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Conformation and Climate.


left behind, greeted with the appellation of New Spain.* The parallel holds good, and will probably continue to do so, in the moral as well as the physical features of the picture presented by modern Mexico; for the populations of its various provinces show differences of character and manners no less striking than are remarked at the present day in those of Old Spain. These are partly called forth by climate and situation, but their most fertile source is no doubt the greater or lesser proportion in which the intermixture of Indian with European blood has ensued. There results from the diversities of character to which we allude, and still more from the difficulties of communication and the weakness of the general government, an interprovincial isolation of the same kind with that which prevails so remarkably in the mother-country, and exercises on its political changes and revolutions an influence still plainly appreciable.

It will assist our readers in forming a more accurate idea of the physical conformation of the Mexican territory, and its infinite variety of climate, if we subjoin to the general view we have ourselves attempted to present, some well-digested and able observations on the subject by Mühlenpfordt:


Although the mountain-chain of Mexico appears to be one and the same with that which, under the name of the Cordilleras of the Andes, intersects all South America, from south to north; yet its structure on the north and south of the equator is entirely different. On the southern hemisphere we see the Cordilleras everywhere furrowed, lengthwise and crosswise, by valleys, which seem as if they have been formed by a forcible severance of the mountains. Here we find tracts perfectly level at a great absolute elevation. The richly cultivated plain around the town of Santa Fé de Bogota lies 8700, the high level of Coxamarca, in Peru, 9000, the wide plains about the volcano of Antisana, 13,429 English feet above the sea. These elevated flats of Cundinamarca, Quito, and Peru, though quite level, have an extent of no more than forty-two square leagues; difficult of ascent, separated from each other by deep valleys, surrounded by lofty peaks, they have no connexion with each other, and offer but trifling facilities to internal communication in those countries. In Mexico, on the contrary, we find the main ridge of mountains itself forming the table-land. High-raised plains, of far greater extent, and equally uniform, lie near together, stretching from the 18th to the 40th parallel of latitude, in unbroken succession, overtopped only by individual cones and lines of greater alti

* Describing the voyage of discovery made by Grijalva along the Mexican coast, De Solis tells us: "Some one of the soldiers then saying that this land was similar to that of Spain, the comparison pleased the hearers so much, and remained so impressed on the memories of all, that no other original is to be found of the name of New Spain being given to those regions. Words spoken casually are repeated but by chance; save when propriety and grace of meaning are perceived in them, to captivate the memory of men." (Conquista de Mexico, l. i., c. 5.)


The direction of the table-land determines, as it were, the whole course of the mountain-chains. The craters, of 16,000 to 18,000 feet high, are partly scattered on the table-land, partly arranged in lines, whose direction is not by any means always parallel with the general track of the Cordilleras. In Peru, Quito, Cundinamarca, as observed, the lofty platforms are divided by cross valleys, whose perpendicular depth amounts sometimes to 4500 feet, and whose steep precipices are only to be climbed by travellers on mules, on foot, or carried on the backs of Indians. In Mexico, on the other hand, the table-lands are so continuous, that from Tehuantepec to Santa Fé, in New Mexico, nay, even into the territory of the United States, wheel-carriages might roll."

Ascending from Tehuantepec, on the Pacific coast, which is but 118 feet above the level of the sea, the table-land stretches from Oajaca to Durango, at an elevation of 6000 to 8000 feet,* its surface intersected by ridges which run from 9000 to 11,000 feet in height, while above this only isolated mountains ascend. Beyond Durango, in the territory of New Mexico, towards Texas on the one side, and the head of the Californian Gulf on the other, the general level of the ground rapidly sinks, the Sierra Madre or mother-ridge, known further northward as the Rocky Mountains, stretching away in solitary grandeur.

"Conformably to the law of nature, which makes the climatic effect of an elevation of 3000 feet, equal to a difference in latitude of ten degrees, we find in Mexico all imaginable variations and shades of climate, piled above one another, as it were, in stories; and may in a few hours, often several times in the course of a day's journey, descend from the world of hyacinths, mosses, and lichens, from the region of everbenumbing cold, of perpetual snow and ice, into that of ever-dissolving heat, where the inhabitant goes naked, his brown skin anointed with grease, to make it less sensitive to the sun's burning rays, and dwells in bird-cage-shaped huts, open to the air. . . . . Situations more or less sheltered from the wind, especially the north-west wind, more or less exposed to the influence of the sun-beams; greater approximation to the west coast, where the air is perceptibly milder than on the east; want or abundance of wood and water; are all circumstances which modify the temperature in the most surprising manner, at the same height above the sea and in the same parallel."

The colonial system of Spain was one of the most curious engines of oppression ever devised by human avarice and rapacity; its only palliation, perhaps, is to be found in the ignorance and folly of the Spanish rulers, from the days of Philip II., who squandered the resources and ruined the prosperity of Spain herself. The nineteenth century found the same maxims and prin

* To this general statement, of course, exceptions may be pointed out. Thus the valley of Toluca, near Mexico, reaches an average elevation of 8500 feet.

Its Condition while a Spanish Colony.


ciples in vigour, which had prevailed under the most cruel and imbecile of the successors of Charles V. Not only were the interests of the colonists sacrificed in every point, by a political exclusiveness, which practically interdicted to every American the exercise of any but the most inferior offices in the public service, —a spiritual tyranny, which threatened with the penalties of the Inquisition all freedom of thought or speculation-and a commercial monopoly enforced with such unrelenting rigour, that the punishment of death was denounced against all who were detected in trafficking with foreigners, whilst the vines and olives of Mexico were rooted out, that its inhabitants might be compelled to draw their supplies from Spain; and the wheat which the colonists of La Plata were forbidden to export, was applied to fill up marshes in the vicinity of Buenos Ayres. These things, and much more of the like sort, might have been borne, but the bitterest fruits of tyranny are not always political grievances. To be a native of American soil stamped the brand of social degradation, even on a man who traced his descent from the conquerors; the Creoles were regarded by the Europeans much as the free-coloured population of the United States now are by their white countrymen. Even ties of blood could not overcome this insensate prejudice, which led often to the disinheritance of a son by a father, in favour of some adventurer from Europe. For the Indians again were reserved the dregs of the cup of oppression! In the continental provinces they were too numerous to be extirpated, as in the Spanish West Indian Islands; there they continued to form the bulk of the population. In Mexico, it is calculated that four-sevenths are Indians, two-sevenths persons of mixed blood or mestizoes, and only one-seventh whites. They were reduced by the system of repartition among the landed proprietors to a bondage, of which the negro slavery of the present day exhibits no inexact parallel;* but they cherished the memory of the greatness of their race, and a vengeful sense of the sufferings they had so long endured. At this source, too, it was fated that the Erinnys of retribution was to light her torch! It was the crafty policy of the Spanish court to retain the Mexicans in a state of intellectual childhood, teaching them to look upon Spain as the sovereign power of Europe, and keeping them

"All the property of the Indians, moveable and immoveable, was considered as belonging to the conquerors, and only a very limited allotment, of 600 yards in diameter, was conceded to them for a residence in the neighbourhood of the newly-built churches. At a time when it was gravely disputed whether the Indians were to be counted among reasonable beings, it was believed that a benefit was conferred upon them by placing them under the guardianship of the whites. During a succession of years the Indians, whose freedom the king had fruitlessly promised, were the slaves of the whites, who appropriated them indiscrimi

studiously in ignorance of the very existence of other nations.* Yet they had long entertained the design of throwing off the Spanish yoke, and waited but the opportunity of effecting their design. We have the testimony of Humboldt in his ' Essay on New Spain' as to the existence of discontent among the higher classes, and the American General Pike, who travelled through the northern provinces in 1807, speaks still more strongly of its diffusion and intensity among the inferior clergy and the officers of the provincial army, who were debarred by the accident of birth from all chance of promotion to the higher grades. Insurrections and isolated revolts had not been wanting in the course of the two centuries and a half which had elapsed since the conquest. Such was the revolt of the Indians in the north-western provinces during the latter half of the last century; and the insurrections of Mexico in 1624, 1692, and in 1797, under the vice-royalty of Count Galvez, whose conduct in several particulars, notwithstanding his apparent zeal in its suppression, gave the greatest umbrage to the Spanish court, and is said to have resulted, after his recall, in his death by poison. In such a state of society as we have described, the materials of explosion were rife, and a concurrence of extraordinary events, which had their spring in the ambition of Napoleon, at length sounded the knell of Spanish domination in America. The renunciation of the crown of Spain by Charles IV., and his son Ferdinand VII., into the hands of the French emperor —that basest of treasons, unparalleled even in the annals of royal infamy-and the subsequent invasion of the Peninsula by his armies, were the signal of a general fermentation throughout all the transatlantic dominions of that country. Spain being now left without a regular government, propositions were made by the Creoles for the formation of executive juntas, and the assembly of provincial congresses, to act in the name of the absent sovereign, and to strengthen the hands of the mother-country in its struggle against foreign aggression, which were in some instances favourably listened to by the viceroys. The old Spaniards beheld with alarm the awakening sense of popular rights and the national spirit which nately, and frequently quarreled about their right. To avert this, and, as it imagined, to give the Indians protectors, the court of Madrid introduced the encomiendas, by which the Indians, in divisions of several hundred families, were assigned to the soldiers of the conquest and their descendants, or to the jurists sent from court to administer the provinces, or counterpoise the encroaching powers of the viceroys, and other favourites. A great number of the best commanderies were given to the convents. This system did not improve the condition of the Indians; it fettered them to the soil, and their labour was the property of their master." (Mühlenpfordt, i. 233.)

* In 1823, Bullock found it difficult to persuade the natives that England, France, Germany, Holland, and Italy, were any thing else than so many paltry provinces, with governors set over them by the King of Spain. (Travels in Mexico, p. 53.)

Imbecility of Spanish Statesmen.


these proceedings evinced; the Audiencias, or supreme courts, charged among their other functions to watch over the interests of the crown, became the organs of the Europeans, and strenuously resisted the efforts of the colonists to assert their right of sharing actively in the vindication of Spanish independence against French invasion. Had Spain at this time possessed public servants with heads and hearts competent to appreciate the justice and expediency of a conciliatory policy, the enthusiasm of the Creoles might have been diverted to her own service; and the latent desire of independence, to which, undoubtedly, the movement above mentioned was in part to be ascribed, might possibly have been extinguished by judicious concessions. But this was not to be looked for, save in a few isolated instances, among men hardened in the traditions of a depraved despotism, and practised in all the mysteries of fraud and corruption under the flagitious administration of Godoy. A striking observation of the Duke of Wellington's is on record, to the effect, that in all his extensive experience of Spanish official men, acquired during the Peninsular war, he met with hardly a single man, whose abilities rose above the meanest order of mind, or who possessed a respectable share of political knowledge. If such men there were, their influence was neutralised by the swarm of court-drones and noodles by whom they were surrounded. The prevalent feeling of the Spaniards towards their American dependencies may be gathered from the fact, that in the Cortes of 1812 there were many orators who denied the colonists to be superior in any respect to brutes, or entitled to any better treatment, and found not only patient hearing, but favour and applause in that assembly. Whatever administrative talent the Spaniards possessed, indeed, seems to have been employed in the colonies. Iturrigaray, Venegas, and Calleja, were men far abler than any of those who composed the government of the mother-country at the same time. Many of their measures were conceived with a skill, and executed with a vigour, unknown in the contemporary annals of Spain; and such state-papers of the colonial government as we have seen (for instance, Calleja's Report on the State of Mexico in 1814') are far superior to those which emanated from the Central Junta and the Regency.

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Iturrigaray, the vice-king of Mexico, had gained great popularity among the natives by his conciliatory demeanour throughout the pending crisis; and was disposed, from whatever motives, to accede to the demand of the Creoles for the convocation of a Mexican Cortes. He is said to have suspected the fidelity of some of the Spanish officials around him, and looking to the shameful desertion of the national cause, of which so many examples had been witnessed in the Peninsula, and the intrigues of French emissaries

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