Conquest of the Incas



After various adventures the Spaniards landed at Tumbez and in May 1532 set out from there to march along the coast. After founding a town some thirty leagues south of Tumbez, which he named San Miguel, Pizarro marched into the interior, with the bold design of meeting the inca himself.

He came at a moment when Peru was but just emerging from a civil conflict, in which Atahualpa had routed the rival and more legitimate claimant to the throne of the incas, Huascar. On his march, Pizarro was met by an envoy from the inca, inviting him to visit him in his camp, with, as Pizarro guessed, no friendly intent. This coincided, however, with the purposes of Pizarro, and he pressed forward.

WHEN his soldiers showed signs of discouragement in face of the great dangers before them, Pizarro addressed them thus:'Let every one of you take heart and go forward like a good soldier, nothing daunted by the smallness of your numbers. For in the greatest extremity God ever fights for His own; and doubt not He will humble the pride of the heathen, and bring him to the knowledge of the true faith, the great end and object of the conquest.'

The enthusiasm of the troops was at once rekindled.

'Lead on,' they shouted, as he finished his address; 'lead on wherever you think best! We will follow with goodwill; and you shall see that we can do our duty in the cause of God and the king!'

They had need of all their daring. For when they had penetrated to Caxamalca they found the inca encamped there at the head of a great host of his subjects, and knew that if his uncertain friendliness towards them should evaporate, they would be in a desperate case.

Pizarro then determined to follow the example of Cortes, and gain possession of the sovereign's person. He achieved this by what can only be called an act of treachery; he invited the inca to visit his quarters and then, taking them unawares, killed a large number of his followers and took him prisoner.

The effect was precisely what Pizarro had hoped for. The 'Child of the Sun' once captured, the Indians, who had no law but his command, no confidence but in his leadership, fled, and the Spaniards remained masters of the situation.

They treated the inca at first with respect and, while keeping him a prisoner, allowed him a measure of freedom and free intercourse with his subjects. He soon saw a door of hope in the Spaniards' eagerness for gold, and offered an enormous ransom. The offer was accepted, and messengers were sent throughout the empire to collect it. At last it reached an amount in gold, of the value of nearly three and a half million pounds sterling, besides a quantity of silver.

But even this ransom did not suffice to reef the inca. Owing partly to the malevolence of an Indian interpreter, who bore the inca ill will, and partly to rumours of a general rising of the natives instigated by the inca, the army began to demand his life as necessary to their safety. Pizarro appeared to be opposed to this demand; but he yielded to his soldiers, and after a form of trial the inca was executed. But Pizarro cannot be acquitted of responsibility for a deed which formed the climax of one of the darkest chapters in Spanish colonial history, and it is probable that the design coincided well with his aims.

THERE was nothing now to hinder the victorious march of the Spaniards to Cuzco, the Peruvian capital. They now numbered nearly five hundred, having been reinforced by the arrival of Almagro from Panama.

In Cuzco they found great quantities of treasure, with the natural result that the prices of ordinary commodities rose enormously as the value of gold and silver declined, so only those few who returned with their present gains to their native country could be called wealthy.

All power was now in the hands of the Spaniards. Pizarro, indeed, placed upon the throne of the incas the legitimate heir, Manco, but it was only in order that he might be the puppet of his own purposes.

His next step was to found a new capital, which should be near enough to the sea-coast to meet the need of a commercial people. He determined upon the site of Lima on the festival of Epiphany 1535, and named it 'Ciudad de los Reyes,' or City of the Kings, in honour of the day. But this name was before long superseded by that of Lima, which arose from the corruption of a Peruvian name.

Meanwhile, Hernando Pizarro, the brother of Francisco, had sailed to Spain to report their success. He returned with royal letters confirming the previous grants to Francisco and his associates and bestowing upon Almagro a jurisdiction over a given tract of country beginning from the southern limit of Pizarro's government. This grant became a fruitful source of dissension between Almagro and the Pizarros, each claiming as within his jurisdiction the rich city of Cuzco, a question which the uncertain knowledge of distances in the newly explored country made it difficult to decide.

But the Spaniards had now for a time other occupation than the pursuit of their own quarrels. The inca Manco, escaping from the captivity in which he had lain for a time, put himself at the head of a host of Indians, said to number two hundred thousand, and laid siege to Cuzco early in February 1536.

The siege was memorable as calling out the most heroic displays of Indian and European valour and bringing the two races into deadlier conflict with each other than had yet occurred in the conquest of Peru. The Spaniards were hard pressed, for by means of burning arrows the Indians set the city on fire, and only their encampment in the midst of an open space enabled the Spaniards to endure the conflagration around. They suffered severely, too, from famine. The relief from Lima for which they looked did not come, as Pizarro was in no position to send help, and from this they feared the worst as to the fate of their companions.

Only the firm resolution of the Pizarro brothers and the other leaders within the city kept the army from attempting to force a way out, which would have meant the abandoning of the city. At last they were rewarded by the sight of the great host around them melting away. Seed-time had come, and the inca knew that it would be fatal for his people to neglect their fields and thus prepare starvation for themselves in the following year. Thus, though bodies of the enemy remained to watch the city, the siege was virtually raised and the most pressing danger passed.

While these events were happening, Almagro was engaged upon a memorable expedition to Chile. His troops suffered great privations, and hearing no good tidings of the country farther south, he was prevailed upon to return to Cuzco. Here, claiming the governorship, he captured Hernando and Gonzalo Pizarro, though refusing the counsel of his lieutenant that they should be put to death.

Then, proceeding to the coast, he met Francisco Pizarro, and a treaty was concluded between them, by which Almagro, pending instructions from Spain, was to retain Cuzco and Hernando Pizarro was to be set free, on condition of sailing for Spain. But Francisco broke the treaty as soon as made, and sent Hernando with an army against Almagro, warning the latter that unless he gave up Cuzco the responsibility of the consequences would be on his own head.

The two armies met at Las Salinas, and Almagro was defeated and imprisoned in Cuzco. Before long Hernando brought him to trial and to death. Hernando, on his return to Spain, suffered twenty years' imprisonment for this deed, which outraged both public sentiment and sense of justice.

FRANCISCO PIZARRO, though affecting to be shocked at the death of Almagro, cannot be acquitted of all share in it. So, indeed, the followers of Almagro thought, and they were goaded to still further hatred of the Pizarros by the poverty and contempt in which they now lived, as the survivors of a discredited party. The house of Almagro's son in Lima formed a centre of disaffection, to whose menace Pizarro showed remarkable blindness. He paid dearly for this excessive confidence, for on Sunday, June 26, 1541, he was attacked while sitting in his house among his friends and killed.





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