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his Mexican name of Motolinia, asserts that the 'small-pox at its introduction in 15z), by a negro : slave of Narvaez, carried off the half of the inhabitants of Mexico. Torquemada advances the hazardous opinion that in the two matlazahuatl epidemics of 1545 and 1576, 800,000 Indians died in the former and 2,000,000 in the latter. But when we reflect on the difficulty with which we can at this day estimate, in the eastern part of Europe, the number of those who fall victims to the plague, we shall very reasonably be inclined to doubt if the viceroys Mendoza and Almanza, governors of a recently conquered country, were able to procure an enumeration of the Indians cut off by the matlazahuatl. I do not accuse the two monkish historians of want of veracity; but there is very little probability that their calculation is founded on exact data.
A very interesting problem remains to be resolved. Was the pest, which is said to have desolated from time to time the Atlantic regions of the United States before the arrival of the Europeans, and which the celebrated Rush and his followers look upon as the principle of the yellow fever, identical with the matlazahuatl of the Mexican Indians ? We may hope that this last disease, should it ever re-appear in New Spain, will be hereafter carefully observed by the physicians.
A third obstacle to the progress of population in New Spain, and perhaps the most cruel of all,
is famine. The American Indians, like the inhabitants of Hindostin, are contented with the smallest quantity of aliment on which life can be supported, and increase in number without a proportional increase in the means of subsistence. Naturally indolent, from their fine climate and generally fertile soil, they cultivate as much maize, potatoes, or wheat as is necessary for their own subsistence, or at most for the additional consumption of the adjacent towns and mines. Agriculture, it is true, has made great progress within the last twenty years; but the consumption has also increased in an extraordinary manner from the augmentation of population, and an excessive luxury formerly unknown to the mixed casts, and from the working of a great number of new seams, which require additional men, horses, and mules. Few hands, no doubt, are employed in manufactures in New Spain ; but a great number are withdrawn from agriculture from the necessity of transporting on mules goods and the produce of the mines, iron, powder, and mercury from the coast to the capital, and from thence to the mines along the ridge of the Cordilleras.
Thousands of men and animals pass their lives on the great roads between Vera Cruz and Mexico, Mexico and Acapulco, Oaxaca and Durango, and the cross roads by which provisions aré carried to the habitations established in arid and un. ' cultivated regions. This class of inhabitants,
called by the economists in their system, sterile and nonproductive, is consequently more numer. ous in America than might be expected in a coun. try where manufacturing industry is yet so little advanced. The want of proportion between the progress of population and the increase of food from cultivation renews the afflicting spectacle of famine, whenever a great drought or any other local cause has damaged the crop of maize. Scarcity of provisions has always been accompanied in all times and all parts of the globe with epidemical diseases fatal to population *. The want of nourishment in 1784 gave rise to asthenical diseases among the most indigent class of the people. These accumulated calamities cut off a great number of adults, and a still greater number of children ; and it was computed that in the town and mines of Guanaxuato more that 8000 individuals perished. A very remarkable meteorological phenomenon contributed principally to the scarcity : the maize, after an extraordinary drought, was nipt by frost on the night of the 28th August, and, what is more sin. gular, at an elevation of 1800 metres *. The number of inhabitants carried off by this fatal union of famine and disease throughout the whole surface of the kingdom was estimated at more than 300,000. This number will appear the less astonishing to us when we consider, that even in Europe the population is sometimes diminished by scarcity, more than it is augmented by the ex. cess of births above the deaths for four consecutive years. There perished in Saxony, for example, in 1772, near 66,000 inhabitants, while the excess of births above the deaths was not, communibus annis, from 1764 to 1784 more than 17,000 t.
* This position requires qualification. Dr. Smith has, I believe, well remarked that in years of scarcity there are, perhaps, fewer diseases and deaths than usual, from the diminished consumption of spirituous liquors by the common people, one of the most productive sources of disease. The position will undoubtedly, however, hold with regard to a Hindoo or Indian population, who in years of plenty bave no more than merely supports animal life, and to whom, therefore, any reduction must always prove fatal. Trans.
The effects of famine are common to almost
* 5904 feet. Trans.
+ The translator is afraid that this number of 66,000 includes the whole deaths of Saxony in 1772, in which case the statement that the diminution of population from the famine exceeded the augmentation from the excess of births for four consecutive years will fall to the ground. Every one knows that it is impossible to state exactly the number of deaths from famine in any country, as literally few or none die of famine, but of diseases occasioned by a defective diet, which can never be separated in any bill of mortality from diseases owing to other causes. The nearest approximation, however, is to be found by deducting the average mortality from the increased mortality in any given year of scarcity. I think it extremely probable that M. de Humboldt has not adopted this method. He elsewhere states that the adjacent country of Prussia bad, in 1802, on a population of nine millions, 282,109 deaths, If we take Mr. Pinkerton's estimate of the Saxon population,
all the equinoxial regions. In the province of New Andalusia in South America I have seen villages whose inhabitants were forced by famine to disperse themselves from time to time in the deserts to pick up a subsistence from the wild plants. In vain the missionaries employ their authority to prevent this dispersion. In the province de los Pustos, the Indians when the potatoi's fail, which are their principal nourishment, repair sometimes to the most elevated ridge of the Cordillera to subsist on the juice of the achupallas, a plant related to the genus pitcarnia, The Otomacks at Uruana, on the banks of the Orinoco, swallow, during several months, potter's earth, to absorb by this load the gastric juice, and to satisfy, in some sort, the hunger which torments them *. In the islands of the South Sea, in a fertile soil, where nature has lavished all her blessings, the inhabitants are frequently driven by famine to devour one another. Under the torrid zone, where a beneficent hand seems every where to have scattered the germ of abundance, man, careless and phlegmatic, experiences pe
2,104,000, say, however, 2,000,000, and assume a mortality for it proportionate to that of Prussia, we shall find the number of deaths 62,869. If, supposing then 60,000 the mortality of 1772, and 62,869 the average mortality, the increase by famine in 1772 would only be 3311. This is a much more likely number than the enormous one given by M. de Humboldt; but the fact can easily be ascertained. Trans.
* See my Tableaux de la Nature, t. I. p. 62, 191, and 209.