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CHAP. fresh from the sale of a cargo of Africans, whom he ~~ had kidnapped with signal ruthlessness; and he now
displayed the most generous sympathy, not only providing a liberal supply of provisions, but relin
quishing a vessel from his own fleet. Preparations Aug. were continued; the colony was on the point of
embarking, when sails were descried. Ribault had arrived to assume the command; bringing with him supplies of every kind, emigrants with their families, garden seeds, implements of husbandry, and the various kinds of domestic animals. The French, now wild with joy, seemed about to acquire a home, and Calvinism to become fixed in the inviting regions of Florida.
But Spain had never relinquished her claim to that territory; where, if she had not planted colonies, she had buried many hundreds of her bravest sons. Should the proud Philip II. abandon a part of his dominions to France? Should he suffer his commercial monopoly to be endangered by a rival settlement in the vicinity of the West Indies ? Should the bigotted Romanist permit the heresy of Calvinism to be planted in the neighborhood of his Catholic provinces? There had appeared at the Spanish court a bold commander, well fitted for acts of reckless hostility. Pedro Melendez de Avilès had, in a long career of military service, become accustomed to scenes of blood; and his natural ferocity had been confirmed by his course of life. The wars against the Protestants of Holland had nourished his bigotry; and, as a naval commander, often encoun
tering pirates, whom the laws of nations exclude CHAP. from mercy, he had become inured to acts of prompt and unsparing vengeance. He had acquired wealth 1565. in Spanish America, which was no school of benevolence; and his conduct there had provoked an inquiry, which, after a long arrest, ended in his conviction. The nature of his offences is not apparent; the justice of the sentence is confirmed, for the king, who knew him well, esteemed his bravery and received him again into his service, remitted only a moiety of his fine. The heir of Melendez had been shipwrecked among the Bermudas; the father desired to return and search among the islands for tidings of his only son. Philip II. suggested the conquest and Mar. colonization of Florida ; and a compact was soon framed and confirmed, by which Melendez, who desired an opportunity to retrieve his honor, was constituted the hereditary governor of a territory of almost unlimited extent.1
The terms of the compact are curious. Melendez, on his part, promised, at his own cost, in the following May, to invade Florida with at least five hundred men; to complete its conquest within three years; to explore its currents and channels, the dangers of its coasts, and the depth of its havens ; to establish a colony of at least five hundred persons, of whom one hundred should be married men; to introduce at least twelve ecclesiastics, besides four jesuits. It was further stipulated, that he should transport to his province all kinds of domestic
1 Ensayo Cronolog. p. 57—65.
2 Ibid, p. 66.
CHAP. animals. The bigotted Philip II. had no scruples
respecting slavery; Melendez contracted to import 1565. into Florida five hundred negro slaves. The sugar
cane was to become a staple of the country.
The king, in return, promised the adventurer various commercial immunities; the office of governor for life, with the right of naming his son-inlaw as his successor; an estate of twenty-five square leagues in the immediate vicinity of the settlement; a salary of two thousand ducats, chargeable on the revenues of the province; and a fifteenth part of all royal perquisites.
Meantime, news arrived, as the French writers assert, through the treachery of the court of France, that the Huguenots had made a plantation in Florida, and that Ribault was preparing to set sail with reinforcements. The
The cry was raised, that the heretics must be extirpated; the enthusiasm of fanaticism was kindled, and Melendez readily obtained all the forces, which he required. More than twenty-five hundred persons, soldiers, sailors, priests, jesuits, married men with their families, laborers and mechanics, and, with the exception of three hundred soldiers, all at the cost of Melendez, engaged in the
invasion. After delays, occasioned by a storm, the July. expedition set sail; and the trade winds soon bore
them rapidly across the Atlantic. A tempest scattered the fleet on its passage ; it was with only one
third part of his forces, that Melendez arrived at the Aug.
harbor of St. John in Porto Rico. But he esteemed celerity the secret of success; and, refusing to await
the arrival of the rest of his squadron, he sailed for CHAP. Florida. It had ever been his design to explore the coast; to select a favorable site for a fort or a settle- 1565. ment; and, after the construction of fortifications, to attack the French. It was on the day which the
Aug. customs of Rome have consecrated to the memory
28. of one of the most eloquent sons of Africa and one of the most venerated of the fathers of the church, that he came in sight of Florida. For four days, he sailed along the coast, uncertain where the French
Sept. were established; on the fifth day, he landed and gathered from the Indians accounts of the Huguenots. At the same time, he discovered a fine haven and beautiful river; and, remembering the saint, on whose day he came upon the coast, he gave to the harbor and to the stream the name of St. Augustine.” Sailing, then, to the north, he discovered a portion
Sept. of the French fleet, and observed the nature of the road, where they were anchored. The French demanded his name and objects. “I am Melendez of Spain,” replied he; “sent with strict orders from my king to gibbet and behead all the protestants in these regions. The Frenchman, who is a catholic, I will spare; every heretic shall die.93 The French fleet, unprepared for action, cut its cables; the Spaniards, for some time, continued an ineffectual chase. It was at the hour of vespers, on the evening pre
Sept. ceding the festival of the nativity of Mary, that
1 Ensayo Cronolog. p. 68—70. Ensayo Cronologico, p. 75, 76. It 2 Ensayo Cronolog. p. 71. is the account of the apologist and 3 El que fuere herege, morirà. admirer of Melendez.
CHAP. the Spaniards returned to the harbor of St. Augus
tine. At noonday of the festival itself, the governor 1565. Sept.
went on shore, to take possession of the continent in the name of his king. The bigotted Philip II. was proclaimed monarch of all North America. The solemn mass of our lady was performed, and the foundation of St. Augustine was immediately laid. It is by more than forty years the oldest town in the United States. Houses in it are yet standing, which are said to have been built many years before Virginia was colonized.2
By the French it was debated, whether they should improve their fortifications and await the approach of the Spaniards, or proceed to sea and attack their enemy? Against the advice of his officers, Ribault resolved
the latter course. Hardly Sept. had he left the harbor for the open sea, before there 10.
arose a fearful storm, which continued till October, and wrecked every ship of the French fleet on the Florida coast. The vessels were dashed against the rocks about fifty leagues south of fort Carolina ; most of the men escaped with their lives.
: The Spanish ships also suffered, but not so severely; and the troops at St. Augustine were entirely safe. They knew that the French settlement was left in a defenceless state; with a fanatical indifference to toil, Melendez led his men through the lakes, and marshes, and forests, that divided the
1 Laudonniere. “They put their Murat, in American Quarterly soldiers, victual, and munition, on Review, v. ii. p. 216. De Thou, land.” Hakluyt, v. iii. p. 433. En- l. xliv. sayo Cronologico, p. 76, 77. Prince 2 Stoddard's Sketches, p. 120.