The Philippines And California
A new attempt in the East.—At the same time that Menéndez was establishing the province of Florida, the right wing of the Indies, Legazpi was conquering the Philippines, the left wing. The principal result of the Villalobos expedition (1542) had been to give the name of the Philippines to the Lazarus, or Western Islands. For nearly two decades thereafter nothing was done to advance the interests of Spain in the Far East, but Portuguese profits in the spice trade were tempting to both sovereign and subject, and the king set about making a new effort to share in these advantages.
The obvious base for such a trade was Mexico, and in 1559 Philip ordered Velasco to equip two vessels for discovery in the western islands, to test the chance for profits and the possibility of a return voyage across the Pacific. This order was issued just at the time when Spain was attempting to occupy the Carolina coasts, with a view, in part, to finding a northern strait leading to the Spice Islands. Thus were all these widely separated enterprises unified.
The Legazpi expedition.—To lead the expedition, Miguel López de Legazpi was chosen, with Fray Andrés de Urdaneta as chief navigator. The spiritual work was entrusted to Urdaneta and a band of Augustinians. Owing to many delays it was November, 1564, when the fleet left Navidad. In February, 1565, seven months before Menéndez reached Florida, Legazpi reached the Philippines. Three of the vessels were sent back with Urdaneta on board to discover a return route to New Spain. Instead of sailing east against wind and current, he turned northward beyond the trade belt, and entered that of the westerly winds. After a long and hard voyage he reached the American continent off the northern California coast, which he descended to Mexico. At last the Spaniards had discovered a way to return from the East safe from the Portuguese attacks.
Meanwhile Legazpi had occupied Cebú. Portuguese resistance caused a removal to Panay, but in 1571 Cebú was reoccupied and Manila founded. In the previous year Legazpi had received a commission as adelantado of the Islands, subject to the viceroy of Mexico. When Legazpi died in 1572 the conquest of the principal islands had been effected and with little bloodshed. In 1583 the Audiencia of Manila was established, subordinate to Mexico.
The Manila galleon.—In 1580 Portugal was united with Spain, and, until 1640, when Portugal regained her independence, Manila was an important center for the commerce of the combined Spanish and Portuguese colonies. A regular trade was established from Manila to Mexico and Spain, but was restricted to one or two annual galleons each way between Manila and Acapulco.
New interest in the California coast.—The development of the Philippine trade, the necessity of protecting it from other nations, continued interest in the Northern Mystery, and the opening of pearl fisheries in the Gulf of California, led to renewed exploration of the northern Pacific coasts and to renewed attempts to settle and develop California.
Explorations on the California Coast, 1542-1603.
The regular course of the east-bound Manila galleon lay along the path marked out by Urdaneta northeastward from Manila to about latitude 42,° thence across the Pacific to the American continent off Cape Mendocino, and down the coast to Acapulco. The voyage was arduous. By the time the vessels reached the American coast half of the scurvy-afflicted crew and passengers were dead, and the vessels needed repairs. Hence a port of call was gravely needed for the Manila galleons.
The Strait of Anian.—Moreover, Spanish interests in the Pacific, were insecure. The Portuguese were no longer rivals, but French and English freebooters were active on the Atlantic and might venture upon the Pacific. Besides, there was the fear that the French, English, or Dutch, operating in the northern Atlantic, would discover the Strait of Anian and secure control of the direct route to the Spice Islands, just as Portugal had monopolized the African route.
Drake and Cavendish.—These fears were made realities in 1579 when Drake appeared on the California coast. In 1577 he had passed through the Straits of Magellan. Reaching the Pacific with only one vessel of the five with which he had started, he proceeded up the coast of South America, plundering as he went. In the harbour now known as Drake's Bay, just north of San Francisco, he refitted, claiming the country for England and calling it New Albion. Drake then sailed to the East Indies, obtained a cargo of spices, crossed the Indian Ocean, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and reached Plymouth in November, 1580. He claimed to have discovered the Strait of Anian, and this further disturbed the minds of the Spaniards. For his daring voyage he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
In 1586 Thomas Cavendish followed Drake's course. Reaching the point of California, he plundered the Manila galleon, the Santa Ana, and burned it to the water's edge. The voyages of Drake and Cavendish were soon followed by the formation of the British East India Company (1600) and by conflicts with the Spanish merchants in the Orient. In the wake of the English came the Dutch, who had passed the Straits of Magellan before the end of the sixteenth century.
Gali and Cermeño.—With the needs of the Pacific coast in, view. Viceroy Moya Contreras (1584-1585) instructed Francisco de Gali to explore the northwestern coasts of America on his return from Manila in the galleon. Nothing came of Gali's orders, and Moya's successor discouraged further exploration. The second Viceroy Velasco (1590-1595), however, took up Moya's plan, and in 1595 Sebastian Rodríguez Cermeño undertook to carry out the project on his return from Manila. He was wrecked at Drake's Bay, however, and his crew made their way to Mexico in an improvised craft. The plan of reconnoitering the coast with laden Manila galleons was now given up for one of exploring in light vessels sent out from the ports of Mexico.
Vizcaíno's colony.—Royal interest in the protection of California was now combined with private interest in the pearl-fisheries of the Gulf of California. Occasional expeditions had been made for this purpose since the days of Cortés and Alarcón. In 1595 Sebastián Vizcaíno, who had been engaged in the Manila trade, and, indeed, had been on the Santa Ana when it was captured by Cavendish, secured a contract authorizing him to gather pearls, in return for subduing and colonizing California. Leaving Acapulco late in 1596 with three vessels and a good-sized company, he established a colony at La Paz and explored some distance up the Gulf. But disaster soon followed, and early in 1597 the survivors returned to Mexico.
Vizcaíno's exploring expedition.—Vizcaíno attributed his failure to ignorance of the seasons, and proposed making another attempt at settlement and pearl fishing. While this question was being discussed, the king in 1599 ordered the outer coast of California explored again, with a view to finding a port for the Manila galleons. To conduct the expedition Vizcaíno was chosen. Leaving Acapulco in May, 1602, with three vessels, he ran all the coasts covered by Cabrillo and Ferrelo sixty years before. At Magdalena Bay, Cerros Island, San Diego Bay, and Santa Catalina Island extensive explorations were made. The capital event of the expedition, however, was the exploration of the Bay of Monterey (probably entered by Cermeño) and its designation as the desired port. One of the vessels reached Cape Blanco, but San Francisco Bay was missed, as before.
Plans to Occupy Monterey Bay.—Plans were now made for occupying the port of Monterey, but delays ensued and a new viceroy concluded that a port in the mid-Pacific was more needed than one on the California coast. Accordingly, in 1611 Vizcaíno was sent to explore certain islands called Rica de Oro and Rica de Plata, but the expedition failed.
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