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Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/20

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Si INTRODUCTION. fully attested by the boldness with which he attacked and sub- verted the idolatrous practices of the Mexicans, often under circumstances of great risk and danger. He never temporized with the superstitions of the natives, and the conquest effected as complete a revolution in the religious as the civU institutions of the country. Every vestige of the ancient idolatry was care- fully erased, and the entire population of the country brought, nominally at least, into the Christian fold.* Thus carrying the emblem of the cross in one hand, and the sword in the other, Cortes punished (as he expressed it) with the utmost rigor all who refused to recognize him in the double capacity of propa- gator of the Catholic faith, and vicegei'ent of the lawful sove- reign of those parts. But it must be admitted that, in general, his treatment of the Indians was mild and conciliatory, as abundantly appears in the following pages, which are uncon- tradicted by contemporaneous accounts of the highest authority. The expedition against Mexico was undertaken the year fol- lowing the election of Charles V. as emperor of Germany, and the third of his reign as king of Spain. It was the first auspi- cious event of any magnitude in the distinguished career of that monarch, who came to the throne under circumstances of much embarrassment and difficulty. Although but seventeen years of age, his vigorous and enterprising qualities were soon developed, and exercised a favorable influence on the spirit of discovery in the new world. Under this influence, says De Solis, the minds of men became disposed to great undertak- ingsĀ ; greater ardor was infused into the breasts of the soldiers, and those preliminary operations took place that led the way to the conquest of New Spain, an event destined by Heaven to shed lustre on the commencement of the reign of that august monarch.f Great disappointment had followed the discovery of the New World in the preceding reign of Ferdinand and Isabella. The

  • Peter of Ghent, writing from Mexico in 1529, states that another priest and

liimself had baptized in the province of Mexico more than 200,000 personsĀ ; and often eight, and sometimes even ten or fourteen, thousand in a day. Ter- naiix. Voyages, etc. t * * * " Nueva Espana, cuyo imperio tenia el cielo destinado para engran- decer los principios de este augusto Monarca." Conquista de Mejico. Cap. V.