Open main menu

Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/421

This page needs to be proofread.

CONQUEST OF MEXICO. 399 according to their rules of inheritance.* At this time I received letters from the captain and others who were with him, assuring me (blessed be our Lord!) that the whole province had been restored to peace and security, and the natives to their loyalty, and I believe the peace will continue undisturbed, the old cause of offence being forgotten. Your imperial Highness may well believe that these people are of a restless character and easily excited by any novelty or seditious movements they might witness ; for they were wont also to rebel against their caciques, and would always join in any attempts that were made to resist their authority. In a former section, most Catholic Sire, I stated that at the time I heard of the arrival of the Adelantado Francisco de Garay at the river Panuco, I had in readi- ness a fleet of vessels, filled with men, destined for the cape or point of Hibueras, [Honduras,] and the causes that led to the proposed expedition ; which was, how- ever, abandoned on the arrival of the Adelantado, in

  • The late R. C. Sands, in his memoir of Cortes, regards it as a matter of

doubt how many suffered death on this occasion. About four hundred caciques and principal persons were made prisoners, " all of whom," says Cortes, " I mean the principal persons, were burnt according to the sentence of the magis- trate," &c. From this statement Sands endeavors to make it appear that none of the caciques suffered, and it being left uncertain what was the relative propor- tion of "principal persons" amongst the four hundred, it was also uncertain how many were put to death, but certainly less than four hundred. In support of this construction he quotes Herrera, who says that only thirty were burnt, and the rest pardoned. But unluckily for this view of the matter, Cortes expressly adds that new caciques were appointed to succeed to the vacancies created at the time; so that his expression, "principal persons," must have been used in the second instance in contradistinction to the common people, and thus included the caciques. (Jomara confirms this account ; who also describes the sentence and execution as the result of a civil process, and not as " a religious exercise," as stated by Sands. The relatives of the criminals were made to witness their fate to deier them from similar offences, and then they were immediately invested with the vacant seignories. — Cro7i. Ntiev. Esp. Cap. 155.