Hojeda—Americus Vespucius—The New World named after him—Juan de la Cosa—Vincent Yañez Pinzon—Bastidas—Diego de Lepe—Diaz de Solis—Ponce de Leon and Florida—Balboa discovers the Pacific Ocean—Grijalva explores the coast of Mexico.

The letters and narratives of Columbus and his companions, especially those dwelling upon the large quantity of gold and pearls found in the recently discovered countries, had inflamed the imagination of eager traders, and of numbers of gentlemen who loved adventure. On the 10th of April, 1495, the Spanish government had issued an order allowing any one who might wish to do so, to go and discover new countries; but this privilege was so much abused, and Columbus complained so bitterly of its trenching upon established rights, that the permission was withdrawn on the 2nd of June, 1497, and four years later it became necessary to repeat the prohibition with more severe penalties attached to its infringement. The effect of the royal decree was at once to produce a kind of general rush to the Indies, and this was favoured by Bishop Fonseca of Badajoz, through whose hands passed all business connected with the Indies, and of whom Columbus had had so much reason to complain.

The admiral had but just left San-Lucar on his third voyage, when four expeditions of discovery were fitted out almost at the same moment, at the cost of some rich ship-owners, foremost among whom we find the Pinzons and Americus Vespucius. The first of these expeditions, which left the port of Santa-Maria on the 20th of May, 1499, consisted of four vessels, and was commanded by Alonzo Hojeda. Juan de la Cosa sailed with him as pilot; Americus Vespucius was also on board, without any very clearly defined duties, but he would seem to have been astronomer to the fleet.

Americus Vespucius
Americus Vespucius.
Fac-simile of an old print.

Before entering on a brief account of this voyage, we will glance for a few moments at the three men whom we have just named; the last of the three especially, plays a most important part in the discovery of the New World, which received its name from him.

Hojeda, born at Cuença about 1465, and brought up in the household of the Duke of Medina-Celi, had gained his first experience in arms in the wars against the Moors. Columbus enrolled him amongst the adventurers whom he recruited for his second voyage, when Hojeda distinguished himself alike by his cool courage and his readiness in surmounting all difficulties. What caused his complete rupture with Columbus remains a mystery; it appears still more inexplicable when we think of the distinguished services that Hojeda had rendered, especially in 1495, at the battle of La Vega, when the Caribbean Confederation was annihilated. All we know is, that on Hojeda's return to Spain he found shelter and protection with Bishop Fonseca. It is said even that the Indian minister supplied him with the journal of the admiral's last voyage, and the map of the countries which Columbus had discovered.

The first pilot employed by Hojeda was Juan de la Cosa, born probably at Santona, in the Biscayan country. He had often sailed along the coast of Africa before accompanying Columbus on his first voyage, while in the second expedition he filled the post of hydrographer (maestro de hacer cartas).

As specimens of La Cosa's talent in drawing maps may be mentioned two very curious ones still extant; one showing all the territory that had been acquired in Africa in 1500, the other on vellum, and enriched with colour like the first, giving the discoveries made by Columbus and his successors. The second pilot was Bartholomew Roldan, who had likewise sailed with Columbus on his voyage to Paria.

As to Americus Vespucius, his duties were not, as we have said, very clearly defined, he was there to aid in making discoveries (per ajutare a discoprire, says the Italian text of his letter to Soderini). Born at Florence on the 9th of March, 1451, Amerigo Vespucci belonged to a family of distinction and wealth. He had made mathematics, natural philosophy, and astrology (as it was then called) his special studies. His knowledge of history and literature, judging from his letters, appears to have been somewhat vague and ill-digested. He left Florence in 1492 without any special aim in view, and went to Spain, where he occupied himself at first in commercial pursuits. We hear of him in Seville acting as factor in the powerful trading house of his fellow countryman, Juanoto Berardi. As this house had advanced money to Columbus for his second voyage, it is not unlikely that Vespucius had become acquainted with the admiral at this period of his career. On Juanoto's death in 1495, Vespucius was placed by his heirs at the head of the financial department of the house. Whether he may have been tired of a situation that he thought below his powers, or been seized in his turn with the fever for making new discoveries, or whether he hoped to make his fortune rapidly in the new countries reputed to be so rich; whatever in short may have been the motive that actuated him, at least this we know, that he joined Hojeda's expedition in 1499, this fact being so stated in Hojeda's deposition in the law-suit instituted by the Treasury with the heirs of Columbus.

The flotilla, consisting of four vessels, set sail on the 20th of May from Santa-Maria, taking a south-westerly course, and in twenty-seven days the American continent was sighted at the place which was named Venezuela, because the houses being built upon piles reminded the beholders of Venice. Hojeda, after some ineffectual attempts to hold intercourse with the natives, with whom he had several skirmishes, next saw the Island of Margarita; after sailing about 250 miles to the east of the river Orinoco he reached the Gulf of Paria, and entered a bay called the Bay of Las Perlas, from the natives of that part being employed in the pearl fisheries.

Guided by the maps of Columbus, Hojeda passed by the Dragon's-Mouth, which separates Trinidad from the continent, and returned westward to Cape La Vela. Then, after touching at the Caribbee Islands, where he made a number of prisoners, whom he hoped to sell for slaves in Spain, he was obliged to cast anchor at Yaquimo, in Hispaniola, on the 5th of September, 1499.

Columbus, knowing Hojeda's courage and his restless spirit only too well, feared that he would introduce a new element of discord into the colony. He therefore despatched Francesco Roldan with two caravels to inquire into his motives in coming to the island, and if necessary to prevent his landing. The admiral's fears were but too well grounded; Hojeda had scarcely landed before he had an interview with some of the malcontents, inciting them to a rising at Xaragua, and to a determination to expel Columbus. After some skirmishes, which had not ended to Hojeda's advantage, a meeting was arranged for him with Roldan, Diego d'Escobar, and Juan de la Cosa, when they prevailed upon him to leave the island. "He took with him," says Las Casas, "a prodigious cargo of slaves, whom he sold in the market at Cadiz for enormous sums of money." He returned to Spain in February, 1500, where he had been preceded by Americus Vespucius and B. Roldan on the 18th of October, 1499.

The most southerly point that Hojeda had reached in this voyage was 4° north latitude, and he had only spent fourteen weeks on the voyage of discovery, properly so called. If we appear to have dwelt at some length upon this voyage, it is because it was the first one made by Vespucius. Some authors, Varnhagen for instance, and quite recently, Mr. H. Major, in his history of Prince Henry the Navigator, assert that Vespucius' first voyage was in 1497, and consequently that he must have seen the American continent before Columbus, but we prefer to follow Humboldt, who spent so many years in studying the history of the discovery of America, in his opinion that 1499 was the right date, also M. Ed. Charton and M. Jules Codine, the latter of whom discussed this question in the Report of the Geographical Society for 1873,apropos of Mr. Major's book.

"If it were true," says Voltaire, "that Vespucius had discovered the American Continent, yet the glory would not be his; it belongs undoubtedly to the man who had the genius and courage to undertake the first voyage, to Columbus." As Newton says in his argument with Leibnitz, "the glory is due only to the inventor." But we agree with M. Codine when he says, "How can we allow that there was an expedition in 1497 which resulted in the discovery of above 2500 miles of the coast-line of the mainland, when there is no trace of it left either among the great historians of that time, or in the legal depositions in connexion with the claims made by the heir of Columbus against the Spanish Government, in which the priority of the discoveries of each leader of an expedition is carefully mentioned, with the part of the coast explored by each?" Finally, the authentic documents extracted from the archives of the Casa de contratacion make it evident that Vespucius was entrusted with the preparation of the vessels destined for the third voyage of Columbus at Seville and at San Lucar from the middle of August, 1497, till the departure of Columbus on the 30th of May, 1498. The narratives of the voyages of Vespucius are very diffuse and wanting in precision and order; the information they give upon the places he visited is so vague, that it might apply to one part of the coast as well as to another; as to the localities treated of, as well as of the companions of Vespucius, there are no indications given of a nature to aid the historian. Not a single name is given of any well-known person, and the dates are contradictory in those famous letters which have given endless work to commentators. Humboldt says of them "There is an element of discord in the most authentic documents relating to the Florentine navigator." We have given an account of Hojeda's first voyage, which coincides with that of Vespucius according to Humboldt, who has compared the principal incidents of the two narratives. Varnhagen asserts that Vespucius, having started on the 10th of May, 1497, entered the Gulf of Honduras on the 10th of June, coasted by Yucatan and Mexico, sailed up the Mississippi, and at the end of February, 1498, doubled the Cape of Florida. After anchoring for thirty-seven days at the mouth of the St. Lawrence, he returned to Cadiz in October, 1498.

If Vespucius had really made this marvellous voyage, he would have far outstripped all the navigators of his time, and would have fully deserved that his name should be given to the newly-discovered continent, whose coast-line he had explored for so great a distance. But nothing is less certain, and Humboldt's opinion has hitherto appeared to the best writers to offer the largest amount of probability.

Americus Vespucius made three other voyages. Humboldt identifies the first with that of Vincent Yañez Pinzon, and M. d'Avezac with that of Diego de Lepe (1499-1500). At the close of this latter year, Giuliano Bartholomeo di Giocondo induced Vespucius to enter the service of Emmanuel, King of Portugal, and he accomplished two more voyages at the expense of his new master. On the first of these two voyages, he was no higher in command than he had been in his earlier ones, and only accompanied the expedition as one whose intimate acquaintance with all nautical matters might prove of service under certain circumstances. During this voyage the ships coasted along the American shores from Cape St. Augustine to 52° of south latitude. The fourth voyage of Vespucius was marked by the wreck of the flag-ship off the Island of Fernando de Noronha, which prevented the other vessels from continuing their voyage towards Malacca by way of the Cape of Good Hope, and obliged the crews to land at All Saints' Bay, in Brazil.

This fourth voyage was unquestionably made with Gonzalo Coelho, but we are quite ignorant as to who was in command on the third voyage. These various expeditions had not tended to enrich Vespucius, while his position at the Portuguese court was so far from satisfactory that he determined to re-enter the service of the King of Spain. By him he was made Piloto Mayor on the 22nd of March, 1508. There were some valuable emoluments attached for his advantage to this appointment, which enabled him to end his days, if not as a rich man, at least as one far removed from want. He died at Seville on the 22nd of February, 1512, with the same conviction as Columbus, that he had reached the shores of Asia. Americus Vespucius is especially famous from the New World having been named after him, instead of being called Columbia, as in all justice it should have been, but with this Vespucius had nothing to do. He was for a long time charged, though most unjustly, with impudence, falsehood, and deceit, it being alleged that he wished to veil the glory of Columbus and to arrogate to himself the honour of a discovery which did not belong to him. This was an utterly unfounded accusation, for Vespucius was both loved and esteemed by Columbus and his contemporaries, and there is nothing in his writings to justify this calumnious assertion. Seven printed documents exist which are attributed to Vespucius; they are—the abridged accounts of his four voyages, two narratives of his third and fourth voyages, in the form of letters, addressed to Lorenzo de Pier Francesco de Medici, and a letter addressed to the same nobleman, relative to the Portuguese discoveries in the Indies. These documents, printed and bound up as small thin volumes, were soon translated into various languages and distributed throughout Europe.

It was in the year 1507 that a certain Hylacolymus, whose real name was Martin Waldtzemuller, first proposed to give the name of America to the new part of the world. He did so in a book printed at Saint Dié and called Cosmographia introductio. In 1509 a small geographical treatise appeared at Strasburg adopting the proposal of Hylacolymus; and in 1520 an edition of Pomponius Mela was printed at Basle, giving a map of the New World with the name of America. From this time the number of works employing the denomination proposed by Waldtzemuller increased perpetually.

Some years later, when Waldtzemuller was better informed as to the real discoverer of America and of the value to be placed upon the voyages of Vespucius, he eliminated from his book all that related to the latter, and substituted everywhere the name of Columbus for that of Vespucius, but it was too late, the same error has prevailed ever since.

As to Vespucius himself, it seems very unlikely that he was at all aware of the excitement which prevailed in Europe, nor of what was passing at St. Dié. The testimony that has been unanimously borne to his honourable and upright conduct should surely clear him from the unmerited accusations which have for too long a time clouded his memory.

Three other expeditions left Spain almost at the same time as that of Hojeda. The first of these, consisting of but one vessel, sailed from Barra Saltez in June 1499. Pier Alonzo Nino, who had served under Columbus in his two last voyages, was its commander, and he was accompanied by Christoval Guerra, a merchant of Seville, who probably defrayed the expenses of the expedition. This voyage to the coast of Paria seems to have been dictated more by the hope of lucrative commerce than by the interests of science. No new discoveries were made, but the two voyagers returned to Spain in April, 1500, bringing with them so large a quantity of valuable pearls as to excite the cupidity of their countrymen, who became anxious to try their own fortunes in the same direction.

The second expedition was commanded by Vincent Yañez Pinzon, the younger brother of Alonzo Pinzon who had been captain of the Pinta and had shown so much jealousy of Columbus, even adopting the following mendacious device:—

A Castilla, y a Leon
Nuevo Mundo dio Pinzon

Yañez Pinzon, whose devotion to the admiral equalled his brother's jealousy, had advanced an eighth part of the funds required for the expedition of 1492, and had on that occasion been in command of the Nina.

He set out in December, 1499, with four vessels, of which only two returned to Palos at the end of September, 1500. He touched the coast of the newly discovered continent at a point near the shore visited by Hojeda some months before, and explored the coast for some 2400 miles, discovering Cape St. Augustine at 8° 20' south latitude, following the coast-line in a north-westerly direction to Rio Grande, which he named Santa-Maria de la Mar dulce, and continuing in the same direction as far as Cape St. Vincent. Diego de Lepe explored the same coasts with two caravels from January to June, 1500; there is nothing particular to record of this voyage beyond the very important observation that was made on the direction of the coast-line of the continent starting from Cape St. Augustine. Lepe had but just returned to Spain when two vessels left Cadiz, equipped by Rodrigo M. Bastidas, a wealthy and highly respectable man, with the view of making some fresh discoveries, but above all with the object of collecting as large a quantity of gold and pearls as possible, for which were to be bartered glass beads and other worthless trifles. Juan de la Cosa, whose talents as a navigator were proverbial, and who knew these coasts well from having explored them, was really at the head of this expedition. The sailors went on shore and saw the Rio Sinu, the Gulf of Urabia, and reached the Puerto del Retrete or de los Escribanos, in the Isthmus of Panama. This harbour was not visited by Columbus till the 26th of November, 1502; it is situated about seventeen miles from the once celebrated, but now destroyed town of Nombre de Dios. In fact this expedition, which had been organized by a merchant, became, thanks to Juan de la Cosa, one of the voyages the most fertile in discoveries; but alas! it came to a sad termination; the vessels were lost in the Gulf of Xaragua, and Bastidas and La Cosa were obliged to make their way by land to St. Domingo. When they arrived there, Bovadilla, the upright man and model governor, whose infamous conduct to Columbus we have already mentioned, had them arrested, on the plea that they had bought some gold from the Indians of Xaragua; he sent them off to Spain, which was only reached after a fearfully stormy voyage, some of the vessels being lost on the way.

After this expedition, so fruitful in results, voyages of discovery became rather less frequent for some years; the Spaniards being occupied in asserting their supremacy in the countries in which they had already founded colonies.

Indians devoured by Dogs
Indians devoured by Dogs.
From an old print.

The colonization of Hispaniola had commenced in 1493, when the town of Isabella was built. Two years afterwards Christopher Columbus had travelled over the island and had subjugated the poor savages, by means of those terrible dogs which had been trained to hunt Indians, and unaccustomed as the natives were to any hard work, he had forced them to toil in the mines. Both Bovadilla and Ovando treating the Indians as a herd of cattle, had divided them among the colonists as slaves. The cruelty with which this unfortunate people was treated became more and more unbearable. By means of a despicable ambush, Ovando seized the Queen of Xaragua and 300 of her principal subjects, and at a given signal they were all put to the sword without there being any crime adduced against them. "For some years," says Robertson, "the gold brought into the royal treasury of Spain amounted to about 460,000 pesos (2,400,000 livres of the currency of Tours) an enormous sum if we take into consideration the great increase in the value of money since the beginning of the sixteenth century." In 1511 Diego Velasquez conquered Cuba with 300 men, and here again were enacted the terrible scenes of bloodshed and pillage which have rendered the Spanish name so sadly notorious. They cut off the thumbs of the natives, put out their eyes, and poured boiling oil or melted lead into their wounds, even when they did not torture them by burning them over a slow fire to extract from them the secret of the treasures of which they were believed to be the possessors. It was only natural under these circumstances that the population rapidly decreased, and the day was not far off when it would be wholly exterminated. To understand fully the sufferings of this race thus odiously persecuted, the touching and horrible narrative of Las Casas must be read, himself the indefatigable defender of the Indians.

Indians burnt alive
Indians burnt alive.
From an old print.

In Cuba, the Cacique Hattuey was made prisoner and condemned to be burnt. When he was tied to the stake, a Franciscan monk tried to convert him, promising him that if he would only embrace the Christian faith, he would be at once admitted to all the joys of Paradise. "Are there any Spaniards in that land of happiness and joy of which you speak?" asked Hattuey. "Yes," replied the monk, "but only those who have been just and good in their lives." "The very best among them can have neither justice nor mercy!" said the poor cacique, "I do not wish to go to any place where I should meet a single man of that accursed race."

Does not this fact suffice to paint the degree of exasperation to which these unfortunate people had been driven? And these horrors were repeated wherever the Spaniards set foot! We will throw a veil over these atrocities practised by men who thought themselves civilized, and who pretended that they wished to convert to Christianity, the religion pre-eminently of love and mercy, a race who were in reality less savage than themselves.

In 1504 and 1505 four vessels explored the Gulf of Urabia. This was the first voyage in which Juan de la Cosa had the supreme command. This seems, too, to have been about the date of Hojeda's third voyage, when he went to the territory of Coquibacoa, a voyage that certainly was made, as Humboldt says, but of which we have no clear account.

In 1509 Juan Diaz de Solis, in concert with Vincent Yañez Pinzon, discovered a vast province, since known by the name of Yucatan.

"Though this expedition was not a very remarkable one in itself," says Robertson, "it deserves to be noticed as it led to discoveries of the utmost importance." For the same reason we must mention the voyage of Diego d'Ocampo, who being charged to sail round Cuba, was the first to ascertain the fact that it was a large island, Columbus having always regarded it as part of the continent. Two years later Juan Diaz de Solis and Vincent Pinzon sailing southwards towards the equinoctial line, advanced as far as the 40° of south latitude, and found, to their surprise, that the continent extended on their right hand even to this immense distance. They landed several times, and took formal possession of the country, but could not found any colonies there, on account of the small resources they had at their command. The principal result of this voyage was the more exact knowledge which it gave of the extent of this part of the globe.

Alonzo de Hojeda, whose adventures we have narrated above, was the first to think of founding a colony on the mainland; although he had no means of his own, his courage and enterprising spirit soon gained him associates, who furnished him with the funds needed for carrying out his plans.

With the same object Diego de Nicuessa, a rich colonist of Hispaniola, organized an expedition in 1509.

King Ferdinand, who was always lavish of encouragements which cost little, gave both Hojeda and Nicuessa honourable titles and patents of nobility, but not a single maravédis (a Spanish coin). He also divided the newly-discovered continent into two governments, of which one was to extend from Cape La Vela to the Gulf of Darien, and the other from the Gulf of Darien to Cape Gracias a Dios. The first was given to Hojeda, the second to Nicuessa. These two "conquistadores" had to deal with a population far less easy to manage than that of the Antilles. Determined to resist to the utmost the invasion of their country, they adopted means of resistance hitherto unknown to the Spaniards. Thus the strife became deadly. In a single engagement seventy of Hojeda's companions fell under the arrows of the savages, fearful weapons steeped in "curare," so fatal a poison that the slightest wound was followed by death. Nicuessa on his side, had much difficulty in defending himself, and in spite of two considerable reinforcements from Cuba, the greater number of his followers perished during the year from wounds, fatigue, privations, or sickness. The survivors founded the small colony of Santa-Maria el Antigua upon the Gulf of Darien, and placed it under the command of Balboa.

Before we speak of Balboa's wonderful expedition, we must notice the discovery of a country that forms the most northerly side of that arc, cut so deeply into the continent, and which bears the name of the Gulf of Mexico. In 1502 Juan Ponce de Leon, a member of one of the oldest families in Spain, had arrived in Hispaniola with Ovando. He had assisted in its subjugation, and in 1508 had conquered the island of San Juan de Porto Rico. Having learnt from the Indians that there existed a fountain in the island of Bimini which possessed the miraculous power of restoring youth to all who drank of its waters, Ponce de Leon resolved to go in search of it. Infirmities must have been already creeping on him at fifty years of age, or he would scarcely have felt the need of trying this fountain. Ponce de Leon equipped three vessels at his own expense, and set out from St. Germain in Porto Rico on the 1st of March, 1512. He went first to the Lucayan Islands, which he searched in vain, and then to the Bahamas. If he did not succeed in finding the fountain of youth which he sought so credulously, at least he had the satisfaction of discovering an apparently fertile tract of country, which he named Florida, either from his landing there on Palm Sunday, (Pâques-Fleuries), or perhaps from its delightful aspect. Such a discovery would have contented many a traveller, but Ponce de Leon went from one island to another, tasting the water of every stream that he met with, without the satisfaction of seeing his white hair again becoming black or his wrinkles disappearing. After spending six months in this fruitless search, he was tired of playing the dupe, so giving up the business he returned to Porto Rico on the 5th of October, leaving Perez de Ortubia and the pilot Antonio de Alaminos to continue the search. Père Charlevoix says, "He was the object of great ridicule when he returned in much suffering, and looking older than when he set out."

This voyage, so absurd in its motive but so fertile in its results, might well be considered to be simply imaginary, were it not vouched for by historians of such high repute as Peter Martyr, Oviedo, Herrera, and Garcilasso de la Vega.

Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, who was fifteen years younger than Ponce de Leon, had come to America with Bastidas and had settled in Hispaniola. He was only anxious for a safe refuge from his numerous creditors, being, as were so many of his fellow-countrymen, deeply in debt, in spite of the repartimiento of Indians which had been allotted to him. Unfortunately for Balboa a law had been passed forbidding any vessels bound for the mainland taking insolvent debtors on board, but his ingenuity was equal to this emergency, for he had himself rolled in an empty barrel to the vessel which was to carry Encisco to Darien. The chief of the expedition had no choice but to receive the brave adventurer who had joined him in this singular manner, and who never fled except from duns, as he soon proved on landing. The Spaniards, accustomed to find but little resistance from the natives of the Antilles, could not subjugate the fierce inhabitants of the mainland. On account of the dissensions that had arisen among themselves, they were obliged to take refuge at Santa-Maria el Antigua, a settlement which Balboa, now elected commandant in place of Encisco, founded in Darien.

If the personal bravery of Balboa, or the ferocity of Leoncillo his blood-hound—who was more dreaded than twenty armed men and received the same pay as a soldier,—could have awed the Indians, Balboa would have also won their respect by his justice and comparative moderation, for he allowed no unnecessary cruelty. In the course of some years he collected a great mass of most useful information with regard to that El Dorado, that land of gold, which he was destined never to reach himself, but the acquisition of which he did much to facilitate for his successors.

It was in this way that he learnt the existence six suns away (six days' journey), of another sea, the Pacific Ocean, which washed the shores of Peru, a country where gold was found in large quantities. Balboa's character, which was as grand as those of Cortès and Pizarro, but who had not, as they, the time or opportunity to show the extraordinary qualities which he possessed, felt convinced that this information was most valuable, and that if he could carry out such a discovery, it would shed great lustre on his name.

He assembled a body of 190 volunteers, all valiant soldiers, and like himself, accustomed to all the chances of war, as well as acclimatised to the unhealthy effluvia of a marshy country, where fever, dysentery, and complaints of the liver were constantly present.

Though the Isthmus of Darien is only sixty miles in width, it is divided into two parts by a chain of high mountains; at the foot of these the alluvial soil is marvellously fertile, and the vegetation far more luxuriant than any European can imagine. It consists of an inextricable mass of tropical plants, creepers, and ferns, among trees of gigantic size which completely hide the sun, a truly virgin forest, interspersed here and there with patches of stagnant water, where live multitudes of birds, insects, and animals, never disturbed by the foot of man. A warm, moist atmosphere exists here which exhausts the strength and speedily saps the energy of any man, even the most robust.

With all these obstacles which Nature seemed to have rejoiced in placing in Balboa's path, there was yet another no less formidable, and this was the resistance which the savage inhabitants of this inhospitable shore would offer to his progress. Balboa set out without caring for the risk he ran in the event of the guides and native auxiliaries proving faithless; he was escorted by a thousand Indians as porters, and accompanied by a troop of those terrible bloodhounds which had acquired the taste for human flesh in Hispaniola.

Of the tribes that he met with on his route, some fled into the mountains carrying their provisions with them, and others, taking advantage of the difficulties the land presented, tried to fight. Balboa marching in the midst of his men, never sparing himself, sharing in their privations and rousing their courage, which would have failed more than once, was able to inspire them with so much enthusiasm for the object that was before them, that after twenty-five days of marching and fighting, they could see from the top of a mountain that vast Pacific Ocean, of which, four days later, Balboa, his drawn sword in one hand and the banner of Castille in the other, took possession in the name of the King of Spain. The part of the Pacific Ocean which he had reached is situated to the east of Panama, and still bears the name of the Gulf of San Miguel, given to it by Balboa. The information he obtained from the neighbouring caciques, whom he subjugated by force of arms, and from whom he obtained a considerable booty, agreed in every particular with what he had heard before he set out.

A vast empire lay to the south, they said, "so rich in gold, that even the commonest instruments were made of it," where the domestic animals were llamas that had been tamed and trained to carry heavy burdens, and whose appearance in the native drawings resembled that of the camel. These interesting details, and the great quantity of pearls offered to Balboa, confirmed him in his idea, that he must have reached the Asiatic countries described by Marco Polo, and that he could not be far from the empire of Cipango or Japan, of which the Venetian traveller had described the marvellous riches which were perpetually dazzling the eyes of these avaricious adventurers.

Balboa discovering the Pacific Ocean
Balboa discovering the Pacific Ocean.

Balboa several times crossed the Isthmus of Darien, and always in some fresh direction. Humboldt might well say that this country was better known in the beginning of the sixteenth century than in his own day. Beyond this Balboa had launched some vessels built under his orders on the newly-discovered ocean, and he was preparing a formidable armament, with which he hoped to conquer Peru, when he was odiously and judicially murdered by the orders of Pedrarias Davila, the governor of Darien, who was jealous of the reputation Balboa had already gained, and of the glory which would doubtless recompense his bravery if he carried out the expedition which he had arranged. Thus the conquest of Peru was retarded by at least twenty-five years, owing to the culpable jealousy of a man whose name has acquired, by Balboa's assassination, almost as wretched a celebrity as that of Erostratus.

If we owe to Balboa the first authentic documents regarding Peru, another explorer was destined to furnish some not less important touching that vast Mexican Empire, which had extended its sway over almost the whole of Central America. In 1518, Juan de Grijalva had been placed in command of a flotilla, consisting of four vessels, armed by Diego Velasquez, the conqueror of Cuba, which were destined to collect information upon Yucatan, sighted the year before by Hernandez de Cordova. Grijalva, accompanied by the pilot Alaminos, who had made the voyage to Florida with Ponce de Leon, had two hundred men under his command; amongst the volunteers was Bernal Diaz del Castillo, the clever author of a very interesting history of the conquest of Mexico, from which we shall borrow freely.

After thirteen days' sailing, Grijalva reached the Island of Cozumel on the coast of Yucatan, doubled the Cape of Cotoche, and entered the Bay of Campeachy. He disembarked on the 10th of May at Potonchan, of which the inhabitants defended the town and citadel vigorously, in spite of their astonishment at the vessels, which they took for some kind of marine monsters, and their fear of the pale-faced men who hurled thunderbolts. Fifty-seven Spaniards were killed in the engagement, and many were wounded. This warm reception did not encourage Grijalva to make any long stay amongst this warlike people. He set sail again after anchoring for four days, took a westerly course along the coast of Mexico, and on the 19th of May entered a river named by the natives the Tabasco, where he soon found himself surrounded by a fleet of fifty native boats filled with warriors ready for the conflict, but thanks to Grijalva's prudence and the amicable demonstrations which he made, peace was not disturbed.

"We made them understand," writes Bernal Diaz, "that we were the subjects of a powerful emperor called Don Carlos, and that it would be greatly to their advantage if they also would acknowledge him as their master. They replied that they had a sovereign already, and were at a loss to understand why we, who had only just arrived, and who knew so little of them, should offer them another king." This reply was scarcely that of a savage!

In exchange for some worthless European trinkets, the Spaniards obtained some Yucca bread, copal gum, pieces of gold worked into the shape of fishes or birds, and garments made of cotton, which had been woven in the country. As the natives who had been taken on board at Cape Cotoche did not perfectly understand the language spoken by the inhabitants of Tabasco, the stay here was but of short duration, and the ships again put to sea. They passed the mouth of the Rio Guatzacoalco, the snowy peaks of the San Martin mountains being seen in the distance, and they anchored at the mouth of a river which was called Rio de las Banderas, from the number of white banners displayed by the natives to show their friendly feeling towards the new comers.

When Grijalva landed, he was received with the same honour as the Indians paid to their gods; they burnt copal incense before him, and laid at his feet more than 1500 piastres' worth of small gold jewels, as well as green pearls and copper hatchets. After taking formal possession of the country, the Spaniards landed on an island calledLos Sacrificios Island, from a sort of altar which they found there placed at the top of several steps, upon which lay the bodies of five Indians sacrificed since the preceding evening; their bodies were cut open, their hearts torn out, and both legs and arms cut off. Leaving this revolting spectacle, they went to another small island, which received the name of San Juan, being discovered on St. John's Day; to this they added the word Culua, which they heard used by the natives of these shores. But Culua was the ancient name for Mexico, and this Island of San-Juan de Culua is now known as St. John d'Ulloa.

Grijalva put all the gold which he had collected on board one of the ships and despatched it to Cuba, while he continued his exploration of the coast, discovered the Sierras of Tusta and Tuspa, and collected a large amount of useful information regarding this populous country; on arriving at the Rio Panuco, he was attacked by a flotilla of native vessels, and had much difficulty in defending himself against their attacks.

This expedition was nearly over, for provisions were running short, and the vessels were in a very bad state, the volunteers were many of them sick and wounded, and even had they been in good health their numbers were too small to make it safe to leave them among these warlike people, even under the shelter of fortifications. Besides, the leaders of the expedition no longer acted in concert, so after repairing the largest of the vessels in the Rio Tonala, where Bernal Diaz boasts of having sown the first orange-pips which were ever brought to Mexico, the Spaniards set out for Santiago in Cuba, where they arrived on the 15th of November, after a cruise of seven months, not forty-five days, as M. Ferdinand Denis asserts in the Biographie Didot, and as M. Ed. Charton repeats in his Voyageurs Anciens et Modernes.

The results obtained from this voyage were considerable. For the first time the long line of coast which forms the peninsula of Yucatan, the Bay of Campeachy, and the base of the Gulf of Mexico, had been explored continuously from cape to cape. Not only had it been proved beyond doubt that Yucatan was not an island as they had believed, but much and reliable information had been collected with regard to the existence of the rich and powerful empire of Mexico. The explorers had been much struck with the marks of a more advanced civilization than that existing in the Antilles, with the superiority of the architecture, the skilful cultivation of the land, the fine texture of the cotton garments, and the delicacy of finish of the golden ornaments worn by the Indians. All this combined to increase the thirst for riches among the Spaniards of Cuba, and to urge them on like modern Argonauts to the conquest of this new golden fleece. Grijalva was not destined to reap the fruits of his perilous and at the same time intelligent voyage, which threw so new a light on Indian civilization. The sic vos, non vobis of the poet was once again to find an exemplification in this circumstance.