terred from engaging in new schemes of a similar nature. When wealth is acquired gradually by the persevering hand of industry, or accumulated by the flow operations of regular commerce, the means employed are fo proportioned

to the end attained, that there is nothing to * strike the imagination, and little to urge on the

active powers of the mind to uncommon efforts,

But when large fortunes were created almost in* ftantaneously; when gold and pearles were pro

cured in exchange for baubles; when the countries

which produced these rich commodities, defended * only by naked savages, might be seized by the

first bold invader; objects so fingular and alluring, rouzed a wonderful spirit of enterprize among the Spaniards, who rushed with ardour

into this new path that was opened to wealth ji and distinction. While this spirit continued

warm and vigorous, every attempt either towards discovery or conqueft was applauded; and adventurers engaged in it with emulation. The passion for new undertakings, which characterizes the age of discovery in the latter part of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century, would alone have been sufficient to prevent the Spaniards from stopping short in their career. But circumstances peculiar to Hispaniola at this juncture, concurred with it

in extending their navigation and conquests, · The rigorous treatment of the inhabitants of

that island having almost extirpated the race, i ROBERTSON, Tom. I. R


[ocr errors]

many of the Spanish planters, as I have already observed, finding it impossible to carry on their works with the fame vigour and profit, were obliged to look out for settlements in fome country whose people were not yet wasted by oppreffion. Others, with the inconsiderate levity natural to men upon whom wealth pours in with a sudden flow, had squandered, in thoughtless prodigality, what they acquired with ease, and were driven by necessity to embark in the most defperate schemes, in order to retrieve their affairs. From all these causes, when Don Diego Columbus proposed to conquer the island of Cuba, and to establish a colony there, many persons of chief distinction in Hispaniola engaged with alacrity (1511.) in the measure. He gave the command of the troops destined for that service to Diego Velafquez, diards one of his father's companions in his second voyage, and who, having been long settled in flim te Hispaniola, had acquired an ample fortune, the with such reputation for probity and prudence, that he seemed to be well qualified for con- hittan ducting an expedition of importance. Three hundred men were deemed sufficient for the span conquest of an island above feven hundred miles in length, and filled with inhabitants. les, But they were of the same unwarlike character sale v with the people of Hifpaniola. They were notturna only intimidated by the appearance of their new Wort enemies, but unprepared to refift them. Por Wher · though, from the time that the Spaniards took


bowe be hi accorc




possession of the adjacent island, there was reason to expect a descent on their territories, none of the small communities into which Cuba was divided, had either made any provision for its own defence, or had formed any concert for their common safety. The only oba ftruction the Spaniards met with was from Hatuey, a cazique, who had fled from Hispa

niola, and taken poffeffion of the eastern extre.mity of Cuba. He stood upon the defensive

at their first landing, and endeavoured to drive them back to their ships. His feeble troops, however, were foon broken and dispersed; and he himself being taken prisoner, Velasquez, according to the barbarous maxim of the Spaniards, considered him as a slave who had taken arms against his master, and condemned him to the flames. When Hatuey was faftened to the stake, a Franciscan friar labouring to convert him, promised him immediate ada mittance into the joys of heaven, if he would embrace the Christian faith. „Are there any „Spaniards," says he, after some pause, "in

„ that region of bliss which you describe ? " " ,,Yes, 5 replied the monk, „but only, such as

„are worthy and good.“ „The best of them,“

returned the indignant cazique, "have neither * „worth nor goodness; I will not go to a place where I may meet with one of that accursed

„, race. “ x) This dreadful example of vengeance struck the people of Cuba with such terror, that they scarcely gave any oppofition to the progress of their invaders; and Velasquez, without the loss of a man, annexed this extensive and fertile island to the Spanish monarchy. y)

Discovery of Florida.

The facility with which this important conquest was completed, served as an incitement to other undertakings. Juan Ponce de Leon, having acquired both fame and wealth by the reduction of Puerto Rico, was impatient to engage in some new enterprise. He fitted out (1512.) three ships at his own expence, for a voyage of discovery, and his reputation foon drew together a respectable body of followers. He directed his course towards the Lucayo islands; and after touching at feveral of them, as well as of the Bahama isles, he stood to the south-west, and discovered a country hitherto unknown to the Spaniards, which he called Florida , either because he fell in with it on Palm Sunday, or on account of its gay and beautiful appearance. He attempted to land in differen: places, but' met with such vigorous opposition

x) B. de la Casas, p. 40. y) Herrera, dec. I. lib. ix. c. 2, 3. &c. Oviedo, lib. xvii.

B. 3. p. 179.

from the natives, who were fierce and warlike,

as convinced him that an increase of force was į requisite to effect a settlement. Satisfied with $ having opened a communication with a new

country, of whose value and importance he conceived very fanguine hope, he returned to Puerto Rico, "through the channel now known by the name of the Gulf of Florida.

It was not merely the passion of searching for new countries that prompted Ponce de Leon to undertake this voyage, he was influenced by

one of those visionary ideas, which at that time ?: often mingled with the spirit of discovery, and

rendered it more active. A tradition prevailed among the natives of Puerto Rico, that in the

isle of Bimini, one of the Lucayos, there was = a fountain of such wonderful virtue as to renew.

the youth, and recal the vigour of every person who bathed in its falutary waters. In hopes of finding this grand restorative, Ponce de Leon and his followers ranged through the islands, searching, with fruitless solicitude and labour, for the fountain, which was the chief object of

their expedition. That a tale so fabulous should į gain credit among simple uninstructed Indians is . not surprizing. That it should make any im

pression upon an enlightened people appears, in the present age, altogether incredible. The fact, however, is certain ; and the most authentick Spanish historians mention this extravagant fally of their credulous, countrymen.

« ElőzőTovább »