Hernando Cortez

The Spaniards, supplied by the natives with plenty of everything which they required, were waiting the return of the messengers to Montezuma. After six days they returned, accompanied by Teuthlille. They bore with them a splendid present from Montezuma to the Spanish emperor. It consisted of loads of finely-wrought cotton, ornamented with featherwork; and a miscellaneous collection of jewels and articles of gold and silver, richly carved, of which the most attractive were two circular plates as large as carriage-wheels, one of gold, valued at more than fifty thousand pounds, and intended to represent the sun; the other of silver, and representing the moon. As they gazed on the kingly present, the Spaniards could scarcely contain their raptures. The message which accompanied it, however, was less satisfactory. Montezuma was happy to hear of the existence Of his brother, the king of Spain, and wished him to consider him as his friend; he could not, however, come to see the Spaniards, and it was too far for them to come and visit him. He therefore hoped they would depart, and carry his respects to his brother, their monarch.

To this Cortez, thanking Montezuma for his present, replied that he could not leave the country without being able to say to his king that he had seen Montezuma with his own eyes; and the ambassadors again de parted, carrying a sorry present from Cortez to Montezuma. After an other interval of six days they returned, with another gift little inferior in value of the former, and informed Cortez that the great Montezuma had received his present with satisfaction, but that, as to the interview, he could not permit any more to be said on the subject. Cortez, though greatly mortified, thanked them politely, and returned to Montezuma a second message to the same effect as the former, but couched in more decided language. The Mexicans withdrew in distrust, and ceased to barter with the Spaniards, or to bring them supplies.

Meanwhile differences had been springing up among the Spaniards themselves, the partisans of Velasquez insisting that they ought now to return to Cuba, and that it was folly to think of founding a settlement. Pretending to yield to the clamors of these persons, Cortez issued orders for embarkation on the following day. Immediately the other party, consisting of the friends of Cortez, flocked to his tent, and implored him not to give up the enterprise which had been so successfully begun. This was precisely what Cortez wished. Accordingly, after some delay he seemed to yield; and revoked the order for embarkation, he announced his willingness to found a settlement in the name of the Spanish sovereign. Forthwith the new city, although not a stone of it had yet been raised, and the site had alone been determined on, was named Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz - 'The Rich Town of the True Cross.' Magistrates were immediately appointed in the king's name; the two captains Puerto Carrero and Montejo, the latter a friend of Velasquez, being nominated alcaldes, and others to different offices. Thus,' says Mr. Prescott, 'by a single stroke of the pen the camp was transformed into a civil community.'

At the first sitting of the new magistracy, Cortez appeard before it, with his cap doffed, and formally resigned his commission from Velasquez into its hands. He then withdrew; but after a short time was recalled, and informed that he had been unanimously appointed by them, in the king's name, 'Captain-General and Chief-Justice of the colony.' Thus, by a clever stroke of policy, had Cortez shaken off all connection with Velasquez. He held his command now directly from the king, and could be superseded only by royal authority. The friends of Velasquez were at first furious with rage; but Cortez at length soothed them into acquiescence.

A little before the conclusion of these proceedings, an event of some consequence happened. This was the arrival in the Spanish camp of five Indians, differing in dress and language from the Mexicans. They inform ed Cortez that they were a deputation sent by the cacique of Cempoalla, a city at a little distance on the sea-coast, the capital of the Totonacs, a nation which had been recently conquered by Montezuma, and was now groaning under his yoke. They were sent by their cacique to beg a visit of the Spaniards to Campoalla. A light instantly flashed upon the mind of Cortez. He saw that Montezuma's empire was not so firmly compacted as he had supposed, and that it might be possible to divide it against itself, and so overthrow it. He therefore dismissed the ambassadors kindly, and promised a speedy visit to Campoalla.