« ElőzőTovább »
earlier period, when the nation, emerging from the sloth and license of a barbarous age, seemed to renew its ancient energies, and to prepare like a giant to run its course; and, glancing over the long interval since elapsed, during the first half of which the nation wasted itself on schemes of mad ambition, and in the latter has sunk into a state of paralytic torpor, he will fix his eye on the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella as the most glorious epoch in
Cordova that Leyva, Pescara, and those great captains with their invincible legions were formed, who enabled Charles V to dictate laws to Europe for half a century. And it was Columbus who not only led the way, but animated the Spanish navigator with the spirit of discovery. Scarcely was Ferdinand's reign brought to a close before Magellan completed what that monarch had projected - the circumnavigation of the southern continent; the victorious banners of Cortes had already penetrated into the golden realms of Montezuma, and Pizarro, a very few years later, following up the lead of Balboa, embarked on the enterprise which ended in the downfall of the splendid dynasty of the Incas.
Thus it is that the seed sown under a good system 6 continues to yield fruit in a bad one.
The season of the most brilliant results, however, is not always that of the greatest national prosperity. The splendors of foreign conquest in the boasted reign of Charles V were dear, ly purchased by the decline of industry at home, and the loss of liberty. The patriot will see little to cheer him in this “golden age” of the national history, whose outward show of glory will seem to his penetrating eye only the hectic brilliancy of decay. He will turn to an the annals of his country.
SPAIN IN THE AGE OF FERDINAND AND ISABELLA.
PRESCOTT'S “HISTORY OF FERDINAND AND ISABELLA."
1 The most important of the distant acquisitions of
Spain were those secured to her by the genius of Columbus and the enlightened patronage of Isabella. Imagination had ample range in the boundless perspective of these unknown regions; but the results actually realized from the discoveries, during the Queen's life, were comparatively insignificant. In a mere financial view, they had been a considerable charge on the crown. This was, indeed, partly owing to the humanity of Isabella, who interfered, as we have seen, to prevent the compulsory exaction of Indian labor. This was subsequently, and immediately after her death, indeed, carried to such an extent that nearly half a million of ounces of gold were yearly drawn from the mines of Hispaniola alone. The pearl fisheries, and the culture of the sugar cane, introduced from the Canaries, yielded large returns under the
same inhuman system. 2 Ferdinand, who enjoyed, by the Queen's testament,
half the amount of the Indian revenues, was now fully awakened to their importance. It would be unjust, however, to suppose his views limited to immediate pecuniary profits; for the measures he pursued were, in many respects, well contrived to promote the nobler ends of discovery and colonization. He invited the persons most eminent for nautical science and enterprise, as Pinzon, Solis, Vespucci, to his court, where they constituted a sort of board of navigation, constructing charts, and tracing out new routes for projected voyages. The conduct of this department was intrusted to the last-men
tioned navigator, who had the glory, the greatest which accident and caprice ever granted to man, of giving his name to the new hemisphere.
Fleets were now fitted out on a more extended scale, 3 which might vie, indeed, with the splendid equipments of the Portuguese, whose brilliant successes in the East excited the envy of their Castilian rivals. The King occasionally took a share in the voyage, independently of the interest which of right belonged to the crown.
The government, however, realized less from these expensive enterprises than individuals, many of whom, enriched by their official stations, or by accidentally falling in with some hoard of treasure among the savages, returned home to excite the envy and cupidity of their countrymen. But the spirit of adventure was too high 4 among the Castilians to require such incentive, especially when excluded from its usual field in Africa and Europe. A striking proof of the facility with which the romantic cavaliers of that day could be directed to this new career of danger on the ocean was given at the time of the last meditated expedition into Italy under the Great Captain. A squadron of fifteen vessels, bound for the New World, was then riding in the Guadalquivir. Its complement was limited to one thousand two hundred men; but, on Ferdinand's confermanding Gonsalvo's enterprise, more than three thousand volunteers, many of them of noble family, equipped with unusual magnificence for the Italian service, hastened to Seville, and pressed to be admitted into the Indian armada. Seville itself was in a manner depopulated by the general fever of emigration, so that it actually seemed, says a contemporary, to be tenanted only by women.
In this universal excitement the progress of discovery 5 was pushed forward with a success inferior, indeed, to
what might have been effected in the present state of nautical skill and science, but extraordinary for the times. The winding depths of the Gulf of Mexico were penetrated, as well as the borders of the rich but rugged isthmus which connects the American continents. In 1512 Florida was discovered by a romantic old knight, Ponce de Leon, who, instead of the magical fountain of health, found his grave there. Solis, another navigator, who had charge of an expedition, projected by Ferdinand, to reach the South Sea by the circumnavigation of the continent, ran down the coast as far as the great Rio de la Plata, where he also was cut off by the savages. In 1513 Vasco Nuñez de Balboa penetrated, with a handful of men, across the narrow part of the Isthmus of Darien, and from the summit of the Cordilleras, the first of Europeans, was greeted with the long-promised vision of the
southern ocean. 6 The intelligence of this event excited a sensation in
Spain inferior only to that caused by the discovery of America. The great object which had so long occupied the imagination of the nautical men of Europe, and formed the purpose of Columbus's last voyage, the discovery of a communication with these far western waters, was accomplished. The famous spice islands, from which the Portuguese had drawn such countless sums of wealth, were scattered over this sea; and the Castilians, after a journey of a few leagues, might launch their barks on its quiet bosom, and reach, and perhaps claim, the coveted possessions of their rivals, as falling west of the papal line of demarkation. Such were the dreams, and such the actual progress of discovery, at the close of Ferdinand's reign. ny Our admiration of the dauntless heroism displayed by the early Spanish navigators, in their extraordinary
career, is much qualified by a consideration of the cruel-
Every Spaniard, however humble, had his proportion of slaves ; and men, many of them not only incapable of estimating the awful responsibility of the situation, but without the least touch of humanity in their natures, were individually intrusted with the unlimited disposal of the lives and destinies of
They abused this trust in the grossest manner; tasking the unfortunate Indian far beyond his strength, inflicting the most refined punishments on the indolent, and hunting down those who resisted or escaped, like so many beasts of chase, with ferocious blood-hounds. Every step of the white man's progress corpse of a native. Faith is staggered by the recital of sickens at the loathsome details of barbarities, recorded
him sometim soil is a sin which lies at the door of most of the pe
Occupants of HISTORICALREADINGS. Casas, “was the signal for their destruction.” diately absolute right of property over the natives to its full extent in the colonies. in the New World may be said to have the number of victims immolated in these within a very few years after the discovery ;
, by one who, if his sympathies have led
, ing facts of which he was an eye-witness. difference to the rights of the original
been on the
fair regions. and the hear
tive European settlers of the New Worlad in comparison with the fearful amount
But it is of crimes