Hernando Cortez

The portion of the new world earliest colonized by the Spaniards was the Island of St. Domingo, Hayti, or Hispaniola, discovered by Columbus in his first voyage in the year 1492. For nearly twenty years this island was the only colony of importance held by the Spaniards in the new world; here alone did they occupy lands, build towns, and found a regular commonwealth. Cuba, although the second of the islands discovered by Columbus, remained long uncolonized; indeed it was not till the year 1509 that it was circumnavigated, and ascertained to be an island. At length, in 1511, Don Diego Columbus, the great admiral's son, governor of Hispaniola, despatched a force of three hundred men, under Don Diego Velasquez, to take possession of the island. Velasquez soon subdued the island, the natives of which offered but little resistance, and he was shortly afterwards appointed governor; subordinate to the governor of Hispaniola. Ambitious of sharing in the glory to be derived from the discovery of new countries, Velasquez fitted out one or two expeditions, which he despatched westward, to explore the seas in that direction. In one of these expeditions, which set out in 1517, commanded by a rich colonist called Cordova, the peninsula of Yucatan was discovered, and the existence of a large and rich country called Culua or Mexico ascertained. Elated with this discovery, Velasquez fitted out another expedition under his nephew, Juan de Grijalva, who leaving Cuba in April 1518, spent five months in cruising along the newly-discovered coast, and trafficking with the natives for gold trinkets and cotton cloths, very skillfully manufactured. The result of this expedition was the importation to Cuba of gold and jewels to the amount of twenty thousand pesos, or upwards of fifty thousand pounds.

Delighted with this success, Velasquez wrote home to Spain announcing his discovery, and petitioning for authority from the king to conquer and colonize the country which his subordinates, Cordova and Grijalva, had discovered. Without waiting, however, for a reply to his petition, he commenced fitting out a much larger squadron than either of the two former; and this he placed under the command of Hernando Cortez, a respectable Spanish hidalgo, or gentleman, residing in the island, and who was at this time thirty-three years of age.

Cortez proceeded with the greatest activity in making his preparations. 'Borrowing money for the purpose,' says Bernal Diaz the gossiping chronicler of the Conquest, 'he caused to be made a standard of gold and velvet, with the royal arms and a cross embroidered thereon, and a Latin motto, the meaning of which was, 'Brothers, follow this holy cross with true faith, for under it we shall conquer.' It was proclaimed by beat of drum and sound of trumpet, that all such as entered the service in the present expedition should have their shares of what gold was obtained, and grants of land, as soon as the conquest was effected. The proclamation was no sooner made than, by general inclination as well as the private influence of Cortez, volunteers offered themselves everywhere. Nothing was to be seen or spoken of but selling lands to purchase arms and horses, quilting coats of mail, making bread, and salting pork for sea-store. Above three hundred of us assembled in the town of St. Jago.' These preparations were likely to be interrupted. Velasquez, 'ruminating the probable consequences of the expedition, had begun to repent of having appointed Cortez to the command, and was secretly plotting his removal. Cortez, perceiving these symptoms, determined to outwit his patron. Accordingly, on the night of the 18th of November 1518 having warned all the captains, masters, pilots, and soldiers to be on board, and having shipped all the stores that had been collected Cortez set sail from the port of St. Jago without announcing his intention to Velasquez, resolving to stop at some of the more westerly ports of the island for the purpose of completing his preparations, where he would be beyond the reach of the governor. Nothing could exceed the rage of Velasquez at the sudden departure of Cortez. He wrote to the commandants of two towns at which he learned that the fleet had put in for recruits and provisions, to seize Cortez, and send him back; but such was the popularity of Cortez, that both were afraid to make the attempt.

At last all was ready, and Cortez finally set sail from Cuba on the 18th of February 1519. The expedition, which consisted of eleven vessels, most of them small, and without decks, met with no disaster at sea, but arrived safely at the island of Cozumel, off the coast of Yucatan, after a few days' sail. Here Cortez landed, to review his troops. They consisted of five hundred and fifty-three soldiers, not including the mariners, who amounted to one hundred and ten. They possessed sixteen horses, some of them not very serviceable, ten brass field-pieces, four smaller pieces called falconets, and thirty-two cross-bows; the majority of the soldiers being armed with ordinary steel weapons. Attending on the army were about two hundred Cuba Indians, and some Indian women. And as religion in those days sanctioned military conquest, there were in addition two clergymen - Juan Diaz, and Bartholomew de Olmedo.

For nine or ten days the Spaniards remained at Cozumel, making acquaintance with the natives, who were very friendly. Here Cortez, whose zeal for the Catholic religion was one of the strongest of his feelings, made it one of his first concerns to argue with the natives, through an interpreter, on the point of their religion. He even went so far as to demolish their idols before their eyes, and erect an altar to the Virgin on the spot where they had stood. The natives were horror-struck, and seemed at first ready to fall upon the Spaniards, but at length they acquiesced.

While at Cozumel, Cortez had the good fortune to pick up a Spaniard, who, having been wrecked in his passage from Darien to Hispaniola in the year 1511, had for seven years been detained as a slave among the Indians of Yucatan. The name of this poor man was Jeronimo de Aguilar; he had been educated for the church; and as he could speak the language of Yucatan, his services as an interpreter were likely to be very valuable.

On the 4th of March 1519, the fleet, consisting of eleven vessels, commanded respectively by Cortez, Pedro de Alvarado, Alonzo Puerto Carrero, Francisco de Montejo, Christoval de Olid, Diego de Ordaz, Velasquez de Leon, Juan de Escalante, Francisco de Monla, Escobar, and Gines Nortes, set sail from Cozumel, and on the 13th it anchored at the mouth of the river Tabasco or Grijalva, flowing into the south of the Bay of Cam peachy.

The expedition had now reached the scene of active operations; it had arrived on the coast of the American continent. Cortez does not appear to have been naturally a bloodily-disposed man. He was only what a perverted education and the vices of his times had made him - a man full of mighty notions of the Spanish authority; of its right to take, by foul or fair means, any country it liked; and not without an excuse from religion. to rob and kill the unfortunate natives who dared to defend their territories.

We have now therefore, to record the beginning of a most unjust and merciless war of aggression. As Cortez, with his followers, sailed up the river as far as Tabasco, he everywhere Observed the natives preparing to repel his attack, and at length he was brought into collision with them - of course overpowering them by the force of arms, with immense slaughter. On reaching Tabasco, his soldiers fought their way through dense masses of Indians, who discharged among them perfect clouds of arrows and stones. Pushing through the streets, which were lined with houses, some of mud, and some of stone, the victors reached a large open square in the centre, where temples of large size were erected. Here the troops were drawn up; and Cortez, advancing to a large ceiba-tree which grew in the middle, gave it three;lashes with his sword, and took possession of the city and country in the name of his royal master Don Carlos, king of Castile.

Next day another battle was fought between the Spaniards and the Tabascans on the plain of Ceutla, a few miles distant from the city. For an hour the Spanish infantry fought in the midst of an ocean of enemies, battling on all sides, beating one wave back, only that another might advance a little islet encircled by the savage breakers. At length, with the assistance of their horse - a terrible sight to the Indians - the Spaniards were victorious. The spirit of the Tabascans was now completely subdued. Their chiefs came to the camp of Cortez with faces and gestures expressive of contrition, and brought him presents of fowls, fish, maize, and numerous gold toys representing many kinds of animals in miniature. For the horses, they brought a feast of turkeys and roses! They also gave Cortez twenty Indian girls to attend the army. To his inquiries respecting the country whence they obtained the gold, they replied by repetitions of the words Culua 'and Mexico,' and pointing to the west. Having obtained all the information the Tabascans could give him, Cortez resolved to proceed on his voyage. Accordingly, after a solemn mass, which the Indians attended, the armament left Tabasco, and after a short sail, arrived off the coast of St. Juan de Ulua, the site of the modern Vera Cruz. It was on Holy Thursday (April 20th), in the year 1519, that they arrived at the port of St. Juan de Ulua, the extreme eastern province of the Mexican dominions properly so called. The royal flag was floating from the mast of Cortez's ship. The Spaniards could see the beach crowded with natives, who had come down to gaze at the strange 'water-houses,' of which they had formerly seen specimens. At length a light pirogue, filled with natives, some of them evidently men of rank, pushed off from the shore, and steered for the ship of Cortez. The Indians went on board without any symptoms of fear, and, what was more striking, with an air of ease and perfect good-breeding. They spoke a different language from that of the inhabitants of Cozumel or the Tabascans - a language, too, which Aguilar did not understand. Fortunately, one of the twenty Indian girls presented by the Tabascans to the Spaniards was a Mexican by birth. This girl, whose Spanish name of Donna Marina is imperishably associated with the history of the conquest of Mexico, was the daughter of a chief, but, by a singular course of events, had become a slave in Tabasco. She had already attracted attention by her beauty, sweetness, and gentleness, and she had been mentioned to Cortez. Her services now became valuable. The Mexican was her native language; but by her residence in Tabasco, she had acquired the Tabascan, which language was also familiar to Aguilar. Interpreting, therefore, what the Mexicans said into Tabascan to Aguilar, Aguilar in turn interpreted the Tabascan into Spanish; and thus, though somewhat circuitously, Cortez could hold communication with his visitors.

The Aztec visitors who came on board the ship of Cortez, informed him that they were instructed by the governor of the province to ask what he wanted on their coast, and to promise that whatever he required should be supplied. Cortez replied that his object was to make the acquaintance of the people of those countries, and that he would do them no injury. He then presented them with some beads of cut glass, and after an entertainment of wine, they took their departure, promising that Teuthlille, the governor of the province under their great emperor, should visit him the next day.

Next day, Friday the 21st of April 1519, Cortez landed with his troops, and had an interview with Teuthlille, who received the visitors with suspicion; and this feeling was not lessened by the parade of mounted dragoons and firing of guns with which the Spanish commander thought fit to astonish him and the other natives. Sketches were taken of the appearance of the strangers, in order to be sent to Montezuma, the king of the country, who was likewise to be informed that the white men who had ar rived on his coast desired to be allowed to come and see him in his capital.

Here we pause to present a short account of the Mexican empire, in which Cortez had landed; also of the character and government of this monarch, Montezuma, whom the Spaniards expected soon to be permitted to visit.

If a traveler, landing on that part of the coast of the Mexican gulf where Cortez and his Spaniards landed three hundred and thirty years ago, were to proceed westward across the continent, he would pass successively through three regions or climates. First he would pass through the tierra caliente, or hot region, distinguished by all the features of the tropics - their luxuriant vegetation, their occasional sandy deserts, and their unhealthiness at particular seasons. After sixty miles of travel through this tierra caliente, he would enter the tierra templada, or temperate region, where the products of the soil are such as belong to the most genial European countries. Ascending through it, the traveler at last leaves wheat-fields beneath him, and plunges into forests of pine, indicating his entrance into the tierra fria, or cold region, where the sleety blasts from the mountains penetrate the very bones. This tierra fria constitutes the summits of part of the great mountain range of the Andes, which traverses the whole American continent. Fortunately, however, at this point the Andes do not attain their greatest elevation. Instead of rising, as in some other parts of their range, in a huge perpendicular wall or ridge, they here flatten and widen out, so as to constitute a vast plateau, or table-land, six or seven thousand feet above the level of the sea. On this immense sheet of table-land, stretching for hundreds of miles, the inhabitants, though living within the tropics, enjoy a climate equal to that of the south of Italy; while their proximity to the extremes both of heat and cold enables them to procure, without much labor, the luxuries of many lands. Across the table-land there stretches from east to west a chain of volcanic peaks, some of which are of immense height, and covered perpetually with snow.

This table-land was known in the Mexican language by the name of the plain of Anahuac. Near its centre is a valley of an oval form, about two hundred miles in circumference, surrounded by a rampart of porphyritic rock, and overspread for about a tenth part of its surface by five distinct lakes or sheets of water. This is the celebrated valley of Mexico - called a valley only by comparison with the mountains which surround it, for it is seven thousand feet above the level of the sea. Round the margins of the five lakes once stood numerous cities the relics of which are yet visible; and on an islet in the middle of the largest lake stood the great city of Mexico, or Tenochtitlan, the capital of the empire which the Spaniards were now invading, and the residence of the Mexican emperor, Montezuma.

The origin of the Mexicans is a question of great obscurity - a part of the more extensive question of the manner in which America was peopled. According to Mr. Prescott, the latest and one of the best authorities on the subject, the plains of Aanahuac were overrun, previous to the discovery of America, by several successive races from the north-west of the continent where it approaches Asia. Thus, in the thirteenth century, the great table-land of central America was inhabited by a number of races and sub-races, all originally of the same stock, but differing from each other greatly in character and degree of civilization, and engaged in mutual hostilities. The cities of these different races were scattered over the plateau, principally in the neighborhood of the five lakes. Tezcuco, the eastern bank of the greatest of the lakes, was the capital of the Acolhuans; and Tenochtitlan, or Mexico, founded in 1325, on an island in the same lake, was the capital of the Aztecs.

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the dominant race in the plains of. Anahuac was the Acolhuans, or Tezcucans, represented as a people of mild and polished manners, skilled in the elegant arts and possessing literary habits and tastes - the Athenians, if we may so call them, of the new world. The most celebrated of the Tezcucan sovereigns was Nezahualcoyotl, who reigned early in the fifteenth century. By this prince a revolution was effected in the political state of the valley of Anahuac. He procured the formation of a confederacy between Tezcuco and the two neighboring friendly cities of Mexico and Tlacopan, by which they bound themselves severally to assist each other when attacked, and to carry on wars conjointly. In this strange alliance Tezcuco was the principal member, as being confessedly the most powerful state; Mexico stood next; and lastly Tlacopan, as being inferior to the other two.

Nezahualcoyotl died in 1470, and was succeeded on the Tezcucan throne by his son Nezahualpilli. During his reign the Tezcucans fell from their position as the first member of the triple confederacy which his father had formed, and gave place to the Aztecs or Mexicans. These Aztecs had been gradually growing in consequence since their first arrival in the valley. Decidedly inferior to the Tezcucans in culture, and professing a much more bloody and impure worship, they excelled them in certain qualities, and possessed, on the whole, a firmer and more compact character. If the Tezcucans were the Greeks, the Aztecs were the Romans of the new world. Under a series of able princes they had increased in importance, till now, in the reign of Nezahualpilli, they were the rivals of their allies, the Tezcucans, for the sovereignty of Anahuac.

In the year 1502, a vacancy occurred in the throne of Tenochtitlan, or Mexico. The election fell on Montezuma II, the nephew of the deceased monarch, a young man who had already distinguished himself as a soldier and a priest or sage, and who was noted, as his name - Montezuma (sorrowful man) - implied, for a certain gravity and sad severity of manner. The first years of Montezuma's reign were spent in war. Carrying his victorious arms as far as Nicaragua and Honduras in the south, and to the shores of the Mexican gulf in the east, he extended the sovereignty of the triple confederacy, of which he was a member, over an immense extent of territory. Distant provinces he compelled to pay him tribute; and the wealth of Anahuac flowed from all directions towards the valley of Mexico. Haughty and severe in his disposition, and magnificent in his tastes, he ruled like an Oriental despot over the provinces which he had conquered; and the least attempt at rebellion was fearfully punished, captives being dragged in hundreds to the capital to be slaughtered on the stone of human sacrifice in the great war temple. Nor did Montezuma's own natural-born subjects stand less in dread of him. Wise, liberal, and even generous in his government, his inflexible justice, and his lordly notions of his own dignity, made him an object less of affection than of awe and reverence. In his presence his nobles spoke in whispers; in his palace he was served with a slavish homage; and when he appeared in public, his subjects vailed their faces, as unworthy to gaze upon his person. The death of Nezahualpilli, in 1516, made him absolute sovereign in Anahuac. On the death of that king, two of his sons, Cacama and Ixtlilxochitl, contended for the throne of Tezcuco. Montezuma sided with Cacama; and the dispute was at length ended by a compromise between the two brothers, by which the kingdom was divided into two parts Cacama obtaining the southern half with the city of Tezcuco, and Ixtlilxochitl the northern half.

Thus, at the period of the arrival of the Spaniards, Montezuma was absolute sovereign of nearly the whole of that portion of central America which lies between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean - the kings of Tezcuco and Tlacopan being nominally his confederates and counselors, according to the ancient treaty of alliance between the three states, but in reality his dependents. The spot where Cortez had landed was in one of the maritime provinces of Montezuma's dominions.

It is a singular but well-authenticated fact, that at the time the Spaniards landed in America a general expectation prevailed among the natives of the arrival of a mysterious race of white men from the East, who were to conquer the country. This was especially the case in Mexico. There was a tradition among the Mexicans that, some ages before the arrival of the Spaniards, and while yet the Aztec empire was in its infancy, there appeared in Anahuac a divine personage called Quetzalcoatl. He was a man of benevolent aspect, tall in stature, with a white complexion, long dark hair, and a flowing beard; and he came from the East. He resided in Anahuac for many years, teaching the Mexicans numerous arts and sciences, and reforming their manners; and under his care the country flourished and became happy. At length some difference arose between him and the Mexicans, and they no longer paid respect to the words of the good Quetzalcoatl. He then announced to them that he was going to depart' from their country. Proceeding eastward, delaying a little while at Cholula, a city which ever afterwards was regarded as sacred, he arrived at the sear shore. Embarking on board a little skiff made of serpents' skins, he push ed out to sea, and as the Mexicans strained their eyes after him, he disappeared in the distance, going, as it seemed, to the East. Before he departed, however, he delivered a prophecy, that at some future time people of his race, with white complexions like his, would come from the East to conquer and possess the country.

The tradition of Quetzalcoatl's prophecy was rife among the natives of Anahuac when Cortez arrived, and it was with a kind of religious awe that Montezuma and his people heard of the arrival of the white men in their ' water-houses.' Cortez and his men constituted, as we have seen, this body. Teuthlille's messengers, announcing their arrival, had already reached Montezuma; and he was deliberating in what manner he should receive the strangers. In order to learn his decision, let us return to the Spaniards on the sea-coast.

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.

Accordingly, as soon as the disturbance which had arisen among his men was quashed, Cortez marched to Campoalla, a city not rich, but prettily built, and containing a population, as it appeared, of about thirty thousand inhabitants. He was cordially received by the cacique, a large and very corpulent man. Remaining some time in Campoalla and its neighborhood, while the city of Villa Rica was being built, the Spaniards soon gained the reverence and good-will of the inhabitants, the Totonacs, who willingly submitted themselves to the dominion of the distant monarch Don Carlos, of whom the Spaniards told them. Here the Spaniards were horrified by the symptoms of human sacrifice, which were perpetually visible in the temples - the blood-stained walls, and the fragments of human flesh which lay about; and, fired with religious enthusiasm, they resolved to put a stop to such practices by tearing down the idols. Cortez informed the cacique of his intention; but although the announcement filled him with speechless dismay, no opposition was offered, and the idols were broken in pieces, and burnt before the eyes of the Totonacs, while the priests went about shrieking like demons. 'These priests,' we are told, 'were dressed in long black mantles, like sheets with hoods: their robes reached to their feet. Their long hair was matted together with clotted blood; with some it reached to the waist, and with others to the feet: their ears were torn and cut, and they smelt horribly, as it were of sulphur and putrid flesh.'

The destruction of their idols did not alienate the Totonacs from the Spaniards; on the contrary, it raised their opinion of them, inasmuch as they saw the gods patient under the indignity. The intercourse of the two parties, therefore, continued; and, by his frequent conversations with the cacique, Cortez gained greater insight every day into the condition of Montezuma's empire.

By this time the town of Villa Rica had been nearly finished, and nothing remained to prevent the Spaniards from commencing their march into the interior. Before beginning it, however, Cortez deemed it advisable to send a report of his proceedings to Spain, to be laid before the king, knowing that Velasquez must have represented his conduct in very disadvantageous terms to the home government. Accordingly, Cortez drew up one letter, and the magistrates of the new colony another, detailing the whole of the incidents of the expedition down to the foundation of Villa Rica, and announcing that they were on the point of commencing their march into the heart of the country. To increase the effect of the letters, they were accompanied by nearly all the gold that had been collected, together with the splendid gifts of Montezuma, and such curiosities as might interest the learned of Spain. The business of carrying these letters to the king was intrusted to Montejo and Puerto Carrero, and they were instructed, above all, to endeavor to secure the appointment of Cortez as captain-general of the colony. On the 26th of July 1519, the little ship set sail, freighted with a more precious cargo than had ever yet been packed within the timbers of a vessel from the new world. The pilot was instructed to make direct for Spain, landing at no intermediate station, and especially avoiding Cuba.

The departure of this vessel seems to have raised thoughts of home in the minds of some of those who were left behind. A conspiracy was formed by some of the soldiers and sailors, along with the clergyman Diaz, to sieze a vessel and return to Cuba. The conspiracy was discovered; two of the ringleaders were hanged, and the rest whipped or confined. Foreseeing, however, that such conspiracies would be constantly occurring, unless effectual means were taken to prevent them, Cortez came to the resolution, almost unparalleled in the annals of heroism, of destroying the ships which had brought him to Mexico. Accordingly, taking counsel with a few of his most attached followers, he procured a report from the pilots that the vessels were not seaworthy, and caused them to be broken, in pieces and sunk, before the majority were aware of his design. When the Spaniards thus saw themselves shut up in a strange and populous country, with no means of retreat, their first impulse was one of rage and despair, and Cortez had nearly fallen a sacrifice. As he foresaw, however, the daring act had the effect of bracing his men to a pitch of resolution all but supernatural. Besides, by the destruction of the fleet, he obtained a reinforcement of a hundred and ten men - the mariners formerly employed in the ships being now converted into soldiers, and very good ones, as it afterwards proved.

All being now ready, Cortez, leaving a considerable force as a garrison to the new settlement of Villa Rica, under the command of Juan de Escalante, set out from the territory of the Totonacs, on his march inland, on the 16th of August 1519. His army consisted of four hundred Spaniards on foot, and fifteen horse, accompanied by thirteen hundred Cempoallan warriors, and a thousand tamanes, or Indian body slaves, furnished by the cacique of Cempoalla, who were to carry the heavy burdens, and perform other laborious offices. Advancing through the tierra caliente, they began to ascend the mountains which separate it from the vast table-land of Anahuac. A few days' march across the tierra templada and the tierra fria, brought the Spaniards to a small mountain province of Tlascala, situated about half-way between the sea-coast and the Mexican valley. The Tlascalans were a brave and high-spirited people, of the same race as the Aztecs. They had refused, however, to submit to the empire of Montezuma, and were the only people in Anahuac who bade defiance to his power, preferring poverty and hardship in their mountain home to the loss of independence. The government of Tlascala was a kind of feudalism, Four lords or caciques held their courts in different quarters of the same city, independently of each other, and yet mutually allied; and under these four chieftans the Tlascalan population, nobles and commons, was ranged as subjects. On the approach of the Spaniards, a consultation was held among the Tlascalan lords and their counselors as to how the strangers should be received; some being inclined to welcome them, in hopes of being able, by their assistance, to cope with Montezuma; others maintaining that the Spaniards were enemies, who ought to be repulsed by all means. The latter opinion prevailed, and three desperate battles were fought be tween the Tlascalans under the command of Xicotencatl, a brave and able young chief, the son of one of the four caciques, and the Spanish invaders. These engagements were far more serious than the battles which the Spaniards had fought with the Tabascans; and it required the utmost exertion of Castilian valor, directed by all the ability of Cortez, to gain the victory. But Indian courage against the flower of European chivalry the maquahuitl, or war-club, dreadful instrument as it was, with its sharp flinty blades, against muskets and artillery coatings of war-paint, or doublets of featherwork, against Spanish mail - were a very unequal contest; and, as usual, the losses of the Spaniards were as nothing compared with the apparent fierceness of the struggle. But how could the little army hope to advance through a country where such battles had to be fought at every step? If such were their reception by the Tlascalans, what might they not expect from the richer and more powerful Mexicans? Such were the reflections of the Spanish soldiery. The idea of their ever reaching Mexico, says Bernal Diaz, was treated as a jest by the whole army. Fortunately, when these murmurs were reaching their height, the Tlascalans submitted, and sent ambassadors to beg the friendship of the Spaniards; and on the 23d of September 1519 the Spaniards entered the city of Tlascala, a large and populous town, which Cortez compared to Grenada in Spain. Here they were cordially received by the four caciques, and especially by the elder Xicotencatl; and in a short time an intimacy sprung up between the Tlascalans and the invaders, and a treaty was concluded, by which the Tlascalans bound themselves to assist the Spaniards throughout the rest of their expedition. Here, as elsewhere, Cortez showed his zeal for the Catholic faith by endeavoring to convert the natives; and it is probable that the same scenes of violence would have taken place at Tlascalans as at Cempoalla, had not the judicious father Olmedo interfered to temper the more headlong fanaticism of the general.

While in Tlascala, Cortez received various embassies from provinces in the neighborhood anxious to secure his good-will. About the seine time an embassy was received from Montezuma himself, entreating Cortez not to place any reliance upon the Tlascalans, whom he represented as treacherous barbarians; and now inviting him, in cordial terms, to visit his capital, pointing out the route through the city of Cholula as the most convenient. This route was accordingly adopted, and the Spaniards, accompanied by an army of six thousand Tlascalan warriors, advanced by it towards Mexico. Their approach gave great alarm, and Montezuma set on foot a scheme for their massacre at Cholula, which, however, was discovered by Cortez, who took a terrible vengeance on the sacred city. Montezuma, overawed, again made overtures of reconciliation, and promised the Spaniards an immense quantity of gold if they would advance no farther. This Cortez refused, and the Spanish army, with the Tlascalan warriors, left Cholula, and proceeded on their march, met everywhere by deputations from neighboring towns, many of which were disaffected to the government of Montezuma. The route of the army lay between two gigantic volcanic mountains, and the march, for a day or two, was toilsome, and bitterly cold. At last, turning an angle of the sierra, they suddenly came on a view which more than compensated their toils. It was that of the valley of Mexico; which, with its picturesque assemblage of water, woodland, and cultivated plains, its shining cities and shadowy hills, were spread out like some gay and gorgeous panorama before them. Stretching far away at their feet were seen noble forests of oak, sycamore, and cedar; and beyond, yellow fields of maize, and the towering maguey, intermingled with orchards and blooming gardens. In the centre of the great basin were beheld the lakes, their borders thickly studded with towns and hamlets; and in the midst, like some Indian empress with her coronal of pearls, the fair city of Mexico, with her white towers and pyramidal temples, reposing, as it were, on the bosom of the waters - the far-famed " Venice of the Aztecs."

Descending into the valley, the Spaniards halted at Ajotzinco, a town on the banks of the southernmost of the five lakes. Meanwhile Montezuma was in an agony of indecision. When intelligence reached him that the Spaniards had actually descended into the valley, he saw that he must either face the strangers on the field of battle, or admit them into his capital. His brother, Cuitlahua, advised the former; but his nephew, Cacama, the young lord , of Tezcuco, was of the contrary opinion, and Montezuma at length sent him to meet the Spaniards, and welcome them to his dominions.

Cacama accordingly set out in state, and arrived at Ajotzinco just as the Spaniards were about to leave it. When he came into the presence of Cortez, he said to him, 'Malintzin, here am I and these lords come to attend you to your residence in our city, by order of the great Montezuma.' Cortez embraced the prince, and presented him with some jewels. After a while Cacama took his leave, and the Spaniards resumed their march. Traveling along the southern and western banks of Lake Chalco, they crossed the causeway which divides it from Lake Zochichalco, and advanced along the margin of the latter to the royal city of Iztapalapan, situated on the banks of the great Tezcucan lake over against. Mexico. To the eyes of the Spaniards, all they saw in their journey seemed fairy land.


It was on the 7th of November, 1519, that the Spaniards arrived at Iztapalapan and here they spent the night, lodged in magnificent palaces built of stone, the timber of which was cedar. From this position the eye could sweep over the whole expanse of the Tezcucan lake. Canoes of all sizes might be seen skimming along its surface, either near the middle, or close to the banks, where the thick woods came down to the water's edge. Here also, moving slowly along the margin of the lake, might be seen a still stranger sight - the chinampas, or floating-gardens - little islands consisting of earth laid on rafts, planted with flowers, shrubs, and fruittrees, and containing a small hut or cottage in the centre, occupied by the proprietor, who, by the means of a long pole, which he pushed against the bottom, could shift his little domain from place to place. But what fixed the eyes of the Spaniards above all else was the glittering spectacle which rose from the centre of the lake - the queenly city of Mexico, the goal of their hopes and wishes for many months past. In a few hours they would be within its precincts a few hundred men shut up in the very heart of the great Mexican empire! What might be their fate there!

The islet on which Mexico was built was connected with the mainland by three distinct causeways of stone, constructed with incredible labor and skill across the lake, and intersected at intervals by drawbridges, through which canoes might pass and repass with ease. The causeway by which the Spaniards must pass connected the island with the southern bank of the lake, about half way across to which it branched off into two lines, one leading to the city of Cojohuacan, the other meeting the mainland at a point not far from Iztapalapan, where the Spaniards were quartered. This causeway was about eight yards wide, and capable of accommodating ten or twelve horsemen riding abreast. It was divided, as before-mentioned, by several drawbridges; a circumstance which the Spaniards observed with no small alarm, for they saw that, by means of these drawbridges, their communication with the mainland could be completely cut off by the Mexicans.

On the morning of the 8th of November, 1519, the army left Iztapalapan, and advanced along the causeway towards the capital. First went Cortez, with his small body of horse; next came the Spanish foot, amounting to not more than four hundred men; after them came the Indian tamanes, carrying the baggage; and last of all came the Tlascalan warriors, to the number of about five thousand. As they moved along the causeway, the inhabitants of the city crowded in myriads to gaze at them, some finding standing-room on the causeway itself, others skimming along the lakes in canoes, and clambering up the sides of the causeway. A little more than half way across, and at a distance of a mile and a half from the city, the branch of the causeway on which the Spaniards were marching was joined by the other branch; and here the causeway widened for a small space, and a fort or gateway was erected, called the Fort of Xoloc. On arriving at the gateway, the army was met by a long procession of Aztec nobles, richly clad, who came to announce the approach of the emperor himself to welcome the Spaniards to his capital. Accordingly, when the remainder of the causeway had been almost traversed, and the van of the army was near the threshold of the city, a train was seen advancing along the great avenue. 'Amidst a crowd of Indian nobles, preceded by three officers of state bearing golden wands, the Spaniards saw the royal palanquin of Montezuma, blazing with burnished gold. It was borne on the shoulders of nobles, and over it a canopy of gaudy featherwork, powdered with jewels, and fringed with silver, and was supported by four attendants of the same rank. They were barefooted, and walked with a slow measured pace, and with eyes bent on the ground. When the train had come within a convenient distance, it halted; and Montezuma, descending from his litter, came forward, leaning on the arms of the lords of Tezcuco and Iztapalapan - the one his nephew, the other his brother. As the monarch advanced under the canopy, the obsequious attendants strewed the ground with cotton tapestry, that his imperial feet might not be contaminated by the rude soil. His subjects, of high and low degree, who lined the sides of the causeway, bent forward with their eyes fastened on the ground as he passed, and some of the humbler class prostrated themselves before him.'

Cortez and the Mexican emperor now stood before each other. When Cortez was told that the great Montezuma approached, he dismounted from his horse, and advanced towards him with much respect. Montezuma bade him welcome, and Cortez replied with a suitable compliment. After some ceremonies, and the exchange of presents, Montezuma and his courtiers withdrew, the Spaniards following. Advancing into the city, wondering at all they saw - the long streets, the houses which, in the line along which they passed, belonged mostly to the noble and wealthy Mexicans, built of red stone, and surmounted with parapets or battlements; the canals which here and there intersected the streets, crossed by bridges; and the large open squares which occurred at intervals - the Spaniards were conducted to their quarters, situated in an immense square in the centre of the city, adjoining the temple of the great Mexican war-god. Montezuma was waiting to receive them; and the Spaniards were surprised and delighted with the princely generosity with which he supplied their wants.

Next day Cortez paid a visit to Montezuma in his palace, attended by some of his principal officers. In the conversation which ensued, Cortez broached the topic of religion, and informed Montezuma that we were all brothers, the children of Adam and Eve, and that as such, our emperor, lamenting the loss of souls in such numbers as those which were brought by the Mexican idols into everlasting flames, had sent us to apply a remedy thereto by putting an end to the worship of these false gods.' These remarks seemed to displease Montezuma, who, however, made a polite reply. Day after day the intercourse between Cortez and Montezuma was renewed; the Spanish soldiers also became gradually familiar with the Mexicans. Bernal Diaz, the old soldier of Cortez, to whom we are indebted for the most minute and interesting account of the Conquest, thus describes Montezuma and his household: 'The great Montezuma was at this time aged about forty years, of good stature, well-proportioned, and thin; his complexion was much fairer than that of the Indians; he wore his hair short, just covering his ears, with very little beard, well arranged, thin, and black. His face was rather long, with a pleasant countenance, and good eyes; gravity and good-humor were blended together when he spoke. He was very delicate and clean in his person, bathing himself every evening. He had a number of mistresses of the first families, and two princesses, his lawful wives. He had two hundred of his nobility as a guard, in apartments adjoining his own. They entered his apartment barefooted, their eyes fixed on the ground, and making three inclinations of the body as they approached him. In addressing him, they said, "Lord; my lord; great lord.' His cooks had upward of thirty different ways of dressing meat, and they had earthen vessels so contrived as to keep it always hot. For the table of Montezuma himself above three hundred dishes were dressed, and for his guards above a thousand. It is said that at times the flesh of young children was dressed for him; but the ordinary meats were domestic fowls, pheasants, geese, partridges, quails, venison, Indian hogs, pigeons, hares, and rabbits, with many other animals and birds peculiar to the country. At his meals, in the cold weather, a number of torches of the bark of a wood which makes no smoke, and has an aromatic smell, were lighted; and, that they might not throw too much heat, screens ornamented with gold, and painted with figures of idols, were placed before them. Montezuma was seated on a low throne or chair, at a table proportioned to the height of his seat. The table was covered with white cloths and napkins, and four beautiful women presented him with water for his hands. Then two other women brought small cakes of bread; and when the king began to eat, a large screen of wood gilt was placed before him, so that people should not, during that time, see him. He was served on earthenware of Cholula, red and black. While the king was at table, no one of his guards, or in the vicinity of his apartment, dared for their lives make any noise. Fruit of all the kinds that the country produced was laid before him; he ate very little; but from time to time a liquor, prepared from cocoa, and of a stimulative quality, as we were told, was presented to him in golden cups. At different intervals during the time of dinner there entered certain Indians, hump-backed, very deformed and ugly, who played tricks of buffoonery; and others who, they said, were jesters. There was also a company of singers and dancers, who afforded Montezuma much entertainment. During the time Montezuma was at dinner, two very beautiful women were busily employed making small cakes with eggs, and other things mixed therein. These were delicately white; and when made, they presented them to him on plates covered with napkins. After he had dined, they presented to him three little canes, highly ornamented, containing liquid amber, mixed with an herb they call tobacco; and when he had sufficiently viewed and heard the singers, dancers, and buffoons, he took a little of the smoke of one of these canes, and then laid himself down to sleep; and thus his principal meal concluded.'

After describing other parts of Montezuma's household, including a great aviary or collection of birds, and a menagerie, the chronicler gives us an account of Cortez's first tour through the city, accompanied by Montezuma. They first visited the great bazaar or market, held in the western part of the city. When we arrived there, we were astonished at the crowds of people, and the regularity which prevailed, as well as at the vast quantities of merchandise which those who attended us were assiduous in pointing out. Each kind had its particular place of sale, which was distinguished by a sign. The articles consisted of gold, silver, jewels, feathers, mantles, chocolate, skins, dressed and undressed, sandals, and other manufactures of the roots and fibres of nequen, and great numbers of male and female slaves, some of whom were fastened by the neck in collars to long poles. The meat market was stocked with fowls, game, and dogs. Vegetables, fruits, articles of food ready dressed, salt, bread, honey, and sweet pastry made in various ways, were also sold here. Other places in the square were appropriated to the sale of earthenware, wooden household furniture, such as tables and benches, firewood, paper, sweet canes filled with tobacco, mixed with liquid amber, copper axes and working-tools, and wooden vessels highly painted. Numbers of women sold fish, and little loaves made of a certain mud which they find in the lake, and which resembles cheese. The makers of stone-blades were busily employed shaping them out of the rough material; and the merchants who dealt in gold had the metal in grains, as it came from the mines, in transparent tubes, so that they could be reckoned; and the gold was valued at so many mantles, or so many xiquipils of cocoa, according to the size of the quills. The entire square was enclosed in piazzas, under which great quantities of grain were stored, and where were also shops for various kinds of goods. Courts of justice, where three judges sat to settle disputes which might arise in the market, occupied a part of the square, their under-officers, or policemen, being in the market inspecting the merchandise.'

Proceeding from the market-place through various parts of the city, the Spaniards came to the great teocalli, or temple, in the neighborhood of their own quarters. It was a huge pyramidal structure, consisting of five stories, narrowing above each other like the tubes of an extended spyglass (only square in shape), so as to leave a clear pathway round the margin of each story. The ascent was by means of a stone stair, of a, hundred and fourteen steps. Arrived at the summit, Cortez and his companions found it to be a large flat area, laid with stone; at one end of which they shuddered as they saw a block of jasper, which they were told was the stone on which the human victims were laid when the priests tore out their hearts to offer to their idols: at the other end was a tower of three stories, in which were the images of the two great Mexican deities Huitzilopochtli and Teztatlipoca, and a variety of articles pertaining to their worship. 'From the top of the temple,' says Bernal Diaz, 'we had a clear prospect of the three causeways by which Mexico communicated with the land, and we could now perceive that in this great city, and all the others of the neighborhood which were built in the water, the houses stood separate from each other, communicating only by small drawbridges and by boats, and that they were built with terraced tops. The noise and bustle of the market-place below us could be heard almost a league off; and those who had been at Rome and Constantinople said that, for convenience, regularity, and population, they had never seen the like.' At the request of Cortez, Montezuma, though with apparent reluctance, led the Spaniards into the sanctuary or tower where the gods were. 'Here,' says Diaz, 'were two altars, highly adorned with richly-wrought timbers on the roof, and over the altars gigantic figures resembling very fat men. The one on the right was their war-god, with a great face and terrible eyes. This figure was entirely covered with gold and jewels, and his body bound with golden serpents; in his right hand he held a bow, and in his left a bundle of arrows. Before the idol was a pan of incense, with three hearts of human victims, which were burning, mixed with copal. The whole of that apartment, both walls and floor, was stained with human blood in such quantity as to cause a very offensive smell. On the left was the other great figure, with a countenance like a bear, and great shining eyes of the polished substance whereof their mirrors are made. The body of this idol was also covered with jewels. An offering lay before him of five human hearts. In this place was a drum of most enormous size, the head of which was made of the skins of large serpents: this instrument, when struck, resounded with a noise that could be heard to the distance of two leagues, and so doleful, that it deserved to be named the music of the infernal regions.'

This state of things could not last. Cortez, of course, had no intention of leaving Mexico, now that he had made good his quarters in it; but as it was not to be expected that Montezuma and his subjects would continue their friendly intercourse with him if they supposed that he purposed to remain, he saw the necessity of taking some decided step to secure him self and his men against any outbreak which might occur. The step which he resolved upon in his own mind was the seizure of Montezuma. By having him in their power, he would be able, he imagined, to maintain a control over the whole population of the city - amounting, it is believed, to nearly three hundred thousand. Nor was a pretext wanting to give an appearance of justice to the daring act which they contemplated. Cortez had just received intelligence that a battle had been fought between the garrison which he had left at Villa Rica, and a body of Mexicans under the command of the Mexican governor of a province adjacent to the Spanish settlement. Although Cortez cared little for this occurrence, he resolved to avail himself of it for his purpose; so, after a night spent in prayer for the blessing of God on what he was about to do, he proceeded with five of his officers and the two interpreters, Donna Marina and Aguilar, to Montezuma's palace. The monarch, as usual, received him kindly; but when Cortez, after upbraiding him with being the cause of the attack made on the Spanish garrison of Villa Rica, as well as with the attempt made by the Cholulans to arrest his own progress towards Mexico, informed him that he had come to make him prisoner, he could no longer contain him self, but gave full vent to his rage and astonishment. But the rage of an Indian prince was impotent against the stern resolutions of the European general; and as the helpless monarch gazed on the unyielding countenances of his visitors, whose fingers were playing with the hilts of their swords, his anger changed into terror: he was seized with a fit of trembling, and the tears gushed into his eyes. Without any resistance, he was removed in his royal litter to the Spanish quarters, giving it out to his nobles and subjects that he went voluntarily, on a visit to Cortez, and desiring them to remain quiet.

Another degradation awaited the unhappy monarch. He was obliged to surrender the governor and three other chiefs, who had led the attack on the garrison of Villa Rica; and these were burned alive, by the orders of Cortez, in front of Montezuma's palace, the emperor himself being kept in irons while the execution was going on.

All this took place within ten days of the arrival of the Spaniards in Mexico; and for three or four months Montezuma continued a prisoner in the Spanish quarters. Here he was attended with the most profound respect, Cortez himself never approaching him without taking off his cap, and punishing severely every attempt on the part of any of his soldiers to insult the royal captive. Such instances, however, were very rare; for the kindly demeanor of Montezuma, his gentleness under his misfortunes, and, above all, his liberality to those about him, won the hearts of the Spaniards, and made him a general favorite. Nor did Montezuma make any attempt to regain his liberty. Attended by his officers as usual, he received deputations, and transacted business; amused himself by various Mexican games, and appeared to delight in the society of some of the Spaniards, for whom he had contracted a particular partiality.

The Spanish general was now absolute in Anahuac; Montezuma acted under his instructions; and officers were sent out in different directions to survey the country, and ascertain the situation and extent of the gold and silver mines, as if all belonged to the king of Spain. Nor was the formal cession of the kingdom by Montezuma long delayed. Assembling all his nobles at the instigation of Cortez, the Indian monarch addressed them, desiring them to concur with him in surrendering their empire to the Spaniards, who were to come from the rising sun. "For eighteen years," he said, "that I have reigned, I have been a kind monarch to you, and you have been faithful subjects to me; indulge me, then, with this last act of obedience.' The princes, with many sighs and tears, promised Montezuma, who was still more affected, that they would do whatever he desired. He then sent a message to Cortez, telling him that, on the ensuing day, he and his princes would tender their allegiance to his majesty, our emperor. This they accordingly did at the time appointed, in the presence of all our officers and many of our soldiers, not one of whom could refrain from weeping on beholding the agitation and distress of the great and generous Montezuma.'

Montezuma accompanied the surrender of his kingdom with the gift of an immense treasure, which he had concealed in an apartment within their quarters, desiring it to be sent to Spain, as tribute-money to King Charles from his vassal Montezuma. The sight of this treasure roused the avaricious passions of the Spanish soldiers, and they clamored for a division of the wealth which had been collected since their entrance into Mexico, Cortez was obliged to yield to their demand. The whole wealth amassed during their residence in Mexico amounted, according to Mr. Prescott's calculation, to about seven millions of dollars of our money, including not only the gold cast into ingots, but also the various articles of jewelry, which were of too fine workmanship to be melted down.

The mode of division was this: - First, his majesty's fifth was set aside next, a fifth of the remainder was set aside for Cortez; after that, all the debts of the expedition were to be discharged, excluding the amount vested in the expedition by Velasquez, the payment of agents in Spain, etc.; then the losses incurred in the expedition were to be made good, including the expense of the ships sunk off Villa Rica, the price of the horses killed, etc.; and lastly, certain individuals in the army, as the clergyman and the captains, were to receive larger allowances than the rest. 'By the time all these drafts were made,' says Bernal Diaz, what remained for each soldier was hardly worth stooping for;' in other words, instead of amounting to two or three thousand pounds, as they had expected, each soldier's share came only to about three hundred pounds. Many refused to take their shares, complaining of injustice in the division, and it required all the skill and management of Cortez to soothe the spirits of the discontented. Not a few, it appeared in the end, were no richer for all the prize money they had obtained than when they left Cuba; for, as Bernal Diaz tells us, 'deep gaming went on day and night with cards made out of the heads of drums.'

Only one source of discomfort now remained to Cortez. This was the continuance of the idolatrous worship of the Mexicans. This subject occupied his thoughts incessantly; and he could not persuade himself that his efforts would be meritorious in the eyes of God, or even that he could hope for permanent success, until the false gods of the Mexicans had been shattered in pieces, and their temples converted into Christian sanctuaries. Not only as a devout Catholic did he abominate the existence of a false worship in a country over which he had control, but, as a man, as a native of a civilized country, he shrunk in abhorrence from the bloody and sickening rites which formed part of the religion of the Mexicans their human sacrifices - accompanied strangely enough, among a people so polished and so advanced in ingenious arts, by the practice of cannibalism. At length Cortez announced to Montezuma that he must allow at least a part of the great temple to be converted into a Christian place of worship. Montezuma had been a priest, and the proposal was perhaps the most shocking that could have been made to him. He gave his consent, however, and one of the sanctuaries on the top of the temple was purified, and an altar and a crucifix erected in it.

This last act filled up the measure of Mexican endurance. To see their monarch a prisoner, to surrender their kingdom and its treasures these they could submit to; but could they sit tamely under an insult offered to their gods? Hither and thither though the city ran the priests, with haggard faces, and hair clotted with blood, stirring up the zeal of the inhabitants, and denouncing woes unless the Spaniards were expelled. The crisis was imminent, and every possible precaution was used to prevent a sudden surprise by the excited Mexicans.

It was now the month of May, 1520, and the Spaniards had been six months in the Mexican capital. Suddenly the little army was thrown into consternation by intelligence of an unexpected kind received by Cortez.

It will be remembered that, before advancing into the interior of the country, Cortez had dispatched a vessel to Spain with letters to the emperor, Charles V, and a quantity of treasures. Contrary to the instructions of Cortez, the vessel touched at Cuba on its voyage and a sailor escaping, conveyed to Velasquez an account of all that had taken place in the expedition, down to the foundation of Villa Rica. The rage of Velasquez exceeded all bounds. He wrote letters to the home government, and also to the court of colonial affairs established in Hispaniola; and not content with this, he instantly began to fit out a second expedition, which was to proceed to Mexico, depose or decapitate Cortez, and seize the country for the Spanish sovereign in the name of the governor of Cuba. The fleet was larger, with one exception, than any yet fitted out for the navigation of the seas of the new world. ft consisted of nineteen vessels, carrying upwards of a thousand foot soldiers, twenty cannons, eighty horsemen, a hundred and sixty musketeers and cross-bowmen, besides a thousand Indian servants - a force sufficient, as it seemed, to render all resistance on the part of Cortez hopeless. Velasquez at first intended to command the expedition in person; but, as he was too old and too unwieldy for such a laborious task, he intrusted it to Don Parnfilo de Narvaez, described as a man, about forty-two years of age, of tall stature, and large limbs, full face, red beard, and agreeable presence; very sonorous and lofty in his speech, as if the sound came out of a vault; a good horseman, and said to be valiant.'

The fleet anchored off the coast of Mexico, at St. Juan de Ulua, on the 23d of April, 1520. Here Narvaez received information which astonished him - that Cortez was master of the Mexican capital; that the Mexican emperor was his prisoner; that the country and its treasures 'had been surrendered to the Spanish sovereign; and that at present his rival was as absolute in it as if he were its monarch. This information only increased his anxiety to come to a collision with Cortez; and, with singular imprudence, he went about among the Indians, declaring, in a blustering manner, that Cortez was. a rebel against his sovereign, and that he had come to chastise him, and to set Montezuma free.

Narvaez's first step was to send three messengers, one of them a priest, to the garrison of Villa Rica, to summon them to surrender. The commandant of the garrison, appointed shortly after the death of Juan de Escalante, was Gonsalvo de Sandoval, a young officer, a native of the same town as Cortez, and who had already won the esteem of his general and of the whole army by his valor and services. When the messengers of Narvaez, arriving at Villa Rica, presented a copy of Narvaez's commission, and summoned the garrison to surrender, Sandoval, without any ceremony, caused them to be seized, strapped to the backs of Indian porters, and instantly sent across the country to Mexico in charge of one or two soldiers, who carried a note to Cortez, informing him of what had happened. Cortez, after thoroughly gaining them over by kind words and presents, sent them back to sow the seeds of dissension in Narvaez's army. At the same time he entered into a correspondence with Narvaez, which led to no definite result. As there was great danger that Narvaez would succeed in alienating the Cempoallans from Cortez, if he were permitted to remain in his present position, Cortez resolved to leave Mexico with a part of his men, march to the sea-coast, and, if necessary, give battle to Narvaez. This was a perilous step; but, in the circumstances, it was absolutely necessary.

Leaving a garrison of a hundred and forty men in Mexico, under the command of Pedro de Alvarado, who appeared by far the fittest person for so responsible a post, Cortez set out with the rest of his force, amounting to less than two hundred soldiers, only five of whom were cavalry, and by rapid marches reached the Totonac territories, where he was reinforced by Sandoval and his small body of men. Altogether, Cortez's army did not amount to more than a fifth part of that of Narvaez. They were veterans in service, however, and, under such a leader as Cortez, were pre pared to attempt impossibilities. Narvaez, in the meantime, was in close quarters at Cempoalla, aware that his rival was on his march, but little suspecting that he was so near. On the night of the 26th of May, 1520, Cortez and his brave little band, crossing with difficulty a swollen river which lay between them and their countrymen, advanced stealthily towards Narvaez's quarters, surprised the sentinels, and shouting the watchword, Espiritu Santo! ' dashed in among the half-awakened, half-armed foe. The struggle did not last long; for Sandoval, with a small body of picked men, springing up the stairs of the house where Narvaez was lodged, succeeded, after a hand to hand fight with the general and his followers, in. making him prisoner, after he had lost an eye, and been otherwise severely wounded. On learning the fall of their leader, the rest yielded; and when daylight came, Cortez, seated in an arm-chair, with a mantle of an orange color thrown over his shoulders, and surrounded by his officers and soldiers,' received the salutations and the oaths of allegiance of all the followers of Narvaez. In his treatment of these new friends his usual policy was conspicuous: he plied them with flatteries, and loaded them with gifts, till his own veterans began to be envious. Thus, by a single bold stroke, which cost him but a few men, Cortez had crushed a formidable enemy, and increased his own force sixfold. Fortune favors the brave! His army now amounted to thirteen hundred men, exclusive of the garrison he had left in Mexico and of these thirteen hundred nearly a hundred were cavalry. With such a force, he might now prosecute his designs in Mexico with every prospect of success, and bid defiance to all the efforts of the Mexicans to regain their independence.

He was disagreeably roused from these self-congratulations by intelligence from Mexico. Some difference had occurred between Pedro de Alvarado and the Mexicans, in consequence of which the latter had risen en masse, and were besieging the Spaniards in their quarters. Without loss of time he commenced his march towards the capital, leaving a hundred men at Villa Rica. At Tlascala he was joined by two thousand of his faithful mountain allies; and the whole army then pushed on for the Mexican valley, anxious to relieve Alvarado, whom the Mexicans were now trying to reduce by blockade. On the 24th of June they reached the great lake, and marched along the causeway without opposition, but amidst an ominous stillness. Alvarado clasped his general in his arms for joy; and now for the first time Cortez learned the origin of the revolt. Alvarado, suspecting some conspiracy among the Aztec nobles, had treacherously massacred a number of them collected at a religious festival, and the inhabitants had risen to take vengeance for the injury. Cortez sharply rebuked his officer for his misconduct"; but the evil was already done, and to punish Alvarado would have been attended with no good effect. Moodily and bitterly, therefore, Cortez expended his vexation on the unhappy Mexican monarch, accusing him of being concerned in the insurrection, and calling upon him to cheek it, and procure provisions for the Spaniards. Montezuma complied as far as lay in his power: Cortez also used his best endeavors to allay the storm; and for a while it appeared as if their efforts were successful.

The calm was only temporary. The day after the arrival of Cortez, a soldier, who had been sent on an errand by Cortez, returned breathless and bloody to the Spanish quarters. He had been fallen upon by a multitude of Mexicans, who endeavored to drag him away in their canoes for sacrifice, and he had only escaped after a desperate struggle. The whole city, he said, was in arms; the drawbridges were broken down: and they would soon attack the Spaniards in their strong hold.

The news was too true. The Aztecs poured along the streets like a flood, approaching the square where the Spaniards were lodged, while the terraced roofs of all the houses in the vicinity were crowded with slingers and archers, ready to shower their missiles upon the besieged. And now commenced a struggle which lasted seven days and to which there is no parallel in history. Day after day the fighting was renewed, the Spaniards either making a sally upon the besiegers, or beating them back when they advanced to storm or set fire to their quarters. The only relaxation was at night, when the Mexicans generally drew off. The Spaniards were always victorious; but their losses were considerable in every action, and the perseverance of the Mexicans alarmed them. Instead of yielding to their first defeats, they seemed to act on the conviction that they must be defect ted continually until the Spaniards were all slain. This resolution astonished Cortez, who till now had undervalued the courage of the Aztecs. His soldiers, especially those who had come into the country with Narvaez, heaped reproaches upon him; although when they saw his conduct in the fray the bravery with which he would spur his horse into the thickest of the enemy, the generosity with which he would risk his own life to rescue a comrade from the hands of a crowd of Aztecs - their reproaches were lost in admiration.

Wearied out by his incessant efforts, and perceiving the hopelessness of continuing a contest against so many myriads of enemies - for recruits were flocking in from the neighboring country to assist the Mexicans against the common foe Cortez resolved to try the effects of negotiation, and to employ Montezuma as his intercessor. At his request, therefore Montezuma, dressed in his imperial robes, appeared on a terraced roof, where he was visible to the multitude gathered in the great square. A silence ensued, and Montezuma was parleying with four nobles who approached him, when suddenly a shower of stones and arrows fell on the spot where he was standing. The Spanish soldiers tried to interpose their bucklers; but it was too late; Montezuma fell to the ground, his head bleeding from the effects of a blow with a stone. He was immediately removed, and every means used for his recovery: nor was the wound of itself dangerous. But his kingly spirit had received a wound which no words could heal; he had been reviled and struck by his own subjects, among whom hitherto he had walked as a sacred being: he refused to live any longer. He tore the bandages from his head, and rejected all nourishment; and in a short time the Spaniards were informed that their unhappy prisoner was dead. Cortez and many of the men could not refrain from weeping; and the body was surrendered to the Mexicans with every testimony of respect.

The fighting was now commenced with greater fury, and prodigies of valor were performed by the Spaniards; but all to no purpose. Another attempt was made to induce the enemy to come to terms. The only answer was the threat that they would all be sacrificed to the gods, and the appalling information, You cannot escape; the bridges are broken down.' At last, as death was before their eyes, it was determined by Cortez, and all the officers and soldiers, to quit the city during the night as they hoped at that time to find the enemy less alert.

Towards midnight, on the 1st of July 1520, they left their quarters secretly, most of the soldiers loading themselves with the gold which remained over and above the royal share, and proceeded as silently as possible towards the western causeway leading to Tlacopan, by which, as being the shortest of the three (two miles long), they thought it would be the easiest to effect a passage. In this causeway there were three drawbridges, separated by intervals nearly equal; and aware that these had been destroyed by the Mexicans, Cortez had provided a portable bridge, made of timber, the carriage of which he intrusted to forty picked soldiers. The van of the army was led by Sandoval, with two hundred foot and a body of horse under his command; the baggage, large guns and prisoners came next, guarded by Cortez and a band of veterans; and the rear was brought up by Pedro de Alvarado and Valasquez de Leon, commanding the strength of the infantry.

The night was dark and rainy. The Spaniards reached the causeway without being interrupted. The portable bridge was laid across the first moat or gap, and a great part of the army had gone over it in safety, and were already approaching the second gap, when, through the stillness of the night, there was heard the boom of the great drum from the top of the Mexican war temple, the rushing of myriads of pursuers along the causeway from behind, and the splashing of the oars of thousands of canoes full of warriors, which were advancing through the lake on both sides of the causeway. Showers of arrows fell on the rearguard as they were passing over the portable bridge; and the Aztecs, clambering up the sides of the causeway, grappled with the soldiers, and tried to drag, them into the water. Throwing off these assailants by main strength, Alvarado and his men steadily and expeditiously moved on. Meanwhile the vanguard under Sandoval having reached the second gap, were waiting until the portable bridge should be brought up to enable them to cross it. Goaded with the arrows which were discharged upon them in clouds from the Aztec canoes, they grew impatient of the delay, and began to cast anxious glances backward along the causeway for the appearance of the bridge. Suddenly the appalling news was passed along that the bridge had stuck so fast at the first opening that it could not be pulled up. The weight of the men and heavy baggage crossing it had fastened it into the earth so firmly as to defy extrication. When this awful intelligence reached the vanguard, order and command were at an end; uproar and confusion ensued; and, seized with the instinct of self-preservation, each man tried to shift for himself. Flinging themselves headlong into the gap, they struggled with the Mexican warriors in the water, upsetting their canoes in their drowning agonies. Rank after rank followed, each trampling upon the bodies of its predecessors, and floundering among the canoes which lay between them and the opposite side. Sandoval and a few of the cavalry swam their horses across some of the foot also were able to reach the side of the causeway and climb up; but of the vanguard, the great majority were drowned, or slain, or carried off wounded in the Mexican canoes. Meanwhile on came the rest of the army; men, carriages, guns, baggage, all were swept into the trench, which was soon choked up by the wreck. Over this bridge of broken wagons, bales of cotton, and the dead bodies of their companions and enemies, Cortez and his veterans were able to reach the other side of the trench with less difficulty. Here, joining Sandoval and the few survivors of his band, they dashed along the causeway towards the third and last opening, regardless of the darts and arrows which the Mexicans discharged among them from their canoes. Reaching the third trench, they crossed it in the same manner as the last, but without so much loss, and were rapidly approaching the mainland, when looking back through the dim morning light, they saw Alvarado and his rearguard pent up on the causeway between the second and third bridges, and almost overborne by the Mexicans who surounded them. Cortez, Sandoval, and a few of the horse instantly wheeled round to the rescue; and recrossing the third gap, shouted their battle-cry, and interposed between the Spaniards and their pursuers. This timely succor enabled most of the infantry to escape; and at length all had crossed the opening except Cortez, Sandoval, Alvarado, and a few others. Cortez, Sandoval, and the rest soon followed, carried through by their horses; and only one man remained upon the Mexican extremity of the causeway. It was Pedro de Alvarado; his horse was slain; and he was standing on the brink, surrounded by enemies ready drag him off, should he plunge into the trench. Five or six warriors were already advancing from behind to seize him, when, casting one glance at the opposite edge where his countrymen were waiting him, he planted one end of his long lance among the rubbish which choked up the gap, and, rising in the air, cleared it at a bound. The spot where this tremendous feat was executed still bears the name of Alvarado's Leap.

The Mexicans now desisted from the pursuit; and the relics of the Spanish army, advancing along the remainder of the causeway, entered Tlacopan. Here they did not remain long, being anxious to place themselves beyond the reach of the Mexicans, and to arrive at Tlascala, the city of their faithful allies. They were now able to count the losses which they had sustained during the night. About four hundred and fifty Spaniards, and nearly four thousand Tlascalans, had been drowned, slain, or made prisoners during the passage along the causeway; a loss which, added to the numbers killed in the battles within the city, reduced the army to little more than a fourth of what it had been when it entered Mexico ten days before. But the most deplorable part was the loss of all the artillery, firearms, and ammunition, not so much as a musket remaining among the five hundred who survived. Still, under this accumulation of misfortunes, his heart did not sink; and his resolution was taken not to leave the country till he had regained his former footing in it, and annexed it as a province to the dominions of his sovereign.

His first object was to reach Tlascala, where he might recruit the strength of his men - almost all of whom were stiff with wounds - and arrange his future proceedings. After many difficulties, and another great battle, in which he defeated the Mexicans, he reached it on the 9th of July, 1520. They were kindly received by the generous mountaineers, who withstood all the solicitations of the Mexican sovereign, Cuitlahua, Montezuma's brother and successor, that they would assist him in driving the Spaniards out of the country.

It was early in autumn before Cortez left Tlascala. His intention was first to punish several states of Anahuac which had revolted during his absence in Mexico, especially the districts of Tepeaca and Cachula; and then, after having reduced the whole country east of the Mexican valley, to return to the capital itself, and take it by storm. With a force so reduced as his, without cannons or other firearms, this was an apparently hopeless enterprise; but hopeless was a word of which Cortez did not know the meaning. Fortunately, while engaged in subduing the eastern districts of Anahuac, he received reinforcements which he never anticipated. Velasquez, ignorant of the fate of the expedition which he had sent under Narvaez, and supposing that Cortez was by this time a prisoner in the hands of his rival, had despatched a ship with stores, arms, and ammunition to the colony of Villa Rica. The vessel touched at the port; the captain and his men disembarked, suspecting nothing, and were instantly seized by the officer of Cortez; nor did it require much persuasion to induce the whole crew to enlist under the standard of a man of whom they had heard so many eulogies. A second vessel sent by Velasquez soon afterwards shared the same fate; three ships sent by the governor of Jamaica to prosecute discoveries, and plant colonies in central America, chancing also to land at Villa Rica, their crews joined the army of Cortez and lastly, a merchant vessel, loaded with provisions and all the necessaries of war, arrived at the Mexican coast, and was purchased by Cortez - sailors, cargo, and all.

Flaying completely subjugated all Anahuac to the east of the Mexican valley, Cortez resolved to found a second Spanish colony in the interior of the country, which should form a half-way station between Villa Rica and the city of Mexico. The site chosen was Tepeaca, and the name given to the settlement was Segura de la Frontera. From this spot Cortez wrote a second letter to Charles V, giving an account of the expedition from the date of the last letter down to the foundation of Segura, and announcing his intention of marching immediately to reconquer Mexico.

It was five months after the date of their expulsion from Mexico before the Spaniards were in a condition once more to march against it. Part of the necessary preparations consisted, as we have seen, in the subjugation of those parts of Anahuac which adjoined the Mexican valley on the east but another cause of delay was the construction of thirteen brigantines at Tlascala, under the direction of Martin Lopez, a skillful shipwright, who bad accompanied Cortez. These vessels were to be taken to pieces, and transported, together with the iron-work and cordage belonging to the ships which Cortez had destroyed off Villa Rica, across the mountains to the great Mexican lake. At length all was ready, and on the 28th of December 1520 the whole army left Tlascala on its march towards Mexico. It consisted of about six hundred Spaniards, with nine cannons, and forty horses, accompanied by an immense multitude of native warriors, Tlascalans, Tepeacans, and Cholulans, amounting probably to sixteen thousand men, besides the tamanes, who were employed in transporting the brigantines. Garrisons had of course been left at Villa Rica and Segura.

No opposition was offered to the invaders on their march, the Mexicans fleeing at their approach; and on the 1st of January, 1521, they took possession of the city of Tezcuco. Cuitlahua, Montezuma's successor on the throne, was now dead, and his place was occupied by his nephew, Guatemozin, yet a young limn, but the most heroic and patriotic of all the Mexicans. The policy of Cortez was first to subdue all the states and cities on the margin of the five lakes, so as to leave Mexico without protection or assistance, and then to direct his whole force to the final reduction of the capital. For four months, therefore, Cortez, Sandoval, Alvarado, and his other officers were employed, sometimes separately, sometimes in concert, in reconnoitering expeditions into various parts of the Mexican valley - from Chalco, on the banks of the southernmost, to Xaltocan, an island in the northernmost lake. Scarcely a day of these four months was pas sed in idleness; and it would require far more space than we can afford to do justice to all the engagements in which the Spaniards were victorious, or to all the feats of personal valor performed by Cortez, Alvarado, Olid, Sandoval, and other brave cavaliers. Passing over these, as well as the account of a conspiracy among his men, which the prudence and presence of mind of Cortez enabled him to quash, and of the execution of the Tlascalan chief, Xicotencatl, for deserting the Spaniards, we hasten to the concluding scene.

On the 10th of May, 1521, the siege commenced. Alvarado, with a hundred and fifty Spanish infantry, thirty cavalry, and eight thousand Tlascalans, took up his station at Tlacopan, so as to command the western causeway; Christoval de Olid, with the same number of cavalry and Indians, and a hundred and seventy-five infantry, commanded one of the branches of the southern causeway at Cojohuacan; and Sandoval, with a force nearly equal, the other branch of the same causeway at Iztapalapan. Cortez himself took the command of the flotilla of brigantines. For several days the three captains conducted operations more or less successfully at their respective stations of Alvarado's services having consisted in. destroying the pipes which supplied the Mexicans with fresh water, so that, during the rest of the siege, they had no other way of procuring a supply than by means of canoes. The brigantines, when they were launched, did immense service in overturning and dispersing the Mexican canoes, and also in protecting the flanks of the causeways on which the other detachments were pursuing their operations. At length, after much resistance on the part of the Mexicans, the two causeways, the western and the southern, were completely occupied by the Spaniards; and Sandoval having, by Cortez's orders, made a circuit of the lake, and seized the remaining causeway of Tepejeca, the city was in a state of blockade. But so impatient were the Spaniards of delay, that Cortez resolved on a general assault on the city by all the three causeways at once. Cortez was to advance into the city from Xoloc, Alvarado from his camp on the western causeway, and Sandoval from his camp on the northern, and the three detachments, uniting in the great square in the centre of the city, were to put the inhabitants to the sword. The plan had nearly succeeded. The vanguard of Cortez's party had chased the retreating Mexicans into the city, and were pushing their way to the great square, when the horn of Guatemozin was heard to sound, and the Aztecs rallying, commenced a furious onset. The neglect of Cortez to fill up a trench in one of the causeways impeded the retreat of the Spaniards in such a way as to cause a dreadful confusion, and it was only by efforts almost superhuman that they were able to regain their quarters. Their loss amounted to upwards of a hundred men, of whom about sixty had been taken alive.

This triumph elated the Mexicans as much as it depressed the Spaniards and their allies. It was prophesied by the Mexican priests that in eight days all the Spaniards should be slain; the gods, they said, had decreed it. This prediction, reported in the quarters of the besiegers, produced an extraordinary effect on the allies. They regarded the Spaniards as doomed men, refused to fight with them, and withdrew to a little distance from the lake. In this dilemma Cortez showed his wonderful presence of mind, by ordering a total cessation of hostilities for the period specified by the Mexican gods. When the eight days were passed, the allies, ashamed of their weakness, returned to the Spanish quarters, and the siege recommenced. These eight days, however, had not been without their horrors. From their quarters the Spaniards could perceive their fellow-countrymen who had been taken prisoners by the Mexicans dragged to the top of the great war temple, compelled to dance round the sanctuary of the gods, then laid on the stone of sacrifice, their hearts torn out, and their bleeding bodies flung down into the square beneath.

Famine now assisted the arms of the Spaniards; still, with that bravery of endurance for which their race is remarkable, the Mexicans continued the defense of the city, and it was not till it had been eaten into, as it were, on all sides, by the Spaniards, that they ceased to fight. On the 14th of August a murderous assault was commenced by the besiegers. It lasted two days; and on the evening of the second some canoes were seen to leave the city, and endeavor to reach the mainland. They were chased, and captured; and on board of one of them was found Guatemozin, with his family and his principal nobles. Guatemozin's capture was the signal of complete defeat; and on the 16th of August, 1521, the city was sur rendered to the Spaniards. The population was reduced to about forty thousand, and in a few days all these had disappeared, no one knew whither. The city was in ruins, like some huge churchyard with the corpses disinterred and the tombstones scattered about.

Thus was the ancient and beautiful city of Mexico destroyed, and its inhabitants slain or dispersed. A monstrous act of unjustifiable aggression had been completed. Following up this great blow, Cortez pursued the conquest of the country generally; and in this, as well as in organizing it into a colony of Spain, he did not experience any serious difficulty. On proceeding to Spain, he was received with honor by Charles V. He returned to Mexico in 1530; and again revisiting Spain in 1540, for the purpose of procuring the redress of real or alleged grievances, he died in 1547, in the sixty-third year of his age. It is very much to be lamented that, in the execution of his purposes of colonization, the monuments of Mexican civilization were everywhere destroyed, leaving nothing to future generations but the broken relics of palaces, temples, and other objects of art, scattered amidst the wilderness. Some of these ruined monuments, recently explored by Stephens and other travelers, show that the ancient Mexicans had made remarkable advances in social life as well as in the arts, more particularly architecture;. and what renders all such relics the more interesting to the archaelogist, is the growing conviction, that the old Mexican civilization was of an original type - a thing no way derived or connected with, the civilization of Egypt, or any other nation in the eastern hemisphere.

It is consolatory to know that the Spaniards have not succeeded in making Mexico a perpetual tributary of their rapacious monarchy. The cruelties they committed seem to have contained in themselves the elements of retribution. After a career of indolence, oppression, and bigotry, extending to comparatively recent times, their yoke has been thrown off; and their feeble and ignorant successors may be said to be in the course of coming under the thraldom of their Anglo-Saxon neighbors. It is difficult to compassionate the fate which appears to await the slothful and proud race whose ancestors laid the ancient empire of Mexico in ruins.