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only with avidity, and the search for these metals fixed them on the ridge of the central mountains of New Spain. It is equally difficult to estimate with any degree of certainty the number of inhabitants of the kingdom of Montezuma, as to ascertain the ancient population of Egypt, Persia, Greece, or Latium. The extensive ruins of towns and villages observed in Mexico under the 18° and 20° of latitude, undoubtedly prove that the former population of that part of the kingdom was much greater than the present. This interesting fact is confirmed by the letters from Cortez to Charles the I isth, the memoirs of Bernal Dias, and a great number of other historical monuments *. But when we reflect how difficult it is even in our days to acquire accurate statistical information, we need not be astonished at the ignorance in which we are left by the authors of the sixteenth century, as to the ancient population of the West Indies, Peru, and Mexico. We see in history, on the one hand, conquerors eager to make the most of the fruit of their exploits; and the Bishop of Chapa and a small number of benevolent men, on the other, employing, with a noble ardour, the arms of eloquence against the cruelty of the first colonists. All parties were equally interested in exaggerating the flourishing state of the three newly discovered countries. The fathers of St. Francis boasted of having alone baptized from the year 1524 to 1540 more than six millions of Indians, and, what is more, of Indians who merely inhabited the parts most adjacent to the capital. A striking example may serve to shew us how circumspect we ought to be in yielding implicit faith in the numbers found in the old descriptions of America. It has recently been printed", that in the enumeration of the inhabitants of Peru, made by the archbishop of Lima, Fray Geronimo de Loaysa, in 1551, were found 8,285000 Indians. This is an afflicting fact for those who know that in 1793, on a very exact enumeration ordered by Gil-Lemos, the viceroy, the Indians of the present Peru (since the separation of Chili and Buenos Ayres) did not exceed 600,000 individuals. Here we might be tempted to believe that 7,600,000 Indians had disappeared from the face of the globe. Luckily, however, the assertion of the Peruvian author is entirely false; for on the most careful investigation of the archives of Lima by Father Cisneros, it has been discovered that the existence of eight millions in 1551 rests on no historical document. M. Feyjoo, the author of the statistical account of Truxillo, has even since declared that this bold assertion was merely founded on a supposititious calculation, from the enumeration of so many ruined towns, since the epoch of the conquest. These ruins appeared to him demonstrative of an immense population in Peru at a remote period. It frequently happens, however, that the examination of an erroneous opinion leads to some important truth. Father Cisneros, on rummaging in the archives of the sixteenth century, discovered that the viceroy Toledo, very justly regarded as the Spanish legislator of Peru, reckoned in 1575, in the examination of the kingdom which he made in person from Tumbez to Chuquisagua (which is nearly the present extent of Peru), only about a million and a half of Indians. Nothing in general is more vague than the judgment which we form of the population of a newly discovered country. The celebrated Cook estimated the number of inhabitants of Oteheite at 100,000; the protestant missionaries of Great Britain suppose a population of 49,000 souls; Captain Wilson reduces it to 16,000; and M. Turnbull has attempted to prove that the real number of inhabitants does not exceed 5,000. I cannot allow myself to believe that these differences are the effect of a progressive depopulation. The maladies with which the civilized nations of Europe infected these once happy countries must, no doubt, have caused a depopulation; but it could never have been so rapid as to carry off in forty years nineteen-twentieth parts of the inhabitants *. We have already mentioned that the environs of the capital of Mexico, and perhaps all the countries under the domination of Montezuma, were probably much more populous formerly than at present"; but this great population was concentrated in a very small space. We observe (and the observation is consoling for humanity) that not only has the number of Indians been on the increase for the last century, but that the whole of the vast region which we designate by the general name of New Spain is much better inhabited at present than it, was before the arrival of the Europeans. The first of these assertions is proved by the state of the capitation which we shall afterwards give; and the last is founded on a very simple consideration. In the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Otomites, and other barbarous people, occupied the countries situated to the north of the rivers Panuco and Santiago; but since an improved cultivation of the soil and civilization have advanced towards New Biscay and the provincias internas, the population has increased there with the rapidity every where remarked where a nation of shepherds is replaced by agricultural colonists f.
* See the judicious observations of the Abbe Clavigero on the ancient population of Mexico, directed against Robertson and Pauw. Storia antica di Messico, t. IV. p. 2S2.
* Captain Cook may have somewhat exaggerated the number of inhabitants of Otaheite; but when we consider that he did not form his estimate so much from conjectural circumstances as from having seen the whole population of the island, drawn to the coast by the novel appearance of the strangers, pass, as it were, in review before him, we shall be perhaps rather inclined to acquiesce in this estimate. We shall be the more induced to this when we consider how near soldiers or sailors, accustomed to form rapid estimates of the numbers of masses of men, often approach to the truth. Besides Captain Cook was in general extremely sober and moderate in his judgments.
That the population, then, has declined prodigiously is almost, certain; and it is no less certain, that whatever produced the physical alteration in the inhabitants related by Vancouver, must have contributed in no small degree to the decline. This navigator, as is well known, twice visited the island. In the first voyage when he accompanied Cook, the beauty of the inhabitants, particularly the females, was universally remarked; but in the last voyage, in which were several of those who had been, as well as Vancouver, of the former, they all agreed that the appearance of the people was totally changed, and they did not discover a single woman in thc island who was not deformed and ugly. Trans.
* Clavigero, Storia antica di Messico, t. I. p. 36.
+ The author may be very probably in the right; yet it is but an indifferent proof that the population of the whole kingdom has increased, because, in those places where shepherds have given place to agriculturists, the population has been rapidly increasing. By a similar mode of reasoning, it may be concluded that the population of Britain is on the decline, because the population of the highlands of Scotland, converted from agriculture to sheep farming, is on the decline. Trans.
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