Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Pizarro, at the head of his chosen band, advanced directly towards the Inca; and though his nobles crowded around him with offici. ous zeal, and fell in numbers at his feet, while they vied one with another in facrificing their own lives, that they might cover the Sacred, person of their sovereign, the Spaniards soon penetrated to the royal seat; and Pizarro seizing the Inca by the arm, dragged him to the ground, and carried him as a prisoner to his quarters. The fate of the monarch increased the precipitate flight of his fol. lowers. The Spaniards pursued thein towards every quarter, and with deliberate and unrelenting barbarity continued to Naughter wretched fugitives, who never once offered at resistance. The car. n'age did not ceafe until the close of day. Above four thousand Peruvians were killed. Not a single Spaniard fell, nor was one wounded but Pizarro himself, whole hand was Nightly hurt by one of his own soldiers, while struggling eagerly to lay hold on the Inca.'

This tranfaâion exhibits a most striking proof of the finplicity and timidity of the Peruvians. That they should permit their monarch, in the center of his dominions abounding with people, to be made a prisoner, in a manner so ignomi.. nious by a handful of men, without a single effort having been made to defend or rescue him, is an example of pufillanimity to which, perhaps, the history of mankind affords no parallel. This event decided the fate of Peru. The Inca resigning all confidence in the military operations of his subjects, turned his thoughts intirely to negotiation. He soon discovered that avarice was the ruling passion of his conquerors. He offered therefore a ransom for his liberty, which astonished the Spaniards, even after all they knew of the opulence of his kingdom. The apartment in which he was confined was 22 feet in length and 15 in breadih, and he undertook to fill it with vessels of gold as high as he could reach. He actually performed his part of the agreement, but the Spaniards most perfidiously deceived him. They seized the treasure of the captive monarch, and still detained him in custody. They foon proceeded to a much higher act of treachery and injustice. They pretended to bring to a trial before a tribunal of Spanish judges the independent Emperor of Peru, on the ridiculous arraign. ment, that he had rebelled against his lawful sovereign the king of Castile, to whom the pope had granted a right to his dominions. Men who could thus prostitute the forms of law and justice had resolved to commit murder, and were solicitous only to avoid the infamy of it. The trial accordingly terminated in condemnation, and the unfortunate Atahualpa foon after suffered the death of a criminal.

The remaining part of this book' contains an account of the conquest of the kingdoms of Quito and Chili; of the discovery of the extensive regions between the Andes and the Atlantic ocean, in the voyage down the Maragnon, conducted by Orel

lana ;

[ocr errors]

lana; and of the diffensions and civil wars among the Spaniards in Peru. But we must refer the reader to the History itself for information with respect to these curious and interesting events. The limits by which we are confined will not permit us to abridge all the important events and tranfactions which our ingenious historian has recorded. Though the empires of Mexico and Peru might be reckoned polished when compared with the rude tribes who occupied the rest of the continent and the islands of America ; yet, when compared with the refined states of the ancient continent, they seem scarcely to have advanced beyond the infancy of fociety, or to have merited other appellations than those of favage and barbarous. They were destitute of two capital advantages requifite to cultivated society, the knowledge of the useful metals, and the fervice of the inferior animals. . Even with all that command over nature which these confer, many ages elapfe before an idea is conceived of the various institutions necessary in a well ordered society. But so insurmountable mult' have been the disadvantages arising from the want of them, that a community could not be denominated civilized where they were unknown.

In delineating the institutions and policy of the Mexicans and Peruvians, the author discusses those of each empire a. part, and enumerates, first, the circumstances which would determine us to rank the inhabitants among polished nations, and, fecondly, the circumstances which would induce us to affign them a place among savages. But as we cannot treat the subo ject so much in detail, we shall content ourselves with specifying some of the most remarkable particulars relative to both.

In Mexico as well as Peru the idea of property was fully established, and the lands were divided among different orders of the people. In the former, some possessed it in full right, .and it descended to their heirs. The title of others to their

lands was derived from the office or dignity which they ena joyed, and when deprived of the one they loft poffeffion of 'the other. Both these modes of occupying land were deemed noble and peculiar to citizens of the highest rank. The tenure by which the great body of the people held their property was very different. In every district a certain quantity of land was measured out, in proportion to the number of families. This was cultivated by the joint labour of the whole, its produce was deposited in a common store house, and divided among them in proportion to their respective exigencies. In the latter, all the landscapable of cultivation were divided into three shares: one was consecrated to the sun, and whatever it produced was applied towards the erection of temples,

and

and furnishing what was requisite towards celebrating the public rite of religion ; another belonged to the Inca, and was fet apart as the provision made by the community for the support of government; the third and largest share was reserved for the maintenance of the people, among whom it was parcelled out.

No person however had an exclusive right to the por.' tion allotted him. He pofseffed it only for a year, at the ex. piration of which a new division was made in proportion to the rank, the number and the exigences of each family. All these lands were cultivated by the joint labour of the community.

In these empires also we discover manifest marks of a civil constitution, the establishment of laws and police, and different ranks and orders of men.

The monarchy of Mexico was elective: the right of election seems to have been originally vested in the whole body of the nobility, who amounted to thirty in number, but was afterwards limited to fix of them. Each of these had in his territories about 100,000 people ; and fubordinate to these there were about 3000 nobles of a lower class. The greater nobles poffefsed complete territorial jurisdiction, and levied taxes from their own vassals; but all of them followed the standard of Mexico in war, serving with a number of men in proportion to their domain, and most of them paid tribute to its monarch as their superior lord. Complete jurisdiction, civil as well as criminal, over its immediate vassals was vested in the crown. It appointed judges for each department, imposed taxes accord. ing to established rules, and stationed public couriers at proper intervals to convey intelligence. The construction also of roads, aqueducts, and bridges, however imperfect, marks a progress in police; and the appointment of persons to clean the streets of Mexico, and to patrole as watchinen, discovers a degree of attention which even polished nations are late in acquiring.

The government of Peru was the most absolute despotisin ; but the obedience of the subject was not founded in fear, the usual principle in similar governments, it lowed entirely from conviction of the superior title and ability of the sovereign to command. The Peruvians regarded their monarchs as beings of heavenly extraction, and poffeffed of the most pure inclination, as well as of sufficient power to take proper care of their interests. The will of the emperor was therefore listened to with attention, and obeyed with cheerfulness.,

The difference of rank was established, in Peru. A great body of the people, under the denomination of ranacanas, were held in a state of servitude. Next to them were fuch of the people as were free, but were distinguished by no hereditary or official honours. Above them were the Orejones, who might

be

[ocr errors]

be denominated the order of nobles, and who, in peace as well aş war, held every office of power and trust. At the head of all were the children of the sun, who by their high descent and peculiar priviledges, were as much exalted above the Orejones, as they were elevated beyond the people.'

The Peruvians had built very few cities, but their country abounded with temples and other edifices. The temple of Pachacamac, together with a palace of the Inca, and a fortress, were so conjoined as to form a structure above half a league in circuit. As they had no engines for elevating stones, the walls of this edifice, in which they seem to have made their greatest efforts towards magnificence, did not rise above twelve feet from the ground; and though they knew not the use of cement, the stones were joined with so much nicety that the seams could hardly be discerned. The apartments however were ill disposed, and there was not a single window in any part of the building.

But the most surprising monuments of the art of the Peruviáns, is the two great roads extending without interruption, above 5oo leagues from Cuzco to Quito. The one was con, ducted through the interior and mountainous part of the country, the other along the plains on the sea-coast. These roads however were constructed only for the use of the human foot, as the Peruvians were unacquainted with every beast of burden. In many places the path of the traveller is marked only by erect posts especially along the plains; and even where the road traverses the mountains, no more was done than to form it of such materials as happened to lie in its courfe. The fa. inous hanging bridges thrown over the streams which intersect. ed it in pouring down from the high grounds, were framed of Hrong cables of twisted ofiers interwoven and covered with turf,

The religion of these empires is the last particular we shall mention, and this article is rendered particularly curious and interesting on account of the striking contraft it exhibits between the gloomy, severe, and bloody tenets of the Mexicans; and the chearful, the social, and beneficent principles of the Peruvians.

• The aspect of superstition in Mexico was gloomy and atrocious. Įts divinities were clothed with terror, and delighted in vengeance. They were exhibited to the people under detestable forms that created horror. The figures of serpents, of tygers, and of other destructive animals, decorated their temples. Fear was the only principle that inspired their votaries. Fasts, mortifications, and penances, all rigid and many of them excruciating to an extreme degree, were, the means which they employed to appease their wrath, and they never approached their altars without Sprinkling them with blood drawn from their own bodies. But, of all offer

ings,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ings, human sacrifices were deemed the most acceptable. This religious belief, mingling with the implacable spirit of vengeance, and adding new force to it, every captive taken in war was brought to the temple, was devoted as a victim to the deity, and sacrificed with rites no less solemn than cruel. The heart and head were the portion consecrated to the gods; the warrior by whose prowess the prisoner had been seized, carried off the body to feast upon it with his friends. Under the impression of ideas so dreary and terrible, and accustomed daily to scenes of bloodshed rendered awful by religion, the heart of man must harden, and be steeled to every Sentiment of humanity. The spirit of the Mexicans was accordingly unfeeling and atrocious. The genius of their religion so far counterbalanced the influence of policy and arts, that, notwithstanding their progress in both, their manners, instead of softening, became more fierce. To what circumitances it was owing that fuperftition afsuined such a dreadful form among the Mexicans, we have not sufficient knowledge of their history io determine. But its influence is visible, and produced an effect that is singular in the history of the human species. The manners of the people in the new world who had made the greatest progress in the arts of policy, were the most ferocious, and the barbarity of some of their customs exceeded even those of the favage state.

• The system of fuperftition on which the Incas ingrafted their pretensions to such bigh authority, was of a genius very different from that established among the Mexicans. Manco Capac turned the veneration of his followers entirely towards natural objects. The sun, as the great source of light, of joy, and fertility in the creation, attracted their principal homage. - The moon and stars, as co-operating with him, were entitled to fecondary honours. Where. ever the propensity in the human mind to acknowledge and to adore some superior power, takes this direction, and is employed in contemplating the order and beneficence that really exist in nature, the spirit of fuperftition is mild. Wherever imaginary beings created by the fancy and fears of men, are supposed to prefide in nature, and become the objects of worship, superstition always assumes a wilder and more atrocious form. Of the lat, ter we have an example among the Mexicans, of the former among the people of Peru. They had not indeed, made fuch progress in observation or inquiry, as to have attained just conceptions of the deity; nor was there in their language any proper name or ap: pellation of the supreme power, which intimated that they had formed any idea of him as the creator and governor of the world. But by directing their veneration to that glorious luminary, which, by its universal and vivifying energy, is the best emblem of divine beneficence, the rites and oblervances which they deemed acceptable to him were innocent and humane. They offered to the fun a part of those productions which his genial warmth had called forth from the borom of the earth, and reared to maturity. They facrificed, as an oblation of gratitude, some of the animals who were indebted to his influence for nourishment. They prefented to him choice specimens of those works of ingenuity which his light bad guided the hand of man in forming. But the Incas never stained his altars with human blood, nor could they conceive that their beneficent father the sun would be delighted with such horrid victims. Thus the Peruvians, unacquainted with those barbarous rites which extinguish sensibility, and suppress the feel

« AnteriorContinuar »