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was growing fainter and fainter, as thousands and thousands of miserable victims, throughout the empire, were yearly fattened in its cages, sacrificed on its altars, dressed and served at its banquets! The whole land was converted into a vast human shambles! The empire of the Aztecs did not fall before its time.”
In another place, comparing the ancient with the modern Mexicans, the same accomplished historian remarks, –
" The American Indian has something peculiarly sensitive in his nature. He shrinks instinctively from the rude touch of a foreign hand. Even when this foreign influence comes in the form of civilization, he seems to sink and pine away beneath it. It has been so with the Mexicans. Under the Spanish domination, their numbers have silently melted away. Their energies are broken. They, no longer tread their mountain plains with the conscious independence of their ancestors. In their faltering step, and meek and melancholy aspect, we read the sad characters of the conquered race. The cause of humanity, indeed, has gained. They live under a better system of laws, a more assured tranquillity, a purer faith. But all does not avail. Their civilization was of the hardy character which belongs to wilderness. The fierce virtues of the Aztec were all his own."
For our present purpose it is unnecessary to add to the language of Prescott, in regard to ancient Mexico, as it is of greater importance that we should give a more particular attention to
Under the most favorable circumstances, a colonial government. labors under numerous disadvantages. Detached and isolated from the sources of its own power, it cannot realize that individuality necessary to energy and advancement. Genius can have no encouragement to give birth to enlightened systems of national polity, which, to be developed, requires national concentration ; and individual pride lies dormant where the ultimate objects of ambition centre in powers of foreign origin and foreign control. Such evils increase with the increase of population.
This was true of the British American colonies, where the people were of common origin and of one blood. But if we look to the condition of the Spanish colonies of North America, before the separation of the viceroyalty of Mexico from the crown of Spain, we shall find the blighting influences of hate, jealousy, and revenge giving character to the motives and acts of the different races, castes, and orders, and rendering gov: ernment a military rule, and necessarily destructive to the rights and well-being of the people. The outrages of the Spaniards in the overthrow of the Montezumas make the real and traditionary history of the mixed castes and native inhabitants of Mexico; and their hate has been continued for centuries, and but little unabated even to the time of Iturbide. Most of the honors and emoluments of government were given to Europeans, and what was first deemed a system of outrage, was resolved into a system of settled injustice. It was the reign of royalty and ignorance, of selfishness and wrong.
In this condition of things, was it strange that the first revolutionists of Mexico should prove to be robbers and murderers, and that the first efforts of the masses of the people to act for themselves should develop ignorance, intrigues, corruption, criminal frauds, debasing servility, indecision, imbecility, and all that variety of causes which end in anarchy !* In the adop
* The first abortive effort, which was commenced in 1809, by Hidalgo and Allende, had not for its object the establishment of a republic or of free institutions ; if, indeed, free institutions can exist under any other form of government. That movement had its origin in feelings of enthusiastic and devoted loyalty, which, up to that time, was the ruling passion in the heart of every Spaniard. The abdication of the legitimate monarch of Spain, the atrocious perfidy by which it was obtained, and the transference of the sovereignty of the country to the emperor of France, which country had for centuries been regarded as the hereditary enemy of Spain, were the true causes of the insurrection in Mexico in 1809. It was begun under
tion and execution of the “ plan of Iguala” * and treaty of Cordova, all these fearful developments were made.
An ignorant race is jealous, cowardly, and cruel. It can neither protect the interests of others or conceive of its own. There is nothing in nature more terrific than the rising of an ignorant people, who have been chained down by an unrighteous power. All desire comfort and consideration, and most fail in their wishes, because they have no faith in integrity. Their experience has taught them a most bitter selfishness, and it is the work of time alone that can convey to their benighted minds even the ordinary knowledge of what is due to themselves and to others.
By the third article of the plan of Iguala, all distinction of castes was abolished, so that all individuals, whether Spaniards, Americans, Indians, or Africans, were placed on equal footing. At this time, the republican form of government was proposed and urged by several members of the Junta, but the proposition was successfully opposed by Iturbide and others. The views of Iturbide were expressed with an honest manliness highly creditable to him. “ Nature," said he,“ produces nothing by sudden leaps ; she operates by intermediate degrees. The moral world follows the laws of the physical. To think that we could emerge all at once from a state of debasement such as that of slavery, and from a state of ignorance such as has been inflicted on us for three hundred years, during which we had neither books nor instructors, and the possession of knowl. edge had been thought a sufficient cause for persecution ; to think that we could gain information and refinement in a moment, as if by enchantment; that we could acquire every virtue, forget prejudices, and give up false pretensions, was a vain expectation, and could only have entered into the visions of an enthusiast."
In 1822, Iturbide was declared emperor by the people ; but
the auspices of the Spanish viceroy, and had for its object, real as well as professed, the saving of that portion of his dominions for Ferdinand VII. – Thompson's Recollections of Mexico. * See Appendix E.
before the new government could be fully organized, he was deposed by factionists and banished.* In 1824, Mexico became a republic, and a federal constitution was adopted. General Victoria was elected the first president, and he has been succeeded by such men as Pedraza, Guerrero, Bustamente, Santa Anna, Herrera, and Paredes, as presidents or dictators, at best, with scarcely an exception, rival military adventurers. Actuated by no higher motives than those of personal aggrandizement, they manifested no patriotism above party purposes, and but little conscience above self-interest. Having no hold upon the affections of the people, they relied upon no security except military rule, and this was made subject to the greatest treachery, or to the greatest cunning.
Without any settled principles of self-respect above egotism; without independence not subject to an army;t without honesty not subject to bribery and duplicity; without knowledge not neutralized by superstition ; without religion not subject to vanity I
* There are diversity of views with respect to the character of Iturbide. We shall not attempt to reconcile them in this place. In speaking of the congress of this time, Mr. Thompson says, “No similar body, under like circumstances, has evinced more virtue, firmness, and constancy, than did the congress of Mexico in resisting the usurpation and tyranny of Iturbide, surrounded as he was by his pretorian band.”
+ In his speech at Charleston, S. C., Mr. Webster says, “ Our neighbor, the unfortunate, miserably governed Mexico, when she emerged from her revolution, had in her history nothing of representative government, habeas corpus, or trial by jury; no progressive experiment tending to a glorious consummation; nothing but a government calling itself free, with the least possible freedom in the world. She had collected, since her independence, 300,000,000 dollars, and had unprofitably expended it all in putting up one revolution and putting down another, and in maintaining an army of 40,000 men, in time of peace, to keep the peace.”
| The wife of General Canalizo died whilst he was president ad interim, during the absence of Santa Anna. She was embalmed, and had a pair of glass eyes inserted, and lay in state for several days, gorgeously dressed, and glittering in jewels. — Thompson's Recol.
and a priesthood ;* without virtue not debased by licentiousness; without enterprise + not blasted by frivolous pride or indolence; the people of this country have claimed to be acknowledged as free and independent, and to be regarded as within the pale of civilization and Christianity. Without genius or moral power, they have failed to organize a govern. ment that is above their own condition. Their government has been true only to its origin. It has been proud without magnanimity, sensitive without honor, extravagant without means, poor without prudence, cruel without courage, and bold without virtue. It has proved false to its sacred trusts; it has impoverished the country, debased the people, connived at riot, robbery, and murder, encouraged violence, engendered civil war, and sanctioned treason. It has legalized plunder in the acts of its citizens, and violated treaties in its intercourse with foreign nations. It has imprisoned the free citizens of other countries, robbed the unprotected traveller, 5 executed the innocent stranger, and assassinated the honcst minister. We say
that government has done all this, because such acts have been committed by the citizens of Mexico, and have been sustained in their wickedness. At no period, hardly, since that
* There are in the city of Mexico, alone, seven or eight hundred secular, and near two thousand regular clergy.
† The enterprise of the Mexicans may be inferred from the fact, that they sent to Massachusetts for the granite with which to build their custom-house at Vera Cruz, although they have stone equally good within ten miles of that city.
I “It is monstrous," says Gilliam, “when the great majority of the inhabitants of a country are swindlers, thieves, and murderers, in an unqualified manner, as is the case in Mexico.”
§ “ Understanding, as I now do,” says Mr. Gilliam, “the duplicity of the Mexicans, and their policy, I should not be surprised if some in power should have known more of Mr. Shannon's robbery than might be them. But, as Santa nna and hi officers are the acknowledged heads of a band of pirates, it camot be astonishing that he should tolerate such deeds.”
It will be remembered that Mr. Cushing, on his return from China through Mexico, was robbed.