« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
Aztec priests; and the Teopixqui, or ministers of the divinity, and all those who inhabited the Teocalli ", or houses of God, who might be considered as the depositories of the historical, mythological, and astronomical knowledge of the country, were exterminated; for the priests observed the meridian shade in the gnomons, and regulated the calendar. The monks burned the hieroglyphical paintings, by which every kind of knowledge was transmitted from generation to generation. The people, deprived of these means of instruction, were plunged in an ignorance so much the deeper as the missionaries were unskilled in the Mexican languages, and could substitute few new ideas in the place of the old. The Indian women who had preserved any share of fortune chose rather to ally with the conquerors than to share the contempt in which the Indians were held. The Spanish soldiers were so much the more eager for these alliances, as very few European women had followed the army. The remaining natives then consisted only of the most indigent race, poor cultivators, artisans, among whom were a great number of weavers, porters, who were used like beasts of burden, and especially of those dregs of the people, those crowds of beggars, who bore witness to the imperfection of the social institutions, and the existence of feudal oppression, and who filled, in the time of Cortez, the streets of all the great cities of the Mexican empire. How shall we judge, then, from these miserable remains of a powerful people, of the degree of cultivation to which it had risen from the twelfth to the sixteenth century, and of the intellectual developement of which it is susceptible 2 If all that remained of the French or German nation were a few poor agricultu ists, could we read in their features that they belonged to nations which had produced a Descartes and Clairaut, a Kepler and a Leibnitz: We observe that even in Europe the lower people, for whole centuries, make very slow progress in civilization. The peasant of Brittany or Normandy, and the inhabitant of the north of Scotland, differ very little at this day from what they were in the time of Henry the Fourth and James the First ". When we consider attentively what is related in the letters of Cortez, the memoirs of Bernal Diaz, written with admirable naiveté, and other contemporary historians, as to the state of the inhabitants of Mexico, Tezcuco, Cholollan, and Tlascala, in the time of Montezuma the Second, we think we perceive the portrait of the Indians of our own time. We see the same nudity in the warm regions, the same form of dress in the central table-land, and the same habits in domestic life. How can any great change take place in the Indians when they are kept insulated in villages in which the whites dare not settle, when the difference of language places an almost unsurmounta'le barrier between them and the Europe, ns, when they are oppressed by magistrate chosen through political considerations from their own number, and, in short, when they can only expect moral and civil improvement from a man who talks to them of mysteries, dogmas, and ceremonies, of the cnd of which they are ignorant. I do not mean to discuss here what the Mexicans were before the Spanish conquest; this interesting subject has been already entered upon in the commencement of this chapter. When we consider that they had an almost exact knowledge of the duration of the year, that they intercalated at the end of their great cycle of 104 years with more accuracy than the Greeks", Romans,
* From Teotl, God, Geo;.
* What is here asserted of the highlands of Scotland might have had more foundation fifty years ago. A barren and mountainous country must ever oppose great obstacles to improvement and civilization; but it is believed that these obstacles have seldom been more successfully overcome than in the highlands. Of this abundant proof might be found in the statistical account of Scotland, did not the high moral character observable in the highland regiments establish it beyond a doubt. Trans.
* M. Laplace discovered in the Mexican intercalation, for which I furnished him materials collected by Gama, that the duration of the tropical year of the Mexicans is almost the identical duration found by the astronomers of Almamon. For
and Egyptians, we are tempted to believe that this progress is not the effect of the intellectual developement of the Americans themselves, but that they were indebted for it to their communication with some very cultivated nations of central Asia. The Toultecs appeared in New Spain in the 7th, and the Aztecs in the 12th century; and they immediately drew up the geographical map of the country traversed by them, constructed cities, highways, dikes, canals, and immense pyramids very accurately designed, of a base of 438° metres in length. Their feudal system, their civil and military hierarchy, were already so complicated, that we must suppose a long succession of political events before the establishment of the singular concatenation of authorities of the nobility and clergy, and before a small portion of the people, themselves the slaves of the Mexican sultan, could have subjugated the great mass of the nation. We have examples of theocratical forms of government in South America; for such were those of the Zacs of Bogota (the ancient Cundinamarca), and of the Inca of Peru, two extensive empires, in which despotism was concealed under the appearance of a gentle and patriarchal government. But in Mexico, small colonies, wearied of tyranny, gave themselves republican constitutions. Now it is only after long popular struggles that these free constitutions can be formed. The existence of republics does not indicate a very recent civilization. How is it possible to doubt that a part of the Mexican nation had arrived at a certain degree of cultivation, when we reflect on the care with which their hieroglyphical books" were composed,
this observation, of such inportance in the history of the origin of the Aztecs, see Exposition du systeme du Monde, troisieme edition, p. 554.
* 1436 feet. Trans.
+The empire of the Zac, which comprehended the kingdom of New Grenada, was founded by idacanzas or Bochica, a mysterious personage, who, according to the traditions of the Mozcas, lived in the temple of the sun at Sogamozo during 2000 years. w
VOL. I. X
* The Aztec manuscripts are written either on agave paper, or on stag skins; they are frequently from 20 to 22 metres (65 to 71 English feet) in length; and each page contains from 7 to 10 centimetres, or from 100 to 150 square inches (French) of surface. These manuscripts are folded here and there in the form of a rhomb, and thin wooden boards fastened to the extremities form their binding, and give them a resemblance to our books in quarto. No nation of the old continent ever made such an extensive use of hieroglyphical writing ; and in none of them do we see real books bound in the way I have been describing. We must not confound with these books other Aztec paintings, composed of the same signs' but in the form of tapestries of 63 decimetres, or 60 square feet (French). I have seen some of them in the archives of the viceroyalty of Mexico; and I myself possess fragments of them, which I have caused to be engraved in the picturesque atlas which accompanies the historical account of my travels. Author.
The numbers in the above note are totally irreconcileable with one another. A centimetre is equal to .36941 of a