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Pizarro, Francisco

PIZARRO, FRANCISCO (c. 1471 or 1475-1541), , the discoverer and conqueror of Peru, was the natural son of Gonzalo Pizarro, an officer who served with considerable 'distinction under the Great Captain in the Italian wars. Gomara relates that Francisco was born upon the steps of a church, and in his earliest days was suckled by a sow. Garcilaso denies this, but all agree that he was born at Truxillo, about the year 1480. His education was so completely neglected, that he never learned to read or write, and he was employed by his father in tending pigs; but getting tired of this occupation, he ran away to Seville with some of his companions, became a soldier, and shortly afterwards embarked to try his fortune in the New World. The first occasion on which he gained distinction was during the expedition of Ojeda to Tierra Firma, in 1510, by whom he was left as his lieutenant in the new conquest. He gained the confidence of Vasco Nunez de Balboa, whom he accompanied in his expedition to Mexico. On these occasions Pizarro showed himself superior to all his companions in courage, enterprise, and powers of endurance, and he became the favourite leader of the soldiers, who never felt so much confidence as when they were under his orders. Pizarro had seen fourteen years of arduous service, and was still one of the least wealthy of the Spanish colonists, when he joined Hernando de Luqueand Diego deAlmagro in the project of extending the Spanish conquests along the southern coast. Pizarro and Almagro could only give their personal labour and experience, while the wealthy priest, their associate, advanced 20,000 ounces of gold towards defraying the expenses of the expedition. Pizarro sailed from Panama in November, 1524, with one small ship, eighty men, and four horses, to attempt the conquest of a gTeat country; leaving Almagro to follow with reinforcements as soon as he could raise them. Pizarro shaped his course to the south-east, but having in ignorance selected that period of the year in which the winds and currents were opposed to him, his progress was very slow. He touched at several places in Tierra Firma, where he found a most uninviting country, the low grounds of which were covered with swamps, the higher with impenetrable forests, having few inhabitants, and those fierce and hostile. Fatigue, famine, and disease having wasted his little band, Pizarro was compelled to await the arrival of Almagro at Chicama, who at length joined him, having undergone equal hardships. With unbroken spirit they decided on their course of action. Pizarro remained at Chicama while Almagro returned for fresh forces, which Luque with difficulty persuaded Pcdrarias, the governor of Panama, to furnish. With these reinforcements, in the year 1526, Pizarro advanced from Chicama to the south, and explored the coast of Quito. He entered the bay of Saint Matthew, where he found a fertilo country, the inhabitants of which were clothed in garments of woollen and cotton, with ornaments of gold and silver. This country being too populous to attack, Almagro returned to Panama for further aid, and Pizarro retired to a neighbouring island. The new governor of Panama, Pedro de los Rios, not only would not -permit any new levies to be made, but sent a vessel to bring away Pizarro and his band. Pizarro refused to obey this order, and drawing a line on the sand with his sword, desired those who chose to remain with him to cross to his side: thirteen alone of his hardy veterans had sufficient courage to do so, with whom, and the crew of a vessel subsequently sent to his aid from Panama, he prosecuted his examination of the coast of Peru. He landed at Tumbcz, where there was a palace of the Incas, and he ranged for some time peaceably along the coast. The abundance of gold and silver used by the inhabitants not only for ornament, but for utensils of common use, filled Pizarro and his companions with wonder. He returned to Panama in 1528, having encountered, during his absence of three years, greater hardships and dangers than any other adventurer of the age. The governor wus not moved by his accounts of the opulence of the newly-discovered country, and it was settled by the associates that Pizarro should proceed to Europe to obtain the sanction of the emperor. By his address he succeeded in gaining the attention of Charles V. and his ministers, and without bestowing a thought upon his associates, he obtained for himself the appointments of governor and captain-general, and adelantado over all the country to be discovered, with supreme authority, both civil and military, stipulating in return to equip a certain force, and remit one-fifth of all the treasure that he should acquire to the crown. Pizarro was so poor, that without the assistance of Cortez he could not have performed his part of the agreement, and at length he sailed from Spain with only half the number of men required, among whom were his three brothers. He returned to Panama in 1530, and having with difficulty effected a reconciliation with Almagro, who was indignant at his perfidy, he sailed in February, 1531, with 186 soldiers, of whom 36 were horsemen, leaving Almagro as before to follow with reinforcements. Pizarro first surprised the principal town of the province of Coaque, where he obtained a great booty, which enabled him to despatch two of his ships to Panama and Nicaragua with remittances, which soon procured him recruits. Proceeding southward he attacked, and, after a fierce resistance, took the island of Puno, in the bay of Guayaquil. At Tumbez he was forced to remain three months, in consequence of a violent distemper among his men. At the mouth of the river Piura he founded the first Spanish settlement, and called it S. Michael. Fortunately for Pizarro a civil war was at this period raging in Peru between the brothers Atahualpa and Huascar [peru], and each party requested his assistance against the other: Pizarro seized the opportunity, and marched up the country to Caxamarca. Having posted his little band in a strong position, he visited Atahualpa, who was encamped near that city, where the sight of a profusion of the precious metals that he found intlamed his cupidity to such a degree, that he resolved upon a plan as daring as it was treacherous and dishonourable. At a given signal, when Atahualpa was returning Pizarro's visit, the Spaniards opened a fire upon the followers of the Inca, the suddenness and surprise of which completely s'.upified them, ai .l as no resistance was attempted, Pizarro carried off the unfortunate Atahualpa a prisoner to his quarters, where he was confined in a room 22 feet long by 16 feet broad. Having soon discovered the insatiable avarice of the Spaniards, Atahualpa offered as bis ransom to fill this room with gold as high as he could reach. The offer was eagerly accepted by Pizarro, without the smallest intention of performing his part of the agreement. Before the whole was collected, the soldiers became so much excited at the sight of such vast treasure, that it was found impossible to restrain their impatience, and after setting aside the fifth part for the crown, and a share for Almagro's party, 1,528,500 pesos, or ounces, were divided. Pizarro's share was 2350 marks of silver, and 57,220 ounces of gold. Having obtained all that he could from Atahualpa, his feelings were soon excited to hatred and a desire of revenge, on perceiving that he was an object of scorn and contempt to Atahualpa, who had discovered that Pizarro was ignorant of the arts that he most admired in the Spaniards, reading and writing. Pizarro accordingly caused him to be put to death in 1533. The government of Peru was now so far overthrown, and the country so torn by intestine convulsions, that no effectual opposition was offered to Pizarro, who marched upon and captured Cuzco, the plunder of which city exceeded in value the ransom of Atahualpa.

In 1534, Ferdinand Pizarro landed in Spain with the royal share of Atahualpa's ransom, when Francisco's authority was confirmed with new powers and privileges, and Almagro was appointed adelantado of a country to be conquered to the southward of Pizarro's government. The reconciliation between Almagro and Pizarro had never been sincere; their evil passions were however for the present suppressed, and Almagro marched to the conquest of Chile, while Pizarro busied himself with the internal government of Peru, in the arrangement and administration of which he showed considerable judgment. In January, 1535, he founded the city of Lima, to which he gave the name of Ciudad de los Reyes. In 1536 the Peruvians rose and endeavoured to throw off the Spanish yoke: they cut off several detachments, and. completely blockaded Pizarro in Lima, and his brother in Cuzco. This brought Almagro from Chile, who, having defeated the Peruvians, attacked Cuzco, took prisoners Pizarro's brothers, and subsequently Alvarado also; but certain compunctions preventing him from attacking Pizarro immediately after, the viceroy was enabled to collect his forces and attack Almagro, whom he took prisoner, and soon afterwards tried and executed in 1538. Pizarro's partiality in entirely leaving out the followers of AlmagTo in the subsequent allotment of lands, completely alienated them, and they attached themselves to the young Almagro, who soon became the rallying point for all who were disaffected towards Pizarro. A conspiracy was formed against him, and on Sunday, June 26, 1541, the conspirators, sixteen in number, headed by Herrada, entered the governor's palace at mid-day, the hour of repose in hot climates, and succeeded in reaching the staircase before an alarm was given. Pizarro, with nis half-brother Alcantara, and a knot of faithful friends, defended themselves to the last They fell, one after another, till Pizarro remained alone. At length, exhausted by the long conflict, and unable to parry the numerous blows aimed at him, he received a thrust in the throat, and expired in the 62nd year of his age, full of strength and vigour.

Robertson says of Pizarro, ' With a temper of mind no less daring than the constitution of his body was robust, he was foremost in every danger, patient under the greatest hardships, and unsubdued by any fatigue. Though so illiterate that he could not even read, he was soon found to be formed for command. Every operation committed to his conduct proved successful, as, by a happy but rare conjunction, he united perseverance with ardour, and was as cautious in executing as he was bold in forming his plans. To the soldierly qualities of intrepid valour, indefatigable activity, insurmountable constancy in enduring the hardships of military service in the New World, he added the address, the craft, the dissimulation of the politician, with the art of concealing his own purposes, and sagacity to penetrate into those of other men.'

{Vidas de Espanoles Cclebres, par Don M. F. Quintana; Robertson's Hist, of America.)

Note - this article incorporates content from The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1840)

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