America. A history
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Meanwhile rumours became current in the camp that Atahualpa had ordered a great rising of his people to destroy the invaders. The Spaniards had been recently joined by Almagro with important reinforcements; but still they were no more than four hundred men, and they were in possession of treasure which exposed them to apprehensions unfelt by the penniless adventurer. It was asserted that a vast army was gathering only a hundred miles away; at length the imaginary force was reported to be within ten miles. The cry arose that the Inca should be brought to trial for his treasonable practices. A court was formed, with Pizarro and Almagro as presiding judges; counsel were named to prosecute and defend; charges were framed,2727
The gallant De Soto, in later years the discoverer of the Mississippi, was absent from the camp when Atahualpa was put to death. On his return he reproached his chief for the unhappy transaction, and maintained that the Inca had been basely slandered. Pizarro, seemingly penitent, admitted that he had been precipitate.
Sept. 1533 A.D. Almost immediately after these occurrences Pizarro marched southward and possessed himself easily of the Peruvian capital – “the great and holy city of Cusco.” Although the capital had parted with much of its treasure in obedience to the requisition of its captive monarch, there still remained a vast spoil to enrich the plunderers. In especial, mention is made of ten or twelve statues of female figures, of life size, made wholly of fine gold, “beautiful and well-formed as if they had been alive.” The Spaniards appropriated these and much besides. The great Temple of the Sun was speedily rifled; for the piety of the conquerors conspired with their avarice to hasten the downfall of idolatrous edifices. In this temple the embalmed bodies of former Incas, richly adorned, sat on golden thrones beside the golden image of the Sun. The venerated mummies were now stripped and cast aside. The image of the Sun became the prize of a common soldier, by whom it was quickly lost in gambling. Pizarro claimed the land for the Church as well as for the King. He overthrew temples; he cast down idols; he set up crosses on all highways; he erected a Christian place of worship in Cusco.
Cusco was the worthy capital of a great empire. It was of vast extent, and contained a population variously estimated at from two to four hundred thousand persons. The streets crossed regularly at right angles; the houses were built mainly of stone, with light thatched roofs. The numerous palaces2929
The natives offered no considerable resistance to the entrance of the conquerors. Vast multitudes had gathered out of the neighbouring country. They looked with wonder and with awe upon the terrible strangers who had slain their monarch, who were now marching at their ease through the land, claiming as their own whatever they desired. They heard the heavy tramp of the war-horse and the strange thrilling notes of the trumpet. They saw the mysterious arms before whose destructive power so many of their countrymen had fallen, and the bright mail within whose shelter the Spaniard could slay in safety the undefended Indian. They may well have regarded the fierce bearded warriors as beings of supernatural strength and supernatural wickedness.
But the time came when they could no longer endure the measureless wrongs which had been heaped upon them; when they were impelled to dash themselves against the mailed host of their conquerors and perish under their blows if they could not destroy them. No injury which it was possible for man to inflict upon his fellows had been omitted in their bitter experience. Their King had been betrayed and ignominiously slain; their temples had been profaned and plundered; their possessions had been seized or destroyed; dishonour had been laid upon them in their domestic relations; they themselves had been subjected to compulsory service so ruthlessly enforced that many of them died under the unaccustomed toil. They were now to make one supreme effort to cast off this oppression, which had already gone far to destroy the life of their nation.
Jan. 1535 A.D. Pizarro – raised to the dignity of Marquis – had retired to the coast, where he occupied himself in founding and embellishing the city of Lima. His brother Fernando – a stout-hearted and skilful captain – was left in charge of Cusco. Danger was not apprehended, and the garrison of Cusco was no more than two hundred Spaniards and a thousand native auxiliaries. While the Spaniards enjoyed their lordly repose in the splendid palaces of the fallen monarchy, the Peruvian chiefs organized a formidable revolt. From all the provinces of the empire multitudes of armed natives gathered around Cusco, and took up position on hills where they were safe from the attack of Spanish horsemen. Many of them were armed with lances or axes of copper tempered so that they were scarcely less effective than steel. Every man in all those dusky ranks was prepared to spend his life in the effort to rescue the sacred city from this abhorred invasion. Feb. 1536 A.D. They set fire to the city; they forced their way into the streets, and fought hand to hand with the Spaniards in desperate disregard of the inequality of their arms. They fell slaughtered in thousands; but in six days’ fighting they had gained the fortress and nearly all of the city which the flames had spared. The Spaniards held only the great square and a few of the surrounding houses. Some despaired, and began to urge that they should mount and ride for the coast, forcing their way through the lines of the besiegers. But the stout heart of Fernando Pizarro quailed not in presence of the tremendous danger. In his mind, he told them, there was not and there had not been any fear. If he were left alone he would maintain the defence till he died, rather than have it said that another gained the city and he lost it. The Spaniard of that day was unsurpassed in courage, and his spirit rose to the highest pitch of daring in response to the appeal of a trusted leader. The men laid aside all thought of flight, and addressed themselves to the capture of the great fortress. This strong position was fiercely attacked, and defended with unavailing heroism. Many Spaniards were slain, among whom was Juan, one of the Pizarro brothers, on whose undefended head a great stone inflicted fatal injury. The slaughter of Indians was very great. At length their ammunition failed them – the stones and javelins and arrows with which they maintained the defence were exhausted. Their leader had compelled the admiration of the Spaniards by his heroic bearing throughout the fight. When he had struck his last blow for his ruined country he flung his club among the besiegers, and, casting himself down from the height of the battlement, perished in the fall. “There is not written of any Roman such a deed as he did,” says the Spanish chronicler. May, 1536 A.D. The defence now ceased; the Spaniards forced their way into the fortress, and slaughtered without mercy the fifteen hundred men whom they found there.
For several weeks longer the Indians blockaded Cusco, and the Spaniards were occasionally straitened in regard to supplies; but always at the time of new moon the Indians withdrew for the performance of certain religious ceremonies, and the Spaniards were able then to replenish their exhausted granaries. The siege languished, and finally ceased, but not till the Spaniards had practised for some time the cruel measure of putting to death every Indian woman whom they seized.
But now misery in a new form came upon this unhappy country. Fierce strifes arose among the conquerors themselves. Pizarro had gained higher honours and ampler plunder than had fallen to the share of his partner Almagro, and it does not seem that he was scrupulous in his fulfilment of the contract by whose terms an equal division of spoil was fixed. Almagro appeared on the scene with an overwhelming force, to assert his own rights. For ten or twelve years from this time the history of Peru represents to us a country ungoverned and in confusion; a native population given over to slavery, and wasting under the exactions of ruthless task-masters; fierce wars between the conquerors devastating the land. 1537 A.D. Tranquillity was not restored till a large portion of the native population had perished, and till all the chiefs of this marvellous conquest had died as miserably as the Indians they had destroyed. Almagro entered Cusco, and made prisoners of the two brothers Fernando and Gonzalo Pizarro; whom, however, he soon liberated. 1538 A.D. He, in turn, fell into the hands of Fernando, by whose orders he was brought for trial before a tribunal set up for that occasion in Cusco. He was condemned to die; – partly for his “notorious crimes;” partly because, as the council deemed, his death “would prevent many other deaths.” On the same day the old man, feeble, decrepit, and begging piteously for life, was strangled in prison and afterwards beheaded. Immediately after this occurrence Fernando Pizarro sailed for Spain, where his enemies had gained the ear of the King. Fernando was imprisoned, and was not released for twenty-three years, till his long life of a hundred years was near its close. 1541 A.D. Three years after the death of Almagro, the Marquis Pizarro, now a man of seventy, was set upon in his own house in Lima and murdered by a band of soldiers dissatisfied with the portion of spoil which had fallen to their share. The close of that marvellous career was in strange contrast to its brilliant course. After a stout defence against overwhelming force, a fatal wound in the throat prostrated the brave old man. He asked for a confessor, and received for answer a blow on the face. With his finger he traced the figure of a cross on the ground, and pressed his dying lips on the hallowed symbol. Thus passed the stern conqueror and destroyer of the Peruvian nation. 1548 A.D. A few years after the assassination of the Marquis, his brother Gonzalo was beheaded for having resisted the authority of Spain; and he died so poor, as he himself stated on the scaffold, that even the garments he wore belonged to the executioner who was to cut off his head. The partnership which was formed at Panama a quarter of a century before, had brought wealth and fame, but it conducted those who were chiefly concerned in it to misery and shameful death.
From Peru the tide of Spanish conquest flowed southward to Chili. The river Plate was explored; Buenos Ayres was founded; and communication was opened from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Forty years after the landing of Columbus, the margins of the continent bordering on the sea had been subdued and possessed, and some progress had been made in gaining knowledge of the interior. There had been added to the dominions of Spain vast regions, whose coast-line on the west stretched from Mexico southward for the distance of six thousand miles – regions equal in length to the whole of Africa, and largely exceeding in breadth the whole of the Russian Empire. It has now to be shown how ill-prepared was Spain for this sudden and enormous addition to her responsibilities – how huge have been the evils which her possession of the new continent inflicted upon mankind.