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Discovery of America; Conquest of Mexico; Conquest of Peru; the Cape Route to India. page 2

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The Aztecs, believing the enemy to be utterly destroyed, restored their fallen gods and temples, prepared for the renewal of the hideous human sacrifices, and chose Montezuma's brother as their ruler. In a few days he died of small-pox, a new disease in Mexico, brought up from the coast by a negro, one of the soldiers of Narvaez' command. The last monarch of Mexico, chosen from a neighbouring state, gathered his warriors on hearing that Cortes and a few Spaniards had survived, and marched to attack him in the mountains, where he had been joined by some Tlaxcallans. The mounted Spaniards dashed into the midst of their enemy, and a desperate fight ended in a panic among the Mexicans, due to the lucky wounding of the monarch and the capture of his banner by a Spanish lancer. This great victory of Otumba, gained on July 8th, was the turning-point of the struggle. Cortes, well received by the Tlaxcallans, made fresh preparations for conquest, and in December he headed a large force, mainly composed of native allies, but including 550 Spanish infantry, and 40 horsemen, with a few cannon. On his second march to Mexico, he took with him, in pieces, 13 brigantines made in Tlaxcalla, and these, with a fleet of native canoes, were launched upon the lake in May, 1521, for the siege of the city. The artillery slew thousands of the Aztecs during the 80 days' operations, and the brigantines were used with great effect against the hostile canoes. The city had been almost ruined by the artillery and by conflagrations caused by Cortes' allies, and in August the Mexican king surrendered himself to the conqueror. 50,000 of the inhabitants had perished by pestilence and famine alone. The desperate resistance made foreshadowed the obstinacy and valour displayed by the Spaniards nearly three centuries later at Saragossa.

Cortes placed the country under military rule, retaining the chiefs in some show of authority, and rewarding his men with encomiendas, or grants of Indian labourers to aid them in colonisation. In 1522 he was appointed by Charles V. to be governor and captain-general of New Spain, and, receiving reinforcements, he greatly extended the dominion in the course of a few years, and made discovery of California in 1526, during a voyage of research for a western or north-western passage to Asia. His subsequent career does not concern this narrative. The Aztec population, Christianised by their conquerors, suffered at times much cruel treatment from tyrannical governors and greedy adventurers from Spain, who sought riches in the slave-traffic, and disregarded the official instructions to deal kindly with the Indians. The country was well governed by Mendoza, the first viceroy, who, arriving in 1535, encouraged the native tillage, and strove to develop the growth and manufacture of wool by bringing sheep of the fine Merino breed from his native land. He founded the city of Guadalajara, now one of the largest and most flourishing places in Mexico, and also Valladolid, named after his own birthplace in Spain. The Mexican town had its name changed, early in the 19th century, to Morelia, in honour of Morelos, a brave and able fighter for colonial independence. The religious orders, Franciscan and others, with the Inquisition, were established in the country in due course, and to the former were due the spread of education and the firm basis of Spanish government. The resources of the great colony were crippled by the exclusive commercial system which forbade all trade with any other country than Spain, and Mexico was, for nearly three centuries, treated simply as a mine to be worked by the labour of its people for the benefit of the conquerors. In population and material wealth it ranked first among the Spanish colonies, and the coinage-records, dating, from 1537, show a production of gold, in three centuries and a half, to the value of over 20 millions sterling, and of silver to above 30 times that amount, or 620 millions sterling.

The conquest of Peru was the work of a wholly uneducated soldier of great courage, resolution, and resource, Francisco Pizarro, born towards the end of the 15th century at Trujillo in Estremadura. In 1309 he was on an expedition in Darien, and stood by the side of Balboa when he discovered the Pacific. It was when he was residing at Panama about 1525 that his attention was drawn to the empire of the Incas, the aboriginal Indians of Peru, and that, under the auspices of the Spanish governor, he made some preliminary researches by sea along the coast to the south of the isthmus. The Peruvian people had reached a fair stage of civilisation, having domesticated the llamas, animals of the camel family, as beasts of burden, and the alpacas, with their long fine silky wool; cultivating maize and a food-plant called quinoa, with potatoes and other edible roots; and possessing skill as miners, metal-workers, masons, potters, and weavers. In literary work the Incas had drama and song, and their solid and extensive empire, with a highly centralised and socialistic system of government, was built up by superior military skill and valour. In 1530 a war of succession was raging between two sons of a deceased monarch, and this terminated early in 1532 in favour of the one named Atahualpa. At this time Pizarro, under a commission from the Spanish home-government, landed at Tumbez with a little force of under 200 men and 40 horses. The subjugation of the country was an easy task. Marching inland in May, 1532, Pizarro, at the close of the year, captured Atahualpa by treachery, extorted an enormous ransom, and then, with shameful cruelty and bad faith, put him to death in August, 1533. The capital, Cuzco, was entered, and a new sovereign set up as nominal ruler. In January, 1535, the conqueror, created a marquis by Charles V., founded Lima as the capital of his new government, and began to administer affairs with ability and foresight, sending out expeditions for discovery and conquest, and consolidating Spanish power. In 1536 a wide-spread insurrection of the natives placed the Spaniards in great danger, Cuzco and Lima being beleaguered, and Juan Pizarro, the conqueror's brother, killed in action. In the spring of 1537 the marquis Pizarro's colleague Almagro, returning from an expedition to Chili, dispersed the rebels round Cuzco, and caused a civil war by marching on Lima with a view to its occupation in his own interest. He was defeated, captured, and executed by Pizarro's brothers in April, 1538, and in June, 1541, the conqueror of Peru ended his career in assassination by some of Almagro's vengeful friends.

The Peruvians, cruelly treated by the Spaniards in forced labour at the silver-mines and in the tillage of the soil, were also compelled to adopt the Catholic religion, and, so far as might be, to set aside the old modes of thought and culture. The ecclesiastical system of an intolerant priesthood was soon established in full force, with its hierarchy and swarms of clerics and monks, and an inquisitorial system which visited every village in the territory. The University of Lima, the most ancient in the New World, was founded in 1551, and another arose at Cuzco in 1598. The death of Pizarro was followed by a troublous time of contest between Spanish parties, one of which was for obeying the "New Laws" from Spain, enjoining equitable treatment of the Indians, and the other for maintaining the despotic system. The colonial policy of Spain in Peru was finally settled by Francisco de Toledo, viceroy from 1569 to 1580, who based his legislation on that of the old Incas. The amount of tribute paid by Indians was fixed, with exemption for males under 18 and over 50, and native chiefs were permitted to act as magistrates and collectors of the revenue. On the other' hand, one-seventh of the people in every village were made subject to forced labour, usually in the silver-mines. The violation of the laws laid down by Toledo, and the abuse of the forced-labour system, under some of his successors, caused great misery in Peru, and, to a large extent, depopulation. The Spanish government in Europe was ever calling for treasure from the mines, and the people toiled to death to supply these rapacious demands. In 1780 a general insurrection brought to the front a descendant of the Incas, who took the name of Tupac Amaru, the last nominal native ruler, unjustly put to death by Toledo more than two centuries previously. The rebels were reduced to submission only after a long struggle, and their leader, cruelly put to death, really founded the independence of his country by the feeling which his heroic contest had aroused. We shall hereafter see the issue of this matter.

The opening of the passage to the East round the Cape was an achievement of the latter part of the heroic age of Portuguese history under the successor of John II., Manoel or Emmanuel "the Fortunate." Nearly every year of his reign of a quarter of a century was distinguished by discoveries and by daring feats of arms, and the fame of Portuguese travellers and generals is rivalled by that of the poets and prose-writers of the same period. The monarch's own chief interest lay in the old vain dream of some previous sovereigns that Spain might be annexed by a ruler of Portugal. Under the system of. absolute monarchy established by John II., the nobles, deprived of power at home, devoted them-. selves to the career of discovery and conquest abroad, and most of the great men in this line belonged to high families. In July,. 1497, a fleet of four ships set sail from Lisbon, under the command of Vasco da Gama, a gentleman of the royal household, son of an experienced mariner, taking with him two able sea-captains, his brother Paul da Gama and Nicolas Coelho. The dangers of the voyage have been sung by Camoens in his famous epic poem The Lusiads ("Lusitanians"). After encountering terrific weather, the voyagers only reached St. Helena Bay, north of the Cape, in four months, and, rounding the Cape at the end of the year, Da Gama, having had much further trouble from storms and from mutiny among his crews, reached the little town of Melinda, to the north of Zanzibar, early in 1498. The friendly native monarch lent him a skilful pilot, and he then steered eastwards for his destination, but it was the wrong season for calm weather in the Indian Ocean, and only on May 20th, 1498, after a voyage of 11 months from the Tagus, did the Portuguese cast anchor off Calicut, on the Malabar coast of India. In September, 1499, Da Gama was back at Lisbon, where he was received with enthusiasm like that which had greeted Columbus in Spain. King Emmanuel assumed a sounding title as "Lord of the Conquest, Navigation, and Commerce of Ethiopia, Arabia, Persia, and India," confirmed to him by a bull of Pope Alexander VI. in 1502, and erected the magnificent church of Belem in gratitude for his subject's contribution to Portuguese glory. Da Gama, now "Dom Vasco," was created a Count and "Admiral of the Indian Seas," with a large revenue to be levied on the trade in the East, and was allowed to quarter the royal arms with his own. Thus began the commercial and other intercourse, by way of the Cape, between Asia and Europe, which was mainly in Portuguese hands for about a century. In order to give some idea of Portuguese enterprise at this time, we may note that in 1501 Castella discovered St. Helena and Ascension; in that year and 1503, Vespucci, then in the Portuguese service, visited the Rio de la Plata; in 1506 Tristao da Cunha discovered the island, now a British possession, bearing his name, and Pereira Coutinho explored Madagascar and Mauritius; in 1509 Lopes de Sequeira occupied Malacca and explored Sumatra; in 1512 Serrao discovered the Moluccas; in 1513 Mascarenhas first touched at the lie de Bourbon (Reunion); in 1516 Coelho voyaged up the coast of Cochin China and explored Siam; in 1517 De Andrade settled at Canton, and, four years later, made his way to Pekin. We have already seen Cortereal in Labrador, and Magalhaes (Magellan) in the Pacific.

The effects of the two great geographical and maritime achievements of this memorable period - the discovery of America and of the sea-route to the East - may now be noted. The Atlantic and Indian Oceans, instead of the Mediterranean Sea, became the great highways of commerce. The Eastern trade in silk, cotton, pearls, spices, and other articles of luxury, formerly carried on partly through central Asia, and partly by Arabia and the Persian Gulf, by the Red Sea and the Isthmus of Suez, was transferred from the commercial republics of Italy to the nations of western Europe, hitherto largely excluded from the traffic. The loss of profitable routes due to the conquests of Islam, and especially to the sway of the Turks in south-eastern Europe and western Asia, had already wrought much mischief to Venice, Genoa, and Pisa. Their merchants were now left out in the cold, and life and movement were succeeded by vacancy and silence in those busy and crowded centres of trade. The prosperity of Alexandria also came to an end with the voyage of Da Gama which gave Portugal a monopoly of the Eastern trade. The great historical central sea was now no longer to be the chief scene of human intercourse and civilisation. Western Europe - France and England, Holland and Spain - became the centres of culture, in succession to southern and central Europe - Italy and Germany. When a century has rolled away from the time under review, we shall find genius and greatness established in the western or maritime states of Europe, the states which are to engage in the struggle for the New World presenting so grand a field for colonisation and trade. England, which in Plantagenet days had scarcely been a maritime state, and was unable to control even the piracy of the Channel, and, warlike enough for land-contests, was destitute of a regular naval force, began to aim at greatness in commerce and at power upon the seas. In manufactures, her people, aroused from a state of dependence on Flanders and other foreign sources of supply, began to work for themselves on a larger scale, and the traffic on the ocean which began with the opening-up of the Americas was the first step towards British possession of the carrying-trade of the world. The two great western states of Europe, France and England, were placed in the van of intellectual progress, and attained a position which they have never lost.

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