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Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/27

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INTRODUCT ION. 9 an island as they had supposed, but part of the great continent of America. From Potonchan they had pursued their course for many hundred miles along a coast previously unexplored, the country appearing to be no less valuable than extensive. As soon as Alvarado arrived with the important intelligence, Velas- quez at once despatched his chaplain to Spain, to obtain the requisite authority for conquering and settling the newly dis- covered lands. Before the return of this messenger the governor took immediate steps for equipping a powerful armament, ade- quate to the great objects he had in view. Dissatisfied with Grijalva for not having eftected a settlement, Velasquez deter- mined to appoint another person commander of the present ex- pedition, who should more successfully carry out his own plans. This intentional act of injustice towards one who had just given such decided proofs of his prudence and efficiency in command, led to a retribution in the sequel as severe as it was justly merited. The choice of Velasquez finally settled upon his brother-in- law Hernando Cortes, as the commander of the new ex- pedition. Beside the connection that subsisted between them by marriage, there were other circumstances that led to this decision, to which we shall hereafter advert. Cortes was born at Medellin, a small town in the south-west of Spain, in the year 14&5, and was consequently at the time of his appoint- ment thirty-four years of age, nearly fifteen of which he had passed in the New World. According to Gomara, his parents were persons of respectable and even noble connexions in old Spain, and were generally esteemed for their piety and virtue, although reduced in fortune. His father, whose name was Martin Coi-tes de Monroy, had served when young in the wars of the peninsula as lieutenant of a company of horse, and such was his standing at the time of his son's first success in Mexico, that his personal influence with the court was usefully em- ployed in his behalf to counteract the malevolence of his enemies. Cortes in his childhood was of feeble health, and often seemed at the point of death. He early adopted, says Gomara, who was afterwards his chaplain, the glorious apostle of Jesus Christ, St. Peter, as his patron saint, whose annual 2