History of the United States of America: From the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 1

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II. THE SPANIARDS IN FLORIDA AND ON THE PACIFIC COAST.

I HAVE traced the course of events which established France in Acadia and Canada. The same power extended its claims indefinitely towards the south; but the right to Florida, on the ground of discovery, belonced to the Spanish, and was successfully asserted.

No sooner had the New World revealed itself to Castile and Aragon than the Spanish chivalry of the ocean despised the range of Europe as too narrow, and offering to their extravagant ambition nothing beyond mediocrity. Blending avarice and religious zeal, they sailed to the west, as if they bad been bound on a new crusade, for which infinite wealth was to reward their piety. America was the region of romance, where the heated imagination could indulge in the boldest delusions; where the simple natives ignorantly wore the most precious ornaments; and, by the side of the clear runnels of water, the sands sparkled with gold. To carve out provinces with the sword; to plunder the accumulated treasures of some ancient Indian dynasty; to return from a roving expedition with a crowd of enslaved captives and a profusion of spoils--became their ordinary dreams. Ease, fortune, life --all were squandered in the pursuit where, if the issue was uncertain, success was sometimes obtained, greater than the boldest desires bad dared to anticipate. Is it strange that these adventurers were often superstitious? Or that they indulged the hope that the laws of Nature themselves would yield to men so fortunate and so brave?

The youth of Juan Ponce de Leon had been passed in military service in Spain; and, during the wars in Granada,

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