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SPANISH LOVE OF MARITIME ADVENTURE.
as too narrow, and offering to their extravagant ambition CHAP. nothing beyond mediocrity. America was the region of romance, where the heated imagination could indulge in the boldest delusions; where the simple natives ignorantly wore the most precious ornaments; and, by the side of the clear runs of water, the sands sparkled with gold. What way soever, says the historian of the ocean, the Spaniards are called, with a beck only, or a whispering voice, to any thing rising above water, they speedily prepare themselves to fly, and forsake certainties under the hope of more brilliant success. To carve out provinces with the sword; to divide the wealth of empires; to plunder the accumulated treasures of some ancient Indian dynasty; to return from a roving expedition with a crowd of enslaved captives and a profusion of spoils,—soon became the ordinary dreams, in which the excited minds of the Spaniards delighted to indulge. Ease, fortune, life, all were squandered in the pursuit of a game, where, if the issue was uncertain, success was sometimes obtained, greater than the boldest imagination had dared to anticipate. Is it stranger that these adventurers were often superstitious ? The New World and its wealth were in themselves so wonderful, that why should credit be withheld from the wildest fictions ? Why should not the hope be indulged, that the laws of nature themselves would yield to the desires of men so fortunate and so brave ?
Juan Ponce de Leon was the discoverer of Florida. 1512 His youth had been passed in military service in Spain; and, during the wars in Granada, he had shared in the wild exploits of predatory valor. No sooner had the return of the first voyage across the Atlantic given an assurance of a New World, than he hastened to participate in the dangers and the fruits of adventure in
FLORIDA-PONCE DE LEON.
CHAP. America. He was a fellow voyager of Columbus in his
a second expedition. In the wars of Hispaniola he had 1493. been a gallant soldier; and Ovando had rewarded him
with the government of the eastern province of that island. From the hills in his jurisdiction, he could behold, across the clear waters of a placid sea, the magnificent vegetation of Porto Rico, which distance ren.
dered still more admirable, as it was seen through the 1508. transparent atmosphere of the tropics. A visit to the
island stimulated the cupidity of avarice; and Ponce 1509. aspired to the government. He obtained the station
inured to sanguinary war, he was inexorably severe in his administration: he oppressed the natives; he amassed wealth. But his commission as governor of Porto Rico conflicted with the claims of the family of Columbus ; and policy, as well as justice, required his removal. Ponce was displaced.
Yet, in the midst of an archipelago, and in the vicinity of a continent, what need was there for a brave soldier to pine at the loss of power over a wild though fertile island ? Age had not tempered the love of enterprise: he longed to advance his fortunes by the conquest of a kingdom, and to retrieve a reputation which was not without a blemish. Besides; the veteran soldier, whose cheeks had been furrowed by hard service, as well as by years, had heard, and had believed the tale, of a fountain which possessed virtues to renovate the life of those who should bathe in its stream, or give a perpetuity of youth to the happy man who should drink of its ever-flowing waters. So universal was this tradition, that it was credited in Spain, not by all the people and the court only, but by those who were dis
1 Peter Martyr, d. iii. I. X.
tinguished for virtue and intelligence. Nature was to CHAP. discover the secrets for which alchemy had toiled in a vain; and the elixir of life was to flow from a perpetual 1509. fountain of the New World, in the midst of a country glittering with gems and gold.
Ponce embarked at Porto Rico, with a squadron of 1512. three ships, fitted out at his own expense, for his voyage ma
Mar. to fairy land. He touched at Guanahani ; he sailed among the Bahamas; but the laws of nature remained inexorable. On Easter Sunday, which the Spaniards Mar. call Pascua Florida, land was seen. It was supposed to be an island, and received the name of Florida, from the day on which it was discovered, and from the aspect of the forests, which were then brilliant with a profusion of blossoms, and gay with the fresh verdure of early spring. Bad weather would not allow the April squadron to approach land : at length the aged soldier was able to go on shore, in the latitude of thirty degrees and eight minutes; some miles, therefore, to the April north of St. Augustine. The territory was claimed for Spain. Ponce remained for many weeks to investigate the coast which he had discovered; though the currents of the gulf-stream, and the islands, between which the channel was yet unknown, threatened shipwreck. He doubled Cape Florida ; he sailed among the group which he named Tortugas; and, despairing of entire success, he returned to Porto Rico, leaving a trusty follower to continue the research. The Indians had every where displayed determined hostility. Ponce de Leon remained an old man; but Spanish commerce acquired a new channel through the Gulf of Florida, and Spain a new province, which imagination could esteem immeasurably rich, since its interior was unknown.
i Peter Martyr, d. vii. 1. vii., and d. ii. c. X. VOL. 1.
CHAP. The government of Florida was the reward which
a Ponce received from the king of Spain ; but the dignity 1513. was accompanied with the onerous condition, that he
should colonize the country which he was appointed to 1514 rule. Preparations in Spain, and an expedition against
20 the Caribbee Indians, delayed his return to Florida. 1521. When, after a long interval, he proceeded with two
ships to take possession of his province and select a site for a colony, his company was attacked by the Indians with implacable fury. Many Spaniards were killed ; the survivors were forced to hurry to their ships; Ponce de Leon himself, mortally wounded by an arrow, returned to Cuba to die. So ended the adventurer, who had coveted immeasurable wealth, and had hoped for perpetual youth. The discoverer of Florida had
desired immortality on earth, and gained its shadow. 1516. Meantime, commerce may have discovered a path to
Florida ; and Diego Miruelo, a careless sea-captain, sailing from Havana, is said to have approached the coast, and trafficked with the natives. He could not tell distinctly in what harbor he had anchored; he brought home specimens of gold, obtained in exchange for toys; and his report swelled the rumors, already credited, of the wealth of the country. Florida had at once obtained a governor ; it now constituted a
part of a bishopric. 1517 The expedition of Francisco Fernandez, of Cordova,
leaving the port of Havana, and sailing west by south,
1 On Ponce de Leon, I have used sayo Cronologico para la Hist. Gen. Herrera, d. i. 1. ix. c. x. xi. and xii., de la Florida, d. i. p. 1, 2, and 5. and d. i. 1. x, c. xvi. Peter Martyr, Ed. 1723, folio. The author's true d. iv. I. v., and d. v. I. i., and d. vii. name is Andres Gonzalez de Barcia. 1. iv. In Hakluyt, v. 320, 333, and Navarette, Colleccion, iii. 50—53. 416. Gomara, Hist. Gen. de las Compare, also, Eden and Willes, Ind. c. xlv. Garcilaso de la Vega, fol. 298, 229. Purchas, i. 957. Hist. de la Florida, 1. i. c. iii., and l. 2 Florida del Inca, Vega, l. 1. c. vi. c. xxii. Cardenas z Cano, En- ïi. Ens. Cron. d. i. Año MDXVI.
discovered the province of Yucatan and the Bay of Chap Campeachy. He turned his prow to the north ; but, an whatever may be asserted by careless historians, he 1517 was by no means able to trace the coast to any harbor which Ponce de Leon had visited. At a place where he had landed for supplies of water, his company was suddenly assailed, and he himself mortally wounded.
The pilot whom Fernandez had employed soon 1518 conducted another squadron to the same shores. The knowledge already acquired was extended, and under happier auspices; and Grijalva, the commander of the fleet, explored the coast from Yucatan towards Panuco. The masses of gold which he collected, the rumors of the empire of Montezuma, its magnificence and its extent, heedlessly confirmed by the costly presents of the unsuspecting natives, were sufficient to inflame the coldest imagination, and excited the enterprise of Cortes. The voyage did not reach the shores of Florida.2
But while Grijalva was opening the way to the con- 1518 quest of Mexico, the line of the American coast, from the Tortugas to Panuco, is said to have been examined, yet not with care, by an expedition which was planned, if not conducted, by Francisco Garay, the governor of Jamaica. The general outline of the Gulf of Mexico now became known.3 Garay encountered the determined hostility of the natives; a danger which eventually proved less disastrous to him than the rivalry of
1 The Ensayo Cronologico para and ii. Herrera, d. ii. l. ii. c. xvii. la Historia General de la Florida is and xviii. not sufficiently discriminating. The 2 Peter Martyr, d. iv. I. iii. and iv. error asserted with confidence in d. Herrera, d. ii. 1. ïïi. c. ix. Ant. de i. Ajo MDXVII., may be corrected Solis, l. i. c. vii., viii., ix. Gomara, from Gomara, c. lii. Ant. de Solis, c. xlix. 1. i. c. vi. Peter Martyr, d. iv. l. i. 3 Peter Martyr, d. v. l. i. Go
mara, c. xlvi.