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As early as 1504 the Bretons, the Basques, and the Normans had pursued the codfishery upon the banks of Newfoundland.
1508. - Thomas AUBERT sailed from Dieppe to Newfoundland, and thence to the St. Lawrence.
He was the first to explore this river. On his return he carried home some of the natives with him.
1511. — The Council of the Indies, having control over the affairs of America, was constituted by Ferdinand the king of Spain.
It had the control of all the Indies, made all laws, appointed all officers, and made all decisions. The consent of the monarch was necessary, but was always given. It appointed the viccroys of Mexico.
1512, APRIL 2. — Juan Ponce de Leon landed on the coast of Florida, probably near the site of St. Augustine.
He had been a companion of Columbus, and had command of a portion of Hispaniola, and afterwards of Puerto Rico, which he depopulated by the savage cruelty with which he worked the natives in the mines and on the plantations. With the wealth he thus acquired he organized an exploring expedition, and landed in Florida, which he called by this name, either from the luxuriance of its vegetation, or from the fact that he landed on Palm Sunday, which the Spaniards call Pasqua de Flores. Returning to Spain, he obtained permission to settle or conquer the country, and came back with an expedition, but on landing was attacked by the natives, and driven away. Ponce de Leon was mortally wounded, and died in Cuba.
1513. — A DECREE of the Spanish privy council, issued by Ferdinand, justified the slavery of the Indians, as in accord with the laws of God and man.
It was claimed that otherwise they could not be reclaimed from idolatry and educated to Christianity.
1517, FEBRUARY 8.- Hernandez de Cordova sailed from Cuba on an expedition to the Bahamas.
By a storm he was driven from his course, and landed finally at Yucatan. Here he first heard of Mexico. 1518, May 1. — Juan de Grijalva left the port of St. Jago
de Cuba in search of the new lands which Hernandez de Cordova had reported.
He was sent by Don Diego Velasquez, the governor of Cuba, to whom this position had been given as a reward for his conquest of it.
1518, NOVEMBER 18.- An expedition under Hernando Cortez sailed from St. Jago de Cuba in search of the new lands.
Cortez had taken part in the conquest of Cuba, and is said to have himself paid chiefly for the expense of the expedition. Cortez at this time was thirty-three years old. The expedition stopped at Macaca, at Trinidad, and then at Havana, all small towns in Cuba, to lay in supplies and obtain recruits, and sailed from Havana February 10, 1619.
1519, APRIL 21. — Cortez landed on the present site of Vera Cruz.
He had landed in Yucatan, and there obtained a Mexican woman, Marina, who was given him as a slave, and who served as his interpreter in Mexico, she soon learning Spanish. At this spot Cortez made a settlement, calling it Villa Rica de Vera Cruz, and nominated a magistracy, to whom he resigned his office of captaingeneral, and was by them reappointed captain-general and chief justice.
1519, AUGUST 16.- Cortez commenced his march towards the capital of Mexico.
He had about four hundred foot-soldiers, fifteen horses, and seven pieces of artillery. There were also some thirteen hundred friendly Indians, and a thousand tamanes, or porters, to drag the guns and carry the baggage. He carried with him also some forty Totonac chiefs as hostages and guides. They belonged to a tribe which had been discontented with the rule of Montezuma. He had dismantled his fleet, taking the vessels to pieces, but preserving the iron work.
1519, NOVEMBER 8.— Cortez and his army entered the city of Mexico.
His entire army did not amount to seven thousand men, of whom less than four hundred were Spaniards. The balance were friendly Indians, who joined his expedition after severe contests with him, in which the Spaniards were successful.
1520, July 8. — Cortez, retreating from the capital of Mexico, fought the battle of Otumba, with an army opposing him, and gained a decisive victory.
He had been reinforced by a force sent from Cuba by Velasquez to capture him, and, leaving the city of Mexico with a portion of his army, had defeated these enemies, and returned to Mexico with many of them as recruits. On his return he was attacked by the Mexicans in his quarters, and Montezuma having died from wounds received from his subjects, as he was trying to appeal to them for peace, it was resolved to retreat from the city of Mexico. This retreat, undertaken at night, was more disastrous than any engagement the Spaniards met in their entire course in Mexico. After this battle he took refuge with the Thascalans, his allies.
1520, DECEMBER 28. — Cortez set out from Thascala with his army to capture the city of Mexico.
He had refitted his army, reinforced by expeditions which had been sent against him, and were induced to take part with him; so that he had about six hundred men, forty of whom were mounted, and eighty with arquebuses or crossbows. Besides these he had a large number of friendly Indians, from the several different nations in Mexico, who were desirous of throwing off the yoke of the Aztecs.
1521. — VASQUEZ DE AILLON, a Spanish explorer, visited the coast of North America, and returned to Spain to obtain permission to conquer it.
He is supposed to have landed upon the coast of South Carolina. The region he called Chicora. Returning in 1525 with two ships, the crews were driven away by the natives, the majority of the invaders being killed.
1521, APRIL .11. - Christoyal de Tapia was sent from Spain with a warrant from the regent of Castile to visit Mexico, inquire into the conduct of Cortez, suspend him from office, and, if necessary, seize him until the pleasure of the Court of Castile was known.
Tapia arrived in Vera Cruz in December, but was not allowed to proceed farther, and returned to Cuba, having sold his horses and equipments to Cortez at a high price.
1521, APRIL 28. — Cortez launched at Tezcuco his fleet of vessels, which had been built at Vera Cruz, and transported in pieces over the country.
The fleet was intended to give him command of the lake which surrounded the city of Mexico. A canal had been dug for the purpose of introducing them into the lake. On mustering his forces, he had eighty-seven horsemen, eight hundred and eighteen footmen, one hundred and eighteen of whom had arquebuses or crossbows. He had also three iron cannon, and fifteen lighter ones of brass. The heavy cannon were mounted on the vessels, one to each.
1521, AUGUST 13. — The city of Mexico surrendered.
Guatemozin attempting to escape was captured, and the city surrendered. It had been almost destroyed, and famine and pestilence had killed thousands of its defenders. It was estimated that seventy thousand, besides women and children, left the city when it was evacuated by order of the conqueror. Those who perished in its defence are variously estimated from one hundred and twenty thousand to twice that number. The city of Mexico had been besieged nearly three months.
1522, OCTOBER 15.- Charles V. issued a commission to Cortez, making him governor, captain-general, and chief justice of New Spain.
The commission gave him power to appoint all officers, civil and military. It was issued in accordance with the decision of a council which had been called to consider the charges against Cortez, which justified all his proceedings.
1524. - TWELVE Franciscan friars arrived in Mexico.
They had been sent by request of Cortez, who asked that members of the religious fraternities might be sent out, whose lives were a practical commentary on their teachings, instead of pampered prelates who squandered the substance of the country in luxurious living. He petitioned also that “attorneys, and men learned in the law,” should be prohibited from landing in the country, since " perience had shown that they would be sure by their evil practices to disturb the peace of the community." His petition was granted. The priests were so active in the work of conversion that in twenty years from their advent they boasted of having made nine millions of converts, more than the whole population, and also of having caused so complete a destruction of the Aztec temples, great and small, " that not a vestige of them remained.” Under Cortez's rule the settlement of the country was urged; slavery was established, and it was made a condition of the grants of land that they must be occupied eight years before the title was complete, and that a certain number of vines should be planted. All vessels arriving were obliged to bring a certain quantity of seeds and plants.
1524. — VERRAZZANI, a Florentine in the employ of Francis I. of France, coasted along North America from the 28th to the 50th degree of north latitude, and called the country New France.
He wrote an account of his discoveries to Francis I., dated Dieppe, July 8, 1524, and which has been often reprinted. His descriptions of the places he passed have been thought to indicate the coast of New Jersey, and the harbors of New York and Newport, while either Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket is also supposed to have been described by him. The next year he is said to have made another voyage, from which he never returned.
1526, JUNE. - Cortez re-entered Mexico, after an absence of two years, during which he had explored Central America, and claimed it for the Spanish crown.
Finding that during his absence complaints had been made of his conduct, he resolved to return to Spain to justify himself, and landed at Palos in May, 1528.
1529, JULY. — Charles V. gave a commission to Cortez, who had been made Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca, as captain-general of New Spain, and of the coasts of the South Sea.
The civil government of the country of Mexico was not intrusted to him, but to other officers appointed by the crown, styled the Royal Audience, of which Nunez de Guzman was the head, and one of whose duties was to investigate the charges against Cortez. The appointment of this board was one of the chief causes of Cortez's return to Spain.
1530, JULY 15.- Cortez landed in Mexico on his return from Spain.
A new Royal Audience had been created. The report of the first, concerning the charges against Cortez, does not seem to have been noticed by the Spanish government. The new Audience was given an equal control with Cortez of the military affairs of Mexico; therefore he retired from public life, and interested "himself with the cultivation of his estates, and with fitting out the expedition which explored the Gulf of California.
1534, APRIL 20. — Jaques Cartier, under a commission from the king of France, sailed from St. Malo, and on the 10th of May reached Newfoundland.
He almost circumnavigated Newfoundland, and crossed the Gulf of St. Law. tence. On his return his account of his voyage excited great attention, as did the two natives he brought back with him.
1535. - JAQUES CARTIER made his second voyage, accompanied with a large company. As he entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence upon the day of that saint, he gave his name to it, which eventually extended to the river. He sailed up the river, built a fort, and wintered there.
He called the territory New France, and gave the name Mont Real to the hill upon the island on which Montreal now is.
1535, August 15.-- Don Antonio de Mendoza arrived from Spain as viceroy of Mexico.
This was the commencement of the Spanish system of intrusting the administration of the colonies to viceroys of such rank that they were supposed to fitly represent royalty. They were never kept long in their positions. The exact date of his arrival is questioned.
1536. — The first book printed in America was issued in the city of Mexico.
It was a Spanish translation of a work written in Greek, and entitled in Spanish, Escala Espiritual para llegar al Cielo, or the Spiritual Ladder of Heaven. This translation, from a Latin version, was made by Juan de Estrada, and printed by Juan Pablos, who appears to have been brought to Mexico by Mendoza, and probably printed this little volume as a sort of manual for the novices of the convent of St. Dominic. The work derives its name from its form, it being thirty steps to lead to perfection. No copy of the work is known to be in existence, and the date of its issue is problematical, though the best authorities agree upon this date.
1536. — A COLONY from England, under the direction of “ Master Hore," attempted a settlement in Newfoundland, but after suffering from famine they returned.
Hakluyt gives an account of the enterprise, which he had from “ Master Thomas Butts, one of the gentlemen adventurers." They were nearly starved, when fortunately a French fishing-vessel appeared, which they seized to return home in.
1537. — CORTEZ with three ships discovered the peninsula of California.
The Gulf of California was explored in 1539 by Francisco de Alloa, who was sent by Cortez. Cortez is said to have spent two hundred thousand ducats in his Californian explorations.
1539, May 18. — Ferdinand de Soto, the governor of Cuba, sailed from Havana on an expedition to Florida for the purpose of conquering the country.
In this expedition there were nine vessels, nine hundred men besides sailors, two hundred and thirteen horses, and a herd of swine. He had received the title of Marquis of Florida from Charles V. The expedition landed on the west side of Florida, at Tampa Bay, and, constantly fighting with the natives. penetrated to the interior, until, in June, 1541, they reached the Mississippi. Here De Soto died, and the rest of the adventurers, building boats, floated down to the mouth of the river, and landed finally at a Spanish settlement, near the present site of Tampico. De Soto is said to have expended one hundred thousand ducats in this enterprise. There is an account of it, written by an actor in it.
1540. — CORTEZ again embarked for Spain.
He went to seek redress for the losses he had suffered from the Royal Audience, and also to state the grounds of his dispute with the viceroy. He died in Spain in 1547, aged 63, and was buried in the chapel of San Isidro, in