Geoffrey Gorham 11/26/08 pe



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Geoffrey Gorham

11/26/08 per. 2

Count 1
The Aztecs have been conquered in the name of Spain by Hernan Cortez, who today is falsely charged with disobeying orders of Governor Velasquez of Cuba. It has been claimed that while conquering the Aztecs in Mexico Cortez intentionally ignored the orders of Governor Velasquez. In the 3 years Cortez conquered Mexico he never once disobeyed Governor Velasquez of Cuba.

Although it is true that Velasquez sent a letter to Cortez while he was in port telling him not to depart, Cortez never actually received this letter. Because he had already left, Cortez didn’t know of Velasquez’s orders. Besides, who is Velasquez to tell Cortez that he is not allowed to depart on the voyage. Cortez bought supplies, cannons, men, horses, crossbows, and some ships with all of his money and his encomienda. If he had received the letter and stayed he would have been broke. Also, Spain wouldn’t have gained control of The New World and become the power it is. Despite what is claimed Cortez never disobeyed Velasquez, having never received the orders he was to obey.

The reason a settlement was not established in Velasquez’s name is because Cortez was not in a position to do so. Cortez decided to resign as the leader of the original expedition, so he didn’t have the authority to establish a city in Velasquez’s name. You couldn’t have expected Cortez to fulfill this or Velasquez’s other orders when he was unemployed by Velasquez at the time. As captain-general of a Spanish city Cortez went on the conquest of Mexico under King Charles V. That is why the treasure ship was sent to Spain instead of Cuba. You can’t punish Cortez for not obeying Velasquez when Cortez wasn’t an employee of Velasquez.

While in Mexico Cortez resisted Panfilo de Narvez’s unauthorized arrest. Velasquez did not have the authority to arrest Cortez, only an order of arrest from King Charles would. Like previously mentioned, Cortez was not under employment by Governor Velasquez at the time. Secondly, Cortez was in a perfect situation to conquer Mexico when along comes Narvez. Not only did he almost cost Spain Mexico, but Narvez also attacked a Spanish city and allowed his men to rape Indian women and pillage the towns. What choice did Cortez have but to prevent this man from costing Spain the territory of Mexico? By resisting this unfounded arrest Cortez was just doing what was in best interests for Spain.

Obviously there is no way that Cortez is at all guilty of this count. First of all you can’t obey an order that you don’t ever receive. Secondly, if you resign from your job you can’t be expected to follow your old boss’s orders. Last of all, the arrest Cortez was resisting was not even an authorized arrest. There’s no doubt Cortez is innocent, if anyone, Narvez and Velasquez should be the ones facing charges from Spain.
Geoffrey Gorham
Count 2
The great conquistador, Cortez, is standing trial here for acts of cruelty against the Indians. Since when has defending your life, and serving justice been considered cruelty. Cortez was totally justified in his dealings with the Indians; he never committed any acts of cruelty or barbarity against Native Americans.

Several times during his expedition, Hernan Cortez did attack and do battle with a variety of Native American tribes. If Cortez and his men hadn’t taken part in these skirmishes I doubt any one of them would have survived to be put on trial. The Indians would have surely killed Cortez’s group if he hadn’t fought them at all. Because of this, in these cases the attacks and battles should be considered self-defense. And if you still don’t agree with me, then would you have battled against Native Americans or chosen to die by club or by human sacrifice. Clearly Cortez is justified in these actions.

Many would use Cholula’s fate as evidence of Cortez’s alleged cruelty, but again it proves the opposite. First of all Cholula sought to destroy Cortez and his fellow Spaniards so naturally Cortez killed the warriors to prevent this. Then Tlaxcalans ransacked the city, raped the women, stole their money, and left Cholula in ruins. But Cortez was not commander of the Tlaxcalans, and never commanded the Tlaxcalans to do these things. For some reason I doubt that hundreds of thousands of Tlaxcalan warriors are going to respond well to a Spaniard telling them they can’t have at a long time enemy of theirs. To sum it up, Cholula’s fate was not the will of Cortez, it may have even been against it.

Neither the death of Quauhpopoca or the death of Moctezuma were the result of a cruel or barbarous act. In contrast, Quauhpopoca attacked the Spanish settlement of Villa Rica de Vera Cruz and killed Spanish citizens. It’s not like Cortez committed murder either, he put on a trial, Quauhpopoca was found guilty and the executed, it was totally legal. Moctezuma’s death is totally inclusive, nobody even knows how he died. There’s as great a chance an Indian killed him as Cortez or another Spaniard. In fact it’s more likely an Indian was the murderer. After all, prior to his death Moctezuma and Cortez were great friends. Obviously Cortez is still innocent.

A variety of Spaniards kidnapped, captured, and enslaved Indians, not just Cortez. After conquering their cities what was Cortez supposed to do with the surviving natives, let them escape to the next city where they would just take up arms and fight Cortez’s expedition again. The other option is to capture them and take them back to Spain to do work for Spanish nobles. In fact the captured Natives were treated pretty well. Moctezuma was kidnapped because he was a credible threat against the expedition. A Spanish settlement had been attacked and Cortez was making sure it wouldn’t happen again, besides Moctezuma enjoyed his time in custody anyways. Enslaving hostile and dangerous Indians was totally justified.

Converting the native peoples to Christianity is also a good thing. He may have destroyed their idols and messed up their temples, but Cortez’s intentions were honest and good. To explain, he was trying to convert a nation were human sacrifice was being practiced to Christianity. Anyone else in his shoes would have chastised the Indians and destroyed their idols. For his deeds Cortez should be honored not criticized.

Cortez is innocent of his accusations. First of all he fought the Indians as an act of self-defense, not malice. Second, Cortez was in no way responsible for what happened to the city of Cholula. Third, Quauhpopoca’s death was legal and justified, Moctezuma’s is inconclusive. Next, the enslavement of Indians was also done with good reason, not an intention for cruelty. Lastly, Cortez was just being a good Christian when he dishonored the Indians religion. If Cortez hadn’t done these things, would Spain still rule Mexico and would Cortez even be alive?

Geoffrey Gorham


Count 3
Cortez, conqueror of Mexico, is also charged of representing himself as an agent of the king without proper authorization. Actually Cortez did represent himself as an agent of the king, but under the circumstances he was authorized. Cortez was properly authorized when he represented himself as an agent of the king.

The first time he actually said he was representing King Charles was when Moctezuma’s first ambassador visited the Spanish. Cortez told this ambassador that his king sent him to meet Moctezuma. At the time Cortez still worked under Velasquez, who had sent letters to the king telling him about the voyage and getting everything set up legally. So in that sense Cortez is working underneath the king. As you can see, Cortez is under the king’s authority technically.

Later when Cortez meets with Tendile several times he again says that he needs to see Moctezuma on behalf of King Charles. At that point of the expedition Cortez resigned from under Velasquez and was continuing the expedition as captain-general of Villa Rica de Vera Cruz. As a captain-general Cortez is directly underneath King Charles. Also, if King Charles had any problems with the expedition he could have stopped it at any time. As we know King Charles let the conquistadors continue through Mexico, never once objecting to anything. So Cortez, as captain-general is legally under King Charles, this being his authorization to be a representative of King Charles V.

Another point for Cortez is that throughout the greater part of the expedition he was in contact with King Charles, giving him information about the expedition. So King Charles wasn’t totally in the dark on what was going on. Cortez sent him multiple reports telling details of the expedition and events. It’s doubtful that Cortez would disobey a direct order of the king of all of Spain, so it clearly wasn’t against Charles’s wishes. Along with that, Cortez was trying to get into the city of Tenochtitlan without any bloodshed. Although highly improbable, if Cortez was disobeying orders it’s not like he was doing it with evil intentions. Cortez, being in contact with Charles V, would not have disobeyed his own king, so he is clearly innocent.

Cortez was authorized to represent himself as an agent of the king. First of all, while under Velasquez Cortez could have considered himself, through Velasquez, underneath the king. After resigning Cortez was directly underneath King Charles, being in charge of Villa Rica de Vera Cruz. And lastly, Cortez was keeping Charles informed on what was going on and so couldn’t have disobeyed the king’s own orders. Legally Cortez is fine, after all King Charles himself doesn’t have any objections to Cortez’s actions.

Geoffrey Gorham

Count 4
While conquering the empire of the Aztecs, Cortez burned and/or destroyed a total of 27 Spanish ships. He may have done it to keep his men from mutinying so he could continue on the expedition, but he still did it. Cortez is guilty of intentionally destroying Spanish ships.

In preparation for the expedition Cortez did buy 7 of the ships, but the rest of the ships were paid for by Governor Velasquez of Cuba and others. Cortez set out to the Americas with 11 ships, 10 were destroyed, 1 was sent to Spain. Since most of the ships were not his own Cortez should pay the fine for the crime that he has committed because ships cost money. Sure maybe his intentions were for the good of Spain but intentions are worth a lot less than ten ships are. If they were all his own ships it would be a different case but they weren’t. There’s no doubt he destroyed 10 Spanish ships, 3 of which not belonging to him.

The only evidence that says he’s innocent is that the reason he did it is because he had no other choice that would keep the expedition from falling apart. That doesn’t really mean anything, there’s nothing surefire that says that Cortez had no other options. There were plenty of other options that could have kept his men disciplined, Cortez just made a poor choice that’s going to cost him some money for it. By thinking this through and making a rational decision Cortez could have continued on his journey without destroying 10 Spanish ships. Despite Cortez supposedly having good intentions behind the willful destruction of Spanish ships his inability to make a better decision has cost him and Spain a lot of money.

That’s not the half of it however, because about a year later, after defeating Narvez’s expedition Cortez destroyed 17 more ships that were in that fleet. That was completely unnecessary because most of Narvez’s men joined Cortez the rest were in captivity, so nobody would have returned to Cuba on those ships. It’s bad enough to have already destroyed 10 ships but then he destroyed a bunch more, costing even more money to pay for all of them. So now the grand total of Cortez’s efforts is 27 ships burned or at the bottom of the ocean. This second poor decision made by Cortez has resulted in 17 more ships out of commission.

Cortez is guilty of destroying Spanish ships intentionally and knowingly. First he destroys 3 Spanish ships that aren’t his and 7 that are. What’s more is that his reasoning is full of holes. Then a year later he destroys 17 more ships, thinking that it’s a good. You may agree with Cortez that it was his only option but you wouldn’t if they were ships that you paid good money for.

Geoffrey Gorham


Count 5
The last count against Cortez, the great conquistador, is that he allegedly murdered and/or mistreated citizens of Spain. Most of his men were treated very well, in fact when he was given women by the Native Americans he divided them up among his men, not taking a single one for himself. It’s preposterous that Cortez be found guilty of these charges; he was as fair as any commander could be.

In 1519 a man was hung by Cortez, another got lashes, another was jailed, and another supposedly got his feet cut off. All of these actions were fair and legal in every way. The men had been plotting rebellion, were put on a trial, found guilty, and were punished justly for their crimes. This isn’t even close to murder or mistreatment, it was a fair trial performed and run exactly the same as it would be if this had happened in Spain. Any other man in Cortez’s shoes would have made the same decision. So although it is true that 4 men were each punished by Cortez, they were fair punishments in that situation.

Later, in 1520, Narvez came out to capture Cortez with an improperly authorized arrest, which, as we know, Cortez resisted. During the short battle that took place between the two groups Cortez kept casualties to a minimum, in fact he even gave many of Narvez’s men gold. Those who tried to resist were simply chained up and put in captivity. This is yet another example of Cortez’s kindness and mercy towards those who opposed him, he could have easily killed every one of those men and kept the gold to himself. It’s no wonder that the vast majority of Narvez’s men joined in on Cortez’s conquest. After Cortez defeated the rival Spanish no mistreatment of them occurred, they were treated very well.

Yet can you believe that despite Cortez’s wonderful treatment of his men another soldier plots to overthrow Cortez. The natural response for Cortez was to hang the man, after a trial by a jury of course. Yes it’s true that after the Spanish were run out of Tenochtitlan an old Narvez soldier was hung for planning to overthrow Cortez’s command. Even though he was given gold and treated better by Cortez than he would have by many another Spaniard, he betrays him. Clearly the only option was to hang the man, not for cruelty or murder’s sake, but to serve him justice. Cortez was the one being mistreated in this case not the man who was hung.



As you can see Cortez is most definitely not guilty of the crimes he is accused of. First of all, the four men he punished in 1519 were punished justly and for good reason. Secondly, Cortez was very careful to avoid any unnecessary violence and bloodshed while fighting Narvez’s expedition. Finally, the man hung after the Spanish evacuated Tenochtitlan was also punished for a good reason. It’s not murder or mistreatment in Spain if somebody is hung with the charge of treason, so the same thing applies in this case.


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