THE death of Pizarro did not prove in any sense a guarantee of peace among the Spaniards in Peru. At the time of his death, indeed, an envoy from the Spanish court was on his way to Peru, who from his integrity and wisdom might indeed have given rise to a hope that a happier day was about to dawn. He was endowed with powers to assume the governorship in the event of Pizarro's death, as well as instructions to bring about a more peaceful settlement of affairs. He arrived to find himself indeed the lawful governor, but had before him the task of enforcing his authority. This brought him into collision with the son of Almagro, at the head of a strong party of his father's followers. A bloody battle took place on the plains of Chupas, in which Vaca de Castro was victorious. Almagro was arrested at Cuzco and executed.
The history of the Spanish dominion now resolves itself into the history of warring factions, the chief hero of which was Gonzalo Pizarro, one of the brothers of the great Pizarro. The Spaniards in Peru felt themselves deeply injured by the publication of regulations from Spain, by which a sudden check was put upon their spoliation and oppression of the natives, which had reached an extreme pitch of cruelty and destructiveness. They called upon Gonzalo to lead them in vindication of what they regarded as their privileges by right of conquest and of their service to the Spanish crown. His hands were strengthened by the rash and high-handed behaviour of Blasco Nunez Vela, yet another official sent out from Spain to deal with this turbulent province.
Pizarro himself was an able and daring leader and, at least in his earlier years, of a chivalrous spirit, which made him beloved of his soldiers. He was soon acclaimed as governor by the Spaniards and was actually supreme in Peru.
But in the following year, 1545, the Spanish government selected an envoy who was to bring the now ascendant star of Pizarro to eclipse. This was an ecclesiastic named Pedro de la Gasca, a man of great resolution, penetration and knowledge of affairs. After varying fortunes, in which Pizarro for some time held his own, he was routed by the troops of Gasca. Pizarro surrendered to an officer, and was carried before Gasca.
Addressing him with severity, Gasca abruptly inquired why he had thrown the country into such confusion, raising the banner of revolt, usurping the government, and obstinately refusing the offer of grace that had been repeatedly made to him.
Gonzalo defended himself as having been elected by the people. 'It was my family,' he said, 'who conquered the country and, as their representative here, I felt I had a right to the government.'
To this Gasca replied, in a still severer tone, 'Your brother did, indeed, conquer the land; and for this the emperor was pleased to raise both him and you from the dust. He lived and died a loyal subject, and it only makes your ingratitude to your sovereign the more heinous.
A sentence of death followed, and thus passed the last of Pizarro's name to rule in Peru.
Under the wise reforms instituted by Gasca, Peru was somewhat relieved to the disastrous effects of the Spanish occupation, and under the mild yet determined policy inaugurated by him, the ancient distractions of the country were permanently healed. With peace, prosperity returned within the borders of Peru, and this much-tried land settled down at last to a considerable measure of tranquillity and content.
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