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am. XL] KINGDOM or New SPAIN. +22
Cuba, of Darien, and the coast of Paria, had bracelets, rings, and necklaces of gold; but it is probable that the greatest part of that metal was not derived from the countries in which these tribes were found, at the end of the fifteenth century. In South America as well as in Africa, commercial communications existed, even among the hordes the most remote from civilization. Coral and beads of sea-shells were frequently found in the possession of men who lived at a great distance from the coast. We ascertained, during our journey on the Orinoco, that the famous Mahagua stone, or the Amazons jade, is conveyed, by means of an exchange established among different tribes of savages, from Brazil to the banks of the Carony, inhabited by the Caraib Indians. Besides, it is to be remarked, that the»-people found -by the Spaniards in Darien, for the island of Cuba, had not always inhabited the same countries. In America the great migrations have taken place from the north-west, to the south-east: and frequently whole tribes have been forced by wars to quit the mountains, and settle in the the plains. We can conceive, therefore, .in what manner the gold of Sonora, or the valley of the Rio Cauca, might have been found among the savages of the Darien, or at the mouths of
4-24 POLITICAL ESSAY ON THE _[noox IV.
i/imillfleiiy, where man had never before pene-
To form some idea of the spoil in gold and
lated by the historians of the conquest. I have carefully examined these facts, and endeavoured to collect all the passages where the wealth which fell into the hands of 1 the Europeans is estimated in pesos ensayados, or in castellanos de oro ,- for it is from these data, and not from the vague, and frequently repeated expressions of “ enormous quantity of gold or immense treasures,” that we shall be able to obtain satisfactory results. . 6. . In 1502, Ovando sent to Spain a fleet of eighteen vessels, commanded by-Bovadilla and Roldan, and laden with a great quantity -of gold. The greater part of these vessels perished in the famous tempest in which Christopher Columbus nearly lost his life, in his first voyage, on the shores of St. Domingo. The historians of the time consider this fleet as one of the richest ; and yet they all agree that the freight in gold did not exceed 200,000 pesos‘, which, reckoning them as pesos de minus at 1/1< reals, make the moderate sum of 1,750,000 livres tournois ’r, or 2,560 marcs of gold. The presents which Cortez received on his passage through Chalco only amounted to.3000 pesos
426 POLITICAL ESSAY ON THE [noon Iv.
When Montezuma assembled his vassals» to take the oath of fidelity to the Emperor Charles the Fifth, who, as they were made to believe, descended in a straight line from Quetzalcoatlfl the Bouddha of the Aztecs, Cortez demanded a tribute in gold: “I feigned,” he writes to the Emperor, “ that your highness was in great “ want of this metal for certain works which “ you wished to execute.” The fifth of the tribute, paid into the chest of the army, amounted to 82,400 pesosi; from which we are to conclude that the quantity of gold collected by the stratagem of the general, amounted to 2080 mares. At the taking of Tenochtitlan, the spoil which fell into the hands of the Spaniards did not, according to the assertion of Cortez, exceed in weight, 180,000 castellanos, or 2600 marcs of goldi; and, according to
* See my Vues des Cordilleras, and Monumens de Z’ Amérigue, Pl. vii.
1- Cartas de Hernagz Cortez, Carta i. § xxix. p. 98.
1 Carta iii. §1i. p. 801. The expression sefundifi mas de 130,000 castellanos is doubtful. We are ignorant whether Cortez speaks of castellanos as a weight, or as an imaginary coin. I follow, with the Abbé Clavigero, the former hypothesis, (Storia de Messico, T. iii. p. 232.) In the second case, the spoil would only have been 1660 marcs of gold ; for Herrera expressly says, that “ Castellano y peso “ es uno,” and, according to him, a peso de minas is worth 14¢ reals; a peso ensayada, thirteen reals (de plata) and one quartillo. Decada viii. Lib. ii. c.10. T.v. p. 44.
can. XL] KINGDOM 015 NEW SPAIN; 427
Bernal Diaz, it amounted to 380,000 pesos,
* £822,438 Sterling. Trans.
1- Garcilasso, P. ii. Lib. i. c. 28.and 38. (T. ii. p. 27. and 51.)