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A year
later, Sebastian, son of John, explored the coast from Nova Scotia as
far south as Cape Hatteras. It was the work of the elder Cabot that gave
England a valid claim to the northern continent.

From what has been stated, it will be seen that Spain, now decrepit and
decayed, was one of the most powerful of all nations four hundred years
ago. Other leading powers were England, France, and Holland, and all of
them soon began a scramble for new lands on the other side of the
Atlantic. Spain, having been the first, had a great advantage, and she
was wise enough to use all the means at her command. We will first trace
the explorations made by that nation.

In 1513, Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, a lawless rogue, hid himself in a cask
on board of a vessel in order to escape his creditors, and was not
discovered by the angry captain until so far from land that he could not
be taken back again. As it turned out, this was a fortunate thing for
the captain and crew, for Balboa was a good sailor, and when the ship
was wrecked on the coast of Darien he led the men through many dangers
to an Indian village, where they were saved from starvation. Balboa had
been in the country before and acquired a knowledge of it, which now
proved helpful.

The story of Spain in America is one long, frightful record of massacre,
cruelty, greed, and rapine. Ferocious by nature, her explorers had not
sufficient sense to see that it was to their interest to treat the
Indians justly. These people, although armed only with bows and arrows,
at which the Spaniards laughed, still outnumbered them a thousandfold
and could crush them by the simple force of numbers. Besides, they were
always provided with food, which they were eager to give to their
pale-faced brothers, who were often unable to obtain it, but whose
vicious nature would not permit them to be manly and just.

Moreover, the Spaniards were crazy after gold, which they believed
existed in many places in prodigious quantities. The sight of the yellow
ornaments worn by the natives fired their cupidity, and they inquired
eagerly in the sign language where the precious metal could be found.
One of the Indians replied that six days' travel westward would bring
them to the shores of a great sea, where gold was as plentiful as the
pebbles on the beach.

[Illustration: CARAVELS OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS. (After an engraving
published in 1584.)]


This information, as may be believed, set the Spaniards wild, and,
engaging a number of the natives as guides, they plunged into the hot,
steaming forests, and pressed on until one day they came to the base of
a mountain, from the top of which the guides said the great sea could be
seen. Balboa made his men stay where they were while he climbed to the
crest of the mountain alone. This was on the 26th of September, 1513,
and, as Balboa looked off to the westward, his eyes rested upon the
Pacific Ocean, the mightiest body of water on the globe.

He had made a grand discovery, and one which led to the conquest of
Mexico and Peru and the colonization of the western coast of our
country. Spain sent her armed expeditions thither, and in time they
overran the sections named, their footprints marked everywhere by fire
and blood. Many remains exist to-day in the Southwest of the early
visits of those rapacious adventurers, during the first half of the
sixteenth century. In Santa Fé, New Mexico, is a building made of adobe
or sun-dried clay which was built in 1582.


In 1519 Ferdinand Magellan coasted South America to the strait named in
his honor, and, passing through it, entered upon the vast body of water
discovered six years before by Balboa. Magellan gave it the name of
Pacific Ocean, and, sailing westward, discovered the Philippine Islands,
which have lately acquired such importance in our history. There
Magellan died. Several of his ships were lost, but one of them succeeded
in reaching Spain after an absence of two years. This was the first
circumnavigation of the globe and demonstrated the grandeur of the
discovery made by Columbus.

[Illustration: COLUMBUS AND THE EGG.

At a dinner the Spanish courtiers, jealous of Columbus, said anyone
could discover the Indies. When, at Columbus' request, they failed to
make an egg stand on its end, he showed them how to do it by flattening
the end of it. "Anyone could do that," remarked a courtier. "So anyone
can discover the Indies, after I have shown the way."]

One of the companions of Columbus on his second voyage was Ponce de
Leon. He was well on in years, and became deeply interested in a story
told by the Indians of a wonderful land to the north of Cuba, where
there was a marvelous spring, which would bring back youth to any who
drank from its waters. De Leon set out to hunt for the land and
discovered it in Florida on Easter Sunday, in 1513. He drank to
repletion again and again from the springs he found, but without
restoring his youth, and he was killed by Indians in 1521, while trying
to form a settlement on the coast.

De Narvaez visited Florida, in 1528, in charge of a large expedition,
with the intention of marching into the interior, but the Spaniards were
so brutal to the Indians that they fought them step by step, until only
four wretched beings were left alive. They lived a long time with the
natives, but gradually worked their way across the continent to
California, where they found some of their countrymen, who took care of


One of the best-equipped expeditions ever sent out was that of Hernando
de Soto, which landed at Tampa Bay in May, 1539. Although the intention
was to penetrate far into the interior, the Spaniards had no sooner set
foot on land than they began their outrages against the Indians, who, as
in the case of De Narvaez, turned upon them and slew large numbers. The
explorers, however, pushed on and passed over a large section of
country, though the precise course taken is not known. In the summer of
1541 they crossed the present State of Mississippi and thus discovered
the Father of Waters. Three years were spent in wandering through the
South, during which one-third of the number were killed or died and all
the property destroyed. Losing heart at last, De Soto turned about, in
May, 1542, and started for the sea with the intention of returning home.
He was worn and weakened from fever, and he expired on the 21st of the
month. Fearful that the news of his death would incite the Indians to
attack them, his survivors wrapped the body in blankets, weighted it
with stones, and at midnight rowed stealthily out into the river and let
it sink from sight. There was something fitting in the fact that the
Mississippi should prove the last resting-place of its discoverer.

Pedro Menendez was one of the most execrable miscreants that ever lived.
He arrived off the coast of Florida with a large expedition and at the
mouth of the St. John's saw a number of ships flying the flag of France.
He furiously attacked them and drove them to sea. Then he returned to a
fine harbor which he had discovered and began the town of St. Augustine.
This was in 1565, and St. Augustine is, therefore, the oldest settlement
within the present limits of the United States, excluding those founded
in some of our colonial possessions.

Let us now turn attention to the French explorations. France in those
days was a spirited rival of Spain, and, in 1524, she sent out a fleet
of four vessels under the command of Verrazzani, who, strange as it may
seem, was also an Italian. Two months later, with only a single ship
remaining, he sighted the mainland of America, it is believed near North
Carolina, from which point he coasted northward along New England. He
gave the name of New France to all the countries he visited, but his
account of his explorations is so vague that it is uncertain what lands
he saw. Verrazzani, however, seems to have been the first navigator who
formed a correct idea of the size of the globe.


In 1534 Jacques Cartier, with two ships, entered the mouth of the St.
Lawrence. He was so impressed by the desolation of the shores of
Newfoundland that he declared his belief that it was the land to which
God had banished Cain. Nevertheless, he took possession of the country
in the name of France and then returned home.

Cartier visited the country the following year with a larger expedition
and sailed up the St. Lawrence to the sites of Quebec and Montreal. He
was not successful in his attempts to found colonies, but his discovery
gave France a title to the immense region which she held with a firm
grasp for more than a hundred years.

Failing to establish colonies in the North, France now directed her
efforts to the south. The Huguenots suffered so much persecution in the
Old World that they sought a home in the New. Captain John Ribault,
sailing from Havre with two ships, sighted Florida on the last day of
April, 1562. The Indians were friendly and the explorers were charmed
with the country. Ribault took possession of it in the name of France
and gave French names to various places. Finally he dropped anchor in
the harbor of Port Royal and began founding a settlement.

All were in good spirits and wished to remain, but Ribault sailed for
France, leaving thirty men behind. After a time they quarreled and
rigged up a worthless boat with which they set sail for home. All would
have perished, had they not been picked up by an English vessel, which
humanely landed the feeblest on the coast of France, while the strong
men were taken to England as prisoners of war.

It was the intention of Ribault to return to America, but civil war was
raging in France, and for a time he was prevented. In April, 1564, three
more ships set sail to repeat the attempt at colonization. They were
under the command of Captain Laudonnière, who had been a member of the
former expedition. He began a settlement at what is now known as St.
John's Bluff.

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