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ST. AUGUSTINE THE OLDEST TOWN IN THE U. STATES.
stream the name of St. Augustine. Sailing, then, to CHAP. the north, he discovered a portion of the French fleet, a and observed the nature of the road where they were 1565
Sept. anchored. The French demanded his name and 4. objects. “I am Melendez of Spain," replied he; 6 sent with strict orders from my king to gibbet and behead all the Protestants in these regions. The Frenchman who is a Catholic, I will spare ; every heretic shall die."2 The French fleet, unprepared for action, cut its cables; the Spaniards, for some time, continued an ineffectual chase.
It was at the hour of vespers, on the evening preceding the festival of the nativity of Mary, that the 7. Spaniards returned to the harbor of St. Augustine. At noonday of the festival itself, the governor went on Sept. shore, to take possession of the continent in the name of his king. The bigoted Philip II. was proclaimed monarch of all North America. The solemn mass of Our Lady was performed, and the foundation of St. Augustine was immediately laid. It is, by more than forty years, the oldest town in the United States. Houses in it are yet standing, which are said to have been built many years before Virginia was colonized.4
By the French it was debated, whether they should improve their fortifications, and await the approach of the Spaniards, or proceed to sea, and attack their enemy. Against the advice of his officers, Ribault resolved upon the latter course. Hardly had he left the harbor for the open sea, before there arose a fearful Sept storm, which continued till October, and wrecked every
1 Ensayo Cronolog. 71.
soldiers, victual, and munition, on 2 El que fuere herege, morirà. land.” Hakluyt, iii, 433. Ensayo Ensayo Cronologico, 75, 76. It is Cronologico, 76, 77. Prince Muthe account of the apologist and rat, in Am. Q. Rev. ii. 216. De admirer of Melendez.
Thou, 1. xliv. 3 Laudonniere. “They put their 4 Stoddard's Sketches, 120.
MASSACRE OF THE FRENCH PROTESTANTS.
CHAP. ship of the French fleet on the Florida coast. The
a vessels were dashed against the rocks about fifty 1565
leagues south of Fort Carolina ; most of the men escaped with their lives.
The Spanish ships also suffered, but not so severely; and the troops at St. Augustine were entirely safe. They knew that the French settlement was left in a defenceless state : with a fanatical indifference to toil, Melendez led his men through the lakes, and marshes, and forests, that divided the St. Augustine from the St. Johns, and, with a furious onset, surprised the weak
garrison, who had looked only towards the sea for the Sept. approach of danger. After a short contest, the Span
iards were masters of the fort. A scene of carnage ensued; soldiers, women, children, the aged, the sick, were alike inassacred. The Spanish account asserts, that Melendez ordered women and young children to be spared; yet not till after the havoc had long been raging
Nearly two hundred persons were killed. A few escaped into the woods, among them Laudonniere, Challus, and Le Moyne, who have related the horrors of the scene. But whither should they fly? Death met them in the woods; and the heavens, the earth, the sea, and men, all seemed conspired against them. Should they surrender, appealing to the sympathy of their conquerors? “Let us,” said Challus, 6 trust in the mercy of God, rather than of these men.” A few gave themselves up, and were immediately murdered. The others, after the severest sufferings, found their way to the sea-side, and were received on board two small French vessels which had remained in the harbor. The Spaniards, angry that any should have escaped, insulted the corpses of the dead with wanton barbarity.
The victory had been gained on the festival of St. CHAP. Matthew; and hence the Spanish name of the River May. After the carnage was completed, mass was 1565. said; a cross was raised; and the site for a church 21*** selected, on ground still smoking with the blood of a peaceful colony. So willingly is the human mind the dupe of its prejudices; so easily can fanaticism connect acts of savage ferocity with the rites of a merciful religion.
The shipwrecked men were, in their turn, soon discovered. They were in a state of helpless weakness, wasted by their fatigues at sea, half famished, destitute of water and of food. Should they surrender to the Spaniards? Melendez invited them to rely on his compassion;' the French capitulated, and were received among the Spaniards in such successive divisions as a boat could at once ferry across the intervening river. As the captives stepped upon the bank which their enemies occupied, their hands were tied behind them; and in this way they were marched towards St. Augustine, like a flock of sheep driven to the slaughter-house. As they approached the fort, a signal was given ; and, amidst the sound of trumpets and drums, the Spaniards fell upon the unhappy men, who had confided in their humanity, and who could offer no resistance. A few Catholics were spared; some mechanics were reserved as slaves; the rest were massacred, 6 not as Frenchmen, but as Lutherans.” The whole number of the victims of bigotry, here and at the fort, is said, by the French, to have been about nine hundred ;? the Spanish accounts diminish the
I So says his apologist. Si ellos él haga de ellos lo que Dios le diere quieren entregarle las Vanderas, é de gracia. Is not this an implied las armas, è ponerse en su miseri- promise of mercy ? cordia, lo pueden hacer, para que 2 Epist. Sup. in De Bry, ii.
CHAP. number of the slain, but not the atrocity of the deed - Melendez returned to Spain, impoverished, but trium
phant. The French government heard of the outrage with apathy, and made not even a remonstrance on the ruin of a colony, which, if it had been protected, would have given to its country a flourishing empire in the south, before England had planted a single spot on the new continent. History has been more faithful, and has assisted humanity by giving to the crime of Melendez an infamous notoriety. The first town in the United States sprung from the unrelenting bigotry of the Spanish king. We admire the rapid growth of our larger cities; the sudden transformation of portions of the wilderness into blooming states. St. Augustine presents a stronger contrast, in its transition from the bigoted policy of Philip II. to the American principles of religious liberty. Its origin should be carefully remembered, for it is a fixed point, from which to measure the liberal influence of time; the progress of modern civilization ; the victories of the American mind, in its contests for the interests of hu
manity. 1567. The Huguenots and the French nation did not share
the indifference of the court. Dominic de Gourgues-
furnished the means of equipping three ships, in 22. which, with one hundred and fifty men, he embarked
for Florida, not to found a colony, but only to destroy CHAP. and revenge. He surprised two forts near the mouth a of the St. Matheo; and, as terror magnified the num- 1568. ber of his followers, the consternation of the Spaniards enabled him to gain possession of the larger establishment, near the spot which the French colony had occupied. Too weak to maintain his position, he, in May, 1565, hastily weighed anchor for Europe, May having first hanged his prisoners upon the trees, and placed over them the inscription, “I do not this as unto Spaniards or mariners, but as unto traitors, robbers, and murderers.” 1 The natives, who had been ill treated both by the Spaniards and the French, enjoyed the consolation of seeing their enemies butcher one another.
The attack of the fiery Gascon was but a passing storm. France disavowed the expedition, and relinquished all pretension to Florida. Spain grasped at it, as a portion of her dominions; and, if discovery could confer a right, her claim was founded in justice. Cuba now formed the centre of her West Indian possessions, and every thing around it was included within her empire. Sovereignty was asserted, not only over the archipelagos within the tropics, but over the whole continent round the inner seas. From the remotest south-eastern cape of the Caribbean, along the whole shore to the Cape of Florida, and beyond it, all was hers. The Gulf of Mexico lay embosomed within her territories.
II owe to R. Biddle, the biogra- served in the family of De Gourges, pher of Cabot, a manuscript copy of and another from the Royal Library the record of these events, pre- at Paris. VOL 1.