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CABOT'S REPORT TO CHARLES V..ITS PRESUMED CONTENTS_PROSPECT WHICH
IT HELD OUT-PERU CONTEMPLATED IN HIS ORIGINAL PLAN OF 1524
SPECIMENS FOUND BY CABOT OF THE PRECIOUS METALS OBTAINED THENCE
BY THE GUARANISEMPEROR RESOLVES ON A GREAT EXPEDITION-HIS
PECUNIARY EMBARRASSMENTS-PIZARRO OFFERS TO MAKE THE CONQUEST
OF PERU AT HIS OWN EXPENSE-REFLECTIONS-THE NAME RIO DE LA
PLATA NOT CONFERRED BY CABOT MISREPRESENTATION ON THIS AND
On returning to the Fort of Santus Spiritus, Cabot made arrangements to convey to the Emperor intelligence of his discoveries. He prepared, also, a comprehensive statement of 'the incidents which had occurred since he left Seville, and of the circumstances which compelled him to abandon the expedition originally contemplated. This report is referred to by Herrera ;* but while all the calumnies of Cabot's enemies are repeated, he furnishes, as has been before remarked, no part of the vindication which must have been conclusive. This document is probably yet in existence amongst the archives of Spain.
The bearers of the communication were Hernando Calderon, and an individual designated by Herrera in one place as Jorge Barlo, and in another as Jorge Barloque, conjectured to have been one of the two English gentlemen, friends of Thorne, who accompanied the expedition, and whose name, probably George Barlow, has undergone a slighter transformation than might have been anticipated.
Of the hopes and prospects which this communication held out we are ignorant; and only know that the Emperor resolved to fit out a great expedition, but that the execution of his intention was unfortunately too long delayed.
* Dec. iv. lib. iii. cap. i.
It may well be imagined that the expectations of Cabot had been raised to a high pitch, and that he eagerly solicited permission and means to follow up the enterprise. He had reached the waters which, rising in Potosi, fall into the Paraguay, and had, doubtless, ascertained the quarter to which the natives were indebted for those ornaments of the precious metals which he saw about their persons. Even from the fort on the Parana, the obstacles between him and Peru present no very formidable difficulty to the modern traveller. That he had his eye on that empire, the riches of which Pizarro was enabled, a few years afterwards, to reach by a different route, may be inferred from the care with which he is found collecting information, and the obvious facilities which they disclose. In an abstract given by Herrera of Cabot's final report to the emperor, there occur the following passages :
“ The principal tribe of Indians in that region are the Guaranis, a people warlike, treacherous, and arrogant, who give the appellation of slaves to all who speak a different language.” “ In the time of Guynacapa, King of Peru, father of Atabilipa, these people made an irruption into his dominions, which extend more than five hundred leagues, and reached Peru, and after a most destructive progress, returned home in triumph," &c. “ Cabot negotiated a peace with this tribe. By friendly intercourse he came to learn many secrets of the country, and procured from them gold and silver which they had brought from Peru,” &c.*
It had been a part of Cabot's original plan, as stated by Peter Martyr, to visit the western coast of America; “ Having passed the winding Strait of Magellan, he is to direct his course to the right hand in the rear of our supposed Continent.” “He will scour along all the South side of our supposed Continent, and arrive at the Colonies of Panama and Nata erected on those shores, the bounds of the Golden Castile, and whosoever at that time shall be governor of that province called Golden Castile is to give us intelligence of his success.”* Cabot now found himself within striking distance of these regions, and the intelligence received quickened his eagerness to reach them. The intervening obstacles were nothing to his restless activity and indomitable spirit, and the opposition to be encountered not worth a thought when he knew that a war-party of the savages, whom his own little band had so severely chastised, were able to overrun the Empire of Peru and carry off its treasures.
*“La relacion que hiço al Rey fue que la mas principal generacion de Indios de aquella tierra son los Guaranis, gente guerrera, traydora y sobervia, y que llaman esclavos a todos los que no son de su lengua.” Herrera, Dec. iv. lib. viii. cap. xi. “En tiempo de Guaynacapa, Rey de el Perù Padre de Atabilipa, salieron grandes compañias y caminando por todos las tierras de su nacion, que se estenden mas de quinientas leguas llegaron a tierra del Peru y despues de aver hecho grandes destruyciones se bolvieron vitoriosos a su naturaleça.” -Ib. “Y haviendo hecho Sebastian Goboto la Paz con esta generacion, &c. con el amitad destos supo muchos secretos de la tierra y huvo de ellos oro y plata de la que traian del Peru."
But however well disposed the Emperor might be to yield a ready belief to the representations of Cabot, the means were absolutely wanting to furnish the promised aid. The only key to this part of the history of Charles V., is a recollection of his struggles with pecuniary embarrassment. The soldiers of Bourbon had mutinied for want of pay, and were brought back to duty only by the great personal exertions and influence of their chief, and by the hope of plunder; and even after the sack of Rome, they refused to quit that city until the arrears due to them should be discharged, “ a condition,” says Dr. Robertson,t “ which they knew to be impossible.” During
During the very year in which Cabot's messengers arrived, the Cortes had refused the grant of money solicited by the Emperor. We have already had occasion to advert to the mortgage of the Moluccas to Portugal in 1529, as security for a loan, to the infinite chagrin of his Castilian subjects. Pizarro had the advantage of being able to employ personal importunity, and he asked no money. On 26th July 1528, the Emperor yielded to that adventurer a grant of the entire range of coast, which it had been part of Cabot's plan of 1524 to visit. At his own expense Pizarro engaged to raise a large force," and to provide the ships, arms, and warlike stores requisite, towards subjecting to the Crown of Castile the country of which the government was allotted to him."* He proceeded at once to the task, though it was not until February 1531 that he was enabled to set out from Panama on his successful, but infamous, career.
* Peter Martyr, Dec. vii. cap. vi. + Life of Charles V., book v.
It were idle to indulge the imagination, in speculating on the probable result had the expedition to Peru been conducted by Cabot. With all the better qualities of Pizarro, it is certain that the very elevation of his moral character must have stood in the way of that rapid desolation, and fierce exaction, which have made the downfal of the Peruvian Empire a subject of vulgar admiration. In following Pizarro, the heart sickens at a tissue of cruelty, fraud, treachery, and cold blooded murder, unrelieved even by the presence of great danger, for after the resistance at the island of Puna, which detained him for six months, no serious obstacles were encountered. Even the Guaranis, who had achieved an easy conquest over the unwarlike Peruvians, in the preceding reign, were guiltless of the atrocities which marked his progress. Of one thing we may be certain.
Had the conquest fallen to the lot of Cabot, the blackest page of the History of Spanish America would have been spared. The murder of the Inca to gratify the pique of an illiterate + ruffian, forms one of the
* Robertson's History of America, book vi.
t“ Among all the European Arts, what he admired most was that of reading and writing; and he long deliberated with himself, whether he should regard it as a natural or acquired talent. In order to determine this, he desired one of the soldiers, who guarded him, to write the name of God on the nail of his thumb. This he shewed successively to several Spaniards, asking its meaning; and to his amazement, they all, without hesitation, returned the same answer. At length Pizarro entered; and on presenting it to him, he blushed, and with some confusion was obliged to acknowledge his ignorance. From that moment, Atahualpa considered him as a mean person, less instructed
most horrid images of History. It was no less impolitic than atrocious, and roused the indignation even of the desperadoes who accompanied Pizarro. The career of Cabot who, at the Council Board of the Indies, had been a party to the order forbidding even the abduction of a Native, could not have been stained by crimes which make us turn with horror from the guilty splendour of the page that records them.
Reverting to the Despatch of Cabot to the Emperor, it remains to notice a charge against him of having conferred the name Rio de La Plata, or River of Silver, with a view to colour his failure, and to encourage deceptive hopes. Now Gomara, who wrote half a century before Herrera, tells us expressly that this designation was given by the original discoverer, De Solis. (cap. Ixxxix.)
Topò con un grandissimo Rio que los Naturales llaman Paranaguaça, que quiere decir Rio como Mar o Agua grande ; vido en el muestra de Plata, i nombrolo de ella." (“ He fell in with an immense river which the natives called Paranaguaca, that is to say, a river like the sea or great water; in it specimens of silver, and named it from that circumstance.")
Thus in a work dedicated to the Emperor, we find the origin of that name which Cabot is represented to have fraudently conferred so long afterwards for the purpose of misleading him !
The same statement is made by Lopez Vaz, (Hakluyt, vol. iii. p. 788,) “ The first Spaniard that entered this river and inhabited the same, was called Solis, who passed up a hundred leagues into it, and called it by the name of Rio de La Plata, that is to say, The River of Silver.”
Herrera gives a somewhat different account. In the chapter devoted to Garcia's expedition, he says, after speaking of the precious metals obtained by Cabot,
“ Tambien Diego Garcia huvo alguna cantidad de Plata de los Indios, desde
than his own soldiers; and he had not address enough to conceal the sentiments with which this discovery inspired him. To be the object of a barbarian's scorn, not only mortified the pride of Pizarro, but excited such resentment in his breast, as added force to all the other considerations which prompted him to put the Inca to death.” (Robertson's Hist. America.)