Pizarro, Francis

, the conqueror of Peru, celebrated rather for his abilities than for his virtues, his glory being tarnished by the cruelties which he practised towards those whom he had conquered, was the illegitimate son of a gentleman, by a very low woman, and apparently destined by his ungenerous parent not to rise above the condition of his mother, being put to the mean employment of keeping hogs. The genius of young Pizarro disdained this low occupation. He enlisted as a soldier, served some time in Italy, and then embarked for America, which offered at that period a strong allurement to every active adventurer. Distinguished by his utter disdain of every hardship and danger, he was soon regarded, though so illiterate that he was unable to read, as a man formed for command; and being settled in Panama, where the Spanish emigrants had found their sanguine expectations wholly disappointed, he united in 1524 with Diego de Almagro, another military adventurer, and Hernando Lucque, a priest, to prosecute discoveries to the eastward of that settlement. This attempt had frequently been made, but had failed through the inability of the persons concerned in it; it had now fallen into such hands as were calculated to make it successful, and their confederacy was sanctioned by the governor of Panama. The enterprise was begun in a very humble manner. Pizarro set sail with a single vessel, and, from universal ignorance of the climate, at the very worst season of the year, in November, when the periodical winds were precisely against his course. He had no success, nor was his colleague Almagro, who followed, more fortunate. After undergoing extreme hardships, and obtaining only a glimpse of a better country, the utmost they could do was to establish themselves in an island near the coast. Nothing could deter | Pizarro from his enterprise; the refusal of further sanction from the governor, the desertion of all his associates, except thirteen, all was in vain. He remained with his small band, till, in spite of all obstacles, they obtained another vessel, with some reinforcements. They set sail again in 1526, and on the twentieth day after their departure, discovered the fertile coast of Peru. They were yet too weak to attempt the invasion of an empire so populous, and Pizarro contented himself with carrying back, by means of an amicable intercourse, such specimens of the wealth and civilization of the country as might invite others to accede to the enterprise. Unable to bring the governor of Panama to adopt his views, he returned to Spain, and explaining to that court the magnitude of the object, obtained every grant of authority he could wish, but no other assistance; and being left to his own resources, could have effected nothing had he not been assisted with money by Cortez, just then returned from Mexico. It was February 1531, before he and his associates were again able to sail from Panama on their great undertaking; and then their whole armament consisted only of three small vessels and 180 soldiers, thirty-six of whom were horsemen. When they landed in Peru, as they had the imprudence to attack the natives, instead of conciliating them, they were at first exposed to famine, and several other calamities. Pizarro, however, had the good fortune to enter Peru when the forces of the empire were divided by an obstinate civil war between Huascar the legitimate monarch, and Atahualpa (commonly called Atabalipa), his half brother. By degrees understanding the state of the country, Pizarro engaged to be the ally of Atahualpa, and under that pretence was permitted to penetrate unmolested to Caxamalca, twelve days’ journey within the country. He was received pacifically and with state, as the ambassador of a great monarch but, perfidiously taking advantage of the unsuspecting good faith of Atahualpa, he made a sudden attack, and took him prisoner. The exaction of an immense ransom, the division of which served to invite new invaders; the disgraceful breach of faith by which the king was kept a prisoner after his ransom was paid; and the detestable murder of him, a short time after, under the infamous mockery of a trial; with the insults superadded by bigotry, to make him die a Christian, without being | able to comprehend that faith; all contribute to accumulate disgrace upon the head of the treacherous and unfeeling conqueror, and form such odious additions to the reproachful scenes acted by the Spaniards in America, as nothing can palliate or obliterate. Pizarro, favoured by the distracted state of Peru, which now increased, though Huascar had been put to death by order of his brother, and reinforced by more soldiers from Spain, proceeded in his conquests, and on Jan. 18, 1535, laid the foundation of Lima, called by him and his countrymen Ciudad de los Reyes. In 1537 he found a new enemy in his original associate Almagro, who claiming Cuzco, the ancient capital of Peru, as belonging to his jurisdiction, got possession of it. This, and other advantages gained by him, at once distressed and roused Pizarro. They came to an engagement in 1538, in which Almagro was defeated and taken prisoner; and, after an interval of confinement, was tried and executed. This was the last of the successes of Pizarro; the son and friends of Almagro conspired against him, and on June 26, 1541, he was assassinated by them in his palace, making a most resolute defence, well worthy of his long-tried courage. He was at this time advanced in years, though his exact age is not known. The glory he justly acquired by military talents, courage, and sagacity, would have placed him in the rank of heroes, had not his character been disgraced by the indelible stains of perfidy and cruelty. 1


Robertson’s Hist. of America.