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It is also probable, that Central America will become the seat of an extensive commerce. The fertility of its soil, and its central position between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, coupled with the probability of a ship navigation uniting the two, seem to designate Guatimala as a theatre for extraordinary events; it may, therefore, at some future day, be restored to its pristine grandeur.
Mr. Baily, a half-pay officer in the British navy, by order of the government of Central America, a few years since surveyed the route of a canal from Port St. Juan, on the Facific, to the Atlantic Ocean. According to his survey, the distance from the Pacific to Lake Nicaragua is fifteen and two-third miles; the ascents altogether, are one thousand four hundred and seven feet five inches; the descents are nine hundred and nineteen feet. The lake, it seems then, is one hundred and twenty-eight feet three inches above the level of the Pacific. This lake is ninety-five miles long, and thirty wide, in its broadest part; from thence to the Atlantic, by the river San Juan, is seventy-nine miles. Mr. Stephens estimates the whole expense at from twenty to twenty-five millions of dollars, equal to about the estimated cost of the enlarged Erie Canal. “I am authorized," says he, "to state, that no physical obstructions of the country present any impediment to its completion." He gives it as his opinion, “That the two oceans will be united ; that to men of leisure and fortune, jaded with rambling over the ruins of the old world, a new country will be opened. After a journey on the Nile, a day in Petra, and a bath in the Euphrates, English and American travellers will be bitten by mosquitos on the lake of Nicaragua, and drink champaign and Burton ale on the desolate shore of San Juan, on the Pacific, To an acute observer of the progress of modern improvement, during the last fifty years, the above seems more probable than many events that have happened in our day and generation.
Illinois originally a part of Florida-Grant of the whole Continent to Spain, by the Pope
His motive-Alonzo De Ojeda-His Proclamation-Cortez-Pizarro-Ponce de Leon discovers Florida-His Expedition thither-Pamphilo de Narvaez-His Expedition to Florida-Ferdinand de Soto-Atahualpa's ransom-Soto's Expedition to Florida-Discovers the Mississippi-Dies—Moscoso succeeds him-Expedition-Returns-Louis Cancello-Admiral Coligny, of France, attempts to colonize Florida-John Ribault sails thither-Colony broken up-Laudonniere renews the attempi-Sir John Hawkins relieves them-Melendez of Spain massacres the whole Colony-De Gourguis retaliates—France abandons Florida-Spain resumes and keeps possession of it-Title confirined.
The State of Illinois was, originally, a part of Florida, and so laid down upon the old Spanish map, of North America. The history of Florida then, is a part of our history; and its conquest, a legitimate subject for considation here.
The title of Spain to the “Far West” rested, originally, on its discov. ery. Not satisfied, however, with a title, better by far than any other at that time extant, and when accompanied by possession, the very best in the world, Ferdinand and Isabella sought and obtained its confirma. tion by the pope.
The Roman pontiff, (Alexander VI.,) infamous for almost every crime that disgraces humanity, was born a subject of Ferdinand; and wishing the aid and influence of Spain to promote his ambitious views, rejoiced exceedingly at thus having an opportunity to gratify the Castilian monarch. As the vicar and representative of Jesus Christ, the pope was sup. posed, and believed by many, to have a perfect, indefeasible right of dominion over all the kingdoms of the earth; and especially, over all countries inhabited by infidels. By an act of liberality, which cost him nothing, and which served eventually to establish the jurisdiction and pretensions of the papal see to the newly discovered world, he granted to Ferdinand and Isabella, in perpetuity, all the lands which they had discovered, or should thereafter discover, west of an imaginary line, drawn from north to south, one hundred leagues west of the Azores. By thus doing, he conferred upon the crown of Castile vast regions, to the possession of which he was so far from having any title, that he was unacquainted with their situation, and ignorant even of their existence. Such, however, was the influence and power of the pope, that an opinion adverse to its validity would, at that time, have been presumptuous, and might have exposed its author to imminent peril.
In justice, however, to the high contracting parties, we ought, perhaps, here to remark, that the propagation of the Christian faith was urged by
Ferdinand, as a reason for soliciting, and mentioned by Alexander as the motive for making, so extraordinary a grant. We ought, perhaps, also to . remark, that several friars, under the direction of Father Boyl, a Catalo. nian monk of great reputation, accompanied Columbus in his several voyages, to instruct the natives.
To give the Spanish title an appearance of validity, the most eminent divines and lawyers in the kingdom were employed to prescribe the mode and manner of taking possession of the countries thus granted. The history of our race nowhere else furnishes so extraordinary a document. It is, indeed, without a parallel ; unless “Death tribute, or the Koran," under which the Moslem had marched to victory, in a thousand fields of battle, could be regarded as such.
The invaders were instructed, as soon as they landed on the Conti. nent
1. To deliver to the natives the principal articles of the Christian faith.
2. To acquaint them, in particular, of the supreme jurisdiction of the pope over all the kingdoms of the earth.
3. To inform them of the grant which the holy pontiff had made of their country to the King of Spain.
4. To require them to embrace the doctrines of that religion which the Spaniards made known to them.
5. To submit to the sovereign whose authority they proclaimed ; and in case of their refusal, the invaders were authorized to attack them with fire and sword ; to reduce them, their wives, and children, to a state of servitude ; and to compel them, by force, to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the church, and the authority of the Spanish king.
Alonzo de Ojeda, a young man of respectable family, brought up as a page or esquire in the service of the Duke of Medina Celi, having received a commission from Don Juan Rodriguez Fonseca, Bishop of Placentia, (who had the chief management of the affairs of the Indies, under which general name was comprehended all the countries then recently discovered in this new world,) to fit out an armament and proceed on a voyage of discovery, embarked from Spain, in the month of May, 1499, and after a prosperous voyage of twenty-four days, arrived on the coast of Surinam. The celebrated Amerigo Vespucci, a Florentine merchant, from whom the Continent derives its name, induced by broken fortunes and a rambling disposition for adventure, accompanied him thither. On the arrival of Ojeda, he issued the following a declaration or requisition,” which served as a model to the Spaniards in their subsequent conquests; and is so extraordinary in its nature, and exhibits so clearly the principles upon which the Spaniards founded their rights to the extensive dominions they afterward subdued, that it merits an attentive perusal. It was in the following words:
“I, Alonzo de Ojeda, servant of the most high and powerful King of Castile and Leon, the conqueror of barbarous nations, their messenger and captain, notify to you, and de. clare, in as ample form as I am capable, that God our Lord, who is one and eternal, created
the heavens and the earth ; and one man and one woman, of whom you and we, and all the men who have been or shall be in the world, are descended. But, as it has come to pass, through the number of generations during more than five thousand years, that they have been dispersed into various kingdoms and provinces, because one country was not able to contain them, nor could they have found in one the means of subsistence and preservation; therefore God our Lord gave the charge of all those people to one man, named St. Peter, whom he constituted the lord and head of all the human race, that all men, in whatever place they are born, or in whatever faith or place they are educated, might yield obedience unto him. He hath subjected the whole world to his jurisdiction, and commanded him to establish his residence in Rome, as the most proper place for the government of the world. He likewise promised and gave him power to establish his authority in every other part of the world, and to judge and govern all Christians, Moors, Jews, Gentiles, and all other people, of whatever sect or faith they may be. To him is given the name of Pope, which signifies admirable, great father and guardian, because he is the father and guardian of all men. Those who lived in the time of this holy father, obeyed and acknowledged him as their lord and king, and the superior of the universe. The same has been observed with respect to them who, since his time, have been chosen to the pontificate. Thus it now continues, and will continue, to the end of the world.
“One of these pontiffs, as lord of the world, hath made a grant of these islands, and of the terra firma to the ocean sea, to the Catholic Kings of Castile, Don Ferdinand and Donna Isabella, of glorious memory, and their successors, our sovereigns, with all they contain, as is more fully expressed in certain deeds passed upon that occasion, which you may see, if you desire it. Thus his majesty is lord and king of these islands, and of the Continent, in virtue of this donation ; and, as king and lord aforesaid, most of the islands to which his title has been notified, have recognized his majesty, and now yield obedience and subjection to him as their lord, voluntarily and without resistance; and instantly, as soon as they received information, they obeyed the religious men sent by the king to preach to them, and to instruct them in our holy faith ; and all these, of their own free will, without any recompense or gratuity, became Christians, and continue to be so; and his majesty, having received them gratuitously under his protection, has commanded that they should be treated in the same manner as the other subjects and vassals. You are bound and obliged to act in the same manner. Therefore, I now entreat and require you to consider attentively what I have declared to you ; and, that you may more perfectly comprehend it, that you may acknowledge the Church as the superior and guide of the universe, and likewise, the holy father called the Pope, in his own right, and his majesty by his appointment, as king and sovereign lord of these islands, and of the terra firma ; and that you consent that the aforesaid holy fathers shall declare and preach to you the doctrines above mentioned. If you do this, you act well, and perform that to which you are bound and obliged ; and his majesty, and I in his name, will receive you with love and kindness, and leave you, your wives and children, free and exempt from servitude, and in the enjoyment of all you possess, in the same manner as the inhabitants of these islands. Besides this, his majesty will bestow upon you many privileges, exemptions, and rewards. But, if you will not comply, or maliciously delay to obey my injunction, then, with the help of God, I will enter your country by force ; I will carry on war against you with the utmost violence, I will subject you to the yoke of obedience to the church and the king, I will take your wives and children and make them slaves, and sell or dispose of them acccording to his majesty's pleasure ; I will seize your goods, and do you all the mischief in my power, as rebellious subjects, who will not acknowledge or submit to their lawful sovereign. And I protest, that all the bloodshed and calamities which shall follow, are to be imputed to you, and not to his majesty, or to me, or to the gentlemen who serve under me; and as I have now made the declaration and requisition unto you, I require the notary here present to grant me a certificate of this, subscribed in proper form."
Ojeda, less fortunate in making converts than captives, returned to Spain in June, 1500, with “ a cargo of Indians," which he sold for slaves
at Cadiz. Other adventurers succeeded, and among them, those who had gained laurels under Ferdinand, in the mountains of Andalusia. The names of Cortez and Pizarro are familiar to all, one as the conqueror of Mexico, the other of Peru. One died in obscurity in 1554, unable to obtain an audience with his sovereign, (Charles V.) after he “had given him,” as he observes, “ more provinces than his ancestors had left him towns." The other perished by the hand of an assassin, “amid heaps of gold, extorted by violence from oppressed natives.” To carve out empires with the sword, and divide their wealth among heartless, unprin. cipled followers; to plunder the accumulated treasures of ages, and return laden with captives and spoils, were in those days but ordinary exploits. Ease, fortune, and life were thus hazarded without remorse, and the issue, though uncertain, was sometimes so brilliant that imagina. tion was lost in wonder.
Juan Ponce de Leon discovered Florida, in 1512. He had figured in the wars of Grenada, had accompanied Columbus on his second voyage, had distinguished himself in Hispaniola as a gallant soldier, and been rewarded by Ovando with the government of its eastern provinces. He saw at a distance the island of Porto Rico, and was stimulated by ava. rice to attempt its conquest; he aspired to its government, and succeeded in both. He oppressed the natives, amassed a fortune, and desired still further honors. His commission, however, conflicted with the heirs of Columbus, and de Leon was removed. He sought next a kingdom, and Florida met his view. On the 3rd of March, 1512, he embarked in three ships, fitted out at his own expense, and on the 27th discovered land. It was on Easter Sunday, which the Spaniards called Pascua Florida. The whole country was then brilliant with verdure, and gay with flowers: hence its name.
Ponce de Leon was at that time advanced in years ; having seen hard service in his native country, and acquired a fortune amid perils and dangers, he desired immortality. He had heard and believed the tale of a fountain, in this newly-discovered land, which gave perpetuity of youth to all who should bathe in its stream and drink of its waters. He sought, therefore, by its magic influence, a renewal of his age ; and hoped to find in Florida a refuge from all his toil.
On the 8th of April, 1512, he landed, a little north of St. Augustine, being prevented by bad weather from landing before, and claimed the whole country for Spain. He remained a few weeks to examine its coast, was threatened with shipwreck on his return, doubled Cape Florida in a storm, and arrived safely at Porto Rico. He was appointed, afterward, governor of the territory. His commission, however, required him to colonize the country. He returned thither in 1521, with ten ships, for that purpose; was attacked by the natives with great fury soon after he landed, received a mortal wound from an Indian's arrow, and went to Cuba to languish and to die. Thus ended the first lesson in this great drama of guilt.