Letters of Cortes to Emperor Charles V - Vol 1/Appendix 3 of the First Letter

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APPENDIX III.

The messengers carried also the first letter of Cortes, which has never since been found. It could not have differed essentially from the letter of the magistrates of Vera Cruz, as the one was intended to confirm the other. Bernal Diaz says that Cortes's letter made no mention of the discoveries of Cordoba, and Grijalba, and that he wished all such to be suppressed in the collective letter, though he was satisfied with its references to himself. After assisting at a mass, said by Fray Bartolomé de Olmedo, the two envoys sailed on July 16, 1519, and they took with them the royal fifth of all the gold, besides the other treasures which Cortes had induced the men to surrender, in order to make up an imposing gift to the Emperor. By Bernal Diaz, the sailing date is once given as the 16th of July, and in another place as the 6th; Gomara gives the 26th. They were enjoined to sail by the channel of the Bahamas, and to avoid Cuba, but they disobeyed this warning, and stopped several days at Marien, where Montejo had a property near by. They renewed their supplies at this place, and showed some of the treasure to a servant, besides which, Montejo also wrote to a former overseer of his, Juan de Reja, who had meanwhile passed into Diego Velasquez's service, and as through him the governor learned of what was happening, he promptly dispatched a vessel to overhaul the messengers, and bring them back; but he was too late. The envoys landed, early in October, 1512, but Benito Martin, a friend and agent of Velasquez's, was already advised of their coming, and lodged a complaint with the Casa de Contractacion in Seville, in which he described Cortes as a rebel against his superior's authority, and asked for the arrest of the envoys, and the sequestration of the letters, and the treasure. He found a ready ally in Rodriguez de Fonseca, Bishop of Burgos, who was omnipotent as President of the Royal Council for the Indies, a warm friend and supporter of Velasquez's, with whose family his own was about to be connected by a marriage.

Peter Martyr, who was then at Court, and noted every circumstance of interest, mentions the arrival of the two envoys in December recent," which might mean that he had only recently heard of it. All authorities agree that they got a rough reception from the Bishop of Burgos, and saw the Emperor only in March, 1520, after many difficulties. This audience was at Tordesillas, where His Majesty was then paying a visit to his mother, Doña Juana, before proceeding to Santiago de Compostella. Bernal Diaz would seem to be the original authority for the erroneous statement that Charles V. was in Flanders at this time, which has been repeated by many later historians. Charles had arrived in Spain in Nov. 151 7. Peter Martyr, however, says that the Emperor had then already seen the gold and presents from Mexico, which confirms another authority, who states that while they were stopped by the Bishop in Seville, Martin Cortes, the father of Fernando, and an official of the Royal Council, who was friendly, one Nuñez contrived to forward duplicates of the despatches to the Emperor, and a memorial describing the Bishop of Burgos's behaviour, and the sequestration of the treasures. The Emperor was well impressed by the letters, and ordered the gifts to be sent on to him. He was, however, so absorbed with business of importance, prior to quitting the country for Germany to assume the imperial crown, that he left without giving a decision. The envoys followed him to La Coruña and there exists, in the archives of Simancas, the deposition given under oath before Dr. Carbajal, member of the Royal Council for the Indies, by Francisco Fernandez Puertocarrero, dated, Coruña, April 30, 1520, copied by Prescott, Appendix VII. The memorial of Benito Martin is found, according to Prescott, in the collection of MSS., made by Don Vargas Ponce, sometime president of the Academy of History.