Christopher Carleill, stepson of Queen Elizabeth's
Secretary of State, Sir Francis Walsingham, and Lieutenant General of
the Drake expedition of 158586. From the engraving first published
in Holland's HEROOLOGIA ANGLIA.
3. GOVERNOR CANÇO MEETS A CRISIS
St. Augustine was never a self-supporting settlement.
Subsidies from New Spain (Mexico) kept the colony alive. The subsidies
were expensive, and at the beginning of the 1600's Spanish officials
seriously considered abandoning St. Augustine. Gonçalo
Méndez de Canço, one of most foresighted of the Florida
Governors, was asked for an opinion. He adroitly turned a defense of the
colony into a logical plea for further development, and his ably
presented argument, liberally fortified with statistics, did much to
save the situation. The following extracts from Canço's lengthy
opinion illustrates what Florida meant to Spain in early colonial days,
both as a coast guard station saving hundreds of Spanish lives and as
headquarters for a mission system, which also worked as a giant buffer
to become one of Florida's most important defenses against encroachment
by other Europeans.
* * * My opinion is, if it please your majesty, that
you should not order the abandonment of this presidio until in the
meantime an entry into the interior land can be made, and it can be
known and understood with certainty whether there are mines of gold and
silver, precious stones and pearls. This entry can be made easily and at
little cost in this way (your majesty being pleased to consider the said
entry favorably), by ordering a number of about sixty or seventy
soldiers to be provided besides those who already serve here * * *
In abandoning this presidio entirely, two
difficulties are manifest to me, in my opinion very serious, which your
majesty ought to consider. These are: if this fort should be abandoned,
it would be obligatory to withdraw the Christian Indians who are
protected by it, as well as the religious who teach them, because the
said religious might continue to work among them. Their lives would meet
with much danger and the said Indians would return to their idolatries
as they used to. And the other: since the year of [one thousand] five
hundred eighty-nine, many Spaniards (who were shipwrecked on the coast
of the provinces) escaped and were delivered from death, because this
presidio was nearby. And those who escaped came in the following
The said year  on this coast four battered and
dismasted ships under command of the general Martín Perez de
Olesabal, more than four hundred fifty persons. One of their ships
entered this port and from here it departed for Spain.
The said year  the crew of the frigate in the
service of this presidio discovered and rescued another forty persons of
another ship from the said flota that was lost on Cape Canaveral.
The year of ninety-two  another ship in
distress, which was sailing from Havana to Santo Domingo, put into this
port battered arid damaged. Here it was repaired in every way that was
necessary and continued its voyage. * * * [Additional similar rescues
So then, there are in all five hundred seventy-eight
persons who had fled here at times. Consistent with these two
considerations, then, your majesty will at once determine and command
what might better serve and befit your service and the service of God,
our Lord. * * *
GONÇALO MÉNDEZ DE CANÇO.
Letter of Governor Canço to the Crown,
September 22, 1602.