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Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/31

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INTRODUCTION. 13 ing scenes of the conquest are on this account the more re- markable, and prove that nature had endowed him with ex- traordinary resources of mind, which onlj required a suitable occasion to be brought fully into exercise. Such an occasion had at length arrived. The circumstances attending the outfit of the expedition to the newly discovered lands, and the appointment of Cortes to its command, are somewhat differently stated by the eaj'ly historians ; and subsequent writers have generally followed those least favorable to the conqueror.* In the following brief ac- count it is proposed to rely chiefly upon the statements of Go- mara, whose impartiality is at least equal to that of his con- temporaries, and his means of information probably far superior. The weak and irresolute conduct of the governor of Cuba, Diego de Velasquez, in regard to this expedition, is, indeed, generally admitted, as well as the superior address and skilful management of its commander; but the impression is left, notwithstanding, that the former was unwarrantably depriv- ed of the fruits of an enterprise projected and fitted out by himself. The little ground for sustaining a charge so dis- honorable seems to be amply shown by the manner in which the enterprise was set on foot, and the discreditable efforts made by Velasquez to deprive Cortes of the command, and failing in these, to cut off its supphes and prevent its departure. Not content with these ineffectual attempts to frustrate the under- taking, it will be seen in one of the following despatches, that after Cortes had gained possession of the city of Mexico, Velasquez sent a powerful force against him under the com- mand of Panfilo de Narvaez, a distinguished cavalier, and although this, like all his previous endeavors to check the career of the conqueror, proved abortive, it led to the temporary loss of the great city, and entailed a series of cruel disasters on the little band of heroes who had followed theh' undaunted leader into the heart of the Mexican empire.

  • Las Casas and Bemal Diaz are particularly referred to, the former of whom

wrote a general history of the Indies, still unpublished, which formed the main authority of Herrera. Las Casas, though a good man, was a prejudiced writer ; and the same may be said of the old soldier who wrote his history to do justice to his companions in arms, excepting only his commandes.