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- A Brief History of the United States - 5/72 -

Magellan, sailing through the straits which bear his name, had crossed the Pacific, and his vessel returning home by the Cape of Good Hope, had circumnavigated the globe. Men of the highest rank and culture, warriors, adventurers, all flocked to the new world. Soon Cuba, Hispaniola, Porto Rico, and Jamaica were settled, and ruled by Spanish governors. Among the Spanish explorers of the sixteenth century we notice the following:

PONCE DE LEON (pon'-tha-da-la-on') was a gallant soldier, but an old man, and in disgrace. He coveted the glory of conquest to restore his tarnished reputation, and, besides, he had heard of a magical fountain in this fairy land, where one might bathe and be young again. Accordingly he equipped an expedition, and sailed in search of this fabled treasure. On Easter Sunday (_Pascua Florida_, in Spanish), 1512, he came in sight of a land gay with spring flowers. In honor of the day, he called it Florida. He sailed along the coast, and landed here and there, but returned home at last, an old man still, haying found neither youth, gold, nor glory.

[Footnote: About eight years afterward, De Ayllon (da-ile-yon') made a kidnapping expedition to what is now known as South Carolina. Desiring to obtain laborers for the mines and plantations in Hayti, he invited some of the natives on board his vessels, and, when they were all below, he suddenly closed the hatches and set sail. The speculation, however, did not turn out profitably. One vessel sank with all on board, and many, preferring starvation to slavery, died on the voyage. History tells us that in 1525, when De Ayllon went back with the intention of settling the country, the Indians practised upon him the lesson of cruelty he had taught them. His men were lured into the interior. Their entertainers, falling upon them at night, slew the larger part, and De Ayllon was only too glad to escape with his life.]

BALBOA crossed the Isthmus of Darien the next year, and from the summit of the Andes beheld the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Wading into its waters with his naked sword in one hand, and the banner of Castile (kas-teel) in the other, he solemnly declared that the ocean, and all the shores which it might touch, belonged to the crown of Spain forever.

DE NARVAEZ (nar-vah-eth) received a grant of Florida, and (1528) with 300 men attempted its conquest. Striking into the interior, they wandered about, lured on by the hope of finding gold. Wading through swamps, crossing deep rivers by swimming and by rafts, fighting the lurking Indians who incessantly harassed their path, and nearly perishing with hunger, they reached at last the Gulf of Mexico. Hastily constructing some crazy boats, they put to sea. After six weeks of peril and suffering, they were shipwrecked, and De Narvaez was lost. Six years afterward, four--the only survivors of this ill-fated expedition--reached the Spanish settlements on the Pacific coast.

[Illustration: DE SOTO'S MARCH]

FERDINAND DE SOTO, undismayed by these failures, undertook anew the conquest of Florida. He set out with 600 choice men, amid the fluttering of banners, the flourish of trumpets, and the gleaming of helmet and lance. For month after month this procession of cavaliers, priests, soldiers, and Indian captives strolled through the wilderness, wherever they thought gold might be found. They traversed what is now Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. In the third year of their wanderings (1541) they emerged upon the bank of the Mississippi. After another year of fruitless explorations, De Soto died. (See Map, Epoch I). At the dead of night his followers sank his body in the river, and the sullen waters buried his hopes and his ambition. "He had crossed a large part of the continent," says Bancroft, "and found nothing so remarkable as his burial-place." De Soto had been the soul of the company. When he died, the other adventurers were anxious only to get home in safety. They constructed boats and descended the river, little over half of this gallant array finally reaching the settlements in Mexico.

MELENDEZ (ma-len-deth), wiser than his predecessors, on landing (1565) forthwith laid the foundations of a colony. In honor of the day, he named it St. Augustine. _This is the oldest town in the United States._

[Footnote: Many Spanish remains still exist. Among these is Fort Marion, once San Marco, which was founded in 1565 and finished in 1755. It is built of coquina--a curious stone composed of small shells.]


California, in the sixteenth century, was a general name applied to all the region northwest of Mexico. It is said to have originated in an old Spanish romance very popular in the time of Cortez, in which appeared a character called California, queen of the Amazons. The Mexicans told the Spaniards that most of their gold and precious stones came from a country far to the northwest. Cortez, therefore, immediately turned his attention to that direction, and sent out several expeditions to explore the Californias. All these adventurers returned empty-handed from the very region where, three centuries afterward, the world was startled by the finding of an El Dorado such as would have satisfied the wildest dreams of Cortez and his credulous followers.

_CABRILLO_ (1542) made the first voyage along the Pacific coast, going as far north as the present limits of Oregon.

_NEW MEXICO_ was explored and named by Espejo (es-pay'-ho) who (1582) founded Santa Fe, which is the second oldest town in the United States. This was seventeen years after the settlement of St. Augustine.


Spain, at the close of the sixteenth century, held possession not only of the West Indies, but of Yucatan, Mexico, and Florida.

[Footnote: A writer of that time locates Quebec in Florida, and a map of Henry II. gives that name to all North America.]

The Spanish explorers had traversed a large portion of the present Southern States, and of the Pacific coast. All this vast territory they claimed by the rights of discovery and possession.

[Footnote: The conquests of the new world enriched Spain, which became the wealthiest and most powerful country in Europe. This made other nations all the more anxious to find the western passage to India. The routes by the Cape of Good Hope and by the Straits of Magellan were long and dangerous. To find the shorter northwestern route now became the great wish of all maritime nations, and has been anxiously sought down to the present time.]


The French were eager to share in the profits which Spain was acquiring in the new world. Within seven years after the discovery of the continent, the fisheries of Newfoundland were frequented by their mariners.

[Footnote: Cape Breton was named by the fishermen in remembrance of their home in Brittany, France.]

VER-RA-ZA-NI (zah-ne), a Florentine, was the first navigator sent by the French king to find the new way to the Indies. Sailing westward from Madeira (1524), he reached land near the present harbor of Wilmington.

[Footnote: A letter of Verrazani's giving an account of this voyage, and, until of late, thought to be reliable, is now considered by many to be a forgery perpetrated by some Italian anxious to secure for his country the glory of the discovery.]

He supposed this had never been seen by Europeans, although we know that Cabot had discovered it nearly thirty years before. He coasted along the shores of Carolina and New Jersey, entered the harbors of New York and Newport, and returned with the most glowing description of the new lands he had found. He named the country New France. This term was afterwards confined to Canada.

CARTIER (kar-te-a) ascended the River St. Lawrence (1535) to the Indian village of Hochelaga (ho-she-lah-ga) the present site of Montreal. The town was pleasantly situated at the foot of a lofty hill which Cartier climbed. Stirred by the magnificent prospect, he named it Mont Real (Mong Ra-al), Regal Mountain.

[Footnote: Cartier had discovered and named the Gulf and River St. Lawrence the previous year. In 1541-2, he and Lord Roberval attempted to plant a colony near Quebec. It was composed chiefly of convicts and proved a failure.]

JOHN RIBAUT (re-bo) led the first expedition (1562) under the auspices of Coligny.

[Footnote: Jean Ribaut, as his name is given in Coligny's Ms. and in his own journal published in 1563, was an excellent seaman.]

[Footnote: Coligny (ko-lon-ye) was an admiral of France, and a leader of the Huguenots (Hu-ge-nots), as the Protestants were then called. He had conceived a plan for founding an empire in America. This would furnish an asylum for his Huguenot friends, and at the same time advance the glory of the French. Thus religion and patriotism combined to induce him to send out colonists to the new world.]

The company landed at Port Royal, S.C. So captivated were they, that when volunteers were called for to hold the country for France, so many came forward "with such a good will and joly corage," wrote Ribaut, "as we had much to do to stay their importunitie." They erected a fort, which they named Carolina in honor of Charles IX., king of France. The fleet departed, and this little band of thirty were left alone on the continent. From the North Pole to Mexico, they were the only civilized men. Food became scarce. They tired of the eternal solitude of the wilderness, and finally built a rude ship, and put to sea. Here a storm shattered their vessel. Famine overtook them, and, in their extremity, they killed and ate one of their number. A vessel at last hove in sight, and took them on board only to carry them captives to England. Thus perished the colony, but the name still survives.

[Footnote: The most feeble were landed in France. It is said that

A Brief History of the United States - 5/72

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