion (S. Augustin). There he landed; but met with no vestiges of human beings, except some footprints of gigantic size. After taking possession of the country with all proper forms, he reimbarked; and proceeding northward and westward, discovered and partially explored the delta of an immense river, which he called the Paricura, and which, after being known as the Marañon or Orellana, now appears on the maps as the Amazon. Thence, by the Gulf of Paria, Española (Hispaniola), and the Bahamas, he returned to Spain, where he arrived in the latter part of September, 1500.[619]


A reduced fac-simile of the map (1556) in Ramusio, iii. 44, following that which originally appeared in the Venice edition of Peter Martyr and Oviedo, 1534.

Diego de Lepe left Palos not long after Vicente Yañez, and reached the coast of the New World to the south of the Cabo de S. Augustin, to which he gave the name of Rostro hermoso; and doubling it, he ran along the coast[189] to the Gulf of Paria, whence he returned to Palos. In October, 1500, Rodrigo de Bastidas and Juan de la Cosa sailed from the bay of Cadiz for the Golfo de Venecia (Venezuela), which they entered and explored. Thence, stopping occasionally to trade with the natives, they coasted the shores of Tierra Firme, by the Cabo de la Vela, the province of Santa Marta, the mouths of the Rio Grande de la Magdalena, the port of Cartagena, the river of Cenú, and the Punta Caribana, to the Gulf of Urabá (Darien), which they explored with some care. They were unsuccessful in their search for a strait to the west; and after sailing along the coast of Veragua to Nombre de Dios, they started on the return voyage. But the ravages of the broma (teredo) rendering their ships leaky, they were forced into a harbor of Española, where the vessels, after the most valuable portions of the cargo had been removed, went to the bottom. Bastidas was seized by order of Bobadilla, then governor of Española, for alleged illicit traffic with the natives, and sent to Spain for trial, where he arrived in September, 1502. He was soon after acquitted on the charges brought against him.

Alonso de Ojeda had reported the presence of Englishmen on the coast of Tierra Firme; and, partly to forestall any occupation of the country by them, he had been given permission to explore, settle, and govern, at his own expense, the province of Coquibacoa. He associated with him Juan de Vergara and Garcia de Ocampo, who provided the funds required, and went with the expedition which left Cadiz in January, 1502. They reached, without any serious mishap, the Gulf of Paria, where they beached and cleaned their vessels, and encountered the natives. Thence through the Boca del Drago they traded from port to port, until they came to an irrigated land, which the natives called Curiana, but to which Ojeda gave the name of Valfermoso. At this place they seized whatever they could which might be of service in the infant settlement, and then proceeded westward; while Vergara went to Jamaica for provisions, with orders to rejoin the fleet at S. Bartoloméo (Maracáibo), or at the Cabo de la Vela. After visiting the Island of Curazao (Curaçao) Ojeda arrived at Coquibacoa, and finally decided to settle at a place which he called Santa Cruz,—probably the Bahia Honda of the present day. Vergara soon arrived; but the supply of food was inadequate, and the hostility of the natives made foraging a matter of great difficulty and danger. To add to their discomfort, quarrels broke out between the leaders, and Ojeda was seized by his two partners and carried to Española, where he arrived in September, 1502. He was eventually set at liberty, while his goods were restored by the King’s command. The expedition, however, was a complete failure.


CASTILIA DEL ORO, 1597 (after Wytfliet).


This second unprofitable voyage of Ojeda seems to have dampened the ardor of the navigators and their friends at home; and although Navarrete regards it as certain that Juan de la Cosa sailed to Urabá as chief in command in 1504-1506, and that Ojeda made a voyage in the direction of Tierra Firme in the beginning of 1505, it was not until after the successful voyage of La Cosa in 1507-1508, that the work of colonization was again taken up with vigor.[620] Two men offered themselves as leaders in this enterprise; and, as it was impossible to decide between them, they were both commissioned to settle and govern for four years the mainland from the Cabo de la Vela to the Cabo Gracias á Dios, while the Gulf of Urabá (Darien) was to be the boundary between their respective governments. To Alonso de Ojeda was given the eastern province, or Nueva Andaluçia, while Diego de Nicuesa was the destined governor of the western province, then for the first time named Castilla del Oro. The fertile Island of Jamaica was intended to serve as a granary to the two governors; and to them were also granted many other privileges,—as, for instance, freedom from taxation, and, more important still, the right for each to take from Española four hundred settlers and two hundred miners.

Nicuesa and Ojeda met at Santo Domingo, whither they had gone to complete their preparations, and became involved in a boundary dispute. Each claimed the province of Darien[621] as within his jurisdiction. It was finally agreed, however, that the river of Darien should be the boundary line. With regard to Jamaica, the new admiral, Diego Columbus, prevented all disputes by sending Juan de Esquivel to hold it for him. Diego further contributed to the failure of the enterprise by preventing the governors from taking the colonists from Española, to which they were entitled by their licenses. At last, however, on Nov. 12, 1509, Ojeda, with Juan de la Cosa and three hundred men, left Santo Domingo; and five days later entered the harbor of Cartagena, where he landed, and had a disastrous engagement with the natives. These used their poisoned arrows to such good purpose that sixty-nine Spaniards, Juan de la Cosa among them, were killed. Nicuesa arrived in the harbor soon after; and the two commanders, joining forces, drove the natives back, and recovered the body of La Cosa, which they found swollen and disfigured by poison, and suspended from a tree. The two fleets then separated; Nicuesa standing over to the shore of Castilla del Oro, while Ojeda coasted the western shore of the Gulf of Urabá, and settled at a place to which he gave the name of San Sebastian. Here they built a fort, and ravaged the surrounding country in search of gold, slaves, and food; but here again the natives, who used poisoned arrows, kept the Spaniards within their fort, where starvation soon stared them in the face. Ojeda despatched a ship to Española for provisions and recruits; and no help coming, went himself in a vessel which had been brought to San Sebastian by a certain piratical Talavera. Ojeda was wrecked on Cuba; but after terrible suffering reached Santo Domingo, only to find that his lieutenant, Enciso, had sailed some time before with all that was necessary for the relief of the colony. The future movements of Ojeda are not known. He testified in the trial of Talavera and his companions, who were hanged in 1511; and in 1513 and 1515 his depositions were taken in the suit brought by the King’s attorney against the heirs of Columbus. Broken in spirit and ruined in fortune, he never returned to his colony.



[This view of the town of Cartagena at a somewhat later day is a fac-simile of a cut in Montanus, and has some of the doubt attached to all of his pictures.—Ed.]


Martin Fernandez de Enciso, a wealthy lawyer (bachiller) of Santo Domingo, had been appointed by Ojeda alcalde mayor of Nueva Andaluçia, and had been left behind to follow his chief with stores and recruits. On his way to San Sebastian he stopped at Cartagena; found no difficulty in making friends with the natives who had opposed Ojeda so stoutly; and while awaiting there the completion of some repairs on a boat, was surprised by the appearance of a brigantine containing the remnant of the San Sebastian colony. When Ojeda had sailed with Talavera he had left Pizarro, the future conqueror of Peru, in command, with orders to hold the place for fifty days, and then, if succor had not arrived, to make the best of his way to Santo Domingo. Pizarro had waited more than fifty days, until the colonists had dwindled to a number not too large for the two little vessels at his disposal. In these they had then left the place. But soon after clearing the harbor one of his brigantines, struck by a fish, had gone down with all on board; and it had been with much difficulty that the other had been navigated to Cartagena. Enciso, commander now that Ojeda and La Cosa were gone, determined to return to San Sebastian; but, while rounding the Punta Caribana, the large vessel laden with the stores went on the rocks and became a total loss, the crew barely escaping with their lives. They were now in as bad a plight as before; and decided, at the suggestion of Vasco Nuñez de Balbóa, to cross the Gulf of Urabá to a country where the natives did not use poisoned arrows, and where, therefore, foraging would not be so dangerous as at San Sebastian.[622] The removal to the other side of the gulf was safely carried out, and the natives driven from their village. The Spaniards settled themselves here, and called the place Santa Maria del Antigua del Darien. Provisions and gold were found in abundance; but Enciso, declaring it unlawful for private persons to trade with the natives for gold, was deposed; for, as Vasco Nuñez said, the new settlement was within the jurisdiction of Nicuesa, and therefore no obedience whatever was due to Enciso. A municipal form of government was then instituted, with Vasco Nuñez and Zamudio as alcaldes, and Valdivia as regidor. But the Antigua settlers were no more disposed to obey their chosen magistrates than they had been to give obedience to him who had been appointed to rule over them, and they soon became divided into factions. At this juncture arrived Rodrigo Enriquez de Colmenares, whom Nicuesa had left at Española to follow him with recruits and provisions. Colmenares easily persuaded the settlers at Antigua to put themselves under[194] the government of Nicuesa; and then, accompanied by two agents from Darien, sailed away in search of his chief. Nicuesa, after aiding Ojeda at Cartagena, had sailed for Castilla del Oro; but while coasting its shores had become separated from the rest of his fleet, and had been wrecked off the mouth of a large river. He had rejoined the rest of his expedition after the most terrible suffering. Nicuesa had suspected Lope de Olano, his second in command, of lukewarmness in going to his relief, and had put him in chains. In this condition he was found by the agents from Antigua, to one of whom it appears that Olano was related. This, and the punishment with which Nicuesa threatened those at Antigua who had traded for gold, impelled the agents to return with all speed to oppose his reception; and, therefore, when he arrived off Antigua he was told to go back. Attempting to sustain himself on land, he was seized, put on a worn-out vessel, and bid to make the best of his way to Española. He sailed from Antigua in March, 1511, and was never heard of again.

After his departure the quarrels between the two factions broke out again, and were appeased only by the sending of Enciso and Zamudio to Spain to present their respective cases at Court. They sailed for Española in a vessel commanded by the regidor Valdivia (a firm friend of Vasco Nuñez), who went well provided with gold to secure the favor and protection of the new admiral, Diego Columbus, and of Pasamonte, the King’s treasurer at Santo Domingo, for himself and Vasco Nuñez. While Valdivia was absent on this mission, Vasco Nuñez explored the surrounding country and won the good-will of the natives. It was on one of these expeditions that the son of a chief, seeing the greed of the Spaniards for gold, told them of the shores of a sea which lay to the southward of the mountains, where there were kings who possessed enormous quantities of the highly coveted metal. Valdivia, who brought a commission from the Admiral to Vasco Nuñez (commonly called Balbóa) as governor of Antigua, was immediately sent back with a large sum of money, carrying the news of a sea to be discovered. Valdivia was wrecked on the southern coast of Yucatan, where, with all but two of his crew, he was sacrificed and eaten by the natives. After some time had elapsed with no news from Española, Vasco Nuñez, fearing that Valdivia had proved a treacherous friend, despatched two emissaries—Colmenares and Caicedo—to Spain to lay the state of affairs at Darien before the King.

Not long after their departure a vessel arrived from Española, commanded by Serrano, with food, recruits, and a commission from Pasamonte to Vasco Nuñez as governor. But Serrano also brought a letter from Zamudio, giving an account of his experience in Spain, where he had found the King more disposed to consider favorably the complaints of Enciso than the justifications which he himself offered. Indeed, it seems that Zamudio, who barely escaped arrest, wrote that it was probable that Vasco Nuñez would be summoned to Spain to give an account of himself. Upon the receipt of this unpleasant letter, Vasco Nuñez determined to discover the new sea of[195] which there was report, and thus to atone for his shortcomings with respect to Enciso and Nicuesa.


[Fac-simile of an engraving in Herrera, edition of 1728.—Ed.]

To this end he left Antigua on the 1st of September, 1513; and proceeding by the way of the country of Careta, on the evening of September 24 encamped on the side of a mountain from whose topmost peak his native guide declared the other sea could be discerned. Early in the morning of the next day, Sept. 25, 1513, the sixty-seven Spaniards ascended the mountain; and Vasco Nuñez de Balbóa, going somewhat in advance, found himself—first of civilized men—gazing upon the new-found sea, which he called Mar del Sur (South Sea), in distinction to the Mar del[196] Norte, or the sea on the northern side of the isthmus, although it is known to us by the name of Pacific, which Magellan later gave to it. Of this ocean and all lands bordering upon it he took possession for his royal master and mistress, and then descended toward its shores. The sea itself was hard to reach, and it was not until three days later that a detachment under Alonso Martin discovered the beach; when Alonso Martin, jumping into a convenient canoe, pushed forth, while he called upon his comrades to bear witness that he was the first European to sail upon the southern sea. On the 29th of September Vasco Nuñez reached the water; and marching boldly into it, again claimed it for the King and Queen of Castile and Aragon. It was an arm of the ocean which he had found. According to the Spanish custom, he bestowed upon it the name of the patron saint of that particular day, and as the Gulf of San Miguel it is still known to us. After a short voyage in some canoes, in the course of which Vasco Nuñez came near drowning, he collected an immense amount of tribute from the neighboring chiefs, and then took up his homeward march, arriving at Antigua without serious accident in the latter part of January, 1514. When we consider the small force at his command and the almost overpowering difficulties of the route,—to say nothing of hostile natives,—this march of Vasco Nuñez de Balbóa is among the most wonderful exploits of which we have trustworthy information.

But this achievement did not bring him the indemnity and honors for which he hoped. A new governor, appointed July 27, 1513,—notwithstanding the news which Colmenares and Caicedo had carried with them of the existence of a sea,—had sailed before Pedro de Arbolancha, bearing the news of the discovery, could arrive in Spain, inasmuch as he did not even leave Antigua until March, 1514. This new governor was Pedro Arias de Avila, better known as Pedrárias, though sometimes called by English writers Dávila. Pedrárias, dubbed El Galan and El Justador in his youth, and Furor Domini in his later years, has been given a hard character by all historians. This is perfectly natural, for, like all other Spanish governors, he cruelly oppressed the natives, and thus won the dislike of Las Casas; while Oviedo, who usually differs as much as possible from Las Casas, hated Pedrárias for other reasons. Pedrárias’ treatment of Vasco Nuñez, in whose career there was that dramatic element so captivating, was scant at least of favor. But, on the other hand, it must be remembered that Pedrárias occupied an office from which Nicuesa and Enciso had been driven, and he ruled a community which had required the utmost vigilance on the part of Vasco Nuñez to hold in check.

With Pedrárias went a goodly company, among whom may be mentioned Hernando de Soto, Diego de Almagro, and Benalcazar, who, with Pizarro, already in Antigua, were to push discovery and conquest along the shores of the Mar del Sur. There also went in the same company that Bernal Diaz del Castillo who was to be one of the future conquistadores of Mexico and the rude but charming relater of that conquest; and Pascual de Andagoya,[197] who, while inferior to Benalcazar as a ruler and to Bernal Diaz as a narrator, was yet a very important character. The lawyer Enciso returned among them to the scene of his former disappointment as alguazil mayor; and, lastly, let us mention Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdés, who accompanied the expedition as escriban general and veedor. Pedrárias sailed from San Lucar on the 12th of April, 1514, and arrived safely in the harbor of Antigua on the 29th of June. The survivors of the companies of Ojeda and Nicuesa, and of the reinforcements brought thither at different times, numbered in all but four hundred and fifty souls; and they could have offered little opposition to the fifteen hundred accompanying Pedrárias, if they had so desired. But no attempt was made to prevent his landing; and as soon as Pedrárias felt himself fairly installed, an inquiry was instituted into the previous acts of Vasco Nuñez. This trial, or residencia, was conducted by Espinosa, the new alcalde mayor. There is no doubt but that Enciso tried hard to bring the murder of Nicuesa, for such it was, home to Vasco Nuñez. The efforts of Quivedo, the recently appointed bishop of Santa Maria de la Antigua é Castilla del Oro, and of Isabel del Bobadilla, the new governor’s wife, who had been won over in some unknown way, secured the acquittal of Vasco Nuñez on all criminal charges. In the innumerable civil suits, however, which were brought against him by Enciso and by all others who felt grieved, he was mulcted in a large amount.

This affair off his hands, Pedrárias set about executing his supplementary instructions, which were to connect the north and south seas by a chain of posts. He sent out three expeditions, which, besides exploration, were to forage for food, since the supply in Antigua was very small. The stores brought by the fleet had been in a great measure spoiled on the voyage, and the provisions at Antigua which Vasco Nuñez’ foresight had provided, while ample for his little band, were entirely inadequate to the support of the augmented colony. The leaders of these expeditions—with the exception of Enciso, who went to Cenú, whence he was speedily driven—acted in a most inhuman fashion; and the good feeling which had subsisted between Vasco Nuñez and the natives was changed to the most bitter hatred. To use Vasco Nuñez’ own words: “For where the Indians were like sheep, they have become like fierce lions, and have acquired so much daring, that formerly they were accustomed to come out to the paths with presents to the Christians, now they come out and they kill them; and this has been on account of the bad things which the captains who went out on the incursions have done to them.” He especially blamed Ayora and Morales, who commanded two of the earliest expeditions. Ayora escaped with his ill-gotten wealth to Spain, where he died before he could be brought to justice.

Morales, following the route of Vasco Nuñez across the isthmus, arrived on the other side, and sailed to the Pearl Islands, which Vasco Nuñez had seen in the distance. Here he obtained an immense booty; and thence, crossing to the southern side of the Gulf of San Miguel, he endeavored[198] to return to Darien by the way of Birú and the River Atrato. But he was speedily driven back; and was so hard pressed by the natives throughout his homeward march that he and his companions barely escaped with their treasure and their lives. It was about this time that Vasco Nuñez went for a second time in search of the golden temple of Dabaibe and suffered defeat, with the loss of Luis Carillo, his second in command, and many of his men; while another attempt on Cenú, this time by Becerra, ended in the death of that commander and of all but one of his companions. In 1515, however, a force commanded by Gonzalo de Badajos crossed the isthmus and discovered the rich country lying on the Gulf of Parita. Badajos accumulated an enormous amount of gold, which he was obliged to abandon when he sought safety in ignominious flight.

These repeated disasters in the direction of Cenú nettled old Pedrárias, and he resolved to go himself in command of an expedition and chastise the natives. He was speedily defeated; but, instead of returning immediately to Antigua, he sailed over to Veragua and founded the town of Acla (Bones of Men), as the northern termination of a road across the isthmus. He then sent Gaspar Espinosa across the isthmus to found a town on the other side. Espinosa on his way met the fleeing Badajos; but being better prepared, and a more able commander, he recovered the abandoned treasure and founded the old town of Panamá; while a detachment under Hurtado, which he sent along the coast toward the west, discovered the Gulf of San Lucar (Nicoya).

As we have seen, Vasco Nuñez’ account of the discovery of the South Sea reached Spain too late to prevent the sailing of Pedrárias; but the King nevertheless placed reliance in him, and appointed him adelantado, or lieutenant, to prosecute discoveries along the shores of the southern sea, and also made him governor of the provinces of Panamá and Coyba. This commission had reached Antigua before the departure of Espinosa; but Pedrárias withheld it for reasons of his own. And before he delivered it there arrived from Cuba a vessel commanded by a friend of Vasco Nuñez,—a certain Garabito,—who by making known his arrival to Vasco Nuñez and not to Pedrárias, aroused the latter’s suspicions. Accordingly, Vasco Nuñez was seized and placed in confinement. After a while, however, upon his promising to marry one of Pedrárias’ daughters, who at the time was in Spain, they became reconciled, and Vasco Nuñez was given his commission, and immediately began preparation for a voyage on the South Sea. As it seemed impossible to obtain a sufficient amount of the proper kind of timber on the other side the isthmus, enough to build a few small vessels was carried over the mountains. When the men began to work it, they found it worm-eaten; and a new supply was procured, which was almost immediately washed away by a sudden rise of the Rio Balsas, on whose banks they had established their ship-yard. At last, however, two little vessels were built and navigated to the Islas de las Perlas, whence Vasco Nuñez made a short and unsuccessful cruise to the southward. But before he went a second time[199] he sent Garabito and other emissaries to Acla to discover whether Pedrárias had been superseded. It seems to have been arranged that when these men arrived near Acla one of their number should go secretly to the house of Vasco Nuñez there and obtain the required information. If a new governor had arrived they were to return to the southern side of the isthmus, and Vasco Nuñez would put himself and his little fleet out of the new governor’s reach, trusting in some grand discovery to atone for his disloyalty. Pedrárias was still governor; but Garabito proved a false friend, and told Pedrárias that Vasco Nuñez had no idea of marrying his daughter: on the contrary, he intended to sail away with his native mistress (with whom Garabito was in love) and found for himself a government on the shores of the Mar del Sur. Pedrárias was furious, and enticed Vasco Nuñez to Acla, where this new charge of treason, added to the former one of the murder of Nicuesa, secured his conviction by the alcalde mayor Espinosa, and on the very next day he and his four companions were executed. This was in 1517.

In 1519 Pedrárias removed the seat of government from Antigua to Panamá, which was made a city in 1521, while Antigua was not long after abandoned. In 1519 Espinosa coasted northward and westward, in Vasco Nuñez’ vessels, as far as the Gulf of Culebras; and in 1522 Pascual de Andagoya penetrated the country of Birú for twenty leagues or more, when ill health compelled his return to Panamá. He brought wonderful accounts of an Inca empire which was said to exist somewhere along the coast to the south.[623]

In 1519 a pilot, Andrés Niño by name, who had been with Vasco Nuñez on his last cruise, interested Gil Gonzalez de Avila, then contador of Española, in the subject of exploration along the coast of the South Sea. Gonzalez agreed to go as commander-in-chief, accompanying Niño in the vessels which Vasco Nuñez had built. The necessary orders from the King were easily obtained, and they sailed for Antigua, where they arrived safely; but Pedrárias refused to deliver the vessels. Gil Gonzalez, nothing daunted, took in pieces the ships by which he had come from Spain, transported the most important parts of them across the isthmus, and built new vessels. These, however, were lost before reaching Panamá; but the crews arrived there in safety, and Pedrárias, when brought face to face with the commander, could not refuse to obey the King’s orders. Thus, after many delays, Gil Gonzalez and Andrés Niño sailed from the Islas de las Perlas on the 21st of January, 1522. After they had gone a hundred leagues or more, it was found necessary to beach and repair the vessels. This was done by Niño, while Gil Gonzalez, with one hundred men and four horses, pushed along the shore, and, after many hairbreadth escapes, rejoined the fleet, which under Niño had been repaired and brought around by water. The meeting was at a gulf named by them Sanct Viçente; but it proved[200] to be the San Lucar of Hurtado, and the Nicoya of the present day. After a short time passed in recuperation, the two detachments again separated. Niño with the vessels coasted the shore at least as far as the Bay of Fonseca, and thence returned to the Gulf of Nicoya. Here he was soon rejoined by the land party; which, after leaving the gulf, had penetrated inland to the Lake of Nicaragua. They explored the surrounding country sufficiently to discover the outlet of the lake, which led to the north, and not to the south, as had been hoped. They had but one severe fight with the natives, accumulated vast sums of gold, and baptized many thousand converts. With their treasure they returned in safety to Panamá on the 25th of June, 1523, after an absence of nearly a year and a half.

At Panamá Gil Gonzalez found an enemy worse than the natives of Nicaragua in the person of Pedrárias, whose cupidity was aroused by the sight of the gold. But crossing the isthmus, he escaped from Nombre de Dios just as Pedrárias was on the point of arresting him, and steered for Española, where his actions were approved by the Hieronimite Fathers, who authorized him to return and explore the country. This he endeavored to do by the way of the outlet of the Lake of Nicaragua, by which route he would avoid placing himself in the power of Pedrárias. He unfortunately reached the Honduras coast too far north, and marched inland only to be met by a rival party of Spaniards under Hernando de Soto. It seemed that as soon as possible after Gil Gonzalez’ departure from Nombre de Dios, Pedrárias had despatched a strong force under Francisco Hernandez de Córdoba to take possession of and hold the coveted territory for him. Córdoba, hearing from the natives of Spaniards advancing from the north, had sent De Soto to intercept them. Gil Gonzalez defeated this detachment; but not being in sufficient force to meet Córdoba, he retreated to the northern shore, where he found Cristóbal de Olid, who had been sent by Cortés to occupy Honduras in his interest. Olid proved a traitor to Cortés, and soon captured not only Gil Gonzalez, but Francisco de las Casas, who had been sent by Cortés to seize him. Las Casas, who was a man of daring, assassinated Olid, with the help of Gil Gonzalez. The latter was then sent to make what terms he could with Cortés as to a joint occupation of the country.[624] But Gil Gonzalez fell into the hands of the enemies of the Conqueror of Mexico, and was sent to Spain to answer, among other things, for the murder of Olid. He reached Seville in 1526; but, completely overwhelmed by his repeated disasters, died soon after.

Córdoba, who had thrown off allegiance to Pedrárias, was executed. Pedrárias himself was turned out of his government of Darien by Pedro de los Rios, and took refuge in the governorship of Nicaragua, and died quietly at Leon in 1530, at the advanced age of nearly ninety years.


In 1492 Christopher Columbus had discovered Cuba, which he called Juana; and two years later he had partially explored the Island of Jamaica, whither he had been driven on his fourth voyage, and compelled to stay from June, 1503, to June, 1504. In 1508 this lesser island had been granted to Ojeda and Nicuesa as a storehouse from which to draw supplies in case of need. But, as we have seen, the Admiral of the Indies at that time, Diego Columbus, son of the great Admiral, had sent Juan de Esquivel with sixty men to seize the island and hold it for him against all comers. Esquivel founded the town of Sevilla Nueva—later Sevilla d’Oro—on the shores of the harbor where Columbus had stayed so long; and thus the island was settled.

Although Cuba had been discovered in 1492, nothing had been done toward its exploration till 1508, when Ovando, at that time governor of Española, sent Sebastian de Ocampo to determine whether it was an island or not. Columbus, it will be remembered, did not, or would not, believe it insular, though the Indians whom he brought from Guanahani had told him it was; and it had suited his purpose to make his companions swear that they believed it a peninsula of Asia. Ocampo settled the question by circumnavigating it from north to south; and, after another delay, Diego Columbus in 1511 sent Diego Velasquez, a wealthy planter of Española, to conquer and settle the island, which at that time was called Fernandina. Velasquez, assisted by thirty men under Pamphilo de Narvaez from Jamaica, had no difficulty in doing this; and his task being accomplished, he threw off his allegiance to the Admiral. Settlers were attracted to Cuba from all sides. With the rest came one hundred, Bernal Diaz among them, from Antigua. But Velasquez had distributed the natives among his followers with such a lavish hand that these men were unable to get any slaves for themselves, and in this predicament agreed with Francisco Hernandez de Córdoba[625] to go on a slave-catching expedition to some neighboring islands. Velasquez probably contributed a small vessel to the two vessels which were fitted out by the others. With them went Anton Alaminos as pilot. Sailing from Havana in February, 1517, they doubled the Cabo de S. Anton, and steered toward the west and south. Storms and currents drove them from their course, and it was not until twenty-one days had passed after leaving S. Anton that they sighted some small islands. Running toward the coast, they espied inland a city, the size of which so impressed them that they called it El gran Cairo. Soon after some natives came on board, who, to their inquiries as to what land it was, answered “Conex Catoche;” and accordingly they named it the Punta de Catoche. At this place, having landed, they were enticed into an ambush, and many Spaniards were killed. From this inhospitable shore they sailed to the west, along the northern coast of Yucatan, and in two weeks arrived at a village which they named S. Lázaro, but to which the native name of Campeche has clung.



[This cut of the chief Cuban seaport represents it at a somewhat later day, and is a fac-simile from the cut in Montanus.—Ed.]


There the natives were hostile. So they sailed on for six days more, when they arrived off a village called Pontonchan, now known, however, as Champoton. As they were short of water they landed at this place, and in a fight which followed, fifty-seven Spaniards were killed and five were drowned. Nevertheless the survivors continued their voyage for three days longer, when they came to a river with three mouths, one of which, the Estero de los Lagartos, they entered. There they burned one of their vessels; and, having obtained a supply of water, sailed for Cuba. The reports which they gave of the riches of the newly discovered country so excited the greed of Velasquez that he fitted out a fleet of four vessels, the command of which he gave to his nephew, Juan de Grijalva. Anton Alaminos again went as pilot, and Pedro de Alvarado was captain of one of the ships. They left the Cabo de S. Anton on the 1st of May, 1518, and three days later sighted the Island of Cozumel, which they called Santa Cruz. From this island they sailed along the southern coast of Yucatan, which they thought an island, and which they named Santa Maria de los Remedios. They came finally to a shallow bay, still known by the name which they gave it, Bahia de la Ascension. But the prospect not looking very promising in this direction, they doubled on their track, and in due season arrived at S. Lázaro (Campeche), or, more probably, perhaps, at Champoton, where they had their first hostile encounter with the natives. But, being better provided with artillery and cotton armor than was Francisco Hernandez, Grijalva and his men maintained their ground and secured a much-needed supply of water. Thence following the shore, they soon came to an anchorage, which they at first called Puerto Deseado. On further investigation the pilot Alaminos declared that it was not a harbor, but the mouth of a strait between the island of Santa Maria de los Remedios (Yucatan) and another island, which they called Nueva España, but which afterward proved to be the mainland of Mexico. They named this strait the Boca de Términos. After recuperating there, they coasted toward the north by the mouths of many rivers, among others the Rio de Grijalva (Tabasco), until they came to an island on which they found a temple, where the native priests were wont to sacrifice human beings. To this island they gave the name of Isla de los Sacrificios; while another, a little to the north, they called S. Juan de Ulúa. The sheet of water between this island and the mainland afforded good anchorage, and to-day is known as the harbor of Vera Cruz. There Grijalva stayed some time, trading with the inhabitants, not of the islands merely, but of the mainland. To this he was beckoned by the waving of white flags, and he found himself much honored when he landed. After sending Pedro de Alvarado, with what gold had been obtained, to Cuba in a caravel which needed repairs, Grijalva proceeded on his voyage; but when he had arrived at some point between the Bahia de Tanguijo and the Rio Panuco, the pilot Alaminos declared it madness to go farther. So the fleet turned back, and, after more trading along the coast, they arrived safely at Matanzas in October of the same year. Velasquez, when he saw the spoil gathered[204] on this expedition, was much vexed that Grijalva had not broken his instructions and founded a settlement. A new expedition was immediately prepared, the command of which was given to Hernan Cortés.[626] As for Grijalva, he took service under Pedrárias, and perished with Hurtado in Nicaragua.


THE best account of the voyages and expeditions of the companions of Columbus, with the exception of those relating immediately to the settlement of Darien and the exploration of the western coast of the isthmus, is Navarrete’s Viages menores.[627] This historian[628] had extraordinary opportunities in this field; and a nautical education contributed to his power of weighing evidence with regard to maritime affairs. No part of Navarrete has been translated into English, unless the first portion of Washington Irving’s Companions of Columbus may be so regarded. The best account of these voyages in English, however, is Sir Arthur Helps’s Spanish Conquest in America,[629] which, although defective in form, is readable, and, so far as it goes, trustworthy. This work deals not merely with the Viages menores, but also with the settlement of Darien; as, too, does Irving’s Companions.

The first voyage of Ojeda rests mainly on the answers to the questions propounded by the fiscal real in the suit brought against Diego, the son of Columbus, in which the endeavor was made to show that Ojeda, and not Columbus, discovered the pearl coasts. But this claim on the part of the King’s attorney was unsuccessful; for Ojeda himself expressly stated in his deposition, taken in Santo Domingo in 1513, that he was the first man who went to Tierra-Firme after the Admiral, and that he knew that the Admiral had been there because he saw the chart[630] which the Admiral had sent home. This lawsuit is so important in relation to these minor voyages that Navarrete printed much of the testimony then taken, with some notes of his own, at the end of his third volume.[631] Among the witnesses were Ojeda, Bastidas, Vicente Yañez Pinzon, Garcia Hernandez a “fisico,” who had accompanied Vicente Yañez on his first voyage, the pilots Ledesma, Andrés de Morales, Juan Rodriguez, and many other mariners who had sailed with the different commanders. Their testimony was taken with regard to the third voyage of Columbus (second question); the voyage of Guerra and Niño (third and fourth questions); Ojeda’s first voyage (fifth question); Bastidas (sixth question); Vicente Yañez (seventh question); Lepe (eighth question); etc. Taken altogether, this evidence is the best authority for what was done or was not done on these early voyages.[632]


The only things worth noting in the voyage of Guerra and Niño are the smallness of the vessel (fifty tons),[633] and the enormous pecuniary return. One of the voyagers,[634] very possibly Niño himself,[635] wrote an account of the voyage, which was translated into Italian, and published as chapters cx. and cxi. of the Paesi novamente retrovati. It was then translated into Latin, and inserted by Grynæus in the Novus orbis.[636]

A contemporary account of the voyage of Vicente Yañez Pinzon was printed in the Paesi novamente,[637] by whom written is not known. Varnhagen has attempted to show that the cape near which Vicente Yañez landed was not the Cabo de S. Augustin, but some point much farther north.[638] For a time the point was raised that Vicente Yañez arrived on the coast after Cabral; but that was plainly impossible, as he undoubtedly sighted the American coast before Cabral left Portugal.[639] As to the landfall itself, both Navarrete and Humboldt place it in about eight degrees south latitude; and they base their argument on the answers to the seventh question of the fiscal real in the celebrated lawsuit, in which Vicente Yañez said that it was true that he discovered from “El cabo de Consolacion que es en la parte de Portugal é agora se llama cabo de S. Augustin.”[640] In this he was corroborated by the other witnesses.[641] The voyage was unsuccessful in a pecuniary point of view. Two vessels were lost at the Bahamas, whither Vicente Yañez had gone in quest of slaves. After his return to Spain it was only through the interposition of the King that he was able to save a small portion of his property from the clutches of the merchants who had fitted out the fleet.[642]

The voyage of Diego de Lepe rests entirely on the evidence given in the Columbus lawsuit,[643] from which it also appears that he drew a map for Fonseca on which the coast of the New World was delineated trending toward the south and west from Rostro Hermoso (Cabo de S. Augustin). Little is known of the further movements of Diego de Lepe, who, according to Morales, died in Portugal before 1515.[644] Navarrete printed nothing relating to him of a later date than November, 1500;[645] but in the Documentos inéditos[206] are documents which would seem to show that he was preparing for a voyage in the beginning of 1502.[646]

Juan de la Cosa returned with Ojeda in the middle of June, 1500, and he sailed with Bastidas in the following October. The intervening time he probably spent in working on the map which bears the legend “Juan de la Cosa la fizo en Puerto de Sta. Maria en año de 1500.” This is the earliest existing chart made by one of the navigators of the fifteenth century, the track-chart sent home by Columbus in 1498,[647] and the Lepe map, being lost. Humboldt was especially qualified to appreciate the clearness and accuracy of this La Cosa map by the knowledge of the geography of Spanish America which he gained during a long sojourn in that part of the world;[648] and this same knowledge gives especial value to whatever he says in the Examen critique[649] concerning the voyages herein described. Of Juan de la Cosa’s knowledge of the geography of the northern coast of South America there can be little doubt, especially when it is borne in mind that he made no less than six voyages to that part of the world,[650] only two of which, however, preceded the date which he gives to his map. A comparison of La Cosa’s map with the chart of 1527 usually, but probably erroneously, ascribed to Ferdinand Columbus, and with that of 1529 by Ribero, gives a clearer idea than the chronicles themselves do, of the discoveries of the early navigators.[651]

Like all these early minor voyages, that of Rodrigo Bastidas rests mainly on the testimony given in the lawsuit already referred to.[652] Navarrete in his Viages menores stated that Ojeda procured a license from Bishop Fonseca, who had been empowered to give such licenses. No document, however, of the kind has been produced with regard to Ojeda or any of these commanders before the time of Bastidas, whose Asiento que hizo con SS. MM. Católicas of June 5, 1500, has been printed.[653] As already related, the ravages of the teredo drove Bastidas into a harbor of Española, where he was forced to abandon his vessels and march to Santo Domingo. He divided his men into three bands, who saved themselves from starvation by exchanging for food some of the ornaments which they had procured on the coast of Tierra-Firme. This innocent traffic was declared illegal by Bobadilla, who sent Bastidas to Spain for trial. But two years later, on Jan. 29, 1504, their Majesties ordered his goods to be restored to him, and commanded that all[207] further proceedings should be abandoned.[654] They also granted him a pension of fifty thousand maravedis, to be paid from the revenues “de los Golfos de Huraba e Barú;”[655] while Juan de la Cosa was not only pensioned in a similar fashion, but also made alguacil mayor of the Gulf of Urabá.[656] With the exception of a slave-catching voyage to Urabá in 1504, Bastidas lived quietly as a farmer in Española until 1520, when he led an expedition to settle the province of Santa Marta, and was there killed by his lieutenant. After his death his family, seeking to receive compensation for his services and losses, drew up an Informacion de los servicios del adelantado Rodrigo de Bastidas;[657] and eight years later presented another.[658] From this material it is possible to construct a clear and connected account of this voyage, especially when supplemented by Oviedo and Las Casas.[659]

This was the first voyage which really came within the scope of Hubert H. Bancroft’s Central America; and therefore he has described it at some length.[660] This book is a vast and invaluable mine of information, to be extracted only after much labor and trouble, owing to a faulty table of contents, and the absence of side-notes or dates to the pages; and there is at present no index. The text is illustrated with a mass of descriptive and bibliographical notes which are really the feature of the work, and give it its encyclopedic value. Considering its range and character, the book has surprisingly few errors of any kind; and indeed the only thing which prevents our placing implicit reliance on it is Mr. Bancroft’s assertion[661] that “very little of the manuscript as it comes to me, whether in the form of rough material or more finished chapters, is the work of one person alone;” while we are not given the means of attaching responsibility where it belongs, as regards both the character of the investigation and the literary form which is presented. As to the ultimate authorship of the text itself, we are only assured[662] that “at least one half of the manuscript has been written by my own hand.”[663]

The second voyage of Alonso de Ojeda rests entirely on some documents which Navarrete printed in the third volume of his Coleccion, and upon which he founded his account of the voyage.[664] The first, in point of time, is a cédula of June 8, 1501, continuing a license of July, 1500, to explore and govern the Isla de Coquivacoa.[665] Two days later, on June 10, 1501, a formal commission as governor was given to Ojeda,[666] and the articles of association were executed by him and his partners, Vergara and Ocampo, on the 5th of July.[667] An escribano, Juan de Guevara by name, was appointed in the beginning of September of the same year. The fleet was a long time in fitting out, and it was not till the next spring that Ojeda issued his orders and instructions to the commanders of the other vessels and to the pilots.[668] These are of great importance, as giving the names of the places which he had visited on his first voyage. The attempt at colonization ended disastrously, and Ojeda found himself at Santo Domingo as the defendant in a suit brought against him by his associates. Navarrete used the evidence given in this suit in his account; but he printed only the ejecutoria, in which the King and Queen ordered that Ojeda should be set at liberty, and that his goods should be restored to him.[669] The[208] position of the irrigated land[670] which he called Valfermoso is difficult to determine; but it certainly was not the Curiana of the present day, which is identical with the Curiana of Guerra and Niño.[671]

Martin Fernandez de Enciso—the bachiller Enciso—“first came to the Indies with Bastidas,” says Bancroft,[672] and practised law to such good purpose that he accumulated two thousand castellanos,—equivalent to ten thousand in our day.[673] This he contributed toward the expenses of the Nueva Andalucia colony, of which he was made alcalde mayor. But he was unfortunate in that office, as we have seen, and was sent to Spain, whence he returned in 1513 with Pedrárias as alguacil mayor. In 1514 he led an expedition to Cenú, to which Irving erroneously gives an earlier date.[674] From 1514 to 1519 nothing is known of Enciso’s movements; but in the latter year he published the Suma de geografía que trata de todas las partidas y provincias del mundo, en especial de las Indias, which contains much bearing on this period. What became of the author is not known.

The trading voyages to Tierra-Firme between Ojeda’s two attempts at colonization have no geographical importance; and, indeed, their very existence depends on a few documents which were unearthed from the Archives of the Indies by the indefatigable labors of Muñoz, Navarrete, and the editors of the Coleccion de documentos inéditos relativos al descubrimiento, conquista y organizacion de las antiguas posesiones Españolas de América y Oceania.[675] Of these trading voyages first comes the cruise of Juan de la Cosa, or Juan Vizcaino, as he was sometimes called, whose intention to embark upon it is inferred from a letter from the Queen to the royal officers,[676] and an asiento bearing date Feb. 14, 1504.[677] Nothing is known of the voyage itself, except that Navarrete, on the authority of a cédula which he did not print, gives the amount of money received by the Crown as its share of the profits.[678]

The voyage which Ojeda is supposed to have made in 1505 rests on a still weaker foundation, as there is nothing with regard to it except a cédula, bearing date Sept. 21, 1505,[679] concerning certain valuables which may have been procured on this voyage or on the first ill-fated attempt at colonization. That it was contemplated is ascertained from a Cédula para que Alfonso Doxeda sea Gobernador de la Costa de Ququebacóa e Huraba,[680] etc. The document, dated Sept. 21, 1504, is followed by two of the same date referring to Ojeda’s financial troubles. Is it not possible that the above-mentioned document of Sept. 21, 1505, belongs with them? The agreement (asiento) of Sept. 30, 1504, confirmed in March of the next year, is in the same volume, while an order to the Governor of Española not to interfere with the luckless Ojeda was printed by Navarrete (iii. 111), who has said all that can be said concerning the expedition in his Noticia biográfica.[681]

The voyage of Juan de la Cosa with Martin de los Reyes and Juan Correa rests entirely on the assertion of Navarrete that they returned in 1508, because it was stated (where, he does not say) that the proceeds of the voyage were so many hundred[209] thousand maravedis.[682] Concerning the discovery of Yucatan by Vicente Yañez Pinzon, there is no original material;[683] but here again evidence of preparation for a voyage can be found in an asiento y capytulacion of April 24, 1505, in the Documentos inéditos (xxxi. 309).

After this time the history of Tierra-Firme is much better known; for it is with the colonies sent out under Ojeda and Nicuesa in 1509 that the Historia general of Oviedo becomes a standard authority. Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdés was born in Madrid in 1478, and in 1490 he entered the household of the Duke of Villahermoso. Later he served under Prince Juan and the King Of Naples until 1507, when he entered the service of the King and Queen of Spain. In 1513 he was appointed escribano, and later (upon the death of Caicedo, who, it will be remembered, was one of the agents Vasco Nuñez had sent to Spain to announce the existence of an unknown sea) veedor de las fundaciones d’oro to the expedition which under Pedrárias was sent to Tierra-Firme in that year. Oviedo did not approve of the course pursued by that worthy, and returned to Spain in 1515 to inform the new King, Charles I. (Emperor Charles V.) of the true condition of affairs in the Indies. He brought about many important reforms, secured for himself the office of perpetual regidor of Antigua,—escribano general of the province, receiver of the fines of the cámara,[684]—and cargoes and goods forfeited for smuggling were also bestowed upon him. His veeduría was extended so as to include all Tierra-Firme; and when the news of the execution of Vasco Nuñez arrived at Court, he was ordered to take charge of his goods and those of his associates. Oviedo, provided with so many offices and with an order commanding all governors to furnish him with a true account of their doings, returned to Antigua soon after the new governor, Lope de Sosa, who had been appointed, upon his representations, to succeed Pedrárias. But unfortunately for him Lope de Sosa died in the harbor of Antigua (1520), and Oviedo was left face to face with Pedrárias. It was not long before they quarrelled as to the policy of removing the seat of government of the province from Antigua to Panamá, which Oviedo did not approve. Pedrárias craftily made him his lieutenant at Antigua, in which office Oviedo conducted himself so honestly that he incurred the hatred of all the evil-disposed colonists of that town, and was forced to resign. He also complained of Pedrárias before the new alcalde mayor, and was glad to go to Spain as the representative of Antigua. On his way he stopped at Cuba and Santo Domingo, where he saw Velasquez and Diego Columbus; with the latter he sailed for home. There he used his opportunities so well that he procured, in 1523, the appointment of Pedro de los Rios as Pedrárias’ successor, and for himself the governorship of Cartagena; and after publishing his Sumario he returned to Castilla del Oro, where he remained until 1530, when he returned to Spain, resigned his veeduría, and some time after received the appointment of Cronista general de Indias. In 1532 he was again in Santo Domingo, and in 1533 he was appointed alcaid of the fortress there. But the remainder of his life was passed in literary pursuits, and he died in Valladolid in 1557 at the age of seventy-nine. From this account it can easily be seen that whatever he wrote with regard to the affairs of Tierra-Firme must be received with caution, as he was far from being an impartial observer.[685]

The first document with regard to the final and successful settlement of Tierra-Firme is the cédula of June 9, 1508, in which Diego de Nicuesa and Alonso de Ojeda were commissioned governors of Veragua and Urabá for four years.[686] Juan de la Cosa was[210] confirmed in his office of alguacil mayor de Urabá on the seventeenth of the same month;[687] and the Governor of Española was directed to give him a house for his wife and children, together with a sufficient number of Indians.[688]

As we have seen, the two governors were prevented by Diego Columbus from taking the well-to-do class of colonists from Española upon which they had counted. This statement is made on the authority of Nicuesa’s lieutenant, Rodrigo de Colmenares, who afterward deserted Nicuesa at Antigua, and went to Spain in 1512 in company with Caicedo to report the existence of a new sea. While there, either on this or a later visit, he presented a memorial to the King sobre el desgraciado suceso de Diego de Nicuesa.[689] The allegations of Colmenares are borne out by two cédulas of Feb. 28, 1510;[690] while a cédula of June 15, 1510, declared that the Gulf of Urabá belonged to the province which had been assigned to Ojeda.[691] Nicuesa was informed of this decision in a cédula of the same date.[692] There are four more cédulas of July 25, 1511, in two of which the Admiral Diego Columbus and the treasurer Pasamonte are ordered to assist the unhappy governors, while the other two were written to inform those governors that such orders had been sent.[693] The fate of neither of them, however, is certain. The judges of appeal in Española were ordered to inquire into the crimes, délits, and excesses of Ojeda, Talavera, and companions.[694] Talavera and his associates were hanged in Jamaica in 1511, and Ojeda’s deposition was taken in 1513, and again in 1515 in Santo Domingo, in the celebrated lawsuit; but beyond this his further movements are not accurately known.[695] As for Nicuesa, he too underwent shipwreck and starvation; and when at last fortune seemed about to smile upon him, he was cruelly cast out by the mutinous settlers at Darien; and although a story was current that he had been wrecked on Cuba and had there left inscribed on a tree, “Here died the unfortunate Nicuesa,” yet the best opinion is that he and his seventeen faithful followers perished at sea.[696]

The only complete biography of Vasco Nuñez de Balbóa is that of Don Manuel José Quintana,[697] who had access to the then unpublished portion of Oviedo, and to documents many of which are possibly not yet published. His Vida,[698] therefore, is very useful in filling gaps in the account of the expeditions from Antigua both before and after the coming of Pedrárias. There is no account by an eye-witness of the expeditions undertaken by Vasco Nuñez before 1514; and the only approach to such a document is the[211] letter which Vasco Nuñez wrote to the King on Jan. 20, 1513.[699] The writer of this letter came to the Indies with Bastidas in 1500; and after the unhappy ending of that voyage settled in Española. But he was not suited to the placid life of a planter, and becoming involved in debt, was glad to escape from his creditors in Enciso’s ship. It was by his advice that the San Sebastian colony was transferred to the other side of the Gulf of Urabá; and when there his shrewdness had discovered a way of getting rid of Enciso. The exact part he played in the murder of Nicuesa is not clear; but it is certain, as Bancroft points out, that his connection with that nefarious act was the lever by which his enemies finally accomplished his overthrow. It can be thus easily understood that the censures which he passes on Enciso and Nicuesa must be received with caution. Still, we should not forget that Vasco Nuñez succeeded where they failed. He was a man of little or no education, and portions of this letter are almost untranslatable. Nevertheless, Clements R. Markham has given an English rendering in the Introduction to his translation of Andagoya’s Relacion.[700] Among the other accounts,[701] that of Herrera is very full, and, so far as it can be compared with accessible documents, sufficiently accurate.

There is no real discrepancy in the various narratives, except with regard to the date of the discovery of the Pacific, which Peter Martyr says took place on the 26th of September, while all the other authorities have the 25th; Oviedo going so far as to give the very hour when the new waters first dawned on Balbóa’s sight.[702]

There is no lack of original material concerning the government of Pedrárias. First come his commission[703] (July 27, 1513) and instructions[704] (Aug. 2, 1513), which Navarrete has printed, together with the letter written by the King on receipt of the reports of Vasco Nuñez’ grand discovery.[705] The date of this paper is not given; but there has recently been printed[706] a letter from the King to Vasco Nuñez of Aug. 19, 1514. In this note the monarch states that he has heard of the discovery of the new sea through Pasamonte, although he had not then seen Arbolancha. Pasamonte had probably written in Vasco Nuñez’ favor; for the King adds that he has written to Pedrárias that he (Vasco Nuñez) should be well treated. It is possible that this is the letter above mentioned, a portion only of which is printed in Navarrete.

The date of the expedition to Dabaibe, in which so many men were lost, is not certain; but Vasco Nuñez saw the necessity of putting forward a defence, which he did in a letter to the King on the 16th of October, 1515.[707] In this letter, besides describing the really insuperable obstacles in the way of a successful expedition in that direction,—in which the lack of food, owing to the ravages of the locusts, bears a prominent part,—he attacks Pedrárias and his government very severely.

The doings of Arbolancha in Spain are not known. There is a letter of the King to Pedrárias, dated Sept. 27, 1514, appointing Vasco Nuñez adelantado of the coast region[212] which he had discovered.[708] We have several letters of the King to Pedrárias, to the new adelantado, and to other officers, on November 23 and 27.[709]

The next document of importance is the narrative of Espinosa’s expedition, written by himself. It is printed in the Documentos inéditos (vol. ii. pp. 467-522), with some corrections by the editors; but it may be found in the original spelling, and without such corrections, in another volume of that series,[710] where the date of 1514 is most erroneously assigned to it.

The licenciate Gaspar de Espinosa came to Tierra-Firme with Pedrárias as alcalde mayor. Soon after his arrival at Antigua he held the residencia of Vasco Nuñez, and then is not heard of again until he is found in command of this expedition. He founded Panamá (for the first time) and returned to Antigua, whence he followed Pedrárias to Acla to try Vasco Nuñez for treason. He unwillingly convicted him, but recommended mercy. After the great explorer’s death he cruised in his vessels to the coast of Nicaragua; and later he played an important part in the conquest of Peru, and died at Cuzco while endeavoring to accommodate the differences between Pizarro and Almagro. The only other document of his which I have found is a Relacion e proceso concerning the voyage of 1519.[711]

There are a few other documents bearing on the history of Tierra-Firme;[712] but the best and most complete contemporary account of this period[713] was written by Pascual de Andagoya, who came to Antigua with Pedrárias. Andagoya was with Vasco Nuñez on his last voyage, accompanied Espinosa on both his expeditions, and led a force into Birú in 1522. After his return from that expedition he lived in Panamá until 1529, when Pedro de los Rios banished him from the isthmus. After a few years spent in Santo Domingo he returned to Panamá as lieutenant to the new governor, Barrionuevo, and acted as agent to Pizarro and the other conquerors of Peru until 1536, when his residencia was held with much rigor by the licenciate Pedro Vasquez, and he was sent to Spain. In 1539 he returned as adelantado and governor of Castilla Nueva, as the province bordering on the Mar del Sur from the Gulf of San Miguel to the San Juan River was then called. But the remainder of his life was one succession of disappointments, and he died some time after 1545.[714]

From this brief biography it will be seen that Andagoya’s earlier career was successful, and that he was on friendly terms with Pedrárias, Espinosa, and Vasco Nuñez. He was therefore, so far as we are concerned, an impartial witness of the events which he describes; and his testimony is therefore more to be relied on than that of Oviedo, who was absent from Tierra-Firme a great part of the time, and who was besides inimical to Pedrárias. Otherwise Oviedo’s account is the better; for the sequence of events is difficult, if not impossible, to unravel from Andagoya.


The second chronicler of the Indies, Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, who published the first two volumes of his Historia general in 1601,[715] drew upon himself the wrath of a descendant of Pedrárias, Don Francisco Arias Dávila, Conde de Puñonrostro, who petitioned for redress. Memorials, relaciones, and refutaciones were given on both sides until September, 1603, when the matter was referred to “Xil Ramirez de Arellano, del Consexo de Su Maxestad e Su Fiscal.” This umpire decided in effect[716] that Herrera had gone too far, and that the acrimony of some of the passages objected to should be mitigated. The papers which passed in this discussion, after remaining for a long time buried in the Archives of the Indies, have been printed in the thirty-seventh volume of Documentos inéditos,[717] and are without doubt one of the most valuable sets among the papers in that collection. Among them are many letters from the King to the royal officials which throw much light on the history of that time. There is nothing in them, however, to remove the unfavorable opinion of Pedrárias which the execution of Vasco Nuñez aroused; for although there can be little doubt that Vasco Nuñez meditated technical treason, yet conviction for treason by the alcalde mayor would not have justified execution without appeal, especially when the fair-minded judge, Gaspar Espinosa, recommended mercy. This is perfectly clear; but the mind of Pedrárias, who presented the facts from his point of view, in the Testimónio de mandamiénto de Pedrárias Dávila mandando proscesar a Vasco Nuñez de Balbóa,[718] had been poisoned by the jealous Garabito.

The convicted traitors were executed without delay or appeal of any kind being given them. The general opinion is that this execution took place in 1517, and that date has been adopted in this chapter; but in the second volume of Documentos inéditos (p. 556), there is a Peticion presentada por Hernando de Arguello, á nombre de Vasco Nuñez de Balbóa, sobre que se le prorrogue el término que se le habia dado para la construccion de unos navíos, etc., which was granted, for eight months, on the 13th day of January, 1518 (en treze de Enero de quiniéntos é diez é ocho años). This document is signed by Pedrárias Dávila, Alonso de la Puente, and Diego Marquez; and it is properly attested by Martin Salte, escribáno. Argüello was the principal financial supporter of Vasco Nuñez in the South Sea enterprise, and was executed in the evening of the same day on which his chief suffered.[719]

The first fifty-seven pages of the fourteenth volume of the Documentos inéditos are taken up with the affairs of Gil Gonzalez Dávila. The first is an asiénto with the pilot Niño, by which he was given permission to discover and explore for one thousand leagues to the westward from Panamá. Gil Gonzalez was to go in command of the fleet,[720] composed of the vessels built by Vasco Nuñez, which Pedrárias was ordered to deliver to the new adventurers, but which he refused to do until Gil Gonzalez made the demand in person.[721]

A full statement of the equipments and cost of fitting out the fleet in Spain is given in Documentos inéditos (vol. xiv. pp. 8-20), and is exceedingly interesting as showing what the Spaniards thought essential to the outfit of an exploring expedition. What was[214] actually accomplished in the way of sailing, marching, and baptizing is fully set forth in Relacion de las leguas que el capitan Gil Gonzalez Dávila anduvo á pié por tierra por la costa de la mar del Sur, y de los caciques y indios que descubrió y se babtizaron, y del oro que dieron para Sus Magestades (1522).[722]

The latter part of the career of Gil Gonzalez is described in the Informacion sobre la llegada de Gil Gonzalez Dávila y Cristóbal de Olid á las Higueras (Oct. 8, 1524)[723] and in the succeeding documents, especially a Traslado testimoniado de una cédula del Emperador Carlos V.... entre los capitanes Gil Gonzalez Dávila y Cristóbal Dolid (Nov. 20, 1525).[724] The Relacion of Andagoya[725] contains a narrative of the expedition from a different point of view. Besides these papers, Bancroft found a document in the Squier Collection,[726] which he cites as Carta de Gil Gonzalez Dávila el Rey (March, 1524). This letter contains a great deal of detailed information, of which Bancroft has made good use in his account of that adventurer.[727]

There is no documentary evidence with regard to the settlement of Jamaica by Juan de Esquivel, or of the circumnavigation of Cuba by Sebastian de Ocampo; and there are but slight allusions to them in the “chroniclers.”[728] There is not much to be found concerning the settlement of Cuba, except the accounts given by the early chroniclers. I should place Oviedo (vol. i. p. 494) first, although he got his knowledge second hand from the account given by Las Casas; while the story of this actual observer is necessarily tinged by the peculiar views—peculiar for the nation and epoch—which he held in later life with regard to the enslavement of the natives.[729]

With the voyage of Córdoba to Yucatan, Navarrete[730] again becomes useful, although he printed no new evidence. The voyage, therefore, rests upon the accounts given in the standard books,[731] upon the Historia verdadera of Bernal Diaz, the Vida de Cortés in Icazbalceta (i. 338), and a few documents recently dragged from the recesses of the Indian Archives.

Bernal Diaz del Castillo came to Tierra-Firme with Pedrárias; but, discouraged with the outlook there, he and about one hundred companions found their way to Cuba, attracted thither by the inducements held out by Velasquez. But there again he was doomed to disappointment, and served under Córdoba, Grijalva, and Cortés. After the conquest of Mexico he settled in Guatemala. Whatever may be the exaggerations in the latter part of his Historia verdadera,[732] there is no reason why Bernal Diaz should[215] not have wished to tell the truth as to the voyages of Córdoba and Grijalva, with one or two exceptions, to be hereafter noted.

Prescott, in his Conquest of Mexico (vol. i. p. 222), says that Córdoba sailed for one of the neighboring Bahamas, but that storms drove him far out of his course, etc. Bancroft[733] has effectually disposed of this error. But is it not a curious fact that Bernal Diaz and Oviedo should give the length of the voyage from Cape St. Anton to the sighting of the islands off Yucatan as from six to twenty-one days? Oviedo was probably nearer the mark, as it is very likely that the old soldier had forgotten the exact circumstances of the voyage; for it must be borne in mind that he did not write his book until long after the events which it chronicles. As to the object of the expedition, it was undoubtedly undertaken for the purpose of procuring slaves, and very possibly Velasquez contributed a small vessel to the two fitted out by the other adventurers;[734] but the claim set forth by the descendants of Velasquez, that he sent four fleets at his own costLa una con un F. H. de Córdoba[735]—is preposterous.

The voyage of Juan de Grijalva was much better chronicled; for with regard to it there are in existence three accounts written by eye-witnesses. The first is that of Bernal Diaz,[736] which is minute, and generally accurate; but it is not unlikely that in his envy at the praise accorded to Cortés, he may have exaggerated the virtues of Grijalva. The latter also wrote an account of the expedition, which is embodied in Oviedo,[737] together with corrections suggested by Velasquez, whom Oviedo saw in 1523.

But before these I should place the Itinerario of Juan Diaz, a priest who accompanied the expedition.[738] The original is lost; but an Italian version is known, which was printed with the Itinerario de Varthema at Venice, in 1520.[739] This edition was apparently unknown to Navarrete, who gives 1522 as the date of its appearance in Italian, in which he is followed by Ternaux-Compans and Prescott.

Notwithstanding this mass of original material, it is not easy to construct a connected narrative of this voyage, for Oviedo sometimes contradicts himself; Bernal Diaz had undoubtedly forgotten the exact dates, which he nevertheless attempts to give in too many cases; Juan Diaz, owing partly to the numerous translations and changes incidental thereto, is sometimes unintelligible; and Las Casas,[740] who had good facilities for getting at the exact truth, is often very vague and difficult to follow.



Fac-simile of an engraving in Herrera, i. 312. Cf. also the Mexican edition of Prescott, and Carbajal Espinosa’s Historia de México. i. 64.

In addition to this material, the Décadas abreviadas de los descubrimientos, conquistas, fundaciones y otras cosas notables, acaecidas en las Indias occidentales desde 1492 á 1640, has been of considerable service. This paper was found in manuscript form, without date or signature, in the Biblioteca Nacional by the editors of the Documentos inéditos, and printed by them in their eighth volume (pp. 5-52). It is not accurate throughout; but it gives the dates and order of events in many cases so clearly, that it is a document of some importance.






IN a previous section on the early maps of the Spanish and Portuguese discoveries the Editor has traced the development of the geography of the Gulf of Mexico with the group of the Antilles and the neighboring coasts, beginning with the delineation of La Cosa in 1500. He has indicated in the same section the influence of the explorations of Columbus and his companions in shaping the geographical ideas of the early years of the sixteenth century. Balbóa’s discovery in 1513 was followed by the failure to find any passage to the west in the latitude of the Antilles; but the disappointment was not sufficient to remove the idea of such a passage from the minds of certain geographers for some years to come. The less visionary among them hesitated to embrace the notion, however, and we observe a willingness to be confined by something like definite knowledge in the maker of a map of the Pacific which is preserved in the Military Library at Weimar. This map shows Cordova’s discoveries about Yucatan (1517), but has no indication of the islands which Magellan discovered (1520) in the Pacific; accordingly, Kohl places it in 1518. Balbóa’s discovery is noted in the sea which was seen by the Castilians.[741]




This map is also given in Weise’s Discoveries of America, p. 278.


A sketch of a map found by Navarrete in the Spanish archives, and given by him in his Coleccion, vol. iii., as “Las Costas de Tierra-Firme y las tierras nuevas,” probably embodies the results of Pineda’s expedition to the northern shores of the[219] Gulf in 1519. This was the map sent to Spain by Garay, the governor of Jamaica. What seems to be the mouth of the Mississippi will be noted as the “Rio del Espiritu Santo.” The surprisingly accurate draft of the shores of the Gulf which Cortés sent to Europe was published in 1524, and is given to the reader on another page.[742]

MAIOLLO, 1527.

Sketch of the map in the Ambrosian Library, of which the part north of Florida is given on a larger scale, after Desimoni’s sketch, with coast names, in the present History, Vol. IV. pp. 28, 39. The present sketch follows a fac-simile given in Weise’s Discoveries of America.


There is a sketch of the northern shore of South America and the “Insule Canibalorum sive Antiglie” which was made by Lorenz Friess (Laurentius Frisius) in 1522. The outline, which is given herewith, represents one of the sheets of twelve woodcut maps which were not published till 1530—under the title Carta marina navigatoria Portugalensium. Friess does not mention whence he got his material, which seems to be of an earlier date than the time of using it; and Kohl suspects it came from Waldseemüller. South America is marked “Das nüw Erfunde land.”

In the Maiollo map of 1527 we find two distinct features,—the strait, connecting with the Pacific, which Cortés had been so anxious to find; and the insular Yucatan pushed farther than usual into the Gulf. The notion that Yucatan was an island is said to have arisen from a misconception of the meaning of the designation which the Indians applied to the country.[743] The Portuguese Portulano of 1514-1518[744] had made Yucatan a peninsula; but four years later Grijalva had been instructed to sail round it, and Cortés in his map of 1520 had left an intervening channel.[745] We see the uncertainty which prevailed among cartographers regarding this question in the peninsular character which Yucatan has in the map of 1520,[746] as resulting from Pineda’s search; in the seeming hesitancy of the Toreno map,[747] and in the unmistakable insularity of the Friess,[748] Verrazano,[749] and Ribero[750] charts. The decision of the latter royal hydrographer governed a school of map-makers for some years, and a similar strait of greater or less width separates it from the main in the Finæus map of 1531,[751] the Lenox woodcut of 1534,[752] the Ulpius globe of 1542,[753] not to name others; though the peninsular notion still prevailed with some of the cartographers.[754]


A map which shows the extent of the explorations on the Pacific from Balbóa’s time till Gonzales and others reached the country about the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, is that of[221] 1527, which was formerly ascribed to Ferdinand Columbus, but has been shown (?) by Harrisse to be more likely the work of Nuño Garcia de Toreno. The map, which is of the world, and of which but a small section is given herewith, is called Carta universal en que se contiene todo lo que del mundo se a descubierto hasta aora; hizola un cosmographo de su magestad anno M. D. XXVII en Sevilla. Its outline of the two Americas is shown in a sketch given on an earlier page.[755] The original is preserved in the Grand-Ducal Library at Weimar.

RIBERO, 1529.

A map of similar character, dated two years later, is one which is the work of Diego Ribero, a Portuguese in the service of Spain, who had been the royal cosmographer since 1523,—an office which he was to hold till his death, ten years later, in 1533. There are two early copies of this map, of which a small section is herewith given; both are on parchment, and are preserved respectively at Weimar and Rome, though Thomassy[756] says there is a third copy. The Roman copy is in the Archivio del Collegio di Propaganda, and is said to have belonged to Cardinal Borgia. The North American sections of the map have been several times reproduced in connection with discussions of the voyages of Gomez and Verrazano.[757] The entire American continent was first engraved by M. C. Sprengel in 1795, after a copy then in Büttner’s library at Jena, when it was appended to a German translation of Muñoz, with a memoir upon it which was also printed separately as Ueber Ribero’s älteste Weltkarte. The map is entitled Carta universal en que[222] se contiene todo lo que del mundo se ha descubierto fasta agora: Hizola Diego Ribero cosmographo de su magestad: año de 1529. La Qual se divide en dos partes conforme á la capitulaçion que hizieron los catholicos Reyes de España, y el Rey don Juan de portugal en la Villa [citta] de Tordesillas: Año de 1494,—thus recording the Spanish understanding, as the map of 1527 did, of the line of demarcation. The Propaganda copy has “en Sevilla” after the date. The most serviceable of the modern reproductions of the American parts is that given by Kohl in his Die beiden ältesten General-Karten von Amerika, though other drafts of parts are open to the student in Santarem’s Atlas (pl. xxv.), Lelewel’s Moyen-âge (pl. xli.), Ruge’s Geschichte des Zeitalters der Entdeckungen, and Bancroft’s Central America (i. 146).[758]

These two maps of 1527 and 1529 established a type of the American coasts which prevailed for some time. One such map is that of which a fac-simile is given in the Cartas de Indias, called “Carta de las Antillas, seno Mejicano y costas de tierra-firme, y de la America setentrional,” which seems, however, to have been made later than 1541.[759] Another is preserved in the Ducal Library at Wolfenbüttel, of which Harrisse makes mention in his Cabots, p. 185. A significant map of this type, commonly cited as the Atlas de Philippe II., dédié à Charles Quint, is more correctly defined in the title given to a photographic reproduction,[760] Portulano de Charles Quint donné à Philippe II., accompagné d’une notice par MM. F. Spitzer et Ch. Wiener, Paris, 1875. The map is not dated; but the development of the coasts of Florida, California, Peru, and of Magellan’s Straits, with the absence of the coast-line of Chili, which had been tracked in 1536, has led to the belief that it represents investigations of a period not long before 1540. The original draft first attracted attention when exhibited in 1875 at the Geographical Congress in Paris, and shortly after it was the subject of several printed papers.[761] Major is inclined to think it the work of Baptista Agnese, and Wieser is of the same opinion; while for the American parts it is contended that the Italian geographer—for the language of the map is Italian—followed the maps of 1527 and 1529.

What would seem to be the earliest engraved map of this type exists, so far as is known, in but a single copy, now in the Lenox Library. It is a woodcut, measuring 21 × 17 inches, and is entitled La carta uniuersale della terra firma & Isole delle Indie occidētali, cio è del mondo nuouo fatta per dichiaratione delli libri delle Indie, cauata da due carte da nauicare fatte in Sibilia da li piloti della Maiesta Cesarea,—the maps referred to being those of 1527 and 1529, as is supposed. Harrisse, however, claims that this Venice cut preceded the map of 1527, and was probably the work of the same chartmaker. Stevens holds that it followed both of these maps, and should be dated 1534; while Harrisse would place it before Peter Martyr’s death in September, 1526. According to Brevoort and Harrisse,[762] the map was issued to accompany the conglomerate work of Martyr and Oviedo, Summario de la generale historia de l’Indie occidentali, which was printed in three parts at Venice in 1534.[763] Murphy, in his Verrazzano (p. 125), quotes the colophon of the Oviedo part of the book as evidence of the origin of the map, which translated stands thus: “Printed at Venice in the month of December, 1534.”



For the explanation of these books there has been made a universal map of the countries of all the West Indies, together with a special map [Hispaniola] taken from two marine charts of the Spaniards, one of which belonged to Don Pietro Martire, councillor of the Royal Council of said Indies, and was made by the pilot and master of marine charts, Niño Garzia de Loreno [sic] in Seville; the other was made also by a pilot of his Majesty, the Emperor, in Seville. Quaritch[764] says that an advertisement at the end of the secundo libro of Xeres, Conquista del Peru (Venice, 1534), shows that the map in the first edition of Peter Martyr’s Decades was made by Nuño Garcia de Toreno in Seville; but the statement is questionable. Harrisse refers to a map of Toreno preserved in the Royal Library at Turin, dated 1522, in which he is called “piloto y maestro de cartas de nauegar de su Magestad.” The American part of this last chart is unfortunately missing.[765]

Harrisse calls this Lenox woodcut the earliest known chart of Spanish origin which is crossed by lines of latitude and longitude, and thinks it marks a type adopted by the Spanish cosmographers a little after the return of Del Cano from his voyage of circumnavigation and the coming of Andagoya from Panama in 1522, with additions based on the tidings which Gomez brought to Seville in December, 1525, from his voyage farther north.


It is not worth while to reproduce here various maps of this time, all showing more or less resemblance to the common type of this central portion of the New World. Such[225] are the maps of Verrazano[766] and of Thorne,[767] the draft of the Sloane manuscript,[768] the cordiform map of Orontius Finæus,[769] one given by Kunstmann,[770] and the whole series of the Agnese type.[771]


There is a French map, which was found by Jomard in the possession of a noble family in France, which Kohl supposes to be drawn in part from Ribero. A sketch is annexed as of “An Early French Map.” The absence of the Gulf of California and of all traces of De Soto’s expedition leads Kohl to date it before 1533. Jomard placed the date later; but as the map has no record of the expeditions of Ribault and Laudonnière, it would appear to be earlier than 1554.[772]


There is a large manuscript map in the British Museum which seems to have been made by a Frenchman from Spanish sources, judging from the mixture and corruption of the languages used in it. In one inscription there is mention of “the disembarkation of the Governor;” and this, together with the details of the harbors on the west coast of Florida, where Narvaez went, leads Kohl to suppose the map to have been drawn from that commander’s reports. The sketch, which is annexed and marked “Gulf of Mexico, 1536,” follows Kohl’s delineation in his Washington collection.[773]

ROTZ, 1542.

We can further trace the geographical history of the Antilles in the Münster map of 1540,[774] in the Mercator gores of 1541,[775] and in the Ulpius globe of 1542.[776] In this last year (1542) we find in the Rotz Idrography, preserved in the British Museum, a map which records the latitudes about three degrees too high for the larger islands, and about two degrees too low for the more southern ones, making the distance between Florida and Trinidad too great by five degrees. The map is marked “The Indis of Occident quhas the Spaniards doeth occupy.” The sketch here given follows Kohl’s copy.[777] Rotz seems to have worked from antecedent Portuguese charts; and in the well-known Cabot map of 1544, of which a section is annexed, as well as in the Medina map of 1545,[778] we doubtless have the results reached by the Spanish hydrographers. The “Carta marina” of the Italian Ptolemy of 1548,[779] as well as the manuscript atlas of Nicholas Vallard (1547), now in the Sir Thomas Phillipps Collection, may be traced ultimately to the same[227] source; and the story goes respecting the latter that a Spanish bishop, Don Miguel de Silva, brought out of Spain and into France the originals upon which it was founded. These originals, it would appear, also served Homem in 1558 in the elaborate manuscript map, now preserved in the British Museum, of which a sketch (in part) is annexed (p. 229).

CABOT, 1544.

Sketch of a section of the so-called Sebastian Cabot Mappemonde in the National Library at Paris, following a photographic reproduction belonging to Harvard College Library. There is a rude draft of the Antilles by Allfonsce of this same year.

The maps of the middle of the century which did most to fix popularly the geography of the New World were probably the Bellero map of 1554,[780] which was so current in Antwerp publications of about that time, and the hemisphere of Ramusio (1556) which accompanied the third volume of his Viaggi, and of which a fac-simile is annexed. There is a variety of delineations to be traced out for the Antilles through the sequence of the better-known maps of the next following years, which the curious student may find in the maps of the Riccardi Palace,[781] the Nancy globe,[782] the Martines map of 155-,[783] that of Forlani in 1560,[784] the map of Ruscelli in the Ptolemy of 1561, besides those by Zalterius (1566),[785] Des Liens (1566),[786] Diegus (1568),[787] Mercator (1569),[788] Ortelius (1570),[789] and Porcacchi (1572).[790]


RAMUSIO, 1556.

H. H. Bancroft, Northwest Coast, i. 49, sketches this map, but errs in saying the shape of the California peninsula was not copied in later maps. Cf. map in Best’s Frobisher 1578.


HOMEM, 1558.


Of the map of Martines, in 1578, which is in a manuscript atlas preserved in the British Museum, Kohl says its parallels of latitude are more nearly correct than on any earlier map, while its meridians of longitude are expanded far too much.[791]


CUBA (after Wytfliet, 1597).

The earliest map of Cuba is that in the La Cosa Chart, which is reproduced, among other places, in Ramon de la Sagra’s Histoire physique et politique de l’ile de Cuba, 1842-1843, which contains also the chart of Guillaure Testu. There are other early maps of Cuba—besides those in maps of the Antilles already mentioned in the present section—in Porcacchi, 1572 (pp. 81, 88), in the Ortelius of 1592, and in the Mercator atlases. The bibliography of Cuba is given in Bachiler’s Apuntes para la historia de la isla de Cuba, Havana, 1861. For the cartography, cf. the Mapoteca Columbiana of Uricoechea, London, 1860, p. 53. Of the several maps of the Antilles toward the end of the century, it may be sufficient to name the detailed map of the West Indies in the Ortelius of 1584, the Hakluyt-Martyr map of 1587, the map of Thomas Hood in Kunstmann, the De Bry map of 1596, as well as the maps of the first distinctively American atlas,—that of Wytfliet in 1597.





THE credit of being the first to explore our Atlantic coast has not yet been positively awarded by critical historians. Ramusio preserves the report of a person whom he does not name, which asserts that Sebastian Cabot claimed for his father and himself, in the summer of 1497, to have run down the whole coast, from Cape Breton to the latitude of Cuba; but the most recent and experienced writer on Cabot treats the claim as unfounded.[792]

The somewhat sceptical scholars of our day have shown little inclination to adopt the theory of Francisco Adolpho de Varnhagen, that Americus Vespucius on his first voyage reached Honduras in 1497, and during the ensuing year ran along the northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico, doubled the Florida cape, and then sailed northward along our Atlantic coast to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where he built a vessel and sailed to Cadiz.[793]

Although Columbus made his first landfall on one of the Bahamas, and Cuba was soon after occupied, no definite knowledge seems to have been obtained of the great mainland so near them. There is nothing in narrative or map to betray any suspicion of its existence prior to the year 1502, when a map executed in Lisbon at the order of Cantino, an Italian merchant, for Hercules d’Este, shows a mainland north of Cuba, terminating near that island in a peninsula resembling Florida. The tract of land thus shown has names of capes and rivers, but they can be referred to no known exploration. To some this has seemed to be but a confused idea of Cuba as mainland;[794] by others it is regarded as a vague idea of Yucatan. But Harrisse in his Corte-Real, where he reproduces the map, maintains that[232] “between the end of 1500 and the summer of 1502 navigators, whose name and nationality are unknown, but whom we presume to be Spaniards, discovered, explored, and named the part of the shore of the United States which from the vicinity of Pensacola Bay runs along the Gulf of Mexico to the Cape of Florida, and, turning it, runs northward along the Atlantic coast to about the mouth of the Chesapeake or Hudson.”[795]

But leaving these three claims in the realm of conjecture and doubt, we come to a period of more certain knowledge.

The Lucayos of the Bahamas seem to have talked of a great land of Bimini not far from them. The Spaniards repeated the story; and in the edition of Peter Martyr’s Decades published in 1511 is a map on which a large island appears, named “Illa de Beimeni, parte.”[796]

Discovery had taken a more southerly route; no known Spanish vessel had passed through the Bahama channel or skirted the coast. But some ideas must have prevailed, picked up from natives of the islands, or adventurous pilots who had ventured farther than their instructions authorized. Stories of an island north of Hispaniola, with a fountain whose waters conferred perpetual youth, had reached Peter Martyr in Spain, for in the same edition of his Decades he alludes to the legends.

John Ponce de Leon, who had accompanied Columbus on his second voyage, and had since played his part bravely amid the greatest vicissitudes, resolved to explore and conquer Bimini. He had friends at Court, and seems to have been a personal favorite of the King, who expressed a wish for his advancement.[797] The patent he solicited was based on that originally issued to Columbus; but the King laughingly said, that it was one thing to grant boundless power when nothing was expected to come of it, and very different to do so when success was almost certain. Yet on the 23d of February, 1512, a royal grant empowered John Ponce de Leon “to proceed to discover and settle the Island of Bimini.”[798] The patent was subject to the condition that the island had not been already discovered. He was required to make the exploration within three years, liberty being granted to him to touch at any island or mainland not subject to the King of Portugal. If he succeeded in his expedition he was to be governor of Bimini for life, with the title of adelantado.[799]

The veteran immediately purchased a vessel, in order to go to Spain and make preparations for the conquest of Bimini. But the authorities in Porto Rico seized his vessel; and the King, finding his services necessary[233] in controlling the Indians, sent orders to the Council of the Indies to defer the Bimini expedition, and gave Ponce de Leon command of the fort in Porto Rico.[800]

Thus delayed in the royal service, Ponce de Leon was unable to obtain vessels or supplies till the following year. He at last set sail from the port of San German in Porto Rico in March, 1513,[801] with three caravels, taking as pilot Anton de Alaminos, a native of Palos who had as a boy accompanied Columbus, and who was long to associate his own name with explorations of the Gulf of Mexico. They first steered northeast by north, and soon made the Caicos, Yaguna, Amaguayo, and Manigua. After refitting at Guanahani, Ponce de Leon bore northwest; and on Easter Sunday (March 27) discovered the mainland, along which he ran till the 2d of April, when he anchored in 30° 8’ and landed. On the 8th he took possession in the name of the King of Spain, and named the country—which the Lucayos called Cancio—Florida, from Pascua Florida, the Spanish name for Easter Sunday.

The vessels then turned southward, following the coast till the 20th, when Ponce landed near Abayoa, a cluster of Indian huts. On attempting to sail again, he met such violent currents that his vessels could make no headway, and were forced to anchor, except one of the caravels, which was driven out of sight. On landing at this point Ponce found the Indians so hostile that he was obliged to repel their attacks by force. He named a river Rio de la Cruz; and, doubling Cape Corrientes on the 8th of May, sailed on till he reached a chain of islands, to which he gave the name of the Martyrs. On one of these he obtained wood and water, and careened a caravel. The Indians were very thievish, endeavoring to steal the anchors or cut the cables, so as to seize the ships. He next discovered and named the Tortugas. After doubling the cape, he ran up the western shore of Florida to a bay, in 27° 30’, which for centuries afterward bore the name of Juan Ponce. There are indications that before he turned back he may have followed the coast till it trended westward. After discovering Bahama he is said to have despatched one caravel from Guanima under John Perez de Ortubia, with Anton de Alaminos, to search for Bimini, while he himself returned to Porto Rico, which he reached September 21. He was soon followed by Ortubia, who, it is said, had been successful in his search for Bimini.

Although Ponce de Leon had thus explored the Florida coast, and added greatly to the knowledge of the Bahama group, his discoveries are not noted in the editions of Ptolemy which appeared in the next decade, and which retained the names of the Cantino map. The Ribeiro map (1529) gives the Martyrs and Tortugas, and on the mainland Canico,—apparently[234] Cancio, the Lucayan name of Florida. In the so-called Leonardo da Vinci’s Mappemonde, Florida appears as an island in a vast ocean that rolls on to Japan.[802]

Elated with his success, John Ponce de Leon soon after sailed to Spain; and, obtaining an audience of the King,—it is said through the influence of his old master, Pero Nuñez de Guzman, Grand Comendador of Calatrava,—gave the monarch a description of the attractive land which he had discovered. He solicited a new patent for its conquest and settlement; and on the 27th of September, 1514, the King empowered him to go and settle “the Island of Brimini and the Island Florida” which he had discovered under the royal orders. He was to effect this in three years from the delivery of the asiento; but as he had been employed in His Majesty’s service, it was extended so that this term was to date from the day he set sail for his new province. After reducing the Caribs, he was empowered to take of the vessels and men employed in that service whatever he chose in order to conquer and settle Florida. The natives were to be summoned to submit to the Catholic Faith and the authority of Spain, and they were not to be attacked or captured if they submitted. Provision was made as to the revenues of the new province, and orders were sent to the viceroy, Don Diego Columbus, to carry out the royal wishes.[803]

The Carib war was not, however, terminated as promptly as the King and his officers desired. Time passed, and adventurers in unauthorized expeditions to Florida rendered the Indians hostile.[804] It was not till 1521 that Ponce de Leon was able to give serious thought to a new expedition. His early hopes seem to have faded, and with them the energy and impulsiveness of his youth. He had settled his daughters in marriage, and, free from domestic cares, offered himself simply to continue to serve the King as he had done for years. Writing to Charles V. from Porto Rico on the 10th of February, 1521, he says:—

“Among my services I discovered, at my own cost and charge, the Island Florida and others in its district, which are not mentioned as being small and useless; and now I return to that island, if it please God’s will, to settle it, being enabled to carry a number of people with which I shall be able to do so, that the name of Christ may be praised there, and Your Majesty served with the fruit that land produces. And I also intend to explore the coast of said island further, and see whether it is an island, or[235] whether it connects with the land where Diego Velasquez is, or any other; and I shall endeavor to learn all I can. I shall set out to pursue my voyage hence in five or six days.”[805]


Fac-simile of an engraving in Herrera, edition of 1728.

As he wrote to the Cardinal of Tortosa, he had expended all his substance in the King’s service; and if he asked favors now it was “not to treasure up or to pass this miserable life, but to serve His Majesty with them and his person and all he had, and settle the land that he had discovered.”[806]


He went prepared to settle, carrying clergymen for the colonists, friars to found Indian missions, and horses, cattle, sheep, and swine. Where precisely he made the Florida coast we do not know; but it is stated that on attempting to erect dwellings for his colonists he was attacked by the natives, who showed great hostility. Ponce himself, while leading his men against his assailants, received so dangerous an arrow wound, that, after losing many of his settlers by sickness and at the hands of the Indians, he abandoned the attempt to plant a colony in Florida, which had so long been the object of his hopes; and taking all on board his vessels, he sailed to Cuba. There he lingered in pain, and died of his wound.[807]

John Ponce de Leon closed his long and gallant career without solving the problem whether Florida was an island or part of the northern continent. Meanwhile others, following in the path he had opened, were contributing to a more definite knowledge. Thus Diego Miruelo, a pilot, sailed from Cuba in 1516 on a trading cruise; and running up the western shore of the Floridian peninsula, discovered a bay which long bore his name on Spanish maps, and was apparently Pensacola. Here he found the Indians friendly, and exchanged his store of glass and steel trinkets for silver and gold. Then, satisfied with his cruise, and without making any attempt to explore the coast, he returned to Cuba.[808]

The next year Francis Hernandez de Cordova[809] sent from Cuba on the 8th of February two ships and a brigantine, carrying one hundred and ten men, with a less humane motive than Miruelo’s; for Oviedo assures us that his object was to capture on the Lucayos, or Bahama Islands, a cargo of Indians to sell as slaves. His object was defeated by storms; and the vessels, driven from their course, reached Yucatan, near Cape Catoche, which he named. The Indians here were as hostile as the elements; and Hernandez, after several sharp engagements with the natives, in which almost every man was wounded, was sailing back, when storms again drove his vessels from their course. Unable to make the Island of Cuba, Alaminos, the pilot of the expedition, ran into a bay on the Florida coast, where he had been with Ponce de Leon on his first expedition. While a party which had landed were procuring water, they were attacked with the utmost fury by the Indians, who, swarming down in crowds, assailed those still in the boats. In this engagement twenty-two of the Indians were killed, six of the Spaniards in the landing party were wounded,—including Bernal Diaz, who records the event in his History,—and four of those in the boats, among the number Anton de Alaminos, the pilot. The only man in the expedition who had come away from Yucatan unwounded, a soldier named Berrio, was acting as sentry on shore, and fell into the[237] hands of the Indians. The commander himself, Hernandez de Cordova, reached Cuba only to die of his wounds.

This ill-starred expedition led to two other projects of settlement and conquest. Diego Velasquez, governor of Cuba, the friend and host of Hernandez, obtained a grant, which was referred to by Ponce de Leon in his final letter to the King, and which resulted in the conquest of Mexico;[810] and Francis de Garay, governor of Jamaica, persuaded by Alaminos to enter upon an exploration of the mainland, obtained permission in due form from the priors of the Order of St. Jerome, then governors of the Indies, and in 1519 despatched four caravels, well equipped, with a good number of men, and directed by good pilots, to discover some strait in the mainland,—then the great object of search.

Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda, the commander of the expedition, reached the coast within the limits of the grant of Ponce de Leon, and endeavored to sail eastward so as to pass beyond and continue the exploration. Unable, from headwinds, to turn the Cape of Florida, he sailed westward as far as the River Pánuco, which owes its name to him. Here he encountered Cortés and his forces, who claimed the country by actual possession.

The voyage lasted eight or nine months, and possession was duly taken for the King at various points on the coast. Sailing eastward again, Garay’s lieutenant discovered a river of very great volume, evidently the Mississippi.[811] Here he found a considerable Indian town, and remained forty days trading with the natives and careening his vessels. He ran up the river, and found it so thickly inhabited that in a space of six leagues he counted no fewer than forty Indian hamlets on the two banks.

According to their report, the land abounded in gold, as the natives wore gold ornaments in their noses and ears and on other parts of the body. The adventurers told, too, of tribes of giants and of pigmies; but declared the natives to have been friendly, and well disposed to receive the Christian Faith.

Wild as these statements of Pineda’s followers were, the voyage settled conclusively the geography of the northern shore of the Gulf, as it proved that there was no strait there by which ships could reach Asia. Florida was no longer to be regarded as an island, but part of a vast continent. The province discovered for Garay received the name of Amichel.

Garay applied for a patent authorizing him to conquer and settle the new territory, and one was issued at Burgos in 1521. By its tenor Christopher de Tapia, who had been appointed governor of the territory discovered by Velasquez, was commissioned to fix limits between Amichel and the discoveries of Velasquez on the west and those of Ponce de Leon on the east. On the map given in Navarrete,[812] Amichel extends apparently from Cape Roxo to Pensacola Bay.


After sending his report and application to the King, and without awaiting any further authority, Garay seems to have deemed it prudent to secure a footing in the territory; and in 1520 sent four caravels under Diego de Camargo to occupy some post near Pánuco. The expedition was ill managed. One of the vessels ran into a settlement established by Cortés and made a formal demand of Cortés himself for a line of demarcation, claiming the country for Garay. Cortés seized some of the men who landed, and learned all Camargo’s plans. That commander, with the rest of his force, attempted to begin a settlement at Pánuco; but the territory afforded no food, and the party were soon in such straits that, unable to wait for two vessels which Garay was sending to their aid, Camargo despatched a caravel to Vera Cruz to beg for supplies.[813]

In 1523 Garay equipped a powerful fleet and force to conquer and settle Amichel. He sailed from Jamaica at the end of June with the famous John de Grijalva, discoverer of Yucatan, as his lieutenant. His force comprised thirteen vessels, bearing one hundred and thirty-six cavalry and eight hundred and forty infantry, with a supply of field-pieces. He reached Rio de las Palmas on the 25th of July, and prepared to begin a settlement; but his troops, alarmed at the unpromising nature of the country, insisted on proceeding southward. Garay yielded, and sailed to Pánuco, where he learned that Cortés had already founded the town of San Esteban del Puerto. Four of his vessels were lost on the coast, and one in the port. He himself, with the rest of his force, surrendered to Cortés. He died in Mexico, while still planning a settlement at Rio de las Palmas; but with his death the province of Amichel passed out of existence.

Thus the discoveries of Ponce de Leon and of Garay, with those of Miruelos, made known, by ten years’ effort, the coast-line from the Rio Grande to the St. John’s in Florida.

The next explorations were intended to ascertain the nature of our Atlantic coast north of the St. John’s.

In 1520 Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon, one of the auditors of the Island of St. Domingo, though possessed of wealth, honors, and domestic felicity, aspired to the glory of discovering some new land, and making it the seat of a prosperous colony. Having secured the necessary license, he despatched a caravel under the command of Francisco Gordillo, with directions to sail northward through the Bahamas, and thence strike the shore of the continent. Gordillo set out on his exploration, and near the Island of Lucayoneque, one of the Lucayuelos, descried another caravel. His pilot, Alonzo Fernandez Sotil, proceeded toward it in a boat, and soon recognized it as a caravel commanded by a kinsman of his, Pedro de Quexos, fitted out in part, though not avowedly, by Juan Ortiz de Matienzo, an auditor associated with Ayllon in the judiciary. This caravel was returning from an unsuccessful cruise among the Bahamas for Caribs,—the object[239] of the expedition being to capture Indians in order to sell them as slaves. On ascertaining the object of Gordillo’s voyage, Quexos proposed that they should continue the exploration together. After a sail of eight or nine days, in which they ran little more than a hundred leagues, they reached the coast of the continent at the mouth of a considerable river, to which they gave the name of St. John the Baptist, from the fact that they touched the coast on the day set apart to honor the Precursor of Christ. The year was 1521, and the point reached was, according to the estimate of the explorers, in latitude 33° 30′.[814]

Boats put off from the caravels and landed some twenty men on the shore; and while the ships endeavored to enter the river, these men were surrounded by Indians, whose good-will they gained by presents.[815]

Some days later, Gordillo formally took possession of the country in the name of Ayllon, and of his associate Diego Caballero, and of the King, as Quexos did also in the name of his employers on Sunday, June 30, 1521. Crosses were cut on the trunks of trees to mark the Spanish occupancy.[816]

Although Ayllon had charged Gordillo to cultivate friendly relations with the Indians of any new land he might discover,[817] Gordillo joined With Quexos in seizing some seventy of the natives, with whom they sailed away, without any attempt to make an exploration of the coast.

On the return of the vessel to Santo Domingo, Ayllon condemned his captain’s act; and the matter was brought before a commission, presided over by Diego Columbus, for the consideration of some important affairs. The Indians were declared free, and it was ordered that they should be restored to their native land at the earliest possible moment. Meanwhile they were to remain in the hands of Ayllon and Matienzo.

The latter made no attempt to pursue the discovery; but Ayllon, adhering to his original purpose, proceeded to Spain with Francisco,—one of the Indians, who told of a giant king and many provinces,[818]—and on the 12th of June, 1523, obtained a royal cédula.[819] Under this he was to send out vessels in 1524, to run eight hundred leagues along the coast, or till he reached lands already discovered; and if he discovered any strait leading to the west, he was to explore it. No one was to settle within the limits explored by him the first year, or within two hundred leagues beyond the extreme points reached by him north and south; the occupancy of the territory was to be effected within four years; and as the conversion of the natives was one of the main objects, their enslavement was forbidden, and Ayllon was required to take out religious men of some Order to instruct them in the doctrines of Christianity. He obtained a second cédula to demand from Matienzo the Indians in his hands in order to restore them to their native country.[820]


On his return to the West Indies, Ayllon was called on the King’s service to Porto Rico; and finding it impossible to pursue his discovery, the time for carrying out the asiento was, by a cédula of March 23, 1524, extended to the year 1525.[821]

To secure his rights under the asiento, he despatched two caravels under Pedro de Quexos to the newly discovered land early in 1525. They regained the good-will of the natives and explored the coast for two hundred and fifty leagues, setting up stone crosses with the name of Charles V. and the date of the act of taking possession. They returned to Santo Domingo in July, 1525, bringing one or two Indians from each province, who might be trained to act as interpreters.[822]

Meanwhile Matienzo began legal proceedings to vacate the asiento granted by the King to Ayllon, on the ground that it was obtained surreptitiously, and in fraud of his own rights as joint discoverer. His witnesses failed to show that his caravel had any license to make a voyage of exploration, or that he took any steps to follow up the discovery made; but the suit embarrassed Ayllon, who was fitting out four vessels to sail in 1526, in order to colonize the territory granted to him. The armada from Spain was greatly delayed; and as he expected by it a store of artillery and muskets, as well as other requisites, he was at great loss. At last, however, he sailed from Puerto de la Plata with three large vessels,—a caravel, a breton, and a brigantine,—early in June, 1526.[823] As missionaries he took the famous Dominican, Antonio de Montesinos, the first to denounce Indian slavery, with Father Antonio de Cervantes and Brother Pedro de Estrada, of the same Order. The ships carried six hundred persons of both sexes, including clergymen and physicians, besides one hundred horses.

They reached the coast, not at the San Juan Bautista, but at another river, at 33° 40´, says Navarrete, to which they gave the name of Jordan.[824] Their first misfortune was the loss of the brigantine; but Ayllon immediately set to work to replace it, and built a small vessel such as was called a gavarra,—the first instance of ship-building on our coast. Francisco, his Indian guide, deserted him; and parties sent to explore the interior brought back such unfavorable accounts that Ayllon resolved to seek a more fertile district. That he sailed northward there can be little doubt; his original asiento required him to run eight hundred leagues along the coast, and he, as well as Gomez, was to seek a strait or estuary leading to the Spice Islands. The Chesapeake was a body of water which it would be imperative on him to explore, as possibly the passage sought. The soil of the country bordering on the bay, superior to that of the sandy region south of it, would seem better suited for purposes of a settlement. He at last[241] reached Guandape, and began the settlement of San Miguel, where the English in the next century founded Jamestown.[825]

Here he found only a few scattered Indian dwellings of the communal system, long buildings, formed of pine posts at the side, and covered with branches, capable of holding, in their length of more than a hundred feet, a vast number of families. Ayllon selected the most favorable spot on the bank, though most of the land was low and swampy. Then the Spaniards began to erect houses for their shelter, the negro slaves—first introduced here—doing the heaviest portion of the toil. Before the colonists were housed, winter came on. Men perished of cold on the caravel “Catalina,” and on one of the other vessels a man’s legs were frozen so that the flesh fell off. Sickness broke out among the colonists, and many died. Ayllon himself had sunk under the pestilential fevers, and expired on St. Luke’s Day, Oct. 18, 1526.

He made his nephew, John Ramirez, then in Porto Rico, his successor as head of the colony, committing the temporary administration to Francis Gomez. Troubles soon began. Gines Doncel and Pedro de Bazan, at the head of some malcontents, seized and confined Gomez and the alcaldes, and began a career of tyranny. The Indians were provoked to hostility, and killed several of the settlers; the negroes, cruelly oppressed, fired the house of Doncel. Then two settlers, Oliveros and Monasterio, demanded the release of the lawful authorities. Swords were drawn; Bazan was wounded and taken, Doncel fled, but was discovered near his blazing house. Gomez and his subordinates, restored to power, tried and convicted Bazan, who was put to death.

Such were the stormy beginnings of Spanish rule in Virginia. It is not to be wondered at that with one consent the colonists soon resolved to abandon San Miguel de Guandape. The body of Ayllon was placed on board a tender, and they set sail; but it was not destined to reach a port and receive the obsequies due his rank. The little craft foundered; and of the five hundred who sailed from Santo Domingo only one hundred and fifty returned to that island.

Contemporaneous with the explorations made by and under Ayllon was an expedition in a single vessel sent out by the Spanish Government in 1524 under Stephen Gomez, a Portuguese navigator who had sailed under Magallanes, but had returned in a somewhat mutinous manner. He took part in a congress of Spanish and Portuguese pilots held at Badajoz to consider the probability of finding a strait or channel north of Florida by which vessels might reach the Moluccas. To test the question practically, Charles V. ordered Gomez to sail to the coast of Bacallaos, or Newfoundland and Labrador, and examine the coast carefully, in order to ascertain whether any such channel existed. Gomez fitted out a caravel at Corunna, in northern Spain, apparently in the autumn of 1524, and sailed across.[242] After examining the Labrador coast, he turned southward and leisurely explored the whole coast from Cape Race to Florida, from which he steered to Santiago de Cuba, and thence to Corunna, entering that port after ten months’ absence. He failed to discover the desired channel, and no account in detail of his voyage is known; but the map of Ribeiro,[826] drawn up in 1529, records his discoveries, and on its coast-line gives names which were undoubtedly bestowed by him, confirming the statement that he sailed southerly. From this map and the descriptions of the coast in Spanish writers soon after, in which descriptions mention is made of his discoveries, we can see that he noted and named in his own fashion what we now know as Massachusetts Bay, Cape Cod, Narragansett Bay, the Connecticut, Hudson, and Delaware rivers.

This voyage completed the exploration of our coast from the Rio Grande to the Bay of Fundy; yet Sebastián Cabot in 1536 declared that it was still uncertain whether a single continent stretched from the Mississippi to Newfoundland.[827]

The success of Cortés filled the Spanish mind with visions of empires in the north rivalling that of Mexico, which but awaited the courage of valiant men to conquer.

Panfilo de Narvaez, after being defeated by Cortés, whom he was sent to supersede,[828] solicited of Charles V. a patent under which he might conquer and colonize the country on the Gulf of Mexico, from Rio de Palmas to Florida. A grant was made, under which he was required to found two or more towns and erect two fortresses. He received the title of adelantado, and was empowered to enslave all Indians who, after being summoned in due form, would not submit to the Spanish King and the Christian Faith. In an official document he styles himself Governor of Florida, Rio de Palmas, and Espiritu Santo,—the Mississippi.[829]

Narvaez collected an armament suited to the project, and sailed from San Lucar de Barrameda, June 17, 1527, in a fleet of five ships carrying six hundred persons, with mechanics and laborers, as well as secular priests, and five Franciscan friars, the superior being Father Juan Xuarez. On the coast of Cuba his fleet was caught by a hurricane, and one vessel perished. After refitting and acquiring other vessels, Narvaez sailed from Cuba in March with four vessels and a brigantine, taking four hundred men and eighty horses, his pilot being Diego Miruelo, of a family which had acquired experience on that coast.

The destination was the Rio de Palmas; but his pilot proved incompetent, and his fleet moved slowly along the southern coast of Cuba, doubled Cape San Antonio, and was standing in for Havana when it was[243] driven by a storm on the Florida coast at a bay which he called Bahia de la Cruz, and which the map of Sebastian Cabot identifies with Apalache Bay.[830] Here Narvaez landed a part of his force (April 15), sending his brigantine to look for a port or the way to Pánuco,—much vaunted by the pilots,—and if unsuccessful to return to Cuba for a vessel that had remained there. He was so misled by his pilots that though he was near or on the Florida peninsula, he supposed himself not far from the rivers Pánuco and Palmas. Under this impression he landed most of his men, and directed his vessels, with about one hundred souls remaining on them, to follow the coast while he marched inland. No steps were taken to insure their meeting at the harbor proposed as a rendezvous, or to enable the brigantine and the other ship to follow the party on land. On the 19th of April Narvaez struck inland in a northward or northeasterly direction; and having learned a little of the country, moved on with three hundred men, forty of them mounted. On the 15th of the following month they reached a river with a strong current, which they crossed some distance from the sea. Cabeza de Vaca, sent at his own urgent request to find a harbor, returned with no encouraging tidings; and the expedition plodded on till, on the 25th of June, they reached Apalache,—an Indian town of which they had heard magnificent accounts. It proved to be a mere hamlet of forty wretched cabins.

The sufferings of Narvaez’ men were great; the country was poverty-stricken; there was no wealthy province to conquer, no fertile lands for settlement. Aute (a harbor) was said to be nine days’ march to the southward; and to this, after nearly a month spent at Apalache, the disheartened Spaniards turned their course, following the Magdalena River. On the 31st of July they reached the coast at a bay which Narvaez styled Bahia de Cavallos; and seeing no signs of his vessels, he set to work to build boats in which to escape from the country. The horses were killed for food; and making forges, the Spaniards wrought their stirrups, spurs, and other iron articles into saws, axes, and nails. Ropes were made of the manes and tails of the horses and such fibres as they could find; their shirts were used for sailcloth. By the 20th of September five boats, each twenty-two cubits long, were completed, and two days afterward the survivors embarked, forty-eight or nine being crowded into each frail structure. Not one of the whole number had any knowledge of navigation or of the coast.

Running between Santa Rosa Island and the mainland, they coasted along for thirty days, landing where possible to obtain food or water, but generally finding the natives fierce and hostile. On the 31st of October they came to a broad river pouring into the Gulf such a volume of water that it freshened the brine so that they were able to drink it; but[244] the current was too much for their clumsy craft. The boat commanded by Narvaez was lost, and never heard of; that containing Father Xuarez and the other friars was driven ashore bottom upward; the three remaining boats were thrown on the coast of western Louisiana or eastern Texas. The crews barely escaped with life, and found themselves at the mercy of cruel and treacherous savages, who lived on or near Malhado Island, and drew a precarious living from shellfish and minor animals, prickly-pears and the like. They were consequently not as far west as the bison range, which reached the coast certainly at Matagorda Bay.[831] Here several of the wretched Spaniards fell victims to the cruelty of the Indians or to disease and starvation, till Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, the treasurer of the expedition, escaping from six years’ captivity among the Mariames, reached the Avavares, farther inland, with two companions, Castillo and Dorantes, and a negro slave. After spending eight months with them, he penetrated to the Arbadaos, where the mesquite is first found, near the Rio Grande; and skirting the San Saba Mountains, came to the bison plains and the hunter nations; then keeping westward through tribes that lived in houses of earth and knew the use of cotton and mined the turquoise, he finally came upon some Spanish explorers on the River Petatlan; and thus on the 1st of April, 1536, with hearts full of joy and gratitude, the four men entered the town of San Miguel in Sinaloa.

The vessels of Narvaez, not finding the alleged port of the pilots, returned to the harbor where they had landed him, and were there joined by the two vessels from Cuba; but though they remained nearly a year, cruising along the coast of the Gulf, they never encountered the slightest trace of the unfortunate Narvaez or his wretched followers. They added nothing apparently to the knowledge of the coast already acquired; for no report is extant, and no map alludes to any discovery by them.

Thus ended an expedition undertaken with rashness and ignorance, and memorable only from the almost marvellous adventures of Cabeza de Vaca and his comrades, and the expeditions by land which were prompted by his narrative.

The wealth of Mexico and Peru had inflamed the imagination of Spanish adventurers; and though no tidings had been received of Narvaez, others were ready to risk all they had, and life itself, in the hope of finding some wealthy province in the heart of the northern continent. The next to try his fortune was one who had played his part in the conquest of Peru.

Hernando de Soto, the son of an esquire of Xerez de Badajoz, was eager to rival Cortés and Pizarro. In 1537 he solicited a grant of the province from Rio de las Palmas to Florida, as ceded to Narvaez, as well as[245] of the province discovered by Ayllon; and the King at Valladolid, on the 20th of April, issued a concession to him, appointing him to the government of the Island of Cuba, and requiring him in person to conquer and occupy Florida within a year, erect fortresses, and carry over at least five hundred men as settlers to hold the country. The division of the gold, pearls, and other valuables of the conquered caciques was regulated, and provision made for the maintenance of the Christian religion and of an hospital in the territory.

The air of mystery assumed by Cabeza de Vaca as to the countries that he had seen, served to inflame the imagination of men in Spain; and Soto found many ready to give their persons and their means to his expedition. Nobles of Castile in rich slashed silk dresses mingled with old warriors in well-tried coats of mail. He sailed from San Lucar in April, 1538, amid the fanfaron of trumpets and the roar of cannon, with six hundred as high-born and well-trained men as ever went forth from Spain to win fame and fortune in the New World. They reached Cuba safely, and Soto was received with all honor. More prudent than Narvaez, Soto twice despatched Juan de Añasco, in a caravel with two pinnaces, to seek a suitable harbor for the fleet, before trusting all the vessels on the coast.[832]

Encouraged by the reports of this reconnoitring, Soto, leaving his wife in Cuba, sailed from Havana in May, 1539, and made a bay on the Florida coast ten leagues west of the Bay of Juan Ponce. To this he gave the name of Espiritu Santo, because he reached it on the Feast of Pentecost, which fell that year on the 25th of May.[833] On the 30th he began to land his army near a town ruled by a chief named Uçita. Soto’s whole force was composed of five hundred and seventy men, and two hundred and twenty-three horses, in five ships, two caravels, and two pinnaces. He took formal possession of the country in the name of the King of Spain on the 3d of June, and prepared to explore and subject the wealthy realms which he supposed to lie before him. Though the chief at his landing-place was friendly, he found that all the surrounding tribes were so hostile that they began to attack those who welcomed him.

Ortiz, a Spaniard belonging to Narvaez’ expedition, who in his long years of captivity had become as naked and as savage as were the Indians, soon joined Soto.[834] He was joyfully received; though his knowledge of the country was limited, his services were of vital necessity, for the Indians secured by Añasco, and on whom Soto relied as guides and interpreters, deserted at the first opportunity.

Soto had been trained in a bad school; he had no respect for the lives or rights of the Indians. As Oviedo, a man of experience among the[246] conquistadores, says: “This governor was very fond of this sport of killing Indians.”[835]

The plan of his march showed his disregard of the rights of the natives. At each place he demanded of the cacique, or head chief, corn for his men and horses, and Indians of both sexes to carry his baggage and do the menial work in his camp. After obtaining these supplies, he compelled the chief to accompany his army till he reached another tribe whose chief he could treat in the same way; but though the first chief was then released, few of the people of the tribe which he ruled, and who had been carried off by Soto, were so fortunate as ever to be allowed to return to their homes.

On the 15th of July Soto, sending back his largest ships to Cuba, moved to the northeast to make his toilsome way amid the lakes and streams and everglades of Florida. Before long his soldiers began to suffer from hunger, and were glad to eat water-cresses, shoots of Indian corn, and palmetto, in order to sustain life; for native villages were few and scattered, and afforded little corn for the plunderers. The natives were met only as foe-men, harassing his march. At Caliquen the Indians, to rescue their chief, whom Soto was carrying to the next town, made a furious onslaught on the Spaniards; but were driven to the swamps, and nearly all killed or taken. Their dauntless spirit was, however, unbroken. The survivors, though chained as slaves, rose on their masters; and seizing any weapon within their reach, fought desperately, one of them endeavoring to throttle Soto himself. Two hundred survived this gallant attempt, only to be slaughtered by the Indian allies of the Spanish commander. Soto fought his way westward step by step so slowly that at the end of three months, Oct. 30, 1539, he had only reached Agile,—a town in the province of Apalache. Añasco, sent out from this point to explore, discovered the port where Narvaez had embarked,—the remains of his forges and the bones of his horses attesting the fact. Soto despatched him to Tampa Bay. Añasco with a party marched the distance in ten days; and sending two caravels to Cuba, brought to Soto in the remaining vessels the detachment left at his landing-place. Before he reached his commander the Indians had burned the town of Anaica Apalache, of which Soto had taken possession.[836]

A good port, that of Pensacola, had been discovered to the westward; but Soto, crediting an Indian tale of the rich realm of Yupaha in the northeast, left his winter quarters March 3, 1540, and advanced in that direction through tribes showing greater civilization. A month later he reached the Altamaha, receiving from the more friendly natives corn and game. This was not sufficient to save the Spaniards from much suffering, and they treated the Indians with their wonted cruelty.[837]


At last Soto, after a march of four hundred and thirty leagues, much of it through uninhabited land, reached the province ruled by the chieftainess of Cofitachiqui. On the 1st of May she went forth to meet the Spanish explorer in a palanquin or litter; and crossing the river in a canopied canoe, she approached Soto, and after presenting him the gifts of shawls and skins brought by her retinue, she took off her necklace of pearls and placed it around the neck of Soto. Yet her courtesy and generosity did not save her from soon being led about on foot as a prisoner. The country around her chief town, which Jones identifies with Silver Bluff, on the Savannah, below Augusta,[838] tempted the followers of Soto, who wished to settle there, as from it Cuba could be readily reached. But the commander would attempt no settlement till he had discovered some rich kingdom that would rival Peru; and chagrined at his failure, refused even to send tidings of his operations to Cuba. At Silver Bluff he came upon traces of an earlier Spanish march. A dirk and a rosary were brought to him, which were supposed, on good grounds, to have come from the expedition of Ayllon.

Poring over the cosmography of Alonzo de Chaves, Soto and the officers of his expedition concluded that a river, crossed on the 26th of May, was the Espiritu Santo, or Mississippi. A seven days’ march, still in the chieftainess’s realm, brought them to Chelaque, the country of the Cherokees, poor in maize; then, over mountain ridges, a northerly march brought them to Xualla, two hundred and fifty leagues from Silver Bluff. At the close of May they were in Guaxule, where the chieftainess regained her freedom. It was a town of three hundred houses, near the mountains, in a well-watered and pleasant land, probably at the site of Coosawattie Old Town. The chief gave Soto maize, and also three hundred dogs for the maintenance of his men.

Marching onward, Soto next came to Canasagua, in all probability on a river even now called the Connasauga, flowing through an attractive land of mulberries, persimmons, and walnuts. Here they found stores of bear oil and walnut oil and honey. Marching down this stream and the Oostanaula, into which it flows, to Chiaha, on an island opposite the mouth of the Etowa, in the district of the pearl-bearing mussel-streams, Soto was received in amity; and the cacique had some of the shellfish taken and pearls extracted in the presence of his guest. The Spaniards encamped under the trees near the town, leaving the inhabitants in quiet possession of their homes. Here, on the spot apparently now occupied by Rome, they rested for a month. A detachment sent to discover a reputed gold-producing province returned with no tidings to encourage the adventurers; and on the 28th of June Soto, with his men and steeds refreshed, resumed his march, having obtained men to bear his baggage, though his demand of thirty women as slaves was refused.[839]


Chisca, to which he sent two men to explore for gold, proved to be in a rugged mountain land; and the buffalo robe which they brought back was more curious than encouraging. Soto therefore left the territory of the Cherokees, and took the direction of Coça, probably on the Coosa river. The cacique of that place, warned doubtless by the rumors which must have spread through all the land of the danger of thwarting the fierce strangers, furnished supplies at several points on the route to his town, and as Soto approached it, came out on a litter attired in a fur robe and plumed headpiece to make a full surrender. The Spaniards occupied the town and took possession of all the Indian stores of corn and beans, the neighboring woods adding persimmons and grapes. This town was one hundred and ninety leagues west of Xualla, and lay on the east bank of the Coosa, between the mouths of the Talladega and Tallasehatchee, as Pickett, the historian of Alabama, determines. Soto held the chief of Coça virtually as a prisoner; but when he demanded porters to bear the baggage of his men, most of the Indians fled. The Spanish commander then seized every Indian he could find, and put him in irons.

After remaining at Coça for twenty-five days, Soto marched to Ullibahali, a strongly palisaded town, situated, as we may conjecture, on Hatchet Creek. This place submitted, giving men as porters and women as slaves. Leaving this town on the 2d of September, he marched to Tallise, in a land teeming with corn, whose people proved equally docile.[840] This submission was perhaps only to gain time, and draw the invaders into a disadvantageous position.

Actahachi, the gigantic chief of Tastaluza, sixty leagues south of Coça, which was Soto’s next station, received him with a pomp such as the Spaniards had not yet witnessed. The cacique was seated on cushions on a raised platform, with his chiefs in a circle around him; an umbrella of buckskin, stained red and white, was held over him. The curveting steeds and the armor of the Spaniards raised no look of curiosity on his stern countenance, and he calmly awaited Soto’s approach. Not till he found himself detained as a prisoner would he promise to furnish the Spaniards with porters and supplies of provisions at Mauila[841] to enable Soto to continue his march. He then sent orders to his vassal, the chief of Mauila, to have them in readiness.

As the Spaniards, accompanied by Actahachi, descended the Alabama, passing by the strong town of Piache, the cacique of Mauila came to meet them with friendly greetings, attended by a number of his subjects playing upon their native musical instruments, and proffering fur robes and service; but the demeanor of the people was so haughty that Luis de Moscoso urged Soto not to enter the town. The adelantado persisted; and riding in with seven or eight of his guard and four horsemen, sat down with the cacique[249] and the chief of Tastaluza, whom, according to custom, he had brought to this place. The latter asked leave to return to his own town; when Soto refused, he rose, pretending a wish to confer with some chiefs, and entered a house where some armed Indians were concealed. He refused to come out when summoned; and a chief who was ordered to carry a message to the cacique, but refused, was cut down by Gallego with a sword. Then the Indians, pouring out from the houses, sent volleys of arrows at Soto and his party. Soto ran toward his men, but fell two or three times; and though he reached his main force, five of his men were killed, and he himself, as well as all the rest, was severely wounded. The chained Indian porters, who bore the baggage and treasures of Soto’s force, had set down their loads just outside the palisade. When the party of Soto had been driven out, the men of Mauila sent all these into the town, took off their fetters, and gave them weapons. Some of the military equipments of the Spaniards fell into the hands of the Indians, and several of Soto’s followers, who had like him entered the town, among them a friar and an ecclesiastic, remained as prisoners.

The Indians, sending off their caciques, and apparently their women, prepared to defend the town; but Soto, arranging his military array into four detachments, surrounded it, and made an assault on the gates, where the natives gathered to withstand them. By feigning flight Soto drew them out; and by a sudden charge routed them, and gaining an entrance for his men, set fire to the houses. This was not effected without loss, as the Spaniards were several times repulsed by the Indians. When they at last fought their way into the town, the Indians endeavored to escape. Finding that impossible, as the gates were held, the men of Mauila fought desperately, and died by the sword, or plunged into the blazing houses to perish there.

The battle of Mauila was one of the bloodiest ever fought on our soil between white and red men in the earlier days. The Adelantado had twenty of his men killed, and one hundred and fifty wounded; of his horses twelve were killed and seventy wounded. The Indian loss was estimated by the Portuguese chronicler of the expedition at twenty-five hundred, and by Rangel at three thousand. At nightfall Biedma tells us that only three Indians remained alive, two of whom were killed fighting; the last hung himself from a tree in the palisade with his bowstring.[842] The Gentleman of Elvas states Soto’s whole loss up to his leaving Mauila to have been one hundred and two by disease, accident, and Indian fighting. Divine worship had been apparently offered in the camp regularly up to this time; but in the flames of Mauila perished all the chalices and vestments of the clergy, as well as the bread-irons and their store of wheat-flour and wine, so that Mass ceased from this time.[843]


Soto here ascertained that Francisco Maldonado was with vessels at the port of Ichuse (or Ochuse) only six days’ march from him, awaiting his orders. He was too proud to return to Cuba with his force reduced in numbers, without their baggage, or any trophy from the lands he had visited. He would not even send any tidings to Cuba, but concealed from his men the knowledge which had been brought to him by Ortiz, the rescued follower of Narvaez.

Stubborn in his pride, Soto, on the 14th of November, marched northward; and traversing the land of Pafallaya (now Clarke, Marengo, and Greene counties), passed the town of Taliepatua and reached Cabusto, identified by Pickett with the site of the modern town of Erie, on the Black Warrior. Here a series of battles with the natives occurred; but Soto fought his way through hostile tribes to the little town of Chicaça, with its two hundred houses clustered on a hill, probably on the western bank of the Yazoo, which he reached in a snow-storm on the 17th of December. The cacique Miculasa received Soto graciously, and the Spanish commander won him by sending part of his force to attack Sacchuma, a hostile town. Having thus propitiated this powerful chief, Soto remained here till March; when, being ready to advance on his expedition in search of some wealthy province, he demanded porters of the cacique. The wily chief amused the invader with promises for several days, and then suddenly attacked the town from four sides, at a very early hour in the morning, dashing into the place and setting fire to the houses. The Spaniards, taken by surprise, were assailed as they came out to put on their armor and mount their horses. Soto and one other alone succeeded in getting into the saddle; but Soto himself, after killing one Indian with his spear, was thrown, his girths giving way.

The Indians drew off with the loss of this one man, having killed eleven Spaniards, many of their horses, and having greatly reduced their herd of swine. In the conflagration of the town, Soto’s force lost most of their remaining clothing, with many of their weapons and saddles. They at once set to work to supply the loss. The woods gave ash to make saddles and lances; forges were set up to temper the swords and make such arms as they could; while the tall grass was woven into mats to serve as blankets or cloaks.

They needed their arms indeed; for on the 15th of March the enemy, in three divisions, advanced to attack the camp. Soto met them with as many squadrons, and routed them with loss.

When Soto at last took up his march on the 25th of April, the sturdy Alibamo, or Alimamu, or Limamu, barred his way with a palisade manned by the painted warriors of the tribe. Soto carried it at the cost of the lives of seven or eight of his men, and twenty-five or six wounded; only to find that the Indians had made the palisade not to protect any stores, but simply to cope with the invaders.[844]


At Quizquiz, or Quizqui, near the banks of the Mississippi, Soto surprised the place and captured all the women; but released them to obtain canoes to cross the river. As the Indians failed to keep their promise, Soto encamped in a plain and spent nearly a month building four large boats, each capable of carrying sixty or seventy men and five or six horses. The opposite shore was held by hostile Indians; and bands of finely formed warriors constantly came down in canoes, as if ready to engage them, but always drawing off.

The Spaniards finally crossed the river at the lowest Chickasaw Bluff, all wondering at the mighty turbid stream, with its fish, strange to their eyes, and the trees, uprooted on the banks far above, that came floating down.[845] Soto marched northward to Little Prairie in quest of Pacaha and Chisca, provinces reported to abound in gold. After planting a cross on St. John’s Day[846] at Casqui, where the bisons’ heads above the entrances to the huts reminded them of Spain, he entered Pacaha June 29, as Oviedo says. These towns were the best they had seen since they left Cofitachiqui. Pacaha furnished them with a booty which they prized highly,—a fine store of skins of animals, and native blankets woven probably of bark. These enabled the men to make clothing, of which many had long been in sore want. The people gradually returned, and the cacique received Soto in friendly guise, giving him his two sisters as wives.

While the army rested here nearly a month, expeditions were sent in various directions. One, marching eight days to the northwest through a land of swamps and ponds, reached the prairies, the land of Caluça, where Indians lived in portable houses of mats, with frames so light that a man could easily carry them.[847]

Despairing of finding his long-sought El Dorado in that direction, Soto marched south and then southwest, in all a hundred and ten leagues, to Quiguate, a town on a branch of the Mississippi. It was the largest they had yet seen. The Indians abandoned it; but one half the houses were sufficient to shelter the whole of Soto’s force.

On the first of September the expedition reached Coligua,—a populous town in a valley among the mountains, near which vast herds of bison roamed. Then crossing the river again,[848] Soto’s jaded and decreasing force marched onward. Cayas, with its salt river and fertile maize-lands, was reached; and then the Spaniards came to Tulla, where the Indians attacked them, fighting from their housetops to the last. The cacique at last yielded, and came weeping with great sobs to make his submission.

Marching southeast, Soto reached Quipana; and crossing the mountains eastward, wintered in the province of Viranque, or Autiamque, or Utianque,[252] on a branch of the Mississippi, apparently the Washita.[849] The sufferings of the Spaniards during a long and severe winter were terrible, and Ortiz, their interpreter, succumbed to his hardships and died. Even the proud spirit of Soto yielded to his disappointments and toil. Two hundred and fifty of his splendid force had left their bones to whiten along the path which he had followed. He determined at last to push to the shores of the Gulf, and there build two brigantines, in order to send to Cuba and to New Spain for aid.


Fac-simile of an engraving in Herrera (1728), iv. 21.


Passing through Ayays and the well-peopled land of Nilco, Soto went with the cacique of Guachoyanque to his well-palisaded town on the banks of the Mississippi, at the mouth of the Red River, arriving there on Sunday, April 17, 1542. Here he fell ill of the fever; difficulties beset him on every side, and he sank under the strain. Appointing Luis de Moscoço as his successor in command, he died on the 21st of May. The Adelantado of Cuba and Florida, who had hoped to gather the wealth of nations, left as his property five Indian slaves, three horses, and a herd of swine. His body, kept for some days in a house, was interred in the town; but as fears were entertained that the Indians might dig up the corpse, it was taken, wrapped in blankets loaded with sand, and sunk in the Mississippi.[850]


Muscoço’s first plan was to march westward to Mexico. But after advancing to the province of Xacatin, the survivors of the expedition lost all hope; and returning to the Mississippi, wintered on its banks. There building two large boats, they embarked in them and in canoes. Hostile Indians pursued them, and twelve men were drowned, their canoes being run down by the enemy’s periaguas. The survivors reached the Gulf and coasted along to Pánuco.[851]

The expedition of Soto added very little to the knowledge of the continent, as no steps were taken to note the topography of the country or the language of the various tribes. Diego Maldonado and Gomez Arias, seeking Soto, explored the coast from the vicinity of the Mississippi nearly to Newfoundland; but their reports are unknown.

Notwithstanding the disastrous result of Soto’s expedition, and the conclusive proof it afforded that the country bordering on the Gulf of[254] Mexico contained no rich kingdom and afforded little inducement for settlements, other commanders were ready to undertake the conquest of Florida. Among these was Don Antonio de Mendoza, the viceroy of New Spain, who sought, by offers of rank and honors, to enlist some of the survivors of Soto’s march in a new campaign. In a more mercantile spirit, Julian de Samano and Pedro de Ahumada applied to the Spanish monarch for a patent, promising to make a good use of the privileges granted them, and to treat the Indians well. They hoped to buy furs and pearls, and carry on a trade in them till mines of gold and silver were found. The Court, however, refused to permit the grant.[852]

Viceroy of New Spain.

Yet as a matter of policy it became necessary for Spain to occupy Florida. This the Court felt; and when Cartier was preparing for his voyage to the northern part of the continent,[853] Spanish spies followed his movements and reported all to their Government. In Spain it was decided that Cartier’s occupation of the frozen land, for which he was equipping his vessels, could not in any way militate against the interests of the Catholic monarch; but it was decided that any settlement attempted in Florida must on some pretext be crushed out.[854] Florida from its position afforded a basis for assailing the fleets which bore from Vera Cruz the treasures of the Indies; and the hurricanes of the tropics had already strewn the Florida coast with the fragments of Spanish wrecks. In 1545 a vessel laden with silver and precious commodities perished on that coast, and two hundred persons reached land, only to fall by the hands of the Indians.[855]

The next Spanish attempt to occupy Florida was not unmixed with romance; and its tragic close invests it with peculiar interest. The Dominicans, led by Father Antonio de Montesinos and Las Casas,—who had by this time become Bishop of Chiapa,—were active in condemning the cruelties of their countrymen to the natives of the New World; and the atrocities perpetrated by Soto in his disastrous march gave new themes for their indignant denunciations.[856]

One Dominican went further. Father Luis Cancer de Barbastro, when the Indians of a province had so steadily defied the Spaniards and prevented their entrance that it was styled “Tierra de Guerra,” succeeded by mild and gentle means in winning the whole Indian population, so that the province obtained the name of “Vera Paz,” or True Peace. In 1546 this[255] energetic man conceived the idea of attempting the peaceful conquest of Florida. Father Gregory de Beteta and other influential members of his Order seconded his views. The next year he went to Spain and laid his project before the Court, where it was favorably received. He returned to Mexico with a royal order that all Floridians held in slavery, carried thither by the survivors of Soto’s expedition, should be confided to Father Cancer to be taken back to their own land. The order proved ineffectual. Father Cancer then sailed from Vera Cruz in 1549 in the “Santa Maria del Enzina,” without arms or soldiers, taking Father Beteta, Father Diego de Tolosa, Father John Garcia, and others to conduct the mission. At Havana he obtained Magdalen, a woman who had been brought from Florida, and who had become a Christian. The vessel then steered for Florida, and reaching the coast, at about 28°, on the eve of Ascension Day, ran northward, but soon sailed back. The missionaries and their interpreter landed, and found some of the Indians fishing, who proved friendly. Father Diego, a mission coadjutor, and a sailor, resolved to remain with the natives, and went off to their cabins. Cancer and his companions awaited their return; but they never appeared again. For some days the Spaniards on the ship endeavored to enter into friendly relations with the Indians, and on Corpus Christi Fathers Cancer and Garcia landed and said Mass on shore. At last a Spaniard named John Muñoz, who had been a prisoner among the Indians, managed to reach the ship; and from him they learned that the missionary and his companions had been killed by the treacherous natives almost immediately after reaching their cabins. He had not witnessed their murder, but declared that he had seen the missionary’s scalp. Magdalen, however, came to the shore and assured the missionaries that their comrade was alive and well.

It had thus become a serious matter what course to pursue. The vessel was too heavy to enter the shallow bays, the provisions were nearly exhausted, water could not be had, and the ship’s people were clamoring to return to Mexico. The missionaries, all except Father Cancer, desired to abandon the projected settlement, but he still believed that by presents and kindness to the Indians he could safely remain. His companions in vain endeavored to dissuade him. On Tuesday, June 25, he was pulled in a boat near the shore. He leaped into the water and waded towards the land. Though urged to return, he persevered. Kneeling for a few minutes on the beach, he advanced till he met the Indians. The sailors in the boat saw one Indian pull off his hat, and another strike him down with a club. One cry escaped his lips. A crowd of Indians streamed down to the shore and with arrows drove off the boat. Lingering for awhile, the vessel sailed back to Vera Cruz, after five lives had thus rashly been sacrificed.[857]


On the arrival of the tidings of this tragic close of Cancer’s mission a congress was convened by Maximilian, King of Bohemia, then regent in Spain; and the advocates of the peace policy in regard to the Indians lost much of the influence which they had obtained in the royal councils.[858]

The wreck of the fleet, with rich cargoes of silver, gold, and other precious commodities, on the northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico in 1553, when several hundred persons perished, and the sufferings of the surviving passengers, among whom were several Dominicans, in their attempt to reach the settlements; and the wreck of Farfan’s fleet on the Atlantic coast near Santa Elena in December, 1554,—showed the necessity of having posts on that dangerous coast of Florida, in order to save life and treasure.[859]

The Council of the Indies advised Philip II. to confide the conquest and settlement of Florida to Don Luis de Velasco, viceroy of New Spain, who was anxious to undertake the task. The Catholic monarch had previously rejected the projects of Zurita and Samano; but the high character of Velasco induced him to confide the task to the viceroy of Mexico. The step was a gain for the humanitarian party; and the King, on giving his approval, directed that Dominican friars should be selected to accompany the colonists, in order to minister to them and convert the Indians. Don Luis de Velasco had directed the government in Mexico since November, 1550, with remarkable prudence and ability. The natives found in him such an earnest, capable, and unwavering protector that he is styled in history the Father of the Indians.

The plans adopted by this excellent governor for the occupation of Florida were in full harmony with the Dominican views. In the treatment of the Indians he anticipated the just and equitable methods which give Calvert, Williams, and Penn so enviable a place in American annals.[860]

The occupation was not to be one of conquest, and all intercourse with the Indians was to be on the basis of natural equity. His first step was prompted by his characteristic prudence.[861] In September, 1558, he despatched Guido de Labazares, with three vessels and a sufficient force, to explore the whole Florida coast, and select the best port he found for the projected settlement. Labazares, on his return after an investigation of[257] several months, reported in favor of Pensacola Bay, which he named Felipina; and he describes its entrance between a long island and a point of land. The country was well wooded, game and fish abounded, and the Indian fields showed that Indian corn and vegetables could be raised successfully.[862] On the return of Labazares in December, preparations were made for the expedition, which was placed under the command of Don Tristan de Luna y Arellano. The force consisted of fifteen hundred soldiers and settlers, under six captains of cavalry and six of infantry, some of whom had been at Coça, and were consequently well acquainted with the country where it was intended to form the settlement. The Dominicans selected were Fathers Pedro de Feria, as vicar-provincial of Florida, Dominic of the Annunciation, Dominic de Salazar, John Maçuelas, Dominic of Saint Dominic, and a lay brother. The object being to settle, provisions for a whole year were prepared, and ammunition to meet all their wants.

The colonists, thus well fitted for their undertaking, sailed from Vera Cruz on the 11th of June, 1559; and by the first of the following month were off the bay in Florida to which Miruelo had given his name. Although Labazares had recommended Pensacola Bay, Tristan de Luna seems to have been induced by his pilots to give the preference to the Bay of Ichuse; and he sailed west in search of it, but passed it, and entered Pensacola Bay. Finding that he had gone too far, Luna sailed back ten leagues east to Ichuse, which must have been Santa Rosa Bay. Here he anchored his fleet, and despatched the factor Luis Daza, with a galleon, to Vera Cruz to announce his safe arrival. He fitted two other vessels to proceed to Spain, awaiting the return of two exploring parties; he then prepared to land his colonists and stores.[863] Meanwhile he sent a detachment of one hundred men under captains Alvaro Nyeto and Gonzalo Sanchez, accompanied by one of the missionaries, to explore the country and ascertain the disposition of the Indians. The exploring parties returned after three weeks, having found only one hamlet, in the midst of an uninhabited country.[864] Before Luna had unloaded his vessels, they were struck, during the night of September 19,[865] by a terrible hurricane, which lasted twenty-four hours, destroying five ships, a galleon and a bark, and carrying one caravel and its cargo into a grove some distance on land. Many of the people perished, and most of the stores intended for the maintenance of the colony were ruined or lost.

The river, entering the Bay of Ichuse, proved to be very difficult of navigation, and it watered a sparsely-peopled country. Another[258] detachment,[866] sent apparently to the northwest, after a forty days’ march through uncultivated country, reached a large river, apparently the Escambia, and followed its banks to Nanipacna, a deserted town of eighty houses. Explorations in various directions found no other signs of Indian occupation. The natives at last returned and became friendly.

Finding his original site unfavorable, Tristan de Luna, after exhausting the relief-supplies sent him, and being himself prostrated by a fever in which he became delirious, left Juan de Jaramillo at the port with fifty men and negro slaves, and proceeded[867] with the rest of his company, nearly a thousand souls, to Nanipacna, some by land, and some ascending the river in their lighter craft. To this town he gave the name of Santa Cruz. The stores of Indian corn, beans, and other vegetables left by the Indians were soon consumed by the Spaniards, who were forced to live on acorns or any herbs they could gather.

The Viceroy, on hearing of their sufferings, sent two vessels to their relief in November, promising more ample aid in the spring. The provisions they obtained saved them from starvation during the winter, but in the spring their condition became as desperate as ever. No attempt seems to have been made to cultivate the Indian fields, or to raise anything for their own support.[868]

In hope of obtaining provisions from Coça, Jaramillo sent his sergeant-major with six captains and two hundred soldiers, accompanied by Father Dominic de Salazar and Dominic of the Annunciation, to that province. On the march the men were forced to eat straps, harnesses, and the leather coverings of their shields; some died of starvation, while others were poisoned by herbs which they ate. A chestnut wood proved a godsend, and a fifty days’ march brought them to Olibahali (Hatchet Creek), where the friendly natives ministered to their wants.[869]

About the beginning of July they reached Coça, on the Coosa River, then a town of thirty houses, near which were seven other towns of the same tribe. Entering into friendly intercourse with these Indians, the Spaniards obtained food for themselves and their jaded horses. After resting here for three months, the Spaniards, to gain the good-will of the Coosas, agreed to aid them in a campaign against the Napochies,—a nation near the Ochechiton,[870] the Espiritu Santo, or Mississippi. These were in all probability the Natchez. The Coosas and their Spanish allies defeated this tribe, and compelled them to pay tribute, as of old, to the Coosas. Their town,[259] saved with difficulty from the flames, gave the Spaniards a supply of corn. On their return to Coça, the sergeant-major sent to report to Tristan de Luna; but his messengers found no Spaniard at Nanipacna, save one hanging from a tree. Tristan de Luna, supposing his men lost, had gone down to Ochuse Bay, leaving directions on a tree, and a buried letter.[871] Father Feria and some others had sailed for Havana, and all were eager to leave the country.[872] Tristan de Luna was reluctant to abandon the projected settlement, and wished to proceed to Coça with all the survivors of his force. His sickness had left him so capricious and severe, that he seemed actually insane. The supplies promised in the spring had not arrived in September, though four ships left Vera Cruz toward the end of June. Parties sent out by land and water found the fields on the Escambia and Mobile[873] forsaken by the Indians, who had laid waste their towns and removed their provisions. In this desperate state George Ceron, the maestro de campo, opposed the Governor’s plan,[874] and a large part of the force rallied around him. When Tristan de Luna issued a proclamation ordering the march, there was an open mutiny, and the Governor condemned the whole of the insurgents to death. Of course he could not attempt to execute so many, but he did hang one who deserted. The mutineers secretly sent word to Coça, and in November the party from that province with the two missionaries arrived at Pensacola Bay.[875] Don Tristan’s detachment was also recalled from the original landing, and the whole force united. The dissensions continued till the missionaries, amid the solemnities of Holy Week, by appealing to the religious feelings of the commander and Ceron, effected a reconciliation.[876]

At this juncture Angel de Villafañe’s fleet entered the harbor of Ichuse. He announced to the people that he was on his way to Santa Elena, which Tristan de Luna had made an ineffectual effort to reach. All who chose were at liberty to accompany him. The desire to evacuate the country where they had suffered so severely was universal. None expressed a wish to remain; and Tristan de Luna, seeing himself utterly abandoned, embarked for Havana with a few servants. Villafañe then took on board all except a detachment of fifty or sixty men who were left at Ichuse under Captain Biedma, with orders to remain five or six months; at the expiration of which time they were to sail away also, in case no instructions came.

Villafañe, with the “San Juan” and three other vessels and about two hundred men, put into Havana; but there many of the men deserted, and several officers refused to proceed.[877]


With Gonzalo Gayon as pilot, Villafañe reached Santa Elena—now Port Royal Sound—May 27, 1561, and took possession in the name of the King of Spain. Finding no soil adapted for cultivation, and no port suitable for planting a settlement, he kept along the coast, doubled Cape Roman, and landing on the 2d of June, went inland till he reached the Santee, where he again took formal possession. On the 8th he was near the Jordan or Pedee; but a storm drove off one of his vessels. With the rest he continued his survey of the coast till he doubled Cape Hatteras. There, on the 14th of June, his caravel well-nigh foundered, and his two smaller vessels undoubtedly perished. He is said to have abandoned the exploration of the coast here, although apparently it was his vessel, with the Dominican Fathers, which about this time visited Axacan, on the Chesapeake, and took off a brother of the chief.[878]

Villafañe then sailed to Santo Domingo, and Florida was abandoned. In fact, on the 23d of September the King declared that no further attempt was to be made to colonize that country, either in the Gulf or at Santa Elena, alleging that there was no ground to fear that the French would set foot in that land or take possession of it; and the royal order cites the opinion of Pedro Menendez against any attempt to form settlements on either coast.[879]

As if to show the fallacy of their judgment and their forecast, the French (and what was worse, from the Spanish point of view, French Calvinists) in the next year, under Ribault, took possession of Port Royal,—the very Santa Elena which Villafañe considered unfitted for colonization. Here they founded Charlesfort and a settlement, entering Port Royal less than three months after the Spanish officers convened in Mexico had united in condemning the country.

Pedro Menendez de Aviles had, as we have seen, been general of the fleet to New Spain in 1560, and on his return received instructions to examine the Atlantic coast north of the very spot where the French thus soon after settled. In 1561 he again commanded the fleet; but on his homeward voyage a terrible storm scattered the vessels near the Bermudas, and one vessel, on which his only son and many of his kinsmen had embarked, disappeared. With the rest of his ships he reached Spain,[261] filled with anxiety, eager only to fit out vessels to seek his son, who, he believed, had been driven on the Florida coast, and was probably a prisoner in the hands of the Indians. At this critical moment, however, charges were brought against him; and he, with his brother, was arrested and detained in prison for two years, unable to bring the case to trial, or to obtain his release on bail.

When Menendez at last succeeded in obtaining an audience of the King, he solicited, in 1564, permission to proceed with two vessels to Bermuda and Florida to seek his son, and then retire to his home, which he had not seen for eighteen years. Philip II. at last consented; but required him to make a thorough coast-survey of Florida, so as to prepare charts that would prevent the wrecks which had arisen from ignorance of the real character of the sea-line. Menendez replied that his Majesty could confer no higher boon upon him for his long and successful services on the seas than to authorize him to conquer and settle Florida.

Nothing could be in greater accordance with the royal views than to commit to the energy of Menendez[880] the task which so many others had undertaken in vain. A patent, or asiento, was issued March 20, 1565, by the provisions of which Menendez was required to sail in May with ten vessels, carrying arms and supplies, and five hundred men, one hundred to be capable of cultivating the soil. He was to take provisions to maintain the whole force for a year, and was to conquer and settle Florida within three years; explore and map the coast, transport settlers, a certain number of whom were to be married; maintain twelve members of religious Orders as missionaries, besides four of the Society of Jesus; and to introduce horses, black cattle, sheep, and swine for the two or three distinct settlements he was required to found at his own expense.[881] The King gave only the use of the galleon “San Pelayo,” and bestowed upon Menendez the title of Adelantado of Florida, a personal grant of twenty-five leagues square, with the title of Marquis, and the office of Governor and Captain-General of Florida.

While Menendez was gathering, among his kindred in Asturias and Biscay, men and means to fulfil his part of the undertaking, the Court of Spain became aware for the first time that the Protestants of France had quietly planted a colony on that very Florida coast. Menendez was immediately summoned in haste to Court; and orders were issued to furnish him in America three vessels fully equipped, and an expeditionary force of two hundred cavalry and four hundred infantry. Menendez urged, on the contrary, that he should be sent on at once with some light vessels to attack the French; or, if that was not feasible, to occupy a neighboring port and[262] fortify it, while awaiting reinforcements. The Government, by successive orders, increased the Florida armament, so that Menendez finally sailed from Cadiz, June 29, with the galleon “San Pelayo” and other vessels to the number of nineteen, carrying more than fifteen hundred persons, including farmers and mechanics of all kinds.

The light in which Spaniards, especially those connected with commerce and colonies, regarded the Protestants of France was simply that of pirates. French cruisers, often making their Protestantism a pretext for their actions, scoured the seas, capturing Spanish and Portuguese vessels, and committing the greatest atrocities. In 1555 Jacques Sorie surprised Havana, plundered it, and gave it to the flames, butchering the prisoners who fell into his hands. In 1559 Megander pillaged Porto Rico, and John de la Roche plundered the ships and settlements near Carthagena.[882]

It seems strange, however, that neither in Spain nor in America was it known that this dreaded and hated community, the Huguenots of France, had actually, in 1562, begun a settlement at the very harbor of Santa Elena where Villafañe had taken possession in the name of the Spanish monarch a year before. Some of the French settlers revolted, and very naturally went off to cruise against the Spaniards, and with success; but the ill-managed colony of Charlesfort on Port Royal Sound had terminated its brief existence without drawing down the vengeance of Spain.

When the tidings of a French occupancy of Florida startled the Spanish Court, a second attempt of the Huguenots at settlement had been made,—this time at the mouth of St. John’s River, where Fort Caroline was a direct menace to the rich Spanish fleets, offering a safe refuge to cruisers, which in the name of a pure gospel could sally out to plunder and to slay. Yet that settlement, thus provoking the fiercest hostility of Spain, was ill-managed. It was, in fact, sinking, like its predecessor, from the unfitness of its members to make the teeming earth yield them its fruits for their maintenance. René Laudonnière, the commandant, after receiving some temporary relief from the English corsair Hawkins,[883] and learning that the Spaniards meditated hostilities, was about to burn his fort and abandon the country, when John Ribault arrived as commandant, with supplies and colonists, as well as orders to maintain the post. His instructions from Coligny clearly intended that he should attack the Spaniards.[884]


The two bitter antagonists, each stimulated by his superiors, were thus racing across the Atlantic, each endeavoring to outstrip the other, so as to be able first to assume the offensive. The struggle was to be a deadly one, for on neither side were there any of the ordinary restraints; it was to be a warfare without mercy.

After leaving the Canaries, Menendez’ fleet was scattered by storms. One vessel put back; the flagship and another were driven in one direction, five vessels in another. These, after encountering another storm, finally reached Porto Rico on the 9th of August, and found the flagship and its tender there.[885]

The other ships from Biscay and Asturias had not arrived; but Menendez, fearing that Ribault might outstrip him, resolved to proceed, though his vessels needed repairs from the injuries sustained in the storm. If he was to crush Fort Caroline, he felt that it must be done before the French post was reinforced; if not, all the force at his disposal would be insufficient to assume the offensive. He made the coast of Florida near Cape Cañaveral on the 25th of August; and soon after, by landing a party, ascertained from the natives that the French post was to the northward. Following the coast in that direction, he discovered, on the 28th, a harbor which seemed to possess advantages, and to which he gave the name of the great Bishop of Hippo, Augustine, who is honored on that day. Sailing on cautiously, he came in sight of the mouth of the St. John’s River about two o’clock in the afternoon of the 4th of September. The ten days he had lost creeping along the coast were fatal to his project, for there lay the four vessels of Ribault, the flagship and its consort flinging to the breeze the colors of France.

Menendez’ officers in council were in favor of running back to Santo Domingo till the whole force was united and ready to assume the offensive; but Menendez inspired them with his own intrepidity, and resolved to attack at once. A tremendous thunderstorm prevented operations till ten at night, when he bore down on the French, and ran his ship, the “Pelayo,” between the two larger vessels of Ribault. To his hail who they were and what they were doing there, the reply was that John Ribault was their captain-general, and that they came to the country by order of the King of France; and the French in return asked what ships they were, and who commanded them. To quote his own words, “I replied to them that I was Peter Menendez, that I came by command of the King of Spain to this coast and land to burn and hang the French Lutherans found in it, and that in the morning I would board his ships to know whether he belonged to that sect; because if he did, I could not avoid executing on them the justice which his Majesty commanded. They replied that this was not right, and that I might go without awaiting the morning.”



[This sketch-map of the scene of the operations of the Spanish and the French follows one given by Fairbanks in his History of St. Augustine. Other modern maps, giving the old localities, are found in Parkman, Gaffarel etc.—Ed.]

As Menendez manœuvred to get a favorable position, the French vessels cut their cables and stood out to sea. The Spaniards gave chase, rapidly firing five cannon at Ribault’s flagship,—which Menendez supposed that he injured badly, as boats put off to the other vessels. Finding that the French outsailed him, Menendez put back, intending to land soldiers on an island at the mouth of the river and fortify a position which would command the entrance; but as he reached the St. John’s he saw three French vessels coming out, ready for action.



[After a map in Fairbanks’s History of St. Augustine; but his view of the site is open to question.—Ed.]

His project was thus defeated; and too wily to be caught at a disadvantage by the returning French vessels, Menendez bore away to the harbor of St. Augustine, which he estimated at eight leagues from the French by sea, and six by land. Here he proceeded to found the oldest city in the present territory of the United States.



[This view of Pagus Hispanorum, as given in Montanus and Ogilby, represents the town founded by Menendez at a somewhat later period, if it is wholly truthful of any period. The same view was better engraved at Leide by Vander Aa.—Ed.]


Two hundred mail-clad soldiers, commanded by Captain John de San Vicente and Captain Patiño, landed on the 6th of September, 1565. The Indians were friendly, and readily gave the settlers the large house of one of the caciques which stood near the shore of the river. Around this an intrenchment was traced; and a ditch was soon dug, and earthworks thrown up, with such implements as they had at hand, for the vessel bearing their tools had not yet arrived.

(From the Pagus Hispanorum in Montanus.)

The next day three of the smaller vessels ran into the harbor, and from them three hundred more of the soldiers disembarked, as well as those who had come to settle in the country,—men, women, and children. Artillery and munitions for the fort were also landed. The eighth being a holiday in the Catholic Church,—the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin,—was celebrated with due solemnity. Mass was offered for the first time at a spot ever after held in veneration, and where in time arose the primitive shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Leche.

Then the work of debarkation was resumed; one hundred more persons landed; and great guns, precious stores of provisions, and munitions were brought to the new fort.




(Lemoyne, in De Bry.)

[Two pictures of Fort Caroline accompany the Brevis narratio of Lemoyne,—one the beginning of work upon it, and the other the completed structure, “a more finished fortification than could possibly have been constructed, but to be taken as a correct outline,” as Fairbanks (p. 54) presumes. The engraving of the completed fort is reproduced in Fairbanks’s St. Augustine, Stevens’s Georgia, etc. Another and better view of it, called “Arx Carolina—Charlesfort sur Floride,” was engraved at Leide by Vander Aa, but it is a question if it be truthful. No traces of the fort have ever been recorded by subsequent observers, but Fairbanks places it near a place called St. John’s Bluff, as shown in the accompanying map. Others have placed it on the Bell River (an estuary of the St. Mary’s River), at a place Called Battle Bluff. Cf. Carroll’s Hist. Coll., i. p. xxxvi.—Ed.]


Amid all this bustle and activity the Spaniards were startled by the appearance of two large French vessels[886] in the offing, evidently ready for action. It was no part of Menendez’ plan to engage them, and he waited till, about three in the afternoon, they bore away for the St. John’s. Then he prepared to land in person. As his boat left the vessel with banners unfurled, amid the thunder of cannon and the sounds of warlike music, Mendoza Grajales, the first priest of St. Augustine, bearing a cross, went down at the head of those on shore to meet the adelantado, all chanting the Te Deum. Menendez proceeded at once with his attendants to the cross, which he kissed on bended knee.

Formal possession of the land was then taken in the name of Philip II., King of Spain. The captains of the troops and the officers of the new colony came forward to take the oath to Peter Menendez de Aviles as governor, captain-general, and adelantado of Florida and its coasts under the patents of the Spanish King. Crowds of friendly Indians, with their chieftains, gathered around.

From them the Spanish commander learned that his position was admirably taken, as he could, at a short distance, strike the river on which the French lay, and descend it to assail them. Here then he resolved to make his position as strong as possible, till the rest of his armament arrived. His galleon “San Pelayo,” too large to enter the port, rode without, in danger from the sudden storms that visit the coast, and from the French. Putting on board some French prisoners whom he had captured in a boat, he despatched her and another vessel to Santo Domingo. He organized his force by appointing officers,—a lieutenant and a sergeant-major, and ten captains. The necessity of horses to operate rapidly induced him to send two of his lighter vessels to Havana to seek them there; and by this conveyance he addressed to Philip II. his first letter from Florida.[887]

The masts of his vessels could scarcely have vanished from the eyes of the Spanish force, when the French vessels appeared once more, and nearly captured Menendez himself in the harbor, where he was carrying to the shore, in the smaller vessels that he had retained, some artillery and munitions from the galleons. He escaped, however, though the French were so near that they called on him to surrender. And he ascribed his deliverance rather to prayer than to human skill; for, fierce seaman as he was, he was a man of deep and practical religious feeling, which influenced all his actions.

Menendez’ position was now one of danger. The force at his command was not large, and the French evidently felt strong enough, and were determined to attack him. He had acknowledged his inability to cope with them[271] on the ocean, and could not have felt very sanguine of being able to defend the slight breastworks that had been thrown up at St. Augustine.

Fortune favored him. Ribault, after so earnestly determining to assume the offensive, fatally hesitated. Within two days a tremendous hurricane, which the practised eye of Menendez had anticipated, burst on the coast. The French were, he believed, still hovering near, on the lookout for his larger vessels, and he knew that with such a norther their peril was extreme. It was, moreover, certain that they could not, for a time at least, make the St. John’s, even if they rode out the storm.

This gave him a temporary superiority, and he resolved to seize his opportunity. Summoning his officers to a council of war, he laid before them his plan of marching at once to attack Fort Caroline, from which the French had evidently drawn a part of their force, and probably their most effective men. The officers generally, as well as the two clergymen in the settlement, opposed his project as rash; but Menendez was determined. Five hundred men—three hundred armed with arquebuses, the rest with pikes and targets—were ordered to march, each one carrying rations of biscuit and wine. Menendez, at their head, bore his load like the rest. They marched out of the fort on the 16th of September, guided by two caciques who had been hostile to the French, and by a Frenchman who had been two years in the fort. The route proved one of great difficulty; the rain poured in torrents, swelling the streams and flooding the lowlands, so that the men were most of the time knee-deep in water. Many loitered, and, falling back, made their way to St. Augustine. Others showed a mutinous disposition, and loudly expressed their contempt for their sailor-general.

On the 29th, at the close of the day, he was within a short distance of the French fort, and halted to rest so as to storm it in the morning. At daybreak the Spaniards knelt in prayer; then, bearing twenty scaling-ladders, Menendez advanced, his sturdy Asturians and Biscayans in the van. Day broke as, in a heavy rain, they reached a height from which their French guide told them they could see the fort, washed by the river. Menendez advanced, and saw some houses and the St. John’s; but from his position could not discover the fort. He would have gone farther; but the Maese de Campo and Captain Ochoa pushed on till they reached the houses, and reconnoitred the fort, where not a soul seemed astir. As they returned they were hailed by a French sentinel, who took them for countrymen. Ochoa sprang upon him, striking him on the head with his sheathed sword, while the Maese de Campo stabbed him. He uttered a cry; but was threatened with death, bound, and taken back. The cry had excited Menendez, who, supposing that his officers had been killed, called out: “Santiago! at them! God helps us! Victory! The French are slaughtered! Don Pedro de Valdes, the Maese de Campo, is in the fort, and has taken it!”

The men, supposing that the officers were in advance with part of the force, rushed on till they came up with the returning officers, who, taking[272] in the situation, despatched the sentry and led the men to the attack. Two Frenchmen, who rushed out in their shirts, were cut down. Others outside the fort seeing the danger, gave the alarm; and a man at the principal gate threw it open to ascertain what the trouble was. Valdes, ready to scale the fort, saw the advantage, sprang on the man and cut him down, then rushed into the fort, followed by the fleetest of the Spanish detachment. In a moment two captains had simultaneously planted their colors on the walls, and the trumpets sounded for victory.

The French, taken utterly by surprise, made no defence; about fifty, dashing over the walls of the fort, took to the woods, almost naked, and unarmed, or endeavored in boats and by swimming to reach the vessels in the stream. When Menendez came up with the main body, his men were slaughtering the French as they ran shrieking through the fort, or came forward declaring that they surrendered. The women, and children under the age of fifteen, were, by orders of the commander, spared. Laudonnière, the younger Ribault, Lemoyne, and the carpenter Le Challeux, whose accounts have reached us, were among those who escaped.

Menendez had carried the fort without one of his men being killed or wounded. The number of the French thus unsparingly put to the sword is stated by Menendez himself as one hundred and thirty-two, with ten of the fugitives who were butchered the next day. Mendoza Grajales corroborates this estimate. Fifty were spared, and about as many escaped to the vessels; and some, doubtless, perished in the woods.

The slaughter was too terrible to need depicting in darker colors; but in time it was declared that Menendez hung many, with an insulting label: “I do not this to Frenchmen, but to Heretics.” The Spanish accounts, written with too strong a conviction of the propriety of their course to seek any subterfuge, make no allusion to any such act; and the earliest French accounts are silent in regard to it. The charge first occurs in a statement written with an evident design to rouse public indignation in France, and not, therefore, to be deemed absolutely accurate.

No quarter was given, for the French were regarded as pirates; and as the French cruisers gave none, these, who were considered as of the same class, received none.

The booty acquired was great. A brigantine and a galiot fell into the hands of the Spaniards, with a vessel that had grounded. Another vessel lay near the fort, and Spanish accounts claim to have sunk it with the cannon of the fort, while the French declare they scuttled it. Two other vessels lay at the mouth of the river, watching for the Spaniards, whose attack was expected from the sea, and not from the land side. Besides these vessels and their contents, the Spaniards gained in the fort artillery and small-arms, supplies of flour and bread, horses, asses, sheep, and hogs.[888][273] Such was the first struggle on our soil between civilized men; it was brief, sanguinary, merciless.

Menendez named the captured fort San Mateo, from its capture on the feast of St. Matthew (September 21). He set up the arms of Spain, and selected a site for a church, which he ordered to be built at once. Then, leaving Gonçalo de Villaroel in command, with a garrison of three hundred men, he prepared to march back to St. Augustine with about one hundred, who composed the rest of the force which had remained with him till he reached Caroline. But of them all he found only thirty-five able or willing to undertake the march; and with these he set out, deeming his presence necessary at St. Augustine. Before long, one of the party pushed on to announce his coming.

The Spaniards there had learned of the disaster which had befallen Ribault’s fleet from a Frenchman who was the sole survivor of one small vessel that had been driven ashore, its crew escaping a watery death only to perish by the hands of the Indians. The vessel was secured and brought to St. Augustine. The same day, September 23, a man was seen running toward the fort, uttering loud shouts. The priest, Mendoza Grajales, ran out to learn the tidings he bore. The soldier threw his arms around him, crying: “Victory! Victory! the French fort is ours!” He was soon recounting to his countrymen the story of the storming of Caroline. Toward nightfall the adelantado himself, with his little party, was seen approaching. Mendoza in surplice, bearing a crucifix, went forth to meet him. Menendez knelt to kiss the cross, and his men imitated his example; then they entered the fort in procession, chanting the Te Deum.[889]

Menendez despatched some light boats with supplies to San Mateo; but the fort there took fire a few days after its capture, and was almost entirely destroyed, with much of the booty. He sent other light craft to Santo Domingo with prisoners, and others still to patrol the coast and seek any signs of the galleon “San Pelayo,” or of the French. Then he turned his whole attention to work on his fort and town, so as to be in readiness to withstand any attack from Ribault if the French commander should return and prove to be in a condition to assail him while his forces were divided. He also cultivated friendly intercourse with the neighboring chiefs whom he found hostile to the French and their allies.

On the 28th, some of the Indians came to report by signs that the French were six leagues distant, that they had lost their ships, and that they had reached the shore by swimming. They had halted at a stream which they could not cross,—evidently Matanzas inlet. Menendez sent out a boat, and followed in another with some of his officers and Mendoza, one of the clergymen. He overtook his party, and they encamped near the inlet, but out of sight. On the opposite side, the light of the camp-fires marked the spot occupied by the French. The next day, seeing Menendez, a sailor swam over, and stated that he had been sent to say that they were survivors of some of Ribault’s vessels which had been wrecked; that many of their people had been drowned, others killed or captured by the Indians; and that the rest, to the number of one hundred and forty, asked permission and aid to reach their fort, some distance up the coast.


FLORIDA, 1591 (Lemoyne, in De Bry).

[This is the only cartographical result of the French occupation. It is also reproduced in Gaffarel’s Floride Française, and in Shipp’s De Soto and Florida. It was literally copied by Hondius in 1607, and not so well in the Mercator-Hondius Atlas of 1633. Lescarbot followed it; but in his 1618 edition altered for the worse the course of the St. John’s River; and so did De Laet. Cf. Kohl, Maps in Hakluyt, p. 48, and Brinton, Floridian Peninsula, p. 80, who says (p. 86) that De Laet was the first to confine the name Florida to the peninsula; but Thevet seems nearly to do so in the map in his Cosmographia, which he based on Ortelius, a part of which is given in fac-simile in Weise’s Discoveries of America, p. 304; and it seems also to be the case in the earlier Mercator gores of 1541. The map accompanying Charlevoix’ narrative will be found in his Nouvelle France, i. 24, and in Shea’s translation of it, i. 133.—Ed.]


Menendez told him that he had captured the fort and put all to the sword. Then, after asking whether they were Catholics or Lutherans, and receiving the reply, the Spaniard sent the sailor to his companions, to say that if they did not give up their arms and surrender, he would put them all to the sword. On this an officer came over to endeavor to secure better terms, or to be allowed to remain till vessels could be obtained to take them to France; but Menendez was inexorable. The officer pleaded that the lives of the French should be spared; but Menendez, according to Mendoza, replied, “that he would not give them such a pledge, but that they should bring their arms and their persons, and that he should do with them according to his will; because if he spared their lives he wished them to be grateful to him for it, and if he put them to death they should not complain that he had broken his word.” Solis de Meras, another clergyman, brother-in-law of Menendez, and in St. Augustine at the time, in his account states that Menendez said, “That if they wished to lay down their colors and their arms, and throw themselves on his mercy, they could do so, that he might do with them what God should give him the grace to do; or that they could do as they chose: for other truce or friendship could not be made with him;” and that he rejected an offer of ransom which they made.

Menendez himself more briefly writes: “I replied that they might surrender me their arms and put themselves under my pleasure, that I might do with them what our Lord might ordain; and from this resolution I do not and will not depart, unless our Lord God inspired me otherwise.” The words held out hopes that were delusive; but the French, hemmed in by the sea and by savages, saw no alternative. They crossed, laid down their arms, and were bound, by order of Menendez,—ostensibly to conduct them to the fort. Sixteen, chiefly Breton sailors, who professed to be Catholics, were spared; the rest, one hundred and eleven in all, were put to death in cold blood,—as ruthlessly as the French, ten years before, had despatched their prisoners amid the smoking ruins of Havana, and, like them, in the name of religion.[890]


Ribault himself, who was advancing by the same fatal route, was ignorant alike of the fall of Caroline and of the slaughter of the survivors of the advanced party; he too hoped to reach Laudonnière. Some days after the cruel treatment of the first band he reached the inlet, whose name to this day is a monument of the bloody work,—Matanzas.

The news of the appearance of this second French party reached Menendez on the 10th of October,—at the same time almost as that of the destruction of Fort San Mateo and its contents by fire, and while writing a despatch to the King, unfolding his plan for colonizing and holding Florida, by means of a series of forts at the Chesapeake, Port Royal, the Martyrs, and the Bay of Juan Ponce de Leon. He marched to the inlet with one hundred and fifty men. The French were on the opposite side, some making a rude raft. Both parties sounded drum and trumpet, and flung their standards to the breeze, drawing up in line of battle. Menendez then ordered his men to sit down and breakfast. Upon this, Ribault raised a white flag, and one of his men was soon swimming across. He returned with an Indian canoe that lay at the shore, and took over La Caille, an officer. Approaching Menendez, the French officer announced that the force was that of John Ribault, viceroy for the French king, three hundred and fifty men in all, who had been wrecked on the coast, and was now endeavoring to reach Fort Caroline. He soon learned how vain was the attempt. The fate of the fort and of its garrison, and the stark bodies of the preceding party, convinced him that those whom he represented must prepare to meet a similar fate. He requested Menendez to send an officer to Ribault to arrange terms of surrender; but the reply was that the French commander was free to cross with a few of his men, if he wished a conference.

When this was reported to him, the unfortunate Ribault made an effort in person to save his men. He was courteously received by Menendez, but, like his lieutenant, saw that the case was hopeless. According to Solis de Meras, Ribault offered a ransom of one hundred and fifty thousand ducats for himself and one part of his men; another part, embracing many wealthy nobles, preferring to treat separately. Menendez declined the offer, expressing his regret at being compelled to forego the money, which he needed. His terms were as enigmatical as before. He declared, so he himself tells us, “that they must lay down their arms and colors and put themselves under my pleasure; that I should do with their persons as I chose, and that there was nothing else to be done or concluded with me.”


Ribault returned to his camp and held a council with his officers. Some were inclined to throw themselves on the mercy of Menendez; but the majority refused to surrender. The next morning Ribault came over with seventy officers and men, who decided to surrender and trust to the mercy of the merciless. The rest had turned southward, preferring to face new perils rather than be butchered.

The French commander gave up the banner of France and that of Coligny, with the colors of his force, his own fine set of armor, and his seal of office. As he and his comrades were bound, he intoned one of the Psalms; and after its concluding words added: “We are of earth, and to earth we must return; twenty years more or less is all but as a tale that is told.” Then he bade Menendez do his will. Two young nobles, and a few men whom Menendez could make useful, he spared; the rest were at once despatched.[891]

The French who declined to surrender retreated unpursued to Cañaveral, where they threw up a log fort and began to build a vessel in order to escape from Florida. Menendez, recalling some of the men who remained at San Mateo, set out against them with one hundred and fifty men, three vessels following the shore with one hundred men to support his force. On the 8th of November apparently, he reached the fort. The French abandoned it and fled; but on promise that their lives should be spared, one hundred and fifty surrendered. Menendez kept his word. He destroyed their fort and vessel; and leaving a detachment of two hundred under Captain Juan Velez de Medrano to build Fort Santa Lucia de Cañaveral in a more favorable spot, he sailed to Havana. Finding some of his vessels there, he cruised in search of corsairs—chiefly French and English—who were said to be in great force off the coast of Santo Domingo, and who had actually captured one of his caravels; he was afraid that young Ribault might have joined them, and that he would attack the Spanish posts in Florida.[892] But encountering a vessel, Menendez learned that the King had sent him reinforcements, which he resolved to await, obtaining supplies from Campechy for his forts, as the Governor of Havana refused to furnish any.

The Spaniards in the three Florida posts were ill-prepared for even a Florida winter, and one hundred died for want of proper clothing and food. Captain San Vicente and other malcontents excited disaffection, so that[278] mutinies broke out, and the insurgents seized vessels and deserted. Fort San Mateo was left with only twenty-one persons in it.

In February, 1566, Menendez explored the Tortugas and the adjacent coast, seeking some trace of the vessel in which his son had been lost. His search was fruitless; but he established friendly relations with the cacique Carlos, and rescued several Spanish prisoners from that cruel chief, who annually sacrificed one of them.

Meanwhile the French fugitives excited the Indians who were friendly to them to attack the Spanish posts; and it was no longer safe for the settlers to stir beyond the works at San Mateo and St. Augustine. Captain Martin de Ochoa, one of the bravest and most faithful officers, was slain at San Mateo; and Captain Diego de Hevia and several others were cut off at St. Augustine. Emboldened by success, the Indians invested the latter fort, and not only sent showers of arrows into it, but by means of blazing arrows set fire to the palmetto thatching of the storehouses. The Spaniards in vain endeavored to extinguish the flames; the building was consumed, with all their munitions, cloth, linen, and even the colors of the adelantado and the troops. This encouraged the Indians, who despatched every Spaniard they could reach.

Menendez reached St. Augustine, March 20, to find it on the brink of ruin. Even his presence and the force at his command could not bring the mutineers to obedience. He was obliged to allow Captain San Vicente and many others to embark in a vessel. Of the men whom at great labor and expense he had brought to Florida, full five hundred deserted. After their departure he restored order; and, proceeding to San Mateo, relieved that place. His next step was to enter into friendly relations with the chief of Guale, and to begin a fort of stockades, earth, and fascines at Port Royal which he called San Felipe. Here he left one hundred and ten men under Stephen de las Alas. From this point the adventurous Captain Pardo, in 1566 and the following year, explored the country, penetrating to the silver region of the Cherokees, and visiting towns reached by De Soto from Cofitachiqui to Tascaluza.[893]

Returning to St. Augustine, Menendez transferred the fort to its present position, to be nearer the ship landing and less exposed to the Indians. All the posts suffered from want of food; and even for the soldiers in the King’s pay the adelantado could obtain no rations from Havana, although he went there in person. He obtained means to purchase the necessary provisions only by pledging his own personal effects.

Before his return there came a fleet of seventeen vessels, bearing fifteen hundred men, with arms, munitions, and supplies, under Sancho de Arciniega. Relief was immediately sent to San Mateo and to Santa Elena, where most[279] of the soldiers had mutinied, and had put Stephen de las Alas in irons, and sailed away. Menendez divided part of his reinforcements among his three posts, and then with light vessels ascended the St. John’s. He endeavored to enter into negotiations with the caciques Otina and Macoya; but those chiefs, fearing that he had come to demand reparation for the attacks on the Spaniards, fled at his approach. He ascended the river till he found the stream narrow, and hostile Indians lining the banks. On his downward voyage Otina, after making conditions, received the adelantado, who came ashore with only a few attendants. The chief was surrounded by three hundred warriors; but showed no hostility, and agreed to become friendly to the Spaniards.

On his return Menendez despatched a captain with thirty soldiers and two Dominican friars to establish a post on Chesapeake Bay; they were accompanied by Don Luis Velasco, brother of the chief of Axacan, who had been taken from that country apparently by Villafañe, and who had been baptized in Mexico. Instead, however, of carrying out his plans, the party persuaded the captain of the vessel to sail to Spain.

Two Jesuit Fathers also came to found missions among the Indians; but one of them, Father Martinez, landing on the coast, was killed by the Indians; and the survivor, Father Rogel, with a lay brother, by the direction of Menendez began to study the language of the chief Carlos, in order to found a mission in his tribe. To facilitate this, Menendez sent Captain Reynoso to establish a post in that part of Florida.[894]

News having arrived that the French were preparing to attack Florida, and their depredations in the Antilles having increased, Menendez sailed to Porto Rico, and cruised about for a time, endeavoring to meet some of the corsairs. But he was unable to come up with any; and after visiting Carlos and Tequeste, where missions were now established, he returned to St. Augustine. His efforts, individually and through his lieutenants, to gain the native chiefs had been to some extent successful; Saturiba was the only cacique who held aloof. He finally agreed to meet Menendez at the mouth of the St. John’s; but, as the Spanish commander soon learned, the cacique had a large force in ambush, with the object of cutting him and his men off when they landed. Finding war necessary, Menendez then sent four detachments, each of seventy men, against Saturiba; but he fled, and the Spaniards returned after skirmishes with small bands, in which they killed thirty Indians.

Leaving his posts well defended and supplied, Menendez sailed to Spain; and landing near Coruña, visited his home at Aviles to see his wife and family, from whom he had been separated twenty years. He then proceeded to Valladolid, where, on the 20th of July, he was received with honor by the King.


During his absence a French attack, such as he had expected, was made on Florida. Fearing this, he had endeavored to obtain forces and supplies for his colony; but was detained, fretting and chafing at the delays and formalities of the Casa de Contratacion in Seville.[895]

An expedition, comprising one small and two large vessels, was fitted out at Bordeaux by Dominic de Gourgues, with a commission to capture slaves at Benin. De Gourgues sailed Aug. 22, 1567, and at Cape Blanco had a skirmish with some negro chiefs, secured the harbor, and sailed off with a cargo of slaves. With these he ran to the Spanish West Indies, and disposed of them at Dominica, Porto Rico, and Santo Domingo, finding Spaniards ready to treat with him. At Puerto de la Plata, in the last island, he met a ready confederate in Zaballos, who was accustomed to trade with the French pirates. Zaballos bought slaves and goods from him, and furnished him a pilot for the Florida coast. Puerto de la Plata had been a refuge for some of the deserters from Florida, and could afford definite information. Here probably the idea of Gourgues’ Florida expedition originated; though, according to the bombastic French account, it was only off the Island of Cuba that De Gourgues revealed his design. He reached the mouth of the St. John’s, where the French narratives place two forts that are utterly unknown in Spanish documents, and which were probably only batteries to cover the entrance. Saluted here as Spanish, the French vessels passed on, and anchored off the mouth of the St. Mary’s,—the Tacatacuru of the Indians. By means of a Frenchman, a refugee among the Indians, Gourgues easily induced Saturiba, smarting under the recent Spanish attack, to join him in a campaign against San Mateo. The first redoubt was quickly taken; and the French, crossing in boats, their allies swimming, captured the second, and then moved on Fort San Mateo itself. The French account makes sixty men issue from each of what it calls forts, each party to be cut off by the French, and then makes all of each party of sixty to fall by the hands of the French and Indians, except fifteen or thereabout kept for an ignominious death.

Gourgues carried off the artillery of the fort and redoubts; but before he could transport the rest of his booty to the vessels, a train left by the Spaniards in the fort was accidentally fired by an Indian who was cooking fish; the magazine blew up, with all in it. Gourgues hanged the prisoners who fell into his hands at San Mateo, and descending the river, hanged thirty more at the mouth, setting up an inscription: “Not as to Spaniards, but as to Traitors, Robbers, and Murderers.” Returning to his vessels, he hoisted sail on the 3d of May, and early in June entered the harbor of La Rochelle. His loss, which is not explained, is said to have been his smallest vessel, five gentlemen and some soldiers killed.[896]



[Cf. the “Florida et Apalche” in Acosta, German edition, Cologne, 1598 (also in 1605); that of Hieronymus Chaves, given in Ortelius, 1592; and later the maps of the French cartographer Sanson, showing the coast from Texas to Carolina.—Ed.]

When Gourgues made his descent, Menendez was already at sea, having sailed from San Lucar on the 13th of March, with abundant supplies and[282] reinforcements, as well as additional missionaries for the Indians, under Father John Baptist Segura as vice-provincial. After relieving his posts in Florida and placing a hundred and fifty men at San Mateo, he proceeded to Cuba, of which he had been appointed governor. To strengthen his colony, he solicited permission to colonize the Rio Pánuco; but the authorities in Mexico opposed his project, and it failed. The Mississippi, then known as the Espiritu Santo, was supposed to flow from the neighborhood of Santa Elena, and was depended on as a means of communication.[897] The next year the adelantado sent a hundred and ninety-three persons to San Felipe, and eighty to St. Augustine. Father Rogel then began missions among the Indians around Port Royal; Father Sedeño and Brother Baez began similar labors on Guale (now Amelia) Island, the latter soon compiling a grammar and catechism in the language of the Indians. Others attempted to bring the intractable chief Carlos and his tribe within the Christian fold. Rogel drew Indians to his mission at Orista; he put up houses and a church, and endeavored to induce them to cultivate the ground. But their natural fickleness would not submit to control; they soon abandoned the place, and the missionary returned to Fort San Felipe. A school for Indian boys was opened in Havana, and youths from the tribes of the coast were sent there in the hope of making them the nucleus of an Indian civilization. In 1570 Menendez, carrying out his project of occupying Chesapeake Bay, sent Father Segura with several other Jesuits to establish a mission at Axacan, the country of the Indian known as Don Luis Velasco, who accompanied missionaries, promising to do all in his power to secure for them a welcome from his tribe. The vessel evidently ascended the Potomac and landed the mission party, who then crossed to the shores of the Rappahannock. They were received with seeming friendship, and erected a rude chapel; but the Indians soon showed a hostile spirit, and ultimately massacred all the party except an Indian boy. When Menendez returned to Florida from Spain in 1572, he sailed to the Chesapeake, and endeavored to secure Don Luis and his brother; but they fled. He captured eight Indians known to have taken part in the murder of the missionaries, and hanged them at the yard-arm of his vessel.[898]


From this time Menendez gave little personal attention to the affairs of Florida, being elsewhere engaged by the King; and he died at Santander, in Spain, Sept. 17, 1574, when about to take command of an immense fleet which Philip II. was preparing. With his death Florida, where his nephew Pedro Menendez Marquez[899] had acted as governor, languished. Indian hostilities increased, San Felipe was invested, abandoned, and burned, and soon after the Governor himself was slain.[900] St. Augustine was finally burned by Drake.


OUR account of the voyages of Ponce de Leon is mainly from the cédulas to him and official correspondence, correcting Herrera,[901] who is supposed by some to have had the explorer’s diary, now lost. Oviedo[902] mentions Bimini[903] as forty leagues from Guanahani. The modern edition[904] of Oviedo is vague and incorrect; and gives Ponce de Leon two caravels, but has no details. Gomara[905] is no less vague. Girava records the discovery, but dates it in 1512.[906] As early as 1519 the statement is found that the Bay of Juan Ponce had been visited by Alaminos, while accompanying Ponce de Leon,[907]—which must refer to this expedition of 1513. The “Traza de las costas” given by Navarrete (and reproduced by Buckingham Smith),[908] with the Garay patent of 1521, would seem to make Apalache Bay the western limit of the discoveries of Ponce de Leon, of whose expedition and of Alaminos’s no report is known. Peter Martyr[909] alludes to it, but only incidentally, when treating of Diego Velasquez. Barcia, in his Ensayo cronológico,[910] writing specially on Florida, seems to have had neither of the patents of[284] Ponce de Leon, and no reports; and he places the discovery in 1512 instead of 1513.[911] Navarrete[912] simply follows Herrera.

In the unfortunate expedition of Cordova Bernal Diaz was an actor, and gives us a witness’s testimony;[913] and it is made the subject of evidence in the suit in 1536 between the Pinzon and Colon families.[914] The general historians treat it in course.[915]

The main authority for the first voyage of Garay is the royal letters patent,[916] the documents which are given by Navarrete[917] and in the Documentos inéditos,[918] as well as the accounts given in Peter Martyr,[919] Gomara,[920] and Herrera.[921]

Of the pioneer expedition which Camargo conducted for Garay to make settlement of Amichel, and of its encounter with Cortés, we have the effect which the first tidings of it produced on the mind of the Conqueror of Mexico in his second letter of Oct. 30, 1520; while in his third letter he made representations of the wrongs done to the Indians by Garay’s people, and of his own determination to protect the chiefs who had submitted to him.[922] For the untoward ending of Garay’s main expedition, Cortés is still a principal dependence in his fourth letter;[923] and the official records of his proceedings against Garay in October, 1523, with a letter of Garay dated November 8, and evidently addressed to Cortés, are to be found in the Documentos inéditos,[924] while Peter Martyr,[925] Oviedo,[926] and Herrera[927] are the chief general authorities. Garay’s renewed effort under his personal leadership is marked out in three several petitions which he made for authority to colonize the new country.[928]



[This sketch follows Dr. Kohl’s copy of a map in a manuscript atlas in the British Museum (no. 9,814), without date; but it seems to be a record of the explorations (1520) of Ayllon, whose name is corrupted on the map. The map bears near the main inscription the figure of a Chinaman and an elephant,—tokens of the current belief in the Asiatic connections of North America. Cf. Brinton’s Floridian Peninsula, p. 82, 99, on the “Traza de costas de Tierra Ferme y de las Tierras Nuevas,” accompanying the royal grant to Garay in 1521, being the chart of Cristóbal de Tobia, given in the third volume of Navarrete’s Coleccion, and sketched on another page of the present volume (ante, p. 218) in a section on “The Early Cartography of the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent Parts,” where some light is thrown on contemporary knowledge of the Florida coast.—Ed.]

Of the preliminary expedition on the Atlantic coast of Gordillo and the subsequent attempt of his chief, Ayllon, to settle in Virginia, there is a fund of testimony in the papers of the suit which Matienzo instituted against Ayllon, and of which the greater part is still unprinted; but a few papers, like the complaint of Matienzo and some testimony taken by Ayllon when about to sail himself, can be found in the Documentos inéditos.[929] As regards the joint explorations of the vessels of Gordillo and Quexos, the testimony of the latter helps us, as well as his act of taking possession, which puts the proceeding in 1521; though some of Ayllon’s witnesses give 1520 as the date. Both parties unite in calling the river which they reached the San Juan Bautista, and the cédula to Ayllon places it in thirty-five degrees. Navarrete in saying they touched at Chicora and Gualdape confounds the first and third voyages; and was clearly ignorant of the three distinct expeditions;[930] and Herrera is wrong in calling the river the Jordan,[931]—named, as he says, after the captain or pilot of one of the vessels,—since no such person was on either vessel, and no such name appears in the testimony: the true Jordan was the Wateree (Guatari).[932] That it was the intention of Ayllon to make the expedition one of slave-catching, would seem to be abundantly disproved by his condemnation of the commander’s act.[933]

Ayllon, according to Spanish writers, after reaching the coast in his own voyage, in 1526, took a northerly course. Herrera[934] says he attempted to colonize north of Cape Trafalgar (Hatteras); and the piloto mayor of Florida, Ecija, who at a later day, in 1609, was sent to find out what the English were doing, says positively that Ayllon had fixed his settlement at Guandape. Since by his office Ecija must have had in his possession the early charts of his people, and must have made the locality a matter of special study, his assertion has far greater weight than that[286] of any historian writing in Spain merely from documents.[935] It is also the opinion of Navarrete[936] that Ayllon’s course must have been north.

Oviedo[937] does not define the region of this settlement more closely than to say that it was under thirty-three degrees, adding that it is not laid down on any map. The Oydores of Santo Domingo, in a letter to the King in 1528,[938] only briefly report the expedition, and refer for particulars to Father Antonio Montesinos.[939]

The authorities for the voyage of Gomez are set forth in another volume.[940]

Upon the expedition of Narvaez, and particularly upon the part taken in it by Cabeza de Vaca, the principal authority is the narrative of the latter published at Zamora in 1542 as La relacion que dio Aluar Nuñez Cabeça de Vaca de lo acaescido en las Indias en la armada donde yua por gouernador Pãphilo de narbaez.[941] It was reprinted at Valladolid in 1555, in an edition usually quoted as La relacion y comentarios[942] del governador Aluar Nuñez Cabeça de Vaca de lo acaescido en las dos jornadas que hizo á los Indios.[943] This edition was reprinted under the title of Navfragios de Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, by Barcia (1749) in his Historiadores primitivos,[944] accompanied by an “exámen apologético de la historia” by Antonio Ardoino, which is a defence of Cabeza de Vaca against the aspersions of Honorius Philoponus,[945] who charges Cabeza de Vaca with claiming to have performed miracles.

(From Buckingham Smith).

The Relacion, translated into Italian from the first edition, was included by Ramusio[287] in his Collection[946] in 1556. A French version was given by Ternaux in 1837.[947] The earliest English rendering, or rather paraphrase, is that in Purchas;[948] but a more important version was made by the late Buckingham Smith, and printed (100 copies) at the expense of Mr. George W. Riggs, of Washington, in 1851, for private circulation.[949] A second edition was undertaken by Mr. Smith, embodying the results of investigations in Spain, with a revision of the translation and considerable additional annotation; but the completion of the work of carrying it through the press, owing to Mr. Smith’s death,[950] devolved upon others, who found his mass of undigested notes not very intelligible. It appeared in an edition of one hundred copies in 1871.[951] In these successive editions Mr. Smith gave different theories regarding the route pursued by Cabeza de Vaca in his nine years journey.[952]

(From Buckingham Smith).

The documents[953] which Mr. Smith adds to this new edition convey but little information beyond what can be gathered from Cabeza de Vaca himself. He adds, however, engravings of Father Juan Xuarez and Brother Juan Palos, after portraits preserved in Mexico of the twelve Franciscans who were first sent to that country.[954]


Some additional facts respecting this expedition are derived at second hand from a letter which Cabeza de Vaca and Dorantes wrote after their arrival in Mexico to the Andiencia of Hispaniola, which is not now known, but of which the substance is professedly given by Oviedo.[955]

The Bahia de la Cruz of Narvaez’ landing, made identical with Apalache Bay by Cabot, is likely to have been by him correctly identified, as the point could be fixed by the pilots who returned with the ships to Cuba, and would naturally be recorded on the charts.[956] Smith[957] believed it to be Tampa Bay. The Relacion describes the bay as one whose head could be seen from the mouth; though its author seems in another place to make it seven or eight leagues deep.[958] Narvaez and his party evidently thought they were nearer Panuco, and had no idea they were so near Havana. Had they been at Tampa Bay, or on a coast running north and south, they can scarcely be supposed to have been so egregiously mistaken.[959] If Tampa was his landing place, it is necessary to consider the bay where he subsequently built his boats as Apalache Bay.[960] Charlevoix[961] identifies it with Apalache Bay, and Siguenza y Gongora finds it in Pensacola.[962]

Of the expedition of Soto we have good and on the whole satisfactory records. The Concession made by the Spanish King of the government of Cuba and of the conquest of Florida is preserved to us.[963] There are three contemporary narratives of the progress of the march. The first and best was printed in 1557 at Evora as the Relaçam verdadeira dos trabalhos [=q] ho gouernador dō Fernādo de Souto e certos fidalgos portugueses passarom no descobrimēto da provincia da Frlorida. Agora nouamente feita per hū fidalgo Deluas.[964] It is usually cited in English as the “Narrative of the Gentleman of Elvas,[289]” since Hakluyt first translated it, and reprinted it in 1609 at London as Virginia richly valued by the Description of the Mainland of Florida, her next Neighbor.[965] It appeared again in 1611 as The worthye and famous Historie of the Travailles, Discovery, and Conquest of Terra Florida, and was included in the supplement to the 1809 edition of the Collection of Hakluyt. It was also reprinted from the 1611 edition in 1851 by the Hakluyt Society as Discovery and Conquest of Florida,[966] edited by William B. Rye, and is included in Force’s Tracts (vol. iv.) and in French’s Historical Collections of Louisiana (vol. ii. pp. 111-220). It is abridged by Purchas in his Pilgrimes.[967]


[The sign-manual of Charles V. to the Asiento y Capitulacion granted to De Soto, 1537, as given by B. Smith in his Coleccion, p. 146.—Ed.]

Another and briefer original Spanish account is the Relacion del suceso de its jornada que hizo Hernando de Soto of Luys Hernandez de Biedma, which long remained in manuscript in the Archivo General de Indias at Seville,[968] and was first published in a French[290] version by Ternaux in 1841;[969] and from this William B. Rye translated it for the Hakluyt Society.[970] Finally, the original Spanish text, “Relación de la Isla de la Florida,” was published by Buckingham Smith in 1857 in his Coleccion de varios documentos para la historia de la Florida.[971]

In 1866 Mr. Smith published translations of the narratives of the Gentleman of Elvas and of Biedma, in the fifth volume (125 copies) of the Bradford Club Series under the title of Narratives of the Career of Hernando de Soto in the Conquest of Florida, as told by a Knight of Elvas, and in a Relation [presented 1544] by Luys Hernandez de Biedma.


From the Coleccion, p. 64, of Buckingham Smith.

The third of the original accounts is the Florida del Ynca of Garcilasso de la Vega, published at Lisbon in 1605,[972] which he wrote forty years after Soto’s death, professedly to do his memory justice.[973] The spirit of exaggeration which prevails throughout the volume has deprived it of esteem as an historical authority, though Theodore Irving[974] and others have accepted it. It is based upon conversations with a noble Spaniard who had accompanied Soto as a volunteer, and upon the written but illiterate reports of two common soldiers,—Alonzo de Carmona, of Priego, and Juan Coles, of Zabra.[975] Herrera largely embodied it in his Historia general.


Still another account of the expedition is the official Report which Rodrigo Ranjel, the secretary of Soto, based upon his Diary kept on the march. It was written after reaching Mexico, whence he transmitted it to the Spanish Government. It remained unpublished in that part of Oviedo’s History which was preserved in manuscript till Amador de los Rios issued his edition of Oviedo in 1851. Oviedo seems to have begun to give the text of Ranjel as he found it; but later in the progress of the story he abridges it greatly, and two chapters at least are missing, which must have given the wanderings of Soto from Autiamque, with his death, and the adventures of the survivors under Mosçoso. The original text of Ranjel is not known.

These independent narratives of the Gentlemen of Elvas, Biedma, and Ranjel, as well as those used by Garcilasso de la Vega, agree remarkably, not only in the main narrative as to course and events, but also as to the names of the places.

There is also a letter of Soto, dated July 9, 1539, describing his voyage and landing, which was published by Buckingham Smith in 1854 at Washington,[976] following a transcript (in the Lenox Library) of a document in the Archives at Simancas, and attested by Muñoz. It is addressed to the municipality of Santiago de Cuba, and was first made known in Ternaux’s Recueil des pièces sur la Floride. B. F. French gave the first English version of it in his Historical Collections of Louisiana, part ii. pp. 89-93 (1850).[977]


[This sketch is from a copy in the Kohl Washington Collection, after a manuscript atlas in the Bodleian. It is without date, but seemingly of about the middle of the sixteenth century. The “B. de Miruello” seems to commemorate a pilot of Ponce de Leon’s day. The sketch of the Atlantic coast made by Chaves in 1536 is preserved to us only in the description given by Oviedo, of which an English version will be found in the Historical Magazine, x. 371.—Ed.]

The route of De Soto is, of course, a question for a variety of views.[978] We have in the preceding narrative followed for the track through Georgia a paper read by Colonel Charles C. Jones, Jr., before the Georgia Historical Society, and printed in Savannah in 1880,[979] and for that through Alabama the data given by Pickett in his History of Alabama,[980] whose local knowledge adds weight to his opinion.[981] As to the point of De Soto’s crossing the[292] Mississippi, there is a very general agreement on the lowest Chickasaw Bluff.[982] We are without the means, in any of the original sources, to determine beyond dispute the most northerly point reached by Soto. He had evidently approached, but had learned nothing of, the Missouri River. Almost at the same time that Soto, with the naked, starving remnant of his army, was at Pacaha, another Spanish force under Vasquez de Coronado, well handled and perfectly equipped, must in July and August, 1541, have been encamped so near that an Indian runner in a few days might have carried tidings between them. Coronado actually heard of his countryman, and sent him a letter; but his messenger failed to find Soto’s party.[983] But, strangely enough, the cruel, useless expedition of Soto finds ample space in history, while the well-managed march of Coronado’s careful exploration finds scant mention.[984] No greater contrast exists in our history than that between these two campaigns.

A sufficient indication has been given, in the notes of the preceding narrative, of the sources of information concerning the futile attempts of the Spaniards at colonization on the Atlantic coast up to the time of the occupation of Port Royal by Ribault in 1562. Of the consequent bloody struggle between the Spanish Catholics and the French Huguenots there are original sources on both sides.


On the Spanish part we have the Cartas escritas al rey of Pedro Menendez (Sept. 11, Oct. 15, and Dec. 5, 1565), which are preserved in the Archives at Seville, and have been used by Parkman,[985] and the Memoria del buen suceso i buen viage of the chaplain of the expedition, Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales.[986] Barcia’s Ensayo cronológico is the most comprehensive of the Spanish accounts, and he gives a large part of the Memorial de las jornadas of Solis de Meras, a brother-in-law of Menendez. It has never been printed separately; but Charlevoix used Barcia’s extract, and it is translated from Barcia in French’s Historical Collections of Louisiana and Florida (vol. ii. p. 216). Barcia seems also to have had access to the papers of Menendez,[987] and to have received this Journal of Solis directly from his family.

On the French side, for the first expedition of Ribault in 1562 we have the very scarce text of the Histoire de l’expédition Française en Floride, published in London in 1563, which Hakluyt refers to as being in print “in French and English” when he wrote his Westerne Planting.[988] Sparks[989] could not find that it was ever published in French; nor was Winter Jones aware of the existence of this 1563 edition when he prepared for the Hakluyt Society an issue of Hakluyt’s Divers Voyages (1582), in which that collector had included an English version of it as The True and Last Discoverie of Florida, translated into Englishe by one Thomas Hackit, being the same text which appeared separately in 1563 as the Whole and True Discovery of Terra Florida.[990]

At Paris in 1586 appeared a volume, dedicated to Sir Walter Raleigh, entitled, L’histoire notable de la Floride, ... contenant les trois voyages faits en icelle par certains capitaines et pilotes François descrits par le Capitaine Laudonnière, ... à laquelle a esté adjousté un quatriesme voyage fait par le Capitaine Gourgues, Mise en lumiere par M. Basanier. This was a comprehensive account, or rather compilation, of the four several French expeditions,—1562, 1564, 1565, 1567,—covering the letters of Laudonnière for the first three, and an anonymous account, perhaps by the editor Basanier, of the fourth. Hakluyt, who had induced the French publication, gave the whole an English dress in his Notable History, translated by R. H., printed in London in 1587,[991] and again in his Principall Navigations, vol. iii., the text of which is also to be found in the later edition and in French’s Historical Collections of Louisiana and Florida (1869), i. 165.[992]



[This map of Delisle, issued originally at Paris, is given in the Amsterdam (1707) edition of Garcilasso de la Vega’s Histoire des Incas et de la conquête de la Floride, vol. ii; cf. Voyages au nord, vol. v., and Delisle’s Atlas nouveau. The map is also reproduced in French’s Historical Collections of Louisiana, and Gravier’s La Salle (1870). Other maps of the route are given by Rye, McCulloch, and Irving; by J. C. Brevoort in Smith’s Narratives of Hernando de Soto, and in Paul Chaix’ Bassin du Mississipi au seizième siècle.

Besides the references already noted, the question of his route has been discussed, to a greater or less extent, in Charlevoix’ Nouvelle France; in Warden’s Chronologie historique de l’Amérique, where the views of the geographer Homann are cited; in Albert Gallatin’s “Synopsis of the Indian Tribes” in the Archæologia Americana, vol. ii.; in Nuttall’s Travels in Arkansas (1819 and 1821); in Williams’s Florida (New York, 1837); in McCulloch’s Antiquarian Researches in America (Baltimore, 1829); in Schoolcraft’s Indian Tribes, vol. iii.; in Paul Chaix’ Bassin du Mississipi au seizième siècle; in J. W. Monette’s Valley of the Mississippi (1846); in Pickett’s Alabama; in Gayarré’s Louisiana; in Martin’s Louisiana; in Historical Magazine, v. 8; in Knickerbocker Magazine, lxiii. 457; in Sharpe’s Magazine, xlii. 265; and in Lambert A. Wilmer’s Life of De Soto (1858). Although Dr. Belknap in his American Biography (1794, vol. i. p. 189), had sought to establish a few points of De Soto’s march, the earliest attempt to track his steps closely was made by Alexander Meek, in a paper published at Tuscaloosa in 1839 in The Southron, and reprinted as “The Pilgrimage of De Soto,” in his Romantic Passages in Southwestern History (Mobile, 1857), p. 213. Irving, in the revised edition of his Conquest of Florida, depended largely upon the assistance of Fairbanks and Smith, and agrees mainly with Meek and Pickett. In his appendix he epitomizes the indications of the route according to Garcilasso and the Portuguese gentleman. Rye collates the statements of McCulloch and Monette regarding the route beyond the Mississippi, and infers that the identifying of the localities is almost impossible. Chaix (Bassin du Mississipi) also traces this part.—Ed.]




Jacques Lemoyne de Morgues, an artist accompanying Laudonnière, wrote some years later an account, and made maps and drawings, with notes describing them. De Bry made a visit to London in 1587 to see Lemoyne, who was then in Raleigh’s service; but Lemoyne resisted all persuasions to part with his papers.[993] After Lemoyne’s death De Bry bought them off his widow (1588), and published them in 1591, in the second part of his Grands voyages, as Brevis narratio.[994]

One Nicolas le Challeux, or Challus, a carpenter, a man of sixty, who was an eye-witness of the events at Fort Caroline, and who for the experiences of Ribault’s party took the statements of Dieppe sailors and of Christopher le Breton, published a simple narrative at Dieppe in 1566 under the title of Discours de l’histoire de la Floride, which was issued twice,—once with fifty-four, and a second time with sixty-two, pages,[995] and the same year reprinted, with some variations, at Lyons as Histoire mémorable du dernier voyage fait par le Capitaine Iean Ribaut en l’an MDLXV (pp. 56).[996]


It is thought that Thevet in his Cosmographie universelle (1575) may have had access to Laudonnière’s papers; and some details from Thevet are embodied in what is mainly a translation of Le Challeux, the De Gallorum expeditione in Floridam anno MDLXV brevis historia, which was added (p. 427) by Urbain Chauveton, or Calveton, to the Latin edition of Benzoni,—Novæ novi orbis historiæ tres libri, printed at Geneva in 1578 and 1581,[997] and reproduced under different titles in the French versions, published likewise at Geneva in 1579, 1588, and 1589.[998] There is a separate issue of it from the 1579 edition.[999]

It was not long before exaggerated statements were circulated, based upon the representations made in Une requête au roi (Charles IX.) of the widows and orphans of the victims of Menendez, in which the number of the slain is reported at the impossible figure of nine hundred.[1000]

Respecting the expedition of De Gourgues there are no Spanish accounts whatever, Barcia[1001] merely taking in the main the French narrative,—in which, says Parkman, “it must be admitted there is a savor of romance.”[1002] That Gourgues was merely a slaver is evident from this full French account. Garibay notes his attempt to capture at least one Spanish vessel; and he certainly had on reaching Florida two barks, which he must have captured on his way. Basanier and many who follow him suppress entirely the slaver episode in this voyage. All the De Gourgues narratives ignore entirely the existence of St. Augustine, and make the three pretended forts on the St. John to have been of stone; and Prévost, to heighten the picture, invents the story of the flaying of Ribault, of which there is no trace in the earlier French accounts.

There are two French narratives. One of them, La reprinse de la Floride, exists, according to Gaffarel,[1003] in five different manuscript texts.[1004] The other French narrative[298] is the last paper in the compilation of Basanier, already mentioned. Brinton[1005] is inclined to believe that it is not an epitome of the Reprinse, but that it was written by Basanier himself from the floating accounts of his day, or from some unknown relater. Charlevoix mentions a manuscript in the possession of the De Gourgues family; but it is not clear which of these papers it was.

The story of the Huguenot colony passed naturally into the historical records of the seventeenth century;[1006] but it got more special treatment in the next century, when Charlevoix issued his Nouvelle France.[1007] The most considerable treatments of the present century have been by Jared Sparks in his Life of Ribault,[1008] by Francis Parkman in his Pioneers of France in the New World,[1009] and by Paul Gaffarel in his Histoire de la Floride Française.[1010] The story has also necessarily passed into local and general histories of this period in America, and into the accounts of the Huguenots as a sect.[1011]





Vice-President of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

WHEN the great apostle of the new faith, on his voyage from Asia to Europe, was shipwrecked on a Mediterranean island, “the barbarous people” showed him and his company “no little kindness.” On first acquaintance with their chief visitor they hastily judged him to be a murderer, whom, though he had escaped the sea, yet vengeance would not suffer to live. But afterward “they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.”[1012] The same extreme revulsion of feeling and judgment was wrought in the minds of the natives of this New World when the ocean-tossed voyagers from the old continent first landed on these shores, bringing the parted representatives of humanity on this globe into mutual acquaintance and intercourse. Only in this latter case the change of feeling and judgment was inverted. The simple natives of the fair western island regarded their mysterious visitors as superhuman beings; further knowledge of them proved them to be “murderers,” rapacious, cruel, and inhuman,—fit subjects for a dire vengeance.

In these softer times of ours the subject of the present chapter might well be passed silently, denied a revival, and left in the pitiful oblivion which covers so many of the distressing horrors of “man’s inhumanity to man.” But, happily for the writer and for the reader, the title of the chapter is a double one, and embraces two themes. The painful narrative to be rehearsed is to be relieved by a tribute of admiring and reverential homage to a saintly man of signal virtues and heroic services, one of the grandest and most august characters in the world’s history. Many of the obscure and a few of the dismal elements and incidents of long-passed times, in the rehearsal of them on fresh pages, are to a degree relieved by new light thrown upon them, by the detection and exposure of errors, and by[300] readjustments of truth. Gladly would a writer on the subject before us avail himself of any such means to reduce or to qualify its repulsiveness. But advancing time, with the assertion of the higher instincts of humanity which have sharpened regrets and reproaches for all the enormities of the past, has not furnished any abatements for the faithful dealing with this subject other than that just presented.

It is a fact worthy of a pause for thought, that in no single instance since the discovery of our islands and continent by Europeans—to say nothing about the times before it—has any new race of men come to the knowledge of travellers, explorers, and visitors from the realms of so-called civilization, when the conditions were so fair and favorable in the first introduction and acquaintance between the parties as in that between Columbus and the natives of the sea-girt isle of Hispaniola. Not even in the sweetest idealizings of romance is there a more fascinating picture than that which he draws of those unsophisticated children of Nature, their gentleness, docility, and friendliness. They were not hideous or repulsive, as barbarians; they did not revolt the sight, like many of the African tribes, like Bushmen, Feejeans, or Hottentots; they presented no caricaturings of humanity, as giants or dwarfs, as Amazons or Esquimaux; their naked bodies were not mutilated, gashed, or painted; they uttered no yells or shrieks, with mad and threatening gestures. They were attractive in person, well formed, winning and gentle, and trustful; they were lithe and soft of skin, and their hospitality was spontaneous, generous, and genial. Tribes of more warlike and less gracious nature proved to exist on some of the islands, about the isthmus and the continental regions of the early invasion; but the first introduction and intercourse of the representatives of the parted continents set before the Europeans a race of their fellow-creatures with whom they might have lived and dealt in peace and love.

And what shall we say of the new-comers, the Spaniards,—the subjects of the proudest of monarchies, the representatives of the age of chivalry; gentlemen, nobles, disciples of the one Holy Catholic Church, and soldiers of the Cross of Christ? What sort of men were they, what was their errand, and what impress did they leave upon the scenes so fair before their coming, and upon those children of Nature whom they found so innocent and loving, and by whom they were at first gazed upon with awe and reverence as gods?

In only one score of the threescore years embraced in our present subject the Spaniards had sown desolation, havoc, and misery in and around their track. They had depopulated some of the best-peopled of the islands, and renewed them with victims deported from others. They had inflicted upon hundreds of thousands of the natives all the forms and agonies of fiendish cruelty, driving them to self-starvation and suicide as a way of mercy and release from an utterly wretched existence. They had come to be viewed by their victims as fiends of hate, malignity, and all dark and cruel desperation and mercilessness in passion. The hell which they denounced[301] upon their victims was shorn of its worst terror by the assurance that these tormentors were not to be there.

Only what is needful for the truth of history is to be told here, while shocking details are to be passed by. And as the rehearsal is made to set forth in relief the nobleness, grandeur of soul, and heroism of a man whose nearly a century of years was spent in holy rebuke, protest, exposure, and attempted redress of this work of iniquity, a reader may avert his gaze from the narration of the iniquity and fix it upon the character and career of the “Apostle to the Indians.”

There was something phenomenal and monstrous, something so aimless, reckless, wanton, unprovoked, utterly ruinous even for themselves, in that course of riot and atrocity pursued by the Spaniards, which leads us—while palliation and excuse are out of the question—to seek some physical or moral explanation of it. This has generally been found in referring to the training of Spanish nature in inhumanity, cruelty, contempt of human life, and obduracy of feeling, through many centuries of ruthless warfare. It was in the very year of the discovery of America that the Spaniards, in the conquest of Granada, had finished their eight centuries of continuous war for wresting their proud country from the invading Moors. This war had made every Spaniard a fighter, and every infidel an enemy exempted from all tolerance and mercy. Treachery, defiance of pledges and treaties, brutalities, and all wild and reckless stratagems, had educated the champions of the Cross and faith in what were to them but the accomplishments of the soldier and the fidelity of the believer. Even in the immunities covenanted to the subject-Moors, of tolerance in their old home and creed, the ingenuities of their implacable foes found the means of new devices for oppression and outrage. The Holy Office of the Inquisition, with all its cavernous secrets and fiendish processes, dates also from the same period, and gave its fearful consecration to all the most direful passions.

With that training in inhumanity and cruelty which the Spanish adventurers brought to these shores, we must take into view that towering, overmastering rapacity and greed which were to glut themselves upon the spoils of mines, precious stones, and pearls. The rich soil, with the lightest tillage, would have yielded its splendid crops for man and beast. Flocks would have multiplied and found their own sustenance for the whole year without any storage in garner, barn, or granary. A rewarding commerce would have enriched merchants on either side of well-traversed ocean pathways. But not the slightest thought or recognition was given during the first half-century of the invasion to any such enterprise as is suggested by the terms colonization, the occupancy of soil for husbandry and domestication. Spanish pride, indolence, thriftlessness regarded every form of manual labor as a demeaning humiliation. There was no peasantry among the new-comers. The humblest of them in birth, rank, and means was a gentleman; his hands could not hold a spade or a rake, or guide the plough. The horse and the hound were the only beasts on his inventory[302] of values. Sudden and vast enrichment by the treasures of gold wrung from the natives, first in their fragmentary ornaments, and then by compulsory toil from the mines which would yield it in heaps, were the lure and passion of the invaders. The natives, before they could reach any conception of the Divine Being of the Catholic creed, soon came to the understanding of the real object of their worship: as a cacique plainly set forth to a group of his trembling subjects, when, holding up a piece of gold, he said, “This is the Spaniards’ god.” A sordid passion, with its overmastery of all the sentiments of humanity, would inflame the nerves and intensify all the brutal propensities which are but masked in men of a low range of development even under the restraints of social and civil life. We must allow for the utter recklessness and frenzy of their full indulgence under the fervors of hot climes, in the loosening of all domestic and neighborly obligations, in the homelessness of exile and the mad freedom of adventure. Under the fretting discomforts and restraints of the ocean-passage hither, the imagination of these rapacious treasure-seekers fed itself on visions of wild license of arbitrary power over simple victims, and of heaps of treasure to be soon carried back to Spain to make a long revel in self-indulgence for the rest of life.

“Cruelties” was the comprehensive term under which Las Casas gathered all the enormities and barbarities, of which he was a witness for half a century, as perpetrated on the successive scenes invaded by his countrymen on the islands and the main of the New World. He had seen thousands of the natives crowded together, naked and helpless, for slaughter, like sheep in a park or meadow. He had seen them wasted at the extremities by torturing fires, till, after hours of agony, they turned their dying gaze, rather in amazed dread than in rage, upon their tormentors. Mutilations of hands, feet, ears, and noses surrounded him with ghastly spectacles of all the processes of death without disease. One may well leave all details to the imagination; and may do this all the more willingly that even the imagination will fail to fill and fashion the reality of the horror.

Previous to the successful ventures on the western ocean, the Portuguese had been resolutely pursuing the work of discovery by pushing their daring enterprise farther and farther down the coast of Africa, till they at last turned the Cape.[1013] The deportation of the natives and their sale as slaves at once became first an incidental reward, and then the leading aim of craving adventurers. It was but natural that the Spaniards should turn their success in other regions to the same account. Heathen lands and heathen people belonged by Papal donation to the soldiers of the Cross; they were the heritage of the Church. The plea of conversion answered equally for conquest and subjugation of the natives on their own soil, and for transporting them to the scenes and sharers of a pure and saving faith.


A brief summary of the acts and incidents in the first enslavement of the natives may here be set down. Columbus took with him to Spain, on his first return, nine natives. While on his second voyage he sent to Spain, in January, 1494, by a return vessel, a considerable number, described as Caribs, “from the Cannibal Islands,” for “slaves.” They were to be taught Castilian, to serve as interpreters for the work of “conversion” when restored to their native shores. Columbus pleads that it will benefit them by the saving of their souls, while the capture and enslaving of them will give the Spaniards consequence as evidence of power. Was this even a plausible excuse, and were the victims really cannibals? The sovereigns seemed to approve the act, but intimated that the “cannibals” might be converted at home, without the trouble of transportation. But Columbus enlarged and generalized sweepingly upon his scheme, afterward adding to it a secular advantage, suggesting that as many as possible of these cannibals should be caught for the sake of their souls, and then sold in Spain in payment for cargoes of live stock, provisions, and goods, which were much needed in the islands. The monarchs for a while suspended their decision of this matter. But the abominable traffic was steadily catching new agents and victims, and the slave-trade became a leading motive for advancing the rage for further discoveries. The Portuguese were driving the work eastward, while the Spaniards were keenly following it westward. In February, 1495, Columbus sent back four ships, whose chief lading was slaves. From that time began the horrors attending the crowding of human cargoes with scant food and water, with filth and disease, and the daily throwing over into the sea those who were privileged to die. Yet more victims were taken by Columbus when he was again in Spain in June, 1496, to circumvent his enemies. Being here again in 1498, he had no positive prohibition against continuing the traffic. A distinction was soon recognized, and allowed even by the humane and pious Isabella. Captives taken in war against the Spaniards might be brought to Spain and kept in slavery; but natives who had been seized for the purpose of enslaving them, she indignantly ordered should be restored to freedom. This wrong, as well as that of the repartimiento system, in the distribution of natives to Spanish masters as laborers, was slightly held in check by this lovable lady during her life. She died while Columbus was in Spain, Nov. 26, 1504. Columbus died at Valladolid, May 20, 1506. The ill that he had done lived after him, to qualify the splendor of his nobleness, grandeur, and constancy.

And here we may bring upon the scene that one, the only Spaniard who stands out luminously, in the heroism and glory of true sanctity, amid these gory scenes, himself a true soldier of Christ.

Bartholomew Las Casas was born at Seville in 1474. Llorente—a faithful biographer, and able editor and expositor of his writings, of whom farther on we are to say much more—asserts that the family was French in its origin, the true name being Casuas; which appears, indeed, as an[304] alias on the titlepage of some of his writings published by the apostle in his lifetime.[1014]

Antoine Las Casas, the father of Bartholomew, was a soldier in the marine service of Spain. We find no reference to him as being either in sympathy or otherwise with the absorbing aim which ennobled the career of his son. He accompanied Columbus on his first western voyage in 1492, and returned with him to Spain in 1493.

During the absence of the father on this voyage the son, at the age of eighteen, was completing his studies at Salamanca. In May, 1498,[1015] at the age of about twenty-four, he went to the Indies with his father, in employment under Columbus, and returned to Cadiz, Nov. 25, 1500. In an address to the Emperor in 1542, Bartholomew reminded him that Columbus had given liberty to each of several of his fellow-voyagers to take to Spain a single native of the islands for personal service, and that a youth among those so transported had been intrusted to him. Perhaps under these favoring circumstances this was the occasion of first engaging the sympathies of Las Casas for the race to whose redemption he was to consecrate his life. Isabella, however, was highly indignant at this outrage upon the natives, and under pain of death to the culprits ordered the victims to be restored to their country. It would seem that they were all carried back in 1500 under the Commander Bobadilla, and among them the young Indian who had been in the service of Bartholomew. One loves to imagine that in some of the wide wanderings of the latter, amid the scenes of the New World, he may again have met with this first specimen of a heathen race who had been under intimate relations with himself, and who had undoubtedly been baptized.

We shall find farther on that the grievous charge was brought against Las Casas, when he had drawn upon himself bitter animosities, that he was the first to propose the transportation of negro slaves to the islands, in 1517. It is enough to say here, in anticipation, that Governor Ovando, in 1500, received permission to carry thither negro slaves “who had been born under Christian Powers.” The first so carried were born in Seville[305] of parents brought from Africa, and obtained through the Portuguese traffickers.

On May 9, 1502, Las Casas embarked for the second time with Columbus, reaching San Domingo on June 29. In 1510 he was ordained priest by the first Bishop of Hispaniola, and was the first ecclesiastic ordained in the so-called Indies to say there his virgin Mass. This was regarded as a great occasion, and was attended by crowds; though a story is told, hardly credible, that there was then not a drop of wine to be obtained in the colony. The first Dominican monks, under their Bishop, Cordova, reached the islands in 1510. As we shall find, the Dominicans were from the first, and always, firm friends, approvers, and helpers of Las Casas in his hard conflict for asserting the rights of humanity for the outraged natives. The fact presents us with one of the strange anomalies in history,—that the founders and prime agents of the Inquisition in Europe should be the champions of the heathen in the New World.

The monks in sympathy with the ardent zeal of Las Casas began to preach vehemently against the atrocious wrongs which were inflicted upon the wretched natives, and he was sent as curate to a village in Cuba. The Franciscans, who had preceded the Dominicans, had since 1502 effected nothing in opposition to these wrongs. Utterly futile were the orders which came continually from the monarchs against overworking and oppressing the natives, as their delicate constitutions, unused to bodily toil, easily sank under its exactions. The injunctions against enslaving them were positive. Exception was made only in the case of the Caribs, as reputed cannibals, and the then increasing number of imported negro slaves, who were supposed to be better capable of hard endurance. Las Casas was a witness and a most keen and sensitive observer of the inflictions—lashings and other torturing atrocities—by which his fellow-countrymen, as if goaded by a demoniac spirit, treated these simple and quailing children of Nature, as if they were organized without sensitiveness of nerve, fibre, or understanding, requiring of them tasks utterly beyond their strength, bending them to the earth with crushing burdens, harnessing them to loads which they could not drag, and with fiendish sport and malice hacking off their hands and feet, and mutilating their bodies in ways which will not bear a description. It was when he accompanied the expedition under Velasquez for the occupation of Cuba, that he first drew the most jealous and antagonistic opposition and animosity upon himself, as standing between the natives and his own countrymen, who in their sordidness, rapacity, and cruelty seemed to have extinguished in themselves every instinct of humanity and every sentiment of religion. Here too was first brought into marked observation his wonderful power over the natives winning their confidence and attachment, as they were ever after docile under his advice, and learned to look to him as their true friend. We pause to contemplate this wonderful and most engaging character, as, after filling his eye and thought with the shocking scenes in which his countrymen—in[306] name the disciples of Jesus and loyal members of his Church—perpetrated such enormities against beings in their own likeness, he began his incessant tracking of the ocean pathways in his voyages to lay his remonstrances and appeals before successive monarchs. Beginning this service in his earliest manhood, he was to labor in it with unabated zeal till his death, with unimpaired faculties, at the age of ninety-two. He calls himself “the Clerigo.” He was soon to win and worthily to bear the title of “Universal Protector of the Indians.” Truly was he a remarkable and conspicuous personage,—unique, as rather the anomaly than the product of his age and land, his race and fellowship. His character impresses us alike by its loveliness and its ruggedness, its tenderness and its vigor, its melting sympathy and its robust energies. His mental and moral endowments were of the strongest and the richest, and his spiritual insight and fervor well-nigh etherealized him. His gifts and abilities gave him a rich versatility in capacity and resource. He was immensely in advance of his age, so as to be actually in antagonism with it. He was free alike from its prejudices, its limitations, and many of its superstitions, as well as from its barbarities. He was single-hearted, courageous, fervent, and persistent, bold and daring as a venturesome voyager over new seas and mysterious depths of virgin wildernesses, missionary, scholar, theologian, acute logician, historian, curious observer of Nature, the peer of Saint Paul in wisdom and zeal. Charles V. coming to the throne at the age of sixteen, when Las Casas was about forty, was at once won to him by profound respect and strong attachment, as had been the case with Charles’s grandfather Ferdinand, whom Las Casas survived fifty years, while he outlived Columbus sixty years.

The Clerigo found his remonstrances and appeals to his own nominally Christian fellow-countrymen wholly ineffectual in restraining or even mitigating the oppressions and cruelties inflicted upon the wretched natives. There was something phenomenal, as has been said, in the license yielded to the ingenuity of Spanish barbarity. It combined all the devices of inquisitorial torturing with the indulgence of the bestial ferocities of the bullfight. At times it seemed as if the heartless oppressors were seeking only for a brutal mirth in inventing games in which their victims should writhe and yell as for their amusement. Then, as opportunity suggested or served, a scheme of the most cunning treachery and malice would turn an occasion of revelry or feasting, to which the natives had been invited or been beguiled by their tormentors, into a riot of fury and massacre. The utter aimlessness and recklessness of most of these horrid enormities impress the reader in these days as simply the indulgence of a wanton spirit in giving free license in human passions to those mocking employments of grinning devils in the old church paintings as they inflict retributions on the damned spirits in hell. The forked weapons, the raging flames, and the hideous demoniac delights exhibited in paintings, with which the eyes of the Spaniards were so familiar, found their all-too-faithful counterparts[307] in the tropical zones and valleys of our virgin islands. The only pretences offered, not for justifying but for inflicting such wanton barbarities on the natives, were such as these,—that they refused to make known or to guide their oppressors to rich mines, or to work beyond their powers of endurance, or to bear intolerable burdens, or to furnish food which they had not to give. Touching and harrowing it is to read of many instances in which the simple diplomacy of the natives prompted them to neglect the little labor of husbandry required to supply their own wants, in order that the invaders might with themselves be brought to starvation. Whenever the Clerigo accompanied a body of Spaniards on the way to an Indian village, he always made an effort to keep the two people apart by night and by day, and he employed himself busily in baptizing infants and little children. He could never be too quick in this service, as these subjects of his zeal were the victims of the indiscriminate slaughter. The only consolation which this tender-hearted yet heroic missionary could find, as his share in the enterprise of his people, was in keeping the reckoning on his tablets of the number of those born under the common heathen doom whom he had snatched, by a holy drop, from the jaws of hell.

Baffled in all his nearly solitary endeavors to check the direful havoc and wreck of poor humanity on the scenes which were made so gory and hateful, Las Casas returned again to Spain in 1515, buoyed by resolve and hope that his dark revelations and bold remonstrances would draw forth something more effective from the sovereign. He was privileged by free and sympathizing interviews with Ferdinand at Placentia. But any hope of success here was soon crushed by the monarch’s death. Las Casas was intending to go at once to Flanders to plead with the new King, Charles I., afterward Emperor, but was delayed by sympathetic friends found in Cardinal Ximenes and Adrian, the Regents.

It may seem strange and unaccountable that Las Casas should have encountered near the Court of a benignant sovereign a most malignant opposition to all his endeavors from first to last in securing the simply humane objects of his mission. But in fact he was withstood as resolutely at home as abroad, and often by a more wily and calculating policy. He found enemies and effective thwarters of his influence and advice in the order of the Jeronymites. Of the grounds and methods of their harmful activity, as well as of some of the more ostensible and plausible of the motives and alleged reasons which made him personal enemies both in Spain and in the Indies, we must speak with some detail farther on. It may be well here to follow him summarily in his frequent alternation between his missionary fields and his homeward voyages, to ply his invigorated zeal with new and intenser earnestness from his fuller experiences of the woes and outrages which he sought to redress. With some, though insufficient, assurances of regal authority in support of his cause, he re-embarked for the Indies, Nov. 11, 1516, and reached Hispaniola in December, fortified with the personal title of the “Universal Protector of the Indians.” He sailed again[308] for Spain, May 7, 1517. His plainness of speech had in the interval increased the animosity and the efforts to thwart him of the local authorities on the islands, and had even induced coldness and lack of aid among his Dominican friends. He had many public and private hearings in Spain, stirring up against himself various plottings and new enemies. In each of these homeward visits Las Casas of course brought with him revelations and specific details of new accumulations of iniquity against the natives; and with a better understanding of himself, and also of all the intrigues and interests warring against him, his honest soul assured him that he must at last win some triumph in his most righteous cause. So he heaped the charges and multiplied the disclosures which gave such vehemence and eloquence to his pleadings. Having during each of his home visits met some form of misrepresentation or falsehood, he would re-embark, furnished as he hoped with some new agency and authority against the evil-doers. But his enemies were as ingenious and as active as himself. Perhaps the same vessel or fleet which carried him to the islands, with orders intended to advance his influence, would bear fellow-passengers with documents or means to thwart all his reinforced mission. He left Spain again in 1520, only to cast himself on a new sea of troubles soon inducing him to return. His sixth voyage carried him this time to the mainland in Mexico, in 1537. He was in Spain once more in 1539. While waiting here for the return of the Emperor, he composed six of his many essays upon his one unchanging theme, all glowing with his righteous indignation, and proffering wise and plain advice to the monarch. Yet again he crossed the now familiar ocean to America, in 1544, it being his seventh western voyage, and returned for the seventh and last time to Spain in 1547. Here were fourteen sea-voyages, with their perils, privations, and lack of the common appliances and comforts shared in these days by the rudest mariners. These voyages were interspersed by countless trips and ventures amid the western islands and the main, involving twofold, and a larger variety of harassments and risks, with quakings, hurricanes, and reefs, exposures in open skiffs, and the privilege of making one’s own charts. But one year short of fifty in the count out of his lengthened life were spent by this man of noble ardor, of dauntless soul, and of loving heart in a cause which never brought to him the joy of an accomplished aim.

Las Casas shared, with a few other men of the most fervent and self-sacrificing religious zeal, an experience of the deepest inward conviction, following upon, not originally prompting to, the full consecration of his life to his devoutest aim. Though he had been ordained to the priesthood in 1510, he was afterward made to realize that he had not then been the subject of that profound experience known in the formulas of piety as true conversion. He dates this personal experience, carrying him to a deeper devotional consciousness than he had previously realized, to the influence over him of a faithful lay friend, Pedro de la Renteria, with whom he became intimate in 1514. To the devout conversation, advice, and example[309] of this intimate companion he ascribed his better-informed apprehension of the radical influences which wrought out the whole system of wrong inflicted upon the natives. Las Casas himself, like all the other Spaniards, had a company of Indian servants, who were in effect slaves; and he put them to work, the benefit of which accrued to himself. A form of servitude which exceeded all the conditions of plantation slavery had been instituted by Columbus under the system of so-called repartimientos. It was founded on the assumption that the Spanish monarch had an absolute proprietary right over the natives, and could make disposals and allotments of their services to his Christian subjects, the numbers being proportioned to the rank, standing, and means of individuals, the meanest Spaniard being entitled to share in the distribution of these servitors. This allowance made over to men of the lowest grade of intelligence, character, and humanity, the absolute and irresponsible power over the life and death of the natives intrusted to the disposal of masters. Under it were perpetrated cruelties against which there were no availing remonstrances, and for which there was no redress. The domestic cattle of civilized men are to be envied above the human beings who were held under the system of repartimientos,—tasked, scourged, tormented, and hunted with bloodhounds, if they sank under toils and inflictions beyond their delicate constitutions, or sought refuge in flight.

The slavery which afterward existed in the British Colonies and in these United States had scarce a feature in common with that which originated with the Spanish invaders. Las Casas thinks that Ferdinand lived and died without having had anything like a full apprehension of the enormities of the system. This, however, was not because efforts were lacking to inform him of these enormities, or to engage his sovereign intervention to modify and restrain, if not positively to prohibit, them. As we shall see, the system was so rooted in the greed and rapacity of the first adventurers here, who were goaded by passion for power and wealth, that foreign authority was thwarted in every attempt to overrule it. The most favored advisers of Ferdinand endeavored at first to keep him in ignorance of the system, and then, as he obtained partial information about it, to lead him to believe that it was vitally indispensable to conversion, to colonization, and to remunerative trade. The Dominican missionaries had, as early as 1501, informed the monarch of the savage cruelties which the system imposed. All that they effected was to induce Ferdinand to refer the matter to a council of jurists and theologians. Some of these were even alleged to have personal interests in the system of repartimientos; but at any rate they were under the influence and sway of its most selfish supporters. As the result of their conference, they persuaded the monarch that the system was absolutely necessary,—as, first, the Spaniards themselves were incapable of bodily labor under a debilitating climate; and second, that the close and dependent relation under which the natives were thus brought to their masters could alone insure the possibility of their conversion to the true faith. Ferdinand[310] was so far won over to the allowance of the wrong as to issue an ordinance in its favor; while he sought to limit, restrain, and qualify it by injunctions which, of course, were futile in their dictation, for operating at a distance, in islands where sordid personal interests were all on the side of a defiance of them.

The Clerigo affirms that his own conscience was more startlingly aroused to a full sense of the wrongs and iniquities of the system of the repartimientos by his religious friend Renteria. He had previously, of course, so far as he was himself made the master or guardian in this relation of any number of the natives, brought his humanity and his ardor for justice into full exercise. But he was quickened by his friend to the duty of private and also of bold public protest against the system, and most plainly to offenders in proportion to the number of the victims which they enthralled and to the cruelty inflicted upon them. It was not his wont to allow any timidity or personal regards or temporizing calculations to compel his silence or to moderate his rebukes. His infirmity rather led him to excess in impatience and passion in his remonstrances. His bold and denunciatory preaching—though it appears that in this, and, as we shall note, on other occasions of speech and writing, he restrained himself from using the name of conspicuous offenders—caused an intense consternation and excitement. His clerical character barely saved him from personal violence. He found his hearers obdurate, and utterly beyond the sway of his protests and appeals. Again, therefore, he turned his face toward Spain, sustained by the fond assurance that he could so engage the King’s intervention by his disclosures and rehearsals, that the royal authority should at this time be effectually exerted against a giant iniquity. This was his homeward errand in 1515. That even his presence and speech had had some restraining influence in Cuba, is signified by the fact that after his withdrawal and during his absence all the wrongs and miseries of which the natives, wholly impotent to resist, were the victims, ran into wilder license. The Spaniards kept bloodhounds in training and in hunger, to scour the woods and thickets and wilderness depths for the despairing fugitives. Whole families of the natives took refuge in voluntary and preferred self-destruction.

Two Dominicans of like mind with Las Casas accompanied him on his errand. Pedro de Cordova, prelate of the Dominicans, was his stanch friend. The Clerigo reached Seville in the autumn of 1515, and at once addressed himself to Ferdinand. He found the monarch old and ailing. The most able and malignant opponent with whose support, enlisted upon the side of the wrong and of the wrongdoers, Las Casas had to contend, was the Bishop of Burgos, Fonseca, whose influence had sway in the Council for the Indies.[1016] After the King’s death, Jan. 23, 1516, Las Casas[311] enjoyed the countenance, and had hope of the effectual aid, of the two Regents, previously mentioned, during the minority of Charles, the heir to the throne. The earnestness and persistency of the Clerigo so far availed as to obtain for him instructions to be carried to those in authority in the islands for qualifying the repartimiento system, and with penalties for the oppressions under it. Some Jeronymites were selected to accompany him on his return, as if to reinforce the objects of his mission, and to insure the efficacy of the title conferred upon him as the “Protector of the Indians.” The Jeronymites, however, had been corrupted by the cunning and intrigues of the wily and exasperated enemies of Las Casas, who effected in secrecy what they could not or dared not attempt publicly against the courageous Clerigo and his purposes backed by authority. Already alienated during the voyage, they reached San Domingo in December, 1516. Perhaps candor may induce the suggestion that while the Jeronymites, from motives of prudence, temporized and qualified their activity in their errand, Las Casas was heady and unforbearing in his uncompromising demand for instant redress of wrong. At any rate he was wholly foiled in the exercise of his delegated authority; and so, with a fire in his blood which allowed no peace to his spirit, he was again in Spain in July, 1517. Here he found Cardinal Ximenes, his friendly patron, near to death. He was, however, encouraged with the hope and promise of patronage from high quarters. For a season his cause presented a favorable aspect. He had become sadly assured that upon the Spaniards in the islands, whose hearts and consciences were smothered by their greed and inhumanity, no influence, not even that of ghostly terrorism, which was tried in the refusal of the sacraments, would be of the least avail. His only resource was to engage what force there might be in the piety and humanity of the Church at[312] home, in the sense of justice among high civil dignitaries, and in such sympathetic aid as he might draw from his countrymen who had no interest in the mining or the commerce sustained by the impositions upon the natives. The young King had wise councillors, and they made with him some good plans for means of relieving the natives from severities in their tasks of labor, from cruel inflictions in working the mines, and from exorbitant taxes exacting of them produce and commodities enormously exceeding their possible resources, however willing they might be in yielding. It was at this time and under its emergency, that Las Casas unfortunately gave something more than his assent, even his countenance and advice, to a proposition the effect of which was to root in pure and free soil an enormity whose harvesting and increase were a sum of woes. He certainly did advise that each Spaniard, resident in Hispaniola, should be allowed to import a dozen negro slaves. He did this, as he afterward affirmed and confessed, under the lure of a deep mist and delusion. So painful was the remorse which he then experienced for his folly and error, that he avows that he would part with all he had in the world to redress it. He says that when he gave this advice he had not at all been aware of the outrages perpetrated by the Portuguese dealers in entrapping these wretched Africans. Besides this, he had been promised by the colonists that if they might be allowed to have negroes, whose constitutions were stronger for endurance, they would give up the feeble natives. We may therefore acquit Las Casas in his confessed sin of ignorance and willing compromise in an alternative of wrongs. But he is wholly guiltless of a charge which has been brought against him, founded upon this admitted error, of having been the first to propose and to secure the introduction of African slavery into the New World. As has already been said, the wrong had been perpetrated many years before Las Casas had any agency in it by deed or word. While the young King was still in Flanders negro slaves had been sent by his permission to Hispaniola. The number was limited to a thousand for each of the four principal islands. As there was a monopoly set up in the sale of these doleful victims, the price of them was speedily and greatly enhanced.[1017]

Las Casas devised and initiated a scheme for the emigration of laboring men from Spain. Thwarted in this purpose, he formed a plan for a colony where restrictions were to be enforced to guard against the worst abuses. Fifty Spaniards, intended to be carefully selected with regard to character and habits, and distinguished by a semi-clerical garb and mode of life, were his next device for introducing some more tolerable conditions of[313] work and thrift in the islands. Ridicule was brought to bear, with all sorts of intrigues and tricks, to baffle this scheme. But the Clerigo persevered in meeting all the obstructions thrown in his way, and sailed for San Domingo in July, 1520. He established his little Utopian colony at Cumana; but misadventures befel it, and it came to a melancholy end. It seemed for a season as if the tried and patient Clerigo was at last driven to complete disheartenment. Wearied and exhausted, he took refuge in a Dominican convent in San Domingo, receiving the tonsure in 1522. Here he was in retirement for eight years, occupying himself in studying and writing, of which we have many results. During this interval the work of depopulation and devastation was ruinously advancing under Cortés, Alvarado, and Pizarro, in Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru. There is some uncertainty about an alleged presence of Las Casas at the Court in Spain in 1530. But he was in Mexico in 1531, in Nicaragua in 1534, and in Spain again in 1539, in behalf of a promising work undertaken in Tuzulutlan, from which all lay Spaniards were to be excluded. Having accomplished, as he hoped, the object of his visit, he would have returned at once to the American main; but was detained by the Council of the Indies as the person best able and most trustworthy to give them certain information which they desired. It was at this period that he wrote his remarkable work, The Destruction of the Indies. This bold and daring product of his pen and of the righteous indignation which had heretofore found expression from his eloquent and fervid speech, will soon be examined in detail. It may be said now that this work, afterward so widely circulated and translated into all the languages of Europe,—perhaps with some reductions from the original,—was not at first allowed to be published, but was submitted to the Emperor and his ministers. As the shocking revelations made in this book state in round numbers the victims of the Spaniards in different places, it is at once observable that there are over-statements and exaggerations. This, however, applies only to the numbers, not at all to the acts of barbarity and iniquity.[1018] The book was published twelve years after it was written, and was dedicated to Philip, the heir to the throne.


It may be as well here to complete the summary of the career of Las Casas. While detained by the Council he was engaged in the advice and oversight of a new code of laws for the government of the colonies and the colonists. Up to this time he had crossed the ocean to the islands or the main twelve times, and had journeyed to Germany four times to confer with the Emperor. He was offered the bishopric of Cusco, in Toledo, but was not thus to be withdrawn from his foreign mission. In order, however, to secure authority to enforce the new laws, he accepted the foreign bishopric of Chiapa, was consecrated at Seville in 1544, embarked on July 4, with forty-four monks, and arrived at Hispaniola. He bore the aversion and hate which his presence everywhere provoked, was faithful to the monastic habits, and though so abstemious as to deny himself meat, he kept the vigor of his body. He resolutely forbade absolution to be given to Spaniards holding slaves contrary to the provisions of the new laws. Resigning his bishopric, he returned to Spain for the last time in 1547,—engaging in his bold controversy with Sepulveda, to be soon rehearsed. He resided chiefly in the Dominican College at Valladolid. In 1564, in his ninetieth year, he wrote a work on Peru. On a visit to Madrid in the service of the Indians, after a short illness, he died in July, 1566, at the age of ninety-two, and was buried in the convent of “Our Lady of Atocha.”

The most resolute and effective opponents which Las Casas found at the Spanish Court were Oviedo and Sepulveda, representatives of two different classes of those who from different motives and by different methods stood between him and the King. Oviedo had held high offices under Government both in Spain and in various places in the New World. He wrote a history of the Indies, which Las Casas said was as full of lies almost as of pages. He also had large interests in the mines and in the enslaving of the natives. Sepulveda[1019] was distinguished as a scholar and an author.[315] Las Casas charges that his pen and influence were engaged in the interest of parties who had committed some of the greatest ravages, and who had personal advantages at stake. Sepulveda in his opposition to the Clerigo makes two points or “Conclusions,”—1. That the Spaniards had a right to subjugate and require the submission of the Indians, because of their superior wisdom and prudence; and that, therefore, the Indians were bound to submit and acquiesce. 2. That in case of their refusal to do so they might justly be constrained by force of arms. It was the proceeding on these assumptions that, as Las Casas pleaded, had led to the entire depopulation of vast territories. With high professions of loyalty Sepulveda urged that his motive in writing was simply to justify the absolute title of the King of Spain to the Indies. In offering his book to the Royal Council he importunately solicited its publication; and as this was repeatedly refused, he engaged the urgency of his friends to bring it about. Las Casas, well knowing what mischief it would work, strongly opposed the publication. The Council, regarding the matter as purely theological, referred Sepulveda’s treatise for a thorough examination to the universities of Salamanca and Alcala. They pronounced it unsound in doctrine and unfit to be printed. Sepulveda then secretly sent it to Rome, and through his friend, the Bishop of Segovia, procured it to be printed. The Emperor prohibited its circulation in Spain, and caused the copies of it to be seized.

Las Casas resolved to refute this dangerous treatise, and Sepulveda was personally cited to a dispute, which was continued through five days. As a result, the King’s confessor, Dominic de Soto, an eminent divine,[316] was asked to give a summary of the case. This he did in substance as follows:—

“The prime point is whether the Emperor may justly make war on the Indians before the Faith has been preached to them, and whether after being subdued by arms they will be in any condition to receive the light of the Gospel, more tractable, more docile to good impressions, and ready to give up their errors. The issue between the disputants was, that Sepulveda maintained that war was not only lawful and allowable, but necessary; while Las Casas insisted upon the direct contrary,—that war was wholly unjust, and offered invincible obstacles to conversion. Sepulveda presented four arguments on his side: 1. The enormous wickedness and criminality of the Indians, their idolatry, and their sins against nature. 2. Their ignorance and barbarity needed the mastery of the intelligent and polite Spaniards. 3. The work of conversion would be facilitated after subjugation. 4. That the Indians treat each other with great cruelty, and offer human sacrifices to false gods. Sepulveda fortifies these arguments by examples and authorities from Scripture, and by the views of doctors and canonists,—all proceeding upon the assumed exceeding wickedness of the Indians. In citing Deuteronomy xx. 10-16, he interprets ‘far-off cities’ as those of a different religion. Las Casas replies that it was not simply as idolaters that the seven nations in Canaan were to be destroyed,—as the same fate, on that score, might have been visited upon all the inhabitants of the earth, except Israel,—but as intruders upon the Promised Land. The early Christian emperors, beginning with Constantine, did not make their wars as against idolaters, but for political reasons. He cites the Fathers as giving testimony to the effect of a good example and against violent measures. The Indians under the light of Nature are sincere, but are blinded in offering sacrifices. They are not like the worst kind of barbarians, to be hunted as beasts; they have princes, cities, laws, and arts. It is wholly unjust, impolitic, and futile to wage war against them as simply barbarians. The Moors of Africa had been Christians in the time of Augustine, and had been perverted, and so might rightfully be reclaimed.”

The Royal Council, after listening to the dispute and the summary of its points, asked Las Casas to draw up a paper on the question whether they might lawfully enslave the Indians, or were bound to set free all who were reduced to bondage. He replied that the law of God does not justify war against any people for the sake of making them Christians; so the whole course of treatment of the Indians had been wrong from the start. The Indians were harmless; they had never had the knowledge or the proffer of Christianity: so they had never fallen away, like the Moors of Africa, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. No sovereign prince had authorized the Spaniards to make war. The Spaniards cannot pretend that their reason for making war was because of the cruelty of the Indians to each other. The slaughter of them was indiscriminate and universal. They were enslaved and branded with the King’s arms. The monarch never authorized these execrable artifices and shocking atrocities, a long catalogue of which is specified.

The Clerigo then warms into an earnest dissertation on natural and Christian equity. He quotes some beautiful sentences from the will of Isabella,[317] enjoining her own humanity on her husband and daughter. He makes a strong point of the fact that Isabella first, and then a council of divines and lawyers at Burgos, and Charles himself in 1523, had declared that all the inhabitants of the New World had been born free. Only Las Casas’ earnestness, his pure and persistent purpose, relieve of weariness his reiteration of the same truths and appeals to the King. He insists over and over again that the delegating of any portion of the King’s own personal authority to any Spaniard resident in the New World, or even to the Council of the Indies, opens the door to every form and degree of abuse, and that he must strictly reserve all jurisdiction and control to himself.

In a second treatise, which Las Casas addressed to Charles V., he states at length the practical measures needful for arresting the wrongs and disasters consequent upon the enslaving of the Indians. Of the twenty methods specified, the most important is that the King should not part with the least portion of his sovereign prerogative. He meets the objection artfully raised by Sepulveda, that if the King thus retains all authority to himself he may lose the vast domain to his crown, and that the Spaniards will be forced to return to Europe and give up the work of Gospel conversion.

Las Casas wrote six memorials or argumentative treatises addressed to the sovereigns on the one same theme. The sameness of the information and appeals in them is varied only by the increasing boldness of the writer in exposing iniquities, and by the warmer earnestness of his demand for the royal interposition. His sixth treatise is a most bold and searching exposition of the limits of the royal power over newly discovered territory, and within the kingdoms and over the natural rights of the natives. A copy of this paper was obtained by a German ambassador in Spain, and published at Spire, in Latin, in 1571. It is evident that for a considerable period after the composition—and, so to speak, the publication—of these successive protests and appeals of the Clerigo, only a very limited circulation was gained by them. Artful efforts were made, first to suppress them, and then to confine the knowledge of the facts contained in them to as narrow a range as possible. His enemies availed themselves of their utmost ingenuity and cunning to nullify his influence. Sometimes he was ridiculed as a crazy enthusiast,—a visionary monomaniac upon an exaggerated delusion of his own fancy. Again, he would be gravely and threateningly denounced as an enemy to Church and State, because he imperilled the vast interests of Spain in her colonies.

The principal and most important work from the pen of Las Casas, on which his many subsequent writings are based and substantially developed, bears (in English) the following title: A Relation of the First Voyages and Discoveries made by the Spaniards in America. With an Account of their Unparalleled Cruelties on the Indians, in the Destruction of above Forty Millions of People; together with the Propositions offered to the King of Spain to prevent the further Ruin of the West Indies. By Don Bartholomew de las Casas, Bishop of Chiapa, who was an Eye-witness of their Cruelties. It[318] was composed in Spanish, and finished at Valencia, Dec. 8, 1542, near the beginning of the reign of Philip II., to whom it is dedicated. This was about fifty years after the discovery of America; and during the greater part of the period Las Casas had lived as an observer of the scenes and events which he describes. He makes Hispaniola his starting-point, as the navigators usually first touched there. The reader will at once be struck by the exaggeration, the effect of a high-wrought and inflamed imagination, so evident in the words of the title, which set the number of the victims of Spanish cruelty at forty millions. Of this weakness of Las Casas in over-estimate and exaggeration of numbers, we shall have to take special notice by and by. It is enough to say here that his license in this direction is confined to this one point, and is by no means to be viewed as discrediting his integrity, fidelity, and accuracy in other parts of his testimony. He certainly had been deeply impressed with the density of the population in some of the islands, for he says: “It seems as if Providence had amassed together the greatest part of mankind in this region of the earth.” He tells us that his motives for writing and publishing his exposure of iniquities were,—the call made upon him by pious and Christian people thus to enlist the sympathies and efforts of the good to redress the wrong; and his sincere attachment to his King and Master, lest God should avenge the wrong on his kingdom. For this purpose he has followed the Court with his pleadings, and will not cease his remonstrances and appeals. At the time of completing his work savage cruelties were prevailing over all the parts of America which had been opened, slightly restrained for the time in Mexico, through the stern intervention of the King. An addition to his work in 1546 recognized many new ordinances and decrees made by his Majesty at Barcelona since 1542, and signed at Madrid in 1543. But nevertheless a new field for oppression and wickedness had been opened in Peru, with exasperations from civil war and rebellion among the natives; while the Spaniards on most frivolous pretexts defied the orders of the King, pretending to wait for his answers to their pleas in self-justification. The period was one in which the rapacity of the invaders was both inflamed and gratified by abundance of spoil, which sharpened the avarice of the earlier claimants, and drew to them fresh adventurers.

Las Casas gives a very winning description of the natives under his observation and in his ever-kindly and sympathetic relations with them. He says they are simple, humble, patient, guileless, submissive, weak, and effeminate; incapable of toil or labor, short-lived, succumbing to slight illnesses; as frugal and abstemious as hermits; inquisitive about the Catholic religion, and docile disciples. They were lambs who had encountered tigers, wolves, and lions. During the lifetime of Las Casas Cuba had been rendered desolate and a desert; then St. John and Jamaica; and in all thirty islands had come to the same fate. A system of deportation from one island to another had been devised to obtain new supplies of slaves. The Clerigo deliberately charges that in forty years the number of victims counted[319] to fifty millions. Enslaving was but a protracted method of killing,—all in the greed for gold and pearls. The sight of a fragment of the precious metal in the hands of a native was the occasion for demanding more of him, as if he had hidden treasure, or for his guiding the Spaniards to some real or imagined mines. Las Casas follows his details and examples of iniquity through the islands in succession, then through the provinces of Nicaragua, New Spain, Guatemala, Pannco, Jalisco, Yucatan, St. Martha, Carthagena, the Pearl Coast, Trinidad, the River Yuya-pari, Venezuela, Florida, La Plata, and Peru,—being in all seventeen localities,—repeating the similar facts, hardly with variations. Against the Spaniards with their horses, lances, swords, and bloodhounds, the natives could oppose only their light spears and poisoned arrows. The victims would seek refuge in caves and mountain fastnesses, and if approached would kill themselves, as the easiest escape from wanton tortures. Las Casas says: “I one day saw four or five persons, of the highest rank, in Hispaniola, burned by a slow fire.” Occasionally, he tells us, a maddened Indian would kill a Spaniard, and then his death would be avenged by the massacre of a score or a hundred natives. Immediately upon the knowledge of the death of Isabella, in 1504, as if her humanity had been some restraint, the barbarous proceedings were greatly intensified. The Spaniards made the most reckless waste of the food of the natives. Las Casas says: “One Spaniard will consume in a day the food of three Indian families of ten persons each for a month.” He avows that when he wrote there were scarce two hundred natives left in St. John and Jamaica, where there had once been six hundred thousand. For reasons of caution or prudence—we can hardly say from fear, for never was there a more courageous champion—Las Casas suppresses the names of the greatest offenders. The following are specimens of his method: “Three merciless tyrants have invaded Florida, one after another, since 1510.” “A Spanish commander with a great number of soldiers entered Peru,” etc. “In the year 1514 a merciless governor, destitute of the least sentiment of pity or humanity, a cruel instrument of the wrath of God, pierced into the continent.” “The fore-mentioned governor,” etc. “The captain whose lot it was to travel into Guatemala did a world of mischief there.” “The first bishop that was sent into America imitated the conduct of the covetous governors in enslaving and spoiling.” “They call the countries they have got by their unjust and cruel wars their conquests.” “No tongue is capable of describing to the life all the horrid villanies perpetrated by these bloody-minded men. They seemed to be the declared enemies of mankind.” The more generous the presents in treasures which were made by some timid cacique to his spoilers, the more brutally was he dealt with, in the hope of extorting what he was suspected of having concealed. Las Casas stakes his veracity on the assertion: “I saw with my own eyes above six thousand children die in three or four months.”

To reinforce his own statements the Clerigo quotes letters from high authorities. One is a protest which the Bishop of St. Martha wrote in 1541[320] to the King of Spain, saying that “the Spaniards live there like devils, rather than Christians, violating all the laws of God and man.” Another is from Mark de Xlicia, a Franciscan friar, to the King, the General of his Order, who came with the first Spaniards into Peru, testifying from his eyesight to all enormities, in mutilations, cutting off the noses, ears, and hands of the natives, burning and tortures, and keeping famished dogs to chase them.

Las Casas follows up his direful catalogue of horrors into the “New Kingdom of Grenada,” in 1536, which he says received its name from the native place of “the captain that first set his foot in it.” Those whom he took with him into Peru were “very profligate and extremely cruel men, without scruple or remorse, long accustomed to all sorts of wickedness.” The second “governor,” enraged that his predecessor had got the first share of the plunder, though enough was left for spoil, turned informer, and made an exposure of his atrocities in complaints to the Council of the Indies, in documents which “are yet to be seen.” The spoils were prodigious quantities of gold and precious stones, especially emeralds. The “governor” seized and imprisoned the cacique, or inca, Bogata, requiring him to send for and gather up all the gold within his reach; and after heaps of it had been brought, put him to horrid torture in order to extort more.

There were published at Madeira certain “Laws and Constitutions” made by the King at Barcelona, in 1542, under the influence of Las Casas, as the result of a council at Valladolid. Strict orders to put a stop to the iniquitous proceedings were circumvented by agents sent in the interest of the authors of the outrages. The Clerigo petitioned the King to constitute all the natives his free subjects, with no delegated lordship over them, and enjoined upon him “to take an oath on the Holy Gospels, for himself and his successors, to this effect, and to put it in his will, solemnly witnessed.” He insists that this is the only course to prevent the absolute extermination of the natives. He adds that the Spaniards in their covetousness combine to keep out priests and monks, not the slightest attempt being made to convert the natives, though the work would be easy, and they themselves crave it. “The Spaniards have no more regard to their salvation than if their souls and bodies died together, and were incapable of eternal rewards or punishments.” Yet he admits that it would hardly be reasonable to expect these efforts for conversion of the heathen from men who are themselves heathen, and so ignorant and brutish that they “do not know even the number of the commandments.” “As for your Majesty,” the Clerigo says, with a keen thrust, “the Indians think you are the most cruel and impious prince in the world, while they see the cruelty and impiety your subjects so insolently commit, and they verily believe your Majesty lives upon nothing but human flesh and blood.” He positively denies the imputations alleged to justify cruelty,—that the Indians indulged in abominable lusts against nature, and were cannibals. As for their idolatry, that is a sin against God, for Him, not for man, to punish. The monarchs, he insists,[321] had been most artfully imposed upon in allowing the deportation of natives from the Lucay Islands to supply the havoc made in Hispaniola. The Clerigo goes into the most minute details, with specifications and reiterations of horrors, ascribing them to the delegated authority exercised by petty officers, under the higher ones successively intrusted with power. There is a holy fervor of eloquence in his remonstrances and appeals to his Majesty to keep the sole power in his own hands, as he reminds him that fearful retributive judgments from God may be visited upon his own kingdom. The Council of the Indies, he says, had desired him to write to the monarch about the exact nature of the right of the kings of Spain to the Indies; and he intimates that the zeal which he had shown in exposing iniquities under those whom the King had put in authority in the New World had been maliciously turned into a charge that he had questioned the royal title to those regions. As will appear, Las Casas, under the leadings of that intelligent search for the fundamentals of truth and righteousness which a quickened conscience had prompted, found his way to the principles of equity on this subject.

He had, therefore, previously sent to the King thirty well-defined and carefully stated “Propositions,” which he regards as so self-evident that he makes no attempt to argue or prove them. His enemies have in view to cover up their iniquities by misleading the King. Therefore, for conscience’ sake, and under a sense of obligation to God, he sets himself to a sacred task. Little foreseeing that his life and labor were to be protracted till he had nearly doubled his years, he says that, finding himself “growing old, being advanced to the fiftieth year of his age,” and “from a full acquaintance with America,” his testimony shall be true and clear.

His subtle enemies plead against him that the King has a right to establish himself in America by force of arms, however ruthless the process,—quoting the examples of Nimrod, Alexander, the old Romans, and the Turks. They allege also that the Spaniards have more prudence and wisdom than other peoples, and that their country is nearest to the Indies. He therefore announces his purpose to put himself directly before the King, and stand for his “Propositions,” which he sends in advance in writing, suggesting that if it be his Majesty’s pleasure, they be translated into Latin and published in that language, as well as in Spanish.

The “Propositions” may be stated in substance as follows; they were keenly studied and searched by those who were anxious to detect flaws or heresies in them:—

1. The Pope derives from Christ authority and power extending over all men, believers or infidels, in matters pertaining to salvation and eternal life. But these should be exercised differently over infidels and those who have had a chance to be believers.

2. This prerogative of the Pope puts him under a solemn obligation to propagate the Gospel, and to offer it to all infidels who will not oppose it.

3. The Pope is obliged to send capable ministers for this work.


4. Christian princes are his most proper and able helpers in it.

5. The Pope may exhort and even oblige Christian princes to this work, by authority and money, to remove obstructions and to send true workers.

6. The Pope and princes should act in accord and harmony.

7. The Pope may distribute infidel provinces among Christian princes for this work.

8. In this distribution should be had in view the instruction, conversion, and interests of the infidels themselves, not the increase of honors, titles, riches, and territories of the princes.

9. Any incidental advantage which princes may thus gain is allowable; but temporal ends should be wholly subordinate, the paramount objects being the extending of the Church, the propagation of the Faith, and the service of God.

10. The lawful native kings and rulers of infidel countries have a right to the obedience of their subjects, to make laws, etc., and ought not to be deprived, expelled, or violently dealt with.

11. To transgress this rule involves injustice and every form of wrong.

12. Neither these native rulers nor their subjects should be deprived of their lands for their idolatry, or any other sin.

13. No tribunal or judge in the world has a right to molest these infidels for idolatry or any other sins, however enormous, while still infidels, and before they have voluntarily received baptism, unless they directly oppose, refuse, and resist the publication of the Gospel.

14. Pope Alexander VI., under whom the discovery was made, was indispensably obliged to choose a Christian prince to whom to commit these solemn obligations of the Gospel.

15. Ferdinand and Isabella had especial claims and advantages for this intrustment by the Pope above all other Catholic princes, because they had with noble efforts driven out the infidels and Mohammedans from the land of their ancestors, and because they sent at their own charge Columbus, the great discoverer, whom they named the chief admiral.

16. As the Pope did right in this assignment, so he has power to revoke it, to transfer the country to some other prince, and to forbid, on pain of excommunication, any rival prince to send missionaries.

17. The kings of Castile and Leon have thus come lawfully to jurisdiction over the Indies.

18. This obliges the native kings of the Indies to submit to the jurisdiction of the kings of Spain.

19. Those native kings, having freely and voluntarily received the Faith and baptism, are bound (as they were not before) to acknowledge this sovereignty of the kings of Spain.

20. The kings of Spain are bound by the law of God to choose and send fit missionaries to exhort, convert, and do everything for this cause.

21. They have the same power and jurisdiction over these infidels before their conversion as the Pope has, and share his obligations to convert them.

22. The means for establishing the Faith in the Indies should be the same as those by which Christ introduced his religion into the world,—mild, peaceable, and charitable; humility; good examples of a holy and regular way of living, especially over such docile and easy subjects; and presents bestowed to win them.


23. Attempts by force of arms are impious, like those of Mahometans, Romans, Turks, and Moors: they are tyrannical, and unworthy of Christians, calling out blasphemies; and they have already made the Indians believe that our God is the most unmerciful and cruel of all Gods.

24. The Indians will naturally oppose the invasion of their country by a title of conquest, and so will resist the work of conversion.

25. The kings of Spain have from the first given and reiterated their orders against war and the ill-treatment of the Indians. If any officers have shown commissions and warrants for such practices, they have been forged or deceptive.

26. So all wars and conquests which have been made have been unjust and tyrannical, and in effect null; as is proved by proceedings on record in the Council against such tyrants and other culprits, who are amenable to judgment.

27. The kings of Spain are bound to reinforce and establish those Indian laws and customs which are good—and such are most of them—and to abolish the bad; thus upholding good manners and civil policy. The Gospel is the method for effecting this.

28. The Devil could not have done more mischief than the Spaniards have done in distributing and spoiling the countries, in their rapacity and tyranny; subjecting the natives to cruel tasks, treating them like beasts, and persecuting those especially who apply to the monks for instruction.

29. The distribution of the Indians among the Spaniards as slaves is wholly contrary to all the royal orders given by Isabella successively to Columbus, Bobadilla, and De Lares. Columbus gave three hundred Indians to Spaniards who had done the most service to the Crown, and took but one for his own use. The Queen ordered all except that one to be sent back. What would she have said to the present iniquities? The King is reminded that his frequent journeys and absences have prevented his fully informing himself of these facts.

30. From all these considerations it follows that all conquests, acquisitions, usurpations, and appropriations by officers and private persons have no legality, as contrary to the orders of the Spanish monarchs.

Here certainly is an admirable and cogent statement of the principles of equity and righteousness, as based upon natural laws and certified and fortified by the great verities and sanctions supposed to be held in reverence by professed Christians. Las Casas, in taking for his starting-point the Pope’s supreme and inclusive right over half the globe, just brought to the knowledge of civilized men, seems to make a monstrous assumption, only greater than that of the Spanish kings’ holding under and deriving dominion from him. But we may well pardon this assumption to so loyal a disciple of the Church, when we consider how nobly he held this Papal right as conditioned and limited, involving lofty duties, and balanced by an obligation to confer inestimable blessings. He had ever before him the contrast between fair scenes of luxurious Nature, ministering to the easy happiness of a gentle race of delicate and short-lived beings akin to himself, and the ruthless passions, lusts, and savagery of his own countrymen and fellow-Christians. We can well account for the opposition and thwarting of his efforts amid these scenes, but may need a further explanation of the resistance[324] and ill-success which he encountered when pleading his cause before monarchs and great councillors at home, whose sympathies seem to have been generally on his side. He often stood wholly alone in scenes where these ravaging cruelties had full sweep,—alone in the humane sensitiveness with which he regarded them; alone in freedom from the mastering passions of greed and rapacity which excited them; and alone in realizing the appalling contrast between the spirit of blood and rapine which prompted them, and the spirit of that Gospel, the assumed championship of which at these ends of the earth was the blasphemous pretence of these murderers. Those ruthless tyrants, who here treated hundreds and thousands of the natives subject to them worse than even brutes from which useful service is expected, would not, of course, have the front to offer on the spot the pretence set up for them by their abetters at the Spanish Court,—that they were thus drawing the natives to them for their conversion; they laughed at the Clerigo when they did not openly thwart him.

Las Casas had many powerful and embittered opponents, and by the use of various means and artifices they were able to put impediments in his way, to qualify and avert what would seem to be the natural effects of his ardent appeals and shocking disclosures, and to keep him through his protracted life in what looked like a hopeless struggle against giant iniquities. Nor is it necessary that we go deeper than the obvious surface of the story to find the reasons for the opposition and discomfiture which he encountered. It may be that all those who opposed him or who would not co-operate with him were not personally interested in the iniquities which he exposed and sought to redress. Something may need to be said by and by concerning alleged faults of temper, over-ardor of zeal and overstatement, and wild exaggeration attributed to this bold apostle of righteousness. But that the substance of all his charges, and the specifications of inhumanity, cruelty, and atrocity which he set forth in detail, and with hardly enough diversity to vary his narrative, is faithful to the soberest truth, cannot be questioned. He spoke and wrote of what he had seen and known. He had looked upon sights of shocking and enormous iniquity and barbarity, over every scene which he had visited in his unresting travel. His sleep by night had been broken by the piteous shrieks of the wretched victims of slow tortures.

Much help may be derived by a reader towards a fuller appreciation of the character and life-work of Las Casas from the biography of him and the translation and editing of his principal writings by his ardent admirer, Llorente.[1020] This writer refers to a previous abridged translation of the works[325] of Las Casas, published in Paris in 1642. His own edition in French, in 1822, is more full, though somewhat condensed and reconstructed. He remarks justly upon the prolixity of Las Casas, his long periods, his repetitions, his pedantic quotations from Scripture and the Latin authors, as the results of his peripatetic training. His translator and editor credits to the magnanimity and nobleness of nature of Las Casas the omission of the names of great offenders in connection with the terrible wrongs done by them. This reserve of Las Casas has been already referred to. But Llorente, in seventeen critical notes, answering to the same number of divisions in the Relation of Las Casas, supplies the names of the leading criminals; and he also gives in a necrology the shocking or tragic elements and the dates of the death of these “men of blood.” He adds to the “Remedies” which Las Casas had suggested to Charles V. the whole additional series of measures proposed up to 1572. Llorente says that, admitting that the starting-point in the Thirty Propositions of Las Casas,—namely, the assumption of the Papal prerogative as to new-discovered territory,—was in his day “incontestable,” it is now recognized as a falsity. He furnishes an essay of his own upon the right and wrong of the claim; and he adds to that of Las Casas a treatise on the limits of the sovereign power of the King. Paw first, and then Raynal and Robertson, had brought the charge against Las Casas of having first introduced African slavery into the New World. As we have seen, the charge was false. Gregoire, bishop of Blois, read an Apologie before the Institute of France in 1801, in vindication of the Clerigo. This Apologie is given at length by Llorente. He adds, from manuscripts in the Royal Library of Paris, two inedited treatises of Las Casas, written in 1555-1564,—one against a project for perpetuating the commanderies in the New World; the other on the necessity of restoring the crown of Peru to the Inca Titus.[1021]


Llorente says it is not strange that the apostle Las Casas, like other great and noble men, met with enemies and detractors. Some assailed him through prejudice, others merely from levity, and without reflection. Four principal reproaches have been brought against him:—

1. He is charged with gross exaggeration in his writings, as by the Spanish writers Camporicanes, Nuix, and Muñoz, and of course by those interested in excusing the work of conquest and devastation, who cannot justify themselves without impeaching Las Casas as an impostor. His sufficient vindication from this charge may be found in a mass of legal documents in the Archives, in the Records of the Council for the Indies, and in Government processes against wrongdoers. Herrera, who had seen these documents, says: “Las Casas was worthy of all confidence, and in no particular has failed to present the truth.” Torquemada, having personally sought for evidence in America, says the same. Las Casas, when challenged on this point, boldly affirmed: “There were once more natives in Hispaniola than in all Spain,” and that Cuba, Jamaica, and forty other islands, with parts of Terra Firma, had all been wrecked and made desolate. He insists over and over again that his estimates are within the truth.

2. Another charge was of imprudence in his ill-considered proceedings with the Indians. Allowance is to be made on the score of his zeal, his extreme ardor and vehemence,—an offset to the apathy and hard-heartedness of those around him. He was in a position in which he could do nothing for the Indians if he kept silence. He witnessed the reckless and defiant disobedience of the positive instructions of the King by his own high officers.

3. The third charge was of inconsistency in condemning the enslaving of Indians, and favoring that of negroes. This has already been disposed of.

4. The final charge was that he was consumed by ambition. Only a single writer had the effrontery to ascribe to Las Casas the desperate purpose of seizing upon the sovereignty of a thousand leagues of territory. The whole foundation of the charge was his attempt to plant a particular colony in the province of Cumana, near St. Martha, on Terra Firma. So far from claiming sovereignty for himself, he even denied the right of the King to bestow such sovereignty.

He was, says Llorente, blameless; there is no stain upon his great virtues. Indeed, not only Spain, but all nations, owe him a debt for his opposition to despotism, and for his setting limits to royal power in the age of Charles V. and the Inquisition.

Then follows Llorente’s translation into French of Las Casas’ Memoir on the Cruelties practised on the Indians, with the Dedicatory Letter addressed to Philip II., 1552. The Spaniards at Hispaniola and elsewhere forgot that they were men, and treated the innocent creatures around them for forty-two years as if they were famished wolves, tigers, and lions. So that in Hispaniola, where once were three millions, there remained not more than[327] two hundred. Cuba, Porto Rico, and Jamaica had been wholly depopulated. On more than sixty Lucayan islands, on the smallest of which were once five hundred thousand natives, Las Casas says, “my own eyes” have seen but eleven.

These appalling enumerations of the victims of Spanish cruelty during half a century from the first coming of the invaders to the islands and main of America, are set before the reader in the figures and estimates of Las Casas. Of course the instant judgment of the reader will be that there is obvious and gross exaggeration in them. It remains to this day a debated and wholly undecided question among archæologists, historians, and explorers best able to deal with it, as to the number of natives on island and continent when America was opened to knowledge. There are no facts within our use for any other mode of dealing with the question than by estimates, conjectures, and inferences. A reasonable view is that the southern islands were far more thickly peopled than the main, vast regions of which, when first penetrated by the whites, were found to be perfect solitudes. The general tendency now with those who have pursued any thorough investigations relating to the above question, is greatly to reduce the number of the aborigines below the guesses and the once-accepted estimates. Nor does it concern us much to attempt any argument as to the obvious over-estimates made by Las Casas, or to decide whether they came from his imagination or fervor of spirit, or whether, as showing himself incredible in these rash and wild enumerations, he brings his veracity and trustworthiness under grave doubts in other matters.

Las Casas says that near the Island of San Juan are thirty others without a single Indian. More than two thousand leagues of territory are wholly deserted. On the continent ten kingdoms, “each larger than Spain,” with Aragon and Portugal, are an immense solitude, human life being annihilated there. He estimates the number of men, women, and children who have been slaughtered at more than fifteen millions. Generally they were tormented, no effort having been made to convert them. In vain did the natives, helpless with their feeble weapons, hide their women and children in the mountains. When, maddened by desperation, they killed a single Spaniard, vengeance was taken by the score. The Clerigo, as if following the strictest process of arithmetic, gives the number of victims in each of many places, only with variations and aggravations. He asserts that in Cuba, in three or four months, he had seen more than seven thousand children perish of famine, their parents having been driven off to the mines. He adds that the worst of the cruelties in Hispaniola did not take place till after the death of Isabella, and that efforts were made to conceal from her such as did occur, as she continued to demand right and mercy. She had done her utmost to suppress the system of repartimientos, by which the natives were distributed as slaves to masters.

An inference helpful to an approximate estimate of the numbers and extent of the depopulation of the first series of islands seized on by the[328] Spaniards, might be drawn from the vast numbers of natives deported from other groups of islands to replace the waste and to restore laborers. Geographers have somewhat arbitrarily distinguished the West Indies into three main groupings of islands,—the Lucayan, or Bahamas, of fourteen large and a vast number of small islands, extending, from opposite the coast of Florida, some seven hundred and fifty miles oceanward; the Greater Antilles, embracing Cuba, San Domingo, Porto Rico, Jamaica, etc., running, from opposite the Gulf of Mexico, from farther westward than the other groups; and the Lesser Antilles, or Carribean, or Windward Islands. The last-named, from their repute of cannibalism, were from the first coming of the Spaniards regarded as fair subjects for spoil, violence, and devastation. After ruin had done its work in the Greater Antilles, recourse was had to the Lucayan Islands. By the foulest and meanest stratagems for enticing away the natives of these fair scenes, they were deported in vast numbers to Cuba and elsewhere as slaves. It was estimated that in five years Ovando had beguiled and carried off forty thousand natives of the Lucayan Islands to Hispaniola.

The amiable and highly honored historian, Mr. Prescott, says in general, of the numerical estimates of Las Casas, that “the good Bishop’s arithmetic came more from his heart than his head.”[1022]

From the fullest examination which I have been able to make, by the comparison of authorities and incidental facts, while I should most frankly admit that Las Casas gave even a wild indulgence to his dismay and his indignation in his figures, I should conclude that he had positive knowledge, from actual eyesight and observation, of every form and shape, as well as instance and aggregation, of the cruelties and enormities which aroused his lifelong efforts. Besides the means and methods used to discredit the statements and to thwart the appeals of Las Casas at the Court, a very insidious attempt for vindicating, palliating, and even justifying the acts of violence and cruelty which he alleged against the Spaniards in the islands and on the main, was in the charge that their victims were horribly addicted to cannibalism and the offering of human sacrifices. The number estimated of the latter as slaughtered, especially on great royal occasions, is appalling, and the rites described are hideous. It seems impossible for us now, from so many dubious and conflicting authorities, to reach any trustworthy knowledge on this subject. For instance, in Anahuac, Mexico, the annual number of human sacrifices, as stated by different writers, varies from twenty to fifty thousand. Sepulveda in his contest with Las Casas was bound to[329] make the most of this dismal story, and said that no one of the authorities estimated the number of the victims at less than twenty thousand. Las Casas replied that this was the estimate of brigands, who wished thus to win tolerance for their own slaughterings, and that the actual number of annual victims did not exceed twenty.[1023] It was a hard recourse for Christians to seek palliation for their cruelties in noting or exaggerating the superstitious and hideous rites of heathens!

It is certain, however, that this plea of cannibalism was most effectively used, from the first vague reports which Columbus took back to Spain of its prevalence, at least in the Carribean Islands, to overcome the earliest humane protests against the slaughter of the natives and their deportation for slaves. In the all-too hideous engravings presented in the volumes in all the tongues of Europe exposing the cruelties of the Spanish invaders, are found revolting delineations of the Indian shambles, where portions of human bodies, subjected to a fiendish butchery, are exposed for sale. Las Casas nowhere denies positively the existence of this shocking barbarism. One might well infer, however, from his pages that he was at least incredulous as to its prevalence; and to him it would only have heightened his constraining sense of the solemn duty of professed Christians to bring the power of the missionary, rather than the maddened violence of destruction, to bear upon the poor victims of so awful a sin. Nor does the evidence within our reach suffice to prove the prevalence, to the astounding extent alleged by the opponents of Las Casas, of monstrous and bestial crimes against nature practised among the natives. Perhaps a parallel between the general morality respectively existing in the license and vices of the invaders and the children of Nature as presented to us by Columbus, as well as by Las Casas, would not leave matter for boasting to the Europeans. Mr. Prescott enters into an elaborate examination of a subject of frequent discussion by American historians and archæologists,—who have adopted different conclusions upon it,—as to whether venereal diseases had prevalence among the peoples of the New World before it was opened to the intercourse of foreigners. I have not noticed in anything written by Las Casas that he brings any charge on this score against his countrymen. Quite recent exhumations made by our archæologists have seemingly set the question at rest, by revealing in the bones of our prehistoric races the evidences of the prevalence of such diseases.

Sufficient means, in hints and incidental statements, have been furnished in the preceding pages from which the reader may draw his own estimate, as appreciative and judicious as he may be able to make it, of the character of Las Casas as a man and as a missionary of Christ. A labored analysis or an indiscriminating eulogium of that character is wholly uncalled for, and would be a work of supererogation. His heart and mind, his soul and body, his life, with all of opportunity which it offered, were consecrated;[330] his foibles and faults were of the most trivial sort, never leading to injury for others, and scarcely working any harm for himself.

It is a well-proved and a gladdening truth, that one who stands for the championship of any single principle involving the rights of humanity will be led by a kindled vision or a gleam of advanced wisdom to commit himself to the assumption of some great, comprehensive, illuminating verity covering a far wider field than that which he personally occupies. Thus Las Casas’ assertion of the common rights of humanity for the heathen natives expanded into a bold denial of the fundamental claims of ecclesiasticism. It was the hope and aim of his opponents and enemies to drive him to a committal of himself to some position which might be charged with at least constructive heresy, through some implication or inference from the basis of his pleadings that he brought under question the authority of the Papacy. Fonseca and Sepulveda were both bent upon forcing him into that perilous attitude towards the supreme ecclesiastical power. To appreciate fully how nearly Las Casas was thought to trespass on the verge of a heresy which might even have cost him his life, but would certainly have nullified his personal influence, we must recognize the full force of the one overmastering assumption, under which the Pope and the Spanish sovereigns claimed for themselves supreme dominion over territory and people in the New World. As a new world, or a disclosure on the earth’s surface of vast realms before unknown to dwellers on the old continents, its discovery would carry with it the right of absolute ownership and of rule over all its inhabitants. It was, of course, to be “conquered” and held in subjection. The earth, created by God, had been made the kingdom of Jesus Christ, who assigned it to the charge and administration of his vicegerent, the Pope. All the continents and islands of the earth which were not Christendom were heathendom. It mattered not what state of civilization or barbarism, or what form or substance of religion, might be found in any new-discovered country. The Papal claim was to be asserted there, if with any need of explanation, for courtesy’s sake, certainly without any apology or vindication. Could Las Casas be inveigled into any denial or hesitating allowance of this assumption? He was on his guard, but he stood manfully for the condition, the supreme obligation, which alone could give warrant to it. The papal and the royal claims were sound and good; they were indeed absolute. But the tenure of possession and authority in heathendom, if it were to be claimed through the Gospel and the Church, looked quite beyond the control of territory and the lordship over heathen natives, princes, and people,—it was simply to prompt the work and to facilitate, while it positively enjoined the duty of, conversion,—the bringing of heathen natives through baptism and instruction into the fold of Christ. Fonseca and Sepulveda were baffled by the Clerigo as he calmly and firmly told the monarchs that their prerogative, though lawful in itself, was fettered by this obligation. In asserting this just condition, Las Casas effectually disabled his opponents.


The following are the closing sentences of the Reply of Las Casas to Sepulveda:—

“The damages and the loss which have befallen the Crown of Castile and Leon will be visited also upon the whole of Spain, because the tyranny wrought by these desolations, murders, and slaughters is so monstrous that the blind may see it, the deaf may hear it, the dumb may rehearse it, and the wise judge and condemn it after our very short life. I invoke all the hierarchies and choirs of angels, all the saints of the Celestial Court, all the inhabitants of the globe, and chiefly all those who may live after me, for witnesses that I free my conscience of all that has transpired; and that I have fully exposed to his Majesty all these woes; and that if he leaves to Spaniards the tyranny and government of the Indies, all of them will be destroyed and without inhabitants,—as we see that Hispaniola now is, and the other islands and parts of the continent for more than three thousand leagues, without occupants. For these reasons God will punish Spain and all her people with an inevitable severity. So may it be!”

It is grateful to be assured of the fact that during the years of his last retirement in Spain, till the close of his life at so venerable an age, Las Casas enjoyed a pension sufficient for his comfortable subsistence. Allowing only a pittance of it for his own frugal support, he devoted it mostly to works of charity. His pen and voice and time were still given to asserting and defending the rights of the natives, not only as human beings, but as free of all mastery by others. Though his noble zeal had made him enemies, and he had appeared to have failed in his heroic protests and appeals, he had the gratification of knowing before his death that restraining measures, sterner edicts, more faithful and humane officials, and in general a more wise and righteous policy, had abated the rage of cruelty in the New World. But still the sad reflection came to qualify even this satisfaction, that the Spaniards were brought to realize the rights of humanity by learning that their cruelty had wrought to their own serious loss in depopulating the most fertile regions and fastening upon them the hate of the remnants of the people. The reader of the most recent histories, even of the years of the first quarter of this century, relating to the Spanish missions in the pueblos of Mexico and California, will note how some of the features of the old repartimiento system, first introduced among the Greater Antilles, survived in the farm-lands and among the peons and converts of the missionaries.


THE subject of this chapter is so nearly exclusively concerned with the personal history, the agency, and the missionary work of Las Casas, both in the New World and at the Court of Spain, that we are rather to welcome than to regret the fact that he is almost our sole authority for the statements and incidents with which we have had to deal.



Giving due allowance to what has already been sufficiently recognized as his intensity of spirit, his wildness of imagination, and his enormous overstatement in his enumeration of the victims of Spanish cruelty, he must be regarded as the best authority we could have for the use which he serves to us.[1024] Free as he was from all selfish and sinister motives, even the daring assurance with which he speaks out before the monarch and his councillors, and prints on his titlepages the round numbers of these victims, prompts us to give full credit to his testimony on other matters, even if we substitute thousands in place of millions. As to the forms and aggravations of the cruel methods in which the Spaniards[333] dealt with the natives, the recklessness and ingenuity of the work of depopulation,—which was as naturally the consequence of the enslaving of the Indians as of their indiscriminate slaughter,—Las Casas’ revelations seem to have passed unchallenged by even his most virulent enemies.

Sepulveda may be received by us as the representative alike in spirit and in argument of the opposition to Las Casas. He was an acute and able disputant, and would readily have availed himself of any weak points in the positions of the apostle. It is observable that, instead of assailing even the vehement and exaggerated charges alleged by Las Casas against the Spanish marauders for their cruelty, he rather spends his force upon the maintenance of the abstract rights of Christian champions over the heathen and their territory. The Papal and the Royal prerogatives were, in his view, of such supreme and sweeping account in the controversy, as to cover all the incidental consequences of establishing them. He seemed to argue that heathens and heathenism invited and justified conquest by any method, however ruthless; that the rights of the Papacy and of Christian monarchs would be perilled by allowing any regards of sentiment or humanity to stand in the way of their assertion; and that even the sacred duty of conversion was to be deferred till war and tyranny had obtained the absolute mastery over the natives.

The eight years spent by Las Casas in retirement in the Dominican convent at San Domingo were used by him in study and meditation. His writings prove, in their references and quotations from the classics, as well as from Scripture, that his range was wide, and that his mind was invigorated by this training.


In 1552-1553, at Seville, Las Casas printed a series of nine tracts, which are the principal source of our information in relation to his allegations against the Spanish oppressors of the Indians. It is only necessary to refer the reader to the bibliographies[1025] for the full titles of these tracts, of which we simply quote enough for their identification, while we cite them in the order in which they seem to have been composed, following in this the extensive Note which Field has given in his Indian Bibliography:—

1. Breuissima relacion de la destruycion de las Indias ... año 1552; 50 unnumbered leaves.

The series of tracts is usually cited by this title, which is that of the first tract,[1026] for there is no general printed designation of the collection. Four folios appended to this, but always reckoned as a distinct tract, are called,—




2. Lo que se sigue es vn pedaço de vna carta, etc. It records the observations of a Spanish traveller upon the enormities practised on the natives.[1027]

3. Entre los remedios ... para reformaciō de las Indias; 1552; 53 unnumbered leaves. It gives the eighth of the proposed remedies, assigning twenty reasons against the enslaving of the natives.[1028]

4. Aqui se cōtienē vnos auisos y reglas para los confessores, etc; 1552; 16 unnumbered leaves. It gives the rules for the confessors of his bishopric of Chiapa to deny the offices of the Church to such as held repartimientos.[1029]

5. Aqui se contiene vna disputa ... entre el obispo ... y el doctor Gines de Sepulveda; 1552; 61 unnumbered leaves. This strong enunciation of Las Casas’ convictions grew out of his controversy with Sepulveda.[1030] It contains, first, a summary by Domingo de Soto of the differences between the two disputants; second, the arguments of Sepulveda; and third, the replies of Las Casas,—twelve in all.

6. Este es vn tratado ... sobre la materia de los Yndios, que se han hecho en ellas esclauos; 1552; 36 unnumbered leaves. This contains reasons and judicial authorities on the question of the restitution of the natives to freedom.[1031]

7. Aqui se cōtienē treynta proposiciones ...; 1552; 10 leaves. These are the Propositions, mentioned on a preceding page, as Las Casas’ reply to those who objected to the rigor of his rules for his confessors.[1032]

8. Principia quedā ex quibus procedendum, etc; 1552; 10 leaves. This gives the principles on which he conducts his defence of the rights of the natives.[1033]

9. Tratado cōprobatorio del imperio soberano, etc.; 80 unnumbered leaves. The title-date is 1552, but that in the colophon is 1553. The purpose is “to prove the sovereign empire and universal dominion by which the kings of Castile and Leon hold the West Indies.”[1034]

Complete sets of these tracts have become very rare, though it is not uncommon to find, in current catalogues, single copies of some of those less scarce.[1035]



[From the copy in Harvard College Library.—Ed.]


In 1571, five years after Las Casas’ death, what is sometimes called a tenth part was printed at Frankfort, under the title of Explicatio questionis utrum Reges vel Principes jure aliquo.... Cives ac subditos a regia corona alienare? This further showing of the arguments of Las Casas is even rarer than its predecessors.[1036] Its authorship, without much reason, has been sometimes denied.[1037] It is translated, however, in Llorente’s edition, as is also a letter of Las Casas which he wrote in 1555 to the Archbishop of Toledo, protesting against the contemplated sale of Encomiendas in perpetuity, which, being communicated to the King, led to the prohibition of the plan.

In 1854 Henry Stevens printed, in a style corresponding to that of the tracts of 1552, a series of six papers from original manuscripts in his possession, interesting as contributions to the history of Las Casas and his work;[1038] and there is also a letter of Las Casas in the volume a few years since printed by the Spanish Government as Cartas de Indias. There is an enumeration of thirteen other treatises, noted as still in manuscript, which is to be found in Sabin’s Dictionary or in his separate Works of Las Casas; but Mr. Field is inclined for one reason or another to reduce the number to five, in addition to the two which were published by Llorente.[1039] There are also two manuscripts recorded in the Carter-Brown Catalogue.[1040]



[From a copy in the Harvard College Library.—Ed.]



[This is slightly reduced from the fac-simile given in vol. iii. of the 1875 (Madrid) edition of the Historia.—Ed.]

The most labored of Las Casas’ books was his Historia de las Indias,—the original manuscript of which is still preserved, according to Helps, in the library of the Academy of History at Madrid.[1041] Las Casas began this work while in his convent in 1527,[1042] and seems to have worked upon it, without finishing it, up to 1561. It has all the fervor and vigor of his nature; and so far as it is the result of his own observation, its character is unimpeachable. It is in large part, as Helps has remarked, autobiographic; but it does[340] not bring the story down later than 1520. Its style is characteristically rambling and awkward, and more or less confused with extraneous learning, the result of his convent studies, and interjected with his usual bursts of a somewhat tiresome indignation. Outside of his own knowledge he had large resources in documents, of which we have no present knowledge. He seems to have had a prescience of the feelings in his countrymen which would long keep the manuscript from the printing-office, for he left instructions at his death that no one should use it for forty years. The injunction did not prevent Herrera having access to it; and when this latter historian published his book in 1601, the world got a large part of Las Casas’ work,—much of it copied by Herrera verbatim,—but extracted in such a way that Las Casas could have none of his proper effect in ameliorating the condition of the Indians and exposing the cruelty of their oppression. In this way Las Casas remained too long eclipsed, as Irving says, by his copyist. Notwithstanding the publication of the book was prohibited, various manuscript copies got abroad, and every reputable historian of the Spanish rule has made use of Las Casas’ labors.[1043] Finally, the Royal Academy of History at Madrid undertook the revision of the manuscript; but that body was deterred from putting their revision on the press by the sentiments, which Spanish scholars had always felt, adverse to making public so intense an arraignment of their countrymen.[1044] At last, however, in 1875-1876, the Academy finally printed it in five volumes.[1045] The Historia was of course not included, nor were two of the tracts of the issues of 1552 (nos. 4 and 8) embraced, in the edition of Las Casas’ Obras which Llorente issued in Paris in 1822 in the original Spanish, and also in the same year in a French translation, Œuvres de Las Casas.[1046] This work is dedicated “Au modèle des virtues héréditaires, A. M. le Comte de las Casas.” Sufficient recognition has been made in the preceding narrative of this work of Llorente. As a Spaniard by birth, and a scholar well read in the historical literature of his own country, as one trained and exercised in the priestly office, though he had become more or less of a heretic, and as a most ardent admirer of the virtues and the heroic services of the great Apostle to the Indians, he had the attainments, qualifications, and motives for discharging with ability and fidelity the biographical and editorial task which he undertook. It is evident from his pages that he devoted conscientious labor in investigation, and a purpose of strict impartiality to its discharge. He is not an undiscriminating eulogist of Las Casas, but he penetrates with a true sympathetic admiration to the noble unselfishness and the sublime constancy of this sole champion of righteousness against powerful forces of iniquity.

The number of versions of all or of part of the series of the 1552 tracts into other languages strikingly indicates the interest which they created and the effect which they produced throughout Europe. None of the nations showed more eagerness to make[341] public these accusations against the Spaniards by one of their own number, than the Flemings and Dutch. The earliest of all the translations, and one of the rarest of these publications, is the version of the first tract, with parts of others, which appeared in the dialect of Brabant, in 1578,—the precursor of a long series of such testimonies, used to incite the Netherlanders against the Spanish rule.[1047] The French came next with their Tyrannies et cruautéz des Espagnols, published at Antwerp in 1579, in which the translator, Jacques de Miggrode, softened the horrors of the story with a due regard for his Spanish neighbors.[1048] A somewhat bolder venture was a new version, not from the originals, but from the Dutch translation, and set out with all the horrors of De Bry’s seventeen engravings, which was supplied to the French market with an Amsterdam imprint in 1620. It is a distorted patchwork of parts of the three of the 1552 tracts. In a brief preface, the translator says that the part relating to the Indies is derived from the original, printed at Seville by Sebastian Trugillo in 1552, the writer “being Las Casas, who seems to be a holy man and a Catholic.” There were still other French versions, printed both in France and in Holland. The earliest English translation is a version signed by M. M. S., entitled The Spanish Colonie, or Briefe Chronicle of the Acts and Gestes of the Spaniardes in the West Indies, called the Newe Worlde, for the Space of XL. Yeeres, issued in London in 1583.[1049] The best-known of the English versions is The Tears of the Indians, “made English by J. P.,” and printed in London in 1656.[1050] “J. P.” is John Phillips, a nephew of John Milton. His little book, which contains a terse translation of Las Casas’s “Cruelty,” etc., without his controversy with Sepulveda, is dedicated to Oliver Cromwell. It is prefaced by a glowing appeal “To all true Englishmen,” which rehearses the proud position they hold in history for religion, liberty, and human rights, and denounces the Spaniards as[342] “a Proud, Deceitful, Cruel, and Treacherous Nation, whose chiefest Aim hath been the Conquest of this Land,” etc., closing with a call upon them to aid the Protector in the threatened contest for the West Indies.

While Phillips places the number of the slaughtered Indians at twenty millions, these are reckoned at forty millions by the editor of another English version, based upon the French Tyrannies et cruautéz, which was printed at London, in 1699, as A Relation of the First Voyages and Discoveries made by the Spaniards in America.[1051] The earliest German edition appeared, in 1597, as Newe Welt: warhafftige Anzeigung der Hispanier grewlichen ... Tyranney.[1052] The Latin edition appeared at Frankfort, in 1598, as Narratio regionum Indicarvm per Hispanos qvosdam deuastatarum verissima.[1053] This Latin translation has a brief introduction, mainly a quotation from Lipsius, commenting on these atrocities. The version is spirited and faithful, covering the narrative of Las Casas and his discussion with Sepulveda. The engravings by De Bry are ghastly and revolting, and present all too faithfully the shocking enormities related in the text. It is a fearful parody of deception and truth which introduces a hooded friar as holding a crucifix before the eyes of one under torment by fire or mutilation. We can scarcely regret that the circumstances under which the indiscriminate slaughter was waged but rarely allowed of this desecration of a sacred symbol. The artist has overdrawn his subjects in delineating heaps of richly wrought and chased vessels as brought by the hounded victims to appease their tormentors.

To close this list of translations, it is only necessary to refer to the sundry ways in which Las Casas was helped to create an influence in Italy, the Italian text in these publications usually accompanying the Spanish.[1054]



THE most important distinctive lives of Las Casas are those of Llorente, prefixed to his edition of Las Casas’ Œuvres; that which Quintana (born, 1772; died, 1857) gives in his Vidas de Españoles célebres, vol. iii., published at Madrid in 1833, and reprinted, with Quintana’s Obras, in the Biblioteca de autores Españoles in 1852; and the Vida y escritos de Las Casas of A. M. Fabié, published at Madrid in 1879, in two volumes, with a large number of unpublished documents, making vols. 70 and 71 of the Documentos inéditos (España). The life which was constructed mainly by the son of Arthur Helps out of The Spanish Conquest in America by the father, is the most considerable account in English. The larger work was written in a spirit readily appreciative of the character of Las Casas, and he is made such a centre of interest in it as easily to favor the excision of parts of it to form the lesser book. This was hardly possible with the broader connections established between Las Casas and his times which accompany the portrayal of his career in the works of Prescott and H. H. Bancroft. The great friend of the Indian is mainly, however, to be drawn from his own writings.

Las Casas was by no means alone in his advocacy of the rights of the natives, as Harrisse (Bibl. Am. Vet. Add., p. 119) has pointed out; naming Julian Garces, Francis of Vittoria, Diego de Avendaño, Alonzo de Noreña, and even Queen Isabel herself, as evinced by her will (in Dormer, Discursos varios, p. 381). The fame of Las Casas was steadfastly upheld by Remesal in his Historia de Chyapa, etc., 1619 (cf. Bancroft, Central America, ii. 339); and the great apostle found a successor in his labors in Juan de Palafox y Mendoça, whose appeal to the King, printed about 1650, and called Virtudes del Indio, é naturaleza y costumbres de los Indios de Nueva España, has become very rare. (Cf. Carter-Brown, vol. ii. no. 691.) Brasseur de Bourbourg, in the fourth volume of his Nations civilisées du Mexique, set forth in all their enormity the barbarities of the Spanish conquerors; but he seeks to avoid all imputations of exaggeration by shunning the evidence drawn from Las Casas.

The opponents of Las Casas—who became in due time the best-hated man in the Spanish colonies—were neither few nor powerless, as the thwarting of Las Casas’ plans constantly showed. The Fray Toribio Motolinia took issue with Las Casas, and Ramirez, in his Life of Motolinia contained in Icazbalceta’s Coleccion, undertakes to show (p. lvii) the difference between them. Cf. B. Smith’s Coleccion, p. 67.

The most conspicuous of his fellow-observers, who reached conclusions constantly quite at variance with Las Casas, was Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes,—to give his full name, though Oviedo is the one by which he is usually cited. Oviedo was but a few years younger than Las Casas. He had seen Columbus’ triumph at Barcelona, and had come to America with Pedrarias ten years after Las Casas, and spent thirty-four of the next forty years in the New World, holding part of the time the office of inspector of the gold-smeltings at Darien, and latterly living at Hispaniola. He is thought to have begun his historical studies as early as 1520, and he published his first book, usually called the Sumario, in 1526, on his return from his second voyage. It is a description of the West Indies and its natives. Returning to Spain in 1530, he was after a while made the official chronicler of the Indies, and in 1535 began the publication of his great Historia de las Indias. On this chief labor Ticknor (Spanish Literature, ii. 33) traces him at work certainly as late as 1548, and he may have added to it down to 1555. He had the royal direction to demand of the various governors whatever document and aid he might need as he went on. Ticknor calls him the first authorized chronicler of the New World,—“an office,” he adds, “which was at one time better paid than any other similar office in the kingdom, and was held at different times by Herrera, Tamayo, Solis, and other writers of distinction, and ceased (he believed) with the creation of the Academy of History.” Oviedo was a correspondent of Ramusio, and found the acquaintance helpful. He knew Cortes, and exchanged letters with him. Ticknor, after speaking of the scope of the Historia as taxing the powers of Oviedo beyond their strength, still accounts the work of great value as a vast repository of facts, and not wholly without merit as a composition.




In the estimates commonly made of Oviedo there is allowed him but scant scholarship, little power of discrimination,—as shown in his giving at times as much weight to hearsay evidence as to established testimony,—a curious and shrewd insight, which sometimes, with his industry, leads him to a better balance of authorities than might be expected from his deficient judgment. His resources of material were uncommon; but his use of them is generally tedious, with a tendency to wander from his theme. Ternaux sees in him the prejudices of his times,—and these were not certainly very friendly to the natives. Las Casas could no more endure him than he could bear with the average conquistador. The bishop charges the historian with constantly bearing false witness against the Indians, and with lying on every page. Oviedo died at Valladolid in 1557. (Cf. Prescott’s Mexico, ii. 283; Irving’s Columbus, App. xxviii.; H. H. Bancroft, Chroniclers, p. 20, and Central America, i. 309, 463-467.)


Reduced from the cut at the end of the edition of Oviedo, 1535.

The bibliography of Oviedo deserves to be traced. His initial publication, De la natural hystoria de las Indias, was printed at Toledo in 1526,—not in 1525, as the Real Academia says in their reprint, nor 1528, as Ticknor gives it. It is often cited as Oviedo’s Sumario, since that is the first word of the secondary title. (Cf. Sabin, Dictionary, vol. xiv. no. 57,987; Harrisse, Notes on Columbus, p. 12; and Bibl. Amer. Vet., no. 139; Ternaux, no. 35; Rich, 1832, no. 6, £12 12s.; Carter-Brown, i. 89.) There are also copies in the Library of Congress and Harvard College. The Spanish text is included in Barcia’s Historiadores primitivos and in Vedia’s Hist. prim. de Indias, 1858, vol. i. It is in large part translated into English in Eden’s Decades of the New World, 1555 (chap. 18), and this version is condensed in Purchas’s Pilgrimes, iv. 5. There is an Italian version in Ramusio’s Viaggi, iii. 44.

The publication of Oviedo’s great work, which is quite different from the 1526 book, was begun at Seville, in 1535, under the title of Historia general de las Indias. In this he gave the first nineteen books, and ten chapters of book 20. At the end is a carta missiva, to which the author usually attached his own signature, and that annexed is taken (slightly reduced) from the copy in Harvard College Library. (Cf. Sabin, vol. xiv. no. 57,988; Harrisse, Bibl. Am. Vet., no. 207; Murphy, nos. 1886-87; Carter-Brown, i. 114, with fac-simile of title.) Ramusio translated these nineteen books. In 1547, what purports to be a summary, but is in fact a version, of Xeres by Jacques Gohory, appeared in Paris as L’histoire de la terre neuve du Péru en l’Inde occidentale. (Cf. Bib. Am. Vet., no. 264; Ternaux, no. 52; Sabin, vol. xiv. no. 57,994.)

In 1547 a new edition of the Spanish, somewhat increased, appeared at Salamanca as Coronica de las Indias; la hystoria general de las Indias agora nueuamente impressa, corregida, y emendada. Sometimes it is found in the same cover with the Peru of Xeres, and then the title varies a little. The book is rare and costly. Rich, in 1832 (no. 17), priced it at £10 10s.; it has been sold recently at the Sunderland sale[346] for £61, and in the library of an old admiral (1883, no. 340) for £40; Quaritch has priced it at £63, and Maisonneuve (Leclerc, no. 432), at 1,000 francs. There is a copy in Harvard College Library. (Cf. Sabin, vol. xiv. no. 57,989; Carter-Brown, i. 145; Bibl. Am. Vet., no. 278; Additions, no. 163; and Murphy, no. 1885.)

A full French translation of ten books, made by Jean Poleur, appeared in Paris under the title of Histoire naturelle et généralle des Indes, without the translator’s name in 1555, and with it in 1556. (Cf. Sabin, vol. xiv. no. 57,992-93; Ternaux, no. 47; Carter-Brown, i. 214; Beckford, iii. 342; Murphy, no. 1884; Leclerc, no. 434, 130 francs, and no. 2,888, 350 francs; Quaritch, no. 12,313, £7 10s.) There is a copy in Harvard College Library.

The twentieth book, Libro xx de la segunda parte de la general historia de las Indias appeared for the first time and separately at Valladolid in 1557; the death of the author while his book was in press prevented the continuance of its publication. (Cf. Rich, 1832, no. 34, £6 6s.; Sabin, vol. xiv. no. 57,991; Carter-Brown, i. 219.)

The fate of the remaining parts of the manuscript was for a while uncertain. Rich, in 1832, said that books xxi. to xxviii., which were in the printer’s hands at Oviedo’s death, were not recovered, while he knew of manuscript copies of books xxix. to xlviii. in several collections. Irving says he found a copy of the unprinted parts in the Colombina Library at Seville. Harrisse (Notes on Columbus and Bibl. Am. Vet., no. 207) says the manuscript was scattered, but was brought together again after some vicissitudes. Another statement places it in the Casa de la Contratacion after Oviedo’s death; whence it was transferred to the Convent of Monserrat. Meanwhile sundry manuscript copies were taken. (Cf. Notes on Columbus, p. 17.) In 1775 the publication of it was ordered by Government; but it was not till 1851-1855 that the Real Academia de la Historia at Madrid issued the fifty books, complete in four volumes folio, under the editing of José Amador de los Rios, who added to the publication several maps, a bibliography, and the best Life of Oviedo yet written. (Cf. Sabin, vol. xiv. no. 57,990; the set is worth about $20. See further, Brunet, iv. 299; Ternaux, no. 46; Panzer, vii. 124; Stevens, Nuggets, ii. 2,067.) Ternaux had already, in 1840, published in French, as a Histoire de Nicaragua (in his second series, vol. iii.) thirteen chapters of book xlii.

There was an Italian traveller in the Spanish provinces between 1541 and 1556 who, while he thought that Las Casas mistook his vocation in attempting to administer a colony, bears evidence to the atrocities which Las Casas so persistently magnified. This wanderer was a Milanese, Girolamo Benzoni, who at the early age of twenty-two had started on his American travels. He did not altogether succeed in ingratiating himself with the Spaniards whom he encountered, and perhaps his discontent colored somewhat his views. He was not much of a scholar, yielded not a little to credulity, and picked up mere gossip indeed, but of a kind which gives us much light as to the conditions both of the Europeans and natives. (Cf. Field, Indian Bibliography, no. 117; Bancroft, Central America, ii. 232; Admiral Smith’s Introduction to the Hakluyt Society edition.) After his return he prepared and published—prefixing his own likeness, as shown here in fac-simile—the results of his observations in his Historia del Mondo Nuovo, which was issued at Venice in 1565. It became a popular book, and spread through Europe not only in the original Italian, but in French and Latin versions. In Spanish it never became current; for though it so greatly concerns that people, no one of them ventured to give it the help of a translation into their vernacular; and as be had not said much in praise of their American career, it is not altogether strange.


The bibliography of the book merits explanation. It is treated at length in Sabin’s Dictionary, vol. ii. no. 4,791, and in the Studi biog. e bibliog. della Società Geografica Italiana, i. 293 (1882). The original Italian edition, La Historia del Mondo Nuovo, laqual tratta dell’ Isole & Mari nuovamente ritrovati, & delle nuove Citta da lui proprio vedute, per acqua & per terra in quattordeci anni, was published at Venice in 1565. There are copies in Harvard College, Cornell University, and the Carter-Brown libraries. Cf. Rich (1832), no. 43—£1 1s. 0d.; Leclerc (1878), no. 59—120 francs; A. R. Smith (1874), £2 2s. 0d.; Brinley, no. 10; Carter-Brown, i. 253; Huth, i. 132; Field, Indian Bibliography, no. 117; Sparks, no. 240; Stevens (1870), no. 171. A second Italian edition—Nuovamente ristampata... con la giunta d’alcune cose notabile dell’Isole di Canaria—was issued at Venice in 1572. Cf. Rich (1832), no. 49, £1 1s. 0d.; Carter-Brown, i. 289; Stevens, no. 172; Muller (1877), no. 285; Sunderland, no. 1,213; H. C. Murphy, no. 2,838; Huth, i. 132; J. J. Cooke, nos. 219, 220.

The first Latin edition Novæ Novi Orbis Historiæ, translated by Urban Chauveton (who added an account of the French expedition to Florida), was published at Geneva in 1578; followed by a second in 1581; a third in 1586, with Lery’s book on Brazil added; others in 1590 (no place); 1598 and 1600 (Geneva); (Coloniæ Allobrogum), 1612, with three other tracts; and at Hamburg in 1648. Besides these the Latin version appeared in De Bry, parts iv., v., and vi., printed at Frankfort in 1592, 1593, 1594, 1595, and at Oppenheim in 1617. Cf. Carter-Brown, i. 318, 338, 365; ii. 123, 629; Stevens, Nuggets, 2,300; Bibl. Hist., no. 173-174; Muller (1872), nos. 78, 79; (1877), 287; Sunderland, no. 1,214; Cooke, nos. 218, 222; Pinart, no. 97; Huth, i. 132; Field, p. 119. There are copies of the 1578 edition in the Boston Public and Harvard College libraries.

The French editions were issued at Geneva in 1579 and 1589. The notes are different from those of the Latin editions; and there are no notes to book iii., as in the Latin. Cf. Carter-Brown, i. 326; Cooke, no. 221; Court, no. 32.

There are two German versions. The first was by Nicholas Höniger, and was printed at Basle, in 1579, as Der Newenn Weldt. It was reissued, with tracts of Peter Martyr and others, in 1582. The version of Abel Scherdigers was issued at Helmstadt in 1590, 1591, again at Frankfort in 1595, and at Wittenberg in 1606. There were in addition some later imprints, besides those included in De Bry and in Saeghman’s Voyagien. Cf. Rich, no. 61; Carter-Brown, i. 344, 388, ii. 44, 917; Muller (1872), nos. 80, 1880, (1877), 286.

The first Dutch edition appeared at Haarlem in 1610; there was an abridged issue at Amsterdam in 1663. Cf. Tiele, nos. 276, 277; Muller (1872), nos. 81, 82; Carter-Brown, ii. 97.

Purchas gave an abstract in English; but there was no complete English version till Admiral Smith’s was published by the Hakluyt Society in 1857. This has fac-similes of the cuts of the 1572 edition; and De Bry also followed the early cuts.

In 1542 and 1543 Las Casas largely influenced the royal decrees relating to the treatment of the Indians, which were signed by the monarch, Nov. 20, 1542, and June 4, 1543, and printed at Alcala in 1543 as Leyes y Ordenanças. This book stands as the earliest printed ordinances for the New World, and is rare. Rich in 1832 (no. 13) priced it at £21. (Cf. Bib. Am. Vet., no. 247; Carter-Brown, vol. i. no. 130; Sabin, vol. x. p. 320.) There were later editions at Madrid in 1585,[1055] and at Valladolid in 1603. Henry Stevens, in 1878, issued a fac-simile edition made by Harris after a vellum copy in the Grenville Collection, accompanied by a translation, with an historical and bibliographical introduction.

The earliest compilation of general laws for the Indies, entitled Provisiones, cedulas, instrucciones de su Magestad, was printed in Mexico in 1563. This is also very rare; Rich priced it in[348] 1832 at £16 16s. It was the work of Vasco de Puga, and Helps calls it “the earliest summary of Spanish colonial law.” The Carter-Brown copy (Catalogue, i. 242) was sent to England for Mr. Helps’s use, there being no copy in that country, so far as known.

The next collection was Provisiones, cédulas, etc., arranged by Diego de Encinas, and was printed at Madrid in 1596. The work early became scarce, and Rich priced it at £5 5s. in 1832 (no. 81). It is in Harvard College and the Carter-Brown Library (Catalogue, vol. i. no. 502). The bibliography of the general laws, particularly of later collections, is sketched in Bancroft’s Central America, i. 285, and Mexico, iii. 550; and in chap. xxvii. of this same volume the reader will find an examination of the administration and judicial system of the Spaniards in the New World;[1056] and he must go chiefly to Bancroft (Central America, i. 255, 257, 261, 285; Mexico, ii. 130, 516, 563, etc.) and Helps (Spanish Conquest and Life of Las Casas) for aid in tracing the sources of the subject of the legal protection sought to be afforded to the natives, and the attempted regulation of the slavery which they endured. Helps carefully defines the meaning and working of the encomienda system, which gave in effect a property value to the subjection of the natives to the Conquerors. Cf. Spanish Conquest (Am. ed.), iii. 113, 128, 157, 212.





The Editor.

GRIJALVA had returned in 1518 to Cuba from his Western expedition,[1057] flushed with pride and expectant of reward. It was his fate, however, to be pushed aside unceremoniously, while another was sent to follow up his discoveries. Before Grijalva had returned, the plan was formed; and Hernando Cortés distanced his competitors in suing for the leadership of the new expedition. Cortés was at this time the alcalde of Santiago in Cuba, and about thirty-three years old,—a man agile in mind, and of a frame well compacted for endurance; with a temper to please, and also to be pleased, if you would but wait on his wishes. He had some money, which Velasquez de Cuellar, the Governor, needed; he knew how to decoy the intimates of the Governor, and bait them with promises: and so the appointment of Cortés came, but not altogether willingly, from Velasquez.

Cortés was born in Spain,[1058] of humble, respectable stock. Too considerable animal spirits had made him an unprofitable student at Salamanca, though he brought away a little Latin and a lean store of other learning. A passion for the fairer sex and some military ardor, dampened with scant income all the while, characterized the following years; till finally, in 1504, he sailed on one of the fleets for the New World. Here he soon showed his quality by participating in the suppression of an Indian revolt. This got him a small official station, and he varied the monotony of life with love intrigues and touches of military bravado. In 1511, when Diego Columbus sent Velasquez on an expedition to Cuba, Cortés joined it as the commander’s executive officer. A certain adroitness turned a quarrel which he had with Velasquez (out of which grew his marriage with a fair Catalina) to his advantage with the Governor, who made him in the end the alcalde of Santiago,—a dignity which mining and stock-raising luckily enabled the adventurer to support. He was in this condition when all schemes worked happily, and Velasquez was induced to commission him commander-in-chief of the new expedition.



Fac-simile of an engraving in Herrera, i. 298. It is lithographed in Cabajal’s México, ii. 21.

The Governor gave him instructions on the 23d of October, 1518. Cortés understood, it turned out, that these were to be followed when necessary and disregarded when desirable. There seemed, indeed, to have been no purpose to confine the business of the expedition to exploration, as the instructions set forth.[1059] Cortés put all his substance into ships and outfits. He inveigled his friends into helping him. Velasquez converted what Government resources he could to the purpose of the expedition, while at the same time he seems to have cunningly sold to Cortés his own merchandise at exorbitant prices.[351] Twenty thousand ducats apparently went into somebody’s pockets to get the expedition well started.[1060] Three hundred men, including some of position, joined him. The Governor’s jester, instigated, as is supposed, by Velasquez’ relatives, threw out a hint that Cortés was only preparing to proclaim his independence when he reached the new domain. The thought worried the Governor, and seems in part to have broken the spell of the admiration which he entertained for Cortés; yet not so much so but he could turn a cold shoulder to Grijalva when he arrived with his ships, as happened at this juncture.

Cortés could not afford to dally; and secret orders having been given for all to be in readiness on the evening of the 17th of November, on the next morning the fleet sailed.[1061] There were six vessels composing it, and a seventh later joined them. At Trinidad (Cuba) his force was largely augmented with recruits from Grijalva’s men. Here messengers arrived from Velasquez, ordering the authorities to depose Cortés and put another in command. Cortés had, however, too strongly environed himself; and he simply took one of the messengers into his service, and sent back the other with due protestations of respect. Then he sailed to San Cristóbal (Havana), sending a force overland to pick up horses. The flagship met a mishap on the way, but arrived at last. Cortés landed and displayed his pomp. Letters from Velasquez still followed him, but no one dared to arrest him. He again sailed. His fleet had now increased to twelve vessels, the largest measuring one hundred tons; his men were over six hundred, and among them only thirteen bore firelocks; his artillery consisted of ten guns and four falconets. Two hundred natives, men and women, were taken as slaves. Sixteen horses were stowed away on or below deck.[1062] This was the force that a few days later, at Guaguanico, Cortés passed in review, while he regaled his men with a specious harangue, steeped in a corsair’s piety. On the 18th of February they steered boldly away on the mission which was to become famous.

Looking around upon his officers, Cortés could discover, later if not then, that he had some stanch lieutenants. There was Pedro de Alvarado, who had already shown his somewhat impetuous quality while serving under Grijalva. There was Francisco de Montejo, a good administrator as well as a brave soldier. Names not yet forgotten in the story of the Conquest were those of Alonso de Avila, Cristóbal de Olid, and the youngest of all, Gonzalo de Sandoval, who was inseparable from his white stallion Motilla. Then there were Velasquez de Leon, Diego de Ordaz, and others less known to fame.

The straggling vessels gathered again at Cozumel Island, near the point of Yucatan. Cortés sent an expedition to discover and ransom some[352] Christians who were in the interior, as he heard. The mission failed; but a single one of the wanderers, by some other course, found the Spaniards, and was welcomed as an interpreter. This man reported that he and another were the sole survivors of a ship’s company wrecked on the coast eight years before.


As represented in a cut by Israel van Mecken, which is here reduced from a fac-simile in A. O. Essenwein’s Kulturhistorischer Bilder Atlas, ii., Mittelalter (Leipsic, 1883), pl. cxv. It will be observed that the pieces have no trunnions, and are supported in a kind of trough. They were breech-loaders by means of chambers, three of which, with handles, are seen (in the cut) lying on the ground, and one is in place, in the gun on the right. In the Naval Museum at Annapolis there are guns captured in the Mexican war, that are supposed to be the ones used by Cortés. A search of the records of the Ordnance Department at Washington, instituted for me by Commodore Sicard, at the suggestion of Prof. Charles E. Munroe of the Naval Academy, has not, however, revealed any documentary evidence; but a paper in the Army and Navy Journal, Nov. 22, 1884, p. 325, shows such guns to have been captured by Lieutenant Wyse in the “Darien.” The guns at Annapolis are provided with like chambers, as seen in photographs kindly sent to me. Similar chambers are now, or were recently, used in firing salutes on the Queen’s birthday in St. James’s Park. Cf. Stanley’s De Gama’s Voyages (Hakluyt Society), p. 227.

Early in March the fleet started to skirt the Yucatan shore, and Cortés had his first fight with the natives at Tabasco,—a conflict brought on for no reason but that the town would not supply provisions. The stockade was forced, and the place formally occupied. A more signal victory was required; and the Spaniards, getting on shore their horses and artillery, encountered the savage hordes and dispersed them,—aided, as the veracious story goes, by a spectral horseman who shone upon the field. The native king only secured immunity from further assaults by large presents. The Spaniards then re-embarked, and next cast anchor at San Juan de Ulloa.



This is a reproduction of the map in Arthur Helps’s Spanish Conquest, ii. 236.

Meanwhile the rumors of the descent of the Spaniards on the coast had certainly hurried to Montezuma at his capital; and his people doubtless rehearsed some of the many portents which are said to have been regarded.[1063] We read also of new temples erected, and immense sacrifices of war-captives made, to propitiate the deities and avert the dangers which these portents and forebodings for years past had indicated to the believing.



Copied from a cut in Gabriel Lasso de la Vega’s Cortés valeroso,—a poem published at Madrid in 1588. There is a copy in Harvard College Library; cf. Carter-Brown, i. 377. The same cut is also used in the edition published in 1594, then called Mexicana.

The men of Grijalva had already some months earlier been taken to be similar woful visitants, and one of Montezuma’s officers had visited Grijalva’s vessel, and made report of the wonders to the Mexican monarch.[355] Studied offices of propitiation had been ordered, when word came back that the ship of the bearded men had vanished.


Fac-simile of the portrait in Cortés valeroso.

The coming of Cortés was but a dreaded return. While his ship lay at Juan de Ulloa, two canoes came from the main, and their occupants climbed to his deck. No one could understand them. The rescued Spaniard who had been counted on as an interpreter was at a loss. At last a female slave, Marina by name, taken at Tabasco, solved the difficulty. She could understand this same Spaniard, and knew also Aztec.[1064] Through this double interpretation Cortés now learned that the mission of his visitors was one of welcome and inquiry. After the usual interchange of gifts, Cortés sent word to the cacique that he would soon confer with him. He then landed a force, established a camp, and began to barter with the natives. To a chief, who soon arrived, Cortés announced his intention to seek the presence of Montezuma and to deliver the gifts and messages with which he was charged as the ambassador of his sovereign. Accordingly, bearing such presents as Cortés cared to send forward, native messengers were sent to Montezuma to tell tales of the sights they had seen,—the prancing horses and the belching cannon. The Mexican king sought to appease the eagerness of the new-comers by returning large stores of fabrics and gold, wishing them to be satisfied and to depart. The gold was not a happy gift to produce such an end.

Meanwhile Cortés, by his craft, quieted a rising faction of the party of Velasquez which demanded to be led back to Cuba. He did this by seeming to acquiesce in the demand of his followers in laying the foundations of a town and constituting its people a municipality competent to choose a representative of the royal authority. This done, Cortés resigned his commission from Velasquez, and was at once invested with supreme[356] power by the new municipality. The scheme which Velasquez had suspected was thus brought to fruition. Whoever resisted the new captain was conquered by force, persuasion, tact, or magnetism; and Cortés became as popular as he was irresistible.

At this point messengers presented themselves from tribes not far off who were unwilling subjects of the Aztec power. The presence of possible allies was a propitious circumstance, and Cortés proceeded to cultivate the friendship of these tribes. He moved his camp day by day along the shore, inuring his men to marches, while the fleet sailed in company. They reached a large city, and were regaled. Each chief told of the tyranny of Montezuma, and the eyes of Cortés glistened. The Spaniards went on to another town, slaves being provided to bear their burdens. Here they found tax-gatherers of Montezuma collecting tribute. Emboldened by Cortés’ glance, his hosts seized the Aztec emissaries and delivered them to the Spaniards. Cortés now played a double game. He propitiated the servants of Montezuma by secretly releasing them, and added to his allies by enjoining every tribe he could reach to resist the Aztec collectors of tribute.

The wandering municipality, as represented in this piratical army, at last stopped at a harbor where a town (La Villa Rica de Vera Cruz) sprang up, and became the base of future operations.[1065]

Montezuma and his advisers, angered by the reports of the revolt of his subjects, had organized a force to proceed against them, when the tax-gatherers whom Cortés had released arrived and told the story of Cortés’ gentleness and sympathy. It was enough; the rebellion needed no such active encounter. The troops were not sent, and messengers were despatched to Cortés, assuring the Spanish leader that Montezuma forbore to chastise the entertainers of the white strangers. Cortés now produced other of the tax-gatherers whom he had been holding, and they and the new embassy went back to Montezuma more impressed than before; while the neighboring people wondered at the deference paid by Montezuma’s lieutenants to the Spaniards. It was no small gain for Cortés to have instigated the equal wonder of two mutually inimical factions.



After a picture on panel in the Massachusetts Historical Society’s gallery. It is described in the Catalogue of the Cabinet of that Society as “Restored by Henry Sargent about 1831, and again by George Howorth about 1855.” Cf. Proceedings, i. 446, where it is said to have been given by the family of the late Dr. Foster, of Brighton, who received it by inheritance from a Huguenot family who brought it to New England after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

The Spanish leader took occasion to increase his prestige by despatching expeditions hither and thither. Then he learned of efforts made by Velasquez to supplant him. To confirm his rule against the Cuban Governor he needed the royal sanction; and the best way to get that was to despatch a vessel with messages to the Emperor, and give him earnest of what he might yet expect in piles of gold thrown at his feet. So the flagship sailed for Spain; and in her in command and to conduct his suit before the throne, Cortés sent faithful servitors, such as had influence at court, to outwit the emissaries of Velasquez. Sailing in July, touching at Cuba long enough to raise the anger of Velasquez, but not long enough for him to catch them, these followers of Cortés reached Spain in October, and found the agents of Velasquez ready for them. Their vessel was seized, and the royal ear was held by Bishop Fonseca and other friends of the Cuban Governor; yet not so effectually but that the duplicate letters of Cortés’ messengers were put into the Emperor’s hand, and the train of natives paraded before him.



A reproduction of the map in Ruge’s Zeitalter der Entdeckungen, p. 363. Similar maps are given by Prescott, Helps, and Bancroft. Cabajal (México, ii. 200) gives a map of the route followed from the Gulf, with a profile of the country traversed. Bancroft (Mexico, vol. ii.) gives a map of New Spain as known to the Conquerors. Early maps of Nova Hispania, or New Spain, are not infrequent. Cf. Blaeu’s Atlas, De Bry, several issued by Vander Aa, of Amsterdam, the Brussels edition (1704) of Solis, Lorenzana’s Cortés (1770), and various others.


Now came the famous resolve of Cortés. He would band his heterogeneous folk together—adherents of Cortés and of Velasquez—in one common cause and danger. So he adroitly led them to be partners in the deed which he stealthily planned.[1066] Hulk after hulk of the apparently worm-eaten vessels of the fleet sank in the harbor, until there was no flotilla left upon which any could desert him. The march to Mexico was now assured. The force with which to accomplish this consisted of about four hundred and fifty Spaniards, six or seven light guns, fifteen horses, and a swarm of Indian slaves and attendants. A body of the Totonacs accompanied them.[1067] Two or three days brought them into the higher plain and its enlivening vegetation. When they reached the dependencies of Montezuma, they found orders had been given to extend to them every courtesy. They soon reached the Anahuac plateau, which reminded them not a little of Spain itself. They passed from cacique to cacique, some of whom groaned under the yoke of the Aztec; but not one dared do more than orders from Montezuma dictated. Then the invaders approached the territory of an independent people, those of Tlascala, who had walled their country against neighboring enemies. A fight took place at the frontiers, in which the Spaniards lost two horses. They forced passes against great odds, but again lost a horse or two,—which was a perceptible diminution of their power to terrify. The accounts speak of immense hordes of the Tlascalans, which historians now take with allowances, great or small. Cortés spread what alarm he could by burning villages and capturing the country people. His greatest obstacle soon appeared in the compacted army of Tlascalans arrayed in his front. The conflict which ensued was for a while doubtful. Every horse was hurt, and sixty Spaniards were wounded; but the result was the retreat of the Tlascalans. Divining that the Spanish power was derived from the sun, the enemy planned a night attack; but Cortés suspected it, and assaulted them in their own ambush.

Cortés now had an opportunity to display his double-facedness and his wiles. He received embassies both from Montezuma and from the senate of the Tlascalans. He cajoled each, and played off his friendship for the one in cementing an alliance with the other. But to Tlascala and Mexico he would go, so he told them.



The Tlascalans were not averse, for they thought it boded no good to the Aztecs if he could be bound to themselves. Montezuma dreaded the contact, and tried to intimidate the strangers by tales of the horrible difficulties of the journey.



This cut of the “Rex ultimus Mexicanorum” is a fac-simile from Montanus and Ogilby, p. 253. The source of the likeness is not apparent, and the picture seems questionable. Prescott, in his second volume, gives a likeness, which belonged to the descendants of the Aztec king, the Counts of Miravalle. It is claimed to have been painted by an artist, Maldonado, who accompanied Cortés; but, on the other hand, some have represented it as an ideal portrait painted after the Conquest. Prescott (vol. ii. p. 72) makes up his description of Montezuma from various early authorities,—Diaz, Zuazo (MS.), Ixtlilxochitl, Gomara, Oviedo, Acosta, Sahagun, Toribio, etc., particularizing the references. H. H. Bancroft (Mexico, i. 285) also depicts him from the early sources. He is made of an age from forty to fifty-four by different writers; but the younger period is thought by most to be nearest. Bancroft refers to the prints in Th. Armin’s Das alte Mexico (Leipsic, 1865) as representing a coarse Aztec warrior, and the native picture in Carbajal Espinosa’s Historia de México (Mexico, 1862) as purely conventional. The same writer thinks the colored portrait, “peint par ordre de Cortes,” in Linati’s Costûmes et mœurs de Mexique (Brussels) conforms to the descriptions; while that in Clavigero’s Storia antica del Messico (1780) is too small to be satisfactory. The line of Montezuma’s descendants is traced in Prescott, Mexico, ii. 339, iii. 446, and in Bancroft, Mexico, i. 459. Cf. also the portrait of Montezuma, “d’après Sandoval,” given in Charton’s Voyageurs, iii. 393, and that in Cumplido’s Mexican edition of Prescott’s Mexico vol. iii.


Presently the army took up its march for Tlascala, where they were royally received, and wives in abundance were bestowed upon the leaders. Next they passed to Cholula, which was subject to the Aztecs; and here the Spaniards were received with as much welcome as could be expected to be bestowed on strangers with the hostile Tlascalans in their train. The scant welcome covered treachery, and Cortés met it boldly. Murder and plunder impressed the Cholulans with his power, and gave some sweet revenge to his allies. Through the wiles of Cortés a seeming reconciliation at last was effected between these neighboring enemies. But the massacre of Cholula was not a pastime, the treachery of Montezuma not forgotten; and the march was again resumed, about six thousand native allies of one tribe and another following the army. The passage of a defile brought the broad Valley of Mexico into view; and Montezuma, awed by the coming host, sent a courtier to personate him and to prevail upon Cortés to avoid the city. The trick and the plea were futile. On to one of the aquatic cities of the Mexican lakes the Spaniards went, and were received in great state by a vassal lord of Montezuma, who now invited the Spanish leader to the Aztec city. On they went. Town after town received them; and finally, just without his city, Montezuma, in all his finery and pomp, met the Spanish visitors, bade them welcome, and committed them to an escort which he had provided. It was the 8th of November, 1519. Later in his own palace, in the quarters which had been assigned to Cortés, and on several occasions, the two indulged in reciprocal courtesies and watched each other. Cortés was not without fear, and his allies warned him of Aztec treachery. His way to check foul designs was the bold one of seizing Montezuma and holding him as a hostage; and he did so under pretence of honoring him. A chieftain who had attacked a party of the Spaniards by orders of Montezuma some time before, was executed in front of the palace. Montezuma himself was subjected for a while to chains. Expeditions were sent out with impunity to search for gold mines; others explored the coast for harbors. A new governor was sent back to Villa Rica, and he sent up shipwrights; so it was not long before Cortés commanded a flotilla on the city lakes, and the captive king was regaled with aquatic sports.





This is reduced from the cut in Henry Stevens’s American Bibliographer, p. 86, which in turn is reproduced from the edition of Cortés’ letters published at Nuremberg in 1524. Bancroft in his Mexico (vol. i. p. 280) gives a greatly reduced sketch of the same plan, and adds to it a description and references to the various sources of our information regarding the Aztec town; and this may be compared with the same author’s Native Races, ii. 560. Helps describes the city in his Spanish Conquest (New York ed., ii. 277, 423), where he thinks that the early chroniclers failed to make clear the full number of the causeways connecting the town with the main, and traversing the lake. Prescott describes it in his Mexico (Kirk’s ed., ii. 101), and discredits the plan given in Bullock’s Mexico as one prepared by Montezuma for Cortés. This last plan is also given in Carbajal’s Historia de México (1862), ii. 221. The nearly equal distance on all sides at which the shores of the lake stand from the town is characteristic of this earliest of the plans (1524); and in this particular it is followed in various plans and bird’s-eye views of the town of the sixteenth century, and in some of a later date. The Aztec town had been founded in 1325, and had been more commonly called Tenochtitlan, which the Spaniards turned into Temixtitan and Tenustitan, the term Mexico being properly applied to one of the principal wards of the city. The two names were first sometimes joined, as Temixtitlan-Mexico (1555); but in the end the more pronounceable part survived, and the rest was lost. Cf. Bancroft, Mexico, i. 12-14, with references. The correspondence of sites in the present city as compared with those of the Aztec time and of the conquerors, is examined in Alaman’s Discertaciones sobre la historia de la república Méjicana (Mexico, 1844-1849), ii. 202, 246; Carbajal Espinosa’s Historia de México, ii. 226, and by Ramirez in the Mexican edition of Prescott. Cf. Ant. du Pinet’s Descriptions de plusieurs villes et forteresses, Lyon, 1564.

Then came symptoms of conspiracy among the native nobles, with the object of overthrowing the insolent strangers; and Cacama, a nephew of Montezuma and a chief among them, indulged the hope of seizing the[365] throne itself. Montezuma protested to his people that his durance was directed by the gods, and counselled caution. When this did not suffice, he gave orders, at the instigation of Cortés, to seize Cacama, who was brought to Mexico and placed in irons. The will of Cortés effected other displacements of the rural chiefs; and the allegiance of Montezuma to the Spanish sovereign became very soon as sure and abject as forms could make it.

Tribute was ordered, and trains bore into the city wealth from all the provinces,—to be the cause of heart-burnings and quarrels in the hour of distribution. The Aztec king and the priests were compelled to order the removal of idols from their temples, and to see the cross and altar erected in their places.

Meanwhile the difficulties of Cortés were increasing. The desecration of the idols had strengthened the party of revolt, and Montezuma was powerless to quiet them. He warned the Spaniards of their danger. Cortés, to dispel apprehension, sent men to the coast with the ostensible purpose of building ships for departure. It was but a trick, however, to gain time; for he was now expecting a response to his letters sent to Spain, and he hoped for supplies and a royal commission which might enable him to draw reinforcements from Cuba.

The renegade leader, however, had little knowledge of what was planning at this very moment in that island. Velasquez de Cuellar, acting under a sufficient commission, had organized an expedition to pursue Cortés, and had given the command of it to Panfilo de Narvaez. The friends of Cortés and those who dreaded a fratricidal war joined in representations to the audiencia, which sent Lucas Vasquez de Aillon to prevent an outbreak. The fleet under Narvaez left Cuba, Aillon on board, with instructions to reach a peaceable agreement with Cortés; but this failing, they were to seek other regions. In April, 1520, after some mishaps, the fleet, which had been the largest ever seen in those waters, anchored at San Juan de Ulloa, where they got stories of the great success of Cortés from some deserters of one of his exploring parties. On the other hand, these same deserters, learning from Narvaez the strength and purpose of the new-comers,—for the restraint of Aillon proved ineffectual,—communicated with the neighboring caciques; and the news was not slow in travelling to Montezuma, who heard it not long after the mock submission of Cortés and the despatching of the ship-builders to the coast.


Fac-simile of an engraving in Herrera, ii. 274. For appearance and other portraits, see Bancroft, Mexico, i. 75. One of a sinister aspect often engraved, but which Ramirez distrusts, is given in Cabajal’s México, ii. 341; in the Proceso de residencia contra Pedro de Alvarado (Mexico, 1847); and in Cumplido’s Mexican edition of Prescott’s Mexico, vol. iii.

Narvaez next tried, in vain, to swerve Velasquez de Leon from his fidelity to Cortés,—for this officer was exploring with a party in the neighborhood of the coast. Sandoval, in command at Villa Rica, learned Narvaez’ purposes from spies; and when messengers came to demand the surrender of the town, an altercation ensued, and the chief messengers were seized and sent to Cortés. The Conqueror received them kindly, and, overcoming their aversion, he sent them back to Narvaez with letters and gifts calculated[367] to conciliate. While many under Narvaez were affected, the new leader remained stubborn, seized Aillon, who was endeavoring to mediate, and sent him on shipboard with orders to sail for Cuba. Thus the arrogance of Narvaez was greatly helping Cortés in his not very welcome environment.

Cortés now boldly divided his force; and leaving Alvarado behind with perhaps one hundred and forty men,—for the accounts differ,[1070]—and taking half that number with him, beside native guides and carriers, marched to confront Narvaez. Velasquez de Leon with his force joined him on the way, and a little later Sandoval brought further reinforcements; so that Cortés had now a detachment of nearly three hundred men. Cortés had prudently furnished them long native lances, with which to meet Narvaez’ cavalry, for his own horsemen were very few. Adroitness on the part of Cortés and a show of gold had their effect upon messengers who, with one demand and another, were sent to him by Narvaez. Velasquez was sent by Cortés to the enemy’s camp; but the chief gain to Cortés from this manœuvre was a more intimate knowledge of the army and purpose of Narvaez. He then resolved to attack the intruder,—who, however, became aware of the intention of Cortés, but, under the stress of a storm, unaccountably relaxed his precautions. Cortés took advantage of this carelessness; and attacking boldly by night, carried everything before him, and captured the rival leader. The loss was but small to either side. The followers of the invader now became adherents of Cortés, and were a powerful aid in his future movements.[1071] The same good fortune had given him possession of the invader’s fleet.


Copied from a fac-simile in Cabajal’s México, ii. 686.

Meanwhile there were stirring times with Alvarado in Mexico. The Aztecs prepared to celebrate a high religious festival. Alvarado learned, or pretended to learn, that the disaffected native chiefs were planning to rise upon the Spaniards at its close. So he anticipated their scheme by attacking them while at their worship and unarmed. Six hundred or more[368] of the leading men were thus slain. The multitude without the temple were infuriated, and the Spaniards regained their quarters, not without difficulty, Alvarado himself being wounded. Behind their defences they managed to resist attack till succor came.

Cortés, who had learned of the events, was advancing, attaching to himself the peoples who were inimical to the Aztecs; but as he got within the Aztec influence he found more sullenness than favor. When he entered Mexico he was not resisted. The city seemed almost abandoned as his force made their way to the Spanish fort and entered its gates.

As a means of getting supplies, Cortés ordered the release of a brother of Montezuma, who at once used his liberty to plan an insurrection. An attack on the Spanish quarters followed, which Cortés sought to repel by sorties; but they gained little. The siege was so roughly pressed that Cortés urged Montezuma to present himself on the parapet and check the fierceness of the assault. The captive put on his robes of state and addressed the multitude; but he only became the target of their missiles, and was struck down by a stone.[1072] The condition of the Spaniards soon became perilous in the extreme. A parley with the chief of the Aztecs was of no avail; and Cortés resolved to cut his way along the shortest causeway from the city, to the mainland bordering the lake. In this he failed. Meanwhile a part of his force were endeavoring to secure the summit of a neighboring pyramid, from which the Mexicans had annoyed the garrison of the fort. Cortés joined in this attack, and it was successful. The defenders of the temples on its summit were all killed or hurled from the height, and Cortés was master of the spot.

Events followed quickly in this June of 1520. There was evidently a strong will in command of the Mexicans. The brother of Montezuma was a doughtier foe than the King had been. The temporary success on the pyramid had not diminished the anxiety of Cortés. Montezuma was now dying on his hands. The King had not recovered from the injuries which his own people had inflicted, and sinking spirits completed the work of the mob. On the 30th of June he died, at the age of forty-one, having been on the throne since 1503.[1073] Cortés had hoped for some turn of fortune from this event; but none came. He was more than ever convinced of the necessity of evacuating the city. Another sortie had failed as before; and the passage of the causeway was again planned for the evening of that day.[1074] The order of march, as arranged, included the whole Spanish force and about six thousand allies. Pontoons of a rough description were contrived for bridging the chasms in the causeway. As many jewels and gold as would not encumber them were taken, together[369] with such prisoners of distinction as remained to them, besides the sick and wounded.


This is the map given by Helps in his Spanish Conquest. One of the differences in the variety of maps which have been offered of the Valley of Mexico, to illustrate the conquest by Cortés, consists in the number and direction of the causeways. The description and the remains of the structures themselves have not sufficed to make investigators of one mind respecting them. Prescott (Kirk’s ed., vol. ii.) does not represent so many causeways as Helps does. The map in Bancroft (vol. i. p. 583) is still different in this respect. There is also a plan of the city and surrounding country in Cabajal’s México (vol. ii. p. 538); and two others have been elsewhere given in the present volume (pp. 364, 379).

A drizzling rain favored their retreat; but the Mexicans were finally aroused, and attacked their rear. A hundred or more Spaniards were cut off, and retreated to the fort, where they surrendered a few days later, and were sacrificed. The rest, after losses and much tribulation, reached the mainland. Nothing but the failure of the Mexicans to pursue the Spaniards, weakened as they were, saved Cortés from annihilation. The Aztecs were too busy with their successes; for forty Spaniards, not to speak of numerous allies, had been taken, and were to be immolated; and rites were to be performed over their own dead.

Cortés the next morning was marshalling the sorry crowd which was left of his army, when a new attack was threatened. His twelve hundred and fifty Spaniards and six thousand allies had been reduced respectively to five hundred and two thousand;[1075] and he was glad to make a temple, which was hard by, a place of refuge and defence. Here he had an opportunity to count his losses. His cannon and prisoners were all gone. Some of his bravest officers did not respond to his call. He could count but twenty-four of[370] his three or four score of horses. After dark he resumed his march. His pursuers still worried him, and hunger weakened his men. He lost several horses at one point, and was himself badly wounded. Reaching a plain on the 7th of July, the Spaniards confronted a large force drawn up against them. Cortés had but seven muskets left, and no powder; so he trusted to pike and sabre. With these he rushed upon them; but the swarm of the enemy was too great. At last, however, making a dash with some horsemen at the native commander, who was recognized by his state and banner, the Mexican was hurled prostrate and killed, and the trophy captured. The spell was broken, and the little band of Spaniards and their allies hounded the craven enemy in every direction. This victory at Otumba (Otompan) was complete and astounding.


This cut is borrowed from Harper’s Magazine, January, 1874, p. 172, and represents the remains of the tree under which Cortés and his followers gathered after that eventful night. There is another view of this tree in Tour du monde, 1862, p. 277.

The march was resumed; and not till within the Tlascalan borders was there any respite and rest. In the capital of his allies Cortés breathed freer. He learned, however, of misfortunes to detached parties of Spaniards which had been sent out from Villa Rica. He soon got some small supplies of ammunition and men from that seaport. Amid all this, Cortés himself succumbed to a fever from his wounds, and barely escaped death.

Meantime Cuitlahuatzin, the successful brother of Montezuma, had been crowned in Mexico, where a military rule (improved by what the Spaniards had taught them) was established. The new monarch sent ambassadors to try to win the Tlascalans from their fidelity to Cortés; but the scheme failed, and Cortés got renewed strength in the fast purpose of his allies.[371] His prompt and defiant ambition again overcame the discontents among his own men, and induced him to take the field once more against the Tepeacans, enemies of the Tlascalans, who lived near by. It took about a month to subdue the whole province. Other strongholds of Aztec influence fell one by one. The prestige of the Spanish arms was rapidly re-established, and the Aztec forces went down before them here and there in detachments. New arrivals on the coast pronounced for Cortés, and two hundred men and twenty horses soon joined his army. The small-pox, which the Spaniards had introduced, speedily worked more disaster than the Spaniards, as it spread through the country; and among the victims of it was the new monarch of the Aztecs, leaving the throne open to the succession of Quauhtemotzin, a nephew and son-in-law of Montezuma.


Fac-simile of a woodcut of Charles V. in Pauli Jovii elogia virorum bellica virtute illustrium, Basle, 1575, p. 365, and 1596, p. 240.

On the 30th of October, 1520, Cortés addressed his second letter to the Emperor Charles V. He and his adherents craved confirmation for his[372] acts, and reinforcements. Other letters were despatched to Hispaniola and Jamaica for recruits and supplies. Some misfortunes prevented the prompt sailing of the vessel for Spain, and Cortés was enabled to join a supplemental letter to the Emperor. The vessels also carried away some of the disaffected, whom Cortés was not sorry to lose, now that others had joined him.


Meanwhile Cortés had established among the Tepeacans a post of observation named Segura; and from this centre Sandoval made a successful incursion among the Aztec dependencies. Cortés himself was again at Tlascala, settling the succession of its government; for the small-pox had carried off Maxixcatzin, the firm friend of the Spaniards. Here Cortés set carpenters to work constructing brigantines, which he intended to carry to Tezcuco, on the Lake of Mexico, where it was now his purpose to establish the base of future operations against the Aztec capital. The opportune arrival of a ship at Villa Rica with supplies and materials of war was very helpful to him.

Cortés first animated all by a review of his forces, and then went forward with the advance toward Tezcuco. He encountered little opposition, and entered the town to find the inhabitants divided in their fears and sympathies. Many had fled toward Mexico, including the ruler who had supplanted the one given them by Cortés and Montezuma. Under the instigation of Cortés a new one was chosen whom he could trust.



Fac-simile of an engraving in Herrera, iii. 84. Cf. the full-length likeness given in Cumplido’s Mexican edition of Prescott’s Mexico, vol. iii., and various other portraits of the Emperor.

Cortés began his approach to Mexico by attacking and capturing, with great loss to the inhabitants, one of the lake towns; but the enemy, cutting a dike and flooding the place, forced the retirement of the invaders, who fell back to Tezcuco. Enough had been accomplished to cause many of the districts dependent on the Aztecs to send in embassies of submission; and Cortés found that he was daily gaining ground. Sandoval was sent back to Tlascala to convoy the now completed brigantines, which were borne in pieces on the shoulders of eight thousand carriers. Pending the launching of the fleet, Cortés conducted a reconnoissance round the north end of the lakes to the scene of his sorrowful night evacuation, hoping for an interview with an Aztec chief.



This is the map given in Wilson’s New Conquest of Mexico, p. 390, in which he makes the present topography represent that of Cortés’ time, in opposition to the usual view that at the period of the Conquest the waters of the lake covered the parts here represented as marsh. The waters of Tezcuco are at present seven or eight feet (Prescott says four feet) below the level of the city, and Wilson contends that they did not in Cortés’ time much exceed in extent their present limits; and it is one of his arguments against Cortés’ representations of deep water about the causeways that such a level of the lake would have put the town of Tezcuco six or seven feet under water. Wilson gives his views on this point at length in his New Conquest, pp. 452-460. The map will be seen also to show the line of General Scott’s approach to the city in 1847. (Cf. Prof. Henry Coppée on the “Coincidences of the Conquests of Mexico, 1520-1847,” in the Journal of the Military Service Institution, March, 1884.) The modern city of Mexico lies remote by several miles from the banks of the lake which represents to-day the water commonly held to have surrounded the town in the days of the Conquest. The question of the shrinking of the lagunes is examined in Orozco y Berra’s Mémoire pour la carte hydrographique de la Vallée de Mexico, and by Jourdanet in his Influence de la pression de l’air sur la vie de l’homme, p. 486. A colored map prepared for this latter book was also introduced by Jourdanet in his edition of Sahagun (1880), where (p. xxviii) he again examines the question. From that map the one here presented was taken, and the marsh surrounding “Lac de Texcoco” marks the supposed limits of the lake in Montezuma’s time. Jourdanet’s map is called, “Carte hydrographique de la Vallée de Mexico d’après les travaux de la Commission de la Vallée en 1862, avec addition des anciennes limites du Lac de Texcoco.”

Humboldt in his Essai politique sur la Nouvelle Espagne, while studying this problem of the original bounds of the water, gives a map defining them as traced in 1804-1807; and this is reproduced in John Black’s translation of Humboldt’s Personal Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, third edition, London, 1822. Humboldt gives accounts of earlier attempts to map the valley with something like accuracy, as was the case with the Lopez map of 1785. Siguenza’s map of the sixteenth century, though false, has successively supplied, through the publication of it which Alzate made in 1786, the geographical data of many more modern maps. Cf. the map in Cumplido’s edition of Prescott’s Mexico (1846), vol. iii., and the enumeration of maps of the valley given in Orozco y Berra’s Cartografia Mexicana, pp. 315-316.

A map of Mexico and the lake also appeared in Le petit atlas maritime (Paris, 1764); and this is given in fac-simile in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, xxi. 616, in connection with a translation of the Codex Ramirez by Henry Phillips, Jr.

There is reason to believe that the decrease in the waters had begun to be perceptible in the time of Cortés; and Humboldt traces the present subsidence to the destruction of neighboring forests. Bernal Diaz makes record of the changes observable within his recollection, and he wrote his account fifty years after the Conquest.

The geographers of the eighteenth century often made the waters of the valley flow into the Pacific. The map in the 1704 edition of Solis shows this; so do the maps of Bower and other English cartographers, as well as the map from Herrera on a later page (p. 392).

The inundations to which the city has been subjected (the most serious of which was in 1629), and the works planned for its protection from such devastations are the subject of a rare book by Cepeda and Carillo, Relacion universal del sitio en que esta fundada la ciudad de México (Mexico, 1637). Copies are found complete and incomplete. Cf. Carter-Brown, ii. 441; Leclerc, no. 1,095, complete, 400 francs, and no. 1,096, incomplete, 200 francs; Quaritch, incomplete, £10.

In this, however, he failed, and returned to Tezcuco. Then followed some successful fighting on the line of communication with the coast, which enabled Cortés to bring up safely some important munitions, besides two hundred soldiers, who had lately reached Villa Rica from the islands whither he had sent for help the previous autumn.


The Spanish leader now conducted another reconnoissance into the southern borders of the Mexican Valley,—a movement which overcame much opposition,—and selected Coyohuacan as a base of operations on that side against the Aztec city. After this he returned to Tezcuco, and was put to the necessity of quelling an insurrection, in which his own death had been planned.

At last the brigantines were launched. At the command of Cortés the allies mustered. On the 28th of April, 1521, the Spanish general counted his own countrymen, and found he had over nine hundred in all, including eighty-seven horsemen. He had three heavy guns, and fifteen smaller ones, which were mostly in the fleet. Cortés kept immediate charge of the brigantines, and allotted the main divisions of the army to Alvarado, Olid, and Sandoval. The land forces proceeded to occupy the approaches which[376] the reconnoissances had indicated,—Alvarado at Tlacopan, Olid at Coyohuacan, on the westerly shores of the lake, and, later, Sandoval at Iztapalapan, on the eastern side. Each of these places commanded the entrance to causeways leading to the city. The land forces were no sooner in position than Cortés appeared with his fleet. The Aztecs attacked the brigantines with several hundred canoes; but Cortés easily overcame all, and established his naval supremacy. He then turned to assist Olid and Alvarado, who were advancing along their respective causeways; and the stronghold, Xoloc, at the junction of the causeway, was easily carried. Here the besiegers maintained themselves with an occasional fight, while Sandoval was sent to occupy Tepeyacac, which commanded the outer end of the northern causeway. This completed the investment. A simultaneous attack was now made from the three camps. The force from Xoloc alone succeeded in entering the city; but the advantage gained was lost, and Cortés, who was with this column, drew his forces back to camp. His success, however, was enough to impress the surrounding people, who were watching the signs; and various messengers came and offered the submission of their people to the Spaniards. The attacks were renewed on subsequent days; and little by little the torch was applied, and the habitable part of the town grew less and less. The lake towns as they submitted furnished flotillas, which aided the brigantines much in their incursions into the canals of the town. For a while the Mexicans maintained night communication across the lake for supplies; but the brigantines at last stopped this precarious traffic.

Alvarado on his side had made little progress; but the market of Tlatelulco was nearer him, and that was a point within the city which it was desirable to reach and fortify. Sandoval was joined to Alvarado, who increased the vigor of his assault, while Cortés again attacked on the other side. The movement failed, and the Mexicans were greatly encouraged. The Spaniards, from their camps, saw by the blaze of the illuminations on the temple tops the sacrifice of their companions who had been captured in the fight. The bonds that kept the native allies in subjection were becoming, under these reverses, more sensibly loosened day by day, and Cortés spared several detachments from his weakened force to raid in various directions to preserve the prestige of the Spanish power.

The attack was now resumed on a different plan. The fighting-men led the way and kept the Mexicans at bay; while the native auxiliaries razed every building as they went, leaving no cover for the Aztec marauders. The demolition extended gradually to the line of Alvarado’s approach, and communication was opened with him. This leader was now approaching the great market-place, Tlatelulco. By renewed efforts he gained it, only to lose it; but the next day he succeeded better, and formed a junction with Cortés. Not more than an eighth part of the city was now in the hands of its inhabitants; and here pestilence and famine were the Spaniards’ prompt allies.



This is the engraving given in the Nieuwe Weereld (1670) of Montanus, which was repeated in Ogilby’s America, and is familiar from reproductions elsewhere. It may be traced back as a sketch to the much less elaborate one given by Bordone in his Libro of 1528, later called his Isolario, which was accompanied by one of the earliest descriptions by a writer not a conqueror. Bancroft (Mexico, ii. 14) gives a small outline engraving of a similar picture, and recapitulates the authorities on the rebuilding of the city by Cortés. The Cathedral, however, was not begun till 1573, and was over sixty years in building (Ibid., iii. 173).

One of the most interesting of the early accounts, accompanied as it was with a plan of the town and lake, made part of the narrative of the “Anonymous Conqueror.” This picture has been reproduced by Icazbalceta in his Coleccion (i. 390) from the engraving in Ramusio, whence we derive our only knowledge of this anonymous writer. The Ramusio plan is also given on the next page.

The plate used in the 1572 edition of Porcacchi (p. 105) served for many successive editions. Another plan of the same year showing an oval lake surrounding the town, is found in Braun and Hogenberg’s Civitates orbis terrarum (Cologne, 1572), and of later dates, and the French edition, Théâtre des cités du monde (Brussels, 1574), i. 59. A similar outline characterizes the small woodcut (6×6 inches) which is found in Münster’s Cosmographia (1598), p. dccccxiiii.

Later views and plans appeared in Gottfriedt’s Newe Welt (1655); in Solis’s Conquista (1704), p. 261, reproduced in the English edition of 1724; in La Croix’ Algemeene Weereld Beschryving (1705); in Herrera (edition of 1728), p. 399; in Clavigero (1780), giving the lake and the town (copied in Verne’s De’couverte de la Terre, p. 248), and also a map of Anahuac, both reproduced in the London (1787) and Philadelphia (1817) editions, as well as in the Spanish edition published at Mexico in 1844; in Solis, edition of 1783 (Madrid), where the lake is given an indefinite extension; in Keating’s edition of Bernal Diaz, besides engraved plates by the Dutch publisher Vander Aa.

The account of Mexico in 1554 written by Francisco Cervantes Salazar, and republished with annotations by Icazbalceta in 1875 (Carter-Brown, i. 595) is helpful in this study of the ancient town. Cf. “Mexico et ses environs en 1554,” by L. Massbieau, in the Revue de géographie, October, 1878.

A descriptive book, Sitio, naturaleza y propriedades de la ciudad de México, by Dr. Diego Cisneros, published at Mexico in 1618, is become very rare. Rich in 1832 priced a copy at £6 6s.,—a great sum for those days (Sabin, vol. iv. no. 13,146; Carter-Brown, ii. 199).


Still the Aztec King, Quauhtemotzin, scorned to yield; and the slaughter went on from day to day, till finally, on the 13th of August, 1521, the end came. The royal Aztec was captured, trying to escape in a boat; and there was no one left to fight. Of the thousand Spaniards who had done the work about a tenth had succumbed; and probably something like the same proportion among the many thousand allies. The Mexican loss must have been far greater, perhaps several times greater.[1076] The Spaniards were no sooner in possession than quarrels began over the booty. Far less was found than was hoped for, and torture was applied, with no success, to discover the hiding-places. The captive prince was not spared this indignity. Cortés was accused of appropriating an undue share of what was found, and hot feelings for a while prevailed.

The conquest now had to be maintained by the occupation of the country; and the question was debated whether to build the new capital on the ruins of Mexico, or to establish it at Tezcuco or Coyohuacan. Cortés preferred the prestige of the traditional site, and so the new Spanish town rose on the ruins of the Aztec capital; the Spanish quarter being formed about the square of Tenochtitlan (known in the early books usually as Temixtitan), which was separated by a wide canal from the Indian settlement clustered about Tlatelulco. Two additional causeways were constructed, and the Aztec aqueduct was restored. Inducements were offered to neighboring tribes to settle in the city, and districts were assigned to them. Thus were hewers of wood and drawers of water abundantly secured. But Mexico never regained with the natives the dominance which the Aztecs had given it. Its population was smaller, and a similar decadence marked the fate of the other chief towns; Spanish rule and disease checked their growth. Even Tezcuco and Tlascala soon learned what it was to be the dependents of the conquerors.



Cortés speedily decided upon further conquests. The Aztec tribute-rolls told him of the comparative wealth of the provinces, and the turbulent spirits among his men were best controlled in campaigns. He needed powder, so he sent some bold men to the crater of Popocatepetl to get sulphur. They secured it, but did not repeat the experiment. Cortés also needed cannon. The Aztecs had no iron, but sufficient copper; and finding a tin mine, his craftsmen made a gun-metal, which soon increased his artillery to a hundred pieces.

Expeditions were now despatched hither and thither, and province after province succumbed. Other regions sent in their princes and chief men with gifts and words of submission. The reports which came back of the great southern sea opened new visions; and Cortés sent expeditions to find ports and build vessels; and thus Zacalula grew up. Revolts here and there followed the Spanish occupancy, but they were all promptly suppressed.

While all this was going on, Cortés had to face a new enemy. Fonseca, as patron of Velasquez, had taken occasion in the absence of the Emperor, attending to the affairs of his German domain, to order Cristóbal de Tapia from Hispaniola to take command in New Spain and to investigate the doings of Cortés. He arrived in December, 1521, with a single vessel at Villa Rica, and was guardedly received by Gonzalo de Alvarado, there in command. Tapia now despatched a messenger to Cortés, who replied with many blandishments, and sent Sandoval and others as a council to confer with Tapia, taking care to have among its members a majority of his most loyal adherents.

They met Dec. 12, 1521, and the conference lasted till Jan. 6, 1522. It resulted in a determination to hold the orders borne by Tapia in abeyance till the Emperor himself could be heard. Tapia protested in vain, and was quickly hustled out of the country. He was not long gone when new orders for him arrived,—this time under the sign-manual of the Emperor himself. This increased the perplexity; but Cortés won the messenger in his golden fashion. Shortly afterwards the same messenger set off for Spain, carrying back the letters with him. These occurrences did not escape notice throughout the country, and Cortés was put to the necessity of extreme measures to restore his prestige; while in his letter to the Emperor he threw the responsibility of his action upon the council, who felt it necessary, he alleged, to take the course they did to make good the gains which had already been effected for the Emperor. In a spirit of conciliation, however, Cortés released Narvaez, who had been confined at Villa Rica; and so in due time another enemy found his way to Spain, and joined the cabal against the Conqueror of Mexico.



Fac-simile of a woodcut in Pauli Jovii elogia virorum bellica virtute illustrium (Basle, 1575), p. 348, and 1596, p. 229, called a portrait of Cortés.

The autograph follows one given by Prescott, revised ed., vol. iii. Autographs of his proper name, and of his title, Marques del Valle, are given in Cumplido’s edition of Prescott, vol. iii. An original autograph was noted for sale in Stevens (Bibliotheca geographica, no. 760), which is given in fac-simile in some of the illustrated copies of that catalogue. Prescott (vol. i. p. 447) mentions a banner, preserved in Mexico, though in rags, which Cortés is said to have borne in the Conquest. But compare Wilson’s New Conquest, p. 369.


In the spring (1522) Cortés was cheered by a report from the Audiencia of Santo Domingo, confirming his acts and promising intercession with the Emperor. To support this intercession, Cortés despatched to Spain some friends with his third letter, dated at Coyohuacan May 15, 1522. These agents carried also a large store of propitiatory treasure. Two of the vessels, which held most of it, were captured by French corsairs,[1077] and the Spanish gains enriched the coffers of Francis I. rather than those of Charles V. The despatches of Cortés, however, reached their destination, though Fonseca and the friends of Velasquez had conspired to prevent their delivery, and had even appropriated some part of the treasure which a third vessel had securely landed. Thus there were charges and countercharges, and Charles summoned a council to investigate. Cortés won. Velasquez, Fonseca, and Narvaez were all humiliated in seeing their great rival made, by royal command, governor and captain-general of New Spain.

Meanwhile Cortés, hearing of a proposed expedition under Garay to take possession of the region north of Villa Rica, conducted a force himself to seize, in advance, that province known as Pánuco, and to subjugate the Huastecs who dwelt there. This was done. The plunder proved small; but this disappointment was forgotten in the news which now, for the first time, reached Cortés of his late success in Spain. The whole country was jubilant over the recognition of his merit; and opportunely came embassies from Guatemala bringing costlier tributes than the Spaniards had ever seen before. This turned their attention to the south. There was apprehension that the Spaniards who were already at Panamá might sooner reach these rich regions, and might earlier find the looked-for passage from the Gulf to the south sea. To anticipate them, no time could be lost. So Alvarado, Olid, and Sandoval were given commands to push explorations and conquests southward and on either shore. Before the expeditions started, news came that Garay, arriving from Jamaica, had landed with a force at Pánuco to seize that region in the interests of the Velasquez faction. The mustered forces were at once combined under Cortés’ own lead, and marched against Garay,—Alvarado in advance. Before Cortés was ready to start, he was relieved from the necessity of going in person by the receipt of a royal order from Spain confirming him in the possession of Pánuco and forbidding Garay to occupy any of Cortés’ possessions. This order was hurriedly despatched to Alvarado; but it did not reach him till he had made some captives of the intruders. Garay readily assented to lead his forces farther north if restitution should be made to him of the captives and munitions which Alvarado had taken. This was not so easily done, for plunder in hand was doubly rich, and Garay’s own men preferred to enlist with Cortés. To compose matters[383] Garay went to Mexico, where Cortés received him with ostentatious kindness, and promised him assistance in his northern conquests. In the midst of Cortés’ hospitality his guest sickened and died, and was buried with pomp.

While Garay was in Mexico, his men at Pánuco, resenting the control of Garay’s son, who had been left in charge of them, committed such ravages on the country that the natives rose on them, and were so rapidly annihilating them that Alvarado, who had left, was sent back to check the outbreak. He encountered much opposition; but conquered as usual, and punished afterward the chief ringleaders with abundant cruelty. Such of Garay’s men as would, joined the forces of Cortés, while the rest were sent back to Jamaica.

The thoughts of Cortés were now turned to his plan of southern exploration, and early in December Alvarado was on his way to Guatemala.[1078] Desperate fighting and the old success attended Cortés’ lieutenant, and the Quiché army displayed their valor in vain in battle after battle. It was the old story of cavalry and arquebusiers. As Alvarado approached Utatlan, the Quiché capital, he learned of a plot to entrap him in the city, which was to be burned about his ears. By a counterplot he seized the Quiché nobles, and burned them and their city. By the aid of the Cakchiquels he devastated the surrounding country. Into the territory of this friendly people he next marched, and was received royally by King Sinacam in his city of Patinamit (Guatemala), and was soon engaged with him in an attack on his neighbors, the Zutugils, who had lately abetted an insurrection among Sinacam’s vassals. Alvarado beat them, of course, and established a fortified post among them after they had submitted, as gracefully as they could. With Quichés and Cakchiquels now in his train, Alvarado still went on, burned towns and routed the country’s defenders, till, the rainy season coming on, he withdrew his crusaders and took up his quarters once more at Patinamit, late in July, 1524. From this place he sent despatches to Cortés, who forwarded two hundred more Spanish soldiers for further campaigns.

The Spanish extortions produced the usual results. The Cakchiquels turned under the abuse, deserted their city, and prepared for a campaign. The Spaniards found them abler foes than any yet encountered. The Cakchiquels devastated the country on which Alvarado depended for supplies, and the Spaniards found themselves reduced to great straits. It was only after receiving reinforcements sent