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A Hero and Some Other Folks by William A. Quayle

Pizarro and Cortes were attractive


Spanish character were chivalrous qualities, mixed with ferocity and pitiless cruelty. Pizarro and Cortes were attractive; we like to look at them a second time. Much we condemn, but much we admire. Their sagacity, their prowess, their heroic spirit, take us captive despite their baser qualities. In them was duplicity, revenge, bigotry, heathenish cruelty; but these were not all the qualities the inventory discovered. In Philip, however, were all the Spanish villainies without the Spanish virtues. He is blessed with scarcely a redeeming quality. His excellencies were a stolid inability to believe himself defeated, which, had it been joined to patriotism and intelligent action, had risen to the heroic; he was loyal to his convictions; and he was painstakingly laborious, and worked in his cabinet like a paid clerk. In truth, his disposition for and ability to work are among the most marked instances in history. Not Julius Caesar himself worked with more unflagging industry. But Philip had no illuminated moments. His toil was blind, like a mole's progress. He read and annotated all state dispatches; wrote many long epistles with his own hand, eschewing secretarial aid. He had a mind capacious for minutiae; was colossally egotistical; was as little cast down by defeat as elevated by triumph, which is in itself a quality of heroic mold, but viewed narrowly turns out to be imperturbable phlegmaticism and self-assurance, which simply underrated disasters, making himself oblivious
to them as if they did not exist. He was possessor of the greatest realm ever swayed by a single scepter. He affected to be proprietor of the seas; he thought Flanders a garden to be tilled to supply his table, and its wealth, gold for him to squander on Armadas. Italian provinces were his, and Spain was his; and the Western Hemisphere, by his own daring assumption, and the generosity of the papal gift, and the toils of Ponce de Leon and de Soto and Coronado and Pizarro and Cortes, was his. Compared with the wide and bewildering extent of his kingdom, the Roman Empire was a dukedom. His empire spurred him to world-dominion, and he used his patrimony and its fabulous wealth to attempted enforcement of his claim to the sovereignty of England and Western Europe. His ambition was in nothing less than Alexander's, but his conception of means adequate to campaigns was meager. A task he could see and a kingdom he could desire, but adequacy of preparation for world-conquest never crept into his thought. He was as niggardly in supplying his generals and armies as Queen Elizabeth, and all but as voluble in abuse of his servants in the field or cabinet, and as thankless to those who had wrought his will. Parma, and Requesens, and Don John, and Alva, he drove almost frantic by his excessive demands and expectations, coupled with his entire inadequacy in preparation and supplies. His soldiers were always on the point of mutiny for food, or clothing, or pay, or all together. However, this ought in fairness to be said, that the only contemporary Government which did pay its soldiers promptly and fairly was the Netherlands, one reason worth weighing why, under Prince Maurice in particular, Flemish armies made such vigorous head against Spanish aggressions.

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