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The vegetable productions which presents were brought to him-culsupply the necessaries of life are tivation, aided by irrigating canals, numerous and remarkably produc- overspread the plains and valleys-tive. Maize, which of all the in- populous cities rose in his path. digenout productions of the New There was a well-ordered administraWorld has been of the greatest tive system, and a powerful priestvalue to Europe, yields about two hood. Immense teocallis, or pyrahundred-fold, and on the best culti- midal temples, rose in stages to the vated land five hundred-fold; and height of 100 to 300 feet and more in the coast-region, so inetimes three covering so much ground, that the crops of it are raised within the base of one of them, not remarkable year. The banana, the most prolific for its height, was tu ice as large of all vegetables, likewise abounds as that of the Great Pyramid of in Mexico, and might support a Ghizeh: while from their summits population of unusual density. perpetual fires blazed, lighting the Planted with the banana, a piece darkness of night with strange and of land will yield a weight of fruit lurid gleams. Under the Emperor a hundred and thirty times greater were Caciques, or great nobles (like than if planted with wheat, and the Daimios of Japan), ruling their fifty times greater than if planted provinces in unswerving and devoted with poiatoes. Wheat and barley, loyalty to the Emperor. There introduced from Europe, thrive in was a numerous and well-cared for the temperate region, and, owing army, with orders of koighthood to the natural ferlility of the soil, resembling those in Europe, - and yield large returns. The sugar- (remarkable fact) à Chelsea Hoscane of Mexico, famed for its un- pital or Hotel des Invalides, in rivalled abundance of saccharine which the veterans were cared for matter, is cultivated not only in the at the expense of the state. “It coast-region, but on the adjoining shall never be said," wrote the mountain-slopes, above the noxious grave and circumspect Cortez to influence of the terra caliente. The Charles V., “that I have exaggercotton plant, though yielding its ated facts. I shall do what is pos. finest qualities in the moist coast. sible to relate, as well as I can, a few, region, can be cultivated on the of which I have been an eye-wilness, higher grounds, especially as the so marvellous that they pass all beMexican plant is capable of resist- lief, and for which we cannot account ing the effects of frost. In truth, to our own selves." the vegetable productions, as well The wonder of the Spaniards was as the mineral wealth of Mexico, at its height when, after defiling are almost unrivalled in the world; through the mountain-passes, they and in course of time, when foreign entered the valley of Mexico, and capital has been iotrodu ved, and saw before them a great basin or when the population has increased plain seventy miles in diameter, alike in energy and in numbers, it bounded on all sides by lofty mounwill become a great exporting coun- tains, and studded with great and try, and will rise in prosperity while populous cities, clustering around benefiting the world at large. the series of connected lakes which
· To kliow what a country may lay in the centre of the valley. become, we must know what it has Several of those cities, like Tezcuco been. When Cortez landed on the and Cholula, had a population of mainland of America, he heard 150,000; and the whole valley was from all quarters the fame of a richly cultivated. In tbe centre of great empire and a magnificent the great lake, approached by three monarch; and when he began his causeways from the mainlard, rose memorable march inland from Vera the capital, Tenochtitlan (Mexico) Cruz, he soon met abundant proofs the Venice of the New World -of the prosperity of the country with 300,000 inhabitants. There and the power of its ruler. Superb were the royal palaces of Monte
zuma, one-storeyed, but covering and flowers for the market of the such large areas that one of them capital, which struck the Spaniards sufficed to contain the whole band alike with wonder and admiration.* of Cortez, including his Tlascalan “I think there is no Soldan nor allies. Pyramidal temples, in great infidel prince known up to this numbers, and of immense size, tower- time, who has himself waited upon ed aloft, with their perpetual fires re- with fo much display and magnififlected in the waters; and the houses, cence," said Cortez, when he reached coated with solid white stucco, Mexico and beheld the royalty of gleamed in the brilliant sunshine as Montezuma. In the mouth of if constructed of the precious metals. Cortez the phrase “Soldan" is a Like Venice, the city was intersected sort of superlative. Let us reinemwith canals from the lake, forming ber, too, that this was written to waiery highways, by which goods the Emperor Charles V., the greatcould be transported from the main- est European monarch of his time. land into the heart of the city; and There were botanical gardens, too, in the centre was the great market. before anything of ihe kind had place, surrounded by porticoes - been thought of in Europe - and twice as large as the city of Salaman- menager ies, and collections of birds. ca, said Cortez, and in which 60,000 “Hanging gardens," rivalling those persons could traffic with ease. “It of Babylon, adorned the mountainis the most beautiful thing in the sides, and the humblest of the peoworld," said Cortez, speaking of the ple bad a passion for flowers.t Nor capital, with bitter regret, when was intellectual cultivation forgotthe heroic defence of the Aztecs ten, and the monarch mingled with compelled him to demolish it house and took part in the assemblies of by house. Around all was the the men of letters, feeling that by great lake, crossed only by the so doing he added lustre to his three causeways, and dotted by ar- royalty. Their books were collected tificial floating islets, bearing fruits in libraries, and were written on
*" Another curiosity existed in the chinampas, or floating gardens, scattered over the lakes. These artificial islets, of fifty to a hundred yards long, served for the cultivation of vegetables and flowers for the market of the capital. Some of these islets had consistency enough for shrubs of some size to grow on, or to bear even a hut of light material. They were at pleasure moved to the bank by poles, or were made to move over the waters with their floral treasures by the same means. This spectacle impressed the Spaniards greatly, and, according to Bernal Diaz, made them say that they had been transported into an enchanted region like those they had read of in the romance of . Amadis de Gaul.'”—Chevalier': "Vexico,' vol. i. p. 31.
t * The Mexicans had a passion for flowers. They collected together in splendid gardens such as were remarkable for perfume or for brilliancy of colour. To these they added medicinal plants, methodically arranged-shrubs distinguished by their blogsonis or their foliage, by the excellency of their fruit or their berries-and also trees of elegant or majestic appearance. They delighted in laying out their terraces and bowers on billy slopes, where they looked as if suspended. Aqueducts brought thither water from a distance, which overflowed in cascades or filled spacious basins tenanted by the choicest fish. Mysterious pavilions were bidden among the foliage, end statues reared their forms amid the flowers. All the kinds of animals that we assemble in our gardens consecrated to science-such as the Jardin des Plantes at Paris, and the Zoological Gardens of London-contributed to the ornament or curi. osity of these resorts of pleasure. Birds were there of beautiful plumage, kept in ca ces as large as houses ; there also were wild beasts, animals of various kinds, and even serpents. Bernal Diaz there first beheld the rattlesnake, which he describes as having i castanets in its tail.' One of the royal gardens, two leagues from Tezcuco. way formed on the side of a hill, whose summit was reached by an ascent of five hundred steps, and was crowned by a basin, whence, by an effort of hydraulic skill, water flowed in succession into three other reservoirs, adorned with gigantic statues. Cortez also mentions the gardens of a Cacique which were not less than two leagues in circumference."-See Chevalier's ‘Mexico,' vol. i. p. 28-30.
leaves like ours, and not on rolls. passion, as conquerors, was to posHorses were. unknown, but posts sess themselves of the precious ores. were established throughout the The great nobles were killed or deempire, with relays of runners who spoiled,--the priesthood, the deposiwith marvellous speed transipitted taries of the national learning and the orders of the Emperor. So traditions, were persecuted and mas. fleet were these runners, and so ad- sacred; and the books were gathered mirably organised the system, that together and destroyed in the the fish which one day were swim- flames. The Indians were hurried ming in the waters of the Pacific or off to work in gangs in the mines. Atlantic, were next day served up The great cities were depopulated, at the royal table in the capital and crumbled into ruins. The for. The beauty of their goldsmiths'ests were felled or burnt, partly bework was praised as unrivalled by cause they afforded shelter to the Cortez, even when sending the very natives, partly in imitation of the articles to his Emperor, who would treeless plains of Castile; and the judge of them for himself. The soil, denuded of its natural covercotton plant was cultivated, and its ing, became arid and barren, and snowy pods were woven, and formed no longer attracted or retained as the clothing of the people. The before the fertilising showers. The vine was unknown, but they found · population is now probably not onea substitute in the sweet juices of third of what it was in the time the agave; while its pulp was con- of Montezuma. And by partially verted into paper, and its fibres draining the lakes of the valley, the into rope. They had explored the Spaniards have only uncovered an mineral treasures of the mountains, expanse of salt-impregnated soil -and possessed gold, silver, copper, a disfigurement to the eye, and tin, and even iron. In astronomi. utterly useless for cultivation. cal science. also, they were well ad- But this did not complete the vanced; and to the astonishment tale of ruin which has befallen of the Spaniards, they possessed a Mexico. In course of time evil calendar more perfect than that of days came for the whites themselves, Greece and Rome, or even than that and they began to suffer disasters at which prevailed in Europe under their own hands, as if in divine Francis I. and Charles V.
vengeance for those which they had This spectacle of grandeur and so ruthlessly inflicted on the natives. prosperity which met the eyes of The Government of the mother. Cortez and the other chroniclers of country became oppressive to the the Conquest disappeared like a Spanish population of Mexico, and dream. The numerous and civilised when they threw it off they only population dwindled and sank into fell into worse evils. Revolution barbarism. The very face of the after revolution, each accompanied country became changed. It was by a civil war, took place; and the not a Government studious to pre- country became a prey to military serve civilisation and order that factions. Private adventurers set made the Conquest, but a band of themselves in arms against the Goy. bigoted and rapacious adventurers. ernment of the hour, and if their inThe administrative system of the surrection proved successful, their Aztec Emperors fell into deciy; first care was to enrich themselves the reign of order was succeeded by and their followers at the expense of chaos and rapacity; cultivation was the rest of the community. Peaceful neglected, the people enslaved, the industry went to the wall; wealthy collections of science scattered, and citizens found themselves singled the libraries of literature destroyed out for extortion; and commercial “To the mines !” was the cry of enterprise gradually became exthe Spaniards. Their only thought, tinct. The profession of arms--if as Christians, was to obliterate and such a title can be applied to what destroy the pagan past; their only was simply brigandage — was the
only one which prospered, and was permitted to exist. He considered eagerly followed by the whole scum it probable, also, that the better of the population. Robbery and classes in Mexico would avail themmurder became even more common selves of the presence of the Allied than revolts. The whole country expedition to establish a Governwas a prey to licentious marauders, ment in accordance with their own and its whole strength was exhaust wishes, and the requirements of ed in internal commotions. One- civilisation. He did not avow his half of its territory was given up convictions on these points, at to the encroaching ambition of the least, not to England; but he trustUnited States. Texas, with its ed that, once fairly engaged in the prairies of exuberant fertility, and enterprise, his allies would see the California, with its immense mines necessity of proceeding further than of gold, were wrung from Mexico was originally agreed on. In truth by force of arms; and the vast ter- the convention was a blunder if ritory now known as New Mexico its terms were not to be exceeded. was ceded to the overbearing Cabinet What cared a ruler like Juarez for a of Washington for a trifling sum of seizure of a seaport or two! And money. Mexico was fast disappear- how ignoble would be the attitude ing from the map. The still exist- of the three great Powers if their ing half of the country seemed forces were simply to act as taxready to be absorbed as soon as the gatherers at Vera Cruz and Mata. people of the United States felt moros, while a full-blood Indian ihe desire for further annexations. like Juarez refused all redress, and Mexico was perishing by her own openly set them at defiance! But sins, when, fortunately for her, some when the question of a direct in of her own sins gave rise to an inter- tervention came to an issue, Spain, vention on the part of other Powers seeing that France would take the who had no selish ambition to grati- lead, withdrew in pique, and Eng. fy at her expense, and which was land patched up a useless treaty converted by the Emperor Napoleon with Juarez, and recalled her squad. into a means of rescuing her from ron. But the Emperor adhered to impending destruction.
his purpose. As usual, he had When the Mexicans murdered formed his plans and counted the and despoiled one ancther, they cost beforehand, and he would not were not likely to be more tender recede. He could not have reckoned towards foreign settlers. Several that England would willingly 1 enBritish and other foreign merchants gage in an intervention such as he and traders were murdered or de- designed, and so opposed to ber spoiled of their goods; the debts principles of policy; but doubtless due to foreign creditors were re- he did not expect to be left so sumpudiated, and the claims of foreign marily and entirely to his own re Governments were contumeliously sources. But the dife was cast. ignored. In those circumstances. The French troops could not be al. apparently at the suggestion of lowed to remain at Vera Cruz: exthe Emperor Napoleon - England, posed to the deadly malaria of the France, and Spain agreed to act in coast-region, They must either adconcert with a view to obtain re- vance into the interior, or be with dress for their wrongs. That the drawn at once. The advance was Emperor Napoleon meditated from ordered; the troops ascended to the outset an intervention in the the edge of the table-land, where internal affairs of Mexico is obvious the climate was temperate and from the tenor of his instructions healthy ; but there the march was to Adiniral Gravière, He foresaw stayed. The force was found quite that it was hopeless to expect re- inadequate to undertake a further dress from tho Mexican Govern- advanco; for some months the troops ment as long as that Government-- had difficulty in maintaining or rather that rule of anarchy-was their intrenched position at Orizaba
leaves like ours, and not on rolls. Horses were unknown, but posts were established throughout the empire, with relays of runners who with marvellous speed transmitted the orders of the Emperor. So fleet were these runners, and so admirably organised the system, that the fish which one day were swimming in the waters of the Pacific or Atlantic, were next day served up at the royal table in the capital. The beauty of their goldsmiths' work was praised as unrivalled by Cortez, even when sending the very articles to his Emperor, who would judge of them for himself. The cotton plant was cultivated, and its snowy pods were woven, and formed the clothing of the people. The
vine was unknown, but they found .
a substitute in the sweet juices of the agave; while its pulp was converted into paper, and its fibres into rope. They had explored the mineral treasures of the mountains, and possessed gold, silver, copper, tin, and even iron. In astronomical science. also, they were well advanced; and to the astonishment of the Spaniards, they possessed a calendar more perfect than that of Greece and Rome, or even than that which prevailed in Europe under Francis I. and Charles W. This spectacle of grandeur and prosperity which met the eyes of Cortez and the other chroniclers of the Conquest disappeared like a dream. The numerous and civilised population dwindled and sank into barbarism. The very face of the country became changed. It was not a Government studious to preserve civilisation and order that made the Conquest, but a band of bigoted and rapacious adventurers. The administrative system of the Aztec Emperors fell into decay; the reign of order was succeeded by chaos and rapacity; cultivation was neglected, the people enslaved, the collections of science scattered, and the libraries of literature destroyed. “To the mines 1" was the cry of the Spaniards. Their only thought, as Christians, was to obliterate and destroy the pagan past; their only
passion, as conquerors, was to possess themselves of the precious ores. The great nobles were killed or despoiled,—the priesthood, the depositaries of the national learning and traditions, were persecuted and massacred; and the books were gathered together, and destroyed in the flames. The Indians were hurried off to work in gangs in the mines. The great cities were depopulated, and crumbled into ruins. The forests were felled or burnt, partly because they afforded shelter to the natives, partly in imitation of the treeless plains of Castile; and the soil, denuded of its natural covering, became arid and barren, and no longer attracted or retained as before the fertilising showers. The population is now probably not onethird of what it was in the time of Montezuma. And by partially draining the lakes of the valley, the Spaniards have only uncovered an expanse of salt-impregnated soil— a disfigurement to the eye, and utterly useless for cultivation. But this did not complete the tale of ruin which has befallen Mexico. In course of time evil days came for the whites themselves, and they began to suffer disasters at their own hands, as if in divine vengeance for those which they had so ruthlessly inflicted on the natives. The Government of the mothercountry became oppressive to the Spanish population of Mexico, and when they threw it off they only fell into worse evils. Revolution after revolution, each accompanied by a civil war, took place; and the country became a prey to military factions. Private adventurers set themselves in arms against the Government of the hour, and if their insurrection proved successful, their first care was to enrich themselves and their followers at the expense of the rest of the community. Peaceful industry went to the wall; wealthy citizens found themselves singled out for extortion; and commercial enterprise gradually became extinct. The profession of arms—if such a title can be applied to what was simply brigandage — was the