Page images

which there are the fewest negros. We may al. most say that there are no slaves. We may go through the whole city of Mexico without seeing a black countenance. The service of no house is carried on with slaves. In this point of view especially, Mexico presents a singular contrast to the Havanah, Lima, and Caraccas. From exact information procured by those employed in the enumeration of 1793, it appears that in all New Spain there are not six thousand negros, and not more than nine or ten thousand slaves, of whom the greatest number belong to the ports of Acapulco and Vera Cruz, or the warm regions of the coasts (tierras calientes). The slaves are four times more numerous in the capitania generat of Caraccas, which does not contain the sixth part of the population of Mexico. The negros of Jamaica are to those of New Spain in the propor. tion of 250 to 1! In the West India islands, Peru, and even Caraccas, the progress of agriculture and industry in general depends on the augmentation

In the island of Cuba, for example, where the annual exportation of sugar has risen in twelve years from 400,000

from 400,000 to 1,000,000 quintals, between 1792 and 1803 nearly 55,000* slaves have been introduced. But in Mexico the increase

of negros.

* According to the custom-house reports of the Havanah, of which I possess a copy, the introduction of negros, from 1799 to 1803, was 34,500, of whom 7 per cent. die annually.

[ocr errors]

of colonial prosperity is nowise occasioned by a more active slave trade. It is not above twenty years

since Mexican sugar was known in Europe ; Vera Cruz, at present, exports more than 120,000 quintals; and



cultivation which has taken place in New Spain since the revolution of St. Domingo has not perceptibly increased the number of slaves. Of the 74,000 negros annually furnished by Africa to the equinoxial regions of America and Asia, and which are worth in the colonies the sum of 111,000,000 francs*, not above 100 land on the coast of Mexico,

By the laws there can be no Indian slaves in the Spanish colonies ; and yet by a singular abuse, two species of wars very different in appearance give rise to a state very much like that of the African slave. The missionary monks of South America make from time to time incursions into the countries possessed by peaceable tribes of Indians, whom they call savages (Indios bravos), because they have not learned to make the sign of the cross like the equally naked Indians of the missions (Indios reducidos). In these nocturnal incursions, dictated by the most culpable fanaticism, they lay hold of all whom they can surprise, especially children, women, and old men. They separate without pity children from their mothers,

* 4,625,3701, sterling. Trans.

lest they should concert together as to the means of escape. The mork who is chief of this ex. pedition distributes the young people among the Indians of his mission who have the most contributed to the success of the Entrados. On the Orinoco, and on the banks of the Portuguese Rio Negro, these prisoners bear the name of Poitos; and they are treated like slaves till they are of an age to marry. The desire of having Poitos and making them work for eight or ten years induces the Indians of the missions to excite the monks to these incursions, which the bishops have generally had the good sense to blame, as the means of attaching odium to religion and its ministers. In Mexico the prisoners taken in the petty warfare which is carried on almost without interruption on the frontiers of the provincias internas experience a much more unhappy fate than the Poitos. They are generally of the nation of the Mecos or Apaches, and they are dra ged to Mexico, where they languish in the dungeons of a correction-house (la Cortada). Their ferocity is increased by solitude and despair. Transported to Vera Cruz and the island of Cuba, they soon perish, like every savage Indian removed from the high table-land in:o the lower, and consequently hotter regions. These Mecos prisoners sometimes break from their dungeors, and commit the most atrocious cruelties in the surrounding countries. It is high time that the government interested itself in these unfor.

tunate persons, whose number is small, and their situation so much the easier to be ameliorated.

It appears that at the commencement of the conquest there were a great number of these prisoners of war at Mexico, who were treated as the slaves of the conquerors. I found on this subject remarkable


in the testament of Hernan Cortez*, an historical monument worthy of being preserved from oblivion. This great captain, who, during the course of his victories, especially in his perfidious conduct towards the unfortunate Montezuma the Second, did not display much delicacy of consciences, began towards

a very

* Testamento que otorgó el Ercellentissimo Señor Don Heinan Cortez, Conquistador de la Nueva España hecho en Sevilla el 11 del mes de Octobre, 1547. The original of this very curious document, of which I caused a copy to be taken, exists in the archives of the house del Estado (of the Marquis del Valle) situated in the Plaza Mayor of Mexico. I found also in these archives a memoir drawn up by Cortez, shortly after the siege of Tenochtitlan, containing instructions relative to the making of roads, establishment of inns on the great roads, and other objects of general police.

Cortez, in his letters dated from la Ricca villa de Vera Cruz, describes the city of Tenochtitlan to the emperor Charles the Fifth as if he were speaking of the wonders of the capital of el Dorado. After transmitting to him all the information he could procure regarding the wealth “ of the powerful Lord Montezuma,” he assures his sovereign, that living or dead the Mexican king must fall into his hands, “ Certikquè a Vuestra Alteza que lo habria preso o muerto o subdito a la Real Corona de Vuestra Magestad(Lorenzana, p. VOL. I.


the end of his career to entertain scruples as to the legitimacy of the titles by which he possessed immense property in Mexico. He orders his son to make the most careful enquiries into the tributes levied by the Mexican lords who were proprietors of his marquisate before the arrival of the Spana iards at Vera Cruz; and he even wishes that the value of the tributes exacted in his name above the imposts formerly paid should be restored to the natives. Speaking of the slaves in the 39th and 41st articles of his testament, Cortez adds the following memorable words: “As it is doubtful if a christian can conscientiously employ as slaves Indians who have been made prisoners of war, , and as this point has never been rightly cleared up till this day, I order my son, Don Martin, and those of his descendants who shall po sess my property after me, to take every possible information as to the rights which may be legally exercised towards prisoners. The natives, who after paying me tribute have been forced to yield personal service, ought to be indemnified, if it shall be decided in the sequel that these personal services ought

have been demanded." From whom should we have expected decisions on such problematical questions as these, except from a pope or a coun

39). We are to observe that this project was conceived while the Spanish general was yet on the coast, and had had no communication with the ambassadors of Montezuma..

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »