Cortes, Ferdinand

, a Spanish commander, famous under the emperor Charles V. for the conquest of Mexico, was born at Medellin in Estremadura, in 1485. His parents intended him for study, but his dissipated habits and overbearing temper made his father willing to gratify his inclination by sending him abroad as an adventurer. Accordingly he passed over to the Indies in 1504, continued some time at St. Domingo, and then went to the isle of Cuba. He so distinguished himself by his exploits, that Velasquez, governor of Cuba, made him captain general of the army which he destined for the discovery of new countries. Cortes sailed from San-Iago Nov. 13, 1518, stationed his little army at the Havannah, and arrived the year after at Tabasco in Mexico. He conquered the Indians, founded Vera-Cruz, reduced the province of TJascala, and marched directly to Mexico, the capital of the empire. Montezuma, the emperor of the Mexicans, was constrained to receive him, and thus became a prisoner in his own capital: and Cortes not only demanded immense monies of him, but obliged him to submit all his states to Charles V. Meanwhile Velasquez, growing jealous of this success, resolved to traverse the operations of Cortes, and with this view sent a fleet of 12 ships against him: but Cortes already distrasted him; and, having obtained new succours from the Spaniards, made himself master of all Mexico, and detained as prisoner Guatimosin, the successor of Montezuma, and last emperor of the Mexicans. This was accomplished Aug. 13, 1521. Charles V. rewarded these services with the valley of Guaxaca in Mexico, which Cortes erected into a marquisate. He afterwards returned to Spain, where he was not received with the gratitude he expected, and where he died in 1554, aged sixty-three. Many have written the history of this “Conquest of Mexico,” and particularly Antonio de Solis, whose work has been translated into many other languages besides the English, and Clavigero; and in 1800 a very | interesting work was published entitled “The true History of the Conquest of Mexico, by captain Bernal Diaz del Castello, one of the conquerors, written in 1568, and translated from the original Spanish, by Maurice Keatinge, esq.” 4to. Dr. Robertson, in his history of America, has given a long life of Cortes, which, we are sorry to add, does more honour to his pen than to his judgment or humanity. It is a laboured defence of cruelties that are indefensible, and is calculated to present to the reader the idea of a magnanimous and politic hero, instead of an insatiate invader and usurper more barbarous than those he conquered; a murderer, who appears, like his historians in modern times, to have been perfectly insensible to the true character of the victories which accompanied his arms. From his correspondence with the emperor Charles V. published at Paris in 1778, by the viscount de Flavigny, it appears that this insensibility was so great in himself, that in his account of his exploits he neither altered facts, nor modified circumstances, to redeem his name from the execration of succeeding ages. “His accounts of murders, assassinations, and perfidious stratagems, his enumeration of the victims that fell in Mexico, to the thirst of gold, covered with the bloody veil of religion, are,” says a judicious writer, “minute, accurate, infernal.” To these works, and to the general history of Mexico, we refer for that evidence by which the merit of Cortes may be more justly appreciated than by some of his late biographers. 1


Works as above. Month. Rev. vol. LX,