Page:Narrative of the Proceedings of Pedrarias Davila (Haklyut, 34).djvu/18

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INTRODUCTION.

accordingly been deemed worthy of a place in the series of volumes printed for the Hakluyt Society.

A famous discovery had been made, before the arrival of Pedrarias and his train of officers and lawyers, by one of the greatest men that the age of Spanish conquest in America produced. Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, in March 1511, found himself the leading and most popular man in the forlorn colony of Darien. The expeditions of Nicuesa and Ojeda had failed, chiefly through the incompetence of their unfortunate leaders.[1] The man who, a few short months before, had been a fugitive debtor headed up in a cask, was now the commander of a great enterprise. An incapable though learned lawyer, the Bachelor Enciso, alone stood between Vasco Nuñez and his ambition, and such an obstacle was at once removed. The erudite author of the Suma de Geografia was shipped off to Spain, and Vasco Nuñez commenced his short but brilliant career of discovery.

His acts, during his government of the colony of Darien, stamp him as a born ruler of men. His policy towards the Indians was humane and statesman-like, while his sympathy for the sufferings of his own men ensured him just popularity among the wild and reckless spirits who formed his colony. There is more of diplomacy and negociation, than of massacre and oppression in the history of this great discoverer's career; but there was no want of that dauntless spirit of enterprise, that resolute endurance of incredible hardships and sufferings by which alone the conquest of the New World

  1. See note at p. 34 of my translation of Cieza de Leon.