Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/90

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a half, for a passage first proved in our own generation to have a geographical existence, but to be nautically impossible. Frobisher's voyages did little towards effecting their ostensible purpose. Led astray by the quest of the precious metals, he loaded his ships with immense quantities of a deceptive pyrites, which contained a small proportion of gold, but far less than enough to pay the cost of extracting it; and the scheme, which had degenerated into a mere mining adventure, was quietly abandoned.

Meanwhile the attention of Western Europe was still concentrated on "Florida,"—a term denoting all the North American continent as far northward as the Newfoundland fishery, and bestowed on it by its discoverer Ponce de Leon, who reached it on Easter Day (Pascua Florida), 1513. Eden's preface conveys the impression that the Spaniards had neglected this vast tract of the continent; nothing however could be less true. The most strenuous efforts had been made to penetrate it, in the confident expectation that it would prove as rich in treasure as Mexico itself; and Pamphilo de Narvaez, chiefly known to fame by his futile mission to arrest the campaign of Cortes, had landed here in 1528 with the object of emulating that supremely fortunate adventurer's exploits. Repulsed and forced back to the coast, he took refuge in his ships and perished in a storm. Five only of his three hundred men regained Mexico, where they published the exciting news that Florida was simply the richest country in the world. This statement was probably made in irony rather than in seriousness; yet it was not without foundation in fact, for the Appalachian mountains contain mines of gold and silver which are profitably worked to this day. By the conquest of Peru adventure to Florida received for the second time a powerful stimulus. Hernan de Soto, a lieutenant of Pizarro, who had been appointed Governor of Cuba, undertook to annex it to the Spanish dominions (1538). His ill-fated expedition, commenced in the next year, forms a well-known episode in American history. During four years De Soto persevered in a series of zigzag marches through a sparsely peopled country, containing no pueblos larger than the average village of hunting tribes, and showing no trace whatever of either gold or silver. In descending the Mississippi he sickened and died; the miserable remnant of his troops sailed from its mouth to the Panuco river in Mexico, bringing back tidings of a failure more disheartening, because the result of a more protracted effort, than that of Narvaez. In 1549 some friars of the Dominican order, elsewhere so successful in dealing with the American aborigines, landed in Florida, only to be at once set upon and massacred. By this time the Indians knew the general character and aims of the new-comers who styled themselves "Christians," and dealt with them accordingly. Outside Spain it was generally thought that Providence had prescribed limits to Spanish conquest, and reserved the Northern continent for some other European people—obviously either the French or the English.