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This is not the place to discuss the great problem of the Asiatic origin of the Toultecs or Aztecs. The general question of the first origin of the inhabitants of a continent is beyond the limits prescribed to history; and is not, perhaps, even a philosophical question. There undoubtedly existed other people in Mexico at the time when the Toultecs arrived there in the course of their migration, and therefore to assert that the Toultecs are an Asiatic race is not maintaining that all the Americans came originally from Thibet or oriental Siberia. De Guignes attempted to prove by the Chinese annals that they visited America posterior to 458; and Horn, in bis ingenious work de Originibus Americanis, published in 1699, M. Scherer in his historical researches respecting the new world, and more recent writers, have made it appear extremely probable that old relations existed between Asia and America.
I have elsewhere advanced* that the Toultecs, or Aztecs, might be a part of those Hiongnoux, who, according to the Chinese historians, emigrated under their leader Punon, and were lost in the north parts of Siberia. This nation of warrior-shepherds has more than once changed the face of oriental Asia, and desolated under the name of Huns the finest parts of civilized Europe. All these conjectures will acquire more
* Tableaux de la Nature, vol. I. p. 53.
probability when a marked analogy shall be discovered between the languages of Tartary and those of the new continent; an analogy, which, according to the latest researches of M. Barton Smith, extends only to a very small number of words. The want of wheat, oats, barley, rye, and all those nutritive gramina which go under the general name of cereal, seems to prove, that if Asiatic tribes passed into America, they must have descended from pastoral people. We see in the old continent that the cultivation of cereal gramina, and the use of milk, were introduced as far back as we have any historical records. The inhabitants of the new continent cultivated no other gramina than maize (Ze«). They fed on no species of milk, though the lamas, alpacas, and in the north of Mexico and Canada two kinds of indigenous oxen, would have afforded them milk in abundance. These are striking contrasts between the Mongol and American race.
Without losing ourselves in suppositions as to the first country of the Toultecs and the Aztecs, and without attempting to fix the geographical position of those ancient kingdoms of Huehuetlapallan and Aztlan, we shall confine ourselves to the accounts of the Spanish historians. The northern provinces, New Biscay, Sonora, and New Mexico, were very thinly inhabited in the l6th century. The natives were hunters and shepherds; and they withdrew as the European
conquerors advanced towards the north. Agriculture alone attaches man to the soil, and develops the love of country. Thus we see that in the southern part of Anahuac, in the cultivated region adjacent to Tenochtitlan, the Aztec colonists patiently endured the cruel vexations exercised towards them by their conquerors, and suffered every thing rather than quit the soil which their fathers had cultivated. But in the northern provinces, the natives yielded to the conquerors their uncultivated savannas, which served for pasturage to the buffaloes. The Indians took refuge beyond the Rio Gila, towards the Rio Zaguanas and the mountains de las Grullas. The Indian tribes who formerly occupied the territory of the United'States and Canada followed the same policy; and chose rather to withdraw, first, behind the Alleghany mountains, then behind the Ohio, and lastly behind the Missoury, to avoid being forced to live among the Europeans. From the same cause we find the copper-coloured race neither in the provincias internas of New Spain, nor in the cultivated parts of the United States.
The migrations of the American tribes having been constantly carried on from north to south, at least between the sixth and twelfth centuries, it is certain that the Indian population of New Spain must be composed of very heterogeneous elements. In proportion as the population flowed towards the south, some tribes would stop in their progress, arid mingle with the tribes which followed them. The great variety of languages still spoken in the kingdom of Mexico proves a great variety of races and origin, i The number of these languages exceeds twenty, of which fourteen have grammars and dictionaries tolerably complete. The following are their names: the Mexican or Aztec language; the Otomite; the Tarasc; the Zapotec; the Mistec; the Maye, or Yucatan; the Totonac; the Popolouc; the Matlazing; the Huastec; the Mixed; the Caquiquel; the Taraumar; the Tepehuanj and the Cora. It appears that the most part of these languages, far from being dialects of the same (as some authors have falsely advanced), are at least as different from one another as the Greek and the German, or the French and Polish. This is the case at least with the seven languages of New Spain, of which I possess the vocabularies. The variety of idioms spoken by the people of the new continent, and which, without the least exaggeration, may be stated at some hundreds, offers a very striking phenomenon, particularly when we compare it with the few languagesspoken in Asia and Europe. i The Mexican language, that of the Aztecs, is the most widely diffused, and extends at present from the 37° to the lake of Nicaragua, for a length of 400 leagues. The Abbe Clavigero* has proved
that the Toultecs, the Chichimecks (from whom the inhabitants of Tlascala are descended), the Acolhues, and the Nahuatlacs, all spoke the same language as the Mexicans. This language is not so sonorous* but almost as diffused and as rich as that of the Incas. After the Mexican or Aztec language, of which there exists eleven printed grammars, the most general language of New Spain is that of the Otomites.
I could not fail to interest the reader by a minute description of the manners, character, and physical and intellectual state of those indigenous inhabitants of Mexico, which the Spanish laws designate by the name of Indians. The general interest displayed in Europe for the remains of the primitive population of the new continent has its origin in a moral cause, which does honour to humanity. The history of the conquest of America and Hindostan present* the picture of an unequal struggle between nations far advanced in arts, and others in the very lowest degree of civilization. The unfortunate race of Aztecs escaped from the carnage appeared destined to annihilation under an oppression of several centuries. We have difficulty in believing that nearly two millions and a half of aborigines could survive such lengthened cala
* The word Notlazomahuiztespixcatatzin signifies, venerable priest whom I cherish as my father. The Mexicans use this word of 27 letters when speaking to the priests (curh).