A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies/Chapter 6

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Chapter VI: Of the continent

In the Year 1514, a certain unhappy Governour Landed on the firm Land or Continent, a most bloody Tyrant, destitute of all Mercy and Prudence, the Instrument of God's Wrath, with a Resolution to people these parts with Spaniards; and although some Tyrants had touched here before him, and Cruelty hurried them into the other World by several wayes of Slaughter, yet they came no farther than to the Sea Coast, where they comitted podigious Thefts and Robberies, but this Person exceeded all that ever dwelt in other Islands, though execrable and profligate Villains: for he did not only ravage and depopulate the Sea-Coast, but buried the largest Regions and most ample Kingdoms in their own Ruins, sending Thousdands to Hell by his Butcheries. He made Incursions for many Miles continuance, that is to say, in those Countries that are included in the Territories of Darien and the Provinces of Nicaraqua, where are near Five Hundred Miles of the most Fertil Land in the World, and the most opulent for Gold of all the Regions hitherto discover'd. And although Spain has bin sufficiently furnished with the purest Gold, yet it was dig'd out of the Bowels and Mines of the said Countries by the Indians, where (as we have said) they perished.

This Ruler, with his Complices found out new inventions to rack, torment, force and extort Gold from the Indians. One of his Captains in a certain Excursion undertaken by the Command of his Governeur to make Depraedations, destroy'd Forty Thousand Persons and better exposing them to the edge of the Sword, Fire, Dogs and variety of Torments; of all which a Religious Man of the Order of St. Francis, Franciscus de S. Romano, who was then present was an Eye-Witness.

Great and Injurious was the blindness of those praesided over the Indians; as to the Conversion and Salvation of this People: for they denyed in Effect what they in their flourishing Discourse pretended to, and declar'd with their Tongue what they contradicted in their Heart; for it came to this pass, that the Indians should be commanded on the penalty of a bloody War, Death, and perpetual Bondage, to embrace the Christian Faith, and submit to the Obedience of the Spanish King; as if the Son of God, who suffered Death for the Redemption of all Mankind, had enacted a Law, when he pronounced these words, Go and teach all Nations that Infidels, living peaceably and quietly in their Hereditary Native Country, should be impos'd upon pain of Confiscation of all their Chattels, Lands, Liberty, Wives, Children, and Death itself, without any precedent instruction to Confess and Acknowledge the true God, and subject themselves to a King, whom they never saw, or heard mention'd before; and whose Messengers behav'd themselves toward them with such Inhumanity and Cruelty as they had done hitherto. Which is certainly a most foppish and absurd way of Proceeding, and merits nothing but Scandal, Derision, nay Hell itself. Now suppose this Notorious and Profligate Governour had bin impower'd to see the Execution of these Edicts perform'd, for of themselves they were repugnant both to Law and Equity; yet he commanded (or they who were to see the Execution thereof, did it of their own Heads without Authority) that when they phansied or proposed to themselves any place, that was well stor'd with Gold, to rob and feloniously steal it away from the Indians living in their Cities and Houses, without the least suspicion of any ill Act. These wicked Spaniards, like Theives came to any place by stealth, half a Mile off of any City, Town or Village, and there in the Night published and proclaim'd the Edict among themselves after this manner:

You Cacics and Indians of this Continent, the Inhabitants of such a Place, which they named; We declare or be it known to you all, that there is but one God, one hope, and one King of Castile, who is Lord of these Countries; appear forth without delay, and take the oath of Allegiance to the Spanish King, as his Vassals.

So about the Fourth Watch of the Night, or Three in the Morning these poor Innocents overwhelm'd with heavy Sleep, ran violently on that place they named, set Fire to their Hovels, which were all thatcht, and so, without Notice, burnt Men, Women and Children; kill'd whom they pleas'd upon the Spot; but those they preserv'd as Captives, were compell'd throughTorments to confess where they had hid the Gold, when they found little or none at their Houses; but they who liv'd being first stigmatized, were made Slaves; yet after the Fire was extinguisht, they came hastily in quest of the Gold. Thus did this Wicked Man, devoted to all the Infernal Furies, behave himself with the Assistance of Profligate Christians, whom he had lifted in his Service from the 14th to the 21. or 22. Year, together with his Domestick Servants and Followers, from whom he received as many Portions, besides what he had from his Slaves in Gold, Pearls, and Jewels, as the Chief Governor would have taken, and all that were constituted to execute any kind of Kingly Office followed in the same Footsteps; every one sending as many of his Servants as he could spare, to share in the spoil. Nay he that came hither as Biship first of all did the same also, And at the vory time (as I conjecture) the Spaniards did depraedate or rob this Kingdom of above Ten Hundred Thousand Crowns of Gold: Yet all these their Thefts and Felonies, we scarce find upon Record that Three Hundred Thousand Castilian Crowns ever came into the Spanish King's Coffers; yet there were above Eight Hundred Thousand Men slain: The other Tyrants who governed this Kingdom afterward to the Three and Thirtieth year, depriv'd all of them of Life that remain'd among the Inhabitants.

Among all those flagitious Acts committed by this Governour while he rul'd this Kindom, or by his Consent and Permission this must by no means be omitted: A certain Casic, bestowing on him a Gift, voluntarily, or (which is more probably) induced thereunto by Fear, about the weight of Nine Thousand Crowns, but the Spaniards not satisfied with so fast a Sum of Money, sieze him, fix him to a Pole; extended his Feet, which being mov'd near the Fire, they demanded a larger Sum; the Casic overcome with Torments, sending home, procur'd Three Thousand more to be brought and presented to them: But the Spaniards, adding new Torments to new Rage and Fury, when they found he would confer no more upon them, which was because he could not, or otherwize because he would not, they expos'd him for so long to that Torture, till by degrees of heat the Marrow gusht out of the Soles of his Feet, and so he dyed; Thus they often murder'd the Lords and Nobles which such Torments to Extort the Gold from them.

One time it hapned that a Century or Party of One Hundred Spaniards making Excursions, came to a Mountain, where many People shunning so horrid and pernicious an Enemy conceal'd themselves, who immediately rushing on them, putting all to the Sword they could meet with, and then secur'd Seventy or Eighty Married Women as well as Virgins Captives; but a great Number of Indians with a fervent desire of recovering their Wives and Daughters appear'd in Arms against the Spaniards, and when they drew near the Enemy, they unwilling to lose the Prey, run the Wives and Maidens through with their Swords. The Indians through Grief and Trouble, smiting their Breasts, brake out into these Exclamations. O perverse Generation of Men! O Cruel Spaniards! What do you Murder las Iras? (In their Language they call Women by the Name of las Iras as if they had said: To slay Women is an Act of bloody minded Men, worse than Brutes and Wild Beasts.

There was the House of a Puissant Potentate scituated about Ten or Fifteen Miles from Panama, whose name was Paris, very Rich in Gold; and the Spaniards gave him a visit, who were entertained with Fraternal Kindness, and Courteously received, and of his own accord, presented the Captain with a Gift of Fifteen Thousand Crowns; who was of opinion, as well as the rest of the Spaniards, that he who bestow'd such a quantity of Money gratis, was the Master of vast Treasure; whereupon they counterfeit a pretended Departure, but returning about the Fourth Night-Watch, and entring the City privily upon a surprize, which they thought was sufficiently secur'd, consecrated it with many Citizens to the Flames, and robb'd them of Fifty or Sixty Thousand Crowns. The Dynast or Prince escaped with his Life, and gathering together as great a Number of Men as he could possibly at that instant of time, and Three or Four Days being elapsed, pursued the Spaniards, who had depriv'd him also by Violence and Rapine of a Hundred and Thirty or Forty Thousand Crowns, and pouring in upon them, recover'd all his Gold with the destruction of Fifty Spaniards, but the remainder of them having receiv'd many Wounds in that Rencounter betook them to their Heels and sav'd themselves by flight: but in few days after the Spaniards return, and fall upon the said Casic well-arm'd and overthrow him and all his Forces, and they who out-liv'd the Combat, to their great Misfortune, were expos'd to the usual and frequently mention'd Bondage.