IT was early in the sixteenth century that tidings of the golden empire in the south reached the Spaniards, and more than one effort was made to discover it. But these proved abortive, and it was not until after the brilliant conquest of Mexico by Cortes that the enterprise destined for success was set on foot. Then, in 1524, Francisco Pizarro, Almagro and Father Luque united their efforts to pursue the design of discovering and conquering this rich realm of the south. The first expedition, sailing under Pizarro in 1524, was unable to proceed more than a certain distance, owing to their inadequate numbers and scanty outfit, and returned to Panama to seek reinforcements.
Then, in 1526, the three coadjutors signed a contract which has become famous. The two captains solemnly engaged to devote themselves to the undertaking until it should be accomplished, and to share equally with Father Luque all gains, both of land and treasure. This last provision was in recognition of the fact that the priest had supplied by far the greater part of the funds required, or apparently did so, for from another document it appears that he was only the representative of the licentiate, Gaspar de Espinosa, then at Panama who really furnished the money.
The next expedition met with great vicissitudes, and it was only the invincible spirit of Pizarro which carried them as far as the Gulf of Guayaquil and the rich city of Tumbez. Hence they returned once more to Panama, carrying this time better tidings, and again seeking reinforcements. But the governor of the colony gave them no encouragement, and at last it was decided that Pizarro should go to Spain and apply for help from the crown. He did so, and in 1529 was executed the memorable 'capitulation' which defined the powers and privileges of Pizarro.
It granted to Pizarro the right of discovery and conquest in the province of Peru--or New Castile, as it was then called--the title of governor, and a salary, with inferior honours for his associates; all these to be enjoyed on the conquest of the country and the salaries to be derived from its revenues. Pizarro was to provide for the good government and protection of the natives, and to carry with him a specified number of ecclesiastics to care for their spiritual welfare.
On Pizarro's return to America, he had to contend with the discontent of Almagro at the unequal distribution of authority and honours, but after he had been somewhat appeased by the efforts of Pizarro, the third expedition set sail in January 1531. It comprised three ships, carrying 180 men and 27 horses--a slender enough force for the conquest of an empire.
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