The History Of The Conquest Of Peru
William H. Prescott

Part 4 out of 17

the stern rule of its conquerors. His suggestions are replete
with wisdom, and a merciful policy, that would reconcile the
interests of government with the prosperity and happiness of its
humblest vassal. Thus, while his contemporaries gathered light
from his suggestions as to the present condition of affairs, the
historian of later times is no less indebted to him for
information in respect to the past. His manuscript was freely
consulted by Herrera, and the reader, as he peruses the pages of
the learned historian of the Indies, is unconsciously enjoying
the benefit of the researches of Ondegardo. His valuable
Relaciones thus had their uses for future generations, though
they have never been admitted to the honors of the press. The
copy in my possession, like that of Sarmiento's manuscript, for
which I am indebted to that industrious bibliographer, Mr. Rich,
formed part of the magnificent collection of Lord Kingsborough, -
a name ever to be held in honor by the scholar for his
indefatigable efforts to illustrate the antiquities of America.

Ondegardo's manuscripts, it should be remarked, do not bear his
signature. But they contain allusions to several actions of the
writer's life, which identify them, beyond any reasonable doubt,
as his production. In the archives of Simancas is a duplicate
copy of the first memorial, Relacion Primera, though, like the
one in the Escurial, without its author's name. Munoz assigns it
to the pen of Gabriel de Rojas, a distinguished cavalier of the
Conquest. This is clearly an error; for the author of the
manuscript identifies himself with Ondegardo, by declaring, in
his reply to the fifth interrogatory, that he was the person who
discovered the mummies of the Incas in Cuzco; an act expressly
referred, both by Acosta and Garcilasso, to the Licentiate Polo
de Ondegardo, when corregidor of that city. - Should the savans
of Madrid hereafter embrace among the publications of valuable
manuscripts these Relaciones, they should be careful not to be
led into an error here, by the authority of a critic like Munoz,
whose criticism is rarely at fault.

Book II: Discovery Of Peru

Chapter I

Ancient And Modern Science. - Art Of Navigation. - Maritime
Discovery. - Spirit Of The Spaniards. - Possessions In The New
World. - Rumors Concerning Peru.

Whatever difference of opinion may exist as to the comparative
merit of the ancients and the moderns in the arts, in poetry,
eloquence, and all that depends on imagination, there can be no
doubt that in science the moderns have eminently the advantage.
It could not be otherwise. In the early ages of the world, as in
the early period of life, there was the freshness of a morning
existence, when the gloss of novelty was on every thing that met
the eye; when the senses, not blunted by familiarity, were more
keenly alive to the beautiful, and the mind, under the influence
of a healthy and natural taste, was not perverted by
philosophical theory; when the simple was necessarily connected
with the beautiful, and the epicurean intellect, sated by
repetition, had not begun to seek for stimulants in the fantastic
and capricious. The realms of fancy were all untravelled, and
its fairest flowers had not been gathered, nor its beauties
despoiled by the rude touch of those who affected to cultivate
them. The wing of genius was not bound to the earth by the cold
and conventional rules of criticism, but was permitted to take
its flight far and wide over the broad expanse of creation.
But with science it was otherwise. No genius could suffice for
the creation of facts, - hardly for their detection. They were
to be gathered in by painful industry; to be collected from
careful observation and experiment. Genius, indeed, might
arrange and combine these facts into new forms, and elicit from
their combinations new and important inferences; and in this
process might almost rival in originality the creations of the
poet and the artist. But if the processes of science are
necessarily slow, they are sure. There is no retrograde movement
in her domain. Arts may fade, the Muse become dumb, a moral
lethargy may lock up the faculties of a nation, the nation itself
may pass away and leave only the memory of its existence, but the
stores of science it has garnered up will endure for ever. As
other nations come upon the stage, and new forms of civilization
arise, the monuments of art and of imagination, productions of an
older time, will lie as an obstacle in the path of improvement.
They cannot be built upon; they occupy the ground which the new
aspirant for immortality would cover. The whole work is to be
gone over again, and other forms of beauty - whether higher or
lower in the scale of merit, but unlike the past - must arise to
take a place by their side. But, in science, every stone that
has been laid remains as the foundation for another. The coming
generation takes up the work where the preceding left it. There
is no retrograde movement. The individual nation may recede, but
science still advances. Every step that has been gained makes
the ascent easier for those who come after. Every step carries
the patient inquirer after truth higher and higher towards
heaven, and unfolds to him, as he rises, a wider horizon, and new
and more magnificent views of the universe.

Geography partook of the embarrassments which belonged to every
other department of science in the primitive ages of the world.
The knowledge of the earth could come only from an extended
commerce; and commerce is founded on artificial wants or an
enlightened curiosity, hardly compatible with the earlier
condition of society. In the infancy of nations, the different
tribes, occupied with their domestic feuds, found few occasions
to wander beyond the mountain chain or broad stream that formed
the natural boundary of their domains. The Phoenicians, it is
true, are said to have sailed beyond the Pillars of Hercules, and
to have launched out on the great western ocean. But the
adventures of these ancient voyagers belong to the mythic legends
of antiquity, and ascend far beyond the domain of authentic
The Greeks, quick and adventurous, skilled in mechanical art, had
many of the qualities of successful navigators, and within the
limits of their little inland sea ranged fearlessly and freely.
But the conquests of Alexander did more to extend the limits of
geographical science, and opened an acquaintance with the remote
countries of the East. Yet the march of the conqueror is slow in
comparison with the movements of the unencumbered traveller. The
Romans were still less enterprising than the Greeks, were less
commercial in their character. The contributions to geographical
knowledge grew with the slow acquisitions of empire. But their
system was centralizing in its tendency; and instead of taking an
outward direction and looking abroad for discovery, every part of
the vast imperial domain turned towards the capital as its head
and central point of attraction. The Roman conqueror pursued his
path by land, not by sea. But the water is the great highway
between nations, the true element for the discoverer. The Romans
were not a maritime people. At the close of their empire,
geographical science could hardly be said to extend farther than
to an acquaintance with Europe, - and this not its more northern
division, - together with a portion of Asia and Africa; while
they had no other conception of a world beyond the western waters
than was to be gathered from the fortunate prediction of the
poet. *1

[Footnote 1: Seneca's well-known prediction, in his Medea, is,
perhaps, the most remarkable random prophecy on record. For it
is not a simple extension of the boundaries of the known parts of
the globe that is so confidently announced, but the existence of
a New World across the waters, to be revealed in coming ages

"Quibus Oceanus
Vincula rerum laxet, et ingens
Pateat tellus, Typhisque Novos
Detegat Orbes."

It was the lucky hit of the philosopher rather than the poet.]
Then followed the Middle Ages; the dark ages, as they are called,
though in their darkness were matured those seeds of knowledge,
which, in fulness of time, were to spring up into new and more
glorious forms of civilization. The organization of society
became more favorable to geographical science. Instead of one
overgrown, lethargic empire, oppressing every thing by its
colossal weight, Europe was broken up into various independent
communities, many of which, adopting liberal forms of government,
felt all the impulses natural to freemen; and the petty republics
on the Mediterranean and the Baltic sent forth their swarms of
seamen in a profitable commerce, that knit together the different
countries scattered along the great European waters.
But the improvements which took place in the art of navigation,
the more accurate measurement of time, and, above all, the
discovery of the polarity of the magnet, greatly advanced the
cause of geographical knowledge. Instead of creeping timidly
along the coast, or limiting his expeditions to the narrow basins
of inland waters, the voyager might now spread his sails boldly
on the deep, secure of a guide to direct his bark unerringly
across the illimitable waste. The consciousness of this powered
thought to travel in a new direction; and the mariner began to
look with earnestness for another path to the Indian
Spice-islands than that by which the Eastern caravans had
traversed the continent of Asia. The nations on whom the spirit
of enterprise, at this crisis, naturally descended, were Spain
and Portugal, placed, as they were, on the outposts of the
European continent, commanding the great theatre of future

Both countries felt the responsibility of their new position.
The crown of Portugal was constant in its efforts, through the
fifteenth century, to find a passage round the southern point of
Africa into the Indian Ocean; though so timid was the navigation,
that every fresh headland became a formidable barrier; and it was
not till the latter part of the century that the adventurous Diaz
passed quite round the Stormy Cape, as he termed it, but which
John the Second, with happier augury, called the Cape of Good
Hope. But, before Vasco de Gama had availed himself of this
discovery to spread his sails in the Indian seas, Spain entered
on her glorious career, and sent Columbus across the western

The object of the great navigator was still the discovery of a
route to India, but by the west instead of the east. He had no
expectation of meeting with a continent in his way, and, after
repeated voyages, he remained in his original error, dying, as is
well known, in the conviction that it was the eastern shore of
Asia which he had reached. It was the same object which
directed the nautical enterprises of those who followed in the
Admiral's track; and the discovery of a strait into the Indian
Ocean was the burden of every order from the government, and the
design of many an expedition to different points of the new
continent, which seemed to stretch its leviathan length along
from one pole to the other. The discovery of an Indian passage
is the true key to the maritime movements of the fifteenth and
the first half of the sixteenth centuries. It was the great
leading idea that gave the character to the enterprise of the

It is not easy at this time to comprehend the impulse given to
Europe by the discovery of America. It was not the gradual
acquisition of some border territory, a province or a kingdom
that had been gained, but a New World that was now thrown open to
the European. The races of animals, the mineral treasures, the
vegetable forms, and the varied aspects of nature, man in the
different phases of civilization, filled the mind with entirely
new sets of ideas, that changed the habitual current of thought
and stimulated it to indefinite conjecture. The eagerness to
explore the wonderful secrets of the new hemisphere became so
active, that the principal cities of Spain were, in a manner,
depopulated, as emigrants thronged one after another to take
their chance upon the deep. *2 It was a world of romance that was
thrown open; for, whatever might be the luck of the adventurer,
his reports on his return were tinged with a coloring of romance
that stimulated still higher the sensitive fancies of his
countrymen, and nourished the chimerical sentiments of an age of
chivalry. They listened with attentive ears to tales of Amazons
which seemed to realize the classic legends of antiquity, to
stories of Patagonian giants, to flaming pictures of an El
Dorado, where the sands sparkled with gems, and golden pebbles as
large as birds' eggs were dragged in nets out of the rivers.

[Footnote 2: The Venetian ambassador, Andrea Navagiero, who
travelled through Spain in 1525, near the period of the
commencement of our narrative, notices the general fever of
emigration. Seville, in particular, the great port of
embarkation, was so stripped of its inhabitants, he says, "that
the city was left almost to the women." Viaggio fatto in Spagna,
(Vinegia, 1563.) fol. 15.]

Yet that the advtenturers were no impostors, but dupes, too easy
dupes of their own credulous fancies, is shown by the extravagant
character of their enterprises; by expeditions in search of the
magical Fountain of Health, of the golden Temple of Doboyba, of
the golden sepulchres of Zenu; for gold was ever floating before
their distempered vision, and the name of Castilla del Oro,
Golden Castile, the most unhealthy and unprofitable region of the
Isthmus, held out a bright promise to the unfortunate settler,
who too frequently, instead of gold, found there only his grave.

In this realm of enchantment, all the accessories served to
maintain the illusion. The simple natives, with their
defenceless bodies and rude weapons were no match for the
European warrior armed to the teeth in mail. The odds were as
great as those found in any legend of chivalry, where the lance
of the good knight overturned hundreds at a touch. The perils
that lay in the discoverer's path, and the sufferings he had to
sustain, were scarcely inferior to those that beset the
knight-errant. Hunger and thirst and fatigue, the deadly
effluvia of the morass with its swarms of venomous insects, the
cold of mountain snows, and the scorching sun of the tropics,
these were the lot of every cavalier who came to seek his
fortunes in the New World. It was the reality of romance. The
life of the Spanish adventurer was one chapter more - and not the
least remarkable - in the chronicles of knight-errantry.

The character of the warrior took somewhat of the exaggerated
coloring shed over his exploits. Proud and vainglorious, swelled
with lofty anticipations of his destiny, and an invincible
confidence in his own resources, no danger could appall and no
toil could tire him. The greater the danger, indeed, the higher
the charm; for his soul revelled in excitement, and the
enterprise without peril wanted that spur of romance which was
necessary to rouse his energies into action. Yet in the motives
of action meaner influences were strangely mingled with the
loftier, the temporal with the spiritual. Gold was the incentive
and the recompense, and in the pursuit of it his inflexible
nature rarely hesitated as to the means. His courage was sullied
with cruelty, the cruelty that flowed equally - strange as it may
seem - from his avarice and his religion; religion as it was
understood in that age, - the religion of the Crusader. It was
the convenient cloak for a multitude of sins, which covered them
even from himself. The Castilian, too proud for hypocrisy,
committed more cruelties in the name of religion than were ever
practised by the pagan idolater or the fanatical Moslem. The
burning of the infidel was a sacrifice acceptable to Heaven, and
the conversion of those who survived amply atoned for the foulest
offences. It is a melancholy and mortifying consideration, that
the most uncompromising spirit of intolerance - the spirit of the
Inquisitor at home, and of the Crusader abroad - should have
emanated from a religion which preached peace upon earth and
good-will towards man!

What a contrast did these children of Southern Europe present to
the Anglo-Saxon races who scattered themselves along the great
northern division of the western hemisphere! For the principle
of action with these latter was not avarice, nor the more
specious pretext of proselytism; but independence, - independence
religious and political. To secure this, they were content to
earn a bare subsistence by a life of frugality and toil. They
asked nothing from the soil, but the reasonable returns of their
own labor. No golden visions threw a deceitful halo around their
path, and beckoned them onwards through seas of blood to the
subversion of an unoffending dynasty. They were content with the
slow but steady progress of their social polity. They patiently
endured the privations of the wilderness, watering the tree of
liberty with their tears and with the sweat of their brow, till
it took deep root in the land and sent up its branches high
towards the heavens; while the communities of the neighbouring
continent, shooting up into the sudden splendors of a tropical
vegetation, exhibited, even in their prime, the sure symptoms of

It would seem to have been especially ordered by Providence that
the discovery of the two great divisions of the American
hemisphere should fall to the two races best fitted to conquer
and colonize them. Thus the northern section was consigned to
the Anglo-Saxon race, whose orderly, industrious habits found an
ample field for development under its colder skies and on its
more rugged soil; while the southern portion, with its rich
tropical products and treasures of mineral wealth, held out the
most attractive bait to invite the enterprise of the Spaniard.
How different might have been the result, if the bark of Columbus
had taken a more northerly direction, as he at one time
meditated, and landed its band of adventurers on the shores of
what is now Protestant America!

Under the pressure of that spirit of nautical enterprise which
filled the maritime communities of Europe in the sixteenth
century, the whole extent of the mighty continent, from Labrador
to Terra del Fuego, was explored in less than thirty years after
its discovery; and in 1521, the Portuguese Maghellan, sailing
under the Spanish flag, solved the problem of the strait, and
found a westerly way to the long sought Spice-islands of India, -
greatly to the astonishment of the Portuguese, who, sailing from
the opposite direction, there met their rivals, face to face, at
the antipodes. But while the whole eastern coast of the American
continent had been explored, and the central portion of it
colonized, - even after the brilliant achievement of the Mexican
conquest, - the veil was not yet raised that hung over the golden
shores of the Pacific.

Floating rumors had reached the Spaniards, from time to time, of
countries in the far west, teeming with the metal they so much
coveted; but the first distinct notice of Peru was about the year
1511, when Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the discoverer of the Southern
Sea, was weighing some gold which he had collected from the
natives. A young barbarian chieftain, who was present, struck
the scales with his fist, and, scattering the glittering metal
around the apartment, exclaimed, - "If this is what you prize so
much that you are willing to leave your distant homes, and risk
even life itself for it, I can tell you of a land where they eat
and drink out of golden vessels, and gold is as cheap as iron is
with you." It was not long after this startling intelligence that
Balboa achieved the formidable adventure of scaling the mountain
rampart of the isthmus which divides the two mighty oceans from
each other; when, armed with sword and buckler, he rushed into
the waters of the Pacific, and cried out, in the true chivalrous
vein, that "he claimed this unknown sea with all that it
contained for the king of Castile, and that he would make good
the claim against all, Christian or infidel, who dared to gain
say it"! *3 All the broad continent and sunny isles washed by the
waters of the Southern Ocean! Little did the bold cavalier
comprehend the full import of his magnificent vaunt.

[Footnote 3: Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 1. lib. 10, cap. 2. -
Quintana, Vidas de Espanoles Celebres, (Madrid, 1830,) tom. II.
p. 44.]

On this spot he received more explicit tidings of the Peruvian
empire, heard proofs recounted of its civilization, and was shown
drawings of the llama, which, to the European eye, seemed a
species of the Arabian camel. But, although he steered his
caravel for these golden realms, and even pushed his discoveries
some twenty leagues south of the Gulf of St. Michael, the
adventure was not reserved for him. The illustrious discoverer
was doomed to fall a victim to that miserable jealousy with which
a little spirit regards the achievements of a great one.

The Spanish colonial domain was broken up into a number of petty
governments, which were dispensed sometimes to court favorites,
though, as the duties of the post, at this early period, were of
an arduous nature, they were more frequently reserved for men of
some practical talent and enterprise. Columbus, by virtue of his
original contract with the Crown, had jurisdiction over the
territories discovered by himself, embracing some of the
principal islands, and a few places on the continent. This
jurisdiction differed from that of other functionaries, inasmuch
as it was hereditary; a privilege found in the end too
considerable for a subject, and commuted, therefore, for a title
and a pension. These colonial governments were multiplied with
the increase of empire, and by the year 1524, the period at which
our narrative properly commences, were scattered over the
islands, along the Isthmus of Darien, the broad tract of Terra
Firma, and the recent conquests of Mexico. Some of these
governments were of no great extent. Others, like that of Mexico,
were of the dimensions of a kingdom; and most had an indefinite
range for discovery assigned to them in their immediate
neighbourhood, by which each of the petty potentates might
enlarge his territorial sway, and enrich his followers and
himself. This politic arrangement best served the ends of the
Crown, by affording a perpetual incentive to the spirit of
enterprise. Thus living on their own little domains at a long
distance from the mother country, these military rulers held a
sort of vice-regal sway, and too frequently exercised it in the
most oppressive and tyrannical manner; oppressive to the native,
and tyrannical towards their own followers. It was the natural
consequence, when men, originally low in station, and unprepared
by education for office, were suddenly called to the possession
of a brief, but in its nature irresponsible, authority. It was
not till after some sad experience of these results, that
measures were taken to hold these petty tyrants in check by means
of regular tribunals, or Royal Audiences, as they were termed,
which, composed of men of character and learning, might interpose
the arm of the law, or, at least, the voice of remonstrance, for
the protection of both colonist and native.

Among the colonial governors, who were indebted for their
situation to their rank at home, was Don Pedro Arias de Avila, or
Pedrarias, as usually called. He was married to a daughter of
Dona Beatriz de Bobadilla, the celebrated Marchioness of Moya,
best known as the friend of Isabella the Catholic. He was a man
of some military experience and considerable energy of character.
But, as it proved, he was of a malignant temper; and the base
qualities, which might have passed unnoticed in the obscurity of
private life, were made conspicuous, and perhaps created in some
measure, by sudden elevation to power; as the sunshine, which
operates kindly on a generous soil, and stimulates it to
production, calls forth from the unwholesome marsh only foul and
pestilent vapors. This man was placed over the territory of
Castilla del Oro, the ground selected by Nunez de Balboa for the
theatre of his discoveries. Success drew on this latter the
jealousy of his superior, for it was crime enough in the eyes of
Pedrarias to deserve too well. The tragical history of this
cavalier belongs to a period somewhat earlier than that with
which we are to be occupied. It has been traced by abler hands
than mine, and, though brief, forms one of the most brilliant
passages in the annals of the American conquerors. *4

[Footnote 4: The memorable adventures of Vasco Nunez de Balboa
have been recorded by Quintana, (Espanoles Celebres, tom II.) and
by Irving in his Companions of Columbus. - It is rare that the
life of an individual has formed the subject of two such elegant
memorials, produced at nearly the same time, and in different
languages, without any communication between the authors.]
But though Pedrarias was willing to cut short the glorious career
of his rival, he was not insensible to the important consequences
of his discoveries. He saw at once the unsuitableness of Darien
for prosecuting expeditions on the Pacific, and, conformably to
the original suggestion of Balboa, in 1519, he caused his rising
capital to be transferred from the shores of the Atlantic to the
ancient site of Panama, some distance east of the present city of
that name. *5 This most unhealthy spot, the cemetery of many an
unfortunate colonist, was favorably situated for the great object
of maritime enterprise; and the port, from its central position,
afforded the best point of departure for expeditions, whether to
the north or south, along the wide range of undiscovered coast
that lined the Southern Ocean. Yet in this new and more
favorable position, several years were suffered to elapse before
the course of discovery took the direction of Peru. This was
turned exclusively towards the north, or rather west, in
obedience to the orders of government, which had ever at heart
the detection of a strait that, as was supposed, must intersect
some part or other of the long-extended Isthmus. Armament after
armament was fitted out with this chimerical object; and
Pedrarias saw his domain extending every year farther and farther
without deriving any considerable advantage from his
acquisitions. Veragua, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, were successively
occupied; and his brave cavaliers forced a way across forest and
mountain and warlike tribes of savages, till, at Honduras, they
came in collision with the companions of Cortes, the Conquerors
of Mexico, who had descended from the great northern plateau on
the regions of Central America, and thus completed the survey of
this wild and mysterious land.

[Footnote 5: The Court gave positive instructions to Pedrarias to
make a settlement in the Gulf of St. Michael, in obedience to the
suggestion of Vasco Nunez, that it would be the most eligible
site for discovery and traffic in the South Sea. "El asiento que
se oviere de hacer en el golfo de S. Miguel en la mar del sur
debe ser en el puerto que mejor se hallare y mas convenible para
la contratacion de aquel golfo, porque segund lo que Vasco Nunez
escribe, seria muy necessario que alli haya algunos navios, asi
para descubrir las cosas del golfo; y de la comarca del, como
para la contratacion de rescates de las otras cosas necesarias al
buen provoimiento de aquello; e para que estos navios aprovechen
es menester que se hagan alla." Capitulo de Carta escrita por el
Rey Catolico a Pedrarias Davila, ap. Navarrete, Coleccion de los
Viages y Descubrimientos, (Madrid, 1829.) tom. III. No. 3.]
It was not till 1522 that a regular expedition was despatched in
the direction south of Panama, under the conduct of Pascual de
Andagoya, a cavalier of much distinction in the colony. But that
officer penetrated only to the Puerto de Pinas, the limit of
Balboa's discoveries, when the bad state of his health compelled
him to reembark and abandon his enterprise at its commencement.

[Footnote 6: According to Montesinos, Andagoya received a severe
injury by a fall from his horse, while showing off the
high-mettled animal to the wondering eyes of the natives.
(Annales del Peru, Ms., ano 1524.) But the Adelantado, in a
memorial of his own discoveries, drawn up by himself, says
nothing of this unlucky feat of horsemanship, but imputes his
illness to his having fallen into the water, an accident by which
he was near being drowned, so that it was some years before he
recovered from the effects of it; a mode of accounting for his
premature return, more soothing to his vanity, probably, than the
one usually received. This document, important as coming from
the pen of one of the primitive discoverers, is preserved in the
Indian Archives of Seville, and was published by Navarrete,
Coleccion, tom. III. No. 7.]

Yet the floating rumors of the wealth and civilization of a
mighty nation at the South were continually reaching the ears and
kindling the dreamy imaginations of the colonists; and it may
seem astonishing that an expedition in that direction should have
been so long deferred. But the exact position and distance of
this fairy realm were matter of conjecture. The long tract of
intervening country was occupied by rude and warlike races; and
the little experience which the Spanish navigators had already
had of the neighbouring coast and its inhabitants, and still
more, the tempestuous character of the seas - for their
expeditions had taken place at the most unpropitious seasons of
the year - enhanced the apparent difficulties of the undertaking,
and made even their stout hearts shrink from it.
Such was the state of feeling in the little community of Panama
for several years after its foundation. Meanwhile, the dazzling
conquest of Mexico gave a new impulse to the ardor of discovery,
and, in 1524, three men were found in the colony, in whom the
spirit of adventure triumphed over every consideration of
difficulty and danger that obstructed the prosecution of the
enterprise. One among them was selected as fitted by his
character to conduct it to a successful issue. That man was
Francisco Pizarro; and as he held the same conspicuous post in
the Conquest of Peru that was occupied by Cortes in that of
Mexico, it will be necessary to take a brief review of his early

Chapter II

Francisco Pizarro. - His Early History. - First Expedition To The
South. - Distresses Of The Voyagers. - Sharp Encounters. - Return
To Panama. - Almagro's Expedition.


Francisco Pizarro was born at Truxillo, a city of Estremadura, in
Spain. The period of his birth is uncertain; but probably it was
not far from 1471. *1 He was an illegitimate child, and that his
parents should not have taken pains to perpetuate the date of his
birth is not surprising. Few care to make a particular record of
their transgressions. His father, Gonzalo Pizarro, was a colonel
of infantry, and served with some distinction in the Italian
campaigns under the Great Captain, and afterwards in the wars of
Navarre. His mother, named Francisca Gonzales, was a person of
humble condition in the town of Truxillo. *2

[Footnote 1: The few writers who venture to assign the date of
Pizarro's birth do it in so vague and contradictory a manner as
to inspire us with but little confidence in their accounts.
Herrera, it is true, says positively, that he was sixty-three
years old at the time of his death, in 1541. (Hist. General,
dec. 6, lib. 10, cap. 6.) This would carry back the date of his
birth only to 1478. But Garcilasso de la Vega affirms that he
was more than fifty years old in 1525. (Com. Real., Parte 2,
lib. 1, cap. 1.) This would place his birth before 1475. Pizarro
y Orellana, who, as a kinsman of the Conqueror, may be supposed
to have had better means of information, says he was fifty-four
years of age at the same date of 1525. (Varones Ilustres del
Nuevo Mundo, (Madrid, 1639,) p. 128.) But at the period of his
death he calls him nearly eighty years old! (p. 185.) Taking
this latter as a round exaggeration for effect in the particular
connection in which it is used, and admitting the accuracy of the
former statement, the epoch of his birth will conform to that
given in the text. This makes him somewhat late in life to set
about the conquest of an empire. But Columbus, when he entered
on his career, was still older.]

[Footnote 2: Xerez, Conquista del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p.
179. - Zarate, Conq. del Peru, lib. 1, cap. 1. - Pizarro y
Orellana, Varones Ilustres, p. 128.]

But little is told of Francisco's early years, and that little
not always deserving of credit. According to some, he was
deserted by both his parents, and left as a foundling at the door
of one of the principal churches of the city. It is even said
that he would have perished, had he not been nursed by a sow. *3
This is a more discreditable fountain of supply than that
assigned to the infant Romulus. The early history of men who
have made their names famous by deeds in after-life, like the
early history of nations, affords a fruitful field for invention.

[Footnote 3: "Nacio en Truxillo, i echaronlo a la puerta de la
Iglesia, mamo una Puerca ciertos Dias, no se hallando quien le
quisiese dar leche." Gomara, Hist. de las Ind., cap. 144.]

It seems certain that the young Pizarro received little care from
either of his parents, and was suffered to grow up as nature
dictated. He was neither taught to read nor write, and his
principal occupation was that of a swineherd. But this torpid
way of life did not suit the stirring spirit of Pizarro, as he
grew older, and listened to the tales, widely circulated and so
captivating to a youthful fancy, of the New World. He shared in
the popular enthusiasm, and availed himself of a favorable moment
to abandon his ignoble charge, and escape to Seville, the port
where the Spanish adventurers embarked to seek their fortunes in
the West. Few of them could have turned their backs on their
native land with less cause for regret than Pizarro. *4

[Footnote 4: According to the Comendador Pizarro y Orellana,
Francis Pizarro served, while quite a stripling, with his father,
in the Italian wars; and afterwards, under Columbus and other
illustrious discoverers, in the New World, whose successes the
author modestly attributes to his kinsman's valor, as a principal
cause! Varones Ilustres, p. 187.]

In what year this important change in his destiny took place we
are not informed. The first we hear of him in the New World is
at the island of Hispaniola, in 1510, where he took part in the
expedition to Uraba in Terra Firma, under Alonzo de Ojeda, a
cavalier whose character and achievements find no parallel but in
the pages of Cervantes. Hernando Cortes, whose mother was a
Pizarro, and related, it is said, to the father of Francis, was
then in St. Domingo, and prepared to accompany Ojeda's
expedition, but was prevented by a temporary lameness. Had he
gone, the fall of the Aztec empire might have been postponed for
some time longer, and the sceptre of Montezuma have descended in
peace to his posterity. Pizarro shared in the disastrous
fortunes of Ojeda's colony, and, by his discretion, obtained so
far the confidence of his commander, as to be left in charge of
the settlement, when the latter returned for supplies to the
islands. The lieutenant continued at his perilous post for
nearly two months, waiting deliberately until death should have
thinned off the colony sufficiently to allow the miserable
remnant to be embarked in the single small vessel that remained
to it. *5

[Footnote 5: Pizarro y Orellana, Varones Ilustres, pp. 121, 128.
- Herrera, Hist. Gen., dec. 1, lib. 7, cap. 14. - Montesinos,
Annales, Ms., ane 1510.]

After this, we find him associated with Balboa, the discoverer of
the Pacific, and cooperating with him in establishing the
settlement at Darien. He had the glory of accompanying this
gallant cavalier in his terrible march across the mountains, and
of being among the first Europeans, therefore, whose eyes were
greeted with the long-promised vision of the Southern Ocean.
After the untimely death of his commander, Pizarro attached
himself to the fortunes of Pedrarias, and was employed by that
governor in several military expeditions, which, if they afforded
nothing else, gave him the requisite training for the perils and
privations that lay in the path of the future Conqueror of Peru.

In 1515, he was selected, with another cavalier named Morales, to
cross the Isthmus and traffic with the natives on the shores of
the Pacific. And there, while engaged in collecting his booty of
gold and pearls from the neighbouring islands, as his eye ranged
along the shadowy line of coast till it faded in the distance,
his imagination may have been first fired with the idea of, one
day, attempting the conquest of the mysterious regions beyond the
mountains. On the removal of the seat of government across the
Isthmus to Panama, Pizarro accompanied Pedrarias, and his name
became conspicuous among the cavaliers who extended the line of
conquest to the north over the martial tribes of Veragua. But
all these expeditions, whatever glory they may have brought him,
were productive of very little gold, and, at the age of fifty,
the captain Pizarro found himself in possession only of a tract
of unhealthy land in the neigbourhood of the capital, and of such
repartimientos of the natives as were deemed suited to his
military services. *6 The New World was a lottery, where the
great prizes were so few that the odds were much against the
player; yet in the game he was content to stake health, fortune,
and, too often, his fair fame.

[Footnote 6: "Teniendo su casa, i Hacienda, i Repartimiento de
Indios como uno de los Principales de la Tierra; porque siempre
lo fue." Xerez, Conq. del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p. 79.]

Such was Pizarro's situation when, in 1522, Andagoya returned
from his unfinished enterprise to the south of Panama, bringing
back with him more copious accounts than any hitherto received of
the opulence and grandeur of the countries that lay beyond. *7 It
was at this time, too, that the splendid achievements of Cortes
made their impression on the public mind, and gave a new impulse
to the spirit of adventure. The southern expeditions became a
common topic of speculation among the colonists of Panama. But
the region of gold, as it lay behind the mighty curtain of the
Cordilleras, was still veiled in obscurity. No idea could be
formed of its actual distance; and the hardships and difficulties
encountered by the few navigators who had sailed in that
direction gave a gloomy character to the undertaking, which had
hitherto deterred the most daring from embarking in it. There is
no evidence that Pizarro showed any particular alacrity in the
cause. Nor were his own funds such as to warrant any expectation
of success without great assistance from others. He found this
in two individuals of the colony, who took too important a part
in the subsequent transactions not to be particularly noticed.

[Footnote 7: Andagoya says that he obtained, while at Biru, very
minute accounts of the empire of the Incas, from certain
itinerant traders who frequented that country. "En esta
provincia supe y hube relacion, ansi de los senores como de
mercaderes e interpretes que ellos tenian, de toda la costa de
todo lo que despues se ha visto hasta el Cuzco, particularmente
de cada provincia la manera y gente della, porque estos
alcanzaban por via de mercaduria mucha tierra." Navarrete,
Coleccion, tom. III. No 7.]

One of them, Diego de Almagro, was a soldier of fortune, somewhat
older, it seems probable, than Pizarro; though little is known of
his birth, and even the place of it is disputed. It is supposed
to have been the town of Almagro in New Castile, whence his own
name, for want of a better source, was derived; for, like
Pizarro, he was a foundling. *8 Few particulars are known of him
till the present period of our history; for he was one of those
whom the working of turbulent times first throws upon the
surface, - less fortunate, perhaps, than if left in their
original obscurity. In his military career, Almagro had earned
the reputation of a gallant soldier. He was frank and liberal in
his disposition, somewhat hasty and ungovernable in his passions,
but, like men of a sanguine temperament, after the first sallies
had passed away, not difficult to be appeased. He had, in short,
the good qualities and the defects incident to an honest nature,
not improved by the discipline of early education or

[Footnote 8: "Decia el que hera de Almagro," says Pedro Pizarro,
who knew him well. Relacion del Descubrimiento y Conquista de
los Reynos del Peru, Ms. - See also Zarate. Conq. del Peru, lib.
1, cap. 1. - Gomara, Hist. de las Ind., cap. 141. - Pizarro y
Orellana, Varones Ilustres, p. 211.

The last writer admits that Almagro's parentage is unknown; but
adds that the character of his early exploits infers an
illustrious descent. - This would scarcely pass for evidence with
the College of Heralds.]

The other member of the confederacy was Hernando de Luque, a
Spanish ecclesiastic, who exercised the functions of vicar at
Panama, and had formerly filled the office of schoolmaster in the
Cathedral of Darien. He seems to have been a man of singular
prudence and knowledge of the world; and by his respectable
qualities had acquired considerable influence in the little
community to which he belonged, as well as the control of funds,
which made his cooperation essential to the success of the
present enterprise.
It was arranged among the three associates, that the two
cavaliers should contribute their little stock towards defraying
the expenses of the armament, but by far the greater part of the
funds was to be furnished by Luque. Pizarro was to take command
of the expedition, and the business of victualling and equipping
the vessels was assigned to Almagro. The associates found no
difficulty in obtaining the consent of the governor to their
undertaking. After the return of Andagoya, he had projected
another expedition, but the officer to whom it was to be
intrusted died. Why he did not prosecute his original purpose,
and commit the affair to an experienced captain like Pizarro,
does not appear. He was probably not displeased that the burden
of the enterprise should be borne by others, so long as a good
share of the profits went into his own coffers. This he did not
overlook in his stipulations. *9

[Footnote 9: "Asi que estos tres companeros ya dichos Acordaron
de yr a conquistar esta provincia ya dicha. Pues consultandolo
con Pedro Arias de Avila que a la sazon hera governador en tierra
firme. Vino en ello haziendo compania con los dichos companeros
con condicion que Pedro Arias no havia de contribuir entonces con
ningun dinero ni otra cosa sino de lo que se hallase en la tierra
de lo que a el le cupiese por virtud de la compania de alli se
pagasen los gastos que a el le cupiesen. Los tres companeros
vinieron en ello por aver esta licencia porque de otra manera no
la alcanzaran." (Pedro Pizarro, Descub. y Conq., Ms.) Andagoya,
however, affirms that the governor was interested equally with
the other associates in the adventure, each taking a fourth part
on himself. (Navarrete, Coleccion, tom. III. No. 7.) But
whatever was the original interest of Pedrarias, it mattered
little, as it was surrendered before any profits were realized
from the expedition.]
Thus fortified with the funds of Luque, and the consent of the
governor, Almagro was not slow to make preparations for the
voyage. Two small vessels were purchased, the larger of which
had been originally built by Balboa, for himself, with a view to
this same expedition. Since his death, it had lain dismantled in
the harbour of Panama. It was now refitted as well as
circumstances would permit, and put in order for sea, while the
stores and provisions were got on board with an alacrity which
did more credit, as the event proved, to Almagro's zeal than to
his forecast.

There was more difficulty in obtaining the necessary complement
of hands; for a general feeling of distrust had gathered round
expeditions in this direction, which could not readily be
overcome. But there were many idle hangers-on in the colony, who
had come out to mend their fortunes, and were willing to take
their chance of doing so, however desperate. From such materials
as these, Almagro assembled a body of somewhat more than a
hundred men; *10 and every thing being ready, Pizarro assumed the
command, and, weighing anchor, took his departure from the little
port of Panama, about the middle of November, 1524. Almagro was
to follow in a second vessel of inferior size, as soon as it
could be fitted out. *11

[Footnote 10: Herrera, the most popular historian of these
transactions, estimates the number of Pizarro's followers only at
eighty. But every other authority which I have consulted raises
them to over a hundred. Father Naharro, a contemporary, and
resident at Lima even allows a hundred and twenty-nine. Relacion
sumaria de la entrada de los Espanoles en el Peru, Ms.]

[Footnote 11: There is the usual discrepancy among authors about
the date of this expedition. Most fix it at 1525. I have
conformed to Xerez, Pizarro's secretary, whose narrative was
published ten years after the voyage, and who could hardly have
forgotten the date of so memorable an event, in so short an
interval of time. (See his Conquista del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom.
III. p. 179.)

The year seems to be settled by Pizarro's Capitulacion with the
Crown, which I had not examined till after the above was written.
This instrument, dated July, 1529, speaks of his first expedition
as having taken place about five years previous. (See Appendix,
No. VII.)]

The time of year was the most unsuitable that could have been
selected for the voyage; for it was the rainy season, when the
navigation to the south, impeded by contrary winds, is made
doubly dangerous by the tempests that sweep over the coast. But
this was not understood by the adventurers. After touching at the
Isle of Pearls, the frequent resort of navigators, at a few
leagues' distance from Panama, Pizarro held his way across the
Gulf of St. Michael, and steered almost due south for the Puerto
de Pinas, a headland in the province of Biruquete, which marked
the limit of Andagoya's voyage. Before his departure, Pizarro had
obtained all the information which he could derive from that
officer in respect to the country, and the route he was to
follow. But the cavalier's own experience had been too limited to
enable him to be of much assistance.

Doubling the Puerto de Pinas, the little vessel entered the river
Biru, the misapplication of which name is supposed by some to
have given rise to that of the empire of the Incas. *12 After
sailing up this stream for a couple of leagues, Pizarro came to
anchor, and disembarking his whole force except the sailors,
proceeded at the head of it to explore the country. The land
spread out into a vast swamp, where the heavy rains had settled
in pools of stagnant water, and the muddy soil afforded no
footing to the traveller. This dismal morass was fringed with
woods, through whose thick and tangled undergrowth they found it
difficult to penetrate; and emerging from them, they came out on
a hilly country, so rough and rocky in its character, that their
feet were cut to the bone, and the weary soldier, encumbered with
his heavy mail or thick-padded doublet of cotton, found it
difficult to drag one foot after the other. The heat at times
was oppressive; and, fainting with toil and famished for want of
food, they sank down on the earth from mere exhaustion. Such was
the ominous commencement of the expedition to Peru.

[Footnote 12: Zarate, Conq. del Peru, lib. 1. cap. 1. - Herrera,
Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 6, cap. 13.]

Pizarro, however, did not lose heart. He endeavoured to revive
the spirits of his men, and besought them not to be discouraged
by difficulties which a brave heart would be sure to overcome,
reminding them of the golden prize which awaited those who
persevered. Yet it was obvious that nothing was to be gained by
remaining longer in this desolate region. Returning to their
vessel, therefore, it was suffered to drop down the river and
proceed along its southern course on the great ocean.

After coasting a few leagues, Pizarro anchored off a place not
very inviting in its appearance, where he took in a supply of
wood and water. Then, stretching more towards the open sea, he
held on in the same direction towards the south. But in this he
was baffled by a succession of heavy tempests, accompanied with
such tremendous peals of thunder and floods of rain as are found
only in the terrible storms of the tropics. The sea was lashed
into fury, and, swelling into mountain billows, threatened every
moment to overwhelm the crazy little bark, which opened at every
seam. For ten days the unfortunate voyagers were tossed about by
the pitiless elements, and it was only by incessant exertions -
the exertions of despair - that they preserved the ship from
foundering. To add to their calamities, their provisions began
to fail, and they were short of water, of which they had been
furnished only with a small number of casks; for Almagro had
counted on their recruiting their scanty supplies, from time to
time, from the shore. Their meat was wholly consumed, and they
were reduced to the wretched allowance of two ears of Indian corn
a day for each man.

Thus harassed by hunger and the elements, the battered voyagers
were too happy to retrace their course and regain the port where
they had last taken in supplies of wood and water. Yet nothing
could be more unpromising than the aspect of the country. It had
the same character of low, swampy soil, that distinguished the
former landing-place; while thick-matted forests, of a depth
which the eye could not penetrate, stretched along the coast to
an interminable length. It was in vain that the wearied
Spaniards endeavoured to thread the mazes of this tangled
thicket, where the creepers and flowering vines, that shoot up
luxuriant in a hot and humid atmosphere, had twined themselves
round the huge trunks of the forest-trees, and made a network
that could be opened only with the axe. The rain, in the mean
time, rarely slackened, and the ground, strewed with leaves and
saturated with moisture, seemed to slip away beneath their feet.

Nothing could be more dreary and disheartening than the aspect of
these funereal forests; where the exhalations from the
overcharged surface of the ground poisoned the air, and seemed to
allow no life, except that, indeed, of myriads of insects, whose
enamelled wings glanced to and fro, like sparks of fire, in every
opening of the woods. Even the brute creation appeared
instinctively to have shunned the fatal spot, and neither beast
nor bird of any description was seen by the wanderers. Silence
reigned unbroken in the heart of these dismal solitudes; at
least, the only sounds that could be heard were the plashing of
the rain-drops on the leaves, and the tread of the forlorn
adventurers. *13

[Footnote 13: Xerez, Conq del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p. 180.
- Relacion del Primer. Descub., Ms. - Montesinos, Annales, Ms.,
ano 1515. - Zarate, Conq. del Peru, lib. 1, cap. 1. - Garcilasso,
Com. Real., Parte 2, lib. 1, cap. 7. - Herrera, Hist. General,
dec. 3, lib. 6, cap. 13.]

Entirely discouraged by the aspect of the country, the Spaniards
began to comprehend that they had gained nothing by changing
their quarters from sea to shore, and they felt the most serious
apprehensions of perishing from famine in a region which afforded
nothing but such unwholesome berries as they could pick up here
and there in the woods. They loudly complained of their hard
lot, accusing their commander as the author of all their
troubles, and as deluding them with promises of a fairy land,
which seemed to recede in proportion as they advanced. It was of
no use, they said, to contend against fate, and it was better to
take their chance of regaining the port of Panama in time to save
their lives, than to wait where they were to die of hunger.

But Pizarro was prepared to encounter much greater evils than
these, before returning to Panama, bankrupt in credit, an object
of derision as a vainglorious dreamer, who had persuaded others
to embark in an adventure which he had not the courage to carry
through himself. The present was his only chance. To return
would be ruin. He used every argument, therefore, that mortified
pride or avarice could suggest to turn his followers from their
purpose; represented to them that these were the troubles that
necessarily lay in the path of the discoverer; and called to mind
the brilliant successes of their countrymen in other quarters,
and the repeated reports, which they had themselves received, of
the rich regions along this coast, of which it required only
courage and constancy on their part to become the masters. Yet,
as their present exigencies were pressing, he resolved to send
back the vessel to the Isle of Pearls, to lay in a fresh stock of
provisions for his company, which might enable them to go forward
with renewed confidence. The distance was not great, and in a
few days they would all be relieved from their perilous position.
The officer detached on this service was named Montenegro; and
taking with him nearly half the company, after receiving
Pizarro's directions, he instantly weighed anchor, and steered
for the Isle of Pearls.
On the departure of his vessel, the Spanish commander made an
attempt to explore the country, and see if some Indian settlement
might not be found, where he could procure refreshments for his
followers. But his efforts were vain, and no trace was visible
of a human dwelling; though, in the dense and impenetrable
foliage of the equatorial regions, the distance of a few rods
might suffice to screen a city from observation. The only means
of nourishment left to the unfortunate adventurers were such
shell-fish as they occasionally picked up on the shore, or the
bitter buds of the palm-tree, and such berries and unsavoury
herbs as grew wild in the woods. Some of these were so
poisonous, that the bodies of those who ate them swelled up and
were tormented with racking pains. Others, preferring famine to
this miserable diet, pined away from weakness and actually died
of starvation. Yet their resolute leader strove to maintain his
own cheerfulness and to keep up the drooping spirits of his men.
He freely shared with them his scanty stock of provisions, was
unwearied in his endeavours to procure them sustenance, tended
the sick, and ordered barracks to be constructed for their
accommodation, which might, at least, shelter them from the
drenching storms of the season. By this ready sympathy with his
followers in their sufferings, he obtained an ascendency over
their rough natures, which the assertion of authority, at least
in the present extremity, could never have secured to him.

Day after day, week after week, had now passed away, and no
tidings were heard of the vessel that was to bring relief to the
wanderers. In vain did they strain their eyes over the distant
waters to catch a glimpse of their coming friends. Not a speck
was to be seen in the blue distance, where the canoe of the
savage dared not venture, and the sail of the white man was not
yet spread. Those who had borne up bravely at first now gave way
to despondency, as they felt themselves abandoned by their
countrymen on this desolate shore. They pined under that sad
feeling which "maketh the heart sick." More than twenty of the
little band had already died, and the survivors seemed to be
rapidly following. *14

[Footnote 14: Ibid., ubi supra. - Relacion del Primer. Descub.,
Ms. - Xerez, Conq. del Peru, ubi supra.]

At this crisis reports were brought to Pizarro of a light having
been seen through a distant opening in the woods. He hailed the
tidings with eagerness, as intimating the existence of some
settlement in the neighbourhood; and, putting himself at the head
of a small party, went in the direction pointed out, to
reconnoitre. He was not disappointed, and, after extricating
himself from a dense wilderness of underbrush and foliage, he
emerged into an open space, where a small Indian village was
planted. The timid inhabitants, on the sudden apparition of the
strangers, quitted their huts in dismay; and the famished
Spaniards, rushing in, eagerly made themselves masters of their
contents. These consisted of different articles of food, chiefly
maize and cocoanuts. The supply, though small, was too
seasonable not to fill them with rapture.

The astonished natives made no attempt at resistance. But,
gathering more confidence as no violence was offered to their
persons, they drew nearer the white men, and inquired, "Why they
did not stay at home and till their own lands, instead of roaming
about to rob others who had never harmed them?" *15 Whatever may
have been their opinion as to the question of right, the
Spaniards, no doubt, felt then that it would have been wiser to
do so. But the savages wore about their persons gold ornaments of
some size, though of clumsy workmanship. This furnished the best
reply to their demand. It was the golden bait which lured the
Spanish adventurer to forsake his pleasant home for the trials of
the wilderness. From the Indians Pizarro gathered a confirmation
of the reports he had so often received of a rich country lying
farther south; and at the distance of ten days' journey across
the mountains, they told him, there dwelt a mighty monarch whose
dominions had been invaded by another still more powerful, the
Child of the Sun. *16 It may have been the invasion of Quito that
was meant, by the valiant Inca Huayna Capac, which took place
some years previous to Pizarro's expedition.

[Footnote 15: "Porque decian a los Castellanos, que por que no
sembraban. i cogian, sin andar tomando los Bastimentos agenos,
pasando tantos trabajos?" Herrera, Hist. General, loc. cit.]

[Footnote 16: "Dioles noticia el viejo por medio del lengua, como
diez soles de alli habia un Rey muy poderoso yendo por espesas
montanas, y que otro mas poderoso hijo del sol habia venido de
milagro a quitarle el Reino sobre que tenian mui sangrientas
batallas." (Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano 1525.) The conquest of
Quito by Huayna Capac took place more than thirty years before
this period in our history. But the particulars of this
revolution, its time or precise theatre, were, probably, but very
vaguely comprehended by the rude nations in the neighbourhood of
Panama: and their allusion to it in an unknown dialect was as
little comprehended by the Spanish voyagers, who must have
collected their information from signs much more than words.]
At length, after the expiration of more than six weeks, the
Spaniards beheld with delight the return of the wandering bark
that had borne away their comrades, and Montenegro sailed into
port with an ample supply of provisions for his famishing
countrymen. Great was his horror at the aspect presented by the
latter, their wild and haggard countenances and wasted frames, -
so wasted by hunger and disease, that their old companions found
it difficult to recognize them. Montenegro accounted for his
delay by incessant head winds and bad weather; and he himself had
also a doleful tale to tell of the distress to which he and his
crew had been reduced by hunger, on their passage to the Isle of
Pearls. - It is minute incidents like these with which we have
been occupied, that enable one to comprehend the extremity of
suffering to which the Spanish adventurer was subjected in the
prosecution of his great work of discovery.

Revived by the substantial nourishment to which they had so long
been strangers, the Spanish cavaliers, with the buoyancy that
belongs to men of a hazardous and roving life, forgot their past
distresses in their eagerness to prosecute their enterprise.
Reembarking therefore on board his vessel, Pizarro bade adieu to
the scene of so much suffering, which he branded with the
appropriate name of Puerto de la Hambre, the Port of Famine, and
again opened his sails to a favorable breeze that bore him
onwards towards the south.

Had he struck boldly out into the deep, instead of hugging the
inhospitable shore, where he had hitherto found so little to
recompense him, he might have spared himself the repetition of
wearisome and unprofitable adventures, and reached by a shorter
route the point of his destination. But the Spanish mariner
groped his way along these unknown coasts, landing at every
convenient headland, as if fearful lest some fruitful region or
precious mine might be overlooked, should a single break occur in
the line of survey. Yet it should be remembered, that, though
the true point of Pizarro's destination is obvious to us,
familiar with the topography of these countries, he was wandering
in the dark, feeling his way along, inch by inch, as it were,
without chart to guide him, without knowledge of the seas or of
the bearings of the coast, and even with no better defined idea
of the object at which he aimed than that of a land, teeming with
gold, that lay somewhere at the south! It was a hunt after an El
Dorado; on information scarcely more circumstantial or authentic
than that which furnished the basis of so many chimerical
enterprises in this land of wonders. Success only, the best
argument with the multitude, redeemed the expeditions of Pizarro
from a similar imputation of extravagance.

Holding on his southerly course under the lee of the shore,
Pizarro, after a short run, found himself abreast of an open
reach of country, or at least one less encumbered with wood,
which rose by a gradual swell, as it receded from the coast. He
landed with a small body of men, and, advancing a short distance
into the interior, fell in with an Indian hamlet. It was
abandoned by the inhabitants, who, on the approach of the
invaders, had betaken themselves to the mountains; and the
Spaniards, entering their deserted dwellings, found there a good
store of maize and other articles of food, and rude ornaments of
gold of considerable value. Food was not more necessary for
their bodies than was the sight of gold, from time to time, to
stimulate their appetite for adventure. One spectacle, however,
chilled their blood with horror. This was the sight of human
flesh, which they found roasting before the fire, as the
barbarians had left it, preparatory to their obscene repast. The
Spaniards, conceiving that they had fallen in with a tribe of
Caribs, the only race in that part of the New World known to be
cannibals, retreated precipitately to their vessel. *17 They were
not steeled by sad familiarity with the spectacle, like the
Conquerors of Mexico.

[Footnote 17: "I en las Ollas de la comida, que estaban al Fuego,
entre la Carne, que sacaban, havia Pies i Manos de Hombres, de
donde conocieron, que aquellos Indios eran Caribes." Herrera,
Hist. General dec. 3, lib. 8, cap. 11.]

The weather, which had been favorable, new set in tempestuous,
with heavy squalls, accompanied by incessant thunder and
lightning, and the rain, as usual in these tropical tempests,
descended not so much in drops as in unbroken sheets of water.
The Spaniards, however, preferred to take their chance on the
raging element rather than remain in the scene of such brutal
abominations. But the fury of the storm gradually subsided, and
the little vessel held on her way along the coast, till, coming
abreast of a bold point of land named by Pizarro Punta Quemada,
he gave orders to anchor. The margin of the shore was fringed
with a deep belt of mangrove-trees, the long roots of which,
interlacing one another, formed a kind of submarine lattice-work
that made the place difficult of approach. Several avenues,
opening through this tangled thicket, led Pizarro to conclude
that the country must be inhabited, and he disembarked, with the
greater part of his force, to explore the interior.

He had not penetrated more than a league, when he found his
conjecture verified by the sight of an Indian town of larger size
than those he had hitherto seen, occupying the brow of an
eminence, and well defended by palisades. The inhabitants, as
usual, had fled; but left in their dwellings a good supply of
provisions and some gold trinkets, which the Spaniards made no
difficulty of appropriating to themselves. Pizarro's flimsy bark
had been strained by the heavy gales it had of late encountered,
so that it was unsafe to prosecute the voyage further without
more thorough repairs than could be given to her on this desolate
coast. He accordingly determined to send her back with a few
hands to be careened at Panama, and meanwhile to establish his
quarters in his present position, which was so favorable for
defence. But first he despatched a small party under Montenegro
to reconnoitre the country, and, if possible, to open a
communication with the natives.
The latter were a warlike race. They had left their habitations
in order to place their wives and children in safety. But they
had kept an eye on the movements of the invaders, and, when they
saw their forces divided, they resolved to fall upon each body
singly before it could communicate with the other. So soon,
therefore, as Montenegro had penetrated through the defiles of
the lofty hills, which shoot out like spurs of the Cordilleras
along this part of the coast, the Indian warriors, springing from
their ambush, sent off a cloud of arrows and other missiles that
darkened the air, while they made the forest ring with their
shrill war-whoop. The Spaniards, astonished at the appearance of
the savages, with their naked bodies gaudily painted, and
brandishing their weapons as they glanced among the trees and
straggling underbrush that choked up the defile, were taken by
surprise and thrown for a moment into disarray. Three of their
number were killed and several wounded. Yet, speedily rallying,
they returned the discharge of the assailants with their
cross-bows, - for Pizarro's troops do not seem to have been
provided with muskets on this expedition, - and then gallantly
charging the enemy, sword in hand, succeeded in driving them back
into the fastnesses of the mountains. But it only led them to
shift their operations to another quarter, and make an assault on
Pizarro before he could be relieved by his lieutenant.

Availing themselves of their superior knowledge of the passes,
they reached that commander's quarters long before Montenegro,
who had commenced a countermarch in the same direction. And
issuing from the woods, the bold savages saluted the Spanish
garrison with a tempest of darts and arrows, some of which found
their way through the joints of the harness and the quilted mail
of the cavaliers. But Pizarro was too well practised a soldier
to be off his guard. Calling his men about him, he resolved not
to abide the assault tamely in the works, but to sally out, and
meet the enemy on their own ground. The barbarians, who had
advanced near the defences, fell back as the Spaniards burst
forth with their valiant leader at their head. But, soon
returning with admirable ferocity to the charge, they singled out
Pizarro, whom, by his bold bearing and air of authority, they
easily recognized as the chief; and, hurling at him a storm of
missiles, wounded him, in spite of his armour, in no less than
seven places. *18

[Footnote 18: Naharro, Relacion Sumaria, Ms. - Xerez, Conq. del
Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p. 180. - Zarate, Conq. del Peru,
lib. 1, cap. 1. - Balboa, Hist. du Perou, chap. 15.]

Driven back by the fury of the assault directed against his own
person, the Spanish commander retreated down the slope of the
hill, still defending himself as he could with sword and buckler,
when his foot slipped and he fell. The enemy set up a fierce
yell of triumph, and some of the boldest sprang forward to
despatch him. But Pizarro was on his feet in an instant, and,
striking down two of the foremost with his strong arm, held the
rest at bay till his soldiers could come to the rescue. The
barbarians, struck with admiration at his valor, began to falter,
when Montenegro luckily coming on the ground at the moment, and
falling on their rear, completed their confusion; and, abandoning
the field, they made the best of their way into the recesses of
the mountains. The ground was covered with their slain; but the
victory was dearly purchased by the death of two more Spaniards
and a long list of wounded.

A council of war was then called. The position had lost its
charm in the eyes of the Spaniards, who had met here with the
first resistance they had yet experienced on their expedition.
It was necessary to place the wounded in some secure spot, where
their injuries could be attended to. Yet it was not safe to
proceed farther, in the crippled state of their vessel. On the
whole, it was decided to return and report their proceedings to
the governor; and, though the magnificent hopes of the
adventurers had not been realized, Pizarro trusted that enough
had been done to vindicate the importance of the enterprise, and
to secure the countenance of Pedrarias for the further
prosecution of it. *19

[Footnote 19: Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 8, cap. 11. -
Xerez, ubi supra.]

Yet Pizarro could not make up his mind to present himself, in the
present state of the undertaking, before the governor. He
determined, therefore, to be set on shore with the principal part
of his company at Chicama, a place on the main land, at a short
distance west of Panama. From this place, which he reached
without any further accident, he despatched the vessel, and in it
his treasurer, Nicolas de Ribera, with the gold he had collected,
and with instructions to lay before the governor a full account
of his discoveries, and the result of the expedition.

While these events were passing, Pizarro's associate, Almagro,
had been busily employed in fitting out another vessel for the
expedition at the port of Panama. It was not till long after his
friend's departure that he was prepared to follow him. With the
assistance of Luque, he at length succeeded in equipping a small
caravel and embarking a body of between sixty and seventy
adventurers, mostly of the lowest order of the colonists. He
steered in the track of his comrade, with the intention of
overtaking him as soon as possible. By a signal previously
concerted of notching the trees, he was able to identify the
spots visited by Pizarro, - Puerto de Pinas, Puerto de la Hambre,
Pueblo Quemado, - touching successively at every point of the
coast explored by his countrymen, though in a much shorter time.
At the last-mentioned place he was received by the fierce natives
with the same hostile demonstrations as Pizarro, though in the
present encounter the Indians did not venture beyond their
defences. But the hot blood of Almagro was so exasperated by
this check, that he assaulted the place and carried it sword in
hand, setting fire to the outworks and dwellings, and driving the
wretched inhabitants into the forests.

His victory cost him dear. A wound from a javelin on the head
caused an inflammation in one of his eyes, which, after great
anguish, ended in the loss of it. Yet the intrepid adventurer
did not hesitate to pursue his voyage, and, after touching at
several places on the coast, some of which rewarded him with a
considerable booty in gold, he reached the mouth of the Rio de
San Juan, about the fourth degree of north latitude. He was
struck with the beauty of the stream, and with the cultivation on
its borders, which were sprinkled with Indian cottages showing
some skill in their construction, and altogether intimating a
higher civilization than any thing he had yet seen.

Still his mind was filled with anxiety for the fate of Pizarro
and his followers. No trace of them had been found on the coast
for a long time, and it was evident they must have foundered at
sea, or made their way back to Panama. This last he deemed most
probable; as the vessel might have passed him unnoticed under the
cover of the night, or of the dense fogs that sometimes hang over
the coast.

Impressed with this belief, he felt no heart to continue his
voyage of discovery, for which, indeed, his single bark, with its
small complement of men, was altogether inadequate. He proposed,
therefore, to return without delay. On his way, he touched at
the Isle of Pearls, and there learned the result of his friend's
expedition, and the place of his present residence. Directing his
course, at once, to Chicama, the two cavaliers soon had the
satisfaction of embracing each other, and recounting their
several exploits and escapes. Almagro returned even better
freighted with gold than his confederate, and at every step of
his progress he had collected fresh confirmation of the existence
of some great and opulent empire in the South. The confidence of
the two friends was much strengthened by their discoveries; and
they unhesitatingly pledged themselves to one another to die
rather than abandon the enterprise. *20

[Footnote 20: Xerez, ubi supra. - Naharro, Relacion Sumaria, Ms.
- Zarate, Conq. del Peru, loc. cit. - Balboa, Hist. du Perou,
chap. 15. - Relacion del Primer. Descub., Ms. - Herrera, Hist.
General, dec. 3, lib. 8, cap. 13. - Levinus Apollonius, fol. 12.
- Gomara, Hist. de las Ind., cap. 108.]

The best means of obtaining the levies requisite for so
formidable an undertaking - more formidable, as it now appeared
to them, than before - were made the subject of long and serious
discussion. It was at length decided that Pizarro should remain
in his present quarters, inconvenient and even unwholesome as
they were rendered by the humidity of the climate, and the
pestilent swarms of insects that filled the atmosphere. Almagro
would pass over to Panama, lay the case before the governor, and
secure, if possible, his good-will towards the prosecution of the
enterprise. If no obstacle were thrown in their way from this
quarter, they might hope, with the assistance of Luque, to raise
the necessary supplies; while the results of the recent
expedition were sufficiently encouraging to draw adventurers to
their standard in a community which had a craving for excitement
that gave even danger a charm, and which held life cheap in
comparison with gold.

Chapter III

The Famous Contract. - Second Expedition. - Ruiz Explores The
Coast. - Pizarro's Sufferings In The Forests. - Arrival Of New
Recruits. - Fresh Discoveries And Disasters. - Pizarro On The
Isle Of Gallo.


On his arrival at Panama, Almagro found that events had taken a
turn less favorable to his views than he had anticipated.
Pedrarias, the governor, was preparing to lead an expedition in
person against a rebellious officer in Nicaragua; and his temper,
naturally not the most amiable, was still further soured by this
defection of his lieutenant, and the necessity it imposed on him
of a long and perilous march. When, therefore, Almagro appeared
before him with the request that he might be permitted to raise
further levies to prosecute his enterprise, the governor received
him with obvious dissatisfaction, listened coldly to the
narrative of his losses, turned an incredulous ear to his
magnificent promises for the future, and bluntly demanded an
account of the lives, which had been sacrificed by Pizarro's
obstinacy, but which, had they been spared, might have stood him
in good stead in his present expedition to Nicaragua. He
positively declined to countenance the rash schemes of the two
adventurers any longer, and the conquest of Peru would have been
crushed in the bud, but for the efficient interposition of the
remaining associate, Fernando de Luque.

This sagacious ecclesiastic had received a very different
impression from Almagro's narrative, from that which had been
made on the mind of the irritable governor. The actual results
of the enterprise in gold and silver, thus far, indeed, had been
small, - forming a mortifying contrast to the magnitude of their
expectations. But, in another point of view, they were of the
last importance; since the intelligence which the adventurers had
gained in every successive stage of their progress confirmed, in
the strongest manner, the previous accounts, received from
Andagoya and others, of a rich Indian empire at the south, which
might repay the trouble of conquering it as well as Mexico had
repaid the enterprise of Cortes. Fully entering, therefore, into
the feelings of his military associates, he used all his
influence with the governor to incline him to a more favorable
view of Almagro's petition; and no one in the little community of
Panama exercised greater influence over the councils of the
executive than Father Luque, for which he was indebted no less to
his discretion and acknowledged sagacity than to his professional

But while Pedrarias, overcome by the arguments or importunity of
the churchman, yielded a reluctant assent to the application, he
took care to testify his displeasure with Pizarro, on whom he
particularly charged the loss of his followers, by naming Almagro
as his equal in command in the proposed expedition. This
mortification sunk deep into Pizarro's mind. He suspected his
comrade, with what reason does not appear, of soliciting this
boon from the governor. A temporary coldness arose between them,
which subsided, in outward show, at least, on Pizarro's
reflecting that it was better to have this authority conferred on
a friend than on a stranger, perhaps an enemy. But the seeds of
permanent distrust were left in his bosom, and lay waiting for
the due season to ripen into a fruitful harvest of discord. *1

[Footnote 1: Xerez, Conq. del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p. 180.
- Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano 1526. - Herrera, Hist. General,
dec. 3 lib. 8, cap. 12.]

Pedrarias had been originally interested in the enterprise, at
least, so far as to stipulate for a share of the gains, though he
had not contributed, as it appears, a single ducat towards the
expenses. He was at length, however, induced to relinquish all
right to a share of the contingent profits. But, in his manner
of doing so, he showed a mercenary spirit, better becoming a
petty trader than a high officer of the Crown. He stipulated
that the associates should secure to him the sum of one thousand
pesos de oro in requital of his goodwill, and they eagerly closed
with his proposal, rather than be encumbered with his
pretensions. For so paltry a consideration did he resign his
portion of the rich spoil of the Incas! *2 But the governor was
not gifted with the eye of a prophet. His avarice was of that
short-sighted kind which defeats itself. He had sacrificed the
chivalrous Balboa just as that officer was opening to him the
conquest of Peru, and he would now have quenched the spirit of
enterprise, that was taking the same direction, in Pizarro and
his associates.

[Footnote 2: Such is Oviedo's account, who was present at the
interview between the governor and Almagro, when the terms of
compensation were discussed. The dialogue, which is amusing
enough, and well told by the old Chronicler, may be found
translated in Appendix, No. 5. Another version of the affair is
given in the Relacion, often quoted by me, of one of the Peruvian
conquerors, in which Pedrarias is said to have gone out of the
partnership voluntarily, from his disgust at the unpromising
state of affairs. "Vueltos con la dicha gente a Panama,
destrozados y gastados que ya no tenian haciendas para tornar con
provisiones y gentes que todo lo habian gastado, el dicho
Pedrarias de Avila les dijo, que ya el no queria mas hacer
compania con ellos en los gastos de la armada, que si ellos
querian volver a su costa, que lo hiciesen; y ansi como gente que
habia perdido todo lo que tenia y tanto habia trabajado,
acordaron de tornar a proseguir su jornada y dar fin a las vidas
y haciendas que les quedaba, o descubrir aquella tierra, y
ciertamente ellos tubieron grande constancia y animo." Relacion
del Primer. Descub., Ms.]

Not long after this, in the following year, he was succeeded in
his government by Don Pedro de los Rios, a cavalier of Cordova.
It was the policy of the Castilian Crown to allow no one of the
great colonial officers to occupy the same station so long as to
render himself formidable by his authority. *3 It had, moreover,
many particular causes of disgust with Pedrarias. The
functionary they sent out to succeed him was fortified with ample
instructions for the good of the colony, and especially of the
natives, whose religious conversion was urged as a capital
object, and whose personal freedom was unequivocally asserted, as
loyal vassals of the Crown. It is but justice to the Spanish
government to admit that its provisions were generally guided by
a humane and considerate policy, which was as regularly
frustrated by the cupidity of the colonist, and the capricious
cruelty of the conqueror. The few remaining years of Pedrarias
were spent in petty squabbles, both of a personal and official
nature; for he was still continued in office, though in one of
less consideration than that which he had hitherto filled. He
survived but a few years, leaving behind him a reputation not to
be envied, of one who united a pusillanimous spirit with
uncontrollable passions; who displayed, notwithstanding, a
certain energy of character, or, to speak more correctly, an
impetuosity of purpose, which might have led to good results had
it taken a right direction. Unfortunately, his lack of
discretion was such, that the direction he took was rarely of
service to his country or to himself.

[Footnote 3: This policy is noticed by the sagacious Martyr. "De
mutandis namque plaerisque gubernatoribus, ne longa nimis imperii
assuetudine insolescant, cogitatur, qui praecipue non fuerint
prouinciarum domitores. de hisce ducibus namque alia ratio
ponderatur." (De Orbe Novo, (Parisiis, 1587,) p. 498.) One cannot
but regret that the philosopher, who took so keen an interest in
the successive revelations of the different portions of the New
World, should have died before the empire of the Incas was
disclosed to Europeans. He lived to learn and to record the
wonders of

"Rich Mexico, the seat of Montezuma
Not Cuzco in Peru, the richer seat of

Having settled their difficulties with the governor, and obtained
his sanction to their enterprise, the confederates lost no time
in making the requisite preparations for it. Their first step
was to execute the memorable contract which served as the basis
of their future arrangements; and, as Pizarro's name appears in
this, it seems probable that that chief had crossed over to
Panama so soon as the favorable disposition of Pedrarias had been
secured. *4 The instrument, after invoking in the most solemn
manner the names of the Holy Trinity and Our Lady the Blessed
Virgin, sets forth, that, whereas the parties have full authority
to discover and subdue the countries and provinces lying south of
the Gulf, belonging to the empire of Peru, and as Fernando de
Luque had advanced the funds for the enterprise in bars of gold
of the value of twenty thousand pesos, they mutually bind
themselves to divide equally among them the whole of the
conquered territory. This stipulation is reiterated over and
over again, particularly with reference to Luque, who, it is
declared, is to be entitled to one third of all lands,
repartimientos, treasures of every kind, gold, silver, and
precious stones, - to one third even of all vassals, rents, and
emoluments arising from such grants as may be conferred by the
Crown on either of his military associates, to be held for his
own use, or for that of his heirs, assigns, or legal

[Footnote 4: In opposition to most authorities, - but not to the
judicious Quintana, - I have conformed to Montesinos, in placing
the execution of the contract at the commencement of the second,
instead of the first, expedition. This arrangement coincides with
the date of the instrument itself, which, moreover, is reported
in extenso by no ancient writer whom I have consulted except

The two captains solemnly engage to devote themselves exclusively
to the present undertaking until it is accomplished; and, in case
of failure in their part of the covenant, they pledge themselves
to reimburse Luque for his advances, for which all the property
they possess shall be held responsible, and this declaration is
to be a sufficient warrant for the execution of judgment against
them, in the same manner as if it had proceeded from the decree
of a court of justice.

The commanders, Pizarro and Almagro, made oath, in the name of
God and the Holy Evangelists, sacredly to keep this covenant,
swearing it on the missal, on which they traced with their own
hands the sacred emblem of the cross. To give still greater
efficacy to the compact, Father Luque administered the sacrament
to the parties, dividing the consecrated wafer into three
portions, of which each one of them partook; while the
by-standers, says an historian, were affected to tears by this
spectacle of the solemn ceremonial with which these men
voluntarily devoted themselves to a sacrifice that seemed little
short of insanity. *5

[Footnote 5: This singular instrument is given at length by
Montesinos. (Annales, Ms., ano 1526.) It may be found in the
original in Appendix, No. 6.]

The instrument, which was dated March 10, 1526, was subscribed by
Luque, and attested by three respectable citizens of Panama, one
of whom signed on behalf of Pizarro, and the other for Almagro;
since neither of these parties, according to the avowal of the
instrument, was able to subscribe his own name. *6

[Footnote 6: For some investigation of the fact, which has been
disputed by more than one, of Pizarro's ignorance of the art of
writing, see Book 4, chap. 5, of this History.]

Such was the singular compact by which three obscure individuals
coolly carved out and partitioned among themselves, an empire of
whose extent, power, and resources, of whose situation, of whose
existence, even, they had no sure or precise knowledge. The
positive and unhesitating manner in which they speak of the
grandeur of this empire, of its stores of wealth, so conformable
to the event, but of which they could have really known so
little, forms a striking contrast with the general skepticism and
indifference manifested by nearly every other person, high and
low, in the community of Panama. *7

[Footnote 7: The epithet of loco or "madman" was punningly
bestowed on Father Luque, for his spirited exertions in behalf of
the enterprise; Padre Luque o loco, says Oviedo of him, as if it
were synonymous. Historia de las Indias Islas e Tierra Firme del
Mar Oceano, Ms., Parte 3, lib. 8 cap. 1.]

The religious tone of the instrument is not the least remarkable
feature in it, especially when we contrast this with the
relentless policy, pursued by the very men who were parties to
it, in their conquest of the country. "In the name of the Prince
of Peace," says the illustrious historian of America, "they
ratified a contract of which plunder and bloodshed were the
objects." *8 The reflection seems reasonable. Yet, in
criticizing what is done, as well as what is written, we must
take into account the spirit of the times. *9 The invocation of
Heaven was natural, where the object of the undertaking was, in
part, a religious one. Religion entered, more or less, into the
theory, at least, of the Spanish conquests in the New World.
That motives of a baser sort mingled largely with these higher
ones, and in different proportions according to the character of
the individual, no one will deny. And few are they that have
proposed to themselves a long career of action without the
intermixture of some vulgar personal motive, - fame, honors, or
emolument. Yet that religion furnishes a key to the American
crusades, however rudely they may have been conducted, is evident
from the history of their origin; from the sanction openly given
to them by the Head of the Church; from the throng of
self-devoted missionaries, who followed in the track of the
conquerors to garner up the rich harvest of souls; from the
reiterated instructions of the Crown, the great object of which
was the conversion of the natives; from those superstitious acts
of the iron-hearted soldiery themselves, which, however they may
be set down to fanaticism, were clearly too much in earnest to
leave any ground for the charge of hypocrisy. It was indeed a
fiery cross that was borne over the devoted land, scathing and
consuming it in its terrible progress; but it was still the
cross, the sign of man's salvation, the only sign by which
generations and generations yet unborn were to be rescued from
eternal perdition.

[Footnote 8: Robertson, America, vol. III. p. 5.]

[Footnote 9: "A perfect judge will read each work of wit
With the same spirit that its author writ,"

says the great bard of Reason. A fair criticism will apply the
same rule to action as to writing, and, in the moral estimate of
conduct, will take largely into account the spirit of the age
which prompted it.]

It is a remarkable fact, which has hitherto escaped the notice of
the historian, that Luque was not the real party to this
contract. He represented another, who placed in his hands the
funds required for the undertaking. This appears from an
instrument signed by Luque himself and certified before the same
notary that prepared the original contract. The instrument
declares that the whole sum of twenty thousand pesos advanced for
the expedition was furnished by the Licentiate Gaspar de
Espinosa, then at Panama; that the vicar acted only as his agent
and by his authority; and that, in consequence, the said Espinosa
and no other was entitled to a third of all the profits and
acquisitions resulting from the conquest of Peru. This
instrument, attested by three persons, one of them the same who
had witnessed the original contract, was dated on the 6th of
August, 1531. *10 The Licentiate Espinosa was a respectable
functionary, who had filled the office of principal alcalde in
Darien, and since taken a conspicuous part in the conquest and
settlement of Tierra Firme. He enjoyed much consideration for
his personal character and station; and it is remarkable that so
little should be known of the manner in which the covenant, so
solemnly made, was executed in reference to him. As in the case
of Columbus, it is probable that the unexpected magnitude of the
results was such as to prevent a faithful adherence to the
original stipulation; and yet, from the same consideration, one
can hardly doubt that the twenty thousand pesos of the bold
speculator must have brought him a magnificent return. Nor did
the worthy vicar of Panama, as the history will show hereafter,
go without his reward.

[Footnote 10: The instrument making this extraordinary disclosure
is cited at length in a manuscript entitled Noticia General del
Peru, Tierra Firme y Chili, by Francisco Lopez de Caravantes, a
fiscal officer in these colonies. The Ms., formerly preserved in
the library of the great college of Cuenca at Salamanca, is now
to be found in her Majesty's library at Madrid. The passage is
extracted by Quintana, Espanoles Celebres, tom. II. Apend. No. 2,

Having completed these preliminary arrangements, the three
associates lost no time in making preparations for the voyage.
Two vessels were purchased, larger and every way better than
those employed on the former occasion. Stores were laid in, as
experience dictated, on a larger scale than before, and
proclamation was made of "an expedition to Peru." But the call
was not readily answered by the skeptical citizens of Panama. Of
nearly two hundred men who had embarked on the former cruise, not
more than three fourths now remained. *11 This dismal mortality,
and the emaciated, poverty-stricken aspect of the survivors,
spoke more eloquently than the braggart promises and magnificent
prospects held out by the adventurers. Still there were men in
the community of such desperate circumstances, that any change
seemed like a chance of bettering their condition. Most of the
former company also, strange to say, felt more pleased to follow
up the adventure to the end than to abandon it, as they saw the
light of a better day dawning upon them. From these sources the
two captains succeeded in mustering about one hundred and sixty
men, making altogether a very inadequate force for the conquest
of an empire. A few horses were also purchased, and a better
supply of ammunition and military stores than before, though
still on a very limited scale. Considering their funds, the only
way of accounting for this must be by the difficulty of obtaining
supplies at Panama, which, recently founded, and on the remote
coast of the Pacific, could be approached only by crossing the
rugged barrier of mountains, which made the transportation of
bulky articles extremely difficult. Even such scanty stock of
materials as it possessed was probably laid under heavy
contribution, at the present juncture, by the governor's
preparations for his own expedition to the north.

[Footnote 11: "Con ciento i diez Hombres salio de Panama, i fue
donde estaba el Capitan Picarro con otros cinquenta de los
primeros ciento; diez, que con el salieron, i de los setenta, que
el Capitan Almagro llevo, quando le fue a buscar, que los ciento
i treinta ia eran muertos. Xerez, Conq. del Peru, ap. Barcia,
tom. III. p. 180.]

Thus indifferently provided, the two captains, each in his own
vessel, again took their departure from Panama, under the
direction of Bartholomew Ruiz, a sagacious and resolute pilot,
well experienced in the navigation of the Southern Ocean. He was
a native of Moguer, in Andalusia, that little nursery of nautical
enterprise, which furnished so many seamen for the first voyages
of Columbus. Without touching at the intervening points of the
coast, which offered no attraction to the voyagers, they stood
farther out to sea, steering direct for the Rio de San Juan, the
utmost limit reached by Almagro. The season was better selected
than on the former occasion, and they were borne along by
favorable breezes to the place of their destination, which they
reached without accident in a few days. Entering the mouth of
the river, they saw the banks well lined with Indian habitations;
and Pizarro, disembarking, at the head of a party of soldiers,
succeeded in surprising a small village and carrying off a
considerable booty of gold ornaments found in the dwellings,
together with a few of the natives. *12

[Footnote 12: Ibid., pp. 180, 181. - Naharro, Relacion Sumaria,
Ms. - Zarate, Conq. del Peru, lib 1, cap. 1. - Herrera, Hist.
General, dec. 3, lib. 8, cap. 13.]

Flushed with their success, the two chiefs were confident that
the sight of the rich spoil so speedily obtained could not fail
to draw adventurers to their standard in Panama; and, as they
felt more than ever the necessity of a stronger force to cope
with the thickening population of the country which they were now
to penetrate, it was decided that Almagro should return with the
treasure and beat up for reinforcements, while the pilot Ruiz, in
the other vessel, should reconnoitre the country towards the
south, and obtain such information as might determine their
future movements. Pizarro, with the rest of the force, would
remain in the neighbourhood of the river, as he was assured by
the Indian prisoners, that not far in the interior was an open
reach of country, where he and his men could find comfortable
quarters. This arrangement was instantly put in execution. We
will first accompany the intrepid pilot in his cruise towards the

Coasting along the great continent, with his canvas still spread
to favorable winds, the first place at which Ruiz cast anchor was
off the little island of Gallo, about two degrees north. The
inhabitants, who were not numerous, were prepared to give him a
hostile reception, - for tidings of the invaders had preceded
them along the country, and even reached this insulated spot. As
the object of Ruiz was to explore, not to conquer, he did not
care to entangle himself in hostilities with the natives; so,
changing his purpose of landing, he weighed anchor, and ran down
the coast as far as what is now called the Bay of St. Matthew.
The country, which, as he advanced, continued to exhibit evidence
of a better culture as well as of a more dense population than
the parts hitherto seen, was crowded, along the shores, with
spectators, who gave no signs of fear or hostility. They stood
gazing on the vessel of the white men as it glided smoothly into
the crystal waters of the bay, fancying it, says an old writer,
some mysterious being descended from the skies.

Without staying long enough on this friendly coast to undeceive
the simple people, Ruiz, standing off shore, struck out into the
deep sea; but he had not sailed far in that direction, when he
was surprised by the sight of a vessel, seeming in the distance
like a caravel of considerable size, traversed by a large sail
that carried it sluggishly over the waters. The old navigator
was not a little perplexed by this phenomenon, as he was
confident no European bark could have been before him in these
latitudes, and no Indian nation, yet discovered, not even the
civilized Mexican, was acquainted with the use of sails in
navigation. As he drew near, he found it was a large vessel, or
rather raft, called balsa by the natives, consisting of a number
of huge timbers of a light, porous wood, tightly lashed together,
with a frail flooring of reeds raised on them by way of deck.
Two masts or sturdy poles, erected in the middle of the vessel,
sustained a large square-sail of cotton, while a rude kind of
rudder and a movable keel, made of plank inserted between the
logs, enabled the mariner to give a direction to the floating
fabric, which held on its course without the aid of oar or
paddle. *13 The simple architecture of this craft was sufficient
for the purposes of the natives, and indeed has continued to
answer them to the present day; for the balsa, surmounted by
small thatched huts or cabins, still supplies the most commodious
means for the transportation of passengers and luggage on the
streams and along the shores of this part of the South American

[Footnote 13: "Traia sus manteles y antenas de muy fina madera y
velas de algodon del mismo talle de manera que los nuestros
navios." Relacion de los Primeros Descubrimientos de F. Pizarro y
Diego de Almagro, sacada del Codice, No. 120 de la Biblioteca
Imperial de Vienna, Ms]

On coming alongside, Ruiz found several Indians, both men and
women, on board, some with rich ornaments on their persons,
besides several articles wrought with considerable skill in gold
and silver, which they were carrying for purposes of traffic to
the different places along the coast. But what most attracted
his attention was the woollen cloth of which some of their
dresses were made. It was of a fine texture, delicately
embroidered with figures of birds and flowers, and dyed in
brilliant colors. He also observed in the boat a pair of
balances made to weigh the precious metals. *14 His astonishment
at these proofs of ingenuity and civilization, so much higher
than any thing he had ever seen in the country, was heightened by
the intelligence which he collected from some of these Indians.
Two of them had come from Tumbez, a Peruvian port, some degrees
to the south; and they gave him to understand, that in their
neighbourhood the fields were covered with large flocks of the
animals from which the wool was obtained, and that gold and
silver were almost as common as wood in the palaces of their
monarch. The Spaniards listened greedily to reports which
harmonized so well with their fond desires. Though half
distrusting the exaggeration, Ruiz resolved to detain some of the
Indians, including the natives of Tumbez, that they might repeat
the wondrous tale to his commander, and at the same time, by
learning the Castilian, might hereafter serve as interpreters
with their countrymen. The rest of the party he suffered to
proceed without further interruption on their voyage. Then
holding on his course, the prudent pilot, without touching at any
other point of the coast, advanced as far as the Punta de Pasado,
about half a degree south, having the glory of being the first
European who, sailing in this direction on the Pacific, had
crossed the equinoctial line. This was the limit of his
discoveries; on reaching which he tacked about, and standing away
to the north, succeeded, after an absence of several weeks, in
regaining the spot where he had left Pizarro and his comrades.

[Footnote 14: In a short notice of this expedition, written
apparently at the time of it, or soon after, a minute
specification is given of the several articles found in the
balsa; among them are mentioned vases and mirrors of burnished
silver, and curious fabrics both cotton and woollen. "Espejos
guarnecidos de la dicha plata, y tasas y otras vasijas para
beber, trahian muchas mantas de lana y de algodon, y camisas y
aljubas y alcaceres y alaremes, y otras muchas ropas, todo lo mas
de ello muy labrado de labores muy ricas de colores de grana y
carmisi y azul y amarillo, y de todas otras colores de diversas
maneras de labores y figuras de aves y animales, y Pescados, y
arbolesas y trahian unos pesos chiquitos de pesar oro como
hechura de Romana, y otras muchas cosas.' Relacion sacada de la
Biblioteca Imperial de Vienna, Ms.]

[Footnote 15: Xerez, Conq. del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p.
181. - Relacion sacada de la Biblioteca Imperial de Vienna, Ms. -
Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 8, cap. 13.

One of the authorities speaks of his having been sixty days on
this cruise. I regret not to be able to give precise dates of
the events in these early expeditions. But chronology is a thing
beneath the notice of these ancient chroniclers, who seem to
think that the date of events, so fresh in their own memory, must
be so in that of every one else.]

It was high time; for the spirits of that little band had been
sorely tried by the perils they had encountered. On the
departure of his vessels, Pizarro marched into the interior, in
the hope of finding the pleasant champaign country which had been
promised him by the natives. But at every step the forests
seemed to grow denser and darker, and the trees towered to a
height such as he had never seen, even in these fruitful regions,
where Nature works on so gigantic a scale. *16 Hill continued to
rise above hill, as he advanced, rolling onward, as it were, by
successive waves to join that colossal barrier of the Andes,
whose frosty sides, far away above the clouds, spread out like a
curtain of burnished silver, that seemed to connect the heavens
with the earth.

[Footnote 16: "Todo era montanas, con arboles hasta el cielo!"
Herrera Hist. General, ubi supra.]

On crossing these woody eminences, the forlorn adventurers would
plunge into ravines of frightful depth, where the exhalations of
a humid soil steamed up amidst the incense of sweet-scented
flowers, which shone through the deep glooms in every conceivable
variety of color. Birds, especially of the parrot tribe, mocked
this fantastic variety of nature with tints as brilliant as those
of the vegetable world. Monkeys chattered in crowds above their
heads, and made grimaces like the fiendish spirits of these
solitudes; while hideous reptiles, engendered in the slimy depths
of the pools, gathered round the footsteps of the wanderers.
Here was seen the gigantic boa, coiling his unwieldy folds about
the trees, so as hardly to be distinguished from their trunks,
till he was ready to dart upon his prey; and alligators lay
basking on the borders of the streams, or, gliding under the
waters, seized their incautious victim before he was aware of
their approach. *17 Many of the Spaniards perished miserably in
this way, and others were waylaid by the natives, who kept a
jealous eye on their movements, and availed themselves of every
opportunity to take them at advantage. Fourteen of Pizarro's men
were cut off at once in a canoe which had stranded on the bank of
a stream. *18

[Footnote 17: Ibid., ubi supra.]

[Footnote 18: Ibid., loc. cit. - Gomara, Hist. de las Ind., cap.
108. - Naharro, Relacion Sumaria, Ms]

Famine came in addition to other troubles, and it was with
difficulty that they found the means of sustaining life on the
scanty fare of the forest, - occasionally the potato, as it grew
without cultivation, or the wild cocoa-nut, or, on the shore, the
salt and bitter fruit of the mangrove; though the shore was less
tolerable than the forest, from the swarms of mosquitos which
compelled the wretched adventurers to bury their bodies up to
their very faces in the sand. In this extremity of suffering,
they thought only of return; and all schemes of avarice and
ambition - except with Pizarro and a few dauntless spirits - were
exchanged for the one craving desire to return to Panama.

It was at this crisis that the pilot Ruiz returned with the
report of his brilliant discoveries; and, not long after, Almagro
sailed into port with his vessel laden with refreshments, and a
considerable reinforcement of volunteers. The voyage of that
commander had been prosperous. When he arrived at Panama, he
found the government in the hands of Don Pedro de los Rios; and
he came to anchor in the harbour, unwilling to trust himself on
shore, till he had obtained from Father Luque some account of the
dispositions of the executive. These were sufficiently
favorable; for the new governor had particular instructions fully
to carry out the arrangements made by his predecessor with the
associates. On learning Almagro's arrival, he came down to the
port to welcome him, professing his willingness to afford every
facility for the execution of his designs. Fortunately, just
before this period, a small body of military adventurers had come
to Panama from the mother country, burning with desire to make
their fortunes in the New World. They caught much more eagerly
than the old and wary colonists at the golden bait held out to
them; and with their addition, and that of a few supernumerary
stragglers who hung about the town, Almagro found himself at the
head of a reinforcement of at least eighty men, with which,
having laid in a fresh supply of stores, he again set sail for
the Rio de San Juan.
The arrival of the new recruits all eager to follow up the
expedition, the comfortable change in their circumstances
produced by an ample supply of refreshments, and the glowing
pictures of the wealth that awaited them in the south, all had
their effect on the dejected spirits of Pizarro's followers.
Their late toils and privations were speedily forgotten, and,
with the buoyant and variable feelings incident to a freebooter's
life, they now called as eagerly on their commander to go forward
in the voyage, as they had before called on him to abandon it.
Availing themselves of the renewed spirit of enterprise, the
captains embarked on board their vessels, and, under the guidance
of the veteran pilot, steered in the same track he had lately

But the favorable season for a southern course, which in these
latitudes lasts but a few months in the year, had been suffered
to escape. The breezes blew steadily towards the north, and a
strong current, not far from shore, set in the same direction.
The winds frequently rose into tempests, and the unfortunate
voyagers were tossed about, for many days, in the boiling surges,
amidst the most awful storms of thunder and lightning, until, at
length, they found a secure haven in the island of Gallo, already
visited by Ruiz. As they were now too strong in numbers to
apprehend an assault, the crews landed, and, experiencing no
molestation from the natives, they continued on the island for a
fortnight, refitting their damaged vessels, and recruiting
themselves after the fatigues of the ocean. Then, resuming their
voyage, the captains stood towards the south until they reached
the Bay of St. Matthew. As they advanced along the coast, they
were struck, as Ruiz had been before, with the evidences of a
higher civilization constantly exhibited in the general aspect of
the country and its inhabitants. The hand of cultivation was
visible in every quarter. The natural appearance of the coast,
too, had something in it more inviting; for, instead of the
eternal labyrinth of mangrove-trees, with their complicated roots
snarled into formidable coils under the water, as if to waylay
and entangle the voyager, the low margin of the sea was covered
with a stately growth of ebony, and with a species of mahogany,
and other hard woods that take the most brilliant and variegated
polish. The sandal-wood, and many balsamic trees of unknown
names, scattered their sweet odors far and wide, not in an
atmosphere tainted with vegetable corruption, but on the pure
breezes of the ocean, bearing health as well as fragrance on
their wings. Broad patches of cultivated land intervened,
disclosing hill-sides covered with the yellow maize and the
potato, or checkered, in the lower levels, with blooming
plantations of cacao. *19

[Footnote 19: Xerez, Conq. del Peru, ap. Barcia, tom. III. p.
181. - Relacion sacada de la Biblioteca Imperial de Vienna, Ms. -
Naharro, Relacion Sumaria, Ms. - Montesinos, Annales, Ms., ano
1526. - Zarate, Conq. del Peru, lib. 1. cap. 1. - Relacion del
Primer. Descub., Ms.]

The villages became more numerous; and, as the vessels rode at
anchor off the port of Tacamez, the Spaniards saw before them a
town of two thousand houses or more, laid out into streets, with
a numerous population clustering around it in the suburbs. *20
The men and women displayed many ornaments of gold and precious
stones about their persons, which may seem strange, considering
that the Peruvian Incas claimed a monopoly of jewels for
themselves and the nobles on whom they condescended to bestow
them. But, although the Spaniards had now reached the outer
limits of the Peruvian empire, it was not Peru, but Quito, and
that portion of it but recently brought under the sceptre of the
Incas, where the ancient usages of the people could hardly have
been effaced under the oppressive system of the American despots.
The adjacent country was, moreover, particularly rich in gold,
which, collected from the washings of the streams, still forms
one of the staple products of Barbacoas. Here, too, was the fair
River of Emeralds, so called from the quarries of the beautiful
gem on its borders, from which the Indian monarchs enriched their
treasury. *21

[Footnote 20: Pizarro's secretary speaks of one of the towns as
containing 3,000 houses. "En esta Tierra havia muchos
Mantenimientos, i la Gente tenia mui buena orden de vivir, los
Pueblos con sus Calles, i Placas: Pueblo havia que tenia mas de
tres mil Casas, i otros havia menores." Conq. del Peru, ap.
Barcia, tom. III. p. 181.]

[Footnote 21: Stevenson, who visited this part of the coast early
in the present century, is profuse in his description of its
mineral and vegetable treasures. The emerald mine in the
neighbourhood of Las Esmeraldas, once so famous, is now placed
under the ban of a superstition, more befitting the times of the
Incas. "I never visited it," says the traveller, "owing to the
superstitious dread of the natives, who assured me that it was
enchanted, and guarded by an enormous dragon, which poured forth
thunder and lightning on those who dared to ascend the river."
Residence in South America, vol. II. p. 406.]

The Spaniards gazed with delight on these undeniable evidences of
wealth, and saw in the careful cultivation of the soil a


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