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FROM almost every point first gained in America, adven- as well as from the shores of Spain, adventures, tures. some great, some small, some national, some individual, were urged by the Spaniards in all directions. The West Indies, at first the whole, soon became the mere centre of the Spanish possessions.
The first to reach the territory of the present Leon in United States was Ponce de Leon, a companion of Florida. Columbus. Long visited by dreams of riches, and latterly, in his advancing age, excited by rumors of a fountain in which youth might be renewed, Ponce set sail from Porto Rico in search of the treasures in the north. On Easter Sunday, in the Spanish calendar Pascua Florida,
he descried a land to which, in his mingled visions of resurrection and of abundance, he gave the name of Florida or Flower-land, (1512.) Nine years later, with a commission from the Spanish crown, as governor of Florida, Ponce returned to conquer and to colonize his discovery. But driven off by the natives of the coast, the old adventurer left Florida to return no more, (1521.)
A series of expeditions had already begun to expedi- scour the Atlantic coast. The Portuguese Cortions. tereal had led the way, twenty years before, in a cruise towards the north, (1501.) A line of Spanish adventurers, intent upon treasure and conquest, succeeded.
Vasquez de Ayllon twice made descents upon Chicora, the later Carolina, (1520-24.) Gomez sailed farther to the north in quest of a western passage to richer lands, (1525.) Pamphilo de Narvaez tried his fortune in Florida, (1528,) whither also De Soto directed his greater expedition, and pursued his wanderings northward and westward (1539-43) with no greater reward than the discovery of the Mississippi, (1541.) At the same time, Vasquez Coronado was penetrating from Mexico high up into the interior, (1540-42,) while De Cabrillo (1542) was coasting the Pacific shore, and, though dying on the voyage, leaving his pilot, Ferrelo, to ascend as far as Oregon, (1543.) Of these western explorations there were few if any results to satisfy the explorers. Nor were the adventurers in the east better contented; the only ones to gain any thing being those who laded their ships with slaves. The natives had been pressed into bondage almost from the moment when they were first seen in the West Indies.
A figure of more Christian aspect appears in Cancello. Luis de Cancello, a Dominican friar. Obtaining an order from Spain that all the slaves from the northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico should be returned, he set sail with such as he could collect. Instead of proposing to conquer the natives, he went with the hope of converting them to a religion of peace. But in his first interview with them on the coast, he and two priests accompanying him were slain, (1549.)
Nearly twenty years elapsed, and our soil was dez. still unoccupied by the Spaniards. At length a veteran commander, Menendez de Aviles, engaged to complete the conquest and to commence the colonization of Florida, with a train of soldiers, priests, and negro slaves. He was of a stern temper, without a vision of romance or a touch of sensibility to turn him from the severe enterprise
which he had assumed. He began with the foundation of St. Augustine, (September 8, 1565,) the oldest town in the United States. Then he routed and slew some French settlers who had lately encamped upon the ground claimed by Spain, and whose destruction had been one of the great incentives to his expedition. Where they fell most thickly, the conqueror marked out the site of a Christian church. The colony thus resolutely founded brought none of the rich returns that had been looked for; but it was not abandoned.
De Espejio and
Fifteen years afterwards, the expeditions from Mexico were renewed by Ruiz (1580) and De Vizcaino. Espejio, (1581,) the latter of whom, followed by
soldiers and Indians, marched northward, until he named the country New Mexico, and founded the settlement of Santa Fe, the second town of the United States in point of age. Twenty years later, (1602,) a squadron under Sebastiano Vizcaino explored the Californian shore, bestowing upon its headlands and its bays many of the names which they still bear. It was Vizcaino's hope to colonize the coast, but he died in the midst of his schemes, (1608.)
The motives of the Spanish settler, as we perMotives. ceive, were partly of a high and partly of a low nature. Devoted to great aims and to generous deeds, he encountered, as Luis de Cancello did in Florida, the perils of an unknown shore, in order to impart to others the faith in which he lived and for which he was willing to die. But in another aspect the Spanish character grows dark and threatening. Men, like the greater part of those who have been mentioned, sought our land for gold or for dominion; sometimes, indeed, with a national object, but more generally for merely selfish ends. Motives of this sort led to scenes of cruelty and of carnage, on which it is, fortunately, unnecessary to dwell.
The institutions of Spain were those of an absolute monarchy. They lent but little aid to the development of the better elements in the national character. Indeed, they rather encouraged the opposite elements, both before and after the colonies of the nation were founded. A military rule was the only political institution of Florida. It was in the hands of a few officials, whose authority was kept up at the sacrifice of the general progress of the settlements. A rigid system of trade, upholding a monopoly in favor of the government, or of the capitalists dependent on the government at home, increased the obstacles with which the colony had to contend.
Coming with these motives and under these institutions, the Spaniards found themselves in circumstances of similar tendency. Choosing the south for their first, and, as it proved, their only settlements, from its promising the richest harvest, they met the influences springing from the air above them and from the earth beneath them. The habits of indulgence and of repose which ensued were any thing but favorable to character or to prosperity.
Few and far between were the Spanish settleSpanish ments. But the Spanish claims were universal. claims. In the first place, there was a papal bull of 1493, conveying a right to all America. In the next place, there were the successive discoverers from Ponce de Leon to Vizcaino, whose labors had won the continent anew. The name of Florida was stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of St. Lawrence; that of New Mexico was made equally extensive in the interior and on the west. Could names, and deeds, and papal bulls have sufficed to support the Spanish claim, it would have prevailed throughout the United States.
THE approaches of France to our country were France. made, first by fishermen, (1504,) and then by navigators. A Florentine, Verrazzano, in the French service, sailing along the coast from Florida to Newfoundland, was not deterred by any previous discoveries from giving to the continent the name of New France, (1524.) Ten years after, the Frenchman Cartier renewed the name in voyages in and about the Gulf of St. Lawrence, (1534-42.)
Nothing, however, was done in a persevering Fate of its way to fix the name upon the territory, until AdmiHugue- ral De Coligny conceived the idea of a colony to which his brother Protestants, the Huguenots, might repair for refuge against persecution in France. After failing to make a settlement in South America, De Coligny despatched a party to the northern coast, where a fort, named Charlesfort in honor of the French king, was erected near Port Royal in the present South Carolina, (1562) This settlement likewise falling through, another was made upon the St. John's in Florida, where a fort called Caroline was reared, (1564.) The mutinous dispositions of the colonists and their Indian wars had much reduced the settlement, when it was annihilated by the Spanish force under Menendez de Aviles, (1565.) Such of the French as did not escape or fall in battle were put