Published Date

May 1, 2004

Resource Type

Primary Source

This resource was developed in 2004 as part of “The Conquest of Mexico” by Nancy Fitch.

From Hernán Cortés, Cartas y relaciones de Hernan Cortés al emperador Carlos V, second letter, 91–94.

Six days having passed, most powerful Prince, since I entered the great city of Tenochtitlan, and having, seen some things in it, though but a few compared with what there was to be seen and noted, it seemed to me, judging from these things, and from what I had observed of the country, that it would subserve the interests of your Majesty and our own security if Moctezuma was in my power, and not wholly free from restraint; in order that he might not be diverted from the resolution and willing spirit which he showed in the service of your Majesty, especially as we Spaniards were somewhat troublesome and difficult to please; lest feeling annoyed on any occasion, he should do us some serious and even might cause all memory of us to perish, in the exercise of his great power. It also appeared to me that. if he was under my control, all the other countries that were subject to him would be more easily brought to the knowledge and service of you’re your Majesty, as afterwards actually happened. I resolved, therefore to take him and place him in my quarters, which were of great strength; and revolving in my mind how this could be effected without occasioning any tumult or disturbance.

[The letter continues to explain how Cortés thought about how to capture Moctezuma and went to his quarters.]

These persons [who had been in the quarters with Moctezuma] departed at once, and when they had gone, I said to Moctezuma that I was pleased with his diligence in this matter [finding out who had tried to attack the Spaniards], since I should have to render an account to your Majesty of the Spaniards who had been killed. As for what remained of my duty in the premises, I must have him in my quarters until the truth was more clearly ascertained and himself shown to be free from blame; and I begged him to suffer no uneasiness on this account, as he would not be treated as a prisoner, but left in the full possession of his liberty; that no obstacle should be interposed to his enjoying the service of his followers, who would continue to be at his continue be at his command; that he might select an apartment, such as would please him, in the palace I occupied, where be would be at his ease; that he might rest assured that nothing should be allowed to give him. pain or inconvenience; and that in addition to his own servants, my companions would cheerfully obey all his commands. Much conversation and discourse followed in regard to this arrangement, too long to be described at length, and even to be repeated .to your Majesty, being not only prolix but scarcely material to the case and, therefore, I shall say no more than that, finally, he expressed his willingness to go with me. He immediately gave orders to have the apartment he wished to occupy put in order for his use, which was well situated and handsomely fitted up; and this being done, many nobles came to him, stripped of their robes, which they carried hanging upon their arms, and bare-footed, bringing a litter, not in the best order, on which, with tears in their eyes, they placed him in deep silence; and in this manner we proceeded to the quarters which I occupied, without exciting any commotion in the city, although some signs of a disturbance began to appear. But as soon as Moctezuma heard of it, he sent orders forbidding any movement; and thus all remained quiet as before, and continued so during the whole time that Moctezuma was my prisoner, since he was entirely at his ease, with the same attendance that he had been accustomed to in his own palace, which was very large and splendid, as I shall hereafter relate; and I and my companions did every thing in our power to gratify his wishes.