Page images

" *

them.' Much have the Indians changed since then under the dominion of the Spaniard, and now all the toil and labour fall to the lot of the weaker sex. One custom still remaining amongst the Masaya Indians may be a relic of the old days of woman's superiority. When they marry, the goods that the wife had before her marriage still belong to her, and if she had a mule or horse, and her husband had none, he cannot use hers without her permission.

The poor Indians were ground down to the dust by the Spaniards with pitiless barbarities. All their possessions were seized, and they themselves exported to Panama and Peru, and sold as slaves to work at the mines. Even in Pascual's time the country had been greatly depopulated by these means. The people were harmless and patient, but there was a noble independence about them that could not be eradicated, and the Spaniards found it was cheaper to bring the negro from Africa, with his light and careless nature, than to try to enslave a people who did not resist, but who sought a refuge from their persecutors in the grave rather than continue in slavery. I shall not harrow the feelings of my readers with the mass of treachery, avarice, blasphemy, and horrible cruelties with which the conquerors rewarded the noble people who entertained them so courteously. To me the conquest of Mexico, Central America, and Peru appears one of the darkest pages in modern history. One virtue indeed shone out-undaunted courage; and the human mind is so constituted that this single redeeming point irresistibly enlists our

* This and the other quotation are from the “Narrative of Pascual de Andagoya,” translated by C. R. Markham, Esq. Hakluyt Soc.


sympathies. But for this, Pizarro would be execrated as a monster of cruelty, and even the fame of Cortez, immeasurably superior as he was to the rest of the conquerors, would be tarnished with innumerable deeds of violence, cruelty, and treachery.

As has been already mentioned, the Pacific provinces of Nicaragua were inhabited by a people closely related to the Mexicans, and their language was nearly the

According to Squier, who has more than any other traveller studied the different races, the Indians living at the island of Omotepec at the present time are of pure

Mexican or Aztec stock. So many of the names of towns in the central provinces are also of Aztec origin, that they must have had a considerable footing there also. They called the older inhabitants, whom they had probably dispossessed and driven back to the interior, “Chontalli," "barbarians," and hence the name of the province of Chontales, where these tribes still existed in considerable numbers at the time of the conquest.

All these races, differing as they did in language and in the degree of civilisation at which they had arrived, were closely affiliated.* The American archæologist, Mr. John D. Baldwin, is of opinion that they were the descendants of indigenes. That at some very remote period, before they had attained a high degree of civilisation, they separated into two branches, one of which occupied Peru, the other Central America and Mexico. Both branches advanced greatly in civilisation, and both


According to Prescott the Aztecs and cognate races believed their ancestors came from the north-west—and were preceded by the real civilisers—the Toltecs.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

afterwards deteriorated by being conquered by ruder but more warlike people belonging to the same stock. From Mexico the ancient people spread northward and southward. The northern emigrants peopled the banks of the Mississippi, and were the mound-builders. The southern emigrants peopled Central America. Then came an immigration from the far north-west, of nomadic tribes from north-eastern Asia, who drove out the moundbuilders. The latter retreated back to Mexico, that their fathers had left ages before, and were the ancient Toltecs. Later on, the Aztecs, who were the southern branch of the ancient Mexicans, invaded Mexico from the south, and supplanted the Toltecs. Another branch of the same ancient stock were the Mayas of Yucatan.*

Looking then far back we have, according to the old traditions, a few people who had escaped a great cataclysm, when fire and water both fought against mankind; remnants perhaps of many tribes, who, when the lowlands were overwhelmed, escaped to the mountains, speaking a variety of languages, and bringing with them some remembrances of the civilisation of their ancient homes. They increased and multiplied in their new abodes. Some in Mexico, some in Yucatan, and others in Peru arrived at a great pitch of civilisation. Ages passed away, they had developed into several distinct peoples, all showing traces of their common descent, but having branched off in different directions in their lines of progress; all underlaid by a few great principles : in their religion, by the worship of the heavenly bodies; in their government, by complete and absolute obedience to their

“Ancient America,” by J. D. Baldwin, A.M.


kings and leaders ; in their mode of life all agriculturists and dwellers in regular towns and villages. They spread northward and occupied the valley of the Mississippi, and in summer time sent off large bodies of workmen to extract the copper of Lake Superior. Then came the nomadic tribes from the north-west, the Red Indians of the present day, and drove out the mound-builders, who were turned back on their ancient home, of which they had lost all recollection, and where they appeared as immigrants and invaders. In the subjugation of the ancient Choluans by the Toltecs, and afterwards the Toltecs by the Aztecs, we see what has often occurred in the world's history-a highly civilised race conquered by a ruder people, who had advanced farther in the arts of

war, and so overcame the people who had advanced farther in the arts of peace. Therefore the Choluans were replaced by the more warlike Toltecs, the Toltecs by the ruder Aztecs, and those who look at the miserabie towns and villages of the present inhabitants alongside of the ruins of the grand edifices, the roads and aqueducts of ancient Mexico and Peru, may say, the Aztecs by the less civilised Spaniards.

The term Brown Indians has been proposed to distinguish the races of Mexico, Central and South America, from the Red Indians of the north ; but it is a too general term, as it includes not only the highly-civilised Aztecs, Mayas, and Peruvians, but the much ruder Caribs of the eastern coasts of South America and the Antilles, who were widely removed from them in race and language. Squier has proposed the term Nahuatls for the people of Mexico and Central America, and if it might be strained to include the Peruvians also, and all the


peoples descended from that ancient civilised race that had spread northward and southward, it would supply a want that I have greatly felt in studying these peoples. The Nahuatls—I use the term in this extended senseare one of three great Indian races that occupy the greater part of North and South America. They had the Red Indians to the north of them, the savage Caribs to the south-east. From both these races they were profoundly different, though not in equal degrees. To the Red Indian they have scarcely any affinity, excepting such as had been brought about by the nomads, who came down from the north-west, taking the women of the Nahuatls, whom they conquered, for their wives, and thus bringing about some points of structural resemblance, such as are to be seen in a lesser degree in the citizens of the United States, through whose veins the blood of the half-breeds of the earlier settlements still courses. In Florida, and around the northern side of the Gulf of Mexico, there had probably been a greater fusion of the two races. But in origin the two peoples are distinct; the one came from north-eastern Asia, the other, I believe, from a tropical country joined on to the present continent, that was submerged at the breaking up of the glacial period.

Was that country to the east or the west of the present continent ? Was it Atlantis, or was it a submerged country in the Pacific ? I am inclined to the latter opinion, and to believe that the inhabitants of ancient Atlantis were the ancestors of the warlike and adventurous Caribs. The Nahuatls, in their peaceful dispositions and agricultural pursuits, are much more nearly allied to the Polynesians, and their present pre

« EelmineJätka »