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St. Augustine from the St. Johns ; and, with a furi- CHAP. ous onset, surprised the weak garrison, who had an looked only towards the sea for the approach of 1565. danger. After a short contest, the Spaniards were Sept. masters of the fort. A scene of
carnage ensued; soldiers, women, children, the aged, the sick, were alike massacred. The Spanish account asserts, that Melendez ordered women and young children to be spared; yet not till after the havoc had long been raging.
Nearly two hundred persons were killed. A few escaped into the woods, among them Laudonniere, Challus and Le Moyne, who have related the horrors of the scene. But whither should they fly? Death met them in the woods; and the heavens, the earth, the sea, and men, all seemed conspired against them. Should they surrender, appealing to the sympathy of their conquerors ? “Let us,” said Challus, “ trust in the mercy of God, rather than of these men.” A few gave themselves up, and were immediately murdered. The others, after the severest sufferings, found their way to the sea-side, and were received on board two small French vessels, which had remained in the harbor. The Spaniards, angry that any should have escaped, insulted the corpses of the dead with wanton barbarity.
The victory had been gained on the festival of St. Sept. Matthew; and hence the Spanish name of the river May. After the carnage was completed, mass was said; a cross was raised; and the site for a church selected, on ground still smoking with the blood of a
CHAP. peaceful colony. So easily is the human mind the
dupe of its own prejudices; so easily can fanaticism 1565.
connect acts of savage ferocity with the rites of a merciful religion.
The shipwrecked men were, in their turn, soon discovered. They were in a state of helpless weakness, wasted by their fatigues at sea, half famished, destitute of water and of food. Should they surrender to the Spaniards ? Melendez invited them to rely on his compassion ;' the French capitulated, and were received among the Spaniards in such successive divisions, as a boat could at once ferry across the river, which separated the parties. As the captives stepped upon the bank which their enemies occupied, their hands were tied behind them, and in this way they were marched towards St. Augustine, like a flock of sheep, driven to the slaughter-house. As they approached the fort, a signal was given ; and, amidst the sound of trumpets and drums, the Spaniards fell upon the unhappy men, who had confided in their humanity, and who could offer no resistance. A few catholics were spared; some mechanics were reserved as slaves; the rest were massacred, “not as Frenchmen, but as protestants." The whole number of the victims of bigotry, here and at the fort, is said, by the French, to have been about nine hundred;" the Spanish accounts diminish the number of the slain, but not the atrocity of the deed. Melendez returned to Spain, impoverished CHAP. but triumphant. The French government heard of an the outrage with apathy; and made not even a remonstrance on the ruin of a colony, which, if it had been protected, would have given to its country a flourishing empire in the south, before England had planted a single spot on the new continent. History has been more faithful; and has assisted humanity by giving to the crime of Melendez an infamous notoriety. The first town in the United States sprung from the unrelenting bigotry of the Spanish king. We admire the rapid growth of our larger cities; the sudden transformation of portions of the wilderness into blooming states. St. Augustine presents a stronger contrast in its transition from the bigotted policy of Philip II. to the American principles of religious liberty. Its origin should be carefully remembered, for it is a fixed point, from which to measure the liberal influence of time; the progress of modern civilization; the victories of the American mind, in its contests for the interests of humanity.
1 So says his apologist ; si ellos de gracia. Is not this an implied quieren entregarle las Vanderas, è promise of mercy ? las armas, è ponerse en su miseri- 2 Epistola Supplicatoria, &c. in cordia, lo pueden hacer, para que de Bry, part ii. Ceciderunt plures el haga de ellos lo que Dios le diere quam noningenti.
The Huguenots and the French nation did not 1567. share in the apathy of the court. Dominic de Gourgues,-a bold soldier of Gascony, whose life had been a series of adventures, now employed in the army against Spain, now a prisoner and a galley-slave among the Spaniards, taken by the Turks with the vessel in which he rowed, and redeemed by the
2 Apud suos infamis. Grotius. lendez a suicide. See Ensayo Holmes unneces
cessarily makes Me- Cronologico, p. 150, 151. VOL. I.
CHAP. commander of the knights of Malta, - burned with
a desire to avenge his own wrongs and the honor of 1567. his country. The sale of his property and the con
tributions of his friends, furnished the means of
equipping three ships, in which with one hundred Aug. and fifty men he embarked for Florida. His strength
was not sufficient to occupy the country permanent
ly; he desired only to destroy and revenge. 1568. able to surprise two forts near the mouth of the St.
Matheo; and, as terror magnified the number of his followers, the consternation of the Spaniards enabled him to gain possession of the larger fort near the spot, which the French colony had fortified. But
he was not strong enough to maintain his position ; May he, therefore, hastily retreated and sailed to Europe,
having first hanged his prisoners upon the trees, and placed over them the inscription : "I do not this as unto Spaniards or mariners, but as unto traitors, robbers and murderers." The natives, who had been ill-treated both by the Spaniards and the French, enjoyed the savage consolation of seeing their enemies butcher one another.
The attack of the fiery Gascon was but a passing storm. France disavowed the expedition and relinquished all pretension to Florida. Spain grasped at it, as a portion of her dominions, and, if discovery could confer a right, her claim was founded in justice. Cuba now formed the centre of her West Indian possessions, and every thing around it was
i Hakluyt, v. iji. p. 426—4:32; Lescarbot, l. ii. c. xix. t. i. p. 129 De Bry, part i.; De Thou, l. xliv.; -141; Charlevoix, t. i. p. 95, Ensayo Cronologico, p. 135—138; &c.
included within her empire. Sovereignty was as- CHAP. serted, not only over the archipelagos within the tropics, but over the whole continent round the inner 1568.
From the remotest southeastern cape of the Caribbean along the whole shore to the cape of Florida and beyond it, all was hers. The gulf of Mexico lay embosomed within her territories.