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[59] thin planks, so that any severe shock would have
Chap. II.} 1543. July 2-18.
broken them in pieces. Thus provided, after a passage of seventeen days, the fugitives, on the eighteenth of July, reached the Gulf of Mexico; the distance seemed to them two hundred and fifty leagues, and was not much less than five hundred miles. They were the first to observe, that for some distance from the mouth of the Mississippi the sea is not salt, so great is the volume of fresh water which the river discharges. Following, for the most part, the coast, it was more than fifty days before the men, who finally escaped, now no more than three hundred and eleven in number, on the tenth of September entered
Sept. 10.
the River Panuco.1

Such is the history of the first voyage of Europeans on the Mississippi; the honor of the discovery belongs, without a doubt, to the Spaniards. There were not wanting adventurers, who, in 1544, desired to make

one more attempt to possess the country by force of arms; their request was refused. Religious zeal was more persevering; in December, 1547, Louis Can-
1547. Dec. 28.
cello, a missionary of the Dominican order, gained, through Philip, then heir apparent in Spain, permission to visit Florida, and attempt the peaceful conversion of the natives. Christianity was to conquer the land against which so many experienced warriors

1 On Soto's expedition, by far the best account is that of the Portuguese Eye-witness, first published in 1557, and by Hakluyt, in English, in 1609. In the history of Vega, numbers and distances are magnified, and every thing embellished; it must be consulted with extreme caution. Buckingham Smith, in his Coleccion para la Historia de la Florida, has published the original in Spanish of the report of Luis Hernandez de Biedma, of which there is a French translation in Ternaux-Compans, XX. 81. Of books published in America, compare Belknap, in Am. Biog. i. 185—195; McCulloh, Researches, Appendix, III. 523—531; Nuttall, in his Travels in Arkansas, Appendix, 247—267; Pickett's History of Alabama; and T. Irving's Conquest of Florida.

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