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

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III.
THE SPANIARDS IN THE MISSISSIPPI VALLEY.

THE expedition from Mexico had not been begun, when, in 1537, Cabeza de Vaca, landing in Spain, addressed to the imperial Catholic king a narrative of his adventures; and the tales of "the Columbus of the continent" quickened the belief that the country between the river Palmas and the Atlantic was the richest in the world.

The assertion was received even by those who had seen Mexico and Peru. To no one was this faith more disastrous than to Ferdinand de Soto, of Xeres. He had been the favorite companion of Pizarro, and at the storming of Cusco had surpassed his companions in arms. He assisted in arresting the unhappy Atahualpa, and shared in the immense ransom with which the credulous Inca purchased the promise of freedom. Perceiving the angry jealousies of the conquerors of Peru, Soto had seasonably withdrawn, to display his opulence in Spain, and to solicit advancement. His reception was triumphant; success of all kinds awaited him. The daughter of the distinguished nobleman under whom he had first served as a poor adventurer became his wife; and the special favor of Charles V. invited him to prefer a large request. It had been believed that the recesses of the continent at the north concealed cities as magnificent and temples as richly endowed as any which had yet been plundered within the tropics. Soto desired to rival Cortes in glory, and surpass Pizarro in wealth. Blinded by avarice and the love of power, be repaired to Valladolid, and demanded permission to conquer Florida at his own cost; and Charles V. readily conceded to so renowned a commander the government of Cuba, with absolute power over

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