John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott.

History of Hernando Cortez online

. (page 1 of 16)
Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Hernando Cortez → online text (page 1 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Produced by D Alexander and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)









Makers of History

Hernando Cortez

BY

JOHN S. C. ABBOTT

WITH ENGRAVINGS

NEW YORK AND LONDON
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
1901




Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand
eight hundred and fifty-six, by

HARPER & BROTHERS

in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the Southern District
of New York.

Copyright, 1884, by SUSAN ABBOT MEAD.




PREFACE.


The career of Hernando Cortez is one of the most wild and adventurous
recorded in the annals of fact or fiction, and yet all the prominent
events in his wondrous history are well authenticated. All _truth_
carries with itself an important moral. The writer, in this narrative,
has simply attempted to give a vivid idea of the adventures of
Cortez and his companions in the Conquest of Mexico. There are many
inferences of vast moment to which the recital leads. These are so
obvious that they need not be pointed out by the writer.

A small portion of this volume has appeared in Harper's Magazine, in
an article furnished by the writer upon the Conquest of Mexico.




CONTENTS


Chapter Page

I. THE DISCOVERY OF MEXICO 13

II. EARLY LIFE OF CORTEZ 28

III. THE VOYAGE TO MEXICO 57

IV. FOUNDING A COLONY 84

V. THE TLASCALANS SUBJUGATED 117

VI. THE MARCH TO MEXICO 150

VII. THE METROPOLIS INVADED 184

VIII. BATTLE OF THE DISMAL NIGHT 214

IX. THE CAPITAL BESIEGED AND CAPTURED 246

X. THE CONQUEST CONSUMMATED 281

XI. THE EXPEDITION TO HONDURAS 305

XII. THE LAST DAYS OF CORTEZ 330




ENGRAVINGS.


Page

AMERICA DISCOVERED 16

CORTEZ TAKING LEAVE OF THE GOVERNOR 47

CUBA 52

THE FIRST MASS IN THE TEMPLES OF YUCATAN 61

FIRST CAVALRY CHARGE HEADED BY CORTEZ 73

INTERVIEW BETWEEN CORTEZ AND THE EMBASSADORS
OF MONTEZUMA 94

ROUTE OF CORTEZ 105

DESTROYING THE IDOLS AT ZEMPOALLA 120

MASSACRE IN CHOLULA 161

FIRST VIEW OF THE MEXICAN CAPITAL 168

THE MEETING OF CORTEZ AND MONTEZUMA 177

THE CITY OF MEXICO 190

THE FALL OF MONTEZUMA 222

THE BATTLE UPON THE CAUSEWAY 232

THE CAPTURE OF GUATEMOZIN 260




HERNANDO CORTEZ.




CHAPTER I.

THE DISCOVERY OF MEXICO.

The shore of America in 1492. - Doubt and alarm. - A light appears. - He
watches the light. - The shore is seen. - The Spaniards land and are
hospitably received. - Mexico is discovered. - Arts and sciences of the
Mexicans. - The mines of precious metals. - Code of laws. - Punishments.
- Slavery. - Military glory. - Mexican mythology. - The three states of
existence. - Infant baptism. - Worship. - The temples and altars. - Mode
of offering sacrifice. - City of Mexico. - Montezuma. - Civilization of
the inhabitants. - The Governor of Cuba resolves to subjugate the
country. - Motives for carrying on conquests. - Hernando Cortez.


Three hundred and fifty years ago the ocean which washes the shores of
America was one vast and silent solitude. No ship plowed its waves; no
sail whitened its surface. On the 11th of October, 1492, three small
vessels might have been seen invading, for the first time, these
hitherto unknown waters. They were as specks on the bosom of infinity.
The sky above, the ocean beneath, gave no promise of any land. Three
hundred adventurers were in these ships. Ten weeks had already passed
since they saw the hills of the Old World sink beneath the horizon.

For weary days and weeks they had strained their eyes looking toward
the west, hoping to see the mountains of the New World rising in the
distance. The illustrious adventurer, Christopher Columbus, who guided
these frail barks, inspired by science and by faith, doubted not that
a world would ere long emerge before him from the apparently boundless
waters. But the blue sky still overarched them, and the heaving ocean
still extended in all directions its unbroken and interminable
expanse.

Discouragement and alarm now pervaded nearly all hearts, and there was
a general clamor for return to the shores of Europe. Christopher
Columbus, sublime in the confidence with which his exalted nature
inspired him, was still firm and undaunted in his purpose.

[Illustration: AMERICA DISCOVERED.]

The night of the 11th of October darkened over these lonely
adventurers. The stars came out in all the brilliance of tropical
splendor. A fresh breeze drove the ships with increasing speed over
the billows, and cooled, as with balmy zephyrs, brows heated through
the day by the blaze of a meridian sun. Columbus could not sleep.
He stood upon the deck of his ship, silent and sad, yet indomitable
in energy, gazing with intense and unintermitted watch into the
dusky distance. It was near midnight. Suddenly he saw a light, as
of a torch, far off in the horizon. His heart throbbed with an
irrepressible tumult of excitement. Was it a meteor, or was it a light
from the long-wished-for land? It disappeared, and all again was
dark. But suddenly again it gleamed forth, feeble and dim in the
distance, yet distinct. Soon again the exciting ray was quenched, and
nothing disturbed the dark and sombre outline of the sea. The long
hours of the night to Columbus seemed interminable as he waited
impatiently for the dawn. But even before any light was seen in the
east, the dim outline of land appeared in indisputable distinctness
before the eyes of the entranced, the now immortalized navigator. A
cannon - the signal of the discovery - rolled its peal over the ocean,
announcing to the two vessels in the rear the joyful tidings. A shout,
excited by the heart's intensest emotions, rose over the waves, and
with tears, with prayers, and embraces, these enthusiastic men
accepted the discovery of the New World.

The bright autumnal morning dawned in richest glory, presenting to
them a scene as of a celestial paradise. The luxuriance of tropical
vegetation bloomed in all its novelty around them. The inhabitants,
many of them in the simple and innocent costume of Eden before
the fall, crowded the shore, gazing with attitude and gesture of
astonishment upon the strange phenomena of the ships. The adventurers
landed, and were received upon the island of San Salvador as angels
from heaven by the peaceful and friendly natives. Bitterly has the
hospitality been requited. After cruising around for some time among
the beautiful islands of the New World, Columbus returned to Spain to
astonish Europe with the tidings of his discovery. He had been absent
but seven months.

A quarter of a century passed away, during which all the adventurers
of Europe were busy exploring these newly-discovered islands and
continents. Various colonies were established in the fertile valleys
of these sunny climes, and upon the hill-sides which emerged, in the
utmost magnificence of vegetation, from the bosom of the Caribbean
Sea. The eastern coast of North America had been during this time
surveyed from Labrador to Florida. The bark of the navigator had
discovered nearly all the islands of the West Indies, and had crept
along the winding shores of the Isthmus of Darien, and of the South
American continent as far as the River La Plata. Bold explorers,
guided by intelligence received from the Indians, had even penetrated
the interior of the isthmus, and from the summit of the central
mountain barrier had gazed with delight upon the placid waves of the
Pacific. But the vast indentation of the Mexican Gulf, sweeping far
away in an apparently interminable circuit to the west, had not yet
been penetrated. The field for romantic adventure which these
unexplored realms presented could not, however, long escape the eye of
that chivalrous age.

Some exploring expeditions were soon fitted out from Cuba, and the
shores of Mexico were discovered. Here every thing exhibited the
traces of a far higher civilization than had hitherto been witnessed
in the New World. There were villages, and even large cities, thickly
planted throughout the country. Temples and other buildings, imposing
in massive architecture, were reared of stone and lime. Armies, laws,
and a symbolical form of writing indicated a very considerable advance
in the arts and the energies of civilization. Many of the arts were
cultivated. Cloth was made of cotton, and of skins nicely prepared.
Astronomy was sufficiently understood for the accurate measurement of
time in the divisions of the solar year. It is indeed a wonder, as yet
unexplained, where these children of the New World acquired so
philosophical an acquaintance with the movements of the heavenly
bodies. Agriculture was practiced with much scientific skill, and a
system of irrigation introduced, from which many a New England farmer
might learn many a profitable lesson. Mines of gold, silver, lead, and
copper were worked. Many articles of utility and of exquisite beauty
were fabricated from these metals. Iron, the ore of which must pass
through so many processes before it is prepared for use, was unknown
to them. The Spanish goldsmiths, admiring the exquisite workmanship of
the gold and silver ornaments of the Mexicans, bowed to their
superiority.

Fairs were held in the great market-places of the principal cities
every fifth day, where buyers and sellers in vast numbers thronged.
They had public schools, courts of justice, a class of nobles, and a
powerful monarch. The territory embraced by this wonderful kingdom was
twice as large as the whole of New England.

The code of laws adopted by this strange people was very severe. They
seemed to cherish but little regard for human life, and the almost
universal punishment for crime was death. This bloody code secured a
very effective police. Adultery, thieving, removing landmarks,
altering measures, defrauding a ward of property, intemperance, and
even idleness, with spendthrift habits, were punished pitilessly with
death. The public mind was so accustomed to this, that death lost a
portion of its solemnity. The rites of marriage were very formally
enacted, and very rigidly adhered to.

Prisoners taken in war were invariably slain upon their religious
altars in sacrifice to their gods. Slavery existed among them, but not
hereditary. No one could be born a slave. The poor sometimes sold
their children. The system existed in its mildest possible form, as
there was no distinction of race between the master and the slave.

Military glory was held in high repute. Fanaticism lent all its
allurements to inspire the soldier. Large armies were trained to very
considerable military discipline. Death upon the battle-field was a
sure passport to the most sunny and brilliant realms of the heavenly
world. The soldiers wore coats of mail of wadded cotton, which neither
arrow nor javelin could easily penetrate. The chiefs wore over these
burnished plates of silver and of gold. Silver helmets, also, often
glittered upon the head. Hospitals were established for the sick and
the wounded.

Their religious system was an incongruous compound of beauty and of
deformity - of gentleness and of ferocity. They believed in one supreme
God, the Great Spirit, with several hundred inferior deities. The god
of war was a very demon. The god of the air was a refined deity, whose
altars were embellished with fruits and flowers, and upon whose ear
the warbling of birds and the most plaintive strains of vocal melody
vibrated sweetly.

There were, in their imaginations, three states of existence in the
future world. The good, and especially those, of whatever character,
who fell upon the field of battle, soared to the sun, and floated in
aerial grace and beauty among the clouds, in peace and joy, never to
be disturbed. The worthless, indifferent sort of people, neither good
nor bad, found perhaps a congenial home in the monotony of a listless
and almost lifeless immortality, devoid of joy or grief. The wicked
were imprisoned in everlasting darkness, where they could do no
farther harm.

It is an extraordinary fact that the rite of infant baptism existed
among them. This fact is attested by the Spanish historians, who
witnessed it with their own eyes, and who have recorded the truly
Christian prayers offered on the occasion. As the infants were
sprinkled with water, God was implored to wash them from original sin,
and to create them anew. Many of their prayers dimly reflected those
pure and ennobling sentiments which shine so brilliantly in the word
of God.

Their worship must have been a costly one, as the most majestic
temples were reared, and an army of priests was supported. One single
temple in the metropolis had five thousand priests attached to its
service. The whole business of youthful instruction was confided to
the priests. They received confession, and possessed the power of
absolution.

The temples were generally pyramidal structures of enormous magnitude.
Upon the broad area of their summits an altar was erected, where human
victims, usually prisoners taken in war, were offered in sacrifice.
These awful ceremonies were conducted with the most imposing pomp of
music, banners, and military and ecclesiastical processions. The
victim offered in sacrifice was bound immovably to the stone altar.
The officiating priest, with a sharp instrument constructed of
flint-like lava, cut open his breast, and tore out the warm and
palpitating heart. This bloody sacrifice was presented in devout
offering to the god. At times, in the case of prisoners taken in war,
the most horrid tortures were practiced before the bloody rite was
terminated. When the gods seemed to frown, in dearth, or pestilence,
or famine, large numbers of children were frequently offered in
sacrifice. Thus the temples of Mexico were ever clotted with blood.
Still more revolting is the well-authenticated fact that the body of
the wretched victim thus sacrificed was often served up as a banquet,
and was eaten with every accompaniment of festive rejoicing. It is
estimated that from thirty to fifty thousand thus perished every year
upon the altars of ancient Mexico. One of the great objects of their
wars was to obtain victims for their gods.

The population of this vast empire is not known. It must have
consisted, however, of several millions. The city of Mexico, situated
on islands in the bosom of a lake in the centre of a spacious and
magnificent valley of the interior, about two hundred miles from the
coast, was the metropolis of the realm.

Montezuma was king - an aristocratic king, surrounded by nobles, upon
whom he conferred all the honors and emoluments of the state. His
palace was very magnificent. He was served from plates and goblets of
silver and gold. Six hundred feudatory nobles composed his daily
retinue, paying him the most obsequious homage, and expecting the same
from those beneath themselves. Montezuma claimed to be lord of the
whole world, and exacted tribute from all whom his arm could reach.
His triumphant legions had invaded and subjugated many adjacent
states, as this _Roman empire_ of the New World extended in all
directions its powerful sway.

It will thus be seen that the kingdom of Mexico, in point of
civilization, was about on an equality with the Chinese empire of the
present day. Its inhabitants were very decidedly elevated above the
wandering hordes of North America.

Montezuma had heard of the arrival, in the islands of the Caribbean
Sea, of the strangers from another hemisphere. He had heard of their
appalling power, their aggressions, and their pitiless cruelty. Wisely
he resolved to exclude these dangerous visitors from his shores. As
exploring expeditions entered his bays and rivers, they were fiercely
attacked and driven away. These expeditions, however, brought back to
Cuba most alluring accounts of the rich empire of Mexico and of its
golden opulence.

The Governor of Cuba now resolved to fit out an expedition
sufficiently powerful to subjugate their country, and make it one of
the vassals of Spain. It was a dark period of the world. Human rights
were but feebly discerned. Superstition reigned over hearts and
consciences with a fearfully despotic sway. Acts, upon which would now
fall the reproach of unmitigated villainy, were then performed with
prayers and thanksgivings honestly offered. We shall but tell the
impartial story of the wondrous career of Cortez in the subjugation of
this empire. God, the searcher of all hearts, can alone unravel the
mazes of conscientiousness and depravity, and award the just meed of
approval and condemnation.

Many good motives were certainly united with those more questionable
which inspired this enterprise. It was a matter of national ambition
to promote geographical discoveries, to enlarge the realms of
commerce, and to extend the boundaries of human knowledge by
investigating the arts and the sciences of other nations. The
Christian religion - Heaven's greatest boon to man - was destined, by
the clear announcements of prophecy, to fill the world; and it was
deemed the duty of the Church to extend these triumphs in all possible
ways. The importance of the end to be attained, it was thought, would
sanctify even the instrumentality of violence and blood. Wealth and
honors were among the earthly rewards promised to the faithful.

Allowances must be made for the darkness of the age. It is by very
slow and painful steps that the human mind has attained to even its
present unsteady position in regard to civil and religious rights.

The Governor of Cuba, Velasquez, looked earnestly for a man to head
this important enterprise. He found just the man for the occasion in
Hernando Cortez - a fearless, energetic Spanish adventurer, then
residing upon the island of Cuba. His early life will be found in the
next chapter.




CHAPTER II.

EARLY LIFE OF CORTEZ.

Village of Medellin. - Early character of Cortez. - Hernando sent to
Salamanca. - Life at the university. - He turns soldier. - Expedition to
Hispaniola. - His early love, and unfortunate consequences attending
it. - He arrives at Hispaniola. - Patronage of the governor. - Life at
Hispaniola. - Cortez's courage. - The island of Cuba. - The new governor.
- The filibustering expedition. - Resistance. - Hatuey condemned to
death. - His conversation. - The colony. - The conspiracy. - Cortez
imprisoned. - He flees to a church. - Arrest and escape. - Cortez is
pardoned. - His marriage. - Voyage of discovery. - Discoveries. -
Disasters. - Reports from Yucatan. - Another expedition. - It arrives
at Mexico. - Accounts from Montezuma. - The golden hatchets. - Reports
carried to Spain. - Cortez obtains a commission. - His enthusiasm. -
Mission and means. - The governor alarmed. - Attempt to deprive Cortez
of the command. - The squadron sails. - Cortez and the governor. - St.
Jago and Trinidad. - The standard. - Providential gifts. - Orders to
arrest Cortez. - His speech. - The result. - Cortez writes to Velasquez.
- The squadron proceeds to Cape Antonio. - The armament. - Personal
appearance of Cortez. - The eve of departure. - The harangue. - Result
of the speech. - The squadron sails.


In the interior of Spain, in the midst of the sombre mountains whose
confluent streams compose the waters of the Guadiana, there reposes
the little village or hamlet of Medellin. A more secluded spot it
would be difficult to find. Three hundred and seventy years ago, in
the year 1485, Hernando Cortez was born in this place. His ancestors
had enjoyed wealth and rank. The family was now poor, but proud of the
Castilian blood which flowed in their veins. The father of Hernando
was a captain in the army - a man of honorable character. Of his mother
but little is known.

Not much has been transmitted to our day respecting the childhood
of this extraordinary man. It is reported that he early developed
a passion for wild adventure; that he was idle and wayward; frank,
fearless, and generous; that he loved to explore the streams and
to climb the cliffs of his mountainous home, and that he ever
appeared reckless of danger. He was popular with his companions, for
warm-heartedness and magnanimity were prominent in his character.

His father, though struggling with poverty, cherished ambitious views
for his son, and sent him to the celebrated university of Salamanca
for an education. He wished Hernando to avoid the perils and
temptations of the camp, and to enter the honorable profession of the
law. Hernando reluctantly obeyed the wishes of his father, and went
to the university. But he scorned restraint. He despised all the
employments of industry, and study was his especial abhorrence. Two
years were worse than wasted in the university. Young Cortez was both
indolent and dissipated. In all the feats of mischief he was the
ringleader, and his books were entirely neglected. He received
many censures, and was on the point of being expelled, when his
disappointed father withdrew the wayward boy from the halls of the
university, and took him home.

Hernando was now sixteen years of age. There was nothing for him to do
in the seclusion of his native village but to indulge in idleness.
This he did with great diligence. He rode horses; he hunted and
fished; he learned the art of the swordsman and played the soldier.
Hot blood glowed in his veins, and he became genteelly dissolute; his
pride would never allow him to stoop to vulgarity. The father was
grief-stricken by the misconduct of his son, and at last consented to
gratify the passion which inspired him to become a soldier.

At seventeen years of age the martial boy enlisted in an expedition,
under Gonsalvo de Cordova, to assist the Italians against the French.
Young Cortez, to his bitter disappointment, just as the expedition
started, was taken seriously sick, and was obliged to be left behind.
Soon after this, one of his relatives was appointed, by the Spanish
crown, governor of St. Domingo, now called Hayti, but then called
Hispaniola, or Little Spain. This opening to scenes and adventures in
the New World was attractive to the young cavalier in the highest
possible degree. It was, indeed, an enterprise which might worthily
arouse the enthusiasm of any mind. A large fleet was equipped to
convey nearly three thousand settlers to found a colony beneath the
sunny skies and under the orange groves of the tropics. Life there
seemed the elysium of the indolent man. Young Cortez now rejoiced
heartily over his previous disappointment. His whole soul was
engrossed in the contemplation of the wild and romantic adventures in
which he expected to luxuriate. It is not to be supposed that a lad of
such a temperament should, at the age of seventeen, be a stranger to
the passion of love. There was a young lady in his native village for
whom he had formed a strong youthful attachment. He resolved, with his
accustomed ardor and recklessness, to secure an interview with his
lady-love, where parting words and pledges should not be witnessed by
prudent relatives.

One dark night, just before the squadron sailed, the ardent lover
climbed a mouldering wall to reach the window of the young lady's
chamber. In the obscurity he slipped and fell, and some heavy stones
from the crumbling wall fell upon him. He was conveyed to his bed,
severely wounded and helpless. The fleet sailed, and the young man,
almost insane with disappointment and chagrin, was left upon his bed
of pain.

At length he recovered. His father secured for him a passage to join
the colonists in another ship. He, with exultation, left Medellin,
hastened to the sea-shore, where he embarked, and after an unusually
adventurous and perilous voyage, he gazed with delight upon the


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Hernando Cortez → online text (page 1 of 16)