But Spain claimed this territory, and Pedro Melendez a Spanish soldier, was in 1565 sent by Philip II. to conquer it from the French, doubly detested as Protestants. He landed in the harbor and at the mouth of the river, to both of which he gave the name Saint Augustine. Melendez lost no time in attacking Fort Carolina, which he surprised, putting the garrison mercilessly to the sword. The destruction of the French colony was soon after avenged by Dominic de Gourgues, who sailed from France to punish the enemies of his country. Having accomplished his purpose by the slaughter of the Spanish garrison he returned home, but the French Protestants made no further effort to colonize Florida.
Spain claimed the land by right of discovery, but, although maintaining the feeble settlement at Saint Augustine, did next to nothing after this to explore or civilize this portion of America. The nation that had sent out Columbus was not destined to be permanently the great power of the New World. The hap of first landing upon the Antilles, and also the warm climate and the peaceable nature of the aborigines, led Spain to fix her settlements in latitudes that were too low for the best health and the greatest energy. Most of the settlers were of a wretched class, criminals and adventurers, and they soon mixed largely with the natives.
Spain herself greatly lacked in vigor, partly from national causes, partly from those obscure general causes which even to this day keep Latin Europe, in military power and political accomplishments, inferior to Teutonic or Germanic Europe.