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GENERAL POPULATION OF NEW SPAIN. DIVI
SION OF THE INHABITANTS INTO CASTS.
General enumeration in 1793. Progress of the population in
the ten following years. Proportion of births to burials.
The physical view which we have been rapidly sketching proves, that in Mexico, as elsewhere, nature has very unequally distributed her benefits. But men, unable to appreciate the wisdom of this distribution, neglect the riches which are within their reach. Collected together on a small extent of territory, in the centre of the kingdom, on the very ridge of the Cordillera, they have allowed the regions of the greatest fertility and the nearest to the coast to remain waste and uninhabited.
The population of the United States is concentrated in the Atlantic division, that is to say, the long and narrow district between the sea and the Alleghany mountains. In the capitania general of Caraccas, the only inhabited and well cultivated
districts are those of the maritime regions :-in Mexico improvement and civilization are banished into the interior of the country. In this the Spanish conquerors have merely trod in the steps of the conquered nations. The Aztecs, originally from a country to the north of the Rio Gila, perhaps even emigrants from the most northern parts of Asia, in their progress towards the south never quitted the ridge of the Cordillera, preferring these cold regions to the excessive heat of the coast.
That part of Anahuac which composed the kingdoin of Montezuma on the arrival of Cortez did not equal in surface the eighth part of the present kingdom of New Spain. The kings of Acolhuacan, Tlacopan, and Michuacan, were independent princes. The great cities of the Aztecs, and the best cultivated territories were in the environs of the capital of Mexico, particularly in the fine valley of Tenochtitlan. This alone was a sufficient reason to induce the Spaniards to establish there the centre of their new empire ; but they loved also to inhabit plains whose climate resemb.ed that of their own country, and where they could cultivate the wheat and fruit trees of Europe. Indigo, cotton, sugar and coffee, the four great objects of West Indian commerce, were to the conquerors of the sixteenth century of very infe. rior interest ; they sought after the precious metals 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 popu. lation 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 Filth, 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 ardo!ır, the arms of eloquence against the cruelty of the first colonists.
* 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. 232.
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 must 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
* Relacion de la ciudad de Truxillo por el Doctor Feyjoo, 1763, p. 29.